CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 20 December What Does Christmas Mean to You? By Doris Mincks Advent, Christmas 0 Comment WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN TO YOU? Christmas is a beautiful time of year, and known especially for its giving and receiving of gifts. It is also a special time for families to be together. However, many people are without a family, and live alone. Unfortunately, there are dysfunctional families who do not relate to one another. For our military community, there are frequent separations from loved ones who are overseas, helping to maintain the peace for our country. Can we look forward with great anticipation for what Christmas truly is? Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, Son of God, Jesus Christ! Jesus was sent to earth as a baby to become the Savior of the world! In Charles Wesley's beautiful Christmas hymn, "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," one of the verses expresses so well what Christmas truly is: "Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth." "As someone once said, "Christ shared in our humanity so we can share in His Divinity!" In reflecting on the humanity of Jesus at Christmas time, are we able to fall on our knees and worship Him, Jesus Christ, the One, who came as a baby to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our sins? As Jesus reminded Satan in Luke 4:8, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve." II Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift." Hebrews 12:28, "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and therefore let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe;" Thought To Ponder: Let us thank God for His sacrificial gift of love and life! WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN TO YOU? Christmas is a beautiful time of year, and known especially for its giving and receiving of gifts. It is also a special time for families to be together. However, many people are without a family, and live alone. Unfortunately, there are dysfunctional families who do not relate to one another. For our military community, there are frequent separations from loved ones who are overseas, helping to maintain the peace for our country. Can we look forward with great anticipation for what Christmas truly is? Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, Son of God, Jesus Christ! Jesus was sent to earth as a baby to become the Savior of the world! In Charles Wesley's beautiful Christmas hymn, "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," one of the verses expresses so well what Christmas truly is: "Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth." "As someone once said, "Christ shared in our humanity so we can share in His Divinity!" In reflecting on the humanity of Jesus at Christmas time, are we able to fall on our knees and worship Him, Jesus Christ, the One, who came as a baby to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our sins? As Jesus reminded Satan in Luke 4:8, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve." II Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift." Hebrews 12:28, "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and therefore let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe;" Thought To Ponder: Let us thank God for His sacrificial gift of love and life! Related CHRIST the Believer’s Husband Christ the Believer’s Husband Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thy Husband. ALTHOUGH believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of any man living, fully to conceive, the nearness and dearness of that relation, in which they stand to their common head. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Behold, says the blessed Jesus in the days of his flesh, "my mother and my brethren." And again after his resurrection, "go tell my brethren." Nay sometimes he is pleased to term believers his friends. "Henceforth call I you no longer servants, but friends." "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." And what is a friend? Why there is a friend that is nearer than a brother, nay, as near as one’s own soul. And "thy friend, (says God in the book of Deuteronomy) which is as thy own soul." Kind and endearing appellations these, that undoubtedly bespeak a very near and ineffably intimate union between the Lord Jesus and the true living members of his mystical body! But, methinks, the words of our text point out to us a relation, which not only comprehends, but in respect to nearness and dearness, exceeds all other relations whatsoever. I mean that of a Husband. "For thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called." These words were originally spoken to the people of the Jews, considered collectively as a peculiar people, whom our Lord had betrothed and married to himself; and they seem to be spoken, when religion was on the decline among their churches; when they had, in a great measure, lost that life and power, which they once experienced; and their enemies began to insult them with a "where is now your God?" Such a state of things must undoubtedly be very afflicting to the true mourners in Zion; and put them upon crying unto the Lord, in this their deep distress. He hears their prayer, his bowels yearn towards them; and in the preceding verse, he assures them, that though the enemy had broken in upon them like a flood, yet their extremity should be his opportunity to lift up a standard against him. "Fear not, (says the great Head and King of his church) for thou shalt not be ashamed (finally or totally); neither be thou confounded, (dissipated or dejected, giving up all for gone, as though thou never shouldst see better days, or another revival of religion) for thou shalt not (entirely) be put to shame;" though for a while, for thy humiliation, and the greater confusion of thy adversaries, I suffer them to triumph over thee: "For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widow-hood any more;" i. e. I will vouchsase you such another glorious gale of my blessed Spirit, that you shall quite forget your former troubled widow-state, and give your enemies no more occasion to insult you, on account of your infant-condition, but rather to envy you, and gnash their teeth, and melt away at the sight of your unthought-of glory and prosperity. And why will the infinitely great and condescending Jesus deal thus with his people? Because the church is his spouse; "For, (as in the words just now read to you) thy Maker is thy husband; thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;" and therefore he loves thee too well, to let thy enemies always trample thee under foot, "The Lord of Hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;" and therefore he is armed with sufficient power to relieve his oppressed people, and overcome and avenge himself of all their haughty and insulting foes. This seems to be the prime and genuine interpretation of the text and context, especially if we add, that they may have a further view to the latter-day glory, and that blessed state of the church, which the people of God have been looking for in all ages, and the speedy approach of which, we undoubtedly pray for, when we put up that petition of our Lord’s, "thy kingdom come." But, though the words were originally spoken to the Jews, yet they are undoubtedly applicable to all believers in all ages, and, when inlarged on in a proper manner, will afford us suitable matter of discourse both for sinners and for saints; for such as know God, as well as for such who know him not; and likewise for those, who once walked in the light of his blessed countenance, but are now backslidden from him, have their harps hung upon the willows, and are afraid that their beloved is gone, and will return to their souls no more. Accordingly, without prefacing this discourse any farther, as I suppose that a mixed multitude of saints, unconverted sinners, and backsliders, are present here this day, I shall endeavour so to speak from the words of the text, that each may have a proper portion, and none be sent empty away. In prosecuting this design, I will, I. Endeavour to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "that our Maker is our husband." II. The duties of love which they owe to our Lord, who stand in so near a relation to him. III. The miserable condition of such as cannot yet say, "their Maker is their husband." And IV. I shall conclude with a general exhortation to all such unhappy souls, to come and match with the dear Lord Jesus. And O! may that God who blessed Abraham’s servant, when he went out to seek a wife for his son Isaac, bless me, even me also, now I am come, I trust, relying on divine strength, to invite poor sinners, and recal backsliders, to my Master Jesus! And First, I am to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "Our Maker is our husband." But before I proceed to this, it may not be improper to observe, that if any of you, amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, are enemies to inward religion, and explode the doctrine of inward feelings, as enthusiasm, cant and nonsense, I shall not be surprized, if your hearts rise against me whilst I am preaching; for I am about to discourse on true, vital, internal piety; and an inspired apostle hath told us, "that the natural man discerneth not the things of the spirit, because they are spiritually discerned." But, however, be noble as the Bereans were; search the Scriptures as they did; lay aside prejudice; hear like Nathaniel, with a true Israelitish ear; be willing to do the will of God; and then you shall, according to the promise of our dearest Lord, "know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." I would further observe, that if any here do expect fine preaching from me this day, they will, in all probability, go away disappointed. For I came not here to shoot over people’s heads; but, if the Lord shall be pleased to bless me, to reach their hearts. Accordingly, I shall endeavour to cloath my ideas in such plain language, that the meanest negro or servant, if God is pleased to give a hearing ear, may understand me; for I am certain, if the poor and unlearned can comprehend, the learned and rich must. This being premised, proceed we to shew what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Now, that we may discourse more pertinently and intelligibly upon this point, it may not be amiss to consider, what is necessary to be done, before a marriage between two parties amongst ourselves, can be said to be valid in the sight of God and man. And that will lead us in a familiar way, to shew what must be done, or what must pass between us and Jesus Christ, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." And First, In all lawful marriages, it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate, are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. "A woman is bound to her husband, (faith the apostle) so long as her husband liveth." The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved. Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under, and wedded to the law, as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of, and artfully go about, in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head," reached out their hands, and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God drove them out of paradise, and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to, and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. "Do and live," is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, "our Maker is our husband," we must be divorced from our old husband the law; we must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence, whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the apostle Paul to the Romans, chap. 7:4. "Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead." As he also speaketh in another place, "I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." This was the apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless; he was an entire stranger to the divine life: but when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges, and all his pharisaical righteousness; "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And thus it must be with us, ere we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ, and count all external privileges, and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only "as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord." But further; before a marriage among us can stand good in law, both parties must not only be freed from all pre-engagements, but there must be a mutual consent on both sides. We are not used to marry people against their wills. This is what the Jews called betrothing, or espousing, a thing previous to the solemnity of marriage. Thus we find, the Virgin Mary is said to be espoused to Joseph, before they actually came together, Mat. 1:18. And thus it is among us. Both parties are previously agreed, and, as it were, espoused to each other, before we publish, what we call the banns of marriage concerning them. And so it will be in the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and our souls. Before we are actually married or united to him by faith; or, to keep to the terms of the text, before we assuredly can say, that "our Maker is our husband," we must be made willing people in the day of God’s power, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emmanuel is willing to accept of us, just as we are, and also that we are willing to accept of him upon his own terms, yea, upon any terms. And when once it comes to this, the spiritual marriage goes on apace, and there is but one thing lacking to make it compleat. And what is that? An actual union. This is absolutely necessary in every lawful marriage among men. There must be a joining of hands before witnesses, ere they can be deemed lawfully joined together. Some men in deed of corrupt minds, are apt to look upon this as a needless ceremony, and think it sufficient to be married, as they term it, in the fight of God. But whence men get such divinity, I know not. I am positive, not from the Bible; for we there read that even at the first marriage in paradise, there was something of outward solemnity; God himself (if I may so speak) being there the priest. For we are told, Gen. 2:22. that, after God had made the woman, "he brought her unto the man." And indeed, to lay aside all manner of outward ceremony in marriage, would be to turn the world into a den of brute beasts. Men would then take, or forsake as many wives as they pleased, and we should soon sink into as bad and brutal a state, as those nations are, amongst whom such practices are allowed of, and who are utterly destitute of the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whoever has experienced the power of his resurrection, I am persuaded will never plead for such a licentious practice. For the terms made use of in Scripture, to represent the mystical union between Christ and his church, such as, our being "joined to the Lord," and "married to Jesus Christ," are all metaphorical expressions, taken from some analogous practices amongst men. And as persons when married, though before twain, are now one flesh; so those that are joined to the Lord, and can truly say, "our Maker is our husband," are in the apostle’s language, one spirit. This was typified in the original marriage of our first parents. When God brought Eve to Adam, he received her with joy at his hands, and said, "this is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." They had there, primarily, but one name. For thus speaks the sacred Historian, Gen. 5:1, 2. "In the day that God created man, he blessed them, and called their name Adam." and why? because they were one flesh, and were to have but one heart. The self-same terms are made use of in Scripture, to express the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. We are called Christians, after Christ’s name, because made partakers of Christ’s nature. Out of his fulness, believers receive grace for grace. And therefore, the marriage state, especially by the apostle Paul, is frequently made use of, to figure out to us the real, vital union, between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls. This is termed by the apostle, Eph. 5:32. "A great mystery." But great as it is, we must all experience it, before we can say assuredly, that "our Maker is our husband." For what says our Lord, in that prayer he put up to his Father before his bitter passion? "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, shall be where I am, that they may be one with thee; even as thou, O Father, and I are one, I in them, and they in me, that we all may be made perfect in one." O infinite condescension! O ineffable union! Hence it is, that believers are said to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Hence it is, that the apostle speaking of himself, says, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." What an expression is that? How much does it comprehend? And, that we might not think this was something peculiar to himself, he puts this close question to the Corinthians; "Know ye not, that Christ is in you, unless you be reprobates?" Agreeable to what he says in his epistle to the Colossians, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," And hence it is, that our church, in the communion-office, directs the minister to acquaint all those who receive the sacrament worthily, that they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; that they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. Words that deserve to be written in letters of gold, and which evidently shew, what our reformers believed all persons must experience, before they could truly and assuredly say, that "their Maker is their husband." From what has been delivered, may not the poorest and most illiterate person here present easily know whether or not he is really married to Jesus Christ. Some indeed, I am afraid, are so presumptuous as to affirm, at least to insinuate, that there is no such thing as knowing, or being fully assured, whilst here below, whether we are in Christ or not. Or at least, if there be such a thing, it is very rare, or was only the privilege of the primitive believers. Part of this is true, and part of this absolutely false. That this glorious privilege of a full assurance is very rare, is too, too true. And so it is equally too true, that real christians, comparatively speaking, are very rare also. But that there is no such thing, or that this was only the privilege of the first followers of our blessed Lord, is directly opposite to the word of God. "We know (says St. John, speaking of believers in general) that we are his, by the spirit which he hath given us;" and, "He that believeth hath the witness in himself;" "because you are sons (saith St. Paul) God hath sent forth his Spirit into your hearts, even the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Not that I dare affirm, that there is no real christian, but what has this full assurance of faith, and clearly knows, that his Maker is his husband. In speaking thus, I should undoubtedly condemn some of the generation of God’s dear children, who through the prevalence of unbelief, indwelling sin, spiritual sloth, or it may be, for want of being informed of the privileges of believers, may walk in darkness, and see no light: therefore, though I dare not affirm, that a full assurance of faith is absolutely necessary for the very being, yet I dare assert, that it is absolutely necessary, for the well being of a christian. And for my own part, I cannot conceive, how any persons, that pretend to christianity, can rest satisfied or contented without it. This is stopping short, on this side Jordan, with a witness. And gives others too much reason to suspect, that such persons, however high their profession may be, have, as yet, on true saving grace at all. Men, whose hearts are set on this world’s goods, or, to use our Lord’s language, "the children of this world," act not so. I suppose there is scarce a single merchant in this great congregation, especially in these troublous times, that will venture out either his ship or cargo, without first insuring, both against the violence of an enemy, or a storm. And I suppose there is scarce a single house, of any considerable value, in any populous town of city, but the owner has taken out a policy from the fire-office, to insure it, in case of fire. And can I be so irrational as to think, that there is such a thing as securing my goods, and my house, and that there is no such thing as insuring, what is infinitely more valuable, my precious and immortal soul? Or if there be such a thing, as undoubtedly there is, what foolishness of folly must it needs be in men, that pretend to be men of parts, of good sense, and solid reasoning, to be so anxious to secure their ships against a storm, and their houses against a fire, and at the same time, not to be unspeakably more solicitous, to take a policy out of the assurance-office of heaven; even the seal and witness of the blessed Spirit of God, to insure their souls against that storm of divine wrath, and that vengeance of eternal fire, which will at the last decisive day come upon all those, who know not God, and have not obeyed his gracious gospel? To affirm therefore, that there is no such thing as knowing, that "our Maker is our husband;" or that it was privilege peculiar to the first christians, to speak in the mildest terms, is both irrational and unscriptural. Not that all who can say, their Maker is their husband, can give the same clear and distinct account of the time, manner and means of their being spiritually united and married by faith, to the blessed bridegroom of the church. Some there may be now, as well as formerly, sanctified from the womb. And others in their insancy and non-age, as it were silently converted. Such perhaps may say, with a little Scotch maiden, now with God, when I asked her, whether Jesus Christ had taken away her old heart, and given her a new one? "Sir, it may be, (said she,) I cannot directly tell you the time and place, but this I know, it is done." And indeed it is not so very material, though no doubt it is very satisfactory, if we cannot relate all the minute and particular circumstances, that attended our conversion; if so be we are truly converted now, and can say, the work is done, and that, "our Maker is our husband." And I question, whether there is one single adult believer, now on earth, who lived before conversion, either in a course of secret or open sin, but can, in a good degree, give an account of the beginning and progress of the work of grace in his heart. What think ye? Need I tell any married persons in this congregation, that they must go to the university, and learn the languages, before they can tell whether they are married or not? Or, if their marriage was to be doubted, could they not, think you, bring their certificates, to certify the time and place of their marriage; and the minister that joined them together in that holy state? And if you are adult, and are indeed married to Jesus Christ, though you may be unlearned, and what the world terms illiterate men, cannot you tell me the rise and progress, and consummation of the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and your souls? Know you not the time, when you were first under the drawings of the Father, and Jesus began to woo you for himself? Tell me, O man, tell me, O woman, knowest thou not the time, or at least, knowest thou not, that there was a time, when the blessed Spirit of God stripped thee of the fig-leaves of thy own righteousness, hunted thee out of the trees of the garden of thy performances, forced thee from the embraces of thy old husband the law, and made thee to abhor thy own righteousness, as so many filthy rags? Canst thou not remember, when, after a long struggle with unbelief, Jesus appeared to thee, as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save? And canst thou not reflect upon a season, when thy own stubborn heart was made to bend; and thou wast made willing to embrace him, as freely offered to thee in the everlasting gospel? And canst thou not, with pleasure unspeakable, reflect on some happy period, some certain point of time, in which a sacred something (perhaps thou couldst not then well tell what) did captivate, and fill thy heart, so that thou could say, in a rapture of holy surprize, and extacy of divine love, "My Lord and my God! my beloved is mine, and I am his; I know that my Redeemer liveth;" or, to keep to the words of our text, "My Maker is my husband." Surely, amidst this great and solemn assembly, there are many that can answer these questions in the affirmative. For these are transactions, not easily to be forgotten; and the day of our espousals is, generally, a very remarkable day; a day to be had in everlasting remembrance. And can any of you indeed, upon good grounds say, that your Maker is your husband? May I not then (as it is customary to wish persons joy who are just entered into the marriage state) congratulate you upon your happy change, and with you joy, with all my heart? Sure am I that there was joy in heaven on the day of your espousals: and why should not the blessed news occasion joy on earth? May I not address you in the language of our Lord to the women that came to visit his sepulchre, "All hail!" for ye are highly favoured. Blessed are ye among men, blessed are ye among women! All generations shall call you blessed. What! "is your Maker your husband? the holy one of Israel your Redeemer?" Sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! What an amazing stoop is this! What a new thing has God created on the earth! Do not your hearts, O believers, burn within you, when meditating on this unspeakable condescension of the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity? Whilst you are musing, does not the sacred fire of divine love kindle in your souls? And, out of the abundance of your hearts, do you not often speak with your tongues, and call upon all that is within you, to laud and magnify your Redeemer’s holy name? Is not that God exalting, self-abasing expression frequently in your mouths, "Why me, Lord, why me?" And are you not often constrained to break out into that devout exclamation of Solomon, when the glory of the Lord filled the temple, "And will God indeed dwell with man?" ungrateful, rebellious, ill, and hell-deserving man! O, my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! Tears, while I am speaking, are ready to gush out. But they are tears of love and joy. How shall I give it vent? How shall I set forth thy happiness, O believer, thou bride of God! And is thy Maker thy husband? Is his name "The Lord of hosts?" Whom then shouldst thou fear? And is thy Redeemer the holy one of Israel? the God of the whole earth should he be called! of whom then shouldst thou be afraid? He that toucheth thee, toucheth the very apple of God’s eye. "The very hairs of thy head are all numbered;" and "it is better that a man should have a milstone tied round his neck, and be drowned in the sea, than that he should justly offend thee." All hail, (I must again repeat it) thou Lamb’s bride! For thou art all glorious within, and comely, through the comeliness thy heavenly bridegroom hath put upon thee. Thy garment is indeed of wrought gold; and, ere long, the King shall bring thee forth with a raiment of needle-work, and present thee blameless before his Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the mean while, well shall it be with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. "He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption". "Whether Paul, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." All his attributes are engaged for your preservation, and all things shall work together for your good, who love God, and, by being thus married to the Lord Jesus, give an evident proof that you are called according to his purpose. What say you? When you meditate on these things, are you not frequently ready to cry out, What shall we render unto the Lord for all these mercies, which, of his free unmerited grace, he hath been pleased to bestow upon us? For, though you are dead to the law, as a covenant of works, yet you are alive to the law as a rule of life, and are in, or under the law (for either expression seems to denote the same thing) to your glorious husband, Jesus Christ. Pass we on therefore to the Second general head, under which I was to shew, what duties of love they owe to Jesus Christ, who are so happy as to be able to say, "My Maker is my husband." I say, duties of love. For being now married to Jesus Christ, you work not for life, but from life. The love of God constrains you, so that, if there was no written law, or supposing Jesus would set you at liberty from his yoke, so far as grace prevails in your hearts, you would say, we love our blessed bridegroom, and will not go from him. And what does the Lord require of you? That we may speak on this head as plainly as may be, we shall pursue the method we begun with; and, by carrying on the allegory, and examining what is required of truly christian wives, under the gospel, infer what our Lord may justly demand of those who are united to him by faith, and can therefore say, "our Maker is our husband." And here let us go to the law and to the testimony. What says the scripture? "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." It is, no doubt, the duty of married women to think highly of their husbands. From whom may husbands justly command respect, if not from their wives? The apostle’s expression is emphatical. "Let the wife see that the reverence her husband;" thereby implying, that women, some of them at least, are too prone to disrespect their husbands; as Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised David in her heart, when she tauntingly said, 2 Sam. 6:20. "How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamlesly uncovereth himself." This is a source and fountain, from whence many domestic evils frequently flow. Women should remember the character that husbands sustain in scripture. They are to them, what Christ is to the church. And it is mentioned to the honour of Sarah, that she called Abraham "Lord." "Shall I have a child who am old, my Lord being old also?" It is remarkable, there are but two good words in that whole sentence, "my Lord," (for all the others are the language of unbelief) and yet those two words the Holy Ghost mentions to her eternal honour, and buries, as it were, the rest in oblivion. "Even as Sarah (says St. Peter) obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." An evident proof how pleasing it is in the sight of God, for women in the married state to reverence and respect their husbands. Not that husbands therefore should Lord it over their wives, or require too much respect at their hands. This would be unchristian, as well as ungenerous, indeed. They ought rather, as God has taken such care to keep up their authority, commanding their wives to reverence and respect them; they ought, I say, to be doubly careful, that they live so holy and unblameable, as to lay their wives under no temptation to despise them. But to return from this digression. Does the apostle say, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband?" May I not pertinently apply this caution to you who are married to Jesus Christ? See so it that you reverence and respect your husband. I say, see to it. For the devil will be often suggesting to you hard and mean thoughts against your husband. It was thus he beset our mother Eve, even in a state of innocence. He would fain persuade her to entertain hard thoughts of her glorious benefactor. "What, has God said, ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden?" Has he been so cruel to put you here in a beautiful garden only to vex and seize you? This he made use of as an inlet to all his succeeding insinuations. And this trade he is still pursuing, and will be pursuing to the very end of time. Besides, in the eyes of the world, Jesus Christ has no form or comeliness that they should desire him; and therefore, unless you "watch and pray," you will be led into temptation, and not keep up such high thoughts of your blessed Jesus as he justly deserves. In this you can never exceed. Women, perhaps, may sometimes think too highly of, and, through excess of love, idolize their earthly comforts. But it is impossible for you to think too highly of your heavenly husband, Jesus Christ. Farther, what says the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians? Speaking of the marriage state, he says, "The wife is the glory of her husband:" as though he had said, a christian wife should so behave, and so walk, as to be a credit to her husband. As Abigail was an honour to Nabal, and by her sweet deportment made up in some degree, for her husband’s churlishness. This is to be a help-meet indeed. Such a woman will be praised in the gate; and her husband get glory, and meet with respect on her account. And ought a woman to be the glory of her husband? How much more ought you, that are the Lamb’s bride, so to live, and so to walk, as to bring glory, and gain respect, to the cause and interest of your husband Jesus? This is what the apostle every where supposes, when he would draw a parallel between a temporal and spiritual marriage. "The woman, is the glory of her husband, even as the church is the glory of Christ." Agreeable to this, he tells the Corinthians, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God;" and as he also speaks to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2:11, 12. "As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you (as a father doth his children) that you would walk worthy of God who hath called you to his kingdom, and his glory." What an expression is here! "That you would walk worthy of God." O! how ought this, and such like texts, to stir up your pure minds, O believers, so to have your conversation in this world, that you may be what the apostle says some particular persons were, even "the glory of Christ." You are his glory; he rejoices over you with singing; and you should so walk, that all who know and hear of you, may glorify Christ in you. Subjection, is another duty, that is enjoined married women, in the word of God. They are to "be subject to their own husband in every thing," every lawful thing: "For, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." And knowing how unapt some base minds would be to submit to the husband’s authority, he takes care to enforce this duty of subjection by many cogent and powerful arguments." "For Adam was first made, and not Eve. Neither was the man made for the woman, but the woman for the man." And again, "The man was not first in the transgression, but the woman." Upon which accounts, subjection was imposed on her as part of her punishment. "Thy desire (says God) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule (though not tyrannize) over thee." So that, to use the words of pious Mr. Henry, those who attempt to usurp authority over their husbands, not only contradict a divine command, but thwart a divine curse. And if women are to be subject to their own husbands in every thing, how much more ought believers, whether men or women, to be subject to Jesus Christ: for he is the head of the church. He has bought her by his blood. Believers therefore are not their own, but are under the highest obligations to glorify and obey Jesus Christ, in their bodies and their souls, which are his. Add to this, that his service, as it is admirably expressed in one of our collects, is perfect freedom. His commandments holy, just, and good. And therefore it is your highest privilege, O believers, to submit to, and obey them. Earthly husbands may be so mean as to impose some things upon their wives, merely to shew their authority; but it is not so with Jesus Christ. He can and does impose nothing, but what immediately conduces to our present, as well as future good. In doing, nay, in suffering for Jesus Christ, there is a present unspeakable reward. And therefore I may say to believers, as the blessed Virgin said to the servants at the marriage in Cana, "Whatsoever he says unto you, do it." "For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light." And I believe it might easily be proved in a few minutes, that all the disorders which are now in the world, whether in church or state, are owing to a want of being universally, unanimously, chearfully, and perseveringly conformed to the laws and example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Again, Faithfulness in the marriage state, is strictly enjoined in the scriptures of truth. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Nay, adultery is an iniquity to be punished by the earthly judges; it dissolves the marriage relation. "For the man has not power over his own body, but the woman; neither has the woman power over her own body, but the man." The heathens themselves have been taught this by the light of nature; and adultery, among some of them, is punished with immediate death. And ought married persons to be thus careful to keep the marriage-bed undefiled, how carefully then ought believers to keep their souls chaste, pure, and undefiled, now they are espoused to Jesus Christ? For there is such a thing as spiritual adultery; "O ye adulterers and adulteresses," saith St. James. And God frequently complains of his people’s playing the harlot. Hence it is, that St. John, in the most endearing manner, exhorts believers to "keep themselves from idols." For the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and pride of life, are always ready to steal away our hearts from Jesus Christ. And every time we place our affections upon any thing more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed for evermore. "Little children, therefore, keep yourselves from idols." But it is time for me to draw towards the close of this head. Fruitfulness was a blessing promised by God to the first happy pair; "Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth." "Lo, children, and the fruit of the womb, (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord." And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work: for thus speaks the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead." What follows? "That we should bring forth fruit unto God." Glorious words, and proper to be considered in a peculiar manner, by such who would explode the doctrine of free justification, as an Antinomian doctrine, and as though it destroyed good works. No; it establishes, and lays a solid foundation, whereon to build the superstructure of good works. Titus is therefore commanded to "exhort believers to be careful to maintain good works." And "herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;" with a multitude of passages to the same purpose. Moreover, it is required of wives, that they not only love and reverence their husbands, but that they also love and respect their husband’s friends. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the bridegroom, but we shall also love and honour the bridegroom’s friends. "By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." "By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." Observe, the brethren, indefinitely, of whatever denomination. And this love must be "without dissimulation, and with a pure heart servently." This was the case of the primitive christians. They were all of one heart, and of one mind. It was said of them (O that it could be said of us!) "See how these christians love one another!" They were of the same spirit as a good woman of Scotland was, who, when she saw a great multitude, as is customary in that country, coming from various parts to receive the blessed sacrament, saluted them with a "Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, I have an house that will hold an hundred of you, and a heart that will hold ten thousand." Let us go and do likewise. Once more. Persons that are married, take one another for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall be willing to bear his cross, as well as to wear his crown. "If any man will come, after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Neither will they be compelled to do this, as Simon of Cyrene was, but they will be volunteers in his service; they will cry out, Crown him, crown him, when others are crying out, "Crucify him, crucify him." They will never leave or forsake him, but willingly follow the Captain of their salvation, though it be through a sea of blood. I might run the parallel still further, and also enlarge upon the hints already given; but I fear I have said enough already to reproach most believers; I am sure I have said more than enough to abash and upbraid myself. For alas! how vilely, treacherously, and ungratefully have we behaved towards our spiritual husband, the dear Lord Jesus, ever since the day of our espousals? Had our friends, or even the wives of our own bosoms, behaved to us as we have behaved to our great and best friend, our glorious husband, we should have broken off our friendship, and sued for a bill of divorcement long ago. Under our first love, what promises did we make to him? But how forwardly have we behaved ourselves in this covenant? How little have we reverenced him? How often has our Beloved been no more to us than another beloved? How little have we lived to his glory? Have we not been a shame and reproach to his gospel? Have we not crucified him afresh, and has he not been sorely wounded in the house of his friends? Nay, has not his holy name been blasphemed through our means? For alas! how little have we obeyed him? How careless and indifferent have we been, whether we pleased him or not? We have often said, indeed, when commanded by him to go work in his vineyard, We go, Lord; but alas! we went not. Or if we did go, with what reluctance has it been? How unwilling to watch with our dear Lord and Master, only one hour? And of his sabbaths, how often have we said, What a weariness is this? As for our adulteries, and spiritual fornications, how frequent, how aggravated have they been? Have not idols of all sorts, been suffered to fill up the room of the ever-blessed Jesus in our hearts? You that love him in sincerity, will not be offended if I tell you, that the xvith chapter of Ezekiel gives, in my opinion, a lively description of our behaviour towards our Lord. We were, like base-born, children, cast out in the field to the loathing of our persons: no eye pitied or had compassion on us. Jesus passed by, saw us polluted in our own blood, and said unto us, "Live," i. e. preserved us, even in our natural state, from death. And when his time of love was come, he spread the skirt of his imputed righteousness over us, and covered the nakedness of our souls, entered into covenant with us, and we became his. He washed us also with water, even in the laver of regeneration, and thoroughly washed us by his precious blood, from the guilt of all our sins. He cloathed us also with broidered work, and decked us with ornaments, even with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. We did eat fine flour and honey at his ordinances, and we fed on Jesus Christ in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. In short, we were made exceeding beautiful, and the kingdom of God was erected in our hearts. We were renowned among our neighbours for our love to God, and all that knew us took knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus. But alas! how have we fallen, who were once sons of the morning! How have we trusted in our own beauty, have grown spiritually proud, and provoked our patient and unspeakably long-suffering Lord to anger? Where is that ardent love we spake of, when we told him, that, though we should die for him, we would not deny him in any wife? How desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things, have we proved our hearts to be, since we have done all these things, even the work of an imperious woman? These are great and numerous charges; but great and numerous as they are, there is not a single believer here present, but, if he knows his own heart, may plead guilty to some, or all of them. But this is a tender point: I see you concerned: your tears, O believers, are a proof of the anguish of your souls. And can any of us give any reason, why Jesus Christ should not give us a bill of divorcement, and put us away? May he not justly speak to us as he did to his adultress Israel, in the forementioned xvith of Ezekiel, "Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord; I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, and shed blood, are judged. I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy, because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things. Behold, therefore, I also will recompence thy way upon thy head. I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath, in breaking the covenant, the marriage contract that was between us." This, I am persuaded, you will confess to be the treatment which we all most justly deserve. But be not overwhelmed with overmuch sorrow: for though the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will certainly vsit our offences with a rod, and our backslidings with a spiritual scourge, yet his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail. Though we have changed, yet he changeth not: He abideth faithful: his loving-kindness abideth for evermore. Hark! how sweetly he speaks to his backsliding people of old; "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help. I will heal their backsliding, and love them freely." And in the verses immediately following the words of the text, how comfortably does he address his espoused people! "In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, faith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn, that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn, that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, faith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." O that this goodness may lead us to repentance! O that this unparalleled, infinite, unchangeable love, may constrain us to an universal, uniform, chearful, unanimous, persevering obedience to all the commands of God! Brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you, and I could dwell a long while upon the many great and precious invitations that are made to backsliders, to return to their first love, and do their first works: but it is high time for me, if, as was proposed, III. I give to every one their proper portion; to speak to those poor souls, who know nothing of this blessed Bridegroom of the church, and consequently cannot yet say, "My Maker is my husband." Ah! I pity you from my inmost soul; I could weep over, and for you, though perhaps you will not weep for yourselves. But surely you would weep, and howl too, did you know the miserable condition those are in, who are not married to Jesus Christ. Will you give me leave (I think I speak it in much love) to inform you, that if you are not married to Jesus Christ, you are married to the law, the world, the flesh, and the devil, neither of which can make you happy; but all, on the contrary, concur to make you miserable. Hear ye not, ye that are married to the law, and seek to be Justified in the sight of God, partly, at least, if not wholly, by your own works, what the law faith to those that are under it, as a convenant of works? "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." Every word breathes threatening and slaughter to poor fallen creatures. Cursed, both here and hereafter, be this man, and every one, naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, without exception, that continueth not, even to the very end of life, in all things; not only in some, or many, but in all things, that are written in the book of the law, to do them, in the utmost perfection: for "he that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all." So that, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, whosoever is guilty of one wicked thought, word, or action, is under the curse of an angry sin-avenging God. "For as many as are under the law, are under the curse." And do you know what it is to be under the curse of God, and to have the wrath of God abide upon you? If you did, I believe you would not be so unwilling to be divorced from the law, and be espoused, as chaste virgins, to Jesus Christ. And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? "Vanity, vanity, faith the preacher, all is vanity," nay he adds, "and vexation of spirit." And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man’s life, the happiness of a man’s life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy to God?" And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the gallies, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God? Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But, IV. Will you permit me, O sinners, that I may draw towards a close of this discourse, to propose a better match to your souls. This is a part of the discourse which I long to come to, it being my heart’s desire, and earnest prayer to God, that your souls may be saved. "And now, O Lord God Almighty, thou Father of mercies, and God of all consolations, thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised to give thy Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, send me good speed this day, O Lord, send me now prosperity. Behold, I stand here without the camp, bearing a little of thy dear Son’s sacred reproach! Hear me, O Lord, hear me, and according to thy word, let thy dear, thine only begotten Son, see of the travel of his soul, and be satisfied! O help me so to speak, that many may believe on, and cleave unto thy blessed, thine holy child Jesus!" But who am I, that I should undertake to recommend the blessed Jesus to others, who am myself altogether unworthy to take his sacred name into my polluted lips? Indeed, my brethren, I do not count myself worthy of such an honour; but since it has pleased him, in whom all fulness dwells, to count me worthy, and put me into the ministry, the very stories would cry out against me, did I not attempt, at least, to lisp out his praise, and earnestly recommend the ever-blessed Jesus to the choice of all. Thus Abraham’s faithful servant behaved, when sent out to fetch a wife for his master Isaac. He spake of the riches and honours, which God had conferred on him; but what infinitely greater honours and riches, has the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, conferred on his only Son, to whom I now Invite every christless sinner! To you, therefore, I call, O ye sons of men, assuring you, there is every thing in Jesus that your hearts can desire, or hunger and thirst after. Do people in disposing of themselves or their children in marriage, generally covet to be matched with persons of great names? Let this consideration serve as a motive to stir you up to match with Jesus. For God the Father has given him a name above every name; he has upon his vesture, and upon his thigh, a name written, "The King of kings, and the Lord of lords;" and here in the text we are told, "The Lord of Hosts is his name." Nor has he an empty title, but power equivalent; for he is a prince, as well as a saviour. "All power is given unto him, both in heaven and on earth:" "The God of the whole earth, (says our text) he shall be called." The government of men, of the church, and of devils, is put upon his shoulders: "Thrones, principalities and powers, are made subject unto him; by him kings reign, and princes decree justice; he setteth up one, and putteth down another: and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Will riches be an inducement unto you to come and match with Jesus? Why then, I can tell you, the riches of Jesus are infinite: for unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach to poor sinners, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. I appeal to you that are his saints, whether you have not found this true, by happy experience; and though some of you, may have been acquainted with him thirty, forty, fifty years ago, do you not find his riches are yet unsearchable, and as much past finding out, as they were the very first moment in which you gave him your hearts! Would you match with a wise husband? Haste then, sinners, come away to Jesus: He is the fountain of wisdom, and makes all that come unto him, wife unto salvation; "He is the wisdom of the Father: the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. When he prepared the heavens, he was there; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then was he with him, as one brought up with him; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." As he is wife, so is he holy; and therefore, in the words of our text, he is stiled, "The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:" and by the angel Gabriel, "That holy Thing." The apostles, addressing God the Father, stile him his "holy child Jesus:" and the spirits of just men made perfect, and the angels in heaven, cease not day or night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy." Nor is his beauty inferior to his wisdom or holiness; the seraphs veil their faces, when they appear before him: "He is the chiefest among ten thousand, nay, he is altogether lovely." And, as he is altogether lovely, so is he altogether loving: his name and his nature is Love. God, God in Christ is love: love in the abstract. And in this has he manifested his love, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, nay open enemies, Jesus, in his own due time, died for the ungodly. He loved us so as to give himself for us. O what manner of love is this! What was Jacob’s love to Rachel, in comparison of the love which Jesus bore to a perishing world! He became a curse for us. For it is written; "Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree." What Zipporah said to her husband improperly, Jesus may say properly to his spouse the church, "A bloody wife hast thou been to me, because of the crucifixion." For he has purchased her with his own blood. And having once loved his people, he loves them unto, the end. His love, like himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. He hates putting away: though we change, yet he changeth not: he abideth faithful. When we are married here, there comes in that shocking clause, to use the words of holy Mr. Boston, "Till death us doth part;" but death itself shall not separate a true believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord: for he will never cease loving his Bride, till he has loved her to heaven, and presented her before his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Nay, his love will, as it were, but be beginning, through the endless ages of eternity. And now, Sirs, what say you? Shall I put that question to you, which Rebecca’s relations, upon a proposal of marriage, put to her? "Will ye go with the man?" With the God-man, this infinitely great, this infinitely powerful, this all-wise, all-holy, altogether lovely, ever-loving Jesus? What objection have you to make against such a gracious offer? One would imagine, you had not a single one; but it is to be feared, through the prevalency of unbelief, and the corruption of your desperately wicked deceitful hearts, you are ready to urge several. Methinks I hear some of you say within yourselves, "We like the proposal, but alas! we are poor." Are you so? If that be all, you may, not withstanding, be welcome to Jesus: "For has not God chosen the poor of this world, to make them rich in faith, and heirs of his everlasting kingdom?" And what says that Saviour, to whom I am now inviting you? "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And what says his Apostle concerning him? "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his Poverty might be made rich. But say you, "We are not only poor, but we are in debt; we owe God ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay;" but that need not keep you back: for God the Father, from the Lord Jesus, his dearly beloved Son, has received double for all believers sins: the blood of Jesus cleanseth from them all. But you are blind, and miserable, and naked; to whom then should you fly for succour, but to Jesus, who came to open the eyes of the blind, to seek and save the miserable and lost, and cloath the naked with his perfect and spotless righteousness. And now, what can hinder your espousals with the dear and ever-blessed Lamb of God? I know but of one thing, that dreadful sin of unbelief. But this is my comfort, Jesus died for unbelief, as well as for other sins, and has promised to send down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of this sin in particular: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send the Comforter, and he will convince the world of sin." What sin? of unbelief; "because they believe not on me." O that this promise may be so fulfilled in your hearts, and Jesus may so become the author of divine faith in your souls, that you may be able to send me the same message as a good woman in Scotland, on her dying bed, sent me by a friend: "Tell him, (says she) for his comfort, that at such a time he married me to the Lord Jesus." This would be comfort indeed. Not that we can marry you to Christ: No; the Holy Ghost must tie the marriage knot. But such honour have all God’s ministers; under him they espouse poor sinners to Jesus Christ. "I have espoused you (says St. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." O that you may say, We will go with the man; then will I bow my head, as Abraham‘s servant did, and go with joy and tell my Master, that he has not left his poor servant destitute this day: then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of his ordinances, and his banner over you shall be love. That this may be the happy case of you all, may the glorious God grant, for the sake of Jesus his dearly beloved Son, the glorious bridegroom of his church; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for evermore. Amen, and Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) The Meanness and the Greatness of Man The Meanness and the Greatness of Man What is man, that Thou art mindful of him: and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Psalm 8:4. Great S. Mary’s Church, 2nd Sunday after Easter, 1876. Who is here the speaker? Are we reading the experiences of the stripling still watching over his father’s flocks by night in the upland pastures of Bethlehem? Or of the lonely fugitive contemplating the starry skies from the broad plains of Philistia? Or of the powerful sovereign gazing upward to the overhanging vault from the palace roofs of Zion? Whether David the shepherd lad, or David the outlaw, or David the king, it matters not. The central idea of this magnificent psalm is plainly expressed, and makes no demands on historical criticism for its elucidation. Surveying the outspread canopy of heaven, the Psalmist is overwhelmed with awe at the scene. Its vast expanse, its fathomless blue, its starry glories, its beauty, its purity, its repose, all appal him with the sense of their grandeur; and crushed with the contrast between the greatness of universal creation and the littleness of the individual man, he exclaims bewildered and amazed, ‘When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him? Mystery of mysteries, that one so mean—an atom in this limitless expanse, a mote in this faultless glory, a flutter in this infinite calm—should be singled out for Thy special favour, and endowed with authority as Thy vicegerent upon earth.’ Could any paradox be imagined greater than this—this contrast, between the insignificance of man’s self and the pre-eminence of man’s destiny? We pass from the early dawn to the late afternoon of human history. The lapse of eight-and-twenty centuries is a large space in the life of mankind. It is a vast and profound chasm, which separates the simple inspiration of the shepherd-king from the many-sided culture of the poet, critic, philosopher, novelist, scientific investigator, the typical representative of modern thought and intellect in its latest phases. Yet to Goethe, holding solitary communion with nature in its higher forms, and contemplating earth and sky from the summit of the Brocken, the Psalmist’s thought still recurs with resistless importunity and finds its natural expression still in the Psalmist’s words, ‘Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ No interval of time nor transference of scene, no contrast of persons or of circumstances has tarnished its freshness, or robbed it of its power. Has robbed it of its power? Nay, must we not rather confess, in very truth, that as the world has grown older, the chasm between the greatness and the meanness of man has widened, and the paradox has increased from age to age? Was this disproportion so startling as to perplex and overawe the mind of the simple Hebrew in the remote past? What must it not be to us, who measure it by the accumulated experience of all the ages? This is the very essence of a true inspiration, that it should speak with fuller tones and a more articulate utterance to after-ages, than to the generations to which it was immediately addressed. So it is here. Every acquisition of modern science has emphasized the contrast in a manner, which the Psalmist himself could not have foreseen. Each new discovery has depressed the relative importance of man in the material universe. Each fresh investigation has obliterated some external distinction of origin or of structure or of growth, which was thought to isolate him from the rest of creation. Again and again, as science has announced some fresh revelation, the mysterious paradox has been brought home to our minds with redoubled force, ‘Lord, what, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ 1. Astronomy first issued her impressive comment on the text, and the Christian teachers have not been slow to adopt her forcible illustrations of its truth. The starry heavens were a panorama of unspeakable beauty and awe to the shepherd-king nearly three thousand years ago. What must they not be to us now? We know now—any well-instructed child knows now—that those bright specks, which appeared to his eye as jewels studding the midnight sky, are glorious suns, the centres, it may be, round which are revolving worlds as huge and as magnificent as our own. We know now that, where he discerned only one such speck, there are thousands of these separate suns. We know now that those irregular patches of hazy light so shapeless and so unmeaning, which appear only to dim the purity of the liquid sky, are aggregates of such stars or suns, countless in multitude. We know now the smallest of the visible stars to be so remote that even with the extraordinary speed of light a ray flashed from one of these, when David was king, cannot even yet have reached our eyes. These truths are now the simplest educational lessons; and yet they never pall upon the imagination. As the long rows of figures, which describe the distances, are arrayed before us, and we vainly strive to grasp some conception of the facts which they represent, the eye swims and the mind falters. Racked with the vastness of these reasonings, we resign the hopeless task in despair; and the saying of the Psalmist presses upon us with crushing force, ‘Lord, what is man, amidst these countless worlds? What is man, nay, what is all humanity, but an atom in this limitless universe, a drop in this ocean of infinite space?’ 2. And, before we have recovered from our amazement and collected our stupefied senses, Geology takes up the lesson which Astronomy has laid down, enforcing it with other and not less striking illustrations. Geology teaches us our insignificance in time, as Astronomy had taught us our insignificance in space. Geology tells us how this earth, of which we boast ourselves the lords paramount, as if by the indefeasible title of sole and undisputed possession, existed for countless ages before the creation of our race. She relates how through millions of years continents were made and unmade, mountains piled up and seas poured out, climates changed from frigid to torrid and from torrid to frigid, new creations of vegetable and animal life peopled the earth and lived out their time and died off in endless succession; till once more the mind, wearied with the effort to grasp the vastness of the idea, resigns its functions; and this new announcement again wrings from us the despairing cry, ‘What is man? What is man, even on this earth of his own, but a fleeting apparition, a thing of yesterday, one term in an endless series, one ripple on the stream of the ages, one moment in infinite time?’ 3. But again: before we have had time to realise this fresh comment on the text, the teaching of the Psalmist is enforced anew from quite another quarter. As the telescope had revealed to us vast and multitudinous worlds stretching out into boundless space, so the microscope discovers to us miniature worlds equally strange and unsuspected, crowding under our very eyes, countless in number and each thronged with a dense population of its own. A single drop of water appears peopled with thousands of minute living creatures, which multiply indefinitely with the increased power of our lenses. A single nodule of rock is seen to be composed of millions of fossil organisms, each one endowed with a vitality of its own. Everywhere is life, teeming, fermenting, inexhaustible life. And so once more our imagination sinks under the burden of the thought, and once more we echo the cry of humiliation, ‘Lord, what is man? What is man, but a single throb in this endless pulsation of nature, a solitary bubble on this effervescence of infinite, omnipresent life?’ 4. Nor is this all. Hitherto at least the main fortress of our pride is unassailed. We can still maintain the isolation, the uniqueness, of man in the physical creation. But even this fondly-cherished idea falls before the next assault of science. The anatomist dissects and the chemist analyses the human body. This complex mechanism, this marvellous tenement of the spirit, is resolved into its component elements. Now at least it would seem as though the secret must be revealed. Now at length we shall discover whence comes, and wherein resides, and what is, the distinctive glory of man. Now at length we shall be able to hold up to the eye, and submit to the touch, the evidence of his special pre-eminence. But here too we are doomed to disappointment. Our expected triumph becomes a signal defeat. The elements of the human body are analysed and sorted and weighed and tabulated. Man is found to be compounded of just such substances as the brute or the tree or the stone. There is absolutely nothing besides. Reason, memory, imagination, foresight, spirit, conscience, personality—they are not here. Had we any right to expect it otherwise? This is no newly-discovered truth. It is as ancient as the first promptings of inspiration. It was declared, as in a parable, in that Divine saying of old, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’ But it comes home to us with redoubled force, when the dissecting room and the laboratory have done their work; and nothing has been laid bare by the scalpel, and nothing has been detected by the retort, which can explain the mystery of man’s being—no unique atom which is the abode of the spirit, no nucleus which contains the living, thinking man, no indiscerptible unit, of which philosophers have dreamed, as the palpable germ of his immortality. ‘What is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away;’ and the mocking echo of materialism gives back the Apostle’s saying, ‘even a vapour, that vanisheth away.’ ‘What is man? An aggregate of chemical elements nicely combined, a compound of evanescent gases which escape and are dissipated, and all is gone.’ 5. Once more. If there is nothing in the component elements of the human frame which accounts for the pre-eminence of man, we may at all events look for an explanation in some peculiarities of structure. We shall at least find some differentiating characteristic here: we shall detect a certain uniqueness of type, which explains all. At length we shall have laid our finger on the elusive secret. Comparative anatomy and comparative physiology will come to our aid, where other sciences have failed us. This is our last hope; but here too we are frustrated. Each fresh advance of science seems to shew more plainly that we must look elsewhere than to his physical structure and growth for an explanation of the man, as the ruling, thinking, progressive, immortal being. The naturalist will tell us that the same essential type of structure prevails throughout; that different parts are more or less fully developed in different creatures, but that the ground idea in all is identical. He will tell us that the individual human being has in the several stages of his growth passed through forms analogous to the several types of the lower animals, before his structure was completed. He will tell us that all attempts at classification with a view to separating man off by a broad line from the lower creation fail signally. A slightly different convolution of the brain, a slightly different conformation of the skull, a firmer grasp of the hand, a steadier gait of the foot—trifles these—yet these, and such as these, are all that he can find to distinguish the man from the brute. And perhaps he will boldly advance a theory that the man is after all only the brute developed through a long series of ages. Of the truth or the falsehood of such a theory I say nothing here. But if it should prove most true, would it not justify and enforce by a new and unsuspected illustration the Psalmist’s awe, while contemplating the contrast between the nature and the destiny of man? ‘Man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.’ And again the voice of materialism throws back his pious ejaculation with its mocking echo, ‘like the beasts that perish.’ ‘What is man? Half-akin, nay more than half-akin, to the brute. And the son of man? A superior mammal, a developed mollusc, a creature among creatures, a finer sample of a vulgar type.’ Thus again and again we are brought back to the same point. Again and again, as we contemplate some new revelation of science, our amazement grows. At each step we are more and more bewildered with this strange paradox of humanity, this contrast between the two elements in our nature—that which we have in common with the lower creation, and that which is our special endowment as men—the dust which is taken from the earth, and the spirit which is breathed into us by God. At each step we exclaim with increased intensity of wonder, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him: and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?’ For we cannot stop short at the first clause of the Psalmist’s words, and refuse to entertain the sequel. The materialist will be content to say, ‘What is man? An insignificant atom in time and space. And the son of man? An organism like other organisms.’ But the believer is constrained to add, ‘Lord, that Thou art mindful of him! Lord, that Thou visitest him!’ It is just this addition which transmutes the sneer of a cynical contempt, or the wail of a prostrate despair, into the psalm of devout and reverential awe. And the believer may boldly claim science herself as his teacher. To hear some men talk, one would suppose that in the height of scientific discovery the mystery of man’s being had been found no mystery at all. A moment’s thought will dispel the illusion. The profound secret remains as dark and impenetrable as ever. Much has been done to explain the conditions of life; but nothing, absolutely nothing, to explain life itself. Nay, every step in advance has only increased the paradox and widened the gulf, so that the mystery is more complete than before. It has widened the gulf; for while it has shewn that man, as a material structure, is only an infinitely small fraction of a vast universe like himself, differing almost inappreciably from other fractions, it has accumulated evidence at every step, that, as a thinking, hoping, aspiring, progressive being, he is quite unique in God’s creation. Each successive triumph of science makes the distance between the man and the brute wider. Each new acquisition is a fresh proof of capacity and a fresh ground for hope. If experience discovers the littleness of man to be more little, yet at the same time it shews his greatness to be more great. The Psalmist’s expression of wonder and awe and thanksgiving was wrung from him chiefly by the thought, that his Almighty Creator had given to man—to man, this frail, fleeting, impotent being—the dominion over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea, over creatures stronger in limb and more fleet of foot and keener-sighted and better-armed and longer-lived than himself. But what is all this compared with the triumphs which we have witnessed—the sovereignty of man asserted over the elemental powers of nature? We have lived to see how he can order the lightning; commanding it, and it flashes his message from continent to continent; forbidding it, and it glances harmlessly away. We have seen him weigh the sun, and measure the heavens, and analyse the stars. We have witnessed how he has made the vapour his slave, bidding it carry him to and fro and furnish his every need. And we feel that these achievements are only an earnest of greater triumphs yet in store for humanity. While the bee constructs its cells with just the same mathematical precision, and the ant piles up its winter stores with just the same prudent foresight—neither more nor less—as they did thousands of years ago; while the horse and the dog seem to contract almost human sensibilities by association with man, and then, when they are turned wild, lose them again, as if they had been only a reflection of a human master’s presence; while all the lower creation is stationary, mankind is rapidly advancing higher and higher. And still the marvel increases, ‘Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?—visitest him in this faculty of experience whereby he records and treasures up the accumulated wisdom of the past, visitest him in this divination of foresight wherewith he projects himself into the triumphs and the hopes of the future, visitest him in his scientific achievements, in his social progress, in his ever-extended dominion over the material universe?’ Such thoughts as these may well occupy our minds. We cannot afford to overlook them. They are directly suggested by the Psalmist’s hymn of praise. They must ever supply a stanza—though not the loftiest—in our song of thanksgiving to the Almighty Creator. For after all, these magnificent victories, this dominion over the beasts of the field, this subjugation of the powers of nature, are only the earnest, the prelude, the foreshadowing, of greater things yet to come. This is plainly the Psalmist’s idea. A larger, fuller, more triumphant thought is struggling for utterance, than finds direct expression in words; ‘Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour; Thou hast put all things under his feet.’ Hence Apostles and Evangelists saw the true fulfilment of the Psalmist’s prophetic saying in the ultimate and supreme destiny of mankind, as realised in the Person and work of the one Representative Man. Nothing short of this could satisfy the hopes, which the jubilant strain inspires. Here at length was the exaltation, the glory, the absolute sovereignty, the final apotheosis of man. And, emphasized by this comment, the song of the Psalmist falls on the ears of Christians now, with a fuller cadence, swelled with the experience of nearly thirty centuries and prolonged into the hopes of eternity, ‘Lord, that Thou art mindful of him; Lord, that Thou visitest him!’ ‘That Thou art mindful of him.’ That Thou hast condescended to hold communion with This Thy frail and sinful creature; that through long ages Thou didst school him to an ever fuller knowledge of Thee; that even in the darkest times and among the most degraded peoples Thou didst not leave Thyself without a witness, speaking through the promptings of the conscience, speaking through the courses of the seasons, speaking through the hopes and the fears of the present; that Thou didst single out one man, one family, one nation, to be the depositary of Thy special revelation; that Thou didst guard and preserve this nation through unparalleled vicissitudes, so that exiled, enslaved, crushed, trampled under foot, it revived again and again; that Thou didst from time to time commission Thy special messengers—lawgiver, psalmist, prophet, priest—to renew the flame of truth on the altar of Thy chosen race; and that thus Thy revelation burst out ever and again with a clearer, brighter light, and Thy Divine economy broadened down from precedent to precedent, till at length the religion of a nation should become the religion of the world. ‘That Thou hast visited him.’ That Thou didst effect this change by a signal manifestation of Thyself; that in the fulness of time, when Egyptians and Assyrians and Persians, when Greeks and Romans had prepared the way, Thou didst of Thine infinite mercy send Thine only Son upon earth; that He was born as a man, lived as a man, suffered and died as a man; and that thus by this one act of marvellous condescension, humanity was redeemed, was exalted, was sanctified. ‘That Thou hast visited him.’ Not only that this Thy blessed Son lived and died as a man; but that as a man He rose from the grave, and thus as a man won for men the victory over sin and death; that, as a man, He ascended into the heaven of heavens, the firstfruits of the final triumph of mankind, the earnest of that glorious consummation of all human history, when His brother-men united in Him shall wear His crown, and reign with Him as kings for ever and ever. Lord, what is man—this speck in boundless space, this moment in infinite time, this atom of atoms, this frail, fleeting, helpless creature, this insignificance, this nothing—that Thou hast ordained him to such unspeakable glory? ‘What is man?’ Nay, what is this man? What am I, that Thou visitest me? We cannot escape the moral of the Psalmist’s appeal under the shelter of a vague generality. To you and to you—to each individually—the shaft strikes home. What am I—I with these vile passions, I with this hateful selfishness, I with this hopeless, intolerable meanness, of which I am conscious every hour, that Thou art mindful of me, that Thou visitest me? A pessimist you must be in one sense, if you examine yourself candidly. A pessimist the spirit of the time will tend to make you in another direction. It is the special temptation of our age, that its most prominent scientific interests almost of necessity lead the mind to dwell too exclusively on the lower affinities of our nature—on our animal emotions, on our perishable bodies, on our resemblance to the brute creation, on our sensitiveness, even our moral sensitiveness, to the manifold changes of circumstance, as food and climate and scenery. The danger is imminent. The thoughts, which absorb you, will also mould you. If you get to regard yourself as mean, you will at length become mean. Lift up your eyes then from earth to heaven. Rise from the consideration of your littleness to the contemplation of your greatness. Here, in that noblest of all optimisms, which science suggests and consciousness demands and revelation affirms—the belief in the unique personality, the boundless capacity, the triumphant progress, the eternal destiny of man: the belief in the godlike, nay, in the God within you—is the saving of your soul. The God within you. The Stoic of old would remind his disciples that they carried about a god enshrined in their hearts. Even as a vague surmise, a highly-wrought metaphor, the expression of an unsatisfied spiritual yearning, this teaching was very far from inoperative. What may it not be to you to whom it is an assured truth, to you who have been re-stamped in Christ with the image of God, to you who have been re-consecrated as the temples of the Spirit? The God within you. Carry this thought back to your rooms, you young men, and contemplate it with all reverence on your knees. Whatever temptations may assault you, it has power to overcome them all. If every other diversion and every other remedy should fail, this will never fail. Though the craven fear of detection should not restrain you, and the noble egotism of self-respect should not uphold you, and the apprehension of consequences now or hereafter should not deter you, the awe, the majesty, the glory of this Presence realised must scare away the demons of sin from your heart. ‘Lord, what are we, what am I, that Thou visitest me, that Thou makest Thine abode with me, that Thou hast enshrined Thyself in me? What are we, and what art Thou, O Lord? We are of yesterday; Thou art from eternity. We are here; Thou art everywhere. Our meanness and our greatness, our failures and our triumphs, what seems our weakness and what seems our worth—these are both alike, for these are both as nothing, in the face of Thine infinite perfection. Grant, Lord, that we may feel and know this. Teach us, Lord, to forget ourselves in Thee, that so losing ourselves we may truly find ourselves. This is the first and last thought in the Psalmist’s hymn of praise; this must be the first and the last also in the Christian’s song of thanksgiving—not our meanness, not our greatness, not ourselves, not humanity, not man; but Thou and Thou only, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Sluggard's Farm The Sluggard's Farm "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction."—Proverbs 24:30–32. NO doubt Solomon was sometimes glad to lay aside the robes of state, escape from the forms of court, and go through the country unknown. On one occasion, when he was doing so, he looked over the broken wall of a little estate which belonged to a farmer of his country. This estate consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard. One glance showed him that it was owned by a sluggard, who neglected it, for the weeds had grown right plentifully and covered all the face of the ground. From this Solomon gathered instruction. Men generally learn wisdom if they have wisdom. The artist’s eye sees the beauty of the landscape because he has beauty in his mind. "To him that hath shall be given," and he shall have abundance, for he shall reap a harvest even from a field that is covered with thorns and nettles. There is a great difference between one man and another in the use of the mind’s eye. I have a book entitled, "The Harvest of a Quiet Eye," and a good book it is: the harvest of a quiet eye can be gathered from a sluggard’s land as well as from a well-managed farm. When we were boys we were taught a little poem, called, "Eyes and no Eyes," and there was much of truth in it, for some people have eyes and see not, which is much the same as having no eyes; while others have quick eyes for spying out instruction. Some look only at the surface, while others see not only the outside shell but the living kernel of truth which is hidden in all outward things. We may find instruction everywhere. To a spiritual mind nettles have their use, and weeds have their doctrine. Are not all thorns and thistles meant to be teachers to sinful men? Are they not brought forth of the earth on purpose that they may show us what sin has done, and the kind of produce that will come when we sow the seed of rebellion against God? "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," says Solomon; "I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." Whatever you see, take care to consider it well, and you will not see it in vain. You shall find books and sermons everywhere, in the land and in the sea, in the earth and in the skies, and you shall learn from every living beast, and bird, and fish, and insect, and from every useful or useless plant that springs out of the ground. We may also gather rare lessons from things that we do not like. I am sure that Solomon did not in the least degree admire the thorns and the nettles that covered the face of the vineyard, but he nevertheless found instruction in them. Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briars, but here is one who was improved by them. Wisdom hath a way of gathering grapes of thorns and figs of nettles, and she distils good from herbs which in themselves are noisome and evil. Do not fret, therefore, over thorns, but get good out of them. Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will. Like Solomon, see and consider them well—look upon them, and receive instruction. As for us, we will now, first, consider Solomon’s description of a sluggard: he is "a man void of understanding"; secondly, we shall notice his description of the sluggard’s land: "it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." When we have attended to these two matters we will close by endeavouring to gather the instruction which this piece of waste ground may yield us. First, think of Solomon’s description of a slothful man. Solomon was a man whom none of us would contradict, for he knew as much as all of us put together; and besides that, he was under divine inspiration when he wrote this Book of Proverbs. Solomon says, a sluggard is "a man void of understanding." The slothful does not think so; he puts his hands in his pockets, and you would think from his important air that he had all the Bank of England at his disposal. You can see that he is a very wise man in his own esteem, for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress you with a sense of his superior abilities. How he has come by his wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to think, and yet I dare not say that he jumps at his conclusions, because he never does such a thing as jump, he lies down and rolls into a conclusion. Yet he knows everything, and has settled all points: meditation is too hard work for him, and learning he never could endure; but to be clever by nature is his delight. He does not want to know more than he knows, for he knows enough already, and yet he knows nothing. The proverb is not complimentary to him, but I am certain that Solomon was right when he called him "a man void of understanding." Solomon was rather rude according to the dainty manners of the present times, because this gentleman had a field and a vineyard, and as Poor Richard saith, "When I have a horse and a cow every man biddeth me good morrow." How can a man be void of understanding who has a field and a vineyard? Is it not generally understood that you must measure a man’s understanding by the amount of his ready cash? At all events you shall soon be flattered for your attainments if you have attained unto wealth. Such is the way of the world, but such is not the way of Scripture. Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he is a sluggard he is a fool, or if you would like to see his name written out a little larger, he is a man empty of understanding. Not only does he not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with. He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard. He may be called a gentleman, he may be a landed proprietor, he may have a vineyard and a field; but he is none the better for what he has: nay, he is so much the worse, because he is a man void of understanding, and is therefore unable to make use of his property. I am glad to be told by Solomon so plainly that a slothful man is void of understanding, for it is useful information. I have met with persons who thought they perfectly understood the doctrines of grace, who could accurately set forth the election of the saints, the predestination of God, the firmness of the divine decree, the necessity of the Spirit’s work, and all the glorious doctrines of grace which build up the fabric of our faith; but these gentlemen have inferred from these doctrines that they have to do nothing, and thus they have become sluggards. Do-nothingism is their creed. They will not even urge other people to labour for the Lord, because, say they, "God will do his own work. Salvation is all of grace!" The notion of these sluggards is that a man is to wait, and do nothing; he is to sit still, and let the grass grow up to his ankles in the hope of heavenly help. To arouse himself would be an interference with the eternal purpose, which he regards as altogether unwarrantable. I have known him look sour, shake his aged head, and say hard things against earnest people who were trying to win souls. I have known him run down young people, and like a great steam ram, sink them to the bottom, by calling them unsound and ignorant. How shall we survive the censures of this dogmatic person? How shall we escape from this very knowing and very captious sluggard? Solomon hastens to the rescue and extinguishes this gentleman by informing us that he is void of understanding. Why, he is the standard of orthodoxy, and he judges everybody! Yet Solomon applies another standard to him, and says he is void of understanding. He may know the doctrine, but he does not understand it; or else he would know that the doctrines of grace lead us to seek the grace of the doctrines; and that when we see God at work we learn that he worketh in us, not to make us go to sleep, but to will and to do of his own good pleasure. God’s predestination of a people is his ordaining them unto good works that they may show forth his praise. So, if you or I shall from any doctrines, however true, draw the inference that we are warranted in being idle and indifferent about the things of God, we are void of understanding; we are acting like fools; we are misusing the gospel; we are taking what was meant for meat and turning it into poison. The sluggard, whether he is sluggish about his business or about his soul, is a man void of understanding. As a rule we may measure a man’s understanding by his useful activities; this is what the, wise man very plainly tells us. Certain persons call themselves "cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. Modern thought, as far as I have seen anything of its actual working, is a bottle of smoke, out of which comes nothing solid; yet we know men who can distinguish and divide, debate and discuss, refine and refute, and all the while the hemlock is growing in the furrow, and the plough is rusting. Friend, if your knowledge, if your culture, if your education does not lead you practically to serve God in your day and generation, you have not learned what Solomon calls wisdom, and you are not like the Blessed One, who was incarnate wisdom, of whom we read that "he went about doing good." A lazy man is not like our Saviour, who said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." True wisdom is practical: boastful culture vapours and theorizes. Wisdom ploughs its field, wisdom hoes its vineyard, wisdom looks to its crops, wisdom tries to make the best of everything; and he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of this, of that, or of the other, is a man void of understanding. Why is he void of understanding? Is it not because he has opportunities which he does not use? His day has come, his day is going, and he lets the hours glide by to no purpose. Let me not press too hardly upon anyone, but let me ask you all to press as hardly as you can upon yourselves while you enquire each one of himself—Am I employing the minutes as they fly? This man had a vineyard, but he did not cultivate it; he had a field, but he did not till it. Do you, brethren, use all your opportunities? I know we each one have some power to serve God; do we use it? If we are his children he has not put one of us where we are of necessity useless. Somewhere we may shine by the light which he has given us, though that light be only a farthing candle. Are we thus shining? Do we sow beside all waters? Do we in the morning sow our seed, and in the evening still stretch out our hand; for if not, we are rebuked by the sweeping censure of Solomon, who saith that the slothful is a "man void of understanding." Having opportunities he did not use them, and next, being bound to the performance of certain duties he did not fulfil them. When God appointed that every Israelite should have a piece of land, under that admirable system which made every Israelite a landowner, he meant that each man should possess his plot, not to let it lie waste, but to cultivate it. When God put Adam in the garden of Eden it was not that he should walk through the glades and watch the spontaneous luxuriance of the unfallen earth, but that he might dress it and keep it, and he had the same end in view when he allotted each Jew his piece of land; he meant that the holy soil should reach the utmost point of fertility through the labour of those who owned it. Thus the possession of a field and a vineyard involved responsibilities upon the sluggard which he never fulfilled, and therefore he was void of understanding. What is your position, dear friend? A father? A master? A servant? A minister? A teacher? Well, you have your farms and your vineyards in those particular spheres; but if you do not use those positions aright you will be void of understanding, because you neglect the end of your existence. You miss the high calling which your Maker has set before you. The slothful farmer was unwise in these two respects, and in another also; for he had capacities which he did not employ. He could have tilled the field and cultivated the vineyard if he had chosen to do so. He was not a sickly man, who was forced to keep his bed, but he was a lazybones who was there of choice. You are not asked to do in the service of God that which is utterly beyond you, for it is expected of us according to what we have and not according to what we have not. The man of two talents is not required to bring in the interest of five, but he is expected to bring in the interest of two. Solomon’s slothful was too idle to attempt tasks which were quite within his power. Many have a number of dormant faculties of which they are scarcely aware, and many more have abilities which they are using for themselves, and not for him who created them. Dear friends, if God has given us any power to do good, pray let us do it, for this is a wicked, weary world. We should not even cover a glow-worm’s light in such a darkness as this. We should not keep back a syllable of divine truth in a world that is so full of falsehood and error. However feeble our voices, let us lift them up for the cause of truth and righteousness. Do not let us be void of understanding, because we have opportunities that we do not use, obligations that we do not fulfil, and capacities which we do not exercise. As for a sluggard in soul matters, he is indeed void of understanding, for he trifles with matters which demand his most earnest heed. Man, hast thou never cultivated thy heart? Has the ploughshare never broken up the clods of thy soul? Has the seed of the Word never been sown in thee? or has it taken no root? Hast thou never watered the young plants of desire? Hast thou never sought to pull up the weeds of sin that grow in thy heart? Art thou still a piece of the bare common or wild heath? Poor soul! Thou canst trim thy body, and spend many a minute at the glass; dost thou not care for thy soul? How long thou takest to decorate thy poor flesh, which is but worm’s meat, or would be in a minute if God took away thy breath! And yet all the while thy soul is uncombed, unwashed, unclad, a poor neglected thing! Oh it should not be so. You take care of the worse part and leave the better to perish through neglect. This is the height of folly! He that is a sluggard as to the vineyard of his heart is a man void of understanding. If I must be idle, let it be seen in my field and my garden, but not in my soul. Or are you a Christian? Are you really saved, and are you negligent in the Lord’s work? Then, indeed, whatever you may be, I cannot help saying you have too little understanding; for surely, when a man is saved himself, and understands the danger of other men’s souls, he must be in earnest in trying to pluck the firebrands from the flame. A Christian sluggard! Is there such a being? A Christian man on half time? A Christian man working not at all for his Lord; how shall I speak of him? Time does not tarry, death does not tarry, HELL does not tarry; Satan is not lazy, all the powers of darkness are busy: how is it that you and I can be sluggish, if the Master has put us into his vineyard? Surely we must be void of understanding if, after being saved by the infinite love of God, we do not spend and be spent in his service. The eternal fitness of things demands that a saved man should be an earnest man. The Christian who is slothful in his Master’s service has no idea what he is losing; for the very cream of religion lies in holy consecration to God. Some people have just enough religion to make it questionable whether they have any or no. They have enough godliness to make them uneasy in their ungodliness. They have washed enough of their face to show the dirt upon the rest of it. "I am glad," said a servant, "that my mistress takes the sacrament, for otherwise I should not know she had any religion at all." You smile, and well you may. It is ridiculous that some people should have no goods in their shop, and yet advertise their business in all the papers; should make a show of religion, and yet have none of the Spirit of God. I wish some professors would do Christ the justice to say, "No, I am not one of his disciples; do not think so badly of him as to imagine that I can be one of them." We ought to be reflections of Christ; but I fear many are reflections upon Christ. When we see a lot of lazy servants, we are apt to think that their master must be a very idle person himself, or he would never put up with them. He who employs sluggards, and is satisfied with their snail-like pace, cannot be a very active man himself. O, let not the world think that Christ is indifferent to human woe, that Christ has lost his zeal, that Christ has lost his energy: yet I fear they will say it or think it if they see those who profess to be labourers in the vineyard of Christ nothing better than mere sluggards. The slothful, then, is a man void of understanding; he loses the honour and pleasure which he would find in serving his Master; he is a dishonour to the cause which he professes to venerate, and he is storing up thorns for his dying pillow. Let that stand as settled—the slothful, whether he be a minister, deacon, or private Christian, is a man void of understanding. Now, secondly, let us look at the sluggard’s land: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." Note, first, that land will produce something. Soil which is good enough to be made into a field and a vineyard must and will yield some fruit or other; and so you and I, in our hearts and in the sphere God gives us to occupy, will be sure to produce something. We cannot live in this world as entire blanks; we shall either do good or do evil, as sure as we are alive. If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work. The sluggard by sleeping was doing more for the cultivation of thorns and nettles than he could have done by any other means. As a garden will either yield flowers or weeds, fruits or thistles, so something either good or evil will come out of our household, our class, or our congregation. If we do not produce a harvest of good wheat, by labouring for Christ, we shall grow tares to be bound up in bundles for the last dread burning. Note again that, if it be not farmed for God, the soul will yield its natural produce; and what is the natural produce of land if left to itself? What but thorns and nettles, or some other useless weeds? What is the natural produce of your heart and mine? What but sin and misery! What is the natural produce of your children if you leave them untrained for God? What but unholiness and vice? What is the natural produce of this great city if we leave its streets, and lanes, and alleys without the gospel? What but crime and infamy? Some harvest there will be, and the sheaves will be the natural produce of the soil, which is sin, death, and corruption. If we are slothful, the natural produce of our heart and of our sphere will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves. Nobody can sleep on thorns, or make a pillow of nettles. No rest can come out of an idleness which lets ill alone, and does not by God’s Spirit strive to uproot evil. While you are sleeping, Satan will be sowing. If you withhold the seed of good, Satan will be lavish with the seed of evil, and from that evil will come anguish and regret for time, and it may be for eternity. O man, the garden put into thy charge, if thou waste thy time in slumber, will reward thee with all that is noisome and painful. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce; for a field and a vineyard will yield more thistles and nettles than a piece of ground that has never been reclaimed. If the land is good enough for a garden, it will present its owner with a fine crop of weeds if he only stays his hand. A choice bit of land fit for a vineyard of red wine will render such a profusion of nettles to the slothful that he shall rub his eyes with surprise. The man who might do most for God, if he were renewed, will bring forth most for Satan if he be let alone. The very region which would have glorified God most if the grace of God were there to convert its inhabitants, will be that out of which the vilest enemies of the gospel will arise. Rest assured of that; the best will become the worst if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to produce evil. If you want to know the way of salvation I must take some pains to tell you; but if you want to know the way to be lost, my reply is easy; for it is only a matter of negligence;—"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" If you desire to bring forth a harvest unto God, I may need long to instruct you in ploughing, sowing, and watering; but if you wish your mind to be covered with Satan’s hemlock, you have only to leave the furrows of your nature to themselves. The slothful asks for "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep," and the thorns and thistles multiply beyond all numbering, and prepare for him many a sting. While we look upon the lazy man’s vineyard let us also peep into the ungodly sluggard’s heart. He does not care about repentance and faith. To think about his soul, to be in earnest about eternity, is too much for him, He wants to take things easy, and have a little more folding of the arms to sleep. What is growing in his mind and character? In some of these spiritual sluggards you can see drunkenness, uncleanness, covetousness, anger, and pride, and all sorts of thistles and nettles; or where these ranker weeds do not appear, by reason of the restraint of pious connections, you find other sorts of sin. The heart cannot be altogether empty, either Christ or the devil will possess it. My dear friend, if you are not decided for God, you cannot be a neutral. In this war every man is for God or for his enemy. You cannot remain like a sheet of blank paper. The legible handwriting of Satan is upon you—can you not see the blots? Unless Christ has written across the page his own sweet name, the autograph of Satan is visible. You may say, "I do not go into open sin; I am moral," and so forth. Ah, if you would but look, and consider, and search into your heart, you would see that enmity to God and to his ways, and hatred of purity, are there. You do not love God’s law, nor love his Son, nor love his gospel, you are alienated in your heart, and there is in you all manner of evil desires and vain thoughts, and these will flourish and increase so long as you are a spiritual sluggard, and leave your heart uncultivated. O, may the Spirit of God arouse you; may you be stirred to anxious, earnest thought, and then you will see that these rank growths must be uprooted, and that your heart must be turned up by the plough of conviction, and sown with the good seed of the gospel, till a harvest rewards the great Husbandman. Friend, if you believe in Christ, I want to peep over the hedge into your heart also, if you are a sluggish Christian; for I fear that nettles and thistles are threatening you also? Did I not hear you sing the other day— "’Tis a point I long to know"? That point will often be raised, for doubt is a seed which is sure to grow in lazy men’s minds. I do not remember reading in Mr. Wesley’s diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest of the Master that it did not occur to him to distrust his God. Some Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown the grain of mustard seed which they have received. If you do not sow your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in Christ Jesus, and his faith exercises itself actively in the service of his Lord, it takes root, grows upward, and becomes strong, till it chokes his doubts. Some have sadly morbid forebodings; they are discontented, fretful, selfish, murmuring, and all because they are idle. These are the weeds that grow in sluggards’ gardens. I have known the slothful become so peevish that nothing could please them; the most earnest Christian could not do right for them; the most loving Christians could not be affectionate enough; the most active church could not be energetic enough; they detected all sorts of wrong where God himself saw much of the fruit of his Spirit. This censoriousness, this contention, this perpetual complaining is one of the nettles that are quite sure to grow in men’s gardens when they fold their arms in sinful ease. If your heart does not yield fruit to God it will certainly bring forth that which is mischievous in itself, painful to you, and injurious to your fellow-men. Often the thorns choke the good seed; but it is a very blessed thing when the good seed comes up so thick and fast that it chokes the thorns. God enables certain Christians to become so fruitful in Christ that their graces and works stand thick together, and when Satan throws in the tares they cannot grow because there is no room for them. The Holy Spirit by his power makes evil to become weak in the heart, so that it no longer keeps the upper hand. If you are slothful, friend, look over the field of your heart, and weep at the sight. May I next ask you to look into your own house and home? It is a dreadful thing when a man does not cultivate the field of his own family. I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me into the villages when I was preaching I was glad of his company till I found out certain facts, and then I shook him off, and I believe he hooked on to somebody else, for he must needs be gadding abroad every evening of the week. He had many children, and these grew up to be wicked young men and women, and the reason was that the father, while he would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children to the Saviour. What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at home? How sad to say, "My own vineyard have I not kept." Have you never heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older? One of his boys broke his arm, and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said the good doctor, "I told you what would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too." It is our duty to prejudice our field in favour of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child’s heart for good, or it will go wrong of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the destroyer. As it is with homes, so is it with schools. A gentleman who joined this church some time ago had been an atheist for years, and in conversing with him I found that he had been educated at one of our great public schools, and to that fact he traced his infidelity. He said that the boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far end of a church, where they could scarcely hear a word that the clergyman said, but simply sat imprisoned in a place where it was dreadfully hot in summer and cold in winter. On Sundays there were prayers, and prayers, and prayers, but nothing that ever touched his heart; until he was so sick of prayers that he vowed if he once got out of the school he would have done with religion. This is a sad result, but a frequent one. You Sunday-school teachers can make your classes so tiresome to the children that they will hate Sunday. You can fritter away the time in school without bringing the lads and lasses to Christ, and so you may do more hurt than good. I have known Christian fathers who by their severity and want of tenderness have sown their family field with the thorns and thistles of hatred to religion instead of scattering the good seed of love to it. O that we may so live among our children that they may not only love us, but love our Father who is in heaven. May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us tread in our father’s footsteps, for he was a happy and a holy man. Let us follow our mother’s ways, for she was sweetness itself." If piety does not rule in your house, when we pass by your home we shall see disorder, disobedience, pride of dress, folly, and the beginnings of vice. Let not your home be a sluggard’s field, or you will have to rue it in years to come. Let every deacon, every class-leader, and also every minister enquire diligently into the state of the field he has to cultivate. You see, brothers and sisters, if you and I are set over any department of our Lord’s work, and we are not diligent in it, we shall be like barren trees planted in an orchard, which are a loss altogether, because they occupy the places of other trees which might have brought forth fruit unto their owners. We shall cumber the ground, and do damage to our Lord, unless we render him actual service. Will you think of this? If you could be put down as a mere cipher in the accounts of Christ, that would be very sad; but brother, it cannot be so, you will cause a deficit unless you create a gain. Oh that through the grace of God we may be profitable to our Lord and Master. Who among us can look upon his life-work without some sorrow? If anything has been done aright we ascribe it all to the grace of God; but how much there is to weep over! How much that we would wish to amend! Let us not spend time in idle regrets, but pray for the Spirit of God, that in the future we may not be void of understanding, but may know what we ought to do, and where the strength must come from with which to do it, and then give ourselves up to the doing of it. I beg you once more to look at the great field of the world. Do you see how it is overgrown with thorns and nettles? If an angel could take a survey of the whole race, what tears he would shed, if angels could weep! What a tangled mass of weeds the whole earth is! Yonder the field is scarlet with the poppy of popery, and over the hedge it is yellow with the wild mustard of Mahometanism. Vast regions are smothered with the thistles of infidelity and idolatry. The world is full of cruelty, oppression, drunkenness, rebellion, uncleanness, misery. What the moon sees! What God’s sun sees! What scenes of horror! How far is all this to be attributed to a neglectful church? Nearly nineteen hundred years are gone, and the sluggard’s vineyard is but little improved! England has been touched with the spade, but I cannot say that it has been thoroughly weeded or ploughed yet. Across the ocean another field equally favoured knows well the ploughman, and yet the weeds are rank. Here and there a little good work has been done, but the vast mass of the world still lies a moorland never broken up, a waste, a howling wilderness. What has the church been doing all these years? She ceased after a few centuries to be a missionary church, and from that hour she almost ceased to be a living church. Whenever a church does not labour for the reclaiming of the desert it becomes itself a waste. You shall not find on the roll of history that for a length of time any Christian community has flourished after it has become negligent of the outside world. I believe that if we are put into the Master’s vineyard, and will not take away the weeds, neither shall the vine flourish, nor shall the corn yield its increase. However, instead of asking what the church has been doing for this nineteen hundred years, let us ask ourselves, What are we going to do now? Are the missions of the churches of Great Britain always to be such poor, feeble things as they are? Are the best of our Christian young men always going to stay at home? We go on ploughing the home field a hundred times over, while millions of acres abroad are left to the thorn and nettle. Shall it always be so? God send us more spiritual life, and wake us up from our sluggishness, or else when the holy watcher gives in his report, he will say, "I went by the field of the sluggish church, and it was all grown over with thorns and nettles, and the stone wall was broken down, so that one could scarcely tell which was the church and which was the world, yet still she slept, and slept, and slept, and nothing could waken her." I conclude by remarking that there must be some lesson in all this. I cannot teach it as I would, but I want to learn it myself. I will speak it as though I were talking to myself. The first lesson is, that unaided nature always will produce thorns and nettles, and nothing else. My soul, if it were not for grace, this is all thou wouldst have produced. Beloved, are you producing anything else? Then it is not nature, but the grace of God that makes you produce it. Those lips that now most charmingly sing the praises of God would have been delighted with an idle ballad if the grace of God had not sanctified them. Your heart, that now cleaves to Christ, would have continued to cling to your idols—you know what they were—if it had not been for grace divine. And why should grace have visited you or me—why? Echo answers, Why? What answer can we give? "’Tis even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Let the recollection of what grace has done move us to manifest the result of that grace in our lives. Come, brothers and sisters, inasmuch as we were aforetime rich enough in the soil of our nature to produce so much of nettle and thistle—and God only knows how much we did produce—let us now pray that our lives may yield as much of good corn for the great Husbandman. Will you serve Christ less than you served your lusts? Will you make less sacrifice for Christ than you did for your sins? Some of you were whole-hearted enough when in the service of the evil one, will you be half-hearted in the service of God? Shall the Holy Spirit produce less fruit in you than that which you yielded under the spirit of evil? God grant that we may not be left to prove what nature will produce if left to itself. We see here, next, the little value of natural good intentions; for this man, who left his field and vineyard to be overgrown, always meant to work hard one of these fine days. To do him justice, we must admit that he did not mean to sleep much longer, for he said—"Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Only a little doze, and then he would tuck up his sleeves and show his muscle. Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best intentions, but never carry them out. In that way Satan lulls many to sleep. They hear an earnest sermon; but they do not arise and go to their Father; they only get as far as saying, "Yes, yes, the far country is not a fit place for me; I will not stay here long. I mean to go home by-and-by." They said that forty years ago, but nothing came of it. When they were quite youths they had serious impressions, they were almost persuaded to be Christians, and yet they are not Christians even now. They have been slumbering forty years! Surely that is a liberal share of sleep! They never intended to dream so long, and now they do not mean to lie in bed much longer. They will not turn to Christ at once, but they are resolved to do so one day. When are you going to do it, friend? "Before I die." Going to put it off to the last hour or two, are you? And so, when unconscious, and drugged to relieve your pain, you will begin to think of your soul? Is this wise? Surely you are void of understanding. Perhaps you will die in an hour. Did you not hear the other day of the alderman who died in his carriage? Little must he have dreamed of that. How would it have fared with you had you also been smitten while riding at your ease? Have you not heard of persons who fall dead at their work? What is to hinder your dying with a spade in your hand? I am often startled when I am told in the week that one whom I saw on Sunday is dead—gone from the shop to the judgment-seat. It is not a very long time ago since one went out at the doorway of the Tabernacle, and fell dead on the threshold. We have had deaths in the house of God, unexpected deaths; and sometimes people are hurried away unprepared who never meant to have died unconverted, who always had from their youth up some kind of desire to be ready, only still they wanted a little more sleep. Oh, my hearers, take heed of little delays, and short puttings off. You have wasted time enough already, come to the point at once before the clock strikes again. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to decision. "Surely you do not object to my having a little more sleep?" says the sluggard. "You have waked me so soon. I only ask another little nap." "My dear man, it is far into the morning." He answers, "It is rather late, I know; but it will not be much later if I take just another doze." You wake him again, and tell him it is noon. He says, "It is the hottest part of the day: I daresay if I had been up I should have gone to the sofa and taken a little rest from the hot sun." You knock at his door when it is almost evening, and then he cries, "It is of no use to get up now, for the day is almost over." You remind him of his overgrown field and weedy vineyard, and he answers, "Yes, I must get up, I know." He shakes himself and says, "I do not think it will matter much if I wait till the clock strikes. I will rest another minute or two." He is glued to his bed, dead while he liveth, buried in his laziness. If he could sleep for ever he would, but he cannot, for the judgment-day will rouse him. It is written, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment." God grant that you spiritual sluggards may wake before that; but you will not unless you bestir yourselves betimes, for "now is the accepted time"; and it may be now or never. To-morrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools; to-day is the time of the wise man, the chosen season of our gracious God. Oh that the Holy Spirit may lead you to seize the present hour, that you may at once give yourselves to the Lord by faith in Christ Jesus, and then from his vineyard— "Quick uproot The noisome weeds, that without profit suck The soil’s fertility from wholesome plants." Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Good Friday 1605 - Lancelot Andrewes Good Friday 1605 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, and despised the shame; and is set at the right-hand of the throne of God. St. Luke, though he recount at large our Saviour Christ’s whole story, yet in plain and express terms he calleth the Passion,* θεωρίαν, "a theory or sight," which sight is it the Apostle here calleth us to look unto. Of our blessed Saviour’s whole life or death, there is no part but is "a theory" of itself, well worthy our looking on; for from each part thereof there goeth virtue to do us good. From each part;—but of all, from the last part, or act of His Passion. Therefore hath the Holy Ghost honoured this last part only with this name, and none but this. This is the "theory" ever most commended to our view. To be looked on He is at all times, and in all acts; but then, and in that act, specially, "when for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, and despised the shame." Then, saith the Apostle, "look unto Him." St. Paul being elsewhere careful to shew the Corinthians, and with them us, Christ; and as to shew them Christ, so to shew them in Christ what that is that specially concerneth them to know or look unto, thus he saith: that though he knew many, very many things besides, yet he "esteemed not to know any thing but Jesus Christ,"* et Hunc crucifixum, Him, "and Him crucified." Meaning respective, as they term it, that the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; and the perfection of our knowledge in or touching Christ, is the knowledge of His Cross and Passion. That the chief "theory." Nay, in this all; so that see this, and see all. The view whereof, though it be not restrained to any one time, but all the year long, yea all our life long, ought to be frequent with us;—and blessed are the hours that are so spent! yet if at any one time more than other, certainly this time, this day may most justly challenge it. For this day was this Scripture fulfilled, and this day are our ears filled full with Scriptures about it. So that though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, yet that this day at least we would, as exceeding fitly the Apostle wisheth us, ἀφορᾷν "cast our eyes from other sights," and fix them on this object, it being the day dedicate to the lifting up of the Son of Man on high,* that He may draw every eye unto Him. The occasion of the speaking is ever the best key to every speech. The occasion then of this speech was this. The Apostle was to encourage the Hebrews, and in them us all, to hold on the well-begun profession of Christ and His faith. This our profession he expresseth in the former verse in the terms of a race or game, borrowing his similitude from the games of Olympus. For from those games, famous then over all the world, and by terms from them taken, it was common to all writers of that age, both holy and human, to set forth, as in the running the laborious course, so in the prize of it, the glorious reward of a virtuous life. Which race, truly Olympic, because they and we, the most of us, either stand still, or if we remove do it but slowly, and are ready to faint upon every occasion; that we may run the sooner, and attain the better, two sights he sets before us to comfort us and keep us from fainting. One, a cloud of witnesses, in the first verse, that is the Saints in Heaven—witnesses as able to depose this race may be run, and this prize may be won, for they have run the one, and won the other long ago. These look on us now, how well we carry ourselves; and we to look to them, that we may carry ourselves well in the course we have undertaken. On which cloud when we have stayed our eyes a while, and made them fit for a clearer object, he scattereth the cloud quite, and sets us up a second, even our blessed Saviour His Ownself. And here he willeth us, ἀφορᾷν, "to turn our eyes from them," and to turn them hither, and to fasten them here on Jesus Christ, "the Author and Finisher of our faith." As if he should say; If you will indeed see a sight once for all, look to Him. The Saints, though they be the guides to us, yet are they but followers to Him.* He the Ἀρχηγὸς, "the Arch-guide," the Leader of them and us all—Look on Him. They but well willers to our faith, but neither authors nor finishers of it; He, both. Both Author to call us to it, and set us in it; and Finisher to help us through it, and reward us for it:—Look to Him. Hunc aspicite is the Apostle’s voice, the voice that cometh out of this cloud, for it is the wish of them all, even all the Saints;—Hunc aspicite. At His appearing therefore the cloud vanisheth. There is a time when St. James may say,* "Take, my brethren, the Prophets for an example." But when He cometh forth That said, Exemplum dedi vobis,* "I have given you an example," exemplum sine exemplo, ‘an example above all examples;’ when He cometh in place,* Sileat omnis caro, "Let all flesh keep silence." Let all the Saints,* yea, the Seraphins themselves cover their faces with their wings, that we may look on Him, and let all other sights go. Let us then turn aside to see this great sight. The principal parts thereof are two: 1. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; 2. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing it or looking on it. The whole verse, save the two first words, is of the object or spectacle propounded. "Jesus the Author, &c." The two first words, ἀφορῶντες εἰς, is the other, the act or duty enjoined. But as in many other cases,* so here, Et erunt primi novissimi, "the first must be last." For though the act, in the verse, stand foremost, yet in nature it is last, and so to be handled. We must have a thing first set up before our eyes, before we can set our eyes upon it. Of the object then first: this object is Jesus, not barely, but with His double addition of 1. "the Author," 2. "the Finisher of our faith, Jesus." And in Him more particularly, two theories or sights: 1. Of His Passion; 2. Of His Session. 1. His Passion, in these words: "Who for the joy," &c. 2. His Session, in these; "And is set," &c. In the Passion, two things He pointeth at: 1. What He suffered, 2. and what moved Him to it. 1. What He suffered; the cross and shame. The cross He endured, the shame He despised. 2. And what moved Him; "for a certain joy set before Him." Then is to follow the act or duty of looking on this sight, ἀφορῶντες εἰς. 1. Wherein first the two prepositions, 1. Ἀπὸ and 2. Εἰς, "from" and "to:" to look "from," and to look "to." 2. Then the two verbs: 1. One in the verse expressed, that is, ὁρᾷν in ἀφορῶντες. 2. The other of necessity implied, for we have never a verb in all the verse. Ἀφορῶντες is a participle, and but suspendeth the sentence, till we either look back to the verb before; and so it is 1. Ut curramus: or to the verse next after, and so it is 2. Ne fatigemur. In the one is the theory or sight we shall see, thus looking. In the other the praxis of this theory, what this sight is to work in us; and that is a motion, a swift motion, running. So to look on it that we run, and so to run that we faint not. And if the time will give leave, if our allowance will hold out, then we will take a short view of the session; that He "is set down." Wherein is 1. rest and ease opposed to His cross, where He hung in pain. 2. And in "a throne;" wherein is glory opposed to shame. 3. And "at the right hand of God," wherein is the fulness of both the joy wherein He sitteth, and the joy which was set before Him, and which is set before us. To give the better aspect to the party Whom he presenteth to our view, that with better will we may behold Him, before he name His Name he giveth Him this double addition, as it were displaying an ensign, proclaiming His style before Him; whereof these two are the two colours, 1. "The Author," 2. "The Finisher of our faith, Jesus." "Author and Finisher" are two titles, wherein the Holy Ghost oft setteth Him forth, and wherein He seemeth to take special delight. In the very letters, He taketh to Him the name of "Alpha"* the Author, and again of "Omega" the Finisher of the alphabet.* From letters go to words: there is He Verbum in principio,* "the Word at the beginning."* And He is "Amen" too, the word at the end.* From words to books.* In capite libri scriptum est de Me, in the very "front of the book"* He is; and He is Ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, "the Recapitulation," or conclusion of it too. And so, go to persons: there He is Primus and novissimus,* "the first and the last." And from persons to things:* and there He is, "the beginning and the end;" whereof ἀρχὴ, "the beginning," is in Ἀρχηγὸς, the Author; and τέλος, "the end," is in Τελειωτὴς, the Finisher.* The first beginning a Quo, He "by Whom all things are made;" and the last end He, per or propter Quem, "by, for, or through Whom" all things are made perfect. Both these He is, in all things. And as in all things else, so in faith, whereto they are here applied most fully and fitly of all other. Therefore look not aside at any in Heaven or earth for matter of faith, look full upon Him. He is worth the looking on with both your eyes, He hath matter for them both. The honour that Zerubbabel had in the material, is no less truly His in the spiritual temple of our faith.* Manus Ejus, "His hands" have laid the corner-stone of our belief, and His hands shall bring forth the head-stone also,* giving us "the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls." Of our faith, and of the whole race of it He is the Author, casting up His glove at the first setting forth. He is the Finisher, holding out the prize at the goal end. By His authority it is our course is begun; we run not without warrant. By His bounty it shall be finished and crowned in the end; we run not in vain, or without hope of reward. But what is this title to the point in hand? So, as nothing can be more. "Author and Finisher," they are the two points that move us to look to Him. And the very same are the two points wherein we are moved to be like to Him. To fix our eye, to keep it from straying, to make us look on Him full, He telleth us He is both these. In effect as if He said, Scatter not your sight, look not two ways, as if He I shew you were to begin, and some other make an end. He I shew you doth both. His main end being to exhort them, as they had begun well, so well to persevere; to very good purpose, He willeth them to have an eye to Him and His example, Who first and last, ἀπὸ φάτνης ἄχρι σταυροῦ, ‘from the cratch to the cross,’* from St. Luke’s time quo cœpit Jesus facere et diocere, "that He began to do and teach,"* to St. John’s time that He cried consummatum est,* gave them not over sed in finem usque dilexit eos, but "to the end loved them." And so must they Him, if they do Him right. Both set out with Him, as "Author" by a good beginning; and hold out with Him, as "Finisher," to a far better end; and follow Him in both Who is both. Were He "Author" only, it would serve to step forth well at the first. But He is "Finisher" too: therefore we must hold out to the last. And not rend one of them from the other, seeing He requireth both—not either, but both—and is indeed Jesus, a Saviour of none but those, that follow Him as "Finisher" too, and are therefore marked in the forehead with Tau the last letter of the Hebrew, as He Himself is Omega, the last of the Greek Alphabet.* This is the party He commendeth to our view; "Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith." For these two to look upon Him, and in these two to be like unto Him. Our sight then is Jesus, and in Jesus what? you have called us hither, say they in the Canticles, to see your Shulamite;*—"what shall we see in Him?" What? saith the Spouse, but as "the company of an army," that is, many legions of good sights, an ocean or bottomless depth of manifold high perfections. We shall lose ourselves, we shall be confounded to see in Him all that may be shewed us, the object is too great. Two pieces therefore He maketh choice of, and but two, and presenteth Him to our eye in two forms only: 1. As hanging on the cross; 2. as sitting on the throne. 1. His Passion, and 2. His Session; these two. And these two, with very good and perfect correspondence to the two former. By the "cross," He is "Author;" by the "throne," He is "Finisher of our faith." As Man on the "cross," "Author;" as God on the "throne," "Finisher." "Author," on the "cross"—there He paid the price of our admitting. "Finisher," on the "throne"—there He is the prize to us of our course well performed, of the well-finishing our race, the race of our faith. And sure, with right high wisdom hath the Holy Ghost, being to exhort us to a race, combined these twain. For in these twain are comprised the two main motives, that set all the world on running, 1. love, and 2. hope. The love He hath to us in His Passion on the cross; the hope we have of Him, in His Session on the throne. Either of these alone able to move; but put them together, and they will move us, or nothing will. 1. Love first. What moveth the mother to all the travail and toil she taketh with her child? She hopes for nothing, she is in years, suppose; she shall not live to receive any benefit by it. It is love and love only. Love first. 2. And then hope. What moveth the merchant, and so the husbandman, and so the military man, and so all the rest? All the sharp showers and storms they endure, they love them not. It is hope, and hope only, of a rich return. If either of these will serve us, will prevail to move us, here it is.* Here is love, love in the cross: "Who loved us, and gave Himself for us, a sacrifice" on the cross. Here is hope,* hope in the throne. "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." If our eye be a mother’s eye, here is love worth the looking on. If our eye be a merchant’s eye, here is hope worth the looking after. I know it is true, that verus amor vires non sumit de spe;—it is Bernard.* ‘Love if it be true indeed, as in the mother, receiveth no manner strength from hope.’ Ours is not such, but faint and feeble, and full of imperfection. Here is hope therefore to strengthen our weak knees, that we may run the more readily to the high prize of our calling. To begin then with His love, the love of His Passion, the peculiar of this day. In it we first look to what He suffered, and that is of two sorts. 1. "The cross He endured;" 2. "The shame He despised." 3. And then with what mind, for the mind is worth all; and love in it sheweth itself, if not more, as much as in the suffering itself:—but certainly more. And this is His mind, proposito Sibi gaudio, as cheerfully as if it had been some matter of joy. Of both first, jointly under one. Then severally each by itself. Two things are to us most precious, 1. our life and 2. our reputation. Pari passu ambulant, saith the lawyer, ‘they go arm in arm,’ and are of equal regard, both. Life is sweet: the cross cost Him His life. Honour is dear: shame bereft Him His honour. In the race which, before us and for us, our blessed Saviour ran, these two great blocks, 1. death, and 2. disgrace were in His way. Neither stayed Him. To testify His love, over both He passed. Put His shoulders under the cross and endured it, to the loss of His life. Set His foot upon shame and despised it, to the loss of His honour. Neither one nor other, life or honour, held He dear, to do us good. O, if we should hazard but one of these two, for any creature living, how much ado would we make of it, and reckon the party eternally obliged to us! Or if any should venture them for us, we should be the better every time we saw him. O that it might be so here! O that we would meet this love with the like measure! Certainly in His Passion, the love of us triumphed over the love of His life and honour both. One view more of both these under one, and we shall by these two discover two other things in ourselves, for which very agreeable it was He should suffer these two, that by these two of His for those two of ours He might make a full satisfaction. It will shew a good congruity between our sickness and His salve, between our debt and His discharge. The mother-sin then, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their motives to it, are the lively image of all the after-births of sin, and the baits of sin for ever. Now that which moved them to disobey, was partly pleasure, and partly pride. Pleasure—O the fruit was delightful to see and to taste.* Pride—eritis sicut Dii, it promised an estate equal to the highest. Behold then in His Passion, for our pleasure His pain, and for our pride, His shame and reproach. Behold Him in His patience, enduring pain for our wicked lust; in His humility, having shame poured on Him for our wretched pride.* "The Lord of life,"* suffering death; "The Lord of glory," vile and ignominious disgrace.* Tanquam agnus, saith the Prophet of Him, "as a lamb,"* pitifully slaughtered. Tanquam vermis, saith He of Himself, "as a worm," spitefully trod upon. So, by His enduring pains and painful death, expiating our unlawful pleasure; and by His sustaining shame, satisfying for our shameful pride. Thus may we under one behold ourselves, and our wicked demerits, in the mirror of His Passion. Gregory saith well: Dicendum erat quantum nos dilexit, ne diffidere; dicendum erat et quales, ne superbire et ingrati esse. ‘How greatly He loved us, must be told us, to keep us from distrust; and what we were when He so loved us, must be told us, to hold us in humility, to make us everlastingly thankful.’ Thus far both under one view. Now are we to part them, to see them apart. We shall have much ado to do it, they are so folded and twisted together. In the cross there is shame, and in shame there is a cross, and that a heavy one. The cross,* the Heathen termed cruciabile lignum, ‘a tree of torture;’ but they called it also, arborem infælicem, et stipitem infamem, ‘a wretched infamous tree’ withal. So it was in His crown; the thorns pricked Him—there was pain; the crown itself was a mere mockery, and matter of scorn. So in His robe; His purple body underneath in great pain certainly, His purple robe over it, a garment of shame and disgrace. All along the Passion, thus they meet still together. In a word,* the prints of His Passion, the Apostle well calleth stigmata Christi. Both are in that word; not only wounds, and so grievous, but base and servile marks, and so shameful, for so are stigmata. Thus shame and cross, and cross and shame run interchangeably. Yet since the Holy Ghost doth shew us them severally, so to see them as He shews them. Enduring is the act of patience, and patience hath pain for her object. Despising shame is the property of humility, even of the highest humility; not only spernere se, but spernere se sperni. First then we must see the pain His patience endured—that is meant by the cross; and then see the dispising His humility despised—that is meant by the shame. First then of His cross. It is well known that Christ and His cross were never parted, but that all His life long was a continual cross. At the very cratch, His cross first began. There Herod sought to do that which Pilate did, even to end His life before it began. All His life after, saith the Apostle in the next verse, was nothing but a perpetual "gainsaying of sinners,"* which we call crossing; and profess we cannot abide in any of our speeches or purposes to be crossed. He was. In the Psalm of the Passion, the twenty-second, in the very front or inscription of it, He is set forth unto us under the term of a hart, cervus matutinus, "a morning hart," that is, a hart roused early in the morning; as from His birth He was by Herod, and hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and as the poor deer, stricken and wounded to the heart. This was His last, last and worst; and this we properly call His cross, even this day’s suffering. To keep us then to our day, and the cross of the day. "He endured the cross." "He endured." Very enduring itself is durum, durum pati. Especially for persons of high power or place as the Son of God was. For great persons to do great things, is no great wonder; their very genius naturally inclineth to it. But to suffer any small thing, for them is more than to do many great. Therefore the Prophet placeth his moral fortitude, and the Divine his Christian obedience, rather in suffering than in doing. Suffering is sure the more hard of the twain. "He endured." If it be hard to endure, it must be more hard to endure hard things; and of all things hard to be endured, the hardest is death. Of the philosopher’s πέντε φοβερὰ,* ‘five fearful things,’ it is the most fearful; and what will not a man, nay what will not a woman weak and tender, in physic, in chyrurgery, endure, not to endure death? "He endured" death. And that if He endured, and no more but that, it might suffice; it is worth all we have, for all we have we will give for our life. But not death only, but the kind of death is it. Mortem, mortem autem crucis, saith the Apostle,* doubting the point; "death He endured, even the death of the cross." The cross is but a little word, but of great contents; but few letters, but in these few letters are contained multa dictu gravia, perpessu aspera, ‘heavy to be named, more heavy to be endured.’ I take but the four things ascribed by the Holy Ghost to the cross,* answerable to the four ends or quarters of it.* 1. Sanguis Crucis,* 2. Dolores Crucis,* 3. Scandalum Crucis, 4. Maledictum Crucis: that is, the death of the cross is all these four; a 1. bloody, 2. doleful, 3. scandalous, 4. accursed death. 1. Though it be but a cold comfort, yet a kind of comfort it is, if die we must, that our death is mors sicca, a dry, not sanguis crucis, not a bloody death. 2. We would die, when we die, an easy, not ὠδῖνες σταυροῦ, not a tormenting death. 3. We desire to die with credit if it might be; if not, without scandal—scandalum crucis. 4. At leastwise to go to our graves, and to die by an honest, ordinary, and by no means by an accursed death—maledictum crucis. In the cross are all these, all four. The two first are in "the cross," the two latter in "the shame." For "the cross" and "the shame" are in very deed two crosses; the shame, a second cross of itself. To see then, as in a short time, shortly. That of the poet, nec siccâ morte tyranni,* sheweth plainly, it is no poor privilege to die without effusion of blood. And so it is. 1. For a blessing it is, and our wish it is, we may live out our time, and not die an untimely death. Where there is effusion of blood, there is ever an untimely death. 2. Yet every untimely death is not violent, but a bloody death is violent and against nature; and we desire to pay nature her debt by the way of nature. 3. A violent death one may come to, as in war—sanguis belli best sheweth it—yet by valour, not by way of punishment. This death is penal; not, as all death, stipendium peccati, but, as evil men’s death, vindicta sceleris, an execution for some capital offence. 4. And not every crime neither. Fundetur sanguis is the punishment of treason and other more heinous crimes, to die embrued in their own blood. And even they that die so, die not yet so evil a death as do they that die on the cross. It is another case where it is sanguis mortis, the blood and life go away together at once; another, when it is sanguis crucis, when the blood is shed, and the party still in full life and sense, as on the cross it was; the blood first, and the life a good while after. This is sanguis crucis, an 1. untimely, 2. violent, 3. penal, 4. penal in the highest degree; there bleeding out His blood before He die, and then die. When blood is shed, it would be no more than needs; shed it would be, not poured out. Or if so, at one part, the neck or throat, not at all parts at once. But here was fundetur, havoc made at all parts; His Passion, as He termeth it, a second baptism, a river of blood,* and He even able to have been baptized in it, as He was in Jordan. And where it would be summa parcimonia etiam vilissimi sanguinis, ‘no waste, no not of the basest blood that is,’ waste was made here. And of what blood? Sanguis Jesu, ‘the blood of Jesus.’ And Who was He? Sure, by virtue of the union personal, God; and so this blood, blood of God’s own bleeding, every drop whereof was precious, more precious than that whereof it was the price, the world itself. Nay, more worth than many worlds; yea, if they were ten thousand. Yet was this blood wastefully spilt as water upon the ground. The fundetur and the Qui here, will come into consideration, both. This is sanguis crucis, and yet this is not all neither; there is more yet. For the blood of the Cross was not only the blood of Golgotha, but the blood of Gabbatha too. For of all deaths, this was peculiar to this death, the death of the Cross; that they that were to be crucified, were not to be crucified alone, which is the blood of Golgotha, but they must be whipped too before they were crucified, which is the blood of Gabbatha; a second death, yea worse than death itself. And in both these places He bled, and in either place twice. They rent His body with the 1. whips; they gored His head with the 2. thorns—both these in Gabbatha. And again, twice in Golgotha, when they 1. nailed His hands and His feet; when He was 2. thrust to the heart with the spear. This is sanguis crucis. It was to be stood on a little, we might not pass it. It is that whereon our faith depends, per fidem in sanguine Ipsius. By it He is "Author of our faith," faith in God,* and peace with God, both; pacificans in sanguine crucis,* "pacifying all with the blood of the Cross." Now this bloody whipping and nailing of His, is it which bringeth in the second point of pain; that it was not blood alone without pain, as in the opening of a vein, but it was blood and pain both. The tearing and mangling of His flesh with the whips, thorns, and nails, could not choose but be exceeding painful to Him. Pains, we know, are increased much by cruel, and made more easy by gentle handling, and even the worst that suffer, we wish their execution as gentle, and with as little rigour as may be. All rigour, all cruelty was shewed to Him, to make His pains the more painful. In Gabbatha they did not whip Him, saith the Psalmist,* "they ploughed His back, and made," not stripes, but "long furrows upon it." They did not put on His wreath of thorns, and press it down with their hands, but beat it on with bats, to make it enter through skin, flesh, skull, and all. They did not in Golgotha pierce His hands and feet,* but made wide holes like that of a spade, as if they had been digging in some ditch. These were pains, and cruel pains, but yet these are not ὠδῖνες, the Holy Ghost’s word in the text; those are properly "straining pains, pains of torture." The rack is devised as a most exquisite pain, even for terror. And the cross is a rack, whereon He was stretched, till, saith the Psalm,* all His bones were out of joint. But even to stand, as He hung, three long hours together, holding up but the arms at length, I have heard it avowed of some that have felt it to be a pain searce credible. But the hands and the feet being so cruelly nailed, parts of all other most sensible by reason of the texture of sinews there in them most, it could not but make His pain out of measure painful. It was not for nothing that dolores acerrimi dicuntur cruciatus,* saith the heathen man, ‘that the most sharp and bitter pains of all other have their name from hence, and are called cruciatus,’ "pains like those of the cross." It had a meaning that they gave Him, that He had for His welcome to the cross, a cup mixed with gall or myrrh, and for His farewell, a sponge of vinegar; to shew by the one the bitterness, by the other the sharpness of the pains of this painful death. Now, in pain we know the only comfort of gravis, is brevis; if we be in it, to be quickly out of it. This the cross hath not, but is mors prolixa, ‘a death of dimensions, a death long in dying.’ And it was therefore purposely chosen by them. Blasphemy they condemned Him of: then was He to be stoned; that death would have despatched Him too soon. They indicted Him anew of sedition, not as of a worse fault, but only because crucifying belonged to it;* for then He must be whipped first, and that liked them well, and then He must die by inch-meal, not swallow His death at once but "taste" it, as chap. 2:9,* and take it down by little and little. And then He must have His legs and arms broken, and so was their meaning His should have been. Else, I would gladly know to what purpose provided they to have a vessel of vinegar ready in the place,* but only that He might not faint with loss of blood, but be kept alive till they might hear His bones crash under the breaking, and so feed their eyes with that spectacle also. The providence of God indeed prevented this last act of cruelty; their will was good though. All these pains are in the cross, but to this last specially the word in the text hath reference; ὑπέμεινε, which is, He must μένειν ὑπὸ, "tarry, stay, abide under it;" so die that He might feel Himself die, and endure the pains of an enduring death. And yet all this is but half, and the lesser half by far of cruciatus crucis. All this His body endured. Was His soul free the while? No; but suffered as much. As much? nay more, infinitely much more on the spiritual, than His body did on the material cross. For a spiritual Cross there was too: all grant a Cross beside that which Simon of Cyrene did help Him to bear. Great were those pains, and this time too little to shew how great; but so great that in all the former He never shrunk, nor once complained, but was as if He scarce felt them. But when these came, they made Him complain and cry aloud κραυγὴν ἰσχυρὰν,* "a strong crying." In all those no blood came, but where passages were made for it to come out by, but in this it strained out all over, even at all places at once. This was the pain of "the press"—so the Prophet calleth it, torcular,* where-with as if He had been in the wine-press, all His garments were stained and gored with blood. Certainly the blood of Gethsemane was another manner of blood than that of Gabbatha, or that of Golgotha either; and that was the blood of His internal Cross. Of the three Passions that was the hardest to endure, yet that did He endure too. It is that which belief itself doth wonder how it doth believe, save that it knoweth as well the love as the power of God to be without bounds; and His wisdom as able to find, how through love it might be humbled, as exalted through power, beyond the uttermost that man’s wit can comprehend. And this is the Cross He endured. And if all this might have been endured, salvo honore, ‘without shame or disgrace,’ it had been so much the less. But now, there is a farther matter yet to be added, and that is shame. It is hard to say of these two, which is the harder to bear; which is the greater cross, the cross or shame. Or rather, it is not hard. There is no mean party in misery, but if he be insulted on, his being insulted on more grieves him than doth the misery itself. But to the noble generous nature, to whom interesse honoris est majus omni alio interesse, ‘the value of his honour is above all value;’ to him the cross is not the cross, shame is the cross. And any high and heroical spirit beareth any grief more easily, than the grief of contemptuous and contumelious usage. King Saul shewed it plainly, who chose rather to run upon his own sword,* than to fall into the hands of the Philistines, who he knew would use him with scorn, as they had done Samson before him.* And even he, Samson too, rather than sit down between the pillars and endure this, pulled down house and all, as well upon his own head, as theirs that so abused him. Shame then is certainly the worse of the twain. Now in his death, it is not easy to define, whether pain or shame had the upper hand; whether greater, cruciatus, or scandalum crucis. Was it not a foul disgrace and scandal to offer Him the shame of that servile base punishment of the whip, not to be offered to any but to slaves and bondmen? Loris? liber sum,* saith he in the comedy in great disdain, as if being free-born he held it great scorn to have that once named to him. Yet shame of being put out of the number of free-born men he despised, even the shame of being in formâ servi.* That that is servile, may yet be honest. Then was it not yet a more foul disgrace and scandal indeed to appoint Him for His death that dishonest, that foul death, the death of malefactors, and of the worst sort of them? Morte turpissimâ, as themselves termed it; ‘the most shameful opprobrious death of all other,’ that the persons are scandalous that suffer it? To take Him as a thief, to hang Him between two thieves; nay, to count Him worse than the worst thief in the gaol; to say and to cry, Vivat Barabbas, pereat Christus, ‘Save Barabbas and hang Christ!’ Yet this shame He despised too, of being in formâ malefici. If base, if dishonest, let these two serve; use Him not disgracefully, make Him not a ridiculum Caput, pour not contempt upon Him. That did they too, and a shame it is to see the shameful carriage of themselves all along the whole tragedy of His Passion. Was it a tragedy, or a Passion trow? A Passion it was, yet by their behaviour it might seem a May-game. Their shouting and outcries, their harrying of Him about from Annas to Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from him to Pilate again; one while in purple, Pilate’s suit; another while in white, Herod’s livery; nipping Him by the cheeks, and pulling off His hair; blindfolding Him and buffeting Him; bowing to Him in derision, and then spitting in His face;—was as if they had not the Lord of glory, but some idiot or dizard in hand. "Died Abner as a fool dieth?" saith David of Abner in great regret. O no.* Sure, our blessed Saviour so died; and that He so died, doth equal, nay surpass even the worst of His torments. Yet this shame also He despised, of being in formâ ludibrii. Is there any worse yet? There is. For though contempt be had, yet despite is beyond it, as far as earnest is beyond sport; that was sport, this was malice. Despite I call it, when in the midst of His misery, in the very depth of all His distress, they vouchsafed Him not the least compassion; but as if He had been the most odious wretched caitiff and abject of men, the very outcast of Heaven and earth, stood staring and gaping upon Him, wagging their heads, writhing their mouths, yea blearing out their tongues; railing on Him and reviling Him, scoffing at Him and scorning Him; yea, in the very time of His prayers deriding Him, even in His most mournful complaint and cry for the very anguish of His Spirit. These vile indignities, these shameful villanies, so void of all humanity, so full of all despite, I make no question, entered into His soul deeper than either nail or spear did into His body. Yet all this He despised, to be in formâ reprobi. Men hid their faces at this; nay, to see this sight, the sun was darkened, drew back his light, the earth trembled, ran one part from the other, the powers of Heaven were moved. Is this all? No, all this but scandalum, there is a greater yet remaining than scandalum, and that is maledictum crucis; that the death He died was not only servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious, but even execrable and accursed, of men held so. For as if He had been a very reprobate, in His extreme drought they denied Him a drop of water, never denied to any but to the damned in hell, and instead of it offered Him vinegar in a sponge; and that in the very pangs of death, as one for whom nothing was evil enough. All this is but man, and man is but man, his glory is shame oftentimes, and his shame glory; but what God curseth, that is cursed indeed. And this death was cursed by God Himself, His own mouth, as the Apostle deduceth.* When all is said we can say, this, this is the hardest point of His shame, and the highest point of His love in bearing it. Christus factus est maledictum. The shame of a cursed death, cursed by God, is a shame beyond all shames, and he that can despise it, may well say consummatum est, there is no greater left for him to despise. O what contempt was poured upon Him! O how was He in all these despised! Yet He despised them all, and despised to be despised in them all. The highest humility, spernere se sperni; these so many ways, spernere se sperni. So have we now the cross, ξύλον δίδυμον, ‘the two main bars of it,’ 1. Pain, 2. Shame; and either of these again, a cross of itself; and that double, 1. outward, and 2. inward. Pain, bloody, cruel, dolorous, and enduring—pain He endured. Shame, servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious—shame He despised. And beside these, an internal cross, the passion of Gethsemane; and an internal shame, the curse itself of the cross, maledictum crucis. Of these He endured the one, the other He despised. These, all these, and yet there remaineth a greater than all these, even quo animo, ‘with what mind,’ what having in His mind, or setting before His eyes, He did and suffered all this. That He did it not utcunque, but proposito Sibi, ‘with an eye to somewhat He aimed at.’ We handle this point last, it standeth first in the verse. And sure, if this as a figure stand not first, the other two are but ciphers; with it of value, nothing without it. To endure all this is very much, howsoever it were. So to endure it as to make no reckoning of it, to despise it is more strange than all the rest. Sure the shame was great; how could He make so small account of it? and the cross heavy; how could He set it so light? They could not choose but pinch Him, and that extremely; and how then could He endure, and so endure that He despised them? It is the third point, and in it is adeps arietis, ‘the fat of rams,’ the marrow of the Sacrifice; even the good heart, the free forward mind, the cheerful affection, wherewith He did all this. There be but two senses to take this ἀντὶ in, neither amiss, both very good, take whether you will. Love is in both, and love in a high measure. Ἀντὶ, even either pro or præ; pro, ‘instead;’ or præ, ‘in comparison.’ Ἀντὶ, pro, "instead of the joy set before Him." What joy was that? Ἐξῆν γὰρ Αὐτῷ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, saith Chrysostom, ‘for He was in the joys of Heaven: there He was, and there He might have held Him.’ Nothing did or could force Him to come thence, and to come hither thus to be entreated. Nothing but Sic dilexit,* or Propter nimiam charitatem quâ dilexit nos; but for it. Yet was He content,* "being in the form of God," ἀντὶ "instead of it," thus to transform,* yea to deform Himself into the shape of a servant, a felon, a fool; nay, of a caitiff accursed. Content to lay down His crown of glory, and ἀντὶ "instead of it," to wear a crown of thorns. Content, what we shun by all means, that to endure,—loss of life; and what we make so great a matter of, that to despise,—loss of honour. All this, with the loss of that joy and that honour He enjoyed in Heaven; another manner joy, and honour, than any we have here; ἀντὶ "for this," or "instead of this." But the other sense is more praised, ἀντὶ, præ, "in comparison." For indeed, the joy. He left in Heaven was rather περικειμένη than προκειμένη, joy ‘wherein He did already sit,’ than "joy set before Him." Upon which ground, ἀντὶ, they turn præ, and that better as they suppose. For that is, in comparison of a certain joy, which He comparing with the cross and shame and all, chose rather to go through them all than to go without it. And can there be any joy compared with those He did forego? or can any joy countervail those barbarous usages He willingly went through? It seemeth, there can. What joy might that be? Sure none other, but the joy He had to save us, the joy of our salvation. For what was His glory, or joy, or crown of rejoicing, was it not we? Yes truly, we were His crown and His joy. In comparison of this joy He exchanged those joys, and endured these pains; this was the honey that sweetened His gall. And no joy at all in it but this—to be Jesus, "the Saviour" of a sort of poor sinners. None but this, and therefore pity He should lose it. And it is to be marked, that though to be Jesus, "a Saviour," in propriety of speech be rather a title, an outward honour, than an inward joy, and so should have been præ honore, rather than præ gaudio; yet He expresseth it in the term of joy rather than that of honour, to shew it joyed Him at the heart to save us; and so as a special joy, He accounted it. Sure, some such thing there was that made Him so cheerfully say to His Father in the Psalm,* Ecce venio, "Lo I come." And to His disciples in earth, This, this is the Passover that desiderio desideravi,* "I have so longed for," as it were embracing and even welcoming His death. And which is more, quomodo coarctor! "how am I pinched, or straitened,"* till I be at it! as if He were in pain, till He were in pain to deliver us. Which joy if ever He shewed, in this He did, that He went to His Passion with Psalms, and with such triumph and solemnity, as He never admitted all His life before. And that this His lowest estate, one would think it, He calleth His exaltation, cum exaltatus fuero.* And when any would think He was most imperfect, He esteemeth and so termeth it, His highest perfection; Tertio die perficior. In hoc est charitas,* "here is love."* If not here, where? But here it is, and that in his highest elevation. That the joys of Heaven set on the one side, and this poor joy of saving us on the other, He quit them to choose this. That those pains and shames set before Him, and with them this joy, He chose them rather than forego this. Those joys He forsook, and this He took up; and to take it, took upon Him so many, so strange indignities of both sorts; took them and bare them with such a mind, as He not only endured but despised; nor that neither, but even joyed in the bearing of them, and all to do us good. So to alter the nature of things as to find joy in death whereat all do mourn,* and joy in shame which all do abhor, is a wonder like that of the bush. This is the very life and soul of the Passion, and all besides but the σκελετὸς only, ‘the anatomy,’ the earcass without it. So have we now the whole object, both what, and with what mind. And what is now to be done? shall we not pause a while and stay, and look upon this "theory" ere we go any farther? Yes, let us. Proper to this day is this sight of the cross. The other, of the throne, may stay yet his time a day or two hence. We are enjoined to look upon Him. How can we, seeing He is now higher than the heavens, far out of our sight, or from the kenning of any mortal eye? yes, we may for all that. As, in the twenty-seventh of the chapter next before, Moses is said to have seen "Him That is invisible;"* not with the eyes of flesh—so neither he did, or we can; but, as there it is, "by faith." So he did, and we may. And what is more kindly to behold "the Author" of faith, than faith? or more kindly for faith to behold, than her "Author" here at first, and her "Finisher" there at last? Him to behold first and last, and never to be satisfied with looking on Him, Who was content to buy us and our eye at so dear a rate. Our eye then is the eye of our mind, which is faith; and our aspicientes in this,* and the recogitantes in the next verse, all one; our looking to Him here, is our thinking on Him there; on Him and His Passion over and over again, Donec totus fixus in corde Qui totus fixus in cruce, ‘till He be as fast fixed in our heart as ever He was to His cross,’ and some impression made in us of Him, as there was in Him for us. In this our looking then, two acts be rising from the two prepositions: one before, ἀπὸ, in ἀφορῶντες, "looking from;" the other after, εἰς, "looking upon, or into." There is ἀπὸ, "from," abstracting our eye from other objects to look hither sometime. The preposition is not idle, nor the note, but very needful. For naturally we put this spectacle far from us, and endure not either oft or long to behold it. Other things there be, please our eyes better, and which we look on with greater delight. And we must ἀφορᾷν, ‘look off of them,’ or we shall never ὁρᾷν, ‘look upon’ this aright. We must, in a sort, work force to our nature, and per actum elicitum, as they term it in schools, inhibit our eyes, and even wean them from other more pleasing spectacles that better like them, or we shall do no good here, never make a true "theory" of it. I mean, though our prospect into the world be good, and we have both occasion and inclination to look thither oft, yet ever and anon to have an eye this way; to look from them to Him, Who, when all these shall come to an end, must be He that shall finish and consummate our faith and us, and make perfect both. Yea, though the Saints be fair marks, as at first I said, yet even to look off from them hither, and turn our eye to Him from all, even from Saints and all. But chiefly, from the baits of sin, the concupiscence of our eyes, the shadows and shows of vanity round about, by which death entereth at our windows; which unless we can be got to look from, this sight will do us no good, we cannot look on both together. Now our "theory," as it beginneth with ἀπὸ, so it endeth with εἰς. Therefore look from it, that look to Him; or, as the word giveth it rather, "into Him," than to Him. Εἰς is ‘into,’ rather than ‘to.’ Which proveth plainly, that the Passion is a piece of perspective, and that we must set ourselves to see it if we will see it well, and not look superficially on it; not on the outside alone, but, ὁρᾷν εἰς, ‘pierce into it,’ and enter even into the inward workmanship of it, even of His internal Cross which He suffered, and of His entire affection wherewith He suffered it. And we may well look into Him; Cancellis plenum est corpus, ‘His body is full of stripes,’ and they are as lattices; patent viscera per vulnera, His wounds they are as windows, through which we may well see all that is within Him. Clavus penetrans factus est mihi clavis reserans,* saith St. Bernard; ‘the nails and spear-head serve as keys to let us in.’ We may look into the palms of His hands, wherein, saith the Prophet,* He hath graven us, that He might never forget us.* We may look into His side, St. John useth the word, "opened." Vigilanti verbo,* saith Augustine, ‘a word well chosen, upon good advice:’ we may through the opening look into His very bowels, the bowels of kindness and compassion that would endure to be so entreated. Yea that very heart of His, wherein we may behold the love of our salvation to be the very heart’s joy of our Saviour. Thus "looking from," from all else to look "into" Him, what then? then followeth the participle, we shall see. What shall we see? Nay, what shall we not see? What "theory" is there worth the seeing but is there to be seen? To recount all were too long: two there are in especial. There is a theory medicinal, like that of the brazen serpent, and it serveth for comfort to the conscience, stung and wounded with the remorse of sin. For what sin is there, or can there be, so execrable or accursed, but the curse of the cross; what so ignominious or full of confusion, but the shame of it; what so corrosive to the conscience, but the pains of it; what of so deep or of so crimson a dye, but the blood of it, the blood of the Cross, will do it away? What sting so deadly, but the sight of this Serpent will cure it? This is a principal theory, and elsewhere to be stood on, but not here. For this serveth to quiet the mind, and the Apostle here seeketh to move it and make it stir. There is then another "theory" besides, and that is exemplary for imitation.* There He died, saith St. Paul, to lay down for us, ἀντίλυτρον, our "ransom;"—that is the former. There He died,* saith St. Peter, to leave unto us ὑπογραμμὸν, relinquens nobis exemplum, "a pattern," an example to follow, and this is it, to this He calleth us; to have a directory use of it, to make it our pattern, to view it as our idea. And sure, as the Church under the Law needed not, so neither doth the Church under the Gospel need any other precept than this one,* Inspice et fac, "see and do according to the theory shewed thee in the mount;" to them in Mount Sinai, to us in Mount Calvary. Were all philosophy lost, the theory of it might be found there. Were all Chairs burnt, Moses’ Chair and all, the Chair of the Cross is absolutely able to teach all virtue new again. All virtues are there visible, all, if time would serve: now I name only those five, which are directly in the text. 1. Faith is named there; it is, it was most conspicuous there to be seen, when being forsaken of God, yet He claspeth as it were His arms fast about Him, with Eli, Eli, "My God, My God,"* for all that. 2. Patience in "enduring the cross." 3. Humility in "despising the shame." 4. Perseverance, in that it was nothing for Him to be "Author," unless He were "Finisher" too. These four. But above these and all, that which is the 5. ratio idealis of all, the band and perfection of all, love, in the signature of love, in the joy which He found in all this; love, majorem quâ nemo, to lay down His life;* nay, parem cui nemo, in such sort to lay it down. Majorem quâ nemo, to do this for His friends; Parem cui nemo, to do it for His enemies. Notwithstanding their unworthiness antecedent to do it, and notwithstanding their unkindness consequent, yet to do it. This is the chief theory of all, but of love, chiefly, the most perfect of all. For sure, if ever aught were truly said of our Saviour, this was: that being spread and laid wide open on the cross, He is Liber charitatis,* wherein he that runneth by may read, Sic dilexit,* and Propter nimiam charitatem, and Ecce quantam charitatem;* love all over, from one end to the other.* Every stripe as a letter,* every nail as a capital letter. His livores as black letters, His bleeding wounds as so many rubrics, to shew upon record His love toward us. Of which love the Apostle when he speaketh, he setteth it out with "height and depth,* length and breadth," the four dimensions of the cross, to put us in mind, say the ancient writers, that upon the extent of the tree was the most exact love, with all the dimensions in this kind represented that ever was. Having seen all these, what is the end and use of this sight? Having had the theory, what is the praxis of this theory? what the conclusion of our contemplation? "Looking into" is a participle; it maketh no sentence, but suspendeth it only till we come to a verb to which it relateth. That verb must be either the verb in the verse before, ut curramus, or the verb in the verse following, ut ne fatigemur; that thus looking we run, or that thus looking we tire not. This is the practice of our theory. We said the use was, and so we see it is, to move us, or to make us move; to work in our feet, to work in them a motion; not any slow but a swift motion, the motion of running, to "run the race that is set before us." The operation it hath, this sight, is in our faculty motive; if we stand still, to cause us stir, if we move but slowly, to make us run apace; if we run already, never to tire or give over till we do attain. And by this we may know, whether our theory be a true one: if this praxis follow of it, it is; if not, a gaze it may be, a true Christian "theory" it is not. And here first our ἀφορᾷν, that is, our "looking from," is to work a turning from sin. Sure this spectacle, if it be well looked into, will make sin shall not look so well-favoured in our eyes as it did; it will make us while we live have a less liking to look toward it, as being the only procurer and cause of this cross and this shame. Nay, not only ἀποτρέπειν, ‘to turn our eye from it,’ but ἀποτρέχειν, ‘to turn our feet from it’ too; and to run from, yea to fly from it, quasi a facie colubri, ‘as from the face of a serpent.’ At leastwise, if not to run from it, not to run to it as we have; to nail down our feet from running to sin, and our hands from committing sin, and in a word have St. Peter’s practice of the Passion,* "to cease from sin." This abstractive force we shall find and feel; it will draw us from the delights of sin. And not only draw us from that, but draw from us too something, make some tears to run from us, or, if we be dry-eyed that not them, yet make some sighs of devotion, some thoughts of grace, some kind of thankful acknowledgments to issue from our souls. Either by way of compassion as feeling that He then felt, or by way of compunction as finding ourselves in the number of the parties for whom He felt them. It is a proper effect of our view of the Passion, this, as St. Luke sets it down at the very place where he terms it θεωρίαν,* that they returned from it "smiting their breasts" as having seen a doleful spectacle, themselves the cause of it. Now as the looking from worketh a moving from, so doth the looking to a moving to. For first, who is there that can look unto those hands and feet, that head and that heart of His that endured all this, but must primâ facia, ‘at the first sight’ see and say, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos? If the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed but a few tears out of His eyes, how much more truly may it be said of us, Ecce quomodo dilexit eos! for whom He hath "shed both water and blood," yea even from His heart, and that in such plenty? And He loving us so, if our hearts be not iron, yea if they be iron, they cannot choose but feel the magnetical force of this loadstone. For to a loadstone doth He resemble Himself,* when He saith of Himself, "Were I once lift up," omnia traham ad Me. This virtue attractive is in this sight to draw our love to it. With which, as it were the needle, our faith being but touched, will stir straight. We cannot but turn to Him and trust in Him, that so many ways hath shewed Himself so true to us. Quando amor confirmatur, fides inehoatur, saith St. Ambrose, ‘Prove to us of any that he loves us indeed, and we shall trust him straight without any more ado,’ we shall believe any good affirmed of him. And what is there, tell me, any where affirmed of Christ to usward, but this love of His, being believed will make it credible. Now our faith is made perfect by "works," or "well-doing,"* saith St. James; it will therefore set us in a course of them. Of which, every virtue is a stadium, and every act a step toward the end of our race. Beginning at humility, the virtue of the first setting out,—"let the same mind be in you,* that was in Christ Jesus, Who humbled Himself,"—and so proceeding from virtue to virtue, till we come to patience and perseverance, that keep the goal end. So saith St. Peter, Modicum passos perficiet, "suffering somewhat,* more or less; some crossing, if not the cross; some evil report, though not shame; so and no otherwise we shall come to our race end, our final perfection." And as the rest move us if we stand still to run, so if we run already, these two, patience and perseverance—patience will make us for all our encounters, μὴ κάμνειν, saith the Apostle in the next verse,* "not to be weary." Not in our minds, though in our bodies we be; and perseverance will make us, μὴ ἐκλύεσθαι, "not to faint or tire," though the time seem long and never so tedious; both these in the verse following. But hold on our course till we finish it, even till we come to Him, Who was not only "Author," but "Finisher;" Who held out till He came to consummatum est. And so must we finish, not stadium, but dolichum; not like those, of whom it was said, currebatis bene, "ye did well for a start,"* but like our Apostle that said, and said truly, of himself, cursum consummavi,* "I have finished my course, I have held out to the very end." And in this is the praxis of our first theory or sight of our love. But our love without hope is but faint: that then with better heart we may thus do and bestir ourselves, it will not be amiss once more to lift up our eyes, and the second time to look on Him. We have not yet seen the end, the cross is not the end; there is a better end than so, "and is set down in the throne." As the Prophet saw Him, we have seen Him, in such case as we were ready to hide our faces at Him and His sight. Here is a new sight; as the Evangelist saw Him, so we now may;* even His glory as the "glory of the only-begotten Son of God."* Ecce homo! Pilate’s sight we have seen.* Ecce Dominus et Deus meus! St. Thomas’ sight we now shall. The former in His hanging on the cross, the beginning of our faith. This latter sitting on the throne, the consummation of it. Wherein there is an ample matter of hope, as before of love, all being turned in and out. He sits now at ease That before hung in pain. Now on a throne, That before on the cross. Now at God’s right hand, That before at Satan’s left. So Zachary saw Him;* "Satan on His right hand," and then must He be on Satan’s left. All changed; His cross into ease, His shame into glory. Glory and rest, rest and glory, are two things that meet not here in our world. The glorious life hath not the most quiet, and the quiet life is for the most part inglorious. He that will have glory must make account to be despised oft and broken of his rest; and he that loveth his ease better, must be content with a mean condition far short of glory. Here then these meet not; there our hope is they shall, even both meet together,* and glory and rest kiss each the other; so the Prophet calleth it a "glorious rest." And the right hand addeth yet a degree farther, for dextera est pars potior. So that if there be any rest more easy, or any glory more glorious than other, there it is on that hand, on that side; and He placed in it in the best, in the chiefest, the fulness of them both. At God’s right hand is not only power, power while we be here to protect us with His might outward, and to support us with His grace inward; but at "His right hand also is the fulness of joy for ever," saith the Psalm;* joy, and the fulness of joy, and the fulness of it for evermore. This is meant by His seat at the right hand on the throne. And the same is our blessed hope also, that it is not His place only, and none but His, but even ours in expectation also. The love of His cross is to us a pledge of the hope of His throne, or whatsoever else He hath or is worth. For if God have given us Christ, and Christ thus given Himself, what hath God or Christ They will deny us? It is the Apostle’s own deduction.* To put it out of all doubt, hear we His own promise That never brake His word.* "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." Where to sit is the fulness of our desire, the end of our race, omnia in omnibus; and farther we cannot go. Of a joy set before Him we spoke ere-while: here is now a joy set before us, another manner joy than was before Him; the worse was set before Him, the better before us, and this we are to run to. Thus do these two theories or sights, the one work to love, the other to hope, both to the well performing of our course; that in this theatre, between the Saints joyfully beholding us in our race, and Christ at our end ready to receive us, we may fulfil our "course with joy," and be partakers of the blessed rest of His most glorious throne. Let us now turn to Him and beseech Him, by the sight of this day, by Himself first, and by His cross and throne both—both which He hath set before us, the one to awake our love, the other to quicken our hope—that we may this day and ever lift up our eyes and heads, that we may this day and ever carry them in our eyes and hearts, look up to them both; so look that we may love the one, and wait and hope for the other; so love and so hope that by them both we may move and that swiftly, even run to Him; and running not faint, but so constantly run, that we fail not finally to attain the happy fruition of Himself, and of the joy and glory of His blessed throne; that so we may find and feel Him as this day here, the "Author;" so in that day there, the "Finisher of our faith," by the same our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen. Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain) The Potter and the Clay The Potter and the Clay Jer. 18:1–6 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, be wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that be made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter, so be made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? faith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand so are ye in mine bandy O house of Israel. AT sundry times, and in divers manners, God was pleased to speak to our fathers by the prophets, before he spoke to us in these last days by his Son. To Elijah, he revealed himself by a small still voice. To Jacob, by a dream. To Moses, he spake face to face. Sometimes he was pleased to fend a favourite prophet on some especial errand; and whilst he was thus employed, vouchsafed to give him a particular message, which he was ordered to deliver without reserve to all the inhabitants of the land. A very instructive instance of this kind we have recorded in the passage now read to you. The first verse informs us that it was a word, or message, which came immediately from the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah. At what time, or how the prophet was employed when it came, we are not told. Perhaps, whilst he was praying for those who would not pray for themselves: Perhaps, near the morning, when he was slumbering or musing on his bed. For the word came to him, saying, "Arise." And what must he do when risen? He must "go down to the potter’s house" (the prophet knew where to find it) "and there (says the great Jehovah) I will cause thee to hear my words." Jeremiah does not confer with flesh and blood, he does not object that it was dark or cold, or desire that he might have his message given him there, but without the least hesitation is immediately obedient to the heavenly vision. "Then (says he) I went down to the potter’s house, and behold he wrought a work upon the wheels." Just as he was entering into the house or workshop, the potter, it seems, had a vessel upon his wheel. And was there any thing so extraordinary in this, that it should be ushered in with the word Behold? What a dreaming visionary, or superstitious enthusiast, would this Jeremiah be accounted, even by many who read his prophecies with seeming respect, was he alive now? But this was not the first time Jeremiah had heard from heaven in this manner. He therefore willingly obeyed; and had you or I accompanied him to the potter’s house, I believe we should have seen him silently, but intensely waiting upon his great and all-wife Commander, to know wherefore he sent him thither. Methinks I see him all attention. He takes notice, that "the vessel was of clay;" but as he held it in his hand, and turned round the wheel, in order to work it into some particular form, "it was marred in the hands of the potter," and consequently unfit for the use he before intended to put it to. And what becomes of this marred vessel? Being thus marred, I suppose, the potter, without the least imputation of injustice, might have thrown it aside, and taken up another piece of clay in its room. But he did not. "He made it again another vessel." And does the potter call a council of his domestics, to enquire of them what kind of vessel they would advise him to make of it? No, in no wise "He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." "Then," adds Jeremiah, whilst he was in the way of duty—then—whilst he was mentally crying, Lord what wouldst thou have me to do? "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? faith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the hands of the potter (marred, and unfit for the first designed purpose) so are ye in O house of Israel." At length, then, Jeremiah hath his sermon given to him: short, but popular. It was to be delivered to the whole house of Israel, princes, priests, and people: short, but pungent, even sharper than a two-edged sword. What! says the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, must I be denied the privilege of a common potter? May I not do what I will with my own? "Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hands, so are ye in mine hands, O house of Israel. I made and formed you into a people, and blessed you above any other nation under heaven: but, O Israel, thou by thy backslidings hast destroyed thyself. As the potter therefore might justly have thrown aside his marred clay, so may I justly unchurch and unpeople you. But what if I should come over the mountains of your guilt, heal your backslidings, revive my work in the midst of the years, and cause your latter end greatly to increase? Behold, as the clay is in the hands of the potter, lying at his disposal, either to be destroyed or formed into another vessel, so are ye in my hands, O house of Israel: I may either reject, and thereby ruin you, or I may revisit and revive you according to my own sovereign good will and pleasure, and who shall say unto me, what dost thou?" This seems to be the genuine interpretation, and primary intention of this beautiful part of holy writ. But waving all further enquiries about its primary design or meaning, I shall now proceed to shew, that what the glorious Jehovah here says of the house of Israel in general, is applicable to every individual of mankind in particular. And as I presume this may be done, without either wire-drawing scripture on the one hand, or wresting it from its original meaning on the other, not to detain you any longer, I shall, from the passage thus explained and paraphrased, deduce, and endeavour to enlarge on these two general heads. First, I shall undertake to prove, that every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, is in the sight of the all-seeing, heart-searching God, only as a "piece of marred clay." Secondly, That being thus marred, he must necessarily be renewed: and under this head, we shall likewise point out by whose agency this mighty change is to be brought about. These particulars being discussed, way will naturally be made for a short word of application. First, To prove that every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, is in the sight of an all-seeing, heart searching God, only as a piece of marred clay. Be pleased to observe, that we say every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, or every man since the fall: for if we consider man as he first came out of the hands of his Maker, he was far from being in such melancholy circumstances, No: he was originally made upright; or as Moses, that sacred penman, declares, "God made him after his own image." Surely never was so much expressed in so sew words; which hath often made me wonder how that great critic Longinus, who so justly admires the dignity and grandeur of Moses’s account of the creation, and "God said, Let there be light, and there was light;" I say I have often wondered why he did not read a little further, and bestow as just an encomium upon this short, but withal inexpressibly august and comprehensive description of the formation of man, "so God created man in his own image." Struck with a deep sense of such amazing goodness, and that he might impress yet a deeper sense of it upon our minds too, he immediately adds, "in the image of God made he him." A council of the most adorable Trinity was called on this important occasion: God did not say, Let there be a man, and there was a man, but God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." This is the account which the lively oracles of God do give us of man in his first estate: but it is very remarkable, that the transition from the account of his creation to that of his misery, is very quick, and why? For a very good reason, because he soon fell from his primeval dignity; and by that fall, the divine image is so defaced, that he is now to be valued only as antiquarians value an ancient medal, merely for the sake of the image and superscription once stamped upon it; or of a second divine impress, which, through grace, it may yet receive. Let us take a more particular survey of him, and see whether these things are so or not: and first, as to his understanding. As man was created originally "after God in knowledge," as well as righteousness and true holiness, we may rationally infer, that his understanding, in respect to things natural, as well as divine, was of a prodigious extent: for he was made but a little lower than the angels, and consequently being like them, excellent in his understanding, he knew much of God, of himself, and all about him; and in this as well as every other respect, was, as Mr. Collier expresses it in one of his essays, a perfect major: but this is far from being our case now. For in respect to natural things, our understandings are evidently darkened. It is but little that we can know, and even that little knowledge which we can acquire, is with much weariness of the flesh, and we are doomed to gain it as we do our daily bread, I mean by the sweat of our brows. Men of low and narrow minds soon commence wise in their own conceits: and having acquired a little smattering of the learned languages, and made some small proficiency in the dry sciences, are easily tempted to look upon themselves as a head taller than their fellow mortals, and accordingly too, too often put forth great swelling words of vanity. But persons of a more exalted, and extensive reach of thought, dare not boast. No: they know that the greatest scholars are in the dark, in respect to many even of the minutest things in life: and after all their painful researches into the Arcanæ Naturæ, they find such an immense void, such an unmeasurable expense yet to be travelled over, that they are obliged at last to conclude, almost with respect to every thing, "that they know nothing yet as they ought to know." This consideration, no doubt, led Socrates, when he was asked by one of his scholars, why the oracle pronounced him the wisest man on earth, to give him this judicious answer, "Perhaps it is, because I am most sensible of my own ignorance." Would to God, that all who call themselves christians, had learnt so much as this heathen! We should then no longer hear so many learned men, falsely so called, betray their ignorance by boasting of the extent of their shallow understanding, nor by prosessing themselves so wife, prove themselves such arrant pedantic fools. If we view our understandings in respect to spiritual things, we shall find that they are not only darkened, but become darkness itself, even "darkness that may be felt" by all who are not past feeling. And how should it be otherwise, since the infallible word of God assures us, that they are alienated from the light and life of God, and thereby naturally as incapable to judge of divine and spiritual things, comparatively speaking, as a man born blind is incapacitated to distinguish the various colours of the rainbow. "The natural man, (says an inspired apostle) discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God;" so far from it, "they are foolishness unto him;" and why? Because they are only to be "spiritually discerned." Hence it was, that Nicodemus, who was blessed with an outward and divine revelation, who was a ruler of the Jews, nay a master of Israel, when our Lord told him, "he must be born again;" appeared to be quite grappled. "How (says he) can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? how can these things be?" Were three more absurd questions ever proposed by the most ignorant man alive? or can there be a clearer proof of the blindness of man’s understanding, in respect to divine, as well as natural things? Is not man then a piece of marred clay? This will appear yet more evident, if we consider the perverse bent of his will. Being made in the very image of God; undoubtedly before the fall, man had no other will but his Maker’s. God’s will, and Adam’s, were then like unisons in music. There was not the least disunion, or discord between them. But now he hath a will, as directly contrary to the will of God, as light is contrary to darkness, or heaven to hell. We all bring into the world with us a carnal mind, which is not only an enemy to God, but "enmity itself, and which is therefore not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can it be." A great many shew much zeal in talking against the man of sin, and loudly (and indeed very justly) exclaim against the Pope for sitting in the temple, I mean the church of Christ, and "exalting himself above all that is called God." But say not within thyself, who shall go to Rome, to pull down this spiritual antichrist? as though there was no antichrist but what is without us. For know, O man, whoever thou art, an infinitely more dangerous antichrist, because less discerned, even self-will, sits daily in the temple of thy heart, exalting itself above all that is called God, and obliging all its votaries to say of Christ himself, that Prince of peace, "we will not have this man to reign over us." God’s people, whose spiritual senses are exercised about spiritual things, and whose eyes are opened to see the abominations that are in their hearts, frequently feel this to their sorrow. Whether they will or not, this enmity from time to time bubbles up, and in spight of all their watchfulness and care, when they are under the pressure of some sharp affliction, a long desertion, or tedious night of temptation, they often find something within rising in rebellion against the all-wise disposals of divine Providence, and saying unto God their heavenly Father, "what dost thou?" This makes them to cry (and no wonder, since it constrained one of the greatest saints and apostles first to introduce the expression) "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The spiritual and renewed soul groans thus, being burdened; but as for the natural and unawakened man, it is not so with him; self-will, as well as every other evil, either in a more latent or discernable manner, reigns in his unrenewed soul, and proves him, even to a demonstration to others, whether he knows, or will confess it himself or not, that in respect to the disorders of his will, as well as his understanding, man is only a piece of marred clay. A transient view of fallen man’s affections will yet more firmly corroborate this melancholy truth. These, at his being first placed in the paradise of God, were always kept within proper bounds, fixed upon their proper objects, and, like so many gentle rivers, sweetly, spontaneously and habitually glided into their ocean, God. But now the scene is changed. For we are now naturally full of vile affections, which like a mighty and impetuous torrent carry all before them. We love what we should hate, and hate what we should love; we fear what we should hope for, and hope for what we should fear; nay, to such an ungovernable height do our affections sometimes rise, that though our judgments are convinced to the contrary, yet we will gratify our passions though it be at the expence of our present and eternal welfare. We feel a war of our affections, warring against the law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death. So that video mcliora proboque, deteriora sequor, I approve of better things but follow worse, it too, too often the practice of us all. I am sensible, that many are offended, when mankind are compared to beasts and devils. And they might have some shadow of reason for being so, if we asserted in a physical sense, that they were really beasts and really devils. For then, as I once heard a very learned prelate, who was objecting against this comparison, observe, "a man being a beast would be incapable, and being a devil, would be under an impossibility of being saved." But when we make use of such shocking comparisons, as he was pleased to term them, we would be understood only in a moral sense; and in so doing, we assert no more than some of the most holy men of God have said of themselves, and others, in the lively oracles many ages ago. Holy David, the man after God’s own heart, speaking of himself, says, "so foolish was I, and as a beast before thee." And holy Job, speaking of man in general, says, that "he is born as a wild ass’s colt," or take away the expletive, which as some think ought to be done, and then he positively asserts, that man is a wild ass’s colt. And what says our Lord, "Ye are of your father the devil;" and "the whole world is said to lie in him, the wicked one, who now rules in the children of disobedience," that is, in all unrenewed souls. Our stupidity, proneness to fix our affections on the things of the earth, and our eagerness to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, evidence us to be earthly and brutal; and our mental passions, anger, hatred, malice, envy, and such like, prove with equal strength, that we are also devilish. Both together conspire to evince, that in respect to his affections, as well as his understanding and will, man deservedly may be termed a piece of marred clay. The present blindness of natural conscience makes this appear in a yet more glaring light; in the soul of the first man Adam, conscience was no doubt the candle of the Lord, and enabled him rightly and instantaneously to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. And, blessed be God! some remains of this are yet left; but alas, how dimly does it burn, and how easily and quickly is it covered, or put out and extinguished. I need not send you to the heathen world, to learn the truth of this; you all know it by experience. Was there no other evidence, your own conscience are instead of a thousand witnesses, that man, as to his natural conscience, as well as understanding, will and affections, is much marred clay. Nor does that great and boasted Diana, I mean unassisted unenlightened reason, less demonstrate the justness of such an assertion. Far be it from me to decry or exclaim against human reason. Christ himself is called the "Logos, the Reason;" and I believe it would not require much learning, or take up much time to prove, that so far and no farther than as we act agreeably to the laws of Christ Jesus, are we any way conformable to the laws of right reason. His service is therefore called "a reasonable service." And however his servants and followers may now be looked upon as fools and madmen; yet these will come a time, when those who despise and set themselves to oppose divine revelation, will find, that what they now call reason is only reason depraved, and as utterly incapable, of itself, to guide us into the way of peace, or shew the way of salvation, as the men of Sodom were to find Lot’s door after they were struck with blindness by the angels, who came to lead him out of the city. The horrid and dreadful mistakes, which the most refined reasoners in the heathen world ran into, both as to the object, as well as manner of divine worship, have sufficiently demonstrated the weakness and depravity of human reason: nor do our modern boasters afford us any better proofs of the greatness of its strength, since the best improvement they generally make of it, is only to reason themselves into downright wilful infidelity, and thereby reason themselves out of eternal salvation. Need we now any further witness, that man, fallen man, is altogether a piece of marred clay? But this is not all, we have yet more evidence to call; for do the blindness of our understandings, the perverseness of our will, the rebellion of our affections, the corruption of our consciences, the depravity of our reason prove this charge; and does not the present disordered frame and constitution of our bodies confirm the same also? Doubtless in this respect, man, in the most literal sense of the word, is a piece of marred clay. For God originally made him of the "dust of the earth." So that notwithstanding our boasting of our high pedigrees, and different descent, we were all originally upon a level, and a little red earth was the common substratum out of which we were all formed. Clay indeed it was, but clay wonderfully modified, even by the immediate hands of the Creator of heaven and earth. One therefore hath observed, that it is said "God built the man;" he did not form him rashly or hastily, but built and finished him according to the plan before laid down in his own eternal mind. And though, as the great God is without body, parts, or passions, we cannot suppose when it is said "God made man after his own image," that it has any reference to his body, yet I cannot help thinking (with Doctor South) that as the eternal Logos was hereafter to appear, God manifest in the flesh, infinite wisdom was undoubtedly exerted in forming a casket into which so invaluable a pearl was in the fulness of time to be deposited. Some of the ancients are said to have asserted, that man at the first, had what we call a glory shining round him; but without attempting to be wise above what is written, we may venture to affirm, that he had a glorious body, which knowing no sin, knew neither sickness nor pain. But now on this, as well as other accounts, he may justly be called Ichabod; for its primitive strength and glory are sadly departed from it, and like the ruins of some ancient and stately fabric, only so much left as to give us some faint idea of what it was when it first appeared in its original and perfect beauty. The apostle Paul, therefore, who knew how to call things by their proper names, as well as any man living, does not scruple to term the human body, though in its original constitution fearfully and wonderfully made, a "vile body;" vile indeed! since it is subject to such vile diseases, put to such vile, yea very vile uses, and at length is to come to so vile an end. "For dust we are, and to dust we must return." This among other considerations, we may well suppose, caused the blessed Jesus to weep at the grave of Lazarus. He wept, not only because his friend Lazarus was dead, but he wept to see human nature, through man’s own default, thus laid in ruins, by being subject unto such a dissolution, made like unto the beasts that perish. Let us here pause a while, and with our sympathizing Lord, see if we cannot shed a few silent tears at least, upon the same sorrowful occasion. Who, who is there amongst us, that upon such a melancholy review of man’s present, real, and most deplorable depravity both in body and soul, can refrain from weeping over such a piece of marred clay? Who, who can help adopting holy David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan? "How are the mighty fallen! How are they slain in their high places!" Originally it was not so. No, "God made man after his own image: in the image of God made he man." Never was there so much expressed in so few words. He was created after God in righteousness and true holiness. This is the account, which the sacred volume gives us of this interesting point. This, this is that blessed book, that book of books, from whence, together with an appeal to the experience of our own hearts, and the testimonies of all past ages, we have thought proper to fetch our proofs. For, after all, we must be obliged to divine revelation, to know what we were, what we are, and what we are to be. In these, as in a true glass, we may see our real and proper likeness. And from these only can we trace the source and fountain of all those innumerable evils, which like a deluge have overflowed the natural and moral world. If any should object against the authenticity of this revelation, and consequently against the doctrine this day drawn from thence, they do in my opinion thereby very much confirm it. For unless a man was very much disordered indeed, as to his understanding, will, affections, natural conscience, and his power of reasoning, he could never possibly deny such a revelation, which is founded on a multiplicity of infallible external evidences, hath so many internal evidences of a divine stamp in every page, is so suited to the common exigencies of all mankind, so agreeable to the experience of all men, and which hath been so wonderfully handed and preserved to us, hath been so instrumental to the convicting, converting, and comforting so many millions of souls, and hath stood the test of the most severe scrutinies, and exact criticisms of the most subtle and refined, as well as of the most malicious and persecuting enemies, that ever lived, even from the beginning of time to this very day. Persons of such a turn of mind, I think, are rather to be prayed for, than disputed with, if so be this perverse wickedness of their hearts may be forgiven them: "They are in the very gall of bitterness, and must have "their consciences seared as it were with a red-hot iron," and must have their eyes "blinded by the God of this world," otherwise they could not but see, and feel, and assent to the truth of this doctrine, of man’s being universally depraved; which not only in one or two, but in one or two thousands, in every page, I could almost say, is written, in such legible characters, that he that runs may read. Indeed, revelation itself is founded upon the doctrine of the fall. Had we kept our original integrity, the law of God would have yet been written in our hearts, and thereby the want of a divine revelation, at least such as ours, would have been superseded; but being fallen, instead of rising in rebellion against God, we ought to be filled with unspeakable thankfulness to our all bountiful Creator, who by a few lines in his own books hath discovered more to us, than all the philosophers and most learned men in the world could, or would, have discovered, though they had studied to all eternity. I am well aware, that some who pretend to own the validity of divine revelation, the notwithstanding enemies to the doctrine that hath this day been delivered; and would fain elude the force of the proofs generally urged in defence of it, by saying, they only bespeak the corruption of particular persons, or have reference only to the heathen world: but such persons err, not knowing their own hearts, or the power of Jesus Christ: for by nature there is no difference between Jew or Gentile, Greek or Barbarian, bond or free. We are altogether equally become abominable in God’s sight, all equally fallen short of the glory of God, and consequently all alike so many pieces of marred clay. How God came to suffer man to fall? how long man stood before he fell? and how the corruption contracted by the fall, is propagated to every individual of his species? are questions of such an abstruse and critical nature, that should I undertake to answer them, would be only gratifying a sinful curiosity, and tempting you, as Satan tempted our first parents, to eat forbidden fruit. It will much better answer the design of this present discourse, which is practical, to pass on II. To the next thing proposed, and point out to you the absolute necessity there is of this fallen nature’s being renewed. This I have had all along in my eye, and on account of this, have purposely been so explicit on the first general head: for has Archimedes once said, "Give me a place where I may fix my foot, and I will move the world;" so without the least imputation of arrogance, with which, perhaps, he was justly chargeable, we may venture to say, grant the foregoing doctrine to be true, and then deny the necessity of man’s being renewed who can. I suppose, I may take it for granted, that all of you amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, hope after death to go to a place which we call Heaven. And my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you all may have mansions prepared for you there. But give me leave to tell you, was you now to see these heavens opened, and the angel (to use the words of the seraphic Hervey) cloathed with all his heavenly drapery, with one foot upon the earth, and another upon the sea; nay, were you to see and hear the angel of the everlasting covenant, Jesus Christ himself, proclaiming "time shall be no more," and giving you all an invitation immediately to come to heaven; heaven would be no heaven to you, nay it would be a hell to your souls, unless you were first prepared for a proper enjoyment of it here on earth. "For what communion hath light with darkness?" Or what fellowship could unrenewed sons of Belial possibly keep up with the pure and immaculate Jesus? The generality of people form strange ideas of heaven. And because the scriptures, in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, describe it by images taken from earthly delights and human grandeur, therefore they are apt to carry their thoughts no higher, and at the best only form to themselves a kind of Mahometan paradise. But permit me to tell you, and God grant it may sink deep into your hearts! Heaven is rather a state than a place; and consequently, unless you are previously disposed by a suitable stats of mind, you could not be happy even in heaven itself. For what is grace but glory militant? What is glory but grace triumphant? This consideration made a pious author say, that "holiness, happiness, and heaven, were only three different words for one and the self-same thing." And this made the great Preston, when he was about to die, turn to his friends, saying, "I am changing my place, but not my company." He had conversed with God and good men on earth; he was going to keep up the same, and infinitely more refined communion with God, his holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, in heaven. To make us meet to be blissful partakers of such heavenly company, this "marred clay," I mean, these depraved natures of ours, must necessarily undergo an universal moral change: our understandings must be enlightened; our wills, reason, and consciences, must be renewed; our affections must be drawn toward, and fixed upon things above; and because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, this corruptible must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality. And thus old things must literally pass away, and behold all things, even the body as well as the faculties of the soul, must become new. This moral change is what some call, repentance, some, conversion, some, regeneration; choose what name you please, I only pray God, that we all may have the thing. The scriptures call it holiness, sanctification, the new creature, and our Lord calls it a "New birth, or being born again, or born from above." These are not barely figurative expressions, or the slights of eastern language, nor do they barely denote a relative change of state conferred on all those who are admitted into Christ’s church by baptism; but they denote a real, moral change of heart and life, a real participation of the divine life in the soul of man. Some indeed content themselves with a figurative interpretation; but unless they are made to experience the power and efficacy thereof, by a solid living experience in their own souls, all their learning, all their laboured criticisms, will not exempt them from a real damnation. Christ hath said it, and Christ will stand, "Unless a man," learned or unlearned, high or low, though he be a master of Israel as Nicodemus was, unless he "be born again, he cannot see, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." If it be enquired, who is to be the potter? and by whoso agency this marred clay is to be formed into another vessel? Or in other words, if it be asked, how this great and mighty change is to be effected? I answer, not by the mere dint and force of moral suasion. This is good in its place. And I am so far from thinking, that christian preachers should not make use of rational arguments and motives in their sermons, that I cannot think they are fit to preach at all, who either cannot, or will not use them. We have the example of the great God himself for such a practice; "Come (says he) and let us reason together." And St. Paul, that prince of preachers, "reasoned of temperance, and righteousness, and a judgment to come." And it is remarkable, "that whilst he was reasoning of these things, Felix trembled." Nor are the most persuasive strains of holy rhetoric less needful for a scribe ready instructed to the kingdom of God. The scriptures both of the Old and New Testament, every where abound with them. And when can they be more properly employed, and brought forth, than when we are acting as ambassadors of heaven, and beseeching poor sinners, as in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled unto God. All this we readily grant. But at the same time, I would as soon go to yonder church-yard, and attempt to raise the dead carcases, with a "come forth," as to preach to dead souls, did I not hope for some superior power to make the word effectual to the designed end. I should only be like a founding brass for any saving purposes, or as a tinkling cymbal. Neither is this change to be wrought by the power of our own free-will. This is an idol every where set up, but we dare not fall down and worship it. "No man (says Christ) can come to me, unless the Father draw him." Our own free-will, if improved, may restrain us from the commission of many evils, and put us in the way of conversion; but, after exerting our utmost efforts (and we are bound in duty to exert them) we shall find the words of our own church article to be true, that "man since the fall hath no power to turn to God." No, we might as soon attempt to stop the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and calm the most tempestuous sea, as to imagine that we can subdue, or bring under proper regulations, our own unruly wills and affections by any strength inherent in ourselves. And therefore, that I may keep you no longer in suspence, I inform you, that this heavenly potter, this blessed agent, is the Almighty Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the third person in the most adorable Trinity, coessential with the Father and the Son. This is that Spirit, which at the beginning of time moved on the face of the waters, when nature lay in one universal chaos. This was the Spirit that over shadowed the Holy Virgin, before that holy thing was born of her: and this same Spirit must come, and move upon the chaos of our souls, before we can properly be called the sons of God. This is what John the baptist calls "being baptized with the Holy Ghost," without which, his and all other baptisms, whether infant or adult, avail nothing. This is that fire, which our Lord came to send into our earthly hearts, and which I pray the Lord of all lords to kindle in every unrenewed one this day. As for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, such as working of miracles, or speaking with divers kinds of tongues, they are long since ceased. But as for this miracle of miracles, turning the soul to God by the more ordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, this abides yet, and will abide till time itself shall be no more. For it is he that sanctifieth us, and all the elect people of God. On this account, true believers are said to be "born from above, to be born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Their second, as well as their first creation, is truly and purely divine. It is, therefore, called "a creation;" but put ye on (says the apostle) the new man which is created—And how? Even as the first man was, "after God in righteousness and true holiness." These, these are the precious truths, which a scoffing world would fain rally or ridicule us out of. To produce this glorious change, this new creation, the glorious Jesus left his Father’s bosom. For this he led a persecuted life; for this he died an ignominious and accursed death; for this he rose again; and for this he now sitteth at the right hand of his Father. All the precepts of his gospel, all his ordinances, all his providences, whether of an afflictive or prosperous nature, all divine revelation from the beginning to the end, all center in these two points, to shew us how we are fallen, and to begin, carry on, and compleat a glorious and blessed change in our souls. This is an end worthy of the coming of so divine a personage. To deliver a multitude of souls of every nation, language and tongue, from so many moral evils, and to reinstate them in an incomparably more excellent condition than that from whence they are fallen, is an end worthy the shedding of such precious blood. What system of religion is there now, or was there ever exhibited to the world, any way to be compared to this? Can the deistical scheme pretend in any degree to come up to it? Is it not noble, rational, and truly divine? And why then will not all that hitherto are strangers to this blessed restoration of their fallen natures, (for my heart is too full to abstain any longer from an application) why will you any longer dispute or stand out against it? Why will you not rather bring your clay to this heavenly Potter, and say from your inmost souls, "Turn us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned?" This, you may and can do: and if you go thus far, who knows but that this very day, yea this very hour, the heavenly Potter may take you in hand, and make you vessels of honour sit for the Redeemer’s use? Others that were once as far from the kingdom of God as you are, have been partakers of this blessedness. What a wretched creature was Mary Magdalene? And yet out of her Jesus Christ cast seven devils. Nay, he appeared to her first, after he rose from the dead, and she became as it were an apostle to the very apostles. What a covetous creature was Zaccheus? He was a griping cheating publican; and yet, perhaps, in one quarter of an hour’s time, his heart is enlarged, and he made quite willing to give half of his goods to feed the poor. And to mention no more, what a cruel person was Paul. He was a persecutor, a blasphemer, injurious; one that breathed out threatnings against the disciples of the Lord, and made havoc of the church of Christ. And yet what a wonderful turn did he meet with, as he was journeying to Damascus? from a persecutor, he became a preacher; was afterwards made a spiritual father to thousands, and now probably sits nearest the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. And why all this? That he might be made an example to them that should hereafter believe. O then believe, repent; I beseech you, believe the gospel. Indeed, it is glad tidings, even tidings of great joy. You will then no longer have any thing to say against the doctrine of Original Sin; or charge the Almighty foolishly, for suffering our first parents to be prevailed on to eat such four grapes, and permitting thereby their children’s teeth to be set on edge. You will then no longer cry out against the doctrine of the New Birth, as enthusiasm, or brand the assertors of such blessed truths with the opprobrious names of fools and madmen. Having felt, you will then believe; having believed, you will therefore speak; and instead of being vessels of wrath, and growing harder and harder in hell fire, like vessels in a potter’s oven, you will be made vessels of honour, and be presented at the great day by Jesus, to his heavenly Father, and be translated to live with him as monuments of rich, free, distinguishing and sovereign grace, for ever and ever. You, that have in some degree experienced the quickening influence (for I must not conclude without dropping a word or two to God’s children) you know how to pity, and therefore, I beseech you also to pray for those, to whose circumstances this discourse is peculiarly adapted. But will you be content in praying for them? Will you not see reason to pray for yourselves also? Yes, doubtless, for yourselves also. For you, and you only know, how much there is yet lacking in your faith, and how far you are from being partakers in that degree, which you desire to be, of the whole mind that was in Christ Jesus. You know what a body of sin and death you carry about with you, and that you must necessarily expect many turns of God’s providence and grace, before you will be wholly delivered from it. But thanks be to God, we are in safe hands. He that has been the author, will also be the finisher of our faith. Yet a little while, and we like him shall say "It is finished;" we shall bow down our heads and give up the ghost. Till then, (for to thee, O Lord, will we now direct our prayer) help us, O Almighty Father, in patience to possess our souls. Behold, we are the clay, and thou art the Potter. Let not the thing formed say to him that formed it, whatever the dispensations of thy future Will concerning us may be, Why dost thou deal with us thus? Behold, we put ourselves as blanks in thine hands, deal with us as seemeth good in thy fight, only let every cross, every affliction, every temptation, be overruled to the stamping thy blessed image in more lively characters on our hearts; that so passing from glory to glory, by the powerful operations of thy blessed Spirit, we may be made thereby more and more meet for, and at last be translated to a full, perfect, endless, and uninterrupted enjoyment of glory hereafter, with thee O Father, thee O Son, and thee O blessed Spirit; to whom, three persons but one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honour, power, might, majesty and dominion, now and to all eternity. Amen and Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Christ Would Have Comers Not Once Think That He Will Cast Them Out OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. The text is full of this: for he saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will. This is yet further manifest by these considerations. First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one. “Do not think,” said he, “that I will accuse you to the Father” (John 5:45). These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him. For he saith of them a little before, “And ye will not come to me;” for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back. Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father. Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for: for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners. So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world. Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not. Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by? And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her. And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11). Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office. He was not sent “into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 4:6). The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts. Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him. Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ. Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ? Yes, says the sinner. Forsake thy wicked ways then. So I do, says the sinner. Why comest thou then so slowly? Because I am hindered. What hinders? Has God forbidden thee? No. Art thou not willing to come faster? Yes, yet I cannot. Well, prithee be plain with me, and tell me the reason and ground of thy discouragement. Why, says the sinner, though God forbids me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally ariseth this, and that, and the other thought in my heart, that hinders my speed to Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think I am not chosen; sometimes I think I am not called; sometimes I think I am come too late; and sometimes I think I know not what it is to come. Also one while I think I have no grace; and then again, that I cannot pray; and then again, I think that I am a very hypocrite. And these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ. Look ye now, did not I tell you so? There are thoughts yet remaining in the heart, even of those who have forsaken their wicked ways; and with those thoughts they are more plagued than with anything else; because they hinder their coming to Jesus Christ; for the sin of unbelief, which is the original of all these thoughts, is that which besets a coming sinner more easily, than doth his ways (Heb 12:1–4). But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace. “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9). Thus you see how Jesus Christ setteth himself against such thoughts, that any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Reasons of Observation Third I come now to the reasons of the observation. 1. If Jesus Christ should allow thee once to think that he will cast thee out, he must allow thee to think that he will falsify his word; for he hath said, “I will in no wise cast out.” But Christ would not that thou shouldst count him as one that will falsify his word; for he saith of himself, “I am the truth;” therefore he would not that any that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. 2. If Jesus Christ should allow the sinner that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, then he must allow, and so countenance the first appearance of unbelief; the which he counteth his greatest enemy, and against which he hast bent even his holy gospel. Therefore Jesus Christ would not that they that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. See Matthew 14:31; 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 24:25. 3. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out; then he must allow him to make a question, Whether he is willing to receive his Father’s gift; for the coming sinner is his Father’s gift; as also says the text; but he testifieth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Therefore Jesus Christ would not have him, that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out. 4. If Jesus Christ should allow them once to think, that indeed are coming to him, that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will despise and reject the drawing of his Father. For no man can come to him but whom the Father draweth. But it would be high blasphemy, and damnable wickedness once to imagine thus. Therefore, Jesus Christ would not have him that cometh once think that he will cast him out. 5. If Jesus Christ should allow those that indeed are coming to him, once to think that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to the trust and charge that his Father hath committed to him; which is to save, and not to lose anything of that which he hath given unto him to save (John 6:39). But the Father hath given him a charge to save the coming sinner; therefore it cannot be, that he should allow, that such an one should once think that he will cast him out. 6. If Jesus Christ should allow that they should once think that are coming to him, that he will cast them out, then he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to his office of priesthood; for, as by the first part of it, he paid price for, and ransomed souls, so by the second part thereof, he continually maketh intercession to God for them that come (Heb 7:25). But he cannot allow us to question his faithful execution of his priesthood. Therefore he cannot allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out. 7. If Jesus Christ should allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out, then he must allow us to question his will, or power, or merit to save. But he cannot allow us once to question any of these; therefore not once to think, that the coming sinner shall be cast out. (1.) He cannot allow them to question his will; for he saith in the text, “I WILL in no wise cast out.” (2.) He cannot allow us to question his power; for the Holy Ghost saith HE IS ABLE to save to the uttermost them that come. (3.) He cannot allow them to question the efficacy of his merit; for the blood of Christ cleanseth the comer from all sin, (1 John 1:7), therefore he cannot allow that he that is coming to him should once think that he will cast them out. 8. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to give the lie to the manifest testimony of the Father, Son, and Spirit; yea, to the whole gospel contained in Moses, the prophets, the book of Psalms, and that commonly called the New Testament. But he cannot allow of this; therefore, not that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out. 9. Lastly, If Jesus Christ should allow him that is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to question his Father’s oath, which he in truth and righteousness hath taken, that they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ. But he cannot allow this; therefore he cannot allow that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out (Heb 6). USE AND APPLICATION I come now to make some GENERAL USE AND APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE, and so to draw towards a conclusion. USE FIRST.—the First Use—A USE OF INFORMATION; And, First, It informeth us that men by nature are far off from Christ. Let me a little improve this use, by speaking to these three questions. 1. Where is he that is coming [but has not come], to Jesus Christ? 2. What is he that is not coming to Jesus Christ? 3. Whither is he to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? 1. Where is he? [Answer.] (1.) He is far from God, he is without him, even alienate from him both in his understanding, will, affections, judgment, and conscience (Eph 2:12; 4:18). (2.) He is far from Jesus Christ, who is the only deliverer of men from hell fire (Psa 73:27). (3.) He is far from the work of the Holy Ghost, the work of regeneration, and a second creation, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). (4.) He is far more righteous, from that righteousness that should make him acceptable in God’s sight (Isa 46:12, 13). (5.) He is under the power and dominion of sin; sin reigneth in and over him; it dwelleth in every faculty of his soul, and member of his body; so that from head to foot there is no place clean (Isa 1:6; Rom 3:9–18). (6.) He is in the pest-house with Uzziah and excluded the camp of Israel with the lepers (2 Chron 26:21; Num 5:2; Job 36:14). (7.) His “life is among the unclean.” He is “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:28). (8.) He is “in sin,” “in the flesh,” “in death,” “in the snare of the devil,” and is “taken captive by him at his will” (1 Cor 15:17; Rom 8:8; 1 John 3:14; 2 Tim 2:26). (9.) He is under the curse of the law, and the devil dwells in him, and hath the mastery of him (Gal 3:13; Eph 2:2, 3; Acts 26:18). (10.) He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knows not whither he goes; for darkness has blinded his eyes. (11.) He is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction; and holding on, he will assuredly go in at the broad gate, and so down the stairs to hell. 2. What is he that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He is counted one of God’s enemies (Luke 19:14; Rom 8:7). (2.) He is a child of the devil, and of hell; for the devil begat him, as to his sinful nature, and hell must swallow him at last, because he cometh not to Jesus Christ (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matt 23:15; Psa 9:17). (3.) He is a child of wrath, an heir of it; it is his portion, and God will repay it him to his face (Eph 2:1–3; Job 21:29–31). (4.) He is a self-murderer; he wrongeth his own soul, and is one that loveth death (Prov 1:18; 8:36). (5.) He is a companion for devils and damned men (Prov 21:16; Matt 25:41). 3. Whither is he like to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He that cometh not to him, is like to go further from him; so every sin is a step further from Jesus Christ (Hosea 11). (2.) As he is in darkness, so he is like to go on in it; for Christ is the light of the world, and he that comes not to him, walketh in darkness (John 8:12). (3.) He is like to be removed at last as far from God, and Christ, and heaven, and all felicity, as an infinite God can remove him (Matt 12:41). But, Second, This doctrine of coming to Christ informeth us where poor destitute sinners may find life for their souls, and that is in Christ. This life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life. And again, “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35). Now, for further enlargement, I will also here propound three more questions: 1. What life is in Christ? 2. Who may have it? 3. Upon what terms? 1. What life is in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) There is justifying life in Christ. Man by sin is dead in law; and Christ only can deliver him by his righteousness and blood from this death into a state of life. “For God sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). That is, through the righteousness which he should accomplish, and the death that he should die. (2.) There is eternal life in Christ; life that is endless; life for ever and ever. “He hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Now, justification and eternal salvation being both in Christ, and nowhere else to be had for men, who would not come to Jesus Christ? 2. Who may have this life? I answer, Poor, helpless, miserable sinners. Particularly, (1.) Such as are willing to have it. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life” (Rev 22:17). (2.) He that thirsteth for it. “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life” (Rev 21:6). (3.) He that is weary of his sins. “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isa 28:12). (4.) He that is poor and needy. “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Psa 72:13). (5.) He that followeth after him, crieth for life. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). 3. Upon what terms may he have this life? [Answer.] Freely. Sinner, dost thou hear. Thou mayest have it freely. Let him take the water of life freely. I will give him of the fountain of the water of life freely. “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42). Freely, without money, or without price. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1). Sinner, art thou thirsty? art thou weary? art thou willing? Come, then, and regard not your stuff; for all the good that is in Christ is offered to the coming sinner, without money and without price. He has life to give away to such as want it, and that hath not a penny to purchase it; and he will give it freely. Oh what a blessed condition is the coming sinner in! But, Third, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informeth us, that it is to be had nowhere else. Might it be had anywhere else, the text, and him that spoke it, would be but little set by; for what greater matter is there in “I will in no wise cast out,” if another stood by that could receive them? But here appears the glory of Christ, that none but he can save. And here appears his love, that though none can save but he, yet he is not coy in saving. “But him that comes to me,” says he, “I will in no wise cast out.” That none can save but Jesus Christ, is evident from Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other;” and “he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). If life could have been had anywhere else, it should have been in the law. But it is not in the law; for by the deeds of the law, no man living shall be justified; and if not justified, then no life. Therefore life is nowhere to be had but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3). [Question.] But why would God so order it, that life should be had nowhere else but in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] There is reason for it, and that both with respect to God and us. 1. With respect to God. (1.) That it might be in a way of justice as well as mercy. And in a way of justice it could not have been, if it had not been by Christ; because he, and he only, was able to answer the demand of the law, and give for sin what the justice thereof required. All angels had been crushed down to hell for ever, had that curse been laid upon them for our sins, which was laid upon Jesus Christ; but it was laid upon him, and he bare it; and answered the penalty, and redeemed his people from under it, with that satisfaction to Divine justice that God himself doth now proclaim, That he is faithful and just to forgive us, if by faith we shall venture to Jesus, and trust to what he has done for life (Rom 3:24–26; John 1:4). (2.) Life must be by Jesus Christ, that God might be adored and magnified, for finding out this way. This is the Lord’s doings, that in all things he might be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. (3.) It must be by Jesus Christ, that life might be at God’s dispose, who hath great pity for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the broken in heart, and for them that others care not for (Psa 34:6; 138:6; 25; 51:17; 147:3). (4.) Life must be in Christ, to cut off boasting from the lips of men. This also is the apostle’s reason in Romans 3:19, 27 (Eph 2:8–10). 2. Life must be in Jesus Christ with respect to us. (1.) That we might have it upon the easiest terms, to wit, freely: as a gift, not as wages. Was it in Moses’ hand, we should come hardly at it. Was it in the pope’s hand, we should pay soundly for it. But thanks be to God, it is in Christ, laid up in him, and by him to be communicated to sinners upon easy terms, even for receiving, accepting, and embracing with thanksgiving; as the Scriptures plainly declare (John 1:11, 12; 2 Cor 11:4; Heb 11:13; Col 3:13–15). (2.) Life is in Christ FOR US, that it might not be upon so brittle a foundation, as indeed it would had it been anywhere else. The law itself is weak because of us, as to this. But Christ is a tried stone, a sure foundation, one that will not fail to bear thy burden, and to receive thy soul, coming sinner. (3.) Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed. Alas! the best of us, was life left in our hand, to be sure we should forfeit it, over, and over, and over; or, was it in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us. But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yea, multiply pardons; it is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that hath an heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding. Blessed be God, that life is in Christ! For now it is sure to all the seed. But, Fourth, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life informs us of the evil of unbelief; that wicked thing that is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner. Doth the text say, “Come?” Doth it say, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Then what an evil is that that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ! And that evil is unbelief: for by faith we come; by unbelief we keep away. Therefore it is said to be that by which a soul is said to depart from God; because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also that keeps them from him to this day. And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile. [Of the Sin of Unbelief.]—This sin may be called the white devil, for it oftentimes, in its mischievous doings in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counselor of heaven. Therefore a little to discourse of this evil disease. 1. It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts. For it keeps the soul from Christ by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness; as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart. 2. It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience: the conscience of the coming sinner tells him that he hath nothing good; that he stands inditeable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind, and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ. And will you, says Unbelief, in such a case as you now are, presume to come to Jesus Christ? 3. It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling. The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin, and ofttimes staggers under it. Now, says Unbelief, you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption. You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you. Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ? 4. It is that sin, above all others, that most suiteth with the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ. And this wisdom unbelief falls in with. 5. It is that sin, above all other, that continually is whispering the soul in the ear with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life. It also suggests mistrust about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it. And no sin can do this so artificially as unbelief. 6. It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us; and if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will, by some evasion, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it. 7. It is that, above all other sins, that weakness our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope, and expectations: it even taketh the heart away from God in duty. 8. Lastly, This sin, as I have said even now, it appeareth in the soul with so many sweet pretences to safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing. Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be you sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has been often confirmed in you. Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all. This is the devilish counsel of unbelief, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings. [Qualities of unbelief as opposed to faith.]—But to be brief. Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:— 1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Psa 106:24). 2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45). 3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12). 4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3). 5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14). 6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27). 7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21). 8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13). 9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11). 10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13). 11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8). 12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16). 13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16). 14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23). 15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6). 16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6). 17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3). 18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20). 19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46). 20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32). 21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3). 22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19). 23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5). 24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14). 25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30). Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it. USE SECOND. The Second Use—A USE OF EXAMINATION We come now to a use of examination. Sinner, thou hast heard of the necessity of coming to Christ; also of the willingness of Christ to receive the coming soul; together with the benefit that they by him shall have that indeed come to him. Put thyself now upon this serious inquiry, Am I indeed come to Jesus Christ? Motives plenty I might here urge, to prevail with thee to a conscientious performance of this duty. As, 1. Thou art in sin, in the flesh, in death, in the snare of the devil, and under the curse of the law, if you are not coming to Jesus Christ. 2. There is no way to be delivered from these, but by coming to Jesus Christ. 3. If thou comest, Jesus Christ will receive thee, and will in no wise cast thee out. 4. Thou wilt not repent it in the day of judgment, if now thou comest to Jesus Christ. 5. But thou wilt surely mourn at last, if now thou shalt refuse to come. 6. And lastly, Now thou hast been invited to come; now will thy judgment be greater, and thy damnation more fearful, if thou shalt yet refuse, than if thou hadst never heard of coming to Christ. Object. But we hope we are come to Jesus Christ. Answer. It is well if it proves so. But lest thou shouldst speak without ground, and so fall unawares into hell-fire, let us examine a little. First, Art thou indeed come to Jesus Christ? What hast thou left behind thee? What didst thou come away from, in thy coming to Jesus Christ? When Lot came out of Sodom, he left the Sodomites behind him (Gen 19). When Abraham came out of Chaldea, he left his country and kindred behind him (Gen 12; Acts 7). When Ruth came to put her trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, she left her father and mother, her gods, and the land of her nativity, behind her (Ruth 1:15–17; 2:11, 12). When Peter came to Christ, he left his nets behind him (Matt 4:20). When Zaccheus came to Christ, he left the receipt of custom behind him (Luke 19). When Paul came to Christ, he left his own righteousness behind him (Phil 3:7, 8). When those that used curious arts came to Jesus Christ, they took their curious books and burned them; though, in another man’s eye, they were counted worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18–20). What sayest thou, man? Hast thou left thy darling sins, thy Sodomitish pleasures, thy acquaintance and vain companions, thy unlawful gain, thy idol-gods, thy righteousness, and thy unlawful curious arts, behind thee? If any of these be with thee, and thou with them, in thy heart and life, thou art not yet come to Jesus Christ. Second, Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me what moved thee to come to Jesus Christ? Men do not usually come or go to this or that place, before they have a moving cause, or rather a cause moving them thereto. No more do they come to Jesus Christ—I do not say, before they have a cause, but—before that cause moveth them to come. What sayest thou? Hast thou a cause moving thee to come? To be at present in a state of condemnation, is cause sufficient for men to come to Jesus Christ for life. But that will not do, except the cause move them; the which it will never do, until their eyes be opened to see themselves in that condition. For it is not a man’s being under wrath, but his seeing it, that moveth him to come to Jesus Christ. Alas! all men by sin are under wrath; yet but few of that all come to Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because they do not see their condition. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7). Until men are warned, and also receive the warning, they will not come to Jesus Christ. Take three or four instances for this. Adam and Eve came not to Jesus Christ until they received the alarm, the conviction of their undone state by sin. (Gen 3) The children of Israel cried not out for a mediator before they saw themselves in danger of death by the law (Exo 20:18, 19). Before the publican came, he saw himself lost and undone (Luke 18:13). The prodigal came not, until he saw death at the door, ready to devour him (Luke 15:17, 18). The three thousand came not, until they knew not what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37–39). Paul came not, until he saw himself lost and undone (Acts 9:3–8, 11). Lastly, Before the jailer came, he saw himself undone (Acts 16:29–31). And I tell thee, it is an easier thing to persuade a well man to go to the physician for cure, or a man without hurt to seek for a plaster to cure him, than it is to persuade a man that sees not his soul-disease, to come to Jesus Christ. The whole have no need of the physician; then why should they go to him? The full pitcher can hold no more; then why should it go to the fountain? And if thou comest full, thou comest not aright; and be sure Christ will send thee empty away. “But he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Mark 2:17; Psa 147:3; Luke 1:53). Third, Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me, What seest thou in him to allure thee to forsake all the world, to come to him? I say, What hast thou seen in him? Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him. 1. What comeliness hast thou seen in his person? thou comest not, if thou seest no form nor comeliness in him (Isa 53:1–3). 2. Until those mentioned in the Song were convinced that there was more beauty, comeliness, and desirableness in Christ, than in ten thousand, they did not so much as ask where he was, nor incline to turn aside after him (Song 5, 6). There be many things on this side heaven that can and do carry away the heart; and so will do, so long as thou livest, if thou shalt be kept blind, and not be admitted to see the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Fourth, Art thou come to the Lord Jesus? What hast thou found in him, since thou camest to him? Peter found with him the word of eternal life (John 6:68). They that Peter makes mention of, found him a living stone, even such a living stone as communicated life to them (1 Peter 2:4, 5). He saith himself, they that come to him, &c., shall find rest unto their souls; hast thou found rest in him for thy soul? (Matt 11:28). Let Us Go Back to the Times of the Old Testament 1. Abraham found THAT in him, that made him leave his country for him, and become for his sake a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Gen 12; Heb 11). 2. Moses found THAT in him, that made him forsake a crown, and a kingdom for him too. 3. David found so much in him, that he counted to be in his house one day was better than a thousand; yea, to be a door-keeper therein was better, in his esteem, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10). 4. What did Daniel and the three children find in him, to make them run the hazards of the fiery furnace, and the den of lions, for his sake? (Dan 3, 6). Let Us Come Down to Martyrs 1. Stephen found that in him that made him joyful, and quietly yield up his life for his name (Acts 7). 2. Ignatius found that in Christ that made him choose to go through the torments of the devil, and hell itself, rather than not to have him.—Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol. 1, p. 52, Anno. 111. Edit. 1632. 3. What saw Romanus in Christ, when he said to the raging Emperor, who threatened him with fearful torments, Thy sentence, O Emperor, I joyfully embrace, and refuse not to be sacrificed by as cruel torments as thou canst invent?—Fox, vol. 1, p. 116. 4. What saw Menas, the Egyptian, in Christ, when he said, under most cruel torments, There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it was weighed in a balance, to be preferred with the price of one soul? Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord? And I have learned of my Lord and King not to fear them that kill the body, &c. P. 117. 5. What did Eulalia see in Christ, when she said, as they were pulling her one joint from another, Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee. What a pleasure it is for them, O Christ! that remember thy triumphant victory? P. 121. 6. What think you did Agnes see in Christ, when rejoicingly she went to meet the soldier that was appointed to be her executioner. I will willingly, said she, receive into my paps the length of this sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof, even to the hilts; that thus I, being married to Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world? P. 122. 7. What do you think did Julitta see in Christ, when, at the Emperor’s telling of her, that except she would worship the gods, she should never have protection, laws, judgments, nor life, she replied, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty: all that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against my Creator? P. 123. 8. What did Marcus Arethusius see in Christ, when after his enemies had cut his flesh, anointed it with honey, and hanged him up in a basket for flies and bees to feed on, he would not give, to uphold idolatry, one halfpenny to save his life? P. 128. 9. What did Constantine see in Christ, when he used to kiss the wounds of them that suffered for him? P. 135. 10. But what need I give thus particular instances of words and smaller actions, when by their lives, their blood, their enduring hunger, sword, fire, pulling asunder, and all torments that the devil and hell could devise, for the love they bare to Christ, after they were come to him? What Hast THOU Found in Him, Sinner? What! come to Christ, and find nothing in him!—when all things that are worth looking after are in him!—or if anything, yet not enough to wean thee from thy sinful delights, and fleshly lusts! Away, away, thou art not coming to Jesus Christ. He that has come to Jesus Christ, hath found in him, that, as I said, that is not to be found anywhere else. As, 1. He that is come to Christ hath found God in him reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. And so God is not to be found in heaven and earth besides (2 Cor 5:19, 20). 2. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found in him a fountain of grace, sufficient, not only to pardon sin, but to sanctify the soul, and to preserve it from falling, in this evil world. 3. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found virtue in him; THAT virtue, that if he does but touch thee with his Word, or thou him by faith, life is forthwith conveyed into thy soul. It makes thee wake as one that is waked out of his sleep; it awakes all the powers of the soul (Psa 30:11, 12; Song 6:12). 4. Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Thou hast found glory in him, glory that surmounts and goes beyond. “Thou art more glorious-than the mountains of prey” (Psa 76:4). 5. What shall I say? Thou hast found righteousness in him; thou hast found rest, peace, delight, heaven, glory, and eternal life. Sinner, be advised; ask thy heart again, saying, Am I come to Jesus Christ? For upon this one question, Am I come, or, am I not? hangs heaven and hell as to thee. If thou canst say, I am come, and God shall approve that saying, happy, happy, happy man art thou! But if thou art not come, what can make thee happy? yea, what can make that man happy that, for his not coming to Jesus Christ for life, must be damned in hell? USE THIRD.—the Third Use—A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT Coming sinner, I have now a word for thee; be of good comfort, “He will in no wise cast out.” Of all men, thou art the blessed of the Lord; the Father hath prepared his Son to be a sacrifice for thee, and Jesus Christ, thy Lord, is gone to prepare a place for thee (John 1:29; Heb 10). What shall I say to thee? [First,] Thou comest to a FULL Christ; thou canst not want anything for soul or body, for this world or that to come, but it is to be had in or by Jesus Christ. As it is said of the land that the Danites went to possess, so, and with much more truth, it may be said of Christ; he is such an one with whom there is no want of any good thing that is in heaven or earth. A full Christ is thy Christ. 1. He is full of grace. Grace is sometimes taken for love; never any loved like Jesus Christ. Jonathan’s love went beyond the love of women; but the love of Christ passes knowledge. It is beyond the love of all the earth, of all creatures, even of men and angels. His love prevailed with him to lay aside his glory, to leave the heavenly place, to clothe himself with flesh, to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to live a poor life in the world, to take upon him our sicknesses, infirmities, sins, curse, death, and the wrath that was due to man. And all this he did for a base, undeserving, unthankful people; yea, for a people that was at enmity with him. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6–10). 2. He is full of truth. Full of grace and truth. Truth, that is, faithfulness in keeping promise, even this of the text, with all other, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 14:6). Hence it is said, that his words be true, and that he is the faithful God, that keepeth covenant. And hence it is also that his promises are called truth: “Thou wilt fulfil thy truth unto Jacob, and thy mercy unto Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Therefore it is said again, that both himself and words are truth: “I am the truth, the Scripture of truth” (Dan 10:21). “Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17; 2 Sam 7:28); “thy law is truth,” (Psa 119:142); and “my mouth,” saith he, “shall speak truth,” (Prov 8:7); see also Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 25:1; Malachi 2:6; Acts 26:25, 2 Timothy 2:12, 13. Now, I say, his word is truth, and he is full of truth to fulfil his truth, even to a thousand generations. Coming sinner, he will not deceive thee; come boldly to Jesus Christ. 3. He is full of wisdom. He is made unto us of God wisdom; wisdom to manage the affairs of his church in general, and the affairs of every coming sinner in particular. And upon this account he is said to be “head over all things,” (1 Cor 1; Eph 1), because he manages all things that are in the world by his wisdom, for the good of his church; all men’s actions, all Satan’s temptations, all God’s providences, all crosses, and disappointments; all things whatever are under the hand of Christ—who is the wisdom of God—and he ordereth them all for good to his church. And can Christ help it—and be sure he can—nothing shall happen or fall out in the world, but it shall, in despite of all opposition, have a good tendency to his church and people. 4. He is full of the Spirit, to communicate it to the coming sinner; he hath therefore received it without measure, that he may communicate it to every member of his body, according as every man’s measure thereof is allotted him by the Father. Wherefore he saith, that he that comes to him, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 3:34; Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2; John 7:33–39). 5. He is indeed a storehouse full of all the graces of the Spirit. “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Here is more faith, more love, more sincerity, more humility, more of every grace; and of this, even more of this, he giveth to every lowly, humble, penitent coming sinner. Wherefore, coming soul, thou comest not to a barren wilderness when thou comest to Jesus Christ. 6. He is full of bowels and compassion: and they shall feel and find it so that come to him for life. He can bear with thy weaknesses, he can pity thy ignorance, he can be touched with the feeling of thy infirmities, he can affectionately forgive they transgressions, he can heal thy backslidings, and love thee freely. His compassions fail not; “and he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he can pity them that no eye pities, and be afflicted in all thy afflictions” (Matt 26:41; Heb 5:2; 2:18; Matt 9:2; Hosea 14:4; Eze 16:5, 6; Isa 63:9; Psa 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; Lam 3:22; Isa 42:3). 7. Coming soul, the Jesus that thou art coming to, is full of might and terribleness for thy advantage; he can suppress all thine enemies; he is the Prince of the kings of the earth; he can bow all men’s designs for thy help; he can break all snares laid for thee in the way; he can lift thee out of all difficulties wherewith thou mayest be surrounded; he is wise in heart, and mighty in power. Every life under heaven is in his hand; yea, the fallen angels tremble before him. And he will save thy life, coming sinner (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 8:28; Matt 28:18; Rev 4; Psa 19:3; 27:5, 6; Job 9:4; John 17:2; Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19). 8. Coming sinner, the Jesus to whom thou art coming is lowly in heart, he despiseth not any. It is not thy outward meanness, nor thy inward weakness; it is not because thou art poor, or base, or deformed, or a fool, that he will despise thee: he hath chosen the foolish, the base, and despised things of this world, to confound the wise and mighty. He will bow his ear to thy stammering prayers he will pick out the meaning of thy inexpressible groans; he will respect thy weakest offering, if there be in it but thy heart (Matt 11:20; Luke 14:21; Prov 9:4–6; Isa 38:14, 15; Song 5:15; John 4:27; Mark 12:33, 34; James 5:11). Now, is not this a blessed Christ, coming sinner? Art thou not like to fare well, when thou hast embraced him, coming sinner? But, Second. Thou hast yet another advantage by Jesus Christ, thou art coming to him, for he is not only full, BUT FREE. He is not sparing of what he has; he is open-hearted and open-handed. Let me in a few particulars show thee this: 1. This is evident, because he calls thee; he calls upon thee to come unto him; the which he would not do, was he not free to give; yea, he bids thee, when come, ask, seek, knock. And for thy encouragement, adds to every command a promise, “Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” If the rich man should say thus to the poor, would not he be reckoned a free-hearted man? I say, should he say to the poor, Come to my door, ask at my door, knock at my door, and you shall find and have; would he not be counted liberal? Why, thus doth Jesus Christ. Mind it, coming sinner (Isa 55:3; Psa 50:15; Matt 7:7–9). 2. He doth not only bid thee come, but tells thee, he will heartily do thee good; yea, he will do it with rejoicing; “I will rejoice over them, to do them good-with my whole heart, and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41). 3. It appeareth that he is free, because he giveth without twitting. “He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1, 5). There are some that will not deny to do the poor a pleasure, but they will mix their mercies with so many twits, that the persons on whom they bestow their charity shall find but little sweetness in it. But Christ doth not do so, coming sinner; he casteth all thine iniquities behind his back (Isa 38:17). Thy sins and iniquities he will remember no more (Heb 8:12). 4. That Christ is free, is manifest by the complaints that he makes against them that will not come to him for mercy. I say, he complains, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37). I say, he speaks it by way of complaint. He saith also in another place, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob” (Isa 43:22). Coming sinner, see here the willingness of Christ to save; see here how free he is to communicate life, and all good things, to such as thou art. He complains, if thou comest not; he is displeased, if thou callest not upon him. Hark, coming sinner, once again; when Jerusalem would not come to him for safeguard, “he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41, 42). 5. Lastly, He is open and free-hearted to do thee good, as is seen by the joy and rejoicing that he manifesteth at the coming home of poor prodigals. He receives the lost sheep with rejoicing; the lost goat with rejoicing; yea, when the prodigal came home, what joy and mirth, what music and dancing, was in his father’s house! (Luke 15). Third. Coming sinner, I will add another encouragement for thy help. 1. God hath prepared a mercy-seat, a throne of grace to sit on; that thou mayest come thither to him, and that he may from thence hear thee, and receive thee. “I will commune with thee,” saith he, “from above the mercy-seat” (Exo 25:22). As who shall say, sinner, When thou comest to me, thou shalt find me upon the mercy-seat, where also I am always found of the undone coming sinner. Thither I bring my pardons; there I hear and receive their petitions, and accept them to my favour. 2. God hath also prepared a golden altar for thee to offer thy prayers and tears upon. A golden altar! It is called a “golden altar,” to show what worth it is of in God’s account: for this golden altar is Jesus Christ; this altar sanctifies thy gift, and makes thy sacrifice acceptable. This altar, then, makes thy groans golden groans; thy tears golden tears; and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to, coming sinner (Rev 8; Matt 23:19; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 2:5). 3. God hath strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! take heed that thou dost not tread them under foot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner. 4. He hath also for thy encouragement laid up the names, and set forth the sins, of those that have been saved. In this book they are fairly written, that thou, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, mightest have hope. (1.) In this book is recorded Noah’s maim and sin; and how God had mercy upon him. (2.) In this record is fairly written the name of Lot, and the nature of his sin; and how the Lord had mercy upon him. (3.) In this record thou hast also fairly written the names of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, with the nature of their sins; and how God had mercy upon them; and all to encourage thee, coming sinner. Fourth. I will add yet another encouragement for the man that is coming to Jesus Christ. Art thou coming? Art thou coming, indeed? Why, 1. Then this thy coming is by virtue of God’s call. Thou art called. Calling goes before coming. Coming is not of works, but of him that calleth. “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would; and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13). 2. Art thou coming? This is also by virtue of illumination. God has made thee see; and, therefore, thou art coming. So long as thou wast darkness, thou lovedst darkness, and couldst not abide to come, because thy deeds were evil; but being now illuminated and made to see what and where thou art, and also what and where thy Saviour is, now thou art coming to Jesus Christ; “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” saith Christ, “but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). 3. Art thou coming? This is because God hath inclined thine heart to come. God hath called thee, illuminated thee, and inclined thy heart to come; and, therefore, thou comest to Jesus Christ. It is God that worketh in thee to will, and to come to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, bless God for that he hath given thee a will to come to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that thou belongest to Jesus Christ, because God has made thee willing to come to him (Psa 110:3). Bless God for slaying the enmity of thy mind; had he not done it, thou wouldst as yet have hated thine own salvation. 4. Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? It is God that giveth thee power: power to pursue thy will in the matters of thy salvation, is the gift of God. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do” (Phil 2:13). Not that God worketh will to come, where he gives no power; but thou shouldest take notice, that power is an additional mercy. The church saw that will and power were two things, when she cried, “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song 1:4). And so did David too, when he said, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). Will to come, and power to pursue thy will, is double mercy, coming sinner. 5. All thy strange, passionate, sudden rushings forward after Jesus Christ, coming sinners know what I mean, they also are thy helps from God. Perhaps thou feelest at some times more than at others, strong stirrings up of heart to fly to Jesus Christ; now thou hast at this time a sweet and stiff gale of the Spirit of God, filling thy sails with the fresh gales of his good Spirit; and thou ridest at those times as upon the wings of the wind, being carried out beyond thyself, beyond the most of thy prayers, and also above all thy fear and temptations. 6. Coming sinner, hast thou not now and then a kiss of the sweet lips of Jesus Christ, I mean some blessed word dropping like a honey-comb upon thy soul to revive thee, when thou art in the midst of thy dumps? 7. Does not Jesus Christ sometimes give thee a glimpse of himself, though perhaps thou seest him not so long a time as while one may tell twenty. 8. Hast thou not sometimes as it were the very warmth of his wings overshadowing the face of thy soul, that gives thee as it were a gload upon thy spirit, as the bright beams of the sun do upon thy body, when it suddenly breaks out of a cloud, though presently all is gone away? Well, all these things are the good hand of thy God upon thee, and they are upon thee to constrain, to provoke, and to make thee willing and able to come, coming sinner, that thou mightest in the end be saved. Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.