|RPM, Volume 13, Number 26, June 26 to July 2, 2011|
Assurance has amazing transforming powers.
It changes iron to gold, ignominies to crowns,
and all sufferings to delights!
I. I shall begin with the first, and show you what that KNOWLEDGE is, which accompanies salvation; and that I shall open in these following particulars:
(1.) The first property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is a WORKING knowledge, an OPERATIVE knowledge: 2 Cor 4:6, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Divine light reaches the heart as well as the head. The beams of divine light shining in upon the soul through the glorious face of Christ are very working; they warm the heart, they affect the heart, they new-mold the heart. Divine knowledge masters the heart, it guides the heart, it governs the heart, it sustains the heart, it relieves the heart. Knowledge which swims in the head only, and sinks not down into the heart, does no more good than the unicorn's horn in the unicorn's head. 1 John 3:6. "Whoever sins" (that is, customarily, habitually, delightfully,) "has neither seen him, nor known him."
Rom 6:6, "We know that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Divine knowledge puts a man upon crucifying of sin; it keeps a man from being a servant, a slave to sin, which no other knowledge can do. Under all other knowledge, men remain servants to their lusts, and are taken prisoners by Satan at his will. No knowledge lifts a man up above his lusts, but that which accompanies salvation. The wisest philosophers and the greatest doctors, as Socrates, and others, under all their sublime notions and rare speculations, have been kept in bondage by their lusts.
That knowledge which accompanies salvation is operative knowledge: 1 John 2:3-4, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." He is a liar in a double respect: (1.) in that he says he has that saving knowledge, which he has not; (2.) in that he denies that in his works, which he affirms in his words.
By keeping his commandments they knew that they did know him; that is, they were assured that they did know him. To know that we know, is to be assured that we know.
So James 3:17, "But the wisdom which comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." James 3:13, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." Divine knowledge fills a man full of spiritual activity; it will make a man work as if he would be saved by his works; and yet it will make a man believe that he is saved only upon the account of free grace, Eph 2:8. That knowledge which is not operative and working, will only serve to guide souls to hell, and to double damn all who have it, Matt 23:14.
(2.) The second property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is transforming knowledge, it is metamorphosing knowledge. It is knowledge which transforms, which metamorphoses the soul: 2 Cor 3:18, "But we with open face, beholding the glory of the Lord as in a glass, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory." Divine light beating on the heart, warms it, and betters it; it transforms and changes it, it moulds and fashions it into the very likeness of Christ.
The naturalists observe that the pearl, by the often beating of the sunbeams upon it, becomes radiant. Just so, the often beating and shining of the Sun of righteousness, with his divine beams, upon the saints, causes them to glisten and shine in holiness, righteousness, heavenly-mindedness, humbleness, etc. Divine light casts a general beauty and glory upon the soul; it transforms a man more and more into the glorious image of Christ.
Look! as the child receives from his parents features—member for member, limb for limb; or as the paper from the press receives letter for letter, the wax from the seal receives print for print, or as the face in the mirror answers to the face of the man, or as indentation answers to indentation—so the beams of divine light and knowledge shining into the soul, stamp the living image of Christ upon the soul, and make it put on the Lord Jesus, and resemble him to the life.
A father stands obliged, not only in point of honor—but also by the law of nature, to receive his child that bears his image. Just so, does Christ stand obliged to receive those who by divine light have his image stamped upon them.
Mere notional knowledge may make a man excellent at praising the glorious and worthy acts and virtues of Christ; but that transforming knowledge which accompanies salvation, will work a man divinely to imitate the glorious acts and virtues of Christ. "For you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness (or virtues) of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9. When God causes his divine light, his marvelous light, to shine in upon the soul, then a Christian will preach forth the virtues of Christ in an imitable practice, and until then a man, under all other knowledge, will remain an incarnate devil.
When a beam of divine light shined from heaven upon Paul, ah, how did it change and metamorphose him! How did it alter and transform him! It made his rebellious soul obedient: Acts 9:6, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" God bids him arise and go into the city, and it should be told him what he should do; and he obeys the heavenly vision, Acts 26:19. Divine light lays upon a man a happy necessity of obeying God. Divine light makes this lion into a lamb, this persecutor into a preacher, this destroyer of the saints into a strengthener of the saints, this tormenter into a comforter, this monster into an angel, this notorious blasphemer into a very great admirer of God, and the actings of his free grace, as you may see by comparing Acts 9 and Acts 26 together.
Just so, when a spark of this heavenly fire fell upon the heart of Mary Magdalene, Luke 7:36-37, oh what a change, what a transformation does it make in her! Now she loves much, and believes much, and repents much, and weeps much. Oh what a change did divine light make in Zacchaeus, and in the jailor! Truly, if your light, your Biblical knowledge does not better you, if it does not change and transform you, if, under all your light and knowledge you remain as vile and base as ever, your light, your knowledge, your notions, your speculations, will be like to fire, not on the hearth—but in the room, that will burn the house and the inhabitant too; it will be like mettle in a blind horse, that serves for nothing but to break the neck of the rider. That knowledge that is not a transforming knowledge, will torment a man at last more than all the devils in hell; it will be a sword to cut him, a rod to lash him, a serpent to bite him, a scorpion to sting him, and a vulture, a worm eternally gnawing him!
When Tamberlain was in his wars, one having found and dug up a great pot of gold, brought it to him; Tamberlain asked whether it had his father's stamp upon it; but when he saw it had the Roman stamp, and not his father's, he would not own it. So God at last will own no knowledge—but that which leaves the stamp of Christ, the print of Christ, the image of Christ upon the heart—but that which changes and transforms the soul; which makes a man a new man, another man than what he was before divine light shined upon him.
(3.) The third property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is EXPERIMENTAL knowledge. It is knowledge which springs from a spiritual sense and taste of holy and heavenly things. Song 1:2, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love (plural loves) is better than wine." She means all the fruits of his love, namely, righteousness, holiness, joy, peace, assurance, etc. The spouse had experienced the sweetness of Christ's love; "his loves," says she, "is better than wine," though wine is an excellent cordial, a useful cordial, a comfortable and delightful cordial, a reviving and restorative cordial. And this draws out her heart, and makes her insatiable in longing, and very earnest in coveting, not a kiss—but kisses; not a little—but much of Christ. Her knowledge being experimental, she is impatient and restless, until she was drawn into the nearest and highest communion and fellowship with Christ.
So in Song 1:13, "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts." "Myrrh is marvelous sweet and savory, so is my well-beloved unto me," says the spouse; "I have found Jesus Christ to be marvelous sweet and savory to my soul. Myrrh is bitter to the taste, though it is sweet to the smell. Just so, is my well-beloved unto me. I have found him to be bitter and bloody to the old man, to the ignoble and worser part of man; and I have found him to be sweet and lovely to the new man, to the regenerate man, to the noble part of man. I have found him to be a bitter and a bloody enemy to my sins, and at the same time to be a sweet and precious friend unto my soul." Every godly man has in him two men, Rom 7:15-26; Gal 5:17.
Myrrh is of a preserving nature, as the naturalists observe. "Just so, is my well-beloved unto me," says the spouse. "Oh! I have found the Lord Jesus preserving my soul from falling into such and such temptations, and from falling under the power of such and such corruptions, and from fainting under such and such afflictions, etc." Austin thanks God that his heart and the temptation did not meet together.
Considerable to the same purpose is that of Phil 1:9, "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment." The Greek word that is here rendered "judgment," properly signifies sense, not a corporal—but a spiritual sense and taste, an inward experimental knowledge of holy and heavenly things. The soul has her senses as well as the body, and they must be exercised, Heb 5:14. The apostle well knew that all notional and speculative knowledge would leave men on this side heaven, and therefore he earnestly prays that their knowledge might be experimental, that alone being the knowledge which accompanies salvation—which will give a man at last a possession of salvation. Truly, that knowledge which is only notional, speculative, and general; which is gathered out of books, discourses, and other outward advantages, is such a knowledge that will make men sit down in hell, as: it did Judas, Demas, the scribes and pharisees, etc. What is the scholar's knowledge of the strength, riches, glories, and sweetness of far countries, obtained by maps and books—compared to their knowledge, who daily see and enjoy those things?
Christ will at last shut the door of hope, of help, of consolation and salvation, upon all those who know much of him notionally—but nothing feelingly, as you may see in his shutting the door of happiness against the foolish virgins, Matt 25:11-12, and against those forward professors, preachers, and workers of miracles, Matt 7:22, who had much speculative knowledge—but no experimental knowledge; who had much outward general knowledge of Christ—but no spiritual inward acquaintance with Christ.
A man who has that experimental knowledge which accompanies salvation, will from his experience tell you, that sin is the greatest evil in the world—for he has found it so, Rom 7; that Christ is the one thing necessary—for he has found him so, Psalm 27:4; that the favor of God is better than life—for he has found it so, Psalm 63:3; that pardoning mercy alone makes a man happy—for he has found it so, Psalm 32:1-2; that a wounded spirit is such a burden that none can bear—for he has found it so, Prov 18:14; that a humble and a broken heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God—for he has found it so, Psalm 51:17; that the promises are precious pearls—for he has found them so, 2 Pet 1:4; that the smiles of God will make up the lack of any outward mercies—for he has found it so, Psalm 4:6-7; that only communion with God can make a heaven in a believer's heart—for he has found it so, Psalm 48:10; that if the Spirit is pleased and obeyed, he will be a comforter to the soul—for he has found it so, John 16:7; but if his motions and laws are slighted and neglected, he will stand far off from the soul, he will vex and gall the soul--for he has found it so, Lam 1:16; Isa 63:10-11.
Well! souls, remember this, that knowledge which is not experimental will never turn to your account, it will only increase your guilt and torment, as it did the Scribes' and Pharisees'. What advantage had the men of the old world, by their knowing that there was an ark, or by their clambering about the ark—when they were shut out and drowned in the flood! What does it profit a man to see heaps of jewels and pearls, and mountains of gold and silver, when he is moneyless and penniless? It is rather a torment than a comfort to know that there is a pardon for other malefactors—but none for me; that there is bread for such and such hungry souls—but none for me; that there is water and wine to cheer, comfort, and refresh such and such—but not a sip, a drop, for me; that my bottle is empty, and I may die for thirst—while others are drinking at the fountainhead; that there are houses and clothes to shelter such and such from colds, storms, and tempests—while I lie naked, exposed to the misery of all weathers. This kind of knowledge does rather torment men, than comfort them; it does but add fuel to the fire, and make their hell the hotter. The knowledge that devils and apostates have of God, Christ, and the Scriptures, etc., being only notional, is so far from being a comfort to them, that it is their greatest torment; it is a worm which is eternally gnawing them; it makes them ten thousand times more miserable than otherwise they would be. They are still a-crying out, "Oh that our light, our light were put out! Oh that our knowledge, our knowledge were extinguished! Oh that we might but change places with the heathens, with the barbarians, who never knew what we have known! Oh how happy would damned devils and apostates judge themselves in hell, if they should escape with those dreadful stripes that shall be eternally laid upon the backs of fools!"
Remember, reader, that a little heart-knowledge, a little experimental knowledge, is of greater efficacy and worth than the highest notions of the most acute scholars. He does well, who discourses of Christ—but he does infinitely better who, by experimental knowledge, feeds and lives on Christ. It was not Adam's seeing—but his tasting, of forbidden fruit which made him miserable; and it is not your seeing of Christ—but your experimental tasting of Christ, which will make you truly happy. As no knowledge will save, but what is experimental; so let no knowledge satisfy you, but what is experimental, Psalm 34:8.
(4.) The fourth property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is a heart-affecting knowledge. It affects the heart with Christ, and all spiritual things. Oh, it does wonderfully endear Christ and the things of Christ to the soul: Song 2:5, "Oh, feed me with your love—your 'raisins' and your 'apples'—for I am utterly lovesick!" Oh, says the spouse, my heart is taken with Christ, it is raised and ravished with his love; my soul is burning, my soul is beating towards Christ. Oh, none but Christ, none but Christ! I cannot live in myself, I cannot live in my duties, I cannot live in external privileges, I cannot live in outward mercies, I cannot live in common providences; I can live only in Christ, who is my life, my love, my joy, my crown, my all in all. Oh, the hearing of Christ affects me, the seeing of Christ affects me, the taste of Christ affects me, the glimmerings of Christ affects me; the more I come to know him in his natures, in his names, in his offices, in his discoveries, in his appearances, in his beauties, the more I find my heart and affections to prize Christ, to run after Christ, to be affected with Christ, and to be wonderfully endeared to Christ! Psalm 73:25-26. "Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!"
Song 5:10. "He is white and ruddy, the chief of ten thousand!" The knowledge that she had of Christ did so affect and endear her heart to Christ, that she cannot but make use of all her rhetoric to set forth Christ in the most lovely and lively colors. Gal 6:14, "God forbid that I should glory in anything, except in Christ Jesus." Oh, God forbid that my heart should be affected or taken with anything in comparison of Christ. The more I know him, the more I like him; the more I know him, the more I love him; the more I know him, the more I desire him; the more I know him, the more my heart is knit unto him. His beauty is captivating, his love is ravishing, his goodness is attracting, his manifestations are enticing, and his person is enamoring. His lovely looks please me, his pleasant voice delights me, his precious Spirit comforts me, his holy word rules me; and these things make Christ to be a heaven unto me!
Oh, but all that mere notional knowledge, that speculative knowledge, which leaves a man short of salvation, never affects the heart; it never draws it, it never endears the heart to Christ, or to the precious things of Christ. Hence it is that such men, under all their notions, under all their light and knowledge, have no affection to Christ, no delight in Christ, no workings of heart after Christ.
Well, reader! remember this, if your knowledge does not now affect your heart, it will at last with a witness afflict your heart; if it does not now endear Christ to you, it will at last the more provoke Christ against you; if it does not make all the things of Christ to be very precious in your eyes, it will at last make you the more vile in Christ's eyes! A little knowledge which divinely affects the heart, is infinitely better than a world of that theoretical knowledge which swims in the head—but never sinks down into the heart, to the bettering, to the warming, and to the affecting of it. Therefore strive not so much to know, as to have your heart affected with what you know; for heart-affecting knowledge is the only knowledge which accompanies salvation, that will possess you of salvation.
(5.) The fifth property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation, is a world-despising, a world-crucifying, and a world-forsaking knowledge. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14. Divine knowledge made the apostle easily overlook all the world, as a man does easily overlook other things, who looks to find a jewel, a pearl of great price, etc. Divine knowledge makes a man have low, poor, base thoughts of the world; it makes a man slight it, and trample upon it as a thing of no value. That divine light which accompanies salvation, makes a man to look upon the world as mixed, as mutable, as momentary; it makes a man look upon the world as a liar, as a deceiver, as a flatterer, as a murderer, and as a witch that has bewitched the souls of thousands to their eternal overthrow, by her golden baits and offers.
Divine knowledge put Paul upon trampling upon all the bravery and glory of the world, Phil 3:4-9. I shall only transcribe Phil 3:7-8, and leave you to turn to the rest. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung" (dog's dung or dog's meat, coarse and contemptible), "that I may win Christ." Divine knowledge raises his heart so high above the world, that he looks upon it with an eye of scorn and disdain, and makes him count it as an excrement, yes, as the very worst of excrements, as dogs' dung, as dogs' meat. Of the like import is that of Heb 10:34, "You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." Divine knowledge will make a man rejoice, when his enemies make a bonfire of his goods. This man has bills of exchange under God's own hand, to receive a pound for every penny, a million for every mite, that he loses for him. And this makes him to rejoice, and to trample upon all the glory of this world, as one did upon the philosopher's crown, Matt 19:27-30.
It was heavenly knowledge which made Moses to disdain and scorn the pomp and pleasures, the bravery and glory, the riches and advantages of Egypt and Ethiopia too, as some writers observe, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." Hebrews 11:24-26.
So when a beam of divine light had shined upon Zacchaeus, Oh, how does it work him to part with the world, to cast off the world, to slight it and trample upon it, as a thing of nothing! "And Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord! the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day has salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is the son of Abraham," Luke 19:2-10. Before the candle of the Lord was set up in Zacchaeus's soul, he dearly loved the world, he highly prized the world, he eagerly pursued after the world; he would have it right or wrong, his heart was set upon it, he was resolved to gather riches, though it was out of others' ruins. Yes, but when once he was divinely enlightened, he throws off the world, he easily parts with it, he sets very light by it, he looks with an eye of disdain upon it. His knowledge lifts him up above the smiles of the world, and above the frowns of the world; the world is no longer a snare, a bait, a temptation to him. He knows that it is more to be a son of Abraham, that is, to be taken into covenant with Abraham, to tread in the steps of Abraham's faith, as children tread in the steps of their fathers, and to lie and rest in the bosom of Abraham, as sons do in their fathers' bosoms, than to be rich, great, and honorable in the world, Rom 4:12,16, and Rom 9. And this made him shake hands with the world, and say to it, as to his idols, "Get you hence, for what have I more to do with you?" Isa 30:22; Hos 14:8. Truly, that light, that knowledge, will never lead you to heaven, it will never possess you of salvation, that leaves you under the power of the world, that leaves you in league and friendship with the world, 1 John 2:15; James 4:4. If your knowledge does not put the world under your feet—it will never put a crown of glory upon your head. The church has the moon under her feet, Rev 12:1, which is clothed with the sun, and which has a crown upon her head.
Ah, knowing souls, knowing souls! do not deceive yourselves! Truly, if you are clothed with the loveliness and righteousness of the sun, which is Jesus Christ, and have a crown of victory and glory upon your heads, you will have the moon under your feet, you will tread and trample upon the trash of this world; all the riches, glories, and braveries of the world will be under your feet, in respect of your non-subjection to it and your holy contempt of it. If your knowledge does not enable you to set your feet upon those things that most people set their hearts on, you are undone forever; your knowledge will be so far from lifting you up to heaven, that it will cast you the lower into hell. Therefore let no knowledge satisfy you—but that which lifts you above the world—but that which weans you from the world—but that which makes the world a footstool. This knowledge, this light will at last lead you into everlasting light.
(6.) The sixth property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is soul-abasing, soul-humbling knowledge. It makes a man very little and low in his own eyes, as you may see in the most knowing apostle: Eph 3:8, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Paul's great light makes him very little. Though he was the greatest apostle, yet he looks upon himself as less than the least of all saints. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them." 1 Timothy 1:15
Christ wonderfully extols John the Baptist. Says Christ, he is a prophet, yes, and more than a prophet, yes, a greater is not born of woman. But the greatest wonder of all is, that John is so low in his own eyes! John 1:26-27, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." In this phrase John alludes to the custom of the Hebrews. Those among them which were more noble than others, had boys who carried their shoes, and untied them when they laid them aside. Oh! says John, I am a poor, weak, worthless creature; I am not worthy to he admitted to the basest, to the lowest service under Christ; I am not worthy to carry his shoes, to unloose his shoes.
After Peter had been in the mount, and instructed and enlightened by Christ, he cries out, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man," that is—a man, a sinner, a very mixture and compound of dirt and sin, of vileness and baseness, as you may see in comparing Matt 17:1-5; Luke 5:8.
Abraham, under all his light and knowledge, acknowledges himself to be but dust and ashes, Gen 18:27. Jacob, under all his knowledge, acknowledges, "I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant," Gen 32:10. David, under all his knowledge, acknowledges himself to be a worm, and no man, Psalm 22:6; he acknowledges himself to be foolish and ignorant, and as a beast before the Lord, Psalm 73:22. Job, under all his knowledge, abhors himself in dust and ashes, Job 42:1-5. Agur was very godly and his knowledge very great; and yet under all his knowledge, oh, how did he vilify, yes, nullify himself! "Surely," says he, "I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy," Prov 30:1-4. The evangelical prophet Isaiah, under all his knowledge and visions, which were very great and glorious, acknowledges himself to be a man of unclean lips, and to dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips," Isa 6:1-8.
Divine and heavenly knowledge brings a man near to God; it gives a man the clearest and fullest sight of God; and the nearer any man comes to God, and the clearer visions he has of God, the more low and humble will that man lie before God. None so humble as those who have nearest communion with God. The angels that are near unto him cover their faces with their wings, in token of humility. Divine knowledge makes a man look inwards; it anatomizes a man to himself; it is a mirror which shows a man the spots of his own soul, and this makes him little and low in his own eyes.
In the beams of this heavenly light, a Christian comes to see his own pride, ignorance, impatience, unworthiness, conceitedness, worthlessness, frowardness and nothingness. That knowledge which swells you with self importance, will undo you; that knowledge which puffs you with pride, will sink you; that knowledge which makes you delightful in your own eyes will make you despicable in God's and godly men's eyes: 1 Cor 8:1-2, "Knowledge puffs up;" that is, notional knowledge, speculative knowledge, knowledge which ripens a man for destruction, which will leave him short of salvation. This knowledge puffs and swells a man, and makes him think himself something when he is nothing: "And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know," says the apostle. Will not the heathen rise in judgment against many of our high-flown professors, who swell, who look big, and talk big under their notional knowledge.
Well! if that knowledge you have be that knowledge which accompanies salvation, it is a soul-humbling and a soul-abasing knowledge. If it be otherwise, then will your knowledge make you both a prisoner and a slave to the devil at once.
(7.) The seventh property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is an APPROPRIATING knowledge, a knowledge which appropriates and applies spiritual and heavenly benefits to a man's own particular soul. This is the pith and power of heavenly knowledge—to appropriate Christ to a man's self. As you may see in Job, "my Redeemer lives," and "my witness is in heaven," and "my record is on high," Job 19:25, and Job 16:19. Just so, David, "the Lord is my portion," Psalm 16:5. In Psalm 18:2, he uses this word of propriety eight times together, "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." So the spouse, "My beloved is mine, and I am his," Song 2:16. Just so, Thomas, "My Lord and my God," John 20:28. Just so, Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I—but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal 2:20.
Personal applicatory knowledge is the sweetest knowledge; it revives the heart, it cheers the spirits, it rejoices the soul, it makes a man go singing to duties, and go singing to his grave, and singing to heaven; whereas others, though gracious, who lack this applicatory knowledge, have their hearts full of fears, and their lives full of sorrows, and so go sighing and mourning to heaven. Those who have a blemish in their eye think the sky to be ever cloudy; and nothing is more common to weak spirits, than to be criticizing and contending, etc.
But lest any precious soul should turn this truth into a sword to cut and wound himself, let me desire him to remember, that every believer who has such knowledge which accompanies salvation, has not this applicatory knowledge, which makes so much for the soul's consolation, and which does accompany some men's salvation—not all men's salvation. If you find your knowledge to be such a knowledge as is before described in the six former particulars, though you have not attained to this applicatory knowledge, yet have you attained to that knowledge which accompanies salvation, and which will, my soul for yours, give you a possession of salvation. This applicatory knowledge which accompanies salvation, is only to be found in such eminent saints, who are high in their communion with God, and who have attained some considerable assurance of their interest in God.
Many men's salvation is accompanied with an applicatory knowledge—but all men's salvation is not accompanied with an applicatory knowledge of man's particular interest in Christ, and those blessed favors and benefits which come by him. Your soul may be safe, and your salvation may be sure, though you have not attained unto this appropriating knowledge—but your life cannot be comfortable without this appropriating knowledge; therefore, if you have it not, labor for it as for life. It is a pearl of great price, and if you find it, it will make your soul amends for all your digging, seeking, working, sweating, weeping, etc.
A man does not attain to health by reading Galen's or Hippocrates's medical aphorisms—but by the practical application of them to remove his diseases. You know how to apply it.
(8.) The eighth property. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is accompanied and ATTENDED with these things:
[1.] The first attendant. That knowledge which accompanies salvation is attended with holy endeavors, and with heavenly desires, thirstings, and pantings after a further knowledge of God, after clearer visions of God. Prov 15:14, "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." The Hebrew word that is here rendered "seeks" signifies an earnest and diligent seeking; to seek as an hungry man seeks for food; or as a covetous man for gold—the more he has, the more he desires; or as a condemned man seeks for his pardon; or as the diseased man seeks for his cure. The word signifies to seek studiously, laboriously, industriously; to seek by pleading, praying, inquiring, and searching up and down, that we may find what we seek; to seek as men do for hidden treasure. So in Prov 18:15, "The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it."
A man who is divinely taught, will set his heart and his ear, his inward and outward man, to know more and more. Divine knowledge is marvelous sweet, pleasing, comforting, satisfying, refreshing, strengthening, and supporting; and souls who have found the sweetness and usefulness of it, cannot but look and long, breathe and pant after more and more of it. The newborn babe does not more naturally and more earnestly long for the breasts, than a soul who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, does long for more and more tastes of God, 1 Pet 2:2-3. David, under all his knowledge, cries out, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times," Psalm 119:18-19. Job, under all his knowledge, which was very great, cries out, "Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I won't do it again." Job 34:32.
[2.] The second attendant. A second thing which attends and accompanies that knowledge which accompanies salvation, is holy endeavors to edify others, to instruct others, to enlighten and inform others in the knowledge of spiritual and heavenly things. Heavenly light cannot be hidden under a bushel. You may as easily hinder the sun from shining, as you may hinder a gracious soul from diffusing and spreading abroad that knowledge and light that God has given him. The way to get more knowledge, is to communicate that which we have. Thus did Philip of Bethsaida, John 1:45; thus did the woman of Samaria, John 4:28-29; thus did the spouse, Song 5:10-16; thus did that seraphic preacher Paul, Acts 26:29.
Divine light in the soul is like a light in a bright lantern, which shines forth every way; or like a light in a room, or on a beacon, which gives light to others. A Christian who is divinely taught, is like the lamp in the story, that was always burning and shining, and never went out. So in Gen 18:17,19, "And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do; for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him." He who communicates his knowledge to others, shall, be both of God's court and counsel; he shall lie in the bosom of God, he shall know the secrets of God.
Prov 15:7, "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge—but the heart of the foolish does not so." The Hebrew word that is here rendered, "disperse," is a metaphor taken from seedsmen scattering abroad their seed in the furrows of the field. Heavenly knowledge is very spreading and diffusive; it is like the sun: the sun casts his beams upward and downward, upon good and upon bad. Just so, divine light in a gracious soul will break forth for the advantage and profit of friends and enemies, of those who are in a state of nature, and of those who are in a state of grace.
Acts 4:18-20, "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach, in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you. For we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard." Opposition is the black angel which dogs the gospel at the heels. Divine knowledge is like new wine; it must have vent; it is heavenly fire which will break forth, Jer 5:14, and Jer 20:2.
The bee does store her hive out of all sorts of flowers for the common benefit. Just so, a heavenly Christian sucks sweetness out of every mercy and every duty, out of every providence and out of every ordinance, out of every promise and out of every privilege—that he may give out the more sweetness to others. "We learn—that we may teach," is a proverb among the Rabbis. "And I do therefore lay in, and lay up," says the heathen, "that I may draw forth again, and lay out for the good of many." This heathen [Socrates, etc.,] will rise in judgment against those who monopolize knowledge to themselves, who imprison their light within their own breasts, lest others should outshine and darken them.
Synesius speaks of some, who, having a treasure of rare abilities in themselves, would as soon part with their hearts as share their abilities. Truly, such men are far off from that knowledge which accompanies salvation; for that knowledge will make a man willing to spend and be spent for the edification, consolation, and salvation of others, 2 Cor 6:10; Gal 4:19. Prov 10:21, "The lips of the righteous feed many."
[3.] The third attendant. A third thing which attends and accompanies that knowledge which accompanies salvation, is holy zeal, courage, and resolution for God. Divine knowledge makes a man as bold as a lion, Prov 28:1. Dan 11:32, "The people who know their God shall be strong, and do exploits." So Prov 24:5, "A wise man is strong; yes, a man of knowledge increases strength," or, "He strengthens might," as it is in the Hebrew. Divine light makes a man full of zeal for God; it makes the soul divinely fearless and courageous. Josh 24:15, "Choose whom you will serve; I and my household will serve the Lord." Come what will of it, we will never change our Master, nor leave his service.
Those beams of light which shined in upon Chrysostom, did so heat and warm his heart, that he stoutly tells Eudoxia the empress, that for her covetousness she would be called a second Jezebel; whereupon she sent him a threatening message, to which he returned this answer, "Go tell her, that I fear nothing but sin."
Ah, Christians! there is an earthquake a-coming, and therefore as you would stand fast, as you would not have any earthquakes to make your hearts quake, get this zeal and courage which attends divine knowledge, and then you shall in the midst of all earthquakes be as mount Zion, which can never be moved, Psalm 125:1-2.
Those who write the story of the travels of the apostles, report that Simon the Zealot preached here in England. Ah, England, England! if ever you need some zealots, it is now! Oh how secure, how dull, how drowsy, how sleepy in the midst of dangers are you! For this and other of your abominations, I desire my soul may weep in secret.
[4.] The fourth attendant. The fourth and last thing which attends or accompanies that knowledge which accompanies salvation is, faith and confidence in God. Knowledge and faith are twins, they live, and lodge, and act together; they are two lovers, which may be distinguished one from another—but they cannot be separated one from another.
Psalm 9:10, "They that know your name will put their trust in you; for you, Lord, have not forgotten those who seek you." 2 Tim 1:12, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." I shall not enlarge upon this branch, because I shall speak at large concerning faith in the next particular.
And thus I have showed you from the Scriptures what that knowledge is, which accompanies salvation.
II. Now, the second thing that I am to show you is, what that FAITH is, which accompanies salvation. I have formerly showed you that faith does accompany salvation—but now I will show you what faith that is, which accompanies salvation; and that I shall do, by divine assistance, thus:
First, That faith which accompanies salvation, that comprehends salvation, that will possess a man of salvation, is known, by the OBJECTS about which it is exercised. And, by the PROPERTIES of it.
First, the OBJECTS about which faith is exercised are these:
(1.) The first object of faith. First, the person of Christ is the foremost object of faith. Christ, as Redeemer, is the immediate object of faith, and God the Father is the ultimate object of faith; for we believe in God through Christ, Rom 6:11; 1 Pet 1:21; 2 Cor 3:4. It is Christ in the promises, which faith deals with. The promise is but the shell, Christ is the kernel; the promise is but the jewel casket, Christ is the gem in it; the promise is but the field, Christ is the treasure which is hidden in that field; the promise is a ring of gold, and Christ is the pearl in that ring; and upon this sparkling, shining pearl, faith delights most to look. Song 3:4, "I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go." So Song 7:5, "The king is held in the galleries."
Faith has two hands, and with both she lays earnest and fast hold on King Jesus. Christ's beauty and glory is very captivating and entrancing. Faith, when it sees Christ—will lay hold on him. Christ is the principal object about which faith is exercised, for the obtaining of righteousness and everlasting happiness. Acts 16:30-31, "And the jailor said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Christ is in the scriptures held forth to be the object about which faith is most conversant; and the more faith is exercised upon the person of Christ, the more it buds and blossoms, like Aaron's rod. Faith looks upon him as the express image and character of his Father; faith beholds him as the chief of ten thousand; faith sees him to be the most glorious object in all the world!
Not but that the Father is also the object of believers' faith, John 14:1. Isa 63:15-16, with many other scriptures. But Christ is the object held forth by the Father for our faith to close with, in respect of our justification and salvation. God is the ultimate or highest object of faith; and Christ the mediate object thereof.
(2.) The second object of faith. Secondly, The second object that faith is exercised about, is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Phil 3:9, "I desire to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." Paul would not be found in a legal righteousness, for he knew all his legal righteousness was but as "filthy rags," Isa 54:6. All his legal righteousness, sewed together, would but make up a coat of patches, a beggar's coat, which is good for nothing but to be cast away; therefore he desired to be found in the righteousness of Christ by faith. He knew that Christ's righteousness was a pure righteousness, a spotless righteousness, a matchless righteousness, a complete righteousness, a perfect righteousness, an absolute righteousness, a glorious righteousness. Faith loves to fix her eye upon that rich and royal robe, that blameless and spotless righteousness of Christ, with which the soul stands gloriously clothed before God, as being all beauteous, as being without spot or wrinkle in the divine account. [Col 2:10; Song 4:7; Rev 14:5; Eph 5:27]
Oh, it is the actings of faith upon this blessed object, this glorious righteousness of Christ, which makes a man intimate and bold with God, which makes a man active and resolute for God, which strengthens a man against temptations, which supports a man under afflictions, which makes a man long for the day of his dissolution, which makes him prefer his coffin above a prince's crown, the day of his death above the day of his birth; which makes him triumph over sin and Satan, hell and wrath. Adam's righteousness was but the righteousness of a creature—but the righteousness about which faith is exercised is the righteousness of a God, Rom 3:21, and Rom 10:3. Adam's righteousness was a mutable righteousness, a righteousness that might be sinned away; but the righteousness that a believer's faith is exercised about is an everlasting righteousness, a righteousness that cannot be sinned away, 2 Cor 5:21: Prov 8:18.
The righteousness of angels is but the righteousness of creatures—but the righteousness that the saints are clothed with is the very righteousness of God; and in this respect the lowest saint is more excellent and glorious than the most glorious angel.
Psalm 119:142, "Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth." The righteousness of Adam was a righteousness subject to shaking, and we know that Satan did shake all his righteousness about his ears, as I may say. Oh but that glorious righteousness about which faith is conversant, is an unshaken righteousness, a righteousness which cannot be shaken: Psalm 36:6, "Your righteousness is like the great mountains," or rather, as it is in the Hebrew, "Your righteousness is like the mountains of God." The Hebrew notes excellent things, by adding the name of God; as cedars of God, Psalm 80:10; rivers of God, Psalm 65:9; wrestlings of God, Gen 30:8; harps of God, Rev 15:2. What more stable than a mountain! and what mountain so stable as the mountain of God! The mountains cannot be shaken, no more can that glorious righteousness of Christ, about which a believer's faith is exercised.
Adam's righteousness was a low righteousness, a righteousness within his own reach, and a righteousness within Satan's reach; it was not so high—but Adam could lay his hand upon it, as I may say; it was not so high—but Satan could reach to the top of it, yes, to the overtopping of it, as we have all found by woeful experience. Oh—but that righteousness which faith is conversant about, is a righteousness of such a height, as that neither Satan nor the world can reach to it: Psalm 71:15-16,19, "My mouth shall show forth your righteousness and your salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of your righteousness, even of yours alone. Your righteousness also, O God, is very high, who has done great things: O God, who is like unto you?"
This glorious righteousness of Christ, about which faith is busied, is called the righteousness of faith, because faith apprehends it, and applies it, and feeds upon it, and delights in it, Rom 3:28. Rom 4:13, "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law—but through the righteousness of faith." Rom 9:30, "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles who followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith." The righteousness of Christ about which faith is employed, is called the righteousness of faith, because faith puts on this righteousness upon the soul. Faith wraps the soul up in this righteousness of Christ, and so justifies it before God instrumentally.
Rom 10:6. "but the righteousness which is by faith," that is which is apprehended by faith, etc. Mark, faith is only the instrument; it cannot be the substance of that righteousness, as it were, whereby we are justified and saved,
(1.) because it is imperfect;
(2.) the acts of faith are transient;
(3.) then should men have something within them whereof to boast;
(4.) faith is a part of inherent holiness;
(5.) then some men should be justified more, and some less, according to the different measures of faith in them, Gen 27:15; Rom 5:1; 1 Pet 1:8; Acts 10:48.
The actings of faith on this glorious righteousness does most strengthen the soul: Isa 45:24, "Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." The actings of faith on this blessed righteousness, does most gladden and rejoice the soul: Isa 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness." The actings of faith upon this complete righteousness of Christ, renders souls just and righteous, pure and holy—in the account of God: Rom 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone who believes." Christ fulfills the law for believers, and they by believing do fulfill the law in him; and so Christ by doing, and they by believing in him who does it, do fulfill the law, and so are reputed fair and spotless, complete and perfect, before the throne of God.
Faith's putting this righteousness on the soul, brings down blessings upon the soul. When Jacob had put on his elder brother's garment, he carried the blessing away. The actings of faith upon this peerless righteousness of Christ, brings down the blessing of peace, and the blessing of joy, and the blessing of remission of sins; and, in a word, all other blessings that contributes to the making us blessed here and happy hereafter, etc.
(3.) The third object of faith. Thirdly, The third object that faith is exercised about is, the precious promises, which are a Christian's magna charta. 2 Pet 1:4. Mark, the whole word of God is the object of faith; but the promises, more especially, are the prime object about which faith is most conversant.
As every precious stone has a rich virtue in it, so has every promise. The promises are a precious book, every leaf drops myrrh and mercy; and upon these precious promises, precious faith looks and lives. From these breasts, faith sucks comfort and sweetness. Psalm 119:49-50, "Remember your word (that is, your promise) unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has quickened me." So in Psalm 27:13, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living;" Heb 11:13, "These all died in faith (or according to faith), not having received the promises—but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them" (or, as the Greek has it, saluted them by faith; they kissed the promises, and kissed Christ in the promises), "and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." It would be an endless thing to show you how the faith of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and other saints has been acted and exercised upon promises of sanctification, upon promises of justification, upon promises of salvation, upon promises of glorification, upon promises of protection, upon promises for direction, upon promises for support, etc. Look! as the lamp lives upon the oil, and the child upon the breasts, so does faith upon the promises.
For the further advantage and comfort of your souls in eyeing the promises, let me give you these two sweet hints:
First, In your looking upon the promises, mind most, eye most, spiritual promises, absolute promises, namely, such as you see here— Jer 32:40-41; Ezek 11:19-20; Ezek 36:25-27; Isa 42:1; Ezek 20:41-43; Psalm 91:15; Isa 65:24; Jer 33:3; Isa 32:15; Ezek 34:30-31, with many others of the like import. These spiritual and absolute promises are of nearest and greatest concernment to you; these carry in them most of the heart of Christ, the love of Christ, the goodwill of Christ; these are of greatest use to satisfy you, and to settle you when you are wavering; to support you when you are falling; to recover you when you are wandering; to comfort you when you are fainting; to counsel you when you are staggering, etc. Therefore make these your choicest and your chief companions, especially when it is night within your souls, when you are sensible of much sin and but a little grace, of much corruption but of little consolation, of much deadness but of little quickness, of much hardness but of little tenderness, of many fears and but a little faith.
The Jews under the law had more temporal promises than spiritual—but we under the gospel have far more spiritual promises than temporal; therefore sit down at this fire, and be warmed; drink of these springs, and be satisfied; taste of these delicates, and be cheered. Let the eye of faith be cast upon all the promises—but fixed upon spiritual promises, upon absolute promises; they will have the greatest influence upon the heart to holiness, and to prepare it for everlasting happiness. Spiritual and absolute promises are the most precious mines to enrich you; in them you will find the greatest pearls of price.
Look not only upon some of the riches, the jewels, the pearls, that be wrapped up in the promises—but enlarge and expatiate your understandings to an effectual contemplation of all those riches and treasures which God has laid up in the promises. Cast not the eye of your faith only upon one beam of the sun—but endeavor to see all the beams of the sun; look not upon one branch of the tree of life—but upon every branch of that tree; look not upon one bunch of the grapes of Canaan—but look upon the whole land. Haman took notice, yes, and would have his friends take notice, of all his greatness, honors, and riches, Esther 5:10-12; and will not you stir up your hearts to see all those riches and pleasures that be in precious promises?
As understanding heirs, when they come to read over their documents, they will see what they will inherit in houses, what in goods, what in lands, what in money, what in jewels, what at home, what abroad; they will not sit down and say, 'Well! we find in our documents, that such and such land is ours, and look no further.' No, no, they will look all over, and take exact notice of everything; they will say, 'We have so much land, and so much money, etc.' O beloved, there is much marrow and fatness, there is much honey and sweetness, much grace and glory wrapped up in the promises. Oh press them, and squeeze them until you have obtained all the riches and sweetness which is in them.
Ah, Christians! did you this, God would be more honored, the promises more prized, your graces more strengthened, your fears more abated, your hearts more warmed and engaged, and your lives more regulated, and Satan more easily and frequently vanquished. And so much for this third object, about which faith is exercised.
(4.) Fourthly, The fourth object of faith. The fourth object and last that I shall mention that faith is set and fixed upon is, that glory, blessedness, and life, which God has laid up for those who love him. The things of eternity are the greatest things, they are the most excellent things. They are most excellent in their natures, in their causes, in their operations, in their effects, in their ends; and upon these faith looks and lives. Faith realizes eternal realities; it makes absent things present. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Heb 11:1. The substance, that is, that which gives a substantial being to the things of eternal, life. Faith alters the tenses; it puts the future into the present, Psalm 60:6; Heb 12:2. Faith makes absent glory present, absent riches present, absent pleasures present, absent favors present. Faith brings an invisible God, and sets him before the soul. Moses by faith saw him who was invisible. Faith brings down the recompense of reward, and sets it really though spiritually before the soul. Faith sets divine favor before the soul. It sets peace, it sets pardon of sin, it sets the righteousness of Christ, it sets the joy of heaven, it sets salvation, before the soul; it makes all these things very near and obvious to the soul: "Faith is the evidence of things not seen."
Faith makes invisible things, visible; absent things, present; things which are afar off, to be very near unto the soul—by convincing demonstrations, by arguments and reasons drawn from the word, 2 Cor 4:17-18, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen—but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal—but the things which are not seen are eternal." Faith looks with a diligent eye, as men do at the mark whereat they shoot. Faith trades in invisible things, in eternal things. Its eye is always upwards, like the fish uranoscopos, which has but one eye, and yet looks continually up to heaven. Heb 6:19; Rom 8:18; Heb 10:34; Acts 7:56-56. An adopted heir to a crown cannot but have his heart at court; his mind and thoughts will be upon his future glorious condition: he will be still a-creating ideas and images of it.
Faith enters within the veil, and fixes her eye upon those glorious things of eternity, which are so many that they exceed number, so great that they exceed measure, so precious that they are above all estimation. Says faith, "The spangled skies are but the footstool of my Father's house; and if the footstool, the outside, is so glorious, oh how glorious is his throne! Truly, in heaven there is that life which cannot be expressed, that light which cannot be comprehended, that joy which cannot be fathomed, that sweetness which cannot be dissipated, that feast which cannot be consumed; and upon these pearls of glory I look and live!"
And thus I have showed you the choice and precious objects about which that faith is exercised which accompanies salvation.
I shall now in the next place show you the PROPERTIES of that faith which accompanies salvation, and they are these that follow.
[1.] The first property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it puts forth itself into vital operation. It makes a man full of life and activity for God; it will make a man diligent and venturous in the work and ways of God. Faith is a most active quality in itself, and so it makes a Christian most active. Faith is a doing thing, and it makes the person doing. Faith will not allow the soul to be idle. Faith is like the virtuous woman in the last chapter of the Proverbs, who puts her hand to every work, who would allow none of her handmaids to be idle.
Saving faith puts the soul upon grieving for sin, upon combating with sin, upon weeping over sin, upon trembling at the occasions of sin, upon resisting temptations that lead to sin, upon fighting it out to the death with sin, Zech 12:10. Faith puts a man upon walking with God, upon waiting on God, upon working for God, upon wrestling with God, upon bearing for God, and upon parting with anything for God. Heb 11 is a full proof of these things; Gal 2:20. Faith makes pious duties to be easy to the soul, to be delightful to the soul, to be profitable to the soul. Faith makes the soul to be serious and conscientious in doing, to be careful and faithful in doing, to be delightful and cheerful in doing, to be diligent and faithful in doing. James 2:17-26. Faith looks to precepts as well as to promises: Psalm 119:66, "Teach me good judgment and knowledge; for I have believed your commandments." That faith which is not a working faith is not saving faith; that faith which is not a working faith is a dead faith; that faith which is not a working faith is a deluding faith; that faith which is not a working faith is a worthless faith; that faith that is not a working faith will leave a man short of heaven and happiness in the latter day.
Faith which accompanies salvation is better at doing than at thinking, at obeying than at disputing, at walking than at talking: Titus 3:8, "This is a faithful saying; and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works." The word signifies to bend their wits, and beat their brains, to maintain good works, Isa 65:24; Gen 4:4; 2 Pet 3:11; Song 2:14. Luther prefers the lowest work of a country Christian or poor maid above all the victories and triumphs of Alexander and of Julius Cesar, Matt 27:66; Isa 41:10-11; Heb 13:5-6; Ezek 36:26-27, etc. Faith will make a man endeavor to be good, yes, to be best, at everything he undertakes. It is not leaves but fruit, not words but works—which God expects; and if we cross his expectation, we frustrate our own salvation, we further our own condemnation. Faith makes the soul much in doing, abundant in working, and that partly by persuading the soul that all its works, all its duties and services, shall be owned and accepted of God, as in Isa 56:7, "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people." Faith assures the soul that every prayer, every sigh, every groan, every tear is accepted. And this makes the soul pray much, and sigh much, and mourn much.
Again, faith spreads the promises of divine assistance before the soul. Oh! says faith, here, O soul, is assistance suitable to the work required. And this makes a man work, as for life; it makes a man work and sweat, and sweat and work.
Again, faith sets the recompense, the reward, before the soul, Heb 11:25-26. Oh! says faith, look here, soul, here is a great reward for a little work; here is great wages for weak and imperfect services; here is an infinite reward for a finite work. Work, yes, work hard, says faith, O believing soul, for your actions in passing pass not away; every good work is as a grain of seed for eternal life. There is a resurrection of works as well as of people, and in that day wicked men shall see that it is not a vain thing to serve God; they shall see the most doing souls to be the most shining souls, to be the most advanced and rewarded. Oh the sight of this crown, of this recompense, makes souls to abound in the work of the Lord, they knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord, 1 Cor 15:58. One good work of a Christian is more precious than heaven and earth, says Luther, Rev 14:13.
Again, faith draws from Christ's fullness; it sucks virtue and strength from Christ's breasts. Faith looks upon Christ as a head, and so draws from him; it looks upon Christ as a husband, and so draws from him; it looks upon him as a fountain, and so draws from him; it looks upon him as a sea, as an ocean of goodness, and so draws from him; it looks upon him as a father, Col 1:19, and so draws from him; it looks upon him as a friend, and so draws from him, John 1:16. And this divine power and strength sets the soul a-working hard for God; it makes the soul full of motion, full of action.
In a word, faith is such a working grace as sets all other graces a-working. Faith has an influence upon every grace; it is like a silver chain which runs through a set of pearls; it puts strength and vivacity into all other virtues. Love touched by a hand of faith flames forth; hope fed at faith's table grows strong, and casts anchor within the veil, Acts 5 and Acts 16; Rom 15:13. Joy, courage, and zeal being smiled upon by faith, is made invincible and unconquerable, etc. Look! what oil is to the wheels, what weights are to the clock, what wings are to the bird, what sails are to the ship, that faith is to all pious duties and services, except it be winter with the soul.
And thus you see, that that faith which accompanies salvation is a working faith, a lively faith, and not such a dead faith as most please and deceive themselves with forever.
[2.] The second property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it is of a GROWING and INCREASING nature. It is like the waters of the sanctuary, which rise higher and higher, as Ezekiel speaks. It is like a tender plant, which naturally grows higher and higher; it is like a grain of mustard-seed, which though it be the least of all seeds, yet by a divine power it grows up beyond all human expectations, Matt 13:32.
Faith is imperfect, as all other graces are—but yet it grows and increases gradually. The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, Psalm 92:12-14. Now, the palm tree never loses his leaf or fruit, says Pliny. Rom 1:17, "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." As a gracious soul is still a-adding knowledge to knowledge, love to love, fear to fear, zeal to zeal, so he is a-adding faith to faith. A gracious soul knows, that if he is rich in faith—he cannot be poor in other graces; be knows the growth of faith will be as "the former and the latter rain" to all other graces; he knows that there is no way to outgrow his fears but by growing in faith; he knows that all the pleasant fruits of paradise, namely, joy, comfort, and peace—flourish as faith flourishes; he knows that he has much work upon his hands, that he has many things to do, many temptations to withstand, many mercies to improve, many burdens to bear, many corruptions to conquer, many duties to perform. And this makes the believing soul thus to reason with God: 'Ah, Lord! whatever I am weak in, let me be strong in faith; whatever dies, let faith live; whatever decays, let faith flourish. An old man being once asked if he grew in grace, answered, Yes, doubtless I believe I do; for God has said in his word that we shall flourish and bring forth fruit in old age. Lord, let me be low in repute, low in parts, low in estate, so you will make me high in faith. Lord! let me be poor in anything, poor in everything, so you will make me rich in faith. Lord! let the eye of faith be more opened, let the eye of faith be more quick-sighted, let the eye of faith be the more raised, and it shall be enough to me, though Joseph be not, though Benjamin be not.
It was the glory of the Thessalonians, that "their faith grew exceedingly," 2 Thess 1:3. A growth in faith will render a man glorious in life, lovely in death, and twice blessed in the morning of the resurrection. That is but a wooden leg that grows not, no more is that any more but a wooden faith, a counterfeit faith, that grows not. So will not a growth in honors, a growth in riches, a growth in notions, a growth in worldly knowledge. That faith which accompanies salvation unites the soul to Christ, and keeps the soul up in communion with Christ. And from that union and communion which the soul has with Christ, flows such a divine power and virtue, that causes faith to grow. The union between Christ and the saints is the nearest and the highest union; and so it advantages their graces, and advances them to a higher degree of happiness than any other creatures whatever, John 17. Christ would have his people one with him and the Father, though not essentially, nor personally, yet really and spiritually.
Yet that no weak believer may be stumbled, or saddened, let them remember—
(1.) That though that faith which accompanies salvation be a growing faith, yet there are some certain seasons and cases wherein a man may decay in his faith, and wherein he may not have the exercise and the actings of his faith. This blessed babe of grace may be cast into a deep slumber; this heavenly pearl may be so buried under the thick clay of this world, and under the ashes of corruption and temptation, as that for a time it may neither stir, nor grow—as might be shown in Abraham, David, Solomon, Peter, and others.
(2.) Secondly, Remember this, that the strongest faith at times is subject to shakings, as the strongest men are to faintings, as the stoutest ships are to tossings, as the wisest men are to doubtings, as the brightest stars are to twinklings, etc. Therefore, if at certain times you should not be sensible of the growth of your faith, yet do not conclude that you have no faith. Faith may be in the root when it is not in the act. There may be life in the root of the tree, when there are neither leaves, blossoms, nor fruit upon the tree; the life which is in the root will show itself at the spring, and so will the habits of faith break forth into acts, when the Sun of righteousness shall shine forth, and make it a pleasant spring to your soul. And thus much for this second particular.
[3.] The third property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it makes those things which are great and glorious in the world's account—to be very little and low in the eyes of the believer. Faith makes a believer to live in the land of promise as in a strange country, Heb 11:9. It is nothing to live as a stranger in a strange land—but to live as a stranger in the land of promise, this is the excellency and glory of faith.
Faith will make a man set his feet where other men sets their hearts. Faith looks with an eye of scorn and disdain upon the things of this world. 'What,' says faith, 'are earthly treasures, compared to the treasures of heaven? What are stones compared to silver, dross compared to gold, darkness compared to light, hell compared to heaven?' Matt 6:19-20. 'No more,' says faith, 'What are all the treasures, pleasures, and delights of this world, compared to the light of your countenance, to the joy of your Spirit, to the influences of your grace?'
Psalm 4:6-7. I see nothing, says David, in this wide world, only "your commandments are exceeding broad." Faith makes David account his crown nothing, his treasures nothing, his victories nothing, his attendants nothing, etc. Faith will make a man write 'worthless' upon the best of worldly things; it will make a man trample upon the pearls of this world, as upon dross and dirt, Heb 11:24-26. Faith deadens a man's heart to the things of this world: "I am crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to me," says Paul, Phil 3:8; Gal 6:14. This world, says faith, is not my house, my habitation, my home; I look for a better country, for a better city, for a better home, 2 Cor 5:1-2. He who is the heir to a crown, a kingdom, looks with an eye of scorn and disdain upon everything below a kingdom, below a crown. Faith tells the soul that it has a crown, a kingdom in expectation; and this makes the soul to scorn the things of this world, 2 Tim 4:8.
Faith raises and sets the soul high. "And has raised us up together, and has made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," says the apostle, Eph 2:6. Faith makes a man live high: "Our life is in heaven," Phil 3:20; and the higher any man lives, the less, the lower will the things of this world be in his eye.
The view of Lucian is very pleasant, who going to the top of a high mountain, saw all the affairs of men, and looked on their greatest, richest, and most glorious cities, as little birds' nests. Faith sets the soul upon the hill of God, the mountain of God, that is, a high mountain; and from thence, faith gives the soul a sight, a prospect of all things here below. And, ah! how like birds' nests do all the riches, honors, and glories of this world look and appear to them, that faith has set upon God's high hill.
Faith having set Luther upon this high hill, he protests that God should not put him off with these poor low things. Faith set Moses high, it set him among invisibles; and that made him look upon all the treasures, pleasures, riches, and glories of Egypt, as little birds' nests, as molehills, as dross and dirt, as things that were too little and too low for him to set his heart upon. Truly, when once faith has given a man a sight, a prospect of heaven, all things on earth will be looked upon as little and low. And so much for this third property of faith.
[4.] The fourth property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it purifies the heart, it is a heart purifying faith. "Purifying their hearts by faith," Acts 15:9. Faith has two hands, one to lay hold on Christ, and another to sweep the heart, which is Christ's house. Faith knows that Christ is of a dove-like nature; he loves to lie clean and sweet. Faith has a neat housewife's hand, as well as an eagle's eye. Faith is as good at purging out of sin, as it is at discovering of sin. There is a cleansing quality in faith, as well as a healing quality in faith. Sound faith will purge the soul from the love of sin, from a delight in sin, and from the reign and dominion of sin, Ezek 16. "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law—but under grace," Rom 6:14,21.
Now faith purges and cleanses the heart from sin, sometimes by pressing and putting God to make good the promises of sanctification. Faith takes that promise in Jer 33:8, "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me." This is an allusion to the purifications prescribed in the law for the cleansing of polluted persons, till which purifications were performed they could not be admitted into the camp or congregation. And that promise in Mic 7:19, "He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities, and you will cast all their sins into the bottom of the sea;" and that promise in Psalm 65:3, "Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, you shall purge them away;" and that promise in Isa 1:25, "And I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your sin;" and spreads them before the Lord, and will never leave urging and pressing, seeking and suing, until God makes them good.
Faith makes the soul divinely impudent, divinely shameless. 'Lord!' says faith, 'are not these your own words? Have you said it, and shall it not come to pass? Are you not a faithful God? Is not your honor engaged to make good the promises which you have made? Arise, O God, and let my sins be scattered; turn your hand upon me, and let my sins be purged.' And thus faith purifies the heart.
Again, sometimes faith purifies the heart from sin, by engaging against sin in Christ's strength, as David engaged against Goliath, 1 Sam 17:47, not in his own strength—but in the strength and name of the Lord Almighty. Faith leads the soul directly to God, and engages God against sin, so as that the combat is changed, and made now rather between God and sin than between sin and the soul; and so sin comes to fall before the power and glorious presence of God.
That is a choice word, Psalm 61:2, "From the ends of the earth will I cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
Look! as a child who is attacked by one who is stronger than he, cries out to his father to help him, and to fight for him against his enemy. Just so, faith, being sensible of its own weakness and inability to get the victory over sin, cries out to Christ, who is stronger than the strong man, and so Christ binds the strong man, and casts him out. Faith tells the soul, that all purposes, resolutions, and endeavors, without Christ, will never set the soul above its sins, they will never purify the heart from sin; therefore faith engages Christ, and casts the main of the work upon Christ, and so it purges the soul from sin.
Luther reports of Staupicius, a German divine, that he acknowledged, before he came to understand the free and powerful grace of Christ, that he vowed and resolved a hundred times against some particular sin, and could never get power over it; he could never get his heart purified from it, until he came to see that he trusted too much to his own resolutions, and too little to Jesus Christ; but when his faith had engaged Christ against his sin, he had the victory.
Again, faith purifies the heart from sin, by the application of Christ's blood. Faith makes a plaster of Christ's blessed blood, and lays it on upon the soul's sores, and so cures it. Faith makes a heavenly purgative of this blessed blood, and gives it to the soul, and so makes it vomit up that poison which it has drunk in. It is the excellency of faith, that it can turn the blood of Christ both into food and into physic. Faith tells the soul, that it is not all the tears in the world, nor all the water in the sea, which can wash away the uncleanness of the soul; it is only the blood of Christ which can make a blackmoor white; it is only the blood of Christ which can cure a leprous Naaman, which can cure a leprous soul. 'This fountain of blood,' says faith, 'is the only fountain which can wash heart from all uncleanness and filthiness of flesh and spirit.' Zech 13:1. Those spots which a Christian finds in his own heart, can only be washed out in the blood of the Lamb, by a hand of faith.
Again, faith purifies the soul from sin, by putting the soul upon heart-purifying ordinances, and by mixing and mingling itself with ordinances: "The word profited them not," says the apostle, "because it was not mixed with faith in those who heard it," Heb 4:2. Faith is such an excellent ingredient, that it makes all potions work for the good of the soul, for the purifying of the soul, and for the bettering of the soul. Yet no potion, no means will profit the soul, if this heavenly ingredient is not mixed with it. Now, faith puts a man upon praying, upon hearing, upon the fellowship of the saints, upon public duties, upon family duties, and upon closet duties; and faith then comes and joins with the soul, and mixes herself with these soul-purifying ordinances, and so makes them effectual for the purifying of the soul more and more from all filthiness and uncleanness.
Faith puts out all her virtue and efficacy in ordinances, to the purging of souls from their dross and tin; not that faith in this life shall wholly purify the soul from the indwelling of sin, or from the motions or operations of sin, no; for then we would have our heaven in this world, and then we might bid ordinances adieu.
But that faith which accompanies salvation does naturally purify and cleanse the heart from the remainders of sin by degrees. Sound faith is still a-making the heart more and more neat and clean—that the king of glory may delight in his habitation, that he may not remove his gracious—but may abide with the soul forever. And thus you see that that faith which accompanies salvation is a heart-purifying faith. Sin is like the wild fig tree, or ivy in the wall, cut off stump, body, bough, and branches, yet some sprigs or other will sprout out again, until the wall be plucked down, etc.
(5.) The fifth property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it is soul-softening, it is soul-mollifying. Oh nothing breaks the heart of a sinner like faith. Peter believes soundly—and weeps bitterly, Matt 26:75; Mary Magdalene believes much—and weeps much, Luke 7:44. Faith sets a wounded Christ, a bruised Christ, a despised Christ, a pierced Christ, a bleeding Christ—before the soul, and this makes the soul sit down and weep bitterly: "I will pour upon the house of David, the Spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him" (all gospel-mourning flows from believing), "as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one who is in bitterness for his firstborn," Zech 12:10, etc. Oh! the sight of those wounds which their sins have made, will wound their hearts through and through; it will make them lament over Christ with a bitter lamentation. They say nothing will dissolve the adamant but the blood of a goat. Ah! nothing will kindly, sweetly, and effectually break the hardened heart of a sinner—but faith's beholding the blood of Christ trickling down his sides.
Pliny reports of a serpent, that when it stings, it fetches all the blood out of the body; but it was never heard that ever any sweat blood but Christ, and the very thoughts of this makes the believing soul to sit down sweating and weeping. That Christ should love man when he was most unlovely, that man's extreme misery should but inflame Christ's affections of love and mercy—this melts the believing soul. That Christ should leave the eternal bosom of his Father; that he who was equal with God should come in the form of a servant; that he who was clothed with glory, should be wrapped in rags; that he whom the heaven of heavens could not contain should be cradled in a manger; that from his cradle to his cross, his whole life should be a life of sorrows and sufferings; that the judge of all flesh should be condemned; that the Lord of life should be put to death; that he who was his Father's joy should in anguish of spirit cry out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' that that head which was crowned with honor, should be crowned with thorns; that those eyes which were as a flame of fire, which were clearer than the sun, should be closed up by the darkness of death; that those ears which were accustomed to hear nothing but hallelujahs, should hear nothing but blasphemies; that that face which was white and ruddy should be spit upon by the beastly Jews; that that tongue which spoke as never any man spoke, yes, as never any angel spoke, should be accused of blasphemy; that those hands which swayed both a golden scepter and an iron rod, and those feet that were as fine brass, should be nailed to the cross—and all this for man's transgression, for man's rebellion! Oh! the sight of these things, the believing of these things, the acting of faith on these things, makes a gracious soul to break and bleed, to sigh and groan, to mourn and lament! That faith which accompanies salvation is more or less a heartbreaking, a heart-melting faith.
(6.) The sixth property of that faith which accompanies salvation is this: it is a world-conquering faith, it is a world-overcoming faith. 1 John 5:4, "For whoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith." Faith overcomes the frowning world, the fawning world, the tempting world, and the persecuting world, and that it does thus:
(1.) Faith, by uniting the soul to Christ, does interest the soul in all the victories and conquests of Christ, and so makes the soul a conqueror with Christ: John 16:33, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace; in the world you shall have tribulation—but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." We have to deal but with a conquered enemy; our Jesus has given the world a mortal wound; we have nothing to do but to set our feet upon a subdued enemy, and to sing it out with the apostle, "Over all these we are more than conquerors," Rom 8:37.
(2.) Faith overcomes the world, by outbidding sights. Faith outbids the world, and so makes the soul victorious. The world set honors, pleasures, etc., before Moses—but his faith outbid the world. Faith presents the recompense of reward, it brings down all the glory, pleasures, and treasures of heaven, of the eternal world, and sets them before the soul; and so it overtops and overcomes the world by outbidding it. So Christ, "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame," Heb 12:2.
(3.) Faith overcomes the world, by telling the soul that all things are its own. Says faith—This God is your God, this Christ is your Christ, this righteousness is your righteousness, this promise is your promise, this crown is your crown, this glory is your glory, these treasures are your treasures, these pleasures are your pleasures. "All things are yours," says the apostle, "things present are yours, and things to come are yours," 1 Cor 3:22. Thus the faith of the martyrs acted, and so made them victorious over a tempting and a persecuting world, Heb 11:35.
(4.) Faith overcomes the world, by valuing the things of this world as they are. Most men over-value them, they put too great a price upon them; they make the world an idol, and then they cry, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" Oh but faith now gives all things their correct value; faith presents all worldly things as impotent, as mixed, as mutable, as momentary—in comparison with the soul, and so makes the soul victorious. Faith makes a man to see the prickles which are on every rose, the thorns which are in every crown, the scabs which are under every shirt, the poison which is in the golden cup, the snare which is in the delicious dish, the spot which is in the shining pearl—and so makes a Christian count and call all these things, as indeed they are, "vanity of vanities!" And so the believing soul slights the world, and tramples upon it as dirt and dross. And lastly,
(5.) Faith overcomes the world, by presenting Jesus Christ to the soul as a most excellent, glorious, and comprehensive good, as such a good which comprehends all good. There is no good without Christ, the chief good. Christ is that one good which comprehends all good; that one excellency which comprehends all excellencies. All the beauties, all the rarities, all the excellencies, all the riches, all the glories of all created creatures—are comprehended in Christ. As the worth and value of many pieces of copper are less than one precious jewel, so all the whole volume of perfections which is spread through heaven and earth is epitomized in Christ; and the sight and sense of this makes the soul to triumph over the world. Faith presents more excellencies and better excellencies in Christ, than can be lost for Christ, and so it makes the soul a conqueror.
I have been long upon these things, because they are of much weight and worth. I shall be the briefer in what follows. But before I leave this point, I shall give you these hints:
In the first place, I shall give you some hints concerning strong faith.
In the second place, I shall give you some hints concerning weak faith.
My design in both is, to keep precious souls from mistaking and fainting. Concerning STRONG faith, I shall give you these short hints:
(1.) The first hint. Strong faith will make a soul resolute in resisting, and happy in conquering the strongest temptations, Heb 11:3, etc., Dan 6:10, etc.
(2.) The second hint. Strong faith will make a man own God, and cleave to God, and hang upon God, in the face of the greatest difficulties and dangers, Rom 4:18, etc., Psalm 44:16-18. So Job will trust in God, though he slays him, Job 13:15-16.
(3.) The third hint. Strong faith will enable men to prefer Christ's cross before the world's crown, to prefer tortures before deliverance, Heb 11:3, etc.
(4.) The fourth hint. Strong faith will make a soul divinely fearless, and divinely courageous. It will make a man live as the child lives in the family—without fear or care, Psalm 23:4. Dan 3:16, "We are not afraid to answer you, O king; our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and he will deliver us," etc. Mic 7:7-9.
(5.) The fifth hint. Strong faith will make a man cleave to the promise, when providence runs cross to the promise, Num 10:29; 2 Chron 20:9-11. Psalm 60:6-7, "God has spoken in his holiness," says David; "I will rejoice: I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine," etc. Though David was in his banishment, yet his faith accounts all his, as if he had all in possession, and that because God had spoken in his holiness. His faith hangs upon the promise, though present providences did run cross to the promise, etc. So Joshua and Caleb, Num 14:22-24.
(6.) The sixth hint. Strong faith will make men comply with those commands which most cross them in their most desirable comforts, Heb 11:8-9, and Heb 10:34; Gen 22.
Now, O precious souls! you are not to argue against your own souls, that surely you have no faith, because that your faith does not lead you forth to such and such noble things. You may have true faith, though you have not so great faith as others of the Lord's worthies have had. As it is dangerous to make false definitions of sin, so it is dangerous to make false definitions of grace.
The philosophers say that there are eight degrees of heat. Now, if a man should define heat only by the highest degree, then all other degrees will not be considered as being heat. So if a man should define faith only by the highest degrees and operations of it, then that will not be considered as being faith—which indeed is faith, as I shall presently show.
In the second place, I shall give you some hints concerning WEAK faith.
(1.) The first hint. A weak faith does as much justify and as much unite a man to Christ—as a strong faith does. It gives a man as much propriety and interest in Christ as the strongest faith in the world. The babe has as much interest in the father, as he who is of grown years. A weak faith gives a man as good a title to Christ, and all the precious things of eternity, as the strongest faith in the world. A weak hand may receive a pearl—as well as the strong hand of a giant. Faith is a receiving of Christ, John 1:12.
(2.) The second hint. The promises of eternal happiness and blessedness are not given only to the strength of faith—but to the truth of faith; not to the highest degrees of faith—but to the reality of faith. He who believes shall be saved, though he has not such a strength of faith as to stop the mouth of lions, as to work miracles, as to move mountains, as to subdue kingdoms, as to quench the violence of fire, as to resist strong temptations, as to rejoice under great persecutions, Heb 11:33-35. No man that is saved upon the account of the strength of his faith—but upon the account of the truth of his faith. In the great day Christ will not bring balances to weigh men's graces—but a touchstone to try their graces; he will not look so much at the strength as at the truth of their graces.
(3.) The third hint. The weakest faith shall grow stronger and stronger. A weak believer shall go on from faith to faith. Christ is the finisher as well as the author of our faith, Rom 1:17; Heb 12:2. Christ will nurse up this blessed babe, faith, and will not allow it to be strangled in its infancy. He who has begun a good work will perfect it, Phil 1:6; 1 Pet 1:5. Christ is as well bound to look after our graces as he is to look after our souls. Grace is Christ's work, therefore it must prosper in his hand; he is the great builder and repairer of our graces; he will turn your spark into a flame, your drop into an ocean, your penny into a pound, your mite into a million, Matt 12:20, and Matt 13:32. Therefore do not sit down discouraged because your faith is weak. That which is sowed in weakness, shall rise in power. Your weak faith shall have a glorious resurrection. Christ will not allow such a pearl of great price to remain buried under a clod of earth.
(4.) The fourth hint. A little faith is faith, as a spark of fire is fire, a drop of water is water, a little star is a star, a little pearl is a pearl. Truly, your little faith is a jewel which God does highly prize and value; and your little faith will make you put a higher price upon Christ and grace than upon all the world, Matt 18:10; 1 Pet 2:7. Well! remember this, that the least measure of true faith will bring you to salvation, and possess you of salvation—as well as the greatest measure. A little faith accompanies salvation—as well as a great faith; a weak faith—as well as a strong faith. Therefore do not say, O precious soul, that you have not that faith which accompanies salvation, because you have not such a strong faith, or such and such a high degree of faith. A GREAT faith will yield a man a heaven here; a LITTLE faith will yield him a heaven hereafter.
III. The third thing that I am to show you is, what that REPENTANCE is, which accompanies salvation. That repentance does accompany salvation, I have formerly showed. Now, I shall manifest in the following particulars what that repentance is, which accompanies salvation, which comprehends salvation.
(1.) The first property. First, That repentance which accompanies salvation, is a general, a universal change of the whole man; a change in every part—though it be but in part. That repentance which accompanies salvation changes both heart and life, word and work; it makes an Ethiopian an Israelite, a leper an angel. "Wash, make yourself clean;" there is the change of your hearts. "Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well," Isa 1:16-18; there is the change of their practices.
So the prophet Ezekiel, "Cast away all your transgressions," says he, "whereby you have transgressed;" there is the change of life: "And make a new heart, and a new spirit," Ezek 18:30-32; there is the change of the heart. True repentance is a thorough change both of the mind and manners. That repentance which accompanies salvation works a change in the whole man; in all the qualities of the inward man, and in all the actions of the outward man. The understanding is turned from darkness to light; the will from a sinful servility to a holy liberty; the affections from disorder into order; the heart from hardness into softness. So in the outward man, the lustful eye is turned into an eye of chastity; the wanton ear is turned into an obedient ear; the hands of bribery are turned into hands of liberality; and the wandering feet of vanity are turned into ways of purity. And truly, that repentance which changes a man in some part—but not in every part; which only makes a man a Herod, or an Agrippa, a half Christian, an almost Christian—that repentance will never bring down heaven into a man's bosom here, nor never bring a man up to heaven hereafter!
That repentance which accompanies salvation makes a man all glorious within, and his raiment to be of embroidered gold, Psalm 45:13; it stamps the image of God both upon the inward and the outward man; it makes the heart like the ark, all gold within; and it makes the life like the sun, all glorious without.
(2.) The second property. Secondly, That repentance which accompanies salvation is a total turning as well as a universal turning; a turning from all sin, without any reservation or exception. "I hate and abhor every false way—but I love your law," Psalm 119:163. So in Ezek 18:30, "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall." So in Ezek 33:11. As Noah's flood drowned his nearest and his dearest friends, so the flood of penitent tears drowns men's nearest and their dearest lusts! Be they Isaacs or Benjamins, be they right eyes or right hands, repentance which accompanies salvation puts all to the sword; it spares neither father nor mother, neither Agag nor Achan; it casts off all the rags of old Adam; it leaves not a horn nor a hoof behind; it throws down every stone of the old building; it scrapes off all leviathan's scales; it washes away all leprous spots. And God has engaged himself to cleanse the hearts of his people from all sin, and to set their souls against all sin, Jer 33:8; Ezek 36:25,29,33; 1 John 1:9. Repentance for sin is worth nothing, without repentance from sin.
Ezek 14:6, "Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God, Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations." Sin is a turning the back upon God, and the face towards hell; but repentance is a turning the back upon sin, and a setting the face towards God! He who looks upon both Jerusalem and upon Babylon with an alluring eye at the same time; he who looks upon God, and at the same time looks upon any sin with an alluring eye, has not yet reached unto this repentance which accompanies salvation; his repentance and profession cannot secure him from double damnation. Thus did Herod and Judas, to their eternal ruin, James 2:20.
He who serves God in some things, and his lusts in other things, says to God as David said to Mephibosheth concerning his lands, "You and Ziba divide the lands," 2 Sam 19:29. Just so, you and Satan divide my soul, my heart between you. Ah! does not such a soul deserve a double hell? Christ takes every sin at a penitent man's hands, as Caesar did his wounds from him of whom he merited better usage, with, "And you, my son." "What, you wound me! What, you stab me!" One stab at the heart kills, one hole in the ship sinks her, one act of treason makes a traitor. Just so, one sin not forsaken, not turned from, will undo a soul forever. Sin always ends tragically, and this puts the penitent in battle array against every sin.
There are no wounds which are so grievous and terrible to Christ, as those who he receives in the house of his friends, and this sets the penitent man's heart and hand against everything which is against Christ. A true penitent looks upon every sin as poison, as the vomit of a dog, as the mire of the street, as the menstruous cloth, which of all things in the law was most unclean, defiling, and polluting. And his looking thus upon every sin, turns his heart against every sin, and makes him not only to refrain from sin—but to forsake it, and to loathe it more than hell.
(3.) The third property. Thirdly, That repentance which accompanies salvation is not only a turning from all sin—but it is also a turning unto God. The Hebrew word for repentance signifies to return, implying a going back from what a man had done. It notes a returning or converting from one thing to another, as from sin to God, from evil to good, from hell to heaven. It is not only a ceasing from doing evil—but it is also a learning to do well; it is not only a turning from darkness—but it is also a turning to light; as the apostle speaks, Acts 26:18, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." So in Isa 55:7, "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." It is not enough for the man of iniquity to forsake his evil way—but he must also return unto the Lord; he must subject his heart to the power of divine grace, and his life to the will and word of God. As negative goodness can never satisfy a gracious soul, so negative goodness can never save a sinful soul. It is not enough that you are thus and thus bad—but you must be thus and thus good, or you are undone forever: Ezek 18:21, "But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die."
Negative righteousness and holiness is no righteousness, no holiness, in the account of God. It was not the Pharisee's negative righteousness, nor his comparative goodness, which could prevent his being rejected of God, his being shut out of heaven, his burning in hell, Luke 18:5; Matt 20:13-14. It is not enough that the tree bears no bad fruit—but it must bring forth good fruit—else it must be cut down and cast into the fire. That tree which is not for fruit—is for the fire. "Every tree which brings not forth good fruit," says Christ, "is hewn down, and cast into the fire," Matt 7:19. Men who content themselves with negative righteousness, shall find at last heaven-gates bolted upon them with a double bolt. All that negative righteousness and holiness can do, is to help a man to one of the best chambers and easiest beds in hell. That repentance which accompanies salvation, brings the heart and life not only off from sin—but on to God; it makes a man not only cease from walking in the ways of death—but it makes him walk in the ways of life: "They do no iniquity, they walk in his ways," Psalm 119:3. He who holds not wholly with Christ, does very shamefully neglect Christ. And therefore if Christ tramples upon them at last, it is just.
(4.) The fourth property. Fourthly, That repentance which accompanies salvation, strikes most effectually and particularly against that sin or sins, that the sinner was most apt and prone to before his conversion. The hand of repentance is most against that sin, it is most upon that sin, which the soul has looked most with an alluring eye upon. Augustine, a great sinner, wrote twelve books on repentance, and walked most contrary to the particular sins which he had most lived in. The chief and principal sins which Israel were guilty of, were idolatry and sinful compliance. Now, when God works kindly upon them, they put the hand of repentance upon those particular sins, as you may see: Isa 27:9, "By this, then, will Jacob's guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruitage of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing." (This was the great sin of Israel—but after their return out of captivity, they never again set up idols—but were wonderful zealous to keep their temple from such defilements, both in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and of the Romans, and do account them as a menstruous cloth, to this very day. The Jews were willing in the Romans' time, rather to die than to allow the eagle, the Roman imperial arms, to be set upon the temple.) Here you see, when God appears and acts graciously for and towards his people, they put the hand of repentance upon their groves and images; these must torn down, these must no longer stand. The groves and the images shall not stand up, they shall be utterly abandoned and destroyed, demolished, and abolished.
So in Isa 30:22, "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them—Away with you!" Here you see the hand of repentance is against their idols of silver and gold; and not only against their idols—but also against whatever had any relation to them. Now they show nothing but a detestation of their idols, and a holy indignation against them: "Away with you!" The hand of repentance makes a divorce between them and their idols, between their souls and their darling sins. Now they are as much in hating, abhorring, abominating, and despising their idols and images, as they were formerly in adoring, worshiping, and honoring of them.
So Mary Magdalene, Luke 7, walks quite contrary to her former self, her sinful self, she crosses the flesh, in those very things wherein formerly she did gratify the flesh. So the penitent jailor, Acts 16, washes those very wounds that his own bloody hands had made. He acts in ways of mercy, quite contrary to his former cruelty. At first there was none so fierce, so furious, so cruel, so bloody, so inhuman in his conduct to the Christians as Paul; at last, none so gentle, so soft, so sweet, so courteous, so affectionate to them. The same you may see in Zacchaeus, Luke 19:8, etc. In Paul, Acts 9, and in Manasseh, in 2 Chron 33:6.
(5.) The fifth property. Fifthly, That repentance which accompanies salvation, is very large and comprehensive. It comprehends and takes in these following particulars, besides those already named.
[1.] True repentance includes a SIGHT and SENSE of sin. Men must first see their sins, they must be sensible of their sins, before they can repent of their sins. Ephraim had first a sight of his sin, and then he repents and turns from his sin. "After I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh," Jer 31:18-19. A man first sees himself out of the way, before he returns into the way. Until he sees that he is out of the way, he walks still on—but when he perceives that he is out of the way, then he begins to make inquiry after the right way. So when the sinner comes to see his way to be a way of death, then be cries out, "Oh lead me in the way of life, lead me in the way everlasting," Psalm 139:24. It was so with Paul, who thought himself in as good a way for heaven as any; Acts 9 and Acts 26 compared.
[2.] For I shall but touch upon these things. That repentance which accompanies salvation, includes not only a sight and sense of sin—but also CONFESSION and acknowledgment of sin. Psalm 51, and Psalm 32:3-5, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"--and you forgave the guilt of my sin." Job 33:21-27. The promise of forgiveness is made to confession. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." So Prov 28:13, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." If we confess our sins sincerely, seriously, humbly, cordially—then pardon attends us. Confession of sin must be joined with confusion of sin—or all is lost, God is lost, Christ is lost, heaven lost, and the soul lost forever!
The true penitent can say, with Vivaldus, "I hide not my sins—but I show them; I wipe them not away—but I sprinkle them; I do not excuse them—but I accuse them. "My sins hurt me not, if I like them not." The beginning of my salvation—is the knowledge of my transgression.
[3.] That repentance which accompanies salvation includes, not only confession of sin—but also CONTRITION for sin; Psalm 51:4; 1 Sam 7:2; Zech 12:10-11; Ezra 10:1-2; 2 Cor 7:11; Jer 13:17; Joel 2:13. Basil wept when he saw the rose, because it brought to his mind the first sin, from whence it had the prickles, which it had not, while man continued in innocence, as he thought. You know how to apply it. True repentance breaks the heart with sighs, sobs, and groans—that a loving Father is offended, a blessed Savior crucified, and the sweet Comforter grieved. Penitent Mary Magdalene weeps much, as well as loves much. Tears, instead of jewels, were the ornaments of penitent David's bed. Surely that sweet singer never sang more melodiously, than when his heart was broken most penitentially.
How shall God wipe away my tears in heaven—if I shed none on earth? And how shall I reap in joy—if I sow not in tears? "I was born with tears, and shall die with tears; why should I then live without them in this valley of tears?" says the true penitent. The sweetest joys are from the sourest tears; penitent tears are the breeders of spiritual joy. When Hannah had wept, she went away and was no more sad, 1 Sam 1:18. The bee gathers the best honey off the bitterest herbs. Christ made the best wine of water; the strongest, the purest, the truest, the most permanent, and the most excellent joy is made of the waters of repentance. If God is God, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." Psalm 126:5. True repentance is a sorrowing for sin because it is offensive to God. Peter was sorry for his sin; Judas was sorry his for punishment. Peter grieves because Christ was grieved; Judas grieved because he would be damned.
But that no mourner may drown himself in his own tears, let me give this CAUTION, namely, that there is nothing beyond remedy—but the tears of the damned. A man who may persist in the way to paradise, should not place himself in the condition of a little hell; and he who has a genuine hope for that great all, ought not to be dejected nor overwhelmed for anything.
[4.] That repentance which accompanies salvation does include not only contrition for sin—but also a holy SHAME and blushing for sin. Ezra 9:6; Jer 3:24-25; Jer 31:19; Ezek 16:63, "Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord." When the penitent soul sees his sins pardoned, the anger of God pacified, and divine justice satisfied, then he sits down ashamed.
So Rom 6:21, "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" Sin and shame are inseparable companions. A Christian man cannot have the seeming sweet of sin, but he shall have the real shame which accompanies sin. These two God has joined together, and all the world cannot put them asunder.
Shame signifies to blush, to be abashed, to wax pale and wan, etc. So much the more God has been displeased with the blackness of sin, the more will he be well pleased with the blushing of the sinner.
It was the vile and impenitent Caligula who said of himself "that he loved nothing better in himself than that he could not be ashamed." And doubtless, only those things which are sinful, are shameful. A soul who has sinned away all shame is a soul ripe for hell, and given up to Satan! A greater plague cannot befall a man in this life than to sin and not to blush!
[5.] That repentance which accompanies salvation, comprehends LOATHING and ABHORRING of sin, and of ourselves for sin, as well as shame and blushing for sin, Job 42:6; Ezek 16:61-63; Amos 5:15; Ezek 20:43, "You will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done." The sincere penitent loathes his sins, and be loathes himself also because of his sins. He cries out, "Oh these wanton eyes! Oh these wicked hands! Oh this deceitful tongue! Oh this crooked will! Oh this corrupt heart! Oh how do I loathe my sins, how do I loathe myself, how do I loathe sinful self; and how do I loathe my natural self, because of sinful self! My sins are a burden to me, and they make me a burden to myself; my sins are an abhorring to me, and they make me abhor myself in dust and ashes!" A true penitent has not only low thoughts of himself—but loathsome thoughts of himself.
It is very observable that those brave creatures, the eagle and the lion, were not offered in sacrifice unto God—but the poor lamb and dove; to note that God regards not your brave, high, lofty spirits—but poor, meek, and contemptible spirits.
None can think or speak so vilely of a Christian—as he thinks and speaks so vilely of himself. "Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4. "Those who escape will remember me--how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, (as the heart of a husband is at the adulterous behavior of his wife), which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices." Ezekiel 6:9
If your repentance does not work you out with your sins, and your sins work you out of love with yourself—then your repentance is not that repentance which accompanies salvation. Some people can shed tears for nothing, some for anything; but a sound penitent sheds more tears for his sins than he does for his sufferings. And thus you see the particular things that that repentance that does accompany salvation does comprehend and include.
(6.) The sixth property. Sixthly, That repentance which accompanies salvation, has these choice COMPANIONS attending of it.
[1.] FAITH. Zech 12:10-11, "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn," etc. Mourning and believing go together. So in Matt 4:17; Mark 1:14-15, "Now, after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel."
[2.] LOVE TO CHRIST does always accompany that repentance which accompanies salvation, as you may see in Mary Magdalene, Luke 7.
[3.] A FILIAL FEAR OF OFFENDING GOD, and a holy care to honor God, does always accompany that repentance which accompanies salvation: 2 Cor 7:10, "For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: for, behold, this selfsame thing, that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yes, what clearing of yourselves, yes, what indignation, yes, what fear, yes, what vehement desire, yes, what zeal, yes, what revenge! In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." Truly, repentance to life has all these lively companions attending of it; they are born together and will live together, until the penitent soul changes earth for heaven, grace for glory.
(7.) The seventh property. Seventhly and lastly, That repentance which accompanies salvation is a CONTINUED act, a repentance never to be repented of, 2 Cor 7:10. Repentance is a continual spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing. A sound penitent is still a-turning nearer and nearer to God; he is still a-turning further and further from sin. This makes the penitent soul to sigh and mourn that he can get no nearer to God, that he can get no further from sin, Rom 7. The work of repentance is not the work of an hour, a day, a year—but the continual work of this life. A sincere penitent makes as much conscience of repenting daily, as he does of believing daily; and he can as easily content himself with one act of faith, or love, or joy, as he can content himself with one act of repentance: "My sins are ever before me," says David, Psalm 51:3. Repentance is the fair daughter of a foul mother. Repentance is a fruitful womb. Oh, then, what then remains, but in our whole life to lament the sins of our whole life?
"Next to my being kept from sin, I count it the greatest mercy in the world to be still a-mourning over sin," says the penitent soul. The penitent soul never ceases repenting until he ceases living. He goes to heaven with the joyful tears of repentance in his eyes. He knows that his whole life is but a day of sowing tears, that he may at last reap everlasting joys. That repentance which accompanies salvation is a final forsaking of sin. It is a bidding sin an everlasting adieu; it is a taking an eternal farewell of sin; a never turning to folly more: "What have I to do any more with idols?" says Ephraim, Hos 14:8. "I have tasted of the bitterness that is in sin; I have tasted of the sweetness of divine mercy in pardoning of sin; therefore, away, sin! I will never have to do with you more! You have robbed Christ of his service, and me of my comfort and crown. Away, away, sin! you shall never more be courted nor countenanced by me!"
That man who only puts off his sins in the day of adversity, as he does his garments at night when he goes to bed, with an intent to put them on again in the morning of prosperity, never yet truly repented: he is a dog that returns to its vomit again; he is a swine that returns to its wallowing in the mire. Such a dog was Judas; such a swine was Demas.
It is an extraordinary vanity in some men to lay aside their sins before solemn duties—but with a purpose to return to them again, as the serpent lays aside his poison when he goes to drink, and when he has drunk, he returns to it again, as they fable it. It is sad when men say to their lusts, as Abraham said to his servants, "Abide here, and I will go and worship, and return again to you," Gen 22:5. Truly, such souls are far off from that repentance which accompanies salvation, for that makes a final and everlasting separation between sin and the soul. It makes such a divorce between sin and the soul, and puts them so far asunder, that all the world can never bring them to meet as two lovers together. The penitent soul looks upon sin and deals with sin, not as a friend—but as an enemy. It deals with sin as Amnon dealt with Tamar: 2 Sam 13:15, "After this, Amnon hated Tamar with such intensity that the hatred he hated her with was greater than the love he had loved her with. 'Get out of here!' he said." Just thus does the penitent soul carry itself towards sin.
And thus you see what repentance that is, which accompanies salvation.
IV. The fourth thing I am to show is, what OBEDIENCE that is, which accompanies salvation. That obedience does accompany salvation, I have formerly proved. Now what this obedience is, which accompanies salvation, I shall show you in these following particulars:
[1.] The first property. That obedience which accompanies salvation is CORDIAL and HEARTY. The heart, the inward man, does answer and echo to the word and will of God. The believer knows that no obedience but hearty obedience, is acceptable to Christ. He knows that nothing takes Christ's heart—but what comes from the believer's heart. 'Christ was hearty in his obedience for me,' says the believer; 'and shall not I be hearty in my obedience to him?' Christ will lay his hand of love, his hand of acceptance—upon no obedience but what flows from the heart. Rom 6:17, "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." So in Rom 7:25, "So then with the mind, I myself serve the law of God." My heart, says Paul, is in my obedience.
So in Rom 1:9, "God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son." Many serve God with their bodies—but I serve him with my spirit; many serve him with the outward man—but I serve him with my inward man. Ezek 36:26-27; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:7-9. The heart is the presence-chamber of the King of heaven, and that upon which his eye, his hand, his heart, is most set. "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways." Proverbs 23:26.
God has written his law in believers' hearts, and therefore they cannot but obey it from the heart: "I delight to do your will, O my God." How so? Why, "your law is within my heart," or, in the midst of my affections, as the Hebrew has it, Psalm 40:8. The heart within echoes and answers to the commandments without, as a book written answers to his mind, who writes it; as face answers to face; as the impression on the wax answers to the character engraved on the seal. The scribes and Pharisees were much in the outward obedience of the law—but their hearts were not in their obedience; and therefore all they did signified nothing in the account of Christ, who only accepts outward actions as they flow from the heart and affections. Their souls were not in their services, and therefore all their services were lost services. They were very glorious in their outward profession—but their hearts were as filthy sepulchers. Their outsides shined as the sun—but their insides were as black as hell, Matt 23. They were like the Egyptians' temples—beautiful without, but filthy within. Well! remember this: No action, no service, is accepted in heaven—but that which is sealed up with integrity of heart. God will not be put off with the shell, when we give the devil the kernel.
(2.) The second property. That obedience which accompanies salvation is UNIVERSAL as well as cordial. The soul falls in with every part and point of God's will, so far as he knows it, without prejudice or partiality, without tilting the balance on one side or another. A soul sincerely obedient, will not pick and choose what commands to obey and what to reject, as hypocrites do; he has an eye to see, an ear to hear, and a heart to obey the first table as well as the second, and the second table as well as the first; he does not adhere to the first and neglect the second, as hypocrites do; neither does he adhere to the second and despise the first, as profane men do; he obeys not out of choice, but out of conscience: Psalm 119:6, "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments." He does not pick and choose. He obeys all, in respect of his sincere purpose, desire, and endeavor; and this God accepts in Christ for perfect and complete obedience, etc.
Look! as faith never singles out his object—but lays hold on every object God holds forth for it to close with; faith does not choose this truth and reject that, it does not close with one and reject another. Faith does not say, 'I will trust God in this case, but not in that case; I will trust him for this mercy, but not for that mercy; I will trust him in this way, but not in that way.' Faith does not choose its object. Faith knows that he who has promised is powerful and faithful, and therefore faith closes with one object as well as another. So a true obedient soul does not single out the commands of God, as to obey one and rebel against another; it dares not, it cannot say, 'I will serve God in this command but not in that.' No! In an evangelical sense it obeys all: Luke 1:5-6, "Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." That is, without complaint. They walked not only in commandments, but also in ordinances; not only in ordinances—but also in commandments. They were good souls, and good at both.
An obedient soul is like a crystal glass with a light in the midst, which shines forth through every part thereof. So that royal law that is written upon his heart shines forth into every parcel of his life; his outward works do echo to a law within.
A man sincerely obedient, lays such a charge upon his whole man, as Mary, the mother of Christ, did upon all the servants at the feast: John 2:5, "Whatever the Lord says unto you—do it." Eyes, ears, hands, heart, lips, legs, body, and soul—-all seriously and affectionately observe whatever Jesus Christ says unto you, and do it.
So David does: Psalm 119:34,69, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; yes, I shall observe it with my whole heart." "The proud have forged a lie against me; but I will keep your precepts with my whole heart." The whole heart includes all the faculties of the soul and all the members of the body. Says David, I will put hand and heart, body and soul, all within me and all without me—to the keeping and observing of your precepts. Here is a soul, thorough in his obedience, he stands not halting nor halving of it, he knows the Lord loves to be served truly and totally, and therefore he obeys with an entire heart and a sincere spirit.
I have read of a very strange speech which dropped out of the mouth of Epictetus, a heathen: "If it be your will," says he, "O Lord, command me what you will, send me where you will, I will not withdraw myself from anything which seems good to you." Ah! how will this heathen at last rise in judgment against all Sauls, Jehus, Judases, Demases, scribes, and pharisees—who are partial in their obedience, who while they yield obedience to some commands, live in the habitual breach of other commands! Truly, he who lives in the habitual breach of one command, shall at last be reputed by God guilty of the breach of every command, James 2:10, and God accordingly will in a way of justice proceed against him, Ezek 18:10-13.
It was the glory of Caleb and Joshua, that they followed the Lord fully—in one thing, as well as another, Num 14:24. So Cornelius: "We are present before God, to hear whatever shall be commanded us by God," Acts 10:33. He does not pick and choose. So in Acts 13:22, "have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will carry out all My will;" or rather as it is in the Greek, "he shall fulfill all my wills," to note the universality and sincerity of his obedience. He minds not only general duties of religion—but also particular duties; as a magistrate, as a minister, as a father, as a master, as a son, as a servant.
A sincere heart loves all commands of God, and prizes all commands of God, and sees a divine image stamped upon all the commands of God; and therefore the main bent and disposition of his soul, is to obey all, to subject to all. God commands universal obedience, Josh 1:8; Deut 5:29; Ezek 18. The promise of reward is made over to universal obedience, Psalm 19:11; Josh 1:8. Universal obedience is a jewel that all will wish for, or rejoice in, at the day of death and the day of judgement; and the remembrance of these things, with others of the like nature, provokes all upright souls to be impartial, to be universal in their obedience.
[3.] The third property. That obedience which accompanies salvation springs from inward spiritual causes, and from holy and heavenly motives. It flows from faith. Hence it is called "the obedience of faith," Rom 16:26. So in 1 Tim 1:5, "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith." Faith draws down that divine virtue and power into the soul, which makes it lively and active, abundant and constant, in the work and way of the Lord.
And as faith, so love, puts the soul forward in ways of obedience. John 14:21,23, "If any man loves me, he will keep my commandments." So Psalm 119:48, "My hands also will I lift up to your commandments, which I have loved." Divine love is said to be the fulfilling of the commandments, because it puts the soul upon keeping them. Divine love makes every weight light, every yoke easy, every command joyous. It knows no difficulties, it facilitates obedience, it divinely constrains the soul to obey, to walk, to run the ways of God's commands. Where love is, the soul says of every command, "it is a good saying." But where love is lacking, the man cries out, "it is a hard saying; who can bear it?"
And as sound obedience springs from faith and love, so it flows from a filial fear of God: Psalm 119:161, "My heart stands in awe of your word." So Heb 11:7, "By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family." Ah! but hypocrites and temporary professors are not carried forth in their obedience from such precious and glorious principles, and therefore it is that God casts all their services as dung in their faces, Isa 1:11.
And as that obedience which accompanies salvation flows from inward spiritual principles, so it flows from holy and heavenly motives, as from the tastes of divine love, and the sweetness and excellency of communion with God, and the choice and precious discoveries which the soul in ways of obedience has had of the beauty and glory of God, Isa 64:5. The sweet looks, the heavenly words, the glorious kisses, the holy embraces, which the obedient soul has had, makes it freely and fully obedient to the word and will of God.
Ah! but all the motives which move hypocrites and carnal professors to obedience, are only external and carnal—as the eye of the creature, the ear of the creature, the applause of the creature, the rewards of the creature; either the love of the loaves, or the gain of money, or the desire of ambition, Hos 7:14. Sometimes they are moved to obedience from the fear of the creature, and sometimes from the desire for the creature, and sometimes from the example of the creature, and sometimes from vows made to the creature. Sometimes the frowns of God, the displeasure of God, the rod of God—moves them to obedience, Hos 5:15; Psalm 78:34. Sometimes the quieting and stilling of conscience, the stopping of the mouth of conscience, and the disarming of conscience of all her whipping, racking, wounding, condemning, terrifying, and torturing power—puts them upon some ways of obedience. Their obedience always flows from some low, base, carnal, corrupt consideration or other.
Oh! but that obedience which accompanies salvation does always flow, as you see, from inward and spiritual causes, and from holy and heavenly motives.
[4.] The fourth property. That obedience which accompanies salvation is a ready, free, willing, and cheerful obedience.
(1.) It is READY obedience. Psalm 27:8, "When you said, Seek my face, my heart said unto you, Your face, Lord, will I seek." Psalm 119:60, "I made haste, and delayed not to keep your commandments." Psalm 18:44, "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me."
I have read of one who readily fetched water nearly two miles every day for a whole year—to pour upon a dry stick, upon the bare command of a superior, when no reason could be given for the thing. Oh how ready, then, does grace make the soul to obey those divine commands, which are backed with the highest, strongest, and choicest arguments.
(2.) As that obedience which accompanies salvation is ready obedience, so it is FREE and WILLING obedience. Acts 21:13, "Then Paul replied—What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." The beamings out of divine love and glory make gracious souls "willing in the day of his power," Psalm 110:3. Those divine principles which are in them make them willingly obey, without compulsion. So 2 Cor 8:3. The Macedonians were willingly obedient, or, as the Greek has it, they were volunteers not only to their power—but beyond their power.
All the motions and actings of Christ towards his people, for his people, and in his people—are free. He loves them freely, he pardons them freely, he intercedes for them freely, he acts them freely, and he saves them freely. And so they move and act towards Christ freely; they hear, they pray, they wait, they weep, they work, they watch freely and willingly. That Spirit of grace and holiness which is in them, makes them volunteers in all pious duties and services. [1 Chron 29:6-18; 1 Tim 6:18; 1 Thess 2:8]
It is reported of Socrates, that when the tyrant threatened death unto him, he answered, "He was willing." "No then," said the tyrant, "you shall live against your will." He answered again, "No, whatever you do with me, it shall be my will." If mere human nature, a little raised and refined, will enable a man to do this, will not grace, will not union and communion with Christ, enable a man to do as much, yes, infinitely more? A saint at worst is obedient, either with a willing will, or an unwilling will; like the merchant who is unwillingly willing to throw his goods overboard into the tempestuous sea, to save his life.
(3.) As that obedience which accompanies salvation is free and willing obedience, so it is CHEERFUL and DELIGHTFUL obedience. It is a believer's food and drink, it is his joy and crown, it is a pleasure, a paradise to his soul—to be still obeying his Father's will, to be still found about his Father's business: Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do your will, O my God; yes, your law is in my heart." As the sun rejoices to run his race, so do the saints rejoice to run the race of obedience. God's work is wages, yes, it is better than wages; therefore they cannot but delight in it. Not only for keeping—but also in keeping of his commands, there is great reward: Psalm 112:1, "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in his commandments;" that is, in the studying and obeying of his commandments. Psalm 119:16, "I will delight myself in your statutes; I will not forget your word." Psalm 119:35, "Make me to go in the path of your commandments, for therein do I delight." Psalm 119:47, "And I will delight myself in your commandments, which I have loved." Psalm 119:143, "Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me, yet your commandments are my delight."
Divine commands are not grievous to a lover of Christ; for nothing is difficult, to him who loves. The love of Christ, the discoveries of Christ, the embraces of Christ, make a gracious soul studious and industrious to keep the commandments of Christ, in lip and life, in word and work, in head and heart, in book and bosom. Psalm 19:5,11, compared. A good work so much the more delights, by how much the more God, the chiefest and unchangeable good, is loved.
Thus you see that that obedience which accompanies salvation is ready, free, and cheerful obedience.
[5.] The fifth property. The obedience which accompanies salvation, is RESOLUTE obedience. Josh 24:15, "I and my household will serve the Lord." He is fully resolved upon it, come what may, come what can. In the face of all dangers, difficulties, impediments and discouragements, he will obey the Lord, he will follow the Lord. So those worthies, Heb 11:38, "of whom the world was not worthy," obeyed divine commands resolutely, resolvedly, in the face of all kinds of deaths and miseries. So Paul was "obedient to the heavenly vision," though bonds were awaiting him in every place, Acts 20:23. He is better at obeying than at disputing; "I conferred not," says he, "with flesh and blood," Gal 1:15-16.
So Peter and John, and the rest of the apostles, despite all threatenings and beatings—they obey the Lord, they keep fast and close to their Master's work. "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto your servants, that with all boldness they may speak your word. And when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Acts 4:19-20,29, and Acts 5:40-42, compared.
Josephus reports of such resolute Christians, that in the face of all reproaches and difficulties, followed Christ to the cross. You may as well stop the sun from running his race, as you are able to hinder gracious souls from obeying divine commands, Psalm 44:13-14. As a wicked nature makes the wicked peremptory in their disobedience (Jer 44:15-17), so the divine nature makes gracious souls peremptory in their obedience.
Thus you see, no trials, no troubles, no terrors, no threats, no dangers, no deaths—could deter them from resolute obedience to divine precepts. It is not the fiery furnace, nor the lions' den, nor the bloody sword, nor the torturing rack, which can frighten gracious souls from obedience to their dearest Lord: Psalm 119:106, "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep your righteous judgments."
[6.] The sixth property. The end of that obedience which accompanies salvation is, divine glory. The eye of the obedient soul, in prayer and praises, in talking and walking, in giving and receiving, in living and doing, is divine glory: Rom 14:7-8, "For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." In all actions, the obedient soul most intends to glorify God. If Satan, the world, or the old man do at any time propound other ends to the soul, this great end, divine glory, out works all those ends; for this is most certain, that which a man makes his greatest and his highest end, will out work all other ends.
Look! as the light of the sun does extinguish and put out the light of the fire, so when a man makes the glory of God his end, that end will extinguish and put out all carnal, low, base ends. That man who makes himself the end of his actions, who makes honor, riches, applause, etc. the end of his actions—he must at last lie down in eternal sorrow, he must dwell in everlasting burnings. The man is as his end is; and his work is as his end is. If his end is bad—all is bad; if his end is good—all is good—and the man is happy forever, Isa 30:33, and Isa 33:14.
[7.] The seventh property. That obedience which accompanies salvation, is a CONSTANT obedience. If once you say, 'it is enough,' you are undone. Psalm 119:112, "I have inclined my heart to obey your statutes always, even to the end." The causes, springs, and motives of holy obedience are lasting and permanent, and therefore the obedience of a sound Christian is not like the morning dew, or a deceitful bow: Psalm 44:17-19, "All this comes upon us; yet have we not forgotten you, neither have we dealt falsely in your covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from your ways; though you have sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death."
The love of Christ, the promises of Christ, the presence of Christ, the discoveries of Christ, the example of Christ, and the recompense of reward held forth by Christ—makes a sound Christian hold on, and hold out, in ways of obedience, in the face of all dangers and deaths. Neither the hope of life, nor the fear of death, can make a sincere Christian either change his master or decline his work. History reports, that it has been the ancient custom of pious Christians under persecuting emperors, to meet, and to bind themselves forever to fly what was evil, and follow what was good, whatever it cost them. Phil 2:12, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only—but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This was the Philippians' glory, that they were constant in their obedience; whether Paul was present or absent, they constantly minded their work.
Ah! but hypocrites and temporary professors are but passionate, transient, and inconstant in their obedience; they talk of obedience, they commend obedience, and now and then they step in the way of obedience—but they do not walk in a way of obedience, they are only constant in inconstancy: Job 27:10, "Will the hypocrite delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" Or, as the Hebrew has it—will he in every time call upon God? Will he call upon God in time of prosperity, and in time of adversity? in time of health, and in time of sickness? in time of strength, and in time of weakness? in time of honor, and in time of disgrace? in time of liberty, and in time of durance? etc. The answer to be given in is, he will not always, he will not in every time call upon God. As a lame horse, when he is rested, will go well enough—but after a short time he halts downright; even so a hypocrite, though for a time he may go on fairly in a religious way, yet when he has attained his ends, he will halt-downright, and be able to go no further.
The monk in Melancthon lived strictly, and walked demurely, and looked humbly, so long as he was but a monk; but when, by his seeming extraordinary sanctity, he got to be made abbot, he grew intolerably proud and insolent, and being asked the reason of it, confessed that his former behavior and lowly looks was but to see if he could find the keys of the abbey. Ah! many unsound hearts there are, who will put on the cloak of religion, and speak like angels, and look like saints, to find the keys of preferment, and when they have found them, none prove more proud, base, and vain than they. Ah! but that obedience which accompanies salvation is constant and durable. A Christian in his course goes straight on heavenwards.
"The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on that one highway, lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left." 1 Samuel 6:12. So gracious souls goes straight along the highway to heaven, which is the way of obedience; though they go lowing and weeping, yet they still go on, and turn not aside to the right hand nor to the left. If by the violence of temptation or corruption they are thrust out of the way at any time, they quickly return into it again. They may sometimes step out of the way of obedience—but they cannot walk out of the way of obedience. The honest traveler may step out of his way, but he soon returns into it again—and so does the honest soul, Psalm 119:3-4, "They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed."
(8.) The eighth property, and lastly. PASSIVE obedience accompanies salvation as well as active. 2 Tim 3:12; 2 Tim 2:12, "Everyone that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution," from tongue or pen, from hand or heart. "If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him," Rom 9:17-18. There is no passing into paradise but under the flaming sword. "Through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven," Acts 14:22. A sincere heart is as willing to obey Christ passively as actively: Acts 21:13, "I am ready, not to be bound only—but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus." I am willing, says Paul, to lose my comforts for Christ, I am ready to endure any dolours for Christ, I am willing to lose the creature, and to leave the creature for Christ. Friends may have the milk of a believer's love—but Christ has the cream.
So Paul, Phil 3:8, speaks of himself as having been like one in a sea-tempest, that had cast out all his precious wares and goods for Christ's sake "for whom," says he, "I have suffered the loss of all." So must we, in stormy times, cast all overboard for Christ, and swim to an immortal crown—through sorrows, blood, and death. But because I have in this treatise spoken at large of the sufferings of the saints, I shall say no more of it in this place; and thus you see what that obedience is, which accompanies salvation.
V. The fifth thing that I am to show you is, what LOVE that is, which accompanies salvation. That love does accompany salvation I have formerly showed you; but now I shall show you what that love is, which accompanies salvation; and that I shall do in these following particulars. I shall not speak of the firstness, freeness, fullness, sweetness, and greatness of Christ's love to us—but of that love of ours which accompanies salvation, concerning which I shall say thus:
(1.) The first property. First, That love which accompanies salvation is a SUPERLATIVE love, a TRANSCENDENT love. True love to Christ does wonderfully transcend and surpass the love of all relations; the love of father, mother, wife, child, brother, sister, yes, life itself, Matt 10:37-38; Luke 14:26-27,34. Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there are none upon earth that I desire besides you." Christ will be all—or nothing at all. There are the greatest causes of love, there are the highest causes of love, there are all the causes of love—to be found in Christ. In angels and men there are only some particular causes of love; all causes of love are eminently and only to be found in Christ: Col 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell," There is not only fullness—but an overflowing of fullness in Jesus Christ. All wisdom, all knowledge, all light, all life, all love, all goodness, all sweetness, all blessedness, all joys, all delights, all pleasures, all beauties, all beatitudes, all excellencies, all glories—are in Christ, Col 2:9.
The true lovers of Christ know that Christ loves as a head, as a king, as a father, as a husband, as a brother, as a kinsman, as a friend—and this raises up a believer to love Christ with a transcendent love. They know that Christ loves them more than they love themselves; yes, that he loves them above his very life, John 10:1,17-18.
Love is the loadstone of love. Certainly they do not love Christ, who love anything more than Christ. Christ is amiable and lovely; he is spotless and matchless in his names, in his natures, in his offices, in his graces, in his gifts, in his manifestations, in his appearances, in his ordinances. He is full of dignity, majesty, mercy, and glory. "He is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand." His mouth is sweetness; yes, he is full of delights, Song 5:10-16. Christ is wholly delectable; he is altogether desirable from top to toe; he is amiable and lovely, he is glorious and excellent. Christ is lovely, Christ is very lovely, Christ is most lovely, Christ is always lovely, Christ is altogether lovely. He is "the express image of God;" he is "the brightness of his Father's glory." If one could but anatomize him, it shall find in him all high perfections and supereminent excellencies. And upon these and such like considerations the saints are led forth to love Jesus Christ with a most transcendent love.
(2.) The second property. Secondly, That love which accompanies salvation is OBEDIENTIAL love, it is OPERATIVE and WORKING love. The love of Christ makes a man subject to the commands of Christ: "If any man loves me, he will keep my commandments;" and again, "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me," John 14:21. Divine love is very operative: Psalm 116:1, "I love the Lord," says David. Well, but how does this love work? Why, says he, "I will walk in his ways, I will pay my vows, I will take the cup of salvation, I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord as long as I live," Psalm 116:2,9,13-14,17.
I have read a story of an elephant, who being fallen down, and unable to help himself, or get up again, by reason of the inflexibleness of his legs, a forester coming by, helped him up; wherewith the elephant, by the very instinct of nature, was so affected, that he followed this man, and would do anything for him, and never left him until his dying day. Ah, sirs, will not divine love make a man do more?
Divine love is not stinted nor limited to one sort of duty—but freely obeys all. He who loves, flies; he who loves, runs; he who loves, believes; he who loves, rejoices; he who loves, mourns; he who loves, gives; he who loves, lends; he who loves, bears; he who loves, waits; he who loves, hopes, etc.
Heb 6:10, "For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labor of love." Love makes the soul laborious. That love which accompanies salvation is very active and operative. It is like the virtuous woman in the Proverbs, who set all her maidens to work. It is never quiet—but in doing the will of God. It will not allow any grace to sit idle in the soul. It will incite and put on all other graces to act and operate. Love sets faith upon drawing from Christ, and patience upon waiting on Christ, and humility upon submitting to Christ, and godly sorrow upon mourning over Christ, and self-denial upon forsaking of the nearest and dearest comforts for Christ, etc. As the sun makes the whole earth fertile, so does divine love make the soul fruitful in works of righteousness and holiness. He who loves cannot be idle nor barren.
Love makes the soul constant and abundant in well-doing: 2 Cor 5:14, "The love of Christ constrains us." Love's property is to do eternally. It is an eternal, lasting principle, and actions will last as long as principles; its action is as abiding as itself. It urges us and puts us forward; it carries us on as men possessed with a vehemency of spirit, or as a ship which is driven with strong winds towards the desired haven. Natural love makes the child, the servant, the wife, obedient. Just so, does divine love make the soul better at obeying God, than at disputing with God. A soul who loves Christ will never cease to obey—until he ceases to be. That love which accompanies salvation is like the sun. The sun, you know, casts his beams upward and downward, to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south. Just so, the love of a saint ascends to God above, and descends to men on earth; to our friends on the right hand, to our enemies on the left hand; to those who are in a state of grace, and to those who are in a state of nature. Divine love will still be a-working one way or another.
(3.) The third property. That love which accompanies salvation is a SINCERE and INCORRUPT love: Eph 6:24, "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen." That is, who love Christ in sincerity, and not in pretense and hypocritically. The true bred Christian, loves Christ for Christ; he loves Christ for that internal and eternal worth that is in him; he loves him for his incomparable excellency and beauty, for that transcendent sweetness, loveliness, holiness, and goodness that is in him. He is not of those who love Christ for loaves, neither will he with Judas kiss Christ and betray him; nor yet will he with those in the Gospel cry out, "Hosanna, Hosanna!" one day, and "Crucify him, crucify him!" the next, Matt 21:9,15.
They love Christ with a virgin love: Song 1:3, "The virgins love you." That is, they love you in much sincerity, purity, and integrity; they love you for that fragrant savor, for that natural sweetness, for that incomparable goodness which is in you. So Song 1:4, "The upright love you," or "They love you in uprightnesses," that is, most uprightly, most entirely, most sincerely, and not as hypocrites, who love you for base, carnal respects; who love you in compliment—but not in realities; who love you in word and tongue—but despise you in heart and life; who love the gift more than the giver.
That love which accompanies salvation is real and cordial love, it is sincere and upright love, it makes the soul love Christ, the giver, more than the gift; it makes the soul love the gift for the giver's sake; it will make the soul to love the giver without his gifts. And truly, they shall not be long without good gifts from Christ, who love Christ more than his gifts. Judas was kin to the bag, he was not kin to Christ. Christ hath many such kinsmen. A Christian cares not for anything that has not something of Christ in it. He says with him, 'without Christ, all plenty is scarcity.' Austin prays: 'Lord, whatever you have given, take all away; only, only give me yourself.' God gave him himself, and cast in many other mercies into the bargain.
Vespasian commanded a liberal gift should be given to a woman who came and professed that she was in love with him. Ah, Christians, shall Vespasian, an heathen prince, reward her liberally, who loved his person? and will not the Lord Jesus much more reward them with his choicest gifts, who love him more than his gifts? Surely Christ will not be worse than a heathen, he will not act below a heathen! He shall never be a loser, who loves Christ for that spiritual sweetness and loveliness which is in Christ; Christ will not live long in that man's debts.
(4.) The fourth property. That love which accompanies salvation is a VEHEMENT love, an ARDENT love. It is a spark of heavenly fire, and it puts all the affections into a holy flame: Song 1:7, "Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed?" etc. This amiable, amorous, passionate compellation, "O you whom my soul loves," speaks the spouse's love to be hot and burning towards Christ. So in Isa 26:8-9, "The desire of our souls is towards you, and to the remembrance of your name. With my soul have I desired you in the night, yes, with my spirit within me, will I seek you early." This affectionate, this passionate form of speech, "With my soul have I desired you," and that, "with my spirit within me will I seek you," does elegantly set forth the vehement and ardent love of the church to Christ.
Just so, does that pathetical exclamation of the church, "Oh, feed me with your love—your 'raisins' and your 'apples'—for I am utterly lovesick!" Song 2:5. The betrothed virgin cannot show more strong and vehement love to her beloved, than by being utterly lovesick, when she meets him, when she enjoys him. It was so here with the spouse of Christ. The love of Christ to believers, is a vehement love, an ardent love—witness his leaving his Father's bosom, his putting upon us his royal robes, his bleeding, his dying, etc. And it does naturally beget vehement and ardent love in all the beloved of God. Where Christ loves, he always begets one who loves like himself. That love which is flat, lukewarm, or cold, will leave a man to freeze on this side heaven, it will fit him for the warmest place in hell. Dives' love was very cold, and he found the flames of hell to be very hot. That love which accompanies salvation is full of heat and fire.
(5.) The fifth property. That love which accompanies salvation is LASTING love, it is PERMANENT love. The objects of it are lasting, the springs and causes of it are lasting, the nature of it is lasting. The primitive Christians "did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death," Rev 12:11. Persecutors have taken away the martyrs' lives for Christ—but could never destroy their love to Christ: Eph 6:24, "Grace be with all those who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity," or, "in incorruption," as the Greek word signifies; whereby the apostle gives us to understand, that true love to Christ is not liable to corruption, putrefaction, or decay—but is constant and permanent, lasting, yes, everlasting. 'Love never fails,' but shall last forever in heaven; in which respect the apostle lifts it up above faith, hope, and all the common gifts of the Spirit.
That love which accompanies salvation is like the oil in the cruse and the meal in the barrel, which never ran out. It is like the apple-tree of Persia, that buds, blossoms, and bears fruit every month. It is like the lamp in the story, which never went out. It is like the asbestos stone, which neither burns in the fire, nor sinks in the water. Song 8:6-7, "Love is stronger than death. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised." Love rides in her chariot of triumph over all calamities and miseries, and cries, 'Victory, victory!' Love will outlive all enemies, temptations, oppositions, afflictions, persecutions, dangers, and deaths. Love's motto is 'I yield to none.' Love is like the sun; the sun beginning to ascend in his circle, never goes back until he comes to the highest degree thereof. True love abhors apostasy, it ascends to more perfection, and ceases not until, like Elijah's fiery chariot, it has carried the soul to heaven.
Many men's love to Christ is like the morning dew; it is like Jonah's gourd, which came up in a night and vanished in a night. But that love which accompanies salvation is like Ruth's love, a lasting and an abiding love, Ruth 1. It is love that will bed and board with the soul, that will lie down and rise up with the soul, that will go to the fire, to the prison, to the grave, to heaven with the soul.
(6.) The sixth property. Sixthly, that love which accompanies salvation, is an ABOUNDING love, an INCREASING love. This is clear throughout the whole book of Canticles, as all may run and read. Love in a saint, is like the waters in Noah's time, which rose higher and higher. The very nature of true love is to abound and rise higher and higher. Phil 1:9, "This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more."
The longer a believer lives, the more eminent and excellent causes of love he sees in Christ. Christ discovers himself gradually to the soul. Now a believer's love to Christ rises answerable to the causes of love, which he sees in Christ.
The more light the more love. Knowledge and love, like the water and the ice, beget each other. Man loves Christ by knowing—and knows Christ by loving. Man's love is answerable to his knowledge. He cannot love much—who knows but little of Christ; he cannot love little—who knows much of Christ. As a man rises higher and higher in his apprehensions of Christ—so he cannot but rise higher and higher in his affections to Christ.
Again, the daily mercies and experiences that they have—of the love of Christ, of the care of Christ, of the affections and compassion of Christ, working more and more towards them, cannot but raise their affections more and more to him. As fire is increased by adding of fuel unto it—so is our love to Christ increased, upon fresh and new manifestations of his great love toward us. As the husband abounds in his love to his wife—so the wife rises in her love to her husband. The more love the father manifests to the child—the more the sincere child rises in his affections to him. So the more love the Lord Jesus shows to us—the more he is beloved by us. Christ showed much love to Mary Magdalene—and this raises in her much love to Christ. "She loved much, for much was forgiven her," Luke 7:47-48.
As the Israelites, Num 33:29, removed their tents from Mithcah to Hashmonah, from sweetness to swiftness, as the words import—so the sweetness of divine love manifested to the soul makes the soul more sweet, swift, and high in the exercise and actings of love towards Christ. A soul under special manifestations of love, weeps that it can love Christ no more. Mr. Welch, a Suffolk minister, weeping at table, and being asked the reason of it, answered, it was because he could love Christ no more. The true lovers of Christ can never rise high enough in their love to Christ; they count a little love to be no love; great love to be but little love; strong love to be but weak love; and the highest love to be infinitely below the worth of Christ, the beauty and glory of Christ, the fullness, sweetness, and goodness of Christ. Their greatest misery in this life is, that they love Christ so little, though they are so much beloved by him.
(7.) The seventh property, and lastly, that love which accompanies salvation, is OPEN love, it is MANIFEST love; it is love which cannot be hidden, which cannot be covered and buried. It is like the sun, it will shine forth, and show itself to all the world. A man cannot love Christ—but he will show it in these, and such like things as follow:
First, Love to Christ makes the soul even ready to break, in longing after a further, clearer, and fuller enjoyment of Christ. The voice of genuine love is, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," Rev 22:20. "Come quickly, my love! Move like a swift gazelle or a young deer on the mountains of spices!" Song 8:14. "I desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which for me is best of all," Phil 1:23. It is a mercy, says Paul, for Christ to be with me—but it is a greater mercy for me to be with Christ. I desire to die, that I may see my Savior; I refuse to live, that I may live with my Redeemer.
Love desires and endeavors forever to be present, to converse with, to enjoy, to be closely and eternally united to its object, Christ. The longing of the espoused maid for the marriage day, of the traveler for his inn, of the mariner for his haven, of the captive for his ransom, etc., is not to be compared to the longings of the lovers of Christ, after a further and fuller enjoyment of Christ. Austin longed to see that head, which was crowned with thorns.
The lovers of Christ do well know—that God has reserved the best wine, the best things, until last; that until they are taken up into glory, their chains will not fall off; until then their glorious robes shall not be put on; until then all sorrow and tears shall not be wiped from their eyes; until then their joy will not be full, their comforts pure, their peace lasting, their graces perfect; and this makes them look and long after the enjoyment of the person of Christ.
It was a notable saying of one, "Let all the devils in hell," says he, "attack me; let disease decay my body; let sorrows oppress my mind; let pains consume my flesh; let heat scorch me, or cold freeze me, let all these, and whatever more can come, happen unto me—just so that I may enjoy my Savior."
Secondly, Love to Christ shows itself by working the soul to abase itself, that Christ may be exalted, to lessen itself to greaten Christ, to cloud itself that Christ alone may shine. Love cares not what it is, nor what it does—so that it may but advance the Lord Jesus; it makes the soul willing to be a footstool for Christ, to be anything, to be nothing, that Christ may be all in all. [Rev 4:10-11; John 3:26-81; Phil 3:7-8]
Thirdly, That love which accompanies salvation, sometimes shows itself by working the soul to be cheerful and resolute, to be patient and constant in sufferings for Christ: 1 Cor 13:7, "Love endures all things." Love will not complain, love will not say that the burden is too great, the prison is too dark, the furnace is too hot, the chains are too heavy, the cup is too bitter, etc., Acts 21:13. A true lover of Christ can slight his life, out of love to Christ, as that blessed virgin in Basil, who, being condemned for Christianity to the fire, and having her estate and life offered her, if she would worship idols, cried, "Let money perish, and life vanish! Christ is better than all!" That love which accompanies salvation, makes a Christian free and forward in suffering anything that makes for the glory of Christ.
Fourthly, that love which accompanies salvation, shows itself by working the soul to be pleased or displeased, as Christ is pleased or displeased. A soul who loves Christ has his eye upon Christ—and that which makes Christ frown makes him frown, and what makes Christ smile makes him smile. Love is impatient of anything which may displease a beloved Christ.
Look what Harpalus once said, 'What pleases the king pleases me,' that says a true lover of Christ, 'What pleases Christ, that pleases me.' 'Holiness pleases Christ and holiness pleases me,' says a lover of Christ. 'It pleases Christ to overcome evil with good, to overcome hatred with love, enmity with kindness, pride with humility, passion with meekness, etc., and the same pleases me,' says a lover of Christ. 1 John 4:17, "As he is—so are we in this world." 'Our love reflects Christ's love, and our hatred reflects Christ's hatred; he loves all righteousness and hates all wickedness. Just so, do we,' say the lovers of Christ, Psalm 119:113,128,163.
It is said of Constantine's children, that they resembled their father to the life, that they put him wholly on. The true lovers of Christ resemble Christ to the life, and they put him wholly on. Hence it is that they are called Christ's body, 1 Cor 12:12.
Fifthly, True love to Christ shows itself sometimes by working the lovers of Christ to expose themselves to suffering, to save Christ from suffering in his glory; to venture the loss of their own crowns, to keep Christ's crown upon his head; to venture drowning, to save Christ's honor from sinking. Thus did the three children, Daniel, Moses, and other worthies of Hebrews 11.
I have read of a servant who dearly loved his master, and knowing that his master was hunted by his enemies, he put on his master's clothes, and was captured in place of his master, and suffered death for him.
Divine love will make a man do as much for Christ; it will make a man hang for Christ and burn for Christ: Rev 12:11, "They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Christ and his truth was dearer to them than their lives. They slighted, disdained, yes, despised their very lives, when they stood in competition with Christ and his glory, and chose rather to suffer the greatest misery, than that Christ should lose the least grain of his glory.
Sixthly, That love which accompanies salvation shows itself sometimes by working the lovers of Christ to be affected and afflicted with the dishonors which are done to Christ: Psalm 119:136, "My eyes run down with rivers of tears, because men keep not your law," Jer 9:1-2. So Lot's soul was vexed, racked, and tortured with the filthy lives of the wicked Sodomites, 2 Pet 2:7-8. The turning of his own flesh, his wife, into a pillar of salt did not vex him—but their sins did rack his righteous soul. Psalm 69:9, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell upon me." A woman is most wounded in her husband, so is a Christian in his Christ. Though Moses was as a mute child in his own cause, yet when the Israelites, by making and dancing about their golden calf, had wounded the honor and glory of God, he shows himself to be much affected and afflicted for the dishonor done to God.
The statue of Apollo is said to shed tears for the afflictions of the Grecians, though it could not help them. Just so, a true lover of Christ will shed tears for those dishonors which are done to Christ, though he knows not how to prevent them. It is between Christ and his lovers as it is between two lute strings that are tuned one to another; no sooner one is struck—but the other trembles. Just so, no sooner is Christ struck—but a Christian trembles, and no sooner is a Christian struck—but Christ trembles: "Saul, Saul, why persecute you me?" Acts 9:4.
Though king Croesus' son was mute all his lifetime, yet when one was about to kill his father, the affection that he had for his father broke the bars of his speech, and he cried out, "Take heed of killing the king!" You know how to apply it.
Seventhly, That love which accompanies salvation does show itself by working the soul to observe with a curious critical eye Christ's countenance and demeanor, and by causing the soul to be sad or cheerful, as Christ's demeanor and countenance is towards the soul. When Christ looks sad—then the soul is sad, as Peter was: Christ cast a sad look upon him—and that made Peter's heart sad; he went forth and wept bitterly. And when Christ looks sweetly, and speaks kindly, and acts lovingly, then to be cheerful and joyful, as the church was in Song 3:4, "It was but a little that I passed from them—but I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go." So the church in Isa 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
A true lover of Christ has still his eye upon Christ, and as his countenance stands, so is he glad or sad, cheerful or sorrowful. Tigranes, coming to redeem his wife, who was taken prisoner by King Cyrus, was asked what ransom he would give for his wife. He answered that he would redeem her liberty with his own life. Having prevailed for her liberty, Tigranes asked his wife what she thought of King Cyrus. "Truly," said she, "I cannot tell, for I did not so much as look on him or see him." "Whom then," said he, wondering, "did you look upon?" "Whom should I look upon," said she, "but him who would have redeemed my liberty with the loss of his own life." So a Christian, a true lover of Christ, esteems nothing worth a looking upon, but Christ—who has redeemed him with his own blood.
Eighthly, That love which accompanies salvation, reaches forth a hand of kindness to those who bear the image of Christ. "He who loves not his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" Jerome professed how much he loved Christ in Augustine, and Augustine in Christ.
Now, because many mistake in their love to the saints, and the consequences which follow that mistake are very dangerous and pernicious to the souls of men, I shall therefore briefly hint to you the PROPERTIES of that love to the saints, which accompanies salvation. And,
(1.) The first property. The first is this, true love to the saints is SPIRITUAL; it is a love for the image of God, which is stamped upon the soul. Col 1:8, "Epaphras has declared to us your love in the Spirit." A soul who truly loves, loves the Father for his own sake, and the children for the Father's sake. Many there are, who love Christians for their goods, not for their good; they love them for the money that is in their purse—but not for the grace that is in their hearts. Love to the saints, for the image of God stamped upon them—is a flower which grows not in nature's garden. No man can love grace in another man's heart—but he who has grace in his own. Men do not more naturally love their parents, and love their children, and love themselves—than they do naturally hate the image of God upon his people and ways. Remember, wicked men, God himself is wronged by the injury which is done to his image. The contempt and despite is done to the king himself, which is done to his image or coin.
True love is for what of the divine nature, for what of Christ and grace—shines in a man. It is one thing to love a godly man, and another thing to love him for godliness. Many love godly men as they are kind, or influential, or learned, or of a sweet nature—but all this is but natural love; but to love them because they are spiritually lovely, because they are "all glorious within, and their raiment is of embroidered gold," Psalm 45:13, is to love them as becomes saints; it is to love them at so high and noble a rate that no hypocrite in the world can reach to it. The wasps fly about the tradesman's shop, not out of love to him—but for the honey and the fruit which is there. This age is full of such wasps.
(2.) The second property. Secondly, True love to the saints is UNIVERSAL—to one Christian as well as another, to all as well as any; to poor Lazarus as well as to rich Abraham; to a despised Job as well as to an admired David; to an afflicted Joseph as well as to a raised Jacob; to a despised disciple as well as to an exalted apostle. Phil 4:21, "Greet every saint," the poorest as well as the richest; the weakest as well as the strongest; the lowest as well as the highest. They have all the same Spirit, the same Jesus, the same faith; they are all fellow-members, fellow-travelers, fellow-soldiers, fellow-citizens, fellow-heirs, and therefore must they all be loved with a sincere and cordial love. It was the glory of the Ephesians and Colossians that their faith and love reached to all the saints; it was not narrow, and confined to some particulars—but it was universal. Eph 1:15; Col 1:4.
The apostle James soundly condemn that partial love which was among professors in his days, James 2:1-2. Not that the apostle does absolutely prohibit a civil differencing of men—but when the rich man's wealth is more regarded than the poor man's godliness, and when men so favor the rich, as to cast scorn, contempt, disgrace, and discouragement upon the godly poor; this is a sin for which God will visit the sons of pride. It is not not race or place—but grace, which truly sets forth a man.
Pompey told his Cornelia, "It is no praise for you to have loved Pompey the Great—but if you love Pompey the Miserable, you shall be a pattern for imitation to all posterity." I will leave you to apply it.
Romanus the martyr, who was born of noble parentage, entreated his persecutors that they would not favor him for his nobility: "For it is not," said he, "the blood of my ancestors—but my Christian faith, which makes me noble."
Truly, he who loves one saint for the grace which is in him; for that holiness, that image of God, which is upon him—he cannot but fall in love with every saint who bears the lovely image of the Father upon him; he cannot but love a saint in rags, as well as a saint in royal robes; a saint upon the ash-heap, as well as a saint upon the throne. Usually the most ragged Christians are the richest Christians; they usually have most of heaven who have least of earth, James 2:5. The true diamond shines best in the dark.
Yet there is a love of familiarity, which we may lawfully show more to one godly man than to another. Thus Christ loved John more than the other disciples.
(3.) The third property. Thirdly, Our love to the saints is right, when we love them and DELIGHT in them, answerable to the spiritual causes of love that shine in them, as the more holy and gracious they are, the more we love them. Yet this must be granted—that grace in a rugged, unhewn nature, is like a gold ring on a leprous hand, or a diamond set in iron. As a gold ring is most pleasing, when it is on a neat clean hand, and as a diamond when it is set in a ring of gold. Just so, grace is most pleasing and taking to us in a sweet nature, and not so much when it is in a rugged, unhewn nature; the beauty and glory of it being clouded and darkened by a rugged nature.
Psalm 16:3, "As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight." This is most certain, if godliness is the reason why we love any, then the more any excel others in the love, spirit, power, and practice of godliness, the more we should love them. There are some who seem to love such godly men as are weak in their judgments, low in their principles, and dull in their practices; and yet look with a squint eye upon those who are more sound in their judgments, more high in their principles, and more holy in their practices, which doubtless speaks out more hypocrisy than sincerity. Truly, he has either no grace, or but a little grace, who does not love most where the spiritual causes of love do most shine and appear. Surely those Christians are under a very great distemper of spirit, who envy those gifts and graces of God in others, which outshine their own. John's disciples muttered and murmured, because Christ had more followers and admirers than John; and John's disciples are not all dead, yes, they seem to have a new resurrection in these days.
Well, as the fairest day has its clouds, the finest linen its spots, the richest jewels their flaws, the sweetest fruits their worms—so when precious Christians are under temptations, they may, and too often do envy and repine at those excellent graces, abilities, and excellencies which cloud, darken, and outshine their own. The best of men are too full of pride and self-love, and that makes them sometimes cast dirt and disgrace upon that excellency that they themselves lack.
There is no greater argument that our grace is true, and that we do love others for grace's sake, than our loving them best who have most grace, though they have least of worldly goods. A pearl is rich, if found on a ash-heap, though it may glitter more when set in a ring of gold. Just so, many a poor believer is rich and glorious in the eye of Christ, and should be so in ours, though, like Job, he sits upon a ash-heap, though to the world he may seem to glisten most when adorned with riches, honor, and outward pomp, etc.
(4.) The fourth property. Fourthly, True love to saints is CONSTANT: 1 Cor 13:8, "Love never fails." It continues forever in heaven. That love is never true, which is not constant. Heb 13:1, "Let brotherly love continue." True love is constant in prosperity and adversity, in storms and calms, in health and sickness, in presence and in absence. "A friend," says the wise man, "loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity," Prov 17:17. Prosperity makes friends, and adversity will try friends. A true friend is neither known in prosperity, nor hidden in adversity. Consalvus, a Spanish bishop and inquisitor, wondered how the Christians had that commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' so indelibly printed on their hearts, that no torture could blot it out, and make them confess and betray one another, or cease from loving one another.
True love is like to that of Ruth's to Naomi, and that of Jonathan's to David—permanent and constant. Many there are whose love to the saints is like Job's brooks, Job 6:15-16, which in winter when we have no need, overflows with offers of service and shows of love; but when the season is hot and dry, and the poor thirsty traveler stands in most need of water to refresh him, then the brooks are quite dried up. They are like the swallow that will stay by you in the summer—but fly from you in the winter.
It is observed by Josephus of the Samaritans, that whenever the Jews' affairs prospered, they would be their friends, and profess much love to them; but if the Jews were in trouble, and needed their assistance, then they would not own them, nor have anything to do with them. This age is full of such Samaritans, yet, such as truly love will always love. In the primitive times it was very much taken notice of by the very heathen, that in the depth of misery, when fathers and mothers forsook their children, Christians, otherwise strangers, stuck close to one another; their love of piety, and one of another, proved firmer than that of nature. "They seem to take away the sun out of the world," said the orator, "who takes away friendship from the life of men," and we do not more need fire and water than constant friendship.
Ninthly, That love which accompanies salvation, does manifest and show itself by working the soul to be quiet and still under Christ's rebukes. Peter sits down quiet under a threefold reproof, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you," John 21:16-18. So Eli, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems good in his own eyes," 1 Sam 3:18. And Aaron "held his peace," when he saw the flames about his sons' ears, Lev 10:3. So David, "I was silent, I opened not my mouth, because you did it," Psalm 39:9. The lovers of Christ are like the Scythian, who went naked in the snow; and when Alexander wondered how he could endure it, he answered, "I am all forehead." Oh the lovers of Christ are all forehead, to bear the rebukes of the Lord Jesus.
The lovers of Christ know that all his rebukes are from love; "whom he loves, he rebukes," Rev 3:19; they can see smiles through Christ's frowns; they know, that to argue that Christ hates them because he rebukes them, is the devil's logic; they know, that all the rebukes of Christ are in order to their spiritual and eternal good, and that quiets them; they know, that all the rebukes of Christ are but forerunners of some glorious manifestations of greater love to their souls. Psalm 71:20-21, "You, who have showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." They know that it is the greatest judgment in the world, to go on freely in a way of sin without rebukes. "Ephraim is joined to idols—let him alone," Hos 4:17. And therefore they keep silence before the Lord, they lay one hand upon their mouths, and the other upon their hearts, and so sit mute before the holy one.
Tenthly, That love which accompanies salvation, shows itself by working the heart to be affected and afflicted with the least dishonors that are done to Christ. Love is sensitive of little things; it is as much afflicted with an idle word or with an impure dream, as lovers of Christ are with adultery or blasphemy. David did but cut off the tip of Saul's garment, and his heart smote him, 1 Sam 24:5; though he did it to convince Saul of his false jealousy, and his own innocency. Love will not allow of the least infirmity. Rom 7:15, "That which I do, I allow not." Love will make a man aim at angelic purity and perfect innocency; love will strive to be getting up to the top of Jacob's ladder; love can rest in nothing below perfection; love makes a man look more at what he should be, than at what he is; it makes a man strive as for life, to imitate the highest examples, and to write after the choicest copies. Love fears every approach of sin; it trembles at the appearance of sin; it does not, it cannot allow itself to do anything which looks like sin; it hates "the garment spotted with the flesh;" it shuns the occasions of sin as it shuns hell itself. This is the divine sensitivity of a Christian's love. Love says—it is better to die with hunger, than to eat that which is offered to idols. "The sin, and the coat of sin, is to be hated," says Ambrose.
Marcus Arethusius, out of his love to Christ and hatred of idolatry, would not give one halfpenny toward the building of an idol's temple, though he was punished with intolerable torments. Love knows that the least evils are contrary to the greatest good; they are contrary to the nature of Christ, the commands of Christ, the spirit of Christ, the grace of Christ, the glory of Christ, the blood of Christ. Love knows that little sins, if I may call any sin little, make way for greater sins—as little thieves unlock the door and make way for greater. Love knows that little sins multiplied, become great. As love knows that there is nothing lesser than a grain of sand—just so, love knows that there is nothing heavier than the sand of the sea, when multiplied.
Eleventhly, That love which accompanies salvation, will show itself by keeping the doors of the heart shut against those treacherous lovers that would draw the heart from Christ. Love is a golden key to let in Christ—and a strong lock to keep out others. Though many may knock at love's door, yet love will open to none but Christ: Song 5:6, "I opened to my beloved;" and Song 8:7, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be despised." When the world would buy his love, he cries out with Peter, "May your money perish with you!" Acts 8:20. Love makes a man look with a holy scorn and disdain upon all persons and things, which attempt either to force or flatter her out of her love and loyalty to her beloved. It is neither force nor fraud, it is neither promises nor threatenings, it is neither the cross nor the crown, the palace nor the prison, the rod nor the robe, the halter nor the golden chain—which will make love embrace a stranger in the room of Christ. 'Go,' says divine love, 'offer your gold and empty glories to others; your pleasures and your treasures to others; put on your lion's skin and frighten others; as for my part, I scorn and despise your golden offers, and I disdain and deride your rage and threats!' Love makes a man too noble, too high, too gallant, and too faithful, to open to any lover but Christ, to let any lie between the breasts but Christ: Song 1:13, "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts."
When Basil was tempted with money and preferment, he answers, 'Give money which will last forever, and glory that may eternally flourish!' Love makes a man cry out when tempted, as that worthy convert did, 'I am not the man that I was; when my heart was void of divine love, I was as easily conquered as I was tempted. Oh but now he has shed abroad his love in my soul, I am not the man that I was, I had rather die than fall before a temptation.'
Twelfthly, That love which accompanies salvation, shows itself by secret visits, by secret expressions of love. A soul who truly loves Christ, loves to meet him in private, to meet him behind the door, Song 2:14, to meet him in the clefts of the rock, where no eye sees, nor any ear hears, nor any heart observes, Matt 6:6. Feigned love is much in commending and kissing Christ upon the stage; but sincere love is much in embracing and weeping over Christ in a closet. The Pharisee loved to stand praying in the marketplace and in the temple, Matt 6:2; but the spouse was at it in the villages, Song 7:11. Souls who truly love Christ, are much in secret visits, in secret prayer, in secret sighing, in secret groaning, in secret mourning, etc. True love is good at bolting of the door, and is always best when it is most with Christ in private. The secret discoveries which Christ makes to souls, do much oblige them to closet services. Christ shows secret kindnesses upon his people, and that draws them out to be much in secret, in closet services.
Thirteenthly, That love which accompanies salvation, shows itself by breathing after more clear evidence and full assurance of Christ's love to the soul. Divine love would gladly have her drop turned into an ocean; her spark into a flame; her penny into a pound; her mite into a million. A soul who truly loves Christ, can never see enough, nor ever taste enough, nor ever feel enough, nor ever enjoy enough of the love of Christ; when once they have found his love to be better than wine, then nothing will satisfy them but the kisses of his mouth: Song 1:2, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine." Not with a kiss—but with the kisses of his mouth. A soul once kissed by Christ, can never have enough of the kisses of Christ; his lips drop myrrh and mercy; no kisses, compared to the kisses of Christ. The more any soul loves Christ, the more serious, studious, and industrious will that soul be to have the love of Christ discovered, confirmed, witnessed, and sealed to it. The more a virgin's love is drawn out to another, the more she desires to be confirmed and assured of his love to her.
That is a sweet word of the spouse: Song 8:6, "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death." Set me as a seal upon your heart; that is, let me be deeply engraved as a seal into your heart and affections; let the love and remembrance of me make a deep impression in you, and set me as a seal or signet on your arm.
[1.] The seal, you know, is for ratifying, confirming, and making sure of things. Oh! says the spouse, establish and confirm me in your love, and in the outward expressions and manifestations of it.
[2.] Signets, among the Jews were used not as ornaments only—but as monuments of love that were continually in sight and remembrance. Oh! says the church, let me be still in your sight and remembrance as a monument of your love. In the old law, you know, the high priest bore the name of Israel engraved on stones upon his heart and shoulder for a memorial, Exod 28:11-12,21,29. Ah! says the church, let my name be deeply engraved upon your heart, let me be always in your eye, let me be always a memorial upon your shoulder.
[3.] Great men have their signet rings upon their hands in precious esteem: Jer 22:24, "And as surely as I live," says the Lord—I will abandon you, Jehoiachin, king of Judah. Even if you were the signet ring on my right hand, I would pull you off." Ah! says the spouse, 'Oh highly prize me, Lord Jesus! highly esteem of me; oh let me be as dear and precious unto you as the signet ring on yur right hand!'
Lastly, That love which accompanies salvation, shows itself by working a true lover of Christ to commit his richest treasures, his choicest jewels, to the care and custody of Christ. [Psalm 31:15, so Job, so Paul; 2 Tim 1:12, and 2 Tim 4:7-8; Mic 7:8-9; Deut 6:22.] Where we love—we will trust, and as we love—we will trust. Little trust speaks out little love, great trust speaks out great love. The lovers of Christ commend to Christ's care their pearls of greatest price—their names, their lives, their souls, their crowns, their innocency, their all. It was a notable saying of Luther, "Let him who died for my soul, see to the salvation of it." Caesar received not his wounds from the swords of enemies—but from the hands of friends, that is, from trusting in them. Oh—but the lovers of Christ shall never receive any wounds by trusting in Christ, by committing their choicest jewels to his care; for he has a powerful hand, and a wise and loving heart! Christ will hold fast whatever the Father, or the saints—put into his hand.
And thus I have showed you what that love is, which accompanies salvation.
VI. I come now, in the sixth place, to show you what PRAYER that is, which accompanies salvation. But I see that I must contract what remains into a narrow space, lest I should tire out both the reader and myself, which, that I may not, I shall endeavor by divine assistance to mind brevity in what remains.
Now, that prayer does accompany salvation, I have formerly showed. Now I am briefly to show you what prayer that is, which accompanies salvation, and that I shall do in these following particulars.
(1.) The first property. First, Prayer is a divine worship whereon, we speak to God in faith, humility, sincerity, and fervency of spirit, through the mediation of Christ, begging those good things that we and others lack, and giving thanks for that we and others have received. Prayer is a speaking to God face to face; it is Jacob's ladder by which the soul climbs up to heaven; it is Noah's dove that goes and returns not until it brings assurance of peace.
The matter of prayer may be reduced to these heads:
There are other distinctions in regard of the manner; as, first, mental prayer, which is the inward lifting up of the heart to God; secondly, vocal, which is uttered by words, as the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" thirdly, there is spontaneous prayer, and written prayer; fourthly, there is public or private prayer. These hints may suffice as to this.
But not to please you with notions, you must remember that that prayer which accompanies salvation is such prayer as has in it all the requisites of prayer. Now there are four REQUISITES in prayer.
[1.] The first requisite. First, The person must be righteous: James 5:16, "The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much;" John 9:31, "God hears not sinners." The Jews urge it as a proverb, 'An unclean person pollutes his own prayers.' Good motions from a bad heart make no music in heaven.
I have read of a jewel, that, being put in a dead man's mouth, loses all its virtue. Prayer in the mouth of a wicked man, which is dead God-wards, Christ-wards, heaven-wards, and holiness-wards, is a jewel that loses all its virtue: Psalm 50:16-17, "But unto the wicked God says, What have you to do to declare my statutes, or that you should take my covenant into your mouth? seeing that you hate instruction, and casts my words behind you." Bias, a heathen, being at sea in a great storm, and perceiving many wicked wretches with him in the ship, calling upon the gods, "Oh," says he, "refrain your prayers, hold your tongues; I would not have the gods take notice that you are here; they will sure drown us all, if they would." You are wise, and know how to apply it. Jerome said,"What does it avail to invocate God with your voice, whom you deny in your works?
[2.] The second requisite. The second requisite in prayer is this, namely, The matter of your prayer must be according to God's will: 1 John 5:14, "And this is the confidence that we have in him, That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." The favorites of heaven have no further the ear of the King of kings in prayer, than the matter of their prayer is sound, and "agreeable to his will," Rom 8:27. The matter of your prayer must fall under some particular or general Scriptural precept or promise, or else God will never own it nor honor it with acceptance. You must not pray as Augustine prayed before his conversion; he prayed for patience, with a proviso: "Lord, give me patience," says he, "but not yet." Such hypocrisy is double iniquity, and God will deal with such sinners accordingly.
It was both a profane and blasphemous speech of that atheistical wretch, that told God he was no common beggar, he never troubled him before with prayer, and if he would hear him that one time, he would never trouble him again.
[3.] The third requisite. Thirdly, As the matter of your prayer must be Scriptural, so the MANNER of your prayer must be right. God regards not so much the matter as the manner of our prayer. God loves adverbs better than nouns; not to pray only—but to pray well.
Now for the better and further clearing of this truth, I shall show you, by divine assistance, what it is to pray in the right manner, and that I shall do in the following particulars:
First, To pray in a right manner, is to pray UNDERSTANDINGLY, to pray knowingly: 1 Cor 14:15, "I will pray with understanding." He who does not pray understandingly, does not pray but prate; as that parrot in Rome which could distinctly say over the whole creed: John 4:22, "You worship you know not what," says Christ. So many pray they know not what. "Without knowledge the mind cannot be good," Prov 19:2. And can the prayer be good when the mind is bad? A blind mind, a blind sacrifice, a blind priest, are abominable to God. Ignorance is the source of all sin, the very wellspring from which all wickedness does issue. It was a good saying of one, "God hears not the words of one that prays," says he, "unless he who prays hears them first himself." And, truly, God will never understand that prayer which we do not understand ourselves.
Secondly, To pray in a right manner, is to pray BELIEVINGLY: Heb 11:6, "He who comes unto God, must believe that he is;" that is, that he is really as good, as gracious, as glorious, as excellent, as constant, etc., as his word reports him to be; and that he is "a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them." In the Greek it is in the present tense, "you do receive them," to show the certainty of receiving them. You shall as certainly receive the good things that believingly you ask in prayer, as if you had them already in your hand. God will never let the hand of faith, go empty away in prayer. Faith is God's darling, and he never fails to give it a worthy portion, a Benjamin's portion, a Hannah's portion, a double portion: James 1:5-7, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he who wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind, and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." He who prays doubtingly, shuts the gates of heaven against his own prayers. Unbelief is virtually all ill; therefore fight especially against it. One of the ancients describes prayer thus: "prayer is a climbing up of the heart to God, which cannot be done but by the power of faith."
It is reported in the life of Luther, that when he prayed it was with so much reverence, as if he were praying to God; and with so much boldness, as if he had been speaking to his friend. Faith in prayer makes a man divinely familiar and bold with God in prayer. That prayer which has not the image and stamp of faith upon it, is no prayer in divine account. The sweetest flowers of paradise are only acceptable to God, as they are offered to him by the hand of faith.
Augustus, when a poor man came to present a petition to him with his hand shaking and trembling out of fear, the emperor was much displeased, and said, "It is not fit that any should come with a petition to a king as if a man were giving meat to an elephant; that is, afraid to be destroyed by him.
Truly Jehovah loves to see everyone of his petitioners to come to him with a steadfast faith, and not with a trembling hand. Christ gets most glory, and the soul gets most good, by those prayers which are accompanied with the actings of faith.
Thirdly, To pray in a right manner, is to pray INTENSELY, FERVENTLY, EARNESTLY. So James 5:16, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much;" or, as the Greek has it, "the working prayer," that is, such prayer as sets the whole man a-work. The word signifies such a working with the liveliest activity that can be. It works wonders in heaven, in the heart, and in the earth. Such working prayer as sets all the faculties of the soul, and all the graces in the soul, at work, always speeds; it fails not of winning the day, of carrying the crown. As medicine harms the body if it works not, so does prayer the soul, if it be not working-prayer. As a painted fire is no fire, a dead man no man—so a cold prayer is no prayer. In a painted fire there is no heat; in a dead man there is no life. Just so, in a cold prayer there is no omnipotency, no devotion, no blessing.
It is not cold, but working prayer, which can lock up heaven three years, and open heaven's gate at pleasure, and bring down the sweetest blessings upon our heads, and the choicest favors into our hearts. Cold prayers are as arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings: they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Cold prayers always freeze before they reach to heaven. So Jacob was earnest in his wrestling with God: "Let me alone," says God. "I will not let you go except you bless me," says Jacob, Gen 32:24-27. Jacob, though lamed and exhausted, will not let the Lord go without a blessing. Jacob holds with his hands when his joints were out of joint, and so, as a prince, prevails with God. Jacob prays and weeps, and weeps and prays, and so prevails with God: Hos 12:4, "Yes, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him," etc. The Jews have a saying, that 'since the destruction of Jerusalem, the door of prayers has been shut.' 'But the door of tears was never shut,' says one.
It is not the labor of the lips—but the travail of the heart; it is not the pouring forth a flood of words—but the pouring out of the soul, which makes a man a prince, a prevailer with God. A man who would gain victory over God in prayer, must strain every string of his heart; he must, in beseeching God, besiege him, and so get the better of him; he must strive in prayer even to an agony; he must be like importunate beggars, who will not be put off with frowns, or silence, or sad answers. Those who would be masters of their requests, must with the importunate widow press God so far as to put him to the blush; they must with a holy impudence, as Basil speaks, make God ashamed to look them in the face, if he should deny the importunity of their souls. The word signifies to strive to the shedding of blood—buffet me, or beat me down with her blows, as wrestlers beat down their adversaries with their fists or clubs. An importunate soul will never cease until he obtains; he will devour all discouragements; yes, he will turn discouragements into encouragements, as the woman of Canaan did, until Christ says, "Be unto you, O soul, as you will." As a body without a soul, much wood without fire, a bullet in a gun without powder—so are words in prayer without fervency of spirit. The hottest springs send forth their waters by ebullitions.
I have read of one who, being sensible of his own dullness and coldness in prayer, reproved himself thus: "What! do you think that Jonah prayed thus when he was in the belly of hell? or Daniel, when he was in the lions' den? or the thief, when he was upon the cross?" and I may add, or the three children, when they were in the fiery furnace? or the apostles, when they were in bonds and prisons. Oh! that Christians would reprove themselves out of their cold prayers, and chide themselves into a better and a warmer frame of spirit when they make their supplications before the Lord.
An importunate soul in prayer is like the poor beggar who prays and knocks, who prays and waits, who prays and works, who knocks and begs—and will not stir from the door until he has an alms. And truly he who is good at this will not be long a beggar in grace. God will make his heart and his cup to overflow. The Jews write upon the walls of their synagogues this sentence—that prayer, without the intention of the mind, is but as a body without a soul. You know how to apply it. Jerome speaks of certain holy women in his time, that they seemed in their fervent affections to join with the holy company of heaven.
Fourthly, To pray in a right manner, is, to pray ASSIDUOUSLY, CONSTANTLY, as well as fervently. Luke 18:1, "And he spoke a parable unto them, to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" or as it is in the Greek, not to "shrink back," as sluggards in work, or cowards in war—to pray in every opportunity. Now men pray always, first, when their hearts are always prepared to pray, or in a praying frame; secondly, when they do not omit the duty, when it is to be performed, or when they take hold on every opportunity, to pour out their souls before the Lord.
1 Thess 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." A man must always pray habitually, though not actually; he must have his heart in a praying disposition in all estates and conditions, in prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in strength and weakness, in wealth and wants, in life and death. So in Eph 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints." Our daily weaknesses, our daily wants, our daily fears, our daily dangers, our daily temptations, etc., call for our daily prayers. Rom 12:12, "Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer." It is a metaphor taken from dogs that hunt, which will not give over the game until they have got it. A dog, of all creatures, is best able to endure hunger; he will run from place to place, and never leave it until he has got his prey. So a child of God in his hunting after God, Christ, grace, peace, mercy, glory, never gives over until he has found his heavenly prey. Song 3:4, "At length I found him whom my soul loved; I held him, and would not let him go." The spouse never left hunting after her beloved, until she had found him. Augustine's usual wish was, that when Christ came, he might find him either praying or preaching.
Gracious souls reckon that they have nothing until they speed in the things they plead for—as a hungry man eats as if he had never ate before. They pray as if they had never prayed, and think that they have done nothing until they have done the deed. If we will continue constant in our wrestling with God for blessings, though God should appear unto us in the form or shape of a judge, an enemy, a stranger, etc., yet still to press him hard for mercy, truly mercy will come in the long run, and we shall say, that it is not in vain for men to hold on praying, though God for a time delays giving the particular favors they plead for. As that emperor said, 'it behooves an emperor to die standing,' so may I say, 'it behooves a Christian to die praying.' Hypocrites are inconstant in their prayers; they are only at it by fits and starts, they are only constant in inconstancy.
Fifthly, To pray in a right manner, is to pray SINCERELY: Psalm 17:1, "listen to my prayer—from lips free of deceit." Psalm 145:18, "The Lord is near unto all those who call upon him: to all that call upon him in truth." Your heart and tongue must go together; word and work, lip and life, prayer and practice must echo one to another—or all will be lost, heaven lost, and the soul lost forever. It is not the greatness of the voice, nor the multitude of words, nor the sweetness of the tone, nor studied notions, nor eloquent expressions, which Jehovah heeds—but truth in the inward parts, Psalm 51:6. When the Athenians would know of the oracle, the cause of their often unprosperous successes in battle against the Lacedemonian, seeing they offered the choicest things they could get, in sacrifice to the gods, which their enemies did not; the oracle gave them this answer, That the gods were better pleased with their inward supplication, than with all their outward pomp in costly sacrifices. Ah, souls! the reason why you are so unsuccessful in your pious duties and services is, because you are no more sincere and upright in them. Were there more singleness and sincerity of heart in your duties, you would have surer and sweeter returns from heaven.
Ah, Christians! the more sincere you are, the more will prayer be your food and drink; and the more prayer is a delight and pleasure to you, the more will you be the pleasure and delight of God, who delights in those who delight in his service, and who count his work better than wages. Christ says to upright souls; "Hitherto have you asked nothing; ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full," John 16:24. Christ has a full purse, a noble heart, and a liberal hand.
[4.] The fourth requisite in prayer is this, namely, your prayer must be to a good END; it must be to the glory of God, and to the internal and eternal advantage of your own and others' souls. The chief end, the bulls-eye, the mark, at which the soul must aim in prayer, is God's glory: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," 1 Cor 10:31. When God crowns us, he does but crown his own gifts in us; and when we give God the glory of all we do, we do but give him the glory that is due unto his name; for he works all our works in us and for us. God measures all men's actions by their ends: if their end is good, all is good; if the end be bad, all is bad. The end determines the action. All actions of worship are good or bad—as the mark is at which the soul aims. He who makes God the object of prayer—but not the end of prayer, does but lose his prayer, and take pains to undo himself. God will be all in all, or he will be nothing at all; he will be both the object and the end of prayer—or else he will abhor your prayer. Those prayers never reach his ear, they are never lodged in his bosom, which are not directed to his glory. The end must always be as noble as the means, or else a Christian acts below himself, yes, below his very reason.
Ah, Christians! it is not a flood of words, nor high strains of wit, nor vehemency of affections in prayer—but holy and gracious ends, which will render prayer acceptable and honorable to God, comfortable and profitable to yourselves and others; yes, the directing of one prayer to divine glory does more torture and torment Satan than all the prayers in the world that are directed to ends below divine glory. It is not simply prayer—but the soul's aiming at divine glory in prayer, that adds to Christ's crown, and Satan's hell. 'Lord,' says Austin, 'take all away; only give me yourself!' Isa 1:11; Zech 7:6; Amos 5:22; Hos 7:14. Many heathens, as Aristides, Cato, Themistocles, with divers others, did sincerely many great services for the common good, and not for their own gain; but yet they could not hit the mark—the glory of God; and so their most glorious actions were but glorious sins.
And thus I have showed you all the REQUISITES of prayer, even of such prayer as accompanies salvation. I shall now proceed to some other particulars for the further and fuller opening of this truth.
(2.) The second property. Secondly, that prayer which accompanies salvation, betters the whole man. By it, faith is increased, hope strengthened, the spirit exhilarated, the heart pacified, the conscience purified, temptations vanquished, corruptions weakened, the affections inflamed, the will more renewed, and the whole man more advantaged. Prayer is a spiritual chair, wherein the soul sits down at the feet of the Lord, to receive the influences of his grace. Prayer is the regal gate by which the Lord enters into the heart, comforting, quieting, strengthening, quickening, and raising of it. The Scripture affords us a cloud of witnesses to prove this truth—but I appeal to praying saints. Ah, tell me, tell me, praying souls, have not you, do not you find it so? I know you have and do, and that is it that makes prayer a pleasure, a paradise unto you. It was a sweet saying of Ambrose, "O Lord! I never go from you without you."
(3.) The third property. Thirdly, You may judge what prayer that is, which accompanies salvation by considering the difference that is between the prayers of the godly and the wicked. Now the difference between the prayers of the one and the other I shall show you in the following particulars,
The first difference. First, Gracious souls do trade and deal with God in prayer, only upon the account and credit of Christ. They beg mercy to pardon them, and grace to purify them, and balm to heal them, and divine favor to comfort them, and power to support them, and wisdom to counsel them, and goodness to satisfy them—but all upon the account of Christ's blood, of Christ's righteousness; of Christ's satisfaction, and of Christ's intercession at the right hand of the Father; Rev 4:10-11. They seek the Father in the Son, they present their suits always in Christ's name, for so is the will of Christ: John 14:13-14, "And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." John 15:16, "Whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give you." John 16:23, "Truly I say unto you, whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give you." The Greek is pregnant, and may be read not only "Whatever," but also "How many things soever you shall ask or beg of the Father in my name, he will give them to you."
There is no admission into heaven, except we bring Christ in our arms: Eph 2:18, "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." The Greek word signifies "a leading by the hand." It is an allusion to the custom of princes, to whom there is no admission, unless we be brought in by one of the favorites. As no access, so no acceptance without Christ, Eph 1:6, "wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved."
Plutarch reports, "That it used to be the practice of some of the heathens, the Molossians, when they would seek the favor of their prince, they took up the king's son in their arms, and so went and kneeled before the king."
Ah, Christians Christ is near and dear unto the Father; the Father has determined to give out all his loves and favors through his Son; if you bring Christ in the arms of your faith, you gain the Father's heart, and in gaining his heart you gain all. The father's mercies melt, his affections move, his heart turns; his compassions are kindled upon the sight of his Son's merits and mediation. As Joseph said to his brethren, "You shall not see my face unless you bring your brother Benjamin," so says God, "you shall not see my face unless you bring the Lord Jesus with you."
Now gracious souls; in all their prayers, they present Jesus Christ before the Father, and upon his account they desire those things that make for their external, internal, and eternal good.
Ah! but vain unbelievers treat and trade with God in prayer upon the account of their own worth, righteousness, worthiness, and services: Isa 58:2-3, "Why have we fasted and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?" Here you see they stand upon their own practices and services, and expostulate the case with God in an angry manner, because God did not answer their hypocritical performances. So the proud pharisee stands in prayer upon his own worthiness and righteousness: Luke 18:11-12, "The pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." This pharisee was like the Egyptian temple—painted without—and vile within; varnished without—and vermin within. So did those hypocrites in Matt 6:23 stand very much upon their outward services and performances, though they were but shining sins—but filthy rags.
The second difference. Secondly, Souls truly gracious pray more to get off their sins, than they do to get off their chains. Though bonds did await Paul in every place, Acts 20:23, as himself speaks, yet he never cries out, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from my bonds; but, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from my sins, from this body of death?" Rom 7:23. David cries not, 'I am undone' but 'I have done foolishly,' Psalm 51:4. But wicked men strive in prayer more to get off their chains than to get off their sins; more to be delivered from enemies without than lusts within; more to get out of the furnace than to he delivered from their spiritual bondage, as these scriptures evidence. [Psalm 78:34; Zech 7:5-7; Isa 26:16-17]
The third difference. Thirdly, The stream and cream of a gracious man's spirit runs most out in prayer after spiritual and heavenly things, as is abundantly evident by those prayers of the saints that are upon record throughout the Scripture, Psalm 4:6-7, and Psalm 27:4; but the stream and cream of vain men's spirits in prayer runs most out after poor, low, carnal things, as you may see in comparing the following scriptures together, Hos 7:14; Zech 7:5-7; James 4:3, etc.
The fourth difference. Fourthly, A gracious soul looks and lives more upon God in prayer, than upon his prayer. He knows, though prayer be his chariot, yet Christ is his food. Prayer may be a staff to support him—but Christ is that manna that must nourish him, and upon him he looks, and lives: Psalm 5:3, "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto you" (or marshal and set in order my prayer, as it is in the Hebrew), "and will look up" (or "look out," as it is in the Hebrew) "as a watchman looks out to discover the approaches of an enemy." But vain men, they live and look more upon their prayers than they do upon God.
More—usually they never observe what returns they have from heaven. They are like those who shoot arrows—but do not mind where they fall. Wicked men think it is religion enough for them to pray; and to look after their prayers, to see how their prayers speed, is no part of their faith; but a gracious soul is of a more noble spirit; when he has prayed he will stand upon his watchtower, and observe what God will speak: Psalm 85:8, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak; [I will listen, and lay my obedient ear to what the Lord shall speak,] for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not return to folly;" or, as the Hebrew may be read, "And they shall not return to folly." Wicked men would have God to be all ear to hear what they desire, when themselves have never an ear to hear what he speaks. But deaf ears shall always be attended with dumb answers. God's justice always makes mercy dumb, when sin has made the sinner deaf.
The fifth difference. Fifthly, No discouragements can take gracious souls off from prayer—but the least discouragements will take off carnal hearts from prayer, as you may see in the following scriptures compared together: Psalm 40:1-2, and Psalm 44:10-23; Matt 15:21-29; Mal 3:14; Isa 58:1-3; Amos 8:3-5, etc.
When one of the ancient martyrs was severely threatened by his persecutors, he replied, "There is nothing," says he, "of things visible, nothing of things invisible, which I fear; I will stand to my profession of the name of Christ, and contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, come on it what will." It is neither the hope of life, nor the fear of death, that can take a real Christian off from prayer. He is rather raised than dejected, he is rather quickened than discouraged by delays or denials; he will hold up and hold on in a way and course of prayer, though men should rage and lions roar, and the furnace be heat seven times hotter, etc. But it is not so with carnal hearts, Job 27:9-10.
The sixth difference. Sixthly, When a gracious man prays, he has his heart in his prayer; when he falls upon the work, he makes heart work of it. In his course his heart is in his prayer; he finds by experience that the heart is the great wheel that moves all other wheels. It is the chief monarch in the life of man. So David, Psalm 42:4, "When I remember these things, I pour out my heart." So Hannah, 1 Sam 1:15, "I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit," said she, "and have poured out my soul before the Lord." So the Israelites in 1 Sam 7:6, "pour out their souls like water before the Lord." So the church in Isa 26:8-9, "The desire of our soul is to your name, and to the remembrance of you. With my soul have I desired you in the night; yes, with my spirit within me will I seek you early." The heart, as a prince, gives laws to all other members. The heart is Christ's bed of spices; it is his presence-chamber; it is his royal throne; it is one of those four keys which God keeps under his own belt.
Gracious souls know that no prayer is acknowledged, accepted, and rewarded by God—but that wherein the heart is sincerely and wholly. It is not a piece, it is not a corner of the heart, which will satisfy the maker of the heart. The true mother would not have the child divided. As God loves a broken and a contrite heart, so he loathes a divided heart. God neither loves halting nor halving, he will be served truly and totally. The royal law is, "You shall love and serve the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul," Deut 10:12. Among the heathens, when the beasts were cut up for sacrifice, the first thing the priest looked upon was the heart, and if the heart was bad the sacrifice was rejected. Truly, God rejects all those sacrifices wherein the heart is bad.
Now wicked men are heartless in all their services, in all their prayers, as you may see in comparing the following scriptures together; I shall not transcribe the words, because I must cut short the work: Isa 29:13; Matt 15:7-9; Ezek 33:30-32; Zech 7:4-6; 2 Chron 25:1-2. As the body without the soul is dead, so prayer, without the heart in it, is but dead prayer in the eye and account of God. Prayer without the heart is but an empty ring, a tinkling cymbal. Prayer is only lovely and weighty, as the heart is in it—and not otherwise. It is not the lifting up of the voice, nor the wringing of the hands, nor the beating of the breasts—but the stirrings of the heart, which God looks at in prayer. God hears no more than the heart speaks; if the heart is dumb, God will certainly be deaf. No prayer is accepted by God, but that which is the travail of the heart.
The seventh difference. Seventhly, Gracious souls usually come off from prayer, with hearts more disengaged from sin, and more vehemently set against it. The precious communion that they have with God in prayer, the sweet breathings of God into their hearts, while they are a-breathing out their requests in his ears, and the secret assistance, stirrings, and movings of the Spirit upon their souls in prayer—arm them more against sin, and makes them stand upon the highest terms of defiance with sin. 'How shall I do this or that wickedness against God?' says the praying soul, 'Oh I cannot, I will not do anything unworthy of him who has caused his glory to pass before me in prayer.'
Ah! but wicked men come off from prayer with hearts more encouraged to sin, and more resolved to walk in ways of sin: Prov 7:14-24, "I have peace-offerings with me," says the harlot; "this day have I paid my vows: therefore came I forth to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love." That is, "let us be drunken with love," which shows her unsatiable lusts. So in Jer 7:9-10, "Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"--safe to do all these detestable things?"
Wicked men are like Lewis, king of France, who would swear and then kiss the cross, and then swear more bitterly and then kiss the cross. So they sin and pray, and pray and sin; and the more they pray, the more easily, resolutely, impudently do they sin. They make use of prayer to quiet their consciences, so that they may sin with more pleasure and less regret. Ah! what pains do such sinners take to go to hell, and to arm their consciences against themselves in that day, wherein they shall say, 'There is no help, there is no hope!' This age is full of such monsters, who have no pity upon themselves.
The eighth difference. Eighthly and lastly, Gracious souls do more eye and observe how their own hearts are wrought upon in prayer, than how others' hearts are wrought upon. When they pray, they look with a curious eye upon their own spirits, they look with a narrow eye upon their own hearts, and observe how they are affected, melted, humbled, quickened, raised, spiritualized, and bettered by prayer. But vain men, as they pray to "be seen of men," so they eye most how others like their prayers, and are affected and taken with their prayers. They are most critical in observing what operations their prayers have upon others' hearts—but never mind, to any purpose, how they operate upon their own hearts. A worse plague cannot befall them!
And thus I have endeavored to show you what a wide difference there is between the prayers of the godly and the ungodly; and by this, as by the former particulars laid down, you may see what prayer that is, which accompanies salvation.
VII. Now, in the seventh place, I shall show you what that PERSEVERANCE is, which accompanies salvation, and that I shall do in these following particulars.
(1.) The first property. First, That perseverance which accompanies salvation, is perseverance in a holy PROFESSION. Heb 4:14, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession by a strong hand," or by a hand of holy violence. So in Heb 10:23, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering" (or as it is in the Greek, "without tilting, or tossing to one side or other"), "for he is faithful who has promised." Therefore let no temptation, affliction, opposition, or persecution, take us off from our holy profession—but let us hold our profession with a forcible hand, yes, with both hands, in the face of all difficulties, dangers, and deaths—as Cynaegirus, the Athenian captain, did the ship which was laden with the rich spoil of his country.
(2.) The second property. Secondly, That perseverance which accompanies salvation, is a perseverance and holy and spiritual GRACES. It is a persevering in love, John 15:9-10; and a persevering in faith and hope, 1 Cor 13:13, etc. Perseverance is not a particular distinct grace of itself; but such a virtue as crowns all virtue; it is such a grace as casts a general glory and beauty upon every grace, it is a virtue which leads every grace on to perfection. So Col 1:23; 1 Tim 4:15; Heb 13:1, and Heb 11:13. These all died in faith, or as it is in the Greek, they all died according to faith, that is, persevering in faith.
To persevere in holy and heavenly graces, is to persevere in believing, in repenting, in mourning, in hoping; it is to persevere in love, in fear, in humility, in patience, in self-denial, etc. Now it is this perseverance in holy and gracious graces, which accompanies salvation, which leads to salvation. (Nothing seems to be done—if there remains anything unfinished. Let a man do ever so much, if he does not persevere, he will be found to have done nothing.)
No grace—no, not the most sparkling and shining grace, can bring a man to heaven of itself, without perseverance; not faith, which is the champion of grace, if it faints and fails; not love, which is the nurse of grace, if it declines and waxes cold; not humility, which is the adorner and beautifier of grace, if it continues not to the end; not obedience, not repentance, nor any other grace—except they persevere until the end. It is perseverance in grace, which crowns every grace, and every gracious soul with a crown of glory at last. Rev 2:10, "Be faithful to the death, and I will give you a crown of life."
Such as only believe for a time, and repent for a time, and love for a time, and rejoice for a time, and hope for a time, as all hypocrites only do etc.—but do not persevere and hold out, will be doubly miserable in the day of vengeance. Perseverance is the accomplishment of every grace; without it, he who fights cannot hope to overcome; and he who for the present does overcome, cannot look for the crown, unless he still perseveres and goes on conquering and to conquer, until he finds all his enemies slain before him.
The third property. Thirdly, That perseverance which accompanies salvation is an abiding or continuing in the word or doctrine of Christ. You must persevere, and hold fast the faith of the gospel, without wavering in it or departing from it. John 15:7, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." 1 John 2:14, "I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you." 1 John 2:24, "Let that therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." 2 John 9, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." None shall receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls—but those who hold fast the doctrine of faith, soundly, sincerely, and entirely to the end: John 8:31, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed."
It is the end that crowns the action, as the evening crowns the day, as the last act commends the whole scene. It is not enough to begin well—unless we end well; the beginning is not so considerable as the end. Manasseh and Paul began badly—but ended well. Judas and Demas began well—but ended badly." Nero's first five years were famous—but afterwards who more cruel? It is not the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ, nor the commending of the word of Christ—but the abiding in Christ's word, the continuing in Christ's doctrine, which accompanies life and glory, and which will render a man happy at last. Such that, with Hymenaeus and Alexander, put away, or make shipwreck of the doctrine of the faith, shall, by the Lord or his people, or by both, be delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme, 1 Tim 1:19-20; 1 Cor 5:5. Usually the end of such is worse than the beginning. Double damnation attends those who begin in the spirit and end in the flesh, 2 Pet 2:20-22; 2 Tim 3:13.
The fourth property. Fourthly, and lastly, That perseverance which accompanies salvation is a perseverance in holy and gracious actions and motions; it is a continuing in pious duties and religious services, Phil 3:10-14; Isa 40:31. The life of a Christian consists in motion, not in sitting. A Christian should be ever moving towards heaven; he must never stand still, he must always be a-going on from faith to faith, and from strength to strength. Not to go forwards, is to go backwards. When saints have done their work in this life, they shall sit upon thrones in everlasting life. Perseverance is a going on, a holding out in ways of piety and sanctity. Acts 13:43, and Acts 14:22 signify a continuance in prayer and supplication, with an invincible and strong constancy.
Acts 1:14, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." Acts 2:42, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer." Acts 2:46, "And they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart." 1 Tim 5:5, "Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusts in God, and continues in supplications and prayers night and day." Rom 12:12, "Persistent in prayer."
Christians must work hard in a wilderness, before they sit down in paradise. They must make a constant progress in holiness before they enter into happiness. It is the excellency of perseverance, that it keeps a Christian still in motion God-wards, heaven-wards, holiness-wards. It is a grace which quickens a man to motion, to action; it keeps a man still going, still doing. And motion is the excellency of the creature; and the more excellent any creature is, the more excellent is that creature in its motions, as you may see in the motions of the celestial bodies, the sun, moon, and stars. Perseverance is a perpetual motion in ways of grace and holiness, Psalm 44:16-20. Perseverance will make a man hold up and hold on in the work and ways of the Lord, in the face of all impediments, discouragements, temptations, tribulations, and persecutions. As the moon holds on her motion though the dogs bark, so perseverance will make a Christian hold on in his holy and heavenly motions though vain men bark and bite, etc.
And thus I have showed you what perseverance that is, which accompanies salvation.
VIII. The eighth and last thing which accompanies salvation is HOPE. I shall gather up what I have to say concerning hope into as narrow a compass as I can, being unwilling to tire the reader's patience, and my own spirits. The philosophers excluded hope out of their catalogs of virtues, but God by his word has taught us better. I shall show very briefly,
(1.) That hope does accompany salvation.
(2.) What that hope is, which accompanies salvation.
1. That hope does accompany salvation, these scriptures speak it out: Rom 8:24, "For we are saved by hope;" Gal 5:5, "For we though the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith;" Eph 1:18, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints;" 1 Thess 5:8, "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet—the hope of salvation;" Titus 3:7, "That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life;" Titus 1:2 "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began." By all these scriptures it does fully appear, that hope does accompany salvation.
2. The second thing that I am to show you is, what hope that is, which accompanies salvation; and that I shall do with as much brevity and perspicuity as I can, in the following particulars:
First, That hope which accompanies salvation, is a grace of God whereby we expect good to come, waiting patiently until it comes. This very title, "the God of hope," may serve as a sovereign antidote against the blackest and horridest temptations; for why should any despair of his mercy—who has proclaimed himself to be the God of hope?
(1.) I call it a grace of God, because he is the giver of it; and therefore he is called the God of hope. Rom 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." Now God is called the God of hope, because he is the only object of our hope, and he is effective, the only author and worker of hope in the soul. A saving hope is no natural affection in men. Men are not born with true hope in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths. Hope is nobly descended, it is from above, it is a heavenly babe which is formed in the soul of man by the power of the Holy Spirit. And as hope is no natural affection, so hope is no moral virtue, which men may attain by their frequent notions; but hope is the gracious virtue which none can give but God.
(2.) I say it is a grace of God, whereby we expect good to come; I say good, not evil, for evil is rather feared than hoped for by any. The OBJECT of this hope has four qualities:
1. It must be bonum—good.
2. It must be Futurum—future.
3. It must be Possibile—possible.
4. It must be Arduum—hard or difficult to obtain.
(3.) I say hope is a grace of God, whereby we expect good to come, patiently waiting until it comes. Hope makes the soul quiet and patient until it comes to possess the good desired and hoped for: Rom 8:25, "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." The Hebrew word, which is often translated hope, signifies a very vehement intention, both of body and mind, a stretching forth of the spirit or mind, in waiting for a desired good.
2. Secondly, That hope which accompanies salvation is always conversant about holy and heavenly objects, as about God and Christ. 2 Cor 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Hope fares well; it is nourished at a prince's table; it lives upon honey and milk, oil and wine; it lives upon the sweetmeats, the delicacies of heaven—as God, Christ, and glory, Psalm 31:24; Psalm 33:22; Psalm 38:15; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 43:5; Psalm 39:7; Psalm 71:5, and Psalm 15:5.
1 Tim 1:1, "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope." In these words, Christ is set forth as the chief object of our hope, because by his merits and mercy, we hope to obtain the remission of our sins, and the eternal salvation of our souls. Sometimes hope is exercised about the righteousness of Christ: Gal 5:5, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."
Sometimes hope is exercised about God the Father: 1 Pet 1:21, "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." Jer 14:8, "Oh the hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in the time of trouble." Jer 17:13, "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be ashamed." Jer 17:17, "You are my hope in the day of evil."
Sometimes hope is exercised and busied about the word and promises: Psalm 119:49, "Remember your word unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope." Psalm 119:81, "My soul faints for your salvation; but I hope in your word." Psalm 119:114, "You are my hiding-place, and my shield. I hope in your word." Psalm 130:5, I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope." Psalm 119:74, "I have hoped in your word." Psalm 119:147, "I hoped in your word."
Hope in the promises will keep the head from aching, and the heart from breaking; it will keep both head and heart from sinking and drowning. Hope exercised upon the promises, brings heaven down to the heart. Ah! what abundance of comfort and sweetness may hope find, yes, does hope find is the promises. The promises are the ladder by which hope gets up to heaven. Hope in the promise will not only keep life and soul together—but will also keep the soul and glory together; hope in the promise will support distressed souls; hope in the promise will settle perplexed souls; hope in the promise will comfort dejected souls; hope in the promise will recover wandering souls; hope in the promise will confirm staggering souls; hope in the promise will save undone souls.
Psalm 42:5, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and in God." Psalm 119:49-50, "Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life."
The promise is the same to hope, that hope is to the soul; the promise is the anchor of hope, as hope is the anchor of the soul. Look! what the breasts are to the child, and oil is to the lamp—that are the promises to hope. "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:24-25 The promises are hope's rich storehouse. Hope lives and thrives, as it feeds upon the promises, as it embraces the promises. The promises are the sweetmeats of heaven, upon which hope lives. Every degree of hope brings a degree of joy into the soul, which makes it cry out, 'Heaven, heaven!' Heb 11:13; Psalm 16:11; Titus 3:7.
Again, hope is exercised about the glory and felicity, the happiness and blessedness that is at God's right hand. Titus 2:13, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ." Hope makes a man stretch out his neck and put forth his hand, and look as earnestly for the glorious appearing of Christ, as Sisera's mother did for the happy return of her son. The hoping soul is often a-sighing it out, 'Why are his chariot wheels so long a-coming?'
Col 1:5, "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven." Hope in this place, is put for the things hoped for, namely, all that glory and felicity, that blessedness and happiness, which is laid up for us in heaven. [So in Rom 8:24-25; Col 1:27; Rom 5:2, etc.] So in Heb 6:18, "Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Hope here is put for the object of hope, namely, heaven and happiness. Hope lays such fast hold, as the Greek word here signifies, upon heaven and happiness, that none shall ever be able to take those precious things out of hope's hand. So hope is put for the glorious things hoped for, Eph 1:18. And thus you see those precious and glorious objects, about which that hope which accompanies salvation is exercised.
3. Thirdly, That hope which accompanies salvation, is grounded upon the firmest foundations, namely: the promises of God, Prov 10:28, as has been fully showed before; and it is built upon the free grace of God, 1 Pet 1:13. It is built upon the infinite and glorious power of God, Rom 4:21. It is built upon the truth and faithfulness of God, 2 Tim 2:13. These four precious and glorious foundations bear up the hopes of the saints, as the pillars bore up the curtains in the tabernacle. A believer's hope is founded upon the love of Christ, the blood of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the satisfaction of Christ, and the intercession of Christ, etc.
But the hopes of hypocrites and wicked men, are always built upon weak, slender, and sandy foundations. Sometimes they build their hopes upon their outward profession, upon their lamps, though they have no oil, Matt 25:3; and sometimes upon their duties and services, as the Jews, scribes, and Pharisees did, Isa 58:1-3; Matt 6:1-2, etc; and sometimes upon their outward privileges, crying out, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord;" and sometimes they build their hopes upon others' good opinion of them, and sometimes upon flashes of joy, and sometimes upon enlargements in duties, and sometimes upon the heat and vigor of their spirits in religious services, etc. Every false principle in religion is "a reed of Egypt," which will certainly deceive souls at last; therefore take heed of leaning upon any of those reeds! All these are but sandy foundations, and those who build their hope upon them will certainly fall—and great will be their fall.
The hopes of the saints are built upon the surest and the strongest foundations. It was a good saying of one of the ancients, "I consider," said he, "three things in which all my hope consists, namely: 1. God's love in my adoption; 2. the truth of his promise; 3. his power of performance. Therefore, I can say with sure confidence, I know on whom I have believed, 2 Tim 1:12. And I am certain, first, that in his love he adopted me; secondly, that he is true in his promise; and thirdly, that he is able to perform it. This is the threefold cord which is not easily broken."
4. Fourthly, That hope which accompanies salvation, may be distinguished from all false hopes, by the excellent properties of it, and they are these that follow.
[1.] The first property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: it elevates and raises the heart to live above, where its treasure is. True hope is from above, and it makes the heart to live above: it is a spark of glory, and it leads the heart to live in glory. Divine hope carries a man to heaven, for life to quicken him, and for wisdom to direct him, and for power to uphold him, and for righteousness to justify him, and for holiness to sanctify him, and for mercy to forgive him, and for assurance to rejoice him, and for happiness to crown him. Divine hope takes in the pleasures of heaven beforehand; it lives in the joyful expectation of them; it fancies to itself, the pleasures and joys of eternity; and lives in a sweet anticipation of what it possesses by faith. Hope's richest treasures, and choicest friends, and chief delights, and sweetest contents, are in the country above; and therefore hope loves best to live there most. Matt 6:20-21; Phil 3:20; Col 3:1.
Mark, wicked men's hopes never raise them as high as heaven; under all their hopes they are great enemies, and as great strangers to God, Christ, and heaven, as ever.
[2.] The second property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: it will strengthen the soul against all afflictions, oppositions, and temptations: 1 Thess 5:8, "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." Look! as the helmet defends and secures the head, so does hope defend and secure the heart. Hope is a helmet which keeps off all darts that Satan or the world casts at the soul. The hope of heavenly riches made those worthies in Heb 11 to despise the riches of this world. The hope they had of a heavenly country made them willing to leave their own country, and to live in the land of promise as in a strange country. The hope they had of possessing at last a house not made with hands—but eternal in the heavens, made them willingly and cheerfully to live in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and caves of the earth. The hope they had of a glorious resurrection made them courageously to withstand the strongest temptations, etc., Rom 5:2-5; Dan 3:37; Psalm 4:6-7; Heb 10:34; 2 Cor 4:16-18. It was a wicked and hopeless cardinal who said, 'He would not leave his part in Paris for a part in paradise.'
A saint's hope will outlive all fears and cares, all trials and troubles, all afflictions and temptations. Saints have much in hope, though little in hand; they have much in expectation, though but little in possession; they have much in promise, though but little in the purse. A saint can truly say, 'my hopes are better than my possessions.' Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds; hope can see light through darkness, life through death, smiles through frowns, and glory through misery. Hope holds life and soul together; it holds Christ and the soul together; it holds the soul and the promises together; it holds the soul and heaven together; and so it makes a Christian to stand and triumph over all afflictions, oppositions, and temptations. Some are truly persuaded that the lack of this divine hope has been the reason that many among the heathen has laid violent hands upon themselves. See Heb 11:10,14,16,25,32, compared.
[3.] The third property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: it makes the soul lively and active: Psalm 119:166, "Lord, I have hoped for your salvation, and done your commandments." Hope puts the soul upon doing, upon obeying: 1 Pet 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is called a living hope, because it brings life and comfort into the soul; and it is called a living hope in opposition to the withering and dying hopes of hypocrites and wicked men; and it is called a living hope, because it flows from living causes, namely, the Spirit of Christ, and the soul's union and communion with Christ; but mainly it is called a lively hope because it puts the soul upon living endeavors. Hope will make a man pray as for life, hear as for life, and mourn as for life, and obey as for life, and work and walk as for life. Hope will not say—'this work is too hard, and that work is too hot; this work is too high, and the other work is too low.' A man's duties and services usually are as his hopes are: if his hopes are weak and low—so will his services be; but if his hopes are spiritual, noble, and high—so will his motions mad actions be. Divine hope makes saints as far excel all other men in their actings, as the angels do excel them. Some say hope and fasting are the two wings of prayer. Fasting is but as the wing of a bird—but hope is as the wing of an angel, bearing our prayers to the throne of grace.
Hope will make a man put his hand to every work. Hope makes a man more motion than notion; it makes a man better at doing than at saying, etc. Hope gives life and strength to all pious duties and services: 1 Cor 9:10, "He who ploughs should plough in hope; and he who thrashes in hope shall be partaker of "his hope." Hope will put a Christian upon ploughing and thrashing, that is, upon the hardest and most difficult services for God and his glory. If fleshly hopes of gaining the honors, riches, and favors of this world made Absalom, Ahithophel, Jehu, Haman, and many heathen—full of life and activity, full of motion and action; truly holy and heavenly hopes will make men much more lively and active, by how much heavenly hopes are more excellent than earthly. A man full of hope will be full of action. A living hope and a diligent hand are inseparable companions. Hope will make a man do—though he dies for doing. Fleshly hopes put the Romans upon doing very strange and amazing exploits, as you may see in Plutarch, and other historians.
[4.] The fourth property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: It will make a man sit, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all storms and tempests, in the midst of all disturbances and changes. When others are at their wits' end, then hope will house the soul, and lodge it composed and quiet in the bosom of God: Job 11:18, "You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety." The Hebrew word that is here rendered rest, is from a root that signifies to rest and sleep quietly, as as men rest in their beds, or as the body rests in the grave.
Hope will bring the soul to bed safely and sweetly, in the darkest night, in the longest storm, and in the greatest tempest: Heb 6:19, 20, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf." Hope is that anchor for the soul, which keeps it quiet and still in all storms and tempests; it keeps the soul from dashing upon the rocks, and from being swallowed up in the sands. Hope is an anchor which is fastened above, not below; in heaven, not in earth; therefore the ship, the soul of a believer, must needs be safe and secure. That ship will never be split upon the rocks, whose anchor is in heaven. Hope enters within the curtain, and takes fast anchor-hold on God himself; and therefore blow high, blow low, rain or shine, the soul of a saint is safe. Hypocrites in stormy times are like ships without anchors, tossed up and down with every wave, and in danger of being split upon every rock, Job 27:9-10.
Divine hope settles the heart. Our best and greatest estate lies in invisibles. Our perfect and complete estate here lies not in what we have in possession—but in what we have in expectation.
[5.] The fifth property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: It will work the soul to a quiet and patient waiting upon God for mercy, though God should delay the giving in of mercy. Rom 8:25, "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Psalm 130:5-6, "I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning; I say, more than those who watch for the morning." Hope will make a man wait, yes, wait long for a mercy, as it did Abraham, Rom 4:18-21. Though the vision tarries, yet hope will wait for it, Hab 2:1-3. 'Yet a little, little while,' says hope, 'and he who shall come will come, and will not tarry,' Heb 10:36-37. 'The longer I wait for a mercy, the greater, better, and sweeter, at last, the mercy will prove,' says hope. 'It is not mercy, if it be not worth a-waiting for,' says hope. 'And if it is a mercy, you can not wait too long for it,' says hope. Patience is nothing else but hope spun out. If you would lengthen patience, be sure to strengthen hope.
Says hope, 'though deliverance tarries, though this and that mercy tarries, yet it will come at last, therefore wait.' Hope is not hasty in prefixing the time when God shall show mercy, neither will it limit God to the way or manner of showing mercy—but leave both the time and the manner to him who is wise and faithful. Says hope, 'Christ knows his own time, and his own time is best; though he stays long, yet he will certainly come, and he will not stay a moment beyond the time he has prefixed; and therefore, says hope, be not weary, O soul—but still wait patiently upon the Lord.' The Lord shows much mercy in timing our mercies for us.
1 Thess 1:3, "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope." Hope is the mother of patience and the nurse of patience; hope breeds patience, and hope feeds patience. If it were not for hope, the heart would die; and if it were not for hope, patience would die. Look! as faith gives life and strength to hope, so does hope give life and strength to patience, therefore patience is called patience of hope. Hope maintains patience, as the fuel maintains the fire.
[6.] The sixth property of that hope which accompanies salvation is this: It is soul-purifying hope; it puts a Christian upon purifying himself, as Christ is pure: 1 John 3:3, "And every man who has this hope in him purifies himself, even as Christ is pure." Divine hope runs out into holiness. He who has the purest and strongest hopes of being saved, is most studious and laborious to be sanctified. The Greek word which is rendered purifies, is a metaphor taken either from the ceremonial purifications in time of the Law, or else from goldsmiths purifying metals from their dross; and it notes thus much to us, that those who have hopes to reign with Christ in glory, who have set their hearts upon that pure and blissful state, that paradise, that holy and spiritual state of bliss which is made up of singleness and purity, they will purify both their body and soul, that they may answer to that excellent copy that Christ has set before them, knowing that none shall enjoy everlasting glory, but those who labor after perfect purity.
Now hope purifies the heart and life thus, by keeping the purest objects, as God, Christ, the word, and the soul together, and by making the soul serious and conscientious in the use of all soul-purifying ordinances, and by being a fire in the soul to burn up all those corruptions and principles of darkness which are contrary to that purity and glory, which hope has in her eye; and by working the soul to lean upon Christ, to live in Christ, and to draw purifying virtue from Christ, who is the spring and fountain of all purity and sanctity. And thus hope purifies those who expect to be like Christ in glory.
[7.] The seventh property of that hope which accompanies salvation, is this: It is permanent and lasting; it will never leave the soul until it has lodged it in the bosom of Christ. Prov 14:32, "The righteous has hope in his death." The righteous man's hope will bed and board with him; it will lie down with him, and rise up with him; it will to the grave, to heaven with him: his motto is, 'my hope lasts beyond life.' "The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing." Proverbs 10:28. Austin's hope made him long to die, that he might see that head which was once crowned with thorns. Hope made the ancient Christians to call the days of their death, not dying but birthdays, Heb 3:6, and Heb 6:11; 1 Pet 1:13; Psalm 131:3.
That hope which accompanies salvation is a long-lived hope; it is a living hope. 1 Pet 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope," or a living hope: a hope that will not die, a hope that will not leave a man in life nor death. In prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in life and death, I will hope. It is neither the smiles nor the frowns of the world, which shall bury a Christian's hope. A Christian's hope will live in all weathers, and it will make a Christian bear up bravely in all storms and under all changes.
Psalm 71:14, "But I will hope continually, and will yet praise you more and more." No trials, no troubles, no afflictions, no oppositions, shall keep down my hope, says David. I am peremptorily resolved, in the face of all dangers, difficulties, and deaths, to keep up my hopes; come what will come on it, I will rather let my life go than my hope go: I will hope continually. A hopeless condition is a very sad condition; it is the worst condition in the world; it makes a man's life a very hell. If "hope deferred makes the heart sick," as the wise man speaks, Prov 13:12, then the loss of hope will make the soul languish, it will make it choose strangling rather than life; it will make a man's life a continual death. A soul without hope is like a ship without anchors. Lord, where will a soul anchor, which anchors not upon you by hope? A man were better part with anything than his hope.
When Alexander went upon a hopeful expedition, he gave away his gold; and when he was asked what he kept for himself, he answered, 'the hope of greater and better things.' A believer's hope is not like that of Pandora, which may fly out of the box, and bid the soul an everlasting farewell. No! it is like the morning light; the least beam of it shall commence into a complete sunshine. It shall shine forth brighter and brighter until it has fully possessed the believer of his Christ and crown.
This will be the hypocrite's hell and horror when he comes to die—that his hope will be like the morning dew, like the spider's web, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, and like the giving up of the Spirit, Job 8:13-14, and Job 11:20, and Job 27:8; Prov 14:32, and Prov 11:7. And this is now the upright man's joy, that whatever leaves him, yet his hope will not leave him, until he has put on his crown and is set down in paradise. And thus you see what hope that is, which accompanies salvation. Before I close up this chapter, take these two CAUTIONS with you; they make for your comfort and settlement.
[1.] The first caution is this: that all saints have not these things which accompany salvation, in the same degree. If you have but the least measure or degree of that knowledge which accompanies salvation, or of that faith which accompanies salvation, or of that repentance, or of that obedience, or of that love, etc., which accompanies salvation, you may be as assuredly confident of your salvation, as if you were already in heaven. The least degree, O Christian, of those things which accompany salvation, will certainly yield you a heaven hereafter, and why then should it not yield you a heaven here? It will undoubtedly yield you a crown at last; and why should it not yield you comfort and assurance now? I judge it may, if you are not an enemy to your own soul, and to your own peace and comfort. The Scripture tells you of saints of several sizes: some are babes, some are children, some are young men, some are old men. Now, all these do not attain to the same degree; but happy is he who has the least degree.
[2.] The second caution is this: Though you do not find everyone of those things in you who do accompany salvation, yet if you do find some of those things, ay, though but a few of those things, yes, though but one of those things which accompanies salvation, your estate is safe, and happiness will be your portion at last. Your sense and feeling of one of those precious things which accompanies salvation, should be of more power to work you to conclude that your estate is good, than any other thing should work you to conclude that all is naught, and that you shall miscarry at last. Do not always side with sin and Satan against your own precious soul. No saints are at all times sensible that all those precious things which accompany salvation are in them. It is not always day with the saints.
Having thus discovered to you the way and means of attaining to a well-grounded assurance—I shall now hasten to a close.
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