« AnteriorContinuar »
GRACE AND LOVE BEYOND GIFTS.
PREACHED BEFORE THE LORD MAYOR OF THE CITY OF LONDON,
July 22, 1649.
To the Right HONOURABLE Thomas Andrews, LORD MAYOR OF THE CITY
OF LONDON, WITH THE ALDERMEN HIS BRETHREN. According to your command, I have presented these notes to your view, which were once delivered unto your ear and heart. I have joined another Sermon therewith, pleading for our submission to Christ in the way of his ordinances : the argument of the one is a friend to the other stantque caduntque simul. The sweet enjoyment of ordinances together, is a great help to our love. We can hardly cool in our love to one, but we shall abate in our love to the other : swelling gifts despise ordinances and neglect love. This sermon, therefore, of grace, love and gifts, is to call upon our gifts, that they take not the wall of our graces ; the other sermon of ordinances, is to call upon our graces to submit unto Christ's appointments : for gifts thrive best when they live under grace, and grace thrives best when it lives under ordinances. Now the girdle of all the ordinances is the Lord's day, which doth surround and combine all the rest. May please the magistrate to be a friend to this good day, Christ will surely be a friend to him in an evil day. You cannot make people sanctify this day, for the hearts of men are not in your hands ; but you may restrain them much from public profaning this day, for the tongues, hands, and feet of men are much in your hands. Job is said to sanctify his sons, Job i., because he commanded them to sanctify themselves, used all means for their sanctification, and prayed for them. So, though the magistrate cannot sanctify the people as to the infusion of grace, yet by his prayers and gracious endeavours of love, mixed with some power, as just occasion requires, he also may be said to sanctify them. The magistrate is the people's father, and the people are the magistrate's children. Now, therefore, as it was said of Job and his children, so let it be said of you and your children in the generations to come; And it was so, that when the days of their feasting, or rather sporting, were come, (for so the Lord's days have been too truly called of late,) the magistrate sent and sanctified them. Thus shall our decayed love to God, his truth, his ordinances and his children, revive and be advanced again ; and thus shall the blessing of the house of Obededom (who received the ark) rest upon you and your families, which shall be the prayer of your servant in the work of the gospel,
WILLIAM BRIDGE. Yarmouth, Sept. 10, 1649.
“ But covet earnestly the best gifts : and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.”—1 Cor. xii. 31.
Of all the churches of Christ which we read of in the New
Testament, the church of Corinth seems to have abounded most with spiritual gifts; and as they did abound must in them, so they did most abuse them. All had not those spiritual gifts, some had: those that had them, despised those that had them not; and those that had them not, envied those that had them. The apostle Paul, therefore, that he might heal this distemper, doth acquaint them with the excellency of those gifts, and the end for which they were appointed. Concerning the excellency of gifts, he tells them in the beginning of this chapter, that they are all from the Spirit. “ There are diversities of gifts (ver. 4) but the same Spirit: there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” Ver. 8,“ To one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom ; to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit.” And concerning the end for which they were appointed, he tells them, at verse 7, that they are given to profit withal : “ But the ministration of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” Now both the excellency of gifts, and the end for which they were appointed, he doth illustrate by a similitude drawn from the natural body: that as in the natural body there are many members, and those, having several gifts, are helpful to one another; and the eye cannot say unto the foot, I have no need of thee: so in the body of Christ, all members, with their several gifts, are to be helpful to one another, and one member of Christ cannot say to the other, “ I have no need of thee.” For, at ver. 26, “ Whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” Now, at ver. 27, saith he, “ Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” But how do these members come, or attain unto these gifts ? Ver. 28, “ God hath set some in the church, first, apostles ; secondly, prophets ; thirdly, teachers ; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing.” But have all men these gifts ? No. Are all apostles ? At ver. 29, “ Are all prophets, are all teachers, are all workers of miracles, have all the gifts of healing ?” &c. But may we not all desire gifts then ? Yes. “ But covet earnestly the best gifts : and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.” What way
is that? If you look into this chap. xii., it is the way of humility, grace and holiness. If you look down into chap.
xiii., it is the way of love; for, saith he, in ver. 1, “ Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” So then take the words as they look upwards and downwards, relating unto all the former parts of chap. xii., and unto chap. xiii., and you have this observation or doctrine :
Though the way of gifts, spiritual gifts, be an excellent way, and much to be desired; yet the way of grace and love is a more excellent way, and most to be desired.
For the opening of which truth, three things :
First, That there is a way of gifts distinct from the way of grace, and a way of grace distinct from the way of gifts.
Secondly, That there is much excellency in these spiritual gifts; that the way of gifts is a yery excellent way, and much to be desired.
Thirdly, That the way of grace and of love is yet a more excellent
way, and more to be desired. First, I say, there is a way of gifts distinct from the way of grace and holiness, xapıs and yaşıoua are distinct: all the saints and people of God have grace, but all have not these gifts. Grace is that excellency whereby we are made like to God in Christ; gifts are that excellency whereby we are made able to do service for God in the church of God. By grace, say the schools, we do bene agere, we do work well; and by gifts we do expedite agere, we do act more facily, easily, expeditely. A man may have a gift in prayer, and yet no grace in prayer; a man may have a gift in preaching and exercising, yet no grace under it; a man may have the gift of faith, (though “ I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I have nothing ;" he speaks of the gift of faith); a man may have, I say, the gift of faith, and yet not the saving grace of faith. So that plainly there is a way of gifts distinct from the way of grace, and a way of grace and holiness distinct from the way of gifts.
Secondly, But what excellency is there then in gifts, and in the way of gifts ?
Much, very much; they are called avevmatika, in chap. xiv. 1,“ Desire spiritual gifts.” In chap. xii. they are said to be of the Spirit, by the Spirit, from the Spirit. And if you look into Acts X., you shall find that they are called, “ The
very Spirit,” or the Holy Ghost ; at ver. 44, “ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard the word, and they of the circumcision which believed, were astonished, because that upon the Gentiles was also poured out the gifts of the Holy Ghost,” In one verse it is said, “They received the Holy Ghost;" and in the next, they “ received the gift of the Holy Ghost.” they heard them speak with tongues and magnifying God : then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost ?" Yet notwithstanding, before, it is said, the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them. So that here the gift of the Holy Ghost is called the Holy Ghost. And so I take that place in Heb. vi. to be understood, concerning wicked men that do fall away: it is said, “ They are made partakers of the Holy Ghost;" that is, the gifts of the Holy Ghost : for in those times the Holy Ghost appeared by sensible gifts, and it is usual to put the sign for the thing signified. But now, that these gifts should be raised up to such a title as this, to be called the Holy Ghost, it argues that there is a great deal of excellency in these gifts, in spiritual gifts.
They are the purchase of Christ, the fruits of his ascension; some of those talents which that great Lord left unto his servants, when he went into a far country; they are better than all gold and silver in the world, for if you had all the gold and silver of both Indies, you had but natural gifts, but these gifts are spiritual.
It is an excellent thing for a man to be able to do good to others : this is the end of gifts; they are, as the schools speak, in ordine ad alium, they are given for others' good; they are to profit with, saith the apostle. The sun is an excellent creature; why? because he doth good to others: so, many are, by these spiritual gifts, enabled to do good to others; they are those vessels, which grace and holiness being embarked in, is transported into others' souls. Though there be excellent commodities in other countries, yet if you have not shipping to transport them, you are not the better for them; therefore you say, there is a great use of shipping, thereby such and such rare commodities are transported: so, by these gifts, that grace and goodness that grows in one
man's heart, is transported into another's, carried into another's soul. “ He hath given gifts," saith the apostle," for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Eph. iv. If you cannot reach a book off the shelf, you take a stool, and standing upon that stool, you are able to reach down the book : the stool are these gifts; grace alone many times cannot reach down such a notion in divinity, as it is able to do by the help of gifts. Dona dantur in adjutorium gratia: gifts are given for the help of grace, they are the handmaids of grace, and they bring forth sweetly upon the knees of grace.
Again, That must needs be excellent, that is able to add a further excellency unto that which is the most excellent. You say ordinarily, that if a worse thing be added unto a better, the better is defiled; as if water be added unto wine, the wine is corrupted; if lead be added unto silver, the silver is defiled; if silver be added unto gold, the gold is debased; and so the better is defiled by the worser. But now grace is the greatest excellency in the world, yet add gifts unto grace, and grace itself is made the more excellent and beautiful: for as the temple did sanctify the gold, but the gold did beautify the temple; so though grace do sanctify gifts, yet gifts do beautify grace. Now grace being the greatest beauty under heaven, and gifts putting a further beauty upon that which is the most beautiful, what doth this argue, but that there is abundance of excellency and beauty in spiritual gifts.
Thirdly, But then, if there be such an excellency in gifts, in spiritual gifts, wherein is grace and love more excellent? Wherein lies the excellency of grace and love, beyond the excellency of gifts ?
Concerning love first. Love is not an empty thing, the voice and sound of love is not an uncertain sound, or an empty voice; but saith the apostle here, 1 Cor. xiii., “ Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” A man's heart may be purged from grosser sins, and he may be garnished with parts and gifts, and yet his soul left empty for Satan to return into again, as you read in that xiith of Matthew; but grace and love is a filling thing, yea, saith the apostle, chap. xiii. 8, “ Love (or charity) never fails,” but it continues, it is that garment that never waxeth old; but gifts do, and are soon threadbare. Though these gifts are