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John i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name.
THE nature and excellency of saving saith, together with its relation to justification, as an instrument in receiving Christ and his righteousness, having been discoursed docttinally already, I now come to make application of it, according to the nature of this weighty and fruitful point. And the uses I shall make of it, will be for our,
r. Information, | 3. Exhortation, And 2. Examination, j 4. Direction. First Use of Information. Ufe 1. And in the first, this point yields us many, and great, and useful truths, for our information: As,
Infer, i'. Is the receiving of Christ, the vital and saving act of saith, which gives the foul right to the person and privileges of Christ? Then it follows, That the rejeEling of Chri/i by unbelies, must needs be the damning and foul-destroying fin, -which cuts a man off from Christ, and all the benefits purchased by his blood. If there be life in receiving, there must needs be death in rejecting Christ.
There is no grace more excellent than saith ; no sin more execrable, and abominable, than unbelief. Faith is the saving grace, and unbelief the damning sin, Mark xvi. 16. "He that "believeth not, shall be damned." See John iii. 18, 36. and John viii. 24.
And the reason why this sin of unbelief is the damning sin is this, Because, in the justification of a sinner, there must be a cooperation of all the con-causes that have a joint-influence on that blessed effect: As there must be free-grace for an impullive cause, the blood of Christ as the meritorious cause, ib, of necessity, there must be saith, the instrumental cause, to receive and apply what the free-grace of God designed, and the blood of Christ purchased for us. .For where there are many social causes or con-caules, to pioduce one effect, there the effect is not produced till the last cause be in act.
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his ''* name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of "sins," Acts x. 43. Faith in its place, is as necessary as the blood of Christ in its place.: "It is Christ in you the hope of "glory," Col. i. 27. Not Christ in the -womb, not Christ in the grave, nor Christ in heaven, except he be also Christ in you.
Though Christ be come in the flesh; though he died and rose again from the dead; yet if you believe not, you must for all that die in your Jim, John viii. 24. And what a dreadful thing is this! better die any death whatever, than die in your fins, if you die in your fins, you will allb rife in your sins, and Itaud at the bar of Christ in your sins: you can never receive remission, till first you have received Christ. O cursed unbelief, which damns tiie soul: dishonours God, 1 John v. 10. flights Jesus Christ, the wiidom of God, as if that glorious design of redemption by his blood, the triumph and master-piece of divine wisdom, were mere foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. frustrates the gi;eat design of the gospel, Gal. iv. 11. and consequently it mult be the fin of sins; the worst and most dangerous of all sias; leaving a man under the guilt of all his other sins.
Infer. 1. If such a receiving of Christ, as hath been described, be saving and justifying saith, then faith is a -work of greater difficulty than most men understand it to be, and there are but few found believers in the world.
Before Christ can be received, the heart must be emptied, and opened: but most mens hearts are full of self-righteousness and vain-confidence: this was the cafe of the Jews, Rom. x. 3. " Be"ing ignorant of G<'d's righteousness, and going about to esta"blish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves f< to the righteousness of God."
Man's righteousness was once in himself, and what liquor is first put into the vessel, it ever afterwards savours of it: It is with Adam's posterity as with bees, which have been accustomed to go to their own hive, and carry all thither; if the hive be removed to another place, they will still fly to the old place, hover up and down about it, and rather die there, than go to a new place. So it is with most men. God hath removed their righteousness from doing, to believing; from themselves to Christ; but who shall prevail with them to forsake self? Nature will 'venture to be damned rather than do it: there is much submission in believing, and great self-denial: a proud self-conceited heart, will never stoop to live upon the stock of another's righteousness.
Besides, it is no easy thing to persuade men to receive Christ as their Lord in all thing?, and submit their necks to his strict and holy precepts, though it be a great truth that" * Christ's yoke
* Jugum Cbristi non deterit sed honestat colla. Eern.
"doth not siail, but grace and adorn the neck that bears it;" that the tiuest and sweetest liberty is in our freedom from our Iusts, not in our fulfilling them; yet who can persuade the carnal heart to believe this? And much less will men ever be prevailed withal, to forsake sather, mother, wife, children, inheritance, and life itself, to follow Christ: and all this upon the account of spiritual and invisible things: and yet this must be clone by all that receive the Lord Jesus Christ upon gospel-terms; ye^, and btfore the foul hath any encouraging experience of its own, to balance the manifold discouragements of fense, and carnal reason, iropioved by the utmost craft of Satan to dismay it; for experience is the fruit and consequent of believing. So that it may well be placed among the great mysttriei of godlincis, that Christ is believed on" in the world, i Tim, iii. 16.
Infer. 3. Hence it will follow,. That there may he more true and sound believers in the world, than know, or dare conclude themselves to be such.
For, as many rum their own fouls by placing the essence of laving saith in naked assent, so some rob themselves of their own comfort, by placing it in full assurance. Faith, and fense of saith, are two distinct and separable mercies: you may have truly received Christ, and not receive the knowledge or assurance of it, Isa. 1. 10. Some there be that say, Thou art our God, of whom God never said, You are my people: these have no authority to be called the sou's of God: others there are, of whorrt God taith, These are my people, yet dare not call God their God: these have authority to be called the sons of God, but know it not. They have received Christ, that is their safety; but they have not yet received the knowledge and assurance of it; that is their trouble: the Father owns his child in the cradle, who yet knows him not to be his sather.
Now there are two reasons why many believers, who might argue themselves into peace, do yet live without the comforts of their saith: and this may come to pass, either from,
Fit ft, The inevidence of the premises.
Secondly, Or the weighty importance of the conclufion.
First, It may come to pass from the inevidence of the premise?. Assurance is a practical syllogi/m, and it proceeds thus:
All that truly have received Christ Jesus, they are the children of God.
1 have truly received Jesus Christ, '''
Therefore f am the child of God. The major proposition is found ia the scripture) and there cao be Do doubt of that. The assumption depends upon experience, or internal sense; / have truly received Jesus Christ: Here usually is the stumble; many great objections lie against it, which they cannot clearly answer: As,
Ob}. 1. Light and knowledge are necessarily required to the right receiving of Christ, but I am dark and ignorant, many carnal unregenerate persons know more than I do, and are more able to discourse of the mysteries of religion than \ am. ; f
Sol. But you ought to distinguish of the kinds and degreeifof knowledge, and then you would see that your bewailed ignorance is no bar to your interest in Christ. There are two kinds of knowledge:
1. Natural. | 2. Spiritual.. There is a natural knowledge, even of spiritual objects, a spark of nature blown up by an advantageous education; and though the objects of this knowledge be spiritual things, yet the light in which they are discerned, is but a mere natural light.
And there is a spiritual knowledge of spiritual things, the teaching of the anointing, as it is called, 1 John ii. 27. si. e.J the effect and fruit of the Spirit's sanctifying work upon our souls, when the experience of a man's own heart informs, and teacheth his understanding, when by feeling the workings of grace in our own souls, we come to understand its nature: this is spiritual knowledge. Now, a little of this knowledge is a bet- > ter evidence of a man's interest in Christ, than the most railed and excellent degree- of natural knowledge: As the philosopher truly observes; Praestat paucula de meltori feientia degujiaJJ'e, qiuim de ignobdiori multa: One dram of knowledge of the bes t and most excellent thines, is better than much knowledge of Jesus Christ, that hath life and savour in it, is more than all the common things. So it is here, a little spiritual knowledge of natural, sapless knowledge of the unregenerate, which leaves the heart dead, carnal, and barren: it is not the quantity, but the kind, not the measure, but the savour: If you know so much of the evil os sin, as renders it the most bitter and burdensome thing in the world to you, and so much of the necessity and excellency of Christ, as renders him the most sweet and desirable thing ia the world to you, though you may be defective in many degrees of knowledge, yet this is enough to prove yours to be the fruit of the Spirit: you may have a sanctified heart, though you have an irregular or weak head: many'that knew more than you, are in hell; and some that once knew as little as you, are now in heaven: In absoluto etfacili flat aeternitas; God hath not Vol. II. C g
prepared heaven only for clear and subtle head?. A little sanctified, and effectual knowledge of Christ's person, offices, fur .tablencts, and nscelTity, may bring thre thither, when others» with all their curious speculations and notions, may perish foreveris5*;. 2. But you tell mi, that assent to the troths of the gospel is necessarily included in saving saith, which, though it be not the jutiifyiug and laving act, yet it is pre-fuppofed and required to it. Now 1 have many staggerings and doublings about the certainty and reality of thele things; many horrid aiheiflical thoughts, which shake the assenting act of saith in the very foundation, and hence i doubt I do not believe.
fie/. There may be, and often is, a true and sincere offing found in the soul, that is assaulted with violent atheistical suggestions fiom Satan; and thereupon questions the truth of it. And this is a very clear evidence of the reality of our assent, that whatever doubts, or contraiy suggestions there be, yet we dare not in our practice, contradict or Hight those truths or duties which we are tempted to disbelieve, ex. gr. We are assauhtd with atheistical thoughts, and tempted to slight and caff off all fears of sin, and practice of religious duties, yet when it comes to the point of practice, we dare not commit a known sin, the awe of God is upon us; we dare not omit a known duty, the tie of conscience is found strong enough to hold us clole to it: in this cafe, it is plain we do really assent, when we think we do not. A man thinks he doth not love his child, yet carefully provides for him in health, and is full of grief and fears about him in sickness : why now, so long as 1 fee all satherly duties performed, and afTLctkms to his child's welsare manifested, let him say what he will as to the want of love to him, whilst 1 fee this, he must excuse me if 1 do not believe him, when he saith he hath no love for him. Just so is it in this cafe, a man saith 1 do not assent to the being, necessity, or excellency of Jelus Christ; yet, in the mean time, his loul is filled with cares arid lears about securing his interest in him, he is found panting and thirsting, tor him with vehement desires, there is nothing in all the world would give him such joy, as to be well assured of an interest in him; while it is thus with any man, let him lay or think what he will of his assent, it is manifest by this he doth truly, and heartily assent, and there can be no better proof of it than these real effects produced by it.
Secondly, But if these, and other objections were never fo fully anlwered for the clearing of the assumption, yet it of tea fills out, that believers are afraid to draw the conclufion, and that fear partly arises fiom, v.