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again into their former bondage, to sin and Satan. O Christian! if ever God gave thee a fight, and a sense of the misery and danger of thy natural state, if ever thou hast felt the pangs of a labouring, and distressed conscience, and, after all this, tasted the unspeakable sweetness of the peace and rest that are in Christ, thou wilt rather choose to die ten thousand deaths, than to forsake Christ, and go back again into that sad condition.
Infer. 3. How suitable, and -well beaming is a free spirit in believers, to their state of liberty and freedom? Christ hath made your condition free, O let the temper and frame of your hearts be free also; do all that you do for God with a spirit of freedom; not by constraint, but willingly. Methinks, Christians, the new nature that is in you should stand for a command, and be instead of all arguments that use to work upon the hopes, and fears of other men. See how all creatures work according to the principle of their natures. You need not command a mother todraw forth her breasts to a sucking child; nature itself teaches and prompts to that. You need not bid the sea ebb and flow at the stated hours. O Christian! why should thy heart need any other argument, than its own spiritual inclination, to keep its stated times and seasons of communion with God? Let none of God's commandments be grievous to you: let not thine heart need dragging and forcing to its own benefit and advantage. Whatever you do for God, do it chearfully; and whatever you suffer for God, suffer it chearfully. It was a brave spirit which actuated holy Paul, "I am ready, (saith he), "not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the "name of the Lord Jesus," Acts xxi. 13.
Infer. 4. Let no man wonder at the enmity and oppofition of Satan to the preaching of the gofpel: for by the gospel it is that fouls are recovered out of his power, Acts xxvi. 18. 'Tis the express work of ministers " to turn men from darkness to light, "and from the power of Satan unto God." Satan (as one saith) is a great and jealous prince: he will never endure to have liberty proclaimed by the ministers, of Christ within his dominions. And, indeed, what is it less, when the gospel is preached in power, but as it were by beat of drum, apd found of trumpet, to proclaim liberty, spiritual, sweet, and everlastaing liberty, to every soul that is made sensible of the bondage of corruption and cruel servitude of Satan, and will now come over to Jesus Christ I And oh what numbers and multitudes of prisoners have broken loose from Satan at one proclamation of Christ, Acts ii. 41. But Satan owes the servants of Christ a spite for this, and will be sure to pay them, if ever they come within his
D d d 55 • reach; persecution is the genius of the gospel, and follows it as the shadow doth the body.
Infer. 5. How careful should Christians be to maintain their spiritual liberty in all and every point therefore!" stand sast (saith "Paul) in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and "be not again in tangled in the yoke of bondage," Gal. v. 1. And again, " Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of "men." 'Tis Christ's prerogative to prescribe the rules of his own house; he hath given no man dominion over your saith, 2 Cor. i. 24. One man is no rule to another, but the word of Christ is a rule to all: follow not the holiest of men one step sarther than they follow Christ, 1 Cor. 11. 4. Man is an ambitious creature, naturally affecting dominion; and dominion over the mind rather than over the body. To give law to others, feeds pride in himself: so sar as any man brings the word of Christ to warrant his injunctions, so sar we are to obey, and no sarther: Christ is your Lord and Lawgiver.
Inference 6. Lastly, Let this encourage and persuade sinnert to come to Christ; for with him is sweet liberty for poor captives. Oh that you did but know what a blessed state Jesus Christ would bring you into !" Come unto me (saith he) ye that *' labour and are heavy laden j" and what encouragement doth he give to comers ? Why this, " My yoke is easy, and my burden *» is light." The devil persuades you, that the ways of obedience and strict godliness are a perfect bondage; but, if ever God regenerate you, you will find his ways, "ways of pleasantness, and "all his paths peace: you will rejoice in the way of his com'' mandments as much as in all riches:" you will sind the worst .work Christ puts you about, even suffering work, sweeter than all the pleasures that ever you found in fin. O therefore open your hearts at the call of the gospel: Come unto Christ, thep shall you be free indeed.
SERMON XIX. The Saints coming home to God, by Reconciliation, and Glorification, opened and applied.
I Pet. iii- 18. For Christ hath once suffered for fins, the just fir the vnjuft, that he might bring us to God,
TH E scope of the apostle in this place is to prepare, and fortify Christians for a day of suffering. In order to their chearful sustaining whereof, he prcscribeth two excellent rules of mighty use for all suffering Christians.
First, To get a. good conscience within them, ver. 16, 17. hie murus alieneus esto.
Secondly, To set the example of Christ's sufferings before them, ver; 18. " For Christ hath once suffered for sinners:" the sufferings of Christ for us, is the great motive engaging Christians to suffer chearfully for him.
Ia the words before us we have, ,
First, The sufficiency and fulness of Christ's sufferings intimated in that particle [once]; Christ needs to suffer no more, having finished and compleated that whole work at once.
Secondly, The meritorious cause of the sufferings of Christ, and that is fin, Christ once suffered for fins; not his own fins, but ours: as It follows in the next clause, which is the third thing here observable, vizt
Thirdly, The admirable grace, and unexampled love of Christ: to us sinners, the just for the unjust; in which words the substitution of Christ in the room and place of sinners, the vicegerence of his death is plainly expressed. Christ died not only nostro bono, for our good, but also noftro loco, in our stead.
Fourthly, Here is also the sinal cause, or design and scope of the sufferings of Christ, which was to bring us to God.
Fifthly, Here is also the issue of the sufferings of Christ, which was the death of Christ in the flesh, and the quickning of Christ after death by the Spirit. Many excellent observations are lodged in the bosom of this scripture; all which I must pass over in silence at this time, and consine my discourse to the final cause of the sufferings of Christ, namely, that he might bring us to God: where the observation will be plainly and briefly this.
Doct. That the end of Christ's cursed death, and bitter sufferings, was to bring all thofe far whom he died unto God. In the explication and preparation of this point for use, two things must be spoken unto, viz.
1. What Christ's bringing us to God imports?
2. What influence the death of Christ hath upon this design of bringing us to God?
First, What Christ's bringing us to God imports? And certainly there be many great and excellent things contained in this expression: more generally it notes our state of reconciliation, and our state of glorification. By reconciliation we are brought nigh to God, Eph. ii. 13. "Ye are made nigh," (r. e.) reconciled, "by the blood of Christ," Hob. xji. 22, 53, we are said "to come to God the Judge of all." By reconciliation we are brought nigh unto God now; by glorification we shall be brought home to God hereafter, i Thef, iv. 17, "We shall be ever "with the-Lord." But more particularly this phrase, "that '' he might bring us to God," imports,
First, That the chief happiness of man consisted! in the enjoyment of God: that the creature hath as neceflary dependance upon God for happiness, as the stream hath upon the fountain, or the image in the glass upon the sace of him that looks into it. For as the sum of the creatures misery lies in this, depart from me; separation from God is the principal part of damnation: so, on the contrary, the chief happiness of the creature confisteth in the enjoyment, and blessed vision of God, 1 John iii. 2. Hal. xvii. 15. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy like"ness."
Secondly, It implies man's revolt and apostacy from God, Eph, ii. 12. " But now in Christ Jesus, ye who were sometime asar off, "are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Those whom Christ bringeth unto God, were before asar off from him, both in state and condition, and in temper and disposition: we were lost creatures, and had no desire to return to God *: The prodigal was laid to go into a sar country, Luke xv. 30.
Thirdly, Christ's bringing us to God, implies our inability to return to God of ourselves: we must be brought back by Christ, or perish for ever in a state of separation from God: the lost deep is made the emblem of the lost sinner, Luke xv. 5. The sheep returns not U> the fold of itself, but the shepherd seeks it, finds it, and carries it back upon his shoulders. And the apostle plainly tells us, Rom. v. 6. That when we were-withoutstrength si. e.J any ability to recover, help, or save ourselves, in due time Christ diedfor the ungodly.
Fourthly, Christ's bringing us to God, evidently implies this, that God's unsatisfied justice was once the great bar betwixt him and man. Man can have no access to God but by Christ: Christ brings us to God by no other way but the way of satissaction by his blood: " He hath suffered for sins, the just for ** the uDjust, that he might bring us to God." Better ten thousand worlds should perish for ever, than God should lose the honour of his justice, This great obex, or bar to our enjoyment of God, is effectually removed by the death of Christ;
* Although the saculties of the foul v/ere not extinguished by the sall; yet their inclination to, spiritual objects was wholly lost. em. on the image of Cod,
whereby God's'justice is not only fully satisfied, but highly hooured and glorified, Rom. iii. 24. And so the way by which we are brought to God is again opened (to the wonder and joy of all believers) by the blood and sufferings of Christ.
Fifthly, and lastly, It shews us the peculiar happiness and privilege of believers above all people in the world: these only are they which shall be brought to God by Jesus Christ in a reconciled state: others, indeed, shall be brought to God as a Judge, to be condemned by him: believers only are brought to God in the Mediator's hand, as a reconciled Father, to be made blessed for ever in the enjoyment of him: every believer is brought singly to God at his death, Luke xvi. 22. And all believers shall be jointly and solemnly presented to God in the great day, Col. i. 22. Jude 24. They shall be all presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. Now the privilege of believers in that day will lie in divers things.
First, That they shall be all brought to God together. This will be the general assembly mentioned, Heb. xii. 22. There (hall be a collection of all believers, in all ages of the world, into one blessed assembly : they shall come from the east, and west, and north, and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God, Luke xiii. 29. O what a glorious train will be seen following the Redeemer in that day!
Secondly, As all the saints shall be collected into one body; so they shall be all brought, or presented unto God, saultless and without blemish, Jude 24. "A glorious church, without spot "or wrinkle, or any such thing," Eph. v. 27. For this is the general assembly of the spirits of just men that are made perfect, Heb. xii. 23. All sin was perfectly separated from them, when death had separated their souls and bodies. .
Thirdly, In this lies the privilege of believers, that as they shall be all brought together, and that in a state of absolute purity, and perfection, so they shall be all brought to God: they shall see his sace, in the vision whereof is "fulness of joy, and *' at whose right-hand are pleasures for evermore," Psal. xvi. 11. The objective blessedness of the saints consisteth in their fruition of God, Psal. lxxii. 25. To see God in his word and works, is the happiness of the saints on earth; but to fee him sace to sace, will be the fulness of their blessedness in heaven, J John iii. 2. This is that intuitive, transforming, and sanctifying vision, of which the scripture frequently speaks, Psal. xvii. 15. t Cor. xv. 28. Rev. vii. 17.
Fourthly, To be brought unto God, must needs imply a state of perfect joy, and highest delight. So speaks the apostle, Jude