That the work of Grace is a deep, powerfull, and inward affecting of the whole man. And how far Grace may be tendred or received, and yet not be put effectually into our Inwards. Also what this inward, deep work of Grace is, with the signs and effects of it.
EZEK. 36. 27.
THe grace promised in this Text hath been dispatched, viz. The putting of Gods Spirit in the converted. The next thing considerable is, The subject recipient; The subject wherein this grace is put, and that is briefly but very emphatically expressed, Within you. And indeed the English doth not rise up to the efficacy of the Hebrew, which is, in the midst, or the inward deep parts of you. Hence it's translated in intimo vestri: So that there is a great deal of weight li∣eth upon this Hebrew phrase, for it supposeth the work of grace to go deep into a man. Its an hearty rooted work, it excludeth all superficiall, formall or noti∣onall, and meer brain-work in godlinesse: And its good to observe, how in pa∣rallel places this promise doth still relate to that intimate deep working of grace upon the heart, Ezek. 11. 19. there is the same promise repeated, with this Em∣phasis; so that you may see the excellency of this promise for conversion to God, in the repetition of it, as if the Prophet delighted to mention nothing but this. The Prophet Jeremiah also doth twice or thrice declare this grace here pro∣mised in the Text; and Chap. 31. 33. with this Emphaticall description, I will put my law in their inward parts. Oh this is the main thing; All outward pro∣fession, all parts, all notions, all inlargements, if these be not accompanied with grace in the inward parts of a man, they are but a blaze: they are a tinkling cymball. Such mens Religion is like Davids great men in the world, compa∣red to grasse upon the house top, with which the mower filleth not his hand.
That the work of grace is a deep, powerfull and inward affecting of the whole*man.
The Spirit of God is put into their inwards; the law of God is written in their inwards; and therefore the spirit of man as sanctified and renewed, is called of∣ten the inward man, Rom. 7. 22. 2 Cor. 4. 16. Alas, we may say of many, It's the outward man of their godlinesse, not the inward; because it consists only in the tongue, and in expressions, and transient affections at farthest, but as for the deep, constant and solid working of grace, that is a mystery they understand not. Now that the work of grace is such an inward deep changing of a man; is also plain, in that its called so often, life. Now we know life is not the external motion, or speaking, or eating, or working; but the inward fountain of these. Life is the Page 534actus primus, the first act, or fountain, or rise of all other motions. The Painter he can give external lineaments, and outward representations; but he cannot give this actus primus, this life. And the hypocrite or unsound man, he can give ma∣ny outward colours, and glorious representations of grace, so that he may be ad∣mirable in the eies of others, and confident in his own goodnesse, but yet not at all acquainted with this grace in the inward parts. This point deserveth a pow∣erfull opening, to go to the inwards of it, as well as that must go to our inwards. And first, Let us shew how farre this grace may be either tendered or received, * and yet not put into our inwards.
And first, it's easily granted by all, That as long as the word of God sounds only in the ear, and it pierceth no further, here is no descending of it into the bowels: and yet are not the greatest part of our auditors no further wrought upon, then as to the ear! They come and hear, they sit and hear, it may be; but still here is no work of the Spirit upon the heart. Our Saviour in his parable compareth such to the high-way ground; the seed fell upon it, and presently the devil, like the birds of the air, fetcheth it away. Oh that men should judge it a great sin if they did not come and hear, and not also think it a greater sin to hear, and not inwardly to receive the power of the word. For the end of hearing is to let the word fall down into the very bottom of thy soul. Physick in the mouth, not received into the stomack, cannot do any good. R•in upon the surface of the ground, and not soaking to the root, will never make the plant grow; and thus it is here, Though thou hearest a thousand sermons, thou that neglectest not any Sabbath day; yet if thou hearest and hearest, and only hearest; the word doth not like Aarons oil go from thy ear, thy head, but to thy heart, thy inferiour deep parts of thy soul; thou goest home as ignorant, as prophane, as obstinate as thou camest hither. Know then that the perfection and fulnesse of every action lieth in accomplishing its end, without which it is in vain. Eating without digesti∣on doth not nourish, but breed diseases; so the end of hearing, is to have a po∣tent and divine operation upon the very bowels of thy soul. As Saul when he was among the Prophets, the spirit came on him, and he also prophesied. Thus while the word of God, the instrument of the spirit, is displayed before thee, what a mighty change and deep alteration should come upon thee! Thou shouldst go home praying as others, repenting as others, fearing God as others: Do not then give the ear only, but the heart also; otherwise Christ only stands at the door and knocks, thou doest not let him in.
Secondly. A second outward and insufficient work is, When the word is re∣ceived with understanding, and the grace of God doth indeed open his eyes so far, that*his minde is inlightned, that he doth both know and believe the truths of Religion, but it goeth no further. Although this work be inward, being upon the minde of man; yet I call it outward, as in respect of the inward parts, mentioned in the Text, for that speaks of more then a minde to know, or an understanding to understand the things of Religion. Although inlightning be sometimes put for the whole conversion, and light for grace, yet at other times it's made a di∣stinct work from it, and such even as reprobates have, and apostates, as Heb. 6. where inlightning, though it be a good, yea and a great gift of God; yet the Apostle hopes for better things of them, and things that accompany salvation: So that knowledge, parts, understanding in Religion doth not necessarily ac∣company salvation; and we hope better things of men, then to be able to repeat or remember Sermons, or with some understanding to give an account of the principles of Religion; and many times knowing of Gods will, and doing it, are put as two separable things; how far then are they from the fruit of this promise, who remain in grosse ignorance, who have blinde eies, know nothing about their corruption and misery by sin, or about Christ, and faith in him! To whom all our Sermons have been as a book sealed up; unto whom, though in English, yet we have preached unknown matter: A people likely to dye, and to Page 535 be damned in ignorance; for it understanding, knowing men, who receive the word with attention and knowledge; yet if they finde it not changing their inward man, come short of grace, where must the ignorant man appear? *
Thirdly, The retaining of the word of God in the memory, that is not this grace in the inward parts: That indeed is very laudable; and a forgetful hearer is blamed by the Scripture, James 1. 25. Davids resolution is, To hide the word in his heart: And this is a great cause to make it work so deeply; for a man can∣not carry coals of fire long in his bosom, but they will set all on a flame; yet the meer retaining it there, doth not attain to the inward parts in the Text.
Fourthly, The transient and suddain working upon the affections and heart, are not*also the putting of his spirit within us, or the writing of the Law in their inward parts: This comes nearest, but they want root and continuance, and so at last wither. Iohns hearers did for a season rejoye in his light; the temporary Be∣liever doth receive the word with joy, and yet he hath no root: This is a two edged sword, this truth makes divisions between the secret and hidden things of the heart: Oh how nice a point is that, wherein the temporary and the true convert differ! both pray with sorrow, both hear with joy, both per∣form duties with some inlargements and sweetness: Simili fere sensu afficiuntur, said Calvin: Yet as two high hills may seem very near together at the top, when their bottoms are far distant one from another; so these inlargements, affecti∣ons, may seem very near, when the bottom and root do much differ. Oh the Minister of God should never be upon this point, but even horror should take hold on the hearer, and he be like one that looketh down an high pinacle, & trem∣bleth to see how easily, and yet dangerously he may fall; and yet looking upon the battlements he holds upon, the grace of God, and the promise of God, which his soul hath had experience of, have hope; so put faith and trembling together!
Lastly, The meer external cleansing of a mans life, from former lusts and gross*impieties, is not this putting the spirit within us? As the Angels, when they took humane bodies, they did but seem to eat, and seem to do vital actions of life; they could not indeed, because they were not personally united to the assumed body: so all men who have their lives cleansed, and they set up a form of Re∣ligion, they do not these things as vital actions of grace; they move, as the wheel of the mill is moved, by the force of the water, not by an inward principle of life: These are compared to Swine washed in the water, but re∣turning afterwards to the mire: Though the Swine be made as white as the sheep, yet because not inwardly made a sheep, therefore she turneth at last to her former impurity; but I hint onely these things, because treated on be∣fore.
Let us in the next place come to consider positively, what this inward deep work * of grace is, wherein it doth consist: And
First, It is then fulfilled in us, when the things of Christ, his Glory, Will and Command lie closest, and nearest to the heart: For that is indeed within a man, and intimate, which is next to his heart, as we say; and this our Saviour re∣quireth in every Disciple, He that loveth father or mother more then me, is not worthy of me, Mat. 18. 37. We know the love of father and mother is a most na∣tural thing, it comes not by teaching, by custom, its inbred in us as soon as we are born; and yet the love of Christ, his Glory, and his Commandments should be more intimate then this. Hence the Apostle, to express this innate and inward life, saith, I no longer live, but Christ in me, the life that I live is by faith in Christ, Gal. 2. 20. What an emphatical expression is this, I do not live, but Christ; I live not the life of sense, I eat not, I drink not, I breathe not bodily breath; that is, comparatively to the life of faith: So that you see our very natural life, which is the most inward and deep thing in a man that is, is said not to be lived, in respect of this life of grace, which is more in∣ward Page 536 then these: Oh then examine, how close and dearly heavenly things lie to thy heart: Is there any thing more prized then God, then Grace, then Godliness? then know, God hath not put his spirit in thee, but the Devil, or the world, and sin have put their lusts in thee: Now this is a sure discovery of the woful and sinful estate of most people, God is not in all their thoughts, Christ is not in their affections, they chuse other things rather then him. Further∣more, as God and Christ is the beloved of their heart; so that which is most hated and abhorred from the heart, is sin and all evil; its more loathed then any other thing, more feared, more avoided; so that they chuse affliction and all misery rather then sin, their heart is most sensible and apprehensive of this: Oh what then can they think of themselves, who harbor and nourish sin? they no longer live, but sin in them; this is their meat and drink, to do the works of the Devil: Oh then that at last men secure and bold in sin, would be awaken∣ed: How cometh that to be imbraced in thy bosom, and practised in thy life, which thou should 〈◊〉 avoid as hell it self?
Secondly, This inward work of grace is seen, when the work of humiliation is*laid low enough: We read of the Parable of him that built an house, and when the tempests and storms arose, all fell to the ground immediately; and why? because this was not diged deep enough: Now our repentance and humiliation is then deep enough, when its for sin as sin, when its for sin because its an offence to God, and displeases him; when they loath themselves, and count them∣selves abominable in this respect. To be humbled for sin, as Ahab and the Israelites were often times, because of the temporal judgements following sin, was not to go deep enough: Oh! herein people come too short, they cry out of their sins, in the fear of death, in the extremity of pain: Alas, this is not to go to the bottom; there is a worse thing in sin, then all the temporal calamities it brings with it; and that is, to offend God, to separate between his favor and thy soul: Its therefore very meet, that thy humiliation should be for that which is the worst evil in sin. Again, in humiliation men go deep enough, when they do not onely stay upon actual sins, but go to the very original and fountain of all: Thus David, Psal. 51. he went deep, when beyond his actual sins of Murther and Adultery he also bewailed the native corruption of his soul: Oh! the grace of God must indeed have a close and inward work in that man, who discovers the root of sin, as well as the branches; the fountain, as well as the stream. God in the universal destruction of the world, did not onely look to the actual impieties then committed, but to the imagination of the thoughts of a mans heart, which were onely evil, and that continually, Gen. 6. and thus he that will make a sure and good issue of his humiliation, must still dig deeper and deeper; and see more and more abominations, till he go to the foul and bitter root of all.
Thirdly, Then the word of God is put in our inward parts, when we do truly, sin∣cerely and unfeignedly, perform all the duties God requireth: This is to do it with * the whole heart; and if we had any thing better then our hearts, they should be offered up to God: Thus David, Psal. 51. Thou delightest in the truth in the inward parts: Oh this a man should have in all the service he doth for God! So that all those, who by Religion accomplish their self-interests; all those who seek themselves, have carnal movtives in the profession of Religion; these are but pictures, not living creatures in the way of grace: Great is the number of hypocrites, even among those that profess the name of Christ: Its damna∣ble blasphemy to charge it upon all, as wicked men do; this is to condemn the generation of the godly, to blaspheme Christ and the Gospel; yet it cannot be but that through the hypocrisies of many, grievous offences and scandals will fall out: None of those who follow Christ because of the loaves, or who tread out the corn meerly because they may feed on it, set up in seeming manner the ways of Christ, that they may get outward advantages, can by experience Page 537 witness this promise made good to them: They pray, they hear, they perform holy duties, but still they want something within, still the soul of all is want∣ing; but its not the appearance of Good, not the name or profession of it, will bring thee any true or sound comfort: The time is coming, when all things without will fail thee, and leave thee; it must be something within that may support thee. *
In the next place let us observe, What are the signs, or the effects of this in∣ward deep work of grace in a man; and they are excellent:
First, He doth not rest in the external outward performance of any holy duty; if all within him be not moved and excited thereunto: He hath no comfort, no content, in praying, hearing, or any Religious duty, if all the inwards of his soul, and the depths of his heart, have not also been moved therein: Thus Da∣vid, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all within thee praise his holy name. Psal. 104. 1. All within thee, observe that: Thus the godly, as the Cock stirreth up himself before he crows, do prepare and stir up themselves to every duty: Hear the word of God, O my soul, and let all within thee give ear thereunto; so that the dull, sleepy, and formal performances of holy duties, discover a man void of grace, as well as gross impieties: Not onely prophaneness and ungodliness abroad, but dull, lazie, and formal duties, and that in a constant manner, dis∣cover a man devoid of this work of Grace: Oh if this were in the depth of thee, in the• midst of thee, it would break out more vigorously then it doth.
Secondly, Where this deep work of grace is, there a mans inward thoughts and meditations are often about holy things: The tree that is deeply rooted, hath se∣veral * strings, as it were, whereby its fastned to the earth; as the yong infant in the womb is to the mother: So that thou art to observe, what thy inward thoughts, thy inward meditations do most run about: If grace be deep with∣in, thy soul will be like an heaven, such holy thoughts, holy meditations, ho∣ly affections do lodge in thee: Thus the godly is described, By meditating in the Law of God day and night, Psal. 1. 2. As the Psalmist describes the wicked man, by his thoughts, God is not in his thoughts; and his inward thought is to leave himself a greet name. Thoughts are the first born of the soul, they most discover what a man is, they come nearest to the fountain. As the liquor tastes and smells of the vessel, so thoughts have either filthiness or godliness in them, as they come immediately from the heart; Oh then consider, what thy in∣ward thoughts for the most part are, for such art thou as they are.
Lastly, A man that hath this deep grace, he is will rooted and established; he is upon the rock Christ, and so he can abide all temptations: If there come * the temptations of persecution, he can shew his patience; if of error and heresies, his godly wisdom and soundness of minde: When men want a bot∣tom, or are not built upon a rock, they are like children tossed up and down with every wind of Doctrine.
Use of Examination: This Doctrine should even amaze you, and put you in∣to * a godly fear; for do not most men content themselves with the externals in Religion? is not all the whole worship and godliness of many in the meer form? others place it in disputes, in opinions; but to have grace in the inward man is rare: Oh consider that place, Every mans way is good in his own eyes, but God pondereth the heart, Prov. 21. 22. And God is often described by this, He tryeth and searcheth the hearts of men: Not that these outward duties of Religi∣on and Worship are to be neglected; but we are not to judge of godliness in our selves by these; the soul and excellency of them lieth in the inward man: Oh remember, that if there be not a good treasure within, thou wilt roar and tremble one day, when all things else will fail. Hezekiah comforted himself in this, That he had walked in truth and uprightness of heart: Then something with∣in, will be a joy to thy soul, even then, when all outward things will leave thee.