SECT. XII. Handling the VVork of Grace under the Title of Vocation or Calling.
The Nature of Vocation opened in re∣spect of the Efficient and Instrumental Causes of it.
ROM. 8. 30.
WE have considered the Work of Grace under several emi∣nent Titles that the Scripture giveth to it. The next I shall pitch upon, is, Vocation or Calling; for Conversion is often notified by this term. And this Text will afford a just occasion to treat of it. To understand the Text, let us consider the divine and admirable Connexion of this verse with the precedent Matter at the 28th verse. The Apostle after other Consolations administred to af∣flicted believers, he giveth them this soveraign Cordial, All things work together for good to them that are called according to Gods purpose. This promise or faithful saying is enough to bear up the heart of any troubled believer, for what can he desire more? If this will not satisfie, what can? Though thy adversities, temptations are called evils in respect of sense, yet in respect of thy spiritual advantage, so they are good adversities, they are good evils without any contradiction; and see how emphatical every word is. We know, not only Paul, but all the godly by their ex∣perience, and wise comparing of things together, come to know this. This is such a truth, that no Christian should be ignorant of; And then All things; he doth not say Some, but all things; not only prosperity, not only spiritual mercies, but even all miseries and afflictions whatsoever, yea sins themselves by Gods good∣nesse being repented of, make them more wary and humble; as fire driveth out Page 582 pain by fire: and then they work together; though this or that particular affli∣ction of it self may seem to make thee worse, to cause thy Sunne to goe many degrees backwards, yet all together promote thy good; They do that in a Con∣stell•tion, which a simple aspect would not do. So that this true and faithful say∣ing if imbraced by all acceptation of believing, is enough to make a man in a con∣tinual transfiguration. Such a beleever may truly say, Soul, take thy spiritual ease, for •ere is much spiritual good treasured up for thee; but this bread is only given to children; This pearl is not cast to dogs and swine; for in the next place we are told who they are, to whom this priviledge belongs, and they are set out,
1. By their Duty or Grace, They love God.
2. By Gods mercy vouchsafed to them, They are called according to his purpose. Whereupon the Apostle makes a golden chain of all the causes of Salvation, inse∣parably linked together, that none may be taken away one from another. It was a saying that A man might sooner wrest Hercules his Club out of his hand, then divide one of Homers verses from another, the matter was so dependant and con∣nexed together; but certainly all these causes are so divinely joyned together, that none can part them. And the first Round in this Chain is Gods fore-know∣ledge, or rather Gods fore-acknowledging; For by fore-knowledge is not meant any prescience or prevision of such as would use their free-will and natu∣ral power well. No, that to repugneth the whole currant of the Scripture, which makes all good works the fruit and effect of Predestination, not the motive or cause of it, otherwise it would be Postdestination, rather then Predestination; but to fore-know is as much as to approve of, and to love, according to that rule, Words signifying acts of the understanding, are many times put for the conco∣mitant and subsequent affections and effects thereof. Thus the simple word To know, is many times put for approbation, care and love. Thus Psal. 1. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous. John 10. I know my Sheep; and the compound to fore-know also is used in this sense, Rom. 11. God hath not cast away the people whom he for•-knew, i. e. did approve and love. So 1 Pet. 1. 2. Elect according to the fore-knowledge of God; And so it is applied to Christ vers. 20. in that Chapter. Upon this fore-knowledge succeeds Predestination, and these are acts of God from all eternity; and from these as the fountain, streams the first effect in time, and that is Calling, Whom he hath predestinated he hath called.
There is a twofold calling, one External only, consisting in the tender and of∣fer * of grace, inviting of men to come in; in which sense our Saviour said, Many are called, but few are chosen. The other internal and efficacious also, when God with the outward offer changeth the heart, making it to imbrace Christ; and in this sense it is said here Called; upon this follow two further benefits, Justified and Glorified. It is not my purpose to insist on them, nor to dispute the order, Whether Calling or Justification precede; or, Whether Sanctification be inclu∣ded in this word Calling. These things are not within my compasse; onely take notice of this, That the phrase in the Preterperfect Tense, He hath justified, doth not imply a Justification from all eternity, no more then that we are called and glorified from eternity; but the Apostle speaks in the past time, either to shew the certainty of it; or else because we are glorified already in Christ our Head, and have the sure pledges of it in this life; or else because he had begun in that Tense when he spake of Predestination, and could use no other, he continued the same expression in the other priviledges.
The Text thus opened, I come to that particular benefit I intend, viz. Called; and for the sence of the word, you must know it signifies to have a being and existence, yet such, as that it is celebrated and publickly taken notice of. Bles∣sed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God; Matth. 5. 9. And, behold what love he hath shewn, that we should be called the sons of God, 1 Joh. 3. 1. And we read of a three-fold Calling;
First, That external and civil condition of life which a man lives in; in Page 583 which sense every one is bid to continue in the calling he is called unto, 1 Cor 7. 20.
Secondly, For any spiritual function or office in the Church. Thus the Apo∣stleship is often stiled a Calling.
And lastly, for that grace of God whereby he cals us out of the state of igno∣rance, Paganism and prophanenesse, to a state of truth, godlinesse and glory; which is either meerly external, vouchsafed even to hypocrites and reprobates, or internal, bestowed on the godly only; and this the Apostle meaneth in the Text. From whence observe,
That whom God hath predestinated from all eternity, and will glorifie in the world*to come, he doth in this life powerfully call out of their sins and ignorance.
As they are regenerated, or converted, so they are a called people: I shall first treat of this powerful calling which the godly onely have: And to consider this distinctly, let us open the nature of it:
- 1. In respect of the efficient cause. *
- 2. The instrumental.
- 3. The nature of it.
- 4. The terms from whence we are called, and to which we are called.
And for the efficient Cause, God is he that calleth us with this powerfull live∣ly calling: and herein consider,
First, The omnipotent power and strength of God, who by his word can make such a wonderful change; He doth but call, and man who is naturally such an enemy and adversary to what is good, doth presently become a friend; so that the Scri∣pture expressing this work of conversion, doth therein allude to Gods Creation at first, when by his Word all things were made, he said, Let there be light, and there was light; Verba Dei sunt opera, said Luther, Gods words are works; this made the Apostle say, He calleth those things that are not, as if they were, 1 Cor. 1. Gods call gives a ready being to those things that had no existency at all before. So that herein is declared the soveraign power of God; God at the first Creation called for those things to appear which lay in the dark womb of nothing, and they presently came out; Even as if a Master should give a call to his servant who stands in the next room ready to receive his commands. Behold then and admire at the great power of God, who hath made this wonderfull change on thee. Christ did no sooner call from Heaven to Paul, but he present∣ly answers, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? So that Gods call even to the deaf is not in vain, because at the same time he giveth ears to hear. Oh then let the godly consider, How comes grace, any godly affections or desires to be in thy heart? It had been impossible for such things to lodge in thy soul, had not God given this mighty call, saying, Let there be faith, repentance, godly sorrow; and presently there is.
Secondly, Take notice of the full sufficiency and happinesse of God, who thus cals*thee to communion with him. It is not for any want or indigency, that day by day he thus cals and invites thee to come in: No, God is blessed, and all-sufficient: had he not created Angels, or the visible world, he had been gloriously happy in the enjoying of himself, but yet out of his goodness he is willing to invite and call in men, that they also may be made happy; Christ in his Parable ex∣pressed this, when he sent out his servants to invite men unto the feast, and when they refused then he sent for the lame and blinde, Luk. 14. 21. such as he could have no need of, but they did exceedingly need him; and so there is no day that God sends us his servants to invite you to this spiritual feast, but this consideration should wound thee and make thee ashamed: Oh why doth God thus call me? Why am I thus invited? Is not God happy and glorious enough? though I perish and be damned in my sins? What is man, Lord, and the sonne of man that thou shouldst be thus mindfull of him? as if God could not be a God, a happy, blessed God, unless thou also wert brought into happiness.
Page 584 Thirdly, In Gods calling of us, consider the freenesse of his grace, and the absolute∣nesse of his purpose and good pleasure therein. He cals some, and leaves others; yea the farre greater part of mankinde, and those who have the greatest pomp and glory in this world, on whom the eyes of the world are most open. Thus the Apostle, Not many noble, not many wise hath God called, 1 Cor. 1. 28. but the poor and despicable things of the world hath God chosen. Indeed God partly by his Word to some, and partly by the works of Creation to others, hath left every man without excuse; he hath given to all men pregnant witnesses of his goodnesse, wisdom and power, that they might seek after him; but this is not the call of grace that is the fruit of Election; for that takes effect and cannot be totally and finally resisted; Thou therefore who hast been thus called, cry out, Oh the depths and unsearchable riches of Gods mercy! There are two in a bed, one is called the other is left: Two in a family, one is taken and the other left. As in Pauls Conversion, when there was a voice from Heaven, Paul heard distinctly, but his companions did not; so in the same Sermon, which is Gods call, one heareth it distinctly, receiveth the power of it in his heart, knoweth the experi∣mental meaning of it; but others hear only a general sound, they understand nothing of it. Certainly this freeness of Gods grace in calling thee and not others, who happily have not been such sinners as thou hast been, never com∣mitted such foul abominations as thou hast done; that hath not called others of better parts, abilities and greater wisdom, who thereby if converted, might have brought more glory and honour to God then thou ever art likely to doe. This free arbitrary grace (I say) of which a man can give no reason in the world but his own good pleasure, may justly fill thy heart with all astonishment and ravishing amazements. This is the mystery of Gods grace that thou shouldst al∣waies be contemplating and beholding, Oh Lord! Why am I called and not another? Why doth the Word of God come home to my soul, and others feel and understand nothing at all? It was a great favour of God to little Samuel, 1 Sam. 3. 9. when God called him twice or thrice, and did reveal his will to him, and took no notice of Eli the Priest and Judge in Israel. Oh hath not the Lord done as wonderfully in visiting thy soul, calling unto thee often, when those of greater parts, and greater pomp, and glory are passed by?
Fourthly, This Call of God it doth alwayes speed. There is a present hearing and obedience in those that are thus called. Indeed there is an outward calling, and many who are so called do sinfully and wickedly reject it, and of such, few are saved comparatively; but of those who are called according to his purpose, as the Apostle here speaketh, there God giveth a ready ear, a ready heart; that they stand up presently and say, Behold I come to do thy will; My ears hast thou opened; Thy Law is written within my heart: So that however for a long time thou maiest not either understand this Call of God, as little Samuel did not, but give a little listning, and then lie down to sleep again; after that a second time to give a little listning, and then lie down to sleep again; so thou have some affections and desires, then presently they give over, and thou goest to thy lusts and thy sins again, then God a second, a third, yea many a time, who knoweth how often, gives thee further calling, and that makes thee more startle and more awakened, but thou doest again return to thy old lusts, thy old follies, thy old distempers, yet at last God takes away all that blindenesse and wilfulnesse which is upon thee, and makes thee readily and fully give up thy self to obey him.
Lastly, This Call of God is very various in respect of the time when it is vouchsa∣fed to them: Some are called in their infancy, some in their youth, some in their old-age; even as in the Parable, Matth. 20. some were hired in to worke in the Vineyard at the ninth, others at the eleventh hour; not that this should make a man procrastinate and put off his conversion to God; for by the 12th hour in that Parable, is not meant the later days of a mans life, but the later days of the Page 585 world; The Jews they were called at the 9th hour, the Gentiles they were called at the 12th, yet God giveth the same Heaven to both, that is the proper meaning of that Parable. Indeed we have an instance of one, and but of one called at the end of his days, the Thief on the Crosse, of whom Austins observation is obvious; There is one, that none should despair, thinking it impossible for him to be converted, who hath put off this work till death hath arrested him: and yet it is but one, that none may presume: Of many men that have poisoned themselves it may be one doth recover, but this would be no encouragement to thee to swallow down poison: How many dreadfull and sad examples maist thou see and hear of those who as they lived wickedly, so died as desperately? Howsoever therefore Gods calling be various, to some sooner, to some later, yet happy are they who are called out of sinne betimes in their younger years, they have lesse wounded their consciences, dishonoured God, and they have the longer time to do him service, and the best service: Oh how happy is it when the daies of thy youth have been filled with the strength and power of God! Oh therefore that the younger sort of people, would expect and look after this call of God! Do not think its for old men ready to drop in the grave, for them only to repent, and to leave off their sins, but you must enjoy the pleasures and lusts of youth: Oh Remember thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth! When God cals thee in thy tender years, thou wilt not then make those sad shipwracks of thy soul, as others doe.
In the next place consider, The instrument of Gods Call, and that is the prea∣ching*of the Word. You may say, Where doth God call, and when doth he call, we have no immediate voice from Heaven speaking to us, How then can this be? The answer is, God cals you by the Ministers, we are Embassadors coming in his name to you; so that you who refuse them speaking the word of God, you refuse God himself calling to you. They are the voice of God crying, Prepare ye a way for the Lord; so that every Sabbath-day God cals you by the Ministers, and you that think that if you should have an immediate voice from Heaven cal∣ling to you, then you would obey and submit; know you would not do it, if you refuse the word of God delivered to you by the Ministry: Our Saviour said, That they who would not believe Moses, nor the Prophets, neither would if one should rise from the dead, and come unto them, Luk. 16. 29. It is neither our cal∣ling or speaking, but Christ by us that you refuse and contemn; and how great and farre your judgement will be who neglect this great salvation, the Scripture bids every man think within himself, Heb. 2. 3. Indeed there are many things have a voice to call us besides the Word; The Heavens and all the crea∣tures are so many tongues calling unto us; The rod of affliction, that hath a voice, * and we are commanded to hear what that speaks; but the preaching of the word that is the powerfull voice, and the immediate motions and inspirations of the Spirit accompanying it, these give life and quickning in speaking: That as God hath a voice of the Trumpet and the Archangel, to raise men from the dead; so he hath also of the Word, to raise men out of their security in sinning. Thus you have the efficient and instrumental cause of Gods calling. Many practicall Uses may be made of this: As
First, To magnifie and adore the love of God to mankinde, that doth vouch∣safe * such a gracious and merciful call to man fallen. This is more then he hath done to the Apostate Angels, Heb. 2. 16. To which of them hath he appointed a word of Ministery and Reconciliation? not only the Priest and the Levite, but even the good Samaritan hath passed by these, and taken no notice of them: yea come we to man, Is there not farre the greater number of mankinde, that though they have a witness enough to condemn them, yet have not the external offer and call of God? The name of Christ and faith hath not sounded within their coasts; yea come we closer still, How many thousands and thousands are there who have the outward call, but are wholly destitute of the inward call? Now Page 586 if God pass by so many thousands of Angels, and ten thousands of men, and give thee this inward call, May not this fill thy heart with hot burning love to God? Canst thou contain thy self? As a wicked tongue, set on fire from hell, doth also set the whole creation on fire; so thy tongue set on fire with this heavenly love, should make thee cry out to all creatures, To bless God for his mercy. David had his heart thus burning within him, when he calls upon the whole creation, and every creature by name to praise God. The Queen of Sheba fainted to hear the wisdom, and behold all the glory of Solomon; how much rather may thy heart sink within thee, through admiration of Gods love in this particular!
Use 2. Of terrror to those who willfully resist the outward call of God. * God speaks once, twice, yea many times, and thou hearest not; Oh consider, that if thou callest thy servant again, and again, if yet he will not come, thou presently judgest it disobedience and rebellion; How then shall God account of thee otherwise? Again, remember this time of Gods gracious calling is very uncertain; this may be the last day, the last hour: To day, if ye will hear, harden not your hearts; you have put off many days already, tremble exceed∣ingly, lest this day of grace be setting in a black dismal night. Lastly, consi∣der, now God calls you, and you hear not; the day of death, and other miseries will be coming on thee, when thou wilt call on God, and he will mete thy own measure to thee: See Proverbs 1. and the latter end; then thou wilt call to God, to Christ, to Angels, to Saints; And none will hear.
Holding forth the Nature of Vocation, or Divine Calling.
ROM. 8. 30.
THe efficient and instrumental cause of this Divine Calling mentioned in the Text, hath already been declared. We come now to consider, The nature wherein it consists; and the terms from which, to which, in it: And first for the nature of it, because you heard it was partly external, and partly internal; even as man consists of an external body, and an internal invisible soul; so this heavenly calling hath that which is visible, sounding into the ear, and that which is invisible and internal, reaching with a mighty power, even to the heart.
Because, I say, it consists of these two parts, we must consider the Nature * of it first as external, and then as internal.
First, And as its external, so it doth primarily and principally lie in the preach∣ing of the word: The merciful and gracious invitation of sinners to come in by the Gospel, is the very essence of external calling: So that the word of God preached to you, whether it be in Commands, Promises or Threatnings, is to Page 587 be received by you as the voyce and calling of God from heaven to you: The Scripture commanding to leave such a sin, and obedience to such a duty; is as truly the voice and call of God, as any immediate extraordinary call that God e∣ver vouchsafed to any; its as truly and as really, and with as much faith to be obeyed, though it be not so immediately and miraculously: As for example, Paul had this wonderful voyce from heaven, Paul, Paul, why persecutest thou me? Now every prophane, ungodly man, hath as really Gods voyce from heaven by the word speaking to him, Turn, turn ye, why will ye dye? Its said, when Je∣rusalem was so near its destruction, they had a call from heaven, saying, Migre∣mus hinc, Let us depart hence: No less doth every ungodly man hear every day, when he is bid to depart from iniquity, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Its noted as a great mercy of God to Lot, that he sent an Angel to call him out of Sodom, when fire and brimstone was im∣mediately to be poured from heaven upon it; and whereas Lot delayed and de∣layed, the Angel even pulled him out, who was unwilling for his own good; This is a fit representation of our spiritual calling out of sin; the Angels are the Ministers of God, that cry daily, Come out of the world, lest you partake of the judgements of the world; and men are so unwilling, they do so dearly love their Sodom, though it will cost them fire and brimstone, that we are to com∣pel you out of it: This then is a main fundamental principle, introductory to our conversion, when we consider God as speaking and calling to us by his word, to look upon it as truly and really the call of God, as if there were im∣mediate voyces from heaven speaking to us by name: Heb. 10. Christ is said still to speak to us from heaven; And how is that but by the word? and the Scripture is called the The word of God; God speaks it now, as well as at first when he commanded it to be written: Oh then tremble, lest you should be in the number of those who reject God calling of you: Should God send innu∣merable company of Angels from heaven to you, to call you out of your lusts, to the state of grace, it would not be more really (though more immediately) the voyce of God, then what we out of the word declare unto you: This then undoeth you, you do not believe God himself by the word speaking to you, you do not think this is Gods voyce, that he speaks thus and thus to me, and therefore you are still setled in a willful way of sinning. Now the word preached is Gods calling:
First, Instrumentally, as its the word of God, the word that comes out of his mouth: All the Ministers of God, faithfully discharging their trust, are voyces crying unto you, Prepare a way for the Lord; and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to preach, is to be the Lords solemn Herald, to offer peace to Rebellious enemies, if they will come in; and if not, in a solemn and dreadful manner, to denounce his heavy wrath and curse: Look not then on Ministers in their Ambassage, as weak frail men, subject to the like passions with others, butas Ambassadors, as coming in the name of God, that cry out, Thus saith the Lord, Oh thou sinner, wash thee from thy iniquity; thus saith the Lord, and not man. And
Secondly, The word preached doth call men objectively; the matter of it is so precious, good, excellent and necessary, as that it doth strongly invite every man. Some Grammarians say, That that which is good and excellent, is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because it doth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it doth call and invite men to be in love with it: This is sure about the matter of Gods word; How Divine and Supernatural is it? what purity, what heavenly affections doth that require? insomuch, that no humane precepts concerning piety and honesty ever came near to the Bible: And than the good things promised, are wholly transcendent mans capacity; they are such as never entered into the heart of man to conceive: Justification, the light of Gods countenance, Eternal happiness and glory in heaven, were not men so bruitishly earthly, would ravish them, and make them run after Page 588 them; as the Church said Cant 1. 2. Because of the savor of thy ointments, there∣fore do the virgins love thee: If therefore ye would consider, both how great that infinite majesty is, who doth call you; and what that bait is he doth in∣vite you to, even great and admirable priviledges, this would excite in you such vehement and impatient desires after them, that all the lusts and pleasures of sin, would be accounted as dross and noisom vomit: Oh then think more and more, and consider of this calling. Shall the Devil and lusts call, and thou runnest after them, though into hells mouth? but God calleth, and thou re∣fusest him: Come unto me all ye that pass by, saith the whorish woman; and in the same manner, every kinde of sin, and how many venture into her snares! But come unto me, saith Christ, all ye that labor, and you shall finde rest unto your souls, Mat. 11. in this men are refractory.
In the Second place, The call of God consists in those things that are less prin∣cipal, and such, as without the former, would do no good; but when •oyn∣ed * with it, is very subservient and instrumental. And here we may speak of three tongues calling aloud to us, two without us, and one within us; which I call external, though within us, because of it self it doth not internally change the heart of a man.
And the first less principal, Is the whole Creation: All the Creatures are like * like so many tongues, as they declare the Glory, Power and Wisdom of God.
As for that dangerous opinion, that makes Gods calling of man to repentance * by the Creatures, to be enough and sufficient, we reject, as that which cuts at the very root of free grace: A voyce, indeed, we grant they have, but yet they make like Pauls Trumpet, an uncertain sound; men cannot by them know the nature of God and his Worship, and wherein our Justification doth consist: Therefore whereas Psal. 19. the Psalmist had spoken of the sound of the hea∣vens, and how they all declare the glory of God, he comes in the latter part to commend the Law of God, for that which hath spiritual effects indeed; viz. To convert the soul, and to forwarn from sin: Thou canst not then look up to heaven, or down to the earth, but there is some imperfect voyce calling on thee to glorifie that great and wonderful Creator, who made all these things: But then
Secondly, There are the Judgements and Chastisements of God upon men * for sin; these have a louder and more distinct voyce: Thus the Prophet, Hear ye the Rod, Micah 6. 9. The Rod speaketh: There are no judgements, either pub∣lique or personal, but by them God calls aloud to thee to leave thy sins: Eve∣ry blow-thou hast, every stroke thou feelest, say, Now God speaketh, Oh let me hearken and hear what God would have me do. Those Psalms that have this Inscription, Maschil, or To give Instruction, do for the most part contain the Chastisements and Afflictions of God for sin: And so thou mayest say of every affliction, This is an affliction to give instruction; of every loss, This is a loss to give instruction. Take heed then of that deaf ear, that when God smiteth thee once, twice, yea, many times, yet thou hearest nothing at all; as deaf men do not hear the most terrible thundrings that are.
Lastly, There is a voyce that calls aloud, and that is the conscience God hath planted in thee; for that is Gods lamp put into thy breast: All the bitings * and accusings, and smitings that gives thee for thy sins, its no less then God calling thee by that; Indeed this is a natural call, and so reducible to Gods external calling, yet it is more peremptory, more quick and lively then either the Creatures or Afflictions are: Hearken then to the calls, to the voyce that speaks in thy bosom; How often doth that say, O vile and beastly sinner, when wilt thou leave these lusts? when wilt thou depart from these evil ways? Is it not high time that thou wert changed from these noisom courses. Take heed of putting out this light, do not stop the mouth of it, for it will one day cry louder, Page 589 That will be the gnawing worm, which will never dye. Thus much for the first part.
We come to the Second, wherein the marrow and life of this Holy calling* doth consist; and that is in internal works upon the soul, which are carefully to be observed; that so every man may consider, whether he be in the number of those called ones or no, that shall also be glorified; for its no mercy, yea an ag∣gravation of misery, to be called here outwardly, and to enjoy the priviledges of grace, and hereafter to be damned finally.
Now the first particular, wherein this inward calling consists, Is to open the ear of*man, to give him a spiritual hearing, so that he doth readily close with the call: Every man naturally hath a deaf ear to Gods call: Though he hath a natural ear to hear the sound of the words, yet he hath not a spiritual ear; whence is that phrase so often, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear: So that God in effectual calling of his people to him, doth not onely cause a sound of words, but changeth the ear, so that it heareth spiritually: This is called An awakened ear, or A revealed ear, Isa. 50. 4. Men naturally have their ears stopt and filled with earthly and mucky lusts: So that as deaf men cannot hear the most terrible noise of thundrings; so neither do such the dreadful voyce of God threatning in his word: So that in this powerful calling, God saith Ephaphtha, to every deaf man, Be thou opened. Consider then with thy self, if thou art thus called, God hath given thee a quick ready ear; no sooner doth God speak, but thou sayest, Lo here I am, O Lord, to do thy will; and although lusts, and the cares of the world make a noise, yet thou hearest Gods voyce above alll: You may hear with affection, with delight and understanding, and yet not have this graci∣ous ear.
Secondly, This effectual calling is opening the heart chiefly, so that it gives up it self in obedience unto God: Where there is this calling after Gods purpose, there * the heart is so mollified and softned, that the first thing it pitcheth upon, is with Paul, to say, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? This is so natural a conse∣quent from spiritual hearing, that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, hearing, is often put for obedience in the Scripture: Thus, as Paul, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, Acts 26. 19. so is every man when inwardly called, he doth no longer resist and re∣fuse the gracious offers of God, he stands it out no more; yea it grieveth and troubleth him at the very heart, that he hath withstood the call of God so often; it might now be too late, God might justly refuse to hear him, as he re∣fused to hear God. Now this obedience unto God calling, hath these pro∣perties:
First, Its a ready obedience: When once this powerful call manifests it self, there is no more disputing, there is no more arguings; Its God that calls, I must obey: Indeed, the outward offer of grace is too often rejected, and many Antecedaneous motions to conversions are suffocated; but when God giveth this last call, then the dead come out of the grave and live; then saith Paul, Imme∣diately I consulted not with flesh and blood, Gal. 1. As Christ called from heaven to Paul, so Paul had flesh, and blood on earth calling him the clean contrary way. Carnal consultations, they invited to safety, ease, pleasure; but the holy calling of God, to self-denial, zeal, and suffering for Gods sake, prevailed: Behold then the mighty power of God, that as soon as his word is out of his mouth, to such a soul imbracing and desiring its old lusts, immediately he throweth all away, though pleasures, profits, carnal friends, all hang upon him to be the same he was once: Thus Matthew the Publican, as soon as Christ called him, Come and follow me, immediately he leaveth his profit and imployment, going after Christ: So that this calling hath a speedy obedience.
Secondly, It hath a chearful and willing obedience: They follow this call with delight, yea they bless and greatly praise God, that hath made them par∣takers of this Heavenly calling, as the Apostle calls it, Heb. 3. 1. Hence it is that Page 590 Calling in the Text is reckoned among those other inestimable benefits of Pre∣destination, Justification, and Glorification. How gladly did Zacheus receive Christ, when Christ called to him! and the Apostles whom Christ called, how willingly did they part with all to accompany him! So then, if thou art thus effectually called, there is a willingness, a delight, and exceeding great joy put into thy soul: Oh thou blessest God that ever he took notice of thee, thou art even ravished with the admiration of Gods love and kindeness to thee, its no grief or trouble of heart to leave thy former lusts; yea, they are a burthen, a shame now to thee. As if a poor Peasants daughter should be called to marry a great King; how doth this transcendently affect her? it doth not trouble her to leave her old Cottage, to put off her old rags, to eat no more of her course food, but rather rejoyceth in the change that is made: Thus it is here, when God gives thee this call, then thou abhorrest the prophane, igno∣rant, and ungodly life that thou didst once live: then thou sayest, I have found Manna for those husks I fed upon; I have found gold for that noisom dung I had before.
Thirdly, Its an universal obedience: This effectual calling hath divers duties to which a man is called, and it refuseth none. When God called Abraham out of his own Countrey, from his kindred, and from the Idolatry he lived in; What an illimited obedience did Abraham demonstrate? He went, saith the Text, not knowing whither he did go, Heb. 11. 8. God called him out of his Coun∣trey, and did not tell him whither he should go, nor what he should do, yet Abrahams obedience is ready to all this: This then cuts off the hopes of hypo∣crites, who run hastily after Gods command in some particulars, and in some duties, where self-advantage, self-interest or applause may shew it self; but universally to obey in every command, in every call, that they cannot yield unto.
Lastly, Its a pure obedience: This calling hath a pure obedience, that is, obe∣dience for obedience sake, because of the Authority and Soveraignty of God who commands; as you see it was in Abraham, in Paul, in Moses, in the Apo∣stles: There was no reason in the world of their obedience, but meerly because God called them: And then is obedience acceptable, when it is because God requireth it. But
Thirdly, This effectual calling gives a spiritual understanding and abilities, to know how to perform the duties and parts of this calling: Hence they are said to be *made light in the Lord, Isa. 4. God never called any man to a particular calling, either in Church or State, but he also gave him abilities and fitness for it; as Moses, Aaron, Joshua, yea Saul had Kingly, though not gracious abilities be∣stowed on him: Now God will much more do thus in a general and more no∣ble calling. Oh then consider, how art thou qualified with abilities to be a Christian, to be a Believer? God hath called thee out of darkness, out of pro∣phaneness, to be a Saint, to walk as a member of Christ; now, hast thou abi∣lities for this calling? Do you not deride those that are in any calling, and have no abilities for it? do you not think such men unworthy of their place? No less art thou of this calling, who knowest not how to believe, to pray, to live, to worship God as thy calling doth require.
Fourthly, This effectual calling denoteth a separation, or setting of a man apart unto that which he is called: So that he must not live as he hath done, but he * must solely busie himself in that to which he is called: Thus the Apostle speak∣ing of his calling to be an Apostle, he saith, He was set apart: And in all worldly callings, you see men are set apart betimes unto it, and that they wholly give themselves to what their calling is; and its a sure forerunner of poverty, to be negligent herein: And thus it is in our spiritual calling, God hath set apart the godly man for himself, he calls him out of the world, and from all his former lusts, to live wholly unto him: Oh how little do men consider, that Page 591 they are separated and set apart by their calling, unto God onely, not to live to sin or the world any more: Thus you have heard wherein the nature of this spiritual effectual calling doth consist.
The first use is of Instruction, That most men in the Church of God have but an * outward calling meerly, they have no inward at all; for where is the opened ear, the opened heart? where is the ready, speedy and pure universal obedience un∣to all that God calls upon us to do? where is the spiritual abilities for all the parts of our Christian calling? where are men separated and set apart from their lusts to holiness onely? and yet no man is inwardly called, till he have all these: Oh then let thy soul make bitter lamentations in secret, let it pour out tears abundantly, saying, O Lord, this heavenly calling hath been no further then hear yet, it hath not gone to the heart; How often hast thou called upon me to leave these sins, to love those duties, and yet I have wilfully been dis∣obedient. Oh it is this inward effectual calling, that will onely make thee hap∣py; yet from this very day, from this very sermon that calleth you at this time, how many will go to their former lusts and wickedness? what may not God and his Ministers say, We are weary with calling any more, as God told Ezekiel, Ezek. 3. 6. If he did send him to a people of a strange speech, and a strange lan∣guage, surely they would hear, but the Israelites would not: So if God should send us to call the Heathens and Pagans, surely they would regard the call, they would entertain it; but you have lived long under this mercy, and so neglect it: Non respondere pro convitio est, What dishonor is it then to God, not to answer him, calling so many years together.
A further Explanation of the Nature of Ef∣fectual calling, by shewing from what, and to what God calls us. As also, the Epithets the Scripture gives it.
ROM. 8. 30.
THe next thing considerable, that will further explain the nature of this Calling, is the Terminus a quo, and Adquem: And this is mani∣fold. *
First therefore, Gods calling is from a state of blindeness and ignorance, into marvellous and wonderful light: As if a man in a dark dungeon, where there was not the least beam of light, should be called out of that to the glorious Sun: Ye were once darkness, but now are ye light, saith the Apostle, Ephes. 5. 8. yea, its called Marvellous light, 1 Pet. 2. 9. for the wonderful glory and excellency of it: A man without this holy calling, is like hell it self, a place of utter dark∣ness. Now the call of God brings a twofold light with it, as you heard; one Page 592 external, inlightning all without us; and the other internal, inlightning the minde and soul of a man.
In darkness there is, first, Danger of stumbling and fall; a man knoweth not where he goeth: Thus, while not effectually called, men are ready to fall into hell every step they take; they see not the hell that is open to devour them, they do they know not what. And
Secondly, In darkness There is great uncomfortableness: The Scripture ex∣presseth misery, and gloomy calamities, under the name of Darkness; and cer∣tainly the life of every unconverted man, is a very uncomfortable life; for though he may have carnal, transient pleasures, like the blaze of thorns, yet he hath no induring joy: The very name of death and a day of judgement, is like Belshazzars Hand-writing on the wall to him, it puts him into trembling and quaking: But this effectual calling of God, hath the contrary to these, its directive to a mans steps; he knoweth how to live, how to dye; he know∣eth how to abound, how to want: The word of God being his Counsellor, giveth him wise, safe, and holy counsel; and hereupon he is never confound∣ed, he is never fallen into the pit, unless when he forsakes this light: And then for the second effect of comfort, they are called To rejoyce, and again to rejoyce, Phil. 3. 1. they are called To peace with God, Phil 4. 4. to serenity in their own consciences, like the upper Religion that is not disturbed by any Meteors; insomuch, that it is both a sin, and a great dishonor unto our holy calling, for a godly man to live in discouragements and dejections: Its as if there were not that comfort, that happiness, that joy in possessing of God, as the Scripture informs us.
Secondly, We are called from a way of prophaneness and ungodliness, to live*pure and holy lives: Thus the Apostle, God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness, 1 Thess. 4. 7. By Uncleanness, he means any gross sins; insomuch, that none can conclude he is partaker of this Divine Calling, that still wallow∣eth in the filthy lusts of sin. Oh then what terror should this strike into every prophane man! If I am thus ungodly, I am not effectually called; if not cal∣led, I cannot be justified, I cannot be glorified: How then dare I live as I do? hath God called me to live like a beast? is it not said, That we are Saints by calling, not wicked and ungodly by calling? Oh shame and confound thy soul; saying, Where hath God called thee to lye, to swear, to be proud, cove∣tous? it cannot be lamented enough, to see how Christians forget the nature of their Holy Calling: Fasten and fix this meditation upon your hearts; how doth this wickedness and dissoluteness of mine, consist with my calling? The Apostle exhorts, That they would walk worthy of their vocation, Ephes. 4. 1. do actions beseeming such an holy, heavenly priviledge; therefore thou shouldst always reflect on thy self, saying, How doth this agree with my calling? how doth this become my calling? A man grown up to years, will not still use his childish tricks, he saith, it becomes not his gravity; how much rather mayest thou say, Such follies, lusts, do not become my Christianity? This is to make my self a monster, and spiritually deformed.
Thirdly, Gods call is from all our former ways of idolatry, superstition, or false*worship, to the pure and commanded worship of God: All men by nature are said To walk according to the course of this world, Ephes. 2. 2. but the godly are con∣verted from serving their dumb Idols: Thus Abraham, God calls him from his own Land, a place of idolatry, to serve him. Gods people are called To come out of Egypt and Babylon, that they might worship him according to his own way: The Churches name is Ecclesia, A company called together to serve and wor∣ship God; now who shall prescribe that worship, but God himself? not the servants, but the master of the house, must set down the orders to be kept therein; so that the pure and spiritual worshipping of God, is one main end of our calling; for God would have a select company out of the world, who Page 593 should own him, give up themselves to him, and glorifie him, which is mani∣festly done by a sincere, pure worshipping of him: Its strange therefore that people should be no more inquisitive about Gods pure worship, wherein it con∣sists; not to dote upon, or affect customs and traditions of worship, but to look for the institution and command of God.
Fourthly, Its a call out of the world, and all things therein, to the enjoyment*of God, and applying our selves onely to him: And herein lyeth the excellency of this call. All the world lyeth in wickedness, their principles, actions and ends are all wicked; now God calls us out of this Sodom, out of this Egyptian dark∣ness, to enjoy him. Hence pure Religion is said to be, In keeping a man unspotted from the world, James 1. 27. that expression denotes, That the world, and world∣ly things are like pitch, there is a readiness to defile, to pollute; and a godly man labors to keep his garments clean: So the Apostle exhorts, That we should not be conformed to the fashion of the world, but transformed through the re∣newing of the minde, that we may know what is the good and acceptable will of God, Rom. 12 2. And thus the world and the Church are two distinct, opposite things; its therefore defined to be Coetus evocatorum, A company called out of the world: Though we be men made of the earth, yet our Christian being is by a Divine call and power: As precious stones, though their materials are of the earth, yet the precious nature they have, is onely from the heavens; as the clouds, though they be vapors arising from the earth, yet they fly up to heaven, and follow the motions thereof: So it is here, The people of God, though consisting of flesh and blood, and living an animal life, as others, yet they have a spiritual life; insomuch, that though they live in the world, yet they are not of the world: So that our calling is not onely from gross foul sins, but also from immoderate and inordinate affections, even to lawful things; called therefore An heavenly calling, because its from heaven, and lifteth up to heaven. Hence the godly have their conversation in heaven, Phil. 3. 20. heaven, and not the world, is that Corporation and City they are of; they live by the Laws of heaven, not the world; their comforts are heavenly comforts, not earthly; their priviledges are heavenly priviledges, not worldly. Art thou effectually called? herein it will discover it self, if thy heart and affections be set on heavenly things, where God and Christ are, who are the beloved of thy soul: Its not enough to cast off all the noisom rags and menstrous cloathes of impiety, but to throw away all burthens, and any heavy weight that may hinder thee in thy race to heaven: The Apostle supposeth this, when he pre∣scribes us such a spare dyet upon these things: They that marry, must be as if they married not, 1 Cor. 7. so they that buy, and have the world: God hath called you to look upwards; and as man cannot at the same time look with one eye up to heaven, and another towards the earth; so neither can a man have his heart towards God, and also towards the world: Live not then, as if thy soul were made of dust, as well as thy body, as if thou wert a worm in this sense; for feeding on the earth, as well as for contemptibleness: The Devil feeding on the dust of the earth, is the Devil possessing earthly men. Consider, that God hath called you to injoy himself, to be made one with Christ, and to have communion and fellowship with him: Oh how should this sunne put out the stars; this Manna, that Garlike.
Fifthly, This calling is from a state of quietness and security in the world, to a*state of trouble and affliction: The very calling of a Christian, is accompanied with many oppositions and sufferings, which formerly he was not used unto; and herein our Saviour dealt very faithfully, when he invited men to come un∣to him, He bid them prepare for the cross, for all evil-intreating in the world: The world loves his own, but it will hate those that are Christs; and again, He that will be his disciple, must take up his cross, and follow him; this Christ admo∣nisheth aforehand: That as the Devil inticeth by the present pleasures, but Page 594 concealeth the future miseries; Christ doth take a contrary way, he revealeth the future glory and happiness, but doth also instruct them concerning the present afflictions and troubles they shall have in this world; so then, sad and grievous exercises they must look for: The Apostle Peter speaks excellently to this purpose, 1 Pet. 2. where laying down admirable directions about suffer∣ings, that it must not be for any fault or imprudence in our selves, but meerly out of conscience to God, so that we suffer wrongfully in all we suffer; he tells them, This is acceptable unto God; And hereunto we are called; observe that, to unjust and wrongful sufferings he is called: The Scripture useth an equiva∣lent phrase, Hereunto you were appointed; yea, God from all eternity did pre∣destinate us to be conformable unto Christ in his sufferings; therefore as our Sa∣viour saith, Let every one that sets out against the world and the Devil in Christs name, that will take up his profession, let him first consider, what he can do; Can he leave all, forsake all, deny all, and part with every dearly beloved ob∣ject for Christs sake? then he may take much comfort: The Hypocrite, the temporary Believer; he proveth an unfaithful Apostate, because of this, he did not forecast what he should do, when the scorching heat of the Sun should arise; and this made our Saviour even refuse the offer, that some tendred to be Disciples, following of him, because he knew what unsted fastness and un∣faithfulness was in their heart. Now as this hath some disheartning in it, that while we lived slaves to our lusts, all things were quiet, and we lived secure lives; but since we gave up our selves to God, every thing hath risen up against us, we have procured an universal odium: I say, though this may discourage, yet in that the Scripture saith, we are called to it, it denoteth, That these things come by the gracious providence of a merciful father; and that where he calls, he gives also strength and proportionable abilities: so that the very expression, To be called to trouble in this world, hath much sweetness. and hopeful incourage∣ment in it. And
Lastly, This holy calling is from a state of danger and misery, to a state of blessedness*and happines: God doth not only call us out of the sinfulnes of the world, but also all that wrath and vengeance which is prepared for men of the world. As Lot, you heard, was called out of Sodom, or as Noah was called into the Ark, when the waves of water did overwhelm others: Thus God he calls his people from that fire and brimstone, and from that deluge of fury, which is to fal upon others: so some make this expression of calling to be a metaphor or allusion, to one that calleth such a man to come out of an house, when the main pillars are ready to break in pieces. Oh then, never think much to be called out of this Egypt, this Babylon; for its Gods mercy to thee, when thou shalt see the beams fall upon others, the fire and brimstone burn others, and thou escape; this must needs fill thee with much astonishment and joy: Stand not then consulting, How shall I part with these pleasures, these profits? How shall I depart from the custom of evil do∣ing? for its a mercy to be snatched from them: Oh say rather, How can I in∣dure those everlasting burnings?
In the next place, let us consider, what Epithets or Properties the Scripture gives this calling. And *
First, Its a calling according to his purpose, and his good pleasure, as here in this Chapter: And this denoteth, That God doth not foresee any merit, or any motive in us, but its meerly of his pleasure; therefore its in the passive sense, we are called, viz. By God; its never said, We call our selves; and withal, it being a calling according to Gods purpose, it supposeth the sure and power∣ful efficacy of it: God cannot be disappointed in his purpose, The counsel of the Lord will stand; so that all this debaseth man, makes him an impotent and undone man to all eternity, if God help not: Oh then let this take thee up, as it were, into the third heavens, let it mightily rejoyce thy heart, who Page 595 hath had this compassion and pity on thee: Alas! God from all eternity had a purpose to be thus gracious unto thee; when thou hadst no being at all, long before the foundations of the world were laid, God had thoughts of love and kindeness to thee, when thou couldst not desire or beg for such a mercy: Its no wonder that Paul doth often run out in large expressions concerning Gods Love, his Predestination from all eternity, when he hath occasion to praise God for the calling and conversion of any in time; for this is to trace the stream, till we finde the well-head: This is, as it was with Ezekiels waters, to go from wa∣ters that rise up to the ankle, at last to that which will cover the head: What can then be able to discourage the heart of a godly man? what can disquiet? Here is a Catholicon for all diseases: Art thou afflicted? God hath called thee from all eternity? Art thou despised by men? God esteemed of thee from the beginning of the world.
Secondly, Its an holy calling▪ This is a frequent adjective; so that there is nothing in this calling, but what comes from an holy God: The matter of it * is holy, and the end altogether holy; insomuch, that all prophane, ungodly men should blush to own this profession: Thou art called to be a Saint, to be in the world, as a bright star in a dark night; But, is to be proud, cove∣tous, prophane, malicious? is this to be a Saint? Oh how should our bowels rowl within us, to see how God is dishonored, his Laws are broken, and that by those, who glory in the call of a Christian! Oh let not such gross sins be any more practised or named among you! As in the Temple, every vessel was holy, so every part of thy soul and body shall be holy; an holy minde, holy thoughts, holy affections, holy eyes an holy tongue, an holy body: Thy cal∣ling being thus an holy calling, all within thee, and all that floweth from thee, should also be holy.
Thirdly, Its an heavenly calling: Whether you do regard the efficient cause, * God from heaven calls to these dry bones to live; if the matter of it, it is to be heavenly in our conversations; to go through this world as pilgrims, to be as the fowls of the heaven, which though they pitch upon the ground for their food, yet they presently fly up to heaven: The priviledges are heaven∣ly, pardon of sin, assurance of Gods favor, increase in grace, communion with God, and enjoying of God in heaven for ever. We see how David prized being son in Law to a King: There are callings to great outward glory in this world; but God vouchsafeth a greater mercy to those who have this heavenly calling.
Fourthly, Its an high calling, Phil. 3. 14. The Apostle there compareth himself * in the progress of Christianity, to one striving and running in a race; there should be no dulness no wearisomness in this way: now as in those race, they who judged sate in an high place, and by an Herald called out every man to run; so he saith, God from heaven calls out every man to make haste in this way of god∣liness; so that thou art to hear him from heaven, calling thee to press forward, to think nothing is yet done, as long as so much remaineth behinde; and if they were so earnest for a corruptible crown, how much rather should we for an incorruptible?
Lastly, Its a calling dispensod in a very contrary way to humane expectation; which makes that Doctrine of Congrua vocatio to fall to the ground: You see*your calling (saith Paul) not many wise, not many noble are called, but he hath called the foolish ana w•ak things of the world, to confound the wise: Herein God * hath manifested his dreadful power, and glorious wisdom; It hath not been of him that runneth, or willeth, but of him that calleth, that so there might be no glorying or boasting in the arm of flesh: If you consider who they are that God hath called in all ages, they have not been the learned men, the great men, the wise men of the world, but the poor and the contemptible; some, indeed, there have been, therefore he saith, Not many, which implyeth some: JulianPage 596 objected against the Christian Religion, That they were Maids and Nurses, and Eunuchs, and such contemptible persons that were Christians; not considering that God doth not call according to outward appearance.
Use of Admonition; Let all those particular terms from which, and to which in this calling, be so many vehement motives and strong goads to obey this call. Doth God call thee to thy losse? Doth he offer thee any wrong, when he in∣vites thee? He cals thee from a dungeon to a Palace, from hell to Heaven, from slavery to liberty, and yet wilt thou refuse? Oh thou art a man of no reason, no consideration, no faith, else thy heart would eccho presently to Gods Call! Oh consider that as God hath this gracious call inviting thee; so he hath dread∣ful terrible cals for those that refuse him! The Scripture tels of Gods calling for a Famine, of his calling for a Sword; God cals for Judgements as well as for Mercies; He that cals thee now graciously, will one day call to the devils to torment, to the flames of hell eternally to scorch thee.
Contains some choice Properties or Effects that accompany Effectuall Vocation, whereby men may examine and try themselves whether they be so called or no.
ROM. 8. 10.
I Shall conclude this Text with an instance of some choice properties or effects that do accompany this calling. For seeing to such only belong Predestina∣tion, Justification and Glorification, Our life and eternal happiness lieth in this, to he found in the number of these called ones. Our Saviour told the Disciples, That they should not rejoyce in that they wrought miracles, that the devils were subject to them, but rather that their names were written in the book of life, Luk. 10. 20. Much lesse then may men rejoyce in being rich, honoured and bles∣sed in this world, if they be not also called to grace and glory. The former are good things of this life only, the later of the life to come.
First then, Wouldst thou know whether thou art inwardly called, as well as out∣wardly,*then examine thy self in thy real answer and obedience to it; For to be cal∣led according to Gods purpose, is to have the event accompanying it. God no sooner cals but they hear. What God bids them do they do, what God bids them forsake they forsake. Oh but to how many do the Prophets stretch out their arms in vain! To what deaf men do we call? In what a Babel and confusi∣on hath sinne cast men, they are commanded to live holily, but oh the pro∣phanenesse! God cals them to purity, but oh the uncleanness! Thus in stead of answering, there is the contrary disobedience, God looks for grapes, and behold wilde grapes. Think not then it can be well with thee, that there are Page 597 any hopes of thy Justification o• Glorification, as long as thou stoppest the ear against Gods call: if effectually ••lled, thou wouldst cry out, Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth; when God gave Abraham a call and command to sacr fice his only Sonne, he riseth early in the morning, and can lay his kinfe to the very throat of his only childe; Even thus when God commands thee to mortifie such a sinne, to crucifie such a lust, spare it not, kill it, else it will kill thee, it will damn thee; now the effectually called person, he gets up betimes, he layeth his knife to the throat of his dearest lusts, and now he hates this Tamar more then ever he loved her: Oh, he crieth out, I must either part with God or sinne, I must either leave Christ or this lust, I cannot keep them both together, and then with much zeal and detestation, he casts away his beloved transgressions, God then careth not for thy formalities, thy complements, thy duties, but is thy obedience ready? God cals thee to love him, to hate sinne; Is this com∣mand obeyed? Obedience is better then Sacrifice: Didst thou obey God in giving over thy swearing, thy drunkenness, thy lusts; This would be more acceptable then ten thousand Sacrifices, or outward duties of Religion. Even the very in∣animate creatures have obeyed when called upon, as when the Prophet cried, O Altar, Altar, hear the word of the Lord, and it rent in pieces; but thou con∣tinuest obstinate.
Secondly, The effectually called, they do carefully observe and watch against all those contrary cals, that would turn them out of the way: For you must know as * God hath his voice calling; so sin and the devil they have their sweet Syrenian Songs; They have their cals also, one cals one way, the other a contrary way. Solo∣mon tels us of wisdom, that is, Godlinesse uttering her voice in the streets, crying aloud, Pro. 1. 7. To the simple and unwise that they get understanding: and then again he tels us of the whorish woman, as diligent to call in the simple man that passeth by, to defile himself. Our Saviour bids us Be wise as Serpents, Mat. 11. 16. Now as he stoppeth his ear that he may not hear the charmers, though char∣ming never so wisely, because it's for his destruction; so much rather ought we to close up the ear against all those sweet allurements of sinne, and temptations thereunto: Ulysses his companions were all turned into beasts, (as they feign∣ed) because they would drink of those inticing cups, and hearken to the Syrenian Songs. And therefore men are degenerated into all lusts and beastlinesse, be∣cause they hearken to sense, to lusts, they attend to their call and cry. As Eve giving ear to the Serpent, and not refusing him at first, was immediately de∣stroyed; now then the truly called ones, they stop the ear against the world, against carnal wisdom, and hearken only what God saith, what the Scripture saith. It is many times the profession of a Christian; Oh if I could but know when God cals to me! If I could but understand his will what he would have me to do, then I would run after him; now there is no such way to finde out God calling of thee, as to bid all carnal reasonings, all fleshly consultations stand aloof off. If a man would see the true representation of his face in a glasse; he must wipe off all the dust and filth, and so if thou wouldst discern Gods cal∣ling of thee from all other false cals, be sure that earthly considerations be not laid in the scale: Thus Paul refused that consulration which flesh and bloud profered him, Gal. 1. 16. and so Christ bid Peter, Depart for he was a Satan to him, Mat, 8. 33. an adversary to him.
Thirdly, He that is effectually called, is carefull to walk in a worthy and beseem∣ing*manner of it. I beseech you, saith Paul, that you walk worthy of your calling, Ephes. 4. 1. Every man in any condition or estate, is to look to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉quod decet, what is fitting and becoming him. Those actions are beseeming a childe which are not an old man; men of better breeding have a sutable deportment: And thus it is in Christianity, Thy holy and heavenly calling should raise up thy spirits, ennoble thy conversation. As Nehemiah argued from the office and trust that was committed to him, Shall such a man as I flee? Thou shouldst then Page 598 consider, Shall such an one as I tumble and wallow in the mire? Shall I that have such an holy and heavenly calling, live like a beast? I here is nothing should so confound and a shame a man for all sinful and ungodly wayes, as that they are not sutable unto, nor worthy of his calling. Michal did in a sinful way despise David in her heart, when she saw him dancing before the Ark, Thou hast made thy self (saith she, 2 Sam. 6.) like one of the vile fellows this day; like one of the base ones of the world. She did this maliciously; but thou mayest truly say to thy soul, when overcome with unruly passions, inordinate affections; Thou hast made thy self like the vilest of men to day. Do then things that are beseeming your calling, that are a grace to it, that may bring an honor and a glory to it in the eyes of the world. Shall the Sunne send forth no more light then the dung-hill? Shall a Rose smell no sweeter then a noisome weed? Dead Flies are not fit to fall in a box of ointment. As Jacob said of his two sons, when they had com∣mitted such outragious wickednesse on the Sichemites, You have made me to stink before the inhabitants of the Land. Thus also mayest thou say to all unmortified affections, uncrucified lusts, You have made me to stink, to be loathsome and abo∣minable before God. Therefore above all things look to this, that your con∣versation be as becometh this heavenly calling, you may not live as you list, walk as you please, make your lusts and your pleasures a rule to walk by; but consider what you are called to.
Fourthly, He that is effectually called, doth alwayes desire to go after Gods calling of him: For as in Philosophy, we are nourished by those things we at first con∣sist * of, Thus it is here. By what means at first we come to be holy, to be godly, viz by Gods calling of us, we did not hearken to other cals. So it is still in our pro∣gress. God still calleth us by his Word to every duty, to avoid every sin, and herein we follow God. Oh it is admirable wisdom in all things to consider what call we have! Those servants are blamed for their rashness, and not commended for their forwardnes, who come or go before they are called, before they have their errand. Ps. 25. 9. The upright he will teach and guide in his way, Ps. 32. 8. And so David, Thou wilt guide me with thy eye: As a father by his eye doth signifie what he would have his sonne to do; so it is here, God doth by his Word either particularly or generally give him a call to every action or condition. And he that was at first wrought upon by Gods calling, doth still look after this Starre to guide him. He that undertaketh any thing, doth any thing without Gods calling, doth as the devil tempted our Saviour, Set himself upon a pinacle, and throw himself headlong. For this is the onely support and encouragement under any assaults, that all is done in obedience to Gods calling us. Thus Moses, Isaiah, David, Jeremiah and Paul, with many others, could never have conflicted with all the difficulties they did, had not this calling of God supported them; so then as at the first our spiritual life came by a divine calling, thus the progresse also is by Gods calling; we do not iutrude our selves, we go not before we have a com∣mand, we hearken to what God will say; and hence it is that the devil doth so industriously imitate the voice of God; Even as the beast Hyena imitates the voice of the Shepherd to destroy the sheep; he pretends revelations from God, he brings forcible interpretations of Scripture; so great a matter is it especially in doubtful things, and where the Scripture hath onely general rules, and not particular determinations, to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of Sa∣tan, or our own desires. How many are apt to take the dictates and desires of their own spirits for the voice of God! As the old Prophet counterfeited a voice and call of God contrary to what the other Prophet had received, and thereby seduced him: It is then a sure and good sign of a called person, in all matters, specially of great concernment, to regard Gods calling, whether it be to do or to suffer: whereas wicked men they never attend to Gods directing of them, Gods guiding of them, never pray about this, or study and meditate about this, but as their lusts and profits carry them, so they run headlong.
Page 599 Fifthly, He that is effectually called is greatly thankefull even to astonishment*and ravishment, for this high mercy vouchsafed to him. The grace of the Gospel wheresoever it doth powerfully work, doth so soften and melt the heart, that praise and thankfulness is the great duty he studies; Oh how shall I be thank∣ful! and the Lord inlarge my heart to praise him! What am I that God should call me! Oh, Why is my Soul so barren, so streightned! Why doe I not runne all over? Why doth not my heart boil within me? Thus a man partaker of this heavenly calling is affected; See the Apostles aggravation of Gods mercy here∣in, 2 Tim. 1. 9. Who hath called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according 〈◊〉 his own purpose and grace. The Apostle melts himself into ravish∣ing thoughts about this, The God that needed me not, yea the God that was so greatly offended, and provoked by me, he out of his free grace cals me from sinne and danger, from all that eternal wrath I was obnoxious unto; and there∣fore Blesse the Lord, O my Soul, and let all within thee blesse his holy name. You may observe the Apostle Pauls disposition, when he hath occasion to speak of Gods converting and calling us out of the former lusts of sinne he lived in, he is so transported that he never satisfieth himself with a thankful remembrance thereof; Wherein men are affected, and what they account extraordinary mer∣cies, there they will alwayes be speaking; Their Meditations are sweet and bur∣ning about it. So that it is a sure sign thou wast never yet effectually called, if thy soul many times break not out with joy and thanksgiving herein. Shall out∣ward mercies, safety, wealth, honours, so work upon thee, as we see they did on Haman, and shall it not much more prevail with thee to be called to be Gods friend, and Gods favourite? How should all the afflictions and discou∣ragements in the world be easily subdued, when this consideration prevaileth with thee!
Sixthly, He that is thus called according to Gods purpose, he is careful not to apo∣statize or to go back again into that course of sin and wickednesse, out of which he was*called. As a man called out of fetters, and a dark dungeon, by all means takes heed that he be not thrown in there again. The Israelites were called only bo∣dily out of Aegypt, not in their affections and heart, when they so desired to make themselves a Captain, and to return thither again; yea when they loath∣ed that admirable Manna, and desired their former Onyons again: Oh it is a sign thou wast never powerfully called! who for a time indeed hast given over thy beastly lusts, wilt commit them no more, but not long after dost return to the practice of them again; This makes it worse with thee then if thou hadst never begun to cleanse thy self. Our Saviour hath a notable Parable to this pur∣pose, of a man out of whom a devil was cast, but he returned again, and brought seven worse with him. Mat. 12. 45. Oh look to this then you who formerly have given some hopes of being called, you heard a voice within you, saying, Doe no more such abominable things. You begun to pray, to weep, to be greatly affected; oh the conflicts that your souls formerly felt, but now all streams are dried up, you are as barren, as prophane as ever! Know to thy terror and trem∣bling, thou hast cause to examine whether the mighty power of God hath not yet called thee. No man that putteth his hand to the plough and looketh back is sit for the kingdom of Heaven: Our Saviour did alwayes attend to this, to lay such principles in those that would be his Disciples, that they might never revolt: Therefore he told them of the worst afore hand, and daily instructed them about the danger of not persevering: He that is truly called doth stand immoveably like a rock, Like Mount Sion that cannot be removed; and indeed there is great reason for it, Can he be better then he is? Doth not God make up all things to him? Are his former lusts and the pleasures he took in them equal to God, and the enjoyment of him? Was there not bitterness and gall even in the sweet∣est honey of any of his sins? But at Gods right hand there are rivers of pleasure for evermore.
Page 600 Lastly, He that is thus called doth keep up his heat, and comfort himself with that hope of eternal life, and glory to which he is called. Hence Paul saith, He presseth forward for the mark of his high calling. As a man in a race attends not to any * directions, but fixeth his eye upon the crown that he runneth for. Thus Paul did, No earthly or worldly temptations do hinder him; but his heart, his thoughts, his affections are set upon that eternal glory: Therefore we are said to be called to this hope. A man never hath true hopes till he be thus called. Alas, What be∣comes of wicked mens hopes? they place their hopes in outward greatnesse, in outward power, in outward glory; now these perish like the grasse of the field: When Death comes, when Judgement comes, then all his hopes perish: but the righteous hath hope in his death; and it is a lively hope, death and the grave cannot quell it. We say, If it were not for hope the heart would break; but what hope hast thou who livest in thy sins, not forsaking of them? Will the world, will thy lusts, thy carnal friends be any longer a comfort to thee? Oh it is much that every wicked man doth not tear himself, and roar out with horrour, I have no hope! God is offended, Christ did not give himself for such as I am, living in, and loving of my sins. Till I come out of this estate, there is laid up no hope for me. Go then and conclude with thy self, I have no hope as yet but about worldly things: Oh miserable man that I am! There is but a step between me and death, between me and hell, and yet I look not out; but when thou art called, then thy hopes will surely be established.
Use of Exhortation. Are the called of God thus qualified? then what matter * of Lamentation is here, to see so few such among the number of those that are outwardly called? Where is the man of whom we may pronounce all these things, that he readily obeys, that he honours this calling. that he desireth to follow God in all things? Who is the man that doth this? Now the truth is, the tempations of sin and the world, they call so violently, so pleasingly the contrary way, that it is no wonder if so few follow God. But to perswade you to refuse these Dalilahs alwaies tempting of you,
Consider first, What sin and the world cals you to, •s i• not to those waies that end in death, in hell? You will see your folly, when you finde it too late, when the arrows of Gods anger have darted through your Liver and Heart, then you will howl and cry out; Oh how have our sins deceived us! Even as Ja•l called in Sisera to her house, Come in my Lord, Come in my Lord, but it was his death. Do then any lusts call to thee and invite thee? say, Whether will these lead me? Whether will they carry me?
2. Consider these pleasures of sin that invite thee, they are but for a moment, they are but a blaze, though they may tickle for a while, yet the smart and tor∣ment will endure for ever. O Atheists, if we believe not these things! And oh fools and mad men, if when we do believe them, we labour not to escape them! As Saul spake about David, Can the son of Jesse (saith he) make you great or ho∣noured. why then do you follow him? Oh remember, Can the devil, can the world make you for ever blessed? Can they put on robes of glory? Doth not God on∣ly these things for them that obey him calling?
Stirring up to serious and fixed Meditations upon this Calling, in respect of the manner and time of it, and the persons called.
1 COR. 1. 26.
THe Apostle at the 18. Verse, begins an excellent discourse about the maner and way which God taketh to convert and save men; for whereas the eye of reason doth look for some Wise, Eloquent, and Externally glori∣ous manner; the Apostle sheweth, that God taketh the clean contrary way, by that admirable position, verse 26. to be engraven on all our hearts, and which is of daily use, both in Religious and Civil Affairs, The foolishness of God is wiser then men; and the weakness of God stronger then men; the Apostle calls the foolishness and weakness of God, that which in humane thoughts and re∣spects is so: Now he considers, that the things of God, which have this out∣ward despicable appearance, yet have glorious operations; whereupon the Apostle amplifieth this transcendent method of God, as in the manner of preach∣ing the Gospel, so in the persons that are converted thereby, in the Text read: where First, we have the introduction to observe. Secondly, The matter to be considered. The introduction, For ye see your calling; some read it imperative∣ly, See and take notice of your calling; which way soever you take it, it amounts to this, That Gods calling of men from a state of sin, to grace, is like Ezekiels waters, that rise up higher and higher; we may still take notice of some more excellent and admirable aggravations in it: The looking upon the Creation, and considering of the Creatures, it may justly stir up men to glorifie the Wis∣dom and power of God: But this much more; and that which the Apostle doth especially take notice of in this Text is, the persons whom he hath called, and they are described, first, Negatively, then Positively. Negatively, Not ma∣ny wise, not many mighty, not many noble; where he doth not absolutely deny, no wise, no mighty, no great ones; for examples in Scripture are recorded, of some few such, but not many: This is a serious consideration, to shame and confound all flesh; Who do not look upon these things, as making men happy and glorious? but God overlooketh them all. Now to fix us the more upon this consideration, he illustrates it on the contrary, God hath chosen foolish and weak, and base things in the world: The Apostle in this Argument, makes cal∣ling and choosing all one, because they necessarily agree, as the cause and ef∣fect together, Election and efficacious calling follow one another. Lastly, the Apostle instructs us about the end of Gods dispensation in all these things; and that is twofold; 1. To confound the wise, and to bring to nought the mighty things that are. 2. Which is a consequent of the former, That no flesh should glory in his presence; that none may say, It was his power, wisdom, or any humane Page 602 excellency that did thus advance him, but Gods grace onely. Let us first consider the introduction, You see, or, See your calling: And observe,
That Gods calling of us, is worthy of many serious and fixed meditations.
Its like Tapestry folded up, which when opened, makes a glorious shew. If * the Queen of Sheba had her spirit faint within her, with admiration of Solomons wisdom, how much rather may we, in beholding of the wisdom and goodness of God herein? Our Saviour saith, The kingdom of heaven comes not by observation, Luke. 17. 10. that is, the excellent works of grace, which are the Kingdom of Heaven; and the Gospel, which is the instrument of these; they come not as * great Kings and Emperors to a place, with a great deal of pomp and osten∣tation, to say, Here it comes, and there it goeth; but it is after a spiritual and invisible maner; even as the wind, which seemeth to be nothing, we cannot see it with the eye, or feel it with the hand, yet it hath mighty and powerful operations: As it was with Christ himself, he was in a despicable form, a worm and no man, accounted amongst the wicked, when yet he was at the same time a glorious and infinite God; but yet because of that outward appearance, they despised him, Is not this the Carpenters Son; And he was accounted of no reputation: Even so it is with the called ones of God, they are such that the world despiseth, contemneth, the learned ones and great ones of the world, they do none of these things; not considering what rich jewels are in these course Cabinets: So that as our Saviour saith, Blessed is he that is not offended at me; so also, blessed is he that is not offended at the way and manner of Gods calling: But now let us go into this Temple, and behold the wonderful works of God. And
First, The grace of God it self in calling any, though never so few, is with heart and mouth to be always acknowledged: God who had his onely * son to delight in, and millions of Angels to serve him, that he should call thee so poor, so weak, so inconsiderable, this should set thee upon the very pinacle of admiration. How often do you see Paul gathering up this manna, and eve∣ry day, like a true spiritual Dives, he fareth deliciously upon comfortable me∣ditations, sometimes the grace of God, sometimes the riches of his grace, some∣times the unsearchable riches of his grace: Oh how unexcusable are the people of God for their unthankfulness, dulness, and unbelief in this particu∣lar! They are not affected to ravishment with the grace of God calling them, they do not aggravate every meditation, they do not set home every thing that may make their souls run over, to make them say, O Lord, my heart suffers vio∣lence within me, I can hold no longer; thy love, thy grace in calling me, doth even overwhelm me.
Secondly, The time and season when God calls his people, deserves meditation: Not onely mercies themselves, but the times and seasons of them, are wisely or∣dered * by God: Some God calls in the morning, some in the noon, some in the evening of their age: And to every one, this grace of God hath its full mat∣ter of consideration; he that is called betimes, he may consider Gods goodness to him so early, that God thought on him so quickly; he might have gone on and provoked God, carrying guilt and a sadded conscience, even to the ve∣ry grave: He heareth others cry out, O Lord, it troubleth me I loved thee no sooner; Oh how much time have I lost! how shall I recover and redeem those lost hours, and lost days? but as for thee, God instructed thee betimes to take heed of sin: He that is called at the latter end of his days, having the guilt of many sins upon him, he also may be quickned to glorifie God, that he would not despise him for all his rebellions, that he would not remember all his un∣kindenesses, that such a long and old enemy of his should be taken into favor: yea, at that very time when they have been in full pursuit of their lusts, hath God called them, as it was with Paul, yea, and is to every man; When, Lord, I was thinking and working evil against thee, thou wast preparing good for me; when I, Lord, had no delight, but in my lusts, and those things that did grieve Page 603 thy spirit, even then thy thoughts of kindeness were to me: Oh think on these things! what, is there nothing but your children, your husbands, your wives, your temporal mercies to be delighted in? Yes, that grace of God calling thee should possess thy whole man.
Thirdly, The persons whom God calleth: They afford many considerati∣ons; As *
First, They are the meanest in outward condition: If you read the Evangelists, you shall finde, that the greatest part of persons called, were of no pomp, no noise or fame in the world: Though the material Temple was built of precious stone, and excellent wood, and adorned with gold, whereby it was the magni∣ficentest wonder in the world; yet there is no such beauty in the spiritual Temple of God, in his Church and children: This hath always been objected against the ways of Christ. Julian objected it, the Papists objected it against our Martyrs, that suffered by their cruel violence: Now God hath delighted to take such a way, not onely in heavenly things, but even in the Government of the world, he hath many times shewed such remarkable passages: Joseph a con∣temptible prisoner, hath his irons taken off, and he is admitted to the greatest honor in the Land: Moses, from what contemptible originals, did he arise to be the chief Governor of the people; and thus David also! So that as God to make himself glorious in the outward Government of the world, hath advanced men of no degree; thus he makes heirs to the incorruptible crown of glory, men accounted as dung and off-scouring of the world: Take heed then, that as the Pharisees looked for a glorious Messias, and that was their stumbling block; so thou also look for the great, and rich, and mighty men of the world, to be as they are, to live as they do, and that prove thy spiritual undoing: Oh the wisdom and goodness of God! how unsearchable his ways? those who have scarce cloathes to cover their nakedness, shall have the crown of glory, and the robes of immortality upon them; those who have scarce a cottage to live in, shall be set on thrones of glory; those who are despised and contemned by men, are highly prised by God, and loved by Angels: This honor have all the Saints.
Secondly, Consider also, That the persons called, are many times the worst of men, great and hainous sinners: As they are the meanest for their external con∣dition, * so the worst for their Moralities, that all the world may be convinced, and say, It was not such a mans goodness, his ingenuity, his honest endeavors, his willing desires, but God spake unto him, while wallowing in hit blood, To live. The Pharisees, who gloried in an external strictness, and knew no further then an outward godliness, did upon this consideration, labor to defame Christ and his Doctrine, that he kept company with publicans and sinners; as the Israelites murmured that Moses married a Blackamoor, and as the contempti∣ble and vilest of men followed David; so it was a great stumbling block, that Christ called great sinners to repentance, that he rejected the Pharisees, the seeming glory of the world. Our Saviour in many places he discovers, that prophane and open sinners, did sooner obtain the kingdom of heaven, then those civil, moral men; and if you diligently eye Gods way, you shall finde it still true, That the rich he sendeth empty away, and the hungry he fills with good things; that none are further from being effectually called, then such who say, They are full, rich, and want nothing; their own righteousness, their own goodness, their own self-sufficiency, is that which beareth up their hearts; and being thus whole in their own apprehensions, they seek out for no physitian: Oh its worthy of our serious consideration, to take notice of how many thousands are forsaken and passed over by God, who are perswaded all is well with them. Despairing men are but few to presuming men, they are like the sands upon the sea shore; go from one man to another, and you shall finde them all content∣ed in themselves; there are no groans for Christ, there are no pantings for a Page 602〈1 page duplicate〉Page 603〈1 page duplicate〉Page 604 Saviour; there are no restless and unquiet complaints of the soul, Oh who will ease me, who will cloath my nakedness, who will satisfie my hungry soul! Oh that this truth might burn like fire; you that have the best thoughts of your selves, are, it may be, in the worst condition; you that have no trouble, de∣serve to have the greatest; you that eat, and drink, and live without any in∣ward checks of conscience, have the greatest cause to fear and tremble: Oh think, God doth not use to call such self-flatterers, such self-righteous men as I am: Who is further from the Kingdom of heaven then I am?
Thirdly, God calleth such men that have the least worldly abilities and sufficiency;* which besides their external meanness, makes them more contemptible; that the Apostle meaneth by the following phrase, Not many wise after the flesh; that is, not such who are indued with Political wisdom in humane affairs; those that have wisdom to rule and mannage the affairs of this world, are many times very ignorant fools about heavenly things: The children of this world are wiser in their generation, then the children of light. said Christ, Luke 16. So that as the Apostle saith about preaching of the Gospel, We preach not the wisdom of this world, so neither are those who are called, the wise men of this world: So that as worldly politicians laugh at the plain simplicity of those who truly fear God, and d••e not sin against him for the greatest advantages in the world; so on the other side, godly men may pity and bewail such wise and conceited men, that can every way promote their own advantages in this life, but yet are wholly ignorant about faith in Christ and repentance: Take the choicest wits, and the profoundest understandings that are, about worldly matters, and propound any thing about Regeneration, the work of Grace, and life of Faith, the very babes in Christ will understand more, and give a better account then they do.
Lastly, This is no mean thing to observe in Gods effectual calling, That he*chooseth the fewest number of mankinde: As God hath not chosen many wise, or many great ones, so not many men, comparatively to those millions of men, that he lets alone in the dungeon of their dark lusts: And truly this matter is full of terror, we have cause to tremble while we think of it, that such a little flock Christ should choose to himself; that the remnant of mankinde that shall be saved, should be no more then the remnant after an harvest or vintage: This our Saviour doth often press as a truth, that hath a sharp edge to enter into every mans conscience; if any thing in the world may startle thee out of thy security, it must be this, That few are chosen, God hath effectually cal∣led but a very little handful of men to eternal glory: You that make multitude an argument for your evil ways, and think its good to say, The most do this, the greatest part go this way: Oh the Scripture tells you, what will become of most men; its not for us presumptuously to pry into the secret ways of God, neither may we impudently expostulate, Why God should leave the greater part of mankinde, in their desperate and undone estate; it is enough for us to acknowledge Gods soveraignty herein, with fear and trembling. So then, hath God called but few? how possible is it for thee to be none of that small num∣ber; but eight persons were preserved in the Ark, when all others were drowned by the overflowing waters: Thus we have cause to behold the manner of Gods effectual calling of his people.
Use therefore of Exhortation, To take notice of the ways of God herein; * it hath been the Rock that many thousands have split themselves at, they have not wisely considered of this: What is the reason so many presume of their salvation, think its but putting out the hand, and they may when they will take this crown of glory? Why do the greatest part of men eat and drink in securi∣ty, blessing themselves, saying, If death comes, if sickness comes, it shall go well with them; all is from this, they consider not that, that God calls but a few, the greater part of men will be damned: This should make thy heart Page 605 quake for fear; its the Scripture truth, not our scare-Crow, you do not love to hear this spoken of; but Christ thought it fit to reveal it to the world, that the very foundations thereof may shake. Again, what is the reason so many are offended at the condition of godly men; that the ways of God are such a stumbling block? They do not rightly consider of Gods calling, they look that Christs Kingdom should be of this world, they expect the wisdom of the world, the greatness of the world, the wealth of the world; and God hath deter∣mined a clean contrary way. When John sent to Christ, to know whether he was the Messiah or no, he returneth this Answer, The blinde are made to see, the lame are healed, the poor receive the Gospel, and blessed is he that is not offended at me. Prejudices and carnal cavils against godliness, are the destruction of many thousands. Now it we will wisely consider of Gods calling his people out of sin, we shall attain to these notable Instructions:
First, We shall never judge our selves happy by any external greatness; and the Summum bonum, which humane wisdom pitched upon, will be found some∣times Magnum malum, an hinderance of that which is the greatest good indeed; yet when will the world be perswaded otherwise? How contrary are Gods thoughts to thy thoughts? how opposite are thy apprehensions, to his purposes? He layeth aside the wise things, the great things, the glorious things of the world: Oh you, that have these external advantages, fear they be not spiritu∣al disadvantages! Little cause there is to boast of these, if thou knewest all; These are the bunches in the Camels back, these are the snares to thy feet, the milstones about thy neck: Be then afraid, and think, If I had been poor, and were afflicted, I had been in a more hopeful condition. Disciples must follow Christ, and they can best follow, who have the least burthens: Oh judge no∣thing great outwardly, that may make thee little spiritually; count those things cursed, that may hinder thee from being blessed.
Secondly, Give God the glory of all the grace and spiritual mercies that he * vouchsafeth to thee; For who art thou, and in what to be accounted of, that art called by God? did thy greatness procure it? thy goodness deserve it? doth not God all things, to stop the mouthes of men, that there may be no boast∣ing, That none should glory in his presence? Humility and thankfulness is beseem∣ing a Christian called, nothing doth so become him; For what hath he that he hath not received? who hath made him to differ from others, that hapl• had not sinned against God, so much as he hath done? And therefore should God be exalted, because this is his very end why he layeth aside all humane glory, that he himself may be magnified.
Thirdly, From hence learn, never to despise things, because outwardly weak * and vile, no rto be too confident, because they are great and potent; for you see its Gods way, To make things that are not, to confound things that are; dead things live, and live things dye; as God put back many of the Israelites, when they went to war, they were too many. God in all his mercies, whether of grace or civil things, delights to make himself onely known, he will not have his glory taken from him, and given to another: This gives hope in low things, and fear in lofty things.
Of true spiritual Wisdom, the Nature and Pro∣perties of it, discovering who are the real wise men in the world.
1 COR. 1. 26.
THe passage introductory of the matter contained in the Text, hath been dispatched. Let us observe the particulars of the distribution, which the Apostle here intendeth: And
First, There is that which is a Goddess, as it were, in the world, admired by all; Not many wise men. Several Countries have heretofore striven about the appropriating of the famous seven wise men to themselves; some striving to make this man their Countrey man, others to make that: But here you see God passing over such, and choosing the babes and foolish ones of the world: So that you have the persons passed by, described, first, By their absolute qua∣lity, Not many wise, 2. By a restriction or limitation of this wisdom, Not many wise men after the fiesh. Now wisdom after the flesh may have a twofold sense; as flesh hath, 1. That which is earthly, corrupt, and sinful craftiness, which the Scripture in many places speaks against. 2. For Humane civil prudence; as flesh is sometimes used for man, denoting indeed weakness, because not God or Angel, but not sinfulness: And this political civil prudence, is a natural perfection, and a good gift of God; yea, its a duty, to which the people of God are exhorted; but even of such political wise men, God doth not choose many, though some he doth: Thus Solomon had such wisdom to admiration; and Da∣niel* is noted for a wiseman, because Tyre is reproved for her foolish confidence, thinking her self wiser then Daniel, Ezek. 28. 3. and Heman, that made the fa∣mous Psalm of one troubled and afflicted in conscience, distracted with the ter∣ror of the Lord daily, 1 King. 4. 31. yet the Scripture speaks of him as one of the great wise men in his time. We read of Achitophel, a man so politically wise, that his counsel was accounted as the Oracle of God, yet he was rejected by God, and his wisdom proved fatal to him; but of this more in time. For the present consider, how the Apostle doth imply a distinction of necessary use, about wisdom, onely he names one part of the distribution, A wisdom after the flesh, the compleat sense is this, There is an heavenly wisdom, a wisdom after the spirit, highly esteemed by God, which all that are called do partake of: And there is A wisdom after the flesh, in an earthly, carnal, and worldly manner, when * men savor not the things of God, but what makes for their own advantages; insomuch, that the Scripture sometimes describes them by this, That they are wise to do evil, Ier. 4. 22. I purpose to speak something largely to this head; for godliness is reputed of, as folly, madness, and simplicity; and fleshly or crafty practices, or sublime and high reaches, these are judged the onely wisdom in the world. Let a man set upon the powerful way of godliness, let him endeavor to walk upright∣ly, Page 607 not conforming himself to the present course of the world, he is presently branded for an unwise man; he immediately looseth all his reputation: As Ter∣tullian said in his days, when a wise considerable man turned Christian, they would say, Miror quod Cajus vir bonus & sapiens fit Christianus, I wonder such a wise and prudent man will turn Christian.
Observation is that which is an implyed Doctrine by the Apostle; *
That there is an excellent, heavenly, and spiritual wisdom.
He that speaks of a wisdom after the flesh, necessarily supposeth a wisdom of a more excellent and admirable nature, even that which is after the spirit: Though you call a man able to transact matters of great importance, who is ap∣prehensive of the times and seasons for all things to be done, a great wise man; yet there is a wisdom far transcending all this; and that is, in heavenly matters, to know how to walk in a pleasing way to God, and at last; to partake of ever∣lasting happiness by him: The Theam of wisdom hath been often treated on by the Heathen, but their eyes were upon this glorious subject, like those of the Ba•s or the Owls to the resplendent Sun beams. Aristotle when he speaks more strict∣ly, makes wisdom to be the knowledge of more excellent and heavenly things, with the causes of them; but at other times, he makes wisdom to be the know∣ledge of any Arts or Sciences. But I shall speak of wisdom, as the Scripture useth it: And
First, It is taken for original and substantial wisdom; and thus God is said To be the onely wise God, Rom. 16. 27. Why art thou repining and discontented at the hand of God, though never so heavy on thee? God is the onely wise God; none hath wisdom but he? And thus Christ is often in the Parables called Wisdom; he is the increated wisdom; and as he was the Mediator, the treasures of wisdom were hid in him.
Further, in the Scripture, wisdom is sometimes used, for those abilities men have to discharge their callings and relations; so Aholiab and Bezaleel are said To be filled with wisdom by God for that work of the tabernaele; and Solomon had wisdom given him, to be a skillful Pilote, to govern the ship of the Commonwealth committed to his trust.
Sometimes wisdom is taken for the worldly crafty shifts and abilities men have to contrive mischievous designs, or save themselves from danger.
Sometimes for an opinion or conceit that men have of themselves, as wise, when indeed they are but empty shadows. And
Lastly, For true godlines, in which sense the Scripture often useth it, making the fear of God the beginning of wisdom; & condemning all wicked menfor fools, Deu. 4. 6.
In the next place, let us observe in what this wisdom is discovered: And
First, Its not acquired by study, and experience, and a prompt quick nature much working with these, as humane prudence is; humane wise men are both born and * made so•born, because all the book-knowledge & consulting with those dead coun∣sellors, cannot produce wisdom, if a man have not a dextrous inclination there∣unto, yet an apprehensive nature without those helps, proveth also very in∣sufficient: Now this heavenly wisdom, it was neither bred in our bones, or ac∣quired by our endeavors, but it comes from God onely: If any man want wis∣dom (saith Iames) let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, James 1•5. and therefore its called Wisdom from above, Iames 3. 17. both originally, because it comes from above; and finally, because it carrieth a man up to God: Hence also its called The spirit of wisdom, Ephes. 1. and Paul prayeth, God would bestow it upon the Ephesians: So then, those that are partakers of this heavenly jewel, they are wrought upon by God; they were foolish, and even like beasts that understand nothing, till God makes them spiritually wise.
Secondly, The rule of this wisdom is the word of God: The Scriptures are able*to make even a Timothy, wise to salvation, 1 Tim. 3. 15. Though Tacitus and Maehiavel, are the politicians Bible, and they follow the instructions delivered Page 608 by these Authors; yet the childe of God deriveth all his wisdom from the Scri∣pture: Those Proverbs of Solomon may be called a Treasury of wisdom; What hath a man to do as a man, as a Christian, as in any Office, Relation or Condi∣tion, for which he may not fetch Divine rules from thence? Thus in Deut. 4. 6. a place alledged before; all Nations would wonder, and say, What a wise and great people were the Jews, who had these wise and holy Commandments to walk by? and needs must the word of God be the rule of all wisdom, because its the word of a wise God, he knoweth all things better then we can: Oh then take heed of leaning to thy own understanding, of hearkning to carnal counsel, against the word of God; for what that bids thee do, and what that bids thee foroear, thou wilt finde to be the wisest counsel that may be. Our Saviour saith, What will it profit a man, to win the whole world, and loose his own soul? yet thou despisest this counsel, if thou hadst many souls, thou wouldst damn them, to get a little part of the world; now thou thinkest thy self so wise in this, thou blessest thy self, and applaudest thy own wisdom: Oh remember, Gods word is wisdom, he is a wise man, that thinketh and believeth, and practiseth accordingly.
Thirdly, Wisdom from above, is seen in the discerning and judging of what are the most excellent things: What is true, and what is false, what is good, and * what is evil; what is to be imbraced, and what is to be shunned, Sapiens est cui res sapiunt prout sunt, He is a wise man, to whom things are represented and perceived as they are. That is a distempered palate, which judgeth the most so∣veraign and excellent meat bitter and loathsom: Its a great glory attributed to the spiritual man, The spiritual man judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man, 1 Cor, 2. 14. A spiritual man, so far as he is spiritual, is indowed with that admirable knowledge, as that he can judge between good and evil; they have their senses exercised to make this difference: And herein lieth a great part of heavenly wisdom, it quickly discovereth what are the sins that will prove de∣ceitful or dangerous to him: If the very beasts have a natural instinct to difference that which is good to them, from that which is hurtful; how much more doth God give such necessary wisdom to his own children: To every wicked man we may say, Thou fool, who swallowest down thy poyson, who desperately wound∣est and damnest thy own soul, yet takest no notice of it; when wilt thou be wise? when wilt thou seek out for understanding? We say of the bodily health, every man is either a fool, or a Physician; its certain, every ungodly man is a fool, and no Physician about his soul; he knoweth not what is good for him, he doth not wisely consider what is for his advantage, and spiritual welfare: Give me (saith he) that which is pleasant or profitable, though it damn me.
Fourthly, True wisdom lieth in propounding a good and happy end to a mans*self, the enjoyment whereof will make a man indeed happy: The ultimate end of a man, is that wherein his happiness doth consist; now we read, even among wise men, how much this hath been disputed; some placed it in riches, some in honors, some in pleasures; and certainly, there are many men, who propound the same happiness with beasts, even an earthly, sensual pleasure: The Apostle describeth such, Whose belly is their God, who minde earthly things, Phil. 3. 19. and David on the other side, describeth his utmost end, when he saith, Whom have I in heaven but thee, and whom in earth in comparison of thee? And often he makes God his Portion, his Shepherd, his all in all: So then, consider with thy self, its the great part of wisdom, to propound some end to our selves in all our actions, otherwise we act irrationally: Its the first question in good Cate∣chisms, What ought to be the chiefest and highest end of every man in this life: Hence, as Aristotle in his Moral Phylosophy, doth first treat of the end of all humane actions as the chiefest thing, and if that be not first determined, we shoot at rovers: So some Divines say, because Divinity is wholly practical, we must first inform, what is the chief end of all our duties, why we live and move, why we eat and drink, why we have a being in this world, and at what mark we Page 621 are to shoot: Is it then the glory of God, the enjoyment of him, and salvation of thy own soul, that thou aimest at? If from morning to evening, and again, from evening to morning, thou art set upon this; then art thou a wise man: But O the folly and simplicity of most men, who have no greater ends, then to be hap∣py and glorious in this world! and although experience teacheth them the vani∣ty of riches, the uncertainty of honors, and the Tragical ends of all earthly great∣ness, yet they are resolved for no other course: Oh that you who read the Bible, profess your selves Christians, acknowledge a day of judgement, believe a resur∣rection of the dead, should yet be bowed down to these earthly things! O boast not any longer, in that thou art wise for to get great things in this world! for that should not be the utmost end; and nothing is happy, but in proportion to its ultimate felicity: Shew thy self a rational man; To what end do I labor and weary my self all day? What is it that my soul would have? what doth it de∣sire? Can any thing but God satisfie it? can I have any rest or quietness in my spirit, till the light of his countenance shine upon me? Canst thou sit down with Jonah, though not with such impatiency, and seeing a worm devouring thy gourd, something or other consuming thy outward hopes, cry out, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity; the Lord onely satisfieth and sufficeth my soul.
Fifthly, True wisdom lieth in the election or choice, and full execution of all those means which conduce to that end: Election is a great part of wisdom con∣cerning means, as well as intention about the end: Now as God, and the see∣ing of him, is the onely end, thus godliness and holiness is the onely way: See you a man studious of godliness, careful not to sin or to offend God; this man is a wise man, because he keepeth in the direct way to his end: The paths of godliness end at last in happiness; and therefore godliness is so often called wisdom, and The fear of the Lord. by which men depart from sin, and dare not offend him: though accounted a foolish precise thing, yet its the beginning of all wisdom; Who then is a wise man, and a prudent? even such an one who chooseth those ways, and is diligent in those actions that make for eternal hap∣piness: Oh if thou couldst leave off those pleasures of sin, if thou couldst pray more frequently, reform more studiously, thou wouldst finde this the sum of all wisdom.
Sixthly, True heavenly wisdom lieth in circumspection, and a diligent caution; and that two ways: First, To let go no opportunity that may advance grace or happiness: Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Ephes. 5. 15. and where∣in is that seen? By redeeming the time, because the days are evil: Oh thou art then wise, when thou considerest, My days are short, the opportunities of grace are few, I have been too long already a servant to sin, I will therefore take all occasions to further godliness; What hurt and hindrance is thy spiritual folly and imprudence to thee? He is accounted the wise Merchant, that takes the seasons and opportunities for his traffiquing: And thus it is for heavenly things; there is a season and opportunity, which if thou neglect, which if thou let pass, it may never be recovered again: This is called wise to do good. Secondly, This cir∣cumspection, lieth in the avoiding of all the temptations of sin and Satan, which are very subtil; and unless a Christian be an Argus, all over eyes, he cannot escape destruction by them. The little Horn in Daniel, was said to be full of eyes: Some Interpreters make that the Turkish power and government, which was base and contemptible at first, but by their care and industry, and diligent watch∣fulness, signified by those eyes, did presently biggen into a great Dominion: Thus even a godly man is to be full of eyes; for the deceits of lusts are many, and the methods of Satan are wilely and crafty; therefore its an high degree of wisdom to escape all these, whereas the fool goeth on blindefold. Every sin, every tem∣ptation of Satan, is a pit and snare to entrap him.
Seventhly, Wisdom consists in foresight and providence: To look to present pleasures or present advantages, not considering the future, is a part of a fool: He is blinde, not able to see afar off, saith the Apostle, 2 Pet. 1. Hence the life of a Page 610 Christian is compared to Watching. A Watchman on the Tower, is able to dis∣cern the Enemy a far off approaching: Now this foresight consists in two things:
First, To prevent after-repentings, that will be full of horror and perplexity, * but wholly vain: Thus the damned in hell are brought in, calling upon the hills and mountains to cover them, that they may avoid the wrath of the Lamb: In∣sapientis est dicere non putabam: Fools use to say, I did not think this, I never thought the miseries and guilt of sin, the flames of hell, the horror of conscience would have been thus horrible: He then that is wise, looks upon sin and the world, as one in hell would look on them, with amazement and astonishment, endeavoring to fly from it.
Secondly, Foresight lieth in attending to our latter end, that the present time * quickly flieth away: Oh that my people were wise, saith God, that they would re∣member their latter end, Deut. 32. 29. This is heavenly wisdom, to consider, that the present pleasures and advantages will immediately dye: The time is coming, when thou wilt, lie languishing on thy deaths-bed, that all friends and worldly comforts will take their leave of thee: This consideration would be a special preservative against sin; though the thoughts of death, and making up thy ac∣compt, are for the time bitter, yet they will make for thy future good: O then how foolish and bruitish are the greatest part of men! they never consider what will become of them, when dying, when standing at Gods Tribunal: Oh they think not what confusion will be on their faces, to see themselves cast in∣to utter darkness, when others are received, to be commanded to depart, as those that are cursed, into everlasting fire.
Thirdly, Herein lieth provident wisdom, to forecast for eternity, that we may * be happy for ever: Alas! no mans happiness consists in enjoying the great and glorious things of this life; no more then the Malefactor in the prison, that fareth deliciously, may be called an happy man, when he is immediately to be called out to the place of execution: Yet who can ever perswade the world, that there is any other wisdom, then to get the good things of this life? Give me to day (saith the prophane man) take thou to morrow; give me this life, take thou eternity. O beasts, rather then men! yet such worms are we, and no men: The Scripture doth represent eternity so distinctly, whether of happiness or misery; that its a wonder men should no more meditate about it, that they cry not out, O Eternity, eternity, to be with the Lord for ever, or the Devils and damned for ever: Oh this for ever, what an overwhelming word is it.
Use of Instruction: Who is the true wise man? not a man of the greatest * parts, of the greatest reach and craft; but one who is made wise by God, hath the Scripture the rule of his wisdom, and performs all those forementioned acts. This man is more wise then Solomon in some respects; yea, if all the learning and prudence of all the men in the world were put into one mans head, yet with∣out grace, he hath not so much knowledge and wisdom as the weakest babe in Christ: Oh when all accompts are cast up, and there will come to be a final de∣cision of all things, then all the world will see, who is a wise man, and who is a •ool: Thou mayest lay thy car to hell, and hearken how the damned roar out, Oh their folly, their madness! they did not believe these things, which now bitter experience makes them feel: Now, indeed, the godly •eem fools, are judged so by the world, but when you see them set on the Thrones of glory, and crowns of immortality put on their heads, then their wisdom will be publish∣ed to all the world.
Wise men after the flesh characteriz'd, and (by God for the most part) rejected.
1 COR. 1. 26.
YOu have heard of a wisdom secretly implied by this distinctive expressi∣on of the Apostle, Wise men after the flesh, viz. That there is an excel∣lent heavenly wisdome, which is a wisdome after the Spirit. And this is indeed the true proper wisdome. Humane wisdome, like the Glow-worm, may cause some lustre in the night; but heavenly wisdom is like the Sunne, glorious at noon-day. Now concerning these earthly and carnally wise men, see the dreadful dispensation of Gods providence, Not many wise men after the flesh hath God called. Those that by their crafty wisdom are able to get the good things of this world, are denied the good things of the world to come. Those that we use to say of, Let them alone, they will save one, do commonly hereafter lose two, viz. their soul and body. The worlds wise-man at the day of Judge∣ment will be Gods fool. Observe then,
That wise men after the flesh, though of great repute in the world, are for the most*part rejected by God in respect of eternal glory.
The Devil at first made use of the Serpent to deceive mankinde, as being more subtil then any beast of the field; but God he takes the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. That as our Saviour in another case said, That which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abominable before God; So it is here, That which the world magnifieth, which it adoreth; is cast away as refuse and drosse by God. Those things which the world reverenceth as Idols of gold, God many times makes fire-brands in hell: So greatly do Gods thoughts and mans differ.
To open this let us consider, What are the Characters and Properties of wise * men after the flesh. And
First, They are such who have a deep judgement and savoury taste about worldly things, the pleasures and profit of sin, but no apprehension or relish at all about hea∣venly things. Sapiens a Sapore, because he findes a taste and experimental sweet∣ness in the object he is conversant about. Now as the heavenly wise man he findes a sweet relish in heavenly things, as you see by Davids many expressions about the word of God, and the enjoyment of God; So the earthly wise man he hath a savoury pleasing taste in these inferiour comforts: As David saith, Thou hast put more gladnesse in my heart, then they have had when their wine and oyl increaseth, Psa. 4. So these have more joy in the increase of their profit and pleasures, then in any Ordinances or religious Worship of God: As David saith, His soul breaketh for the longing it hath alwayes to the Commandments of God: So his soul even breaks for the longing it hath to the accomplishment of all its lusts and desires. If you then would have a true description of the worldly wise man, it is eminently in this, He hath a delight and sweet savour in the enjoying of all Page 612 fleshly lusts. He findes no delight in God, no sweetnesse in Ordinances, no joy in the holy Ghost. His affections are set upon earthly things and not heavenly. As the Swine delights not in pleasant gardens and medows, but in dirty and miery places; so neither doth the fleshly wise man take any joy in the acts of Religion, he knoweth not the meaning of the sweetnesse and excellency of any grace, but is carried out in all the delight of his soul upon these earthly objects. His thoughts are there, his affections there, his discourse and words there; and herein you may even admire to see what parts, skill and discerning many men have in the matters of the world, but in matters of Religion meer Ideots and very fools. Oh they will one day see their madnesse! Could I tell the way to grow rich, and not the way to Heaven? Could I tell how to save my self here, and not to save my soul hereafter? Oh then be ashamed all you who have know∣ledge and parts about worldly things, but stark ignorant men in matters of god∣linesse.
Secondly, Wisemen after the flesh as they savour only the things of the flesh, so*they have an irreconcilable enmity to the things of God. The more fleshly wisdome and humane craft a man hath, the more wretched enemy and adversary he is al∣wayes to what is good; they are the great politick wise men that do most abhor and scorn Religion. Thus the Apostle Rom. 8. The wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God; what a brand and black infamy doth this Text cast upon all subtil wise men; Their wisdom (that which they boast of, they glory in, the best they have, which the world admireth them for) this is enmity, not dislike, not distaste or aversnesse, but enmity the highest degree of opposition; and enmity in the abstract, nothing but enmity: There is not a crum or a drop of any love or compliance with the things of God. That as the Serpent, though a wise crea∣ture, yet is full of poison and venom; such are all men of parts, and wit, and quick abilities, if not sanctified; They have wisdom but against God; they have wit but a∣gainst godlines; they have craft but to oppose godlines: So that many men would have had easier condemnation at the day of Judgment, if they had been fools and mad men, rather then such wise men; better thou wert a man driven out of thy wits, raving and talking thou dost not know what, then to be so advisedly and deli∣beratly opposing of the waies of God: O then consider, whether the more wisdom and the more parts thou hast, thou art not the more atheistical, the more crafty adversary to what is holy. Whether that be not the only obstacle, why thou dost not submit to the waies of God; Thy lusts do not hinder thee, thy prophanenesse doth not hinder thee, but thy carnal policy, and thy fleshly wisdom, because godlinesse is a way of self-denial, of danger and opposition in this world; there∣fore thy heart cannot comply with it.
Thirdly, The wise men after the flesh they are subtil to invent distinctions and ex∣cuses*to palliate and cover their sins. God tels the Israelites by the Prophet, That they dug deep, and did hide their counsels low, covering themselves, but not with the covering of Gods Spirit, Isa. 30. 1. This wisdom after the flesh, Adam immediate∣ly upon his fall gave a testimony of, when he put off his sinne from himself to Eve, and Eve again upon the Serpent. It was Sauls wisdom after the flesh that made him disobey Gods Commandment, making fair pretences; And the Pro∣phet Hosca bringeth in the Israelites, who by unjust and unlawful waies did heap up treasure, comforting himself with this, There should no iniquity be found in him, Hos. 12. 8. And those false teachers who brought in the worshipping of An∣gels, They had fleshly wisdom, as the Apostle cals it, Col. 2. 23. All the evasions, distinctions and palliations that men have either to cover their sins, or to extenu∣ate them, or to make them no sins, are the sole issue of fleshly wisdome; There∣fore you are exceedingly deceived, if you think drunkennesse, fornication and such sins of the flesh are only damnable; no there is the wisdome of the flesh; There is a fleshly minde, a corrupt minde, which the Scripture makes damnable as well as these. Those many distinctions in Popery about worshipping of Images, Page 613 which are so subtil that a Papist himself saith, A man must have Ingenium valde metaphysicum that can tell how to understand them, are nothing but wisdom af∣ter the flesh. All superstitious worship is a wisdom after the flesh. And as in matters of Religion, so in matters of morality, all subtil pretences, all speci∣ous evasions that men have, when they commit any sinne, or do any unlawful actions, these are poisoned streams from that poisoned fountain of fleshly wis∣dom. Oh then take heed of pleading for thy sins, of distinctions in sinning, of endeavouring to make that lawful which thy conscience tels thee is unlaw∣ful! This seeming carnal wisdome will turn at last to horrour and despair of soul. Thou wilt then see thou didst but mock God, and delude thy own conscience.
Fourthly, Wise men after the flesh they are subtil, crafty and industrious to ac∣complish*all their evil designs, and effect all their wicked purposes that they have con∣trived within themselves. Thus they are said to be wise to do evil; and they are said to study and contrive mischief, and that they cannot sleep till they have wrought it. Their hearts are compared to the Bakers Oven, (Hos. 76, 7.) that is heated, wherein all their mischievous intents are perfected: David often complaineth of such crafty deceitful men, whose tongues were sharper then swords, when their words were smoother then butter. The Apostle cals it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Men that can deceive; they make it their work and business, and they do it with much easinesse, because corruption doth prompt them, and the devil is at hand ready to assist them: Glory not then in being crafty and po∣litick to bring about the sinful lusts of thy heart. Thou canst over-reach, cou∣sen, deceive others: Oh remember, Christ hath called us to be sheep and not foxes! Remember this thy wisdom will prove folly; for doth not God say, He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, 1 Cor. 3. And doth not the Lord take the wise in their own craft? Do they not dig their own graves? Do they not fall in the pit they make for others?
Fifthly, Wise men after the flesh they are conceited and puffed up with this wisdom,* They are swoln bladders puffed up with the empty winde that is in them. He that thinketh he knoweth any thing, knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know, 1 Cor. 8. 2. Oh it is a great matter to know as we ought to know; now the carnal wise man knoweth nothing as he ought to know; He knoweth not the matter as he ought to know, nor the manner; Not the matter; for Paul desired to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, 1 Cor. 2. And again, He accounted all things dung and drosse, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Phil. 3. And the Apostle would not have men glory in their riches, or in their might and power, yet in this, that they know God; now the wisdom of the flesh doth not inable us to know God or Christ, not God as revealed in his Word, therefore such wise men do so often dishonour him and break his Command∣ments, and are refractory under his judgements, not Christ; for none can know him, but such as Paul that account their own righteousnesse dung, that go out of themselves, as poor, naked and miserable: But alas, wise men after the flesh cannot do any of these. And then for the manner, they ought to know all things two waies: First, Humbly, with sense of their great ignorance, as Agar though so wise, saith, He had not the knowledge of a man, Prov. 30. 23. that he was a beast and no man; Now the carnally wise are proud and arrogant, de∣serving that Motto which the Romans gave to their god Terminus that bounded their goods, Nulli ced•, I give place to none. And secondly, we must know truths practically, to do them, to finde the power of them upon our hearts: •f ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them; and without this, knowledge and wisdom is but oil to make the flames of hell hotter. The Apostle speaks of knowing Truths as they are in Jesus, Ephes. 4. 1. and that is, when they make us put off the old man, and put on the new; And again, there is the acknowledging of truth after godlinesse, Tit. 1. 1. Now of all men in the world none are so hop•∣lesse Page 614 and remote from grace, and in such opposition to Christ, as carnally wise men, because the first foundation that is to be laid in Christianity, is to cast off all our own wisdom, our own knowledge, He must become a fool that he may be wise, so the Apostle, 1 Cor. 3. 18. Now to become a fool by way of conception in the worlds account, and by our sense and feeling is, when we see our sins, the aggravations of them, the eternal misery accompanying them, and that all this is done by our own madnesse and folly: Oh what a fool, what a beast is such an one become in his own thoughts! He could even with Nebuchadnezzar for∣sake the company of men, and hide himself with beasts, because he hath so greatly sinned against God; such a fool must a man become ere he is spiritually wise; and further he is to become a fool, because all the way of believing, of comfort, of duty, of obedience, he must fetch onely from directions out of the Scripture. He is such a fool that he knoweth not how to believe, how to go to Christ, what way to take to be justified: Thus every man is to become a fool: But oh what indignation and scorn is in a wise mans brest to become thus an∣nihilated, as it were! yet our Saviour also doth pregnantly confirm this, when he said, Unlesse a man become as a little childe (Lnk. 9. 47.) he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven. You see then, that of all men in the world, those who have great parts, abilities and deep reaches, have the greatest cause to tremble. Thou art too wise to be godly; Thou art too wise to be a babe of Christs; Thou art too wise to deny thy self, and take up thy crosse and follow him. Take heed the devil hath not got thee on a pinacle, and he will not leave till he hath thrown thee down headlong into hell: Oh then take heed of self-conceit, of boasting in thy own parts, of leaning to thy understanding. There is more hope of the prophanest beast and most ungodly wretch that is, then of such an one. Such the Pharisees were, and very few of them ever got any spiritual good by Christ.
Sixthly, The wise man after the flesh he useth to measure all duty by safety, himself*and his own safety and advantages, are of his privy counsel. Thus because Peter perswaded Christ to avoid the crosse, Christ sharply reproved him, telling him, He savoured not the things of God, but of men, Mat. 16. 23. Peter speaks as a wise man, but not as a godly Christian. Paul denied this crafty wisdom, when he would not consult with flesh and bloud: And David when he made the word of God his counsellour: Our Saviour in many directions would break down this wisdom after the flesh, as when he said, What will it profit a man to win the whole world and lose his own soul? And He that will save his life will lose it. Here you see that he dehorts from this wisdome, because it is indeed folly, and it will prove the greatest undoing of a man: So our Saviour at another time tels them, His Disciple must deny himself, must take up his crosse, must look for nothing of comfort or advantage in this life, That the servant cannot expect to be above the Master: Now the very Birds of the Air, and beasts of the field had better provision then he had; What harsh Doctrine then is this to wisdom after the flesh? Will they be perswaded to cut off their right-hand, to pull out their right-eyes? No, they are wiser then so: Oh then take heed of this divel in thee! for so our Saviour called that carnal wisdom in Peter, run from it, as Jo∣seph did from his Mistresse: Say of it, as Jacob of his wicked sons, Oh my soul, enter not in this counsel! Bid carnal wisdom be gone before thou wilt consider what God requireth of thee.
Seventhly, Wise men after the flesh they will choose sinne rather then affliction:* Whereas the Scripture makes the evil of sinne infinitely greater then any out∣ward evil; carnal wisdom asserts the clean contrary. Oh beloved, we should fear nothing but sinne! not to be outwardly miserable and undone, but to sin, we should cry out with Joseph, How can we do such things and sinne against God? We should pray, Lord, Whatsoever thou wilt keep me from, keep me from sin∣ning: But alas, sinne is but a mock, a nothing to a carnal wise man. Tell him of Page 615 provoking God, of sinning against his conscience, of eternal damning in hell. He makes but a bold derision of such things. Oh the patience of God that cau∣seth not the thunderbolts of his vengeance to strike such immediately into hell: Oh then take heed of this fleshly wisdom, whereby thou wilt choose to commit a thousand sins, rather then lose the least earthly advantage! This will prove gall and wormwood at the later end. This will roar like a Lion in thy conscience hereafter. We shall one day hear thee cry out with Judas: Oh I have sinned in betraying my soul, in betraying my conscience, in betraying the truth of God, unlesse Faith and Repentance prevent such wounds and blows!
Lastly, The wise man after the flesh so lives and orders all his affairs, as if God*did not rule and govern in the world; as if it were of man to order all his own af∣fairs; as if God kept himself within the circle of the heavens, and let the sons of men do what they pleased; and from this it is that meer carnal wisdom disco∣vers it self remarkably in two things:
1. It trusteth only to outward helps and humane refuges, as for faith in God, and trust in the promises, they regard it not, but as so much breath out of the Ministers mouths. You have the Prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah debating this case with the Israelites, They would not trust in God, They would have the Arm of Assyria, They would go into Egypt, and they thought this was the on∣ly wisdom; in how many places doth God perstringe this? and the Prophet by way of a sharp irrision tels them, Yet God is also wise; They regard no wisdom but of man, yet God is also wise, Isa. 31. 2.
2. Under the judgements of God in the world not to be humbled, not to look on them as the stroaks of God, but to be like senslesse beasts under Gods anger.
Use of Instruction. Learn what censure to passe upon all worldly wisdom. Ne∣ver * call that saving of thy self, which is indeed such infinite loosing of thee: Oh pray that God would give thee the true heavenly wisdom which is from above. We may say, This fleshly wisdom is that which sets hell on fire; Take that away, and there would be no hell; as he said of self love, Oh kill this Serpent that crawls in thy brest! Thou hadst been godly long before this time, but for car∣nal wisdom. Thou hadst been as forward as any other in the way to Heaven, but for this fleshly wisdome. Thou wouldst not have defiled thy conscience, and gone against it, but for fleshly wisdom: Oh how is it, that after so much hearing and reading, thy sins are not cast away! thy conscience is convin∣ced, thy heart many times trembleth; Oh it is this carnal wisdome hin∣ders thee!
Reasons why God passeth by Humane VVisdom, with the Difference between it and true spiri∣tual Wisdom; Also the Commendation of Hu∣mane Learning, and how necessary it is for a Minister.
1 COR. 1. 26.
THis Text hath discovered two sorts of wise men, The wise man after the Spirit, and The wise man after the flesh; as also, Gods determination about the later, which is full of admiration and terror. He hath not cho∣sen many wise men after the flesh. The characters of carnal wise men, you heard the last day. I shall conclude the first subject here enumerated at this time, and that which remaineth to be considered in the first place is, What are the Rea∣sons why God passeth by this humane wisdom, and makes no account of it, Would it not have made much for the honour of the Gospel? Would it not have been a greater credit and ornament to Religion, to see all the great wise men of the world, to have done like the wise men of the East that came to adore Christ, though lying in a stable? Is not this History famous, that wise men should come so farre, and bring their external oblations, and testimonies of high respect to Christ, in that mean and contemptible way, and that in danger of their lives by Herod? In outward judgement these might have been called, The fools of the East, rather then the wise men. This did wonderfully celebrate the name of Christ; and may not a man say, If God would thus affect all the wise men in the world, would not godlinesse and religion be freed from those blemishes and scandals that have been and still are upon it? They are the simple and more foolish sort of people, that set themselves to the power of reli∣gion: None of the subtil profound and wise men of the world will venture too farre this way. This I confesse is a very plausible pretence, and might have de∣ceived many, did not one example of our Saviour wonderfully confound such objections, where you may see him wonderfully affected with this divine dispen∣sation, his heart is greatly moved with it; I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise, and hast revealed them to babes, Mat. 11. 25. The Text saith, he made this confession in a publike and solemn manner by way of thanks∣giving unto God. So then, if this riddle of Gods dispensation be unfolded by Scripture-direction, we shall see matter of great praise and joy, not muttering or repining at Gods providence. And in this way of God there may be reason on Gods part, why he rejects such; and reasons on the carnal wise mans part, why he is refused.
Page 617 And for the first, One eminent and visible reason, why God lets not the destroying*Sword, as to the Israelite, but the Scepter of Grace passe over this wise man, is to teach us that humane wisdom hath no merit or causality, yea hath no disposition or preparation to the enjoyment of Christ. For when we see God so ordering it, That not many wise, not many prudent and subtil men are advanced to this crown of glory, all the world seeth it, That it is not humane wisdom or prudence, but the meer grace of God that makes the difference. The Apostle doth often in∣form those that were converted, That it was not for any works they had done, but by grace onely: So then, God who aimeth at his glory in all things, that every mouth might be stopped, that no man might say, I had a better under∣standing, I had a quicker insight then others, therefore God chose me, he takes such as are Babes and foolish comparatively, and bestows immortality and glory on them. Had the wise men of the world been called, then Achitophel, Whose counsels, were as the oracles of God had not been refused. The Heathens many of them gave a large testimony of their great wisdom; yet none of the Platoes, the Aristotles, the Tullies of the world did God make use of; but Piscatoria sim∣plicitas, the mean things of the world were the fittest way for God to make his own greatnesse known; and hence it is that by sad experience we see men of the quickest parts, the nimblest wits, the most constant memories, yet to be the furthest off from the Kingdom of heaven. Its Gods way, he alone will have the glory, and to him only it doth appertain, and therefore he takes not those who may plead any internal worth in themselves.
Secondly, God will hereby teach us; that he doth more regard the least degree of a*true humble and saving knowledge of him, then he doth all the humane wisdom in the world. That as the Scripture cals that tongue, Isa. 50. 4. The tongue of the lear∣ned in the Preacher, who is able to speak a word of comfort in due season to a contrite broken heart for sinne; So that man is a wise knowing man, who hath the fear of God in his heart, and thereby departs from all evil; and indeed as in beasts, that is their proper wise instinct they have; whereby they are able to avoid that which is evil and hurtful to them; so in man, that is his proper wis∣dom to avoid that which is his greatest evil. Now the greatest evil of a man, as a man, is sinne. For he being made rational and after the image of God, and for that glorious end of eternal happinesse, that is his proper evil which depriveth him of this, and onely sin doth that: Oh consider then thou art wise, when thou canst refuse all those sins that do so easily beset thee! Thou canst cry out, as they did of the deadly herb in the pot; This is death, yea this is damnation. Observe what is that which makes a man approved of by God, it is not his great wisdom, his great learning, but a practical knowledge of himself and of Christ. Aristotle said concerning the natural knowledge of the heavens in their nature and motions, that a little knowledge that way is greater then much knowledge of the sublunary things, but certainly the practical knowledge of heavenly things is farre more necessary then the speculative knowledge of all Arts and Sci∣ences. Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he knoweth God. Do not then boast thy self either of outward greatnesse or inward excellencies of the minde, for thou art not to be compared to the meanest person in the world, how con∣temptible soever, that doth in a saving manner know God: This is eternal life to know God, Joh. 17. 3. You cannot say, wisdom, honour, riches are eter∣nal life.
Well, as these may be reasons on Gods part, so if you consider the earthly wise * man, There is more hope of a fool then of him; His wisdom is like a Sword in a mad mans hand, his wisdom is the continual offensive weapon that he lifts up against God. For
First, A man of carnal wisdom is depraved and defiled there where the first motions*of conversion should shew themselves, and that is in the understanding. Light is first made by God in the new Creature, as it was in the old creature of the world: Page 618 Now, saith our Saviour, If a mans eye be dark, the whole body is darknesse, Mat. 6. 23. Were it not then that thou art so wounded in thy minde, that it is so fleshly and so corrupt, there were greater hopes of thy Salvation. So then, how necessarily must this wise man perish, whose whole wisdom and understanding is only to damn himself! His wisdom is against God, all his arguments, all his reasonings they are against his own soul, against that way of godlinesse, in which onely he can be happy. Aquinas observeth, That faith is more difficult in a learned man then in another that is more ignorant, because the learned man knoweth more objections against the truth, is able to raise such arguments, he doth not wel know to solve again; and this is much more true in a carnal wise man: Oh the many cavils, froward objections, subtil reasonings that he hath to put off the commands of God! This right eye then must be pulled out ere thou wilt walk in Gods way.
2. No marvel if God refuse such, for they are his greatest enemies. They oppose his * glory, the kingdom of Christ, & his people; and howsoever God indeed doth some∣times lead Captivity captive, and triumph over his enemies, by changing their hearts; yet there are others whom he doth oppose, and crusheth into pieces; and thus commonly God doth with wise men of the world, The Lord knoweth that their thoughts are but vain: He catcheth the crafty in their own thoughts: He will de∣stroy the wisdom of the wise, 1 Cor. 3. So then no wonder if God passe by such men, for there are no greater enemies in the world to him then such. The Apo∣stle Jam. 3. giveth three properties of this carnal wisdom, Its earthly sensual, devil∣ish, It hath all the wickednes of men and devils in it. Its earthly, that is, wholly in∣tent to get all earthly advantages, whatsoever is profitable and great in this world, that this wisdom reacheth after. Then its sensual, destitute of the Spirit of God, as Jude argues it, being wholly fixed upon the lusts and pleasures of sin.
Lastly, Its devilish; as godly wisdom is a beam of the divine Light; so this carnal wisdom is part of that devilish wisdom that is in the Devil. The Devil he * is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 because of his knowledge. So that you see, the more knowledge, the more understanding a man hath, if not sanctified, the more devilish he is, the nearer he comes to a devil. So that as the devil is called the red Dragon for his subtilty and cruelty against the sheep of Christ, Thus you have many car∣nal wise men, Dragons rather then men; So violent and bitter are they against all the wayes of holinesse.
In the next place let us consider an Objection, for this Doubt may arise, If God reject wise men after the flesh, Doth not this condemn all humane wisdom? How * can any man in any prudent and discreet way manage his affairs, especially in evil and dangerous dayes, if no prudence be allowed? Yea doth not our Savi∣our, though he command all spiritual fortitude and courage, all self-denial and readinesse to take up the crosle, all integrity of aims and ends, yet withall he bids us, Be wise as Serpents, Mat. 10. 16. and commands us to beware of men, Mat. 10. 7. Did not Christ himself when his adversaries came with captious que∣stions, as in that about paying tribute to Caesar, Mat. 22. wisely prevent their en∣snaring of him; and so Paul, though as ready to lay down his life for Christ, as men are their cloaths when they go to rest, yet in those troubles he had about his enemies, he discovered much civil prudence, did by his wise carriage put his adversaries to it, that they were often frustrated, and Paul both kept his inno∣cency, and yet saved himself.
To answer this, It cannot be denied but that discretion and civil prudence is * an excellent gift of God; and to have zeal but not knowledge and wisdom is to have strong legs, or body, as Samson had, but no eyes. The men of Issachar had this great commendation, That they were wise men, and knew the times and seasons, and what was fit to be done. And certainly prudence (though there be a danger of it, lest it should degenerate into craft and carnal policy) yet of it self it is an excellent grace and ornament to Religion; It preserveth godlinesse from that Page 619 contempt and scorn it is apt to receive in the world; In a mans sufferings its the great comfort, that its not for my rashnesse, for my unadvisednesse, my busie sinful medling, but for a just and necessary duty I suffer. How then may the wis∣dom of the flesh that is sinful be distinguished from lawful and commendable * prudence?
And the first palpable difference is this, Lawful prudence is alwayes accompa∣nied with integrity and innocency; but carnal policy hath hypocrisie, guile and guilt with it. Let a man be as wise as he can be, only let him commit no sinne, let him not play the hypocrite, let him not violate his conscience. Thus our Saviour giveth that excellent rule, Be wise as Serpents, be innocent as Doves, Mat. 10. 16. If thou hast much of the Serpent in thee, but none of the Dove, thou hast none of this commendable wisdom; Let not the Serpent eat up the Dove: Oh but where is this happy bounding of prudence and integrity! Many men have not only the prudence of the Serpent, but the poison of the Serpent also. Never then think that is any lawful wisdom which runneth thee into a sin. Its as if a man to prevent a disease should eat a great deal of poison. The losing of thy integrity, thy innocency or peace of conscience, is a greater folly then any acts of thy pru∣dence will commend thee for wisdom. So farre therefore as prudence can finde out a way to escape, and yet keep integrity, this man doth hit the mark, and is like those skilful Benjamites that could shoot to hit a very hair.
2. Lawful true prudence hath for its end the glory of God, the promoting of his*truth, the advancing of Christ; but now fleshly wisdom hath no other end, but self∣preservation, self-advancing. We read of Paul, who did so wisely carry himself that he could without any sin or hypocrisie become all things to all men; But what was his great end? it was to gain some: It was not to make his advantages of them, but Christs. And thus in another place he saith, He had caught them by guile, 2 Cor. 12. 16. But how? Not for himself but for Christ. So that all the prudence Paul used in the preaching of the Ministery to preserve his liberty, and to save his own life, was only to further the Gospel, and to propagate the truths of Christ, That the Church of God might receive no detriment, thy ends will abundantly distinguish what kinde of wisdom it is thou hast. If a carnal earthly wisdom, thou matterest not Gods glory, not his truth, not his worship, but thy own safety; whereas godly prudence regards this most, and saith of the truth of God and his glory, as they did to David, Thou art better then ten thousand of us, thou shalt not go into danger; and by this it appeareth, that only a godly man is wise, for he only can propound such divine and publick ends to himself.
3. Carnal wisdom is only the ability and enlarging of the intellective parts of a*man. His judgement, his invention, his memory; but then for the heart, the will and affections, they remain wholly in sin, so that such men have no inclination, no delight in any thing but what is evil. But now godly prudence is accompanied with the sanctification of the heart and affections, they are made obedient and flexible to God, they are set upon no earthly thing beyond the bounds God hath prescribed, and this is a main difference; for according to some Philosophers opinion, and the Scripture seemeth to incline that way, The heart is the seat of all wisdom, Cor sapit, pulmo loquitur, is the old saying. So that if the heart be carnal and polluted, then the wisdom thereof is so; and commonly the corrupt will and affections bribe and defile the understanding; so that we may say in fleshly wisdom the heart and affections they are corrupted, and then they corrupt the understanding, that whereas the understanding should go before them, they go before the understanding, and it is with such a man, as Copernicus saith it is in the great world, the earth moveth, and the Sun stands still, so their earthly affections they move, they work, they do all, and their reason or wisdom stands still, not directing at all; but godly prudence that sanctifieth a mans will and affections, it beginneth in the head, and so descends to the heart, I pray God ye be sanctified in spirit, soul and body; It beginneth first in that which is most Page 620 sublime and intellectual in a man. So then fleshly wisdom is like a Glow-worm upon a dunghil, there is some lustre, but on a noisom dunghil; they have parts, abi∣lities, but like a jewel in a Swines snout; whereas this wisdom is said to be first pure, Jam. 3. 17. and then follow the other properties, its first pure.
4. This godly prudence, as its very active in doing, so its as patient and admira∣ble*in suffering Holy prudence walketh by lawful rules to avoid danger; but if God will exercise them, then its as wise to bear them with the flourishing exer∣cise of all graces. Now fleshly wisdom is subtil to escape miseries, but if fallen into them, then toileth and vexeth a man like a wilde bull in a net. He hath no skill, no understanding to lay himself low before God: Now wisdom is as much, if not more seen in suffering then in doing. Therefore Jam 1. speaking of the afflictions Gods people would be plunged into, he addeth, If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, that is, wisdom to bear afflictions, to account it all joy when they are beset with them. Howsoever Christ hath commanded his Disciples prudence, that they may escape all dangers, yet he hath withall told them, That all their wisdom, and all their godlinesse shall not preserve them from per∣secution, but they must go many of them at least through the red Sea of their own bloud into the Land of Canaan; now when all this doth befall them, they take it thankfully, they rejoyce they are accounted worthy to suffer for Christ; they are not weary of Christ and his wayes, though they cost them so dear; but now the carnal wisdom of man, if after all the shifts and subtil plots he hath used, he fall into danger, then he is confounded, then he crieth out, then he roareth and curseth, and is like the Sea foaming out its froth. And thus for the first Obje∣ction, I shall a little touch upon another, and that is, Some may think from hence * may be gathered a very popular Argument against humane learning: for if they are not many wise men after the flesh that God takes, then this humane learning is not at all to be regarded; Those that have the wisdom of the Spirit, they ought to be exalted only.
Briefly to answer this, That although humane learning without the Spirit of * God, and the power of Sanctification be nothing but a tinkling cymbal, and is the greatest enemy Christ hath, and the onely pillar of the devils kingdom, yet in it self its a necessary qualification, especially to those that are in the Ministery, and although God chose fishermen, who at first were rude and illiterate, yet he afterwards endowed them with the knowledge of the tongues, and miraculous abilities of wisdom and utterance; and Paul had all that kinde of learning the Jews used to have, and besides was conversant in humane Authors, as appear∣eth by his quotations out of humane Poets; and Moses he was skilful in the learning of Egypt, which was then the onely famous place of learning. Now that learning of it self is a necessary qualification to the Ministers of the Gospel, appeareth by these Arguments;
First, The knowledge of the original tongues is a great part of humane learning,* yet how necessary that is, all the world seeth, for without that the Scriptures could not be translated into a known tongue and interpreted. The Bible would have been a sealed Book; how could men, and women, and children be able to read the Scriptures, had there not been learned men, who by great pains and stu∣dy obtained the knowledge of originals?
Secondly, Its requisite, because a Minister is to divide the Word aright,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉* which cannot be without the help of those arts, Logick and Rhetorick, which are properly subservient to that end; for although it be the Spirit of God that helpeth us to the sense of the Scripture in a spiritual saving way, we are not by our wit able to believe it, to apply it, to conform to it; yet as its a Text consi∣sting of words, and a coherence to make up the sense; so the instrumental way to discover that, is by the help of the arts, and therefore those that are unlearned they are said to wrest the Scripture, 2 Pet. 3. 18. to mangle and torture them to their own destruction.
Thirdly, The adversaries are learned, and every Minister ought to be able to gain-say*them.
Page 621 Lastly, Experience teacheth us, That when the arts and humane learning revived,*then truths were discerned from falshood: Which made the Pope hate learning, and account it Heretical to understand Greek; yea, one Pope would not suffer a man to name the word Academia, University; but this is by the way.
Use of Instruction: How happy and excellent a thing it is to have godly pru∣dence * and integrity to imbrace each other; not to let thy wisdom degenerate into earthly, carnal wisdom: Oh be afraid, when you are wise for earthly things, and have no understanding for heavenly! Oh! at the day of Judge∣ment this will be thy folly, thy madness: Thou hast been wise to heap up riches, but hast not been rich in faith or godliness; thou hast been wise to get the favor and love of the great ones in the world, but hast not been wise to obtain the favor of the great God: Sapiens non est, qui sibi non sapit: Now thou hast no wisdom for thy immortal soul, thy eternal happiness, for that which is of the greatest consequence: Therefore thou art not truly wise.
Of the Consistency of Earthly Greatness and No∣bility with Godliness; And yet notwithstand∣ing, how rare it is for such Men to be called and saved.
1 COR. 1. 26.
THe first subject enumerated by Paul, whom God is pleased to reject, and to say, They shall not be mine, in the day I make up my jewels, hath been dispatched. We proceed to the other two remaining; and because they agree in one common consideration, I shall handle them together. The first part, of those who for the most part are overlooked by God, Are wise men af∣ter the flesh, such as are eminent and admirable for internal excellencies. In the next place the Apostle instanceth in those that are exalted for external greatness: And that is twofold, either such which is acquired by humane in∣dustry, in the word (Mighty) or such which is natural, that we have by our birth, in the other word (Noble.)
The first sort of persons are called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and in the next verse, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an∣swering the Hebrew Generim; and doth signifie any that are mighty and strong in this world, either by their power, or their wealth, or their honor, that are tall cedars, when others are but shrubs.
Secondly, The other are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which word, though sometimes applied to the gracious disposition of the godly; as the Bereans are said to be more noble, because they did search the Scripture (observe that, its true nobility, and true honor, to be diligent in searching the Scripture) yet here its applyed unto that humane excellency and prerogative some have above others by their birth; for although there is none so nobly descended, but he is born a childe of wrath, Page 622 and so hath no more priviledge from hell, then the childe of the meanest Beg∣gar, yet in a political and civil consideration, they differ far from others: Now when you see God in the disposing of eternal glory, not much mattering these persons, it should be like a thunder bolt in the very heart of all those who boast themselves in their wealth, power and nobility, for they are the less likely to be made glorious hereafter: So that as God when he chose David to the Tempo∣ral Kingdom of Israel, commanded Samuel to call all Jesses Sons together, and chose clean contrary to Samuels expectation; for when he saw Eliab the first Son, he said, Surely the Lords anointed is before me; but God said, Look not up∣on his countenance, or the height of his stature, for God seeth not as man seeth: So it is here in Divine Election, he chooseth not, he approveth not, as man by worldly respects doth: Observe,
Although men temporally great in this world, are greatly exalted by men, yet*God chooseth not many such to eternal glory.
The Pharisees made it a great argument against Christ and his way, Iohn 7. Do any of the Rulers believe in him, but the people that do not know the Law? Here you see they triumph; What? believe in Christ? see who they are that do it, the multitude, many of the poorer and contemptible sort; Do any of the Rulers, any of the great men, and rich men, do they believe in him? The Aposile James, Cap. 2. 11. speaks excellently to this purpose, reproving their sinful partiality in exalting a rich man for his gold ring, and goodly apparel, but despising those that were truly good, because poor; Hearken (saith he) i. e. Consider what I say, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith? Oh consider, thy wealth, thy greatness doth not make thee happy, unless rich in faith and grace also, unless we may say, O man, O woman, great is thy faith, as well as Great are thy earthly advantages.
To open this; Consider
First, That there are four things especially, which are the great things of the * world; and if the Devil shew the glory of any of them, its an hard thing not to fall down and worship him, if they be had thereby.
The first is, Earthly Power and Dominion: Est natura hominum avida imperii, said Tully, The nature of man being ambitious, is greedy of power; and its Omnibus affectibus flagrantius, more hot and burning then any other lust, un∣less the heart be so sanctified, as to accompt nothing great but God; Though Histories do abound with the Tragical ends of many, who were in their time great and terrible in power; yet few are of that mans minde, that would not vouchsafe to take up a Crown from the earth, if he should finde it, because of the cares accompanying of it, Every Crown of gold, being also a Crown of thorns.
Secondly, Another admired thing in the world is Glory and Honor: For this * many Civil, and many Religious attempts have been undertaken: A poor empty reward, yet the Heathens have busily disputed, whether this very nothing be not the chiefest good.
The third thing admired is, Riches and Wealth: Dives fared diliciously eve∣ry * day: The Psalmist speaks, how the world blesseth such, that heap up to themselves innumerable riches, even like the sands of the sea shore: And al∣though some say, they are called Divitiae a dividendo, because they so divide and distract the heart with tormenting cares; yet they finde nothing but hap∣piness in them.
Lastly, There is Nobility, which is by blood and birth: This temporal excel∣lency * is apt to make men swel, as being stars of the first Magnitude. hereby ready to forget, that they are but dust and ashes, as other men are. Now the Apostle by these two words, doth intend all these, and if there be any other thing, that hath temporal glory in the world.
Secondly, Consider, That this temporal greatness, is not of it self inconsistent Page 623 with godliness and salvation. Julian objected against Christians, That the pre∣cepts of Christianity, and of Civil Government, were clean opposite to one another: No such matter; none of those enumerated excellencies are of them∣selves contrary to godliness.
First therefore, We read of godly Governors, godly rich men, godly noble * men, not onely in the Old Testament, for that is very evident, but in the New, as Ioseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the two Centurions, Paulus a Proconsul, Theophilus a noble man, to whom Luke dedicated his History, as most judge, and Iohn writes to the elect Lady: so that the Apostle doth not say, None of these, But not many, viz, Comparatively to those of the meaner sort that are called: Indeed, of the twelve Apostles, there was not one of them wise after the flesh, or mighty and noble; for that is a Fabulous tradition concerning Barthol•mew, that he was born of Royal blood, and went in his purple and jewels every day; the Evangelists imply the contrary.
Secondly, It must also be confessed, That the outward good things of this life,*are so far from being contradictory to godliness, that godliness onely hath the pro∣mise of them: How often did God promise Israel, That if they would diligently keep his Commandments, They should conquer their enemies, One should chase a thou∣sand, They should be the head, and not the tail; and Abraham, in that great pro∣mise God made to him, there was not onely promised a numerous posterity, like the sands of the sea shore; but also, that Kings and Princes should come out of his loyns; and thus it holds for other worldly comforts. Godliness hath the promise of this life; and the Apostle makes an unanswerable argument, If he hath given us Christ, how shall he not with him give us all things else: Thus we cannot instance in any temporal good thing, but in one place or other there is a promise made of it to the godly. And if you say,
Why then are not the godly possessed of these things? why have not the godly*all the greatness and glory of the world, seeing they are heirs to it by the pro∣mise?
I Answer, We must not take those promises single, but compare them with * other Texts, that do also tell us of the misery and trouble that the godly shall have: Now these places are not contrary one to another, one promiseth all good, the other doth foretel of much evil; for these things are not to be un∣derstood absolutely, but conditionally: So far as these things are furthering of their main good, and are not hindring of their everlasting welfare, so far they are sure to be made partakers of them; but when they cannot have these and Christ also, when they must either lose these or heaven, then no wonder if God, out of his love, give them not those things which prove hurtful unto them. A father will promise to give his childe meat and drink, but if his childe fall into a disease, that these things will increase his disease, then out of his love he keeps these things from him.
Thirdly, When God doth call any of the wise men, and great men, and no∣ble men of the world, They become eminent instruments of his glory; they are * worth ten thousand of those that are in an inferior way; for they do not one∣ly credit the Gospel, as the Gospel doth them, and as they honor God, so God honors them; they lose nothing of their greatness, by having goodness: but they by their power, by their wealth and interest they have in the world, may greatly advance the ways of God. What Reformations did the godly Kings and Magistrates bring about in the Kingdom of Iudah? How did Con∣stantine by his power and greatness, arise like a Sun, that dispelled the dark night of Idolatry and Paganism? and therefore such are compared to Nursing fathers, and nursing mothers. Temporal power, when sanctified for the use of the Church, is like the Elm that beareth up the vine: Oh then, its an happy time, when great men, are good men; when men of power, are men of godli∣ness. And thus also men of wealth and estates, how many ways may they be Page 624 serviceable to God, wherein others cannot be? Rich men are the greatest men in debt, for they owe more duties to God then others; and as such have wherewith to be more instrumental to Gods glory then others, so by their ex∣ample they may bring on others. If the chief and great men in a place, do earnestly seek the Kingdom of Heaven, and promote that, this makes all in∣ferior persons to do the same: They are like the springs, if the springs be poy∣soned, then all the streams will be, but if they be sweet, then the streams will be. When Elisha was to cure the bitter waters, he takes salt, and throweth it, not into the streams, but into the springs, because that was the way to cure the streams: And thus, if the great ones, and chief ones in a Parish, if they love God, and good men, and good things, their example will even compel others to do the like; and certainly, you that have more greatness and wealth then others, be afraid, lest you have not other mens sins to answer for; other men have been incouraged to be prophane, because they have either seen you so, or at least, you have not shewed your self an enemy to such ways. Seeing then God takes this way, few rich men, great men, honored men, comparative∣ly to others; let us consider,
The Reasons why, as they be either on Gods part, or on their part who are * refused: And
First, On Gods part; Therefore God may reject these, to declare his absolute So∣veraiguty and Sufficiency; that he needs no men, that he is God, and able to carry on the great things of his Counsel, without the wisdom of wise men, the strength of great men, the repute of noble men in the world; that is the rea∣son why great men in Authority, need wise men for counsel, and mighty men for execution thereof, because they know not how to do without other mens eyes, and other mens hands; but God, he is the onely great and mighty God, none is his Counsellor, neither doth he need any help: Therefore that God might demonstrate this Sufficiency and Independency of his nature, he chooseth those that all the world seeth he doth not want; for if God had wanted the gifts, and parts, and power of men, he would have chosen other men: Oh then behold the wisdom and power of God in calling of men! he calleth the foolish, the weak, the nothings of this world, that so all may be convinced and see, God needs not the creatures, but the creatures him; and no wonder of this, for the world is not enough sensible of Gods greatnesse, its ready to count every thing great but him, to fear every thing but him; but God by this will teach us, that we are but as clay in the hands of the Potter; as the Apo∣stle presseth it at large in the Discriminating act of God, and therefore will not suffer a man to be so presumptuous, as in those things to say, Why doth God so?
Secondly, God therefore doth not take many great and noble in this world, * that so men may see the falseness of that position and conclusion, which men do so often make to themselves; viz. That God giveth them this wealth, this greatness, this honor above others, because he loveth them more then others: This is the sweet poyson that many drink down, God hath given me this success, this wealth, this prosperity, this outward happiness; and certainly if God would destroy me, he would never have done so much for me: God foresaw such a Self-flattery in the people of Israel, and therefore he doth again and again bid them take heed of so much as thinking in their heart, that they had conquered their enemies, and possessed themselves of Canaan, for their own righteousnesse, as if there were more in them then in others: Nay, thou seest this Text and the like, may be like the Hand-writing on the wall, to make all thy joynts tremble. Thy greatness, thy plenty, thy abundance, is no sign of Gods gracious and spe∣cial love to thee, if while he bestoweth these things on thee, thou mayest be one ordained to eternal destruction; therefore see what the Wise man observeth, No man knoweth love or hatred by these things, Eccles. 9. 1. We cannot conclude Page 625 of Gods Electing love, or his Reprobating hatred by these outward mercies David once began to make such conclusions, but he called himself a beast for it, and said, Thereby he condemned the generation of the just.
Thirdly, Therefore God may not choose many of these, because he would not*leave those who are externally miserable and contemptible, in despàir and total de∣spondency of minde: For if God had dealt the contrary, and had not chosen many of the inferior, and the more despicable condition in this world, they had then been in a double misery, miserable here, and miserable hereafter: In∣deed, if you do regard the poor men of this world, that are in extremity, you will finde, God hath chosen few of them neither, none being more pro∣phane, atheistical, and like bruits then they, but they are of the middle rank that God commonly makes his choice of: And hereby God would teach us, that the meanness and lownesse of a mans condition, should not be matter of grief and discontent to him: Oh how hard is it to rebuke these waves and winds of discontent, that are apt to rise up in thee, because God hath not done as much for thee as for others! others they are richer, they have their hearts ease and desire; this is apt to make all on fire within thee: Oh! but what a good temperament may this put thee into, to consider, that the lower in the world, doth not hinder thee from being the higher with God: Hea∣ven will receive more of a mean condition, then of a glorious: God doth not judge as the world judgeth: Oh the great alteration that the day of judge∣ment will make! Lazarus received into eternal glory, and Dives, who fared deliciously, tormented in hell: If then thy poverty, thy meannesse, were a stop to Salvation, then it were to be lamented; If Election and Salvation were to be had, as the Popes Indulgence, for money; then as Albertus saith about Purgatory, Its better with a rich man, then a poor man, for he can give e∣nough to redeem his soul; but its not so, thy cottage may be as near heaven, as a palace.
Fourthly, Another Reason why God passeth by temporal greatness, may be * that in the verse following, To confound the great and mighty things of the world; for so saith the Apostle, He hath chosen the weak things, to confound the mighty: How are wise men and great men confounded, when they see that their temporal glory and greatness cannot do that, which the grace and godli∣ness of meaner men doth! Every great man in the world, he thinks to ruffle it out, scorneth that those who are inferiors, should compare with him; but O the terrible confusion that will cover such mens faces, when at the day of judgement God shall say, Lo, thy wisdom, thy power, thy great revenues, have not brought thee to that glory and happiness, which the prayers and tears of meaner men have done. Our Saviour told the Jews, it would be their confusion, when men should come from far, and sit down in the Kingdom of heaven, and they themselves shut out: Oh what heart can conceive the rage and madness thou wilt be in! when thou shalt see such neighbors whom thou hatedst, mock∣edst for their strictness and forwardness in Religion, sit upon Thrones of glo∣ry, and thou with all thy earthly pomp cast out! As Austin cryeth out, by way of blushing, Surgunt indocti & rapiunt caelum, &c. Illiterate men they rise and take the Kingdom of heaven by violence, when learned men with all their books and learning are shut out: So the meaner sort of men, they rise, and by strictness, forwardness, get the Kingdom of Heaven, when others finde their outward greatness, like a milstone about their neck, pressing them into the bot∣tom of the sea.
Fifthly, The last Reason on Gods part may be, to make all the rich and great*men of the world to walk humbly, with fear and trembling, lest God give them all the good things they shall ever have, in this life onely: Thy heart is apt to swell with pride, when thou considerest thy prosperity, and thy abundance: Oh but it should rather tremble within thee, lest God put thee off with this onely;
Page 626Abraham told Dives, when he begged that Lazarus might come and cool his tongue with a drop of water, Remember thou hadst thy good things in this life, and Lazarus evil: So God may say to thee, Thou hadst thy pleasure, thy ease, thy jollity in this life; now thy torments and thy miseries they begin: There is such a change made between Dives and Lazarus, as in Gideons fleece, one time that was wet and the floor dry; then the floor was dry and the fleece wet; thus one while Dives, he is in prosperity, and Lazarus is a begging for crums; and afterwards Lazarus he is in glory, and Dives is begging for a drop of water. Take heed then, lest God do, as Abraham with Ismael, he gave him many gifts, but the inheritance was bestowed onely on Isaac: So God, he gives the wealth, greatness, and such gifts, but the inheritance of hea∣ven, that he bestoweth upon others.
In the next place, I shall briefly instance in the Reasons on their part who art*rejected; And they are evident:
First, All earthly greatness and advantages, they are apt to fill the heart with pride and loftiness: Charge the rich, that they be not high-minded, 1 Tim. 6. 17. Now there is no disposition doth so immediately offend God as this; God resist∣eth the proud, but he giveth grace to the humble: God doth not give grace to proud men; as your high mountains are often barren.
Secondly, All these earthly advantages, when possest, They do take off the heart*from God many ways:
First, Inordinate affections towards them, make us refuse God: Ye cannot serve God and Mammon; the hand full of earth, cannot receive gold, though offered.
Secondly, There is the deceiveableness of their pleasure, they dead the heart to good things; men finde not that sweetness and delight in heavenly things, as otherwise they would.
Thirdly, Solicitude and distracting cares about them, they make the soul full of fears, full of diversions, they are Tares among the good Corn.
Fourthly, The seeming profitableness and necessity of them: They cannot live, or be without them; and thereupon they venture the loss of God to enjoy these.
Use of Admonition, To men of great place, and great wealth: Oh! know * how hard it is for such to be saved; there is a Camels bunch to go through the eye of a needle: Let not these great things become a snare to you; consider, there is better Greatness, and that is, To be strong in the Lord; better Riches, To be rich in faith; better power, To be able to prevail with God in prayer: Canst thou say? The Bible makes me see better things, makes me loose from all things to serve God.
The Gospel Feast, and who are welcome Guests, and who not.
MAT. 22. 14.
THis Text though short in words, is vast in sense, and hath this ground for its special observation, that our Saviour used it twice, Chap. 20. 16. And in this place, Pulchra sunt bis dicenda. The first word in the front, For, sheweth its connexion with what was precedent, and is a Parable largely pro∣pounded by our Saviour for this end, to shew the goodnesse of God in offering the word of grace to a people, and the different event of this in the hearers, some rejecting it, and that with great malice; others receiving it, but not in the full power and efficacy of it, which makes our Saviour infer this dreadful conclusi∣on, that may make our ears to tingle, when we hear it, Many are called but few chosen. Think not it was a speech directed onely to the Jews or those that lived in that time. No, its of perpetual truth; and we see it daily experimentally confirmed, that of those who are called few are chosen. My intent is to speak of external calling, as I have spoken of internal; and this Text will give a good occasion. Our Saviour delighted to speak Parables, and that was the custom of wise men in the Eastern parts so to do. For these have a popular way of tea∣ching by the things of sense, representing heavenly matter to the understanding; For by the feast here made, described to be a marriage-feast of a Kings Sonne, where all glory and pomp useth to be shewn, is meant the priviledges and grace of the Gospel that are tendered daily by the preaching of the Word unto you: sometimes that eternal blessednesse and heavenly glory is compared in the Para∣bles to a great feast, made by a chief and mighty man; but here the Gospel∣priviledges vouchsafed in the Word are thus called; which is plain, because one came to this Feast without a wedding garment, and was cast out; which could not be, if this Feast were eternal glory in heaven, for none shall be excluded from thence. So then, you see to what excellent and choice things the prea∣ching of the Gospel is compared. Sometimes it is called The Kingdom of Hea∣ven, sometimes The rich Pearl that a man is to sell all for to obtain, and here to a great Marriage Feast. By which resemblances the Spirit of God would raise up our thoughts and hearts, that we should have an high and great esteem of the Gospel preached. Now though thus great and admirable, yet see the rebellion and disobedience of the persons invited; some matter it not; some make excu∣ses; some maliciously and cruelly handle the messengers: If you ask, Why? what is the matter? What is the wrong done to them? Nothing at all. Its be∣cause he gives this honour to them, to invite them to a Marriage Feast. He doth not come as an oppressour to them, requiring their estates, and goods, and lives, but he tenders them all comforts and refreshments; and for this kindnesse and condescention, they do thus ill requite him; but all do not refuse, for Page 628 there is one who cometh and sitteth down at the Feast, is as confident and bold, as any of the other Guests; till the Master of the Feast come, and expostulates with him for the want of a wedding Garment, and then he is so convinced of his guilt, that presently he becomes speechlesse, upon which his Master adjudgeth him to eternal torments, where there are weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. If you ask, Who is meant by such an one? I answer, All those who do outwardly accept of the faith of Christ, and professe a general obedience to him; but yet in truth, and indeed they do not thorowly and fully walk accord∣ing to Christs rules. As for those who wilfully reject and refuse Christ, not so much as owning any thing of him, they were the Jews and others; but then there are a world of people, who out of custom give an external obedience un∣to Christ, and will be judged Christians, but yet retain nothing of the life and power of Christianity; such are all ignorant and prophane persons, yea and all civil unblameable men in their lives, yet destitute of the Spirit of God, and his grace. Therefore howsoever it be hotly disputed by some, What is meant by this wedding Garment? some saying faith, some good and holy works, yet we may conclude, that by it is meant the whole life of a man ordered in a gracious and sutable manner to the Word of God. It doth not then mean one grace, but the comprehension of all. And as it would be an high contempt and scorn of a great man, and the company invited to a great feast, if a man should not come in decent and fit apparel; So it is an high neglect and dishonour unto God and his people, for thee to take the name of Christ in thy mouth, and to be called by him, to be looked upon as a Christian; and yet to live in any such wayes that Christ doth condemn. Our Saviour having laid down the sinne and punishment of such an one, closeth up all with this Text, Many are called but few are chosen.
Before the words are opened, here is one material Question, Why our Savi∣our * makes this inference, For many are called, and few chosen, seeing in this Parable of those many who came in at the second call, there is one man onely found without a wedding Garment; so that the clean contrary might have been asserted, Many are chosen, and of those who are called few are rejected. But the Answer is two-fold,
First, This may relate to the former part of the Parable, as well as the later; * and then you see all those who were invited by the first call, did refuse, and none did answer.
But in the next place, which is a true Answer, by this One man is represented a multitude of persons of the same way and transgression, it being ordinary in the Scripture by an instance of One, to represent Many of the same kinde; this is necessary for the coherence.
The words themselves absolutely considered contain a vouchsafing of a great mercy, but an exclusion of a greater. The great mercy is in these words, Maxy are called,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is here put for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for otherwise Rom. 11. and in other places 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 are all one, the Called and the Chosen are all one; but here by those that are called are meant such who are called, and openly refuse, give no consent at all, or else such who do give a general answer, but yet come not up to that fulnesse and exactnesse, which Christ requireth. The exclusion of a greater mercy is, But few are chosen; that is, of those many who have the outward calling, and give a general Obedience to it, there are but few that are elected to eternal life. If then any matter may put you into a serious and ear∣nest trembling about your condition, this hath cause enough to do it. God may give the preaching of the Word, the means of Grace, and people give a formal and expresse con•ent to it, yet few of these be within the number of election. If it had been said, Few or none of those, who reject the Gospel of peace, and means of salvation, are chosen; it had been no wonder but to say thus of those, who have Lord, Lord, Christ, Christ often in their mouths, Oh hard saying! Page 629 Who can bear it? The first Doctrine to be raised from the words is,
That there are many outwardly called, who yet never partake of the power and be∣nefit*of this mercy.
There are those who sit down at Christs feast, yet for want of a wedding gar∣ment are excluded.
To consider this point let us observe, What this outward calling is, and the event of it. And because I have already shewen, wherein the Nature of the outward calling of God doth consist, I shall only take so much as is implied in the similitude this Parable doth hold forth; for when we see Christ himself fish∣ing with such a sutable bait as this is, when he that is truth it self doth use such expressions, Who can but believe? Who can but receive?
And first in that the word of God calling men to Faith and Repentance, is * thus described under the notion of a great Feast, it implieth, There is in it a sa∣tisfaction to every soul, that is spiritually hungry and thirsty. Ho every one that thirsteth, saith our Saviour, let him come and drink, Joh. 7. 37. Christ saith, He is the bread that cometh down from heaven, Joh. 6. 35. He was born in Bethlehem. the house of bread.
Now these expressions imply two things:
1. That there ought to be in all men an hungring and thirsting after Christ, and the priviledges he offers. For if you tell a full man of a great feast, he matters it not; because such an one loatheth the very honey-comb; but a thirsty man, as you see by Samson; or an hungry man, as you see by the Lepers, and those that lived in the time of famine in Israel, Oh what would not they do? How did they rejoyce to have one drop, or one crum? Lazarus was glad of a crum; and thus it is here: A man full of his own righteousnesse, of his own goodnesse, He loatheth all this preaching, he preferreth his husks before the fatted calf. But now take a man destitute of all these, and sensible of his leannesse: Oh how doth his soul thirst and hunger after Christ! Thus Paul a called one judg∣eth all things dung and drosse for the knowledge of Christ: All his former privi∣ledges he renounceth, and None but Christ, none but Christ doth replenish him. Oh while men have their own greatnesse, their own goodnesse and righteous∣nesse, they will never come to this feast. David likewise he speaketh of his hunger and thirst after God, yea that his soul breaketh for the longing it hath al∣wayes unto him; such a disposition is supposed, when the grace of the Gospel is compared to a Feast.
And then in the second place, It doth suppose a satisfying and filling of the soul. That whereas the wiseman observeth, That the eye is not satisfied with seeing; and There are four things which never say, There is enough; yet here, he that thirsteth when he drinketh of this water, he never thirsteth more. That is not, as if he did not desire more grace, and more communion with Christ: Yea the more they taste of this object, the more they long to have, but they never thirst so, as to seek out for a better object; They never say of God, as the Church of her Idols, I will go to my former lusts, and my former sins, for then it was better with me, then since I cleaved to Christ. No, with Peter in his transfiguration, they say, It is good to be here; and which Peter did not, they know what they say. So then in making the grace of God offered to be like a sumptuous feast, it im∣plieth, that there is no spiritual defect or want in thee, but it shall be made up. That grace no more then nature will not suffer any vacuum; Some Philosophers speaking how that Materia appetit omnes formas, yet say that the heavenly matter doth not, because there the excellency of the form doth satiate it. This is much more true in the godly heart, wherein God dwels, there it desireth, to make no more change. Now how great a matter it is to have all thy spiritual longings satisfied, the godly only know.
Secondly, As this phrase supposeth satisfaction of spiritual hunger; so it also in∣tends*pleasure and delight. A feast is matter of joy and comfort. Hence a good Page 630 conscience is called a continual feast, Prov. 15. 15. And the Prophet Isaiah speak∣ing of the precious promises and excellencies under the Gospel, he cals them A feast of fat things, Isa. 25. 6. At thy right hand, saith the Psalmist, are pleasures for evermore; Christ is said To knock at the door (the outward Call here spoken of) and if any admit him, he will come in and sup with him, Revel. 3. 20. So then you see, to be called to the graces and duties of the Gospel, is matter of great joy and comfort; Insomuch that the kingdom of Heaven is said to be in righte∣ousnes, peace and joy in the holy Ghost, yea its called unspeakable joy and full of glory. Oh then how great is the madnesse and folly of all Recusants to this gracious of∣fer! You are prejudiced against godlinesse, as if it brought nothing but melan∣choly and despair, as if it would be rottennesse to the bones, and like the worm to the tree that consumes the very entrails of it. No, its to be called to a feast, to matter of joy and heavenly pleasure; certainly did the jolly worldling and merry voluptuous man, consider these things, how would he defie and with in∣dignation renounce all his former pleasures? he would call them miserable com∣forters, and say, Though they were honey in the mouth, yet they were gravel in the belly. Go to the world, or to thy lusts, What is the feast they call thee to? What are the pleasures they invite thee to? Are they not like that herb which puts a man into a laughter, but kils him therewith? Seeing then that Vi∣ta non est vivere, sed valere, To live is not meerly to live, but to be healthful and chearful, and comfortable: Oh know this can never be, till thou art parta∣ker of this Feast. What though you see ungodly men jolly and merry, having their hearts ease, and nothing troubles them, this is but a blaze? the crackling of thorns; Its but Jonah's Gourd that gives him some refreshment for a season. This is but sweet poison, the stings and torments will be the greater. The poor∣est godly man, that hath no raiment for covering, no food to expel hunger, may yet sit down at this Feast with Christ every day. And there is no evil eye to grudge; but in the Canticles the Spouse bids them Drink, yea drink abundantly, Cant. 5. 1. And if the godly at any time are dejected, go bowed down, have no∣thing but gall to eat, and vinegar to drink, without any comfort, any joy; Its their own fault, their own imperfection. They drink not of this good wine, they feed not on these fat things by faith; and therefore let the godly consider, that its their duty to walk with joy and chearfulnesse; All the while thou walk∣est in diffidence and dejections, thou goest without a wedding garment, thou art not in a sutable posture to a marriage-feast. Thy praying, thy hearing is without a wedding garment, thy mourning disparageth the feast.
Thirdly, Here is by this phrase implied, The great glory and honour that God would put on all those whom he cals. He makes thee his choice friend, and gives thee this token of friendship; David expressing a friend, said, We ate bread toge∣ther. Haman, how did he boast when the King made a great feast for the Queen, And I am invited also, saith Haman. And certainly we cannot be capa∣ble of greater honour, then to be called to this communion and fellowship with God, yea to this familiarity; hence all the faithful, as Abraham, are called Gods friends; Now were faith alive in mens brests, they would never refuse Gods calling, for is it not from slavery and bondage to an heavenly freedom? Is it not from communion with the devil in his works of darknesse, to society with God and his Angels?
Thus you see how eminently this Parable sets forth the priviledges of the Go∣spel in the tender thereof, you would wonder any in the world should refuse, that all did not come in by an holy violence: yet in the next place, see the sad * event, how ill this love is requited: For
First, There are many persons thus outwardly called, that are prophane Atheists, believe none of these things. All these Parables of our Saviour, and all these ex∣cellent resemblances, they make but notions and phantasies. David complained of this, Psal. 4. when he exhorted men to serve the Lord, and to offer unto him Page 631 the sacrifice of thanksgiving; he addeth, Many say, Who will shew us any good? They counted nothing of that David mentioned, to be such a great good that men should run after it. This made the Prophet complain, Who hath believed our report? Oh it is thy atheism, thy unbelief that makes thee not presently answer Gods call. Otherwise thou wouldst cry out with the Church, Draw us and we will run after thee; For want of a divine faith comes all that rebellion and diso∣bedience which is; well therefore is the same word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 rendered unbelief and disobedience.
Secondly, There are the sottish and stupid worldlings who have the Serpents curse*on them, to feed only on the dust of the earth. These make no matter of this graci∣ous invitation; so in this Parable, and in another to this purpose, it is said, When they were called, that they had bought their fields and their oxen, Luk. 14. 19. and so they went to see their earthly possessions; and thus tho Pharisees, who were covetous, are said To deride Christ, Luk. 16. 14. As the earth of all ele∣ments is the heaviest, and inclineth to the centre; so these who minde earthly things have their thoughts and affections furthest off from God, and his calling. These earthly affections do at first resist the very entrance of good affections, and if yet they be received, then they quickly choak them: Never is the Gospel more likely to fall like water spilt upon the ground, then when it meets with an earthy worldly heart: Oh he can finde no savour, no sweetnesse in approaches to God! When will the Sabbath and the new moon be over, say they in the Prophet, that we may buy and sell again? Amos 8. 5.
Thirdly, There are an higher degree of wicked men, who do not only neg∣lect and slight this call of God, But they do wickedly and cruelly abuse and persecute*the very messengers that come to invite them. As here in this Parable, when they were called to the feast, They took the Messengers, and some they mocked, and some they killed: Oh barbarous wickednesse! What is the hurt that is done to them? They are invited to a feast, and for this they stone the Messengers. Thus the Prophets in all ages have been entertained: Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee! Mat. 23. 37. Yea Christ the Son and Heir, he was put to death for inviting them to this feast: and was this wickedness only in the former times? Is there not that venom and enmi∣ty in many mens hearts? What hurt do the Ministers of God unto thee? Because they would reclaim thee from thy wickedness, save thee from thy lusts; this makes thee imbittered against them; forgive them this wrong.
Lastly, There are those who do not refuse, but come in upon invitation. They sit * down at the feast, none findes fault with them; The messengers they admit him, the fellow-guests they eat with him, Only the Lord, he spieth him without a wedding garment: Now by such an one is meant all those who have an external profession of Christ, and so enjoy all the outward priviledges in the Church, none may prohibit them; yet for all that are without a wedding garment, and at last to be cast out. And this is properly the person externally called that I intend to treat on: As for the other, they are only called on Gods part, there is no manner of consent on their part.
Use of Instruction. How inexcusable all they will be, who refuse God cal∣ling? * Is it not to a feast, to matter of satisfaction, delight, plenty and honour? Why then dost thou reject this Call? Go at the day of Judgement, and say, O Lord, it is true, I was invited, I was convinced, I saw it was better to obey then not; but my present lusts, my present pleasures, they drew me aside: say unto God, unto Christ, unto Angels, I know you were better company, more glory and happi∣nesse there was with you, yet I forsake you to be tormented with the Devil and his Angels to all eternity.
That most of those that are called, come short of what is absolutely necessary; And who they be.
MAT. 22. 14.
THe persons called by God, who yet are not chosen, are of two sorts, as you heard:
First, Those, who, though so graciously invited, do yet obstinately and peremptorily refuse, and these are actively onely called on Gods part.
The second sort is of those who do give consent, and yeild to their call, but because they do not rise up fully to all that is required, therefore they are cast away. In this rank is the man, who being invited, made no opposition or ex∣cuse, but went in, and sate down at the feast, was as confident as the other guests, seemeth to be conscious to himself of no fault, but having no wedding garment, the master is so wroth and displeased with him, that he is adjudged to everlasting torments; and from this instance our Saviour gathers this con∣clusion in the Text; so that the meaning is, Of those many that are called, and give a general acceptance of it, yet few are chosen to eternal glory: Those enjoy the feast of the Ordinances here, who are to be tormented for ever here∣after; those are admitted to eat in Gods presence here, who shall be command∣ed to depart from him hereafter, he knoweth them not: Many are admitted into the Temple, that may not enter into the holiest of holies.
That many of those who are called, and in many things obey, do yet come short*in that which is absolutely necessary.
He that comes to the feast, was not guilty of such rebellion, as they that opposed, and inhumanely handled the Messengers; yet because he did not pre∣pare the Wedding-Garment, which is a conversation and life sutable to the outward profession of Christ, therefore he is cast away: This is a necessary truth; for though we have many Christians, yet we have indeed but few: Though all in the Land come and sit down at the feast, yet we may say to many, Friends, how came ye in here? How came you to profess Christ? how came you to say you are Christians? What? such a sinner, such an ungodly person, and yet say, You believe in Christ, you love Christ? What is the re∣proach of the Christian profession this day, but the ungodly, ignorant, and pro∣phane lives of those who are baptized into Christs name? Monsters they are, and not Christians, who in one part bear the image of Christ, and in another the image of the Devil; in one part seem to be men, in another beasts: So that al∣though the Christian Religion may boast in the multitude of her followers, yet it may blush at the lives of them: This was a point our Saviour did much Page 633 treat upon, That men did receive the truth, as to some particulars, and some degrees, butnot wholly and throughly. The Parables of the several sorts of ground, of the unwise builder, especially that of the foolish Virgins, who were Virgins, had their lamps, went out to meet the Bridegroom, onely they wanted oyl, and this was not perceived till it was too late; all these tend to this purpose: You see then beloved, that we may have our lamps lighted, we may have the external profession and acknowledgement of Christ, but want oyl in time of need. Certainly, while we are preaching of this subject, we may say almost to every man, Nunc tua res agitur, rouse up thy self and attend, for this matter belongs to thee: Thou receivest Christ and his ways but in parcels, though thou hast Baptism, the title of a Christian, sittest down at the Ordi∣nances; yet where is the Wedding-garment! where is the conversation that doth agree, and belong to so holy a matter?
To open this Doctrine, let us consider,
First, Wherein lieth this outward obedience to Gods call, which yet is in∣effectual; * for can any thing more concern you, then that you should not be Christians in vain? that all thy praying, and frequenting of holy duties, may not be in vain? that God may not take thee from this feast, as Haman was from his, in which he so much boasted, to be put into confusion, and everlasting fear?
Now this external submission, lieth in these things:
First, A consent to be Baptized, and entred into the number of those that own*Christ: They will not abide in the number of Jews, Turks or Pagans, but they are willing to in•oll their names in Christs Catalogue: Thus in the Apostles times, yea, while Christ preached, you read, John 2. of many who believed in him, yet Christ would not commit himself to them, because he knew what was in their hearts. To come to Christ, is not the work of the tongue, or of the head, but mainly and principally of the heart: With the mouth man is said to make confession, but with the heart he is also said to believe, Rom. 10. Now if you observe the general deportment of those who are thus called, can you see any more in them, then a meer bare and general consent to be accounted as a Christian? Do they matter any more? Do they ever think, What? is this all Christ would have me to do? No, but they sit down with this general acknow∣ledgement: Thus Simon Magus, he came to the feast without a Wedding gar∣ment; though the Text saith, He believed, and was baptized, yet he was in the state of gall and bitterness, Acts 8. 17. it is true, he did not feel this bitterness, he thought all was well, but it was so much the more dangerous: Thus it is here, thou believest, thou art baptized, thou prayest, thou professest Christ with the mouth, and yet thy soul may be in gall and wormwood, a great gulf may be between thee and salvation, and thou all this while lie down in peace and security of spirit.
Secondly, Upon this entering themselves into the number of Christs flock, they may be fully, but foolishly perswaded, that now they have done all: That this will * interest them into heavenly glory: Oh what a bewitching is this! and are not most men surprized by this? they think this believing in God and Christ, this external and visible profession, will instate them in all happiness. The Jews of old did desperately miscarry upon this point, The Temple of the Lord, the Tem∣ple of the Lord, Jer. 7. this made them bold and confident; and in the New Testa∣ment, see how industrious James is, to shew the vanity of that faith, Iames 3. which is titularly faith, and not effectual in godliness. They that cryed, Lord, Lord, and had prophesied, and wrought miracles in Christs name, are command∣ed to depart into eternal fire, because they were workers of iniquity. Many times the Apostle bids them not be deceived, Neither fornicators or extortioners, &c. should inherit the Kingdom of heaven, 1 Cor. 6. 9. Be not deceived, saith he: We are very apt to think, that a profession, or bare duties, will carry us to hea∣ven, Page 634 without this power of godliness: And if the Apostle speaketh but of the tongue onely, Iames 1. 26. If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, that mans Religion is in vain: How much rather, if he do not morti∣fie his sin, and refrain from all other gross impieties? when will people drown∣ed in sin, recover out of it? Awake thou that sleepest in this stupidity: What is Baptism? what is Christianity? what is Protestantism, but a meer empty sha∣dow and title, if thy life be polluted with impieties: As the Heathens called their Idols gods, when yet they had no Deity in them, being images of wood, Having eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not; feet, and walk not: Thus are such Idol Christians, Idol Believers. There are (saith the Apostle) many called gods in the world, but we know that an Idol is nothing: Thus it is here, there are many called Christians, many called Believers, but we know this is nothing, where the life and power of godliness is wanting: Trust not then to thy good faith, to these glorious titles, they will deceive thee.
Thirdly, If in the primitive times, among those many that gave up their names*to Christ, few were chosen, how much a less number must there be now of chosen ones: This I would have diligently considered, If so be in those primitive times of those many thousands that believed in Christ, few were chosen, how little a remnant or handful may we expect to be among our called persons! For there were three Reasons, why all that were then called should be cho∣sen: For
First, To accept of the Faith and Doctrine of Christ, was then a meer free and spontaneous thing; there was no compulsion by outward power, it was not a Religion they were educated and brought up in, their Parents did not teach them faith in Christ: Now who could not think certainly, they are right indeed, they must needs have the power of grace in them, who did thus rea∣dily and willingly receive a Doctrine that was wholly new to them, their parents did not instruct them in, no earthly power did force them to, but out of meer voluntary choice they imbraced it: Yet in that company there was more chaff then wheat, in that garden there were more weeds then flowers: What then may we judge, when as the contrary Reasons are with us? for the Christian faith we imbrace, is that we have by education, by Custom: Who is there that makes use of his own understanding, of his own will to imbrace the truths of Christ? who is there, that upon searching the Scriptures, and trying all things, doth thus adhere to the truth? Are not men bruitish in believing, as well as in living? Malunt homines credere, quam judicare, They take up that Reli∣gion their parents taught them, and its a meer hap, wholly accidental to them, that its the truth: Thus, like beasts, they follow one another, they go qua itur, non qua eundum est; certainly, this is far from having the spirit of God o∣pening our hearts, and inlightning our mindes: This is not by understanding and judging, and proving all things, to hold fast that which is good; This is not for a man to live by his faith, but by his Fathers, or Grand-fathers faith; in∣deed, to be brought up in the true Doctrine of Christ, is a wonderful mercy, its an excellent seasoning of the vessel betimes; but yet if a man have no more from the Christian Doctrine, then his education, he hath no more to say for the truth, then the Jews and Turks have for their gross false∣hoods.
Secondly, That all were not chosen, who were then called, we may won∣der, because of the great and wonderful miracles that they enjoyed, which might greatly confirm their faith; for who could be but perswaded that Christ was the Messiah, when he saw the dead raised from the grave, the blinde made to see, the deaf to hear, and the glorious things of God, shewing themselves thereby? and to these great miracles, we may adde the zeal and remarkable godliness of those who lived in the former times; Alas! no comparison may be made of the grace and godliness that now is, with what hath been formerly: Page 635 Now then, if those that were called in those days, had all those great incite∣ments to the power and life of godliness, and yet were defective; What may we look for, when those are not enjoyed?
Thirdly, This may make us wonder that few onely were chosen, of those ma∣ny * called in former times, because there was little or no outward incourage∣ment unto the way of Christ: There could be little satisfaction given to car∣nal expectations. How often doth our Saviour call upon them for self denyal? foretel of the trouble and hatred they shall meet with in the world? and when men have proffered their obedience to him, he tells them of the little worldly incouragements they must look for. Now it may be a wonder, that men, who had not the deep impression of godliness upon their hearts, should ever ven∣ture upon such profession, where there were no earthly baits. We use to say, That adversity tryeth a friend; yet here it did not hold: Well then, if many men called in those days, did so miscarry, when yet we would think nothing but pure love did set them on work? what little faithfulness may be thought to be in the inward parts of those, who have temporal advantages by Christ; yea, they would be subject to the Magistrates punishment, if they should renounce the faith of Christ: Thus you see, how considerable a matter it is, that even in our Saviours time, and primitive beginnings of the Church, there should be many called, and few chosen: Oh, if ever, then we should have thought the Church would have been constituted of those that were truly godly; if ever, then it would have been altogether fair, and no spots in it, but we see the con∣trary: •ts therefore sadly to be lamented, that even the greater part of those, who yet give an external submission to Christ, should yet not have their names written in the book of life.
Fourthly, These come upon the invitation, and yet are without the Wedding-garment, *That are diligent in the discharge of the external duties God requireth, but never look to the internal frame and change of the heart: That was the uni∣versal disease among the Jews, for burnt-offerings and sacrifices they were con∣stant and diligent in; they did even weary God with the abundance of them: but God rejected them all comparatively, Burnt offering and sacrifice God would not have, but a broken spirit, and the Law of God written in their hearts. Our Saviour al∣so is very earnest in this point, in acquainting people with this, That the meer outward performance of any Religious duty, without any inward change and work of the spirit, is but a shell, is but the skin; therefore he tells them, The heart is the good or bad treasury, Mat. 1•. 35. the heart is the fountain from whence all streams flow; and John 4. God is a spirit, and he seeketh for such who worship him in spirit and truth: No wonder then, if you see many people sub∣mit to the external duties of praying and hearing, for these are but a bodily la∣bor: Here is no inward working upon their soul, they pray not, they hear not with a powerful change upon the inward man: Speak to them of a broken spi∣rit, a contrite heart, which is of so great repute with God, you speak a meer riddle to them. Observe then, if the greatest sort of persons do any more then the meer external duty; and if so, these have but an outward call, they have none of that spiritual glory within.
Fifthly, Those are outwardly called, and not chosen, who regard some particu∣lars*in Christianity, to do them, but not all; when its the same Christ that com∣mands both, and the same hell and damnation is threatned to the violation of one, as well as another: Its strange to see, how many things those that are called, dare not but do; yet there are again, as plain and as necessary duties, that they wilfully omit: Now the Apostle James in a pregnant manner doth confute this. He that breaketh one of the Commandments, is guilty of all; and he proveth it, because there is the same authority offended, He that said, Thou shalt not kill, also said, Thou shalt not commit adultry, James 2. 11. Now then consider, Why doest thou retain any parcels of Christianity, and not all: Page 636 Thou believest a God, thou believest Jesus Christ was God: Why? because the word of God saith so: Doth not the same word say, Swear not at all? doth not then the same word say, Be not drunk with wine? doth not the same word say, Whoremongers and Adulterers God will judge? This man that was called in the parable, by the same reason that he purposed to go to the feast, he should also have provided a sutable garment; he could not but think what a neglect and contempt it would be accounted to do otherwise: Oh then, that all who hear this truth, would deeply consider of it, by what reason I obey the call of God in any thing, I should do it in all things; by what ground I will go to pray and hear, I should also leave such lusts, and forbear such sins, either all or none, for all duties have the same Divine stamp upon them.
Sixthly, Those that are called, but not chosen, they are forward for the privi∣ledges*of th•calling, but not the duties of the calling: The Jews had many priviledges by their outward calling, they were thereby the people of God, Gods presence and power was among them. The Apostle Rom. 9. 4. reckons up many preroga∣tives every Jew had by being a member of that Church; and thus under the New Testament, every one externally called, though not inwardly sanctified, partaketh of many advantages; The promise is made to him and his seed, he is within the outward administration of the Covenant, he is accounted of the Church, and the body of Christ: Now these things people make a great mat∣ter of; Oh, to be reputed as a publican and an heathen, is an high reproach; should not they be thought Christians, their children to be baptized, they would judge it unsufferable wrong, not considering, that though they be thus forward for priviledges, they are negligent about duties: Thou wouldst have thy childe baptized, thou considerest not, how God would have thee to walk, and what thy duty is about the education of children: Thy wickedness, and thy ungodly ways do provoke God, more then all those priviledges will ad∣vantage thee.
Seventhly, Those that are called, but not chosen, they would indeed receive*Christ as a Saviour, and hope for pardon by him, but do not resign themselves up to him as a Lord, whose commands they will obey: Its true, none can really and truly believe in Christ for pardon, who do not also at the same time receive power from him, in some measure, for sanctification and justification; but yet many men have not faith, but a conceit or presumption of Christs satisfaction, without Scripture direction: Now he that is so, contents himself with this, that he trusts in Christ, and hopes in him for salvation, when they have not the spirit of Christ: No, the spirit of God convinceth of sin, as well as righteousness, and Christ he dyed not onely for comfort for his people, but for grace and holiness: Oh then, do no longer deceive thy self! thou takest Christ, thou hopest in him, all thy trust is in him; Oh but what feel you of the sanctify∣ing and mortifying power of the Lord Christ in thy soul and life.
Lastly, The persons called, but not chosen, do all the easie things in Christiani∣ty,*but not the difficult and exact things: The way to heaven is a straight way, there must be striving, as in an agony, to enter therein. Prayer is to be fervent, to have grones unutterable; the subduing of sin is mortifying and crucifying, which argue the pain and reluctancy of the flesh therein: But alas, the greater sort of Christians look not to, nor minde those things; they go in a formal road, they perform the outward duties sometimes, but as for this spiritual combating, striving and wrestling, they are not acquainted with it: How merry, how jolly, how unexercised are they with any temptations: Certainly, if the way of Heaven be a straight way, thou art not in it; if the Kingdom of Heaven be had onely by violent persons, thou art never likely to obtain it.
Use of Exhortation, to tremble under this truth: Though the Physitians call * a disease Tremor cordis, yet the Scripture calls a grace, The trembling of the heart: What if thou art in the number of one outwardly called meerly; nay, are Page 637 there not many too clear proofs of it? is there any more then a general con∣sent or submission? do you not leave out the main and necessary things, though other things you do? Is not thy life a large, loose life, and the duties of Reli∣gion a meer formality: Oh this is too true of too many; help Lord, and give men understanding to perceive these things: Think not that damnation is one∣ly for Jews, and Turks, and Pagans; Oh you see how near it may come your own houses, and then thy confusion will be greater: This man to be pulled a∣way from a feast, and to be severely punished, had the greater confusion and reproach. Oh glory not in names, in Titles, in outward priviledges! for if your lives be full of ungodliness, you are not those Apostolical, but Apostati∣cal Christians; even as we see God, by the Prophet, makes an excellent mutati∣on of the name Israel, that was given to all the Nation, and is as much as a Prince, or one that prevails with God: Now God calls it Iesreel, a place fa∣mous, for the terrible slaughters that were made there; and signifieth as much as the dispersion or scattering of God; as if he had said, Ye are no more Israelites, but Jesreelites: Thus will God handle all those, that though they have the name of Christians, and glory in an outward calling; yet wanting the power of it, shall be adjudged into eternal condemnation.
A Plea for strictness in Religion.
MAT. 22. 14.
VVE have described the characters and properties of those who are called and not chosen: And that which is most remarkable in them is, They are careful to do many things, but not the main necessa∣ry things. This Guest mentioned before, he was careful to come and sit down at the feast, but not as careful to prepare a Wedding-garment; whereas com∣mon reason and discretion would have taught him, if I go to this wedding, this Marriage-Feast, which is also of so Royal a person, I must prepare sutable garments, I shall dishonor them, and disgrace my self, if I do other∣wise?
Now the plain meaning of this Parable is thus much, I am called to be a * Christian, I am invited to the precious feast and dainties of the Gospel; now if I go to them, and accept of them, my conscience tells me, I must live the life of a Christian, I must not dishonor that Christ, whose servant and Disciple I profess my self to be: But because men are so apt to divide these two, which God hath so necessarily conjoyned together; and there is nothing more ordi∣nary then to have the faith of a Christian, and the life of a Christian, as con∣trary as light and darkness whereby they are like those night Bats, look upon their wings, and you would judge them Birds, but look upon their body, you would judge them Vermin: So it is, look upon their faith, their profession, you would then judge them Christians; look upon their lives and ways, you Page 638 would then say, they were Atheists or Heathens.
Because of this diverse mixture in mens lives, their plowing with an Ox and Ass, their sowing with contrary seeds, I shall amplifie and urge this parti∣cular;
That by the same reason any man doth receive any thing of Christ, he is bound to*receive all.
Upon what ground thou wilt pray, hear his word preached, thou art bound to cast away all thy ungodliness, to set upon the strict and powerful means of holiness: And O that God would by this truth convince you, how contradicto∣ry every ill-lived Christian is to his own principles; that he is a self convinced man, that he is the greatest hypocrite in the world, that God requireth all or none; that we are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength; that there is no taking half of God, or half of Christ: To be almost a Christi∣an, is to be almost saved, and that is to be wholly damned.
Before we come to lay down the grounds of this, consider these parti∣culars: *
First, That the imbracing of the Christian faith, and the Laws of Christ, are to be an act of the freest choice, and voluntary acceptation that can be: Though custom and education may help and prepare, and much incline, yet till a man come to Christ by his own faith, and by his own willing inclination, its not acceptable: Religio non potest cogi: Caesar non potest dare fidem, was the saying of the Ancients; even as it is said of Moses, He chose the afflictions of Christ, rather then the trea∣sures of Egypt, Heb. 11. Thus a Christian, he chooseth rather the way of Christ, though requiring much self-denial, though exposed to all hatred, rather then any other advantagious way in the world: Now then grant this, That to obey Christs call, is an act of meer voluntary choice, then there is no intelligent man, can imbrace any one command of Christ, who doth not likewise submit to all. Would you then know, how Christianity comes to be thus divided and mingled, an un∣godly life, to a godly faith, like a live man, to a dead carkass; one main rea∣son is, because we have this Religion by education, by custom, by the Laws of the Land, if it had been any other, Popery or Judaism, it had been all one: It is to the unknown God that most build an Altar, and by this means men are not careful to bring up their lives to this Christianity, but bring down that to them; whereas every man that taketh this holy and glorious profession upon him, should wisely weigh, what is this I have taken upon me? what doth it re∣quire of me? In all other worldly or external callings we conclude, and much more this should be done in this heavenly calling. Our Saviour gives an excel∣lent caution herein, making the profession of Christianity, to be like war and building, Luke 14. 31. which are the two most expensive attempts that can be: Do you not deride that builder, who goeth about to rear a glorious building, and hath nothing to do it withall? Do you not say, Where is your money? what will you do it with? will you not proclaim your folly to all the world? So it is here, What? wilt thou be a Christian? wilt thou believe in Christ? Why where is thy holiness, thy purity, thy chastity, thy heavenliness? I tell thee, to profess Christ, and yet be a drunkard, a whoremonger, is as great a mocking and scorning of Christ, as they did who crucified him, that in scorn put on him a crown of thorns, and saluted him as a King: Oh then, that this truth might sound as terribly in your ears, as the Archangels trumpet will at the day of Judgement! Its no dallying matter, its no matter of words and comple∣ment to come at Gods call: No, let every one that calls on the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Secondly, Consider this: we grant, That even the godliest men that are, though they*do for the substance and main, as the substantial acts of them, do all that God commands, yet they fail in many things, and the degrees of their grace are imperfect: So that al∣though there be the same reason why they should fulfil all the degrees of grace, Page 639 yet they cannot in this life; and the reason is, because God giveth no man such measure of grace in this life, as to make him perfect without sin; there are the stubs and reliques of original corruption in the most holy, which are an heavy conflict and combate in them: Therefore let not the godly wring this truth till blood come from it, which is intended onely for milk: Say not, There is the same reason why I should do every thing perfectly, as that I should do any thing at all; for although there be the same ground, yet God gives not the same pro∣portion of strength for one, as he doth for another; our perfection is, to ac∣knowledge our imperfections: The reliques of sin are still acting in us, that the grace of the Gospel may be made the more glorious.
Thirdly, In the matters of Christ, some are Doctrinal, some are practical; and there is the same reason for the receiving of the one, as well as of the other: For the mat∣ters * of faith, some say, He that doth discredit or misbelieve one main Article of faith, he doth misbelieve about all, because there is Eadem ratio formalis fidei, in one as well as another; and therefore the Church never held a Macedonian who denyed the Holy Ghost to be God, though he were put to death by the Arrians for maintaining Jesus Christ to be God, to be a Martyr; for though he dyed for one fundamental Article, yet because he denyed another, he did believe nothing at all aright; onely now in matters of faith, you must distinguish between Fundamentals and Superstructions: For Fundamentals, whosoever re∣ceiveth one, must receive all the rest, else the whole building will fall to the ground; and for Superstructions, its true, all should be of one accord and minde, speak the same thing, and judge the same thing, but because these are not so clearly laid down in Scripture, nor are conclusions that are very remote so easi∣ly discerned as principles, therefore some believe that which another doth not, but because the Wedding-garment consists not in these things, the master of the feast will not cast out for this difference: Then there are practicals, such things as Christ hath commanded us to do, and they are either moral duties, or posi∣tive duties: Moral duties are those which are contained in the Moral Law of God, for Christ did not come to destroy these, but confirm them; and for these none can plead ignorance: The inward light of conscience, especially furthered by the light of the word, doth evidently demonstrate all this wickedness; yea, as is to be shewed, there is more reason for thy godly life, then thy true faith; for the former is more easily discerned then the latter: And as for the positive du∣ties, which concern us as a Church, in the government of it, and the good or∣ders he hath prescribed thereby; though all people that receive the former, should come up to the latter, yet time and daily instruction must make way for that. Two things Christ requireth of you: First, duties of you as men; then duties as a Church, as a Society meeting by order in all visible worship: Now these latter duties are not so much known, because indeed men have not attain∣ed to the practice of the former: The sum of this head is, That in the things of Christ, whether Doctrinal or Practical, some things are obscure, and some things are evident and plain: Now the meaning of the assertion is, That by what ground we receive or do any thing Christ hath required, by the same reason we are to do all the rest that are of evident and plain knowledge. And I shall especially follow this in practicals, viz. That what reason thou hast to profess a faith in Christ, to come to Church, to pray to him; there is the same to lay aside all thy ungodliness and prophaneness; insomuch, that it is a wonder, that any man should think he is no good Christian, if he do not come to Church and pray, and doth not also say, I am no good Christian as long as I lye, swear, curse, live in riotings and drunkenness: Oh! how hath sin and Satan bewitched you, and blinded your eyes, that you should not see these plain things? this matter should so easily convince your conscience, that it needs not much in∣forcing; but yet men are more senseless then the earth, in Divine and Heaven∣ly Page 640 things. Bring we then the grounds forth, that, if possible, this day thy soul and thy sins may be divorced from one another: And *
First, That of the Apostle James is very urgent, James 2. 11. viz. The Autho∣rity and Divine command of the Law-giver: The Apostle speaketh to him that doth all the Commandments, yet breaks one, that he is guilty of all; as a man that breaks the round of a chain, he doth in effect break the whole chain; And why? because the same Authority is despised in one, as well as in all: He that said, Believe Christ to be God, said also, No unrighteous or wicked person shall en∣ter into the Kingdom of heaven: If so be then, that though Christ commanded thee to believe, and to be baptized, he had given thee an indulgence to any lust or sin, that thou mightst commit any iniquity without control, there had been no word of God against it, then thou mightest have answered all well; but now thou must needs be speechless: Oh then that men would attend to these things! We are not now preaching any sublime mysteries of Religion, we have not a vail upon our matter; even the weakest and ignorant may hear and understand this: The same God that bids me pray, and hear his word, bids me give over my lusts, my drunkenness, my swearing; now why should I make conscience of one, and not of the other? why should I do one because God commands it, and not the other?
Secondly, There is the same necessity of one as well as the other: A man can be no more saved, unless he part with all these ungodly ways, then if he should * renounce the Christian faith: It is needless to reckon up all those places, which make repentance and a godly life absolutely necessary to eternal happiness; If then you should see a man deny his Christian faith, Renounce Christ and his truth, you would then presently conclude, There is no hope for this man: So it is here, If you see a man professing the faith of Christ, yet doing the works of the Devil, renouncing all the holy works Christ hath commanded, there is no hope of such a man while abiding so; and therefore the Scripture calls this A denying of God, and A denying of Christ, Tit. 1. 16. when men in words do ac∣knowledge him, but in their practice live contrary to him: Oh I how near doth this truth come many of you? Do not your deeds deny God? do not your lusts, your oathes, unlawful pleasures deny him? and yet the leaving of these is as indispensably necessary to salvation, as the outward professing of the ways of Christ; going to the feast with a Wedding-garment, was as necessary as go∣ing to the feast at all; and there was no more hope of him that went without it, then those who did utterly refuse to come unto him.
Thirdly, There is not the same reason onely, that thou shouldst do all the duties God requireth, as well as externally profess him, and call on his name; but also, that thou shouldst do them with all accurateness, strictness, and all diligence: There is no man that thinks himself bound to be a Christian, but he is by the same ar∣gument to think; he is bound to be an accurate, diligent and strict one; and he that is not a strict, precise one, is indeed none, as to have any benefit by his Re∣ligion: This I would have you consider, for men think it indeed their duty to be Christians at large, Protestants in a general loose way, they are contented with this; but if you press them to a more exact circumspect walking, not to be conformed to the World, then this is the strictness they cannot abide; What needs all this? cannot we be saved without all this nicety? as they call it. Now consider
First, No, ye cannot be saved without this strictness: The way to hell is a broad * way, the way to heaven is a strait way, the gate is a narrow gate, Mat. 7. 14. and men must strive to enter in, ye are to walk circumspectly, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Ephes. 5. 15. What singular thing do ye? saith our Saviour, do not even the publicans and the heathens do the like? Matth. 5. So that you see, there is a good singularity, and we must be singular from the way of the world: Oh then consider, that the same Page 641 Bible which commands thee to be a Christian, commands thee to be a strict and accurate one: That general, loose and formal way, is too easie to be the way to heaven: In vain have David, Job and Paul watched over themselves, if thy way will lead to heaven.
Secondly, Its a principle ingrafted in every man, that the best is still to be given*to God: In the Old Testament, the first-fruits, and the fat of the Sacrifices were to be offered: The command is, To love God with all our heart, all our might, and all our strength; that as God is He, quo nihil melius cogitari potest, then whom no∣thing can be thought better; so if we have any better affections, any better strength, any better power then other, we should spend it wholly in service of God: Thus they cryed, Hoc age, in offering their Sacrifices; how then cometh it about, that thou shouldst have this foolish perswasion, to think thou servest God, and thou pleasest him, when the world and the Devil have far more of thee then they have? This made Joshua say to the people of Israel, when they proffered to serve God, Ye cannot serve God, for he is a jealous God, Joshua 24. 19. ye cannot serve him, unless you become other men then you are, and be∣take your selves wholly to him.
Thirdly, Thou must be an exact Christian, if any at all; because if you go over*all the Religions in the world, you shall see, they have the greatest approbation, that are more devout and fervent then others in serving their God: Doth not the hea∣then admire him who is most touched with a fear and reverence about his Idol? In Popery, are not they Canonized for Saints, who have in the most strict and precise way, given up themselves to their Religion? What then should be the matter, that among us its the clean contrary? If a man walk in the ways of Christ more strictly then others, if a man desire to follow his or∣ders directly, so that he doth not either run into the same excess of ryot, or boundless superstition as others do, such a man is scorned, and most ab∣horred of all men; yet thus it is, Be no more godly, be no more holy then the custom of the world is, and you shall be applauded: but if you go fast∣er then they, will not sit down with such loosness and formality as they do, then they cry out of you: Thus you see, that by what reason a man takes up any thing of Christ, he is bound to receive all; and what he doth, he is bound to do it with that strictness and accurateness that possibly may be. You may ask the question then, How comes it about, that when there is the same ground, yet most persons think it enough to come to the Feast, though without a Wedding-garment; think it enough to be called, though not cho∣sen: And
First, They do not set Faith, Reason and Iudgement on work; for if they did, * this sun arising, would presently dispell that darkness: If men would take the Psalmists counsel, To commune with their own hearts, and be still; To propound these Questions to their Souls, Why do I take this of Christs, and refuse the other? Why do I own this particular, and neglect the o∣ther? The matter would be so clear presently to a mans conscience, that he would cry out, All or none: As the Apostle compareth wicked men to bruit beasts, because they are led aside with the present pleasures; so they are like to them, because they never reflect upon themselves, and compare things rati∣onally together. Be not as the horse and mule, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 32, 9. e∣ven to men that have no understanding.
Secondly, A meer speculative and external profession of Christ, is easie and*cheap; it doth not spiritually crucifie or mortifie a man, as the practical power of godliness doth; a man must deny himself, and the practice of his dear lusts, if his life be conformable to so holy a Doctrine, the Wedding-garment will sit straight upon a man: Wonder not then, if the greater sort of people sit down with this general way, for it goeth not to the quick, it tryeth Page 642 them not about the killing of any one Isaac.
Thirdly, A total mistake about Godliness and Regeneration: Men never se∣riously * consider, what exactness, what labor, what conflicts are in that way; They walk by the Rules of the multitude, they do as most do, especially they are resolved, they will not stirre up the hatred of the World against them: And by these mistakes, and being thus blindfolded, no wonder if they fall into the ditch.
Fourthly, An inordinate love to some lust, or to the world: So that al∣though * in the general they know better, and have this perswasion on the con∣science, yet the violence of some indeared lust carrieth away all with it, as some violent torrent: Thus the yong man, that thought he had kept all the Commandments, when our Saviour tried him in that where his heart lay, he went away then very sorrowful, Matth. 19. 22. So then, though Faith, though Christ, through the Scripture, be never so plain, yet their custom and delight in sin, makes them forget all.
Use of Instruction: How inexcusable all wicked men will be at the last day; * out of your own mouthes God will judge you; Christ will say, If it was good to call upon my Name, to make some profession of my Faith, Why was it not also good to obey my commands? You need no Devil, no Law, no Justice of God to accuse and indict you, you your selves will condemn your selves: As Peter told Ananias, that kept back part of the money for which he sold his Land, Was it not free to thee to do what thou wouldst, before thou didst promise? but since thou hast promised, and yet dealt deceitfully, Why hast thou lyed against the holy Ghost? Oh thus it will be with thee: hadst thou been an Athiest, a Pagan, hadst thou never ingaged to be for Christs way, then the sin had been more tollerable; but now thou hast lyed to the Holy Ghost, thou hast lyed to God: Hearken O heavens; and hear O earth, the just condemnation of such perfidious men! set these things home upon your hearts; say, O Lord, How clear and evident is this? have I any thing to say, why I should keep this sin, delight in this lust? doth not Christ, whom I believe in, condemn it? doth not the word that I read, judge it? doth not the Ministery which I hear, reprove it? and doth not the Conscience I bear about with me, witness a∣gainst it.
Of Election and Reprobation, and of the Few∣ness and Properties of those that are chosen; An∣swering the Objections of men, and clearing the Justice of God.
MAT. 22. 14.
I Have dispatched the former Proposition, Many are called, and now come to the adversative, or exceptive Proposition, But few are chosen,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; though this Greek word may sometimes be taken as an adjective, signifying as much as excellent, choice and precious; yet it is here a Participle, and doth not so much denote any inward dignity and excellency, as an external act of God, selecting and choosing some to eternal life, and leaving others; thus the word is used very plainly against the Arminian glosse, that would have it be an Adjective, Mark 13. 20. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉for the Elects sake, whom he hath chosen; So that this word doth signifie an extrinsecal favour and priviledge of God, who doth all things according to his own will; why of these called, God chooseth one and not another, Noli Scrutari, said Augustine, do not curiously pry; and again Quaerat doctiorem, sed caveat ne inveniat praesumptiorem. We cannot tell the reason why of those many called, some have grace given them to obey, and others remain in their obstinacy. And as we cannot tell why this man, and not another; so neither why few, and not many. For as the glory of a King is in the multitude of his Subjects; so we would, think, the glory of God would lie in the multitude of those that are saved, but we see the peremptory assertion in the Text, Few are chosen.
That of those many who are called, and enjoy the priviledges of grace, few are cho∣sen*to eternal life.
Thus Christ called his people A little flock, Luk. 12. 32. Fear not little flock; As the number of precious stones is few to the pibble and gravel ones that lie in the fields; and as the weeds are farre more then the flowers; so its here: In the Church of God there are more that are drosse then gold, more that are stubble for hell fire, then prepared persons for glory.
Now let's open this Doctrine; And
First, This truth about the paucity of those that are elected, may be handled either sinfully or profitably; sinfully, as when it is treated on onely to satisfie curiosity, and to keep up a meer barren speculative dispute. Thus that man was exercised, who came to our Saviour, and asked him, Whether there were few that should be saved? Luk. 13. 23. Therefore our Saviour did not directly answer to the Question, because he would not nourish that sinful humour in man. This point then of Election but of a remnant and few of mankinde, is not to be agi∣tated in a verbal and contentious way, but in a saving way, to make us tremble, Page 644 and to set us upon a more diligent and close striving with God in prayer and all other duties. Hence our Saviour though he would not encourage that Questio∣nist in a way of curiosity, yet he did indirectly answer it, by bidding the same person, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for broad was the way that did lead to death; but narrow was the way that did lead to eternal life, and few enter therein; So then this Doctrine, if any other, should produce sobriety, holy fear and trembling. For what prayer, agonies, conflicts should this work in every hearer?
Secondly, Consider the aggravation of the Doctrine, Many are called and few*are chosen, even of those that are called; and therefore, as you heard, it is an in∣ference made from the man who came to the feast, sate down with all boldness, and yet because he had no wedding garment, was wholly excluded; and this indeed makes the consideration of this point more terrible and sharp; for had it been said, Of all the men in the world, there are but a few that are elected to eternal glory, this would not have struck so much trembling; for who would not have thought it very probable, that those who are within the Church, those that are within the Ark, none of them should perish? But this should wound at the very heart, that even of those who have called Lord, Lord, who have prophesied, wrought miracles, enjoyed the Ordinances, that an handful of these should be saved: Oh the depths of the counsel of God! How can man sit and hear these things, and not be dar•ed into the very heart? As they cried out when Christ said, One of you shall betray me, Is it I Lord? Is it I Lord? And thus now when the Scripture speaks, Many of you persons called shall be dam∣ned, Is not every one to say, Is it I Lord? Is it I Lord?
Thirdly, That notwithstanding few are elected comparatively to those that are left*by God; yet if you take the number of the elect absolutely in themselves, so there is a great number of them. Hence many are said to come and sit down with Abraham, Matth. 8. 11. in the kingdom of Heaven; and the spiritual seed that is given unto Christ, is very great, compared to the dew of the morning, Psal. 110. Hence in the Revelation you reade of many thousands sealed in every Tribe. It hath been a conceit of some of the Ancients, that so many shall be repaired out of man-kinde, as will make up the number of the Angels that fell. Their opinion is, That for the many Angels that fell, there shall rise up so many men in their room, and God will have that number compleated; but here is no ground for this out of the Scripture; We may truly say, that howsoever it be a few in re∣spect of others, yet it is an All absolutely considered in themselves; and there∣fore they are sometimes called the world, and all men, as some Divines do expound those places.
Fourthly, The powerful and effectual preaching of this Doctrine, is no just ground*of despair to any. None can rationally conclude, Because there are so few that shall be saved, therefore its likely I shall be damned, I have no hopes. Oh if this be true, then farewell all comfort and all joy, would I had never been made a man, &c! The beasts of the field, and the birds of the air are happier. But this is gathering poyson out of a sweet herb; for howsoever this be true, yet no man in his particular may conclude himself a reprobate; for these Rea∣sons:
First, God layeth it as a duty upon every one to repent and to believe, to come to him,*and he shall have rest to his soul. If then it be thy duty to believe, to repent, what dost thou trouble thy self about thy election or reprobation? The way to make this Election sure to thee, is by giving all heed and diligence unto every work of grace: If then thou believest, thou repentest, this may be a sure testi∣mony unto thee of thy everlasting glory; so then notwithstanding this truth, Few are chosen, yet those things are likewise true, Whosoever shall believe, whosoever shall repent, shall be saved; And Whosoever comes unto Christ he will in no wise cast out. Therefore this election of God doth not infringe those uni∣versal Page 645 promises and invitations that the Scripture holds out. Neither may a man thus query, Am I elected or reprobated? But, Is it my duty to repent or not? Is it my duty to draw nigh unto God or not? And therefore you may observe, That those who hold Absolute Election, can go as farre in administring comfort to any troubled sinner, as those that hold Universal Grace or Redemption; for no Arminian dare say, God will save thee whether thou believe and repent or not, that is all one; but thou must believe and repent, then mercy is prepared for thee; and thus universally can and may the Orthodox say.
Secondly, This is no ground of despair, because no man can know his reprobation.* No man can ever truly say, I know I am not chosen, I know I am not elected. Its true, some have said so in temptations, some have cried out so in the horror of conscience that hath been upon them; but as Peter in a transfiguration spake he knew not what; so these in a black and sad temptation. Secret things belong unto God, revealed things unto us: God keeps that book of mens names that are eternally left by him in his own custody: Even as the day of Judgement, the time of it, is kept secret. Its true indeed, There may be a certain knowledge of our Election, not as it is in the fountain and decree of God, but by the sure and blessed effects thereof, which the Scripture doth abundantly witnesse; and there is great use of such necessity, because hereby God hath the greater praise and glory; and a man is more imboldened and encouraged in all the afflictions that do accompany the profession of Christ. See how Paul doth triumph over all by the sense of this love comforting his heart. But now if a man should know he were reprobated in this life, it would breed in him all desperate obstinacy to commit all wickednesse with all delight, and he would take himself disobliged from all the duties commanded, that he was not bound to repent or believe, or to pray, no more then the already damned in hell.
Thirdly, Therefore this cannot breed despair, because if there be any soul broken*for sinne, troubled under the guilt of it, we Ministers of the Gospel have a Commissi∣on to preach peace and pardon to such a soul. Oh then there is no cause thou shouldst bewail thy reprobate condition, that God had no thoughts of thee, but rather thy hard and stony heart, that will not relent, that will not grieve, that will not hunger and thirst after Christ. For let us meet with such a soul, as the bo∣dy of that man of Jericho, wounded with sin, and we must pour oil into it. We dare not keep comfort from any one who discovers unfeigned signs of repent∣ance; yea if need be, we may in particular absolve, and acquit in the name of the Lord, such a sinner from his sins, and the Lord he will confirm it, Whose sins ye loose on earth, shall be loosed in Heaven, Matth. 18. Oh then that we had such oc∣casions, as to administer this balme of Gilead! Oh that we could meet with such persons, and we would say, Be of good comfort, thy sinnes are forgi∣ven thee.
Fourthly, It cannot be any ground of despair, for there is more possibility of thy*Salvation, by Gods absolute Election, then by Universal Grace or Redemption, as the Authors of that Doctrine maintain it; So that if a man were put to choose which Doctrine he would have, as putting him into the greater possibility of sal∣vation, he would rationally choose the former way. For by an Absolute Ele∣ction some are sure to be saved, but by the Doctrine of those universalists, not∣withstanding Universal Grace, and Christs dying for all, not one man may be sa∣ved; God may lose all the glory of his mercy, and Christ all the fruit of his sufferings, and a mans salvation is hereby made the more unlikely, in that they have not been able to instance of any one Heathen amongst many thousands that improved his naturals so well, as to have Grace given him.
Fifthly, This few number that are said to be chosen, are so precisely determined*and ordained by God, that it can neither be lessened or multiplied. When the Apo∣stle had spoken of the fall of some eminent persons, he addeth, Neverthelesse the foundation of God standeth sure, 2 Tim. 2. 19. having this title, The Lord knoweth Page 646 who are his: So that if the daies of a mans life are numbred with God, that there cannot be one day taken from them, or added to them; much more must this hold in that soveraign and glorious decree. Insomuch that it is false Doctrine to say to any man, If thou art not predestinated, pray thou maiest be; for this is Gods eternal purpose before the foundations of the world were laid, and are farre stronger then those Decrees of the Medes and Persians, which were so im∣mutable that they could not be changed; and such a prayer would be as if we would intreat God to create the world. There is none of these chosen ones shall ever be cast away as a reprobate, None of the bones of Christ were broken, much lesse will he lose any of his living members; The love of God is unchangeably pla∣ced upon his people, and those that are his Ammi, his people, in this sense have this mercy, he will never say to them, Loammi, you are not my people.
Sixthly, These that are thus chosen by God, of his meer good will and gracious*pleasure, God findes not any thing in one called person more then another that should distinguish them. Paul said, Who hath made thee to differ from another? 1 Cor. 4. 7. And indeed if in these earthly mercies, its God that gives some riches, and not another; some wealth, and not another; some health, and not another; How much rather then is it God, that gives one grace to repent, and not ano∣ther; one a broken and a contrite heart, and not another? Thus alwaies in the Scripture, you shall finde that repentance is Gods gift. To believe and under∣stand the mystery of the Gospel, is given to one and not to another. Those then that are thus chosen, are to be ravished with the consideration of free Grace, that God out of his good pleasure should make such a large difference between him and others that it may be have been lesse sinners, and have lesse dishonoured God then he hath done. How thankful must the Israelite needs have been to see the destroying Angel passe by his house, and strike at the next Aegyptian house to him! How much more then are the godly to rejoyce, who have the stroak of eternal damnation passing by them, but falling heavily upon others!
And if you object, saying, All is of Gods meer pleasure, and its wholly of God,*that one is left, and another is taken; then a mans damnation and destruction is whol∣ly to be imputed unto God; then a man is no more in fault; for who hath resisted his will?
To this we answer: That howsoever it be Gods Soveraign good pleasure to * choose some and not others, yet a mans damnation is wholly of himself in respect of the meritorious cause; for no man is damned precisely, because God hath not chosen him, because he is not elected, but because he is a sinner, and doth wil∣fully refuse the means of grace offered: insomuch that there is no sinner, but he doth as willingly and readily sinne with as much choice and delight, as if he were not at all left by God; and therefore the Scripture doth wholly attribute a mans destruction to his own self: Let no man think then to evade Gods Ju∣stice under this pretence. No, God will be justified, and every man will be found to be a sinner. Neither may this be thought injustice in God, for if he had not saved one man, none could have blamed him; we see he did not spare one of the Apostate Angels; Thus also might he have done with all man-kinde. Let us therefore admire the goodnesse of God that chooseth any to eternal life.
But a second Objection, which cavillers use to make, is, If God hath thus*chosen some, and left others, then all our labours and endeavours after God∣linesse, are in vain; Why should I pray? Should I seek after God, all may be in vain?
To this the Answer is easie: Thou must live by the revealed will of God, not * by the secret: Now Gods revealed will cals for such duties, commands such graces of every one. What is Gods secret will none can tell thee, but in the Word he hath shewed thee, O man, what thou art to do: Do not thou then Page 647 cavil, and argue against thy Duty? But hear what the Scripture saith, Tremble under what God doth require of thee, thou art sure the neglect of these Du∣ties will be unto thee an evident token of perdition. Neither do the Orthodox assert such an Absolute Decree as doth oppose ordered means, but Conditions suspended upon the uncertain will of man. We see the Scripture positively as∣serting such an Election of God before the foundations of the world: we see it also as positive and peremptory in commands for the use of the means. There∣fore these two things may stand together: Let not then the difficulty of recon∣ciling them make thee deny either; and if upon prayer and study thou canst not pitch on a way for their concord (for several learned men differ herein, some going one way, some another) do then rather submit thy understanding, then presumptuously deny the truth, as thou doest in the matter of the Trinity; and this counsel, about a point very near it, not all one with this, doth Cajetan the sub∣til Schoolman give.
And thus much for Explication: The ground why of many called, few are * chosen à priori, is, as you heard, Gods will, Who doth in Heaven and Earth what pleaseth him. Paul in the ninth of the Romans hath so fully determined this, that its a wonder any have had the fore-head to rise up and dispute against it; We rather are to admire the mercy of God, that a few are chosen, rather then to di∣spute why not more, or all. The Church in her temporal affliction did blesse God for the remnant that was saved; and we are much more to praise God for any that are elected to eternal life.
And then the ground à Posteriori, or which is rather a sign that few are sa∣ved, may be evidenced by considering the lives of those that are called, View then and judge by the Scripture, and you must then conclude few are chosen. For out of the number of those that are called outwardly, Take
First, All ignorant Persons; and then you remove a great number. That no grossely ignorant person, living and dying so, is chosen, appeareth plainly, Be∣cause God would have men come to the knowledge of the truth, and so to be saved, 1 Tim. 2. 4. And conversion is an enlightning of the minde; its the giving of a man a spiritual understanding; They are a people of no understanding, therfore he that made them will not save them, Isa. 23. 11. So then, we are to bid all ignorant people, Stand you by, you are not of the chosen ones by any outward sign. As yet you are in a damnable condition: Oh pray that God would open your blinde eyes!
Secondly, From those that are called. Take away the prophane and ungodly man in his life, and then the number is still lesse and lesse. Are not the ignorant and the prophane men the greater part of called persons? But now if any man be a vici∣ous and ungodly person, he must also stand aloof off: Here are no signs of thy Election, as yet; yea there are the Plague-tokens for the present of Gods eter∣nal displeasure.
Thirdly, There is a third sort to be taken away, and that is, Of those indeed who live a civil and unblameable life, unspotted from all sinne and wickednesse, but yet have never felt within themselves the mighty power of God renewing their natures. What a small number by this time will that of the chosen persons be, when those that live in a fair and ingenuous way, but never tasted the good word of God upon their hearts, are also bid to depart, here is no comfort for them.
Lastly, Yet once more take away all those, who have the common gifts and graces of Gods Spirit, who have some inward workings of illumination, and joy, and sor∣row in their hearts; but yet because they do not dig deep enough, and want root, are therefore carried no further then hypocrites and reprobates: Such there are, and our Saviour doth often give his Disciples warning, lest they go no further then these. Now then put all these together, The Ignorant Person, The Prophane, The Civil, and the Temporary Believer, and take the rest, and you will say, Oh how few are chosen!Page 646〈1 page duplicate〉Page 647〈1 page duplicate〉
Page 648Use of Examination. Try your selves under this truth, Hath Christ spoken it * once and twice? It will prove true, That though Many are called, yet few are chosen: Oh then search, and again search and try your wayes! Oh enquire, whether thou art in the number of those chosen ones or no! for the thing may be known. The Scripture gives many characters of those that are thus chosen, Do thou then fall upon this study. Oh do not hear and hear, but fall presently upon the work! The signs are these:
First, Those that are chosen to glory, they are likewise chosen to grace here. Election will in due time have its effectual vocation. If God appoint thee to eternal life, he doth here in this world appoint thee to a gracious and heavenly life. As thy glory and happinesse is a choice mercy, so are thy thoughts, thy actions choise actions. Is thy whole conversation selected and removed from sinne and filthinesse. This is a sure argument, No Sanctification no Election, No choice Grace no choice Glory. Thou art to be a precious jewel here, ere God will make thee up at that great day.
Secondly, Those that are chosen, they have the Spirit of God bestowed on them: He is the fruit of this Election, and a three-fold work the Spirit of God puts forth in them: Its
1. A Spirit of Prayer, Rom. 8. which teacheth us how to pray, and what to pray; which makes our hearts full of conflicts and spiritual agonies in prayer. Thy earnest, effectual prayers demonstrate thy Election.
2. Its the Spirit of Adoption, enabling us to call God Father: This is a comfor∣table fruit in those that are chosen; They have a Filial and Evangelical frame of heart. They have a godly boldnesse and confidence in Gods love.
3. Its a witnessing and sealing Spirit to them, it assures and seals unto them the love and favour of God, and by the Spirits assistance they come to be thus per∣swaded. Alas, they have no such certainty of themselves, as the choisest colours cannot be seen without the benefit of the light.
Thirdly, Those that are thus chosen, they have a heavenly delight and excellent joy in drawing nigh to God; His Ordinances are excellent, his Word is excellent, his Sabbaths are a delight. They prize those things more then the worldly man his treasure, the voluptuous man his pleasures.
Lastly, They that are thus chosen, they walk with an holy fear and trembling. Their heavenly joy and assurance doth not degenerate into presumption or neg∣lect of the means. No, Paul beats down his body, that he may not become a re∣probate; and he giveth this general rule, Work out your Salvation with fear and trembling. These are the fruits of Election, not as if all that were chosen had them at all times, or altogether, or in a perfect manner, but with much conflict and imperfection.
More Signs and Effects of Election. And Di∣rections to those that are overwhelmed with Thoughts and Fears whether they are Elected or no.
MAT. 22. 14.
THe Doctrine contained in the adversative or exceptive part of this Propo∣sition, carrieth much terror with it; for how easily may the soul be dis∣couraged under this consideration, The fewness of those that are elected or saved? Now although there are few who need encouragements, the greater part of our Auditors being presumptuous and self-confident; yet that I may handle this truth compleatly, I shall Answer this particular case of Con∣science,
What that person should do, who is overwhelmed with fears and thoughts whe∣ther he belong to Election or no, whether he hath any interest in the Covenant of * Grace; for though but few, yet some such there are, who through the tender∣ness of their own heart, and Satans subtil temptations, are many times cast down, as if there were no hope for them: Though God be gracious to others, yet not to them; insomuch, That they sit down like deflowred Tamar, weep∣ing and wailing, not knowing whether to go; would not therefore he be like a Messenger from God, that could tell how to ease the soul of this burthen? But before I apply my self to this satisfaction, I shall adde some further signs and effects of Election, to what I propounded the last day; and certainly, if the hearts of men were as careful to make their Election sure, as they are to make the Evidences of their Estates, or any outward advantage they enjoy, even a little said, may do good unto them. In worldly things that Rule is received, Tene certum, dimitte incertum, Hold that which is certain, and let * that go which is uncertain: Why then are ye not as wise in this respect? Thy outward mercies, thy security, and quietness of conscience, these are no cer∣tain signs of thy Election; therefore let them go and put no more confidence in them. We proceed to adde more, That he who is not convinced in the want of one, may be in the want of the other. And
First, They that are thus chosen, the preaching of the Gospel comes not unto them in word onely, but in a full and efficacious power on their heart, and assurance of their understanding: We Ministers of the Gospel may here take up our la∣mentations, * To whom is the Gospel preached, any more then meer bare words? Do not our Sermons, as the Psalmist said of our lives, Pass away as a tale that is told? Oh this is an ill sign! consider that place, 1 Thess. 1. 4, 5. Knowing (bre∣thren) your Election of God: The Apostle speaks so of others, either in the Page 650 judgement of charity, or from that spirit of discerning, which was vouchsafed some in the Apostles times: Well, how comes Paul to know this? by this glorious effect, Verse 5. For our Gospel came not unto you in word onely, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance: See what the end and issue of every Sermon should be, it should come with power, and with the Holy Ghost into your hearts; viz. The Spirit of God accompanying the word, works faith, conversion, and a through reformation of our lives: Its therefore very good to consider, with what power the word preached falls into thy heart: Doth it convince thee, humble thee, mollifie and soften thee, this argueth thou belongest to God. Iohn 8. Our Saviour argued on the contrary, that the Pharisees were not of God, because they did not hear with faith and obedience his word: Thus you see, great discoveries may be made of men, ac∣cording to the efficacy Gods word hath upon their hearts. Every faithful Mi∣nister is like Iohn, a voyce, but if he be no more, then he said of the Nightin∣gale, vox & praeterea nihil, a voyce, and nothing else; woe be to that Auditor who feels it no more: Ezekiel was no more to his hearers; God tell shim, He was like a pleasant song to them, Ezek. 33. 32. they would come and hear as his peo∣ple, but they would do nothing; If therefore the Election of God ever put forth any glorious power on thee, thou wilt finde it in this some time or other, that the word preached will be more then the word of a man, more then a meer humane Oration, or verbal Declamation: Oh! it will be like fire in thy bowels, like a two edged sword in the secret places of thy heart; thou wilt cry out, Ve∣rily God is here: Oh the power, the conviction, the meltings of my soul that I feel within me!
Secondly, A further effect of Predestination, is a conformity to the image of Christ:* Thus the Apostle expresly affirmeth, Rom. 8. 26. Whom he did foreknow, he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son: This is a glorious fruit, to be made like Christ, to have the image of Christ in us, affections like Christ, zeal and heavenliness like Christ. This conformity unto Christ, may be in three things:
First, That which is future and to come; viz. To be glorified, as he is glori∣fied: Thus the Apostle elsewhere saith, Our vile bodies, shall be made conformable unto his glorious body, Phil. 3. 21. and as we have carried the image of the earth∣ly, so we shall the image of the heavenly, 1 Cor. 15. 49. An inestimable priviledge it is: But I intend not that.
The Second particular of conformity, is the grace and holiness of Christ; that as he was altogether holy, humble, doing the will of God readily in eve∣ry particular, so should we. Hence we are commanded To be followers of him, and, To put on the Lord Iesus Christ, Rom. 12. 14 as a garment which covers the whole body; so that we are to express the savor and life of Christ in all that we do, let nothing of our sin, our nakedness appear, but every thing like Christ: How excellently did Paul arrive to this, when he could say, I no longer live, but Christ within me. Hierom said of Austin, That he did Diligere Christum habitantem in Augustino, he loved Christ dwelling in Austin: Oh! this image and superscription they bear who are elected; they shall, at least ere they dye, manifest the life and power of Christ dwelling in them. Consider then, are thy affections, thy thoughts, thy actions such as resemble Christ? Those that are elected, are predestinated to such a conformity.
Thirdly, There is a conformity unto Christ, in regard of his sufferings, and patient obedience thereunto: This some interpreters make to be the chief scope of the place; that as Christ had in this life a suffering, afflicted and persecuted life, in all which he was full of humility and patience, and after this he was exalted to glory; so it will fall out with every member of Christ; every mem∣ber, as well as the head, shall have a state of humiliation, before a state of ex∣altation: Page 651 Let not those then who will live in the power of godliness, expect great and comfortable things always in this world: Though they be chosen ones with God, yet with the world they may be the off-scouring and dregs of mankinde.
Thirdly, The third effect, Is thankfulness, and continual hearty gratitude un∣to*God for this so great and unspeakable a mercy: You can no more keep in the heart from overflowing, when its sensible of this everlasting love of God, then you can put bounds to the sea: See Paul, Ephes. 1. and in other places, with what heavenly joy and inlarged thankfulness he amplifieth the love and grace of God in electing of us before the foundations of the world; he cannot satisfie himself with any words, but heaps them up one upon another; and certainly, in that God hath elected and chosen thee, he hath done more for thee, then if he should give thee all the glory of the world. That elect Lady Iohn wrote un∣to, was more happy in being elected, then in all the external glory she had; How then is thy heart affected with joy, and praise, and thankfulness in this matter? He that bestoweth great things, looks for great return of thanks, especially this being all we can do.
Fourthly, Those that are elected, have a spirit of heavenly fortitude and courage*bestowed upon them, whereby they are able to rejoyce and triumph in all adversities and troubles: The apprehension of this doth so animate them, that like Salaman∣ders, they live in the fire of persecution; like the Ark, they are so far from be∣ing drowned in the waters, that thereby they are exalted nearer Heaven. Read Rom. 8. What glorious triumphs doth Paul, in the person of all the elected, make over all kinde of Enemies that can be thought on! he challengeth every adversary to put forth his sting: Now whence comes all this boldness and con∣fidence? even because God had elected, and nothing can separate them from this unchangeable love: How can men endure the loss of goods, estates, name and life it self, did not a gracious assurance of this, raise them up above all humane strength? This is the Aqua fortis unto their despondent spirits; this makes them, with Paul, say to all friends that would hinder them in sustering for God, Why do you break my heart? I am ready not onely to be bound, but to dye for Christs sake.
Fifthly, The last and glorious effect of Election, is perseverance, and a stedfast continuance in that way of grace they are at first set in: Final Apostacy, and to∣tal * backsliding from the ways of God, can never befal those that are thus cho∣sen: If it were possible, Mat. 24. 24. The elect would be deceived with the signs and wonders of lying Prophets: They went from us, because they were not of us, said the Apostle, 1 Iohn 2. 19. many places might be brought to this purpose; especially that promise, Ier. 32. 40. which is nothing but the Covenant of Grace, and the execution of Gods decree from all eternity, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall never depart from me: Oh what a blessed mercy is this! when there are so many hours of temptation in the world, so many blustring storms and tempests, that are able to raise up the very roots, did not that im∣mortal seed preserve them. Thus having added some more necessary effects, that demonstrate this calling and election of God, I now apply my self to pour oyl into that wounded heart I mentioned, to that tender conscience who is sur∣prized with fear and trembling, least not so much as the crums that fall from this table do belong to it; that refuse to be comforted, saying with Zion, God hath forsaken her. And
First, Let such an one consider, that it is no new or strange temptation, even for the*godly to be possessed with these thoughts and fears, that God hath left them, God hath forsaken them: How often may you have the Church sighing such complaints in Davids Psalms, Hath the Lord cast off for ever? will he be gracious no more? and so in Isaiah, Zion hath said, The Lord hath forsaken me: But all that she said, and she thought was not true; nay, what need we wonder at this, seeing that *Page 652 even Christ himself was tempted in this manner, though without sin: Was not this the meaning of those heavy groans and crys, the Apostle saith he uttered, saying, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? My God, my God, there were the expressions of faith, adhering and relying; but, why hast thou forsaken me? they were the words of one not feeling the sensible comfort and support of God at that present; which was not simply a sin, but part of that soul∣agony, and soul-sufferings he did undergo for us. Well then, let no tender heart, and troubled soul be dejected, if it be exercised with such black tempta∣tions; for these things have befallen the godly, yea, Christ himself.
Secondly, Lay this down assuredly, that all those thoughts and suggestions, as*if thou wert not chosen, come onely from the Devil, and are his poysoned arrows that he darts into thee: He is the Prince of darkness, and loveth to keep the soul in darkness; he is the Accuser of the Brethren, not onely to God, but accuseth God to them, as an hard master, as one that did watch to damn and destroy: Now that they come from Satan, is plain, because they are contrary to the scri∣pture: All spirits must be tryed by the Scripture, and so thou must try thy spi∣rit by the Scripture: Well then, thy spirit saith, God hath not chosen thee, God hath not ordained thee to eternal glory; now say, Where doth the Scri∣pture reveal any such thing? where doth Gods word manifest any such thing? If then the Scripture discover no such thing, it comes but from that lying spi∣rit, and thy lying heart together; say therefore in all such temptations, Get thee behinde me Satan, these things savour not of the Scripture, these things come not from Gods spirit; therefore Gods spirit is called The Comforter, because he in∣clineth the soul to believe in Gods gracious promises; Gods spirit, is the spirit of Adoption, which inableth us to cry, Abba Father; thus the spirit of God, where that is, dispels all tormenting fears, all sinful dejections, carrieth on the heart to Evangelical considerations: Now this should exceedingly prevail with the tender heart, when it feels all those sad and heavy pressures: All these things are contrary to Gods spirit, they grieve the spirit of God, as well as my own spirit.
Thirdly, Consider, We are not to live by our own experiences and feelings that we have, whether of joy, or fears, but by the word of God: Its a very dangerous * delusion, when a man makes his own sense and experience, the rule to walk by: He must bring his heart, and all things to the word, to be directed by it, guided by it. Now the word of God that commands every one in particular to believe, to repent, to draw near to God; this the word enjoyneth every one, Why then art thou troubling thy self about the secret things of God, which can never be known? These revealed commands and duties, they belong to thee; How much better were it therefore to shake off all those temptations, as Paul did the Viper from his hand; and say, Let me rise up and fall to my duty: The command is plain, unquestionable, Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, Mat. 11. Ho every one that thirsteth come, John 7. Now then, if these Texts be so clear, so evident, how darest thou refuse them? If sin trouble thee, then let sin against these Commandments trouble thee. We have a most pregnant in∣stance in this case, Mat. 11. 22. The woman of Canaan when she desired help from Christ, see what a repulse Christ gave her, Its not fit to give childrens bread to Dogs: He calls her a Dog, he tells her, childrens bread did not belong to her; Whose heart would not this break? was not this in effect to tell her, she was a reprobate, the promise of Grace did not belong to her? Though Christ spake this by way of tryal, to draw out her importunity the more: Well, what saith the woman to all this? yet she will catch some thing for an argument still of hope, Truth Lord, yet the Dogs eat of the crums that fall from the table: Let me be a Dog, let me be unworthy, I confess my self so, I feel my self so, yet de∣ny not the crums, the least mercy I shall prize; and upon this answer what great commendation did Christ give her faith? Look you then, here is a Page 653 copy for thee to write after, endeavor to be like this woman; O Lord, though I feel no comfort, though I be a Cast-away, though I be a dog, yet let me have but the crums, the least expressions of thy love, and they will refresh me: So that you see, these temptations are not to deject, but to draw out thy im∣portunity, to quicken up thy affections, as you shall hear afterwards.
Fourthly, Thou oughtest to be so far from being discouraged, because of these sad*temptations and fears, that thou oughtest the more to rejoyce, and to take these groans and crys, as the sure signs and simptomes of thy predestination; For so we told you, where this election was, there the spirit of God did accompany the soul with prayers and groans unutterable: So that those exercises and troubles of heart, they are to be a great ground of comfort and hope to thee; thou art to rejoyce and bless God, that puts thee in such agonies, such exercises, though for the present so heavy and unsupportable: Alas! he that is a reprobate, and indeed forsaken by God, he is never thus troubled, he is given up to a stony heart, as Pharaoh was; and therefore such are said to have a blinde eye, a deaf ear, a fat heart, that cannot understand: No, those that are thus forsaken by God, they make a mock of sin, they eat and drink, and go down quick to hell: Let not then, those things which ought to comfort thee, be matter of discouragement to thee: Turn not honey into gall.
Fifthly, Consider, The unprofitableness, and sinfulness of all such fears: They * come to no good at all, they are thorns in thy side, and hinder thee in all that liveliness and power of godliness that ought to be; they hinder thy praying, thy obedience, thy comfortable discharge of thy relation, duties: The joy of the Lord is your strength, said Nehemiah, Nehem. 8. 10. and fear, that makes feeble hands, and feeble knees: so that as that timber which is eaten into by worms, cannot serve for strong building; so neither can those who are devoured by these temptati∣ons, be for that while serviceable unto God: Know then, if thou wilt fear, thou hast cause to fear these fears, thou hast cause to take heed thou doest not run in∣to sin, while thou art afraid of sin.
Sixthly, Examine thy self, whether thou doest not live in some known secret sin un∣repented*of; and that puts thee upon the question of all; or whether thou hast not grosly fallen from thy former love, and power of godliness: These things many times raise a dark and gloomy mist upon the soul. Psal. 32. when David kept close his sin, and did not confess it, that made great trouble and perplexity in his soul. As vapors got in the bowels of the earth, and finding no vent, make a terrible earthquake.
Seventhly and lastly, Grant all thy fears and troubles to be upon just grounds, yet if*thou must perish, perish depending upon God: Take up Jobs resolution, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him; as Hester, venter to go into Gods presence, and say, If I perish, I perish, and thou wilt finde as she did, the King of Heaven * holding out the Scepter of grace: Thou art sure to be damned by unbelief, and by keeping off from God, but its possible to meet with salvation, yea, its sure, if thou draw near to God: As those Lepers were sure to perish with famine, if they staid in the place they were in, therefore they would venture, though in the enemies Countrey: And thus much for application of comfort.
I shall conclude with an Use of Admonition, Try your selves about these fore-mentioned fruits of election; do not reject these things, as nothing belonging to thee: Oh! doest not thou see thy self as yet in the state of gall and bitter∣ness? what mean those gross impieties, those unfruitful and unreformed ways, under so much preaching? Put thy mouth in the dust, if yet there may be hope; pray, and again pray, God would deliver thee from those sins that overcome thee.
Of Christians walking worthy of their Calling; what to walk worthy implies, and what are the Properties and Actions that will become and grace our holy Calling.
EPHES. 4. 1.
THe Apostle in this Epistle, as for the most part in others, divideth his Di∣scourse into two parts; The first whereof is didactical, informing and con∣firming in matters of Faith and Doctrine. The second is moral and practi∣cal, wholly tending to form us in a Christian and heavenly life. Now in the be∣ginning of this Chapter, wherein my Text is the first verse, the Apostle betakes himself to an wholsome and savoury Exhortation, to live in the powerful ex∣pression of all the graces of Gods Spirit. And first, he layeth down his Exhor∣tation in the general; and then instanceth in particulars.
The general Duty is my Text; wherein observe,
1. The Duty it self, Walk worthy: To walk implieth the perpetual course and exercise of a mans life. He that steps now and then occasionally in such a path, is not said to walk in it: To be godly by fits, to have some pangs and sudden re∣solution; for what is good, and the• presently to let all vanish, is not to walk. To walk worthy; This is not worth of merit or congruity antecedent to Gods grace calling us. No, he plainly supposeth the grace of God hath called us al∣ready: and therefore, as it to be shewed, it denoteth only a worth of condecen∣cy and fitnesse that is subsequent to this holy calling, that all our thoughts, words and actions should be decent, and becoming such an heavenly call. Even as John bid them, Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, Luk. 3. 8. that is, fit and beseeming repentance.
2. You have the object of this Duty, and that is The Vocation wherewith ye are called; by this he means, that outward favour of God calling them from their former ignorance and sins, to the profession of faith and obedience to the Gospel. They are not now what they were once; They must be other men; They must consider their heavenly dignity and condition. As Paul said, While he was a childe, he did all things as a childe; but when a man, he left those childish things, and did as a man: Thus it is here, when thou wast ignorant, prophane, and a stranger from God, thou didst as such do, but when called by God, then thou takest up more holy and divine resolutions.
3. There is the argument to inforce it, and that is from the outward conditi∣on of him, that doth thus intreat them, A prisoner of the Lord; one that is in bonds and prison for the Lords sake. This he doth to excite their affections, for Page 655 how well might they part with their lusts and unlawful pleasures, when he had parted with his liberty, and was ready to lose his life for the Lords sake! And see here the gracious disposition of Paul, who being now in prison and bonds, is not sollicitous about himself, doth not write about means to set himself at li∣berty; but all his care is, that these Ephesians might do nothing which should be a scandal to Christianity, a reproach to the Gospel, that all their life should be a praise and a glory to that calling God had called them with.
That it is the earnest and hearty desire of the faithful Ministers of the Gospel, that*all Christians should live such a life, that is worthy and beseeming so excellent a Calling.
There are no sadder objects, then to see a prophane, a debaucht, an ungodly Christian; to see men professe Christ in words, and in works to deny him; For these things their souls mourn in secret. Because of this, they intreat, beseech and exhort without ceasing: See the like hot affection burning out in Paul to the Thessalonians, 2 Thess. 1. 11. VVe pray alwayes for you, that our God would count you worthy of his calling. We pray alwayes for you; This we never forget; This is alwaies in our heart, that ye may be a people becoming this glorious cal∣ling. And indeed its a most absurd and even loathsome sight, to see a man with the same mouth pray to God, yet to curse, swear and blaspheme; with the same body, to worship God in the Congregations, and to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Solomon hath two excellent sayings together, Prov. 26. v. 7. and v. 9. The first is, The legs of the lame are not equal, so is the parable in a fools mouth. A fool is the wicked man, and a parable is a grave, holy sentence: Now, saith he, as those that are lame and halt, they shew an uncomely inequality in their going, such a deformity there is in a wicked man, that yet hath holy truths in his mouth. The second is, As a thorn goeth up in the hand of a drunkard; so is a parable in the mouth of a fool. The drunkard he feeleth no smart, though a thorn run into his hand. Thus a wicked man, though the obligations of Christianity, and his Baptism be never so piercing and powerful to godlinesse, yet he feels no efficacy in them.
To open this Doctrine, consider,
First, What it is to walk worthy 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of this holy calling; and that impli∣eth * these things:
First, To do nothing but what is sutable and connatural with this calling. Those actions are worthy such an agent, as are sutable and proper for him. All Agents have their sutable operations; the fire ascends, the stone descends. If therefore the fire should descend and go downwards, it would be against nature, it would argue great violence. Thus the sutable and connatural actions of a Christian are to avoid sin, to walk holily, to be above the world, to keep our selves unspotted from it. Now if any one that is called a Christian be not thus, he doth unnatu∣ral actions. His principles, his obligations are against these things. Oh (Be∣loved) if men were real Christians, as well as titular, you should see no more prophane and ungodly persons amongst us, then venemous and poisonous crea∣tures will be in some countreys; It should be even a wonder, a strange thing, that any one should among Christians be found in the way of wickednesse: Oh then reflect upon all thy words, all thy actions! Are these sutable? Are these proper? Do these agree with my Baptism, with my profession of Christ? How can I call on Christ, and do the things Christ hateth?
Secondly, The word implieth besides sutablenesse, a conveniency and decency, to*do such things as are comely, that are no reproach or debasement unto our holy profes∣sion. VVhatsoever things are comely, whatsoever things are pure and just, Phil. 4. 8. If there be any praise, any vertue, think on these things. Its a rule that Tully gives in Moral Offices between man and man, that we should observe the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, what is convenient and decent: Though happily Pagans and Hea∣thens, Page 656 and such who never heard of Christ may glory in all excesse of riot, yet this is not decent or becoming a Christian. The Apostle forbids foolish jesting, which is not convenient, Ephes. 5. 4. how much more then thy oaths, thy lusts! Oh how indecent and unbecoming are such words and actions! Though other men might drink wine, yet it was not befitting a Nazarite, who by vow had se∣parated himself to God, promising abstinence from these things; and so though the world lieth in wickednesse, and glory in their impieties, yet these things are not for thee to do, who art separated to God. What then shall we think of such persons, who account their oaths a grace to their mouth, who judge strictnesse and precisenesse of walking, the most indecent and ridiculous way? Oh what do such persons think of their Divine Vocation? Hath God called us to unclean∣nesse, to lusts? Where are your consciences? Why do they lie so fast asleep in your brests, and are not awakened?
Thirdly, The word implieth glory, and an ornament to this heavenly calling, which*is more then meer comelinesse and decency. Glory is clara notitia, a famous and illustrious manifestation of such godlinesse in our lives, that thereby all others may honour the Gospel, and love that Christianity, which instruct them in such things. This our Saviour meaneth, when he commands, That our light should so shine before men, that others may glorifie God for us, Matth. 5. 16. Oh, every Chri∣stian is to be like a Star or the Sun in the firmament; as lights in the dark night, so these in the midst of a crooked and perverse people: Oh its a wofull thing to be an offence or a stumbling block to others, and that is, so to live, as that others are more confirmed and encouraged in their wickednesse! Look we then upon mens lives, and compare them with their Christian calling, here is no more agree∣ment then with light and darknesse: Oh the reproach and scandal they are to Christianity! Salvian a godly Ancient doth excellently describe this, What do Pagans say, when they see Christians live wickedly? They think Christ taught them no better, he instructed them in no more holinesse. Christiani sanctè vixis∣sent, si Christus sancta docuisset; Christians would have lived holily, if Christ had given them holy commands: Oh blasphemy! Yet thus is the name of Christ blasphemed by thy ungodly life.
Fourthly, The word doth imply a giving the preheminence and excellency to those things that beseem this calling; That we minde this in the first place. Many they * attend to keep up their state, their pomp, their pedigree; but the true godly man, he seeketh this in the first place, how he may adorn that holy profession, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and is properly from that side of the scales or balance that weighs down the other; so it is here: Those things that become this holy cal∣ling, that make for the glory of it, they should wiegh down all other thoughts and affections: whatsoever is chief, precious and vigorous in thee, it should go to glorifie this heavenly calling. So that this shameth those, who never seri∣ously consider nor meditate, what this Christian profession binds them to; As Nehemiah said, Shall such a man as I flee? He thought it a great dishonour to him, whatsoever it might be to others. And so do thou reflect, Shall such an one as I swear, curse, deal unjustly, be proud and earthly? Oh when thou hast been overcome with such things! say truly to thy self, that which Michal did falsly to David, Thou hast made thy self like one of the vile and base ones of the earth. Thus you have heard what the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 worthy doth imply. *
Now let us consider, VVhat are those properties or constant actions that will thus become and grace our holy calling. And
First, They walk worthy of this calling, who have heartily and totally left all that former life God hath called them out from, and have no desires to return to that a∣gain. By this call God takes us from all those former customary wayes of im∣pieties, that we lived in: Were we prophane? we are so no more: Were we proud, earthly, unjust? we are so no more. God hath called us from such a wretched and cursed estate of life. Now a man cannot walk in a meer unwor∣thy Page 657 way of this call, then to desire to return to his former lusts; To think it was better then with us, then now; we had more pleasures, more love in the world, more content and esteem, then since we have followed God thus calling of us: Oh wherein can we shew our selves a people more unworthy of this mercy, then in so doing! As it was with the people of Israel, when God had delivered them out of that place of bondage, and by a mighty hand had wrought wonderful deliverances for them; wherein did they demonstrate their horrible ingratitude more then in this, That they would go back again to Egypt? They pri∣zed not the Manna, but thought of their old flesh-pots. Thus its as unsufferable wickednesse in any man, whom God hath called from his former lusts, and he begins to desire them again, and to do as he hath done: Oh what is this, but to repent of thy marriage to God! To proclaim to the world, that thou didst finde more pleasure and content in lusts, then in the service of God! Remember Lots wife; when God had by a merciful hand pulled her out of Sodom, she looks back and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt. Augustine said, It was to season us; but the Hebrew word for salt, may signifie brimstone, or such ma∣terials, and so she was punished in some measure like the Sodomites, partaking of their punishments, because she had some compliance with their sins: Oh then consider thy self! Hast thou forsaken all thy former dear lusts? Hast thou bid them all Be gone? Is the very memory of thy former life a shame and a bitter∣nesse to thee? Art thou daily blessing God, that he hath given thee eyes to see and an heart to understand thy former life, and that for thousands of worlds, thou wouldst not be the man thou once wert? This is to walk worthy of so ho∣ly a calling.
Secondly, Those that walk worthy of this heavenly call, they keep themselves*unspotted from the wickednesse of the world, they are not conformed to the wayes and customs thereof. Thus the Apostle prayeth earnestly, Rom. 12. That they might not be conformed to the world, but transformed in their minde; & true religion is that which keeps a man unspotted from the world, Jam. 1. 28. If God hath called thee out of this dungeon, out of this noisome and filthy place, its for thee to cast off all thy rags, and not to carry about thee so much as the smell thereof. The whole world lieth in wickednesse, saith the Apostle; And if ye were of the world, saith Christ to his Disciples, the world would love you. Though the godly are in it, yet not of it. Thou dost therefore then walk in a way beseeming this holy profession, when thy life is singular, and contrary to the world, thou hatest what that loveth, thou lovest what that hateth. Thy thoughts and affections are above these things. As God made the fowls at first out of the waters, but they left them, and fl•e up in the air towards the heavens: So it ought to be with us; though we are born of flesh and blood, and have one being from below, yet we are to soar above. Do not then defile thy self with the pitch here below. Be as the Sun-beams up∣on the dunghil, that are not polluted by the vapours thereof. Be as those three worthies in this fire, and yet not have thy garments singed.
Thirdly, They are very attentive and diligent to avoid all those wayes that may be*an active scandal or offence to others. To walk worthy of the Gospel is so to carry our selves, that others may love it, that we may win others by our life and conversation. Now on the other side, they walk unworthily of it, who give just offence and scandal to others, that are stumbling blocks in other mens wayes. This is an heavy sin: our Saviour crieth out of a woe to such men, Mat. 18. 7. and saith, It had been better they were thrown into the bottom of the sea with a milstone about their necks. They had better never have been born, that it might be said, There were never such men, then so to harden others in impiety. How unworthy was Judas of that gracious call he had, when by his secret theft and perfidious be∣traying of Christ, he gave him up to be crucified? What such a man to be found in the number of those that left all and followed Christ! What a scandal was thi•• Those that are tender of Gods glory, and of the repute of godlinesse they dare Page 658 not do such things as shall make Religion stink in the nostrils of men: Oh they have alwayes a care to that, that that may be well spoken of, may hear well! In∣deed there are passive scandals and offences, such as wicked men take by their own corrupt and malicious hearts, as the Pharisees did at Christ, but those are not to be mattered; such persons do destroy their own selves, and like Serpents they turn every thing they eat into poison; but we speak now of those things that give a just offence, that are not justifiable and warrantable. These things, those that desire to adorn religion will abstain from. If Augustus said, That an Emperor was not only to be free from crimes, but also from the suspition of them; How much more should Christians, who are commanded to abstain from all ap∣pearance of evil? 1 Thess. 5. 22.
Fourthly, They that walk worthy of his calling, they are endued with magnanimous and high resolutions sutable thereunto. They are said to be born of God; Fortes cre∣antur*fortibus. They resemble their father of whom they are born; Doth earth∣ly greatnesse and nobility make men put themselves in a different behaviour and deportment from those that are of an inferiour breed? we say, Such a man shew∣eth his breeding, he is a Gentleman every inch of him; How much rather may we say, Such a man sheweth his Christianity, He is a Christian in every particu∣lar, you may know who is his father, he scorneth to debase himself by sinne? yet many men think the only gallantry in the world lieth in the beastly pleasures of the flesh; Thus while they think themselves more then other men, they make themselves worse then the very beasts. Remember thy Christianity, and that will raise up thy heart to things that are indeed glorious and excellent; to mor∣tifie thy passions, to conquer thy lusts, to have fellowship and communion with God in holy duties, to be above the allurements or discouragements of the world, to fear nothing but sinne; these are magnanimous and generous things, and such only they do, who walk worthy of this calling.
Lastly, They walk worthy, who abound in the graces following this verse: For the Apostle of all other duties, instanceth in lowlinesse and meeknesse of minde, * with all long-suffering and forbearance. Lowlinesse of minde is that humility of heart, whereby we give all to Gods grace, and take nothing to our selves, Praise is comely for the upright. Nothing but grace, grace should come out of the mouth that is thus graciously called by God. Thus Paul often breatheth out the praises of the riches of Gods grace and long-suffering, with much patience intreating and exhorting others to come out of their dangerous estate they are in. They consider how much patience God and good men shewed to them, how often they were rebellious and refractory, yet God did not leave them. And certainly this is a very great grace, not to be wearied out, but still importuning those that gainsay, if God may yet give them grace to repent.
Use of Examination: Bring we our selves to these trials and touchstones. Is * all our calling thus holy? Is Christianity thus obliging unto all purity and god∣linesse? Oh then let the greater part of men amongst us be ashamed, and full of confusion! Whose zeal must not burn like fire to see the reproach and scandal to Christianity by the lives of those, who call themselves Christians, but indeed are not? They have a name that they live, but are really dead. Doth your Christian religion teach you to lie, swear, and live in all carnal jollity? Doth the Scripture, doth Christ teach you no better things? Let the heavens blush, and the earth tremble to hear and see, what is done among those, who yet pro∣fesse the faith of Christ: Oh either lay aside such titles, or lay aside those un∣godly practices! Thou art bound to thy good and godly behaviour, its not for sheep to lie and wallow in the mire like swine; its not for flowers to smell like weeds; not for the myrtle trees to become like the brambles; How long shall these things sound in your ears, and yet the Lord not give you understanding rightly to apply them? Cry out of your selves as unsavoury salt; stand aloof off as unclean Lepers, unworthy that God or good men should own you.
Page 659Use 2. To the godly: Let this be a go•d in their side, let not the same sins and infirmities be in them, as in men of the world: Art thou proud, earthly, passionate, discontented? say, How am I become thus like a beast, I forget my self, I forget my holy calling.
Of the Nature, Extent and Example of that Holi∣ness to which God calls a man.
1 PET. 1. 15.
THe Apostle having in the former part of the Chapter, spoken of glorious encouragements in the way to heaven, at the 13 Verse, he presseth to an exact and accurate diligence in the exercise of grace, which is emphati∣cally expressed by that metaphorical phrase, Girdup the loins of your minde: The body girt, is more expedite and prepared for any work, and so is the minde. In the 14 Verse he amplifieth this duty; first, Comparatively, As obedient children: This sheweth the inward willingness and readiness that should be in them to all acts of obedience; as also, the evangelical and filial motive to draw them out. Secondly, This is pressed negatively, Not fashioning your selves, &c. You see what it is to be men and women of the best fashion; viz. Such as do not con∣form to those lusts and sins that the world doth lie in: And that 2. Is positively commanded, But be ye holy; where you have the duty enjoyned, Be ye holy: There are four words commonly used for this holiness, sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, some∣times 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and most commonly 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Whether this word came of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 without earth, or of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because holiness deserveth all reverence and veneration, I shall not much regard; this is certain, it doth im∣ply a choice and sublime frame of soul, whereby we are carryed out in reference to God in all our actions. 2. There is the extent of this duty, In all manner of conversation: Here this is considerable, that men may demonstrate some holi∣ness in some particular acts, and in some channels, but not in all manner of con∣versation. 3. Here is the exemplary cause, after which we are to be conforma∣ble, As he that hath called you is holy. 4 There is an argument confirming it by authority from Scripture, Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy: That is written many times, to raise up our thoughts in godliness, not to propound any men, no not the most holy that are, but God himself: Now the Apostle doth not mean an equality; for how can a drop be equal to the sea? or a spark to the Sun? but onely of similitude and proportionable imitation, as is more parti∣cularly to be shewed. Observe,
That persons called, ought to be holy, even as God who calleth them is most*holy.
This very consideration should work an heavenly metamorphosis and change, who and what is that God who calleth me, should the soul say; God who made me after his own image at first, doth still require the reparation of it in my life: Of all the attributes the Angels selected to glorifie God with, this was that they Page 660 pitched on, Holy, holy, holy, Isa. 6. and certainly, of all things remarkable and considerable in thee, this should be thy chief, Holy: Thou art wise, but holy; thou art rich, but holy; this is the Diamond in the Jewel.
To illustrate this point, consider,
First, What this holiness is, and that is in these things: *
First, An inward rectitude of all the parts and faculties of the soul, whereby they are imployed and improved for holy ends: Holiness is not a particular grace, or a particular healing of some disease in the soul, but it is an universal medicine ap∣plied to all the soars of the soul, and if it doth not perfectly cure and heal all the disease, yet it doth for the main: So that this holiness is nothing but the sound and right temperament of the soul, whereby it is inabled in minde, will and af∣fection, yea, the whole man to be carried out towards God; therefore this ho∣liness is called The image of God; and we know, an image is not an hand, or a leg, but a ful delineation in all the parts thereof; when therefore we are command∣ed thus to be holy, we are to look to holiness in the fountain, to holiness in the root; even as God is not onely holy in actions, and in all his works he doth, but in his essence and nature also: So that although all thy actions have never such a shew of holiness and outward splendor, yet if not flowing from this inward image, they are but guilded Sepulchres, and like the ashes of Sodom.
Secondly, This holiness is a pure and unmixed disposition of soul, from any thing that may soil and debase it: So some make the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, without any * terrene or earthly mixture; for as every thing is debased, when it is mixed with that which is of an inferior nature to it; as lead with silver, water with wine: So it is here, when the soul of man which was made for the enjoyment of God, and communion with him, is bowed down to earthly things, and mingleth it self with them, then it becometh base and degenerate. Now the soul may admit of a twofold mixture, both which makes it unholy:
First: With the lusts of sin, and the beastly pleasures of the flesh; and this is the deepest pollution, as if the Sun should become a dunghil; and therefore wicked * men are compared to Dogs, licking up their vomit, and Swine wallowing in their mire, 2 Pet. 2. 22. Oh therefore remember, when thou hast been committing any gross sin, thou hast made thy self like dirt and dung, thou hast made thy self like a loathsome Toad, God abhorreth thee, and were thy eyes opened, thou wouldst be abominable in thy own eyes, thou wouldst not endure thy self, but cry out with David, Wash me throughly, and I shall be clean. Psal. 51. Or
Secondly, A defiling mixture may be by the inordinate and immoderate af∣fections * of a man, even to lawful things; even as the waters that overflow the banks, they get soil and filth by that means: So those affections that are carried out beyond their limits, in over-loving, in over-grieving, in over-desiring, they de∣base and make unholy. Hence Esau is called A prophane person, Heb. 12. 16. why? we read not of his gross, vicious, beastly sins, but because be had a low and un∣dervaluing esteem of heavenly things, of that birth-right he sold: So then, thou art an unholy and a prophane man, though free from thy gross sins, if thy thoughts, thy esteem about holy and heavenly things be low and careless: Thou hadst rather have, as he said, Guttam vini, then cadum mentis, a drop of pleasure, then an whole vessel of heavenly wisdom, this argueth thou art unholy. Holi∣ness lieth in the spiritual dieting and moderating of all thy affections to world∣ly comforts: He that marrieth, as if he married not; he that buyeth, as if he bought not, 1 Cor. 7. In all our estates and conditions, we are to cut off those luxuriant branches, we are to put bounds to them, as God to the sea, Hitherto thou shalt go and no further.
Thirdly, Holiness is mainly seen in referring all unto God by pure and upright in∣tentions. The Pharisees holiness, though so dazling in the eyes of the world, * was no holiness, because they did all to be seen of men: This makes all the civil and admirable actions of the Romans, and other Heathens, to be no holy actions, Page 661 but splendida peccata, because it was vain glory, or at least, the love of their Countrey, that put them upon the accomplishment of such actions; so that the greatest part of holiness is invisible, lieth much in eying at the true aim we ought to shoot at. Jehu in all those wonderful Reformations he made in the Church and State of Israel, yet was not in the number of the holy Kings, because his ends were selfish, worldly, and vain glorious. Look then thy intentions fall not short of that ultimate end, the glory of God, and this prove a dead flye in the box of thy ointment.
Fourthly, Holiness lieth in bearing up the heart in all kinde of duties, with such*heavenly and sublime motives, that flesh and blood can no ways attain unto: Holiness is a power above all refined natural abilities: Thus faith is an holy grace, because it beareth up the heart with a promise, with the word of God, when all natu∣ral reason and hopes are against it; and so he can rebuke those strong winds and tempests of unbelief and discouragement, which natural strength could ne∣ver do: So to love God in adversities, not to mutter or repine at him, though his hand be heavy on thee, yet thou hast no hard thoughts about him, but he is as good and as gracious a God in thy apprehension as ever: Here is iron swimming, here are the rivers of Jordan running back, here is holiness exalted above na∣ture; so likewise to rejoyce in tribulations, to triumph over all troubles; to finde honey in the dead carkass of the Lyon, to get bread out of stones; this is the work of holiness. And lastly, patience and forbearance to men that hate us, love and pitty to those that cruelly persecute us: Thus holiness teacheth, but the nature of man kicketh against all these things.
Fifthly, Holiness is in the dedicating of our selves wholly unto the Lord; that we * are no more our own, much less the worlds or Satans: Thus there were holy vessels, and an holy Temple, because altogether separated unto God, and might not be imployed unto any common use: Thus the persons that are holy, Are made the Temples of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 3. they may not touch any un∣clean thing. Oh what a strong obligation is this, to depart from all evil and wicked company! To whom wert thou given up? Hast thou not parted with self? and art not thou given to God? Be then as the Temple, let no unclean thoughts or affections pass through thee.
Sixthly, A necessary Concomitant of this holiness, is a reverence and aw it breeds*in the consciences, even of those who yet hate it: As the image of God put in man, made him have dominion over the beasts of the earth; so this holy image of God breeds an aw, a fear even in wicked men: Thus 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; and hence Herod, though a King, yet feared John, because he was a righteous and holy man, Mat. 6. 20. This holiness is called by Peter〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, A Divine nature, 2 Pet. 1. 4. and certainly, as the Sun makes a glorious dazling upon the eyes of men; so doth holiness, powerfully expressed, make a throne in the hearts of the ungodly, convincing and overawing them: Though therefore out∣wardly they may deride and oppose the practice of holiness, yet in their consci∣ences they count such happy, and wish their souls might be in the same condi∣tion with such mens.
We come in the next place, to the extent of this duty, In all manner of con∣versation:* And
First, It must be in our conversation,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Now a mans conversation is not some few acts, or some few times to be holily affected, but constantly and customarily. Our conversation is in heaven, saith the Apostle, Phil. 3. 20. and its called a godly mans way, wherein he walketh; so that unless holiness be thy main business, unless Religion be thy chief imployment, thou art not yet holy, thy way is not an holy way, though there may be some occasional holy action; neither is thy conversation an holy conversation, though there may seem to be some holy fits: Oh this is greatly to be attended unto, for some mens holiness is like the morning dew, or like the ebbings and flowings of the sea; its by way of Page 662 a transient passion, not as a permanent principle within them; its a Land-flood that makes a great noise, its not a constant spring.
Secondly, It must be holiness in all manner of conversation: *
First, There must be all holiness subjectivé, that is, all the parts and faculties of soul and body must have their peculiar holiness; the minde holy, thoughts holy, meditations holy, the will holy, desires holy, and holy choices, the af∣fections holy, holy love, holy anger, holy grief, holy fear; the memory an ho∣ly treasury to retain holy directions and instructions: Thus a mans soul must be like that part of the Temple, Sanctum Sanctorum, The holiest of holies; the bo∣dy likewise, that is to be holy instrumentally, holy eyes, holy hands, and holy tongues, holy words, holy actions, holy gestures: That as the Prophet Zechariah prophesieth, upon the horses bells there should be written, Holiness to the Lord, Zech. 14. 21. so here upon the whole man shall be written, Holiness to the Lord; and the meaning of that prophesie is, That he who is holy, shall be in every re∣spect holy; as Paul prayeth, I pray God ye be sanctified throughout, both in spirit, soul, and body, 1 Thess. 5. 23.
Secondly, This must be all holiness objectivé, in respect of the object: Our actions must be holy in reference to God and man: I exercise my self, saith Paul, Acts 24 16. there was his conversation; to keep a good conscience towards God and man, there was the extent to every object; for although all holiness doth im∣mediately refer to God, yet when we do the duties of justice, righteousness and charity towards man, because God commands, and out of love to him, then these just and righteous actions, are likewise holy actions, because of the con∣sideration of God that draweth out the soul: So that we may make our very eating, drinking, and lawful refreshments, holy actions, when a motive from God doth put us upon them.
Thirdly, We are in our conversation to put forth all holiness, in respect of the degrees of it: We are to endeavor, and to hunger and thirst after all the de∣grees * of holiness; if there be better believing in God, better heavenly minded∣ness, more love to God then ever yet we have attained, this we are to press forward to; as Paul, who was exalted to so high a degree of holiness, yet he forgets all behinde, and pursueth that before, Phil. 3. as if he were but be∣ginning to be godly; and hence the godly are said, To hunger and thirst after righteousnesse, Mat. 5. Alexander wept when he heard a Phylosopher arguing there were more worlds then one, when he had not yet conquered one: And thus when thou hearest the word of God requiring such a perfect holiness, such a pure exercise of graces, thou mayest weep to see the dross, the defects and weaknesses that are in thee; yet take heed thou doest not reject thy holiness as none at all, because it may be better; for perfection and fulness is not in this life, still here is something wanting, but our prayers and endeavors should be after perfection.
Fourthly, We are to put forth all the parts and kindes of godliness in our con∣versation: Holiness is a chain, and we must not break one link: Adde to faith,*vertue, and to vertue temperance, &c. 2 Pet. 1. 6. To be holy in some things, and not in others, is to be holy in nothing: Holiness is universal, it comes in with no buts, no ifs or ands, no exceptions; but as the word of God is universal, and the rule is universal, so is his holiness: Oh its this partial holiness, this ho∣liness in some pittances, that makes such a reproach to Religion: Holiness will no more swear then lye, or lye then swear; Holinesse will no more deal unjust∣ly, then leave off praying and holy duties; if any do so, the Scripture makes not such holy: Oh therefore be sure to study the extent and largenesse of ho∣linesse. Do I shew forth all holinesse? The Apostle bids us pray, that under Magistrates we might live in all godliness: There is some holiness, some godliness many times the world will suffer, but not all: And none would think how false and guilful their hearts are, how much they are to seek for some kinde of godliness, when they are put to it.
Page 663 Lastly, We are to shew holiness at all times in our conversations: There is no * hour, no moment, wherein thou canst say, Now I may not be holy, now its not required I should be holy: So that as wicked men, the imaginations of the thoughts of their hearts are onely evil, and that continually; so should ours be holy, and that continually: This is our duty, though in this life it cannot be fully practised.
In the third place, consider, The example of our holiness; and that is, As God*is holy: Not that we can be infinitely holy, and essentially holy, as he is; but to imitate him: So that we must not take the world for a rule of holiness, but God; and we are not required to be Omnipotent as he is, Mighty as he is, but holy as he is. Now the grounds of this are:
First, It behoveth a father and a son to be of the same nature: A man doth not * beget a beast of another nature, but a childe of the same being: Thus the Apo∣stle, As obedient children; and hence they are said to Be born of God: How then can ye call God father, who have not the likeness of his nature? Is there such sin and impurity in God, as in thee? Oh tremble at such things! Gods eyes are purer then to behold iniquity; so let thine be.
Secondly, Love to God, will put a man upon the immitation of him whom we love:* So that similitude, as it is a cause, so its an effect of love; that as you see fire assimilates every thing into its own nature, it turneth every thing to fire; so love to God, and delight in him, that makes us wholly to become like him. A man that liveth under the torrid Zone, gets a colour from the sun, which shineth so hot upon him.
Thirdly, He must needs be holy, because else we are not prepared for any commu∣nion*or fellowship with God: Herein lieth the happiness of a godly man, that he hath fellowship with God, that he enjoyeth his presence, that he seeth his face, as you may see it represented in the Canticles: Now how can this be, when a man is prophane and unholy? Christ speaks there of his heavenly love, and spiritual imbracements, and how can this be to a soul that is loathsom and un∣comely through sin? God speaks by the Prophet, of the abominable and vile condition of the Church of Israel in her sin, wallowing in her blood, Ezek. 16. 6. and till he put on comely ornaments on her, she was no fit object of love: Fol∣low holiness; without which no man shall see, enjoy God, Heb. 12. 14. As the eye di∣stempered with diseased humors, cannot comfortably behold the sun, so neither can the soul, debased through sin, behold the favor of God; yea, as the soul is not fit for such communion, so the presence and purity of God, if it should draw near, would be an heavy burthen to a wicked man. Heaven it self, and enjoyment of God, is no sutable or welcome mercy to a wicked heart: So far as the noti∣on of safety and deliverance from hell is in heaven, they can be glad of it; but take the positive part of heaven, which is indeed the heaven; viz. Injoyment of God, and delighting in him, a wicked man can no more agree with it, then soar eyes do abide the dazling sun.
Let us make Application of the point. And
First, Of Instruction: Is holiness thus necessarily required of every one called * by God, because he is holy? then to be sure do not mistake what true holiness is; for if thou erre about that, thy destruction is irrecoverable, who can help it? Therefore to know what it is, study and peruse the Scripture: Oh what an ex∣act, sublime, and accurate thing is that represented to be! Will no less serve then an holiness in some degree (though with vast disproportion) like that of God? What shame, what trembling should this work in us? Thou judgest of holi∣ness according to the principles of the world; and they, when a man is less wick∣ed, call it holiness; if there be worse men in the world, then they bless them∣selves. As in an Hospital, the man that is less diseased then others, he is judged healthful and strong: This undoeth you, holiness and godliness is made a less and more easie business, then the Scripture describeth.
Page 664Use 2. Of Terror and Woe to those called persons, who deride, oppose and * malice holinesse: Oh that the earth should bear, and the Sunne shine upon such incarnate devils! Wheresoever there is the power of holinesse, there all their venom is vented; Who would think that men called by so holy a God, should deride holinesse? That men convinced by an holy Spirit, should mock at holinesse? That men who read an holy Bible, who have an holy profession, should thus be turned into Serpents, and no men? This is not to be holy as God is holy, but malicious and envious as the devil is.
3. Of Exhortation to you who are indeed holy for the main, grow in this, * be more quickned in it. The Apostle speaks to these that were already holy. Holinesse is a large field, an high hill, thou art but at the very bottom. Alas, how much stronger might thy faith be? How much more mortified might thy af∣fections be? Is holinesse sutable, connatural, constant and permanent in thee? and certainly this is more to be looked at, then all outward mercies, riches, ho∣nours, earthly greatnesse; for this onely hath the promise of eternal life, and this present life. Thou mayest be rich, but damned; wise and learned, but d•••n•d; but not holy and damned: Oh there is no comfortable living an hour, a moment without this holinesse! And then to increase and preserve it:
First, Cherish and entertain the holy Spirit, this is peculiarly called holy, be∣cause it works holinesse; grieve it not then by committing known sins, or by la∣zy and sluggish walking.
Secondly, Prize the Ordinances, the Ministery and preaching of the Word; men grow loose and cold when they leave this fire.
Thirdly, Consider the nature of holinesse is such, that the more we have, the more hunger and thirst there should be after it.
Of the Glorious Estate of the Saints in Heaven to which God cals all sinners repenting and be∣lieving.
1 PET. 5. 10.
THe Apostle Peter concludes his Epistle with a Petition in this verse, and a doxology in the next. In the Petition we have these parts:
First, The Object to whom this Petition is addressed, viz. God, de∣scribed by a glorious property sutable to the matter of the prayer, The God of all grace; he was to pray for grace, and therefore mentioneth the foun∣tain of grace. This is of great consolation, the people of God want more and Page 665 more grace, and God is cloathed with allsufficiency: if you want it, you know where to be supplied.
Secondly, God is described by a gracious effect of this grace, Who hath called us: This fountain was not sealed up, but diffuseth it self.
The term to which, of this grace, described in its nature to be Glory. Belie∣vers should lift up their heads at the very hearing of this: and there is the adjunct of it, eternal glory.
Fourthly, There is the meritorious cause of this grace, By Christ Jesus.
Fifthly, The matter prayed for, which is in the accumulation of many words together, Make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. Some do curiously enquire after a difference between every one of these: but I take them to be nothing but the vehement and holy Oratory of Paul affectionately expressing himself in his prayer for them, and they are most of them metaphorical words from the Artificer, who is careful to settle and establish his building. Now by the matter prayed for, viz. further perfection and establishment in grace, we may see even the best godly men, do need further addition and strengthning in grace. As he cried out, O me nunquam sapientem, so mayest thou, O me nunquam pium, still there is a further degree in every grace to be obtained. There is im∣perfection, and there must be continual correcting; but this is not the matter I intend, I come therefore to my purposed subject in this Text; and that is the term to which, of Gods gracious effect mentioned in the Text, Who hath called us to eternal glory; That which the eye hath not seen, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive; that we are now to treat of, or rather to stammer about, viz. that infinite and everlasting glory which God cals wretched sinners, but repenting and believing unto. He hath called us into it: This sheweth how close and intimate that fruition is we have of this glory. It may never trouble a man to part with his beloved lusts and sins, which are but for a moment, for this eternal glory; it is to part with dirt and dung to have gold and precious stones.
For the further opening of this you must know there is a two-fold end of Gods calling us, the near and proxim one, and that is, Repentance and Faith: So the first thing God cals wicked and sinful men unto, is truly to repent of their sinne, and stedfastly to believe in him; But secondly, There is the remote and further end, which is Salvation and Eternal Glory. Of this we are to speak at this time.
God cals sinners repenting and believing, to no lesse then infinite and eternal*Glory.
This point certainly may much affect you; for did the Devil think by show∣ing the glory of the world to tempt Christ to worship him? and shall not we by the discovery of this heavenly glory, make you fall down and worship, and obey God who hath promised to give this unto all those that do so to him? There is a parallel place, 1 Thess. 2. 12. Who hath called us unto his kingdom and glory. What un∣speakable condescention is this, that God should take us, and put us into a commu∣nion with him of kingdom and glory, to set us upon thrones next to Christ and him, yet the Scripture doth frequently insist on this glory that God intends to put on those that obey his calling. To open this, if they were so many dayes to purify and prepare themselves for hearing the Law, which was a ministration of death, and there was such glory on Moses his face in the delivering of it, that the people could not stedfastly behold him: Certainly there ought to be more cleansing and preparing of the soul to receive the Doctrine of this Gospel-glory. We can onely shew you the back-parts of it, for we cannot comprehend it in all its fulnesse, no more then a little shell can hold the Ocean.
We shall first speak of the Nature of this Glory, and then the Properties. And
First, The Nature of it is seen in discovering the object to be enjoyed by us to all*Page 666eternity, and that is God himself, the perfect, universal and sufficient good. Our glory is in this, that we enjoy God to all eternity, who is the inexhausted sea of all heavenly happinesse. See how David doth triumph in that enjoyment he hath of God in this life, which yet is but the cluster of grapes to that heavenly Ca∣naan. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and whom in earth but thee? Psal. 73. 25. And in other places, The Lord is my portion and my inheritance. So then, if God enjoyed by faith do give so great a blessedness to the soul in this life, how much more when he is enjoyed by immediate vision? This the Scripture cals, Seeing of God face to face, 1 Cor. 13. 12. So then, herein lieth this unspeakable glory, that whatsoever goodnesse, excellency, fulnesse and blessednesse is in God, the same is communicated unto the glorified Saint according to its capacity. Deus meus & omnia, said he: but this will be much more in Heaven, where not on∣ly our sinful, but our animal lives will be ended; Then shall we be with the Lord for ever, said Paul, that is spoken, as the compleat perfection of all happinesse.
Secondly, This glory which may be called formal or subjective, as the former ob∣jective,*lieth in the intellective and affective part of a man closing with, and enjoying of God. When we say we are made glorious by enjoying of God, the meaning is, the intellective and affective parts of the soul are wholly fixed upon him to their utmost desire and capacity; for the glory of a man must consist in his ra∣tional part, his understanding, will and affections, which are the best faculties, must be united to the best good, in the best manner. And
First, For the intellectual or knowing part of a man, its plain there can be nothing*of this happinesse, if that be not present. For as of an unknown thing there can be no desire, so neither any love or delight: and the more clear and intuitive this knowledge is, the more is our glory. Now the Scripture speaks, that we shall then see him face to face, not as in a glasse, 1 Cor. 13. 12. We shall know him even as we are known of him; and our glory is expressed in this phrase To see God. So then, herein will our blessednesse and glory be, that we shall fully and clearly know and behold all the excellency that is in God, all the objects and motives of love and delight. That as the bodily eye descrying the pulchritude of a sen∣sible object, presently kindles love in the heart, Ut vidi perii; So it is here, The soul of a man glorified, beholding all the admirable lovelinesse and excel∣lency in God, that holy and pure nature of his, those gracious and free acts of his love to us, is hereupon set on fire, and made glorious; That which the Apo∣stle prayeth for us here to attain, will then be compleated, To know the breadth, and length, and depth of the love of Christ Jesus, Ephes. 3. 18.
Again, This glory lieth in the affective part of the soul, whereby it takes in∣finite complacency and delight in God, who is thus made known; and certain∣ly, if good be the object of the will and love, then God being infinitely, uni∣versally and in an unlimited manner good; the will and affections of a man must needs be drawn out to the full.
Thirdly, That the soul of a man can thus gloriously enjoy God, its necessary that all the filth and loathsome spots of sinne should be wholly cleansed away: For as * long as there is any relique of this noisomnesse, as it is not fit or sutable for such a glorious object, as God is; so neither hath it compleat and full glory it self. The bloud of Christ was shed, that we might be without spot or wrin∣kle, or any such thing; but this lovelinesse cannot be obtained in this life. Its true, Christ in those spiritual Songs of Solomon, cals his Church, His Love, his Fair, his undefiled One, that she is altogether Lovely, but that is meerly because of the lovely Ornaments, and Excellency Christ put upon Her. But in Heaven this Lovelinesse will be inherent, she will have all this Glory inexistent, not imputed: Oh then what Tongue can expresse the glorious∣nesse of such a condition, when there shall not be the least imperfection, or defect in thy Grace, thy Love perfect Love, thy Delight in God a full and per∣fect Delight! Paul in Heaven doth no longer complain, When I would do good, Page 667 evil is present with me, Rom. 7. No, his heart is as godly and as holy as he can desire. This then is the glory that the called ones of God should breath after; when will the time come that all my spots and blemishes will be done away? I am as yet ashamed to see so much drosse and filth in my self; I blush because of my nakednesse; but the day is coming, when all things that are imperfect will be done away. This should exceedingly support them for the present in their conflicts and combates with sinne: Oh what shall they doe! Their hearts suffer violence within them, they are loathsome beasts in their own eyes; they doe not love to see themselves in the pure Glasse of Gods Word. Well, comfort thy self, the time is coming, thy Graces will be made perfect, thy Soul will be glorified with all fulnesse, not the least spot or ble∣mish in it.
Fourthly, This Glory will be in the enlarging and extending of all the fa∣culties*of the Soul to partake of God: For God being infinite, and the Soul of a limited and finite Nature, hath no proportion till God raise and elevate it up to that which of it self it could not doe. Hence the very Soul of an Infant dying a member of Christ, and glorified in Heaven, is stretch∣ed out to an actual capacity for the full enjoying of God. The Apostle Hebr. 12. calls them The spirits of just men made perfect. So that God doth widen and enlarge the Soul of a man, whereby it doth partake of God, and hath communion with him in a more powerful and transcendent manner, then of it self it could have.
Fifthly, This Glory doth not onely stay on the Soul, but reacheth to the bo∣dy*also. Which the Scripture 1 Cor. 15. and in other places doth often speak of, Our vile bodies shall be made glorious bodies; That as the Artificer by his Art out of earth can make curious and resplendent glasses, so God much more out of the dust of our bodies, will make immortal, incorruptible and even spiritual bodies, as the Apostle cals them. The glory of our bodies is, First in the perfection of them; all the Defects, Imperfections, Deformities will then be quite removed. Secondly, In impassibility, there will be no pains, no Diseases, no bodily Grief, no Passion from, or suffering of, any offensive ob∣ject. Thirdly, In Immortality, it will be no more mortal, no more subject to fears and pains of Death. And lastly, In Agility, in quick Motions, We shall be snatched up into the Clouds, and be there with the Lord for ever: Oh who can believe that this vile house of clay shall ever be made such a golden Palace! who can ever think that so much glory should be put upon such vessels of disho∣nour and infirmities?
Sixthly, This Glory is not onely thus real and inherent, but it is also manife∣sted and revealed Glory in the eyes of others; For Glory is properly illustris*& clara notitia, the knowledge and favour of an excellency, the manifestati∣on of it to others; and thus the glory of called persons will be a known mani∣fested Glory. It will be seen by the eyes of the whole world, God will put the Robes and Crown of Glory upon them, in the midst of all persons at the Day of Judgement; Lo these are the persons whom I have thus honoured, the An∣gels they will bear witness of it; The Devils and wicked men condemned, they shall see it and gnash their teeth. Those men whom we scorned, derided, op∣posed, how doth God honour them? So then, God will hereafter put such visible glory upon his people, that all the world shall be witnesses of it; As yet it doth not appear, saith the Apostle, 1 Joh. 3. 2. but it shall be made mani∣fest. That as precious jewels have that naturally which covers their excellency, and the choice gold lieth in the earth, and at first sheweth not its full lustre, till by Art made so: So the godly who in this present life are despicable and un∣comely by their weaknesses, by their afflictions, by the outward meannesse of their Condition, will hereafter have all these rags pulled off, and the Page 668 day of their glorious Coronation will appear. This is for the Nature of their Glory, and for the Adjuncts and Properties of it they are admi∣rable. *
First, Its eternal Glory, it abideth for ever and ever. All the greatest out∣ward Glory and Pomp, is but like the burning of the Torch, Sic transit gloria mundi, but there needs no M•mento te hominem esse, Then shall we be with the Lord for ever: Oh that phrase For ever should astonish us, What is for ever? What is eternal glory? After thou hast sate down and thought, and thought still; Eternity is above thy thoughts. The fear of death is like Jonah's Gourd that eateth up all our outward Glory. You are but glorious Gloe-worms that shine for a night; but glorious Flowers that presently fade: Give me any world∣ly glory, of which you can say, it is eternal, that it is for ever; yea men of the greatest glory in this world have found it to be like a shadow, the longest before the night come upon them. King Solomon in all his glory was not above a Lilly, and a Lillies glory endureth but for a day, when cropt from its root. The Scri∣pture saith, Act. 24. 23. Agrippa and his wife came to the Court of Judicatory with great pomp, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it was a great fancy that presently passeth away.
Secondly, This Glory is spiritual and heavenly as well as visible. The glory of * the body is indeed visible, and Heaven is a glorious visible place, but yet that which is the greatest glory is spiritual, the soul made holy and perfect; God who is the object of our glory is invisible; and although it be disputed, yet many conclude, that God is not seen with the bodily eye there, onely Christ because of his humane nature is; So then, the greatest part of this glory is spiritual and holy. And thus it is farre above the glory of the world, which is in outward sensible objects, that tend onely to a bodily and carnal de∣light. If the Queen of Sh•ba was so overwhelmed to see the external glory and pomp of Solomon, How can we be able to bear all that heavenly glory?
Thirdly, This Glory is sound and solid, it is that which hath a true bottom• Paul cals it, The eternal weight of Glory; and the Hebrew word for Glory signi∣fieth *weight: So that the glory of believers is substantial and real, it will in∣wardly and deeply possesse the whole man: whereas if you look upon the out∣ward glory of the world, its but a puff, a bladder, an empty nothing. This is a true solid glory, which is accepted of by God, to which he giveth his wit∣nesse, that it is true; What is it to have glory among men, and to be abomina∣ble before God? What is it for a while to have external pomp in this world, and then God to raise thee out of the dust to everlasting contempt and reproach? Thou gloriest in thy wealth, in thy beauty, in thy honours, but what is this to the glory in Heaven?
Lastly, This is an universal and entire glory. There is nothing of glory •o be desired which is not here; In the world all their glory hath some gall * or other to bitter it. Haman had much outward glory, yet because crost in his ambition about Mord•chai, all his glory did him no good; Solomon that made it his businesse to have all external happinesse, yet found a vexation and vanity in it. No worldly glory did ever satisfie a man, no more then the air or the winde will an hungry stomack: yet this heavenly glory is so perfect and compleat, that there is nothing to marre it, to corrupt it; and it hath this admirable effect that it doth wholly satisfie the desire, and yet excites it to desire it more: they desire no other happiness, no other glory, they are in their centre, yet they are never wearied, as they were of the Manna; but this glory is as admirable, as ravishing, as ever it was at the first moment they enjoyed it. This may be greatly improved practically.
Use. What good reason is there for every sinner called by Gods grace to part *Page 669 with any lust or sinne, though never so profitable, so pleasant, so delightful; for what is that sinne thou art so ende••ed unto? Is it comparable to this eternal glory? Oh the madness and folly o• men! Sinne and the devil, they call by their lusts to eternal horrour and torment, and men readily obey; but God cals to eternal glory, and they stop the ear. Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! wicked men do not believe or consider these things, or else the matter is so evi∣dent that it needs no deliberation, no dispute; for what is the chaff to the wheat, drosse to gold, gall to honey? Do then wicked men know what they do? These lusts are dear lusts to thee, they will deprive thee of this eternal glory, they will hinder thee of all this happinesse, and yet thou imbracest them.
Use 2. Of Instruction. How sad a thing it is to be moved to any good action * out of humane and vain-glory, when yet this solid eternal glory doth not affect thee. What is more ordinary, though nothing scarce more abominable; you shall have men to get glory and repute in the world, be diligent in the external profession of religion, when the true glory of God doth not at all move them; The Pharisees they prayed, they gave alms; why? out of vain-glory to have re∣pute with men. Thus its said of some that believed, but would not confesse Christ, that they loved the glory of men more then of God, Joh. 2. Oh let this me∣ditation make thee even a loathsom beast in thy own eyes; Shall I pray, preach, have religious conference, give alms, do justly, that men may praise me, that I may be exalted with humane glory, and neglect that eternal glory which we ought principally to seek after?
Use 3. Are people called out of their sins, and endued with grace to partake * of this eternal weight of glory? then what vanity is it to glory in any earthly thing, and yet to want this? Thou gloriest in thy birth, in thy prosperity, in thy outward greatnesse: but oh miserable wretch, if destitute of this eternal glory. Oh say, Its not for me to hold up my head, to go proudly, to fare deli∣ciously every day, but rather to throw my self in the dust and tumble upon the ground, and to cry out, Oh me miserable sinner, worse then beasts, undone for ever, till God fit me for this glory! Do not then glory in thy rich apparel, for that is but the excrement of an unreasonable creature; not in thy beauty that is the spoil of time and years; not in thy riches, they are winged birds that quickly flie away: No not in any thing, but in grace and the knowledge of God, which is accompanied with everlasting glory.
Use 4. Of Comfort unto the godly, who though despised, contemned, vili∣fied * and rejected as the off-scouring of the world, yet are sure to inherit eternal glory: Oh this should sweeten every affliction! this should make every bitter ••ll to be swallowed down! Doth not the Apostle bear up himself with this? We account not these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, comparable to that eternal weight of glory? See how he lessens his afflictions, they are but light ones, but the glory to come is weighty and eternal; Could the people of God live in a lively faith of this, make these things real to them, they would be above the fear of any outward losse, or the love of any unlawful advantage. He that hath the Sun needs not the star, or the Ocean, a drop.
The Nature, Possibility, Duty and Means of the Assurance of ones Effectual Calling.
2 PET. 〈◊〉. 10.
THe Apostle at the fifth verse, mentioneth a chain of graces, which eve∣ry Christian must keep linked together: They are like so many flowers to make up a Garland that every believer is to wear; and to this purpose he suggests divers arguments. The first is, that then they will not be barren in the knowledge of Christ: Christianity without these graces is like the figtre• without fruit, it deserveth a perpetuall curse from Christ. Look not to leaves or blossoms, but to fruit. Secondly, He that hath the title of a Beleever, but wants these graces, he is blinde, and cannot see afar off. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, some de∣rive it from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 Mouls, or earth-mice, that can see nothing, though in the open light: Others from shutting the eye, and so purblinde men are said 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, who see things that are near, but not afar off. Though some say 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is not lusciosus, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Thus wicked men have knowledge about the objects that are present to sense, but the matters of faith, which are more remote, they cannot discern. Now here may seem a contradiction by the Apostle, He is blinde and cannot see afar off: For if he be blinde he cannot see, neither near or afar off. Some therefore make these later words a correction to the former, He is blinde, at least he cannot see things that are afar; if he be not blinde, he hath a dimme sight. But without any straying, we may thus interpret the Apostle, He is blinde, viz. absolutely in respect of heavenly things, and although he can see those objects that are obvious to sense, viz. all earthly things, yet he hath no perceiving about heavenly things. And indeed its very sad to consider how ma∣ny are eagle-eyed in the matters of the world, and very blinde moles in heaven∣ly things. The third argument is from the ingratitude such men are guilty of: They have forgotten they were purged from their old sins; when they undertook the profession of faith in Christ, and were baptized, there was Sacramentally, at least, a cleansing from their former waies of wickednesse. Now it would be high ingratitude for any not to preserve themselves from such defilements still. Lastly, Here is another argument for abounding in all grace, which is laid down by way of exhortation: There cannot be any assurance had of our calling or ele∣ct on, unless we are fruitfull in these graces. This should greatly awaken, for it behoveth us above all things in the world to have some comfortable knowledge how it stands between God and our souls.
In the words then consider the duty injoyned, and the way how to accom∣plish it. The duty injoyned is to make your calling and election sure. Calling, viz. the graces of God we are called to in this life, justification, adoption, and Page 671 union with Christ, as also regeneration and sanctification of our natures, and ele∣ction that is the basis or the foundation of our calling. But how may we make these things sure? not in themselves, for the purpose of God stands firm in its own self. The foundation of the Lord stands sure, saith the Apostle, 2 Tim. 2. 19. And the gifts or calling of God are without repentance, Rom. 11. 29. But sure in respect of our selves, that we may be upon good grounds confirmed in our own hearts, that we are such whom God hath called or chosen. So that the holy Ghost doth here blame all those who put their comforts and hopes upon a ven∣ture; who maintain doubts and uncertainties in their own souls, about their e∣ternal condition, that will not seek out for comfortable evidences herein. 2. You have the manner how this glorious priviledge may be attained, by giving diligence: and the rather by giving diligence; which words do imply, that unless we set our main thoughts and strength about this matter; unlesse we care∣fully set our souls to distinguish between true and false, we shall never be per∣swaded upon good grounds. This text is much vexed in the controversie be∣tween Papists and Protestants: The Papists denying this certainty (unless some few) and the Protestants pleading strongly for it. And this text seems to be an impregnable place for assurance.
That its not only possible, but a duty in Christians, to indeavour after an assurance*of their effectuall calling and election.
They are not to bring an ill report, as they did about Canaan, such Giants and difficulties were in the way, that it could never be conquered; so this assurance or certainty can never be had, it will breed presumption, and eat out all humility and godly fear. It is not my intent to enter into the controversall part, I shall only lay down some materiall particulars; and then shew you what are those things that may beget this assurance, those effects that do necessarily argue such causes. And the rather, because formerly I treated more largely about the na∣ture of it.
To clear the doctrine consider, First, That when we say a believer may and * ought to be assured of his calling and election, we do not mean as if of his own self he could have this divine perswasion. For then many of Gods own children would never have lain in such uncomfortable desertions and dark dungeons as they have done, having no light; crying out, they have no certainty, no assurance, oh they cannot believe, they cannot finde any comfort, but their hearts are like a barren heath, or a black hell! They cannot, I say, of themselves come to this sure perswasion, but it is the gift of the Spirit of God, Rom. 8. 16. The Spirit it self beareth witnesse with our spirit that we are the sons of God. So that Divines use to say, this certainty lieth in a practicall syllogisme, thus, Whosoever believeth, repenteth, is heavenly minded, is tender about all sin, These are called and ele∣cted; But I do so, saith the gracious heart, inlightned and inabled by Gods Spirit, Therefore I am called and elected. Now this Assumption, I do so, the heart being blinde or deceitfull, could never truly make, without the help of Gods Spirit. Hence it is called the Spirit of Adoption sent into our hearts, whereby we cry Abbafather. Oh then, till Gods Spirit thus Evangelizeth, as it were, and puts a filiall frame in us, we are afraid of God, our thoughts are slavish and despairing, and we desire to hide our selves from him; but this Spirit of Adoption casteth out all tormenting fears, and doth inlighten the minde, that we may see the good things God hath wrought in us. Hence is that exhortati∣on, not to grieve the Spirit of God, because it sealeth us to the day of redemption, Ephes. 4. 30. So then, as it is with the colours that are the object of the sight, though they be never so good, and visible, yet if there be no light, the eye can∣not see them: Thus it is here; though there be never such excellent graces, and though God hath wrought a wonderfull change in thee, yet thou art not able to see it, till the Spirit of God inable thee.
Secondly, You are to know, the soul of a man being a rational and spirituall sub∣stance,*Page 670〈1 page duplicate〉Page 671〈1 page duplicate〉Page 672hath two kinde of acts. There are first the direct acts of the soul, whereby it is carried out immediatly and directly to some object. And there are secondly reflex acts, whereby the soul considers and takes notice of what acts it doth. It's as if the eye were turned inward to see it self. The Apostle John expresseth it fully, We know that we know, 1 John 2. 3. So that when we believe in God, that is a direct act of the soul; when we repent of sin, because God is dishonoured, that is a direct act; but when we know that we do believe, and that we do re∣pent, this is a reflex act: Now whether this certainty or assurance be a certainty of faith, or of sense, or rather mixed of both, I shall not dispute: To be sure, it is more then those probable conjectures and meer humane certainty which the Papists plead for.
Thirdly, I say, This assurance is a priviledge may be had, and it is our sin if we breath not after it, or do any thing that may justly fill our hearts with doubts and diffi∣dence.* Yet it is not of absolute necessity to salvation: Its not a necessary effect of our calling and election at all times, as heat is an inseparable effect of fire, and light of the sun. We see David and Christ himself in such spiritual desertions, though there was unbelief in David, but not any sin in Christ. Faith of adhe∣rence is many times where this faith of evidence is not. Although therefore it be our great sin to do those things which may grieve the spirit of God, and chase away our assurance; yet many times the people of God may walk without this comfortable perswasion: Yea they may be greatly assaulted, as if God had cast them offfor ever. They may be as Pauls fellow-passengers in the Ship, who had seen no sun for many daies together. Let not therefore any argue they are not called, not elected, because this is not yet made sure to them; for many times God works the greatest certainty out of the most perplexing doubts, and the shakings of the soul make the root faster.
Fourthly; Neither yet is this assurance the Apostle presseth us unto, such as ad∣mits of no doubts, no temptations or oppositions by Satan. No, as he cried out, Lord*I believe, help my unbelief, so, Lord I am assured, yet give me more certainty. When Nathan told David his sins were done away, yet he still praieth for par∣don, Psal. 51. because guilt and doubts in his soul were ready to obscure and darken his faith: And therefore the Apostle John, 1 John 3. cals this assurance, perswading of the heart: That doth excellently imply the heart sensible of sin, is full of arguments and cavils, bringeth many strong contradictions against the promise. Hence the great word that is used often to comfort, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is al∣so for exhortation, because to the grieved and troubled heart for sin, comfort will not be received but by frequent exhortation. That opinion therefore of having such an assurance as to have no doubt, is much to be suspected, as not being of the Spirit of God. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, in all the actions of it. And the devil doth diligently assault our comfort and assurance. If therefore it be of God, if it be spirituall and heavenly, it cannot be but that the heart of a man, and the devil will oppose it; presumption indeed being a sin of a mans self-flattering heart meets with no contradiction; so true is that saying of a so∣lid Divine, Nulli sunt magis desperati, quam qui minus sunt desperantes, None are more desperate, then those that are least despairing, viz. in their own selves, though not of the grace of God.
Lastly, Howsoever in practicall divinity it be disputed, whether there be not an assurance by the immediate testimony of the Spirit, viz. whether the Spirit of * God doth not by immediate revelation perswade the soul of its good condition and interest in God; yet I shall not touch upon that, but only speak to that me∣diate assurance, viz. which the Spirit of God works, by the arguing from the effects to the cause, from the fruits of grace to the root, and this is not subject to such dangerous delusions, as the former is: for this goeth upon a sure ground, the fruits of mortification, and vivification; and the Apostle plainly meaneth this assurance, viz. by adding one grace to another, and by abounding in the fruits of Page 673 holinesse, so they shall make their calling and election sure.
In the next place let us consider what are those effects of grace, which if a man walk in, he may be partaker of this priviledge: not but that God by his absolute soveraignty, and for holy ends, may leave the most exact and circumspect Chri∣stians in darknesse, without any light; as it was in Job: And the Prophet inti∣mateth, Who is among you that seareth God, and hath no light, walking in darkness? Isa. 50. 10. One that feareth God, and is precious to God, may walk in dark∣nesse, having no light, and all that he can do is to stay his soul on God by a meer act of recumbency, not of any assurance at all. This God may do; but yet there are particular waies, which if walked in, God may give thee this white stone, as it is called, Revel. 2. 17. Thou shalt walk as one acquitted from thy sin, and no man can tell what it is thou feelest, but thy self only.
And first, We must give all diligence and heed to the obtaining of this priviledge.* We must make it our businesse, it must be importunately begged for in praier. Thus the text, The rather give all diligence; neglect not this, whatsoever thou passest by. Now it is no wonder that naturall men they look on it as a matter not to be regarded; because they have never been wounded with sin, they have alwaies had a self-fulness, a self-righteousness, and by this means have not breath∣ed and thirsted after this assurance; Qui nil dubitat, nil discit; he that never doubts will never learn: And so he that hath not been in the depths of Gods displeasure for sin, he that hath not felt his frowns and his anger, he never comes to think, oh what a blessed and happy thing it is to be truly assured of the grace of God! that I am such an one to whom the Covenant of grace belongs! a childe to whom the bread of the promise appertaineth, and not a dog! Hence therefore it is that men sit down without this priviledge, they do not look at it as a great mercy; they do not prize it above all other things; and therefore they do not, because they were never sensible of the want of it. They never lay wounded with sin, they never were amazed at the hypocrisie and unsoundness of their hearts; They never felt themselves dropping as it were into hell; and hereupon they give no diligence for this assurance. You see in earthly things, how carefull men are to make all their bargains sure; in all purchases to make their evidences sure: Poor men think they are undone, if they lose their evidences about an earthly inheri∣tance, and never think themselves miserable, though they have no true ground or evidence for their spirituall condition.
Secondly, The way to obtain this assurance is a fruitfull, fervent and active walk∣ing in all the waies of holinesse. If these things be in you and abound, saith the A∣postle. * The sparks that are ready to go out, do hardly evidence there is any fire. We doubt of life when we feel scarce any breath; and thus it is here; The more remiss, and negligent, and lazy thou art in the waies of godlinesse, the lesse cer∣tainty must needs be in thee: And the reason is plain; for if graces exercised be the sign or seal, then the more these appear, the more thriving and flourishing they are, the surer testimonies there will be of thy calling and election. When the Church was lazy and negligent, she lost the comfortable presence and in∣joyment of Christ. The standing pools, and sluggish waters, they beget the croking frogs: And thus he who prayeth, as if he praied not; believeth, as if he believed not; this man takes the way to have wounds and blows; and all man∣ner of tormenting fears in his heart. Though grace exercised be not the cause or merit of thy salvation, yet it is an infallible sign of thy salvation; As the Rain∣bow is not a cause but a sign that God will never drown the world. Hence Paul argueth from his fervency in grace to assurance, I have fought a good fight; hence∣forth is laid up for me a crown of glory, 2 Tim. 49, 10. I have fought a good fight: Christianity was a real combate with sin; with the world, and all opposition; and he had not been idle or cowardly, but alwaies upon his watch, and there∣fore he had this comfortable perswasion. So that nothing will darken thy soul, more then dull, lazy and negligent walking. When thou abatest or decaiest in Page 674 thy graces, these tend to make a sad division between God and thy soul.
Thirdly, Another way to preserve or obtain this assurance, is, humility and meeknesse, going out of our selves, avoiding all presumption, all self-righteousnesse.* Thus the Apostle, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. 2. 12. That is, with exceeding great humility and debasement of your selves. So that true assurance is so far from nourishing carnall presumption and sinfull confi∣dence, that it is built upon the clean contrary, holy fear and trembling; for al∣though they be assured of grace in them, yet they do not trust in this grace. These two things differ as much as heaven and hell. Paul who was so highly assured that nothing could separate him from the love of God, Rom. 8. And speaking of Christ, he saith, Who loved me, and gave himself for me, Gal. 3. yet this Paul would not be found in his own righteousnesse, but in that of Christs by faith. So then the godly rejoyce to see such testimonies and arguments of grace in themselves, but they put no confidence in them: They repent with an holy fear and trembling: They pray, they hear with an holy fear and trem∣bling.
Fourthly, This assurance is obtained and preserved by a tender watchfulnesse a∣gainst all known sin. For it being sin only that separates between God and the soul, * this only raiseth up the great gulf; therefore all witting and willing allowing of this, is a direct destroier of all assurance: And herein this holy certainty is expresly distinguished from all carnall presumption, which makes a man have confidence and boldnesse, though in the constant custom of all grosse and foul sins. They can live in all uncleannesse, in all lusts of the flesh, in all contempt and neglect of God and his worship, and yet have as vehement perswasions that their hearts are good, and that Christ will save them, as if they committed no such sin; oh therefore that way might be made for Christ by throwing away all such dangerous conclusions! If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me, saith David. And the Apostle saith expresly, If our hearts condemn us not, we have boldnesse with God, 1 John 3. There is no mans heart, but it con∣demneth him for many defects, and severall failings; but he speaks of a condem∣ning for the willing practice of known sins. No marvell then, if thou com∣plainest thou hast no assurance, thou hast no certainty; for as long as there are these desperate venturings upon sin, it cannot be but continuall quakings should be upon thee. If Cain carry about with him guilt in his conscience, no won∣der if he fear every thing will destroy him. David could have no peace in his bones, while any sin lay unconfessed and unforsaken.
Fifthly, Another way to obtain this is, To take heed of grieving the Spirit of God or quenching the motions of it. For seeing it's the Spirit of God that * witnesseth, and it is the Spirit that sealeth, If we would have assurance, we are to nourish it, to do nothing that may resist and repell it. His office is to com∣fort and to bring gladnesse into the heart. Now if thou either by rebelling a∣gainst the motions of it, or by despairing thoughts, reject this Comforter; thou takest the ready way to make thy self an undone man. Know then that as you are to hearken to Gods Spirit convincing of sin, and sanctifying the nature, so also sealing and witnessing unto them the love of God. Though the Spirit of God moved upon the waters at first, and still doth on godly sorrow, yet not on sorrow unbelieving, despairing, and accompanied with hard thoughts of him.
Sixtly, If thou wouldst attain to this assurance, Acquaint thy self well with the Covenant of the Gospel, with the precious promises revealed there, with the gracious*condescentions of Gods love in Christ. Many of the children of God are kept in a doubtfull and perplexed estate, because they consider not the riches of Christs grace revealed in the Gospel; They judge unbelief and doubting even a kinde of a duty, and that to do otherwise were arrogance. As Luther said, His soul hated that word Repent all the while he was a Papist, because he thought there Page 675 was nothing in it, but bitter sorrow and terror about sin; whereas when he under∣stood the Evangelical nature of it, and that it was to be accompanied with faith 〈◊〉 Christ; and that nothing was more acceptable unto God, then believing in him, and to have good thoughts of him as a father; then the word he did run from, as Moses from the serpent, he took up and imbraced.
Use of severe Reproof, of that horrible, prophane, and supine negligence of * most men in this point: Who giveth all diligence to make their calling and sal∣vation sure in their own consciences? who doth not put it upon a venture? who doth not trust all upon miserable uncertainties? They that in matters of estate by the Law, or in matters of their health by physick, will be sure to go upon good ground: In the matters of Religion they never enquire, they never seek to search out things; Oh we would think, that Religion and a godly fear should make thee of no rest in thy bones, till thou knowest in what condition thy soul stands in towards God: Hast thou never heard, That the heart is deceitful above all things; it will tell thee, thou doest repent, when thou doest not; that thou lovest God, when thou doest not; And wilt thou still put off all to this, If I be saved, I be saved, if damned, I am damned.
The Possibility and Duty of Assurance of our Calling demonstrated: And the Reasons why some thinke a certain Assurance impossible; with Answers to the Objections brought a∣gainst it.
2 PET. 1. 10.
YOu have heard of the possibility, yea, and necessary duty, to endea∣vor after the certainty of our Calling and Election; as also, what are those means, in the diligent exercise whereof, we may expect this pri∣viledge: And for the clearer apprehension of this, I shall Answer one or two Objections, by the discussion whereof, the truth will be more illustrious, as the file getteth off the rust: For whereas there were two things in the Do∣ctrine, The possibility and duty of this holy certainty, we may first question the possibility of it, and then the duty. Now in these things I shall be brief, be∣cause the matter hath been formerly more largely handled: That therefore cer∣tainty is not possible; among other Objections, I shall pitch upon one that is most practical, and that which doth most usually obstruct assurance in the god∣ly; and that is,
The Hypocrisie and the deceitfulness of the heart.
For thus commonly the Christian that is tender about his condition towards God Objecteth:
Page 676 I know the promises are true and good, it is without all question, He that be∣lieveth and repenteth, he shall be saved; he that is born of God, and effectually * called, he may conclude, I am my Beloveds, and my Beloved is mine; but whe∣ther I do so or no, there is my perplexity: The heart is full of guile, and we read of Ahabs humiliation, of the foolish Virgins, of the stony and thorny ground, such who had some affections and delight in holy things, some sorrow and humiliation about sin; yet for all that, their own hearts deceived them, their gold proved dross, they took Iohn Baptist for Christ, some imperfect dis∣positions, for the compleat and effectual workings of grace; and why may not I delude my self? and the rather, because every one is apt to flatter himself: We see all people, that are indeed far enough from the Kingdom of heaven, between whom and godliness there is a great gulf; yet peremptorily conclude, All is well with them: So true is that of Solomon, Every mans way is pure in his own eyes; but then that which followeth should make all tremble, But God pon∣dereth the heart, Prov. 21. 2.
This is very specious, and so far this Objection hath strength, that no man * should easily and speedily perswade himself that all is well with him: That those duties of searching and trying the heart, and communing with our own selves privately, are again and again to be practised by us; but yet the Doctrine of the hypocrisie and desperate guile of the heart overthroweth not this Scripture-cer∣tainty. And before I give you the reason of that, I shall set down some argu∣ments briefly, out of Scripture and Reason, that prove the possibility, and then answer that; for let it once be manifested by Scripture, that such a thing may be, then we are not to regard a thousand Objections that may be made to the contrary.
Now the grounds for the possibility of it, may be taken from these general * heads:
First, The Scripture requiring this of us: God would not put us upon such a search, if to finde had been impossible; for besides this Text, which seems to speak this truth in the Sun beams, Give all diligence to make your calling sure; if certainty hereof had been impossible, might not any one stand up and say, This is to command one to give all diligence for that which cannot be? I may be as well required to touch the heavens with my hands, or to remove the earth from its center? Besides this (I say) I shal name you one impregnable place, which hath stood like a rock, that all the Popish Engins have not been able to stir, 2 Cor. 13. 5. Examine your selves, &c. where you have the duty required, To examine, to prove our selves, as the Artificer doth his mettal, to see whether it be coun∣terfeit or true, so the Greek word signifieth; and thus they are to do to them∣selves: And he ingeminates the duty, to shew his earnestness and affection therein. 2. There is the object matter of this duty, Whether ye be in the faith, whether Christ be in ye; that is, whether ye be effectually called or no; and he brings a reason from an absurdity, If you do not know Christ is in you, ye are re∣probates: As we use the English word, it may seem harsh, but the Greek word is no more then unskilful in minde, not able to discern: So that reprobate is not here taken for one that is not elected, but for one that is foolish, weak, unskilful, as the Scripture speaks of reprobate silver: see more of this in the first Sermon. So that you see the Apostle makes it an ignorant and weak unskilful∣ness in the ways of God, and in the work of grace, when we are not able thus to discern our selves. So then, let this Text put it out of all question; for when the Apostle commanded the Corinthians to make this proof and examination, had the thing been impossible to be found out: It would have been as absurd, as for a Physitian to come to a diseased person, and tell him, he cannot be cured, unless he eat of a Phenix, or use the Philosophers stone, which haply can never be found out.
Secondly, A second general ground is, From the peculiar office and work at∣tributed*Page 677to Gods spirit; and that is, to witness with our spirit, to seal unto us; Its the spirit of Adoption, subduing those tormenting and slavish fears about God, which make the soul suspect every thing, and to be •ossed up and down like the uncertain waves, 1 Cor. 2. 12. We have received the spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God; especially that is clear, 1 John 3. 24. So then in th•s doubt, we must attend to a greater cause then our own hearts, we must consider, what great things that spirit of God can do in our souls: No man naturally can hate his sin, can deny himself, yet the spirit of God sanctifying, he is ready and willing in the work: So no man seeing the horrible depths of wickedness in his own heart, can ever come to be perswaded; but the spirit of God can rebuke these waves and tempests, and make all serene and clear in the soul.
The third general head is, From those places where the people of God have plain∣ly*declared their assurance: That therefore which the children of God have at∣tained unto, must needs be possible, and we ought to immitate them in. Heze∣kiah is without question in this point, 2 Kings 20. 3. Remember how I have walk∣ed before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart: He doth not speak this arrogant∣ly, but humbly, making use of his sincerity, as a testimony to confirm him in his prayer to God. Now Hezekiah could not make use of such an Argument as this, had he not been assured, that he was not deceived in what he uttered to God: And thus David is often in his Psalms, professing his love to God with his whole heart, and the uprightness of his heart, which had been a vain brag, and sinful ostentation, if he had not known it had been so. In the New Testa∣ment Paul is often speaking of his assurance and confidence; and lest it might be thought he had this by immediate revelation, he speaks as in the person of all believers, The spirit witnesseth with our spirit, Rom. 8. and so Iohn, We know that we know, 1 John 2. He doth not make this a peculiar priviledge vouchsafed to some favorites, but such a mercy as all Believers are capable of. So when our Sa∣viour asked some, If they did believe with their whole heart; it had been a vain question, to which no man could have returned any answer, if they could not be certain whether they did believe or no; and that man, who said, Lord I be∣lieve, help my unbelief: He shewed the certainty he had of his faith in the first place, as the weakness of it in the latter.
Lastly, The general head I shall end with is, the joy and thankfulness that*ought to be in the people of God: Now what joy can there be, where the soul knoweth not, or doubteth much of Gods love? How can the heart be inlarged to praise God, for those spiritual mercies, which findes them not in its self? For joy, the children of God are said To joy in the Holy Ghost, Rom. 14. 17. and its called Unspeakable joy, full of glory, 1 Pet. 1. 8. And can this be in a matter that we know not whether it be ours or no? Can we joy in the promise, and yet doubt whether it be ours? Can we rejoyce in Christ Jesus, and yet question whether he dyed for us? And so its for praise and thankfulness, Can any man bless God for translating him out of darkness into light, for working the fear of him in his soul, for the wonderful and mighty change he hath made on his heart? Can the soul bless and praise God, when he doth not think God hath indeed done these things for him? These general heads may suffice, to clear the possibility of it.
I shall give you also a Reason for it, which is this, Supernatural habits or prin∣ciples of grace, do vitally and evidently discover their actions and effects, as ration∣al and animal principles: As the principle of love to God, of repentance for sin, do in the acts thereof manifest themselves spiritually, as rational principles: So that as a rational man, he knoweth the arguments he hath, he discerneth his acts of reason, he can tell you he is of this judgement, and not of that: Thus it is with a spiritual man, he perceiveth the faith in him, the love of God that is within him: Can the Animal lover finde sensible love burning within? and Page 678 doth not the spiritual lover feel such fire in his bones? Doth not David cry, That his soul breatheth and longeth for God? Doth not the Church cry out, She is sick of love? So then, supernatural principles acting in the soul, are perceived spiritually, as rational acts are, or sensible acts are. As Austin said, He that be∣lieveth, findeth he doth believe; viz. Gods spirit assisting him; otherwise, like Hagar, there may be a pleasant fountain of refreshment hard by, and she not per∣ceive it, till her eyes be opened: What then should be the cause that men may think this certainty impossible? This may arise from three grounds:
First, When we take no effects of grace to be sure signs, unless they be perfect and*compleat: And this is very often a deceit, even to good and tender hearts; they do not love God, they are not so heavenly minded, so zealous; they have often failings, they have daily infirmities: And thus, because they have not perfect workings of grace, they doubt of any grace at all; but then Hezekiah, Paul, and all the worthies of God, who enjoyed this priviledge, should have been stripped of it, for at the same time they complain of the remainder of their corru∣ptions, they feel thorns and goads in their side: So great a matter is it to make a difference between truth of grace in the Essence, and perfection in the de∣grees.
Another ground may be, Because men for the most part keep at a remote distance*from God: They are not diligent and constant in spiritual duties and approaches to God: Thus because they draw not nigh to God, God draweth not nigh to them; because they are estranged from God, God is also from them: If there∣fore we did take the Scriptures counsel, To walk with God, and to acquaint our selves with God, which is done by lively meditation, and quickned duties of Religion, we should then finde that from God, which we thought impossi∣ble: You see the effects of all acts are thought impossible, to those that have no skill therein: And thus it is here Assurance is a mystery, and impossibility to thee, because thou hast no familiar acquaintance with God; thou comest not into his presence often, thou delightest not to draw nigh to him.
Thirdly, One main cause of this uncertainty, is also, A nourishing a servile sla∣vish*fear about God; not praying for the spirit of Adoption, and a filial Evangeli∣cal frame of heart: This is greatly to be attended unto by timorated consciences, such as are shaken with fear and terror for sin; Nunquam satis cavent etiam cum cavent, they distinguish not between Timor solicitudinis, and Timor anxietatis, A fear of godly care and diligence, and a fear of perplexing anxieties: Oh this ma∣ny times is a labyrinth that good people are in; their hearts are not directed into the way of believing, as the Apostle speaks 2 Thess. 3. 5. they fear God as an austere Master, watching the opportunity to damn them; they have not the reveren∣tial fear of a father, which is accompanied with faith and love of God: Thus Cain and Iudas, they did split their souls upon this rock, they were terrified a∣bout their sins, horror had taken hold of them, because of the wretched con∣dition they were in; but they had not faith in God as a father, which would have been the clue of thred to have helped them out of their distress: Oh then do not delight in thy bondage disposition; do not look upon God with a slavish fear; this will breed hatred at last, Odirunt dum metuunt, and hatred blasphe∣ming despair: These things dispatched, I come to Answer the first Obje∣ction:
The heart of man is deceitful, its such a deep we cannot fathom: Who can under∣stand*his errors? saith David, Cleanse me from secret sins, Psal. 19. 13. There may be a great deal of unknown wickedness in me, such pride, such earthliness, such unbelief, that I never can understand.
To this I Answer, That though a man may be deceived in his judgement about himself, yet it doth not follow, that he is always defacto deceived: We say, Gene∣ral * Councels may erre, yet they did not always defacto crie, so it may fall out, that a man in judging about himself may be deceived, but that he is in every Page 679 act deceived, this would bring grosse Scepticism into the world; no man could tell his own thoughts, his own affections, and there could not be such a thing as Truth in the world. Now the Scripture speaks the contrary, 1 Cor. 2. 11. What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man within him? So that you see, a man may know the things of his own spirit. Again, if this were so, then no man could discern his Dogmatical faith, as well as his saving faith; no man could tell whether he were a Protestant or a Papist, or a So∣cinian; for the heart being deceitful, as is objected, I may think I believe such a point, and such a point, when indeed I do not; and so the Acade∣mical doubting shall come in, Nothing is known, and nothing is be∣lieved.
But the second and full Answer is, That indeed the heart is naturally deceitful,*full of guile and hypocrisie, but when its sanctified and converted, its made sincere and upright: Its no longer as those pictures that represent at a distance such and such different Forms, but as a glass, sincerely representing the form of the visage, if deformed, deformed, if comely, comely: Thus Nathaniel is said to be a man, in whom was no guile; and, Blessed is the man, Psal. 32. to whom the Lord imputeth no sin, and in whose heart there is no guile: Hence its called An upright heart, A sincere heart, and, Truth in the inward parts: Although therefore there are some reliques of guile and hypocrisie in the godly, as of all other sins, yet for the main they are made sincere; and so all that self flat∣tery, and self-love, is for the main crucified: And this indeed is the full An∣swer to that Objection.
Secondly, Whereas it is said to be a duty, to this it may be Objected: *
That this Assurance would prove a dangerous temptation, men would grow secure, and carnally confident; therefore as God keeps the hour of death, and the day of judgement, to maks us always prepared; so by the same Reason, he should keep the knowledge of our condition from our eyes, that so we might al∣ways fear.
To Answer this practical Objection (for I avoid all speculative and meer con∣troversal ones.) *
First, If the truth of God and the Scripture is not to be maintained or asserted, because the corruption of men will abuse it, we must preach no divine truth at all; E vero non nisi verum, E bono non nisi bonum, No good or sound truth doth pro∣duce as its genuine effect, any other then what is good; but by accident, and by reason of the poysonous disposition in some men, they will turn the sweetest flowers into poyson: Paul did frequently preach the grace of God in the Go∣spel, and some hearers turned this into wantonness, shall therefore no mention be made of this grace? if therefore some men, through Satans delusions, think they have grace, when they have not, shall not he that hath true grace be perswaded of it? if a man in a dream do verily think he hath such riches, such honors; shall we conclude, that a man awake can have no certainty whether he be in a dream or no? And further, by this reason no man should contend earn∣estly for the true Doctrine of faith; no man should inseparably adhere to the truth of God even unto death, because an Heretique who pertinaciously main∣taineth a damnable heresie, he may be as confident as the Orthodox man: Should not the Israelites make a good use of the Manna, because he that abused it, found it corrupted to worms.
But Secondly, This Doctrine from its own nature, cannot bread any arro∣gance, or neglect of God and godliness for many Reasons:
First, Its onely maintained and kept up by humility and holy fear: So that when a man ceaseth to be humble, to have an holy fear of God, his certainty likewise ceaseth, even as the lamp goeth out when the oyl is taken away: The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, saith the Psalmist, Psalm 25. 14.
Page 680 Secondly, It cannot breed arrogancy, for these exercises of grace, are onely signs and testimonies of Election or Salvation, they are no causes of it, or me∣rit; wherein then can the soul be puffed up. And
Thirdly, These gracious effects that are signs, they are not of our working, by our free-will and power of nature: We are his workmanship created to good works, Ephes. 10. So that the discovery of these effects, may indeed inlarge the soul much to praise and glorifie God, but to stir up pride in us, there is no con∣sequence at all. And
Fourthly, These very effects of grace, though not wrought by us, but by God, they are not purely good and perfect, there is much dross, and many im∣perfections in them: So that the godly heart doth at the same time rejoyce and debase its self; it rejoyceth to see the love of God in the soul, but that this love is so weak, so languid and fainting, it doth also grieve: It discovers grace indeed, and therefore is assured; but it discovers also thousands of failings and imperfections, and therefore is laid low: And yet further, though they be in the heart, yet of our selves we have not eyes to discern what God hath wrought for us, till he inable us; so that its Gods gift to be assured: How many dear children of God walk in darkness, and would give a whole world if they had it, but to have this clear evidence of Gods love to them, though for a day.
Use of further Exhortation, to prove and examine your selves, whether those * visible characters of Christ be in thee, or the marks of the Devil: See what fruit ye bring forth, and then you may judge whether you are trees for eternal burn∣ing or no: Oh its a sign all is not well, when thou art unwilling to put thy self upon the touchstone; its an argument there is guilt within, thou shalt finde thy self to be such an one as thou art afraid to think of; thou thinkest, If certainty be onely had in the use of such means; then farewell my hopes, my evidence for heaven. Oh! who sayeth as David, Prove me, O Lord, and examine me, if there be any evil in me. And to all the former means, we may adde one main one, which is a sign that never faileth, If we love the brethren, if we love and delight in those that are godly; as Davids delight was in the Saints of the earth: He that is not godly himself, cannot heartily love one that is godly, because similitude is both a cause and an effect of love; and this is, when god∣liness is the cause of love, not his riches, his parts, his love to thee, but the holy image of God appearing in him.
The Advantages the Godly have by Assurance: How it may be known from Presumption; with Dire∣ctions to the godly that want it.
2 PET. 2. 10.
THe possibility and duty of this Assurance hath been already declared and proved; as also the practicall objections against it, removed. I now come to shew the great advantage of this certainty. Where the godly heart hath this holy assurance and perswasion wrought by Gods Spirit, there it hath ma∣ny helps which the tempted soul wanteth. It is therefore good to propound them to you, that so the profitablenesse of it in heavens way, may excite you to seek it.
And first, Where there is certainty of this heavenly priviledge, there the soul is*more inslamed and inlarged to love God. It's an assertion against all reason and ex∣perience, which the Papists utter, That assurance of Gods love in us would breed contempt, security and neglect of God. For with all ingenuous natures (and such the children of God are) the more perswasion of anothers love to them, the more they repay it with love again. The wife, the childe, the more they know they are beloved of husband or father, the more this inflames them. Love is fire, and fire turneth all things into fire. Thus David, when he could say, God had forgiven his iniquities, and healed his diseases, in particular; Then blesse the Lord, O my soul, and all within me praise his holy Name, Psal. 103. 1. Thus Paul in Rom. 8. 6. what puts him into those extaticall raptures, and transcendent ex∣pressions about God and Christ, but the assurance that he was such an one whom God had elected, called and justified? Oh then, know all the while thou hast doubtings and servile fears upon thee, so long thy love to God is very imperfect and cold. The fear of God brings hatred and wearisom thoughts of God: And hence the Apostle sheweth, that fear, viz. slavish, hath a torment with it; and that love casteth out this tormenting fear, 1 John 4 18. Love to God as a gracious Father, would allay all those tempestuous and swelling waves that are in the soul. Now this can never be done, but by some certainty that we are such whom God loveth. Tranquillus Deus, tranquillat omnia; when we know God is pacified, then the soul is also pacified. As it's with the sea, that is quiet as long as the air and windes from above are quiet and still; so it is here; The soul, that is calm, comfortable and gracious, all the while it can by assurance enjoy Gods favour. Now if we cannot so vigorously love God, while we are without this certainty, how should this provoke us to indeavour after it!
Secondly, Certainty of our calling and election will breed much spirituall strength*and heavenly ability to all graces and duties, to go through all relations with much Page 682 holinesse and lively vigour. For fear which is the opposite to this, that makes weak hands, and feeble knees, that disheartens, that saith, A lion is in the way: whereas the certainty of our good condition would put hope and life into us. The testimony of a good conscience made Paul so active in the course of his Mi∣nistry, 2 Cor. 1. 12. Certainty breeds joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength, as Nehemiah said, Nehem. 8. 10. Take a piece of timber full of moths and worms eating into it, and it's no waies strong enough for any building. Grief is made rottennesse to the bones, which consumes the seat of all our strength: so spiri∣tuall dejections and sinfull doubtings about the work of grace in us, they con∣sume the very heart, they destroy the very foundations. No man but a sanctifi∣ed man can have a good conscience in a Scripture sense; they may have a quiet conscience, not accusing them for grosse sins committed against the light of na∣ture: But this is not a Scripture good conscience; for that is freed not only from grosse sins, but heart-sins, and soul-sins, and it is sprinkled with the bloud of Christ. And thus a good conscience is a continuall feast. Oh then, this should stir thee up for this holy certainty; thou wilt be farre more chearfull, more joy∣full in the work of the Lord: Thou wilt be more fervent and zealous; thou wilt be as the sun, like a giant running his race. We complain of our barrenness, of our weakness, of our slothfulness: What can be wings to us but this certain∣ty of our gracious estate, This will be like the Spirit in Ezekiels Wheels. This will be like the winde that gathered the dry bones together. Oh then that the people of God would more matter this. Thou couldst not be such a lump of earth, if this breath of life were breathed into thee.
Thirdly, This certainty and assurance of grace, would exceedingly keep up the heart under all afflictions and outward miseries. Had not Paul been assured of that * eternall weight of glory, he could not have judged these worldly miseries light and easie. When David was in all that misery, all outward hopes gone, He in∣couraged himself in his God, 1 Sam. 30. 6. His God, He knew God was his God, though he had lost all things else. And thus Paul is more then a conquerour; and doth so highly challenge all troubles to hurt him if they can, because he knoweth by Gods Spirit, that he is one called and chosen; and shall not this prevail with you? Is it not a miserable thing to fear to be killed by men, and to be damned by God at the same time: To be imprisoned by men, and imprison∣ed in thy own conscience, Oh what will provoke thee if not this? Alas! I am sure of nothing, not of my life, not of my outward comforts, not of any out∣ward injoyment, and wilt not thou then be sure of grace within thee? Oh our vanity! when will we be wise? We labour for those earthly things, which when we have, we cannot be sure off, but not at all for grace. Is it not with many men, as with the bees, when all the summer they have laboured to fill their combs with hony, then comes the husbandman and burneth them, and takes their hony. So thou hast a long while laboured to get up so much wealth, such an estate, and then comes death, or some sudden publique judgement, the sword and warre, and that takes all thy hony from thee. Oh when we can be sure of no outward thing we have, let us be sure of inward grace.
Fourthly, This certainty of grace is a strong and mighty buckler against all those violent assaules and temptations, that the devil useth to exercise the godly with. His * temptations are, That they are hypocrites, that all the calamities which fall upon them are because God is not reconciled with them, that they seek themselves and not the glory of God. Now there is no such brazen wall to repell all his darts, as the testimony and knowledge of the truth of grace in our hearts. This was the aqua vitae, that kept up Job. You know what fiery temptations he had, God seemed to be against him; godly friends judged him an hypocrite: The devil he assaults him; he saith, Doth Job serve God for nought? God hedgeth him in, and giveth him outward prosperity; no wonder then if Job serve God, Job 1. These are strong tempestuous windes, able to tear up the root of the Page 683 strongest oak; but yet he stands like an immoveable root; and all because of that integrity and sincerity which he knew to be in himself; he knew his aims and ends to be pure, he knew he served God for Gods sake. As this is of great consequence to defend against the devils accusations, so also against the calum∣nies and false clamours of the devils instruments. As the devil is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The accusér, so all wicked men do diabolize; they charge the generation of the god∣ly for hypocrites, for dissemblers, for painted sepulchres; but the knowledge of their own uprightnesse, and the graces of God in their soul, do abundantly for∣tifie them; whereas this is terrible to have other men condemning us, and God also, and our own consciences condemning us.
Fifthly, This certainty is a speciall means to breed contentation of minde, and a*thankfull, chearfull heart in every condition. As we told you, David in that great exigency of his, incouraged himself in his God: and in his Psalms, that the Lord was his portion, and his inheritance: Now this could not be known, unlesse he also were certain of his godlinesse; for God is not the portion or inheritance of wicked men. And upon this it is, that he saith, God had put more joy into his heart, then they have, when wine and oil increaseth, Psal. 4. If therefore thou wouldst have that happinesse on earth, true contentation of spirit, it must be from the knowledge of thy grace, and sense of Gods love in Christ, when thou canst say, Soul, take thy spiritual ease and heavenly quiet, for here are many good things stored up for thee: This is to be a godly Dives indeed, a Dives in soul, and to fare deliciously, in a spiritual sense, every day.
Lastly, This certainty of grace is a sure and speciall antidote against death in all*the fears of it. This makes the King of terrors, a King of all consolations: For seeing that by grace we are the members of Christ, death hath no more sting on us, then on Christ our head. And therefore the godly may in Christ triumph, O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory! 1 Cor. 15. 55. These ser∣pents may be handled, because their stings are out. Let them howl and roar out at the approach of death, who know not whether God be their friend, or enemy, or rather may know he is their enemy; who have just cause to doubt, whether they are going to hell or heaven: Oh to such, the very name and thought of death and judgement, must be full of amazement and terror: But to those who are in a holy manner perswaded of their interest in Christ, that perceive the sure evidences of Gods grace in them; they may lift up their heads for their redem∣ption draweth nigh: And indeed this should much incite you, to seek after such a support at death. Hezekiah upon the sentence of death passed on him, suppor∣ted himself with this, 2 King. 20. 3. And what wilt thou do, when the hour of death approaches: here is no longer the comfort of thy riches, wife and chil∣dren to be injoyed; here is no longer the company of thy friends and acquain∣tance to be retained. Oh then! when thou art to be sure no longer of any earth∣ly comfort, would it not be better then a world to thee to be sure of heavenly comforts? Oh that you would be wise for your latter end. Do something that may stand you in stead, when you are dying men, gasping at the last. Drowning men use to catch hold on any thing. Oh dying and drowning men should be sure of a fast hold to lean upon; These are the advantages. *
But the godly heart may inquire, How shall I know this holy certainty and per∣swasion by Gods Spirit, from my own perswasion, from the self-flattery that is in me? Are there not thousands of people that call darkness light, and bitter sweet? that conclude the truth and goodnesse of their heart in all respects towards God. It's true it cannot be denied but that there are such foolish dreamers, who dream of their fulnesse when they are indeed empty; yet to a searching eye they may be quickly distinguished.
For first, Holy certainty is kept up in all exercises of grace, and constant tender avoiding of all known sin: but presumption will agree with the practice of all these. He is confident of Gods love, of his own good heart; yet a notorious Page 684 beast, a constant swearer, a constant liar, unjust in his dealing, lustfull and volup∣tuous in his life. Oh these must needs be horse-beetles that can live in such dung; not Christs doves who delight in neat and sweet places. What? thou hope in God? thou trust thou hast a good heart and a good conscience when so much wickednesse is in thy life! This is impudent presumption, and Gods eies are purer then to accept or love such. Doth a man then think he hath grace in his heart, how carefull is he to practise all good known duties, and to avoid all known sin.
Secondly, Presumption is unwilling to be searched and tried. It flieth from the light, it cannot abide the touchstone; but this holy certainty loveth a deep search. * It is here as between the Heretique and the Orthodox man; Heretiques they are lucifugae Scripturarum, as Tertull, said, The bats and owls that fly from the light. The thief hates the light, saith our Saviour, John. 2. 20. But the true doctrine, that desireth to be tried and dived into. Then thus, where a true knowledge of grace is, that man crieth with David, Prove me, Lord, examine and try if there be any false way, Psal. 26. 2. But where presumption is, that would not have a cracked title, or a forged evidence brought before the Judge.
Thirdly, Presumption beareth up a mans heart, till a man come to some great and extraordinary calamities, and then this bubble vanisheth away. Its not truly root∣ed, * and so will not abide a violent storm. They fall from presumption into de∣spair. But see how Job and David can go through the hardest brunts; though they be under many briars, yet these innocent sheep lose not their wooll. Dross will melt in the fire, but gold will be the more refined. The winde makes chaff fly away, but leaveth the corn more purified. The righteous hath hope in his death, Prov. 14. 32. then when the presumptuous mans hope doth most wither many times.
Fourthly, Presumption is not opposed nor assaulted by the devil. Satan doth not tempt and labour to drive people out of it, but nourisheth them in it. But out of * this holy certainty, the devils main scope is to drive them. You see he was not afraid to shoot out his fiery dart even at Christ himself, upon this, Whether he was the Son of God. And his stratagem was to make Job think, and condemn himself for an hypocrite. So that godly assurance is much opposed, both by the devil and the unbelieving heart of man; its hardly obtained, and hardly retain∣ed. But of presumption we may say, as Isaac did of his sons counterfeit venison, how comest thou by it so quickly my son? How come you to be confident thus quickly, thus easily? This man-childe is born, and your soul hath not been in tra∣vell and pangs: this is not Gods way.
Fifthly, It is the sure character of presumption, that it divideth the means and the end. It hopes for such priviledges, though it never do the duties: Now this is * not assurance, but a presumptuous delusion, whereas you see this text is, To give all diligence to make your calling sure. Presumption is like that charity James speaks of, that giveth good words, bids the party go home and be warmed and cloathed, but doth not give any thing; and in this presumption most men live: They hope for that end, the means whereof they are never conversant in. Should they tempt God about their naturall life (they will not eat and drink and think to live) all men would say it were horrible presumption: but though they do it pal∣pably about supernaturall life (they will neither repent or forsake sin, or live ho∣lily) and yet hope Christ will be their Saviour. Though they do thus, yet men see not their own folly and madnesse therein.
Sixthly, Presumption is but a self-deceiving, false logick that a man deceiveth himself with. Whereas you heard this certainty is a knowledge wrought by Gods * Spirit in us. The Apostle James saith, If any man seem to be religious and bridle not his tongue,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he makes a false syllogisme, James 1. 26. He takes non causa, procausa; and indeed all presumption is nothing but a false syllogisme; a man takes that for a cause which is not a cause: or else it is an ignoration of the proper state of the question, that it is to be indeed godly, how much goeth to the nature of it.
Page 685 Seventhly, The presumptuous man is full of haughty arrogance and proud preferring*of himself, contemning and undervaluing others. Thus that Pharisee, Lord I thank thee that I am not as other men, &c. Whereas true assurance is accompanied with deep humility, and a pitifull respect to others, praying and mourning for others; Oh that their eies were opened; Oh that they were inriched with the grace of God, as they are. Humility and self-emptinesse is an inseparable effect of godly assurance, and of precious esteem with God. Minimum de se sensisse, tam mag∣num est quam maximas res fecisse, The lowest love, and the least thoughts of our selves, is as great, as to have done the greatest and most excellent things.
In the next place it may be questioned, What that godly person should do, * who hath not this assurance; though grace be in him, he knoweth it not, yea he thinketh the clean contrary. Even as Luke 24. 16. When Jesus after his resur∣rection appeared to the disciples, though he drew nigh to them, and talked to them, yet saith the text, Their eies were holden, that they did not know him. So it is with many a gracious heart, Christ is spiritually in the soul, grace is present, yet he cannot feel this. Though the sun of righteousnesse be in his heart, yet he walketh in darknesse.
Now to such an one we say, Let him walk in a faith of adherence and dependance when he hath none of these evidences. This the Scripture cals trusting, relling, lean∣ing and staying of the soul upon God. David in many Psalms hath only this plank to stand upon in the great Ocean: For this you must know, though assu∣rance be a duty, and to be pressed after, yet it is not the faith that justifieth. Thou maiest belong to God, and have an interest in the promise, though thou feel no evidences of it. Who is he that feareth God, walking in darknesse and hath no light, let him stay himself upon God? Isa. 50. 10. So then, if thou findest thy soul like a parched heath; thou goest bowed down, thinking thy self a withered branch, a dried tree; consider what is thy duty, what doth God require of thee? even a depending and waiting on him. And this dependance of faith is far more noble then the assurance of faith.
For first, In assurance, there I go on in holy duties, and love of God, because * of the sensible sweetnesse and delight that I have; but in dependance there I trust in God, when I have no sense or feeling: So then, as it is a greater act of love to God, when I love him though he afflicts me, though he blesseth me with no out∣ward mercies; so it is a greater act of obedience to wait and depend on God, when I feel my own unworthinesse and load of sin, then when the goodnesse of my heart is cleared up unto me.
Secondly, To depend and wait on God, though darknesse be in thy soul, ar∣gueth * thy faith more firm and strong. As when the woman of Canaan would not give over, though Christ called her dog, yet this made her faith to appear great faith. It was an high expression in Iob, Though he kill me I will trust in him. Do not then give over thy constancy in holy duties, be not discouraged in wait∣ing, on God for assurance, for he will at last cause the sun to arise, and the dark night to fly away.
And thus I shall conclude this text, still pressing you to be upon more sure and certain terms about your souls, then many are. God bid Hezekiah set his house in order before he died: Oh do thou set thy soul in order, cast up all thy spiritu∣all accounts. It is a wofull thing when thou art dying, then to cry out, Oh I know not what to do, live I must not, dy I dare not; every thing is in disorder, there is nothing sure about my soul. What do you think my beloved brethren? Are not these things the greatest reason in the world we perswade you to? How unexcusable will ye be? when will ye go away and say, It is true indeed, we should be upon sure terms, It is an happy thing to be so, but the world, that hinders me, my lusts they hinder me. I tell you the consideration of these things have so affected men heretofore, that they have gone and lived in cells, and holds of the earth; they have shut themselves up in woods and wildernesses, that they Page 684〈1 page duplicate〉Page 685〈1 page duplicate〉Page 686 might attend to this great matter the salvation of their souls. This indeed was their blinde zeal and indiscreet forwardness, but it will certainly at the day of Judgement rise up and condemn thy jollity, thy carnall security in a sinfull way.
Sheweth in how many respects wicked men (before their effectual Calling) are afar off from God, and consequently miserable.
THe later part of this Text will continue further new matter unto us, while we treat of this Divine Vocation: and to bring you to the coherence of it, You may take notice of two great and strange wonders recorded in the Chapter: The first is, That admirable Apparition of the holy Ghost in fiery cloven Tongues upon the heads of the Apostles: Wherein take notice of the time when this was, In the day of Pentecost; on this time the Law was given on Mount Sinai by Moses; and now the Gospel is to be preached to the whole world.
2. Consider the Manner of this Apparition, it was with a rushing mighty winde; this did denote the great efficacy and mighty power of the Spirit in the Word preached.
The second way was of Tongues, to shew the gifts that God would bestow upon the Apostles, and fiery Tongues to signifie the light, and the heat, and the purifying vertue that would be in the Word preached, and cloven Tongues, because they would divide the Word aright to every hearer. Thus as once di∣versity of Tongues was a judgement, and by it Babel was built; so here, divers Tongues are a mercy, and by it the spiritual Jerusalem is built.
In the next place you have the Efficacy of this Apparition demonstrated in the Apostle Peters Sermon. And
First, He confirmeth this wonderful work of God by a Prophecie out of Joel, wherein God promised To pour out his Spirit (that denoteth abundance) on their sons and daughters, their men-servants and maid-servants, the meanest and most contemptible, contrary to that wicked saying of the Rabbins, Spiritus Sanctus non cadit super animum pauperis; And after the Apostle Peter had doctrinally in∣structed them about Christ, and practically convinced them of their particular sinne in crucifying of him (for Singularia sunt quae pungunt) you have the won∣derful and savoury effect upon the hearers, described in two things:
1. Their remorse and trouble of conscience for sinne, They were pricked in heart, as a man that is stabbed at the heart with a dagger: This ought to be the fruit of all our Sermons, to send you away grieved and troubled, wounded at the very Page 687 heart. The tears of the hearers are the praises of the Preacher.
2. Their desire and enquiry, What shall we do that we may be saved, then is our Ministery blessed, when it puts you upon these serious Questions. When you go home, What shall I do to be saved? I am out of the way, my sinne is discovered, this Sermon hath told me of all the evil that ever I did: Oh what shall I do to be saved! Now that which is the second wonder in this Chapter is, The Number of those Persons that were converted at this time: its said, ver. 41. That they were about three thousand. Here is one to be admired more then the Heathen Orpheus, that could make beasts follow him, and tame their natures; for ignorant and prophane enemies, even a great multitude imbrace Christ. Here is Peter catching of men, as once he did fish, and the net is so full, that it is ready to break.
In the next place, You have Peters Advice and Councel, directing them into the way of Salvation; wherein consider a two-fold duty; 1. Repent. 2. Be baptized, with the Object, Into the name of Christ; This doth not exclude the other persons.
3. You have a two-fold encouragement; 1. From the benefit sealed in Ba∣ptism, Remission of sins. 2. A gracious Effect God would vouchsife to them, Ye shall receive the holy Ghost. And my Text is brought in as a reason, why they should repent and be baptized, and hope for remission of sins, For the Promise is to you, &c.
Which words are diligently to be opened, because of some late Questions arising about Infant-Baptism, that are started hence. In them you may observe, The mercy spoken of or published, The Promise. 2. The Subject, and that is in a three-fold enumeration, To you, viz. the Jews to whom then he preached. 2. Their Children. 3. To those that are afar off,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Some understand it of place afar off from the Countrey of Judea; Some of the time to come, be∣cause its 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, To the generations that are to come. To be sure its meant of the Gentiles, who in other places are said To be afar off. And therefore you have this explained in the last expression, Even as many as God shall call.
Now first let us consider, What is meant by the Promise. Those that would elude this place so pregnant for baptizing of Infants of believers, because the promise is made to them, say, Its meant of extraordinary gifts, such as those mi∣raculous gifts spoken of. But this is very absurd, because 1 Cor. 14. all that did believe had not those extraordinary gifts, All did not speak with tongues, all had not the gift of healings.
2. Its against experience, for if the promise of these extraordinary gifts be made to believers, then why have they not all extraordinary gifts that thus ex∣pound it? Why do they not speak in the Hebrew and Greek tongues? And
3. Vers. 16. The promise of these extraordinary gifts is said to be fulfilled at that time, and therefore not to be expected at any other time. By the promise therefore which sometimes is in the singular, and sometimes in the plural num∣ber, because of the many good and spiritual things promised therein, we are to understand the Covenant of grace, wherein God promiseth to be the God of believers, and their seed; for that which was made to Abraham, setting aside some personal priviledges, is made to every believer. Now in this Covenant is contained Pardon of sinne, and all other mercies, which Baptism sealeth; and that this is the meaning, is plain, Chap. 3. 25. Ye are the children of the Prophets, and of the Covenant God made with our fathers; So the promise here, is that gra∣cious Covenant of God, whereby he offers grace to those that do accept it; now those that accept it are such as are inwardly sanctified, and these have the inward Covenant as well as the outward administration of it. But secondly, Others do only outwardly accept of it, and professe their obedience to it, are not inwardly regenerated, and these onely have the external Covenant, and a right to Church-priviledges, being destitute of the saving benefit by them: So that Page 688 this promise of grace in the outward offer of it, as also in the Church-priviledg∣es, are dispensed to such, who sometimes have an external profession onely, but are without the inward efficacy of it.
The second subject is Their Children: Here we see God taking parents into Co∣venant, takes also the seed, and upon this one main ground Infant-Baptism is fastned: So that though children be not expresly named in the command to ba∣ptize, yet they are in the promise accompanying the precept, and that may put it out of all doubt.
I chose this verse for the later part, containing the Subjects enumerated, viz. Those that are afarre off, even as many as God shall call. From whence ob∣serve,
First, That all men till called by God, are afar off from him.*
This expression doth contain the dreadful and woful estate of all men by na∣ture, They are afar off from God. As Abraham said to Dives, There was a great gulf between them two; so there is a remote distance between God and all men till called, Ephes. 2. 13. Ye who were sometimes afar off, saith the Apostle speaking of the Gentiles; and so vers. 17. Thus the Prodigal that took his stock to spend it upon sinne, and the lusts of the flesh, he is said To go into a far countrey. Now when we say, All men till God call are afar off, you will easily understand that we speak not of Gods omnipresence, for that is impossible, none can be far off God in that sense. Whether can I go from thy presence, saith David; If I would take the wings of the morning, or go into the depths, or dig into hell, I cannot go from thee, Psal. 139. 7. Now in this sense, God is near even every wicked man, but we speak of Gods gracious presence and demonstration of his loving favour, in which sense its said, That Cain was cast out of Gods presence.
But to open this more particularly, let us shew in how many particulars they * are thus elongated, or made afar off from God. And
First, In regard of the knowledge of God in a true and saving way. They are as little children, in utero ignorantiae, as Tertullian expressed it, no more apprehen∣sive in a right manner of God, then the children in the dark womb are perceiving of the things of reason. Therefore Ephes. 2. part of this distance from God is in that they were 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, without God in the world. Athens that was the eye of Graecia, yet that could see no better, then to dedicate an Altar To the unknown god; Hence the Apostle speaking of the Heathens, said, They did feel or grope in the dark after God, Acts 17. 27. Even as the Egyptians in their thick darkness, or the Sodomites stricken with blindeness did; and therefore Gods willing of men to be saved, is declared in this, That he would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth; and generally the Nations of the world are described by this, That they know not God. Its true, Rom. 1. the Apostle speaks of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, something that by nature may be known of God, some sparks, some embers, but this is so corrupted, so confuse, so imperfect, that it grosly mistakes like that blinde man recovering a little sight, that saw men like trees: Oh then, if to be a corporally blinde man be so heavy a misery, that such cried to our Saviour, Lord that we might receive our sight! How much rather may we cry out to have the eyes of our eyes opened, who are wandring far from God! For although these that are here said to be farre off are Heathens and Gentiles, yet even Christians by birth are also farre off from God, till they have this spiritual eye-salve; and therefore in two respects men may be said to be far off from God: First, both in respect of inward grace, and the outward means of salvation: and thus all the Heathenish part of the world is afar off God: Or secondly, in respect of the in∣ward grace only: When men do enjoy the outward means of salvation, and in this sense by their duties are said To draw nigh God, but in respect of any saving work of grace, are as farre off as Heathens and Pagans: and this is the conditi∣on, as is to be feared, of many thousands, They are nigh God in respect of the Christian faith they profess in respect of the Duties and Ordinances they exercise Page 689 themselves in, but in respect of their affections and heart, so they are at as great di∣stance from God and his holy waies, as Heathen and Publicans. This distinction must be attended unto, that we do not vainly deceive our selves, as the Jews did, with The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.
Secondly, They are afar off in respect of Gods speciall and gracious love to justifie*their persons, to pardon their sins. This also is urged Ephes. 2. He preached peace to them that were afar off; Peace, so then there was war and enmity before be∣tween God and them. And thus they may be said to be without God, both a∣ctively and passively; actively as before, having no knowledge or love of God; and passively, God hath no approving knowledge or love of them. Thus are we till God cals us, in a state of Gods displeasure; as Absalom cast out from Davids presence. His anger is towards us all the day long: And if the terrour of a King be like the roaring of a lion; what are the frowns and displeasures of the King of Kings! Oh that people were wise to consider, what they are by na∣ture, under what heavy displeasure they are! Doth the Scripture bid us agree with a man that is an adversary quickly in the way, lest he deliver us to the Judge; what reason then is it, to agree with God our adversary speedily, who hath such spiritual and eternal torments to scourge us with, that no man can have? Do not thou please thy self then with these thoughts, that thou hast free accesse to the presence and into the favour of great ones on earth; for if thou art farre off from God, if he regard thee not, if his displeasure be towards thee, thou art in the state of gall and wormwood.
Thirdly, We are by nature afar off from Christ the Mediator between God and*man. And this indeed is the foundation of all calamity; for as in Christ we are blessed with all heavenly blessings, so without him we are cursed with all spiri∣tuall and temporall curses. You speak the summe and abstract of all misery, when you say a people are without Christ. This also is mentioned Ephes. 2. as part of that distance from God. For such is the contrariety between God and man, God an holy and pure God, man a wretched and corrupt enemy to him, that here could never be any reconciliation but by Christ. We see how farre off the Apo∣state Angels are cast from God, never to be reconciled, and all because Christ took not their nature upon him: And thus men without Christ, for the present, have no way of accesse to God; for why? Should they come in their own names? alas! they are sinners, they are adversaries unto God, who then must speak for them? who will plead for them? And consider, that not only the hea∣thens and Pagans in the remote places of the world may be without Christ; but even many of those who have the title of Christians, and professe obedience to him, may yet be without him in a saving manner. Will not Christ say to many who did prophesie and cast out devils in his name, I know you not? So then Christ may not know many within the Church, many that call on his name. Oh be afraid lest this truth should be verified of any of you; that though you be near Christ in words, in prayer, in profession, yet wholly without Christ in respect of any gracious effects. Now what is it, to have riches and honours, and to be without Christ? To have the great things of the world, and to have no portion in him? When God promised great earthly mercies to Abraham, oh saith he, I go childlesse; that troubled him; what was all that wealth, if he had no childe? And thus; although God give thee all externall happinesse, and the desires of thy heart; yet say, behold I am without Christ still, and what will all these things avail me.
Fourthly, Such as are afar off, They have no hope. They are an hopelesse peo∣ple; * which way soever they look, every thing curseth and condemneth them; and no marvell, for, if without the promise, they have not the ground of hope, and if without Christ, the object of hope. And this also is added in the forementi∣oned place, Ephes. 2. Without hope. Now you know the Heathens faigned, that when all things were gone, yet hope was in the bottom of Pandoraes box; im∣plying, Page 690 though we be invironed with calamities, yet as long as there is hope, the heart will not break. When Cain and Judas thought there was no hope (though that was their sin) then they began to feel an hell burning in their conscience. And indeed what is that which makes the fire of hell burn seven times hotter then it would, but that there is no hope there? Hence hope is com∣pared to an Anchor, Heb. 6. 19. implying that a man without hope, is like a Ship without an Anchor in the midst of the raging sea, and tempestuous waves. Thus not only the Gentiles, but Christians also are afar off from hope, till sanctified. Now when we say, They are without hope, the meaning is not, as if God might not shew mercy to them, for how many times doth he call those his people, that were not his people; but in respect of any visible humane help, no created pow∣er can save them: They are like little Isaac, bound to be sacrificed, and the hand lifted up to give the mortall blow; and then God comes in wonderfully, and provideth a Ram in his room to be sacrificed. Lay it then home to your hearts, you that are afar off in respect of saving grace, though not the outward means of it; you are a people of no hope, no true solid hope. Indeed you have a presum∣ption, you have an hope that is a dream, a false imagination, and that will perish like the blaze of straw; but it is not a lively hope, for that property the Scripture giveth the hope of a godly man, It is a lively hope, 1 Pet. 2. 3. such as is not o∣vercome by death. The righteous hath hope in his death. If therefore thou wouldst descend into a serious examination of this matter, thou wilt see thy self for the present an hopeless man. Thou hast no ground to hope upon; there is no pro∣mise to draw out thy hope; What should be like a two edged sword at thy heart, if this be not? This carnall hope of thine will not indure, will not last, seek out for a better hope.
Fifthly, Such are afar off in respect of their love of God, and an universal constant obedience to his holy will. As God loveth not them, so neither do they love God. * As God is not gracious in his promises to them, so neither are they obedient to his precepts. God is not only afar off from them, but they also are afar off from God; hating and hated of God. As Paul, Rom. 4. describing all men by nature, saith, they are all turned out of the way, and the way of God they have not known. Neither is this also true only of the Heathens, who are in every sense afar off, but also of all those, who within the outward means of grace, yet have their hearts set contrary to God. Doth not God of old complain of such, that did draw nigh him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him, Isa. 29. 13? And doth not the same complaint still hold, that men draw nigh him, when their affections and lives are wholly opposite to God? And thus we may say of all those, who draw nigh to God in religious duties, but in their hearts and lives are wholly con∣trary to him; they are afar off; they are at a great distance from God and his grace. Christ saw a young man, and because he answered some questions in a discreet manner, he told him he was not far from the Kingdom of heaven; oh but when we see the prophanenesse, the ungodlinesse of most mens lives, we have cause to say, They are far from the Kingdom of God, or they are not farre from the Kingdom of darknesse. Oh then consider, you who live dissolutely, and in the accomplishment of the lusts of your flesh, you are wholly out of the way; and to the faster you run, still the further off you are from happinesse. You may fancie impossibilities, and think of making heaven and earth meet together; for this you do, all the while you judge that this life and way of yours is consi∣stent with true peace and felicity.
Use first, What cause of thankfulnesse we have, who live under the means of grace; for God hath brought us many degrees nearer to him, then when once we * were the children of Heathens. The time hath been, when this very Iland was wholly without God and Christ; the Gospel was not preached unto us, we lay like a barren heath, and a cursed wildernesse, forsaken, and no notice taken of us by God. But since the Gospel hath been preached, God hath drawn near to us, and Page 691 we to him: Oh! but for all this, we may be as far off from saving Graces as Heathens, if our lives be no better, if our conversations be no more Christi∣annized: Those places to whom the Sun draweth nearer, are warmer then the remote, cold parts, where ice and cold is: Thus it should be with us, where the Sun of Righteousness hath appeared, there should be heat and zeal for God, there should be meltings and mournings for sin, there should be a separating from all dross, and every evil way: Coler separat hetrogenea; whereas frost and cold hath fastened many heterogenous things together, heat that separates them: And thus the heat of the Gospel should separate us from our former lusts, and from our by-past iniquities: and know this, he that is far off from God, he can∣not but be near to the Devil and Hell: Thus the Ephesians that were without God, they were under the power of Satan, and in the state of darkness: why then doest thou not tremble and fear thy condition? the farther that thou art going from God every day, the nearer thou art to hell: Your life is a motion, you are always a going, every action is a step; now if it be sinful, it is from God, and towards hell: What though thou findest the way pleasant? though there be many delights and temptations in the way: Per fallacia bona itur ad vera ma∣la, per fallacia mala itur ad vera bona, Through seeming good and pleasant things, we come to real misery.
That not all mankinde are called with a saving call; How absurd it is to hold, That the Works of God, the Sun, Moon and Stars, &c. may so call Men; And Gods Justice cleared in that point, stirring up all to behold the severity and goodness of the Lord.
ACTS. 2. 39.
VVE have handled the third kinde of persons enumerated in this Text; viz. Those that are afar off. The next thing in order to be consider∣ed, Is the further description of those that are afar off, which is by way of restriction and limitation, As many as God shall call; wherein observe, 1. The limitation of the number, As many as God shall call: You see its not an universal, its not to all that are afar off, but onely to those whom God shall call unto him. 2. There is the benefit or priviledge God vouchsafeth, described; 1. From the nature of it, Call. 2. From the efficient cause, The Lord our God shall call; the Greek word is with the proposition, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall call unto him, which doth partly denote, the great distance that all men by nature are from Page 692 him; and partly, the mighty power and strength of God, whose word onely can make such a change. Christ from heaven said, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, and his Blackamoor skin, yea, heart, was presently made white and clean: Christ did by a word onely call Matthew the Publican from his place of gain and profit, and he presently leaveth all and followeth him: Thus as he said to Christ, Lord, if thou say but the word, my servant shall live: So its here; Lord, if thou speak but the word, the mountains will melt like wax, iron swim, the rivers of Jordan run backward, the hills skip like lambs; that is, the lives, the thoughts, the purposes of men will be wholly altered and changed; its but Gods call, and that will make the deaf to hear, and the foolish to under∣stand: And partly this doth imply, the meer good will and pleasure of God, it resolveth all into his grace: Here is no goodness, no worth in these men that are afar off, moving God, but, As many as God shall call: The utmost into which all is resolved is God will have mercy, on whom he will have mercy. I shall at this time pitch on the restriction or limitation of the subject, Not all that are afar off, onely such whom God shall call: And from thence observe,
That not all of mankinde, but some onely doth God call, with a saving call.*
The Apostle plainly makes a difference of these that are thus afar off, and this onely to come from God; some are so afar off, that they never hear the voyce of God in the word calling them to repent, and believe in Christ: Others again have salvation brought unto their house; and if thou ask, why God calls such, and not others? Noli Scrutari, do not curiously pry in this mystery, Gods ways are just, even when they are hidden to us: Too much gazing on this Sun, may quickly blinde us.
To open and clear this point, consider,
First, That there is a general and common invitation, even of all in the world by * God; and there is Aspecial gracious one: The former invitation is by the crea∣tures, by the works of God; and as the Psalmist saith, There is nothing hid from the heat of the Sun, Psal. 19. That doth penetrate one way or other to every sub∣lunary thing: So its true of this invitation and call, none is denyed it, none are so afar off, but that God thus calls: Now indeed, this is not properly, and in the Scripture sense a calling, I do not remember that the Scripture any where makes the works of Creation and Providence, as a calling of men, unless in a ve∣ry large sense; as the heavens are said, to declare the glory of God, And the rod of God, or his judgements (though that be spoken of his judgements on the Church) are said to have a voice. Now that God by the works of his Creation and Providence in the world, doth teach and convince men, and so in that gene∣ral way call men, is plain, Rom. 1. where the creatures made by God, are said to declare those invisible properties of Gods wisdom, power and goodness. Thus Divines speak of a twofold School God hath, the School of the Creatures, and the School of Grace by the Gospel: And though the books in the first School, viz. Of the Creatures, be very dark, and in characters hardly legible, yet God did punish and chastise men with very sore and heavy judgements, yea, spiritual judgements, the worst of all, Rom. 1. because they did not learn this lesson, and were not proficients in that School: So then, the whole world, in the excellent harmony of it, doth necessarily teach a God: Even Tully doth by an excellent similitude demonstrate this: If (saith he) you should see a Book consisting of many letters, and all those exactly set together and orderly, so as to make up a compleat sense; no man will say, Those letters and words put themselves toge∣ther, or that they came together by chance: So it is with the world, This great book, the excellent composition and harmony of all things, do fully declare that these things did not make themselves, or that they came accidently together, but a great God disposed them by his wisdom and power. This invitation Paul considers of in his Sermon at Athens, Acts 17. •7. That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and finde him. Now there have been some Page 693 of old, yea, and many in these days, that would stretch these Texts too far, as if the invitation by the creatures, were immediately saving, or that men might obtain salvation by looking into these: They have not been afraid to say, That * by the Sun and Stars we may come to be effectually called, as well as by the Apostles, and the preaching of the Gospel: But how senselesse and absurd is this? For
First, This invitation and call by the creatures, doth not, nor cannot reveal any thing of Christ, the onely cause of salvation: Without Christ there is no Salvati∣on; Now how is it possible by the Creatures, in a natural way of discourse, that ever we should come to know or believe in a Christ? The Doctrine about him is still called a mystery, and the revelation of it hath been more or lesse clear, as God hath pleased to dispense it: The very Angels did not know it, till revealed to them. Indeed, by the Creatures we may prove a Godhead, but to prove a Christ God and man, cannot be known by any Natural way of Argu∣ment.
Secondly, The call by the creatures is not saving, because it discovers not the way*of Salvation, no more then the cause; viz. Faith: As Christ is wholly a Superna∣tural object, and by revelation, so is faith the way to come to him, the hand to lay hold on him, onely by revelation: And therefore the Heathens, they looked onely for reason; the Gospel way was a foolishness to them, the Christians were called Credentes, Believers, by way of scorn; yea, learned men observe the very phrases, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 are such phrases that no humane Greek Authors ever used: So that not onely the thing it self, but the very words to express it, are altogether strange; where then there is no Christ, nor no faith, there must necessarily be no call to salvation.
Thirdly, This call could not be saving, for the furthest and utmost effect it had*upon men, was onely outwardly to reform their lives: It restrained many from gross sins, and kept them in the exercises of temperance and justice, and such Moral vertues; which though named vertues by Aristotle, yet the Fathers did upon Scripture-grounds call them vices and splendida peccata, glistring sins; for so in∣deed all that Piety and Morality which is out of the Church of God, is a Sodom apple, fair to the eye, and inwardly nothing but ashes; for there is no true Sanctification, no true and right principles of holiness, but within the Church of God. As typically every vessel was unclean, that was not in the Temple, and sanctified thereby. The heathens much boast of one Palaemon, a prophane beast∣ly man, that came to hear Socrates at his Lectures, with a purpose to scoff and deride him, but went away wholly changed in his minde, and made sober; but what is this one external change, to those many thousands and thousands of changes which have been made both internally and externally by the word preached? But you may say, To what purpose is this call of God by the Crea∣tures, and the work of his providence, if it be not to salvation? Yes, it is much every way:
First, Hereby even all men are made inexcusable: As the Apostle urgeth, God * had not left them without a witness or testimony, giving rain and plentiful seasons: Thus because men did not glorifie God according to what the creatures might have taught them, they are given up to vile affections: Men therefore are made inexcusable by this way; they cannot say, God hath left them without any conviction or manifestation of himself: No, the creatures they call, all the works of Gods justice and Gods mercy, they call; and then conscience, which is implanted in every man, the dictates and reasonings thereof, they also call: Thus there will be enough to clear God, and to stop every mans mouth.
Secondly, Gods purpose in these calls, is to restrain sin, and to draw men on * further then they do: There is no man that hath no more then this remote and confuse call, that doth what he may do, and can do; He doth not improve, no, not that natural strength that is in him: (I do not say) to spiritual good Page 694 things; for so he hath no natural strength: but to such objects as by nature he might: He willfully runneth himself in the committing of sins, against his con∣science and knowledge; he doth with delight and joy, tumble himself in the mire and filth of sin: Now God calleth by these natural ways, to curb and re∣strain him, to put a bound to these waves: For if there were not these general convictions, no Societies, no Commonwealths could consist.
In the third place, take notice of a twofold saving calling; The one is onely ex∣ternal, * and saving in respect of the ability and sufficiency; the other is saving ef∣fectually, and in respect of the event. Now when the Apostle saith in the Text, As many as God shall call, it comprehends both; those that are called effectually, as well as outwardly: they have not onely the outward administration of the promise, and the priviledges thereof, but all the inward profit thereof; on the other side, those that have onely the outward call, they have onely external priviledges: And as Ismael had many gifts from Abraham, but not the inheri∣tance; so have these many favors and priviledges from God, both for them∣selves, and their posterity, but none of the inheritance it self. Now you may understand the Doctrine of both these calls, Not all of mankinde are called with so much as an outward call, and of those that are called with an outward all, not many, but few are called with an inward call; according to that Text, Many are called, but few are chosen: So then, behold the wise and dreadful ways of God herein; not the greatest, but the least part of mankinde are called with this outward invitation; and of those who enjoy this outward invitation, not the greatest, but the least part partake of the inward power and efficacy thereof.
Thirdly, That God doth not call all men with this saving gracious call, will * evidently de facto appear, if you consider the ways of God, even since there was a Church, till now. In the beginning Gods call was onely among some few, so in Noah, and afterwards to Abraham, and so to his posterity; and although we read of some strangers, and a few Proselytes, yet they were but as glean∣ings, to those thousands and thousands that never heard of God: And in the time of the Jewish Church, God there seemed to inclose his vineyard; among them onely was he know, Salvation was of the Jews, they were the children to whom meat did belong: So that no man can say, God did then hold out the Scepter of his grace to other Nations. Well, if we descend to Christs time, we must confess the partition wall was broken down; all nations then might be made clean: Peters sheet of beasts, clean and unclean, taught him that; but yet even since the preaching of the Gospel, there are many nations of the world where Christ and the Gospel have never been preached; indeed their voice is said to sound over the whole world, Rom. 10. because its not forbidden to be preached to all men, as heretofore; yet many remote corners of the world have not enjoy∣ed the beams of this Sun: That as they say, the vertue of the Sun doth scarce ever come to some parts, but it is always winter, and most part night; so it is with many nations in the world, and the Jews who once were the children, now seem to be the dogs: The Apostle doth at large consider, Gods good∣ness to the Gentiles, and severity to the Jews, the natural branches, Rom. 11. Its here with them, as it was with Gideons fleece and the floor, one while the dew was on the fleece, and the floor was dry; then the dew was on the floor, and the fleece was dry: Thus it is here, One while the Jews was a pleasant gar∣den, and the Gentiles a wilderness; now the Gentiles a garden, and the Jews a wilderness; and if you ask, why is it thus: Its not for reason to dispute, but faite to adore: Ista mulier taceat, Let this woman, this reason, hold her peace in Gods Church.
Fourthly, Its no injustice in God, though he do not give this universal call of grace to all men: For this hath been the stumbling block at which many have * fallen: How can God (say they) be proclaimed so merciful, an ocean of all honey, in whom is no gall? how can he be so compassionate, and full of ten∣der Page 695 bowels, yet not give the greatest part of mankinde so much as a saving call outwardly; especially how are all those Texts made true, God would have all men to be saved; and, I delight not in the death of a sinner, but that rather he should be converted and live; especially this may serve to take off all fault and blame from man, and to lay it wholly upon God, as if they would have readi∣ly come to God, but God would not invite them. To remove this stone:
First, Consider, That if we could not satisfie the reason and disputes of men * in this divine dispensation, yet if the Scripture be clear and peremptory in this point, we must all stop our mouthes, and not gainsay: Doth not the Apostle, Rom. 9. expresly bring these carnal reasonings? Who hath resisted his will? and why then doth he finde fault? But see how he rebukes this unruliness in man; Who art thou, O man, that disputest against God? If then Scripture and expori∣ence saith thus much, we must conclude, Gods ways are just, though hidden to us: Even so Father, for so it pleased then, said Christ, Mat. 11. upon the consi∣deration of Gods revealing things to babes and children, but hiding of them the wise men of the world: The Doctrine of the Trinity, of Christs Incarna∣tion, are they not transcendently above our reason, though not contrary to it? Prorsus credibile quia impossibile, said Tertullian: And thus all the great things of God, cannot be perceived by us: Quicquid de Deo dici potest eo ipso indignum est, quic dici potest, & periculosum est de Deo, etiam vera dicere, said the Ancients.
But Secondly, Even reason inforced out of Scripture, may satisfie us in many * things; for its no injustice in God, if he had not called any men in the world with a gracious call; for seeing man by his fall had broken the Covenant with God, all things became forfeited into his hand; he was not bound to set up man with a new stock, after his first breaking; and this is evidently manifest, if you compare this with Gods dealing and dispensation to the Apostate An∣gels; they fell from their habitation, and what became of them? they all are chained up in darkness, reserved for eternal torments: Now this judgement is executed upon all, God did not spare one of them; to none of them was it said, Believe and repent for the remission of sins: See here, it was no injustice in God to damn all the Apostate Angels, and then it could not be injustice to damn all Apostate men: This certainly may quiet thy heart.
Thirdly, There can be no injustice, where all that is done, is done wholly * out of grace, and meer favor. Injustice is, where a debt is denied, not where a favor is bestowed; now the Scripture attributes this call of God, to whom∣soever it is, wholly to the grace of God: Why then art thou murmuring if God call no more? rather admire the grace of God that he calls any; Is thy eye evil, because God is good to save? The Devil he thinks God is gracious too much, and calls too many; he is tormented with malice, because so many escape out of his Jaws.
Fourthly, Although God doth not call every man with this immediate call of grace, yet no man is damned meerly because he wants this: The Apostle * saith, That those that are without the Law, viz. Written and revealed to them, shall be judged without the Law: And thus those that are without the Gospel, that have not the means of grace, they shall not be judged because they did not believe in Christ, because they did not submit to him, but because they did not walk in the practice of those things they did know: Thus because the Heathens did not glorifie God, according to the knowledge they had of him, therefore they are condemned, Rom. 1. Infidelity, meerly negative, doth not damn: He that believeth not, the anger of God abideth on him; viz. Where the word is preached and rejected, so that God doth not reap where he sow∣eth not.
Fifthly, God is not unjust, no not to those that are afar off, because none * among them have done what they might do, in a natural and moral way: for although no man hath power in a gracious manner, to any spiritual good thing, Page 696 yet they may restrain from the outward actings of many gross sins: The very light of nature would teach a man to abhor many things, which yet the Hea∣thens committed; so that God hath a just controversie with them, and will be cleared when he judgeth the world.
Sixthly, Though God do not call all men, and thereby they are wholly im∣potent, * and unable to any good; yet they do not sin so much, because they want power, as because they have a willing delight in it; and this indeed doth mainly remove all objections; for its not a mans impotency, so much as his wil∣ful consent to sin, that damneth him: his non posse, is in some sense, his non velle. Bernard saith well of mans necessity that is now brought upon him to sin; the necessity doth not take away the voluntariness of it, nor the voluntariness the ne∣cessity: There is no man can say, O Lord, I had a will, I was very ready to come to thee, but thou didst not give me power: No, the will in every man is the grand enemy and adversary unto Christ in all his ways: Damnation is to man, because unwilling, not because unable.
Use of Exhortation, Come and behold the severity and goodness of God, as Paul in the like case; the severity of God, in that he passeth over so many per∣sons and nations in the world; and his goodness, in that he draweth nigh to you; you are in the Land of Goshen, when others are in Egyptian darkness: This hath amazed and astonished all the wisest men in the world, they have not been able to know what to say at this difference God makes; yea, many times God doth not vouchsafe the offer of grace to such a people, who in all probability would be more affected with it, and giveth it to such who refuse and reject it: How unsearchable is his wisdom, and his ways past finding out! Doth not our Saviour tell the men of Capernaum, that had the wonderful means of grace, Mat. 11. 31. If those things had been done in Tyre and Sidon (two Heathenish places) they would have repented in dust, in ashes? Its thought, true repentance and conversi∣on is not here meant; but palpable and sensible demonstrations they would have made of some sorrow and humiliation; and therefore Christ threatens to take away the Kingdom of heaven from the Jews; viz. The Gospel, and give it to a nation bringing forth fruit better then they: Oh consider then, whe∣ther the very Heathens and Pagans would not give more respect, and shew more joy at the word preached then thou doest: Take heed, for there are none further off grace, then those that have been called, and yet reject it: There is more hopes of those to whom the Gospel was never rendered; for those hea∣vy judgements of an eye blinded, an heart hardened, do onely belong to those that have refused this word of life: Then such are onely fatted to destruction, who have been fed in these pleasant pastures of the Ordinances.