Luke 10. 6.
THe Third Note from the Blessing that here the Entertainers of the Gospel shall have,* is this: That where there is but any one in a Place, or in a Family, that shall Entertain the Gospel, the whole Family shall be the better for that one. And the Note is Raised from this Particle, It: Your Peace shall rest upon it. He doth not say, Your Peace shall rest upon him only, though that's true, It shall rest upon him principally: But he saith, Your Peace shall rest upon it: That is, If a Son of Peace be in the Family, your Peace shall rest upon the Family; that is, there shall be some good come unto the Family, by reason of any one Son of Peace that's there: If there be but one that doth Entertain the Gospel, the Family may come to have a Blessing by that. If it be but a poor Servant, or poor Child that shall receive the Gospel, there may come a great deal of good to the Family, by such a Servant; but if it be a Governour of the Family, then the Blessing will be more. For we find in the Gospel often, where Page 203 the Governour of the Family Believed, it is said, that the whole Houshold did believe and were Baptized: And we find often in the Gospel of Believing Families, and indeed there is a greater Blessing of God upon a Family, where the Governours are Believers, than we are aware of: A Blessing, I say, upon the Family: That let there be any Governour, or any that is a Son of Peace, the Family is the better for it; God many times will spare them the rather, because of them. In Isa. 65. 8. Thus saith the Lord, as the new Wine is found in the Cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a Blessing is in it: So will I do for my Servants sake, that I may not Destroy them all. Many times in a place where there are a great many Ungodly ones, yet if there be but a few that are Godly, as the new Wine in the Cluster, the Lord saith, Destroy it not, for a Blessing is in it. There are some good Grapes there, though a great many Rotten ones; and a Blessing is in it, and therefore Destroy it not: So saith God many times of a Family, where there are some good ones, Destroy it not, saith God, for a Blessing is in this Family. It is very observable, that which we read concerning the House of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 14. 10. compared with ver. 13. In ver. 10. There the Lord Threatens, that He will bring Evil upon the House of Jeroboam, and will Cut off from Jeroboam, &c. Well, but this must not come presently, the Lord would not presently bring the Evil upon them; but He would stay till He had taken away one out of the Family, ver. 12, 13. Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own House; and when thy feet enter into the City, the Child shall die. And all Israel shall Mourn for him and Bury him: For he only of Jeroboam shall come to the Grave, because in him is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in Page 204 the House of Jeroboam. Mark, How God takes notice of any in a wicked Family: If there be but any one, a Child, that hath some good thing in it; because but some good thing, the Lord takes special Notice of such a one in the Family. Therefore, though his House should be Destroyed, yet this Child must be taken away first, Because in him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel. Mark, It is but some good thing, and towards the Lord God of Israel, and a Child; but this was in the House of Jeroboam. Let there be but a Child that hath some good thing in a wick∣ed Family, the Lord takes special Notice of it, and there may come a Blessing upon the Family, even for the sake of such a one.
The Reason of it is,* Because if there be any in a Fa∣mily that Entertains the Gospel, there the Lord hath the Glory of His Name, that He doth most rejoyce in. It cannot but please the Lord to have the Glory of His Name to be owned in a Family, and held forth: And if there be but any one in a Family that shall Entertain the Gospel, who knows what good such a one may do. If there be one in a Family to hold forth Christ, here is a Way and Means to draw others, to the Love of Christ. If God Convert the Husband, he may draw the Wife; or if God Convert the Wife, she may draw the Husband, 1 Cor. 7. 16. For what knowest thou, O Wife, whether thou shalt save thy Husband? Or how knowest thou, O Man, whether thou shalt save thy Wife? It is spoken in the Case of Unbelievers, where one was an Unbeliever, and the other God had Converted: And in that Case, the Question was, Whether they were to stay one with another, one being an Infidel, and the other a Believer? Yea, saith the Apostle, For what knowest thou, O Wife, Page 205 whether thou shalt save thy Husband? Or thou, O Hus∣band, whether thou shalt save thy Wife? And so, I say, What knowest thou, O Child, whether thou mayest save thy Brother, or Sister? Or thou, O Servant, whe∣ther thou mayest save thy Fellow-Servant? And if thou be so, then how vile are they that shall Malign and Op∣pose, Scorn and Contemn, any in a Family, when God doth begin to work any good upon them? We know it is ordinary, That if the Lord begins to strike one Soul in a Family, the Child, or the Servant, with some Work of His Spirit, that they begin to Inquire after the things of God, and to Entertain the things of the Gospel, his Brother will scorn him, or Sister, or Fellow-Servant will deride him: Perhaps his Master that Lov'd him be∣fore, will now Hate him, and be ready upon all occasi∣ons to shew Displeasure against him. Yea, perhaps the very Father, out of whose Loyns the poor Child comes, will deride him: What shall we have of you now? O, you are grown so Precise, that now you will be Spoil'd, and good for nothing: And so perhaps the Mother, out of whose Womb it came, will now Hate it. But, O thou wretched Parent, thou shouldest rather Bless God, that God begins to work in thy Family, that He begins to work upon one that came out of thy Loyns; for thou do'st not know, but that this Child may do thy Soul goood. Thou wert the means for the Natural life of it, who knows but God intends to make this Child to be a means for thy Eternal Life. And so wretched Master and Mistress in a Family, that shall less regard a Servant when God begins to work upon their Hearts, than you did before. And you, whom God is pleased to begin to Reveal the Blessed things of the Gospel to, and to give your Hearts to Entertain them, and yet you Page 206 Live in wicked Families; Do you Labour to be Bles∣sings to the Family: Improve what God hath given you, for the good of the Family. And do you Walk so, as to manifest the Power of the Gospel, that your Souls doth Entertain, that you may Live convincingly in the Family where you Live? And though they do Hate and Scorn you for the present, yet with your humble Walk∣ing, they may be forced to say, Verily God is Working upon this Servant, and God is Working upon this Child. It should be the Care of Children, or Servants, or Wives, or Husbands, that live among such as are Wicked, when God begins to Work upon them, they must be ve∣ry careful to hold forth the Glory, and Beauty of the Gospel in their Lives, to Convince those that they Live withal. And you that are in such a Family, if God doth begin to stir any in the Family, do you Improve them to the uttermost you can: And howsoever you may think there is little in it, yet when God begins to stir the Heart of one, Salvation may be come to the House; and the Lord doth expect that you should Improve that Work of His upon your own Hearts, or otherwise your Consciences will Terrifie you another day. O, I saw God working upon my Fellow-Servant, or Brother, or Si∣ster, but I neglected it, otherwise my Soul might have had good. And so much for that Note: If the Son of Peace be there, your Peace shall rest upon it: That is, up∣on the Family.
The last Note is, Go, saith Christ, and into whatsoe∣ver House, or City you enter, do thus and thus: And if the Son of Peace be there, your Peace shall rest upon it. That is, You shall be made an Instrument of good unto them, so as to bring the glorious Peace of the Gospel un∣to them. From whence the Note is this:
Page 207 That it is a great Encouragement to the Ministers of the Gospel,* to think what abundance of good they may do, if God shall be but pleased to Bless their Ministry. Christ did foretel both His Disciples and Apostles, that they were like to have hard Work of it, in the Carrying of His Name abroad in the World: But for their En∣couragement, He tells them this; Go your way and Preach, and if there be any Son of Peace, your Peace shall rest upon it. As if He should say, You shall be made a glorious Instrument of doing good unto them, and let this be your Encouragement: And, indeed, it is a great Encouragement for any Minister of God, to Venture his very Life, and to do or Suffer any thing in the World; though but upon this Supposition, That if God shall be pleased but to Bless my Ministry, then the Lord shall make me an Instrument to bring Peace to that place, even Peace between God and their Souls; to be the Means to Convey all the good unto them, that Jesus Christ hath Purchased by His Blood. This seem'd to be the En∣couragement that God gave to Jeremiah, in Chap. 36. And that was in another kind, Jeremiah was to go and reveal the Threats of God; but Mark what his Encou∣ragement was, in ver. 3. It may be that the House of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them, that they may return every man from his evil way, that I may forgive their Iniquity and their Sin. Saith the Lord to Jeremiah, Go about this Work, though it be a hard Work, and let this be your Encouragement: It may be: Though but upon a may be; The House of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them, that they may return every man from his evil way, that I may for∣give their Iniquity and their Sin.
Now if this were Jeremiah's Encouragement, surely a Page 208 greater Encouragement it is for a Minister to go and Preach the Gospel upon a meer May be, that there are some that shall Entertain the Gospel. And we find it was Paul's Encouragement, in divers Scriptures as I might shew you, but that's most Notable, in 2 Tim. 1. 10. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath Abolished Death, and hath brought Life and Immortality to Light through the Gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a Preacher, and an Apostle, and a Teacher of the Gentiles. Mark, saith He, The Gospel reveals Jesus Christ, who hath Abolished Death, and hath brought Life and Immortality to light: And, saith he, God hath appointed me to be a Teacher of this, For the which Cause, I also suffer these things. I am content to go on in this Work of the Gospel what∣soever I suffer. What, Is this the Errand that I am sent about, to go and Preach the Gospel, that brings Life and Immortality to light? Let me Suffer what can be, I am content to go on in this Work: O, It is a glorious Errand that I am sent about! If it please God I speed but upon one Soul, O, it were worth my Life. So the excellent Fruit that should come upon the Entertainment of the Gospel, is here given to these Disciples for their Encouragement in the Ministry. Now what is it that should Encourage the Heart of a Minister in his Work, more than these Three things.
First, That he shall be an Instrument to glorifie God. Secondly, An Instrument to do good to Souls. Third∣ly, He shall have a Crown of Glory so much the more. These Three things are the greatest Encouragements in the World, to any gracious Heart.
First, That he shall be an Instrument of the Glory of God. For one to live to be Instrumental of the Glory of Page 209 God must needs make his Life comfortable, whatsoever he suffer. Now there can be no such Glory that any Creature can be made a greater Instrument of, than the Glory that God hath from Souls that are Sav'd by Jesus Christ. It is the highest Glory that God hath from all His Creatures, that there should be some Souls that should understand Jesus Christ, that should admire at Him, should glorifie God in Jesus Christ. It is the highest Glory that God doth Injoy in Heaven, next unto the Glory that He hath in Himself, and in His Son; that is, in the Trinity: But for the Glory that He hath, Ab ex∣tra, from His Creatures, that is the highest Glory that ever God had, or shall have. Now for the Lord to make a Man to be an Instrument of this, To bring some Souls to be Eternally Glorifying God for Jesus Christ: O, It is worth all a Mans Strength, though he should short∣en his Life Seven Years; yet if there be but One or Two Souls brought by his Ministry, that shall Injoy the good things in Christ, this is well worth the Labour and Pains. For, indeed, in this the Lord doth honour Men more than Angels: The Lord hath not put the Angels in Heaven, upon such an Honourable work as this, to be the Embassadors of God and Christ, for Reconcilia∣tion: The Lord hath not committed the Word of Re∣conciliation to Angels, to go and Preach that in an Ordi∣nary way: They are not Deputed by Christ, to be as His Officers. We never read of any such thing in the Word of God, though they be sometimes Appointed to be Ministring Spirits for the good of Gods Elect, to Help them, to Comfort them, to Avenge them of their Ene∣mies; but we never read that the Word of Reconciliati∣on was Committed to them, and to the Ministers of the Gospel: And therefore there is no such Glory that they Page 210 can bring to God, as the Lord is Pleased to make Man to be an Instrument of. In this the Lord doth Ho∣nour Man more than the Angels, that he shall be Ap∣pointed to be the great Ordinance under Jesus Christ, for the bringing of Souls unto Jesus Christ; and so the bringing of them to Magnifie the Infinite Riches of the Grace of God in Christ, to all Eternity. Now, Is not this worth any ones Labour and Life? O what Encou∣ragement is this, whatsoever one suffers in it.
Secondly, Can there be next unto this, a greater En∣couragement, than to be an Instrument of good to our Brethren, of good to Mankind? Those are the most happy Men in the World, that are the most Useful for Mankind, that the Lord shall be Pleased to make Use of, for the good of Mankind; and therefore it should Teach all to be as Serviceable as they can to others. For the Happiness and the true Comfort of a Mans Life, it doth not depend in this, That he can get an Estate, and go Brave and Fine, and Eat and Drink of the best; but it is in this, That the Lord will make him useful in his place, an Instrument of good to others. It is a very Comfortable thing for any, that are Chief in a place where they Live, that the Lord makes them Instruments of the Civil good of the places where they are: Of the good of the People for their Bodies, to keep them in Peace and Order: But to be Appointed by God to be an Instrument of Soul-good, of Eternal good; this is a higher Priviledge that God doth grant in His Mercy to some. And it might be a mighty Encouragement, the Considering of this. What saith Saint James, speaking to Christians to Encourage them to Labour to do good to their Brethren: Brethren, If any of you do erre from the Truth, and one Convert him, Let him know that he Page 211 which Converteth a sinner from the Errour of his Way, shall save a Soul from Death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Let him know, saith he, that he that Converteth a sinner from the Errour of his Way, Let him know: What shall he know? That he shall save a Soul from Death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Though it may be, he takes a great deal of Pains, and suffers much in it; yet for his Encouragement, Let him know that he shall save a Soul, and hide a multitude of sins.
Further, If the other should not be a sufficient Encou∣ragement, yet for his own good; many times there is much Self in the hearts of the best Ministers. Now there is these Two things that cannot but follow, if the Lord Bless their Ministry, to bring the Peace of the Gos∣pel to any Soul.
First, Such a Soul will Bless God for him. Now for a man to be so in the Hearts of the Saints of God, as that he should have them Bless the Lord for him, and Bless the time that ever he saw him: Blessed be the Lord, and Blessed be thou; as David said to Abigail, when it did but hinder him in one sin by her Counsel. But now, If so be the Lord doth Bless the Ministry of the Gospel to any, so that the Peace of Jesus Christ comes to the Soul, there is not the hinderance of one sin, but of multi∣tudes; and there is the obtaining of the Pardon of all sins: And therefore how much more Cause have they to say, Blessed be God, and Blessed be thou, and Bles∣sed be thy Counsel, and Blessed be thy Ministry: Here's a great Encouragement in this, They through whose Ministry Souls comes to be Blessed, they will Bless them, and Bless God for them.
And further, At the great Day of Jesus Christ, they shall have abundance of Joy in those that God made them Instrumental of good unto. In Phil. 2. you have Page 212 a Notable Text for that, saith the Apostle, in way of Exhortation to the Philippians, to hold forth the Word of Life, in ver. 16. Holding forth the Word of Life, that I may rejoyce in the Day of Christ; that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain: Saith he, If you do thus and thus, and shew forth the Power of the Grace of God, that God hath been pleased to Bless my Mini∣stry. If you do so, why then I shall rejoyce. O, do you shew forth the Power and Efficacy of the Ministry of the Gospel, of that Ministry of mine upon you: Why? That I may rejoyce in the Day of Christ, that I have not Run in vain, neither Laboured in vain: So that where the Ministry of the Gospel is Blessed to any People, there those Ministers being Faithful themselves, shall rejoyce in the Day of Jesus Christ, that they have not Run in vain.
Therefore to Wind this up, It should be one strong Motive to People, to Imbrace the Ministry of the Gospel, even for the Encouragement of those whom the Lord doth send among them, that they may be willing to draw forth their Hearts, and to venture their Lives among them. As, certainly, not one Man of Forty, of a Hundred scarce, that should Preach to such a Con∣gregation as this, but must expect a Venturing of his Life in it: But lot this Message be but Entertain'd, it will be thought to be throughly Recompenced. For it will be a Joy to those that do Venture themselves among you: It will be a Joy in the Day of Jesus Christ, that they have not Run in vain. But we leave that Point, and come to the last Part of the Text.
If the Son of Peace be there, your Peace shall rest upon it: But what if not? If not, it shall turn to you again.
Page 213 O, that this should be heard, If not: This is a sad Supposition indeed, If not. What shall the Lord send Embassadors of Peace? The Lord from Heaven send to His poor Creatures the Ministry of His Gospel, and offer Peace between their Souls and Himself, Purchased by the Blood of His Son: And shall it be said, If not? If there be any that will not Imbrace it? Is it possible that Jesus Christ, wheresoever He comes, should not be Entertain'd? Truly, this very Supposition that there should be a Possibility for any Soul to whom Christ is Revealed, ever to reject; doth Argue the extream sinfulness of the Hearts of Men. O, Woe to us that such a thing should be supposed as possible, If not: That Christ should come to any place and should not be En∣tertain'd: What, that the Ministry of the Gospel should come and be Rejected, when as it is nothing else but the bringing of the Message of Peace to a People, between God and them. They may think, perhaps, that it comes to trouble them: But the Truth is, The Errand of all the Ministers of the Gospel among People, it is no other in the Conclusion, and in the Issue, but to bring Eternal Peace to their Souls: And shall this be Rejected? Sometimes it is so. Now in this we have these Three things.
First, A sad Supposition, that sometimes the Ministry of the Gospel comes where it is rejected by some.
Secondly, The Encouragement of Ministers in this Case: Christ doth not only Encourage them in case their Ministry prevails, that then they shall be Instruments of so much good to Souls; but He doth Encourage them in case it doth not prevail. As if the Disciples should say, I indeed, If our Ministry prevails that we may bring Peace to Souls, we have enough: But what if not? It shall return to you again.
Page 214 And then, Thirdly, A dreadful Denunciation against all those that do not Entertain the Gospel: And that is, That they shall have no Benefit of the Peace of the Gos∣pel: That the Ministry of the Gospel shall be taken from them, and that God will be very Quick in His dealings with them.
Now then at this time for the First.
First, If not: This sad Supposition. From hence the Point of Doctrine, or Note of Observation, is this:
That the Gospel doth sometimes go to places,* the Mi∣nistery of the Gospel is sometimes sent to places where it is rejected by Men: As before, If the Son of Peace, that supposes that where God doth send the Gospel, there are some Sons of Peace. So, If not; here's a Supposi∣on that the Ministry of the Gospel, may be sent to a place, and yet there may be some that will reject this blessed Ministery. You know what is said of Christ him∣self, And well then may it be said of them he sends to Preach: When Christ Himself came to his own John 1. his own received him not: His own, Those that he had a pe∣cular right in, the People of the Jews; even such as were the only people that did profess the true God up∣on the face of the Earth: I beseech you observe it, When Jesus Christ came into the World, there was but a hand∣full of people upon the face of the Earth, that did so much as profess the worship of the true God, but the generallity of all the world, except a little Country of Ca∣naan, that was a matter of Fourscore Miles one way, and but a very little another way; except that little Country, there was none upon the face of the Earth but worshipped the Devil; went according to the Immaginations of their own hearts, did not so much as acknowledge God in his worship; onely I say, there was a little handful of Page 215 people in Canaan, and they were the children of Abraham, and Christ came to them, they were his own; you would think surely if Christ comes to them, seeing all the World else are Idolaters, they will entertain him. No, when Christ came Himself, the Blessed Son of God ta∣king our nature upon him, who was the Brightness of the Glory of his Father; yet his own did not receive him. And we find it said directly, that Christ in his Ministery, in Luke 2. should be for a Stumbling-block to many, in ver. 34. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his Mother, Behold, this Child is set for the Fall and Rising again of many in Israel, and for a Sign which shall be spoken against. You have little cause therefore to be Discouraged, because you are spoken against. And we find that Christ Himself Preaching what poor Entertainment He had, no Marvel then, if this Suppo∣sition be concerning His Disciples: If not. It may pos∣sibly be, that some will not receive your Ministry? Do but observe what Entertainment Christ Himself had sometimes, when He went to Preach Himself, in Luke 4. 29. You have there the History of a most Excellent Sermon, that Jesus Christ Preached; and when He had done His Sermon, do but see what requital He had, as soon as He had done, the Text saith, And all they in the Synagogue when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the City, and led him unto the brow of the Hill (whereon their Ci∣ty was built) that they might cast him down headlong. They sought to break his neck as soon as he had done, so that you see how he came to his own and his own re∣ceived him not. And in Luke 16. 14: there you shall see his Entertainment; upon another Sermon, the Text saith, And the Pharisees also who were Covetous, heard all these Page 216 things: And what then? And they derided Him. The Greek word is, They blew their. Noses at Him: They Snuffled in their Noses at Him: They Scorned Him, as we express Scorn and Contempt, by Blowing the Nose. This is the Propriety of the Word that in your English is Translated, They derided Him. And who were these? The Pharisees, that were the most seeming Righteous Men that did live; and the greatest Scholars, and those that Liv'd the most Honestly among Men. And why did they deride Him? But only because they were Co∣vetous. You shall have, not only Covetous Men, but any who live in a way of sin, if the Ministry of the Word comes against that sin, they will secretly Scorn and Contemn the Word: Thus they did to Christ.
And St. Paul, you may see when he came to Preach the Gospel, what Entertainment he had: St. Paul, he was the most Famous Preacher that ever Liv'd upon the Face of the Earth, next unto Jesus Christ. Austine had three Wishes, and one of them was: That he might have seen Paul in the Pulpit, and heard him Preach; be∣cause he was a Man of such an admirable Spirit. But I shall shew you what Entertainment the Preaching of Paul had, who was such an admirable Preacher. There are a great many Scriptures to shew the hard Entertainment that Paul had, in Acts 13. 44, 45. And the next Sabboth Day, came almost the whole City together to hear the Word of God. There was a strange Preacher came among them, and there came a mighty Company, the whole City; that is, the Generality of the City came together to hear the Word of God. But mark, in ver. 45. But when the Jews saw the Multitude, they were filled with Envie, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, Contradicting, and Blaspheming. Just thus it Page 217 was with the Jews, they were filled with Envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, Contradicting and Blaspheming. It were endless to shew you all his hard Entertainment, how he was put in the Prison, and in the Stocks, and Whipt, as if he had been a very Rogue; when as, ever since the World began, the Lord had never a more Glorious Instrument, to shew forth His Praise; and yet he was Whipt up and down like a Rogue, and scarce a Ragg to hang upon his Back; he was accounted the Off-scowring of the World. But there is a most Notable thing about Pauls Ministry, if you Compare two Scriptures together, in Acts 16. 9. with what follows: And a Vision appeared to Paul in the Night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us. Paul had a mighty strong Call to go and Preach to Macedonia, he had a Vision by Night. And it was not a Delusion, but even the Voice of God which did call to Paul, Come over to Macedonia and help us: Therefore, saith the Text, Immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering, that the Lord had Called us for to Preach the Gospel unto them. We were sure that God had Called us, and this was a very strong Call. Now you will say, What Paul? Such a Preacher, and had such a strong Call: Certainly, he would prevail with them all, and bring them all Home. But, Mark, what the Suc∣cess of Pauls Ministry was, in ver. 12. And from thence to Philippy, which is the Chief City of that part of Mace∣donia, and a Colony: And we were in that City, abiding certain dayes. Here's no mention of any Fruit of his Ministry: There we sat certain dayes, to wait what op∣portunity we might have to Preach the Gospel there. And in ver. 13. And on the Sabboth, we went out of the Page 218 City by a Rivers side, where Prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the Women which Re∣sorted thither. Mark, It seems he had no Opportunity to Preach in the City, they had no mind to hear him: But, saith he, on the Sabboth-day we went out of the City by the Rivers side, and we sat down and spake to the Women: There were but a Company of poor Wo∣men, the great ones of the City, they would not come; but a Company of Women came to us, and yet Paul had this mighty Call of God. And when he comes to the chief City of Macedonia, he was forced to go out of the City if he would Preach; and there comes a few Wo∣men, and among these Women, saith the Text, ver. 14. A certain Woman named Lydia, a Seller of Purple, of the City of Thyatira, which Worshipped God, heard us: Whose Heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. Here's the fruit of his Ministry, A certain Woman. Among them all, none but the Women would come: And among these Wo∣men, there was a certain Woman, one poor Woman cal∣led Lydia, and it pleased God to open her Heart: Cer∣tainly, If God had opened the Hearts of any other, they would have been mentioned as well. And you shall find that Paul had very ill Entertainment among the rest of the Multitude, ver. 22. And the Multitude rose up to∣gether against them (see what Entertainment he had) and the Magistrates Rent off their Clothes, and Command∣ed to Beat them. And when they had laid many Stripes upon them, they cast them into Prison, charging the Jay∣ler to keep them safely. Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the Inner Prison, and made their Feet fast in the Stocks. Here's the Man that had such a migh∣ty Call of God by a Vision from Heaven, and yet you Page 219 see how his Ministry doth prevail. Thus you see, that the Gospel may be sent to Places, and that by a strange Work of Gods Providence, and yet a very few Imbrace it; yea, it may be Rejected by the greatest part. I might shew unto you Examples of the same kind: And just as it was with the Apostles, so it was with the Pro∣phets. As those Three Famous Prophets, Isaiah, Jere∣miah, and Ezekiel. See the working of Isaiah's Ministry, in Isa. 53. Who hath believed our Report, and to whom is the Arm of the Lord Revealed. We come and Preach things to the People, and they come and hear us, and think they are very strange things that they hear the Minister say, but they do not believe it. Who doth believe it? Yea, you know that the Lord doth Complain, that He did streach out His Hands even all the Day, Isa. 65. 2. I have spread out my Hands all the Day, unto a Rebellious People, which Walketh in a Way that is not good, after their own Thoughts. I spread out my Hands: That is, I come in my Ministry, saith God by His Prophet, and I there open the Arms of my Mercy, and open the Riches of my Grace to their Souls; but they Walk in Wayes that are not good. And what Wayes were they? According to their own Thoughts. Look what their own Thoughts are, and what is most pleasing to them. They more regard their own Thoughts, than all those Blessed and Glorious Truths, that are made known unto them in the Ministry of the Word.
And as for Jeremiah you have it in Chap. 20. ver. 8. you have very strange kind of Expressions about him: Since I spake, I cried out, I cried Violence and Spoil, be∣cause the Word of the Lord was made a Reproach unto me, and a Derision daily. O the Word of the Lord was made a Reproach and a Derision to Jeremiah.
Page 220 And for Ezekiel, do but read Chap. 2. of that Pro∣phesie, and there you shall find, that God tells him be∣fore-hand, that He did send him to a Rebellious House; yea, God told him that he should Live among Bryars and Thorns. And yet it is observable, That this Prophet Ezekiel, did Prophesie in the time of their Captivity, was sent unto the People of Israel, when they were in Captivity. One would have thought, that in the time of their Affliction, that if ever they would have attend∣ed to the Word of the Lord, then they would. No: But in the time when they were in Captivity, when God had fulfilled the words that were Threatned by the for∣mer Prophets; though they saw how God had made good His Words by the former Prophets, yet they con∣tinued a Rebellious People. O this was an extream thing! It was not so much for them to reject Jeremiah, that did Prophesie of their Captivity; I, he tells us of nothing but Judgments, but we hope God is a more Merciful God; and upon that perhaps they rejected Him, I, but surely when they were in Captivity, now they should, one would have thought, acknowledged that to the Lord belongs Glory, but to us nothing but Shame and Confusion. No: But yet their Hearts con∣tinued hard, as a Brick in the Fire, it is harder for the Fire; and so were their Hearts in the time of their Af∣fliction. I shall not need to Instance in any further par∣ticulars, it is clear that God sends the Ministry of the Gospel to places sometimes, where it may be it will be rejected. Now for the Opening of the Point, there are these Two things I intended.
First, How it comes to pass that it is Rejected, or why Men do Reject the Gospel.
Secondly, What's the Reason that God will send it Page 221 to those places, that He knows before-hand that it will not be Entertain'd.
The Lord sends the Ministry of Peace, the Offer of Peace by Jesus Christ to Souls, and yet they do not re∣gard it, but cast it off. Because indeed, First, The ge∣nerallity of People, they do not know God, they do not know that they have to deal with an Infinite and Glorious God in all their wayes; they do not know whom it is that they have sinned against, and therefore do not understand their danger; and upon this the Ministry of the Gospel is but a dry thing unto them: Whereas, did but the Souls of Men and Women, understand what an Infinite and a Glorious Majesty, they had to deal with∣al; and thereby what a dreadful thing it is, to have the Wrath of God to be revealed to their Souls, they would hearken to the Ministry of the Word. That this is the Reason, it appears, in John 15. 20, 21. Saith Christ to his Disciples, Remember the Word that I said unto you, The Servant is not greater than the Lord: If they have Persecuted me, they will also Pesecute you: If they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also: But now, Mark, ver. 21. But all these things will they do unto you for my Names sake, because they know not Him that sent me. Here's the Reason why they will do thus unto you, they will be far from entertaining of you, but will ra∣ther oppose you: Why? Because they know not Him that sent me. As if He should say, Did they but know Him that sent me, did they but know what a God the Lord is, what the Father is, what an Infinite Majesty, and dreadful Deity they have to deal withal; did they but understand that, certainly they would not cast you out: But they will not entertain you, Because they know not Him that sent me.
Page 222 Secondly, There is nothing that doth discover more the Vileness of sin, than the Gospel. O the Gospel be∣ing Preached aright, (I say) nothing in the World can discover the hainousness of sin, the Vileness, the Abomi∣nable Nature of sin, more than the Gospel. All the Ter∣rors of the Law, and the Curses of the Law, cannot discover so much of the dreadfulness of the Evil of sin, as the Gospel: And we know that Men that love their sin, cannot endure that which doth discover the Evil of it.
But you will say, How doth the Gospel discover so much of the Evil of sin?
Certainly, You may see more of the evil of sin, by the Ministry of the Gospel, than by the dreadful Threats of the Law: For the Gospel shews that sin makes such a dreadful Breach between God and the Creature, that only the Son of God made Man, and put under a Curse, can make up the Breach again: In the Red-glass of the Blood of Jesus Christ, that is Preached to you in the Mini∣stry of the Gospel the evil of sin, is more fully discerned, than in the bright Crystal-glass of the Law; that doth dis∣cover somewhat, but this shews you more: It shews you that those beloved sins of yours that you have Imbrac'd, and have had a great deal of Sweetness and Gain by, O they are such Snakes and Vipers in your Bosom, as makes such a Breach between God and your Soul; that only the Son of God, paying an Infinite price for the Sa∣tisfying for these, can take away from you.
And further, The Gospel doth discover more to Debase a Man, than any thing can possibly be Imagined: There is nothing that doth more discover that which may Abase Men, and bring them Low, and make them Vile in their own Eyes, than the Gospel. Why? The Gos∣pel Page 223 doth shew unto them, that they are by Nature the Enemies to God. It is the Gospel doth discover that, because it is the Doctrine of Reconciliation, and it doth discover, that all a Mans Righteousness is nothing, his own Righteousness is nothing in point of Salvation, for Justification; that whatsoever Righteousness a Man hath by common Gifts, by his good Nature, it will not serve his turn in the Day of Jesus Christ, he may perish notwithstanding: It takes a Man off from all his Civil Righteousness, and so makes him to be as a vile wretch∣ed Creature before the Lord, and one that must lie up∣on meer pure Mercy, or else must perish to all Eternity: whatsoever he thought himself, he must be taken from his own bottom, even from that which his Soul Im∣brac'd, and was as dear unto him as his own Soul, he must be taken from all: O now, this is a hard saying, and who can bear it.
The Gospel doth teach Self-denial, that we must de∣ny our own Excellency, every beloved Lust, and to be nothing in a Mans own Eyes. I, indeed, it is the first Lesson of the Gospel; saith Christ, If any man will fol∣low me, let them deny themselves. Now Men naturally are Proud and Haughty, and what, for them to come and appear before the Lord as vile wretched Caitiffs in themselves, and to have all their Righteousness to be counted as filthy Rags; now to see that they must be Sav'd by a Righteousness that is above them, and beyond them, and without them: O this is very hard.
The Gospel requires Conditions that are very hard to Flesh and Blood, that we must be willing to Sell and part with all for Christ, as the wise Merchant did.
And besides, It is a very high Mystery, a thing that is above the reach of any Natural Man living; and Peo∣ple Page 224 Generally are of Slight, Vain, and Proud Spirits. Now being partly Slight and Vain, and partly Proud, they will not bend their Minds to dive into those things that they are not presently able to read. It is that My∣stery that the Angels do stoop down to pry into, and it requires a great deal of pains to behold the Glory of God in it. Now the Vain, and Drossy, and Proud hearts of Men and Women, they pass it over lightly, because they see no present need of it: They Thrive and injoy their Estates, and they are well enough for the Flesh; and all things that are Savory to them, they have ac∣cording to their hearts desire; and what need have they to trouble themselves. Many other things might be named, to shew that when the Gospel comes to places, why it is not entertained.
Quest. But you will say, Why doth God send it, God knows it will not be entertain'd; it is not with God as it is with us, to go to a place at paradventures? It is said, If they hear them: There can be no Ifs with God, God knows every thing. Now if God knows that be∣fore a Man comes, it will not be entertain'd, why doth God send it?
Answ. 1. To that I Answer, First, That Gods Wayes and Judgments are Unsearchable, and past finding out in this thing. For, indeed, there is nothing wherein God doth appear more Wonderful in His Wayes and Judg∣ments, past finding out, than in this, in sending the Gos∣pel sometimes to a place, where He sees it will not pre∣vail; and denies it to another place, where He sees that if it were among them, it would be likely more to pre∣vail. You will say, This is strange; and yet this is cer∣tain. This is the Administrations of God, that some∣times God denies the Gospel to a place where He doth Page 225 see, that if He sent it they would Entertain it more, and sends it to another place where He sees they will not En∣tertain it. Now to make this out by Scripture, that Text is clear for it, in Mat. 11. 21. Wo unto thee, Cho∣razin, Wo unto thee, Bethsaida, for if the mighty Works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sy∣don, they would have Repented long ago in Sack-cloth and Ashes. It is a strange Speech, almost as any one that is in Scripture: Here's Chorazin, and Bethsaida, have the Gospel sent to them, and they did not Entertain it: Saith Christ, If the Works that were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sydon, they would have Repented, and yet I denied it to them, and sent it to you. Now there can be no Reason given of this, but only this: The Judg∣ments of God are unsearchable, and His Wayes past finding out; Gods Mercies are His own, the Gospel is His own, and He will send it where He pleases.
Secondly, But then, Secondly, The Lord sends His Gospel: For though perhaps it be rejected for the generallity, yet there may some one Soul Entertain it, among a People that shall so much reject it, and for the sake of that one, God may send it: God may send Ministers to a Congre∣gation, to spend their very Heart, and Strength, and Life, and it may be may intend some one or two Souls, that are as unlikely as others; perhaps some one or two poor Servant or Child, and it is worth the Life of any Man, if he may be Blest to call home one or two in his Life time. You know the Lord lets it Rain, and the Intendment of the Rain, it is to Water the Earth; but abundance of it falls upon Tiles, and Stones, but like∣wise it falls upon your Beds in your Gardens, and the Intendment, I say, is for the benefit of the Ground. So the Ministry of the Gospel, Gods chief Intent is for Page 226 the good of Souls, though God causes the Ministry of it to be generally: The Gospel is Preached to Congre∣gations, and for the generallity it doth but as it were Rain upon the Tiles and Stones; I, but there are some Beds that have some good Seeds in them, and God In∣tends them. If you water your Gardens in these dry times, you aim at the Herbs, but yet the Water will fall among the Weeds: So the Lord He Aims at His Herbs and Flowers, though the Gospel be dispensed to others.
Thirdly, Though God sees there be none for the pre∣sent, yet God layes in for time to come: God will send His Gospel to a place, though He sees this Generation will get no good by it; and God may Intend the good of the Generation that is to come, by sending His Mi∣nistry in this particular Generation; though He sees that they will not Entertain it, yet some that may come after them, may Entertain it. As they say in China, they prepare Work for many Hundred years before: The Parents they are preparing Work for their Children to enjoy. And so the Lord layes In, in one Generation, for the Children that are coming after, and therefore whether you Entertain it or no, God notwithstanding will have His End accomplisht.
Fourthly, Another Reason why God sends His Gos∣pel, where He knows it will not be Entertain'd by the Generallity, it is this, To leave Men wholly without Excuse. I may put these two together, To discover the Abominable sinfulness of the Hearts of Men, and to leave them wholly without Excuse. There is nothing in the World that doth discover the sinfulness of Mans Heart, more than this, That when the Lord sends this Gospel among them, yet it is rejected. The Preaching of any Moral Truths, do nothing so much argue the Page 227 sinfulness of Mans Heart in the rejection of them, as when the Gospel is Preached, and that is rejected. That argues the Abominable wickedness of Mans Heart, yea, for ought we know, more than is in the very Devil. We do not know that there is so much Perversness in any of the Devils in Hell, as there is in the Heart of that Man that doth reject the Ministry of the Gospel. And why? Because God never tried them, God never put it to trial, to offer any Terms of Peace to them, and never told them that He would be Reconcil'd to them upon any Terms: And therefore whether they have such perverseness of heart or no, it is not discovered so as thine is. But if thou Livest where the Ministry of the Gospel is Preached, and yet continuest wicked and un∣godly, thou art discovered to have that wickedness in thy Heart; that for ought thou knowest, it is beyond the wickedness of any Devil in Hell. The Devils might say, Lord, hadst thou offered Terms of Peace to us, we would not have so rejected it: And then it doth leave Men utterly without Excuse. I do not say, that this is Gods primary Intention, but this comes in: Why, the Lord doth suffer the Gospel to be Preached, to leave them wholly without Excuse. And for that, you have that Text in the fore-named place, John 15. 22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: But now have they no Cloak for their sin. Sin: Why are there any Men in the World that have no sin? Why, did Christ coming bring sin to them? It did not add sin, but it did Discover their sin, and it took away their Cloak for their sin: Now upon my coming to them, and when they shall reject me, and the offer of Grace that I bring from my Father; now they have sin to purpose, now their sin is of a Scarlet Colour, now they have no Plea, Page 228 they cannot say, Lord, if thou hadst sent to us, to Reveal to us thy Mercy, and the danger of our sin. The danger of your sin, may God say: Did not I send those to you that did Preach, that nothing but the Heart Blood of my Son, could pacifie for your sin. Could there have been any thing more to reveal the evil of your sin, than this was? O now you have no Excuse at all for your sin.
Fifthly, Another Reason is this, which is one of the chief: That the Lord might cause all those hereby that do not entertain the Gospel, to see the Freeness of His Grace towards them. A poor Soul that the Lord is pleased to work upon by the Gospel, hath no cause to attribute any thing to himself: There are others, and such a Multitude of People, more Learned than I, and Men and Women that had greater parts than I, they had the Gospel preached to them, and they do not see those things that the Lord hath Revealed to me: I can tell no Reason of this Difference, only Free-grace. And cer∣tainly, Those People whom God is pleased to make the Gospel effectual, upon the hearing of this Point, and seeing how it is Verified in the Examples of others; O they have cause to Cry out, Grace, Grace, to the Lord. What is there in me rather than others; as Proud, and Stout, and Vile Hearts as any; and we see the Gospel is rejected by them: and what reason is it that it is not so with me? John 14. 22. It's a speech of Judas, (not of him that betrayed Christ) Lord, How is it that thou Re∣vealest thy Self unto us, and not unto the World? Lord, We cannot devise how it should be, that thou shouldst Manifest thy Self to us, and not unto the World: We see that the World rejects Thee: O this is, that we may have the more Cause to Bless the Name of God here, and to Magnifie His Free-grace to all Eternity afterwards.