The SPRING of Strengthning Grace IN THE ROCK of AGES, Christ Jesus.
2 TIM. 2.1.
WEll might Solomon, among other of his Divine Oracles, publish this in the 30. verse of the 11. of the Proverbs, The righteous is as a tree of life, and he that wins souls is wise; and Daniel, who in Ezekiel was ranked amongst the chiefest of wise men,*They that be wise, and they that turn many to God,* (in Dan. 12.3.) they shall shine like stars: Paul likewise is a most glorious in∣stance of this, who took a great deal of pains (though he met with many crosses) in fishing for souls, he became all to all; (that is, in the use of indifferent things, not to venture upon any thing which is unlawful, as many wrest the place, to gra∣tifie their own lusts) that he might save some; Paul himself it seems did not expect to gain all he preached unto: doubtless this is a very high point of wisdom; for hereby they trade Page 2 most for Gods glory, and best for their own Eternal good, being glorified with him and by him: And I do not believe there is any that was a meer man, to say no more, that will bring more Troops, more Regiments of Children, such as have been victo∣rious Soldiers over the Devil and his Agents, at the day of Judgement, then Paul will; he will have a large flock, as Be∣hold,*here am I, and the children thou hast given me; and none of the meanest of these will be his Son Timothy, which leads me to the first part of the words,* The persons Exhorting and Exhorted; Paul the Father, and Timothy the Son: it may be a Son, not so much because he beg at him to the Faith; it is pro∣bable he found him a Disciple, for ought appears, in Acts 16.1. there the first time that I can remember that Paul met with Timothy, and there he calls him a Disciple; and you finde in 2 Tim. 1.5. how Paul blesseth God for the Faith that is in Timothy, which dwelt first in thy Grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; therefore he may be his Son rather in regard of his Spiritual Education, then by being begotten: As a Ma∣ster or a Tutor is a Father, though he did not beget his Chil∣dren,* his Pupils, or his Schollers, but onely train them up.
2. Here is the Exhortation: The substance of it, Be strong, as becomes a Soldier of Jesus Christ.
3. Here is the Rock of this strength, Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus: It is not by any intrinsecal strength, but in the grace that is in thy Head Christ Jesus.
4. Here is the Engaging illation; the particle, that com∣prizeth an Argument, that engageth him to it: Thou therefore, my son; Therefore, Why? because thou hast so great a trust committed to thee, Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Je∣sus: and That good thing which was committed to thee (ver. 14) keep, by the holy Ghost that dwelleth in us: Still he leads him to seek strength from above, Keep, by the holy Ghost.
*Be strong] 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, get something within, that may strengthen and enable thee to do thy work: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, be strong, be strengthned, passively, expect it from another; Strength is that which men glory in, and therefore very desireable.
But what strength?
Page 3In the grace] He doth not onely say, Be thou strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, as Ephes. 6.10. But in grace: indeed he ultimately intends a participation of strength, but withal intimates the original of that strength to be Grace; as if he should say, Thou standest in need of strengthning vertue in thee; all that strength must be derived from Grace, expect it from no external motive, without God himself (we have no arguments to move him to bestow strength upon us) it is his Prerogative Royal, peculiar to himself, to act independently,* to have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and Because he will have mercy, Rom. 9.15. Ephes. 1.4, 6, 9. All derived from grace, and resolved into grace.
And where lies this strengthning grace?
In the grace that is in Christ Jesus: very significantly, in the Original by the Article, indigitating Christ to be the Spring of thy strengthning grace.] God will not trust thee with grace in thy own keeping, lest thou prove a Bankrupt,* as Adam did; and thou wouldst soon grow intolerable proud, if thou wast able to act by thy own strength independently upon God (very hard to keep down that weed even now in thy most depending condition) therefore thy strength shall lie in Christs hands, and thou be at his disposal for the communication of it; so that thou shalt always have occasion to say, Lord, I cannot mortifie pride by the strength of my own humility, that often fails me: Lord, I cannot confute my unbelief by the strongest arguments my Faith can produce; I shall never be able to trample upon Satan, or keep up under his Temptations from sinking, without the strength and sufficiency of that grace which is in my Head Christ Iesus: Lord, make me strong by that Almighty grace which is in him.
That there is such a Spring of quickning grace in our Rock Christ Jesus, is evident;*Isa. 9.6. The Government is upon his shoulders, for the perfection of his Church, and many other good purposes, which require strength, which is hinted in the expression, On his shoulders.
Paul had a Commission to Preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephes. 3.8. to display his grace, which is like a Sea, you can finde no bounds, like a Spring, you cannot reach the Page 4bottom: The Sea of Christs grace (as in nature) flows from the Spring, and the Spring from the Sea; so there is no reason of grace, but grace it self.
This is to be acknowledged by all to be the deep mystery of God, and of the Father, and of the Son, in whom are hid all the tresures of wisdom and knowledge: The same blessed Apostle, Col. 2.2, 3. treasures therefore 1. Abundance, 2. of things of price, of wisdom and knowledge, which being directive as well as operative, impart strength: Hid, sometimes we hide things for secrecy, and so the life of a Saint may be hid from carnal, from godly spectators, yea from himself, and they droop un∣der doubts: So other things we hide for safety, so chiefly (though secrecy not excluded) Col. 3.2, 3. the life is hid with Christ in God, and here is security of the Saints, when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory; Shall, let Beelzebub and all his Angels do their worst, appear with him in glory.
Upon the same account doth this man of God, so intimately acquainted with Christ Iesus, in his Epistle to Philemon, ver. 6. pray for him,* That the communication of his Faith might be∣come effectual; there is his Faith, with the strength, and the efficacy of it, by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you in Christ Iesus: theres grace in Christ, and therefore derivatively in you, because originally in him.
I might hence gather several Observations; the first whereof might be this:
1. Doct. The Spring of a Christians strength is in the Rock Iesus Christ.
Exp•ic. Here you have three particulars, conducing to Ex∣plication of this Gospel-Truth.
1. The nature and proportion of this strengthning grace in Christ Jesus.
2. His title to it, and possession of it.
3. The sweet variety, and various sweetness of this strength∣ning grace in Christ.
First, for the nature and proportion of it, two things will clear it.
1. There is in Jesus Christ the fulness of grace.
He is a full fountain, and likewise an overflowing fountain: The more you contemplate Christ in the glorious glass of the Gospel, the sooner you will discover in him a Prophetical ful∣ness of strengthning grace;* and that both in regard of the strength of his Word, and in regard of the power of his Spi∣rit; both which are of great strength.
If you cast your eye upon the second Epistle of Paul to Ti∣mothy,* Chap. 3. ver. 15, 17. you shall finde that the holy Scri∣pture is able to make a man wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Iesus (there must be still an improvement of that strengthning grace which is in him) and likewise it is pro∣fitable, that the man of God may be perfect,*throughly furnish∣ed unto all good works. There is that in the word of Jesus Christ, which is able to compleat men as Saints, and as Mini∣sters, and therefore doubtless full of glorious strength.
And so likewise in regard of the Spirit,* hear what the Pro∣phet Micah saith, Chap. 3. ver. 8. But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgement, and of might, to declare unto Iacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. And when Jesus Christ did appear to Paul, Acts 26.13. to make him a Minister and a Witness, both of these things which he had seen, and in those things in the which he would appear to him, ver. 16. doubtless there was a powerful presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, abundance of strengthning grace to be conveyed by him, otherwise how could he possibly open their eyes to whom he was sent, ver. 18. to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may re∣ceive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (still they are led to the Spring of grace in Christ) now all these speak no less then an Almighty power.
You may perceive a fulness of strengthning grace in Christ,* as he is the Churches Priest; otherwise he could never make full satisfaction to his Fathers Justice: He could never so pre∣vailingly intercede for the Saints in Heaven,* which are the two Branches of his Priestly Office, when all the sins of his people met upon him (so it is in the Original) Isa.•3.6. they would Page 6 have sunk him, had he not had more then the strength of a man: Therefore that he might be a perfect Mediator between God and man, he was God-Man, taking Humane nature into the fellowship of the Deity, and communicating Divine nature unto those which he did intend to save: Hence Paul saith, Rom. 3.24, 25. We are justified freely by Gods grace, through the Redemption which is in Christ Iesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.
Hence he further saith, Acts 20.28. that God did purchase the Church with his own blood: So that in this part of the Priestly Office of Jesus Christ there was the power of God himself put forth.
*Neither is there less strengthning grace manifested, when he comes to appear for his people in heaven, in the presence of God, as Heb. 7.24. This man, because he continueth ever, hath an un∣changeable Priesthood, which passeth not from one to another; (certainly here was wonderful strength) that Christ being once offered, should bear the sins of many, and unto them that looked for him, he should appear the second time without sin unto sal∣vation, as in Heb. 9.28. That his having done away all their sins, should advance them to Salvation, which still shews the strength of his grace. Therefore well might Paul annex that, Heb. 7.25. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them: This is the ground of Pauls triumph, not onely for himself, but in the name of all the Saints, in that admirable place, Rom. 8. from the 34, to the 39. ver. Who is he that con∣demneth? It is Christ that dyed, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh interces∣sion for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or naked∣ness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter) Nay, in all these things we are more then conquerors through him that loved us: For I am perswaded, that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Iesus our Lord.
Page 7Here is strengthning grace of Almighty and everlasting efficacy.
As Jesus Christ is the Churches King,* he hath a proportionable inexhaust stock of strengthning grace, without such a power he could never suppress the numerous and potent adversaries of the Church, which was the the solemn agreement betwixt him and his Father: Psal. 110.1. The Lord said unto my Lord,* (God the Father said unto God the Son, Davids Lord) sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool; He will bring them to the lowest and most abject condition, though for the present they look never so high and big upon the poor members of Christ.
And accordingly he is still acting in heaven, whereas he doth appear for his people; so doubtless against his enemies, as is most clear in Heb. 10.12, 13. But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever (so much strength of grace, in that it need be but one) sate down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
We may with much encouragement wrestle with God, and wait upon him, both for the discovering and confounding of the great Impostors, Mahomet and the Pope, and the removing all the Crutches of Babylon in any of the Kings Dominions, or elswhere: for this work is carried on with so much power, that in Gods time all the Kingdoms of the earth will become the Lords, and his Christs. To the same purpose you shall finde an Angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightned with his glory, and he cryed mightily with a strong voyce, Babylon is fallen (all suitable to the powerful de∣sign of Christ) Rev. 18.2. And she shall be utterly burned with fire, in whom was found the blood of Prophets, and of Saints,* of all that were slain upon the earth (some way reducible to her, or her adherents) for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her, ver. 8.
Neither could Jesus Christ be a Resurrection to any sinners,* nor quicken with Spiritual life whom he would, as Ioh. 5.20. unless that were true ver. 26. As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given the Son to have life in himself; and that to be able to raise his own unto eternal life, ver. 29. All which argues Page 8 abundance of strengthning grace in him: This was the founda∣tion of Pauls Prayer for his Ephesians, chap. 1. ver. 18. That the eyes of their understanding being inlightened (here is power∣ful grace still) they might know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe according to the working of his mighty power.
Here is a great heap of Emphatical expressions, to shew the accu∣mulative power of the grace that is in Jesus Christ: Were he not so strong, that he were able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Eph. 3.20. Paul would never have used such an expression, That ye may be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; there must (it seems) be a power in us to inable us to fathom and comprehend the vast dimensions of that strengthning grace that is in our Head) here is the breadth of this grace,* covering all the sins of every one of his ele•t,* even from Adam to the end of the world: Here is the length of this grace, it extends from everlasting to everlast∣ing: Here is the depth of it, it lifts up poor creatures from the very pit of hell:* And the height of it, it advances them to sit by him in his own throne in Heaven.
*After the intrinsecal fulness of the grace of Christ, fol∣lows the Redundancy thereof: for there is in him not onely plenitudo vasis, but also plenitudo fontis; there is the original fulness of a living fountain in him, which he delights to com∣municate for the supplies of his people. This discovers it self in four particulars:
* There is a Redundancy into all the faculties of our souls, he fills the Minde with gracious principles, the Conscience with a holy tenderness, the Will with flexibleness and compliance with his Will, and sways the Affections to act regularly upon their objects. Doubtless Christ Jesus the second Adam will do as much for all those that have Vnion with him,* as the first Adam did against those that were in him: And therefore whereas by his fall there was not onely a total deprivation of original righteousness, but a universal depravation of all the faculties (a general disharmony being wrought in them) accordingly Jesus Christ, by the infusion of gracious habits, will reduce them to Page 9 an holy complexion and constitution; as 1 Thess. 5.23. The very God of peace sanctifie you wholly, and I pray God your whole Spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: You see he takes care for the resti∣tution of the whole man. Let the Arminians as falsly as con∣fidently suggest, that for our Conversion there needs onely a wakening of the Vnderstanding, and a rectifying of the Affe∣ctions, the Will (according to them) being left as Illibato virgo, for freedom to good being never ravished by Adams fall: Jesus Christ teacheth other Doctrine, who knowing the cor∣ruption of the Will, tells you what the tenour of The Cove∣nant of Grace is, Ezek. 36.26, 27. The Lord saith, He will take away the stony heart of Flesh, and put a new Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in his statutes: There is the redundancy of Christs fulness for the supplying of the Will, as well as other faculties with holy dispositions.
Christs fulness is redundant into all the graces of the Saints,*increasing them where they are little, strengthning them where they are feeble and languishing, acting and animating them where they are dull and dead. Hence it is that some of the Ser∣vants of Christ, who though they have but a little stock of grace, yet keeping in with him, and holding communion with him, do thrive much more in the Spiritual trading, both for the magnifying of Christ, and for the good of their own souls, then divers others who make a greater shew, and it may be have a larger portion of habitual grace. Hence it is that Paul hath recourse to this fountain by prayer, Phil. 1.9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all sense; that you may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere, and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Unto this purpose the Spouse invites her beloved to send forth his influence, Cant. 4.16. Awake, O North wind, and come thou South, blow upon my Garden, that the spices thereof may flow out: It is the presence of Jesus Christ who makes the spices; that is, the graces of his Spirit which grow in the Garden of his Church, to cast a sweet perfume: whereas he being absent, the Page 10Saints will seem to wither, at least comparatively, even as the Trees, they will have an Autumn, yea a Winter, not onely send forth no pleesant fruit, but even the leaves fall off, and the sap retire into the root; there will be a winter of their graces, till the Sun of Righteousness return with healing and quickening in his wings; that is, by the gracious beams of his Word and Spirit: Then and never till then, shall they go forth and grow up as Calves of the stall, Mal. 4.2. be fat and flourishing.
*Christs fulness is redundant into all their Duties, wherein they exercise those several Graces▪ that they may with Spiritual vigor, and powerful activity, perform those services to which the Lord calls them, as Paul saith, With my minde I my self serve the Law of God, Rom. 7. ult. and Rom. 8.26. Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not how to pray as we ought.
O what heartless and sapless Performances do we multiply when Jesus Christ withdraws; then, and then onely we pray with life, when the Spirit of Jesus Christ doth help our infir∣mities: A word in the Original is very Emphatical, when the Spirit takes us into his arms, and carries us on powerfully against those infirmities that would clog, and cloud, and depress our Spirits in duty: then they do duties not onely materially good, but formally well in a Spiritual maner, from Evangelical prin∣ciples, upon Evangelical motives, and for Evangelical ends, when there is a redundancy of the grace of Christ into them, upon whom all our fruit is found, Hos. 14.8.
*There is a redundancy of the fulness of Christ into all their various estates; As when they are called to suffer, that they may do it with cheerfulness, not sinking under carnal discou∣ragements, but rather chide their souls out of it; as the Psal∣mist on the 42. Psal. ver. ult. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my counte∣nance, and my God: When they are advanced to a prosperous condition, that they may have a victorious Faith, triumphing over, not onely the frowns, but the favors of the world, 1 Joh. 5.4. For want of this, Solomon and Hezekiah did so mi∣serably Page 11 lose themselves in a Spring-tide of prosperity: It was Pauls great advantage, that he had learned how to walk un∣changeably with God in great changes, Phil. 4.11, 12, 13. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in what∣soever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: Every where and in all things, I am instructed both to be full, and to be hungry, both to abound, and suffer need. I can do all things through Christ that strength∣neth me, Phil. 4.13. the same Original word with that in the Text.
We are apt to overgrieve or undergrieve at crosses; therefore Solomon gives that wise counsel, Prov. 3.11. My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, it should not be slighted, nei∣ther be weary of his correction; we should not faint under it: And his father David before him spake as seasonably, If riches increase, set not your hearts upon them:* There is a danger as our Estates are greatned, so our Affections should swell to an inordinate cleaving to them. None of these evils can be pre∣vented, but by the strengthning grace of Jesus Christ.
In the next place I shall endeavor to discover,* as God in∣ables, Christs Title to, and possession of this strengthning grace, which he hath by a threefold Claim:
He hath a grace of Vnion, so learned Divines call it, by ver∣tue of the Hypostatical Vnion, our nature being so highly ad∣vanced into such a near fellowship with the Divine Nature; all his Saints (though never so unworthy) are brought into a capacity of receiving strengthning grace from him, as Joh. 1.14. And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we be∣held his glory, the glory as of the onely begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth: where you see clearly, when the Word was made flesh, there follows in him a fulness of grace and truth. And as express to this purpose is that of Paul. Col. 2.9, 10. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
First, There is fulness in him, that he might be able to empty and communicate himself, according to the various ne∣cessities of his Saints.
Secondly, There is fulness of the Godhead in him, not onely Page 12 of some God-like dispositions, and of the Image of God, which may be in Saints.
Thirdly, All the fulness of the Godhead, the whole Divine Nature.
Fourthly, All this fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he is there not as a Guest, not as a Friend, but as an Inhabitant, to fix his constant abode there.
Fifthly, And all this bodily, personally, (most mysteriously) and not transciently, vertually, and by participation onely, as in a good degree it may be in the Saints. And for this happy purpose hath Jesus Christ such a Spring of good in himself, who is the Head of all Principalities and Powers in that ninth verse, which is added because they should see they need not go to the Angels as their head, verse 18.
*He hath this fountain of strengthning Grace in him∣self, by the Grace of Vnction, the unction of the holy Spi∣rit, which God giveth to him, not by measure, Joh. 3.34. not by drops, and measure of the gift of Christ, as to us, Eph. 4.7. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand, ver. 35. of Joh. 3. And amongst other good things, the Holy Spirit,* the great New Testament Promise was the Pro∣mise of the Spirit, as the Messiah was the grand Promise in the Old Testament: And this he pours, not drops out, and that much more generally then before; as Acts 2.17. And it shall come to pass in the last days (saith God) I will pour out my Spi∣rit upon all flesh: And by vertue of this Unction of the Spirit, you may see what glorious things Jesus Christ communicated unto poor sinners, if you please to compare Isa. 61.1. with Luke 4.18.
*He hath it in him by the Grace of Office, you will allow the ex∣pression, being designed by the Father as a publike person, for the advantage of all those whose Names are written in the Book of life, and for those whom the Father had given to the Son.
He was appointed by Commission under the Broad Seal of Heaven, to be The grand Lord Treasurer for his Church, the common Storehouse of their strengthning provision.
This he doth signanter declare, and that most fully, Joh. 6.27. when he bids them, Labor not for the meat that perisheth, Page 13 but for that which endureth to everlasting life.
Here is the ground which the Son of man shall give unto you, never doubt it, for him hath God the Father sealed.
This is the Doctrine that John the Baptist published con∣cerning Christ, Joh. 1.16. And of his fulness have all we re∣ceived, and grace for grace. It seems there is an overflowing fountain of grace in him, which was fully opened when he came into the world, Joh. 7.38, 39. else how could all Believers, with John, receive of his fulness, had there not been a full foun∣tain, it would not have been drawn dry, though communica∣ted to so many, and grace for grace:
1. Whether it be by way of accumulation (as some inter∣pret it:* or
2. Whether by way of additional supplement, we receiving the grace of the New Testament, instead of the grace of the Old Testament: or
3. Whether by way of correspondency, there being such pro∣portionable impressions of that grace that is in Christ, so far as we are capable (for there was that in Christ as Mediator, wherein we cannot resemble him) made upon us, that as the print upon the wax answers to the Seal, as the characters upon the Son answer to the Father; so there are such visible stamps of the grace of Christ upon the Saints, that in the language of Peter they are expresly said to be partakers of the Divine Na∣ture,* having such Divine dispositions so incorporated, so natu∣ralized into them, that what good they do, springs not from external motives onely, as in Hypocrites,* but from an inward principle of new Nature: And therefore acting from this new Divine Nature, they do good with more constancy and delight then others: And upon the same account doth John tell you, 1 Joh. 17. v. The Law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ: In Moses Law there were sha∣dowing Types, in the Gospel of Christ there is the substantial Truth of them; there were Predictions and Prophesies, here fulfilling grace.
Hence Christ saith in the 10. Chapter of the Evangelist John, ver. 10. I am come, that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly, that he might be a perfect Savior, to Page 14 answer the greatest exigencies of all his poor sheep, maintain∣ing their lives in despight of all their Wolvish enemies.
*The third particular follows; to wit, The various sweetness, and sweet variety of that strengthning grace that is in Christ: This may be made appear, to the great comfort, and strong en∣couragement of the Saints; and that in a fivefold Stream, flowing from this living Spring of grace in Christ.
First, Here is strength from the electing grace of God in Christ, where there is a great deal of strength, and indeed the fundamental Stone, which is the strength and support of the house: The foundation of all the Spiritual and Eternal build∣ing lies there, Ephes. 1.45. He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us unto the ado∣ption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will: Grace and his good pleasure is the Spring of all.
Secondly, Here is strength from the transacting grace of Christ; when there was an agreement betwixt God the Father and God the Son, God had given so many to him, he would un∣dertake for those many, God did accept his undertaking, then Christ went on, there was a great deal of strength in this trans∣action; as 2 Tim. 1.9. According to his purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began: how pos∣sibly given us before the world began? why? it was given us in Christ Jesus in his negotiating with God for us.
Thirdly, Here is a great deal of strength also in the convert∣ing grace of Christ; He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, What purpose and grace? That which was in Christ Jesus, 2 Tim. 1.9. He did graciously purpose it, there∣fore it should be infallibly effected.* A place that in the Synod of Palestina 1200 years ago, and above, the learned Divines made excellent use of, to cut asunder the sinews of Pelagianism, as indeed it doth, and so still of Arminianism, which is but that weed revived, as learned Dr. Featly makes it most clearly ap∣pear in his Pelagius Redivivus.
Fourthly, There is a great deal of strength likewise in the Page 15 assisting grace of Christ, when there shall be new supplies communi∣cated from his Spirit, to enable us to perform every duty, and to or∣der our sharpest sufferings to the best good of our souls; as Paul as∣sures himself, Phil. 1.19. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Fifthly and lastly, There is a rich proportion of strength in Christ, for our crowning and persevering in him; even so much that the very 'Devil himself shall not be able to rend us off, we standing by a Covenant of Grace, being kept by the power of God (not onely through our Faith) to salvation: The father will hold the childe, though the poor childe through weakness let go his hold.
Now follows the Spiritual improvement of all this in a season∣able and short Application.*
A serious and seasonable invitation,* to all such who are yet strangers unto Jesus Christ, that they would seek acquaintance with him, and interest in him.
It is most wholesom counsel, Job 22.21. Acquaint now thy self with him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee. This will be the worlds condemnation with a witness, yea with a vengeance, That light came into the world, and men loved darkness better then light, because their deeds were evil.
O most unhappy mistake, when Sin the worst of evils hinders them from Jesus Christ the best of good: This, this if there were no more, will fully justifie him in their eternal condemnation, being that he so seriously sought unto them, to wit, in the way of his outward Ministe∣ry, Mat. 23.37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have ga∣thered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! by those Prophets which thou didst kill.
Themistocles (as Story reports) in his lower condition,* was much in love with a yong Gentleman, which scorned him; when he grew to his greatness, which was soon after, he sought to him, but Themi∣stocles said, We are both both grown wise, but too late. If when Jesus Christ in the course of his Ministery, in an humble maner stands and knocks at the door of thy heart, speaking this melting language unto thee, as he did to those great sinners the Laodiceans, Rev. 3.20. If any will hear my voyce, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me: If you shall then deny him entertain∣ment Page 16 when he thus condescends to seek to you, that you might seek to him, for your own Spiritual and eternal welfare; wonder not, if af∣terwards you see you are wise too late, when the Master of the house shall have shut the door, and ye begin to stand without knocking, and crying, Lord, Lord, open to us, and he shall repulse you with this dole∣ful answer, I know you not whence you are; it may be ye will comple∣ment with him, beginning to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy pre∣sence, and thou hast taught in our streets: but he will resolutely persist to proceed against them, who have so wilfully rejected him, and say, to their eternal confusion, I tell you, I know not whence ye are, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. O all ye who have tasted the sweetness of this grace which flows from the Rock Christ Jesus, do what you can to rescue poor deluded, seduced souls from under their prejudices, and any other temptations, which alienate them from him who is their only happiness. O that you would tread in their steps, Joh. 1 40, 41. when Andrew had found Christ, presently he findes his brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ; and he brought him to Jesus: at least endeavor to bring them to Jesus in Gospel means; and v. 44, 45. Philip having found Christ, findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth.* Observe, they speak great and good things of Christ, that they may perswade them to seek him; a good copy for you, how to deal with your carnal friends: Thus the Samaritan woman, Joh. 4. though in her parley with Christ she had been very carnal, ver. 9, 11. yet being convinced, and perceiving that he was a Prophet, ver. 19. upon this she bears her water-pot, and goes into the City to the men, ver. 28. saying, Come and see a man which hath told me all things that ever I did: Is not this the Christ? ver. 29. Her invitation was so ef∣fectual, that the men went out of the City, and came to see him v. 30. many of the City believed on him for the saying of the woman, she won them to a credulity; so may you, if you endeavor to gain a good opinion of him in their mindes: But many more believed be∣cause of his own word, ver. 41. How would this woman rejoyce in their acceptance of her invitation? How will they eternally bless God for it? Why will not you endeavor, that you and your carnal friends should have the same occasion of everlasting triumphing mu∣tually in one another in heaven?
Page 17BEhold,*what convincing reason all you Saints▪here have to put an high value upon Jesus Christ: He is called by the Prophet, The Rock of Ages, Isa. 26.3. And therefore upon the strongest grounds called by the Psalmist, Psal. 73.26. The Rock of his Heart, and his Portion for ever; and that after he had been in the Sanctuary of God beholding his glory, ver. 17. coming from the North (so Chaldea lay in regard of Judea) Hereupon to the same purpose, when Habakuk saw a bitter and hasty Na∣tion, as he calls the Chaldeans, Hab. 1.6. threatning, and indeed beginning to ruine Judah (its probable the Captivity was then begun) appeals to God, in this language, ver. 12. Art not thou from everlasting, O Lord my God, O Rock God. This is the Prophet Micahs Dialect (its sweet to observe the harmonious breathings of the Spirit in several Prophets) chap. 5.2. who speaking of Christ as the Ruler in Israel (there's his strength) addes, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of Eternity.
Where is your Faith in this Eternal Rock, that should be emboldened to frequent actings upon for all new supplies; as in Romans 1.17. Paul tells us, The righteousness of God is re∣vealed from faith to faith; that is, righteousness enough for one act of faith after another: So in Christ, grace upon grace' though the actings of faith be never so often repeated, which in∣deed is very pleasing to him. O remember, I beseech you, where your strength lieth; and know, that unless you do learn this Art of Memory, it may cost you very dear, many a smart∣ing whipping: The want of this provokes God to be some∣times severe with his beloved children.
Here is a double method of his proceedings:
1. He whips them unto Christ, and to the dependance upon his grace, by Spiritual desertions: A most sharp remedy, the sting of other afflictions. His gracious presence doth sweeten every thing, his absence will embitter any thing. David found this by woful experience, which made him groan so sadly, Psal. 51.8. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast bro∣ken may rejoyce: When he had broke his conscience by sinning,*God would break his bones for sin; And again ver. 12. Restore Page 18 to me the joy of thy salvation; and ver. 10. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right Spirit within me. Its true, the Lord had so far deserted him, in regard of sensible comforts, that he may desire their restoring; and, which may be observed by the way, let the proud Arminian say what he can, David was not become silius irae, but onely silius sub ira, still a beloved son, he begs indeed the cleansing of his heart, but onely the re∣newing of a right spirit within him.
*2. The Lord whips his children to an improvement of the grace of Christ, by suffering them in his holy and wise providence, to fall into some great, and it may be some scandalous sin, which shall draw on a sharp affliction. This is to a Saint a most sharp cure; yet God makes it often effectual to that happy end: for, though we be the onely proper authors of sin, yet Gods permis∣sion is not otiosa, but eff•cax permissio; He knows how to go∣vern its subserviency to the Covenant of Grace, and to bring good out of evil, otherwise he would neither suffer evil of sin or punishment to be; David too clear an instance of this Rule: Hereby the Lord whipped him out of himself, to seek mercy from his Savior, Psal. 51.1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindeness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.