The XI. Sermon.
Matth. X. 15.
THE whole new Covenant consists of these two words, Christ and Faith; Christ bestowed on Gods part, Faith required on ours; Christ the matter, Faith the condition of the Cove∣nant. Now to bring or present this Faith be∣fore [ E] you, as an object for your understandings to gaze at, or to go farther, to dissect (and with the diligence of Anatomy instruct) in eve∣ry limb, or joynt, or excellency of it, were but to recal you to your Catechism, and to take pains to inform you in that which you are presum'd to know. The greater danger of us is, that we are behind in our practice, that we know what faith is, but do not labour for it; and therefore the seasonablest work will be on our affections to pro∣duce, [ F] if it were possible, this precious vertue in our souls, and to sink and press down that floating knowledge which is in most of our brains, into a solid weighty effectual Faith, that it may begin to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a work of faith, which was formerly but a phan∣sie, dream and apparition. To this purpose to work on your wills, no Rhetorick so likely, as that which is most sharp and terrible, Page 166 no such Physick for dead affections as Corrosives, the consideration [ A] of the dismal, hideous, desperate estate of infidels here in my Text; and that both in respect of the guilt of the sin, and degree of the punishment, proportioned to it, and that above all other sinners in the World, It shall be more, &c. Where you may briefly observe, 1. the sin of infidelity, set down by its subject, that City which would not receive Christ being preach't unto it, v. 14. 2 the greatness of this sin, exprest by the punishment attending it; and that either positively, it shall go very sore with it, and therefore [ B] it is to be esteemed a very great sin, implyed in the whole Text; or else comparatively being weighed with Sodom and Gomorrah in judg∣ment, it shall be more tolerable for them then it: and therefore 'tis not only a great sin, but the greatest, the most damning sin in the world. And of these in order plainly, and to your hearts rather then your brains, presuming that you are now come with solemn serious thoughts to be edified not instructed, much less pleased or humor'd. And first of the first: The sin of infidelity, noted in [ C] the last words, that City.
To pass by those, which we cannot choose but meet with, 1. a multitude of ignorant Infidels, Pagans and Heathens. 2. of knowing but not acknowledging Infidels, as Turks and Jews; We shall meet with another order of as great a latitude, which will more nearly concern us; a world of believing Infidels, which know and acknowledge Christ, the Gospel and the promises, are as fairly mounted in the understanding part as you would wish, [ D] but yet refuse and deny him in their hearts, apply not a Command to themselves, submit not to him, nor desire to make themselves capable of those mercies which they see offered by Christ in the World; and these are distinctly set down in the verse next before my Text, Whosoever shall not receive you, i. e. entertain the acceptable truth of Christ and the Gospel preached by you, as 'tis interpreted by the 40. verse, He that receiveth you receiveth me, i. e. believes on me, as the word is most plainly used, Mat. xi. 14.*If you will re∣ceive [ E] it, i. e. if you will believe it, this is Elias which was for to come. And Joh. i. 12. To as many as received him, even to them that believe in his name. For you are to know that Faith truly justifying is nothing in the World, but the receiving of Christ. Christ and his sufferings and full satisfaction was once on the Cross render'd, and is ever since by the Gospel and its Ministers offered to the world: and nothing required of us but an hand and an heart to apprehend and receive: and to as many as received him, he gives power to be∣come [ F] the sons of God, Joh. i. 12. So that Faith and infidelity are not acts properly determined to the understanding, but indeed to the whole soul, and most distinctly to the Will, whose part it is to receive or repel, to entertain or resist Christ and his promises, the Author and finisher of our salvation. Now this receiving Page 167 [ A] of Christ is the taking or accepting of the righteousness of Christ, and so making it our own, as Rom. i. 17. being rightly weighed will enforce. Read and mark, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, thus 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in it, or by it, the Gos∣pel, mention'd in the former verse 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the righteousness of God by Faith, as Rom. iii. 22.*i. e. the not legal but Evangelical righteousness, which only God accepts, directly set down Phil. iii. 9.*That righteousness which is through Faith of Christ, [ B] the righteousness which is of God by Faith; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is revealed to Faith, is declared that we might believe; that finding no life or righteousness in our selves, we may go out of our selves, and lay hold on that which is offered us by Christ: and this you will find to be the clearest meaning of these words, though somewhat obscured in our English reading of them. Now the accepting of this righteousness is an act of ours following a pro∣posal or offer of Christ's, and consummating the match or bargain [ C] between Christ and us. Christ is offered to us as an Husband in the Gospel, we enquire of him, observe our own needs, and his Excellencies and riches to supply them, our sins and his righteous∣ness; and if upon advice we will take him, the match is struck, we are our beloved's, and our beloved is ours; we are man and wife, we have taken him for our husband, and with him are entituled to all his riches: we have right to all his righteousness, and enjoy by his Patent all the priviledges, all the promises, all the mercies [ D] of the Gospel. But if the offer being thus made by God to give us his Son freely, we stand upon terms, we are too rich, too learned, too worldly minded, too much in love with the praise of men, Joh. xii. 43.*i. e. fixt upon any worldly vanity, and re∣solve never to forego all these, to disclaim our worldly liberty, our own righteousness, and to accept of so poor an offer as a Christ; then are we the Infidels here spoken of, We will not come to him that we might have life, Joh. v. 40. When he is held out to [ E] us, we will not lay hold on him, we have some conceit of our selves, and therefore will not step a foot abroad to fetch his righ∣teousness home to us. And indeed if any worldly thing please you; if you can set a value upon any thing else, if you can enter∣tain a paramour, a rival, a Competitour in your hearts, if you can receive the praise of men,how can you believe? Joh. v. 44.* So that in brief, Infidelity consists in the not receiving of Christ, with a reciprocal giving up of our selves to him, in the not answering affir∣matively [ F] to Christs offer of himself, in the not taking home and applying Christ to our souls. And this is done, either by denying to take him at all, or by taking him under a false person, or by not performing the conditions required or presumed in the making of the match. They that deny to take him at all, are the prophane, negli∣gent, presumptuous Christians, who either never hearken after Page 168 him, or else are so familiar with the news, as to underprize him: [ A] have either never cheapned Heaven, or else will not come to Gods price; like Ananias and Sapphira, perhaps offer pretty fair, bring two parts of their estate and lay them at the Apostles feet, but will give no more; fall off at last for a trifle, and peremptorily deny Christ, if they may not have him on their own Conditions. Some super∣fluities, some vanities, some chargeable or troublesom sins per∣haps they can spare, and those they will be inclinable to part with∣al; but if this will not serve, Christ must seek for a better Chap∣man, [ B] they stand not much upon it, they can return as contentedly without it as they came. And this arises from a neglect and security, a not heeding or weighing of Gods justice, and consequently un∣dervaluing of his mercies. They have never felt God as an angry Judge, and therefore they now scorn him as a Saviour: they have liv'd at such ease of heart, that no legal terrour, no affrightments, or ghastly representations of sin can work upon them: and if the reading of the law that killing letter, have been sent by God to [ C] instruct them in the desperateness of their estate, to humble these libertine souls to the spirit of bondage, and so school them to Christ, they have eyes, but see not, ears, but hear it not, they are come to this 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Rom. i. 28. a reprobate sense, or as it may be rendred, an undiscerning mind, not able to judge of that which is thus read and proposed to it: or again a sense without sense, not apprehensive of that which no man that hath eyes can be ignorant of: nay in Theod. phrase 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an heart that will reverberate [ D] any judgement or terrour, receiving no more impression from it then the Anvil from the hammer, violently returns it again, smooth'd somewhat over perhaps by often-beating, but nothing softned. Nay if the law cry too loud, and by an inward voice preach damnation in their bowels, and resolve to be heard before it cease; then do they seek out some worldly employment to bu∣sie themselves withal, that they may not be at home at so much unquietness: they will charm it with pleasures, or overwhelm it with [ E] business, as Gain, when his Conscience was too rough, and rigid for him,*Gen. iv. went out from the presence of the Lord, ver. 16. and as 'tis observed, built Cities, v 17. got some of his progeny to invent Musick, v. 21. perhaps to still his tumultuous raving Con∣science, that the noise of the hammers and melody of the Instru∣ments might outsound the din within him, as in the sacrifices of Molock, where their children, which they offered in an hollow brazen vessel, could not choose but howl hideously, they had [ F] timbrels and tabrets perpetually beating,* (whereupon Tophet, where these sacrifices were kept, is by Grammarians deduced from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, tympanum) to drown the noise of the childrens cry;* these I say which will not be instructed in their misery,* or better'd by the preaching of the law, which labour only to make their Page 169 [ A] inward terrors insensible, to skin not cure the wound, are Infidels in the first or highest rank, which deny to take him at all, will not suffer themselves to be perswaded that they have any need of him; and therefore let him be offered for ever, let him be pro∣claimed in their ears every minute of their lives, they see nothing in him worth hearkning after; and the reason is, they are still at home, they have not gone a foot abroad out of themselves, and therefore cannot lay hold on Christ. He that never went to [ B] school to the law, he that was never sensible of his own damned estate, he that never hated himself, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, will never receive, never accept of Christ.
Secondly, some are come thus far to a sense of their estate, and are twing'd extremely, and therefore fly presently to the Gospel, hearing of Christ, they fasten, are not patient of so much delibe∣ration as to observe whether their hands be empty, they are in distress, and Christ must needs save them suddenly: they lay [ C] hold as soon as ever they hear a promise, and are resolved to be saved. by Christ, because they see otherwise they are damned. And these take Christ indeed, but under a false person: either they take the promises only, and let Christ alone, or take Christ the Saviour, but not Christ the Lord. Are willing to be saved by him, but never think of serving him: are praying for ever for Heaven and glory, but never care how little they hear of grace: the end they fasten on, the Covenant they hug and gripe with [ D] their embraces, but never take the condition of repentance and obedience: this is not for their turn, they abstract the cheap and profitable attributes of Christ, his Priestly office of satisfaction and propitiation: but never consider him as a King; and so in a word lay hold of the estate before they have married the husband, which they have yet no more right to, then a meer stranger: for the communicating the riches of a husband being but a conse∣quence of marriage, is therefore not yet made over till the mar∣riage [ E] (which is the taking of the husbands person) be consummate. And this I say is a second degree of infidelity somewhat more se∣cret and less discernable, when by an Errour of the person, by taking Christ the Saviour for Christ the Lord, or his promises abstracted from his person, we believe we shall be saved by him, but deny to be ruled; desire to enjoy all the priviledges, but sub∣stract all the obedience of a Subject.
In the third place, they which have accepted and received the [ F] true person of Christ as a Master, as well as a Jesus, they which have taken him on a resolved vow of performing this condition of homage and obedience, are not in event as good as their engage∣ments: when they think the match is fast, and past danger of re∣calling, when they seem to have gotten a firm title to the promi∣ses, and are in a manner entred upon the goods and estate of their Page 170 husband, they do begin to break Covenant, and either wholly sub∣stract, [ A] or else divide their love; they married him for his wealth, and now they have that, they are soon weary of his person: they came with the soul of an harlot, looking only what they should get by him, and now they have many other old acquaintances they must needs keep league with; their self-denial, their humi∣lity, their vows of obedience were but arts and stratagems that want and necessity put them upon, and now they have got their ends, all those are soon out-dated; they have faith and so are ju∣stified, [ B] and sure of their estate, and so now they may sin securely, there is no condemnation to them, they are in Christ, and all the sins, nay, all the devils in the world shall never separate them. And this is a sanctified religious piece of infidelity in men, which think they have made sure of the main, and so never think of the Con∣sectaries; they have faith, and so T'is no matter for good works; the lease is sealed, the wedding solemniz'd, and then never dream or care for Covenants. And these mens fate is like to be the same [ C] spiritually, which we read of Samson's bodily strength: he vowed the vow of a Nazarite, and as long as he kept unshaven no oppo∣sition could prevail against him; but as soon as he broke his vow, when he had let his Mistress cut his locks, his strength departed from him. All the promises and priviledges of our being in Christ, are upon condition of our obedience, and our vow being broken, the Devil and the Philistins within us will soon deprive us of our eyes and life. Whatsoever livelihood we presume we have in Christ, [ D] we are deceived, we are still dead in trespasses and sins. Thus do you see the three degrees of infidelity frequent amongst Christi∣ans, 1. a not taking him at all; 2. a mistaking of his person; 3. a breaking off the Covenants: now that you may abhor and fly from, and get out of each of them by a lively faith, my next par∣ticular shall warn you, the greatness of this sin, and that first posi∣tively in its self, it shall be very tolerable for that City.
Faith may be conceived in a threefold relation, either to men [ E] the subjects of it, and those sinners, or 2. to Christ and his suffer∣ing the objects of it, with all the effects, remission of sins, and sal∣vation attending it: or 3. to God the Father, the Author and Com∣mander of it, as the only condition annext to all his promises. And consequently infidelity, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall be aggravated by these three depths or degrees, each adding to its exceeding sin∣fulness.
As Faith respects its subject, and that a sinful miserable one, en∣gaged [ F] and fixt in an unremediable necessity of sinning and suffer∣ing for ever; so is it the only means upon earth, nay in the very counsel of God, able to do us any help; all the arts and spiritual engins even in Heaven besides this are unprofitable. Nay, the second Covenant now being seal'd, and God for ever having esta∣blisht Page 171 [ A] the rule and method of it; I say, things thus standing, God himself cannot be presum'd to have mercy upon any one, but who is thus qualified; it being the only foundation on which our hea∣ven is built, the only ground we have to hope for any thing, as is manifest by that place,*Heb. xi. 1. being rightly weighed, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, where the Greek phrase, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, signifies the ground or foundation of every of those things which can be the object of a Christians hope. So [ B] that where no ground-work, no building; if no faith, no hope, no possibility of Heaven. If the Devil could have but stoln this jewel out of the world, he had shut up Heaven gates eternally, and had left it as empty of Saints, as it is full of glory, not capable of any flesh but what Christ's hypostatical union brought thither. And this is no more then I conceive the learned mean by necessitas medii, that faith is necessary as a means, i. e. there is no means be∣sides of power, either absolutely or ex hypothesi, of it self, or on [ C] supposition of Gods Covenant, to bring us to Heaven. Nothing is of force besides in reason to prepare, or morally accommodate; and God hath not promised to accept in mercy of any thing else. For whereas the promises are sometimes made to repentance, some∣times to obedience, as whosoever repenteth shall be saved; and the like you are to know, that it is on this ground of the necessary union of these graces, that where one of them is truly and sincerely, there the rest are always in some degree, there being no example [ D] of penitence or obedience in any subject which had not faith also. For he that comes to God must believe that he is,* &c. Heb. xi. 6. And he that heartily believes he is, and is a rewarder of them that seek him, will not fail to search, pursue, and follow after him. So that though the promises are made promiscuously to any one which hath either of these graces, yet 'tis upon supposal of the rest; if it be made of faith, 'tis in confidence that faith works by love,* Gal. v. 6. and as St. James enforces it, is made perfect by works, [ E] James ii. 22.* So that in the first place infidelity is sufficiently ag∣gravated in respect of the subject; it being a Catholick destroyer, an intervenient that despoils him of all means, all hope, all possi∣bility of salvation: finding him in the state of damnation, it sets him going, suffers him not to lay hold on any thing that may stay him in his precipice; and in the midst of his shipwrack, when there be planks and refuges enough about him, hath numm'd his hands, depriv'd him of any power of taking hold of them.
[ F] In the second place, in respect of Christ and his sufferings, the ob∣jects of our Faith, so Faith is in a manner the Soul of them, gi∣ving them life and efficacy, making things which are excellent in themselves prove so in effect to others. Thus the whole splendor and beauty of the world, the most accurate proportions and images of nature are beholding to the Eye, though not for their absolute Page 172 excellency, yet for both the account and use that is made of them; [ A] for if all men were blind, the proudest workmanship of nature would not be worth the valuing. Thus is a learned piece cast away upon the ignorant, and the understanding of the auditor is the best commendation of a speech or Sermon. In like manner, those infinite unvaluable sufferings of Christ, if they be not belie∣ved in, are but, as Aristotle saith of divine knowledge, a most honou∣rable thing, but of no manner of use, if they be not apprehended, they are lost. Christ's blood if not caught up in our hearts by [ B] Faith, but suffered to be poured out upon the earth, will prove no better then that of Abel's,* Gen. iv. 10. crying for judgment from the ground; that which is spilt is clamorous, and its voice is to∣ward Heaven for vengeance; only that which is gathered up, as it falls from his side, by faith, will prove a medicine to heal the Na∣tions. So that infidelity makes the death of Christ no more then the death of an ordinary man, in which there is no remedy, Wisd. ii. 1. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, there is no cure, no physick in it; or as the same [ C] word is rendred, Eccles. xxviii. 3. no pardon, no remission wrought by it, a bare going down into the grave, that no man is better for. It doth even frustrate the sufferings of Christ, and make him have paid a ransom to no purpose, and purchased an inheritance at an infinite rate, and no man the better for it. Again, Christ is not only contemn'd, but injur'd, not only slighted, but robb'd, he loses not only his price and his thanks, but his servant, which he hath bought and purchased with his blood. For redemption is [ D] not an absolute setting free, but the buying out of an Usurpers hands, that he may return to his proper Lord; changing him from the condition of a captive to a subject. He which is ransomed from the Gallies is not presently a King, but only recovered to a free and tolerable service: nay generally, if he be redeemed he is eo nomine, a servant, by right and equity his Creature that re∣deemed him,* according to the express words, Luke i. 74. That we being delivered might serve him. Now a servant is a possession, [ E] part of ones estate, as truly to be reckoned his, as any part of his inheritance. So that every unbeliever is a thief, robs Christ not only of the honour of saving him, but of one of the Members of his family, of part of his goods, his servant; nay, 'tis not a bare theft, but of the highest size, a sacriledge, stealing an holy instrument, a vessel out of Gods Temple, which he bought and delivered out of the common calamity to serve him in holiness,* Luke i. 74. to be put to holy, special services. [ F]
In the third place, Faith may be considered in reference to God the Father, and that 1. as the Author or fountain of this Theologi∣cal grace: 2. as the commander of this duty of believing; and ei∣ther of these will aggravate the unbelievers guilt, and add more articles to his indictment. As God is the Author of faith, so the Page 173 [ A] Infidel resists, and abandons, and flies from all those methods, all those means, by which God ordinarily produces Faith; all the power of his Scriptures, all the blessings of a Christian education, all the benefits of sacred knowledge; in sum, the prayers, the sweat, the lungs, the bowels of his Ministers, in Christs stead beseeching you to be reconciled,* 1 Cor. v. 20. spending their dearest spirits, and even praying and preaching out their souls for you, that you would be friends with God through Christ. All these, [ B] I say, the Infidel takes no notice of, and by his contempt of these inferiour graces, shews how he would carry himself even towards Gods very spirit, it it should come in power to convert him, he would hold out and bid defiance, and repel the omnipotent God with his omnipotent charms of mercy: he that contemns Gods or∣dinary means, would be likely to resist his extraordinary, were there not more force in the means, then forwardness in the man: and thanks be to that controuling, convincing, constraining spirit, if [ C] ever he be brought to be content to be saved. He that will not now believe in Christ when he is preached, would have gone ve∣ry near, if he had lived then, to have given his consent, andjoyn'd his suffrage in crucifying him. A man may guess of his inclination by his present practices, and if he will not now be his Disciple, 'twas not his innocence, but his good fortune, that he did not then betray him. 'Twas well he was born amongst Christians, or else he might have been as sowr a prosest enemy of Christ as Pilate or [ D] the Pharisees: an unbelieving Christian is, for all his livery and profession, but a Jew or Heathen, and the Lord make him sensible 〈◊〉 his condition.
Lastly, consider this duty of faith in respect of God the Father commanding it, and then you shall find it the main precept of the Bible. 'Twere long to shew you the ground of it in the law of〈◊〉, the obscure, yet discernable mention of it in the moral law,〈◊〉 transcendently, in the main end of all, and distinctly, though [ E] •ot clearly in the first Commandment, he that hath a mind to see may find it in Pet. Baro. de praest. & dignit. div. legis. 'Twere as •••som to muster up all the commands of the Old Testament, which exactly and determinately drive at belief in Christ, as ge∣nerally in those places where the Chaldee Paraphrase reads instead of God, Gods Word, as Fear not Abraham, for I am thy shield, say they, thy word is thy shield, which speaks a plain command of faith; for not to fear, is to trust; not to fear on that ground, because Gods [ F] Word,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Word, Joh. i. 1. i. e. Christ is ones shield, is nothing in the world but to believe, and rely, and fasten, and de∣pend on Christ. Many the like commands of Faith in Christ will the Old Testament afford, and the new is nothing else but a perpe∣tual inculcating of it upon us, a driving and calling, entreating and enforcing, wooing and hastning us to believe. In which re∣spect Page 174 the Schools calls it also necessary necessitate praecepti, a thing [ A] which though we should be never the better for, we are bound to perform. So that though faith were not able to save us, yet in∣fidelity would damn us, it being amongst others a direct breach of a natural, a moral, nay, an Evangelical Commandment. And so much for the danger of infidelity considered positively in relation to the Subject, whom it deprives of Heaven, the Object Christ and his offers in the Gospel, which it frustrates, and lastly the Author and commander of it God the Father, whom it resists, disobeys, and [ B] scorns. You will perhaps more feelingly be affected to the loath∣ing of it, if we proceed to the odious and dangerous condition of it, above all other sins and breaches in the world, which is my third part, its comparative sinfulness, It shall be more tolerable, &c.
And this will appear, if we consider it, 1. in it self; 2. in its consequences. In it self it is fuller of guilt, in its consequences ful∣ler of danger, then any ordinary breach of the moral Law. In it self, so it is 1. the greatest aversion from God, (in which aver∣sion [ C] the School-men place the formalis ratio, the very essence of sin) it is the perversest remotion and turning away of the soul from God, and getting as far as we can out of his sight, or ken, the forbidding of all manner of commerce or spiritual traffick, or cor∣respondence with God,* as may appear by that admirable place, Heb. X. 38. The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him: and verse 39. We are not of them which draw back unto perdition, but of them that do believe to the saving of the [ D] soul. Where the phrase of drawing back oppos'd here to faith and believing, is in the original 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a cowardly, pusillanimous subducing of ones self, a getting out of the way, a not daring to meet, or approach, or accept of Christ when he is offered them; the same with 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 among the Physicians, a contraction of the soul, a shriveling of it up, a sudden correption and depression of the mind, such as the sight of some hideous danger is wont to produce,* so 2 Mac. vi. 12. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. to be discouraged, and [ E] to forsake the Jewish Religion, because of the calamities. So is the word used of Peter,* Gal. ii. 12. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. He withdrew and separated himself, fearing those that were of the Circumcision. The Infidel, I say, draws back, with∣draws and sneaks out of the way, as if he were afraid of the mer∣cies of his Saviour, as if it were death to him to be so near salvati∣on; as if Christ coming to him with the mercies of the Gospel, were the mortal'st enemy under Heaven, and there were no such [ F] mischief to be done him as his conversion. This indeed is an aversi∣on in the highest degree, when we fly and draw back from God when he comes to save us, when the sight of a Saviour makes us take our heels. Adam might well hide himself when God came to challenge him about his disobedience; the guilty conscience Page 175 [ A] being afraid of revenge, may well slink out of his presence with Cain,* Gen. iiii. 16. But to tremble and quake at a proclamation of mercy,* when God draws with cords of a man, Hos. xi. 4. a power∣ful phrase exprest in the next words with the bands of love: when he loveth us, and calls his Son out for us, v. 1. then to be bent to backsliding, in the 7. v. to draw back when he comes to em∣brace, this is a stubbornness and contraction of the soul, a crouch∣ing of it in, a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that neither nature nor reason [ B] would be guilty of: an aversion from God, which no other sin can parallel, and therefore of all other most intolerable in the first place.
2. Infidelity, gives God the lye, and denies whatever God pro∣claims in the Gospel. The reason or ground of any ones belief, the object am for male quo, that by assenting to which I come to believe is Gods Veracity, the Confidence that God speaks true, the relying on his word, is that which brings me to lay hold on Christ: and [ C] therefore the Infidel is down-right with God; he will not take his word, he'l never be perswaded that these benefits of Christs death that are offered to all men, can ever do him any good. Let God call him to accept them, he'l never come, his surly, resolute carriage is in effect a contradicting of whatever God hath affirmed, a direct thwarting, a giving the lye to God and his Evan∣gelists: and this is an aggravation not to be mentioned without reverence or horror, the most odious affront in the World: the [ D] Lord be merciful to us in this matter.
Next, this sin is a sin of the most dangerous consequences of any. 1. It produces all other sins, and that positively, by doubting of his justice, and so falling into adulteries, blasphemies, and the like, in security and hope of impunity, by distrusting of his providence and mercy, and so flying to Covetousness, murmuring, tempting, subtlety, all arts and stratagems of getting for our temporal estate, and ordinary despair in our spiritual: then privatively, depriving [ E] us of that which is the mother and soul of our obedience and good Works, I mean faith, so that every thing for want of it is turned into sin, and thereby depopulating the whole man, making him nothing in the World but ruins and noysomness, a confluence of all manner of sins, without any concomitant degree of duty or obedience.
2. It frustrates all good Exhortations, and forbids all manner of superstructions which the Ministers are wont to labour for in [ F] moving us to charity and obedience, and joy, and hope, and prayer, by not having laid any foundation whereon these must be built; any of these set or planted in any Infidel heart will soon wither: they must have a stock of faith whereon to be grafted, or else they are never likely to thrive. As Galba's Wit was a good one, but 'twas unluckily placed, ill-seated, there was no good to be wrought Page 176 by it. The proudest of our works or merits, the perfectest mo∣rality [ A] will stand but very weakly, unless it be sounded on that foundation whose corner stone is Christ Jesus.
3. It leaves no place in the world for remedy: he that is an Ido∣later, a Sabbath-breaker, or the like: he that is arraigned at the law, and found guilty at that Tribunal, hath yet an Aavocate in the Gospel, a higher power to whom he may appeal to mitigate his sentence: but he that hath sinned against the Gospel, hath no far∣ther to go, he hath sinn'd against that which should have remitted all [ B] other sins; and now he is come to an unremediable estate, to a kind of hell, or the grave of sin, from whence there is no recovery. There's not a mercy to be fetch'd in the world but out of the Gospel, and he that hath refused them, is past any farther treaty: He that believeth not is condemned already,* Joh. iii. 18. his damna∣tion is sealed to him; and the entail past cutting off, 'tis his pur∣chase, and now wants nothing but livery and seizin; nay 'tis his patrimony 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*Ecclus. XX. 28. he is as sure [ C] of it, as of any peny-worth of his inheritance. And the reason is implyed, 1 Cor. XV. 17. If Christ be not risen you are yet in your sins: there is no way to get out of our sins but Christs resurrection, and he that believeth not, Christ is not risen to him: 'twere all one to him if there had never been a Saviour; and therefore he re∣mains in his old thraldom; he was taken captive in Adam, and hath never since had any other means to restore him: the ransom that was offered all, he would none of, and so he sticks unre∣deemed, [ D] he is yet in his sins, and so for ever like to continue. And now he is come to this state, 'twere superfluous farther to aggravate the sin against him; his case is too wretched to be up∣braided him; the rest of our time shall be imployed in providing a remedy for him, if it be possible, and that must be from consi∣deration of the disease, in a word and close of application.
The sin being thus displayed to you with its consequencies, O what a spirit should it raise in us! O what a resolution and ex∣pression [ E] of our manhood, to resist and banish out of us this evil heart of unbelief! Heb. iii. 12.* what an hatred should it work in our bowels, what a reluctancy, what an indignation, what a revenge against the fruit of our bosom, which hath so long grown and thrived within us, only to our destruction! which is provided as it were to eat our souls, as an harbinger to prepare a place within us for the worm in Hell, where it may lye and bite and gnaw at ease eternally! 'Tis an Examination that will deserve the [ F] most precious minute of our lives, the solemnest work of our souls, the carefullest muster of our faculties, to shrift and win∣now, and even set our hearts upon the rack, to see whether any fruit or seed of infidelity lurk in it; and in a matter of this dan∣ger to prevent Gods inquest by our own, to display every thing Page 177 [ A] to our selves, just as it shall be laid open before God in judgment, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*Heb. iv. 13. naked and discernible as the entrals of a Creature cut down the back, where the very method of nature in its secrecies is betrayed to the eye. I say, to cut our selves up, and to search into every crany of our souls, every winding of either our understanding or affections; and observe whether any infidel thought, any infidel lust, be lodged there: and when we have found this execrable thing which hath brought [ B] all our plagues on us, then must we purge, and cleanse, and lustrate the whole City for its sake: and with more Ceremony then ever the heathen used, even with a superstition of daily, hourly pray∣ers, and sacrificing our selves to God, strive and struggle, and offer violence to remove this unclean thing out of our Coasts; use these unbelieving hearts of ours, as Josiah did the Altars of Ahaz,* 2 King. xxiii. 12. break them down, beat them to powder, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron; that Cedron which Christ passed [ C] over when he went to suffer,*Joh. xviii. 1. even that brook which Christ drank of by the way,* Psal. cx. 7. And there indeed is there a remedy for infidelity, if the Infidel will throw it in. If he will put it off, be it never so dyed in the contempt of Christs blood, that very blood shall cleanse it: and therefore
In the next place let us labour for Faith; let not his hands be stretched out any longer upon the cross to a faithless and stubborn ge∣neration. 'Twere a piece of ignorance that a Scholar would abhor [ D] to be guilty of, not to be able to understand that inscription writ∣ten by Pilate in either of three languages, Jesus of Nazareth King, Joh. xix. 19.* Nay for all the Gospels and Comments written on it, both by his Disciples and his works, still to be non-proficients, this would prove an accusation written in Marble, nay an Exprobra∣tion above a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. In a word, Christ is still offered, and the proclamation not yet outdated, his sufferings in the Scripture proposed to every one of you to lay hold on, and his Ministers sent [ E] as Embassadors beseeching you to be reconciled,* 2 Cor. v. 20. and more then that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, his body and blood set before our eyes to be felt and gazed on, and then even a Didy∣mus would believe, nay to be divided amongst us, and put in our mouths, and then who would be so sluggish as to refuse to feed on him in his heart?
For your Election from the beginning to this gift of Faith, let that never raise any doubt or scruple in you, and forslow that [ F] coming to him; this is a jealousie that hath undone many, in a resolvedness that if they are not elected, all their faith shall prove unprofitable. Christ that bids thee repent, believe, and come unto him, is not so frivolous to command impossibilities, nor so cruel to mock our impotence. Thou mayest believe, because he bids: Be∣lieve, and then thou mayest be sure thou wert predestinated to be∣lieve; Page 178 and then all the decrees in the World cannot deny thee [ A] Christ, if thou art thus resolved to have him. If thou wilt not believe, thou hast reprobated thy self, and who is to be accused that thou art not saved? But if thou wilt come in, there is sure entertainment for thee. He that begins in Gods Councels, and never thinks fit to go about any Evangelical duty, till he can see his name writ in the book of life, must not begin to believe, till he be in Heaven; for there only is that to be read radio recto. The surer course is to follow the Scripture; to hope comfortably every one [ B] of our selves, to use the means, apprehend the mercies, and then to be confident of the benefits of Christs suffering: and this is the way to make our Election sure, to read it in our selves radio re∣flexo, by knowing that we believe to resolve that we are elected; thereby we know that we are past from death to life, if we love the brethren,* 1 Joh. iii. 14. And so is it also of faith, for these are inse∣parable graces. So Psal xxv. 14. Prov. iii. 32. Gods secret and his Covenant being taken for his decree is said to be with them that [ C] fear him, and to be shewed to them, i. e. their very fearing of God is an evidence to them that they are his elect, with whom he hath entred Covenant. Our faith is the best argument, or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by which to make a judgment of Gods decree concerning us. I say, if we will believe, God hath elected us; 'tis impossible any true faith should be refused upon pretence the person was predestined to destruction; and if it were possible, yet would I hope that Gods decrees (were they as absolute as some would [ D] have them) should sooner be softned into mercy, then that mercy purchased by his Son, should ever fail to any that believes. The bargain was made, the Covenant struck, and the immutability of the Persian laws are nothing to it, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life,* Joh. iii. 15. Wherefore in brief, let us attend the means, and let what will or can come of the End; Christ is offered to every soul here present to be a Jesus, only do thou accept of him, and thou art past from death to life; there [ E] is no more required of thee, but only to take him; if thou art truly possessor of him, he will justifie, he will humble, he will sanctifie thee; he will work all reformation in thee: and in time seal thee up to the day of redemption: Only be careful that thou mistakest not his Person; thou must receive him, as well as his promises; thou must take him as a Lord and King, as well as a Saviour, and be content to be a subject, as well as a Saint. He is now proclaimed in your ears, and you must not foreslow the au∣dience [ F] or procrastinate; To day if you will hear his Voice harden not your hearts. He holds himself out on purpose to you, and by the Minister wooes you to embrace him: and then it nearly concerns you not to provoke so true, so hearty, nay even so passionate a friend:* if he be not kissed he will be very angry. Lastly, if in Page 179 [ A] this business of believing so vulgarly exposed, there yet appear some difficulties in the practice to be overcome before it prove a possible duty: if self-denial be incompetible with flesh and blood; if delights and worldly contentments, if an hardned heart in sin, and a world of high Imaginations, refuse to submit or humble themselves to the poverty of Christ; if we cannot empty our hands to lay hold, or unbottom our selves to lean wholly on Christ, then must we fly, and pray to that spirit of power, to subdue, and [ B] conquer, and lead us captive to it self, to instruct us in the base∣ness, the nothingness, nay the dismal, hideous wretchedness of our own estate, that so being spiritually shaken and terrified out of our carnal pride and security, we may come trembling and quaking to that Throne of Grace, and with the hands of Faith though feeble ones, with the eye of Faith, though dimly, with a hearty sincere resigning up of our selves, we may see and apprehend, and fasten, and be united to our Saviour: that we may live in [ C] Christ, and Christ in us, and having begun in the life of grace here, we may hope and attain to be accomplished with that of Glory hereafter.
Now to him which hath elected us, &c.