GENESIS, xxviij. xij. xiij.
1. And he Dreamed, and behold, a Ladder set upon the Earth, and the top of it reach∣ed to Heaven: and behold the Angels of God ascending and descending on it.
2. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham, thy Father, &c.
JACOB having got the Blessing, was sent away by Isaac his Father, and it is said verse 10. That he went from Beersheba, and went towards Haran. And
Night coming on, he laid himself down to sleep, tho' he had but hard lodging, For he took of the Stones of the place, and put them for his Pillow. v. 11.
And he Dreamed, and behold a Ladder, &c.
Page 2Jacob was like to meet with great Trouble, being forc'd to fly for fear of his Life; (Esau being in∣raged against him, first for getting his Birth-right; and now also his Blessing.) God no doubt gave him this Dream to succour and comfort him in his Jour∣ny; and not only so, but to discover a greater Good to him than his present Support; even to make known by this Dream, the Messiah that should proceed from his Loyns, by whom he, and all his true Seed should ascend to Heaven, and be with God for ever.
In my Text are Two Things to be noted.
*I. A Vision: viz. He saw a Ladder, the Top reach∣ing to Heaven.
II. An Oracle, or Voice from Heaven; God spake to him saying, I am the Lord thy God, &c.
It may be necessary to speak a little briefly by way of Explication, and chiefly to shew what may be ei∣ther Primarily, or more Remotely, or Subordinately signified, or held forth by this Ladder.
1. I understand by this Ladder directly, and Pri∣marily is meant our Lord Jesus Christ: Nor am I alone in this respect; for divers learned Men hint the same thing; among which I might mention our late 〈◊〉 upon the Holy Bible, on the place, be••• by Reverend Mr. Pool. He says, This Ladder represents Christ, by whom Heaven and Earth are united; who is called the way to Heaven, which this Ladder was. Moreover, very evident it is, that our Saviour himself refers to Jacob's Ladder, Joh. 1.51. speaking of himself and of the Angels ascending and descending upon, the Son of Man.
2. But more Remotely or Subordinately it may refer (as some think) to the Church of Christ: Some being on Earth, and others in Heaven; of their going from Earth to Heaven; and as thus, it may represent God's special Providence, and Care of Jacob, either Personally considered, or Mystically i. e. the whole Church, bearing the name of Jacob who by degree•. thro' the Providence and blessed Page 3 Favour of God, and ministration of the Angels, as∣cend from a low State, to an exalted State, or from a State of Grace on Earth, to a state of Glory in Heaven. It may represent (saith Mr. Pool) to Ja∣cob, the Providence of God; who though he dwells in Heaven, extends his Care, and Goverment to the Earth; and particularly maketh use of Angels as ministering Spirits, for the good of his People; who are not Idle but always in motion.
Behold a Ladder, &c.] This word, [Behold,] hath various Acceptations; sometimes it calls for Observation, and Attention; and sometimes for Ad∣miration; Behold what manner of Love is this!* &c. It may referr to both these in my Text: Such a Ladder, the Foot standing upon the Earth, and the Top of it reaching to Heaven, calls both for diligent Attention, and Observation; and also for the highest Admiration.
The Second Branch of this Vision is, That of the Angels of God ascending and descending upon this Ladder▪ or upon the Son of Man:*Verily verily I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see Heaven open, and the Angels of God ascending, and descending up∣on the Son of Man.
There are Two Things to be noted.
- 1. The Persons mentioned.
- 2. The Motions of the Persons.
1. The Persons mentioned are the Angels of God.
2. The Motion of these Persons, they ascended, and descended, Reciprocally upon this Ladder; that is, upon Christ, either Personally, or Mystically considered; and as one Observes, when they are said to ascend, they Minister to Christ Personally consi∣dered; and when said to descend, they minister to Christ Mystically considered: i.e. to the Church.
How the Angels minister to Christ, and to his Church, I purpose to speak unto, and open that in one Sermon upon this Text, and shall therefore speak no more to it now.
Page 4And behold, the Lord God stood above it. In our Text this word [behold] is thrice repeated, which doubtless may den•te the important matter signified thereby.
By the [Lord God,] I understand, GOD the FATHER, who is represented above it, as the contriver and maker of this mystical Ladder; who indeed prepared the Body of Christ, and so found out this wonderful way to Heaven;*and said, I am the Lord thy God; that is in Christ, I am thy God, or a God in Covenant with thee Jacob, and with all thy true Spiritual Seed,* who strive to ascend up to me by this glorious Medium: for doubtless, God the Father being above it, it doth al∣so denote; that this Ladder is the only way to the Father;*No man cometh to the Father, but by me. So much by way of Explication.
I. Observ.] God knows how (even by Dreams) to instruct and comfort his People.
*The Apostle saith, That God at sundry times, and in divers manners,*spake in times past unto the Fa∣thers by the Prophets. Sometimes by Angels; some∣times by special Inspiration; sometimes by Visions, and sometimes by Dreams; In a Dream, in a Vision of the Night;*when deep Sleep falleth upon Men, in slumbring upon their Beds, then he openeth the ears of Men, and sealeth their Instruction.
I shall speak a little as to Dreams, in general, of wh•el• there are three sorts.
- 1. Natural Dreams.*
- 2. Diabolical Dreams.
- 3. Divine Dreams.
1. Some Dreams are meer natural Dreams; and these may arise from the Temperature of the Body; Melancholy,* and Flegmatick Persons, have their spe∣cial Dreams; so have those that are of a Sanguine, or of a Cholerick Complexion: The First, as Na∣turalists observe, are inclined to Dream of things •en•ing to Sadness; perhaps of Death, of GravesPage 5 or of dead Men. The Second, of Sottish things. The Third, of Pleasant and Delightful things. The Fourth, of War, Blood, Contention; or of Fighting, and Wranglings.
2. A Dream cometh through multitude of Business;* Commonly (as Mr. Caryl observes) a Man Dreams at Night of what he hath been doing in the Day, as experience shews.
3. Natural Dreams, some affirm are caused by the Diet, or Food which we eat, some Meat, espe∣cially inclining to some special thoughts and Dreams.
4. As the same Author noteth also, Natural Dreams arise from vehement Affections, to, or desire of, what we want; the Prophet signifieth;*The hungry Man Dreameth he Eateth, and the thirsty Man Dreameth he Drinketh: These are called Na∣tural Dreams because they arise from Natural Causes; or the rise of them are seated in Nature.
Secondly, There are some Dreams that are no doubt Diabolical, or arise from the Injections of the Devil; I am subject to think, but few godly Chri∣stians, but by sad experience may find they at some times have been afflicted by filthy or hateful Dreams, dreaming of such things which their Souls abhor; ask them, and they will tell you: The Devil well knows what Corruptions are in our Hearts, or in the Unregenerate part; and if God restrains him not, he may work upon, and stir up those evil Hu∣mours when we are asleep: Take Mr. Caryl's words; Satan is skilful and diligent in soliciting our Lusts and Corruptions both Day and Night, both Sleeping and Waking: Yea, the Devil can inspire false Doctrines and Opinions by Dreams, as well as provoke to wicked Practises of such Dreams: If there be among you a false Prophet,*or a dreamer of Dreams, &c. False Prophets had many Dreams; and as the good Prophets had their Dreams from GOD, so the false Prophets had their Dreams from the Devil. All diabolical Dreams are either DreamsPage 6 of Lies, or Falshood, like Satan himself; or else, Filthy and Defiling, for he is an unclean Spirit.
Thirdly, There are some Divine Dreams. Dreams are of three sorts, saith Reverend Mr. Perkins:
1. Because they arise immediately from God's Spirit; it is the divine Spirit that Injects those Thoughts into our Hearts whilst we Sleep.
2. Because the Subject matter of them is Divine, Spiritual, or Heavenly; God speaking hereby un∣to us, and sealing up either Instruction, Reproof, or Comfort to our Souls. Mr. Caryl Notes Five Messages God sends Men by Dreams, which take as followeth.
There are some who affirm that a Man is never in a sound, or deep Sleep when he Dreameth; which certainly is a great mistake:* For doth not the Text say, That a deep Sleep fell on Abraham when God by a Dream revealed to him what should become of his Posterity, and how they should be in Egypt Four Hundred Years.
I find that Divines give several Reasons why God used to apply himself to Man by Dreams; or this way speaketh to him: Of which Mr. Caryl gives five Reasons:
1. Because in Sleep, Man is (as I may say) at best leisure for God to deal with him; he is not so busy nor distracted,* or hurried with the Affairs of this Life: Some Men are so fill'd with earthly thoughts whilst awake, that they have no time, no leisure to hear what God hath either by his Word, or by Conscience to say unto them.
2. Because when they are awake, they are ready to debate and discuss what they receive by their own Reason, we are subject (as he observes) to Logick it with God, or use Arguments to avoid sharp Con∣victions darted into the mind: But in Sleep we take things barely as offered, without Reasonings, or Disputings against it.
3. Because in Sleep, when all is still and quiet, that which God represents to us, takes more with the Soul, and leaves a deeper Impression upon the Mind of Man; for common experience teacheth us how Dreams, (and specially some) stick; and Page 8 how those Apprehensions which we have in our Sleep dwell with us, and abide in our Memory, when a∣wake: Nay, perhaps some remarkable Dream we had Twenty, Thirty, nay, more than 40 years ago, are still fresh in our Minds, we finding it was of God and full of Instruction: As I could tell you of one I had when Young; a discovery to me of those great Troubles and Sorrows I should meet with, I thought I was with the Lord Jesus, and he gave me a touch, and bid me follow him; which I did, tho' I saw no form) and he spake to me, and told me, I should suf∣fer hard things for his Sake; and soon after my Tri∣als began, which were known to many, tho' this was between 30 and 40 years ago, yet is as fresh in my Memory as if not above a Year since.
4. Because the Lord hereby would clearly shew his Divine Skill in Teaching and Instructing Man; or that he hath a peculiar way or art in Teaching: He Teacheth so as none of the Wise Masters of Learning were ever able to Teach and Instruct their Schollars; there was never any Man could Teach another when Asleep; they that are Taught ought to be more than Awake, they ought to exercise all their Senses, Care, and Diligence; but now God is such a Teacher, such an Instructor, that when we are Asleep, nay in a deep Sleep, he can convey In∣struction, and Teach us his Lessons: This surely doth magnifie his Skill, Divine Wisdom and Power: Who but God can teach thus? As he can give a Heart t• Understand, and can give Understanding to the Heart of Man, so he can teach us and discover him∣self, and 〈◊〉 up Instruction to us when we are asleep.
5. It may also be, because God would hereby assure us, •hat the So•l is a distinct Essence, and hath it's distinct Operations from the Body; and that even Death it self cannot deprive the Soul of Man of it's Working▪ for what i• Sleep but a kind of Death? Sleep is a short Death, and Death is a long Sleep. Now, when the Bo•• is (as it were) Page 9 laid aside, the Soul can go to work when the Body lyes like a Block, and stirs not; the Soul can bestir it self, and act about many matters, and run it's thoughts to the utmost ends of the Earth without the help of the Bodily Organs, or Powers; yea, raise up the thoughts to the highest Heavens, in blessed in∣tercourse with God himself. There is no need to prove matter of Fact that it 'tis so: What Night, with reference to some or other, doth not utter this point of Knowledge? Nor, need I (saith the same Author) stay to prove that this is [if not a Demon∣strative] yet a very Probable Argument of the di∣stinct Substantiality of the Soul from the Body; namely, it's Operations when the Body [with all it's proper and peculiar Faculties and Powers] is a∣sleep, and contributes nothing to those Operations: And tho' it may be objected, that irrationa• Crea∣tures may have Dreams; yet their Dreams do, no doubt, differ as much from those of Men as themselves do. To this effect Caryl, and other Learned Men speak.
1. But from hence I would not have people to regard all sorts of Dreams;* especially considering as I hinted before, Satan hath such power admitted him, as sometimes to suggest evil and pernicious thoughts into our Minds when we are asleep; some Dreams being Diabolical, and others arising from Natural Causes, and are Vain, and Ridiculous.
2. It therefore ought to be considered how we may know Divine Dreams from others: And this be sure of,* that whatsoever Dreams tend to draw the Soul from God, or to imbrace any Notion, or Doctrine that is repugnant to the Word of God, is not Divine; not from God, but from the Devil.
3. Moreover let no person now expect God should speak unto them by Dreams or Visions; for tho' he did so frequently before Christ came, yet Now, in these last days, God hath spoken unto us by his Son;* and we have a more sure Word of Prophecy: God Page 10 now,* [as reverend Perkins notes] doth not usually speak to us by Dreams, yet he being a free Agent, may so do if he please; and no doubt, sometimes he doth thus speak [tho' not commonly] for the Instru∣ction and Consolation of his People. Yet let a•• take heed they are not deceived by Dreams: Luthe• observes how many in his time were deluded b•Dreams, and Visions; which they falsly attribute• to God, as the immediate Author of them, and fro• hence prayed earnestly about two things.
1. That God would give him a good Understand∣ing of the Scriptures, and of his Mind revealed therein.
2. That he would not send him Dreams or Visi∣ons, Yea, [saith he] I contracted with God that h• would not: Brethren the holy Scriptures are those sacred Oracles by which God speaks to us, and 〈◊〉 them i• contained all things which are necessary for us to know as to Faith, and Practice; being suffici∣ent to make every Man Wise to Salvation thro' Faith in Jesus Christ,*and Perfect, throughly furnished un∣to all good Works: Therefore certainly such that are not satisfied to adhere to the holy Scriptures as a sufficient Rule in all points of Faith, and Practice▪ but desire God to speak unto them by Dreams, o•Visions, are deluded by Satan, and do thereby cas• great contempt upon the holy Scriptures.
But no more as to Dreams in general, we will now come to this remarkable Dream, and Vision Jacob had: And behold a Ladder, &c.
*II. Observ.] The Lord Jesus may fuly be compare• to a Ladder that is set upon the Earth, and the To• of it reaching to Heaven.
This Proposition I shall open God assisting. — And,
First, I shall run a parallel between Jesus Christ, and Jacob's Ladder. And Shew that Christ may be compared to Jacob's Ladder. In respect both of his Person, and Offices. Now,
Page 11Before I proceed I know not, my Brethren, why we may not run the Parallel so far as there is a clear Parity, and it is consistent with the Analogy of Faith.
1. A Ladder is the contrivance of the Wisdom of Man, for the reaching, attaining,* or doing of some thing which the Author designed thereby to do: So JESUS CHRIST as Mediator, GOD-MAN in one Person, is the rare and wonderful contrivance of the infinite Wisdom of God, for his attaining, or accomplishment of his own most glorious design, and purpose, which is the Glory and Exaltation of his own Name, and the Salvation of his Elect, who on this Mystical Ladder must ascend to Heaven.
2. A Ladder is a proper means, or Medium to attain to that thing, or accomplish that work which it was contrived, or made for, and possibly, without which Medium it was impossible for the Person to reach to that thing, or do that work which he de∣signed, and purposed to attain unto, or to accom∣plish, and bring to pass: So JESUS CHRIST is the only way, and means which GOD hath found out to bring us to Heaven. The Builders of Babel thought to get up to Heaven by a contrivance of their own, even by erecting a mighty Tower,*the top of which (they said) should reach to Heaven; but they were soon confounded: And like to them My∣stery-babylon hath sought out other ways to Heaven, then by this Mystical Ladder Jesus Christ; they think to get Justification,* and eternal Life by their own good Works, and by other Sacrifices (then by the one Sacrifice of the Cross) which they offer up for the living, and the dead; but they are but Ba∣bel-builders; even blind, and deceived Wretches,* whom God hath confounded, and will confound: Brethren, there is no other way nor means to obtain eternal Life, but by Jesus Christ alone:*I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no Man cometh unto Page 12 the Father but by me: Jesus Christ went to Heaven, as our blessed Head, and Representative, by his own Blood;* by his own Blood, he entered in once, into thy holy Place; to shew that there is no other way by which Sinners can go to Heaven this only suiting with the Wisdom of God,* and every ways answer∣ing his own glorious Purpose and Design in manifest∣ing, and magnifying the Glory of all his blessed At∣tributes, and making the Law honourable by Christ• fulfilling all the Precepts thereof, and bearing the penalty of it, to free us from the Curse thereof: Some think to get to Heaven by a Sober, Moral Life; o∣thers by their own Faith, and inherent Holiness, and Obedience to the precepts of the Gospel, but in op∣position to all these 〈◊〉, Christ is the Way• it is by his Righteousness alone,* we are Justified in the sight of God, his perfect Obedience to the Law, is our Title to eternal Life,* and by his death (who bore Hell pangs for us) we are delivered from ever∣lasting Wrath,* and Condemnation; Neither is there Salvation in any other: For there is no other Name given under Heaven, whereby we must be Saved; For either Soul or Body, there is no other Person, no other Sacrifice, no other Righteousness, no other way, or thing: But by this Mystical Ladder Jesus Christ alone, by which we can be Saved.
3. A Ladder must be long enough to to reach the thing desi•ed: Now Jesus Christ, in respect of his two Natures, is prepared so by the Wisdom of God, that in his Person he may be said to reach from Earth unto Heaven.
1. As touching his Humane Nature, which is the F•ot of this Ladder; this stands as it were upon the Earth: — And,
2. As touching his divine Nature, which is the Top of the Ladder; this reacheth unto Heaven; and in these two Natures in the Person of Christ, we have what is represented by Jacob's Ladder; for as these two Natures are in his Person united toge∣ther, Page 13 Heaven and Earth are united together:* And now that he is God, see John, 1.1.2. In the be∣ginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Christ, in respect of his di∣vine Nature, is here called the Word; he was before the beginning of the Word, even 〈◊〉 everlasting; or ever the Earth w•s; He was with God,* and was God, not a Creature; he was not Created at the beginning, but was the Creator, the Maker of Hea∣ven and Earth; all things were made by him; not as the Instrumental Cause of all things, or any In∣strument in the Father's hand, but as a Principle Ef∣ficient Cause of all things: Without controversie,*great is the mystery of Godliness; God was manifest in the Flesh. The Word was made Flesh,*and dweit among us: That is the Son of God, or second Per∣son in the Trinity: The Evangelist (as one observes) rather saith, he was made Flesh, then he was made Man, more plainly to distinguish the two Natures in Christ; to assert the truth of his Humane Na∣ture; to let us know that Christ assumed his Hu∣mane Nature in common; not the particular Na∣ture of any; it is not said he was changed into Flesh, but by his assuming it, he was made Flesh, or He, the Word, Took upon him the See• of Abraham,* even, the same common Nature of all the Elect.
Brethren, Jesus Christ is perfect God, and perfect Man, in one Person, therefore his Person may truly be said to reach from Earth to Heaven.
Pray Observe; Jacob saw the Foot of the Ladder*to stand upon the Earth. The Foot went not low∣er than the Earth: this might signify Christ should take upon him the Seed of Abraham, or the Nature of Man, not the Nature of Angels; it was to raise to Heaven the Inhabitants of the Earth, not the infernal Spirits, or Devils of Hell: Had the foot of the Ladder only reached to the Air, or come down into the middle Centre of the Earth, it might have seemed doubtful, whether st was prepa∣red Page 14 for Fallen Angels, or for fallen Mankind, to get up to Heaven; but the foot of it standing on the Earth,* denotes, no doubt, the same thing which the Apostle speaks; Verily he took not hold on the Nature of Angels, but of the Seed of Abraham he taketh hold.
First, It was requisite He should be MAN, and so have his Foot upon the Earth.
*1. That he might in our Nature perform that perfect Obedience to the holy Law of God, which was required of Mankind; for no Righteousness short of that can Justify us, or carry us to Heaven.
2. He must be Man, that he might be capable to Suffer and Dye for Mankind; God considered simply in himself, could not dye.
3. Because the Justice of God required the same Nature which Sinned, to suffer even the same Na∣ture that broke the Law, to dye, and to bear the Wrath of God.
4. He must be Man, that so he might Simpathize with us, or have a feeling of our Infirmities; it must be such a Nature of Man that was cloath∣ed with Infirmities, which we have, or are att∣tended with since the Fall, because he came to raise fallen Man: Now our Infirmities are of two sorts.
1st. Penal and Painful.
2ly, Sinful and Culpable Infirmities. It was the first of these Christ did take; he had a Nature that could Hunger and Thir••〈◊〉 be Weary, and suffer Pain and Misery both 〈◊〉 and Body, as we are liable to;*We have 〈…〉-Priest which can∣not be touched with ••e feeling of ••r Infirmities, but was in all points Tempted like as we are, yet with∣out Sin. This shews he was really Man, or had a true Humane (tho not a Sinful) Nature: It be∣hoved him to be made like unto •is Brethren, that he might be a merciful,*and faithful High-Priest in Page 15 things pertaining to God, to make Reconciliation for the Sins of the People: For in that he himself hath suffered being Tempted, he is able to succour them that are Tempted.
Secondly, It was necessary also that he should be GOD.
1. That he might reach Heaven,* I mean the full demands of God's Justice, by way of Satisfaction: A mere Man could not satisfy infinite Justice, or make up that Wrong our Sins ha• done to God; but seeing both the Natures in Christ make but one Person, when Christ dyed, he that was truly God dyed: Hence it is said,*God purchased the Church with his own Blood: Which was an infinite Satis∣faction to divine Justice: had we all lain in Hell for ever, we could not have paid one Farthing of that Debt we owed to God; and because we could not Satisfy, therefore must have Suffer∣ed for ever.
2. That he might sustain in his Body the Wrath of God, and severe Punishment due to us for our Sins; for none but he that was God could bear so great a Burden and heavy Wrath, as all the Sins of the Elect were, and did incur: Suppose the Sins but of one Person, (and he be none of the greatest Sinners neither) yet if charged upon him, would they not sink him down to Hell; Oh! what Power, what Strength then, save the Strength of an infinite Person, could bear, as well as satisfy for, all the Sins of so many Thousand Persons, even the whole number of God's Elect.
3. He must be God that he might be able to overcome all our Enemies, not only for us, but also in us, and preserve us from the greatest Evils, and bestow upon us the greatest Good: He must lay his Hands upon both; viz. He must bring God down to us, and carry us up to God; I mean reconcile God to Man, and Man to God, which he could not do, unless he be God blessed for ever∣more:Page 16 how could he know our Hearts, our Wan• our Necessities, except he was the Eternal Go•▪ How also could he Quicken us, and raise us from 〈◊〉 Dead, and destroy the Power of Satan in o• Souls, and take away that cursed Enmity, which naturally is in our Hearts against God?*
Now, thus we may clearly perceive, that the Spiritual Ladder is long enough to reach from Earth to Heaven.
Fourthly, As a Ladder must be long enough 〈◊〉 reach to the thing or place desired, so also must be broad or wide enough, if there are mo•• than one to go up, even many Persons, it must 〈◊〉 wide enough for them all
Even so this Ladder this way, is broad enoug• for so many that are appointed, or ordained to g• to Heaven, or to be Saved. Brethren, Christ is a 〈◊〉 Way, or Medium to carry all the Elect to Heaven Not One, but All.
1. In that he took not into Union with his Di∣vine Nature, the Single Person of any, but th• common Nature of all that Sinned, who shal• be Saved.* Take here what a worthy Write Notes:
2. So many as were ordained to eternal Life,* shall by Christ be saved: True, the Blood of Christ hath vertue, or worth enough in it to save the whole World, but it can be effectual to none but to those for whom it was shed, or to them to whom the Holy Ghost doth apply it; which is to all that do believe, all that Christ died for, he prayed for, and doth now interce•d for, that they may receive of the Merits of his Blood; (but he did not pray for the World) yet he tis able to save to the uttermost,* (even to the last round of the Ladder) all that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives (observe it) to make intercession for them. No Man can ascend this Ladder without the mighty power of God; nay, no Man can come to it except the Father draw him; the Election of the Father, the Re∣demption of the Son, and the Application of the Spirit are of like, and the same Extention.*All that the Father hath given to me, shall come un∣to me; the Holy Spirit will enlighten them, work Faith in them, bring them all to take hold of, and ascend this Ladder: So wide as the spe•i•l love of God is, so wide is this spiritual Ladder, and it is indeed so broad that Three Thousand Persons could set their Feet upon it,* and ascend up at one, and the same time: no 'Man ever by an act of true and saving Faith attempted to ascend thereon, that found it too narrow, and straight for him, tho' the way to Heaven comparatively is narrow.
Page 18Fifthly, A Ladder which reacheth from Earth unto Heaven, ought also to be exceeding strong and firm.
*Now, Jesus Christ, this spiritual Ladder; tho' he be Man, yet he is also God, the most high God,* Co-eternal, Co-essential, and Co-equal with the Father; and therefore he is mighty strong▪ he is able to bear the weight of all our Sins, and of our Persons, and Infirmities; He is migh∣ty to save:*Cast thy Burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. Though he is represented in our Text by a Ladder,* yet he is also called a Rock,* a strong Rock, a high Rock, an everlast∣ing Rock;* and pray what is firmer than a Rock▪ A Rock is locus exelus, a high place; Rocks, as One notes,* tho' they have their Roots very low, and deep, yet their Tops are high and •o •ring▪ and lifted up above the surface of other pa••• of the Earth: Some Rocks reach to the Cloud•; the Lord J•sus is a high Rock, in regard of the Dignity of his Person;*He that cometh 〈◊〉 H•aven is above all:* He is the brightnes•〈◊〉 the Father's Glory; God hath exalted him, and given him a Name above every Name.
1. In Christ, all the Attributes of God are united together,* to save all that venture on him; Justice and Mercy in him are met together, and Fiss each other; He is the Man of God's Right Hand,*made strong for himself, as well as for us.
2. Christ is not only Strong, as Mediator, in respect of his Person, but also by God's Eternal De•ree and Purpose; God's absolute Decrees are compared to Mountains of Brass;* he is fixed, Page 19 and stands firm and sure, by God's Eternal Pur∣pose; hence called a sure Foundation:* No need to fear venturing up upon such a Ladder; should Millions of Sinners at once get upon it, 'tis strong enough to bear them, tho they are never so heavy laden with Sin and Iniquity: He that hath born the weight of Divine Wrath, and Vengeance,* can bear, and sustain the weight of all that come unto him, and venture themselves upon him by Faith and Dependance, tho' never so vile and notorious Sinners.
Sixthly, A Ladder so exceeding high, must have many Rounds, or Gradations to ascend by.
So Jesus Christ, in undertaking our Salvation, proceeded gradually, Step by Step.*
1. He came down from Heaven to fix his Foot in our Nature upon the Earth.
2. He was Incarnate, or assumed a Body pre∣pared for him by the Father;*A Body hast thou prepared me.
3. He was Born of a Virgin, tho' without Sin: That's the third Gradation.
4. He lived a Holy and Spiritual Life, in ex∣act Conformity to that holy Law which we had broken and violated,* to procure a Title for us unto Eternal Life.
5. He died the Cursed death of the Cross to satisfy divine Justice for us; and in our stead.*
6. He Rose again from the Dead the Third Day, for our Justification.*
8. He makes Intercession, pleading the Merits of his Blood for us: These are some of those Gradations, or Steps of Jacob's Ladder, by which all Believers ascend to Heaven.
Seventhly, He that would attain to what he Page 20 desireth, by climbing, or descen•ing up upon 〈◊〉 Ladder, must first come to the Foot of it, an• so Gradually ascend Step by Step.
So that Man, that would go to Heaven, mus• be first brought to the Foot of Jesus Christ, i. e. he must see his own lost,* and miserable Condi••∣on,* and know the Impossibility of getting to Hea∣ven any other way: All Self▪ righteous Person were never brought to the Foot of this La•de• to the Foot of Jesus Christ,* to acknowledg• themselves wretched and undone Sinners•〈◊〉 No Alas!* they see•in• Necessity of Christ, nor o• his Righteousness! They▪ like the Jews of Old▪ being ignorant of God's Righteousness,* go abou• to establish their own Leg••• or Inherent Righ∣teousness: He that thinks he can get Wings t• fly up to Heaven, or can build a•Tower wit• his own hands, whose Top shall reach thither so that he can that way be saved, will neglect nay slight this glorious Contrivance• of God 〈◊〉 in¦finite Wisdom, of Saving Sinners by Jesus Christ and so never come to Christ's Foot:*〈◊〉 it is •ai•• God called Abraham to his Foot: A 〈…〉 maybe said to be brought to the Foot of 〈◊〉 Christ▪ who is effectually Convinced of the 〈…〉 he is in, without Christ; and of 〈◊〉 own I •ability any other way, to Step one Ste•▪ towards Heaven; but with the Publican cry• out,*Lord have Mercy upon me a Sinner. Bre∣thr•n, there are none but sensible Sinners, mea•• and heavy-l•de• Sinners that will come to Christ, the •le•t, before called, are in the same Condi∣tion,*•or state of Wrath with the rest of Man∣kin•, and are enlightned by the holy Spirit to see it, and acknowledge it before they ascend up this spiritual Ladder.
2. Now a po•r Sinner being, brought thus to the Foot of Christ, the first Step, or Gradation he makes in ascending on this Ladder,* is to be∣lieve Page 21 in Christ; to venture his Soul upon him alone; to trust on him, on his Righteousness,* And on the Merits of his Blood for Justificati∣on, &c. He that firmly, and savingly Believes in Christ, may be said to set his Foot on this Lad∣der, to ascend. Some Men do not begin 〈◊〉; they would be at the top of the Ladder,* before they have se••their Feet on the first Round of it; because all that shall be Saved are Elected & they begin there, and hence think; if they •are Elected, tho' they are not called, but are in their Sins, they are Justified, Pardoned, and in as good Estate, as the best Believer in the World. But this is a great Mistake, the Decree of Election, without the Execution of it, puts nothing into actual Existence: God Decreed from all Eter∣nity to create the World, but the World was not therefore from Eternity actually Created.* No more are any of the Elect actually Justified, and in a State of Life, until by the Spirit,* they are united to him and so Believe.* A Man cannot be Dead and Alive at one and the same time: Or, be Condemned and Justified; or be a Child of the Devil, and yet a Child of God. Grace makes a Relative, as well as a Real change all one and the same time; the first Step a Per∣•on takes, I say, towards, Heaven, [pray observe it,]* is to Believe in Christ; and that a Sinner, be∣fore he doth Believe, is brought to the Foot of Christ: i. e. He sees himself Lost and Undone in the first Adam, and till then under Wrath.
3. And then that he may go up, upon this spiritual Ladder, he must Step forward on the next Round, which is that of Obedience to Christ's holy Precepts; Take my Yoke on you,*and learn of me. First, our Lord calls all that are weary, and heavy-laden, to come unto him; that is, to Believe in him, and then to take on them the Yoke of Gospel-Obedience, as Baptism, and Church-member-ship: Page 22 Then they that gladly received th• Word,*were Baptized, and the same day then were added unto them about Three Thousand Soul.
4. And then go on unto Perfection; or pre•• forward in the way of Holiness, and so go step by step,* or from Strength to Strength in Sion adding one Grace of the Spirit unto another.
Eighthly,* He that would go up a very high Ladder, ought to take care to set his Feet direct or straight upon it; not carelesly, or awry but full upon it.
*So all that would ascend on this Ladder, Jesus Christ, must exert a direct act of Faith; he must fix his Soul plum upon him, or firmly upon him: A poor Sinner must see that he takes hold o• Christ in a Promise, with a true and fixed Faith not with a false or presumpteous Fa•••, but by the Faith of the operation of God▪* which is •Fruit of the Spirit,* called the Faith of God's E∣lect;* being only peculiar unto them, 〈◊〉••o a• the chosen of God: A false Faith is 〈◊〉 dange∣rous as a false-Step a Man takes in ascending • a Ladder,* who missing his standing, an•〈◊〉 falls down and perisheth; and so shall al• M••∣believers as well as all Un-believers perish •••∣nally: He that believes not aright, had as g•••believe not at all
Ninthly, As he that climbs up a Ladder ough• to kn•w it's Strength, so he Ventures his L•ft and whole Body upon it.
So that Man that ventures on this spiritual Ladder,* Jesus Christ, ought to know the Strength and Power of Christ, to Justifie, to Pardon, and eternally to Save him; he must venture all the stress of his Salvation on him alone; Christ is the only Foundation,* he must venture his whole Soul upon him; Trust intirely in him; buil• only upon him, and come to the Father by him I know on whom I have Believed:* I know hi•Page 23 Power he is mighty to Save, yea,*able to save to the uttermost (as was hinted before) In the Lord do I put my trust; Again,* (saith David) In thee do I put my Trust.
Tenthly, A Man that ventures to ascend up up∣on a Ladder so exceeding high, the top where∣of reacheth above the Clouds, even to Heaven, as he shews his Faith is not small, so his Courage is great.
Brethren, This of Venturing on Christ, Be∣lieving on Christ, shews, that a Saint's Faith and Courage is not small; Faith lies above Sense; nay, above Reason; I mean Faith in Christ, to believe in a Crucified Saviour; to seek Justifica∣tion by the Righteousness of another; by a Man hang'd on a Tree;* the Greeks counted this Foolishness. To get this way to Heaven, shews a Man acts above himself: Some would say to a Man that is resolved to ascend up on such a Ladder, Friend, you can never get up to Heaven in such a way; you will certainly fall, or faint before you get thither; what Faith have you? What prodigious Courage have you? So here the poor Soul saith I fear not, God •••th set this Ladder up, and fixed it firmly, and G••, Commanded me to Believe in Christ; he •ath bid me venture up on this Ladder: He hath revealed in his Word, that this way,*and By no other, we must be Saved, and I will ven∣ture upon him: Many have gone this way safe to Heaven already, and none can go any other way; I must therefore believe in Christ, ascend to Heaven by him, or else perish for ever.*I know God will help me, and uphold me, and I will therefore, not be afraid; I am convinced of Righ∣teousness, because Christ, as my Head, is gone to the Father; his Righteousness, and not my own, must carry me thither; his Righteousness is Per∣fect, and I am Compleat in him; and as I have Page 24 Righteousness in him, so in him I have Strength also.
Brethren, Without Faith and spiritual Courage▪ no person will adventure to climb up this Lad∣der;* nay, without Faith, no Man can ascend or come to the Father: Believing in Christ, is a climbing up, or ascending up upon this Ladder.
Eleventhly, It is a vain thing for a Man to hope to get up to the Top of a Ladder, that will not first set his Foot on the lower Roun• thereof.
So it is a vain thing for any to hope to be Saved, or to get to Heaven, who do not first Believe, and receive R•••nerating Grace; for he that,*Believes not, shall be Damned.
Twelfthly, He that ascends up very high on a Mighty Tall Ladder, hath a clear Sight, or Prospect of Heaven; and the higher he goes the smaller the Earth appears to him; it seems but a little spot; nay, it being a dark Body, 〈…〉, at last not perceive it to be any ••ing at all, or quite lose the sight of it; and 〈◊〉 step, he takes, the further he goes from 〈…〉 and the higher he comes to Heaven, and hath a clearer Sight of that.
So he, who by Faith and Communion with God, gets up up•n this spiritual Ladder, Jesus Christ, hath a clear Prospect of the Glory 〈◊〉 Heaven;*Moses by Faith, saw him that is in∣visible: Faith presented to his view the Angel of the Covenant, and God Reconciled in him; viz. the Lord Jesus Christ.* Carnal, or Earthly Persons, are at such a great distance from Hea∣ven, that they cannot discern the Glory of it; they have no Sight, no Eyes to see afar off; but the Earth,* and Earthly things appearing to the Carnal sight, being always in their view, they are exceedingly Affected therewith. But Believers,* who are dwellers above, and who daily Page 25 make a further Prog•ession H•a•e•〈…〉 the Earth, and Earthly this •s as 〈…〉•••∣ry step they take, they go f•rt•e•〈…〉 from Earth in their Love and 〈…〉 and Contemplations; Our conversatio•〈…〉•••∣ven: Others mind Earthly things, 〈…〉 the Earth, and therefore speak of 〈…〉 but Believers are said to dwell in Hea•••〈…〉 grand Enemy of the Saints, is said to open 〈◊〉Mouth to blaspheme against God, to blaspheme his Name, and his Tabernacle, and all that dwell in Heaven; that is, in the Church of God,* Mi∣litant, they shall dwell on •igh•; they are out of those confused Hurries, and Noises, Dangers,* and Perplexities others, who dwell below are atten∣ded with•▪ They are born from above, have hea∣venly Hearts, heavenly Principles, heavenly De∣sires, heavenly Ends and Aims, and heavenly Lives;* they have Communion with the God of Heaven;* heavenly things are their Delight; they s•a• so high above, that they are Ravished with that sight which they have of Heaven.
There are some other things that I might speak of, as held forth by this glorious Type of Christ; or which might be improved for our Instruction from hence, but I shall leave them until the next time, and close now with a brief word of Ap¦plication.
1. By way of Admiration.* See what a won∣derful person Jesus Christ is! Behold the Son of Man, or this spiritual Ladder that reacheth from Earth to Heaven, behold it with Admiration! Who would have thought of such away to Hea∣ven? Who, but infinite Wisdom, could have found out such a way to the Father? What Work-man but the eternal God, could make such Page 26 a Ladder? The Father is said to be above it, or on the top of it, to denote this way he Pre∣pared, and only by this way we must go to him, if ever we come to Heaven. Christ is God and Man, in One Person, Heaven and Earth meet together in him; he brings God to us, and car∣ries us up to God, God is reconciled to us in him, and we are reconciled to God by him.
2. Be exhorted to get up on this Ladder: If ever you think to see the Father, he is above it, as the end of our Journey, as our Hope and Reward; he calls upon you Sinners to Ad∣venture up this Ladder; to believe in his Son: He is above it to direct you, uphold you, and encourage you, therefore fear not; nay, he is above it, declaring himself in Covenant with all that come to him by Jesus Christ, and to be their God;*I am the Lord God, of Abraham, &c. This he spake to Jacob, as standing above it, or on the top of this Ladder.
3. Bless God for Christ, for his devising of such a way to raise us up, who were sunk so low, and had no strength, no skill, no helper, none that could bring us to God, nor find out a way to save our Souls, but God himself only, therefore he saith, Deliver him from going down into the Pit,*I have found a Ransom.
*Reproof.] This may be also for Reprehension to divers sorts of Persons,
1. To such that deny the D••ty, or God-head of Jesus Christ: If he be no more than a meer Man, the Ladder is too short to reach up to Heaven: He could not reach so high as to sa∣tisfy divine Justice, or to bring us to God, it being through the worth and dignity of his Per∣son, who being an infinite Person, or God over all, there was an infinite Worth and Merit in his Sufferings and Obedience. True, he might have Page 27 saved himself, (being Perfect, never having Sinned, nor broke God's Law,) tho' he had been but a meer Man; but it is from his being God as well as Man. Substituted in our stead, and standing in our Law-place as our great Head and •pon∣ser, •• that gave such Worth and Merit for us by his Obedience, and suffering to the Law and Justice of God. Moreover, how else also could he have overcome Death, the Devil, and all our Enemies, and have raised himself from the Dead? Death would have kept him under it's Power, and he had never came out of the Grave to as∣cend so high as Heaven to raise us thither.
2. It Reprehends all such also, who seek by a∣ny other way or means to go to Heaven:* We have new Babel-builders, or Work-mongers that think to climb up to Heaven by their own Works, by their own Faith, and sincere Obedience: And others by the Light within; which is but a branch of the First-covenant, or law of God, writ in the Heart;* and if there had been a Law that could have given Life, or raised us up to Heaven, verily, Righteousness had been by the Law;* But then, (as the Apostle saith) Christ is dead in vain.
Examin.] Try your selves,* by what you have heard, whether you have ascended on this Lad∣der, yea, or nay;
1. Were you ever brought to the Foot of Christ? Did you ever see your lost Conditi∣on in the first Adam, and that there is no o∣ther way to be Saved, but by the Lord Jesus?
2. Are you at the lowest part of the Lad∣der, and there rest; or are you got up towards the top thereof? There is no resting, no stay to be made when you first ascend, or first be∣lieve in Christ, or on any attainment of Grace, but you must mount up, or ascend up higher, Page 28from Faith to Faith;* have you stept up on the Roand of Obedience? have you took Christ's yoke upon you? [this seems too hard a step for some to take:] are you got above the Earth in your Affections? doth the Earth, and the things thereof, grow less and less every day in your sight? as in a natural respect it doth to him that soars very high, or climbs upon a Lad∣der, to the very Clouds. Are you willing to leave Earth, to leave this World, to go to Hea∣ven?*Paul longed to be dissolved, and to be with Christ: He pressed towards the mark. Do you dwell in Communion with God?
•las! many love to be below, they like those lower Regions best: See how it is with you; but no more at this time.