SERMON XIV. ON MARK X. v. 27.
WE have seen the Disciples Wonder returning. Christ that is never wanting to his in their Trouble and Astonishment, graciously look∣eth upon them, and in words full of Comfort giveth a Solution of that which was such a Riddle to them: And Iesus looking upon them, saith, &c. Here we have
(1.) Christ's Jesture, Iesus looked upon them.
(2.) Christ's Answer by a Distinction how it is impossible, and how not. In the first part of the Distinction there is a Concession, That with Men it is im∣possible. In the second Branch there is a Correction, but not with God. This latter Branch is Confirmed by a general Reason, for with God all things are possible. In this Text three things are asserted.
- (1.) The Impotency of Nature.
- (2.) The Sovereign Efficacy of Grace.
- (3.) The general Truth upon which it is grounded, and that is, the Omnipo∣tency of God. Accordingly the Points are three,
- 1. That it is impossible for meer Man by his own Natural strength to get to Hea∣ven.
- 2. Men that are discouraged with the sense of their own Impotency should consider the Power of God.
- 3. That this Power of God is Alsufficient, and can do all things.
1 Doct. That it is impossible for meer Man by his own Natural strength to get to Heaven.
Two things will Evidence that.
(1.) There is Legalis Exclusio, We are all Excluded by the Sentence of God's Law, and therefore it is impossible for any meer Man to get to Heaven. The Law knows no way of Justifying a Sinner, but only of Saving a Creature Holy and Innocent; and if we be not Holy and Innocent, there is a Sentence in force against us: That Scripture expresses the Tenor of the Law, Gal. 3.10. For as many as are of the Works of the Law, are under the Curse; for it is written, Cur∣sed is every one that continneth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them. An Innocent Nature is presupposed, for the Person must con∣tinue, it doth not say now begin. The Law doth not treat with Man as lapsed or fallen, or as having already broken with God, but as in a good and sound Estate; Page 405 and therefore since by the Fall we are Sinners, we are also under the Curse by Nature, Eph. 2.3. And were by Nature the Children of Wrath even as others: Lyable to the stroke of God's Vindictive Wrath. Well, now with Man it is impossible: God hath placed a Cherub with a Flaming Sword that keeps the Passage into Paradise; Heaven Gates are shut against us now, no meer Man can appease an Angry God, or redeem his Soul from the Curse that keeps him out of Heaven. We are weak and without strength, Rom. 5.6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ dyed for the ungodly: Weakness or without Strength there beareth the same sence with Unworthiness. We are unable to perform the Work or Duty through the Curse of the first Covenant, and when we were altogether sinful and unworthy, then Christ dyed for us, and therefore it is im∣possible in regard of his Legal Exclusion: For suppose we could obey perfectly for the future, yet the paying of New Debts doth not quit Old Scores. We are without strength, because we cannot expiate former Transgressions, and so the Law is become impossible through the weakness of our Flesh, Rom. 8.3. For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the Flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the Flesh.
(2.) There is Evangelica difficultas; there are Difficulties by the Gospel which meer Man cannot overcome. Tho' the Gospel giveth hopes of Entrance into Hea∣ven, or reversing the strict Conditions of the Law, yet upon such Terms as we must be beholden to Grace for them. Christ that requires the Conditions of the Gospel, must also give them to us, Acts 5.31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give Repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins: He is not only a Prince and Law-giver, but also a Saviour, or the Au∣thor and Fountain of Grace. He doth not only give the Priviledge, Re••ssion, but he gives the Condition, Repentance. If you conceive of Christ that he doth give the Priviledge, and require the Conditions, and no more, you Legalize Christ, as the Samaritans had a Temple without an Ark and a Mercy-seat; so to speak of a Law without Grace, or if you separate the Law of the Gospel from the Grace of the Gospel, it is impossible.
Why is it thus impossible with Man upon Gospel-Terms? the Legal Impossi∣bility all will acknowledge, but whence is this Evangelical Difficulty? It ariseth from three things: There is Vitios a Contrarietas, a Corrupt Nature; there are •x∣terna Impedimenta, many outward Snares; and there is Inimica Oppositio, a great deal of Enmity and Opposition, therefore with Man it is impossible.
(1.) There is Vitiosa Contrarietas, a Corrupt Nature, enclined to evil and averse to good, Gen. 6.5. God saw that the wickedness of Man was great in the Earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Man hath such a Heart, that if left to it self, will always be minting evil Thoughts and evil Desires, and carnal and inordinate Motions. And as the Heart of Man is prone to evil, so it is averse to what is good, and so averse that it cannot do any of the great Duties that God hath required of him. Look upon this averse∣ness and impotency with respect to Duties; he cannot know, believe, nor obey: He cannot Know, 1 Cor. 2.14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spi∣rit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: And he cannot Believe, I•h. 6.44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; it is not said, he doth not, but he cannot: And he cannot Obey, Rom. 8.7. The carnal mind is Enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. And consider this Impotency with respect to our Thoughts, Words and Deeds; he cannot think a good Thought, 2 Cor. 3.5. Not that we are sufficient of our selves, to think any thing as of our selves; he cannot speak a good word, Matth. 12.34. How can ye, being evil, speak good things? he cannot do any good thing, Iohn 15.5. Without me ye can do nothing: He doth not say, Nihil magnum, you can do no great thing, you cannot acquit your selves in some Eminent Temptation with honour, or in some notable Duty; but Nihil, you can do nothing without me. Well then, when we cannot know, nor believe, nor obey, nor think, nor speak, nor do any thing without Grace, surely it is impossible Man of himself should perform the Conditions of the Gospel, he is wholly Impotent, and unable to help him∣self.
Page 406(2.) There are Externa Impedimenta, Outward Impediments: Man is Impo∣tent and Corrupt naturally, and his Corruption is fed and strengthened by world∣ly things, and so his outward Condition proves a Snare to him, 1 Ioh. 2.16. All that is in the World, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the World: Lust or distempered Appetite finds an answerable Diet. There are sensible Objects, which to our Souls as thus Con∣stituted, prove shrewd and dangerous Temptations and Snares: If we will find the Lust, the Will will afford us the Object; for the Lusts of the Flesh, there are Pleasures and Carnal Delights to beset our Souls, to inveagle and entice us from the strictness and severity of the Christian Profession; for the Lusts of the Eye there are Riches and all kind of Profits; for Pride of Life there are Dignities and Superiorities, and popular Acclamations, and all sorts of Preferments, or any thing Men are naturally proud of; so that a poor Creature living in the midst of so many Snares and Temptations, may sadly cry out as Bernard doth, O woe is me, here are S••es and Temptations, and there is a sensual Nature in us that is strongly drawn forth by all that is about us. It is true, Riches, Pleasures, and Honours, were not Snares in their Original Institution, or God's Intention, but they prove so through our Corrupt Affection: God ordained them as Miserimae necessitatis so∣latia, as Ierom tells us, to be Helps and Comforts in our Mortal Condition, but through the strong Affection we bear to them, they prove Snares, 2 Pet. 1.4. The Corruptions that are in the World through lust: It is from unmortified Cor∣ruption, and lustings after them. Here then is that which increaseth the Diffi∣culty, these sensible Objects to which we have a great Inclination by Nature, and which are continually present with us, do inchant and divert the Heart from God and heavenly things, so that we either sin in them or for them; in the use of them, or for the getting and keeping of them we offend God many times, and cross the Rule that is given unto us. So that besides the natural Impotency that is in us to all things spiritual, the Soul is further depraved and corrupted by evil habits or particular inclinations to any of these sensible Objects; this is a superadded Im∣pediment to our Condition by Nature, as a crooked stick by growing becomes more difficult to be made strait. It is impossible for any meer Man to receive the things of the Spirit, but much more for one that is wedded to any of these sensible things: For here Christ puts the impossibility upon a Carnal rich Man, because he hath so much of the World to divert his Heart from God and true Happi∣ness. There are degrees of Impossibilities, as some have fewer Letts and Impedi∣ments, and some have more, so it is more or less impossible, as they need more or less of God's special and Extraordinary Grace: For let us consider any dispo∣sitions to these sensible Objects. Let us consider any of the Dispositions to these sensible things; be it Riches, the Lusts of the Eye, so he calls Covetousness, or an Inclination to Riches, for by the Eye the Heart is wounded, and so the difficulty of Salvation is increased. When once Men set up this as their scope, and make it their business to be rich and great in the World: They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, 1 Tim. 6.9. Or be it an Inclination to Honour, either to Popularity, or Esteem of the People; or to Ambition, or an inordinate desire of Preferment by the Magistrates and Potentates of the World, Iohn 5.44. How can ye believe that receive honour one of another? it makes the Impotency the greater: Or if it be an Inclination to Pleasures, Lovers of Pleasures more than lovers of God, 2 Tim. 3.4. But mostly doth our Lord here put the Difficulty upon Riches: Why? because that is a Complicate Temptation, and that's the Fuel of Pleasure, and the means by which we get to Honours and Greatness in the World, therefore here is the greater Difficulty for a rich Man in his Corrupt Estate to enter into the Kingdom of God.
(3.) There is Inimica Oppositio, if we would go to Heaven; there are Enemies to Oppose: The Devil, 1 Pet. 5.8. Your adversary the Devil as a roaring Lyon, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: And wicked Men, Iohn 15.19. If ye were of the World, the World would love its own, but because ye are not of the World, but I have chosen you out of the World, therefore the World hates you: And, Who∣soever will live godly in Christ Iesus shall suffer Persecution, 2 Tim. 3.12. But be∣cause the great Opposition is from Satan, therefore I shall insist upon Eph. 6.12. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the Page 407 darkness of this World, against Spiritual wickedness in high places. There is a more terrible and dangerous party against us, than Bodily and humane Power. In∣deed we have Bodily Enemies, and they are great Letts, and great Discourage∣ments in the way of Salvation, when the Lord lets loose their hands against us. These are but Satan's Auxiliary Forces whom he stirs up, and employs; but the Principal part of our Conflict and wrestling is against Devils and damned An∣gels, Enemies of great Power, and Strength, and Influence upon the Rulers of the darkness of this World; they have a mighty Power upon the Ignorant, Car∣nal, and blind part of the World, and it is with these we contend and wrestle about the things which concern the Honour of God, and the Eternal Welfare of our Souls. Now this terrible Opposition, how soon will it bear down a poor Creature that stands meerly by his own strength? Alas! set Creature against Creature, and Satan is too hard for us, he exceeds us in the rank of Beings, and so we are no match for the Devil. Our Adversary is of a Spiritual Immaterial Substance, and so invisible both in his Nature and Approaches, and doth often reach us a deadly blow, before we know it is he, and in the very simplicity of our Hearts we run into the Snare. And again, he is so restless in his Assaults, so unwearied in his Motions, 1 Pet. 5.8. Your Adversary the Devil as a roaring Lyon, walketh about, seeking whom be may devour; the best Christian will be suprized, if there be not a greater than he to stand by him, and for him; he is either weak∣ning our Comforts, or enticing us to Sin, or making us weary of the ways of God. If he cannot pervert us, and draw us by some gross Sin to dishonour God, he ceaseth not to vex us, and make our heavenly Course uncomfortable to us. The Devil never ceases to pursue his Designs, but observes all our Motions, all the Postures of our Spirits; when we are merry, and when we are angry; when we are laughing, and when we are mourning. He sees how the Tree leans, and then joyns his Force to run us down. And he is of great Power, one that can make terrible Opposition, of great Authority and Influence over the Carnal World, of great cunning and dexterity in setting our Sins a work; certainly un∣less we be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, there is no standing, Eph. 6.10.12. compared.
But why hath God left it impossible to Man, when he hath offered hopes by the New Covenant?
(1.) That all the Glory of the Good that is in us may redound unto his Grace, Eph. 1.6. To the praise of the glory of his Grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. That is God's End in the New Covenant, that we might ever admire, and highly esteem his Glorious Grace: And therefore it is not only Grace that opens the Door, that removes the flaming Sword that is against us, that takes away the Curse of God, but in the whole business of Salvation, all is to be ascribed to Grace: It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy; Rom. 9.16. the words willeth and runneth are conside∣rable: The Lord that brings us into this State, keeps us in this State.
(2.) To keep the Creature in a constant Dependance upon him, and that he might often hear from us. As long as a Man is sufficient to himself, he never comes to God: Ier. 2.31. We are Lords, and will no more come unto thee. If a Man had the Dominion over his own Spirit, and were sufficient to himself, God would never hear from him. The Prodigal went away from his Father when he had his Portion in his own hands, and he never thought of returning till he had spent all, and began to be in want, Luk. 15.14. Thus should we do with God: Prayer, and all trading with Heaven would cease, if we were sufficient of our selves, as to do any thing; and therefore with Man it is impossible.
VSE. First, Take heed that you do not make a wrong Use of this Impossi∣bility, namely, so as to be discouraged, and throw off all, as if there were no hope. God hath left it so, as that we may despair of our own Strength, but not of his Help. We should not be discouraged, since he worketh in us what he re∣quireth of us.
(1.) God can overcome all this Difficulty: He that made the Heart is above it, and can frame it to himself. Evangelical Difficulty lyes in three things; the Corruption of our Nature, outward Impediments, and Satans Opposition: Now Page 408 the Scripture represents God as able to do all for us; he can change our Hearts, sanctifie our Condition, and help us to vanquish our Temptations.
1. He can change our Hearts by Regeneration: Alas! we cannot change our Natures, or turn our selves to God, and therefore we are apt to be cast down, when we look upon God's holy Ways, and the strength of our own Lusts; but God is able to change those Hearts of ours, and take away their Reluctan∣cy; not by making a violent Impression, as we force a Stone upward, but by imprinting in our Hearts the Habits of Grace, whereby we are carried out wil∣lingly in the Ways of God, and so our Business becomes easie: Titus 3.4. Accor∣ding to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.—No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: John 6.44. And draw me, and we will run after thee, Cant. 1.4. He puts forth his mighty Power upon the Heart, and changeth the bent of our Souls, and so we come in.
2. God can sanctifie our Condition, that it shall not be a Snare. Christians! whatever you think of it, it is not easie to keep your selves unspotted from the World, to live in the midst of so many Temptations, and to carry on an Equal, holy, heavenly Frame of Heart, such as the Apostle mentions, 1 Cor. 8, 30, 31. It remains that they that have Wives, be as tho' they had none, and they that weep, as tho' they wept not; and they that rejoyce, as tho' they rejoyced not; and they that buy, as tho' they possessed not; and they that use this World, as not abusing it. This is our Duty: But how shall we do to get such a weaned Heart? With Man it is impossible, but not with God. He can give a Rich Man such Grace, as to con∣temn the World, to lay up Treasures in Heaven, and upon Religious Reasons to leave all for Christ's sake. God taught Paul this Holy Weanedness, Phil. 4.12. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where, and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need: And he can teach it you, if you will wait upon him. Our own Natural Spirits indeed carrieth us quite another way, Iames 4.5, 6. The Spirit that dwelleth in us, lusteth to envy, but he giveth more Grace. Our Natural Spirit is all for Temporal things, it envies the greatness of others, it designs for our selves; but when Lusts rage, he can bridle them; the Lord is able to give us a holy Weanedness and Moderation of our Desires, in the midst of all those Baits and Snares that we are compassed about withal.
3. To Conquer Temptations: It is God that rescues the Prey, and plucked us at first by a strong hand out of Satan's Power, Luke 11.21, 22. When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his Armour, wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. God can bind Satan, and dispossess him, and recover you out of the snares of the Devil, wherein you are taken captive by him at his will, 2 Tim. 2.26. And when we are once in a State of Grace, he can preserve you in despite of Men and Devils. The World assaults the Children of God with great Force and Power, and the Devil is in the Design: But saith the Apostle, Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the World, John 4.4. God is greater in Coun∣sel, greater in Strength, greater in his Providence and watchfulness for the good of his People. Till this Divine Power interpose, it can never be.
(2.) We have no Reason to doubt of his Will, for he hath promised to take away the Heart of Stone, Ezek. 36.26. A new heart will I give you, and a new spi∣rit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your Flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. There is nothing within the Compass of our Chri∣stia• Calling, of which we have not a Promise in the Covenant. The Precept and the Promise go hand in hand, therefore the Promise will be made good, and so we have no Reason to despair, but humbly wait upon God in the use of means, till these Promises be accomplished.
Secondly, What Use shall we make of it then? Go to God for this Power: and give all the Glory of any Saving Grace wrought in us by this Power.
(1.) Go to God for this Power, when you are sensible of your Impotency: In vain do we talk of Power to men that are not sensible of weakness, and will not so much as essay whether they have power or no: 2 Cor. 12.10. When I am Page 409 weak, then am I strong. When Creatures are helpless and shiftless, God takes pity upon them: Therefore when you have been tugging and wrestling in the busi∣ness of Salvation, and it doth not come on kindly, but you find your weakness, then you may come to God for his Power. Bewail your Impotency, and say as Iehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 20.12. Lord! we have no might, neither know we what to do, but our eyes are unto thee: Or rather as Ephraim, Ier. 31.18. Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a Bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, turn thou me, and I shall be turned. God's Chastisement revived the sense of his Duty; and thinking of his Duty, made him feel his Impotency; and feeling his Impotency, that made him groan to God, and wait for his Power. O it is well when practical Ex∣perienee convinceth us of our weakness and Necessities, and our weakness and Necessities lead us to the Promises, and the Promises to Christ, in whom they are Yea and Amen; and Christ to God as the Fountain of Grace, and then we rest upon the Power of God. And therefore since it is impossible with Man, go to God, and say, Lord! I confess the Debt, I acknowledge my Impotency, but thou hast forbidden me to despair, therefore I come to thee, give what thou Commandest, and Command what thou wilt.
(2.) If it be impossible with Men, let God have all the Glory of any Saving Grace wrought in thee. Mark this, Because there is a deceit, God must not on∣ly have some Glory, but all the Glory, for in the New Covenant there is no glo∣rying but in the Lord. All will acknowledge, and count it a piece of Religious Manners to speak of some help of Grace, but they do not give it it's due praise. The Pharisee could say, God! I thank thee, I am not as other men, Luke 18.11. As for Instance, If a Man should say, it is all from God indeed, but only in a Pe∣lagian sence, as he is Author Naturae, the Author of Nature; as he Created us at first with a Rational Soul, and gave us an Understanding and Will, whereby he enableth us freely to choose that which is good: Here is God's Power ac∣knowledged, Grace, as Sacrilegious as they were, in robbing God of his due. Quod vi∣vamus, That we Live, and that we had reasonable Natures, that was the Gift of the Gods; but quod bene vivamus, that we live well, that is of our selves. This confounds Nature and Grace; we Sacrifice the Wax to God, and keep the Ho∣ney to our Selves. Again, we should acknowledge God not only in the Grace of External Revelation, revealing the Object; that God hath given us an Excellent Religion, there is his Grace; but in working upon the Faculty. Here God is ac∣knowledged, but at too low a rate, for we need not only the Sun-light, but Eyes; Eph. 1.18. The eyes of your understanding being opened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints: Or if we will go further, and acknowledge Internal Grace is necessary, but not ab∣solutely necessary, but only for Facilitation, to do it the more easily, for the Work is very difficult, if meer Man were left to himself; here God's Power is acknow∣ledged, but not enough, Grace is absolutely necessary, not as a Horse to a Jour∣ney, but as Legs and Feet. Again, if we should acknowledge it as absolutely ne∣cessary, for God to excite and move us, but give the main stroke to our own Will, this not praise high enough; it is God inclines the Heart, it is God that gives us the Will, the beginning and ending of all is from him; with Man it is impossible, therefore God must have all the Glory.
2 Doct. Those that have a deep Sense of their sinful Impotency, and Carnal Distempers, should seriously consider and encourage themselves by the Soveraign Power of God's Grace.
Of the Power of God as generally considered, I shall speak by and by: Now I shall speak of it as it worketh in a way of Grace, to bring us into a State of Grace, and to preserve us therein.
1. The Scripture speaks of this Power, that bringeth us into a State of Grace, Eph. 1.19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his Power to us ward, who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Mark, there is a mighty Glorious Power that is seen in Converting a Sinner, and turning him from Sin to Holi∣ness▪ even greater than the Power by which God made the World. When God Page 410 made the World, as there was nothing to help, so there was nothing to hinder; but such is the perverseness of Man's Nature within, such is the Opposition from without, and so great an Enemy is Satan, that nothing less than God's power∣ful Grace can begin such a Saving Work in them: 2 Pet. 1.3. According as his Divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. There is a Divine Power that gives us Life, or a gracious Spirit within, and a Divine Power that helps us to walk in a Course of Godliness without: So Rom. 11.23. God is able to graff them in again. The Iews are of all People most obstinate and averse from God; they have no Natural Goodness of Disposition in them, they please not God, and are contrary to all Men; and shall the Iews be Converted? Yes: For God is able to graff them in again, and bring them into a State of Grace.
2. This Power of Grace is seen in preserving us in a State of Grace, and carry∣ing on this Work in despite of Men and Devils, till Grace be Crowned in Glory. Alas! if God did never so much for us at first, yet if he did not keep us, we should be made a Prey, and be Shipwrackt in the Havens mouth: Therefore from first to last the Power of God is seen.
(1.) In defending the Habit of Grace that is begun in the Soul. When the Apostle had told us, that God of his abundant mercy had begotten us again unto a lively hope; 1 Pet. 1.3. presently he saith, Verse 5. Who are kept by the Power of God through Faith unto Salvation: First we are begotten, then kept; Heaven is kept for us, and we are kept for it; first the Power of Grace is a quickning Pow∣er, and then a preserving Power, defending the Work God hath begun in us.
(2.) God actuates and quickens our Graces in us: It is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure; Phil. 2.13. inspiring and breathing holy Motions into us. Awake O North-wind! come O South-wind! blow upon my Garden, that the Spices there∣of may flow forth, Cant. 4.16. And then strengthening those Graces, and defend∣ing them in all Assaults and Temptations, and causing us to grow: Col. 1.11. According to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness: And Eph. 3.16. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit, in the inner man: And thus he continueth to do, till they be perfected and compleatly glorified. Thus the Lord puts forth his power in defending, quickning and increasing the Grace that he hath wrought in us: We have seen there is a Power put forth in a way of Grace.
Now this should be considered by them that have a deep sense of their Impoten∣cy and carnal Distempers, for these Reasons.
(1.) Because it is a great Relief and Prop to the Soul. O what cannot the work∣ing of this mighty Power do for us! It exceedeth all the contrary Power, whe∣ther in Sin, the World or the Devil, and so answers our Doubts and Fears. But you will say, How is the Power of God such a Relief to the soul? We can easily grant that God is able; but how shall we know that he will put forth this migh∣ty Power for us? I answer, (1.) In Agonies of Conscience; it is not the Fear of Hell only that troubles us, but our rooted Distempers. Indeed Fears of Hell awaken us, but when we come to see our inveterate and rooted Carnal Distem∣pers, this troubles us. A poor Soul that is any thing far gone in this preparative Work, cries out, It is impossible this blind Heart of mine should ever be enlight∣ned, this vain Mind be made serious, this hard Heart be •oftned, these bewitch∣ing Lusts renounced. It is the Difficulty of parting with Sin troubleth the Con∣science; therefore it is a Relief to represent God as able: So in the midst of As∣saults and Temptations, when we are dangerously beset, and fear we shall never be able to hold out, think of the Power of God: 2 Tim. 1.12. I know whom I have believed, and I am perswaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Jude 24. Vnto him that is able to keep you from falling. Our great Trouble is for want of Power. (2.) Again, It must needs be a Relief to the Soul, because if we be perswaded of his Power it gives us some hope of his Will also: So that we may go to God, and say as the Leper, Matth. 8.2. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Look as Beggars, if they see an ordinary Man pass by, they do not use much Clamour and Importunity with him; but if they see a Man well habited, and well attended, they will follow after him, and Page 411 plead hard for Relief, and say, Sir! it is in the power of your hands to help us; so it doth encourage us to consider God is thus able, and can easily help, and do this for us. Nay (3.) God's Power is engaged by Promise, and therefore in many Cases we may reason, he is able to keep us, and therefore he will: Rom. 14.4. He shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand: And Rom. 11.23. They shall be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. The two Pillars of the Temple were called Iachin and Boaz, Strength and Stability; he hath strength, and therefore he will establish, for he hath Power enough to make good his Word.
(2.) Difficulties are left for this very end, to drive us to the Throne of Grace, that we may set the Power of God a work, that where Man leaves off, there God may begin; and when the Creature hath spent it's allowance, the Creator may shew forth his strength. Look as in the Outward Case, God promiseth to deli∣ver his People, when he seeth that their power is gone: Deut. 32.26. so in the In∣ward Case, He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he encrea∣seth strength, Isa. 40.29.
VSE 1. Let this Support us in all the Difficulties that we meet with in our way to Heaven. When we are at a loss, God is not at a loss; Zech. 8.6. If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in my eyes, saith the Lord? God's Power is not to be measured by our Thoughts, and by our Scantling: Things may seem strange to us, but God can easily effect them. He that bringeth forth in the Spring such beautiful Flowers out of the Earth, which looked with such a horrid and dismal Face in the Win∣ter, what cannot he work in our Souls? This is a great support to a fain•ing Soul, it is easie with God to do what we count impossible. A Stranger cannot charm a Mastiff Dog, when the Master of the house can with a word. The Shep∣herd can call off the Dog from the Flock; so the Lord can easily rebuke Satan, when he finds him most violent, and he can subdue and quell the strongest Lust.
2. When we are sensible of our weakness, let us observe the Laws God hath set to the Creatures. God will be attended upon, and waited for in the use of Means: We must come to the Throne of Grace, and therefore our Lord, when he teacheth us to pray, he saith, Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory. We must come to God, if we would have his Power exerted: And God will be believed in, and have his Power rested upon, and applyed, Mark 15.28. Oh Woman! great is thy Faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt. John 11.40. If thou wilt believe, thou shouldest see the Glory of God; that is, his Power. If in desperate Exigences we would have the Power of God put forth, God must be sought to, and rested upon: and you must abstain from all Sin. Samson received Strength no longer from God, than he kept the Law of his Profession. When we entangle our selves, and wilfully run into Sin, and turn away from God, we discharge God from looking after us.
3. Observe what Experience you have of the Power of his Grace; have you found it working in you? Meer reading and hearing will not evidence this Truth so much as Experience, that there is Power put forth in a Gracious way: Alas! o∣therwise we shall but speak of it as Strangers to it, with cold Notions; therefore can you say, I can do all things through Christ strengthening me? Phil. 4.13. And are you strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might? Eph. 6.10. Have you lear∣ned this Holy Art of conquering your Distempers and Temptations by the Power of God?