By Richard Alleine, 1665
A brief and plain discovery of the riches of God's covenant of grace.
Good news from Heaven! the Day-spring from on high has visited this undone world! After a deluge of sin and misery, behold the bow in the cloud. The Lord God has made and established a new covenant, and this it is that has cast the first beam on the dark state of lost and fallen man, and has brought life and immortality to light. This covenant is the hope of sinners, the riches of saints, the Magna Carta of the city of God: the forfeited lease of eternity renewed; God's deed of gift, wherein he has, on fair conditions, granted sinners their lives, and settled upon his saints an everlasting inheritance.
Hear, you forlorn captives, who have sold yourselves to eternal bondage, spoiled yourselves of all your glory, sealed yourselves up under everlasting misery. You are dead in your sins, guilty before God, under wrath, under a curse, bound over to eternal vengeance. But behold, there is yet hope in Israel concerning this thing; the Lord God has had compassion upon you, has opened a way for you to escape out of all this misery and bondage. Lift up the hands that hang down, strengthen the trembling knees: an ark, an ark has God prepared, in which is salvation from the flood; A COVENANT, A NEW COVENANT has he made and established, which, if you lay hold on it, will recover all you have lost, ransom you from death, redeem you from Hell, and advance you to a more sure and blessed condition than your original state from which you have fallen. This is the hope of sinners; this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.
Glorious tidings, good news indeed! But WHAT IS THIS COVENANT? Or what is there that is given and granted therein? Why, in sum, there is all that Heaven and earth can afford, all that can be needed or desired; and this, by a firm and irrevocable deed, made over, and made sure to all who will sincerely embrace it.
Particularly, God has in his covenant granted and made over Himself; his Son; his Spirit; the earth; the angels of light; the powers of darkness; death; the kingdom—all the means of salvation.
Chapter 1. God in the Covenant.
The Lord God has made over himself in this covenant. This is the great and comprehensive promise: "I will be their God." (Jeremiah 31:33). I am God; and what I am is all theirs: myself, my glorious incomprehensible essence, all my glorious attributes, my omnipotence, my omniscience, my wisdom, my righteousness, my holiness, my all-sufficiency, my faithfulness. I will make over myself to them to be henceforth and forever theirs: their Friend, their Portion, their Sun, and their Shield.
I. Their FRIEND. I was angry, but mine anger is turned away; I was an adversary, I had a controversy with them, but I am reconciled; I have found a ransom, the contest is settled, my wrath is appeased, I am their friend: "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:34). I will take away their iniquity and receive them graciously; "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from them." (Hosea 14:4). Fury is not now in me; favor and friendship, love and good-will is all they may henceforth expect from me. "Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, good-will towards men!"
Sinners, what is there to be feared, what is there dreadful, but an angry God? Thence is sorrow and anguish, thence is famine, and pestilence, and sword; thence is death and Hell: he does not know what the wrath of God means, who does not see in it all the plagues of earth, and all the vengeance of eternal fire. Whatever terrors or torments have seized upon thee—upon your body, upon your soul; whatever losses, crosses, vexations, afflictions, plague you on this earth; whatever horror and anguish, whatever amazing, confounding torments are like to meet you and feed upon you in the lake beneath, you may say of all, This is the wrath of God. When the Lord says to you, Fury is not in me, he says also, Fear shall be no more to you. The hour the Lord says, I am your friend, death and Hell vanish; the day is broken, the shadows flee away. This is one thing included in the promise, "I am their God"—I am their friend.
II. Their PORTION. Fury ceases; fears vanish; friendship, favour, life are granted. But what shall the soul have to live upon? Man was never intended to be self-sufficient; he was created under a necessity of dependence on something without him, not only for the continuance of his being, but for the comfort of his being; he cannot live upon the air, though he has escaped the fire: the soul of man is too big for all the world; like Noah's dove, it can find no rest below; and where shall it find it, or on what shall it exist? Why, God will not starve his friends; he who has saved their lives will find them a livelihood; he himself will be their portion, their maintenance, and their heritage forever. As their deliverance is from him, so their dependence shall be on him; he is their substance, and on him is their subsistence; he writes himself "the portion of Jacob," (Jeremiah 10:16), and as such his saints accept him, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance," (Psalm 16:5); he is their bread and their water, their stock and their store. The Lord gives portions to his enemies: not only the young ravens, but the old lions and tigers; the worst of men seek their meat from God; they "have their portion in this life, whose belly you fill with your hid treasure." (Psalm 17:14). They have their portion: some of them have their portion in the city, others a portion in the field; to some he gives a portion of gold, to others a portion of worldly glory, to others a portion of pleasures; with all these he deals as the father of the prodigal, he gives them their portion and sends them away. But while he gives portions to these, He is the portion of his saints: he makes over and settles himself upon them, as their inheritance forever: they shall never be in want while there is fullness in him to supply them; they shall never be in straits while there is power in him to relieve them: all their wants are upon him.
The Lord is their portion, and he is a sufficient portion. "With you is the fountain of life." (Psalm 36). "In your presence is fullness of joy." (Psalm 16). The Lord God is all things to them: "In my father's house there is bread enough, and to spare." He that has all things below God, but not God, has nothing; he who has nothing besides God, but has God, has all things; enough and to spare; filling up, and running over: there is still more to be had, if more could be held. The soul has never enough until it has more than enough, is never full until it runs over—never full while it can contain and measure and number all that it has: this is its judgment of all. In God is enough for filling up and running over; enough there is in him to fill up all their faculties.
Their understandings. There are infinitely beautiful perfections on which we may gaze and fill our eyes with unspeakable delight; but when we have looked the furthest into them, when the most searching eye, the most intense thoughts have searched and run their utmost, they come not near the end; they shall look, and look, and see, and see, and when they can reach no further, then they shall wonder at those treasures of light and beauty that are still beyond them. Admiration is the understanding full, and running over: when it is non-plused, and can reach no further, then it wonders at what it perceives still beyond it. The apostle tells us that the gospel, which presents God in flesh, has in it a height, and depth, and length, and breadth, (Ephesians 3:18), and I may tell you from him, it is a height without top, a depth without bottom, a length without limits, a breadth without bounds; in one word, immensity; unmeasurable, and therefore unspeakable, unsearchable glory. While the blind world deride and despise the portion of the saints, looking on God and all the things of God as shallow things that have no depth in them, they will be found by those who search into them, to be deep things that have no bottom, "The deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10). All the raptures and ecstasies of the glorious joy of the saints in the other world break in upon them from their vision of God.
There is enough to fill up their wills and affections: there is infinite goodness, incomprehensible love, marvellous loving-kindness, unspeakable delights, glorious joys. "Oh, how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you!" (Psalm 31:19). "Oh, how great is your goodness:" it is the voice of exultation, an admiring word; great beyond expression, great beyond imagination. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him:" it is the voice of a heart leaping for joy, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God which is laid up for his saints. "Laid up; where?" Why, laid up in himself: that is the fountain, that is the treasury; there is love, there is joy, there is satisfaction; our life is hid with Christ in God. O love the Lord, all you his saints. O bless the Lord, all you his saints. He who is mighty has done for you great things: "Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, besides you, what he has prepared for him that waits for him." (Isaiah 64:4). Or, as it is in the margin, "There has not been heard or seen a God besides you, which does so for him that waits for him." There is enough to fill up our time: there is admiring work, and praising work forever; there is matter for love and joy to live and feed upon forever; endless praises, eternal pleasures, everlasting rejoicings, "everlasting joy," "pleasures for evermore." There is enough to reward all our labours, and repay all our expenses; there is a full reward. "Fear not, Abraham; I am your shield and your exceeding great reward." (Genesis 15:1). Christian, you shall not serve the Lord for naught, he will reward you: and it is little in his eyes that you should serve him for corn and for wine, for sheep and for oxen, yes, for the crowns and kingdoms of this world; these shall not be your hire; the everlasting God will be your reward, your exceeding great reward; exceeding not your work only, but your very thoughts also.
A little is too much for your earnings, but the whole world is too little for his bounty. Less than nothing might satisfy for your labours, but less than himself will not satisfy for his love: the eternal God will be your reward. Oh, the unsearchable riches of the poorest of saints. Poor; what, and yet have a God? In want; what, and yet have all things? Is he God that is your, and are you still in straits? Would a few sheep and oxen, vineyards and olive-yards make you a rich man, and can God leave you a beggar? Is not a pearl more than pebbles; milk and wine better than mud and water? Men use to say, Money is all things—meat, and drink, and clothes, and friends, and land—virtually all things. And is not God more than money? Sure he has said to his gold, "You are my God," who cannot say, Let God be mine, and then go you your way. Have you a God, and yet are you poor? Nay, further, would the fatness of the earth and the fullness of Heaven, if you had both, be enough for you? Would corn, and wine, and houses, and lands, and pleasures here, and eternal life hereafter suffice you? And is not God alone as much as all this? Do you want starlight when you have the sun? Is the ocean more full for the rivers that run into it? Or would there be any want there, if all these were stopped and dry? Can they contribute to it which have their rise from it? Has the Almighty God a self-sufficiency, and has he not enough to satisfy a poor worm? Is he blessed in himself, and may not you be blessed in him? He who thinks anything less than God will suffice, understands not a soul; and he who wants anything more, understands not God. God alone is as much as God and all the world; and this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, God is their portion.
If enough be not yet said, look awhile, and consider whence you are taken up into this blessedness. What have you left! What an exchange have you made! You were taken with the prodigal from the trough, with the beggar from the dunghill, yes, as a brand out of the burning; there your lot had fallen. Oh, where have you left the rest of the world? Blessing themselves in vanity, pleasing themselves with shadows and apparitions, feeding on ashes, warming themselves at their painted fire, sporting themselves with the wind, rejoicing in a thing of naught: their crackling thorns, their flattering pleasures, their drinkings and dancings and roarings, their horses and their dogs, their hawks and their harlots; making a shift awhile to make merry with these while they are hastening to the pit, to that fire and brimstone which is the portion of their cup.
Consider, what is the chaff to the wheat? What is a comet to the sun? What is the night to the day? What are bubbles and children's toys to the durable riches? What are things that are not, to him whose name is I AM? But Oh, what are death and wrath and the curse, which were once all your heritage, to that life and love and peace and joy and glory, which you now possess in that God who is your portion? What a poor wretch were you once, when you had nothing but sin and shame and misery that you could call your own. These you might call thine—sin was your, woe was your, death and the grave and the curse and the pit were your own; but that was all you had: your good things you lived upon, had they been of ever so great value, were none of your; your house and your lands are none of your; your gold and your silver and your substance are none of your; they are all but borrowed, or committed to you as a steward, and all to be given up on demand; and what you have spent of them you must be brought to a reckoning for: a poor wretch you were, and had just nothing; for all that you had was none of yours.
But now, God is your own, all that he is, all that he has is your; never could you lay such a claim to anything you possessed; to house, or wife, or child, or body, or soul, as now you may to your God. God is as surely your as you are yourself: as sure as you are a man, you have a God.
Come, Christian, here is now your portion; the light of your eyes, the lifting up of your head, the joy of your heart, the strength of your bones, your stock, your treasure, your life, your health, your peace, your rest, your all: "Whom have I in Heaven, but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fails; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:25, 26). Here is your portion, know it for your good, take it for your own; live upon it, and live up to it.
1. Live upon your portion. Here you may feed, herein you may rejoice, herein you may bless yourself forever. "Let him that blesses himself on the earth, bless himself in the God of truth." Let him that rejoices in the earth, rejoice in the God of truth. Let the strong man live upon his strength, let the wise man live upon his wits, let the rich man live upon his lands; but come you, live upon your God; come, enjoy God and your soul; enjoy God in your soul, enjoy your soul in God. You have possession, what should hinder your fruition? In fruition, the schools tell us, there are three things which go to make it up: knowledge, delight, and satisfaction.
KNOWLEDGE. According to the clearness or cloudiness of our apprehensions of any good, we more or less take the pleasure or comfort of it; and therefore the full fruition of God is not until at last, when we shall know as we are known. Here we see as but in a glass, and darkly; we know but in part, and while we know but in part, we love but in part and joy but in part; the dimness of our sight makes an abatement of our joy. When the veil shall be taken away, when we shall come to see face to face, then we shall fully feel what it is to have a God. Christian, know you the God of your fathers; the more you know, the more you have.
The carnal world enjoy not God at all; God is not known in their tabernacles: in Judah is God known, his name is great in Israel; at Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling in Zion. But what of God in Edom, or Ammon, or Amalek, or Egypt; those dark regions wherein neither sun nor star appears? Leave them to their dunghill gods, to the gardens which they have desired and the oaks which they have chosen. The Lord is before you, know it for your good. Study your God, Christian; roll over his sweetness in your mind, as you do the sweet morsel in your mouth; see what he is, and what you have laid up in him; read over daily his glorious names; walk through those chambers of his presence, his glorious attributes. Look into the chamber of his power, and see what you have laid up for you there. Go into the chamber of his wisdom, and see what that will afford you. Look into the chambers of his goodness, mercy, faithfulness, holiness, and behold what treasures are laid up for you in each of these. Enter into your chambers, they are all your; let your eye be there, let your meditation be there, let your soul be there every day; there is your portion, search it out and know it for your good.
DELIGHT. Fruition is taking the pleasure of what we have. We cannot enjoy what we do not love, and love implies delight. We cannot enjoy that wherein we do not joy. "Delight yourself in the Lord." (Psalm 37:4). "I sat down under his shadow with great delight." (Song of Solomon 2:3). If his shadow be so pleasant, what will his sunbeams be? "O taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8). Our senses help our understandings; we cannot by the most rational discourse perceive what the sweetness of honey is; taste it, and you shall perceive it. "His fruit was sweet unto my taste." Dwell in the light of the Lord, and let your soul be always ravished with his love. Get out the marrow and the fatness that your portion yields you. Let fools learn by beholding your face, how dim their blazes are to the brightness of your day.
Let your delights in God be pure and unmixed delights. Let your spirit be so filled with God, and so raised above carnal joys, that it be no damp upon you to have nothing but God. Live above, in that serene air which is not defiled with earthly exhalations. Sickly bodies, and so sickly souls cannot live in too pure an air. Be so wholly spiritual, that spiritual joys, spiritual delights may be suited to you and sufficient for you. Do not say, I want the joy of the vintage and of the harvest; I want the joy of the bridegroom and of the bride; I want the sound of the millstones and the light of the candle, to make my comfort full. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength and your life; say with the prophet, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." (Habakkuk 3:17, 18).
SATISFACTION. The quiet or resting of the soul in its portion. Therefore the schools say that the last end only is the proper object of fruition. The carnal world, whatever they possess, cannot be said properly to enjoy it, though it be their God that they live upon; as their drag is their God, their gold is their God, their plough and their plenty and their pleasure is their God; they burn incense to them, yet they cannot enjoy them; there is no rest for them in their God. "What man is he who fears the Lord? his soul shall dwell at ease." (Psalm 25:12, 13). In the original it is, "shall lodge in goodness." The soul is never at ease while it is in want, every want wrings it; it can never take up its lodging where it cannot take its rest. His soul shall be at ease; shall lodge, that is, shall take up its rest in the goodness of God: when we find rest in our beds, then we enjoy them. Is your soul lodged in God? O enjoy your lodging. "Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." As it was said to, so let it be said by the church and every saint, "This is my rest, here will I dwell forever." Here you may find rest when you have no other rock to lean upon; you may be at rest in your God, in your most restless state, in a weary land, in a barren wilderness, in a tempestuous ocean. However it was in the vision of the prophet, yet you may say, If the wind rise, the Lord is in the wind; if after the wind an earthquake, the Lord is in the earthquake; if after the earthquake a fire, the Lord God is in the fire; and, wherever you find God, you may find rest. If you find God in a wilderness, you will find rest in the wilderness; if you find God in the earthquake, or the tempest, or the fire, even there also your soul shall find rest. When you can not rest in your bed, nor in your house, nor in your land, you may still rest in your God. Say, Christian, say again, "Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." Though my helps fail me, and my friends fail me, and my flesh and my heart fail me, "God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. This is my rest, here will I dwell forever."
To these I might add a fourth thing wherein fruition consists—the making use of our portion. He enjoys, who uses what he has. We enjoy our portion, when we have a power and heart to make use of it on all occasions. "I am your, soul; come and make use of me as you will, you may freely; I have nothing that is not for you; you may freely come to my store; and the oftener, the better welcome." Have you not a God lying by you to no purpose; let not your God be as others' gods, serving only for a show. Have not a name only that you have a God: since he allows you, having such a Friend, use him daily: "My God shall supply all your wants;" never want while you have a God, never fear or faint while you have a God: go to your treasure, and take whatever you need; there are bread and clothes, and health and life, and all that you need. O, Christian, learn the divine skill to make God your all, to find in your God bread and water and health and friends and ease; he can supply you with all these; or, which is better, he can be, instead of all these, your food, your clothing, your friend, your life. All this he has said to you in this one word, "I am your God;" and hereupon you may say, I have no husband, and yet I am no widow; my Maker is my husband. I have no father nor friend, and yet I am neither fatherless nor friendless; my God is both my Father and my Friend. I have no child; but is not he better to me than ten children? I have no house, but yet I have a home; I have made the Most High my habitation. I am left alone, but yet I am not alone; my God is good company for me; with him I can walk, with him I can take sweet counsel, find sweet repose; at my lying down, at my rising up, while I am in the house, as I walk by the way, my God is ever with me; with him I travel, I dwell, I lodge, I live, and shall live forever.
2. Live up to your privilege. Live according to your rank and quality, according to your riches laid up for you in God. The rich men of this world live like rich men, they sort themselves with persons of their own quality, attend on the courts of princes, are employed about the palace; you may read their estates in the whole way of their life; they wear them on their hacks, spread their tables with them; they live sumptuously, and fare delicately. Christians, feed not on ashes or husks, you have better meat; you have milk and honey, marrow and fatness, the hidden manna, the bread that comes down from Heaven, the water of life; you have blessed privileges, precious promises, lively hopes, living comforts, glorious joys, the fountain of life to feed your souls upon: come eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved; out-fare the rich man, who fared sumptuously every day; you have enough to maintain it; let every day be a glad day, a feast-day with you.
Let your clothing be according to your feeding. Be clothed with the sun; put on the Lord Jesus. "The King's daughter is"—and so let all the King's sons be—"all glorious within;" let their clothing be of wrought gold. Be clothed with humility, put on love, affections of compassion, gentleness, meekness; put on the garments of salvation.
Let your company and converse be according to your clothing. Live among the excellent, among the generation of the just. Get you up to the "general assembly and church of the first-born," to that "innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." Live in the courts of the great King, behold his face, wait at his throne, bear his name, show forth his virtues, set forth his praises, advance his honour, uphold his interest: let vile persons and vile ways be contemned in your eyes; be of more raised spirits than to be companions with them. Learn hence a holy elevation of spirit. Regard not their society nor their scorns, their flatteries or their frowns; rejoice not with their joys, fear not their fear, care not for their care, feed not on their dainties; get you up from among them, to your country, to your city, where no unclean thing can enter or annoy. Live by faith, in the power of the Spirit, in the beauty of holiness, in the hope of the gospel, in the joy of your God, in the magnificence, and yet the humility, of the children of the great King.
III. He is their SUN. He will discover and make manifest to them the riches and glory of their portion. He has granted them himself for their portion, and he will reveal and make manifest to them what a portion he is. He will make manifest both the blessedness they shall enjoy in him, and the way to it, and also the dangers that lie in the way. "The Lord God is a sun." (Psalm 84:11). The sun is the light of the world, it discovers itself and all things else. We cannot see the glory of the sun but by its own light; the moon, the planets, the firmament, and all this lower world would disappear, if the sun withdrew its light. Beauty and deformity, safety and danger, the right way and the wrong, are all brought to view by the light of the sun; the sunlight makes the day; night is spread over the world when the sun is set. So God is glorious; but who would be ever the wiser, did not this glory shine? "In your light shall we see light." (Psalm 36:9). Why is the glorious God apprehended, understood, admired, by so few among the sons of men? Because he is out of sight; the sun is not risen upon them, nor shines unto them: they have moonlight or starlight, some dimmer reflections of this glory at second-hand; but they see not the sun.
What is the reason that truth and falsehood, good and evil, substances and shadows, things perishing and things permanent, are no better distinguished? What is the reason that men are so mistaken and misguided in their judgments, in their choice, in their way; that they are at such a loss, such wanderers from their bliss? What is the reason that men's own sparks, the light of their own fires, their candlelight or torchlight, their fleshly imaginations, their carnal prosperity, their pleasures, their ease, their earthly glory, and their carnal joys that hence flash up to them, are so adored and admired by them? O, they see not the sun. God is out of sight; and thence are all their foolish mistakes and miscarriages. God will be a sun to his saints. "Your sun shall no more go down." They shall have a right to the comfort of this glorious sun; he will show them his face, he will cause his glory to appear, he will lead them into himself by his own beams; he will show them their end, and the means—the goal, and their way to it; he will show them the good part, and the right path; good and evil, duties and sins, realities and delusions, helps and hindrances, dangers and advantages, their snares and their supports, will all be discovered to them by the light of the Lord.
Hearken, you poor and dark soul, that have chosen, but you know not what; that are going, but you know not where; that are wandering and stumbling on, but you care not how; that complain you cannot see, you cannot value, you cannot be affected with all the glory and joy of the invisible world; that find your husks and your trash to be a greater pleasure to you than all the riches of immortality; that would gladly mind and choose and love and relish and seek God and things above, but you cannot: you see so little of the beauty of them, that they do not entice your heart after them; and when you are seeking, you are at a loss and in the dark as to the way that you should take. Hearken, soul, your God calls to you: Come unto me, look unto me, and I will be your sun; I will show you all that glory, and the right way that will bring you to it; I promise you I will; trust me, I will be a light unto you.
IV. Their SHIELD. "The Lord God is a sun and a shield." (Psalm 84:11). The gods of the earth are styled, "the shields of the earth," (Psalm 47:9); much more the God of glory. Faith is called a shield: "Above all, taking the shield of faith." (Ephesians 6:16). This signifies the same as "God is a shield." Faith is to the soul whatever God is. This is the grace that entitles the soul to God, and applies God to the soul. "Fear not, Abraham; I am your shield." (Genesis 15:1). What is promised to the father of the faithful, stands sure to all the seed. (Romans 4:16). The state of Christians in this life is a militant state, a state full of hardships and hazards; by reason whereof, richly as they are provided for, they are subject to fears of being undone and spoiled of all. They are in fears about things eternal; they have spiritual adversaries that lie in wait for their souls, that fight against their souls, that are tempting them, and enticing them from their God; that watch their opportunities to steal away their God, by stealing away their hearts from him; and such dangerous attempts of this kind they meet withal, that they often are in great doubt what the issue may be. They are in fears about things temporal; their names are shot at, their liberties are invaded, their estates, with all the comforts of their lives, are in danger to be made a prey; today they are a praise, tomorrow a scorn; today they are full and abound, tomorrow they may have nothing left; they die daily; they are "killed all the day long." But whatever their dangers and their fears are, here is sufficient provision made against all: God is their shield.
Christian, you have enough, and all that you have is in safety. You are compassed about with a shield, secured on all hands, there is no coming at you to do you harm. Whatever assaults are made, your God is a wall of partition between you and harm. They are not shields of brass and iron you are furnished with; the strong God is your defence. Wherefore do you doubt, O you of little faith? A Christian, and yet afraid; shifting for yourself; taking care for the donkeys and oxen and sheep; vexing and loading and losing yourself, in your cares and fears from day to day? Where is your God, man? Does not God take care for oxen and donkeys and all that you have?
But O, what meanest you by this? To be shifting yourself from danger, by shrinking back from your God; securing yourself from affliction, by taking sanctuary in iniquity! What are you doing but throwing away your shield to save you from harm; making a breach in your wall, to keep you in safety? "Walk before me, and be you perfect," says God; and then, "Fear not, Abraham; I am your shield." (Genesis 15:1; 17:1). This now is the first and great promise of the covenant, "I am your God."
Chapter 2. Christ in the Covenant.
God has put Christ into the covenant, and made him over to his people: "I will give you for a covenant." (Isaiah 42:6). He, who is promised as the chief matter, the mediator, surety, and scope of the covenant, is called, The Covenant. "I will give you for a covenant;" that is, I covenant to give you to the people.
Do you say, "Whatever glory and blessedness there is in the fruition of God, woe is me, there is a great gulf fixed "between me and it, over which there is no passing; there is a partition-wall raised, over which there is no climbing; there is a handwriting against me, and while that stands, all that is in God is nothing to me. Were this God mine, I had enough. Let me be put to labour or to suffering; let me dig, or beg, or starve and die; whether I be rich or poor, have something or nothing, be a praise or a reproach, it matters not, if God be mine. But O, how may I obtain this? Who shall bring me to God?"
The Lord God has given you his Son to undertake for you, and to be your way unto the Father. (Hebrews 10:19, 20). JESUS CHRIST—who is the Morning-star, the Sun of righteousness, the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature, by whom are all things, who is before all things, the head of the body the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, in whom dwells all fullness, even the fullness of the godhead bodily; who has made peace by the blood of his cross, (Colossians 1, 2); whose name is, "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace," (Isaiah 9:6)—this Jesus is granted you in the covenant, to bring you to God. To which blessed and glorious purpose he is exhibited as the Light of life; as the Lord our righteousness; as our Lord and King; and as our Head and Husband.
I. As the LIGHT OF LIFE. "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." (Luke 2:32). "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4). "He who follows me shall have the light of life." (John 8:12). There is a light that serves to kill and destroy, to bring death and condemnation to light: the light of the law, that killing letter concerning which the apostle says, "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." (Romans 7:9, 10). But Christ brings life and immortality to light. Heaven, glory, the invisible God, which are lost out of reach and out of ken, are all discovered in the face of Jesus Christ; "To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6). He is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his Father's glory, the glass in which by reflection we see the sun. "Show us the Father, and it suffices us." Why, says he, have you known me, Philip, and yet say you, Show us the Father? "He that has seen me has seen the Father;" and this is the light of life. (John 14:8, 9). "This is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3).
II. As THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is his name: "He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:6). To this end he is given to us,
1. As our propitiatory sacrifice: "The atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 2:2). "Christ our Passover." (1 Corinthians 5:7). "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8). Our price, our ransom, to satisfy justice, pacify wrath, discharge from the curse; to blot out the handwriting, break down the wall of partition; to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and so to bring us to God. Whatever difficulties appear in your way, whatever doubts arise in your heart, from your sins, from your guilt, from your poverty, from your impotence—whatever objections your fears may hence put in, the blood of the Lamb will answer all. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
2. As a merciful and faithful High-priest, (Hebrews 2:17), who has made an atonement for us in the earth, and appears for us in Heaven; who has made reconciliation for us, and makes intercession for us, "to appear in the presence of God for us." (Hebrews 9:24). We read, (Exodus 28:12, 29), that Aaron, as the type of Christ, was to bear the names of the children of Israel engraved in stones upon his shoulders and upon his breastplate, when he went into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. Our Lord is entered into the heavens, to appear in the presence of God with our names upon his shoulders and upon his heart, for a memorial before the Lord: the least of saints has his name there engraved.
"Here is my ransom, Lord," says Christ, "and behold my ransomed ones. Here is my price and my purchase, my redemption and my redeemed. Whatever accusers there be, whatever charge be laid against them, whatever guilt lies upon them, here are the shoulders that have borne all that was their due, and paid all that they owe; and upon these shoulders and in this heart you may read all their names; and when you read, remember what I have done for them, acquit and absolve them, and let them be accepted before you forever. Remember the tears of these eyes, the stripes on this back, the shame of this face, the groans of this body, the anguish of this soul, the blood of this heart; and when you remember, whatever name you find engraved upon this heart and upon these shoulders, they are the persons whose all these are; and whatever these are, whatever acceptance they have found with you, whatever satisfaction you have found in them, put it upon their account; never let me be accounted your Accepted, if they be rejected; never let me be accounted righteous, if they lie under the imputation of wicked. If they be not righteous in my righteousness, I must be guilty under their guilt. Whatever I am, whatever my satisfaction is, all is theirs; for them I plead, for them I pray; my tears, stripes, wounds, groans, anguish, soul, blood, all cry and say, Father, forgive them; Father, accept them."
Of all cries there are no such strong cries as the cry of blood, and that whether it be against or for the guilty; its voice shall be heard on high. "Your brother's blood cries unto me from the ground." (Genesis 4). And what followed? Woe to those persons against whom blood cries. But where blood, such blood cries for them, for pardon, for mercy, blessed are those souls.
Christian, this blood is for you: it "speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:24). It pleads, sues, presses for your discharge from all that is upon you. You have many cries against you: Satan cries, your sins cry, your own heart and conscience cry against you, and you are amazed at the dreadful noise they make; but behold, the blood of the Lamb, who is God, cries for you. You have an accuser, but you have an Acquitter; you have adversaries, but you have an Advocate: "An Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 2:1, 2). "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." (Romans 8:33, 34).
Nay, further, you have not only a righteous, but a merciful High-priest, that is provided with a sacrifice, and has a heart to offer it for you; your name is in his heart as well as on his shoulders, in his affections as well as on his back. He has blood for you, precious blood; and he has affections for you, affections of mercy. He can have pity and compassion on the miserable. (Hebrews 5:2). If he can find no other, he can find arguments enough from your woe and your misery to draw forth his soul towards you. He is merciful, and his mercies are tender mercies; he is pitiful, and his compassions are tender compassions: you are not so tender of the wife of your bosom, of your own child—you are not so tender of your own flesh, of the apple of your eye, of your own soul, as your Lord is of you. His Spirit is moved for you, his soul melts over you, he bleeds in your wounds, he suffers in your sorrows, his eye weeps, his heart breaks over your broken and undone state; fear not his forgetting you.
He is a merciful and a faithful High-priest. No dignity to which he is exalted above you, no distance to which he is removed from you, can make him forget his friends; he is gone into the heavens, and is there exalted far above all principalities and powers, and set down at the right hand of God. He is gone, but he has carried your name with him as a perpetual memorial for you. You are unfaithful; shame to you! you forget your Lord at every turn; every business that comes, every trouble that comes, every pleasure that comes, every companion that comes, makes you forget your Lord, forget his love, forget your duty: O, how small a matter will steal your heart from him; yes, stir up tumults and rebellions against him. Your comforts, your hopes, your needs which you have daily from him, will not all prevail to hold him in remembrance with you. You forget your Lord, but he will not forget you; though you have been unfaithful in many things, yet he is in nothing. "Yet he abides faithful; he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13). He would not be true to himself, if he be not faithful to you; his interest lies in you; you are his, his possession, a member of his body, fear not; if he should be unfaithful to your soul, he is therein unfaithful to his own body. If your case be such that he can help you, if there be anything wherein he can stead thee—if all that he has, his blood, his righteousness, his interest with the Father, will be sufficient for your help, he has undertaken to procure it for you and secure it to you. Faithful is he who has called you, and will do it.
This now is that Jesus who is given unto us, as our propitiatory Sacrifice, as our merciful and faithful High-priest, who suffered on the earth, and is gone into the heavens for us; standing in his red robes, garments rolled in blood—with the glorious white inscribed upon the red—pardon, peace, absolution, acceptance; with the names of his ransomed ones engraved upon his heart and upon his shoulders: this is that Jesus, who is the Lord our righteousness.
3. As OUR LORD AND KING. "A King shall reign in righteousness," and in him shall the Gentiles trust. "Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold your King comes." (Zechariah 9:9). "The government shall be on his shoulder." (Isaiah 9:6). God has more care of his saints, than to leave the government of them on their shoulder. Is not her King in her?
He is a King to gather them, a King to govern them, a King to defend and save them: to save them from their temporal enemies, the sons of violence, the men of this evil world; to save them from their spiritual enemies, from their sins. "You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21). It is a mercy to be under government and under protection. What would become of us were there no King in Israel? Where there is no king, all are kings; more kings than men: Satan will be a king, every lust will be a lord—as many kings as there are devils and sins. Where would our unruly hearts carry us? How easily would our wily and potent enemies ruin us. What tyranny would sin exercise within; what cruelty should we suffer from without. Where should we wander; where should we fix? What peace, what order, what stability? Whence should counsel and protection and salvation come, were there no Lord over us? It is a mercy to be under government; but to be under such a government, under a King, and such a King; such a wise and potent King, such a meek and merciful King, such a holy and righteous King! Oh, what a wonder of mercy! "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes unto you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass's colt." He is just, having salvation; as a Priest he has purchased, as a King he bestows his salvation. He comes not to get, but to give—not to give laws only, but to give gifts unto men; and he gives like a king, palms, crowns, and thrones—salvation to his people by the remission of their sins. Oh, how unthankful; O, how foolish is this rebellious world! Impatient of subjection, they shake off the yoke, groan under duty, under discipline: "We will not have this man to rule over us." Who then shall save you? Hard to be a Christian; strict laws, severe discipline, no liberty! Is this your complaint, Christian? Nay, rather, There is no liberty left me to be miserable: if I will be his, I must be happy.
Let fools inherit their own folly, but let Israel rejoice in him that made him, let the children of Zion be joyful in their King; for the Lord takes pleasure in his people, he will beautify the meek with salvation. Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be you lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, yes, the Lord our righteousness, he is the King of glory. The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King, he will save us. Praise you the Lord. Come all you Nimrods, you mighty hunters on the earth; come all you sons of Anak, you seed of the giants; come all you sons of Belial, you seed of the adulterer; come all you Ishmaelites and Ammonites, you Moabites and Hagarenes, associate, confederate, take counsel together, smite with the tongue, bite with the teeth, push with the horn, kick with the heel; come all you gates of Hell, and powers of darkness; you dragon with all your armies, with all your fiery darts and instruments of death; come you king of terrors with your fatal dart: the virgin the daughter of Zion has despised you all, she has laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you; her King is in the midst of her; the Lord is her King, he will save her.
4. As our Head and Husband. He who is given to be Head over all things to the church is given to be the Head of the church, (Ephesians 1:22, 23), and of every member in particular. (1 Corinthians 11:3). Believers are all joined to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 6:17). United in Christ as fellow-members; united unto Christ as their common Head, "from which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God." (Colossians 2:19). They are married to Christ: "I have espoused you to one Husband." (2 Corinthians 11:2). From this union follows a communication of influences, and a combination of interests.
1. A communication of influences. "Having nourishment ministered." Christ our Head is our Fountain of life. Our Head is our Heart also, out of it are the issues of life; from him we live, and are nourished and maintained in life. He is our Joseph, all the treasures of the holy land are with him. "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3). "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." (Colossians 1:19). He is the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.
Here observe what grace there is in Christ. The schools tell us, that in him there is a threefold grace. 1. The grace of union. The human nature of Christ, has received the high grace or favor to be personally united to the second person in the godhead; by virtue of which union the fullness of the godhead is said to dwell in him bodily—bodily, that is, personally, or substantially, in opposition to the types and shadows of the Old Testament, in which God is said to dwell in a figure. God was said to dwell in the tabernacle, in the Ark of the Covenant, in the temple; but in these he dwelt only as figures and shadows of the human nature of Christ. In Christ he dwells not in a figure, but personally and substantially. As Christ, (Colossians 2:17), is called the body, in opposition to the types of old, which were but the shadow; so bodily here denotes not a figurative, but a personal inhabitation. Christ is the body, not a shadow; and God dwells in him bodily, that is, substantially, and not in a shadow. 2. Habitual grace. All those moral perfections wherein stands the holiness of his nature: the love and fear of God; his humility, meekness, patience; in sum, his perfect conformity to the image and whole will of God. "Such a High-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." (Hebrews 7:26). 3. The honour which is given to him to be Head of the church.
Also observe how Christ is said to be full of grace. There is a twofold fullness of grace. In respect to grace itself: thus he is said to be full of grace, that has all grace, and has it in the greatest excellency and perfection. Also, in respect to the person that has it; and thus a person is said to be full of grace, that has as much grace as he is capable of. Christ is full of grace in both respects: the grace which is in him, is grace in the highest perfection of it, and in infinite fullness.
Observe also, that this fullness of Christ is ours, and for us: "Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16). "Your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3). Your life: that is, both your spiritual life, grace; and your eternal life, glory. "This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son." (1 John 5:11). Our life is said to be in Christ in three respects. 1. It is hid in Christ as the effect in the cause: as the life of the branches is hid in the root, so is the life of a Christian in Christ; he is our root. 2. It is deposited with Christ: it is laid up with him, committed to his trust and custody; with him it is secured and put into safe hands. 3. The dispensation of it is committed to him: from him it is at his pleasure to be imparted to us; of his fullness we receive. The Son has life in himself, and he gives it to whom, when, and in what measure he pleases.
Christian, are you nothing in yourself? You have enough in your Jesus. Are you dark? he is a fountain of light. Are you dead? he is a fountain of life. Are you poor and low, weak in knowledge, in faith, in love, in patience? he is a treasure of all grace; and what he is, he is for you. Is he wise? he is wise for you. Is he holy? he is holy for you. Is he meek, merciful, humble, patient? he is so for you. Is he strong; is he rich; is he full? it is for your sake. As he was empty for you, weak for you, poor for you; so for you he is mighty, he is rich and full. While you bewail your own poverty and weakness, bless yourself in your Lord, in his riches, righteousness, and strength.
2. A combination of interests. As the head and body, as the husband and wife, so Christ and his saints are mutually concerned—are rich or poor, must stand and fall, live and die together. As the husband conveys to the wife a title to what he has; as the wife holds of the husband; so is it between Christ and his church: they have nothing but through him; their whole tenure is in the Head; and whatever is his, is theirs. His God is their God, his Father is their Father; his blood, his merits, his Spirit, his victories, all the spoils he has gotten, all the revenue and income of his life and death, all is theirs. For them he obeyed, suffered, lived, died, rose, ascended, is set down in glory at the right hand of God. He obeyed as their Head; died as their Head; rose, ascended, reigns as their Head; and has in their name taken possession of that inheritance which he purchased for them. This is that Jesus who is given to us, and thus is he granted and made over to all his saints in this covenant of God.
Chapter 3. The Spirit in the Covenant.
God has put his Spirit into the covenant: the Almighty, the eternal Spirit; the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory and of God.
This holy and eternal Spirit is first poured forth on our Head the Lord Jesus, to anoint him our Redeemer, to furnish and qualify him for that great undertaking. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek." (Isaiah 61:1). "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and of the fear of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:2).
And he is promised to each member of Christ: "I will put my Spirit within you." (Ezekiel 36:27). To all these he is granted, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation; as a Spirit of holiness and sanctification; as a Spirit of truth and direction; and as a Spirit of comfort and consolation.
I. As a "Spirit of WISDOM AND REVELATION." (Ephesians 1:17, 18). To enlighten them, to open their blind eyes, and to shine into their hearts; to give them the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that they may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; to counter work the spirit of this world, whose work is to blind men's eyes, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
This is he by whom the Father has called us "out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter. 2:9). The light that the Spirit brings in is a marvellous light, and that in three respects:
1. It is a marvellous thing that ever light should come into such dark souls. That those who were born blind, and upon whom the God of this world had, for many years together, been trying his skill to thicken their darkness, to increase and seal them up under it—that ever such eyes should be opened, and the light of life shine in upon such hearts, this is a marvellous thing. When our Lord Jesus in the days of his flesh opened the eyes of those who had been born blind, the people ran together and wondered at the sight. If you should see stones live, if you should see dead stocks or dry bones walk up and down the streets, if you should see trees, or houses, or mountains full of eyes, this were not more full of wonder, than to behold blind sinners receiving their sight. You were once darkness; are you now light in the Lord? Stand and wonder at your cure.
2. They are marvellous things which this light discovers. It is a wonder that such eyes should ever see at all; and lo, they see wonders. The gospel is a mystery full of wonders: there are heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths. "We have seen strange things today:" strange love, strange grace, wonderful wisdom, wonderful pity, patience, mercy; wonderful providences, wonderful deliverances, incomprehensible excellencies, unspeakable joy and glory. It is a wonder there should be such things every day before our eyes, and yet we could not see them until now; and it is a wonder, that when we did not see them before, we should ever see them now—that those things which we despised, derided, mocked at, stumbled at, as mere foolishness and fancy, we should now see and admire, even to astonishment—that that Jesus who was to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness, should be to the same men when called, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Oh the deep things of God! Oh the unsearchable riches of Christ, which he who searches all things reveals unto the saints! Oh the hidden treasures they now discover in this deep mine! To you that believe, he is precious, a praise, an honour; all fair, all glorious; and you have seen his glory, as the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.
Again, there are marvellous evils, as well as good things, which by this light are brought to light. Sin, with all the hidden things of darkness that lie below in those chambers of death—the secrets of the evil heart of man. Sin appears a wonder to the savingly enlightened soul: exceeding sinful, a world of wickedness. There is death, and Hell, and the devil in every sin; unkindness, unthankfulness, folly, enmity, rebellion, spite, and the blackness of darkness. What once appeared as a pleasure, a delight, a beauty—or at least, if an evil, yet but a trifle, a matter of nothing—is become a plague, a terror, a burden, a bondage, bitterness, shame, sorrow; and such a high provocation, that whereas once he swelled and murmured, and cried out of rigor, severity, cruelty in the least punishment of it; now he wonders at the clemency, and patience, and forbearance of God, that such an affront and provocation had not long since turned the whole earth into a Hell.
Christian, you complain you cannot see, you cannot feel, you cannot mourn, you cannot break under all the guilt that lies upon you; your heart is hard, your eyes are dry; not a tear, not a groan, scarce a sigh will all this evil fetch out from you. "Oh this blind and sottish mind! Oh this dead and senseless heart! what shall I do? what would I not do to get me a melting, mourning, broken spirit? but I cannot, I cannot; I cannot see, I cannot bleed, nor break." O beg the light of this Holy Spirit; and if the sight he will present you with, of this wonderful evil, do not rend your heart, and turn you, and open all your sluices, and let out your soul in sighs and groans, in shame and sorrow, you may then well be a wonder to yourself. But be not discouraged, be not dismayed; do not say, This rock will never break, this iron will never melt; I may go sighing for sighs, mourning after tears, groaning after groans, but all in vain, it will never be; I am past feeling; sorrow flies from me, repentance is hid from mine eyes. Do not thus discourage yourself; wait for this Spirit, open to it and you shaft see flowing in such streams of self-shaming, self-confounding light, as shall flow forth in self-abasing, self-abhorring streams of tears.
3. These marvellous things are revealed to them with marvellous clearness; that is, in comparison with what they are to the blind world, and in comparison with what they themselves once saw. They come to see the glory, and the beauty, and the reality of the wonderful things of God. "We have seen his glory," says the apostle. (John 1:14). "The kindness of God our Saviour appeared;" "but we all, with open face, behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18). Out of Zion has he appeared in perfect beauty.
It is prophesied of the unbelieving world, that when they should see Christ, they should see no beauty in him. (Isaiah 53:2). Strange! though he is all beauty, yet they should see him, and yet see no beauty; that is, they shall see him, and yet not see him. "What is your beloved more than any other beloved? What is Christ more than an ordinary man? What is the gospel more than an ordinary story? What is the Spirit? What is truth? What is there in this faith and love, in this holiness and righteousness, in this peace of conscience, and joy of the Holy Spirit? What substance is there in them? Where is the glory, and wherein is the excellency of them? Which way came the Spirit of the Lord from me to you?" You shall know in that day, when you shall call to the mountains to fall on you, and the rocks to hide you from the face of God and the Lamb. We know whom we have believed. We know that we know him. We speak that which we know, and testify what we have seen. We have an unction from the Holy One, we know all things. God has revealed them to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. We have a clear and certain sight. We do not see men as trees walking, with our eyes half open: we see men as men, Christ as Christ, truth as truth, in its full lustre and evidence. This we have seen and do testify, neither deceiving nor being deceived. We thank you, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes.
And as they see truth and holiness and goodness in their wonderful glory and beauty, so also folly and falsehood and sin in their wonderful ugliness and deformity. Sin appears to them to be sin, folly to be folly, falsehood to be falsehood; they see men as men, Christ as Christ, truth as truth, holiness as holiness; and they see beasts as beasts, fools as fools, sin as sin, devils as devils, Hell as Hell. They see all things as they are, temptations as they are, delusions as they are; they see what is under them, the hook under the bait, the sting in the locust's tail, the war in the devil's heart carried on under his fawning face; they are not ignorant of his devices.
Sinners, cease your wondering at the saints, let them be no longer for signs and for wonders in Israel; cease your wondering at the saints, and come and wonder with them. Wonder not that they speak not as you, live not as you, run not with you after the same follies and vanities. Oh, if you once come to see what they see, you will be a wonder to yourselves. Mock not at their blessedness: blessed are their eyes, for they see. The blind envy, but do not disdain the seeing. Say not, These men are in a dream, or drunk, or mad; take heed, blaspheme not the Holy Spirit, call not his light darkness, put not your darkness for light. Would you know, when these men testify what they have seen and heard, whether they are sober or beside themselves? Come and see: I say not, stand and see; you cannot see at the distance you stand: come near, come in, and you shall see—see your blindness first, if ever you will see the light. Oh, bewail your darkness and seek light; seek, and you shall see it. "Son of David, have mercy on me." Why, what will you, man? "Lord, that I may receive my sight." Shall that be your cry? O pity your blind soul. O pray for eyes. They that see, pity the blind. O be eyes to your blind, be a light to your dark soul; let them that dwell in darkness see your great light. Sinners, those whom you persecute do thus pity, do thus pray for you: "Lord, that their eyes might be opened." Will you say, Amen, to their prayers; or will you say, Lord, regard not their word, we desire not the knowledge of your ways?
Christians, be marvels. You that have seen marvellous things, be marvellous persons. Let your light shine, let the light which has shined into your hearts shine forth in all your paths: let the Spirit of light within you, be a Spirit of glory resting upon you. Once you were darkness, but now are you light in the Lord; walk as children of the light. Be you holy, harmless, the children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
Beclouded Christian, you go on bemoaning and bewailing yourself, complaining that you are still blind; that the light has shined into your darkness, but your darkness comprehend it not; your eye is yet but tender, at least, and you can see but little—but little of Christ, the sun is but as a spark to thee—but little of sin, that mountain looks yet but as a molehill; it is "neither clear nor dark," neither night nor perfect day. You did hope that long before this your scales would have fallen off, that the veil would have been removed, but they abide upon you; you wait for light, but behold obscurity—for brightness, but you walk in darkness; you go on, adding darkness to darkness, the darkness of sorrow to the dimness of sight. You fear that the gospel is hid from you, that it is still night, because it is not yet noon with you. But hearken: As little as you see of Christ, do you see so much that you prize and love and cleave to him above all? As little as you see of sin, do you see so much that you loath and shun it above all things? Do you walk in that little light you have; do you love, long, wait, cry for the light? "Send forth your light and your truth, lift up the light of your countenance; Sun of righteousness, shine upon me; why are the wheels of your chariot so long in coming? when, Lord? Make haste, my beloved; O might I once see your face, as the sun, looking over the mountains." Is this your voice; are these the breathings of your soul? Be of good comfort, these are the glimmerings and groanings of that Holy Spirit within you, who has already delivered you from darkness, and will bring you forth into his marvellous light; you shall know, if you follow on to know the Lord. "Arise, shine; your light is come, the glory of the Lord is risen upon you." Though yet, as to your sense, it be neither clear nor dark, neither night nor perfect day, "at evening time it shall be light."
II. As a Spirit of HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION. He is given as a holy Spirit, and as a sanctifying Spirit; therefore sanctification is called the "sanctification of the Spirit." (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He comes to change us into his own nature, to make us partakers of his holiness; he is a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap, (Malachi 3:2), to purge and work and wash off the filth and corruption of our nature. It is said, he shall be to the church "a Spirit of judgment and a Spirit of burning," to wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and to purge the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof. (Isaiah 4:4). "A Spirit of judgment," that is, in the rulers of Israel—stirring them up to do justice and execute judgment, that so the guilt of blood may be taken away; and "a Spirit of burning," that is, in the hearts of the people of Israel, to consume and destroy the inward lusts of their hearts, that no more such wickedness be committed among them.
What he is to the church, this he is to every saint, a Spirit of judgment, to give sentence against their lusts, to condemn them to the fire: these must be cast out. "To the fire with them; away with them; get you hence, you sons of the bond-woman; you may not be heirs with the sons of the free woman." The Spirit of the Lord first discovers and convinces of sin, judges between light and darkness, grace and sin, and then gives sentence: "Away with these lusts, they may not be suffered to live." It is a Spirit of burning, to execute the sentence, to consume them in the fire. The Spirit of sanctification is a Spirit of mortification. "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." (Romans 8:13). It is the Spirit that kills sin, the flesh profits nothing.
The Spirit implants the soul into Christ, gives it an interest in his death, brings it under the influence of his death. It is the death of Christ that is the death of sin; these thieves are crucified with him: "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should no longer serve sin." (Romans 6:6). Hell knew not what they did when they crucified Christ; death and all its armies were put to death with him.
The Spirit raises up another party in the soul, a party against a party, an army against an army; brings grace in to take up arms against sin. Grace does not only fight against sin, but is in the very nature of it the death of sin. Humility is pride dead; meekness is sinful passion and frowardness dead; patience is impatience slain.
The Spirit excites and stirs up the soul against sin; sets it a praying against it: the Spirit of grace is a Spirit of supplication, it fetches down hailstones and thunderbolts from Heaven to destroy these Amorites, sets a watch against sin, presses the soul to deal wisely with it, to keep it low by cutting off all provision from the flesh, restraining and keeping it short of all those fleshly objects which would keep it in heart, and so it is starved to death. It is true, our own greatest wisdom, watchfulness, abstinence, self-denial, and all external means alone, will fall short of killing one lust; it is the Spirit who kills, without him the flesh profits nothing. All external attempts for the mortification of the flesh, are but a fleshly mortification. But if you, through the Spirit, do mortify the flesh, praying in the Spirit, watching in the Spirit, curbing and keeping under this body, seeking always the assistance of the Spirit, then it shall die.
Christian, you live in a weary land, and you have but a weary life of it; briers and thorns are with you, the Canaanite is yet in the land, you sojourn in Meshech, and have your habitation in the tents of Kedar; and you have a Meshech and Kedar within thee—you have armies within you of fleshly lusts which fight against your soul. You go mourning daily, because of the oppressor—those spiritual wickednesses which lie in your heart, and war in your members. You often groan and cry out to your God, "Liberty, liberty; redemption, redemption. Oh, this proud heart! Oh, this vain heart! Oh, this earthliness! Oh, this fleshliness, this slothfulness, this enmity and rebellion against the law of my mind, and my God! When I would do good, evil is present with me. I cannot, I cannot do the things that I would. I can with no peace serve or enjoy my God and my soul: my duties are either prevented or polluted, my comforts are either wasted or made quite to vanish and disappear. When I would serve my God, I must away to serving my appetites, or my pride, or my friends; when my soul is a little got upon the wing, and soaring in the upper region, it is presently checked, pulled down again to the earth. Oh, my pinioned, imprisoned soul! Woe is me, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Yet comfort your heart; the enemy flies upon you as a flood, but the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. You complain your gold is become dross; yet he will turn his hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin. Though these briers and thorns be set in battle against you, yes, and against him also, yet he will go through them, he will burn them together. (Isaiah 27:4).
You complain that your garments are defiled, your glory is stained, your beauty is marred, the image of your God is so defaced that there is but here and there a spot of it left upon you. While your Lord says, "You are all fair, O my love," you cry out, "I am all foul, O my Lord:" you would be holiness to your Lord, but you are an offence to him; holiness is still your love and your desire and your longing, but it flies from you; it is rather your wish than your hope; you can weep over, but you cannot weep out your deformity; your iniquity is still marked before the Lord. If there be a little grace in you, yet there is such a weakness in its sinews, such a paleness in its face, that it is not like to live; or if it live, O how little hope that ever it should thrive or flourish.
Thus you complain, thus you go mourning and sighing and sinking and fainting in your mind, and now and then venture out a desponding prayer: "Lord, pity; Lord, look upon my sorrow and my sin; Lord, wash me; Lord, help me." Why, the Lord God has sent you his help out of his sanctuary, and his strength out of Zion. The eternal Spirit is come down on purpose to give battle to the flesh, to subdue your iniquities, and bring all those that rise up within you under your feet. You mistake yourself and your enemies, if you think they will be conquered by one blow of your arm; this kind goes not out so; "not by might nor by power," much less by weakness and by flesh, by any weak attempts of your own, "but by my Spirit, says the Lord." It is work for a God, to relieve and cleanse such a heart, to turn such a Hell into a Heaven. What you cannot do, being weak through the flesh, behold, he comes down to do for you; you have proved your own weakness, now try everlasting strength. He stands at the door and knocks, hear his voice at the door: "Will you be made clean? Will you be made whole? Will you be delivered?" Open to him, and with him deliverance comes in. He stands at the pool, stirring the waters for you; put in your cripple-soul, and be healed of all your diseases; say to him, "Lord, if you will you can make me clean," and you shall soon have this answer, "I will; be you clean."
III. As a Spirit of TRUTH AND DIRECTION. (John 16:13). He shall guide them by his counsel, he shall lead them in the way that they should go. They shall hear a word behind them, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21). He shall lead them into all truth, to prevent mistakes; and into all righteousness, to prevent miscarriages. Nay, more, he shall not be only their star, but their strength too; he shall guide them on, and help them on; they shall be led by the Spirit, bound in the Spirit, pressed in Spirit; they shall be excited, assisted, carried on in the power of the Spirit, in the way that they should go; he will cause them to walk in the statutes of the Lord. Whatever your waywardness and your wanderings have been, whatever your feebleness and fickleness be, whatever false lights and false ways are before you, whatever temptations you meet with to turn you aside out of the right way, whatever doubts hence arise in your heart, "I shall one day or other perish from the way, and be a lost sheep at last;" yet his guidance shall be prosperous, and the event shall be sure; he shall so guide you by his counsel, that he shall bring you to glory. He shall gather his lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
IV. As a Spirit of COMFORT AND CONSOLATION. "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7). He shall come unto them, and abide with them, to supply the absence of their Redeemer, to support them under their affliction, to witness their adoption, to seal them up unto the day of redemption, and to be the earnest of their inheritance. (Ephesians 1:13, 14).
"He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:14). "He shall receive of mine," that is, not only of the truths, those treasures of wisdom that are in me, though that be specially intended, but of my love, my righteousness, my holiness, and all those treasures of grace and mercy that are laid up in me: whatever there is in me that may stand you in any stead, yield you any relief or support, the Comforter whom I will send you shall bring it down to you; he shall take my blood and the pardons it has purchased for you, my compassions that are working in me towards you, my prayers and intercessions I am offering up for you; he shall take of all those treasures of grace and everlasting consolations which are laid up for you with me; he shall take of mine, and show it unto you. As much as you have in the world to afflict and amaze you, as little as you have of your own to comfort you, either in your hearts or in your houses, or among your friends, he shall show what I have for you to refresh you.
O Christians, a sight of Christ in our sorrows, in our fears, in our thickest darkness, what daylight would it bring in! When you look into your heart, and are astonished and confounded at what you find there—at the blindness and the hardness, the poverty and the emptiness, the guilt and the deceit, the pride and the peevishness, the evil thoughts, the vile affections, the filthy lusts, that are swarming and working in you; when you look into the world, and tremble at what you behold there—the malice, the craft, the power, that is engaged against you; the furious spirits, the fiery tongues, the fierce looks, the violent hands, that are flying upon you, and the little relief the earth will afford you; when your heart faints and dies within you at the sense of this your woeful and forlorn state, a sight of what you have in your Lord is presented to you by his Spirit. Look you here, soul, what your Jesus has sent you down—a glance from his eye, a drop from his heart, food from his table; and all to tell you, Yet do I not forget you; behold the care I take of you, the treasures I have for you, to encourage your love and reward your faithfulness. Oh, how will this make aft your darkness depart, and turn the shadow of death into the morning!
Thus is the Holy Spirit given to the saints, to be the light of their eyes, the death of their sins, the guide of their ways, the stay of their hearts; to uphold their grace, and to maintain their peace; to subdue their enemies and their fears; to secure them from temptations, or support them when tempted; to wipe off their reproach, or make it their crown; to heal their diseases, or make them their cure; to help their infirmities, to work their works, to make their yoke easy and their burdens light; to turn their sighs into songs, to form their groans into prayers, send them up to their Lord, and bring down returns; to comfort their hearts, to establish, strengthen, settle them, that they be neither offended at the rod nor moved from the hope of the gospel.
Chapter 4. The Earth in the Covenant.
God has put the earth into the covenant. Though the saints have not their portion in this life, yet this world also is theirs: "The meek shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5). "Things present, and things to come, all are yours." (1 Corinthians 3:22). 1. The good things present. 2. The evil things present.
I. The GOOD THINGS present. "Houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, now in this time." (Mark 10:30). "Length of days are in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour." (Proverbs 3:16). "Houses and lands," you say, "and riches and honours! where are they? Who are the poor of this world, the houseless, harbourless, and friendless? Who have woe, and want, and shame, and sorrow? Who are strangers and pilgrims, dwelling in tents, driven into corners, into dens, and caves, hunted up and down upon the mountains of the earth? To whom is hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, but to the meek of the earth? Is this to inherit the earth? All theirs, when nothing is theirs?" Yet they do inherit the earth. For,
1. They shall ever have as much as will suffice them, and that is as much as all. They shall not want anything but what they may well want: "Your Father knows that you have need of these things;" and he knows how much you need. More than is needful, is more than enough; and more than enough is a prejudice. Many men have too much; too much money, too much esteem, too many friends; more than they can bear; so much as to sink them, and drown them in perdition.
Christians shall have enough; they shall never he in such a needy state but whatever is necessary for them in all the earth they shall have. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof;" and he has said, that those that seek him shall not want anything that is good. (Psalm 34:10). If the whole world can supply them out of all its store, they shall be supplied.
2. What they have, they have a better and further title to, than any others in the world. What they have descends upon them not barely by providence, but by promise. (Hebrews 1:2). Christ is heir of all things, and they are fellow-heirs with Christ. A little coming from the promise has more in it than the greatest abundance that is only handed down by common providence. That which comes in from the promise, comes in with a blessing: if you have but a handful, you have a blessing in your hand; if you have but a corner, you have a blessing in your corner. A little from love is a great blessing. You have God in every morsel you eat, and in every drop you drink; a drop from Heaven will turn your bran into the finest flour, and your water into wine.
O what serene and quiet lives, how void of care, distracting care, might the saints live in the world! What are the burdens that gall our backs, what the briers that tear our flesh, what the thorns that pierce our hearts ordinarily, but the cares of this life? What shall I eat? what shall I drink? with which shall I be clothed? where shall I dwell? how little have I for today, what for tomorrow, what for hereafter? how shall I secure what I have? when this is gone, whence shall I be supplied? Thus do we go on piercing ourselves through with many sorrows. Our cares for supply eat up what we have; our thoughts cut deeper than our wants; we cannot at so cheap a rate fear, as we often actually bear, the want of all things.
And why take you thought? "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof;" and he has said, "All this is yours; you shall want nothing." You have not only providence to live upon; you have also the promise before you, and this has all things in it; all is yours. "What have I for tomorrow? what for hereafter?" Why, what says the promise? "You shall want nothing, neither you nor your. Never saw I the righteous forsaken, nor their seed begging their bread."
Have you two worlds made sure to you, and can you want? You may as well make a pitiful cry at a full table, O where shall I have my next morsel? as under such a full promise, O where shall I have my next meal? O how much beneath the spirit of Christianity are the carking, anxious lives of too many Christians. You do not believe, you do not believe; you talk of your covenant-right, of your part in the promise, of living by faith; but where is any such thing? Can you trust God for your souls, and can you not trust him for your bodies, for your children? Believe, and you will make as much, and be satisfied as well, with a penny in the promise, with a meal in the promise, with a house in the promise, as with a penny in your purse, or a meal in your cupboard.
What do you get by all your anxiety? "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature"—one farthing to his store? Tears and trouble are all it will add to you. Be quiet, and nothing will ail you; let not any straits sting you before they come; want not before you lack; let not the winter's frost nip you while it is yet summer.
Know when you are well, and be content. All is your; if you inherit your God, you inherit the earth; nothing of all its store shall be kept back from you that is necessary for you; only you must not look to be your own carver, your God will carve out what you need. Let enough suffice you, and you shall never have too little. You shall never have so little, but you may say, This little is enough.
What if that which you lack in water, be made up in wine; if you have but little in bran, but the more in flour? A short meal with a smile from Heaven you may count no fast, but a feast; a little oil in the cruse, how far will it go with a smile, the blessing of the covenant! If the upper spring run freely, you may abate a nether spring.
Let my Beloved comfort me with his apples, and stay me with his flagons; and let the rest be as little and as coarse as it will. Let the promise be my portion, let the pipes be kept open to my soul, and then the least pittance for this body shall suffice me. O, my Lord, let me feed with you, and I will not complain whatever my fare be. Let my portion be from your table, and then be it much or little—let me hear your voice, "I am your, and with me all things," and I am content to be at your allowance. Let your deed of gift stand sure to me, and put in my children's names there, and I ask no more for myself or them. Hold your peace, keep silence, O my anxious soul; know when you are well; be in nothing careful, the Lord is at hand.
II. The EVIL THINGS of this earth are theirs. The cross is in the covenant. "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." (Psalm 89:30-32).
The covenant has its cross. The doctrine of the gospel is the doctrine of the cross, the preaching of the gospel is the preaching of the cross. (1 Corinthians 1). The mysteries of a crucified Jesus and of his crucified saints fill up the whole New Testament. The cross is not only imposed upon the saints as their burden, but bequeathed unto them as a legacy. It is given unto them as an honour and a privilege. "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Philippians 1:29). It is joined with the most glorious gift, the gift of faith. Yes, and it is a greater gift than this: to suffer in faith is more than barely to believe.
But by virtue of the covenant, the cross is a blessing. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matthew 5:10, 11). Where then is the blessedness; or wherein stands it? It stands in these things: In the separation of the cross from the curse; in the sanctification of the cross to its ends; in the proportioning of the cross to your needs and strength; and in the special comforts of the cross.
1. The cross is separated from the curse. There is something in this. To be able to say under the sorest afflictions, This scourge is no scorpion; this is no curse, it is but a cross. Our Lord bore both the cross and the curse together, and that made his cup so bitter; but now he has divided them: the curse he has left upon sinners, and laid only the naked cross on his saints. The crosses of reprobate sinners are all curses. Every affliction is a curse; there is wrath in all their sufferings; there is vengeance in every dart; every rod is a serpent to them. You who are of the number of Christ's implacable enemies, when he comes to fall upon you and to grind you under his hand, you would have a word of comfort to be spoken to you in your sorrow: no, no, there is no comfort can be spoken; you may say of every dart he smites you with, This is sent of God to avenge himself upon me. The crosses of the impenitent are all curses; but the saints' curses are all come to be but crosses. Though men curse, the Lord will not curse; whatever troubles come upon you, though there be vinegar in them, yet there is no vengeance in them; though there be anguish in them, yet there is no wrath in them; though they be ill-looked, yet there is no ill-will in them; they come upon no ill intent, nor shall have any evil issue. The smitings of the wicked are to you as the smitings of the righteous were to the psalmist, a precious balm. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness—it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." (Psalm 141:5). And you may say, Let the wicked smite me with the tongue, with the fist of wickedness, or what they will; it shall not break my head, much less my heart; it shall be a kindness to me, an excellent oil.
2. The cross is sanctified to its ends. It has many holy and excellent ends, and it shall prosper, it shall accomplish its ends. The cross is laid on the saints sometimes to prove them, sometimes to reprove them, to humble them, to purge them; and whatever it is sent to them for, it shall not return in vain. As the word, so the rod shall accomplish that which he pleases that sent it. By this the iniquity of Jacob shall be purged.
3. The cross is proportioned to their needs and strength. "I will correct you in measure, and will not leave you altogether unpunished." (Jeremiah 30:11). Just so much as will serve shall suffice; the wise physician has respect both to the need and to the strength of the patient. "I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; lest the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16). The apostle tells the saints that they have need of patience, (Hebrews 10:36); and their experience tells them they have need of something to exercise their patience. And their needs are different: some are knotty pieces, and need more; others are tender, and upon them less will serve. The stubborn child must have more stripes; the shaking of the rod will do more on some spirits than the smart of it on others, but all need something. Let him only that is without sin say, I have no need of shame and sorrow. The Lord will neither over, nor under do; everyone shall have his load, and no more—no more than they can bear, and no less than their need requires. The Lord delights not in his children's tears, he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; but yet he would rather have them cry than perish.
Wonder not, Christians, that your tender Lord puts you to pain, and that your pains are so sharp and so many; your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. It is a mercy that he will chastise; you may put your corrections among your mercies. His breakings of you are his blessings, his woundings are your cures; and by your own, as by your Lord's stripes, you are healed. And when you shall review and read over all his darker providences, and behold the wisdom and tenderness which is mingled with his severities, evinced in his laying on so much, and yet no more than was needful, you will then acknowledge with the psalmist, "You in very faithfulness have afflicted me."
O, my Lord, let me not want your staff nor your rod, neither a friend nor an enemy; neither a calm nor a storm; neither food nor medicine: if my disease be too strong for my physic, let me have yet a stronger potion; if my wanton heart will not yet be tamed, put on more fetters, a heavier load—load upon load, weight upon weight. Let me never be sick of my remedy until I be cured of my disease. Let me rather suffer by the hand of a devil, than perish by the hand of a lust. Spare not, Lord, cease not, Lord, to smite your servant, until you have thereby smitten down all mine enemies. Peace, plenty, ease! what, that I may have to spend upon my lusts; to wax wanton against my God? Such peace I will not have. Pain, trouble, want, anything rather than peace upon such terms. Correct me, O Lord, yet in judgment, but not in your fury, lest I be consumed and brought to nothing.
4. The cross has its special comforts. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation: and our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation." (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
The comforts of the cross are often the sweetest and the fullest that the saints ever taste on this side of the crown. The first draught is often bitter; the green cross is heavy, and it is necessary it should he so. It must be a heavy yoke that will tame an unruly neck: if it gall not, it will not heal; it is the smart of the rod that stills the child. Think not your burdens will lie easy when first laid on; and think it not much if they do not. The first conflict with temptations may put you to a harder brunt than you are aware. It must be so, that it may be for your good afterwards. "Tribulation works patience;" but this it cannot do unless it pains you. It is observable that it is not said that the cross works patience, but the tribulation, the pinching of the cross, or the pain the cross puts us to; this is patience, a quiet bearing that pain which the flesh when touched puts us to. When we feel the thorns and the nails, when the iron enters into our souls, when it pricks and smarts, then it will work. The green cross is heavy, a prison or a wilderness will be appalling at the first; but when your Lord comes in and visits you, then the sweet, the pleasure comes; and the more frowns at the threshold, the more kisses you may expect afterwards. Christ does not always meet his saints in the porch: the devil's parlour, the inner prison is his banqueting house, the dungeon his pavilion; there they drink and are satisfied. The stocks and the rack are the organs that make them the sweetest music. Many a saint has been sadly disappointed at the first, hoping to meet with Christ at the door; but behold, a dreadful sight—behold, sin lies at the door—all his sins, all that ever he did against Christ, all his unthankfulness, unfaithfulness, unkindness, rebellion against his Lord, stand forth and stare him in the face.
Christians, beware of sin now; it will meet you in the day of adversity, the cross will tell you all that ever you did. "I remember my faults this day: now I remember all my pleasant things—my Sabbaths, my ordinances, my liberty, the dear society I once enjoyed but trifled and wasted away. Oh, my pride and my wantonness, my idleness, my earthliness, my hypocrisy, wherefore are you come thus to affright and torment me? Lord, where am I come? O how dreadful is this place! Is this my prison-entertainment? Are these my prison-comforts? O what a hard lodging am I like to have with such companions! O the wormwood and the gall; a dark habitation, a bitter cup indeed, is now given unto me. Is this the comfort of the cross? Are these the sweets so much talked of?" Yet be not dismayed, however roughly you are handled at the door; it is better within; the devil is going out in this storm; your sins meet you now, but it is only to shake hands and part; after this agony, expect the angels to come and minister to you. Complain not if you yet find no sweet, you have not drank deep enough; in the next room you may meet your Lord, and then tell me if it come short of all that has been told you.
But shall I give you a more particular view of some of the special comforts of the cross, or our sufferings for Christ? I shall only first premise a word to let you understand what I mean by the sufferings of Christ. We then suffer for Christ, when we suffer for Christ's cause; when we suffer because we will be Christians, will be holy and righteous; when we suffer because we will not sin; and when we suffer upon Christ's call, when he cuts out a cross for us and lays it upon us. Then Christ calls us to suffering when he puts us to this choice, either to suffer or to sin; when either our backs or our consciences must suffer; when we must suffer, or he must suffer by us. "If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross." Christ is not, and Christians must not be prodigal of their blood: their blood is his; their estates, their names, their liberties are all his, and to him they must be accountable how they part with them. It is not every cross that you can call "your" cross; we must not leave our way to seek a cross: when Christ has laid a cross athwart a Christian's way that he should go, and he must either make a stand or turn aside, or submit his neck to it, then he says, There is your cross; take it up, and get you gone. Whatever cross be before you, if you have a way open to avoid it without sin, that is none of your cross; you may not take it up, or if you do, you will have no thanks for your pains.
Christians should be wary here. Though it be an evidence of a gracious spirit to be always of a ready and forward mind to suffer for Christ; and when he demands, Who will go with me—who will bear my cross? cheerfully to answer, I will go, Lord, let me bear it; yet should we take heed that, as we hang not back when he says Go, so we run not before he send us. Though it be a high honour to suffer for the gospel, yet no man takes this honour upon himself, but he who is called of God. I would not go to a prison without a warrant from Heaven, lest, if my suffering be of myself, I be there left to shift for myself. If Christ should meet me in prison or in banishment, and demand of me, "What do you here, Elijah? friend, how came you in hither?" what should I say if I could not say this, You, Lord, have brought me hither; my conscience, my duty has brought me here?
But understand me here with this caution: that when the cause for the main is Christ's, though the call seems doubtful, yet when the sufferer has carefully inquired the mind of God, truly follows the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and sincerely designs the honor of Christ and his gospel, although he should err in some circumstances of his case, and for fear of iniquity should choose affliction when possibly he might have avoided both, God will surely own his sufferings, and accept his readiness of mind.
Yet still take heed of careless or wilful errors; take heed of preparing nails for your own cross, thorns, scourges, spears for your own head or heart. Take heed both how you shun, and how you espouse a suffering state. Go not into it upon heedless mistakes; go not into it for good company, much less upon any carnal designs; let not your pride or ostentation, or the bias of any fleshly considerations, lead you into the house of correction, lest you find them the rods to lash you when you are there.
Christians, consider if there be not sometimes some uncomfortable miscarriages in this matter; and whether it has not been the lot of some of Christ's—with how much justice or charity let the Lord be judge—to be censured and reproached as unfaithful or as fearful, on no other account but for walking by this rule: not to go to prison without a warrant, that is, not to cast themselves into a suffering state, while God has left a way open to escape without sin. I confess, the more dangerous and the more ordinary error is on the other hand: we are more apt—especially when afflictions are more sharp, and bite in earnest, and then will be the great trial—rather sinfully to shift ourselves of them, than unwarrantably to run ourselves upon them; but yet let it be considered whether there be not an error on this hand also.
It is true, where the cause is the same as to the main, different circumstances may make that to be one man's sin, which is another man's duty; yes, that may be a duty to the same man at one time, which, supposing him in different circumstances, might have been his sin at another. And it is not seldom, through the unavoidable difference of our apprehensions, and the difficulty of discerning our cases, that Christians equally careful to know and do the will of God, when the case and the circumstances also are mostly the same, do judge differently about their call to suffering. Here let no man be so tyrannical to others, as to expect that they should go cross to their own, to comply with their brethren's judgments and consciences. Let us not put one another on this unmerciful necessity, either to break our peace with God or our friends. Let it be sufficient to us faithfully to follow our own light, without judging or quarrelling with those who are otherwise minded. Beware of bitterness. Be not cruel to consciences; smite not with the tongue, nor let an evil thought arise in your heart, upon any such account as this. Your arrows will recoil and fly back in your own face. Blemish not your own sufferings by blasting your brother's liberty. Let not the wariness of some be condemned for cowardice, nor the forwardness of others for pride or hypocrisy; but let us be clothed with humility, let us put on a spirit of self-suspicion, and of charity to our brethren; and let this Christian frame be the more studiously maintained, the more our practices, differing according to the variety of our apprehensions, seem to condemn each other and so provoke to uncomfortable schisms and contentions, and the more pernicious such schisms are likely to prove in the issue.
These things premised, I shall now show you what the special comforts of the cross are. You may expect your suffering state to be sweetened with,
1. A more plentiful diffusion of special grace. Grace is a comfort; it is never better with the saints than when that flourishes. The joy of the harvest is nothing to the joy of grace; he is not a Christian that cannot say, "It is summer," when these flowers appear in their beauty. Flourishing faith and love have their glorious joys. (1 Peter 1:8). The springs of grace are a resurrection from the dead; and there is no such spring as after a shower. Oh, how green do the herbs then look. The withering flowers do then lift up the head. Never so many stars appear, nor with such lustre, as in a frosty night. Grind the spices, and their fragrancy flows out. Saints are never more saints than in the house of bondage, or the land of their pilgrimage; our winter weather makes us warm at heart. As our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16). Persecution is the time of life. We are delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11). Decayed soul, comfort your heart, the cross is coming; now you shall live, now you shall recover. This weakness will strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die. Now, faith and love and patience and courage, that have so long hung the wing, lift up the head, the day of your redemption draws near; this night is your day of hope.
2. The cross will also bring a more clear revelation of special love. Love you me, Lord? If so, it is enough. Let me hear your voice, let me see your face. Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth. Your loving-kindness is better than life; send forth your light and your truth, let these tell me you love me. Your poor spouse is sick for love; O when will you say, "You know that I love you?" Why, come up with me on the cross; that withered tree bears more blossoms of love, than all the green trees of the field. The whole gospel is hung upon the cross. Where our Lord hung, there is sin nailed, the curse vacated, death vanquished; pardon, peace, joy, glory, showed forth in open sight. There is love with all its tokens; go up and take. Fear not to be baptized with your Lord's baptism, nor to drink of his cup; this cup also is the communion of the blood of Christ. Come with me into the wilderness, there will I speak comfortably to you. When you most lack it, where you will most value it, there will I show you my love.
Our Lord loves not to have love slighted: the full soul loathes the honeycomb; you have yet too many lovers to bid your Lord welcome: he keeps his best wine until all your own be soured; then it will relish, and then you shall have it. His oil is for your wounds. The child never knows so much of the parent's heart and compassion as when it is sick or in distress; then every look is love, every word is pity and compassion. O the compassion of Christ's heart towards his afflicted children! When you know hatred, then look to know love; when you are persecuted, when you are cast out and trodden under foot of men, then will he take you in and cherish you.
3. You shall have also a more full manifestation of glory. There is not a prison into which the saints are cast, but has a window in the palace. Calvary becomes a Tabor, where they have a sight of their Lord in his glory. Golgotha becomes a Pisgah, where they may look over Jordan into the land of promise. Have you known little of Heaven? you have not yet been in the deep.
Of Stephen the first gospel-martyr it is said, "He looked up steadfastly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55). "And all that sat in the council saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." (Acts 6:15). Such an admirable splendour and serenity shone in his countenance, as spoke him rather an angel than a man. Oh, what a Heaven was there within, that cast out such a divine lustre on his face! his joy was too big for his heart, his face must have its share; yes, his very adversaries, at second-hand, behold the glory of God.
He looked up and saw Heaven opened. Looking down, he might see Hell opened, all his tormentors about him, the jaws of death ready to devour and swallow him up; but looking up, he saw Heaven opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Oh, there he is, for whose sake is all this. My Beloved, my Beloved is yonder. Behold the region of light, where this dark tempest is wafting me." His Hell and his Heaven meet, but the light swallows up the dark. Hell ceases to be Hell, where Heaven appears to be Heaven. This is the portion of suffering saints. When you read what is written of those armies of martyrs that have gone before; of their unspeakable joys, their undaunted courage, their admirable boldness; of their cheering their friends, confounding their foes, their rejoicing in their stripes, singing in their stocks, leaping in their chains, boasting of their bonds, kissing their stakes, embracing the flames, riding up in triumph in their chariots of fire, not repenting of their faith, nor accepting of deliverance—what does this speak, but that their eyes, as well as their anchor, are within the veil, where Christ their forerunner is gone before them? Oh, who would not be with them? Who would fear sufferings?
Soul, what are you afraid of? Where are you running; from what are you hiding yourself? What is your ease, or your liberty, or your quiet? Why so loath to loose from this shore? Launch forth into the deep. Fear not transportation into your house of bondage; when you are once there, it is but look up and you are in Paradise.
Such are the sufferings of Christ, this is the cross of the covenant. But it includes also,
4. That which comprehends all the rest, a more manifest exhibition of Christ's special presence: "I am with you to save you." (Jeremiah 30:11). "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon you." (Isaiah 43:2). Through fire and water you must go—"we went through fire and water into a wealthy place"—but wherever you go, he will go with you. When the bush was on fire, the Lord was in the bush; when the three children were in the furnace, the Son of God was there with them. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old." (Isaiah 63:9). Though all men forsook me, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me. (2 Timothy, 4:16, 17). The saints shall never have this to charge upon the Lord, "I was in prison, and you visited me not."
He is ever with them, to bear their burdens and ease their shoulders; to plead their cause and maintain their innocence; to wash their stripes, to wipe off their tears, to heal their wounds, to bind up their broken bones, to revive their weary spirits, to perfume their prisons, to lighten their dungeons, to lead them in their wanderings, to converse with them in their solitudes; to give down from above, in divine smiles and spiritual joys, assurances of dearest love, tenderest care, melting sympathy, gracious acceptance; to give down from above whatever is wanting beneath: in fine, to preserve them from falling by the presence of his grace, until he present them faultless before the presence of his glory. Oh, it is good being with Christ anywhere.
"Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed and make your flock to rest at noon." "Where you feed?" yes, where you are, whether feeding or fasting, whether rejoicing or mourning. "Where you make your flock to rest at noon?" yes, and where you suffer your flocks to be scattered in the night. Where your flocks are, you are not far away; tell me where you feed, tell me where you are. My Beloved that feeds among the lilies, feeds sometimes among the thorns. When his love is a lily among thorns, there he feeds. He feeds among thorns; he feeds with his sheep, he feeds with his lambs wherever they feed; when darkness and desolation and devils and death feed upon them, even then he feeds them, and takes his feeding with them.
Oh, wherever my Lord is, there let my lot fall. Let me dwell among the thorns, if so my dwelling be with my Lord among the lilies. Let me wander among the mountains while he is with me telling all my wanderings. Let me be scourged, so he will wash my stripes; let me weep, so he will wipe off my tears: I would not fear wounds while I have such oil to pour in. Come, all you thieves and robbers, I fear you not, my dear Samaritan comes by; come, you bulls of Bashan, you boars of the forest, let my Beloved kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, and I regard it not though you kick me with the heel. O my Lord, bring me where you feed, let me live in your face, let me feel your smiles upon my heart, let me love you, tell me you love me, remember, pitied, accept, take care for me, and then choose my condition, my dwelling, and entertainment for me.
Fainting Christian, lift up your eyes, comfort your heart; here is that you fear and tormented yourself with. Here is the inside of that formidable cross, the light side of those dark clouds, the sunny side of that shady thorn hedge that so wounds and afflicts your heart. Fear not, be strong and of a good courage. You still say, "Woe is me, I can find no such thing. Ah, Lord God, does he not speak parables? O that I were assured it might be thus with me." Why, are you not in covenant? Believe, and all is your. I believe, and therefore have I spoken; believe, and you shall see the salvation of God; as sure as the cross is your, all the comforts of the cross are settled upon you. Read over all the gracious words you have before your eyes; review all the instances of suffering saints that have gone before you, to whom these good words have been made good, in conspicuous increases of divine grace, in the signal discoveries of divine love, in the clearest and fullest revelation of divine glory, in the intimate sense of the divine presence, quickening, enlarging, encouraging, supporting their spirits in the darkest dens, in the sharpest conflict with reproaches, mockings, bonds, banishments, torments, and deaths; and know that all these things are written for your learning, that you through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.
Read over Isaiah 51: "Hearken to me, you that follow after righteousness, you that seek the Lord; look unto the rock whence you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence you are dug." "For the Lord shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places; he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody." "Lift up your eyes to the heavens," etc. "Hearken unto me, you that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear you not the reproach of men, neither be you afraid of their revilings: for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation." "I, even I, am he who comforts you: who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forget the Lord your Maker, that has stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?" "Where is the fury of the oppressor?" say you; "where is it not, rather? Is it not in the house, and in the field? Is it not in the city and in the villages? Is it not upon my cattle, upon my purse, upon my body, upon my children, upon my friends? Where is not the fury of the oppressor?" But when you remember the Lord your Maker, the oath, the promise, and covenant of God, the presence, protection, and comfort of your God—when you remember this, then, "Where is the fury of the oppressor?"
Chapter 5. — The Angels of Light are in the Covenant — The Powers of Darkness are in the Covenant — Death is in the Covenant — The Kingdom of Heaven is in the Covenant.
I. THE ANGELS OF LIGHT are in the covenant. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14). While our Lord himself was sent down to minister, behold his servants are to be ministered unto; the angels are made their ministers: "He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways." (Psalm 91:11). They have received a charge, and they have great advantages for keeping the charge of the Lord.
1. They are mighty. "Bless the Lord, you his angels that excel in strength." (Psalm 103:20). An angel is more than an army; what slaughters have the angels made in the armies of the aliens! A hundred fourscore and five thousand Assyrians are slain by one angel of the Lord, when encamped against Judah. (Isaiah 37:36). It is hard service indeed that is too hard for an angel.
2. They are numerous. There are great multitudes of them. "Thousands of angels." (Psalm 67:17). "A multitude of the heavenly host." (Luke 2:13). An angel is more than an army; but what then are an army of angels?
3. They are faithful. They can do much for the saints, but will they do it? Yes, they are faithful; they do the commandments of God. (Psalm 103:20). God bids them keep, and they are faithful, and will keep, his sheep: we are taught to pray that "the will of God may be done on earth, as it is in Heaven;" that men may be faithful as the angels of God.
4. They are favourites; they behold the face of God, they dwell in his presence, they are admitted to stand before his throne, they can be heard: they have favour in Heaven, and therefore have they such power on earth. "Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven." (Matthew 18:10). Touch not mine anointed, let alone my little ones, take heed how you offend them; their angels are before my Father, and are mighty with him, to engage his power for their aid and deliverance.
O the great security of the least of saints! These mighty ones, these multitudes, these faithful ones, these favourites of Heaven, the holy angels of God, have all received a charge from the Lord, to preserve and defend them: "'Lord, open his eyes, that he may see; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17).
Should a mighty prince commit any subject of his to a potent and faithful life-guard, with this charge: "Look to this man, keep him in safety, see that he come to no harm; whoever offends, do you defend him; wherever he goes, go you with him; wherever he lodges, stand you as a guard about the house; while he sleeps, do you watch; see that he want for nothing, let no hurt come to him:" if this were your case, in what great security would you count yourself. But O, what is a life-guard of men to a guard of mighty angels? "Fear not, little flock;" in Heaven your angels behold the face of God, and in earth they have pitched their tents round about you.
II. THE POWERS OF DARKNESS are delivered over in the covenant: Satan and all his instruments. We are naturally in bondage to Satan, held "captive by him at his will," (2 Timothy 2:26); his prisoners, his slaves, his vassals. By the blood of the covenant, the Lord has brought forth his prisoners and redeemed his captives, (Zechariah 9:11), and also has spoiled principalities and powers, and led captivity captive. In this covenant there is deliverance of the prisoners, and a delivery over of them by whom they were held—a jail-delivery, and a delivery of the jailers into their hands; and they are delivered over bound, the God of this world in chains, limited, spoiled, banished, and cast out. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). The gates of cities were anciently their special strength, and in them were their great councils held for the contriving and managing of all their concerns. By "Hell," understand all that belong to that dark region, Satan and all his instruments, the dragon with his armies, the serpent and all his seed. By "the gates of Hell," understand the power and policy, the combination and counsels of Satan and his whole party. These gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, that is, against the church; neither against the Head nor any member of it: they "shall not prevail;" that involves two things.
1. They shall fight against it; they are all combined and listed against the church, making a war upon it. "Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof. Down with it, root and branch; let it not have a being, let it not have so much as a name under Heaven." Particular quarrels there may be between devil and devil; Herod against Pilate, and Pilate against Herod; yet the tails of these smoking firebrands are united against the Lord and his anointed ones—against their profession, against their religion, against the soul of every saint. Whatever veils or specious pretences they varnish their quarrel with, this it is that lies at the bottom of all their counsels and machinations; in this all their aims are concentrated—to root out godliness, and the professors of it, from the earth; to deceive and destroy souls for ever.
2. Though they shall fight against the church, yet they shall not overcome. They shall not prevail against it; that is, not finally: in the end the victory shall be the saints'. Jerusalem shall be "a burdensome stone for all people," (Zechariah 12:3); such a stone that they shall not be able to lift, or move it out of its place; it shall stand as a rock, against which the impetuous waves may dash themselves, but they cannot move it. Neither shall they be able to bear it. It shall crush those who burden themselves with it. Those who shake the church are pulling a house about their ears, a rock upon their loins; it shall break the backs of all those who contend against it; they shall be cut in pieces that burden themselves with it, though all the earth, yes, and Hell too, be gathered together against it. It is a vain design that Satan and his partakers are driving on. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?" (Psalm 2:1). It is a vain design, and it is a fatal design to themselves: "You shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
In the first dawning of this glorious daylight, it was promised that the seed of the woman should break the serpent's head. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15). "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31). Cast out; whence? Why, cast out of his kingdom, out of his hold, cast down from his throne and dominion. His prison is broken, and now the prey is taken from the strong, the captives of the mighty are taken away.
But you say, "Was this indeed done at the death of Christ, to which these words refer? Does not Satan still reign? Is he not still the God of this world, and the prince of the power of the air? Yes, what a hold has he yet of the saints that are in the earth! What a tyrant is he to them; how does he entangle and ensnare them; what havoc does he make in their consciences; lording it over them, leading them captives by lusts and temptations; what a strong party has he still within them, bearing arms against their Lord, fighting against their souls. What sad inroads does he make upon their grace, upon their peace; they cannot rest for him day nor night, abroad nor at home, alone nor in company; he is ever following them; wherever they go, the devil is at their backs; they cannot pray, nor read, nor spend a thought, nor cast a look, nor dispatch a sigh towards the Lord, but Satan stands by to resist and hinder them. What a yoke has he still upon their neck; what clogs and weights has he still upon their loins; how do they mourn in their souls while he vexes them from day to day; how do they groan, and travail in pain, sighing in themselves and waiting for their redemption. How is it then said, Now is he cast out?" Because now he has received his judgment: "The prince of this world is judged." (John 16:11). Now is the fatal blow given, now is the serpent's head broken, though he still may bruise and hang on the saints. The blow he levelled at our Lord has rebounded on his own head. Though he be as Gad, a serpent in the way, yet you may now tread upon this serpent and it shall not hurt you. The strong man is now bound; if he be a God still, he is a God in chains, a prince in fetters; he must ask leave of your Father, before he can touch one hair of your heads. He cannot tempt you, nor cast a bank against you, nor shoot an arrow at you, without a commission from Heaven. The devils are subject to you. He is cast out, and in your Lord's name you may cast him out; you may be instruments to bring many a soul to repentance, that they may recover themselves out of the snares of the devil, who are held captive by him at his will. Every sinner that is converted by you, you have cast out a devil from that soul.
Though he be an adversary still, yet is he such an adversary as may be resisted: "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith." (1 Peter 5:9). And if you will resist, he shall flee from you. (James 4:7). Stand, and your enemy runs.
Nay, more, he is not only a conquered enemy, but is made your servant. This viper shall yield you medicine against his own poison. His smitings shall be an excellent oil; the messengers he sends to buffet you, the thorns he sticks in your flesh, shall be a prevention of greater evils. The very destruction he intends to bring upon you shall promote your salvation. His winds shall blow off your chaff, his floods shall wash away your filth, his earthquakes shall open your prison-doors, his tempests shall drive you to harbour. Some men need a tempest to save them from a wreck.
Nay, once more, he is not low enough yet; he shall be brought yet lower. You have assurance of his total and final overthrow. "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." (Romans 16:20). "The devil shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone." (Revelation 20:10). It is but a little while, and when he has done his work he shall be sent to his place, where he shall be shut up, and a seal set upon him; whence he shall come out no more forever. He shall tempt no more, vex no more, deceive no more, destroy no more, torment you no more; he shall be thrust out, he shall be chained up; the tormentor shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Stand, Christians, stand your ground a little while; follow your work, hold up your holy profession, hold on your holy course; keep your hearts, keep your garments, keep on your armour, keep corruption under, resist temptation, bear your affliction; hold out faith and patience, fight again your adversaries, watch with your Lord this one hour, and behold, he who shall come, will come; he comes quickly, and he who is in the world shall be consumed with the breath of his mouth, and destroyed with the brightness of his appearing. He shall be cast out, he shall be cast down, and rise no more forever.
III. God has put DEATH into the covenant. "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, all are yours." (1 Corinthians 3:21). Death! there is a great purchase, you will say; what advantage is that? Yes, death is an advantage. To die is gain. For,
1. The commission of death is changed. It was once, Take him, jailer; away with him, carry him to prison, there to be reserved to the judgment of the great day. It is now, Take him, janitor; take him, porter; take him in, give him an entrance into his Master's joy. Death does but take the bride when she is ready, and lodges her in the chamber of the bridegroom; this made death the apostle's desire: "I desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better." (Philippians 1:23).
2. Death is conquered. What does this mean? Your enemy is yours; your enemy is subjected to you; a conquered enemy is made a tributary; death is disarmed, it has lost its sting. When a serpent has lost its sting, you may take it into your bosom. He that can say, "Death, where is your sting?" may go on and add, "Thanks be to God, which has given me the victory." A signet sent from Heaven with a death's head, is a precious token. Come, Christians, be of good courage; set your feet on the neck of this king of terrors.
3. Death is at once the destruction of all their enemies. When once death has done its office upon them, then farewell Edom, and Amnion, and Amalek, and Egypt—farewell the pricking brier and the grieving thorn; then farewell sin and sorrow forever: the Egyptians they have seen and feared and felt today, they shall never see again forever. It destroys itself, the saints' last enemy, by destroying them; it has its welcome and farewell the same moment; it is but "Welcome death!" and "Farewell death forever!" Death dies with the saints; once dead, they die no more forever; mortality is swallowed up of life; death is cast into the lake of fire; that is its region; there, there souls die, and die, and die again, over and over, forever and ever: but for the saints, it does but set them on the banks of that good land, where it cannot follow them. Our Lord by death, by ours as well as his own, has delivered those who "through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
Christians, you may now not only with patience, but with desire, expect the assault of this king of terrors. "What, shall tribulation, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and peril, and sword; shall sorrows and fears and mortality die with me? Yes, shall sin die with me? then welcome death. Lord, strengthen me this once, let me die with the Philistines." Would it be good for you to be with your Father; in the bosom of your Bridegroom; the presence-chamber of your Lord and Love? Would it be a mercy to you to weep no more, fear no more, suffer no more, be tempted no more, sin no more; to be unclothed of corruption, and be clothed upon with immortality and incorruption? Then bid death welcome.
Blessed souls, when you come ashore, and see the light, the love, the joy, the rest, the glory, that is on the other side, you will then more fully understand what this means, "Death is yours." He knew something, who said, "I cannot tell you what sweet pain and delightsome torments are in Christ's love; I often challenge time, that holds us asunder; I have for the present a sick life, much pain, and much lovesickness for Christ; O what would I give to have a bed made for my wearied soul in his bosom! O when shall we meet? O how long is it to the dawning of the marriage-day? O sweet Lord Jesus, take wide steps: come over the mountains at one stride. O my Beloved, flee as a roe, or a young deer upon the mountains of separation. O if he would fold the heavens together like an old cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way, and come quickly."
IV. God has put THE KINGDOM into this covenant: "Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:3). "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32). Glorious things are spoken of you, O you city of God. I might here enlarge in describing the glory of this kingdom; but when I have said all, I must at last leave it within the veil; and therefore shall only tell you from the apostle, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him," etc. (1 Corinthians 2:9). When by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, the eyes of your understandings are opened, you shall know "what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." (Ephesians 1:18).
Chapter 6. A New Heart in the Covenant.
Chapter 7. A Heart to Know the Lord.
Chapter 8. One Heart.
"I will give them one heart." (Ezekiel 11:19). We read, "Ephraim is like a silly dove, without heart," (Hosea 7:11); he has no heart at all, that is, none for his God, as good as none; and in Psalm 12:2, we read that Israel had a double heart, a heart and a heart—more hearts than one; but says the Lord, I will give them a heart, and it shall be but one, and no more.
Not to dwell on the signification of this text as it respects Christians collectively, let us consider it as it respects each particular Christian. This "one heart" may be taken as opposed to a wavering, a divided, and a double heart.
It is opposed to a wavering, unstable heart. (James 1:6, 8). Wavering-minded men have almost as many hearts as they live days, or meet with cases; a heart that changes with the weather, and tacks about with every wind, that resolves and repents, that chooses and changes, that, like a wave of the sea, is tossed about with every wind. This you may call either many hearts, or no heart, as you will. But the believer's one heart is a fixed, established, resolved heart: "It is good that the heart be established with grace." (Hebrews 13:9). Grace fixes, establishes, and brings to a consistency with itself the heart which before was anything or nothing.
It is opposed to a divided heart, (Hosea 10:2); a heart cut in two as it were; a cloven heart, one half for God, the other half for sin; one half for Christ, the other half for this present world; God having a corner in it, and the rest for sin and the devil. This "one heart" is an entire heart; all the powers of it are united within itself, and go the same way; God has the whole heart. "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name." (Psalm 103:1). All its springs are in him, and thither do all its streams bend their course.
It is opposed to a double heart or a hypocritical heart, properly so called, (Psalm 12:2, 3); "a heart and a heart," a heart in the breast and another in the tongue. Our outside is presumed to be an expression of our inside; what we speak, we pretend to be in our very hearts. It is the very heart in the tongue that speaks, the heart in the eye that weeps, the heart in the hand that works, the heart in the foot that walks. It is not so with the hypocrite; he shows another heart in his tongue, in his ways, than that which is within him. He has a heart, and a heart; one in his tongue or life, and quite another in his breast. His course speaks him another man than he is. Thus "one heart" signifies a single or a plain heart.
To sum up all together, this one heart is such as fixes upon one end; has but one thing to do; and does what it does.
I. IT FIXES UPON ONE END. God is its end. There it wholly "bestows itself: "I am your." (Psalm 119:94). And there only it takes up its rest. "And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in you." (Psalm 39:7). God is both its work and its wages. To please God, this is its whole business; and to enjoy God, this is its happiness. This is the mark it has in its eye, this is the scope of all its motions, to honour and enjoy God. This it wills, this it loves, this it desires, designs, hopes, labours for, that the Lord may possess, and be the possession of it. Particularly, it gives God both the place and the power of its chief end.
1. The place of its chief end. God is its first and last. He is first in the eye, and it looks no further. It makes him not only its chief, but in a sense its only aim. It will have no other God, and therefore no other end but the Lord. It makes all things else not only to stoop and stand by, but to serve him. Get you hence, stand off, is its language to all that stands up in his room or stands in his way. Evil men, whatever regard they pretend to have for the Lord, do but make him a servant to their other gods. Religion they will take up, but it is only to serve their own turns, to bring about their carnal ends: "They serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies," says the apostle, (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19). Nay, they make the Lord their fellow-servant; they serve, and their religion must serve their sensual appetites. He who will have so much religion only as he may live upon, which is the measure of most men, makes the Lord no longer his God, but his servant. A sincere Christian will set God upon the throne, and make all things else his servants or his footstool. Whatever will not be serviceable must be trodden in the dust. Nothing will be loved and embraced but what will set God higher, or bring God nearer to his heart.
2. The power of the end. The end has a fourfold power: it draws; it directs; it governs: and it rewards.
(1.) It draws the heart to it; God, who is a Christian's end, is also his beginning. Our first step heavenward we owe to the influence of Heaven upon us: "Draw me, we will run after you." (Song of Solomon 1:4). "No man can come unto me, unless the Father, which has sent me, draw him." Nothing but God will so do it that nothing will draw the soul another way. The pleasures of sin, the wages of unrighteousness, are poor and low baits to entice a soul away from God, that is, so far as it is renewed; so it is nothing but God that draws the soul away from these to him, and he will do it. God draws the soul not by an act of power only, but by the proper attractive influence of the end. Not by efficiency only, but by sympathy; as by the water the thirsty soul is drawn to the water-brooks.
It is God who draws hearts after him: there are instruments, as his Word and ministers; and there are arguments by which God draws; but whatever the instruments or arguments are, it is God who does it. What is the work of either Word or ministers, but to set God before men? and this draws. Instruments can do nothing, unless God be the preacher by them; arguments can do nothing unless he be in and with them: as it was said concerning the people's following Saul, so much more concerning those who follow the Lord, those only follow him "whose hearts God has touched." (1 Samuel 10:26). It is not man's touching, but God's touching the heart, that draws it heavenward. The tongue of man may touch the ear, it is God only that touches the heart. And when he touches, then the heart will follow; as you know the needle when it is touched with a loadstone, then turns after it. The loadstone is not more naturally attractive of the needle, than God is of that heart which he has touched. "My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my affections were moved in me." (Song of Solomon 5:4). He did but touch the door, and her heart felt him and moved towards him.
O Christians, when you have been waiting upon God in prayer, hearing the gospel, or any other spiritual duty or ordinance, consider, "Has my heart been touched this day? My tongue has been touched, mine ear has been touched, my heart has been treated with; but has the Lord touched it? Has there virtue come forth from him, which has enticed and drawn my soul after him?" Sometimes by a message or visit from Heaven, the Lord has drawn a good word from the lip, a tear from the eye; but O, for touches upon souls, for the flowing out of hearts after the Lord, he is the only loadstone that prevails on gracious souls.
Others who have many hearts, have many attractives; every heart has its peculiar God; twenty gods, it may be, in one man, because so many hearts. Their pleasures are their gods, their profits their gods, their belly their God; their wives or their children their gods; and so many gods, so many ends. And every end is a loadstone to draw them after it. Every heart will go after its God. A Christian that has but one heart, has but one God, and this is he who draws it on its way. You say the Lord is your God, you acknowledge, you own, you have chosen him for your; but what does your God, whom you have chosen, do upon your heart? What will the sight of God, or your love to God, or your hope in God, do upon you? How far will it carry you? Which way runs your heart? Which way do you bend your course? Do you feel your God drawing you, and is your heart running after him? Running denotes motion, and a swift or violent motion.
The Scripture uses divers expressions to note the running of those hearts after God whom he has drawn.
The desiring of the soul after God. "The desire of our soul is to your name. With my soul have I desired you in the night; yes, with my spirit within me will I seek you early." (Isaiah 26:8, 9). Desire is the soul in motion God-wards. Towards him are their desires, and they come from the bottom of the heart. "With my soul have I desired you, with my spirit within me will I seek you." "Lord, all my desire is before you." (Psalm 38:9). It is not, all my desires, but "my desire;" you see all, and it is all but one desire. He desires pardon, he desires peace, he desires help, and the healing of his wounds; but all this is but one desire, God is all. "One thing have I desired." (Psalm 27:4).
The thirsting of the soul. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Psalm 42:2). Thirsting is the extremity of desire; hunger and thirst are the appetite of desire heightened—violent and painful appetites: my soul thirsts, and is in pain until it be satisfied.
The longing of the soul. "O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." (Psalm 63:1). Longing causes languishing and pain, if it be not satisfied. "My soul breaks for the longing that it has unto your judgments." (Psalm 119:20). "My heart pants, my strength fails; as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me." (Psalm 38:10).
Calling after God. "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness." (Psalm 4:1). Calling upon God, is the voice of desire. The desiring soul will not keep silence; the tongue, the eyes, the ears, the hands, the knees, must all be orators, when the flame is once kindled within.
Crying after the Lord. This is an expression answering the thirsting of the soul. Crying is a passionate and importunate praying. "I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord." (Psalm 119:145).
Crying out after God. This is the manner of the longing soul. Crying out denotes more than bare crying—loud cries, strong cries, forced out by a paroxysm of love, or an agony the soul is in: "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2).
Following hard after the Lord. "My soul follows hard after you." (Psalm 63:8). This expression is more comprehensive; it denotes both all the workings and breakings and breathings of the soul within, and its diligent use of all outward means, and pressing on after the Lord; all those labourings and watchings and runnings, all that holy violence, with which a saint presses into the kingdom of God.
Put all this together, and you will see the power and influence the Lord has on holy souls, to draw them after him; they are in motion heavenward, desiring, thirsting, longing, calling, crying, crying out, following hard after him. What ails these souls; what is the matter with them; what would they have? "What ails you?" said the Danites once to Micah, "that you come thus after us?" What ails you? Why, you have taken away my gods, and "what have I more?" (Judges 18:23). What ails these crying, longing, running souls? Why, it is after their God they cry, it is after their God they run. Go back, Elisha, said once the prophet to him, when he had cast his mantle on him: "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" (1 Kings, 19:20). What have you done? Enough to hold me from going back. There went virtue with the mantle; the mantle fell on his heart as well as his back, and drew it after the prophet. Should you say thus to the believer, Go back, soul, go back from following your God; for what has he done unto you? O, he has gotten my heart, he replies; no, no, I cannot go back, he is my God, and what have I more?
(2.) The end guides and directs to means. "Where shall I go from you? you have the words of eternal life."
(3.) The end governs. I shall put both these together. What is it that governs sinners but their ultimate end? this points them out their work, and their way; this holds them to their work, and keeps them in their way: whatever fetters and chains their lusts are to them, it is their carnal ends to which they are in bondage. These are they that lord it over them, and therefore it is impossible to persuade a sinner to make a thorough change of his way, until he has changed his ends. Herein consists the conversion of a sinner, in the changing of his ends. When he ceases to be any longer to himself, to his flesh, to the world, and for a worldly happiness, and is brought about to fix upon God as his portion and happiness, to whom he devotes and dedicates himself, there is conversion. Sin is our turning away, and conversion is turning back to our God. Beloved, consider not barely how, but to what you live; not only what you do, but what you would have; and never count yourselves truly godly, whatever of God be in your way, until God be in your heart and eye. He who has first chosen God, and therefore a godly life, whose godliness of life springs forth as the fruit of his choice of the Lord, that is a godly man.
God governs as our king, and as our end; as our king, by his sovereignty; as our end, by his excellence, worthiness, and goodness: as our king, by laws; as our end, by love. Love will find out our way, will tell all our wanderings, will check us for our sins, sweeten our labours, quicken us on our course, cut our way through dangers and difficulties, and keep us in our way until we come to the fruition of our end. Therefore it is said by the apostle, "The law is not made for a righteous man." (1 Timothy 1:9). Love will save the law a labour. "The law is not made for a righteous man;" not so much, at least, as for sinners; not as to the coercion of it, though still as to its obligation: the constraint of love will much supersede the coercion of laws.
(4.) The end rewards. "They have their reward," (Matthew 6); that is, they have their end. The reputation of being devout and charitable men was the end of their devotion and charity: they prayed, and fasted, and gave alms for no other end; and the obtaining that reputation was their reward. "Truly I say unto you, They have their reward."
God is the reward of his saints: "I am your exceeding great reward." (Genesis 15:1). "My judgment is with the Lord, and my reward with my God." (Isaiah 49:4). God is the reward they shall receive, and the reward they look to receive. Moses "had respect unto the recompense of the reward." (Hebrews 11:26).
And therefore the argument was weighty which Christ used to dissuade his disciples from being in their devotions and alms-deeds as the Pharisees and hypocrites were, who disfigured their countenances in their fasts, and sounded a trumpet to proclaim their alms: "Be you not like them, for they have their reward." The argument was strong to the disciples, who being men of another spirit, could not be satisfied with such a reward.
In these two things saints greatly differ from the men of this world. They are not willing to defer their duties until hereafter; and they dread to have their reward here: they would dispatch their work, and are willing to go upon trust for their wages. Sinners would have their wages in hand, and be trusted for their work until hereafter; they would be happy here, and can be content to stay for holiness until hereafter: "It is soon enough to be saints in Heaven." But Oh, it would be a dreadful word to saints, "Here are your good things, take them, these are your reward." These are not their end, and therefore they cannot take them for their reward.
Poor foolish worldlings, how are you disjointed; how are your weary hearts scattered through the ends of the earth; how many masters do you serve; how many matters have you to mind: you weary yourselves in the greatness of your way, and what is your reward? What the fields can give, you have; what your sheep or your oxen can give, you have; what your beds, or your tables, or your houses, or your clothes can give, you have; here a little and there a little: your beds give you ease, your houses shelter, your sports and companions pleasure, your parasites honour, and the little you can pick up here and there, this is your reward. Truly I say unto you, you have your reward: unhappy souls, you are troubled and careful about many things for nothing; one thing is needful; and if yet you will be wise, choose that good part which shall not be taken from you.
II. This one heart has BUT ONE THING TO DO. "This one thing I do." (Philippians 3:13). There are all things in that one thing; all things needful. How many things soever his hand finds to do, all is but one. He intends in all, God. A renewed heart designs God, and is making God-wards in all he does. Whatever journey he goes, God is his home; whatever race he runs, God is his mark and prize; whatever battle he fights against flesh and blood, against principalities and powers, it is that he may cut his way through all to his God: whatever he does, he does for God; whatever he suffers, he suffers for God. When he hears, or fasts, or prays, it is all for God. When you fasted, did you at all fast to me? "Yes, to you," a Christian is able to say: he has many things to pray for and fast for; he has bread, and clothes, and friends, and health, and safety, and liberty to pray for; but in all, he prays for God: he entitles God to all he has and marks it for him, and he sees and enjoys God in all he has. He will not own that for a mercy which has not God in it, and which is not a foot or wing to carry him on towards him. And therefore whatever he begs for himself, it is that he may have it for God. What he gives, he gives to God; whom he forgives, it is for the Lord's sake; whether he eats, or drinks, or works, or buys, or sells, or whatever else he does, he does it all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31). For him he prays, for him he waits, for him he labours, for him he suffers, for him he lives, to him he dies. "To me to live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21). "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ may be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." This is the one thing he intends, this is the one thing he seeks in all, take his whole course together; he can say with the apostle, "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
III. This one heart DOES WHAT IT DOES; and that not insincerely, but really—not faintly, but heartily.
1. Really. It pursues this end in a plain and honest way. He that has this one heart, has but one way. Heart and life go hand in hand; he makes straight steps for his heart, and his heart makes straight steps for his feet. As he looks straight on, so he walks straight on to his mark. He does not look one way and row another. He is like Jacob, a plain man, a plain-dealing man; a Nathanael, in whom is no deceit; he turns his inside outward; his life is not a cloak, but a commentary on his heart, the expositor of his inward man. His end is in his heart, and his heart is in his face, in his tongue, in his duties, and all his ways. He is no politic dealer in fleshly wisdom, (2 Corinthians 1:12); his religion is not a blind or a device to delude the simple; he is downright and in earnest in all he does. He does the same thing he seems to do; his praying is praying indeed; his fasting and alms are such indeed; his very profession is practice; he would not believe, nor make others believe, but that he is what he is. He seeks not commendation from men, but approbation with God. His design is not inordinately to commend himself to the good opinion of others, though he would be made manifest in their consciences. He would not be a lie or a cheat. He abhors all lying, but most of all a religious lie. He would not lie for God, much less against him; such a lie is as blasphemy to him. He loves not images; he would have a soul in all his practices. A prayer without a soul, a sacrifice without a heart, a religious carcass, is an abomination to him. He would not make such a noble medium as religion serve so base an end as the serving of the flesh.
He has other work to do than to serve times or tables, to please himself or men, to serve wills, or humours, or lusts; he has a soul, a conscience, a God to look after; he has but one business to do, but one Master to serve. If he be a magistrate, he rules for God; if he be a minister, he preaches for God; if he be a parent, he educates for God; if he be a master, he governs for God; to him he dedicates himself and his house; he writes on his doors, This is Bethel, this is none other but the house of God. If he be a child or a servant, he obeys in the Lord and for the Lord. He knows he has to do with God in all he does: when he is dealing with men, with his friends, with his family, in his calling, in his recreations, in all his doings, he has to do with God; and he can take comfort in nothing but what God will take pleasure in. "You have no pleasure in iniquity. You love truth in the inward parts." And there is no truth in the inward parts, but when there is truth also in the outward parts, when the heart and tongue and ways agree. It is in vain to say, "My heart is good," when the ways are evil. A false tongue, deceitful ways, will give the lie to the heart. He cannot exist longer than he has smiles from Heaven. Communion with God is his life, his all is in God. His heart dies when that fountain is stopped. If he cannot have clearness and boldness in the presence of God, he can no longer look himself in the face, but blushes and hangs his head with shame. He values neither the applause nor the scorn of men, so that he may have a witness of his acceptance with God. O Lord, do you regard, will you accept of me? It is enough. Let all the world call me, "You fool, you Pharisee, you hypocrite," if the Lord will say, "My child," it is well. "It is falsely spoken, it is foolishly, it is weakly done; it is pride, it is singularity, it is scrupulosity:" thus the world cry. Let them alone, O my soul, I will hearken what the Lord God, what conscience will say: if he says, "You have been faithful," if conscience says, "Well done," let all else say what they please; this is my rejoicing, my only rejoicing, the testimony of my conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I had my conversation in the world.
2. Heartily. Whatever he does for God, he does it with a good-will. He has cast all his business into one, and he is intent upon it. He works righteousness, as sinners work wickedness, "with both hands earnestly." (Micah 7:3). He is religious in good earnest, he prays in good earnest, he hears in good earnest, he runs in good earnest: the powers of his soul being all united in one channel, run more strongly; his many springs falling all into one stream, make a river that bears down all before it. The psalmist prays, "Unite my heart to fear your name." (Psalm 86:11). Unite my heart to you, and unite my heart in itself, that it may all run towards you. Unite my heart to fear, and so unite my heart to love your name; unite my heart to serve and follow and live to you. As if he had said, "O my God, my heart is divided and discomposed, scattered up and down I know not where; my pleasures have a part, my estate has a part, my friends have a part, my family has a part, there is little or none left for God. I have too many things to fear, too many things to love and care for, too many things to serve and follow, to follow the Lord with any strength or intention of mind. Call in all, Lord, all my parts, all my powers; command their joint and united attendance upon you." "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end," in the original, hope perfectly, "for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ: as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation." (1 Peter 1:13-15). Gird up the loins of your minds. Gird and be sober, gird and hope perfectly, gird and be obedient, gird and be holy. Here it is true, ungirt and unblest, ungirt and unholy; the girding is the gathering in the strength of the heart to its work. "Stand, therefore, having your loins girt." (Ephesians 6:14). Stand, do not gird and ungird, stand always girt; call in your hearts and hold them in; be always in a readiness to every duty, in a readiness against every temptation.
Oh, how loose are we. What loose praying, and loose hearing, and loose meditation, and loose walkings do we satisfy ourselves with. Our hearts are to seek, our thoughts and affections are gadding abroad, we know not where to find them, and our work is not done. We excuse our non-proficiency in religion by our many hindrances, by the difficulties of our work; but the great hindrance lies here, our loins are ungirded, our hearts are not united in our work nor intent upon it. When God and the things of eternity get so deep into the heart; when there is such a deep sense of the weight and importance of the things that are eternal abiding upon us, as overpowers carnal objects and loosens the heart from them; when we feel the evidence and the consequence of these things commanding our whole souls after them, then there is religion in earnest; then we go on and prosper. And thus it is with this "one heart;" there are not some light touches only upon it, God is deep in it, eternity is deep in it. This is all, it says, this is all I have to mind or do. My hope, my comforts, my life, my soul, all hang upon this one thing; if I speed well here, I am made forever. What have I to do in the way of Egypt, or to drink of the waters of Sihor; what have I to do in the way of Assyria; what have I to do in the way of pleasure; what have I to do in the way of the world? To build tabernacles for myself here below, or to drink the waters of my broken cisterns? How little am I concerned in the interest of this flesh. What matters it what becomes of it, or which way it goes? My God, my God, my soul, my soul, there lies my concern; of these let my only care be. Get you behind me, Satan; hold your peace, sinful flesh; keep silence, worldly cares; hinder me not, speak no more to me of hearkening to you: away from me, you evil-doers. I will keep the commandments of my God. Let others do what they will, run where they please, choose whom they will serve, what they will follow after; come, my soul, follow you the Lord, gird up your loins and come away; for the other world, for the other world; make haste, linger not; let others loiter as they will, escape for your life, look not behind you, get you up to the mountain and live.
OBJECTION. One heart! why, it is evermore two; two men, a new man and an old; two nations, two selfs; there are twins in the womb of every saint; the ungodly seem more one than they, all for sin and for Hell; all dark, all hard, all but one stone.
ANSWER. Yet it is true, the saints, and they only, have this one heart; for the old heart that cleaves to them is not the heart, the old self is not the self; this old man is not the man, this is not he: that is the heart which has got the dominion and the rule in the man. The new heart has the dominion; though sin, as Esau, be the first-born, yet the elder must now serve the younger; the old man is but a dead man. (Colossians 3:3). "You are dead," that is, your old man is dead, your sin is slain and crucified with Christ, and when it is dead, you may say it exists not.
The meaning plainly is, I will give them one heart; that is, a single, sincere, upright heart; they shall be no longer a hypocritical people. If there be something of hypocrisy in them, yet hypocrites they shall no longer be; their hearts shall be upright before me. Sincerity consists in choosing, and giving up our hearts to God, as our chief good and final end. When God is our all, there is perfection; and when God is our chief, there is sincerity. I say, when God is our all, when the world has nothing left in us to entice or draw out our souls after it, but God carries them wholly, without any liking or lusting after sinful objects, there is perfection. This is not attainable here; the heart cannot be thus perfectly one, until corruption has put on incorruption. But though it be not perfectly one, it may be sincerely one; and it is so, when, however the flesh has too great an interest in it and influence upon it, and often pulls it aside and puts it back, yet it still bends its course heavenwards. And the way the stream and strength of the soul is running, the flesh will be putting in for a part—it would have all, it would not take its turns with God. God will not take his turns with the flesh; he will have all, or none. And the flesh would not take its turns with him; it is not contented with now and then, it would not be served in the fields, or in the shop, or at the table, or in the bed only, but in the church, in the chamber, in the closet; it would carry away all from God: but if it cannot have all, it will divide with God; wherever God is served, the flesh will be putting in for its share. The best of Christians feel too great a truth in this; their frequent humblings, and mournings, and breakings, and self-shamings before the Lord, are mostly upon this account. This is the voice of their deepest groanings and bitterest tears, the burden of their most mournful groans: "I cannot do the things that I would: when I would do good, evil is present with me; with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin. Woe is me, my soul, how am I straitened, how am I divided! Where am I hurried? Wherewithal do I come before the Lord? Oh, with what halting and heartless and distracted duties do I serve my God. This 'flesh' eats up the fat, and the best; and only the lame and the lean and the sick are left for a sacrifice to the Lord. Woe is me, my leanness, my leanness! my God, my God, how are you served; how are you robbed of your due! These strangers are gotten into your sanctuary, and eat up all your pleasant things; and what have they left for you?"
Such are their complaints; and their very complaints are their comfort and the witness of their sincerity, while they can with openness of heart make their approach and appeal to God: "Yet you are my Lord, you are my God, and I will serve you. I have chosen you as my heritage forever, and I will wait for your salvation. Hear the sighing of your prisoner, deliver your captive: my heart is with you; let not this flesh entrench upon your right, let sin no longer reign in my mortal body; let me have no more to do with the throne of iniquity, untie the cords, loose the fetters, bring my soul out of prison. Search me, O Lord, and know my heart; prove me, and know my thoughts. Is there any way of wickedness in me? Do I willingly go after sin's commandments? Do I regard iniquity in my heart? Here it lies, it is true; it wars, and raises tumults and insurrections against you; but do I resign up myself to it? Is it a pleasure to me? Am I at peace with it? O Lord, you know. I cannot get rid of it, I cannot do the things that I would, I cannot pray as I would, nor hear as I would, nor think, nor speak, nor live as I would: where I go, sin goes with me; where I lodge, it lodges; if I sit still, it abides with me; if I run from it, it follows me; I can neither rest nor work, I can do nothing, so sorely does it beset me; and yet, blessed be your name, this one thing I do—what I cannot attain, I follow after; I cannot conquer, yet I fight against it; I wrestle with it, though it so often give me the fall. I trust it not, though it flatter me; I love it not, though it feed me: my heart is with you, Lord, my foot is making after you; I groan, I travail in pain, waiting for your redemption: until I die, I will not give over. I will die fighting, I will die hoping, I will die praying. Save me, O Lord; make no long tarrying, O my God."
And thus you have the description of this "one heart." It fixes upon one end, and God is that end. It gives him the place of the end; he is its first and last. It gives him the power of the end: this one thing, the obtaining of God to be theirs, draws them on, guides, governs them in their whole course, and is accepted by them as their only and exceeding great reward. This instructs them, this rules and encourages them, calls them off from sin, calls them on to duty, carries them out in suffering; all their powers are united in this one business, all their arguments are resolved into this one argument, all their rewards are summed up in this one reward: "God shall be glorified, and therein my soul shall be satisfied; God shall be mine, and glory shall be his."
In all this we see what this "one heart" means; but Oh, how little of this grace have we received! How many hearts have we; how many gods have we, to divide these hearts between them. How small a corner, how low a place, must the Lord take up with us, if he will have any at all. How often is he made to stand aside, or to stoop to a lust. God made to give place to the devil! Is God our all indeed? Have we none else to please, have we none else to serve? Have we no portion, no inheritance, no other God but the Lord? Is he our alpha and omega, our first and our last, our spring and our ocean, our sum and our scope, the rise and the rest of all our motions? Whatever our tongues speak, do our hearts also and our lives say, "To me, to live is Christ: none but God, none but Christ, nothing but Heaven and glory?" When we are driving so hard for our flesh, for our pride, for our ease, for our gain; when we are so busy this way, and so hearty and so zealous that way; when these must have so great a share in our religion, is this still our voice, "To me, to live is Christ?" O, how little power has the Lord with us! How far is it that the single interest of God will carry our souls? How little is done purely for God! We have often many strings to our bow. There are some services wherein there is something coming to the flesh, as well as to the name of God—some credit or honour, some outward advantage to be got by religion; but when all the other strings crack but this one, when there is nothing to move us but God, O how weak do our motions grow. The flesh often goes partner with God: there is a double trade driving in the same actions—a trade for Heaven and a trade for earth together. There is something to be got by our religion besides what is coming to God: there are fields and vineyards and olive-yards, friends and honours and preferments. Thus it sometimes falls out, when godliness is in the rising side; and when it is thus, we go smoothly and vigorously on: "Come, see the zeal that I have for the Lord of hosts." But when the interests of God and the flesh divide and part asunder; when the flesh is likely to be a loser by our religion; when God puts us on such duties as will spend upon the flesh, and eat out and devour its interest; when our hearts tell us, as Deborah did Barak, "This shall not be for your honour," (Judges 4:9); or this will not be for your ease, or your safety; then what becomes of our zeal? Oh, how heavily do we then drive on! How seldom is it that this word, "Yet God shall he glorified," will balance all the prejudices, and confute all the cross reasonings of the flesh, and carry us on our way without and against it.
How little has the Lord of the government of us! If he does govern as a king, yet how little does he as our end. How little does goodness govern us; how little can love do with us! We must have rigor and severity; we must have spurs, and goads, and rods, and stripes, and scorpions too; and all little enough to drive us back from those other gods which we have chosen, and to bring us on after the Lord. If the law be not made for the righteous, if they need not a law, then what are we, for whom the law will not suffice? If commands, threatenings, terrors, penalties, judgments, can do no more upon us; if we are yet so loose, and so carnal, and so earthly, and so froward, and so false, and so formal, under the severest discipline; if we will not be whipped into more humility, spirituality, self-denial, watchfulness, care, activity, zeal; but are such drones and such sleepers, such earthworms and such sensualists still, under all the corrections and compulsions of the law—O what should we be without a law, were there nothing but love to restrain us from sin and constrain and quicken us to duty?
Christians, have we but one thing to do in all we do? Sometimes we are busy in doing nothing. Though there be a prayer in our mouths, the praises of God in our mouths, Christ, Heaven, holiness, glory, a new heart, a new life upon our tongues, there is nothing within: no prayer, no praise, no Christ, nor Heaven. What have we been doing in the closet, in the family, in the congregation, many times, when we seemed to have been praying? Nothing, nothing, but sowing wind and good words. Sometimes we have too many things in our hearts; what a world of carnal devices and fleshly projects have we wrapped up in the garment of our religion! Peter's sheet had not a more heterogeneous miscellany of creatures, "four-footed beasts, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air," than our religious duties have of designs and ends. We have men to please; our pride, our appetites, to offer sacrifice to; we bring our farms and our oxen and our trades before the Lord. Are not our hearts, which should be the houses of prayer, the houses of merchandise? Are we not taking, or pursuing, or in a journey, or asleep, or driving bargains? O Christians, if we were privy to one another's hearts as God is privy to them, what abominations should we see brought into the holy places! What monsters would our most sacred services appear, which, while the outside only is viewed, are applauded and admired. Is this our singleness of heart? O for shame and blushing and confusion of face. O for a veil to hide such hearts from the jealous eye of the holy God: a varnish, a fair outside, hides all from men; but nothing but a dark veil of shame and sorrow and tears and repentance—a veil dipped in blood, in the blood of Christ, will hide them from the eyes of the Lord.
Oh, how little plainness and singleness of heart is there in our ordinary course, in our dealings and conversings in the world! How little faith or truth is there in us! How little trust is to be put in us! What doubling, what deceitful dealing, defrauding, overreaching, undermining, are we guilty of! How false are we in our promises; how insignificant are our words; what an uncertain sound do they give! Our yes may often stand for nay, and our nay for yes. "They speak vanity everyone with his neighbour; with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak." (Psalm 12:2). Trust you not in a friend, put not confidence in a guide.
Blessed be God, the Lord has a generation on whom this cannot be charged, children that will not lie nor deceive. Though Satan and this evil world bind up all in a bundle, "They are all naught; they are all false, vain boasters, and deceitful workers; there is none upright, no, not one;" yet, thanks be to God, Satan is a liar—the accuser of the brethren is a false accuser. God has his children that will not lie. But woe be to those professors, by reason of whom the offence comes.
Christians, has God promised to give you "one heart?" Let it be once said, "This day is the Scripture fulfilled." O may you be the accomplishment of this good word. Has God promised to give you one heart? Do not say, But I will not take it; two are better than one: I have found so much the sweet of deceit, that there is no life like it. Has God said, "I will give one heart?" let not any one among you say, But I fear he will not. Make not the promise of God of none effect, either by your impiety or unbelief. Does God promise to give this one heart? he who promised it, does also require it. Be yourself, Christian. Let it be said you are what you are; be true, be but one, have but one heart, and let your one heart have but one tongue, but one face, and but one thing to do. Beware of hypocrisy, beware of carnal policy; make not your God to serve your flesh; call not the serving of your flesh a serving of God, and make not your serving of God to be a serving of the flesh. Be not divided between God and the world. Oh, how easy would our lives be, did we find our whole souls running one way; taking up with God as the adequate object of all our powers, the mark of all our motions, and the reward of all our labors; did all our streams empty themselves into this ocean, and all our lines meet in this one center; did God alone draw and allure our hearts, and the sincerity of our hearts give motion to all our wheels, guide our eyes, govern our tongues, order our steps, animate our duties, direct and quicken us in all our goings. Oh, how sweet, Oh, how beautiful, were such a life! in sympathy between our hearts and our end, there is sweetness; in the harmony of our hearts and ways, there is beauty. Oh, how sweet are the drawings of love. The free and full closing of our spirits with God, dissolving themselves into his will, acquiescing and resting satisfied in his goodness, is a sweetness which no man knows but he who tastes it; the harmony of the powers of the soul within itself, of its motions and actions in the life, has a beauty which will eclipse the glory of the world. Christian, be it thus with you, and you have the blessing—that covenant blessing which the Lord has promised, in saying, "I will give them one heart."
Chapter 9. A Heart of Flesh.
"I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26). The old heart is a stone, cold as a stone, dead as a stone, hard as a stone; but I will take away the stone, and give a heart of flesh.
A heart of flesh is a soft and tender heart; flesh can feel; anything that is contrary to it puts it to pain. Sin makes it smart; it cannot kick but it is against the pricks; by its rebellion and resistance against the Lord, it receives a wound; it cannot hit but it hurts itself. A soft hand gets nothing by striking a hedge of thorns. A soft heart, when it has been meddling with sin, is sure to smart for it. It can neither escape the pain, nor yet endure it; and what it cannot bear, it will take warning to avoid.
Flesh will bleed. A soft heart will mourn and melt and grieve when hard hearts are moved at nothing. Flesh will yield. It is apt to receive impressions. The power of God will awe it; his justice alarm it; his mercy melt it; his holiness humble it, and leave his stamp and image upon it. And as the attributes, so the Word and works of God will make sign upon it. Who sets a seal upon a stone; or what print will it receive? Upon the wax, the print will abide. God speaks once and twice, but man, hardened man will not regard it. Neither his Word nor his rod, neither his speaking nor his smiting will make any impression on such hearts. It is the heart of flesh that hears and yields. And with such hearts the Lord delights to be dealing. "The heart of this people is waxed gross," (Acts 28:27); they will not hear, they will not understand; and the next word is, Away to the Gentiles, they will hear. He will no more write his law on tables of stone: he will write in flesh; there the impression will take, and go the deeper; and therefore, wherever he intends to write, he prepares his tablet—makes this stone flesh, and then engraves upon it. Particularly this tenderness admits of a double distinction.
I. Respecting THE OBJECT of it. There is a tenderness as to sin, duty, and suffering.
1. As to sin. And this discovers itself both before the commission, and after the commission of it.
Before the commission. While it is under a temptation, or feels the first impulse to sin. A tender heart startles, starts back at the sight of a sin, as at the sight of a devil: "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). This manner of speech presents Joseph as a man in a fright, startled at the ugliness of the sin. So David when he had an opportunity and a temptation to slay Saul, rejects it with a "God forbid." "The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord's anointed." (1 Samuel 26:11). And the tender conscience not only shrinks at the higher and greater sins, but it resists the little ones, the smallest of sins. Is it not a little one? is no plea with it. Little or great, it is a sin, and that is enough.
There is also a tenderness as to sin after its commission; if it has been brought on by an act of sin, yet it cannot cease with it. The skirt of Saul's garment was too heavy for David's heart to bear. His heart smote him at once. (1 Samuel 24:5). Sin in the review looks dreadful. Its pleasant flowers quickly turn to thorns; it pricks the heart, how much soever it pleased the eye. It ordinarily enters by the eye, and often runs out the same way it came in—runs out in tears. "When he thought thereon, he wept." At least, it warns one and makes him more watchful afterwards. You see what it is, take heed; take it for a warning, and do so no more. The pain of sin, if it do not force a tear, will set a watch.
2. As to duty. A tender heart will neither slight a sin, nor neglect a duty. It is loath to grieve and offend, and careful to serve and please the Lord. It would not that he should suffer by it, nor so much as lose his due. It watches against sin, and unto duty. It cares how to please the Lord, and its care is tender. It would not displease by its neglects or performances; all must be done that ought, and as it ought to be done. It will neither withhold its offering, nor will it offer an unclean thing. It considers not only what, but how. Both matter and manner, substance and circumstance, all must be right, or it is not at ease. It is not satisfied that it prays sometimes; it would never lose a praying time, God will not, and it cannot lose a duty. It would neither lose by non-performance, nor lose what is performed. It would neither leave undone, nor do amiss; any failing, not only in the matter, but in the principle, end, affection, tender affection—any failing pains it.
There is a tenderness in point of suffering. A tender heart will not be careful what or how much, but why and upon what account he suffers; will neither sinfully shun the cross, nor run upon it unwarrantably. He waits for a call, and then follows. He is patient under the hand of the Lord, but not insensible; can be touched with an affliction, though not offended at it: "The hand of the Lord has touched me." He suffers more than his own sufferings. His brethren's burdens all lie on his shoulders. He weeps in their sorrows, bleeds in their wounds, his heart is bound in their chains. As the care, so the trouble of all the churches comes daily upon him: "Who is weak, and I am not weak; who is offended, and I burn not?" he espouses all the sufferings of Christ as his own. In all His afflictions, he is afflicted.
II. Tenderness may be distinguished in respect to THE SUBJECT of it. There is a tenderness of the conscience, the will, the affections.
1. Tenderness of conscience consists in these three things: clearness of judgment, quickness of sight, and uprightness or faithfulness.
Clearness of judgment, when it is well-instructed, and understands the rule, and can thence discern between good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14). There is a tenderness that proceeds from cloudiness; a scrupulosity that fears everything, stumbles at straws, starts at shadows; makes sins; picks quarrels at duties; and so sometimes dares not please God, for fear of offending him. This is the sickness or soreness of conscience, not its soundness. It is the sound conscience that is truly tender.
Such a conscience has quickness of sight and watchfulness. "I sleep, but my heart wakes." It can espy the least sins and smallest duties. It can see sin in the very temptation; it can discover the least sin under the fairest face, and the least duty under the foulest mask. Call it singularity, nicety, cloud it with reproaches, yet conscience can discover light shining through all the clouds; and sees duty within, with whatever unhandsome face it be presented. Clearness of judgment consists in conscience's understanding the rule; quickness of sight in applying the rule to cases and distinguishing them. The truly tender has his eyes in his head, and his eyes open to discover and discern all that comes, be it good or evil, little or great. If but a thought comes in, What comes there? says conscience; what are you, a friend or an enemy? whence are you; from God or from beneath? It will examine whatever knocks, before any free admission. O, what a crowd of evils do thrust themselves into loose and careless hearts; the devil comes in in the crowd, and is never discovered. If the eye be either dim or asleep, there is entrance for anything. Little do we think often who has been with us, and what losses and mischiefs we have sustained while our hearts have been asleep, which, had they been wakeful and watchful, might have been prevented.
A tender conscience is also marked by uprightness and faithfulness, which discovers itself,
In giving charge concerning duty. Look to it, soul, there is a duty before you which God calls you to; do not say, It is no great hurt to let it alone, it is no great hurt to do it, it is questionable whether it be a duty or not; many wiser than I think otherwise. Do not say, It is a nicety, it is but a punctilio, it is mere folly and preciseness, and there will be no end of standing upon such small matters. See to it, it is your duty, beware you neglect it not; the baulking of the least duty is the neglecting of the great God of glory.
In giving warning of sin. Take heed to yourself, sin lies at the door, you are under a temptation, the devil is entering upon you. Do not say, It is but a little sin: little as it is, there is death and Hell in it; look to it, it is sin, have you nothing to do with it, keep yourself pure, and though it run upon you, shake it off.
After the commission of sin, it gives a rebuke for it; reproving, judging, and lashing the soul for it. "Where have you been, Gehazi? say not you have been nowhere. Went not this heart with you, and saw you running after your covetousness, gadding after your pleasures, feeding your pride, dandling your lusts, playing the hypocrite, playing the harlot from your God, pampering your flesh, pleasing your appetite? and where have you been? What have you done, soul? think not to excuse or mince the matter, it cannot be excused; you have sinned against your God, and now bear your shame." This is our heart smiting us, (2 Samuel 24:10); our heart condemning us: "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." (1 John 3:20).
2. Tenderness of the will consists in its flexibleness and pliableness to the will of God. And this is that tenderness wherein chiefly lies the blessing of a soft heart: a hard heart is stubborn and obstinate. Your neck is as an iron sinew, and your brow brass. You will not be ruled, there is no bending you or turning you out of your course, your iron is too hard for the fire, it will not be melted; and for the hammer, it will not be broken; there is no dealing with you, you are an intractable piece, you will neither be led nor driven; your heart is set in you to do evil, your will is set upon sin, and you are set upon your own will. You say, "The word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not do; but we will do whatever thing goes forth out of our own mouth." (Jeremiah 44:16, 17). "Who is lord over us?" (Psalm 12:4; Jeremiah 2:25). You say, "There is no hope; no, for I have loved strangers, and after them I will go, come what will of it, say what you will against it; be silent, Scriptures; hold your peace, conscience; it is to no purpose to speak more, there is no hope of prevailing; we are resolved, we will take our own course." These are hard hearts, stubborn, obstinate hearts.
When the iron sinew is broken, when the rebellion and stubbornness of the spirit is subdued and tamed, and made gentle and pliable, then it becomes a tender heart.
There may be some tenderness in the conscience, and yet the will be a very stone; and as long as the will stands out, there is no broken heart. Conscience may be scared and frighted. Conscience may fly upon the sinner with, "What do you mean, soul; where are your rebellions carrying you? look to yourself, hearken, or you will be lost before you are aware." But however God has conscience on his side, yet the devil still rides the will; and there sin takes up its rest. There is a twofold resting of sin in the soul: in peace and in power.
In peace: when it dwells and rules in the soul without disturbance or contradiction; when it carries all smoothly before it. When God lets it alone, and conscience speaks not a word against it; when notwithstanding those armies of lusts fighting against the soul, there is not so much as one weapon lifted up against them; not a prayer, not a tear, nor a wish for freedom, nor the least fear concerning the issue: this is the most dreadful hardness.
In power: when, though it can have no peace, yet it has still a place in the heart. Though it can have no quiet, but conscience is ever quarrelling with it and warning it away, yet it still holds its power over the will; the master of the house is content to be its servant. Oh, how many persons are there, even among the professors of religion, who cannot sin in quiet: they are proud, or passionate, or intemperate, or covetous, or false in their words and dealings; they are formal and hypocritical, and slight in their duties, but they cannot go on thus with any quiet. Conscience smites them for it, they feel many a pang and deadly twinge in their heart, insomuch that sometimes they cry and groan and roar in their spirits, O for redemption, O for deliverance from this false, this proud, this covetous and wicked heart. And yet, after all this the will remains a captive still, sin holds its power there, though it cannot reign in peace; though it cannot be proud, or play the hypocrite, or be covetous, or an oppressor, without some galls and gripes in the soul, yet on it goes, the same trade is kept up, the same course is held on. God commands, "Cast you out, cast you out, come off from all your wickedness and evil ways, and I will receive you." But no, though conscience would, the will cannot come; whatever rendings and tearings, whatever terrors and torments and worryings such souls are at any time under; whatever stings and plagues and fires they find their sins to be in their souls and bones; whatever wishings they wring forth that they were well-rid of these plagues, while the will is still wrong there is a hard heart, desperately hard; there is none of this heart of flesh. But when the will is once broken loose from sin, when it will be content to let all go, and give up itself to the dominion of the Lord, there is a broken heart. "Now speak, Lord, and I will hear. Now call, Lord, and I will answer. Now command me, impose on me what you will, I will submit. None but the Lord, none but Christ, no other Lord nor lover. I am your, Lord, your own; do with your own, demand of your own, whatever you please. What God will have me be, what God will have me do, that will I do and be. No longer what I will, but the will of the Lord be done." When it is come to this, there is a tender heart, there is the blessing of a broken spirit; the stone he has taken away, he has given a heart of flesh.
Christians, never trust to tears, never talk of terrors, of trouble of conscience, of the passionate workings and meltings which at any time you feel within your spirits: though there be something in these, as you shall see more by and by, yet those are not the things you are to look at. A subdued, tractable, willing, obedient heart, that is the tender heart. "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." (Isaiah 1:19).
3. Tenderness of the affections. Of these I shall instance only three—love, fear, sorrow.
(1.) The tenderness of love is seen in its benevolence and in its jealousy.
In its benevolence. Our goodness extends not to the Lord, but our good-will does. Our love can add nothing to him: "Can a man be profitable unto God?" (Job 22:2). "If you be righteous, what give you to him?" (Job 35:7). Yet though it can add nothing, it would not that anything be detracted from him; while he can have no more, it would that he should have his own, all that is due, his due praise, his due honour and homage and worship and subjection, from every creature; it would have no abatement, not the least spot or stain upon all his glory. What is an affront to God, is an offence to love. "Love bears all things," says the apostle, (1 Corinthians 13:7)—all things from God, all things from men. And yet there are two things which love to God cannot bear—his dishonour and his displeasure.
The benevolent heart cannot bear God's dishonour. Love would have God to be God, to live in the glory of his majesty, in the hearts and eyes of all the world. His reproach is grievous to him that loves, for this is the cloud that takes God out of sight. He loves and honours, and would that God should be loved and honoured of all; he fears, and would that the whole world should fear him. He would receive in his own breast every arrow that is shot against his Maker; he would that his own name and soul might stand between his God and all reproach and dishonour. He would be vile, if so the Lord may be glorious: that God may increase, he is content to decrease. He is not so tender of his own heart and life, as of the holiness of his God. He would suffer and die, and be nothing, rather than that God should not be all in all. He would rather never think, nor speak, nor be, than not be, in word and thought and life, holiness to the Lord. But O what or where would he not be, rather than his own hand should be lifted up against Jehovah!
To see the Lord robbed of his holiness, wronged in his wisdom, or his truth, or his sovereignty; to see sin, to see the world, set up in the throne, and the God of glory made to stand aside as insignificant; to hear that blasphemy, "God is not worth this lust, or not worthy this labor"—and what less is said in every sin?—is a sword in his breast. "The reproaches of them that reproached you are fallen upon me." Love has tasted of God, it has fed on his fullness, it has its nourishment from his sweetness, it has been warmed in his bosom, all his goodness has passed before it; upon this it lives and feeds; and having found and felt what the Lord is, it is impatient that his goodness should be clouded or belied. Love kindled from Heaven is keen, and the keen edge is a tender edge—the least touch of what offends will turn it. "I am in distress, my affections are troubled, my heart is turned within me, for I have grievously rebelled." (Lamentations 1:20). "My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is your God?" (Psalm 42:3). Where is that care, that help, and that salvation of your God you trust in? Your God is not such a one as you boast him to be. When I remember, when I hear such things, my soul is poured out within me. Love is large; he who loves has a large heart, he can never receive or do too much; he would have all he can, and he would give all he has to the Lord. He is tender how anything be withheld that is due, how anything be wasted elsewhere that might be useful to the Lord.
Nor can love bear his displeasure. The displeasure of men it bears, and rejoices; the wrath and rage of Satan it bears, and triumphs; though all the world be displeased and provoked, if God smiles, it is well enough, Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me, and my heart shall be glad. (Psalm 4). "You did hide your face, and I was troubled." (Psalm 30:7). Let him correct me, but Oh, not in fury; let him smite, but not frown; let him kill me, so he will but love me. And though he smite, though he kill me, yet will I love and trust in him. O my God, let me rather die in your love, than live in your displeasure: there is life in that death, this life, is death to me. Let me not be dead while alive; turn away your anger which kills my heart.
It is impatient of divine displeasure, and thence it is grievous to it that it does itself displease him; thence it opposes sin, and condemns itself for it. Is this your kindness to your friend? Love you God, soul? What, and yet provoke him thus daily; love, and yet neglect to seek and follow your God; love, and yet so lame and so slow, and so heavy and so sparing in your services to him? Is this all your love will do? Not deny your ease, or your pleasure, or your liberty, or your appetite, or your companion, for the sake of the Lord; choose rather to please your friend, or your flesh, than to please God? Is this your love? Is this your kindness to your friend? O false heart, unworthy, unworthy spirit, how can you look your God in the face? How can you say, "I love you," when your heart is no more with him?
The tenderness of love is also seen in its jealousy. He who loves the Lord is jealous, and jealousy has a tender edge; he is jealous, not of, but for the Lord—not of his God, but of himself, lest anything should steal away his heart from God. Love would be chaste, would not bestow itself elsewhere; and yet is in great jealousy lest it be enticed and drawn away. He who loves the Lord, has not anything, whether wife, or child, or friend, or estate, or esteem, that gets near his heart, but he is jealous of them, lest they steal it away. "Get you down," he says, "keep you lower; this heart is neither yours nor mine: O my God, it is your; it is your, Lord, take it wholly to you, keep it to yourself, let no other lovers be sharers with you."
(2.) There is a tenderness of fear. The tender heart is a trembling heart, and manifests the tenderness of fear in its suspicion and its caution.
In its suspicion. The fearful are suspicious; they look further than they see; he who is in dread, will be in doubt what may befall him, he suspects a surprisal; every bush is a thief, every bait he fears may have a hook under it. There is a foolish and causeless fear; and there is a prudent and holy fear: this fear is a principle of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10). "A prudent man foresees the evil," (Proverbs 22:3), but fools go on; the snare is never nearer than to the secure; bold, venturous sinners never want for woe, the devil may spare his cunning when he has to do with such. Nothing that looks like sin offers itself to a tender heart, but he presently suspects it; every pleasant morsel, every pleasant cup, every pleasant companion that comes, anything that tickles and gratifies the flesh, he looks through it before he will touch it, lest it betray his soul from God. "There may be a snare in the dish, a snare in my cup, a snare in my company; and what if there should!" He feeds himself with fear, dwells, walks, converses, works, recreates himself with a trembling heart and jealous eye.
His fear also appears in his caution. Fear is wary: some commanders have set their scout-watches unarmed, that fear might make them watchful. A fearful Christian will take heed what and whom he trusts; he dares not trust himself in such company as may be a snare unto him. He dares not trust his heart among temptations, he will keep the devil at a distance, he will not come near where his nets do lie. Blessed is he who thus fears always. O the unspeakable mischief, O the multitudes of sins, that we run upon through our secure hearts! "I never thought of it, I never dreamed of any such danger. Oh, I am undermined, I am overreached, I am surprised; my foot is in the snare, the gin has taken me by the heel, my soul is among lions, sin has gotten hold on me, my heart is gone before I was aware, the enemy has come in and carried it away, has given it to lust, to the world, to pleasure, to divide it among themselves; my faith has failed, my conscience is denied, my love is grown cold, my grace withered, my comforts wasted, my peace broken; and my God, Oh, where is he gone? Woe is me, the evil that I feared not is come upon me; had I feared, I had not fallen. O that I had been wise, had kept my watch, had stood upon my guard; had I thought, had I thought, I had escaped all this danger." O Christians, be wise in season, and take heed of the fool's too late, "Had I known it"
(3.) There is a tenderness of sorrow. Sorrow is the melting of the heart, the stone dissolved; sorrow is the wound of the heart: a wound is tender, love is tender, and therefore so is godly sorrow, which is the sorrow of love; you may call it a love-sickness. Love is both the pain and pleasure of a mourning heart, it is love that wounds, and love that heals; it is both the weapon and the oil; this sorrow has its joy, the melted is the most joyful heart; it is love that makes it sad; it weeps because it loves: and it is love that makes it glad too; it therefore joys because in its sorrows it sees that it loves. It is love that makes the wound, the occasion of this sorrow being love abused. What have you done, soul? Whom have you despised? Against whom have you lifted up yourself? You have sinned, you have sinned, and have thereby smitten and grieved your God that loves you, and whom you love. You have but one friend in Heaven and earth, and him you have abused; to please your lust, you have pierced your Lord, you have transgressed his commandments, trampled upon his compassions, and broken his bonds: his greatness and his goodness, his law and his very love have been despised by you; him who loved you have you smitten. Is this your kindness to your friend? O vile, ungracious, unkind, unthankful, unnatural heart, what have you done?
Put all this now together, and you have the heart of flesh which the covenant promises, a tender heart, a heart that is tender of sin and duty, that carefully shuns sin, or is sure to smart for it; that neither slights sin nor duty, that says not of the one or the other, It is but a little one; that can feel sufferings, but not fret at them: a tender conscience, that will neither wink at sin nor excuse the sinner, that will not hold the sinner guiltless nor say unto the wicked, You are righteous; that will not be smitten but it will smite again, that will give due warning and due correction: a flexible, tractable heart, that will not resist and rebel; that says unto the Lord, What will you have me to do? and will not say of anything God wills, Anything but this: a willing, ductile heart, stiff against nothing but sin, that a word from Heaven will lead to anything: a heart of love, that bears good-will to the Lord and all that he does or requires, in which good-will lies radically every good work; that says not of any duties or sufferings, This is too great, or of any sin, This is nothing; that would be anything or nothing, so God may be all; that would rather be displeased than displease; that is not displeased when God is pleased: a trembling heart, that fears more than it sees, and flies from what it fears; whom fear makes to beware: a melting heart, a mourning heart, that wounds itself in the wounds it has given to the Lord and his name; that can grieve in love, and can love and grieve where it cannot weep. In sum, it is a heart that can feel, that can bleed, that can weep; or at least that can yield and stoop where it cannot weep, nor feel but little; that will easily be commanded where it is not sensibly melted: this is a soft heart, this is the heart of flesh: "I will take away the stone, and give them a heart of flesh."
Oh, what a blessing is such a heart; what a plague is a hard heart! Oh, what prisoners are the men of this world: in prison under Satan, in prison under sin, bound under a curse, shut up under unbelief and impenitence: the hard heart is the iron gate that shuts them in that they cannot go out. (Romans 2:5). Oh, what a hospital is this world become of blind and lame and sick and crippled and wounded creatures. Whence are all the calamities and distresses that befall them, but from the hardness of their hearts? The stone in their hearts breeds all their diseases, brings all their calamities; has blinded their eyes, and broken their bones, and wasted their estates: there is not one misery that befalls them, but they may write over it, This is the hardness of my heart. Oh, what a Sodom is this world become, for wickedness as well as for wrath; what drunkenness, what adulteries, what oaths, what blasphemies, and all sorts of monstrous sins do everywhere abound: whence is all this, but from the hardness of men's hearts? If you say, "It is from other causes; it is from unbelief, from ignorance, from impotence, from temptations," let it be granted; yet still it is from hardness of heart. They are wilfully ignorant, wilfully weak, wilfully run into temptations; they shut their eyes and stop their ears, they will not see, they will not believe. Oh, what losses do they sustain: how many Sabbaths are lost; how many sermons are lost; how many reproofs, counsels, corrections, are lost; a gospel lost, and souls thereby likely to be lost forever. Oh, what prodigies are they become, under all this sin and misery! and yet merry, jolly, laughing, and singing and sporting and feasting and braving it out, as if nothing ailed them. Feeling nothing of all that is come upon them, and fearing nothing of all that is coming. Warn them, reprove them, beseech them, it is all but preaching to a stone. It may be you have sometimes wondered to see a company of thieves in prison, drinking and carousing and making merry, when they know that in a few days they must be brought out and hanged. When you wonder at these, wonder at yourself. What bitter complaints do we sometimes hear, even from the best of saints. "O this hard heart; O this stubborn spirit. I cannot mourn, I cannot stoop, I cannot submit. 'Why have you hardened our heart from your fear?' (Isaiah 63:17). Or why have you left us, or given us up to a hard heart? Why have you not softened and humbled and broken us? You have humbled us, and we are not humbled—broken us, and we are not broken; you have broken our land, broken our peace, broken our backs, but the stone is not yet broken. O for one breach more, Lord; our hearts, our hearts, let these be once broken; our streets mourn, the cities of our solemnities mourn, the ways of Zion mourn. Oh, when will you give us a mourning spirit?"
O what sorrow-bitten souls are the saints for their want of sorrow. "I mourn, Lord, I lament, I weep; but it is because I cannot mourn or lament as I should: if I could mourn as I ought, I could be comforted; if I could weep, I could rejoice; if I could sigh, I could sing; if I could lament, I could live; I die, I die, my heart dies within me, because I cannot cry; I cry, Lord, but not for sin, but for tears for sin; I cry, Lord, my calamities cry, my bones cry, my soul cries, my sins cry, 'Lord, for a broken heart,' and behold, yet I am not broken. The rocks rend, the earth quakes, the heavens drop, the clouds weep, the sun will blush, the moon be ashamed, the foundations of the earth will tremble at the presence of the Lord, but this heart will neither break nor tremble. O for a broken heart! If this were once done, might my soul have this wish, thenceforth my God might have his will: what would be hard, if my heart were tender? Labour would be easy, pains would be a pleasure, burdens would be light. Neither the command nor the cross would be any longer grievous, nothing would be hard but sin. Fear, where are you? come and plough up this rock. Love, where are you? come and thaw this ice, come and warm this dead lump, come and enlarge this straitened spirit, then shall I run the way of his commandments."
O brethren, how little, how very little of this tenderness is there to be found in most Christians! The sacrifice of God is a broken heart; Oh, how far must the Lord go to find himself such a sacrifice! We do but cast stones up to Heaven when we lift up our hearts: it is a wonder that such hearts as we carry do not break, that our marble weeps not; that if nothing else will do it, our hardness does not make us relent; that we should so labour under, and complain of, and yet not be sick of the stone.
Broken hearts, yielding and relenting spirits, tender consciences, Oh, where are they? afraid of sin, tender of transgressing, or mourning under it? when shall it once be? Our lusts no more broken; our pride, our passion, our envy, our earthliness, no more broken; so venturous on temptation, so bold on sin, such liberty taken to transgress, such mincing and palliating, and excusing of sin as we find—is this our brokenness? We are tender, it is true; but of what? Of dishonouring God, of abusing grace, of neglecting duty, of defiling conscience, of wounding our souls? No, it is of our flesh that we are so tender—tender of labour, tender of trouble, tender of our credit, of our name and reputation: a tender shoulder we have, a tender hand, a tender foot; they can bear nothing, and do nothing; nothing can touch our flesh, nothing can touch our idols, our ease, or our estates, but we shrink and smart, and are put to pain. God may be smitten, and we feel it not; the gospel may be smitten, the church may be smitten, conscience may be smitten, and it moves us not. We can fear an affliction, fear a reproach; O that we so much feared a temptation or a sin! We cannot lack bread but we feel the want; we cannot want clothes, or a house, or a friend, but we feel it; we cannot want our sleep, our quiet, our pleasure, our respect from men, but we feel it; anything that pinches our flesh pierces our heart. We cannot pine, or languish in our bodies, but we feel it; a fever or an ague, a consumption, dropsy, or any bodily sickness, O, it makes us sick at heart; a froward yoke-fellow, an unthrifty servant, an ill neighbour, a scoff, a slight cannot be borne; but O, how much sin can be borne! While our flesh will bear nothing, how much can conscience bear, and never complain!
Christians, consider. When our flesh must be thus caressed, whatever come of it—must be tenderly fed, must have soft clothing, soft lodging, soft usage—be dealt gently with, though to maintain it conscience must be racked, and racked, and wasted; when our wills cannot be crossed, our appetites cannot be denied, but a tumult follows, the soul is in an uproar, and conscience meanwhile must be denied, and sent away in silence; when the Word works no more, when the prints of it are not received, the power of it is resisted; when the rod works no more, when our stripes make no sign, when the lashes on our backs touch not our hearts; when we remain so vain and so wanton, so wilful, carnal, and earthly, after the Lord has been preaching and chastising us into a better frame; when we stand upon our terms, keep our distances, our animosities, our heats and heights of spirit, our censurings, our quarrellings one with another, Christian with Christian, professor with professor, after the Lord has been beating us together to make us friends, and all to teach us more humility and charity—is this our brokenness? Is this our tenderness, when upon any of the Lord's rougher dealings with us, smiting our faces, throwing us on our backs, trampling us in the dirt, we are yet no more brought on our knees? Is this our brokenness, when the Lord has been awakening us out of sleep, putting his spurs and goads in our sides to quicken us on our way; calling to us, "Arise, sleepers, stir up your spirits, sluggards, mend your pace: I will not be put off as I have been; no more such loitering and idling and trifling and halting as has been; I must have another manner of service, of praying and hearing and walking and working, than has been: be zealous and amend; more labour, more care, more watchfulness, more activity, more of the spirit and soul of what you profess?" When the Lord has been thus goading and spurring us on, and though our flesh feels, yet our hearts will not feel, nor answer the goad or spur, is this an evidence of tenderness?
When great duties are little, and lesser are none; when great sins are infirmities, and little ones are nothing; when lying and defrauding, when false weights, false wares, and false dealings, when defaming, backbiting, tale-bearing, railing, reviling, do stand for little more than ciphers; when fellowship and familiarity with evil men in their sins, and compliance with or connivance at their wickedness; when sinful courtings and complimentings of such, to the hardening them in their ways, do pass for virtues and civilities; when frothy, wanton discourse and communication, when scoffing and making a sport at the sins or infirmities of others, when sinful, vain jesting, wherein rather conscience than wit must be denied—when all these pass for our ornaments rather than our evils, where is our tenderness?
When upon auditing our accounts, examining our books, and reckoning up our scores, where a talent is owing, we bid conscience, "Take your bill, and write down a shekel;" where twenty or a hundred sins are to be reckoned for, "Take your bill, and write down ten, or but one, and that a little one:" when we are so free in multiplying and so false in numbering our iniquities, where is our tenderness?
Well, Christians, the Lord has promised a tender heart, to make these stones flesh; and something possibly is done already upon you towards it. O let this sad sight now laid before you, this view of what is wanting, have some influence upon you. Let sorrow that no more is done, work what is yet undone; let your unbrokenness break your hearts; let the stone that yet remains make your flesh bleed. If you yet feel no more, may you at least feel this—that you feel not.