by John Preston
The structure of “Life Eternal” by John Preston. This is a very confusing book made up of various bits put together in a very odd and confusing fashion.
GOD'S NAME AND ATTRIBUTES
The First Sermon
Hebrews 11:6 — “He that cometh, to God, must believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him.”
HAVING undertaken to go through the whole body of Theology, I will first give you brief definition of the thing it self; which we call Divinity it is this;
It is that heavenly wisdom, or form of wholesome words, revealed by the Holy Ghost, in the Scripture, touching the knowledge of God, and of ourselves, whereby we are taught the way to eternal life.
I call it [heavenly wisdom] for so it is called. The wisdom which we teach, is not in the words, which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. So likewise the Apostle in another place calls it, The form of wholesome words; that is, That system, or comprehension of wholesome Doctrine delivered in the Scripture.
Now it differs from other systems, and bodies of Sciences:―
1. Because it is revealed from above; all other knowledge is gathered from things below.
2. Again, all other sciences are taught by men, but this is taught by the Holy Ghost.
3. All other knowledge is delivered in the writings of men, but this is revealed to us in the holy Word of God, which was written by God himself, though men were the mediate pen-men of it; therefore, I add that, to distinguish it from all other Sciences; that, It is not revealed by men, but by the holy Ghost, not in books written by men, but in the holy Scriptures.
In the next place I add the object, about which this wisdom is conversant, it is, the knowledge of God, and of ourselves. And so it is likewise distinguished from all other knowledge which hath some other objects. It is the knowledge of God, that is, of God, not simply considered, or absolutely, in his Essence, but as he is in reference and relation to us.
And again, it is not simply the knowledge of ourselves, (for many things in us belong to other arts and sciences) but as we stand in reference to God; to that there are the two parts of it; the knowledge of God, in reference to us; and of our selves, in reference to him.
Last of all, it is distinguished by the end, to which it tends, which it aims at, which is to teach us the way to eternal life:―and therein it differs from all other sciences whatsoever; for they only help some defects of understanding here in this present life:―for where there is some failing or defect, which common reason doth not help, their arts are invented to supply and rectify hose defects; but this doth somewhat more, it leads us the way to eternal life:―for, as it hath in it a principal above all others, so it hath an higher end than others:―for as the well-head is higher, so the other streams ascend higher than others. And so much for this description, what this Sum of the doctrine of Theology, is.
The parts of it are two.
1. Concerning God.
2. Concerning ourselves.
Now concerning God, 2. things are to be known:
1. That he is God;―“these are set down in the Text.”
2. What he is God. ―“these are set down in the Text.”
1. That God is, we shall find that there two ways to prove it, or to make it good to us:
1. By the strength of natural reason.
2. By faith.
That we do not deliver this without, without ground, look into Romans 1:20. For the invisible things of him, that is, his eternal power, and God-head, are seen by the creation of the world, being considered in his works, so that they are without excuse. So likewise, Acts 17:27-28 you shall see there what the Apostle saith, that they should seek after the Lord, if happily they might grope after him, and find him:―for he is not far from every one of us for in him we live, move, and have our being:―that is, by the very things that we handle and touch, we may know that there is a God; and also, by our own life, motion, and being, we may learn that there is a Dictie, from whence these proceed:―for the Apostle speaketh this to them, that had no Scripture to teach them. So likewise, Acts 14:17. Nevertheless he hath not left himself without witness, in giving fruitful seasons:―as if those did bear witness of him, that is, those works of his in the creatures. So that you see, there are two ways to come to the knowledge of this, that God is; One, I say, is by natural reason:―or else to make it more plain, we shall see this in these two things
1. There is enough in the very creation of the world, to declare him unto us.
2. There is a light of the understanding, or reason, put into us, whereby we are able to discern those characters of God stamped in the creatures, whereby we may discern the invisible things of God, his infinite power and wisdom; and when these are put together, that which is written in the creature, there are arguments enough in them, and in us there is reason enough, to see the force of those arguments, and thence we may conclude that there is a God, besides the arguments of Scripture, that we have to reveal it. For, though I said before, that Divinity was revealed by the Holy Ghost, yet there is this difference in the points of Theology:―some truths are wholly revealed, and have no footsteps in the creatures, no prints in the creation, or in the works of God, to discern them by, and such are all the mysteries of the Gospel, and of the Trinity:―other truths there are, that have found vestigia, some characters stamped upon the creature, whereby we may discern them, and such is this which we now have in hand, that, There is a God.
Therefore we will show you these two things:―
1. How it is manifest from the creation.
2. How this point is evident to you by faith.
3. A third thing I will add that this God, whom we worship, is the only true God.
Now for the first, to explicate this, that, The power, and Godhead is seen in the creation of the world.
Besides those Demonstrations elsewhere handled drawn from the Creation in general, as from:―
1. The sweet consent and harmony the creatures have among themselves.
2. The fitness and proportion of one unto another.
3. From the reasonable actions of creatures, in themselves unreasonable.
4. The great and orderly provision that is made for all things.
5. The combination and dependence that is among them.
6. The impressions of skill and workmanship that is upon the creatures. All which argue that there is a God.
There remain three other principal arguments to demonstrate this:―
The consideration of the original of all things, which argues that they must needs bee made by GOD, the Maker of Heaven and Earth; which we will make good to you by these particulars:―
If man was made by him, for whom all things are made, then it is certain that they are made also. For the argument holds; If the best things in the world must have a beginning, then surely those things that are subserving, and subordinate to them, must much more have a beginning.
Now that man was made by him, consider but this reason;
The father that begets, knows not the making of him; the mother that conceives knows it not; neither doth the formative virtue, (as we call it) that is, that vigour that is in the materials, that shapes, and fashions, and articulates the body in the womb, that knows not what it doth. Now this is certain; that he that makes any thing, must needs know it perfectly, and all the parts of it, though the stander by may be ignorant of it. As for example; he that makes a statue, knows how every particle is made; he that makes a Watch, any ordinary work of art, he knows all the junctures, all the wheels, and commissures of it, or else it is impossible that he should make it:―now all these that have a hand in making of man, know not the making of him, not the father, nor the mother, nor that which we call the formative virtue, that is, that vigour which is in the materials, which works and fashions the body, as the workman cloth a statue, and gives several limbs to it, all these know it not:―therefore he must needs be made by God, and not by man:―and therefore see how the Wise-man reasons, Psalm 94:9. He that made the eye, shall he not see? he that made the ear, shall not he hear? &c. that is, he that is the maker of the engines, or organs, or senses, or limbs of the body, or he that is maker of the soul, and faculties of it, it is certain that he must know, though others do not, the making of the body and soul, the turnings of the will, and the windings of the understanding; all those other are but as pencils in the hand of him that doth all; the pencil knows not what it doth, though it draws all, it is guided by the hand of a skilful Painter, else it could do nothing; the Painter only knoweth what he doth; so that formative virtue, that vigour that forms the body of a man, that knows no more what it doth, than the pencil doth, but he in whose hand it is on work, it is he that gives vigour and virtue that feed in the womb, from whence the body is raised, it is he that knows it, for it is he that that makes it. And this is the first particular by which we prove that things were made, and had not their original from themselves. The second is:―
If things were non made, then, it is certain, that they must have a being from themselves:―now to have a being from itself, is nothing else but to be God:―for it is an inseparable property of God, to have his being from himself. Now if you will acknowledge, that the creatures had a being of themselves, they must needs be Gods; for it belongs to him alone, to have a being of himself, and from himself. The third follows, which I would have you chiefly to mark.
If things have a being from themselves, it is certain then that they are without causes; as for example; That which hath no efficient cause, (that is) no maker, that hath no end. Look upon all the works made by man (that we may express it to you) take an house, or any work, or instrument that man makes; therefore it hath an end, because he that made it, propounded such an end to himself; but if it have no maker, it can have no end:―for the end of any thing is that which the maker aims at. Now if things have no end, they could have no form:―for the form and fashion of every thing ariseth only from the end, which the maker propounds to himself; as for example, the reason, why a knife hath such a fashion, is, because it was the end of the maker, to have it an instrument to cut with:―the reason why an axe or hatchet hath another fashion, is, because it might be an instrument to chop with; and the reason, why a key hath another fashion different from these, is, because the maker propounded to himself another end, in making of it, namely, to open locks with; these are all made of the same matter, that is, of iron, but they havens divers fashions, because they have several ends, which the maker propounds to himself. So that, if there be ends of things there is no form, nor fashion of them, because the grounds of all their fashions, is their several ends. So then we will put them all together; if there be no efficient, no maker of them, then there is no end, and if there be no end, then there is no form nor fashion, and if there be no form, then there is no matter, and so consequently, they have no cause; and that which is without any cause, must needs be God; which I am sure none dares to affirm; and therefore they have not their being of themselves. But besides that negative argument, by bringing it to an impossibility, that the creatures should be Gods, we will make it plain by an affirmative argument that all the creatures have an end.
For look upon all the creatures, and we shall see that they have an end; the end of the Sun, Moon and Stars is, to serve the Earth; and the end of the Earth is, to bring forth Plants; and the end of Plants is, to feed the beasts:―and so if you looks to all particular things else, you shall see that they have an end, and if they have an end, it is certain, there is one did aim at it, and did give those creatures, those several, fashions, which those, those several ends did require:―as for example What is the reason, why a horse hath one fashion, a dog another, sheep another, and oxen another? The reason is plain, a horse was made to run, and to carry men; the oxen to plough; a dog to hunt, and so of the rest. Now this cannot be without an author, without a maker, from whom they have their beginning. So likewise this is plain by the effects:―for this is a sure rule:―whatsoever it is, that hath no other end, but itself, that seeks to provide for its own happiness in looking no further than it self; and this is only in God, blessed for ever; he hath no end but himself, no cause above himself, therefore he looks only to himself, and therein doth his happiness consist. Take any thing that will not go out of its own sphere, but dwells within its own compass, stands upon its own bottom to seek its happiness, that thing destroys it self; look to any of the creatures, and let them not stir out of their, own shell, they perish there. So, take a man that hath no further end than himself, let him seek himself, make himself his end in all things he doth, look only to his own profit and commodity, such a man destroys himself for he is made to serve God, and men, and therein, doth his happiness consist, because that he is made for such an end take those that have been serviceable to God, and men, that have spent themselves in serving God, with a perfect heart, we see that such men are happy men and do we not find it by experience, that those that that have gone a contrary way, have destroyed themselves And this is the third, particular.
If things had no beginning, if the world was from eternity; what is the reason there are no monuments of more ancient times, than there are? For, if wee confider what eternity is, and what the vastness of it is, that when you have thought of millions of millions of years, yet still there is more beyond:―if the world hath been of so long continuance, what is the reason, that things arc but, as it were, newly ripened? what is the reason, that things are of no greater antiquity than they are? Take all the Writers that ever wrote, (besides the Scripture) and they all exceed not above four thousand years, for they almost all agree in this, that the first man, that had ever any history written of him, was Ninus, who lived about Abraham's time, or a little before; Trogus Pompeius, and Diodorus Siculus agree in this. Plutarch saith, that Theseus, was the first, before him there was no history of truth, nothing credible; and this is his expression:―take the Histories of times before Theseus, and you shall find them to be but like skirts, in the maps, wherein you shall find them nothing but vast Seas. Varro, one of the most learned their Writers, professeth, that before the kingdom of the Sicyonians, which begun after Ninus time, that before that time nothing was certain, and the beginning of that was doubtful, and uncertain. And their usual division of all history, into fabulous, and certain, by Historians, is well known, to those that are conversant in them; and yet the Historians, that are of any truth, began long after the Captivity in Babylon; for Herodotus, that lived after Esther’s time, is counted the first that ever wrote in Prose, and he was above eight hundred yeares after Moses time. For conclusion of this, we will only say, that which one of the ancientest of the Roman Poets, drawing this conclusion from the argument we have in hand, faith, If things were from eternity, and had not a beginning;
Cur supra bellum Thebanum & funera Trojæ
Non alias alii quoque res cecinere Poetæ?
If things were from eternity, what is the reason, that before the Theban and Trojan war, all the ancient Poets, and ancient Writers did not make mention of any thing ? Do you think, if things had been from eternity, there would be no monuments of them, if you confider the vastness of eternity, what it is? So likewise for the beginning of Arts and Sciences; what is the reason that the original of them is known? Why were they no sooner found out? Why are they not sooner perfected? Printing, as you know, is a late invention; and so is the invention of Letters:―take all Sciences, the ancientest, as Astrology and Philosophy, as well as the Mathematics; why arc their authors yet known, & we see them in the blade, and not in the fruit? So for the Genealogies of men (for that I touch, because it is an argument insinuated by Paul, when he disputed with the Heathens, Acts 17:26. That God made of one blood all mankind) you see evidently how one man begets another, and he another, &c. and so go and take all the Genealogies in the Scripture, and in all other historiographers, we shall see, that they all come to one well-head. No, I ask, if the world was from eternity, what is the reason that there is but one fountain, one blood whereof we are all made ? Why should they not be made all together ? Why was not the earth peopled together, and in every land a multitude of habitants together, if they had been from eternity, and had no beginning ?
The second principle Head, by which we will make this good to you, that there is a God, that made Heaven and Earth, is, the testimony of God himself. There is a double testimony; one is the written testimony, which we have in the Scriptures; the other is, that testimony, which is written in the hearts of men.
Now, you know that all Nations do acknowledge a God, (this we take for granted) yea, even those that have been lately discovered, that live, as it were, disjoined from the rest of the world, yet they all have, and worship a God; those Nations discovered lately by the Spaniards, in the West Indies, and those that have been discovered since; all of them, without exception, have it written in their hearts, that there is a God. Now the strength of the argument lies in these two things:
1. I observe that phrase used. It is called a law written in their hearts. Every man's soul is but, as it were, the table or paper, upon which the writing is; the thing written is this principles that we are now upon, that there is a God, that made Heaven and Earth:―but now who is the Writer ? Surely it is God, which is evident by this; because it is a general effect in the heart of every man living, and therefore it must come from a general cause:―from whence else shall it proceed ? No particular cause can produce it; if it were, or had been taught by some particular man, by some sect, in some one Nation or Kingdom, in one age; then you must conclude, it should see that the effect would not exceed it, but when you find it in the hearts of all men, in all Nations and ages; then you must conclude, it was an universal effect, written by the general Author of all things, which is God alone; and so consequently, the argument hath this strength in it, that it is the testimony of God.
2. Besides, when you see every man looking after a God, and seeking him, it is an argument that there is one, though they do not find him:―it is true, they pitch upon a false god, and go the wrong way to seek him, yet it shows that there is such a Deity. For as in other things; when we see one affecting that thing which another doth not; as to the eye of one, that is beautiful which is not to another, yet all affecting some beauty; it is an argument that beauty is the general object of all, and so in taste & other tenses, So when we see men going different ways, some worshiping on God, some another, yet all conspiring in this, to worship a God, it must needs argue that there is one:―for this law engraven in every man's heart, you will grant that it is a work of Nature. at least, and the works of Nature are not in vain; even as, when you see the fire to ascend above the air, it argues that there is a place where it would rest, though you never saw it; and as, in winter, when you see the swallows flying to a place, though you never saw the place, yet you must needs gather that there is one which Nature hath appointed them, and hath given them an instinct to fly unto, and there to be at rest; so when you see in every man's soul such an instigation to seek God, though men never saw him, and the most go the wrong way to seek him, and take that for God which is not, yet this argues there is a Deity which they intend. And this is the third.
The last argument is taken from the soul of man, the fashion of it, and the immortality of it.
First, God is said to have made man after his own image; he doth not mean his body, for that is not made after the Image of God; neither is it only that holiness which was created in us, and now lost:―for then he would not have said, He that sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the Image of GOD made he man. The principal intent of that place, is (for ought I can see or judge) of that Scripture (speaking of the natural fashion of things, and not of the supernatural graces) it is, to express that God hath given a soul to man, that carries the Image of God, a likeness to the Essence of God immaterial, invisible; for there is a double Image of God in the soul, one in the substance of it, which is never lost; another is the supernatural grace, which is an Image of the knowledge, holiness, and righteousness of God, and this is utterly lost. But the soul is the Image of the Essence of God, (as I may so speak) that is, it is a spirit immaterial, immortal, invisible, as he is; hath understanding and will, as he hath; he understands all things, and wills whatsoever pleaseth. And you see an expression of him in your own soul, which is an argument of the Deity.
Secondly, besides, the immortality of the soul, which argues it came not from any thing here below, but that it hath its original from God; it came from God, and to God it must return; that is, it had not any beginning here, it had it from him, and to him again it must return. For what is this body, wherein the soul is? It is but the case of the soul, the shell, and sheath of it; therefore the soul useth it but for a time, and dwells in it, as a man dwells in a house, while it is habitable, but when it is grown ruinous, he departeth:―the soul useth the body, as a man doth a vessel, when it is broken, he lays it aside; or as a man doth an instrument, whilst it will be serviceable to him; but when it is no longer fit to play upon, he calls it aside; so doth the soul, as it were, lay aside the body:―for it is but as a garment that a man useth; when it is worn out, and thread-bare, he casts it off:―so doth the soul with the body. And for the further proof of this, and that it depends not on the body, nor hath its original of it, or by it; consider the great acts of the soul, which are such, as cannot arise from the temper of the matter, be it never so curious:―as the discourse of the soul from one general to another; the apprehension of so high things, as God, and Angels; the devising of such things as never came into the senses. For, though it be true, that sounds and colours be carried into the understanding by the senses; yet to make pictures of these colours, and music of these sounds, this is from the understanding within:―so the remembrance of things past; observing the condition of things, by comparing one with another. Now, look upon brute beasts, we see no actions but may arise from the temper of the matter; according to which their fancy and appetite are fashioned; though some actions are stronger than others, yet they arise not above the Well-head of sense:―all those extraordinary things, which they are taught to doe, it is but for their food, as hawks, and some pigeons, it is reported, in Assyria that they carry letters from one place to another, where they use to have food; so other beasts that act dancing, and such like motions, it is done by working on their senses:―but come to man, there are other actions of his understanding and will in the soul:―it is true indeed, in a man there are fancy and appetite, and these arise from the temper of the body; therefore as the body hath a different temper, so there are several appetites, dispositions and affections; some man longs after one thing, some after another, but these are but the several turnings of &he sensual appetite, (which is alto seen in beasts) therefore when the soul is gone, these remain no longer; but come to the higher 'part of the soul, the actions of the will, and understanding of man, and they are of an higher nature; the acts which they do, have no dependence upon the body at all:―besides, come to the motions of the body; the soul guides and moves the body, as a Pilot doth a ship, (now the Pilot may be safe, though the ship be split upon the rock). Look on beasts, they are led wholly as their appetite carries them, and they must go that way; therefore they are not ruled, as a Pilot governs a ship:―but in men, their appetites would carry them hither, or thither, but the will saith no, and that hath the understanding for its counsellor. So that the motions of the body arise not from the diversity of the sensual appetites, as in all other creatures, but of the will and understanding; for the soul depends not upon the body, but the acts of the body depend upon it:―therefore, when the body perisheth, the soul dies not; but, as a man that dwells in a house; if the house fall, he hath no dependence on it, but may go away to another house; so the soul hath no dependence upon the body at all; therefore you must. not think that it doth die when the body perisheth.
Besides, the soul is not worn, it is not weary, as other things are; the body is weary, and the spirits are weary:―the body wears, as doth a garment, till it be wholly worn out:―now, any thing that is not weary, it cannot perish; but, in the very actions of the soul itself there is no weariness, but whatsoever comes into the soul perfects it, with a natural perfection, and it is the stronger for it; therefore it cannot be subject to decay, it cannot wear out, as other things do, but the more notions it hath, the more perfect it is:―the body, indeed, is weary with labour, and the spirits are weary, but the soul is not weary; but in the immediate acts of it, the soul it works still, even when the body sleepeth:―look upon all the actions of the soul, and they are independent, and as their independency grows, so the soul grows younger and younger, and stronger and stronger, seneseens juveneseit, and is not subject to decay, or mortality:―as you see in a chicken, it grows still, and so the shell breaks, and falls off:―so is it with the soul, the body hangs on it, but as a shell, and when the soul is grown to perfection, it falls away, and the soul returns to the Maker.
The next thing that I should come to, is to show you how this is made evident by faith. When a man hath some rude thoughts a thing, and hath some reason for it, he then begins to have some persuasion of it; but when, betides, a man wise and true, shall come, and tell him it is so, this adds much strength to his confidence:―for when you come to discern this Godhead, and to it by reason from the creature, this may give you some persuasion; but when one shall come, and tell you out of the Scripture, made by a wise and true God, that it is so indeed; this makes you confirmed in it. Therefore the strength of the argument by faith, you may gather after this manner:―ye believe the Scriptures to be true, and that they are the Word of God; now this is contained in the Scriptures, that God made Heaven and Earth; therefore, believing the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and whatsoever is contained in them; hence faith lays hold upon it also, and so our consent grows strong and firm, that there is a God:―after this manner you come to conclude it by faith. For what is faith:―faith is but when a thing is propounded to you, even as an object set before the eye, there is an habit of faith within, that sees it what it is, for faith is nothing else, but a seeing of that which is; for faith is though a thing is not true, because I believe it is so, yet things first are, and then I believe them Faith doth not believe things imaginary, and such as have no ground; but whatsoever faith believes, it hath a being, and the things we believe, do lye before the eye of reason, sanctified and elevated by the eye of faith; therefore Moses, when he goes about to set down the Scripture, he doth not prove things by reason, but propounds them, as In the beginning GOD Made the Heaven and Earth; he propounds the object, and leaves it to the eye of faith to look upon. For the nature of faith is this:―god hath given to man an understanding faculty, (which we call, Reason) the object of this is all the truths that are delivered in the world, & whatsoever hath a being. Now take all things that we are said to believe, and they also are things that are, and which are the true objects of the understanding and reason. But the understanding hath objects of two sorts:
1. Such as we may easily perceive, as the eye of man doth the object that is before him.
2. Such as we see with more difficulty, and cannot do it, without something above the eye to elevate it:―as the candle and the bigness of it, the eye can see; but to know the bigness of the Sun, in the latitude of it, you must have instruments of art to see it, and you must measure it by degrees, and so see it:―so is it here, some things we may fully see by reason alone, and those are such as lie before as, and them we may easily see:―but other things there are, that though they are true, yet they are more remote, and further off; therefore they are harder to bee seen―and therefore we must have something to help our understanding to see them. So that indeed, Faith, it is but the lifting up of the understanding, by adding a new light to them and it; and therefore they are said to he revealed, not because they were not before, as if the revealing of them gave a being unto them; but, even as a new light in the night discovers to us that which we did not see before, and as a prospective glass reveals to the eye, that which we could not see before and by its own power, the eye could not reach unto. So that the way to strengthen ourselves by this argument, is to believe the Scriptures, and the things contained in them.
Now you should see, why we are to believe the Scriptures; but this we must leave till the next time. We will now come to some use of the point, for we are not to dismiss you without some application, but we must insert some uses here and there.
When you hear these arguments, and this conclusion proving that there is a God, the use you should make of it, is, to labour daily to strengthen our faith in this principle, and to have an eye at God in all our actions, for this is the reason given in the Text, why one man comes to God, because he believes; that he is, and another doth not, because he believes it but by halves; if they did believe this fully, they would serve God with a perfect heart. What is the reason, that Moses breaks through all impediments, he had temptations on both sides; Prosperity and preferment on the one side, and adversity and afflictions on the other, yet he passeth through wealth and poverty, honour and dishonour, and goes straight on in the way to heaven, and the reason is added in the Text, because he saw him that was invisible; even so, if you did see him that was invisible, the God we now speak of, as you see a man that stands before you, your ways would be more even, and we should walk with him more uprightly than we do, if we did but believe, that it is he that fills the heaven and earth; as he says of himself.
Some may here say; How can we see him that is invisible? Here is oppositum in adjecte, to see him that is invisible.
Come to the body of a man, you can see nothing but the outside, the outward bulk and hide of the creature, yet there is an immaterial, invisible substance within, that fills the body; so come to the body of the world, there is a God that fills Heaven and Earth, as the soul doth the body. Now to draw this a little nearer, that invisible, immaterial substance, the soul of man which stands at the doors of the body, and looks out at the windows of the eyes, and of the ears, both to see and hear, which yet we see not; yet it is this soul that doth all these; for if the soul be once gone out of the house of the body, the eye sees no more, the ear hears no more, than an house or chamber can see, when there is nobody in it; and as it is the spiritual substance within the body that sees, and hears, and understands all; to apply this to God that dwells in Heaven and Earth; that as, though you see not the soul, yet every part of the body is full of it; so if we look into the world, we see that it is filled, and yet God (like as the soul) is in every place, and fills it with his presence; he is present with every creature, he is in the air, and in your selves, and sees all your actions, and hears all your words; and if we could bring ourselves to a settled persuasion of this, it would cause us to walk more evenly with God than we do and to converse with him after another manner; when a man is present, yea, are solicitous, thinking what that soul thinks of you, how that soul is affected to you; so if you believed God were in the world, it would make you have an eye to him in all your actions, as he has an eye to you, and to have a special care to please him in all things; rather than to please men. And this is the ground of all the difference between men:―one man believes it fully that there is such a mighty God; another believes it but by halves; and therefore one man has a care, only to please God in all things, and to have an eye to him alone; the other believing it but by halves, he seeketh and earnestly followeth other things, and is not so solicitous what the Lord thinks of him.
The thing therefore which we exhort you unto, is, that you would endeavour to strengthen that principle more and more. We speak not to Atheists now, but to them that believe there is a God, and yet we do not think our labour lost:―for, though there be an assent to this truth in us, yet it is such an one as may receive degrees, and may be strengthened:―for I know that there are few perfect Atheists, yet there are some degrees of Atheism left in the best of God's children, which we take not notice of; for there is a two-fold Atheism:
1. One is when a man thinks that there is no God, and knows he does so.
2. Another kind of Atheism is, when a man doubts of the Deity, and observes it not. There are some degrees of doubting in the hearts of all men, as we shall see by these effects, that this untaken notice of Atheism doth produce. As, when men shall avoid crosses, rather than sin, not considering that the wrath and displeasure of God goes with it, which is the greatest evil that can befall us:―what is the reason of it? That whereas the greatest cross is exceeding light, if the wrath of God be put in the other balance, what is the reason that yet this should over-weigh the other, in our apprehension, if we be fully persuaded of this principle, that God made Heaven and earth. What is the reason that when crosses and sin come into competition, as two several way, that we must go one way; why will men rather turn aside from a cross, to sin against God, and violate the peace of their consciences, rather than undergo losses, or crosses, or imprisonment?
Again, what is the reason that we are so ready to please, and loath to displease men, as a potent friend or enemy, rather than God? If this principle were fully believed, that there is a God, that made Heaven and Earth, you would not do so. The Prophet Isaiah doth express this most elegantly. Who art thou that art afraid of man that shall die, and the son of man, which shall be made as grass, and forgettest the LORD thy Maker, which stretched forth the Heavens, and laid the foundation of the Earth? As if he should say, what Atheism. is this in the hearts of men?
Whence else are also those deceits, lies, and shiftings, to make things fair with men, when they know that God is offended with it, who seeth all things.
What is the reason that men are so sensible of outward shame, more than of secret sins; and care so much what men think of them, and speak of them, and not what God sees or knows. Doth not this declare that men think as those Atheists of whom Job speaks, and do they not conceive in some degree, as those doe, as if God did not descend beneath the circle of the heavens to the earth, and his eyes were barred by the curtains of the night, that he did not take notice of the ways of men; and look how men do this in a greater measure, so much greater Atheism they have.
Again, if you do believe that there is such a God, what is the reason when you have any thing to do, that you run to creatures, and seek help from them, and busy yourselves wholly about outward means, and seek not to God by prayer, and renewing of your repentance? If you did fully believe that there is a God, you would rather do this.
Again, what is the reason that men are carried away with the present, as Aristotle calls it, [Greek words] this same very (nunc) doth transport a man from the ways of virtue to vice, that they are too busy about the body, and are careless of the immortal soul, that they suffer that to lie, like a forlorn prisoner, and to sterve* within them
Would you do so, if you did believe that there is such a God, that made the soul, to whom it must return and give an account, and live with him for ever?
Again, what is the reason that men do lack so for the things of this life, are so careful in building houses, gathering estates, and preparing for themselves here such goodly mansions for their bodies, and spend no time to adorn the soul? (when yet these do but grace us amongst men and are only for present use) and look not for those things which commend the soul to God, and regard not eternity in which the soul must live? I say, what is the reason of this, if there be nor some grounds of secret Atheism in men?
What is the reason that there is such stupidity in men, that the threatenings will not move them, they will be moved with nothing, like beasts, but present strokes, that they do not foresee the plague to prevent it, but go on, and are punished? And so for God's promises and rewards; Why will you not forbear sin, that you may receive the promises, and the rewards? Whence is this stupidity both ways? Why are we as beasts, led with sensuality, that we will not be drawn to that which belongs to God, and his Kingdom? Is not this an argument of secret Atheism and impiety in the heart of every man, more or less?
Again, what is the reason, that when men come into the presence of God, they carry themselves so negligently, not caring how their souls are clad, and what the behaviour of their spirits is before Him? If you should come before men, you would look that your clothes be neat and decent, and you will carry yourselves with such reverence, as becomes him, in whose presence you stand; this proceeds from Atheism, in the hearts of men, not believing the Lord to be he that fills the Heaven, and the Earth:―therefore, as you find these things in you, more or less, so labour to confirm this principle more and more to yourselves; and you should say, when you hear these arguments, certainly I will believe it more firmly, surely I will hover no more about it. To what end are more lights brought, but that you should see things more clearly, which you did not before ? So that this double use you shall make it:
One is, to fix this conclusion in your hearts, and to fasten it daily upon your souls.
The second is, if there be such a mighty God, then labour to draw such consequences as may arise from such a conclusion.
As, if there be such a one that fills Heaven and Earth; then look upon him, as one that sees all you do, and hears whatsoever you speak:―as when you see a ship pass through the see, and see the sails applied to the wind, and taken down, and hoisted up again, as the wind requires, and shall see it keep such a constant course, so such a haven, avoiding the rocks and sands, you will say, surely there is one within that guides it; for it could not do this of itself:―as when you look upon the body of man, and see it live and move, and do the actions of a living man; you must needs say, the body could not do this of it self, but there must be something within that quickens it, and causeth all the actions; even so when you look upon the creatures, and see them to do such things, which of themselves they are no more able to do, than the body can do the actions that it doth, without the soul:―therefore hence you may gather that there is a God, that fills Heaven and Earth, and doth whatsoever he pleaseth; and if this be so, then draw nigh to him, converse with him, and walk with him from day to day; observe him in all his dealings with us, and our dealings with him, and one with another; be thankful to him for all the blessings we enjoy, and fly to him for succour in all dangers, and upon all occasions.
THE SIXTH SERMON
Exodus 3:13-15. — And Moses said unto GOD; behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them; The GOD of your Fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say unto me, What is his Name? What shall I say unto them? And GOD said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; I AM hath sent me unto you. And GOD said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; The LORD GOD of your Fathers, the GOD of Abraham, the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob hath sent me unto you:―this is my Name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
NOW we come to this, What GOD is. God is JEHOVAH ELOHIM; an absolute Essence, in three Persons.
But we will first speak of the Deity, then of the Persons.
Now God is known to us two ways:
1. By his Essence; and
2. By his Attributes.
Now the great question is, what this Essence of God is. Beloved, you need more than the tongue of man to declare this to you; yet we will show it to you, as the Scripture reveals it.
Now, if we should define it, (though it is capable properly of no definition) we would say GOD is an incomprehensible, first, and absolute Being. These words in this place,
set out the Essence of God most clearly of any place in Scripture, that I know. This is the first expression, whereby God did ever shew himself in his Essence. God hath before made himself known by his All-sufficiency, Chap. 6:3. I appeared to Abraham; to Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the Name of GOD Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH, was I not known unto them. This name, JEHOVAH, was known to Abraham, as appears in diverse places; but the meaning is, it was not opened to them, they did not understand it:―the Lord saith, Genesis 17:1. I am the Almighty GOD, walk before me, and be thou perfect. You shall find that Name used on every occasion, by Abraham, by Isaac, and by Jacob. El-Shaddai; GOD all-sufficient; but not JEHOVAH. The first time that ever God made himself known by this name, was here to Moses, I am that I am. There are two things to be observed in this expression:
The incomprehensibleness of Almighty GOD, as it is usually said by us; when we are asked a thing, that we will not reveal any further, or that we would not have another to pry any further into, we say, It is, what it is; so God, saith to Moses, I am, what I am.
Such a kind of speech is also used to shew the immutability of a thing; as Pilate said, What I have written, I have written; I will not change it:―so men use to say; I have done, what I have done, to shew the constancy of a thing, that it shall not be altered:―therefore, when God would shew the constancy of his Nature, he adds further, I am, without any other word:―as if he should say; Moses, if they inquire of thee, what my name is, tell them only this; He is, hath sent me unto you; as the Septuagint’s translate it, that is, if I should deliver the most expressing name, whereby I would be known to all ages, this is that which I will pitch upon; I am, or JEHOVAH; which comes from the same root. And if Moses should yet further inquire of his Name, he leads him into a further expression:―the LORD GOD of your Fathers, the GOD of Abraham, the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob hath sent me unto you; this is my Name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. And if he should say; If yet they cannot understand what this Name is, it is the same that I was known by to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; what I was to them, the same will I be to you. I was known to them by my Word, and by my works, and by my miracles, and the same shall you find me, it is that God which hath sent me unto you. This is my Name; which words are to be referred, not only to the latter words, but to the former, I am, that I am. The words in the original are in the future tense; yet it is fitly translated, I am; for the future tense in Hebrew is often put for the present tense; and the words are put in the future tense, to shew his immutability; which translation Christ's words do warrant; Before Abraham was, I am:―therefore the Septuagint’s do well translate it signifying no more, but he which is; so that, that which we are to learn from hence is this; That I am, or Jehovah, I am, that I am, is the proper and essential name of God, (all Divines agree in this, I know none that differ) because it expresseth him in his Essence, without any limitation, or modification. Besides, you shall find, that this name is never attributed to any other. The Altar, indeed, was called Jehovah; but the meaning was; to Jehovah; his other names indeed are given to the creatures, but this is given only to him:―whence I gather this point:
That to be, or to say this, He is, or I am, is proper to GOD alone.
It is common to no creature with him; you cannot say of any creature, It is; and if it be the only property of God to be, then you must say of every creature, It is not; and only the Lord is; which is a strange speech, but yet it is true, or else it is not proper to God only.
But you will say; What is the meaning of that? for creatures have a being, though not so excellent a being, as he hath.
In comparison of him, they have no being at all, they cannot reach to his being:―and therefore, what this being is, we will explain to you by these five things:
It is an immense being, such as hath all the degrees, and kinds, and extents of being in it. The creatures have not so; they have so little of this being, that it is nothing:―it is not so much, as the drop of a bucket, Isaiah 40. that is, it is of so small a being, that it is no being:―therefore that place is to be marked, Isaiah 40:17. All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, or vanity. Which place shows, that this place of being doth not agree to the creatures; for having said before, they were as the drop of a bucket, he adds, nay, they are less than nothing. But you will say, how can they be less than nothing? That is, if I should express it to you, as it is, they are less than that which you reckon as nothing; as you do a dust of the balance; so that in respect of the largeness of his being, they are nothing to him:―there are diverse degrees, and extents of being, and he hath them all in him; as, there is a being of Angels, another of men, and so of every creature; but they are defined, and you know that definitions do but limit the being of a thing. The Angels have a large and glorious being; men have a good and excellent being, but they are nothing in respect of the being of God.
It is a being of himself, he is a spring of being, whereas all the creatures are but cisterns of being; which they have but by participation from him, Romans 11. In him we live, move, and have our being:―in him, and for him, and through him are all things; he only is of himself.
It is not only from himself, but it is an everlasting being:―i am the first and the last:―that is, I am before anything was, and I am the last; every thing hath dependence on me.
It is a being without succession:―the creatures have not this; there is something to them, which was not before; and something shall be, which is not for the present:―this is true of every creature; of men and Angels; but with God there is no succession:―and therefore it is that these words are used, I am hath sent me unto you:―which shows that there is no time past with him, there is no distinction of time with him, all things are alike to him; but with the creature there is flux of time, the creatures enjoy one thing one minute, which they do not another; but God enjoys all at once, and that is one part of his blessedness, which the creature is not partaker of. And again, his acts are all done at once; but the creatures do all theirs by succession.
It is such a being, as gives a being to all things else. And this is a great difference between him and the creatures:―the Angels have an excellent being, yet they cannot give the least being to any thing. So that by these we may plainly see, that he only is, that is, he only is of an immense being, that is, he is like a mighty sea of being, that hath neither banks not bottom, he only is a spring of being, he only is everlasting, he only is without succession, of time present, past, or to come. Lastly, he only gives a being to every thing. Such a one he is, all this is implied, where he bids Moses go, and tell the people; I am that I am, is he that hath sent me unto you. But we will stand no longer hereon, only we will labour to reduce these speculations to use, as it is said of Socrates, he did Devocare philosophiam de caelis, bring philosophy down to be practised in private houses.
If we should inquire the reason, why God did reveal his Name to Moses, was it, that only he, and the Israelites should find out argute speculations in his name, as many of the Rabbins have done? and our Divines follow them too far; no surely the end of names is to make things known. But yet he sets bounds to our apprehensions, in saying, I am that I am; as if there were more in it, as if there were some greater immensity in his nature:―therefore the use of this;
That there is something of the essence of God, that may not be inquired into, but to be content with that which is revealed. Rom:1:18. For that which may be known of GOD, is manifest in them; for GOD hath shown it unto them:―there is something that may be known, and something there is that may not be known:―therefore, Beloved, look not for a full knowledge of him, but only for a small degree of it; as Exodus 33. My face (saith God to Moses) thou canst not see; which place compared with that, Romans 1:20. the meaning is this; that it is very little of God, that we can know:―even as when a great train, or glorious shew, shall pass before us, and all is gone, we only see the latter end of it. So God passed by Moses, and he saw but a little of him:―even as when you hear the latter end of a sentence, only that which the echo resounds; the main we cannot know. Therefore we should learn from hence, not to be searching and prying into the counsels of God; as, why so many are damned, and so few saved; to ask, how the infallibility of God's will, and the liberty of man's will can stand together:―to ask the reason why he suffered the Gentiles to walk in the vanity of their own minds so long a time; why he suffers the Church to lie, as it doth at this time:―for we might say as Gideon did, If the LORD be with us, why are we thus and thus? Why the Church of the Grecians, those famous Churches; why the golden Candlesticks were removed from them? These, and all other such, we must be content to be ignorant of; he doth not reveal himself fully in this life. Thou canst not see me, and live, saith God to Moses:―the meaning is this, the veil of mortality doth hide us, it covers God from us:―when that shall be laid aside, we shall know all these things; and therefore we must be content to stay the time; and till then, we are as narrow-mouthed vessels, we are not able to receive much knowledge, but a great deal will fall beside; and God will do nothing in vain; as Christ said to his Disciples, There are many things that I should reveal unto you, but you are not able to bear them:―and therefore it should content us rather; as a weak eye is not able to behold the Sun, as the Schoolmen well say, we cannot see it in rota; we cannot see the circle wherein the Sun doth run, but only the beams of it; no more can you see God in his Essence; you may see him in his Word, in his effects:―and therefore let us be content to be ignorant of these things. Who should ask, why deals God thus with his Church? why are so many damned? Remember that in Isaiah 45:9. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker; let the potsheard strive with the potsheards of the earth:―shall the clay say to him that maketh it; What makest thou? The meaning of it is this; we should be content to let God alone, not to inquire into all his actions, into the ground and reason of all his works; let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth:―if thou hadst to do with man, one like thy self, then thou mightst murmur with him, and ask him, why doest thou so? but what hast thou to do with the Lord? Shall the clay say to him that maketh it, why doest thou so? This similitude of clay doth not, by a thousand parts, express that distance that is between God and us; and therefore we should do this, stand upon the shore, as it were, and behold his infinite Essence:―i am that I am; and go no further; as a man that stands upon the seashore, and sees the vastness of the sea, and dares go no further, if he goes into the deep, he is drowned:―you may look into God's Essence, and see and admire it; but to think that thou couldest comprehend God, is, as if a man should think to hold the whole sea in the hollow of his hand; yea, there is a greater disproportion between them:―therefore you shall see, that the Apostle doth thus express it, Ro:11. Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom, and knowledge of GOD; how unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out! Only remember this, and make thus much use of it:
When you hear this name, I am that I am; that it is the Lord's will to set limits to us. When the Lord came down from the Mount, he set limits to the people, and he gave this reason of it; I will not have them stand and gaze; so is it in this case, it is a dangerous thing to go too far; you know what did come to the Bethlehemites, because they would be gazing:―remember that speech of God to Manoah; Why doest thou ask my name that is secret? There is something that is secret in God.
But, you will say; I would but see a reason of things.
But thou must stay for this till mortality be put off; and in the mean while stand afar off, and look on God:―and when thou seest the vast works of God, when thou seest him to span the winds in his fist, and measure the waters in the hollow of his hand, and to weigh the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance, &c. It is no great thing if thou art ignorant of his counsels. It is made an argument why we should not search into his secrets, Proverbs 30:4. Who hath ascended up to heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the winds in his fist? who hath bounded the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, or what is his Sons name, if thou canst tell? As if he should say; it is impossible that this mighty Workman, he that did all this, that thou shouldest know him, or know the ground of his counsels; you can see but his back-parts, you can see no more and live, and you need see no more, that you may live.
That which is the very scope and drift of the Lord's revealing his name to Moses; Go and tell the people; I AM THAT I AM hath sent me unto you; that is, it should strengthen our faith, and encourage us, it should raise our minds, and stir up hope in us, in all wants, and in all distresses, that we fall into, upon any occasion:―for this is the scope why the Lord reveals it here; he reveals it in a very seasonable time. A man would have thought it impossible, that they should be delivered from Pharaoh, he being so mighty, yet God bids Moses go, and tell them, that he that IS, hath sent him unto them. He that IS, he that can make things to be, when they have no rudiments of being, he hath sent me.
Consider all the griefs and complaints that we have, they all arise from hence; there is something we would have, which is not; as it was the complaint of Rachel, she wept for her children, because they were not:―now, consider what the Lord saith here, I am that I am:―he is the Lord of being; he giveth being to whatsoever pleaseth him:―as take your expressions of your ordinary wants, you use to say; oh, if that such a thing were; if an house had such and such a thing, it would be a goodly house; so in an instrument, as a Watch, if it had such and such a being, it were a perfect Watch:―so is it in the complaints that we make for our souls, or the souls of others; if you see a man that you would have reclaimed, you say if there were a stability of mind in him, a consideration of death, a right knowledge of things, a sense of sin, if there were grace in his heart to establish him, then he would be thus, and thus. Consider that he who is the Lord of being, is able to make up these wants:―so if our complaints be for our selves, they all come from some wants; but know that he who is the Almighty God, that makes all things to be, he can give thee constancy, he can enable thee to do all things, and strengthen the weak hands and feeble knees, Hebrews 12. He that is full of being, as the Sun is of light, and the Sea of water, think with thy self that he alone is able to give being to every grace, and to make up every defect, and give that to thee which thou hast not, and to all whom thou hast to do with, as thy wife, children, friends, &c. he can make things that were bad, good and useful, and so make thy friend good also, as he did Onesimus for Paul; think with thy self that the Lord of strength can do it, and he only can do it:―here every creature is at a stand to make a being; therefore go to him, and give him the praise and glory of this his Name.
And as it should move us to do this in our wants; so it should help thee in all those great crosses that afflict thee:―for every cross is in that which is not; as Rachel wept for her children that were not:―you shall see in Abraham, he believed in GOD, even in GOD, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were, Romans 4:17. This was Abraham's case, he was to lose his son, for ought that he knew, yet he comforted himself in this, that Jehovah, the mighty God, that is the Lord of being, he that calleth things that are not, as if they were, he could either give him his own son again, or one that was as good as he. Thus he did comfort himself; and so may we upon all occasions:―god can make things to be that are not. Take Job, when his houses, his children, estate, all were gone, and all were not, yet Jehovah, he that makes things that are not, did not he make all things to return again? So David, when things were not, when his Kingdom was not, when his good name was gone, as we see by Shimei's cursing, what a name he had, yet God did make all to come again. Naomi, when all was gone, her husband and her sons gone, and they were not, yet he that was the Lord of being gave her a son, and a daughter, that brought her in more comfort than her own sons would. And this is the use that I would have you to make of it.
When thou hast lost any thing, when thy sons or thy goods are gone, he can make up all:―he who could make up the absence of Christ to the Disciples, as he did by his Spirit, so that it was better with them than before, they had more comfort and knowledge, and could do greater miracles, that God can surely make good any other loss the more pinching. For you must remember that he is JEHOVAH; you shall find that name often used on this occasion; still it is added, I am JEHOVAH. But, to take the present Scripture, there you shall see, what ground there is for this use we now make of it, Chapter 6.6. Wherefore, say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burthens of the Egyptians, &c. The meaning of it is this:―many objections might be made by Moses, (and this is the reason, why God reveals this Name to Moses.) Alas, saith Moses, who am I:―shall I go unto Pharaoh, and bid him let the children of Israel go? What am I to be sent on this errand? Saith the Lord, Go, tell him; I am, or Jehovah, hath sent thee unto him:―and those answers are observable that Moses makes:
I am of a slow mouth, and of slow speech.
Why? saith the LORD, I made the mouth; go therefore, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
Again, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?
Saith the LORD, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy Prophet.
Where observe this, by the way. A man would wonder why Moses, that went to such a one as Pharaoh, should complain, that he was a man of uncircumcised lips. One would think that Pharaoh being a carnal man, that uncircumcised words would please him better; but it is, as if he should say; Lord, when there is any circumcisedness in my lips, then there is no authority in my speech. The less circumcision there is in any man's lips, the less authority there is in his speech; as it is said of Christ, that he spake with authority, for his lips were circumcised. But to take this objection away; saith the LORD, I am Jehovah, I will be with thee, I will circumcise thy lips.
Yea, but will Pharaoh be moved with words?
I am Jehovah, saith the LORD, I will make that to be, which is not:―i will send plagues among them, and then he will let them go.
But when they are gone, they are a weak and a naked people, how shall they do to live?
Saith GOD, I will give them favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, and not send them empty, and I will provide food for them.
So Moses went. A strange kind of errand; as if one should go and tell the great Turk, that the God of the Christians hath sent to let them go:―but yet Moses goeth; and all that comforted him, was upon the revealing of his Name.
Now apply this to your selves; when you are in any distress, know that he that made the heavens and the earth, can give a being to all these things:―esay 50:10. Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servants, that walketh in darknesse, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his GOD. He that walketh in darkness, and hath no light; let that be thy case, that every thing is desperate, thou seest not a jot of light, nor spark of hope, yet trust in the Name of Jehovah, he can make light, when there is none; a man that hath no grace in his heart, let him trust in Jehovah, that saith in his heart, I would I could be rid of such a lust, and that I could keep holy the Sabbath, but I have nothing in me, my heart is empty of all; (this is the complaint often even of those that have grace:) why, if there be no light, no grace, yet he can work it; and so Paul applies that in Gen:1. there was darkness and no light, to himself and them, in 2 Cor.4.5. He that commanded light to shine out of darknesse, &c. I, says he, and we Gentiles were in darkness, and had no light; yet God commanded light to shine into our hearts, and into mine, the darkest of all the rest. So learn to apply the same to thy self; he that is in darkness, and hath no light, yet let him trust in the name of Jehovah; beloved, that is faith. If you should expect no more of God, than a man can do, or a creature can do, it is not worthy the name of faith:―as this is proper only to God, to give being to things that are not; so it is the property of faith, when things are not, to believe in the name of Jehovah:―therefore, there would thy faith be seen; and as for thy self, so for the Churches also, you see now, at how low an ebb they are brought, and yet, they cannot be lower than the estate of the Israelites was in Egypt, and when they were in captivity; yet consider, that that Jehovah, who is the Lord of being, is able to raise the Churches, and to give a new being to them:―isai.6:13. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall returne, and shall be eaten; as a Teile-tree, and as an Oke, whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves; so the holy seed shall bee the substance thereof:―that is, when you see the Churches go to wrack, when you see them cut down like a mighty wood that is cut down, or that is spoiled of its glory in the Autumn:―so when you see the glory of the Churches thus taken away, yet there is a holy seed, which shall be like a root or bulk of a tree. So should you see the Churches overthrown, laid under feet, so that there is no hope of them, so far as we could see; yet be assured, that there is a holy seed, that shall rise, and spread it self again, even as a little root spreads it self into a great tree; and how shall they do it? saith the Lord, I am Jehovah, I can give a being, I can enlarge their being.
But you will say, why then is it that they are brought so low?
Consider, that it is the Lord's usual course to sit as a man in sleep, but saith he in Isai.42:13,14. The LORD shall go forth as a mightie man, he shall stirre up jealousie like a man of warre; he shall crie, yea roare; he shall prevaile against his enemies:―i have long time holden my peace, I have refrained my selfe, now will I cry like a traveiling woman, I will destroy and devoure at once. He useth three expressions there, to shew what he will do for his Church in extremity; I will raise myself like a Giant, &c. and when he comes, he will come suddenly, as pains on a woman with child come suddenly, so saith the LORD; When you look not for me, then will I come, there shall go nothing before me, I will come on a sudden; and not only so, but he will cry as a Giant, he will do it strongly, and he will do it effectually; so as he will bring it to pass as a man of war, and so he will do for his Church; again, he that hath raised it in former times, he will do it now; therefore let us not faint and give over hoping, for he that is Almighty, he is able to do all these things:―he who could in Joel destroy the army of Caterpillars, and leave a blessing behind him; can do the same as well to men, (though never so many) who are the enemies of his Church.
THE SEVENTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-15. — And Moses said unto GOD; behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them; The GOD of your Fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say unto mee, What is his Name? What shall I say unto them? And GOD said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; I AM hath sent me unto you. And GOD said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; The LORD GOD of your Fathers, the GOD of Abraham, the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob hath sent me unto you:―this is my Name for ever, and this is my memoriall unto all generations.
IF God be the LORD of being, full of being in himself, and giving being to everything; learn then to give him his praise, Psal.60.4. Yee shall praise the LORD, and yee shall extoll him by his Name JAH. For he only brings enterprises to pass; as he gives being to every thing, so he gives being to all the works that are wrought by the creatures. If our being be from him; much more all our works are wrought by him, because they are but dependants on our being. Now this God takes to himself, as most proper to himself, and that from his Name, Jehovah; there be many places for this; I will do it, for I am JEHOVAH, &c.
Now if the creature shall say; I have such a purpose, such a project in my heart, and I will do it, I will bring it to pass; what is it but to arrogate to himself, that which is proper to Jehovah? which is a greater sin, than we are aware of; for it is no less than idolatry; and the Lord so takes it; Isai.42.8. I am the LORD, that is my Name, and my glory will not I give to another, neither my praise to graven images; that is, I will take a special care, that you shall not say, that your images do bring things to pass, for then they should be called Jehovah, which is proper alone to me, to bring any thing to pass.
So a man may apply it to any thing else; if a man shall say, that his own wit, or worth, or industry, &c. doth bring things to pass; he takes that praise which peculiarly belongs to God, and gives it to the creature; whereas the Lord says, Jehovah is my name, and there is not the least thing, but I bring it to pass. Take heed therefore of that secret Idolatry which God hates; it is a place which you know, Hab:1:16. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burne incense unto their Dragge; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. To offer sacrifice, is, to do that which is proper to God:―now to go about any thing, and to say, that thy wealth brings it to pass, is to sacrifice to thine own net, that is, to attribute that to thy self, which is proper only to him.
Again, as it is Idolatry, so it is a vain thing to do it; for we are not able to do it; Psal:37.5. He will bring it to passe; there the Lord takes it as peculiar to him only; therefore in Isai:26:12. (you may compare them both together) it is said there, Lord thou wilt ordaine peace for us, for thou also hast wrought all our workes in us. The scope of this place is this:―other men (saith he) they forget God, they carry themselves aloft, but it is he that will ordain us peace, though none else shall put his hand to it; it is he that doth all our works for us, not our especial works only, but all; it is not any man, or any creature that doth them, it is he that works all our works for us. And if we did believe this, we should look upon him with another eye, and serve him after another manner; we should be more dependent on him, we should be more fervent in prayer; & not when we would do any thing, turn every stone, and to knock at every creature's door, to see what help they could give us; but our eye would be towards him; for it is in vain to run to them; no creature can do it, there is no enterprise but has many wheels, and the stopping of one wheel hinders the whole enterprise; and it is he, that turns all those wheels, commands all, must bring it to pass, or else the least thing will hinder our greatest enterprises; therefore you see that the fairest blossoms of our endeavors do often wither, and the unprobablest things do come to pass. See it in David, to give you an example of it; when he would trust God, he had a promise of the Kingdom, but not by himself; his own power should not do it; and yet the wheels of God's providence did bring it to pass. So when he stayed his hand from killing Nabal, did not the Lord bring it to pass in a better manner than he could have done? And when he had the Kingdom, Abner was his great enemy, but yet David did nothing, but that which was right; and you see how God did bring it to pass, he took away his life without any hand of his. So Ishbosheth was his enemy, yet when David sat still, and did nothing, his head was brought to him; (though they that did it, did it wickedly) yet it was an act of God's providence to him. Thus things are done for the best, when we commit them to him; but if we do them our selves, we are as they that fished all the night long, and caught nothing, till Christ came, and bade them to cast in the net, then they enclosed a great multitude of fishes:―so it is with us, when we go about any enterprise, it is in vain, we are not able to do it. There is a double going about any enterprise; when we go about an enterprise without God, and when we go about it with him. When we go about it without God, I confess, that yet some things are brought to pass; and that will serve to answer an objection which you have fully expressed in Psal:37.7. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not thy selfe because of him, who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to passe, &c. There is the objection.
For when we teach this doctrine of trusting in God, as David had before, vers.5. The objection then is; there are many that do not trust in God, and yet they bring their things to passe?
1 To this we answer, that either they do it not, it withers under their hand.
2 Or else, if they do it, it is to no purpose, they receive no comfort from it. Therefore he adds; the evildoer shall be cut off, that is, though they do go far in an enterprise, yet they never come to the end, they reap not the fruit of it, he cuts them off; so that, if you look to the issue, it is as good as nothing.
3 It tends to their own hurt, to their own ruin; if they get wealth, favour with great men, credit, &c. the sword turns to their own bowels, their ease slays them, and it turns to their own destruction. Therefore take heed of it; if thou doest go about it with God, he will give thee the comfort of it. One thing brought to pass by him, is better than a thousand by themselves without him.
Learn from hence the only remedy against vanity that all creatures are subject to, that we have to do withal; for what is the reason of the mutability, we find in all things? Is it not from hence, that they have no being of their own? If you look to the rock, to the foundation; from whence they were hewn, and from the hole of the pit, from whence they were digged, they were made of nothing, and are ready to return to nothing. Take a glass, or an earthen vessel, they are brittle; if you ask the reason, they are made of brittle materials:―plate is not so; so that this is the reason for all the vanity under the Sun, because they are made of nothing. Therefore there is no way to remedy this, but to look up to God, Act:17:28. For in him we live, move, and have our being. This is the meaning of it. They have not only had their being from him at the first, but their being is in him. We have our being in him, as the beams in the Sun, and an accident in the subject.
Then, if thou wouldest have constancy in any thing, thou must look up to God. Every creature is mutable; it is so far unchangeable, as constancy is communicated to it from the unchangeable God.
Consider this for matter of grace. When thou hast got any good desires, or good purposes, at any time, remember that the being of them comes from God. Hence it comes to pass, that good purposes oft-times do come to nothing, and like sparks go out again; because we remember not that they are form God; we think that if we have good purposes to day, if we be spiritually minded to day, we shall be so to morrow; and thus you deceive your selves, you must consider that the being of them comes from God:―that place is remarkable, 1 Chron:29:18. when David had rejoiced that the people had offered willingly, he prays that GOD would keepe it in imagination of the thoughts of their hearts:―if we would thus hang upon him, and depend on him, when the Spirit hath breathed in us at any time, when we have any sparks of truth, and are warmed with any holy affections, if we would give him the glory of this, that he gives a being, if we would make this prayer that David doth, you would find it a means to make you more equal, and more even in grace. And what I say of this, I say of all other things. It is the fault of us all, we are subject to that which is said of wicked men, Isai.56:12. Come yee (say they) I will fetch wine, and we will fill our selves with strong drinke, and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.
Now, whence comes this? let a man have health to day, he thinks he shall have it to morrow; let him have peace and friends to day, he thinks it will be so still. This is every man's thought; and it ariseth from hence, that we forget Jehovah, he that continues the being of every thing. If we did remember this, we should say; I do not know whether it be his pleasure that gives being to them:―i know, that if he withdraw his hand, they will come to nothing. It is a great fault to boast of to morrow; hereby you detract from God, and dishonour him exceedingly, you see how he complains of it, Jam.4:13,14. you enter upon his royal prerogatives. It is, as if a man should challenge many 100 acres of ground, and had not one foot; for future times are properly the Lords. Now, when we will anticipate things in our thoughts, and rejoice in our projects beforehand, as if they were come to pass; this is a sinful rejoicing. And thence it is, that pride goes before a fall; because that when a man begins to lift himself upon a creature, and to build upon that which is but vanity, then the Lord begins to take away our foundation, and hinder our purposes, and then he falls and perisheth. Why doest thou boast of to morrow? Knowest thou what is in the womb of the day? thou knowest no more, than they know, what is in the womb of a woman, till they see it.
Now, God hath an overruling hand in all these, and therefore he doth disappoint us, because we are ready to give to the creature, that which belongs to himself; therefore, if thou wouldest have any thing to continue, depend upon him, because all things else are subject to vanity, and he only gives being, and continuance to them all.
The Attributes of GOD in general.
NOW we come to declare to you, how this Essence of God is made known. It is by his Attributes; and they are of two sorts:
1. Either such as describe God in himself.
2. Or else such as declare God as he is to us. Other divisions there are, but this is the best that I can find; because it agrees with the scope of all the Scripture.
For the first, those Attributes that shew God in himself, as when the Scripture saith, that God is perfect; as, Be ye perfect, as I am perfect. So when the Scripture saith, that he is unchangeable, almighty, eternal; these shew what he is in himself:―then his other Attributes shew what he is to you, as that he is merciful, patient, abundant in mercy and truth, and that he is all-sufficient to you, &c.
The first Attribute of GOD.
FIRST then, we will take this out of the Text, I AM hath sent me unto you;
That God is perfect; he hath all the kinds, degrees, and extents of being in him. There be diverse kinds of being in the world; some have more, some less; some have a more excellent being, some have a less excellent; some have a larger being, some a lesser, and yet all are in him; and this is his perfection. Imperfection is a want of some being; Perfection is to have all the degrees of being, that belong to a thing in his kind, but all this is in God.
Now, God is said to be perfect:
Because he being before any thing was; and therefore, he must needs be full, without them, and whatsoever they have, they receive it from him. You shall see this in Act:17:25. Neither is he worshipped with mens hands, as though hee needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life and breath, and all things. He proves there, that God is perfect; because he needs nothing, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things. That which is said of man, may be said of every thing else; What hast thou, that thou hast not received? Therefore, he that gives it, must needs be full of it. It is said that he made man after his own Image; and so he makes every thing else, he is the life of them all. Now the sampler and the life hath more in it, than the image; and therefore the life, and first original; the realty, and first beginning must needs be perfect in himself.
There is none that can set limits to God, that can set landmarks or bounds to his entity or being. Every creature hath his several bounds and limits, thus far shall they go, and no further; but who hath set bounds to him? When he had set forth his Essence in Isai.40. he adds, To whom will you liken GOD? or what likeness will you compare unto him?
There be these differences between the perfection that is in God, and that which is in any creature:
All creatures have perfection within their own kind only, and in such a degree; but he is simply and absolutely perfect, without all respect, without all comparison, he is a mighty sea of being, without bank and bottom; therefore his being is absolute.
They have all some imperfection mingled with it; as, take all the creatures, the Angels; take all the Saints, when they are in the highest top, and full of all their blessedness, yet they have some imperfection, as Job saith; he hath charged you with folly.
But you will say; they are perfect in their kind, how then are they imperfect?
They have a negative imperfection, though not a privative; they are not deprived of that which should be in them; yet there is a negative imperfection, that is, there be many perfections, which they have not; it cannot be said of any creature, as, 1 Joh:1. That in it there is light, and there is no darkness at all:―of him only can it be said, there is no creature so perfect, but it hath some imperfection.
The creature though it be perfect, yet it is capable of sin and misery, and it is in possibility to lose that perfection it is in; but God is not in possibility to lose that perfection he hath, neither can he be capable of sin.
Take the best, and most exquisite creatures, the Angels; their perfection is made up by some things, that are no substances, by circumstances, which are not substances, which may be separated, (though they are not;) there is something in them which is better, something which is worse; a substance and an accident, and every accident is separable, it may be lost; you see the evil Angels, they fell, they lost that they had:―but God is a perfect substance, wholly substance; there is nothing in him, by reason of which it may be said, there is something in him that is best, something that is worse.
Though they have perfection, yet they have always need of something; now God hath need of nothing. The creatures, though full of perfection in their kind, yet still they have exceeding great need of something. As you say of a river, you will say it hath need, though it be full, it hath need of the fountain to maintain it; so may I say of the creatures, though they be full of perfection in their kind, yet they have need of that fountain, from whence their perfection commeth, which if it be stopped, they will come to nothing.
Thus God is infinitely perfect and immense, having no limits:―for all limits are either from the matter or from the form; the form is limited, because it wants matter to carry it to a further extent; and the matter is limited, because it is bounded with such a form; but in God there is neither matter nor form; as there is nothing without him, so there is nothing within him to bound that largeness of being which he hath.
But now to apply this:
If God be thus full of being, as the sea is full of water, and a thousand times fuller; then all that you can do, reacheth not to him; Psal:16.4. It extends not to him; the sins that you commit hurt him not; all the righteousness you perform, doth not pleasure or benefit him:―and if it be so, then consider what little cause you have to murmur against him at any time, upon any occasion. For all discontentment among the creatures comes from hence, that their expectation is not satisfied; and what is the reason, why it is not satisfied? but because they think that there is some reason why they should be respected. Therefore examine your own hearts, whether there be not a secret popery in your hearts, that you think, that you can do something that reacheth to God, that he should respect you for:―but if God be thus full, thou canst do nothing, that can reach to him. But you shall see how prone men are to this; are we not ready to say; Why am I not in so great a place as another? Why have not I more gifts? Why have I not greater employments? Why have I such imperfections? Why am I thus subject to diseases and crosses? Whence comes this? Because we expect something; because we think we are not well dealt with; and why do we think so? because men think, that there is something in them, why they should be looked after, they think that they have carried themselves so, that they think there is something in justice due to them. But if thou canst say with David, and Job, and Christ, when he saith to his disciples; When you have done all, that you can, say that you are unprofitable servants. What if God will not have David to build a Temple, but his son must do it? Or Moses to lead the children of Israel into the land of Canaan, but Joshua must have the glory of it? They must be content; yet they did more for God, than ever thou canst do; therefore thou must labour to be content also. The creature doth but take of him whatsoever it hath, and therefore it can give nothing to him; and shall the River be beholding to him that drinks of it, because he comes and quencheth his thirst? Or shall the Sun be beholding to him that hath the use of his light? When thou hast done all that thou canst, say thou art an unprofitable servant, thou canst do nothing that reacheth to God; therefore labour to be vile, and low in thine own eyes, and willing to be disposed of, as it pleaseth him.
Again, if this be so, then consider the freeness of his grace, in all the goodness which he bestows:―for to have done any thing for a man beforehand, doth lessen the benefit bestowed. Now consider, that thou hast done nothing to the Lord; therefore labour to magnify the Lord, that hath bestowed it upon thee. For this cause the Lord will have justification by faith, and not by works, that he might be magnified:―and so he will have sanctification, not by the power of the free-will, but by the infused grace of his Spirit, that no flesh might boast. It is the Lord that is full, it is he that gives it to thee, thou canst do nothing to him; Rom:11:35,36. Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed him againe; for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, &c. As if he should say, the Lord out of his free grace had shewed mercy to the Jews, (for of them he there speaks) they were wet, like Gideon's fleece, when all the world was dry. Afterwards it pleased him to bedew the Gentiles, when the Israelites were dry; well, he hath done this, says Paul, and what hast thou to say to him? Did he any wrong? Is he not free? May he not do what he will? This is one use. Another is, that you should be content with his disposing; he owes nothing to any; for of him, and through him, and for him are all things; to him be glory for ever; Amen.
If he be thus full, that the creature doth nothing to promerit at his hand, then thou mayest go to God, though thou hast no worth in thee; though thou hast done little service to God, yet go to him, and say; Lord, I have done nothing; if I had done much, yet it would not reach to thee; thou art full of perfection, and blessed for ever:―therefore a man may go to him with great faith, and ask great things of him, though he be little worth, and hath done little service for him. For, if thou didst God any good, thou mightest go to him, and say, I have done this and that for thee, therefore recompense me. But seeing it is not so, therefore labour to go to God in faith, and when thou goest, think with thy self; why may I not have it as well as another? Do not say, I am not so holy, and I cannot do as Paul and Moses, their works did nothing to him. Think with thy self, that when he first chooseth a man, he doth it freely; and thinkest thou that he is not the same afterwards? Therefore, now thou mayest go to him on this ground with boldness, because whatsoever thou doest it is nothing to him.
Moreover, if the Lord be thus full in himself, then he hath need of nothing. He therefore saith to all the men in the world, and to all things; he saith to Princes, I have no need of you; to rich men, I have no need of you, or of your wealth; he saith to Scholars, that have excellent parts, I have no need of you:―therefore say not, I am undone, or the Churches are undone, because Princes are not for you; because men help you not, for God can help them alone; he doth not need Princes:―when there was none, saith the LORD, I stirred up my self like a mighty Giant, he needs no help, he is most perfect, full of being, able to do whatsoever he pleaseth.
Again, consider with thy self, that if thousand thousands perish, it is nothing to him; he cares no more for the destruction of the whole world, than thou doest for the throwing away of a little dust; he is full of excellency and perfection; you see how often he sweeps away whole kingdoms with the besom of destruction, nay, he swept away the whole world by the Flood, as you do sweep a little dust out of your houses. Therefore do not thou dispute with God, and ask, why are so many damned? why are so many swept away? think with thy self, that he, that was before all things were, will be when they are gone:―therefore learn with Paul, to reverence his judgements, to fear and tremble before him. He is full of being, and though thou perish, what is that to him? Wilt thou dispute with God? thou art but a particle of dust. What art thou that contendest with him? let the Potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth, but not with God. Shall the clay say to him that fashions it, what makest thou?
Again, if God be thus full, then consider why he hath laid such a commandment on thee, to do such and such things. Is it for himself? no, for thy righteousness, thy keeping of his Law reacheth not to him. What is it for, then? Surely it is for thy self, and for thy good. If for thee he hath commanded, and every commandment is for thy wealth; then consider what reason thou hast to walk in his ways; he saith, as kind parents to their children, when they exhort them to good courses, it will be for your own good; and if you do it not, it will be for your hurt:―as it is said of the Sabbath, It was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; that is, God appointed the Sabbath for man's advantage, he would be undone else; he would grow wild, and forget God:―and as it is said of the Sabbath, so it is true of every Commandment; therefore that is put to every Commandment; The Commandment which I command you for your wealth, Isai.56:17. that is, whenever I command you any thing, it is not for mine own sake, not, that I may be served and worshipped, (though that is joined with it) but it is for your profit, whatsoever I command. This then should stir us up to go about holy duties willingly, after another manner than we do. No man will serve himself unwillingly, (though, it may be, he will other men.) Now, all the Commandments of God do tend to our own advantage:―for to that end he hath appointed them. Keep the Commandments and live in them:―you live in them, as fire doth by wood, and the creatures by their food. If a man did consider this, he would do this in another manner; we go about our own business with intention, because it is our own; so if we were persuaded, that what God did command, it were for our own good, you would do it in all diligence; you would not only go, but run the ways of his Commandments; you would not only take heaven, but you would take it with violence, and with all your might and strength, you would do whatsoever he commands, for it is for your own profit, and not for his.
If God be thus full, then you should give him the praise of this perfection, and stay your thoughts upon him. It is a thing that we come short of, for the most part, for we are ready to ask, what is God to us? what profit, what good is it to us? (for that is the base nature of ours:) but grace teacheth us otherwise, we must learn to know God, to honour and magnify him in our thoughts for himself. Some men have a greater knowledge of God, some less; he that hath more, he is able to set him up higher in his apprehension, and to give him the more praise, Psal.68:1. Exalt him in his name JAH, that is, consider that he alone is full of being, and gives being to all things; therefore (saith he) praise him, and extol him for this, and let your thoughts be upon him.
But must it be a bare and empty thought of him only?
No, you shall know it by these four things, if you think aright of God indeed:
Thou wilt esteem his enmity and friendship above all things; thou wilt not regard the creatures at all, either in the good, or hurt that they can do thee:―if thou canst see the fullness of being that is in him, and the emptiness that is in every creature; then, if he be thy friend, he is all in all to thee; and if he be thine enemy, thou wilt consider that he that is full of all strength, and Power, and being, that he is thine enemy, and that his enmity is heavy, for he which is, is against thee. If the creature be set against thee, it is but as a little clay or dust, they cannot hurt thee, unless his arm go along with it; and then it is not that creature, but his arm that doth it:―as when they came to take Christ, it is said, he passed through the midst of them; they were to him as a little dust, and as the army that came against David, Joshua, and Elisha, they were to them as a little water; but when God comes against a man, then every little thing, if he pleaseth to extend and join his power, he is able therewith to quell the strongest man. Then, one man shall chase a thousand, and a thousand shall put ten thousand to flight, Deut:28. He is a mighty river, that carries all before it, Nahum 1. Therefore regard the enmity of the creature, as small things, his enmity only is to be respected.
If thou thinkest of him thus, then thou wilt be satisfied with him; for thou hast him that is, and thou wantest only the thing that is not; and therefore thou must say, when thou hast lost any thing, I have lost that which is nothing; when thou hast gained any thing, say, that thou hast gotten that which is nothing:―it is a hard thing to say so, but yet it is so; as it is said of riches in the Prov:23.5. so it is true of honour, pleasure, profit, &c. Indeed riches to men are their substance, so they call them, but to God they are nothing; and so he calls them:―riches, honour, &c. they have but a little diminutive being, as if they were nothing. And they are nothing in two respects:
1. In comparison of God, they are nothing.
2. Because they are able to do nothing.
So other comparisons argue, as that they are flowers, and false treasures, and shadows:―now doth any man grieve, if his shadow doth disappear; or that he hath lost a flower. Therefore learn to magnify God, for he is all; thou wantest nothing, if thou hast him; he is all in heaven, and why should he not be so here? Because when Peter said they had left all; Christ tells them they should have an hundredfold, and why? because they had a full communion with God; and therefore, they had all the comfort that friends or lands could afford; he was in stead of all to them, as Paul, when he was in prison, was not God all to him? and what need had he of riches, or lands, or friends? for friends are but to comfort a man; and money, it can do no more than man can do; and praise, and honour, do but knit men's hearts to us; now, if we had the light of God's countenance, we need not man's help; if God will put forth his power for us, what need we any thing else? if he will heal us, what needs the Physician? if he will clothe us, and give us meat and drink, then what needs wealth? Therefore labour to be satisfied with him, to prize and esteem him, and to think him to be all in all.
THE EIGHTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-15. — And Moses said unto GOD; behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them; The GOD of your Fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say unto mee, What is his Name? What shall I say unto them? And GOD said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; I AM hath sent me unto you. And GOD said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; The LORD GOD of your Fathers, the GOD of Abraham, the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob hath sent me unto you:―this is my Name for ever, and this is my memoriall unto all generations.
Consider, whether your minds gather an holy magnanimity even from hence, that you have the Lord for your God:―for, if he be most perfect, if he hath the fullness of all things in him; then if you have him, the mind is ready to grow to an holy kind of greatness; for it is the greatness of the object, that makes the mind great:―and the greatness of the mind appears in this, that it doth not esteem small things. Animo magno nihil est magnum; When a man can, out of this consideration, that the LORD is my Sun, and shield, and exceeding great reward, contemn and reckon all things else as matters of small moment; it is an argument that he hath, in truth, apprehended God, as he ought to apprehend him. I say, this is true holy magnanimity:―there is a false magnanimity; whereas men's minds are great, because they grow great with men, because of their great hopes, and riches, and great learning; this is a false greatness, because it draws men from God; it is such as greatness as the arm hath, when it is swelled, which riseth not from the strength and true greatness of it, but from the weakness of it. This is of an ill kind; but there is another kind of greatness, when the mind grows therefore to an holy magnanimity, because it is set upon the great God:―as David, he had such a magnanimity, Psal:27:1:3. The LORD is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I feare? The LORD is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host of men should incampe against me, my heart should not feare, &c.
If there be any thing in this world to be regarded, it is an host of men; because it is the powerfullest thing amongst men; but I will not regard it. Why? not because he was stronger than they, but because God was his life and strength; when his mind raised up it self to such a greatness, upon this consideration, then he was able to contemn these things, that were to be contemned. Such was the greatness of mind, which was found in Moses, Hebr:11. he cared not for the favour, or disfavour of the King, Because he saw, enjoyed, and bore himself upon him, which was invisible.
Consider, whether you exalt him as God, you shall know it by this, by seeking to him to fill up all those defects an imperfections, that we meet with in our lives, from day to day. Beloved, there are many things that we want; as if we lose a friend, we complain of a want; if we lose father or mother, it is a want; yea, if we lose nothing, yet we find many defects which we would have made up:―now, what is the way to do it? If thou thinkest to make them up by the creature, thou wilt find it to be but a small bush that will not stop the gap; but if thou goest to him that is all in all, Coloss:3. if thou seekest to make it up in him, when any thing is lost:―when the bucket is broken, if thou goest to the fountain; if a beam be cut off that was given and shined through the creature, if thou goest to the Sun, that can give the like beam through another creature; if thou seekest to have communion with him, then it is an argument that thou esteemest him as thou oughtest to do.
Every man will say; I seek to the Lord, I look for all my comfort from him.
Yea, but how doest thou bestow thy labour? Isai.55:2. Wherefore doe you spend money for that, which is not bread? and you labour for that, which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto mee, and eat that which is good, and let your soule delight it selfe with fatnesse. Let a man consider in this case, how he bestoweth his pains:―if he think to have all in God, he will save his pains, and not lay it upon vanity, but he will bestow it to some purpose; that is, he will take much pains to seek his favour in all things, and look to him for a supply of all, and not to the creatures, because they can do but little, they have no power, no strength to do any thing, they are of no moment; but if God be pleased to make up the defect, then if he have but little wealth, he will make it to serve his turn; if he have but one friend, it shall be to him, as if he had many; if he hath but a little credit, it shall be to him, as if he had a great name, &c. all things else are but of a little bulk without him.
But the creatures are of great moment, experience shews them to be something:―for, who lives without them? Again, are not we commanded to pray for outward blessings? and we are not to pray for that which is nothing. Again, doth not the Scripture reckon them so? they are things for which we must be thankful, and the want of them doth afflict us, and we must esteem it as a chastisement. Now, no man will be thankful, or afflict himself for that which is nothing; and therefore there is something in the creature, they are not altogether nothing or vanity.
To this we will give a threefold answer:
Though they be something; yet their efficacy is not from themselves, but form the Lord. A horse is able to do something, but to save a man, it is a vain thing; the builder builds, but it is nothing, and the watchmen watch in vain without the Lord; the efficacy that they have to do us hurt or good, is from him, and not from themselves:―if God will say to the creature; Go, and do such a man good, it will do it, because there goes a concourse of efficacy from him to do it:―so, if he say to a creature, Go to such a man, and afflict him, it will do it, though it be never so small and mean a creature; therefore of themselves they neither do good nor hurt, the efficacy that they have is from him, and not from themselves:―they are mere instruments; and if God withdraw his blessing and cursing, they can do us neither good nor hurt.
We say they are nothing, because they are at his command; if he would do us good, he never wants one to send of his errand; if he will make a man rich, he wants not wealth, it is at his command; if he will give a man friends, he can fetch them again; if all thy friends be present, yet they stir not, unless he command. The rich and the poor, they meet together, but the LORD makes them both. And in this regard, riches are said to be nothing, Prov:23. Riches take to themselves wings, and fly away; And, why doest thou set thy heart upon that which is nothing? That is, they go and come at his command; and therefore they are to be accounted as nothing. If a man see a flock of the best fowl on his land, yet he looks upon them as nothing to him, because they have wings and will fly away; and you should think so of all things else; that they have wings, that they go and come at his command, that they are nothing, because they are nothing to you.
They are nothing, because they can do but little good; and that which they do, is of no continuance; and therefore they are said to be vanity. So that put the case that they have some efficacy in them, (when yet they are acted by the Lord;) yea, put the case that they were at their own command (as they are not) yet they can do but little good, and that is of so short continuance, that therefore they are vanity, they are nothing; because they are little more than nothing; as Salomon calleth them; all things under the Sun are vanity; they are empty things; and that which is under the Sun cannot reach above the Sun; and therefore they are said to be vanity.
But if you say that they are great things, and therefore you see how the Prophets did magnify them, and did set forth the greatness of afflictions in the want of them.
I answer, that they are of use indeed, in regard of the weakness of the creature, and the continuance of this life; but if they be compared to eternity, they are nothing; and again, if the Lord be with us in the want of them, they are nothing; if the Lord send us afflictions, and give us his favour and the light of his countenance, it is nothing; if he send us into prison, if he be with us, it will be nothing:―as, on the contrary, if a man had a brave Palace, and God was not with him, if he did withdraw his favour from him, all were nothing.
THE TENTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-14 — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM:―and he said; thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
The Fourth Attribute of God His Simplicity
WE come now to the next Attribute; and that is the Simplicity of God:―he is without composition, without any parts, not having soul and body, as we have, not being compounded of substance and accident, as we are, but he is simple, without all composition. Which I gather out of these words, I AM, WHAT I AM:―that is, whatsoever is in Me, it is Myself. I am a pure act, all being, a whole, entire, simple, and uniform being, without parts, not like to the creature:―for the best of them is compounded of actions, and qualities, but whatsoever is in Me, it is Myself.
GOD a Spirit
Now in this simplicity and immixture of God, we will first fall upon that which the Scripture sets down in plain words, John 4:24, “God is a Spirit”:―that is, He is not mixed, He is not compounded of body and soul, as men are, but He is a Spirit. The word Spirit, both in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongue does signify “breath”. A breath is indeed a body, but because it is the finest body, the most subtle, and most invisible, therefore immaterial substances which we are not able to conceive, are represented to us under the name of a spirit, or breath.
What Kind of Spirit
Besides, this is to be added, though God be said to be a spirit, yet He is not properly a spirit as Angels are; for an Angel is a creature, and though it want (lack) a body, and be a spirit, yet it is a created substance:―but yet because that is nearest to the pure and incomprehensible nature of God, therefore He calls Himself a spirit, as Angels are, and our souls are.
4. Properties of a Spirit
To show you what a spirit is, these four things are to be considered.
1. It is proper to a Spirit to be invisible, imimpalpable, not to be discerned by any sense. Therefore Christ bids His disciples to feel Him:―behold My hands, and my feet (He says) that it is I Myself, handle, and see; for a Spirit hath not flesh and bones as I have. A Spirit is that which is drawn from the sight of any corporeal sense whatsoever, and in this sense God is called a Spirit, because He is invisible:―and therefore Moses is said to see Him that is invisible, not by any bodily eye, but by the eye of faith.
2. Every spirit moves itself, and other things also; The body is but an earthy piece that is not able to stir itself at all, as you see it is when the soul is gone out of it, it is the spirit, that both moves itself, and carries the body up and down where it lists (wills), and it moves itself with all speed and agility, because it finds no resistance. Bodies, beside their elementary motion upward and downward, have no voluntary motion, they cannot move themselves where they will, as spirits do; And this I gather out of John 3:8, the Holy Ghost is compared to the wind, that blows where it listeth.
3. It is the property of every Spirit to move with exceeding great force and strength, and with much vehemence, so that it far exceeds the strength of any body. Therefore in Isa 31:3, speaking of the strength of the Egyptians, he says, that they are flesh, and not spirit:―as if he should say; all flesh is weak, but the spirit is strong. Therefore you see, the Devils, that are spirits, what strength they have; and the man in the Gospel, that was possessed, it is said that he could break the strongest bonds, and you see it commonly in those that are possessed, and you read how he threw down the house over Jobs children. This is the strength of the spirit exceeding the strength of any body.
4. It insinuates itself and enters into any bodily substance without all penetration of dimension; that is, it is not held out of any place, by reason of a body, that is in it; it may be in it, though the place be otherwise full:―as, you see, the soul is in the body, you shall find nowhere an empty place, the body is everywhere whole; yet the Spirit insinuates itself in every part, and no body can keep it out. And so is God; He is invisible, not seen by any eye, He moves Himself, and all things in the world, as He lists (wills); and He does what He does with exceeding great strength; and then He fills every place, both heaven and earth; what bodies soever be there, yet He may be there notwithstanding. And thus you see in what sense this is to be understood, God is a Spirit.
Now we will come to apply this.
God's Eye is Chiefly Upon the Spirits of Men
If God is a Spirit, first then this we may gather from it:
That His eye is chiefly upon the spirits of men. There are many things in the world which His hand has made:―but that which He chiefly looks to is the mind and spirit of man. Whereas a man consists of two parts, a body and a spirit, it is the spirit that is like God:―and in regard of the spiritual substance of the soul, it is said to made after His Image, and therefore Heb:12, God is called the Father of Spirits:―why? He is Father of the body also, He made that, but the meaning is, that He is , Father over them, because He guides and nurtures them, being most like to Himself:―as the son is like the father, so they are like Him, and therefore He most regards the spirits of men. As you may see when Samuel went to anoint David king, and all the sons of Jesse came before him, those that were much more proper than David, God tells him, that He did not look upon the persons of men, nor upon their outward appearance, He heeds them not; What does He then? He sees the soul and spirit of man; the Lord looketh upon the heart, and according to that He judges them, 1 Sam. 16:7.
Now, if His eye is chiefly upon the spirit, you should labor to let your eye be chiefly still upon your spirit, and so you shall most please Him. Let your eye be upon your soul, to keep it clean, that it may be fit for communion with Him, Who is a spirit. This should teach you to look to the fashion of your soul within, because they are like Him and carry His image in them; He is a father of them in a special manner, and they are that whereby you may have communion with Him, in that which is most proper unto Him, in spiritual exercises and performances.
Objection 1 How is it to be Done?
But, you will say, what is it that you would have us do with our spirits, to have them fit for the Lord, that He may regard them, and that they may be like to Him?
Answer Cleanse Them From All Filthiness (2 Cor. 7:1)
1. You must scour and cleanse them from all filthiness. 2 Cor. 7:1 - Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. There is a pollution, which the Apostle speaks of, which pollution he divides into two kinds, of the flesh, of the spirit; both of these you must labor to be cleansed from, but specially that of the spirit, if you would have it fit to have the Lord to delight in:―for He being a Spirit, does most regard those actions which are done by the spirit, and therefore that is the thing that mainly you should look to.
Objection 2 What Defiles the Spirit?
But what is that pollution of spirit, or what is that which does defile it?
Answer Lust Defiles the Spirit (2 Pet. 1:4)
Everything in the world defiles the spirit, when it is lusted after. 2 Pet:1:4 Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust:―that is, the world, and all things in the world, and all the parts of it, they do then corrupt the spirit, defile, and soil it, when the soul of man has a lust after them. You might meddle with all things in the world, and not be defiled by them, if you had pure affections, but when you have a lust after anything, then it defiles your spirit; therefore in Tit. 1:15 the Apostle speaks of a conscience defiled. And in Matt. 15:19, our Saviour says:―out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man. He does not speak only of actual adultery, or murder, but even of the sinful dispositions of the soul:―even these are things that defile the spirit in God's sight, who looks upon them as you do upon outward filthiness with the eyes of your body:―so that every inordinate lusting of the soul does defile the soul.
Objection 3 Is This Rule Not Too Strict?
But is not this rule too strict? We are commanded not to murder, nor to commit adultery:―this is the commandment:―and why should you say, that every disordered affection does defile the soul, and that it is more regarded by God than the outward actions?
Answer:―actual Sins Committed by the Body are Not so Hated by God as the Pollution of the Spirit
You must know that the tenth commandment does strike against these abominations:―thou shalt not lust, and so it is translated:―rom. 7, so that these lustings of the spirit, are those that defile the soul. You see that God has spent a whole commandment against them. And indeed, all the actual sins committed by us simply considered in themselves, as committed by the body, are not so hated by God, as the pollution of the spirit is. Nay, I dare be bold to say, that the act of adultery, and murder, is not so abominable in God's eyes, as the filthiness of the spirit; this is more abominable in the sight of God, who is a spirit, than the act of the body; for it is the spirit that he mainly looks to. Indeed the act contracts the guilt; because the lust has then grown up to a height, so that it has come to an absolute will and execution. Therefore, if these lustings do press into the soul, we should put them out again, and reject them with shame and grief:―for GOD is a Spirit, and beholds the continual behavior of your spirit.
Again, the injury which you offer to others, thought in itself it is a great sin, yet that inward brooding of it in your heart, plotting mischief, that boils within you, while it hatches rancor and revenge, this is that which He hates, though you should never commit any actual sin this way. Jas. 4:5, you have this phrase used, the lust of the spirit to envy:―that is, the bent of the spirit and inclination of the mind, which looks upon the gifts of others, whereby it overshines them, so that they lust to have that light put out, that their candle might appear above it; though they act nothing, yet this is abominable to Him.
3 Reasons or Considerations Proving it
And that I might not deliver this without ground, consider:
There is nothing so pleasing to God as a broken heart, Isa. 57. Now the breaking of the heart is nothing else but the severing between the heart and sin. As when you see an artificer's work, wherein many parts are glued together; if it should fall down, or the glue be dissolved, then they all break to pieces:―and when the lusts that are in our souls are thus severed, this pleases the Lord; not that the affliction of a man's spirit is pleasing to the Lord, but the separation of sin from his soul, when the solder that joins a sinful action and the heart together, when this is dissolved, this pleases the Lord. And by the rule of contraries, if this is true, then it is true, on the other side, that when the spirit is glued by any lust to any inordinate thing, it is most hateful to God:―for the stronger the lust is, the stronger is the glue; and therefore the more a man is tied to this world and has such strong lusts, the more he has this uncleanness and pollution of spirit. And therefore as a broken heart is most acceptable to God:―so a spirit that is knit to any inordinate object by the thing that it cleaves to, it becomes most hateful and abominable to Him.
Consider, that although a lust left at liberty, when God has taken off the chain and suffers (permits) it to do what it will, does contract more guilt, and does indeed more hurt to mankind; yet he that has a heart as full of lust and filthiness, is no less abominable and odious in God's sight. Take a wolf that runs up and down and kills the sheep, that wolf is abominable, and every one cries out against him; but a wise man that sees a wolf tied up in a chain, hates that as much as he did the other:―for he knows that he has the same nature, and would do as much hurt if he were let loose:―so we may say of men whose hearts are full of lust, God may have tied them up, so that they do not break forth; yet these lusts are abominable and hateful in His sight, though they do not do so much hurt, nor break so many commandments. Therefore let them consider this, that live under good families, good tutors, or in good company:―commonly they are wolves tied up, they cannot break forth so into outward acts, it may be, they are restrained by reason of somebody's favor that they would not lose, or the like, but yet they give way to the spirit within, that ranges and lusts up and down; and this is therefore defiled in God's sight.
Consider that these lusts of the spirit are full of the spawns and eggs of sin; that is, they are the mother of sin; it is pregnant with actual sin. Jas. 4:1, From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Concupiscence is but as the lust of the spirit, which is full of actual sins, and brings them forth when occasion is given; Jas:1:15. And therefore it is more hated than an act is, which is but one, which has not so much spawn in it; and therefore you ought to cleanse your spirit of this pollution.
But how shall we do this? How shall we get our spirits thus cleansed?
Answer Directions For Cleansing the Spirit
You must search out the pollution of the spirit. For the spirit of a man is a deep thing, and hidden, full of corners and crannies, a lust and pollution will easily hide itself in it; therefore you must find it out and confess it. Do as David did go to God and say, Lord, search and try me, see if there be any wickedness in me as if he should say, “If I could, I would search my own heart, but I cannot do it enough, therefore do Thou come and do it; I will open the doors as a man uses to say to the officers that come to look for a traitor, Do come in and search if there is any here, I will set open my doors”, so says David here. So when a man would cleanse his heart from the pollutions of his spirit, let him do so in that manner; remember that to hide a traitor is to be a traitor himself; therefore labour to find it; and when it is found, confess it to the Lord, and lay a just weight upon it. What though it never break forth into outward actions? Say to the Lord, “O Lord, I know that You look to the spirit and are conversant about it:―to have a polluted spirit is an abomination to You. This is a thing that we should do, and we are oftentimes to blame in this in our prayers:―for we confess our actual sins, and do not confess the pollution of our spirits to the Lord.
Question How to Find Out the Uncleanness of Our Spirits
But you will say, we would fain have some directions to find out this uncleanness of our spirits.
Answer The Pollution of Your Spirit Arises When it is Stirred
Direction 1 Confess the Pollution of Your Spirit to the Lord
Consider, what arises in your spirit when it is stirred at any time, and there you shall find what the pollution of the spirit is. Set a pot on the fire and put flesh into it; while it is cold, there is nothing but water and meat:―but set it on boiling, and then the fume arises. It is a similitude used in Ezek:24:11, 12. I say, observe what arises in your spirit at any time, when there is some commotion, when your spirit is stirred more than ordinary. Now every temptation is, as it were, a fire to make the pot boil. Any injury that is offered to us, this makes the fumes to arise; now see what arises out there. And when any object comes to allure you to sin, see what thoughts arise in your heart, as the thoughts of profit or preferment; so that when such an opportunity comes, it stirs the spirit and sets it on boiling. Consider what then arises in your heart, and you shall see what your spirit is. And that which you are to do when you find it, is to confess it to the Lord, and suffer (allow) it not to come into outward act; cast it out, suffer (allow) it not to boil in, Ezek:24:13.
Direction 2 Loathe and Hate the Pollution of Your Spirit
When you have done this, you must not stay here:―but you must labour to loathe and hate that pollution of spirit. There are two things to be hated by us; the sin, that we look upon as a pleasant thing; but there is besides, your inclination to that thing, and that is the pollution of your spirit, and that, you must hate and loathe. You must not only hate the object that is offered to you, but your self also and the uncleanness of your spirit. Thus it is with everyone whose heart is right, Ezek:36:31, that is, when a man begins to look upon his sin, and sees the pollution of the spirit in it, he begins to grow to an indignation against it, (as that is the fruit of godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7.) He finds his heart so disposed, that he begins to quarrel with his heart, and to fall out with it and to say, “What? Have I such a heart that will carry me to sin? That will not only carry me to sin but to Hell?” He begins to loathe himself, he would not own his own self if he could; he would go out of himself, he is weary of his own heart:―such a hatred and loathing you must have of this pollution of spirit that is in you. And this you shall do, if you will but consider what evil this pollution brings you and what hurt filthiness has done to you:―a man can hate the disease of the body and cry out of it; and why should not men do so of the soul? It is our sin that is the cause of all evil; it is not poverty, or disgrace, or sickness, but it is sin in your poverty, sin in your disgrace, sin in your sickness:―so that if a man could look upon sin as the greatest evil and that does to him the greatest mischief, he would hate that above all things. And here remember not only to do it in general, but to pitch your hatred chiefly upon your beloved sin. Be ready to say in this case, as Haman of Mordecai, what does it avail me if Mordecai yet lives? If we could do so with our beloved lusts, and come to such a hatred of them as Haman had of Mordecai, to hate that beloved pollution which cleaves so fast to your spirit, this were a blessed thing.
Direction 3 Mortify the Pollution of Your Spirit
You must yet go a step further, that is, to get it mortified, to get it utterly cast out, slain and killed, not to allow it to live with you:―you must do with such a pollution of your spirit as you would do with your utter enemy, whom you follow to death, and will have the law upon him, and will be content with nothing but his life. So when you have found out your sin, then go this step further, to have it out before the Lord and cry against it, and say that it is His enemy and your enemy, and an enemy to His grace; it has sought your life, and you will have the life of it before you are done. This is what you should do to get it utterly cast out, to get an utter separation between your soul and it; so that if there comes a temptation before you again, if there should be pleasure on the one hand and threatenings on the other, then you should say, “Rather anything than this sin, than this lust, it is my greatest enemy that has done me so much mischief”; so that your soul does not only loathe it, but you will not allow it to live in you. This is that which we ought to do of we would cleanse our spirits.
Direction 4 Beseech God to Cleanse You of the Pollution of Your Spirit
When a man has done all this, you must go to God and beseech Him that He would melt that solder, as it were, that He would make a dissolution, that He would sever your soul and the lust that cleaves so fast to it. That which makes the soul and the object to cleave so fast together is lust, that is the solder:―which like solder must be melted with fire:―isa.4:4, “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of wisdom, and by the spirit of burning:―that is, the Holy Ghost, who is as fire that melts the solder and loosens it; and also the word, Jer:23:24. And so also in Mal:3 Christ is there compared to fire and to fuller's soap, and all to express the diverse ways that the Lord has to cleanse our spirits from sin. Sin cleaves to the soul as dross to the gold:―now the spirit of burning cleanses and purifies it; yea, it does it violently, and therefore it is said to be a hammer also in Jeremiah. Again, sin sinks in as a deep stain, therefore Christ is like soap to cleanse it. And therefore go and say to God, “Rather than I should not be cleansed, Lord, cleanse me with the fire of affliction, as it is also called, Zech:13:9, And I will bring the third part, saith the Lord, through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, they will try them as gold is tried. It were best (my beloved) if you would yield to the Spirit, & the Word, that they may cleanse you before His sight:―for if that will not do, He will come with the fire of affliction, and it is better that you be so dealt with, than that your souls, being still unclean, should perish forever.
Direction 5 Beautify Your Spirit with Spiritual Excellency
To fit your spirit for the Lord, Who is a spirit, and the father of spirits, You must go yet one step further; you must labour to beautify it, to seek to adorn it by a spiritual excellency. Now if you would beautify it by anything, seek not for outward excellencies, as clothes or fine apparel, or adorning in the sight of men, but seek such an excellency as is suitable to the spirit:―seek not other things; for they are such things that God regards not. So that, as every man seeks some excellency or other, that which you are to seek is to get spiritual excellency, such as may beautify your heart, for that which is outward, God regards not. You shall see an excellent place for this, Isa.66:2, All these things hath my hand made, saith the Lord, but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. When the Lord looks upon all things here below, they are all at His command, (My hand hath made them, says He, and I can dispose of them as I will) but what is it of all them that I do esteem? a spirit that is fashioned and beautified with inward ornaments, so that it trembles at My word, that is the thing which I regard. So 1 Pet:3:3, you have a comparison there of outward excellencies and of the spiritual decking of the inward man, which the Apostle prefers, because that is a thing that is esteemed of by God. Whose adorning, says the Apostle, let it not be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing gold, or of putting on of apparel:―but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. So it is said of wisdom, , Prov:3:22, It shall be life to thy soul, and grace to thy neck; that is, wisdom adorns the soul in the sight of God, therefore that is the excellency that is to be chiefly sought by us, even thus to adorn the soul. And there is good reason for it:―for if you consider what your body is and what your spirit is, you shall see that all these things that do adorn the outward man are not the excellencies to be sought after. Indeed there are diverse kinds of those excellencies, they are of three sorts. First, excellency of clothes and building, and such gaudy things which children and vain men and women are sensible of. Secondly, great titles and honours, and great rewards which a higher sort of men are capable of. Thirdly, the excellency of learning and knowledge, and skill in arts and sciences; and this also is but an outward excellency:―for though it is seated in the spirit, yet it enables only to outward things. These are not the excellencies that you should seek for:―but it is an excellency of the spirit you are to regard:―look to your spirit what that is:―for as the spirit is, such is the man. Spiritus est perfectio hominis, this is the proper excellency:―the body is but, as it were, the sheath for the soul; a man is said to be more excellent as his soul is excellent. Other excellency is but an outward excellency, this excellency is that which is intrinsic to a man; the others are but adventitious, they are not proper, it is not that which makes the difference. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor:―there is a difference of honour, but all these are but accidental differences:―the essential difference is the spirit, and that is it which God regards, and by this you excel your neighbour. All other excellencies are but as when a mule or an ass having goodly trappings should boast itself against the horse, which is a goodly creature, because it has goodly trappings; or as if a mud-wall that the Sun shines upon, should boast itself against a wall of marble that stands in the shadow. Therefore consider this, so that you may labor to beautify your spirit; if there were no other reason but that He is a spirit and He beholds the excellency of the spirit, this were sufficient. Take all other excellencies in the world, they only make you excellent in the sight of man; but this makes you excellent before God, this is a solid thing, all the glory of the world is but κενὴ δόξη, empty glory; but that which makes you excellent before God is this. As it is, Jas:2:5, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to them that love Him? As if he should say, that which makes men glorious is their faith and holiness within, that is the thing that makes us excellent in God's sight, and enables us to do higher works:―all other things habilitate us but to the things of this life, but grace makes you strong, and makes you to serve the Lord with fear and reverence, Heb:12:28. And therefore this is to be sought of us, Phil.4:8. The world seeks other things after their own fancy, but you, seek these things, this is the excellency that we should seek; for this adorns your spirit. And now if I should ask any man, whether is it not better to have God's image renewed in him, and to be like Him, than to have the exccellency of human knowledge? everyone would say that to have God's image renewed in them were the best:―but then why do you not busy yourself about it? why do you not labour for it? why do you study much and pray so little? So if I should ask another, whether grace, or outward excellency were better? he would say, grace:―but then why do you not bestow some time about it, to get it? It is a great sign that the heart is right when we can judge aright of the excellency that is to be sought by us. 2 Cor.5. It is made a sign of a new creature, that he does judge aright of spiritual things. Jas.4:10. It is made a sign of a man converted to God when he is brought low, that is, he is drawn from that high esteem of outward excellency, which before he had; when he sees that they are but fading flowers, things of no worth:―and thus the soul gets strength to itself.
Direction 6:―let Your Spirit Rule Over Your Bodily Appetites
When you have cleansed you spirit, when you have adorned it with such spiritual beauty, so that God is delighted in you:―then you must go yet further:―you must let it have rule and dominion; you must let it have the upper hand of the body in all things. Let your spirit be still advanced, that is, let it not be drowned with the body, but be emergent still above it, kept from all base affections, let it be clear from all corporeal dross, that is, from those bodily affections of meat, drink, uncleanness, sports, pastime, etc. wherewith the body is delighted:―for this spirit is the most excellent thing in you, therefore it is meet that it has dominion, that it should not be brought into subjection, no not by any spiritual lust that arises from the spirit, that the body is not capable of, much more then is it a shame to be brought into subjection by any bodily lust, that wrongs the Father of spirits. 1 Cor.6:12,13. All things are lawful to me, says the Apostle, but I will not be brought under the power of anything. Meat is for the belly, and the belly for meat, but God shall destroy both it and them. His meaning is this, I see that it is not convenient for me to eat flesh; I do not deny but that I have a desire to eat flesh as well as others, but because it is not convenient, therefore I will bridle that appetite:―for, Meat is for the belly, and the belly for meat, but God shall destroy both it and them. If that appetite should prevail, the body would rule over the soul:―but I will not suffer (allow) that my spirit should be brought into subjection by any bodily appetite. And consider, what an unreasonable thing it is, that the spirit should be brought under the body. There are but two parts of a man, and they draw us two ways:―the spirit draws us upward to the Father of spirits, (as it is a spirit):―and the body draws us downward. Now consider which should have the upper hand, they will not goe both together. Now know this, that if the spirit bee under the body, it will breede confusion. It is so in other things; looke into the Common wealth, if you should see servants riding and Princes going on foot, looke into nature, if the fire and aire should bee below, and the water and earth aboue, what confusion would there bee? So is it in this case. The Apostle compares them to bruite beasts, 2 Pet:2:12. (and the wise man compares them to a Citie, whose walls are broken downe, so that there is an utter ruine.) Saith the Apostle Peter, in the place forenamed, that thay as naturall bruite beasts made to bee taken and to be destroyed, who speake evill of the things they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their owne corruption:―that is, if a man will come to this, to suffer such a confusion as this, they shall even bee served as bruite beasts are:―nay beloved, if it were with us as it is with beasts, we might giue libertie for these corporall appetites to rule over the soule:―as take a horse, if he hath no rider, then you blame him not, though he runne, and kicke up, and downe, for he is a beast, and hath no rider to sit him; but when he is under the bridle, then if he doth not doe that which he should doe, then you blame him. But a man hath reason to guide him, and hee hath grace to guide reason:―now to cast off both these is more than brutish. Consider, that all things, the more refined they are, the better they are; for they come neerer to the spirit:―so then doe thou looke upon thy selfe; and say with thy selfe; the more that spirit within me is advanced, the more it is suffered to rule, without impediment, it is the better for me. To give you an instance or two, that you may see the practise of the Saints in this case:―job he saith, I esteemed thy word as my appointed meales, &c. I will rather restraine my body in this, then I will suffer my soul to want that which belongs to it; as he saith for eating and drinking, so saith David for sleepe; rather then my soule should not doe its duty, I will deprive my body of sleepe, saith he:―so Iesus Christ:―ioh.4:34. Iesus saith unto them, my meate is to doe the will of my Father, and to finish his worke:―that is, I will be content to neglect my body, to doe that which is the worke of my spirit, the worke of my Father. And such is his owne advice:―seek not the loaves, saith he, nourish not your bodies, labour not for the meate that perisheth:―but looke that thy soule get the better in all things.
But how shall I know this, whether my soule doth rule or no?
When the bodily appetite, and inclination shall arise so high, as to rule the sterne of the soule, and the actions of it, then the body gets rule over the soule:―but when these shall bee subdued, and ruled, and guided by the soule, when they shall bee brought to that square, which the spirit within shall set downe, then the spirit rules over the body.
But my inclinations are strong, and I cannot rule them:―what must I doe then?
Thou must doe in this case as Saint Paul did, who kept under his body by violence, as men use to tame horses; we should keepe it downe, wee must take heed of carnall lusts, they will keepe the body too high, as a Horse may be too lustie for his rider:―yet so, as on the other side it must not be kept too low, for the body is the instrument of the soule:―but onely the soule must have dominion over it, it should alwayes bee subject to the principall agent, as it is said of a servant, that he should not be Supra negotium, nor infra negotium, but par negotio, not above, nor below, but fit for his businesse:―so ought the body to be the soules servant. Beloved, consider this, doe but thinke what your soules are, that you should suffer them to be thus in subjection, Thinke what a shame it is, that these bodily affections should so overrule the spirit that is made like to God, the soule, that shall live for ever, the soule for which Christ dyed, that is better then all the world beside, thinke I say, with your selves, what a sencelesse and unreasonable thing it is, that this soule should be kept under by the body, and that the body should rule over it? Are not men in this kinde, like to beasts, subject to sensualitie, that eate that they may play, and play that they may eate? and the soule is not considered all this while, how is it a spirit, that is like to God himselfe, who is a spirit. Alas, what is the body to it? It is in it as in a prison:―such is the body to the soul, not to be regarded in comparison of it. Therefore adde this to the other, that the soule may still be advanced, and that it suffer not bodily actions to bring it into subjection, lest you be as bruite beasts, subject to sensuality, made to be taken, and to be destroyed.
THE ELEVENTH SERMON
Exodus 3:13-14 — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name, what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
A Second use from this point is this:―if God be a spirit, then his dominion, government, and providence is chiefly exercised on the spirits of men. It is true, his providence is over all things that belong to us:―but, as he is in himselfe a Spirit, so he puts forth, and exerciseth this power of his principally in guiding the spirits of men, and in that you are chiefly to observe his providence toward you. And that you shall see in Rom:14:17. The kingdome of God, that is, his rule, and power, is not in meate and drinke, for they are outward things, and hee that is a spirit regards them not; but it is in righteousnesse and peace, and joy in the holy Ghost:―that is, in the things that belong to the spirit, therein is his kingdome, and dominion chiefly exercised. So also Psal:33:14, 15. From the place of his habitation hee looketh downe upon all the inhabitants of the earth:―he fashioneth their hearts alike, hee considereth all their workes. Marke it, when God lookes downe from heaven, and beholdes the children of men, the chiefest thing that he doth, wherein his government is exercised, is, in that hee fashions their hearts and spirits:―and therefore those eternall subjects of his that live with him for ever, are spirits, as the Angels, and the soules of men. Therefore if thou wouldest observe the will of the Lord toward thee, and wouldest see, wherein his providence is chiefly exercised, looke upon thy spirit upon all occasions; that is, what bents, what inclinations, what hopes, and desires hee hath put into thy soule. If you looke upon men in the world, you shall see them divers in their spirits; one man lusts after riches, honour and preferment; another after gaming, sporting and drinking:―now looke upon this temper of spirit as the greatest judgement of all others. Againe, looke upon the spirits of other men, they are fashioned a contrary way, to deny themselves, to seeke grace, and avoid sinne; to be content to have God alone, to do his worke, and to leave their wages to God, to live a painfull life, serving God, and men with their sweetnesse:―this is a quite contrary spirit, and this is the greatest blessing. Therefore you shall see, that when the Lord is angry with a man, so that his anger is wound up to the highest pegge, then he gives him over to this judgement as it is, Psal.81:12. So I gave them over to their owne hearts lust, and they walked in their owne counsells:―that is, my judgement shall be executed upon their spirits, to leave them to an unjudicious minde. Againe, on the other side, when the Lord would doe a man the greatest kindnesse, then he fashions his spirit another way, Deut:30.6. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord with all thine heart, and with all thy soule, that thou maist live:―as if he should say, when I minde to doe you a kindnesse, then I will thus fashion your hearts aright. So Ezek:36:26. A new heart also will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you an heart of flesh. The Scripture is plentifull in this. Therefore if thou wouldest observe what the Lord is to thee, looke how hee fashions thy spirit:―if thou findest that hee leaves thee to unruly affections and lusts, and leaves thee to be glued to that from which thou shouldest be divorced; or that he hath left thee in bondage to the feare of men, as a snare to thee, there is no greater judgement in the world than this, as it is the greatest mercy on the contrary. Therefore in 2 Tim.4:22. Paul prayes, The Lord Iesus Christ be with thy spirit:―as if hee should say, this is the greatest mercy that I can wish thee, and the greatest good that God can doe thee, and therefore he wisheth God to be with his spirit.
Now to set on this point a little further, and to make this plaine to you:―you shall see it in these three things.
1. Because all other things, as riches, poverty, health, sicknesse, &c. he dispenseth these promiscuously, so he gives riches to wicked men, &c. because as it is Eccles.9:121. His love, or hatred, cannot be knowne by these things. Whence I reason thus; That wherein the love and hatred of God is most seene, therein his providence chiefly exerciseth it selfe:―but in the fashioning of the spirits of men, there, and there chiefly, is his providence seene; for other things come alike to men, to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not.
2. The disposing of other things is much in the power of men. A Prince, or a man hath power to kill, or to save, he can give riches, and honour, and take them away, at his pleasure:―but to rule the spirits, to compose, and guide the apprehensions, and affections of the soule, that belongs to God alone; a man is no more able to doe it, than to rule the raging sea. For as it is proper to God alone, to compose the winde, and to rule the waves:―so it is proper to him alone to rule the turbulent affections, to compose, and guide them. If there be any disordered affection in the heart, as an immoderate love of any thing, or an impatient desire to any thing, who, is able to remove it, but the Lord who is a spirit? So, who can implant holy affections in thee, but he alone? as, for example, to thinke a good thought, a man cannot doe it without him, who is the Father of spirits; so to perswade a man, no man can doe it, it must be the Lord, as Noah saith; God shall perswade Japhet to dwell in the tents of Sem. So to see the hainousnesse of sinne, and the evill of it, no man can doe it but by the spirit of God, as it is said, John 16.922. The Spirit convinceth men of Sinne. So to wil this, or that, which is good, it is he that workes both the will and the deed. A man cannot choose but bee swallowed up with worldly griefe, except God keepe him, he cannot chose but feare the face of man, except God assist him:―for this is one of Gods prerogatives royall, to rule in the affections, and apprehensions of men.
3. Because the guiding of a mans spirit, is of the greatest consequence of all other things else. Now God is a wise commander, and therfore he will not exert, and put forth his power, but in things of greatest moment:―but the guiding of our affections is all in all to us. For, in a mans outward estate, what things soever befall him, all are nothing; but what his apprehension is of them, and how he is affected to them, makes them crosses or comforts:―if a mans spirit be whole, the greatest crosse is nothing, and the least is intolerable, if his spirit be broken. As, againe, what are all pleasant things, if a man hath not a heart to apprehend them? As to Paul, what was all his persecution? as long as his spirit was whole within him, he carried it out well:―and what was Paradise to Adam, and a kingdome to Ahab when their spirit was broken? It is the apprehension that makes every thing to a man heavy, or unheavy, pleasant or unpleasant, sweete or sower:―and therefore this is the use to be made of it, to behold Gods providence chiefely on our spirits, and not onely in our owne spirits, but what he does upon the spirits of others also. It is a thing we stumble at, when we see a wicked man prosper, and carry all things in the world before him, we should not say, where is Gods providence, and the truth of his promise? but see what he doth upon the spirit of that man. If thou seest such a man more malicious to the Church, and children of God, growing more carnall, and abominable in his courses, therein is Gods curse seene more, than in all the dispensation of outward curses:―for that treasure of sinne which he layes up for himselfe, will draw on a treasure of wrath, which will be executed in due season. Therefore beholde your spirits alwayes, and Gods providence upon them. Lament:3.65. Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse upon them:―the words signify, which is thy curse upon them. Therefore if you see an obstinate heart in a man, that is the greatest curse of all. As in receiving the Sacrament, there we do pronounce a curse to him that receives it unworthily, and profanes the Lord's body:―but, it may be, he goes on and sees it not; but now look upon his spirit, and see how GOD deals with that, whether his heart doth not grow harder, and more obdurate, which is the greatest curse? You may observe this every where. If thou seest one that has a vain and idle spirit, that cannot study, that cannot pray, that cannot choose but be carried away by an unruly lust to this or that thing, believe it, this is a greater judgement than all the diseases in the world, than all shame and disgrace, that we account so much of, than poverty and crosses:―as it is the greatest mercy, on the other side, when a man is able to serve GOD with an upright heart, and to be sincere in all his carriage. Thus it is with men, and this thou shouldest observe in thy self also from day to day. Let us not observe so much, what accidents befall us, what good is done to us, or what crosses we have, (it is true indeed GOD is seen in all these things) but chiefly look what GOD hath done to our spirit, what composing of mind, or what turbulency of affections, or what quietness, what patience, or what impatience; and for this be chiefly humbled, or be chiefly thankful:―for to take away from Christ the praise of sanctification, is as much as to take away the praise of his redemption. Herein thou shalt see his love or hatred manifested to thee, or his greatest mercies.
The Third Use24 is that which the Scripture makes of it. John 4:24. If God be a Spirit, then worship him in Spirit and truth. What it is to worship God in spirit and truth, you shall see, if you compare this place with that in Rom:1.9 For God is my witnesse, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospell of his Sonne, that without ceasing I make mention of you alwayes in my prayers. The meaning of it is this. When25 Paul had taken a solemn asseveration, GOD is my witnesse, &c. do not think, saith he, that I have done this feignedly, I am no such man; in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I do it in my spirit:―that is, I do it not for by-ends, for fear of men, or the like, but I do it in my spirit, that is, plainly, heartily, and sincerely.
So that to worship GOD in spirit, is, to have a plainness, and sincerity in our worshipping him, that is, to do it heartily what we do to him; in our praying, and worshipping him, when it is not formally, and customarily done, but our spirit seconds it within, this it is to worship him in spirit. So that the scope of our exhortation is, that you would worship GOD chiefly in your spirits. As it is said of singing Psalms, Col:3:16. Admonish one another in Psalmes, and hymnes, and spirituall songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And the ground of it is, because GOD is a spirit, and therefore he beholds at any such time, when you come before him, the inward behaviour of your spirits:―that is, he observes when you come to preach, or pray, what squint-eyed ends, what vain glory, what respect of men you have. Yea, he observes how far natural conscience leads you, so that you do it as a task, out of custom, &c. he observes what worldly-mindedness, and carnal affections creep into the soul, at that time, that makes you either to post off the duty, or else to do it in a customary manner. All this doth he behold, he looks to the inward carriage of the spirit:―and therefore do you look chiefly to the inward carriage, to the inward frame of your mind.
But what is that more particularly?
I will show it to you in these three things.
1. See that thy spirit be as near him as thy lips are, Isay 29:13. He complains of a sort of people, that draw nigh unto God with their mouth, and with their lips doe honour him, but have removed their heart farre from him, and their feare toward him is taught by the precepts of men. So Jer:12:2. Thou oh Lord art neare in their mouth, and farre from their reines. Now if thou wouldest worship him in spirit, see that thy spirit be as near him as thy words are. As, for example, in prayer thou confesseth thy sins, and professest that thou dost hate them, thou prayest for mortification, and grace, & for weanedness form the world; herein thy words and God's will do agree, they are consonant, and when yet, it may be, the inward inclination of thy heart is far enough off of this expression:―therefore bring thy spirit near to God as thy lips are, and then thou worshippest him in spirit. To show you more plainly what this farness off of the spirit is; take a covetous man, and put him upon the rack of any exigent, where he must part with all to save his life, he will say as much as need to be in this case:―but his heart is set as close to his wealth, as ever it was before, so that he is loath to part with any thing. And take a thief that comes before the Judge, he confesseth his fault, and begs pardon, and saith that he will do so no more:―but yet his heart sits as near to his theft, he is as far from honesty as ever was before. So take a man, when he comes into some exigent, (for that usually is the time) as at the receiving of the Sacrament, or at his day of death, he comes and professeth to the Lord, that he will follow no more his wicked courses; but he will become a new man, here his words draw near, but look to the bent and inclination of his heart, to the radical constitution of it, and that is far from holiness, there he sits as close to his sin as he did before. Therefore, if thou wouldest worship God in spirit, take care that thy spirit draw near to him upon all such occasions, as thy words do. A man in his ordinary course, it may be, prays, and his prayers are good:―but how far his heart is from it, that his life shows. It is a strange thing, that at the Sacrament, men come and make confession of their sins:―and yet their spirits are far from it, and that their practise shows. Consider this; you are the men that the Prophet doth speak to, you draw nigh to GOD with your lips, but your heart is farre from him. And this is the first particular.
When you worship God with all the might and strength, and endeavor of the mind and all the faculties of it, this is to worship God in spirit. 2 Sam.6:14. It is said of David, that he danced before the Lord with all his might:―it was a worship of God, a spiritual worship of God, wherein David, by his outward act of dancing, did express his exultation, and rejoicing in the Lord. Now the text saith, that he did this with all his might, with all the might of his spirit: (for so you must understand it.) It is a Metaphor taken from the body, when a man useth all his strength, and might to do any thing, he unites all the forces of his body to it:―so a man worshippeth God in spirit, when all the faculties of the soul, are concentred and united together in the performance of such a duty. And therefore it is called a wrastling with the Lord, as Jacob did:―and it is called a striving with God, as Paul saith, that you strive together with me in prayer:―rom:15:30. that is, when the soul, and the mind are joined all together, when he bends the whole soul to the work, this is to worship God in spirit. Such an expression you have, Act:20. where Paul went bound in the spirit to Jerusalem; that is, his spirit did not hang loose, but it was girt up in a resolution to go through with the work, whatsoever came of it, his spirit was bound. Now, when thy spirit hangs loose upon the duty, half on, and half off, when a man cares not whether he doth it or no, this is not to worship God with the spirit; but when thy mind is girt up, and thou dost it with all the intention of thy soul, then thou dost it heartily, as it is Col:3:22. Servants obey in all things your Masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men pleasers, but in singlenesse of heart, fearing GOD:―where eye-service, and heartily are opposed. Eye-service is, when a man doth it in the outward show, and appearance only, and what is the other, to do a thing heartily? That is, when a man's strength and his soul doth go with the duty:―and the contrary to this is, the looseness of the mind, and the wandering of it about other things, when the body, and the words are well employed, but the mind doth not go with them; this is not to worship God in spirit, when the spirit sits thus loose to God. And this is the second thing, wherein this worshipping of God in spirit, doth consist.
The Third which hath not much, but yet some difference from the former, is this, when the spirit of a man beholds God alone; when his eye is upon him, when he comes to worship him, and upon nothing besides. If a man will have an eye to men, to the praise, or dispraise that shall follow the performance of the duty, he doth so far worship men. But he serves God and worships him in spirit, when his heart is left naked, and stripped of all other respects in the world, and so filled, and overawed with the presence of God, that all other respects do vanish. This it is to worship God in singleness of heart; and this is opposed to outward performance. Col. 3:22. for eye-service is but only a bodily and outward worship:―but when a man doth it with singleness of heart, then it is not eye-service as there; that is, it is not outward only. Now, singleness of heart is this; when the mind hath but one single object to look upon; so that to look, not upon any creature, but upon God, and none besides. This is to worship God in singleness of heart, which is the same with holiness of spirit. As the holiness of the vessel in the old law was when it was set apart from all other services to God alone, so the holiness of a man's spirit is, when it is separated from all by-respects and aims, and is wholly devoted to him (whence our word, Devotion doth spring) and when a man worships God with this nakedness, with this singleness and holiness of spirit, then he worships God in spirit. But when thou commest to perform any duty, as to preach a Sermon, or to pray, and thou lookest what men will think of thee, and what praise and credit thou shalt get by it, this pollutes your spirit; so far as you do this, there is not singleness, but, doubleness of spirit, and here is eye-service in GOD's account.
Therefore look always to worship him in spirit, remember the argument here used, GOD is a Spirit:―that is, look how the corporeal eye of man beholds the body, when thou commest to Church, and can see the negligence of thy behaviour, and uncomely gesture; so GOD, that is a spirit, he beholds the vanity and looseness of thy spirit within, the turning and rolling of it this way, or that way; therefore take diligent heed to thy spirit; labour to approve thy self to him, care not what any creature saith or thinketh of thee; and this is to worship him in thy spirit.
Now here are two Questions to be answered
If GOD must thus be worshipped in spirit, and it is the behaviour of that which he looks to, what necessity is there then of a bodily, comely, and outward gesture? how far is this required in his worship?
The spiritual worship of God is never well performed, but when it is signified by the comely gesture of the body, as far as we may. I say, they must concur, the body must go with the spirit, (though indeed he chiefly looks to the spirit) for they are both his, 1 Cor.6:20. Besides, the body doth exceedingly help the spirit, and it doth testify, when you come before others, that holiness and reverence, which you have of God's glory and majesty.
Therefore to persuade you to this, you must know, that when ever you come to worship God, there ought to be a great solemnity in every part of his worship, which cannot be without the concurrence of the body and spirit of man, they cannot be disjoined:―and you shall see the necessity of this, in these 3 things.
1. Because, though holiness be seated in the spirit, yet it doth & will appear in the body at the same time. You know, the light of the candle is seated in the candle, yet it shines through the lanthorn, if it be there; so, though holiness be seated in the spirit, yet it will appear in the body, if it be there. It is so in all other things, and therefore must needs be so in this:―as, take any affections that are in us, as a blushing affection, when occasion is, it will appear in the body, whether we will or no; so an impudent face is discerned and perceived also, so awefulness, and fear, and reverence, they will show themselves, and look out at the windows of the eyes, and appear in the face, except we willingly suppress them. Now, if these will do so; surely it holds in this also. If there be a reverence of the mind, it will be seen in the behaviour of the body. Therefore you see; Eliah when he prayed earnestly, the disposition of the body went with it, he put his face downe between his legges. So Jesus Christ, when he prayed for Lazarus, hee groaned in his spirit, and wept. Now if he did so, (who might be exempted, if any might) then do not thou think that thou can have a holy, reverent disposition of the mind, and it not appear in the body, it cannot be. Therefore you shall find, that this is called the heart every where, because the affections are seated there; and now the body is accordingly affected as the heart is affected; for what affections a man hath, such is his heart.
2. Consider this; If thou findest thy self apt to a careless, negligent behaviour, and carriage of the body, when thou commest to GOD, and pretendest this, that he is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit; I say, consider, whether this be not an excuse that thy flesh makes to this end, that it may be lazy, and have some ease to it self, from a false acception of that principle, God is a Spirit, that so it may give way to an outward laziness of the body. Therefore look narrowly to it, thou shouldest stir up the outward man, that thou thereby maist stir up the inward man, when thou commest before God in any worship.
3. Consider, that to make any thing an ordinance, there must be an application of the whole man to it; otherwise, it is but a lame performance, and God will not reckon as the obedience of an ordinance. For this truth must be remembered; That an ordinance of God performed as it ought to be, doth usually carry a blessing with it. A prayer, a Sacrament received as it ought, a fast kept as it should, moves the Lord to give a blessing, if thou do not Ponere obicem, thou shalt not go away empty; for it is always accompanied with a blessing:―as it is said to Ananias, Acts 9. Goe to Paul, for behold he prayes:―when it is a prayer indeed, God can hold no longer. Do you think, that Paul never prayed before, when he was a Pharisee? Yes; but it was not as he ought, he never prayed indeed till now; now consider, when thou commest before the Lord to perform any duty to him, thou wilt say, it may be, that my spirit is well disposed, though the gesture of my body be not according? but I say deceive not thy self with this, but look that it be a thorough performance. For as it was in the old law, a lame sacrifice was accepted as none:―so lame prayer, a lame hearing the word, a lame performance of any exercise God reckons as none. Therefore in these things God sends them away empty as they came. What better are they? do their hearts get anything? Beloved, God is a fountain, and if he meet with a fit pipe, (as is an ordinance rightly performed) there he usually conveys his grace:―but if he meet with a foul pipe, and obstructed, there he doth not confer any blessing.
Now, if thou saist, I have thus behaved my self, and have not been answered? Do not deceive thy self; for if it be truly performed, you shall be answered:―so that look, if it be truly done, expect a blessing, GOD will not suffer his ordinance, at that time, to be a pen without ink, or a pipe without water. I hope there be none of us here that neglect prayer to GOD morning, and evening, that live as if there no GOD in the world, as if they were not his subjects:―if there be, GOD will wound the hoary scalp of such. But these are not the men I speak to; but they are those that do it from day to day, they pray from time to time, and omit it not; these are the men, whom we are to advertise in this case. Take heed, though you pray every day, yet it may be thou hast not made a prayer all thy life yet, and this is the case of many. For if thou considerest what an ordinance is indeed, thou shalt know that the Lord doth not reckon all petitioning as a prayer, nor set it down for the ordinance. And it may be the case of the Saints sometimes, (though we speak not now to them) they may pray often and yet the Lord not register, nor set it down for a prayer, and therefore it may never come into remembrance before him. And this I take to be David's case in the time of his adultery; the ground of which you shall see, Psa.51:16,17. Open thou my lips (O LORD) and my mouth shall set forth thy praise:―david had, as it were, mistaken himself, he thought that he had prayed, and offered a sacrifice, but, saith he, I was deceived all this while, I was not able to open my mouth to any purpose; therefore, Lord, open thou my mouth; I brought sacrifice in, but thou regardest it not, till my heart was humbled:―therefore, a broken and a contrite heart, o GOD, thou wilt not despise.
Therefore you deceive your selves, that go on in a customary performance of holy duties, and think that you pray for all this; that think this worship to be in the spirit only, when your outward man carries it self negligently; this is but a lame performance, they must both go together. Therefore look that it be an ordinance, which then it is, when not only the spirit of a man is well set, but the whole man is applied to the duty, that is, when all the strength of the man goes to it.
If you say, May not a man pray sometimes, when he is walking, or lying, riding by the way, or the like?
I answer, There be two times of prayer, one is ordinary, and in private, when you may have all opportunity to do it in a holy, and solemn manner, and then you ought to do it solemnly. The other is, when you pray occasionally; and there the occasion and disposition doth not admit such outward solemnity; as when a man gives thanks at meat, or prayeth when he rides; Here the Lord accepts the will for the deed:―gOD requires not this upon all occasions; yet when you may, you ought to do it, in a reverent manner, not only of spirit, but of the body also. You may gather it from Christ, he fell on his face and preyed, Luke 22.42. and Daniel, and Abraham, it is said that they bowed themselves to the ground:―and it is said of Christ, that he lifted his eyes to heaven, when he blessed the loaves. Why are these set down? If any man might be freed, Jesus Christ might; but it pleaseth the holy Ghost to set down that circumstance of him, that he fell on his face, and that he lift up his eyes to heaven.
Indeed, in this case when it is hurtful to the body, there it may be omitted; the Lord will have mercy rather than sacrifice, even mercy upon your bodies. So also, when you find that it hurts the inward man, and hinders it, when the heart doth it out of a conceit, that it may perform it the better, then there is a liberty left unto you to dispense with it.
As I say for prayer, so for other duties:―when a man comes to hear the word, he saith, my mind is intent enough, though I make not such a show; yet notwithstanding know this, that thou must behave thy self reverently when thou commest before God. You shall see in Luke 4. when Christ preached, it is said, that the eyes of all the people were fastened upon him. Why is such a corporal gesture noted in the text? is it in vain? No, because it is a comely gesture, therefore it is to be regarded.
How should we conceive of GOD in prayer, seeing he is a Spirit, and a Spirit we never saw:―what conceit and apprehension of GOD should we have then when we come to call upon his name?
We may not conceive him under any corporeal shape, for he is a spirit:―and therefore they that think they may worship the humanity of Christ disjoined, are deceived; we are not to worship it as separated from his Deity; for we are to worship the Trinity in the Unity, and the Unity in Trinity, which we cannot do, if we worship his humanity as separated from his Deity. Therefore when you come to pray before GOD, you must remember that he is a Spirit, filling heaven and earth, strong, gracious, mercifull, full of goodnesse, and truth, &c. concerning which three things are to be considered.
First, That he is a Spirit.
But, how shall I conceive of a Spirit?
How dost thou conceive of the soul of another man when thou speakest to him? thou never didst see it, yet thou knowest that there is such a spirit that fills the body, and that doth understand what thou sayest, and speaks to thee again; so remember this of the Lord, that he is a Spirit. Compare Jer:23:24 with this:―can any man hide himselfe in secret places, that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? Doe not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?
Secondly, That the Lord fills heaven and earth, as the soul fills the body:―so that thou must think that he sees all things, and hears all things. Indeed the Lord is not in the world, as the soul is in the body, but in an incomprehensible manner, which we cannot express to you; yet this is an expression which we may help our selves by, and is used every where in Scripture.
Thirdly, consider his Attribute, that he is a Spirit filling heaven and earth, and he is exceeding fearful, powerful, almighty, exceeding gracious, and long-suffering, abundant in mercy and truth, that he hath pure eyes, and cannot see any iniquity:―deut:24. So Exo:34.6. as Moses could not see him, but his Attributes, his back parts; so thou must conceive of him, that he is exceeding strong, potent, and fearful, one that will not hold the wicked innocent, but shows mercy to thousands of them that fear him; and to sinners, if they will come in unto him:―and thus you must conceive of him, when you come before him.
THE TWELFTH SERMON
Exodus 3:13-14. — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
HAVING finished that point that GOD is a Spirit, which is a particular expression of the Simplicity of GOD, we come to speak of the Simplicity it self:―which is that Attribute, by which he is one most pure and entire essence, one most simple, being without all composition; so that there is no substance, and accident, matter, and form, body and soul; but he is every way most simple, nothing in him, but what is God, what is himself. The rise that it hath from hence, we shall see hereafter. All those phrases of Scripture, where God is said to be love, truth, light, and wisdom it self, all these show the Simplicity of God:―for of no creature can you say so. The creature is wise, and just; and holy, and true:―but to say it is truth it self, love it self, light it self, or wisdom it self, that cannot be attributed to any creature. So that this you must know, that God is one most pure, entire and uniform being or essence:―i AM, shows that he is a being; and if we should ask, what kind of being he is; he is a most simple and uncompounded being. And that he is so, we will make it clear by these reasons.
Because, if there be many things in him, they must not be the same, but different; and if different, one has one perfection which another wants; if so, there must be something imperfect in God:―for if the defect of that were made up, it would be more perfect.
If there be two things in God, then there is multiplication; now all multiplication ariseth from some imperfection, from some want and defect:―for if one would serve, two would not be required. As if one could draw a ship or boat up the stream, two were needless; if one medicine would cure, two would be unnecessary; so in all things else:―so that the reason of multiplication is, because one will not serve the turn. Therefore GOD being all-sufficient, it is not needful, yea it cannot be, that a breaking into two should be admitted in him, and consequently, he must be most simple, without all composition, a pure and entire essence, full of himself, and nothing besides.
If GOD should have love in him, or justice, or wisdom, or life or any other quality different from his essence, as the creatures have them, he should be what he is, not originally of himself, but derivatively, and by participation, and so, imperfectly; as to be fiery is more imperfect than to be fire it self, to be gilded is more imperfect than to be gold it self:―so to be wise, loving, holy, that is, to be endued with the qualities of wisdom, love, holiness, is more imperfect than to be wisdom, and love, and holiness it self. Therefore there is not a substance or quality in GOD, as in the creature:―but he is love, and light, and wisdom, and truth, and so the Scripture expresseth him.
Wheresoever there is any composition, there must be two or three things, so that there may be a division, they are separable, though not separated; but where division may be, there may be a dissolution and destruction, though it never be:―but of GOD, we cannot say, that this may be, and consequently, there cannot be two things in him, but what he is, he is; one most simple, most pure, and most entire being, without all composition and multiplication.
If GOD be not simple, there must be parts of which he is compounded:―but in GOD blessed for ever, there are no parts, because then, there should be imperfection, for every part is imperfect.
Again, Parts are in order of nature before the whole, but in God there is nothing first or second, because he is simply first.
Again, Parts cannot be united and knit, and compounded together, without causes to do it; but here is no cause to knit and unite any part together, because he is without all cause, as hath been showed before.
I will conclude this with a reason out of the text, He is a being. I AM hath sent mee unto you. If he be a being, then either the first or second being. A second being he cannot be, for then there should be some before him, and above him, upon which he should be dependent:―but this cannot be; therefore he is absolutely the first being. Adam was the first man; but God only is the first absolute being. Now the first being was never in possibility to be:―and therefore he is a pure act in regard of his essence. Again, there are no qualities springing from him; for if there were, they should have had sometimes no being; and so in possibility to be, and consequently have a beginning, and be a creature:―therefore there is neither Potentia substantialis, nor accidentalis in him, and so he must be purus actus, as the Schoolmen say; and therefore he is most simple, without all composition, this I speak to schollers27, for it is a mixt auditory:―and therefore you must give me a little liberty.
Now, I come to those Consectaries which flow from hence; and they are these three.
If God be such a simple, first, pure, and absolute being, then hence you may see, what a stable foundation our faith hath to rest upon; we are built upon the lowest foundation in all the world, that is, upon the first, most absolute, and simple, and pure, and entire being; which I say is the lowest foundation, that depends upon no other, but all upon it:―and this is the happy condition of all Christians, and of them alone. Angels, men, heaven and earth are foundations to some things that are built upon them, but they are all built upon this, and therefore dependent. For if this foundation shake it self, (for so he hath power to do) they all fall to ruin:―but God is the first, simple, and lowest foundation, being the first absolute and simple being; therefore he that is built upon him, hath the greatest stability, which is the transcendent happiness of Christians, above all men in the world. And this is a great privilege of theirs, which you shall find upon this ground magnified and set forth in Psal.46:1,2. God is our hope and strength; therefore will we not feare, though the earth be removed, and though the mountaines be carried into the midst of the sea, &c. As if he should say, Though there were a subversion of Kingdoms, and an overthrow of all the Churches, yea a confusion of heaven and earth, (as there shall be at the last day) though the mountains were rent from their foundations, and cast into the middle of the sea, yet Christians should be sure all the while, because God, who is the first, absolute, and simple being, and so the lowest foundation, is their hope and strength; that is, he is a foundation lower than all these, that when all these things shall come to ruin, yet GOD on whom we trust shall be a sure help, and comfort.
Beloved, this is to be considered, that you may know what your comfort is, and upon what foundation you are built.
If God be most simple, without all composition, then this will follow, that he cannot be hindered in anything that he goes about to do, but is most independent as in being, so in working, by reason of his simplicity. There is no creature but may be hindered:―for in the best of the creatures, to wit, in the Angels, there is an essence, and an executive power by which they work:―even as you see it in the fire, there is the substance of fire, and the quality of heat, by which it works:―now where there are two things, an essence and a faculty by which it works, something may come between, and hinder the working and the operation. As in the Babylonish furnace, GOD separated between the fire, and the heat, that it could not burn the men that were cast into it, Dan:3. So he doth with the Angels, he comes between the substance, and the executive power, and often hinders them from doing what they would:―but in GOD, seeing he is most simple, and entire, there is not an essence, and executive power, (as the Schoolmen call it:) therefore there can nothing come between to be an impediment; there is not any action that he intends, but he works it absolutely and of himself. Therefore we are to consider, that that GOD which we have to worship and serve, that nothing can come between, and hinder him in working, but what he will do, he doth; and therefore we should learn to fear before him, and to trust him, and to acknowledge the greatness of his power, and to know the ground of it, seeing he is so absolute and wonderful in all his works.
Hence likewise it follows, that all the Attributes of GOD are equal among themselves, not one higher than another, or larger than another; for if he be simple, and there are not two things in him, then his Attributes, or his essence, and himself are the same; and if so, one cannot exceed another; his mercy is not beyond his justice, nor his justice beyond his wisdom. Therefore though he doth put forth one Attribute now, another then, yet we must not think that his mercy is greater than all his Attributes:―therefore that place in the Psalmist, His mercy is above all his works, is commonly misunderstood. The meaning is not, that his mercy exceeds all his other Attributes, but that his mercy is over, and upon all his works. As the warmth of the hen is over all the eggs, to warm, and cherish, and hatch them:―so God's mercy is over all his works, to cherish, and nourish, and perfect them; that is, it is shewed forth upon them all. For it is not a comparative speech, as if his mercy did exceed all his other Attributes:―for if all his Attributes are himself, they must be equal, there is no difference in regard of height or largeness between them. And thus the place is to be understood:―for so the word signifies in the original, and not according to the common acception. So much for the Consectaries, now we will come to uses of practice.
1. If simplicity be one of GOD's excellencies, then let us labour to come as near to it as we can, by bringing our hearts to be content with a simplicity of condition:―for this is a sure rule, The more composition, the more weaknes, the more impediment, and withal, the more exposedness to dissolution and decay. Therefore GOD is not subject to weakness and impediment in working, because he is most simple, not having essence, and faculty, so that any thing should come between and hinder him; and therefore also he is not capable of dissolution: & therefore the nearer any come to this simplicity, they are (I say) less weak, less subject to impediment and destruction; and the safer, and stronger, and happier they be. As for example, the Angels, so far as they fall short of the simplicity of the eternal GOD, who is blessed forever, so far they are subject to all this:―they have faculties different from their essences, and one from another, as understanding, will, and their executive power; hence they are subject to weakness. For they may fall into sin, as you know the first Angels did, and their faculties jarred one with another, and fell out of tune:―and having an executive power, they are also subject to impediment; whence neither the good Angels, nor the bad, can do what they would, but they are, and may be hindered.
In the next place consider man, and as he is much more compounded than the Angels, so he is more weak, more subject to impediment, more liable to decay and ruin, as sickness, distemper, crosses, death:―for he hath not only a rational faculty, as the Angels have, but sensitive; a sensitive memory, a sensitive fancy, and a sensitive appetite; he hath also a body consisting of diverse members, needing many external helps, as air, diet, houses, exercises, and so he is subject to many weaknesses, many hurts, many impediments, and losses of all sorts.
You will say, this is a man's natural condition indeed, but how shall this be helped?
The natural condition cannot be changed, but it may be exceedingly helped; as, if we bring our hearts to be content with a more or less simplicity of condition, that is, if the disposition and constitution of the mind be such, that it be not dependent upon many things, but upon few; this is done when the thoughts and affections of the mind do not lie scattered, hanging or lying upon this or that thing, so that you cannot live without it; but when the mind is recollected and gathered up, so that you can be content with a simplicity of condition, with GOD alone for your portion; so that you can live with exceeding little, not requiring a multitude of things, upon which the contentment, and satisfaction of the mind doth depend. As for example; some men cannot live without sports and pleasure, and a great living to maintain them:―another must have great learning and gifts, and eminency, and praise that follows it:―another hath his heart so wedded to a convenient house, wife, children, companions, &c. that if any of these be taken away, he is dead in the nest:―not to speak of their vain, base, distempered affections, they must have a hundred things, their fancy is infinite, and all must be to their mind, or else they are still complaining. Now the more things a man needs, the more compound, and less simple he is, (as I may so say) and consequently, the more weaker he is, and more apt to be hindered, more apt to be hurt and disquieted; because if you touch any of that multitude of things, upon which his heart is set, he is presently troubled; which is more easily done, as the things are more, upon which his affections are placed:―but he is best, who is come to that self-sufficiency of mind, and to be content with that simplicity of condition, that he can say of any of these things; I can live by them, and without them, I can live without liberty, I can live without friends, I can live without sports and pleasure, without worldly credit, and esteem, without wife, and children, without riches, without conveniency of air, garden, orchards. This is the condition that we should labour to grow up to:―and the nearer we grow up to it, the better we are, and the safer is our condition.
But will not you have us to use such things?
Yes, but not to be wedded to them, but so weaned from them, that you may use them, as if you used them not; whereas there are some that have their hearts so glued to them, that it breaks their hearts, when they have their friends, or children, or estates, or credit fail them, or if they be hindered from their livings, pleasure, and conveniences:―but he is in the happiest condition who can live alone, and can be content with GOD alone; that can fetch so much comfort and help from him, that he can be without friends and companions, without wife and children; and if he be put in a country town far from all suitable acquaintance, yea, if he be shut up in a close prison, yet he can walk with GOD, and do as Paul and Silas, have his heart filled with joy and peace through believing. This is the safety and strength of a man. For even as the body, the more sick it is, the more helps it needs; and the lamer it is, the more props it must have, one for his arm, another for his legs, another for his back:―whereas a strong man can walk upon his own legs, he needs no other help:―even so the soul, the more sick and lame it is, the more it needs; but he which hath a strong inward man which is in health, let him have GOD, and shift him from vessel to vessel, from condition to condition, let him be stripped of all, yet he can go upon his legs and live without all. So saith the Apostle Paul, Phil.4. I have learned in what estate soever I am, therewith to bee content:―that is, riches or not riches, honour or not honour, yet his mind had a bottom that he could stand alone, and be happy without them. Thus I say, the more a man's affections is enlarged to a multitude of things, the weaker he is, and more subject to be disquieted, by any thing:―but the more his mind is contracted, and gathered into a narrow compass, and content with a greater simplicity of condition, the safer, and stronger he is, and less subject to be disquieted by any creature; because let come what will come, whatsoever condition he is put into, he hath a bottom to stand upon, he hath something to comfort his heart.
But how shall a man get his mind to such a frame?
You shall have a means prescribed in 1 Tim.6.6. Godlinesse with content is great gaine:―that is, godliness is always joined with contentment, it is always the cause of contentment, and therefore great gain. So then, be a godly man, that is, make thy heart perfect with GOD, serve and fear him alone, be content with him alone for your portion; he is All-sufficient, his communion will breed contentment, and satisfaction enough to thy heart, so that thou shalt be able to live with a very slender outward condition. And this is the only means to have the mind drawn from these things that other men are so glued to; and that is, to labour to be content with GOD alone, to serve, and fear him, to grow up to him more and more:―for he is All-sufficient, there is no such way in the world to contract the mind, as to have GOD to be knit to him, to serve and fear him, and to be assured of his favour and love in all conditions. Beloved, what a miserable thing it is, to have such changeable happiness, for a man to be so dependent on many things which are so exceeding mutable? Therefore it should be our wisdom to bring our minds to be content with a narrowness, and scantness, or simplicity of condition, to let the mind be drawn into as narrow a compass as may be; and so to come as near to this excellency of GOD, as our present human condition will well permit us.
2. Seeing it is said, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, holy as he is holy, and good or kind to the evil, as he is, causing the rain to fall upon them, and his Sun to shine upon them:―so upon the same ground we may say, Be simple as he is simple:―that is, you must labour to grow up to a simplicity of mind; and such a simplicity as is in almighty God you cannot reach too; but to have a heart immixed, to be cleansed from dross, as the gold is, you should labour to get this simplicity of mind, a thing often commended in scripture. What this Simplicity is, we have briefly touched heretofore, and we will now open it to you more fully.
There are two things required to simplicity or singleness of heart.
1. That the heart look but upon one single object.
2. That it be so cleansed from all admixture of sinful affections, that the frame of it may be fitted to do so.
For the first, I pray that you mark that in Jam:1.8. A double minded man is unstable in all his waies: ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ἀκατάζατος, By a double minded man there is meant, one whose mind hangs between a double object, so that he knows not which of the two is more eligible; his mind is in an even balance, where neither scale doth preponderate:―on the contrary, he is a simple or a single hearted man, who is thus not divided between two objects, but he so resolveth and pitcheth upon one, that he subordinates all the other to it. As for example, a double minded man, hath an eye to GOD and his credit, to GOD and his pleasure, to GOD and his friends, he would fain grasp both, and is willing to part with neither:―such a man goes not straight on, but he walks unevenly in his courses; ἀκατάζαλος that is, while he is quiet and no temptation doth assail him, then he walks with GOD in a strait rule, but let a temptation come, and put him to it, then he steps out of the way, he will not let his credit or his profit go. As a weather-cock, let there be no wind at all, and it stands still like a fixt thing:―but as soon as the wind comes it turns about. So is it with such a man, while he is quiet, while religion costs him nothing, he walks on in an even way, but let a temptation come an assault him, and because he hath not a single object, upon which he is resolved, therefore he goes out, and walks unevenly. Contrary to this is he that hath pitched upon one object, upon GOD alone; he saith, let me have the Lord alone, and heaven alone, though I have no more, thus I have pitched, thus I have resolved, that let what will come, I will part with all when it comes into composition with this. Beloved, you never have a single heart till now. This singleness of heart David expresseth in himself, Psa:27.4. One thing have I desired, that I will require, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all my dayes and behold thy beauty:―that is, this one thing have I chosen, I have pitched upon it, I care for nothing besides; if other things come, so it is, but this I require, that I may walk with the Lord, that I may be in his house all my days, that is, that I may enjoy the use of GOD's ordinances, and walk with him; and behold his beauty in them. And such a speech was that of Christ to Martha; One thing is necessary; that is, if you look to any thing else, it is in vain:―you ought to take him alone, as a wife takes a husband, that must have none besides (for so it must be.) And this is the first thing required to simplicity and singleness of spirit. The second is this.
Let the heart be cleansed of all admixture of sinful affections, and so brought into such a frame, that it may be apt to look only upon one object, upon God alone. And this I take out of Matth.6:22. The light of the body is the eye, if then the eye be single, the whole body shall be light, &c. even as the eye guides all the members of the body, the hands, feet, &c. so doth the heart or mind guide all the actions of a man. Now as the eye, if it be vitiated or distempered by drunkenness, or surfeit, or the like, it doth not represent things single, but double, and treble, and so makes a man to walk unevenly:―so sinful affections, which are contrary to the simplicity of the mind, do so distemper it that it cannot look upon God alone, as upon one single object, but it hath an eye to other objects with him, and he is distempered between them, and so he walks unevenly. As for example, fear will make a man to walk in a double way; all miscarriage and double-dealing carriage comes from fear; were it not for fear, men would be plain, and simple:―therefore fear of men, or any creature, loss of credit, life or liberty, this is a snare, and distempers the eye; and till the heart be cleansed of these, you will never walk evenly. And so doth covetousness distemper us, and voluptuousness, and any πλευνεξία in any kind, any over-eager desire, or too much haste to accomplish the end which a man propounds to himself. So Jacob's too much hasting after the blessing made him not to look single upon God; but to go a double and uneven way in using unlawful means to obtain it. And Jeroboam's too greedy desire of the Kingdom, made him to join God and the Calves together:―for two several principles cause two several motions. And so it is if there is any inordinate affection, be it what it will be, there is no simplicity of heart; and if there be not, you will never look upon God alone, but upon some creature, upon some object or other. Therefore, James 4.8. Cleanse your hearts you wavering-minded. As if when the heart was cleansed from corruption, the mind would be freed from wavering, and brought to simplicity:―were the heart purged, there would be a constancy and evenness in our mouth, and in all our ways.
This expression of simplicity you shall find in Matth:10:16. Beholde I send you as sheepe among wolves:―be wise therefore as serpents, and innocent as doves. The meaning is this:―i send you (saith our Saviour) among men as cruel as wolves, that will persecute, and hurt, and devour you; wherefore be wise as serpents, that is, as serpents have many wiles, do wind and turn to shelter off a stroke, and defend their head, so do you:―but on the other side, take heed of being too fearful of this persecution, so that when to endure it comes to be a duty, you do not shrink back and withdraw your selves, but in such a case, let your hearts be simple, cleansed form such an inordinate affection, as that fear is; and even take that blow, as the doves do, which have no wiles as the serpents have to defend themselves. So that in any such case when a duty is to be done, as the professing of my name, or the like, here you must take the blow as willingly as the dove doth, there is no avoiding in such a case; therefore take heed that your hearts be simple, that there be no fear there, so that you must be haled to the duty. And this is the very meaning and scope of the words. Innocent as doves, that is, let no sinful inordinate temptation admix it self, and so deprive you of this simplicity of heart, because you do not like my service.
This you shall see lively exemplified in Saint Paul, 2 Cor:1:12. For our rejoycing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sinceritie, not with fleshly wisedome, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you wards. Saint Paul was a very prudent man, and therefore hated above all the Apostles, as Saul was angry with David, because he walked wisely, he was so subtle to escape out of his hands, which is as if the hounds should complain of the hare, that she hath so many tricks to escape from them:―but, as I say, he was a very prudent man, and he used the serpents wisdom to save himself as he did when the assembly consisted of Sadducees and Pharisees, he put a division between them, and so escaped himself, as it were through the middest of them. So the first part was true in him, he was as wise as a serpent, to keep the blow off from himself. But now (saith the Apostle) if carnal wisdom shall come in, that is, if my understanding shall suggest a thing inordinate, and shall say, Go, give a bribe to Felix, and thou shalt escape imprisonment, go and take a gift of these Corinthians, and thou shalt have something of thine own, and shalt not be so dependent on the alms of others; now, saith he, when carnal wisdom shall suggest any such thing to me, I would not admit of it, but I walked in simplicity and godly pureness toward all men, but especially toward you, Corinthians; here was in him the simplicity of the Doves.
That we might draw it to a little more particulars, you shall see an other expression of this, Ephes.6.5. Servants be obedient to them that are your masters in the flesh, with feare and trembling, in singlenesse of your heart as unto Christ:―that is, servants, take heed even with fear and trembling, that you admit not by and sinful respects in performing your duty, as there are many motives, as fear, hope, reward, and a necessity to do it, but keep your hearts single that you may look only upon Christ and his commandment, and then you shall be faithful in your service:―but if other respects mingle themselves with this simplicity, you will do but eye-service, you will do it in a double and dissembling manner, not plainly, and heartily, and simply. Therefore let us put in practise this simplicity upon all occasions, in all other things whatsoever. Rom:12.8. He that distributeth let him doe it in simplicity:―that is, men are subjects to by ends in their good works; as in giving alms, or shewing a kindness to men, there may be many by-respects, as that they may make use of them hereafter or the like, but saith he, keep you your hearts simple, to look upon GOD alone in them. So in conversing with men, when you profess love and kindness, you are subject to by ends in doing it, but they are commended, Acts 2.46. that they did eat their meat with gladnesse and singlenesse of heart:―that is, what love they professed, one to another, it was simple and plain, not double. Compare this place with that in 1 Pet:1:22. Seeing you have purified your selves in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfained love of the brethren; see that yee love one another with a pure love fervently:―that is, when there is nothing else, when the heart is simple and plain, when there is nothing but love, no mixture, no by ends in it. So likewise when you come to preach the Gospel, do it in simplicity of heart, that is, let there be nothing besides:―as the Apostle saith of himself, he preached Christ and not himself, so we should do everything in simplicity of heart. And so you should behave your selves in your elections, to look with a single eye to the oath by which you ought to be guided:―do nothing for fear or favor of men, or for any sinister respect. I wish I could speak this rule to all the kingdom at Parliament times. For it is an error among men to think that in election of Burgesses or any others, they may pleasure their friends, or themselves, by having this or that eye to their own advantage or disadvantage that may arise form it:―whereas they ought to keep their minds single and free from all respects; so that when they come, they may choose him, whom in their own consciences, and in the sight of God, they think fittest for the place, and that you may do so, you are to get a single and a simple heart to do it.
3. If there be in GOD this simplicity that we have declared to you, then go to him upon all occasions; go not to the stream, go not to the creatures, which have what they have, but by derivation and participation:―but go to him, that hath all that he hath naturally, and abundantly, not sparingly, as they have, that have it by participation. As when a man is in any miserable condition, wherein he desires pity, and would be respected and relieved, what wilt thou do in this case? Wilt thou go to weak man, and have him to pity thee? No, go to the great GOD, in whom there is mercy it self. Amongst men, he that is the fullest of pity, he hath but a stream of it, a drop of it, therefore seek not so much to him; no not to parents, their pity falls infinitely short of what is in GOD; remember that he is mercy it self, that is, thou shalt find infinitely more mercy in him, than can be said to be in man; the most that can be said of man, is, that he is merciful, but that which can be said of GOD is, that the very thing it self is there. If you have a firebrand, and light it by the fire, it is something, but fire it self is another thing:―man he hath a little mercy, but if you go to GOD, he hath a sea of mercy, and he is never dry; Therefore whatsoever thy misery or distress be, whether of conscience or estate, be sure, that thou go to God and say to him, If evil parents can be so merciful to their children when they ask it of them, what then shall I have of him that is mercy it self? Matth.7:11. So likewise for wisdom; if thou hast a doubtful case, and knowest not what to do, thou goest to thy friends (which in deed is a good means, and ought not to be neglected, for in the multitude of counsel there is peace:) but remember this, that there is but a little wisdom in them, and therefore they will counsel thee but a little; but go to God, that is wisdom it self, Pro.8. Go to him, for he will give thee wisedome liberally, and without reproach. Jam:1.5. think of him, that he is the fountain of wisdom, and fullness it self. So if thou needest grace, thou wouldest fain have more, thou wouldest have thy faith strengthened, and thy love and zeal more fervent, go to C H R I'S T then, from whom we receive grace for grace, and that is made to us wisdom, sanctification, and redemption; go to God that is grace it self. Go not to men, for what they have, they have it from him; therefore look upon all occasions, that thou goest to the Lord:―when thou wantest comfort, go not to thy pleasure, and sports, and friends, and acquaintance, but go to God that is the great God of heaven and earth, that hath it in him abundantly, and in him thou shalt find more abundance, than in any man of the world.
THE THIRTEENTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-14. — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
IN these words, as you know, God describes himself to Moses by his eternal being; I AM hath sent me unto you. Now our business is to make this essence and being of GOD more fully known to you:―this is done by declaring to you the several Attributes, which are given to him in Scripture, we have passed through diverse:―the last Attribute was his Simplicity.
That which follows next in order is his Immutability or his Unchangeableness. Now that he takes this proper to himself, you shall see in Numb:23:19. GOD is not as man that he should lie, neither the sonne of man that hee should repent. Repenting, you know is a sign of change; he will not repent, that is, he will not be subject to any change:―whatsoever purpose or decree, or counsel he takes to him, he is immutable in it. Shall he say, and not doe it? Shall he speake, and not make it good? So James 1:17. Every good and perfect gift is from above, and commeth downe from the father of lights, with whom there is no variablenesse, nor shadow of turning. When the question was, whence temptations should arise; saith the Apostle, GOD tempts no man, for he is in himself just, good, and full of goodness, and he can never be otherwise, and therefore no temptation to evil can arise from him:―and seeing he is so, he must always be so, for he is not changed, nay there is no shadow of change in him. So Mal:3.6. I am the Lord, I change not. So that in this body of Divinity, we do but sum up diverse heads, and so open them to you. This is an Attribute that he takes to himself, and therefore we will explain it to you. First, I will shew you the reasons why; secondly, an objection or two against it; and thirdly, I will shew you the consequences or uses that arise from it.
Now to convince us fully of this point, consider these reasons.
Because wheresoever there is any change, there must be some vanity and imperfection; that all the creatures are subject to change, it ariseth from hence, that they are subject to some imperfection. Now that which is most perfect, cannot be subject to change; because in every change, either there is some perfection added which before was wanting, or elsa something is taken away which before was enjoyed. Now neither of these can befall our GOD, who is most perfect, nothing can be added or taken away from him; for if any thing could, he were not perfect:―whence it must needs follow, that he is unchangeable.
Whatsoever is changeable must be in a possibility either to receive some new being, or some other being it had not before, either in substance or in circumstance, or else it cannot be changeable:―now that which is capable of no new being in any respect, nor other being in no circumstance, or accident, cannot be changed. Now GOD is exceeding full of being, as the sea is of water, and the Sun of light, that is, he hath all the degrees and extensions of being in him:―therefore he is not in possibility of receiving any other being, than he hath; he is not subject to receive any other being, for substance, and no other being for quantity, and therefore nothing can be added to his time or place where he is; neither can he receive any other being for quality, no new habits, no new powers can be added to him; for if there could be, he should not be full of being, but there should be some defect in him; if there were any possibility in him of having any more:―but seeing he is full of being, and constantly full, it cannot be that he should be subject to any change; some other being must be added to him, or else taken from him; but seeing that cannot be, therefore he must needs be unchangeable.
In regard of his simplicity; because, if there be nothing in him but what is himself, but what is his essence, unless his essence should be annihilated, (which is impossible) he is not subject to change. Now all the creatures, besides their essence, have quantity in them, and that may be greater or less in the creature; and besides, they have quality, and therefore they may be better or worse:―but God is great without quantity, and good without quality; and therefore in regard of his simplicity, seeing there is nothing in him but what is himself, he cannot admit of any shadow of turning.
Because he is infinite; you know, an infinite thing is that which extends itself, which fill all things, to which nothing can be added:―and therefore seeing he is infinite at the utmost extent, he cannot extend himself any further. Again, nothing can be taken from him, where―by he should be changed; for, Infinitum est, cui nec addi, nec addimi potest:―and therefore seeing he is most infinite, he is also unchangeable. For whatsoever is infinite, cannot be greater or lesser, nothing can be added or taken from it:―and therefore unchangeable.
If you observe it among the creatures, you shall find, that all change ariseth from one of these two things; either from something without, or else from some disposition within the creature:―but in God there can be no change in either of these respects. Not from any thing without him, because he is the first and supreme being, therefore there is no being before him, that he should borrow any thing of; neither is there any being above him, or stronger than he, that should make any impression upon him. Again, not from any thing within him; for when there is in any creature any change that ariseth from a principle within, there must needs be something to move, and to be moved, something to act and to suffer in the creature, else there can be no change:―as man's body is subject to change, because there be diverse principles within, of which something doth act, and something doth suffer, and so the body is subject to change, and moulders away. But in God there are not two things, there is not in him something to act, and something to suffer, and therefore he is not made up of such principles, as can admit any change within him. So then the conclusion stands sure, that he can admit of no change or variation within or without him:―and so needs must be unchangeable.
The objections against this are but two. The first is, that which is taken from those places of Scripture, where God is said to repent, as, that He repented that he made Saul King, 1 Sam:15:11. and Gen.6.6. It grieved him at the heart, that he made man:―now those that repent, seem to change their mind.
This is attributed to God, as many other speeches are, only after the manner of men:―as man, when he alters any thing that he did before, seems to repent:―so that it is but a figurative speech, and a Metaphor, used, when he doth make any change in the world:―as he made Saul King, and put him down again:―he puts men in high estates, and pulls them down again, this is only in regard of the actions done; as when he shews favour to any man, and takes it away again. So that it is but a figurative kind of speech:―not that there is any change in himself, but because what he did before, he undoes it now:―in regard of his actions he changeth, not in regard of himself.
What is the reason that he is said to draw near to us at one time, and at another time to depart from us, why doth the Holy Ghost come into one man's heart, and sanctify him, when before he was an unregenerate man; what is the reason that Christ which was in heaven, came down and took our nature upon him, and lived amongst us, I say, what is the reason of all this, if there be no change in the Lord.
GOD is said to do all this, to come to us, and to go from us, and to sanctify them that were void of sanctification:―as you say of the Sun; you say, that the Sun comes into the house, when it fills it with light, but when the windows are shut, you say the Sun is gone; Yet the Sun alters not, but the change is in regard of the house, It is said to come into the house because of the light that comes into it, which before did not, but the Sun it self is not altered:―so in this case, the Holy Ghost sanctifies a man, GOD draws near to him in his comfortable presence, because there are some works wrought in the heart, that before were not:―gOD is not changed, but it is the man that suffers the change; he sees light now, that before was in darkness and in the shadow of death; he is said to be changed by reason of those operations that now are there, which before were not. So is it in Christ's coming; there was a change in the human nature that was assumed, which before was not:―there was a work done on the earth, which was not before:―he put forth his power in his humiliation and exaltation, which before he did not:―but yet he was the same, the change was in the creature, and not in him.
Now we come to the consequences; which are two.
Hence we may learn then how to understand all those places which we meet with in Scripture, wherein the Lord expresseth such a solicitude for the death of sinners:―as, Why will you die, O house of Israel? why will you not hearken, and obey? And, As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner. And, how am I prest under your abominations, even as a cart is pressed with sheaves? And it is said, Gen.6.6. That the Lord was grieved at the heart, or it pained him at the heart, that hee had made man. All these kind of expressions (as it is evident from hence) are but attributed to GOD after the manner of men:―not that he is moved, for it cannot be, seeing he is unchangeable:―whatsoever new accidents fall out in the world, he is not stirred with them, he is not moved with any new affection:―for if he were, he should be, as man is, changeable. But the meaning of those places is, to shew the infinite goodness of his nature, and the greatness of our sins:―so that as men grieve much, when their wills are crossed, and when their work is brought to nothing, how weary are they, when they strive long, and do no good? So the LORD would express it to us thus, that we might take notice, what the great provocations are, what the sins and faults are, wherewith we offend him from day to day, that we may know what they be, and what price to set upon those sins whereby we weary him from time to time.
That all the love and hatred, that he hath now since the world was made, all the complacency and displicency, all the happiness and joy which he hath from any thing, done either by the Angels or men, that he had it from all eternity; for if any thing were new in him, there should be a change:―but now there being none, you must needs grant this, that they were in him from all eternity. So that all the works of men and Angels be nothing to him, all the joy that he hath from them, he had it from eternity.
Again, all the sins whereby evil men provoke him, and all the punishments that they suffer for sin, it moves not him; but as when a glass falls against the wall, the wall is not hurt, but the glass is broken; so wicked men, they hurt themselves, but he is not moved.
Therefore hence observe, that GOD must needs be most holy, and righteous, and just in all his ways, because there is neither love, nor hatred, nor grief in him, nor joy, which should make crooked, or bend the rule of his will, or alter it in any action. Men are therefore unjust, because in all that they do, there is something that bends their wills this way, or that way, they are capable of love, joy, grief:―but GOD, seeing he is capable of none of these, therefore he must needs be most just and righteous in all his works. Therefore whatsoever he doth, though thou seest no reason for it, yet justify thou him in all; when thou seest him overthrowing the Churches, denying his grace to many thousands, and the like, yet do thou justify him in all his ways:―because there is no grief or trouble can come to him, as to the creature, therefore he must needs be holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works.
If this be so, then this will also follow, then all the decrees, all the counsels, and all the acts of his will, that ever were in him, they were in him from all eternity:―that is, there is not a vicissitude of counsels, thoughts and desires upon the passages of things in the world, as there is in men; for then he should be subject to change:―for this is a sure rule, Whatsoever is under different terms, there is a change in it; he is now, that which he was not before; and if there were any instant, in which GOD should will one thing which he did not another time, he should be subject to change. Therefore look back to all eternity, in your imaginations & thoughts, as in the making of the world; all those acts, those counsels that he executed upon men, they were in him from everlasting.
Now, I come to uses for practise:―and we will make such uses as the Scripture doth make of this point. The first is this.
In 1 Sam:15:28, 29. And Samuel said unto Saul, The Lord hath rent the kingdome of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thee:―and also the strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent:―for he is not a man that hee should repent. If GOD be unchangeable, take heed then, lest he come to this, that he cast thee off, as he did Saul:―for if ever he do it, he will never repent, he will never alter, he will never retract his decree. Saul lived, you know, many years after, for it was in the beginning of his reign; and yet because the will of GOD was revealed clearly to him, he was bid by a clear command; Go and kill all the Amalekites, and leave not any of them alive:―saul now had a heart contemning GOD in his commandment, therefore also GOD came to a resolution and decree, to cast him off:―though Saul lived many years after, yet you could see no change in him, there was no alteration in his outward condition:―but, saith he, and it is most fearful, God doth not repent:―it is not with him as it is with man, for he may be intreated and may repent; but the Lord is not as man that he should repent. Consider this, you that have clear commandments from GOD, you that have been told that you ought to be conscionable in your calling, that you ought to pray in your families, if you will be still breaking the Lord's will, and live idly in your calling, and rebelliously sin against GOD, living as if there were no GOD in the world; take heed lest the Lord reject you; and when he hath done it, consider that he is an unchangeable God, and that all his decrees are immutable. Consider that place, He swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. It was not long after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, yet ten times they provoked him, before he declared this resolution, and many of them lived forty years after:―but because many of them did see clearly that it was the will of GOD, they did see his miracles and his works that he had done amongst them, and yet because they still rebelled, he swore in his wrath that they should never enter into his rest. It is a fearful case, when GOD shall do this, (as he doth it:) Even all you that hear me this day, there is a time, I am persuaded, when the Lord pronounceth such a decree against such a man, saying, I have rejected him:―yet no man sees it, no not he himself, but he comes to Church, and hears the word from day to day. But yet remember that GOD is unchangeable; for, you see, the Jews in Jeremy's time, they lived under Jeremy's Ministry almost twenty years, but yet at the last he rejected them, and he would not be intreated, though Jeremy and the people did pray to him. There are three places for it:―jer.7:16. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift thou up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me, for I will not heare thee. But what if the Jews were moved by the calamity when it came, should cry, and be importunate with the Lord, would not their tears move him? No, saith he:―jerem:11:14. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift thou up a cry or prayer for them:―for I will not heare them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.
But what if they fast and pray? No; if they do that, I will not hear them. Jer:14:11, 12. Then GOD said unto me, pray not for this people for their good:―when they fast, I will not heare their cry; when they offer a burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them, but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. When the day of death comes, when the time of sickness and extremity comes, then you will cry, and cry earnestly:―but GOD shall say to you then, the time was, when I cried to you by the Ministers, and you would not hear:―nay, you slighted and mocked them, and you would not hear them, I will also mocke and laugh at your destruction. Prov:1:26. Do not think this is a case that seldom comes, it is done every day, continually upon some. There is a double time:―a time of preparing and trying before this unchangeable decree come forth. Zeph:2:1, 2. Gather your selves together, yea gather together, O nation not desired, before the decree come forth, before the day passe, as the chaffe, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you. And there is a time, when the decree is past; and when this is not past, there is a door of hope opened:―but when the decree is come forth, then you are past hope.
But how shall I do to know this?
Beloved, never an Angel, nor I, nor any creature can tell you; you see that he took Saul at the beginning of the kingdom, when he was young and strong; he took the Jews at the beginning of Jeremy's preaching; only the use that you are to make of it is this:―take heed of neglecting God, or good admonitions, take heed of contemning the word from day to day, and saying, that I will repent hereafter; for the Lord perhaps will not give thee a heart to repent, he will not hear you, as he said before, though you cry never so much to him, as in time of extremity you are likest to do.
The second use I take out of Rom:11:28, 29. As concerning the Gospell, they are enemies for your sake:―but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father's sake. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. The meaning of it is this:―saith the Lord, I have cast away the Jews, and they are now enemies for the Gospel's sake, that is, that the Gospel might come sooner to you; they have rejected it, that upon their refusal, it might come to you Gentiles; they are enemies and cast off; yet they are beloved for their father's sake; that is, in regard of the promise that I made to their father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and in regard of that covenant, I will not alter; not, saith he, to all the Jews, but those whom I have elected, so far as my covenant reacheth, with whom I have made it. Do not think that there is any change of the Lord toward them, For the gifts and calling of the Lord, that is, the calling of them by the work of the Spirit, and the gifts of saving grace, that he hath bestowed upon the elect Jews, they are without all repentance, there is no change in them. Then, if ever thou art in covenant with God, and hast this seal in thy soul, that there is a change wrought in thee by the covenant, then thy election is sure:―and be sure God will never alter it, for he is unchangeable. This thou must consider, that thou maist have strong consolation. Beloved, our consolation, if it be upon any thing, but upon GOD that is unchangeable, it is weak, and twenty things may batter it, and overthrow it:―but when it is grounded upon the immutability of his councell, it is called in Heb.6:18. strong consolation, so that all the Devils in hell, all temptations in the world, and all the objections that our own hearts can make cannot batter it; for it is built upon the lowest foundation, even upon the unchangeable God. So that this doctrine is for comfort to all the Saints of God. Therefore consider thou, whether thou art in the state of grace, whether thou hast made the match with Jesus Christ, if ever there was a covenant between Christ, and thy soul.
But how shall I know it, you will say? Did you ever come to this, as to say, I am content to be divorced from, and to part with all things, with every lust, and to be content to follow him through all his ways, and to bear every cross? yet this is not enough; Did there follow hereupon a general change within thy heart, and a new heart, and a new spirit given thee? otherwise it is but lip-labour, a thought only that passeth through the mind, and therefore was never any such actual agreement between Christ and thee. But if there were any such change, then thou maist comfort thy self; for God is unchangeable, and this covenant, it is an everlasting covenant. Consider that it is every where called so:―isay 55:3. it is said to be an everlasting covenant, because it is founded upon the sure mercies of David:―god gave Saul mercies as well as David, God tells him that he shall have the kingdom, if he will walk in his ways; but Saul started out of the ways of God, and so God performed his part, but yet the covenant was broke, because Saul performed not his part. And as it was with Saul, so it was with the people of Israel; because they broke the covenant on their parts, God also broke his. David started out of the way, as well as Saul:―but they were sure mercies that were promised him, for it was an everlasting covenant of mercy. Therefore you must know this, that there is a two-fold covenant:―first, a single covenant, such as GOD makes with children when they are baptised, which is this; If you will believe and repent, and walk in my ways, you shall be saved:―now if they break the condition, GOD is freed, he is not bound any further. Secondly, a double covenant, to perform both parts; which is this; If you will believe, and repent, you shall be saved; I began the work, and I will finish it:―here is not only a covenant on God's part, to be our father, but on our parts also, as in the other, but GOD doth not only promise on his part, but makes a covenant to inable us to perform the conditions on our part:―and therefore it is called a double covenant. And it is impossible that this covenant should be broken, for then GOD should break it himself, (for he is ingaged for both parts;) and so be changeable, if he should not give thee a new heart, and keep thee from the first day of thy regeneration till death. Therefore it is an everlasting covenant, and the fruits of it are sure mercies; it is a double covenant, and therefore cannot be changed. And it is called, Compassions that fail not:―why are they called so? to shew the unchangeableness of this covenant.
But you will say, what if I fall into sin? I will forgive them, saith the Lord. Oh, but lusts do rebel, old lusts, and new:―but, saith the Lord, I will mortify them, and give you grace to overcome them. Oh, but grace is subject to decay:―but I will renew it, saith GOD. If thy sins and lusts should exceed his mercies, then they should fail; but they cannot:―and therefore they are called compassions that fail not.
Besides, consider this, that the covenant is made in Jesus Christ. There are two Adams, he made a covenant with both:―with the first Adam, he made a covenant, as with the common root of all mankind; but Adam broke the covenant, and so did all his members. But there is a second Adam, and all that are saved, are members of him as truly as we are of the first Adam:―and he kept the covenant, and therefore if he stand, they shall stand also.
Besides, consider that he makes this Covenant as to sons, and not as to servants. To the servant the Master saith; Do my work faithfully, and thou shalt have thy wages, if not, I will turn thee out of my doors:―but with his Son it is not so, he abideth in the house for ever; if he fall into sin, he corrects and nurtures him, but yet he keeps him in his house for ever.
But what use is there of this Doctrine?
There is this end for it; were it not for this Doctrine, thou couldest never love God with a sincere and perfect love:―for I ask thee this question, canst thou love him with a perfect love, whom thou thinkest may sometime become thine enemy? It is a saying, Amare tanquam aliquando osurus, is the very poison of true friendship. But now, when thou knowest that God is knit to thee by an unchangeable bond, that he is a friend whom thou maist build upon for ever, whom thou maist trust:―this makes thy heart to cleave to him, as Paul saith, I know whom I have trusted, this makes thy heart to fasten upon him, and there is no scruple of love, which would be, if there were a possibility of change.
Besides, what makes a man to depart from his profession? Because he thinks to get a better portion:―but when thou hast this portion sure; Christ, and heaven sure, why shouldest thou let it go. Heb:10:23.
Besides, endeavors never fail, till hope fails:―and therefore when thou art sure that thy work is not in vain in the Lord, it is that which makes thee constant, and immovable in well-doing. And therefore the use is, to make us have strong consolation in the Lord, and to do his work abundantly28, to do that which we are exhorted to do; to cleave to the Lord without separation. And this we cannot do, except we were sure of him:―and that you may know by this, that he is an unchangeable God, and the gifts of his calling are without repentance.
THE FOURTEENTH SERMON
EXODUS 3:13-14. — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
WHEN men hear that GOD is thus unchangeable, that when he hath rejected any, he never retracts his decree; this objection may be made. For what end is it then to pray, to endeavor a change of life, or to repent, for if there be such an unresistable decree past against me, what hope is there?
Before I come to a particular answer to this, I will premise this two things in general.
First, you know, that in other things there is an unchangeable Decree, as there is an unalterable Decree concerning the time of men's death, and yet no man for this doth cease to eat, or to take Physic:―so there is an unchangeable Decree concerning the success of every business under the Sun, yet we do not forbear to take counsel, and to use the best means to bring our enterprises to pass:―and so there is an unchangeable Decree concerning the salvation of men, concerning giving grace, or denying grace to them; and you can no more take an argument from hence, to give over endeavours, than you can in the former.
2. Though there be an unchangeable Decree past upon men, when GOD hath rejected them, and GOD will not alter it; yet this Decree is kept secret, and no man knows it:―therefore there is a door of hope opened, to stir up men to endeavor. Indeed if the Decree were made known, and revealed to us, then it were in vain, then there were no place for endeavours:―but seeing it is not so, therefore there is a place for hope, and for endeavours which arise from hope.
These things being premised, we will now come to a particular answer of this objection.
First, if thou doest pray, thou shalt change GOD and his carriage toward thee, though he be unchangeable. For if a man be rejected as Saul was, and as the Jews were, and as those in Rom:1. who were given up to a reprobate mind; if he be so rejected, he is not able to pray, or repent, or to seek to GOD or to desire to go about in good earnest to seek any change of life:―for if he were able to do it, he was sure to speed. Therefore if thou doest pray in truth, thou shalt prevail, thou art sure to have mercy at his hand; for it is a great sign that he hath not given thee over, that no such unchangeable decree is past against thee:―therefore it is no doctrine of discouragement. Indeed it is a doctrine of great terror to those, whose hearts do not tremble at it, that let such a doctrine slide a way as water doth off a stone, and not sink into their hearts at all:―but to a man that saith, I would repent, and pray, and change the course of my life, if there were any hope; I can say this to thee, that if thou doest pray, thou shalt be accepted; for GOD hath styled himself, that he is a GOD hearing prayers; and except he were changeable, he must needs be ready to hear thee, if thou seekest to him:―for the Lord is unchangeable in his promises, & thou shalt find him unchangeable towards thee:―but to a man that will not pray, that is set upon evil, and will not be wrought upon, to such a man this is a fearful and a terrible doctrine.
Secondly, though GOD's Decree be unchangeable, yet if thou canst find a change in thy self, it shall go well with thee:―as if a father should take up an unchangeable resolution to disinherit a stubborn and ungracious child, because he is so; if the child should change now and alter his courses, and grow sober, the father may now receive him to mercy, and yet no change in his resolution, but the change is in the son. Or, if a Prince should set down in a law (as a law of the Medes and Persians, that alters not) saying, I will not receive to favour such a rebellious subject, because he is so:―yet if his subject be changed, he may receive him, and yet his decree may be unchangeable, because the change was in the subject, and the decree was grounded upon this, if he did remain so rebellious and stubborn:―so I say to thee, if GOD hath therefore threatened to reject thee, because thou art a stubborn and rebellious wretch, if now thou shalt find a change in thy self, that thy stubborn heart is broken, standing in awe of him, fearing to offend him, or to commit any sin that thou knowest to be a sin, I say, notwithstanding that unchangeableness of his, he cannot but receive thee to mercy. As if a Physician should take up an unchangeable resolution, not to give his patient such restorative physic, because his stomach is foul, so that it will not work, and because he will not receive such purgations whereby he should be prepared for it. But if there be a change in him, if his stomach be clean & fit for it, so that it will work, and he become willing to receive it, if he give it him, the change is not in the Physician, but in the patient. Therefore when you hear this, sit not down discouraged, but rather go and sit alone, and consider of thy sins, and give not over till your heart be broken for them:―and when this is done, be sure that he will receive thee to mercy, for he may be unchangeable in his decree, if the change be in thee. And therefore this Doctrine doth not discourage, but rather stir up, and excite men to change their courses, yea it is the very scope of it.
Again, I add this further; he that saith, to what purpose is it to endeavor, whosoever it is that says so, I would ask that man this question; didst thou ever go about any holy duties, and yet didst find this stop in it, that though thou wouldest do them, thou couldest not be accepted? hadst thou ever a serious resolution to forsake such and such a sin, and the occasions of it, and yet thou didst find such a bar as this, that thou couldest not alter GOD's decree thereby, and for that only reason hast gone on in it? Did ever any man upon his death-bed say so? No man will say so, but it is because he would not. Therefore complain not of the unchangeable decree of GOD, but of the stubbornness of thy heart, that thou wilt not buckle, and come in unto him.
The best way in this Doctrine of the unchangeableness of God's decree of election, is this:―it is good to consider in what manner it is delivered in the Scripture, and to what purpose, and to make that use of it, and then thou shalt be sure not to abuse it. As for example; to what end, and for what occasion is this Doctrine of election delivered? You shall find that it is on this occasion. Rom.9:18, 19. When many of the Jews did not come in, to whom did belong the covenant, and the laws, and the testimonies, this was an objection that was made against the Doctrine of the Gospel; what was the reason that the Jews did not come in, and that his own people were not wrought upon? To answer this objection, the Apostle tells them, that it was not against God's good will, he was able to do it, if it was his pleasure, but, saith he, some hath he chosen, and some not; some he loves, and some he hates; some he hath mercy upon, and some he hardens. So that the scope of the Doctrine is, that God might be magnified, that no objection might be made against the almighty power of GOD, that he was not able to bring them in, that men might not say that they have resisted his will:―and the Apostle reveals it for that purpose, that men might be answered. So that such Doctrines as this, you must consider for what end they are revealed. As for this Doctrine of GOD's unchangeableness, what is the end, why it is revealed? You shall see in Num:23:19. He is not as man that he should repent:―therefore I have blessed Israel, therefore he shall be blessed. This end is, to shew that his favour is an unchangeable favour:―so he hath cursed Saul, and he shall be cursed, 1 Sam:15:29. his decrees are unalterable. As it is Jam:1:17. God is good, and cannot be otherwise, therefore he can tempt no man. Out of all these places it is apparent, that the use of this Doctrine is, that we might tremble at his judgements, and that we might rejoice in his favour with joy unspeakable and glorious:―in a word, that men might know the excellency of the Almighty, and might know and magnify GOD, because constancy and unchangeableness is a property of wisdom. This being the end why it is revealed, it ought to be applied only to this use:―as to come to particulars, which before we did not mention. When we hear that GOD rejected Saul, and will not repent of it, and the Jews, &c. the use that we should make of it is this; If GOD should pass such a decree of rejection upon me, it cannot be changed; therefore I would fear before him, and take heed of that stubbornness and course of disobedience, that may bring that curse upon me, and such a stroke upon my soul; and for this purpose is this doctrine revealed to us. And this use the Apostle makes of it, Heb:3. when he had delivered God's unchangeable decree, declared by his swearing in his wrath, that they should never enter into his rest:―therefore defer not, saith he, while it is called to day, lest that you continuing in a course of rebellion, the door of mercy be shut upon you, and GOD do swear in his wrath, as he did to them, that you shall never enter into his rest. Beloved, there is a double time:―a time of the coming forth of this decree, and a time of preparing and trying, while the door stands open. Therefore take heed that that acceptable time do not pass away, lest thou be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
If GOD be unchangeable, then look whatsoever he hath done in former times, what judgements he hath inflicted, and for what, what mercies he hath shewn, and upon what ground; and thou maist expect the same, because there is no change in him:―therefore go over all the Scripture, and behold what he hath done there, look through all thine own experience, & see what he hath done to thee, & to others, & know that he will do the same to thee, for he is unchangeable. As for example, look what he did to Joab, Shimei, and the house of Saul. You know the sins that they committed; Joab had committed murder, and Shimei reviled David, and Saul slew the Gibeonites against his oath:―though they went on a long time in peace and prosperity, yet because their pardon was not sued out, therefore after many years God called them to an account. As Joab went not to the grave in peace, and Shimei deserved death, and therefore it was brought upon him; and Saul was punished in the blood of his sons, and he was slain himself, as he had slain others in battle. So be thou assured, if there be any sin which thou hast formerly committed, unrepented of, though it be long since, GOD will waken it in due time. So, look what he did to David; he had committed a sin in secret, but the Lord saith, that he will make his punishment to be open, he will do it before the Sun:―so if thou hast committed a sin in secret, take heed lest he bring it to light, he will do to thee, as he did to David; and I say unto thee, that though thou be regenerate, and art one of his elect, yet if thy case be the same with Davids, he will do so to thee, for he is unchangeable. There be two cases wherein the Lord will not spare, but bring judgement upon his own children.
First, in the case of scandal, as David's was:―for though his first sin was secret, yet his second was public, and made the first so too. Therefore though his sin was forgiven him, God tells him that his punishment should be open, and that the sword should not depart from his house.
Secondly, if their sin be not scandalous, yet if it be unrepented of, GOD will even punish his own children. And as GOD deals with secret sins to bring them to light:―so he will do with secret innocency, on the other side also. As Joseph, whose uprightness was in secret, for none did see it but himself; as for his Mistress, she accused him, and was believed:―yet the Lord brought it to light in due season. So he will do thine. Let men keep their credit with GOD, and he will keep their credit with men, let them raise slanders, or what they will:―look how he did with Joseph, so he will deal with thee, for he changeth not.
So look how the Lord hath dealt with wicked men; look how the Lord did deal with them that did meddle with holy things, as Nadab, and Abihu, and Uzzah, and the Bethshemites; you know that he destroyed them all, and that with a present destruction:―so if thou wilt abuse his name, abuse his holy things, and come unto the Sacraments with an uncircumcised heart, he is the same God still, he is as much offended now, and he is as ready to execute his wrath upon thee, as he was then.
So look how he dealt with Saul, with the Jews that came out of Egypt, he swore in his wrath, that they should not enter his rest:―if thou wilt do the same that they did, rebel against him as they did, he will swear in his wrath, that thou shalt never enter into his rest. As he passed his sentence upon Saul, and as he passeth his sentence upon any:―so he will bring it to pass, if thy case be the same, for he is unchangeable
So look how he did deal in John Baptist's time, and as it was with them, Now the axe is laid to the root of the tree, when the Gospel, and the means of grace, and the spring-time of the word began; because they did not regard it then, they were cast off:―the time of their ignorance, God regards not so much; but then he called upon every one to repent, and because they did not come in then, he deferred not his judgement. That upon which I ground this you shall find in two places of Scripture. 2 Pet:2.4. If the LORD did so with the Angels spared not them, saith he, he is the same GOD, and therefore he knows how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgement, and especially those that are unclean:―the ground of it is his unchangeableness. The other place is in 1 Cor:10. You know what he did to the Israelites, saith he, he will do the same to you, therefore do you take heed, that you do not commit fornication, as some of them committed, and died in the wilderness, &c.
Only here is this caution diligently to be remembered, which we must add to all this that hath been spoken. It is sure that whensoever it is the same case, he will do the same thing:―though his judgements are different, the time different, the ways and means are different.
As for example, he stroke Uzzah presently, and so he did Gehazi, and Nadab, and Abihu; yet to others there may be difference in time:―to these he did it presently, to others it may be he will do it many years after. Again, he stroke them with death, but it may be there is another kind of judgement reserved for thee; as it may be he will give thee up to hardness of heart, or the like.
Again, so it is in shewing mercy, for the rule is as true therein also:―for he shews mercy to some this way, and to others that way, and he humbles men after diverse manners; and so some men he punisheth for their sins in this life, some he reserves for another world:―again some he strikes presently, and some he forbears with much patience.
And this you must remember in both these, that though he doth the same things, yet he doth them in a different manner, time, and way:―he hath diverse judgements and afflictions; and as there are diverse means to attain to the same end, as some may ride, some go on foot, and yet all come to one journey's end:―so the judgements and afflictions may be different, yet the end the same; and that this caution being taken in, thou maist be sure, that the same judgements that he did execute in former time, he is ready to execute them still. As he hath given them up to open sins, that did neglect him in secret, so he will do to thee; as he hath stricken some men in their sins, so the same wrath is gone out against and remains for thee, if thou do not repent and turn to him:―for the kinds, as whether by sickness, or death, &c. these we cannot determine of; the ways of GOD are infinite, and exceeding diverse, unsearchable, and past finding out:―but though in regard of his particular ways it doth not follow, he did thus to this man, therefore he will do the very same to thee; yet because he did this to them, he will do the same thing to thee, in the same or in a different manner.
So look what he hath done to all his Saints, he hath blessed them, and heard them. But thou wilt say, I have prayed, and I am not heard. I say to thee, if thy case be the same, thou shalt be heard. To this end are those places:―the Lord's hand is not shortened, that he cannot save, nor his eare heavie, that it cannot heare29:―this is the scope of the Prophet; as if he should say, you wonder why you are not heard, that you have not the same success in prayer that they had, but the case is not the same, saith he:―they repented, but you do not; you are mistaken, for you are yet in your sins; I am as strong to help you, and as ready, and if I do it not, it is because the case is different:―your sins have made a separation between me and you. Which implies, that GOD will hear if the case be the same. Only remember this, that GOD may defer it something long before he hears you, yet he will do it in the end.
If unchangeableness be proper to GOD (for so you must understand it, proper to him, and common to no other) then learn to know the difference between him and the creatures.
There be diverse branches of this use:―as, First if this be so, then every creature is, and must be changeable, and if so, then take heed, that you do not expect more of the creature, than is in it, for this will raise our affections to the creature, and so cause grief and vexation in the end:―and indeed the forgetfulness of this changeableness in the creature, and unchangeableness in GOD is the cause of all our crosses and sorrow in outward things we meet with. There be these degrees to it.
For, first, The forgetfulness of the mutability of the creature causeth us to expect more from it than is in it. Secondly, This expectation raiseth our affections unto the creature:―hence it is, that we set our affections too much upon them, and delight too much in them. Thirdly, Strong affections, when they are set upon the creature, do always bring forth strong afflictions:―for what is the reason of all the grief, that we undergo from day to day? Is it not, because our affections are set on changeable objects, upon the creatures? And therefore when they are changed, then there is a change in the mind:―whereas if thou didst look alone in the unchangeable GOD, this would keep thee from worldly care and sorrow, this would preserve in thee evenness and equability of mind. Therefore take heed of forgetting this, that to be unchangeable, is proper to God alone; Therefore set thy affections upon none but him:―and if thou wilt do so, thou shalt always enjoy a constant security of mind, as if a man were in the upper region, where there is no change of weather, when as below here, there is one day foul, another fair; so that if a man could live with GOD, and walk with him, and have his conversation in heaven, he should not be subject to such change:―whereas if a man set his mind on earthly things, he shall be still subject to perturbations and unevenness. All grief of mind comes from hence, that thou lookest for unchangeableness from the creature, where it is not to be had. If thou wouldest look up to God, thou shalt find all things a like there, there is no change with him. When an earthen pot is broken, it doth not much trouble you, for you remember it to be but an earthen pot:―now every thing here below, all your friends, wife, children, they are but earthen vessels, and the consideration of this would exceedingly help you, if you would settle it in your heart. Therefore say, what a fool was I? I did not remember they were but a flower, a vapour, and a shadow:―for so the Scripture calls them. And shall a man take on, because a vapour is scattered, and a flower withered, and a shadow vanished? Therefore remember, that to be unchangeable is proper to God alone:―and to be changeable is as proper to the creature, as to him to be immutable.
Secondly, you may see from hence, how to help that vanity to which the creature is subject:―for if unchangeableness be the property of God, thou must not seek a stability from the creature, but consider that it hath no further in it, than God is pleased to communicate the same to it. Therefore to go to him to whom unchangeableness belongs:―for as mutable as they be, yet if he will make thy friends to be stable, or thy wealth, it shall be so. Therefore the only way is, to go to him, to make those things firm, which otherwise are unconstant. The love of a friend is unconstant, for he may die, the breath is in his nostrils, and if he do live, yet his thoughts may perish, and his affections alter:―so that they shall fail thee as a land flood doth in summer, as Job saith. It dries up in summer time, and yet that is the time of thirst; and so will they fail thee in time of need:―and the like may be said of all things else, so that he whose comfort doth depend upon them, hath but a dependent felicity, which is like the motion of mills, and ships, which cease when the water or wind fails them. But yet as mutable as they are, God can put a constancy unto them. Apply this therefore to thy self. Thou livest now, and art in health and wealth, in such and such a place, and such circumstances as may continue it:―the only way to establish thee in all this is, to go to God, and to beseech him to put a stability into thy condition. For the creature, as it is made of nothing, and is built upon a foundation of nothing:―so it is apt to return to nothing. And remember this, that the more retired, and weaned, and fearful thy affections are about any thing, so that thou canst say in good earnest; if God will, I shall enjoy them to day, and next day, but his will I know not, I know not how long I shall enjoy them; if thou canst say thus, thou shalt hold them the longer, and the faster:―for that is a sign that thou dependest upon God, and not on the creature, that thou trustest him, and art not fastened to it.
If this be so, then unchangeableness is an excellency in him:―for all his Attributes are exceeding excellent. Then if thou wouldest judge of any thing in the world, thou must take this as a measure by which thou maist prize and esteem it:―look how changeable it is, so much the worse it is; if it be good, the more immutable, the better it is, for all changeableness commeth from weakness. Therefore learn to value it so:―and you shall find this of much use. As we may see in the heavens:―it is said that they are vain, because they waxe olde as doth a garment, but thou art the same, Psal:102:26, 27. Go through every thing glorious in the world, glorious Churches, they are subject to change; as Jerusalem, the glory of all the earth, it is ruinated, and brought nothing. Take men that are most eminent, yet because they are subject to change, by death or by passions, there is an unevenness in them:―though they live here like Gods in their glory. Therefore magnify no man, but labour to be persuaded of thy self, as a man. I need not speak to you of riches, they take themselves wings and fly away; nor of credit and honour, they are in the power of them that give them:―whatsoever is changeable, according to the mutability of it, so value it. But I press the contrary. Look upon the things that are not changeable, and labour to prize them. Thou shalt find saving grace to be unchangeable, though it may be impaired in degree, and may recoil to the root, and may not bud forth as at other times, yet it is unchangeable, it shall never be taken away:―so spiritual life is unchangeable, when that begins, then the other shakes off, even as old nails do; when new grow under them:―therefore this should teach us to value it much.
So the word of GOD is an unchangeable thing, Isay 40.8. The grasse withereth, the flower fadeth:―but the word of the Lord shall stand for ever. So Matt.5. Heaven and earth shall passe away, but my word shall not passe. Now what use should we make of this? Then study the word more than any thing in the world besides. There is much learning in the world, and there are many creatures:―now all other knowledge is of the creatures, and that vanisheth away with them, but the word of God shall not pass, the word endures for ever. Therefore look what truths thou canst get out of the word, which may build up the inward man, look what profit thou canst get from it, that shall remain for ever:―therefore thou shouldest prize it much, get it plenteously in thy heart, in the wisdom and power of it. We have many employments in this life:―but that which is bestowed upon unchangeable things, which shall never alter, that is the best time spent.
Lastly, all the good works thou doest, and all the evil works of unregenerate men unrepented of, shall remain for ever. Look what good works thou doest in the world, they shall remain with thee for ever, they shall be had in continual remembrance. Therefore thou shouldest labour to be abundant in good works, that is, to be sure to serve GOD whatsoever thou doest. If thou be servant or a labouring man; when thou doest thy works out of obedience to him, even those works shall remain. So look in any thing that thou hast done for Christ, all these things shall remain for ever:―what faithful prayers soever thou hast made, or whatsoever thou hast suffered for Christ, what pains thou hast taken in preaching, or in repenting, or in advancing the cause of C H R I'S T, these shall be had in everlasting remembrance. So look what sins unrepented of thou hast committed. The sins of unregenerate men shall also remain. All the praise that comes from any action, and the pleasure of it, that passeth away, and comes to nothing:―but look what sinfulness there is in any work, that remains, and if thou repent not of it, that sin shall be reckoned upon thy score; and what uprightness soever there is in any work, that shall remain. Therefore learn from hence to prize and value only those good things that are immutable, and proportionably to fear and shun the evil.
The IMMUTABILITY of GOD
THE FIFTEENTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-14. — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
AS we are to judge other things by the mutability of them:―so learn to judge of thy self, of thine own spirit, by that constancy that thou findest in well-doing, or that mutability and unconstancy that thou art subject to. If a man would make a censure of himself, let him consider, that the nearer he comes to unchangeableness in well-doing, the better he is, and the stronger he is:―again, the more mutable, the weaker. Thou art to judge of thy self, as we use to esteem of one another. Now let a man be unconstant, one that we can have no hold of, that is as fickle as the weather, that will resolve on such a thing to day, and change his mind to morrow:―whatever learning or excellency, or what kindness soever there is in this man, we regard him not, because he is an unconstant man. Now learn thou to do so with thy self, to ask thy self that question:―hast thou not had many resolutions, that never came to any endeavors? Hast thou not begun many good works, and never finished them? Hast thou not found that property of folly in thee, To begin still to live? Stultitia semper incipit vivere? If this be thy case, learn to abhor thy self for it, and to be ashamed:―for all is nothing, till we come to a constant and unchangeable resolution:―so that we come to set it down with our selves as an inviolable law:―this is a duty, and I will do it, whatsoever it cost me; this is a sin, and I will avoid it, whatsoever come of it. This is a resolution that Daniel takes up, Dan:1.8. He determined in his heart, that he would not be defiled with the King's meat:―and such a resolution they were exhorted to in Acts 11:23. With full purpose of heart, to cleave unto God. It is translated, full purpose:―but the words are, with a decree and full resolution of heart; τῆ προθέσει τας παρδιας προσμλυέν τῷ κυειίῳ That is, when a man doth not lightly put himself upon an holy course; but takes up a strong resolution to go through with it; such a resolution as Paul's was, Acts 20:22. he knew what bands did wait for him, as for thieves it was no matter, he was bound in the spirit, All is nothing:―i care not, says he, so that I may fulfill the Ministry committed to me. Such a resolution we should have. And according as thou findest thy self able to do this, so thou shouldest judge of thy self. A man that is on and off in his ways, Salomon compares him to a City whose walls are broken down, that is, if a temptation come, and set upon him, it hath free entrance, and the temptation comes in, because his soul was without guard and ward. But on the other side, a man that doth not stand trifling with the Lord, to say, I wish I could, and I am sorry that I cannot, but he will go through a good course, such a man is like to a City which hath walls round about it; that if a temptation come, there is something to keep it out. I say, as thou art to judge of other things by the mutability of them:―so of thy self. There is nothing better than to have a peremptory resolution in well-doing, to be constant therein, and there is nothing worse than to be peremptory in evil.
If God be immutable, then thou knowest whither to go to get this constancy, to make thyself unchangeable, and immutable and constant in well-doing. For, for what end hath he revealed to us that he is unchangeable? is it not for our use? Sure it is, even to teach us, that when we find ourselves subject to mutability, we should go to God, and beseech him to establish our hearts. No creature is able to do it. Every creature is mutable, only so far unchangeable, as he maketh it to be so; he only is originally unchangeable; all friends and all other things in the world are no further unchangeable than he communicates it to them, (as was said before:) and the same is true of thine own heart, and of thy purposes. Therefore thou must think with thy self, and make this use of the unchangeableness of God, that he only can make thee unchangeable. Therefore when a man wants direction, he must go to GOD:―Jam. 1:5. he is only wise, and can shew a man what to do, when he is in a strait. And upon the same ground when thou seest that thou art unconstant, go to him that is unchangeable, that can make thee constant; and desire him to fix thy quick-silver, to balance thy lightness, and that he would settle and fill that vain and empty heart of thine with something that may stay and establish it. There is no other way:―all the means that can be used, all the motives that can be put upon a man, all the reasons that can be brought, are not able to make us constant, till GOD work it in us, and for us. Therefore the only way is to give GOD the glory of his immutability, to go to him in a sense of thine own unconstancy, and say so; Lord thou hast revealed thy self to be unchangeable, that we may seek it of thee, and find it in thee, thou alone art originally and essentially so:―no creature is any further than thou doest communicate it to it. Therefore do thou, LORD, make me stable and constant in well-doing. Grace it self of it self is not immutable, for it is subject to ebbing and flowing:―and the reason why we do not quite lose it, is not from the nature of grace, as if it were immutable, but because it comes from and sticks close to Christ. Therefore go to him; he is the root that communicates sap and life to thee, because thou abidest ingrafted in him.
But the Lord doth this by means:―it is not enough to pray, and to seek to him, to make me unchangeable, (so much as human infirmity can reach) but I must use the means also.
It is true, he doth it by means:―and if you say, what are those means? I will shew it you briefly.
You shall find that there are two causes of unconstancy, or mutability, or sickness:―and if you find out what the causes are, you will easily see the way to help it.
First, Strength of lust:―that causeth men to be unconstant. James 4.8. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purge your heart you wavering-minded:―what is the reason, that the Apostle bids them to purge their hearts, that were wavering-minded, but because that corruption, and those unruly affections that are within, cause us to be unconstant, to waver, even as an arrow shot with a strong hand, that the wind makes to fly unconstantly:―so a man that resolves upon a good course, and takes to himself good purposes and desires, he having some lust in him, these thrust in, and make him unstable; therefore purge your hearts you wavering-minded. As if he should say, the reason why you are not stable, is, because you are not cleansed from these corruptions, which are the cause of this unconstancy. So Psal.5.9. There is no faithfulnesse in their mouth, their inward part is very filthinesse, &c. The reason why there is no constancy in their speech, life, and actions is, because within they are very corruption:―that is, the sin that is within, is the cause of all the wavering that is in the life of man; were it not for it, there would be no such unevenness in our lives. Therefore if this be the cause of it, there is no way to help it, but to get this corruption mortified, to be cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit, as much as may be.
Take a man that says he will amend his course, that intends to be diligent in his calling, and thinks not to turn to such evil courses, but to serve God with a perfect heart:―observe now what is the reason that this man breaks his purposes, and falls off again; it is, because there is some strong lust, that comes like a gust of a contrary wind, and breaks him off from his course. Therefore the first way is, to cleanse thy heart, if thou wilt be constant.
The second cause of unconstancy, is weakness; if a man were free from that inward corruption, yet weakness would make a man to be unconstant:―so much weakness, so much unconstancy; and so much strength as a man hath, so much constancy he hath. For what is the reason that man is so fickle? Because the banks of his resolution are so weak to hold out against temptations when they assault him, & he gives over because he is not able to resist them. And this ground I take from 1 Sam:15:29. The strength of Israel will not repent, for he is not as man that hee should repent. By repenting is meant a change:―now you see the reason given why the Lord is not subject to change, he is the strength of Israel. For you shall always find in the Scripture, that such attributes are given to GOD, according to the nature of the work that he hath in hand:―now the reason why the Lord will not repent is, because he is strong.
To make this appear to you, you must know, that three things must concur to make a resolution strong.
First, there must be some reason that must move him.
Secondly, there must be an inclination of the will to it.
Thirdly, it must be often renewed.
First, I say, there must be some reason that must move him:―but if that were all, he would not resolve, therefore he must have an inclination of the will to it; both these, when they concur, they make the resolution up:―when the understanding in convinced, and the will inclined, the understanding saith there is reason for it, and the will saith, it is good, then this makes up the resolution. As first, when a man hath any reason to move him to any action, and it is a strong reason, so that he answers all objections that he meets with, now the resolution continues firm:―but if his reasons be not sufficient, but he meets with objections that are stronger, then the first principle being taken away, the resolution grows flaggy and weak. And so is it in the other also, when a man hath a desire to any thing, if it be so strong, that nothing is stronger than it, that can overtop, and overrule it, then he goes on without any impediment:―but if it be weak, so that a stronger desire can come, and overbalance it, then the second principle is demolished, and there is and end of this resolution. So that let the reason on which we fix it be strong, and let the inclination (which must concur,) be fix’t and strong, and then the resolution will be according.
But I add the third, that there must be a renewing of this:―for though the resolution be well built, yet to make it constant, it must still be renewed. For there are some works, which must have a third and fourth hand to go over them, or else they will fall, and moulder away:―and this is the nature of our resolution also, it is not the resolution of a day or two, that will serve the turn, for the nature of man is subject to such weakness, that except our resolutions be gone over and over again, they shrink and come to nothing. Therefore the thing that causeth unconstancy, is one of these three:―either weakness of reason that sets thee on work, or weakness of the inclination and desire, or else, not renewing of this. Now when you have found out the causes of weakness, you may easily find out the means to make you resolve in well-doing. As
First, Labour to get strong reasons for what you resolve on. The want of this was the cause of the mutability of the second ground. It wanted depth of earth:―that is, the seed was good, and the earth was good, but it was not deep enough, and the strength of the Sun caused it to wither away. So when we shall have good purposes and resolutions, and they have not root enough, that is, when he hath not well examined the thing, so as to be fully convinced of the thing that he undertakes, he is apt to be inconstant in it. And this was the reason of Eve's inconstancy, because she considered not the bottom that she was built upon. On the other side, the Woman of Canaan when she had fixed her faith upon a good ground, she would not be beaten off:―though she could not answer the objection, yet she would not be plucked off. Thou art the Messias, and therefore thou wilt shew mercy:―and then she had need of mercy, for her daughter was sick, and weak, and therefore she would not be driven off, she would take no denial. So is it with all our resolutions when they have this depth of earth. Therefore the best way is, to consider, and forecast the worst. So our Saviour counselleth to suspect the worst:―how canst thou that hast but two hundred, go against him that hath a thousand, so is it in this case. When you shall undertake a good course, and you go out but with weak reasons:―if Satan or a lust come and object stronger reasons, this will make thee give out. Therefore the best way is to forecast the worst, and to outbid the Devil in every temptation. Therefore when he shall come and say, that thou shalt have favour with men, say to him that the favour of GOD is better; if he shall tell thee of riches, and wealth, say that thou shalt have a treasure in heaven:―if he say to thee that thou shalt have rest and pleasure in sin, say to him, that the peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, is far beyond that rest, and pleasure, whatsoever it be:―so in all the temptations on the other hand, it is good to ponder them well, that we may be able to outbid him therein. Whatsoever he doth object, it is one of these two:―either some good that thou shalt have, or some evil. Now consider, that as the love and favour of GOD, is a greater good than all the world can give thee:―so his wrath is a greater evil, than any the world can do to thee.
Secondly, If thou wouldest have thy resolution strong, to break through all impediments, labour to get vehement desires to overtop all other:―that whatsoever comes, yet this may overbalance them.
But how shall I come to get such a desire?
There is no way in the world but this:―labour to be humbled for thy sins, to get a broken heart for them:―for then a man comes to prize grace exceeding much, and worldly things as nothing. For this is a sure rule, When thou feelest thy sins to lie heavy upon thee, then all the things in the world will appear light:―therefore labour to know the bitterness of sin; it is that which sets an edge upon all our spiritual desires:―without this a man doth but cheapen the kingdom of heaven, he doth as the people did with Rehoboam, they expostulated with him about their serving him:―so we do capitulate with the Lord, as it were, and stand upon terms with him, until we are humbled; and then we are ready to take heaven upon any condition. Till a man be thus humbled, his desires are remiss, and weak, and flaggy desires; they raise up great buildings upon no foundation; the foundation is weak and crazy, and so the building comes down. And hence is it, that men put their hand to the plough, and look back again. A scholler30 will serve the Lord, if he may have eminency in gifts, and outward excellency, or some honour in the flesh; but all this while his desires are remiss:―but when he is once humbled, then he will say with Saint Paul, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? and I will do it, whatsoever it is, and whatsoever thou wouldest have me to suffer, I will suffer it. He will take the kingdom of heaven by violence:―and then his resolutions continue constant that way. For what can Satan do to him? will he take away his pleasure from him, his wealth, or his credit? they are things that he hath despised before:―he can take nothing from him, but what he cares not for. It is the bitterness of sin, that makes him now to prize God's love and favour above all things.
Thirdly, thou must renew thy resolution oft:―it is not enough to set the heart in a good frame of grace for a day, or two, or for a month, but thou must have a constant course in doing of it, ever and anon:―as the Dutch men used to do with their banks, that keep them with little cost, because they look narrowly to them; if there be but the least breach, they make it up presently, otherwise the water makes a breach upon them. So thou shouldest do with thy heart:―observe it from day to day, mark what objections come, that thou canst not answer, what lusts and desires do overbalance thee, and learn still to renew thy reasons and resolutions against them:―and this will make thee constant, and firm, and peremptory in well-doing.
NOW I come to next Attribute, and that is, The Greatness of God, or his Infiniteness:―we follow in this rather the rule of the Scripture, than the tract of the Schoolmen, and we insist in those that God doth especially take to him in Scripture.
Now that God takes this Attribute to himself, you shall see in 2 Chron. 2:5. For great is our God above all Gods. Psalm 135:5. For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all Gods. But the place that I would chiefly commend to you is this:―Psalm 145:3. Great is the Lord, and most worthy to be praised:―and his greatnesse is unsearchable. Where you see, that it is an infinite and incomprehensible greatness that the Lord takes to himself. So Psalm 147:5. Great is our God, and of great power:―and his understanding is infinite.
In handling of this, I will shew you these two things.
First, I will shew you how this greatness of God is gathered from the Scripture.
Secondly, I will shew you the reason of it, as I have done in the rest.
The greatness of God is declared to us in the Scriptures by these six things.
First, By the works of his creation. The greatness of the works do shew the greatness of the maker. Isay 40:12. Who hath measured the heavens in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with a spanne, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountaines in scales, and the hills in a ballance? that is, If you would look upon any work, you may judge of the workman by it; if you see a great building, you would conceive it to be made by a man of some power:―now when you look upon the great building of heaven and earth, you may think that he that handles the materials, as an Architect doth handle the stones, and lay them in their place is great:―now the Lord doth put the waters together, as if he held them in his hand; and he measures out the heavens, as a workman measures out the roof:―again, every workman must work by plummet and by weight, now consider the great mountains, saith he, he weighs them in scales, and the hills in a balance:―as this building doth go beyond mans, so doth the greatness of God exceed the greatness of man:―and by this you may take a glimpse of the greatness of the Lord.
Secondly, By the ensigns of his greatness:―the greatness of Princes is set out by those outward signs, which are the declaration of it. Now when the Lord would shew his greatness, you shall see how he expresseth it. Deut.4:36. When he came out of the mount, they heard a great voice, and on the earth there was a great fire:―by that you may know the greatness of God. For why doth he come out with those ensigns, clothed with them, as it were, but that by this you might have a crevice opened to shew you the greatness of God? So when he appeared to Elias, and in his apparitions to Moses, to the Prophets, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. It is said also that his voice was as the sound of many waters; and he was so terrible, that it was a usual saying among the Jews; Who can see God and live? Why so? Because when he appeared, when he shewed any shadow of his greatness, weak flesh could not behold him, but was swallowed up as it were, with the greatness of his Majesty.
Thirdly, By the works of his providence. Ezek:36:23. And I will sanctifie my great Name, which was prophaned among the heathen, which yee hath prophaned in the middest of them, and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. As if he should say; They make no account of me now, but when they shall see me to bring down great Babel, then they shall know and believe that I am a great GOD. So else where in Ezekiel, he compareth Ashur, and Tyre, to a Lion and Eagle, and a Cedar:―and he saith, that he will put a hook into the Lion, and deplume the Eagle, and overtop the Cedar:―that is, he will shew forth his greatness, at that time, when he shall bring down those great nations. So the greatness of GOD is seen in his providence over every thing:―when he shall overthrow a whole kingdom, and a great battle, by a little accident, as great ships are turned about by a little rudder, then his might appears. So in his ruling the winds and seas, and weather, all this shews the greatness of his excellency. Therefore look upon his judgements, and likewise upon his mercies, when you see, how he raiseth men out of the dust &c. All this shews the greatness of God.
Fourthly. It is set out comparatively. To compare him, with the greatest of men, Kings, what are they unto him, who is the King of Kings? Nay, take Nations which are greater, nay take all Nations, you shall see what they are to him. Isa.40:15. Behold the Nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the ballance:―behold, he taketh up the iles as a very little thing, & Lebanon is not sufficient to burn for a burnt offering. All Nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him lesse then nothing and vanity. The very scope of this place is, to show the greatness of God by comparison:―a bucket of water is but a small thing, but the drops that fall from it, they are of no use:―again the dust of the earth is but a small thing, but the dust of the scales that will not so much as turn them, that must needs be exceeding little:―but all the world is not so much to him, as a little dust. Another comparison you shall find in Isa.55. My thoughts are above your thoughts, as the heaven is above the earth. Beyond all things are the thoughts of man; for though Nations be great, yet a man's thoughts go beyond them, notwithstanding the Lord is beyond the scantling, and model that we draw of him in our thoughts, as the heavens are above the earth. When you have thought upon me, as much as you can think; when you have thought me merciful (for that is the thing which he speaks of) yet I am as much more merciful, than you can think of me, as the heavens are above the earth.
Fifthly, The Immenseness, or extent of his being. Jer:23:24. Doe not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? When we consider, that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, that largeness presented to our minds, will shew his greatness to us.
Sixthly, His holiness shews his greatness. Look as men keep a greater distance from others, (as Princes do) so we esteem them greater:―now his holiness is nothing else:―but his separation and distance from every creature. Every thing is holy, because it is separated; it is common, because it is not sequestred from other uses:―now GOD is separated, none may come near him; as the Cherubims cover their faces before him; and when he was in the Mount, none may approach near to him; if they did, they were to be thrust through with a dart:―he dwells in light inaccessible:―and therefore the great holiness of GOD shews the greatness of Majesty.
The reasons of this Infiniteness are these.
First, from this very place, I AM hath sent me unto you; I AM, shews that he hath a being from himself, if so, then he had no cause. Now from hence, as in that he had no efficient nor final cause, he is eternal:―so in that he hath neither matter nor form, he is infinite and incomprehensible. And that is the reason that he hath an unlimited essence, because all limitation proceeds either from the matter, or from the form:―the form is contracted by the matter:―again, the matter would be indefinite, but it is contracted and bounded by the form. Now GOD hath neither matter nor form, nor nothing like it:―therefore he is infinite. All the creatures they have their several kinds:―the Angels they have no matter, yet they have something in them answerable to matter and form, wherein they agree, and disagree with other creatures:―and therefore they are one kind of creatures, and man another; which shews that they have forms to bound and limit them, and that the essence of the Angels goes so far, and no farther; and so the essence of man, &c. But in GOD there is no similitude of any such thing, there is no Esse receptum, there is no limits in him, nothing to bind his essence:―whereas they are Entra in a certain kind, he is simpliciter Ens, and therefore without all limitation, and so must be immense.
Secondly, He is omnipotent and almighty, he can do whatsoever he will:―whence I reason. If he have an infinite power, it must needs proceed from an infinite cause; for as a thing is in working, so it is in being:―therefore when his power is infinite, that must needs be infinite in which it is rooted, and from whence it proceeds.
Thirdly, That which is beyond all that we can conceive is infinite:―but GOD is so, for if any thing could be imagined more perfect than he is, that should be GOD and not he:―and therefore in Scripture, whatsoever we can conceive of him, yet he is beyond it. Rom:11. His wayes are past finding out; and it is said, that he dwells in light inaccessible.
Fourthly, Consider it from his works:―you see that he hath made the world of nothing. Whence I reason:―if you would heat the air, it is more easily heated than water, because the passive power is nearer the active; and if you would heat water, you may more easily heat it than the earth:―now according to the resistance, according to the passive power, such is the active:―if the passive power lie open, the active power is less, that works upon it:―now when the passive power is infinitely low, then the active power must be infinitely high, and answerable to it. Therefore when GOD comes to make something of nothing, the active power must be exceeding high, because the passive power is so low:―and therefore requires an infinite active power to make something of nothing, and consequently, he must be infinite, in whom this power is seated.
If he be so great a GOD, he that is our God, the GOD, who is our Father, if he be thus great and incomprehensible, learn you to know what you are then:―that you have an infinite God to maintain, defend and uphold you, in all that you have to do, or suffer for his will. This will cause you to take great minds to your selves, to have a holy magnanimity in you:―and the consideration of this Attribute is of great use, to make Christians come to have great minds. For what is it that makes the mind great? It is the greatness of the object:―whence it is that Kings have great minds, because of their great Kingdoms; and great men have great thoughts, because of the great objects that they have to look upon. Now therefore, if thou wouldest look upon the great God, if thou wouldest consider that he is thy Father, and that all that he hath is thine, this would likewise make thy mind exceeding great:―it would take from us that pusillanimity, and narrowness of mind, which we are subject to; and it is of great moment it should do so. A little mind though it be good, yet because it is a little vessel, it can be and receive but a little good; whereas when the mind is great it is capable of great grace, great actions, and great endeavours:―therefore we should get our minds to be enlarged, by considering the greatness of GOD, and our interest in it. For want of this it is, that Christians are apt to be led aside into by-ways by the power of great men; because they think that they are greatly graced when they are lookt after by great men; when as if they did know their own greatness, that they are Sons of GOD, and heirs of heaven, this goes beyond it. Hence likewise it is, that men are so easily wrought upon by pleasure, profit, and the like, that they are ready to transgress:―why is it? It is, because they do not know what they are born to, that the great GOD of heaven is theirs.
So what is the reason, that the praise, and credit of men, do so much affect you? but because we have so little minds? whereas, if God were known in his greatness, what would the praise of great men be to the praise of the great GOD? This would give us much strength against these temptations. And hence it is that young students that are provided for, have their minds lift up to vanities:―whereas if their minds were great, they would despise them, and labour to serve the great GOD with their strength and parts.
And so men that are grown up, if they have estate enough, they leave the high and honorable calling of the Ministry; the reason is, because they overvalue these outward things:―whereas, if a man had, a great mind, nothing would be great to him.
Hence also it is, that men are so stirred with variety of conditions; when prosperity comes, it shakes them one way; when crosses and adversity comes, it troubles them on the otherside:―and what is the reason, but because they seems great to them:―which appears from hence, because they stir up great affections. Therefore the way, to walk even in both conditions, is, to get this greatness of mind:―for it is the weakness of mind, which causeth a man to be over affected with these things, to rejoice too much in the one, and to be too much affected with the other. Even as, we see, a weak eye, as the eyes of Owls and Bats, cannot endure a great light; and a weak brain cannot bear strong drink:―but a strong eye, as the eye of an Eagle, can endure the greatest light:―so a strong mind, it will endure great grace and disgrace, with the same temper, it will bear all well enough, it knows how to want and how to abound; because he hath a great and a strong mind:―whereas others have their eyes dazzled, and their brains made giddy as it were with the favour or loss of great men.
Hence also it is that we are so busy about worldly things, dignity, and riches, &c. It is true we should seek after these things, but why do we do it tanto conatu? It was Paul's greatness of mind, that made him ambitious to preach the Gospel; to serve tables, and such like, were small matters, he would not look after them:―so if we had great minds, we should seek for grace, and how to increase in it, how to live an useful, and painful, and profitable life. Worldly things are too little for the mind to bestow it self upon; which would be so to us, if we could see GOD in his greatness, and our interest in it. Men of little minds and pusillanimous do as the Bramble; which reckoned it as a great matter to reign over the trees:―whereas the Vine and the Fig tree esteemed it not so, but chose rather to serve GOD and man in their sweetness and fatness.
Hence it is that men are so much affected with the injuries of men on the one side, and the fears of men on the other side:―all this ariseth from the littleness of the mind. Saint Paul, Gal.5:12. the Galatians had done him great injury, yet saith he, Brethren, be as I am, for I am as you are:―you have done me great injury, but I esteem it not, you have not hurt me at all. For, a man enlarged to a holy greatness of mind, all the injuries put upon him by men, seem small to him:―when men are full of complaints, and say, they cannot bear such disgrace and slander, and reproach; this doth not proceed from the greatness, but from the weakness of their minds. Men think it indeed greatness of mind, not to pass over these things, not to put up an injury:―but surely it is a note of a great mind, to overlook them all. So it is true on the other side, not to regard the praise of men:―the Philosopher could say, that the magnanimous man did not regard the praise of common men, because he was above them; and he is but a weak man, that would regard the praise of children, because they are not able to judge:―so he hath but a weak mind, that regards the praise of worldly men; for they are too little for him to regard, if he did see GOD in his greatness. This made Paul to say, that he did not care for man's day, let them say what they will by me, better or worse, I regard it not. (There is indeed a meet regard to be had of them; but if they come into competition with God, then they must bear no weight at all:) and thus because disgrace and disparagement, &c. seemed but little to him, he despised them all.
So from this weakness of mind ariseth that cowardliness which we see often in men. Whence is it that men are so fearful to hold out the light of a holy profession? is it not from hence, that they are pusillanimous, that they do too much esteem the face of men? A Lion, because he knows himself to be a Lion, if the dogs bark, he walks in the street and regards them not; he turneth not his head aside for them:―so a magnanimous man, that knows himself in GOD's favour, will pass by the obloquies of men. You shall see David did so:―he went on his course like a Lion, when Shimei railed against him, so that the two sons of Zeruiah would have cut off his head; No, let him alone, saith he, the Lord then raised him up to a great mind. So it was with Paul, he passed through evil report, & good report, & never turned aside for any. So Moses, & Jeremy, They shall smite thee with the tongue of men, &c. says GOD, but I am with thee. And so, if we could see GOD in his greatness, all these outward things would seem nothing to us. As a hundred torches appear to be nothing, when we look upon the Sun:―so, if we could consider aright of the greatness of God, all the fair speeches of men would be as nothing. Now the way to get this magnanimity, is to believe this greatness of God, and to consider that we are the sons of God, and heirs of heaven:―the cause of this pusillanimity is the want of faith. If we did believe that we were the sons of God, and did believe that GOD would be with us, that he was so great a GOD, and that he did stand by, and second us, we should not be so fearful as we are. Therefore strengthen your faith, that you may have your mind enlarged, that so you may walk without impediments, and be perfect with him; as it is said of Abraham, that he was perfect with God in all his ways.
THE SIXTEENTH SERMON.
IF you ask the question, How a man shall come to this greatness of mind, what rise it hath from the greatness of God? I answer.
First, it ariseth thus from it. When a man considers that GOD is so exceeding great, and that he hath interest in him, that will make him to despise all other things, as small things in comparison of him. Indeed, if GOD was great, and we had no interest in him, then there was no cause why we should take to our selves this magnanimity upon any such ground:―but seeing that he is so great, and that this greatness shall be improved to our advantage, what addition can any thing else make unto us? You shall see that Paul raised his heart upon this ground, Phil:3.8. considering the priviledges that he had in Christ, this makes him to account other things as nothing. Hence in James 1:10. Let him that is of a high degree, rejoyce in that hee is made low:―that is, let him rejoice that he is enabled to look upon his riches which he did so highly magnify before, to think them as nothing, but as fading flowers; let him rejoice in it, because now he is made a greater man, because he seems too big for them; they are no such things, as before he thought them to be:―not that they are made less, but because he is exalted and lifted above them.
Secondly, so likewise there is a rise for it in this regard, because he is able to defend us, and protect us, and bear us out against all opposition. You see that men look great, because they have got great men or Princes to bear themselves upon. But when men consider that they have the great God on their side, to bear themselves upon, why should not they have great minds? Thus Moses, Hebr:11. Regarded not the wrath of the King, because he did see that GOD that was invisible:―that is, when he considered GOD in his greatness, the King and his wrath were nothing to him. So that, the way to get this magnanimity, is, to believe that GOD is our GOD:―and according to the greatness of a man's faith, such will be this greatness and magnanimity of mind that we commend to you. Saul when he was a King, had a new heart, and a new spirit, because when he believed in earnest that he was a King, he looked upon things after another manner; he had other thoughts and other affections than he had before:―and so would any man else, if he were advanced from a mean estate to a kingdom. And, if we did believe that we were sons of the great God of heaven and earth, we would have great minds; therefore the stronger our faith is, the greater our mind is. Only this is to be added; that this faith must not be in the habit only in thee, but it must be exercised and renewed continually:―there must not be only κλῆσις but χρῆσις, the actual use of it. And were that which GOD said to Abraham, (I am thy exceeding great reward,) were this beheld of any of us, that GOD is so great, and that his greatness is our exceeding great reward, then all other rewards would seem but small things. You shall see what David did upon this ground, in Psal:27:1. The Lord is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I feare? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? See, here are two things:―first, he considers that GOD is his; he is my salvation. Secondly, he considers the greatness, and strength and power of God; and from thence he draws this conclusion, whom shall I fear? For in thee do I trust; that is, in this power and greatness of GOD, and the interest that I have in him. Psal.46:1:2:3. GOD is our refuge and strength:―a very present help in trouble, Therefore will we not feare though the earth be removed, and though the mountaines be carried into the midst of the Sea:―though the waters thereof roare and bee troubled, and though the mountaines shake with the swelling thereof:―that is, when GOD is seen in his greatness, when we look upon him, and believe him to be such a God, and that we have interest in him, in the greatest trouble and confusion that can befall us:―though the earth be shaken, and the mountains cast into the midst of the Sea, yet the mind will not be shaken, but still remains the same. They bear out all, because they have a great God, to bear themselves upon, who will protect and defend them upon al occasions.
If GOD be so great and infinite, (as he is) hence we should learn to fear him, and to tremble at his word. A great and potent enemy, men will fear:―therefore this is one use we are to make of the greatness of GOD, that his wrath is exceeding great, and so is his goodness; and both are to be feared. We ought to fear his wrath, lest it come upon us, and his goodness, lest we loose it:―for he is a great God, and his wrath is able to crush in pieces, and to consume us, as he expressed it, when he put forth but some part of his strength, as when he consumed them with their Censers, even the company of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram. Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? as if he should say; he is a great God, who can come near him? who can converse with him? how shall men deal with him? Some of them there made an evil use of it:―but we must learn to make use of it for our own advantage; to take heed, how we provoke him:―for is it a small thing to have the great God of heaven and earth our enemy? Let them consider this, that live without GOD in the world, that sin, and will sin, they are told of their particular faults, of their idleness, &c. and they are so, and will be so still:―but let them consider that which is spoken in 1 Cor:10:22. Doe we provoke the Lord to jealousie? Are we stronger than he? He speaks it to them that receive the Sacrament unworthily:―as if he should say; Both in this, and in all other sins that you do commit, you do, as it were, contend with the great God, which is a vain thing, if you consider his greatness:―for are you stronger than he? So Psal.90. Who knowes the power of his wrath?
And so should we do in regard of his goodness, Hos:3. ult:―men shall feare his goodnesse:―that is, if his goodness be so great and infinite, as himself, then the loss of it, is a loss above all things in the world. Whatsoever is precious to us, that we fear the loss of, as our liberties and lives:―and as things are more precious to us, the more we fear the loss of them. Now the goodness of God is greater than all other things, it is beyond all these, as having all these in it:―therefore we are to fear the loss of it as the greatest evil in the world.
Therefore if we could see the extension of his wrath and goodness, the loss of the one would be the greatest loss, and the other the greatest cross; the enjoying of the one the greatest good, and the loss of the other the greatest evil in the world:―and the consideration of this would help us to guide our hopes and fears aright:―for a great cause of misleading us in our ways, are the vain hopes and fears that we are subject to:―we fear the loss of friends, the loss of lives and liberties; but these in comparison are not to be feared. This use Christ makes of it:―fear not those that can kill the body, but fear the great God, that can destroy both body and soul. The greatness of his wrath we should fear as the greatest evil:―and his goodness as the chiefest good:―and our thoughts and intentions being taken up about these two, it would set our hopes and fears aright; and worldly things, as credit, and profit, &c. would seem nothing to us, and prevail nothing with us.
If GOD be so exceeding great, then there is no love enough, no affection, no desire answerable to him. If our love were perfect, yet it could not reach to him, whose greatness thus far exceed it:―but being imperfect, as it is, it falls exceeding short of him. Therefore let no man fear that he can go too far, that there can be too much holiness and strictness in our ways, but let him remember the great GOD of heaven and earth, and what is due to him, and then think how far thou fallest short of that which thou shouldest do to him. It is an expression of CHRIST, Luk:14:26. Mat:10:37. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. That which I would have observed out of these places is, He is not worthy of me:―that is, if men considered my greatness. and excellency, they would easily see me as worthy of more love, than this of friends; and except you can do so, except you can prize my love above these things, yea even hate them all, if they come in competition with me, you are not worthy of me. Consider therefore, how much love he is worthy of, and see if there be not reason for that commandment, where we are commanded to love the Lord with all our strength:―that is, if you would love God with that love that he is worthy of, you would love God with all your strength:―that is, whatsoever strength a man hath, his love should put it forth to do service to God. If a man be rich, he is able to do more for God than a poor man; if he be a Magistrate, he can do more than a private man; if he hath learning and knowledge, he hath much more strength than another:―now the improvement of these to the glory of God, this is to love him with all our strength. And if you consider how great a God he is, you will see great reason why you should love him thus with all your strength. Therefore we should check our selves when we see the dullness of our hearts, how ready and how apt we are to bestow our love upon any besides him:―we should observe all those riverets wherein our love goes out, and runs to other things, and bring them back again to the right channel. For if you consider the greatness of God, you will see, that there is no love to spare.
But may we not love him, and love other things also?
You cannot, with an ordinate, but with a subordinate love you may:―that is, you cannot love him, and the world, for they are opposed. 1 John 2:15. Love not the world, neither the things of the world:―if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. So Jam.4.4 Know ye not, that the friendship of the world, is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is an enemy of God. All our love must be bestowed upon him, as most worthy of it:―there is not one particle to be bestowed upon any other thing.
But then he gives us our love again, and then we may disperse it here and there. As for example:―he hath commanded thee to love father and mother, and friends:―and the ground, that thou hast to do it, is, because he hath commanded thee, and gives thee leave to it.
So he hath given thee leave to love recreation and other things that are suitable to our designs, but you must remember, that the end is, that you may be made more serviceable to him, to quicken and strengthen you to do his service, and thus it may be bestowed upon other things.
But that which we have in hand, and commend to your consideration is this:―that if he be so exceeding great in goodness, that therefore he deserves thy whole love. 1 Cor.6:22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha. Paul comes with indignation, considering the great good that Jesus Christ had done for us:―if any man love not him, he is worthy to perish, let him be accursed, even to death. I say, if we consider the greatness that is in him, you shall see some reason for that curse, that indignation of the Apostle, whereby he expresseth it:―and so far as we fall short, we should go to Christ, and beseech him to make it up, that our defects may be supplied, and that we may be accepted in him.
Again, If he be so great, then we should learn to reverence to him, to come before him with much fear when we perform any duty to him. According as a man is great, so we fear him. This use is made of it in Mal:1:14. Cursed be the deceiver, that hath in his flocke a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing:―for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts; and my name is dreadfull among all Nations:―that is the reason, that the Lord there useth to stir them up, I am a great King. So that the consideration of his greatness should cause us to fear before him.
When he appeared to Jacob, when he fled from his father's house to his uncle Laban, Gen:28:17, Jacob saith of the place in which God appeared to him, Surely this place is exceeding fearfull:―the reason was, because God appeared there, because he was present there, his presence struck him with an aweful reverence, that he said, the place was exceeding fearful. So we should think of his dreadful presence when we come before him. Eccles.5:2. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God:―for God is in heaven, and thou on earth, therefore let thy words be few:―that is, he is exceeding great, and he is in heaven, therefore learn to fear him, when you draw nigh unto him. That which may help us in this, is to consider how glorious his apparitions were, when he appeared to Moses, to the Prophets, as Eliah, and Ezekiel:―and you must remember, that though you see not these apparitions, yet consider that you have the same GOD to deal withal:―and though he doth not shew it so now, yet he is as great now as then; and so fear before him. And this is to sanctify GOD in our hearts:―that is, when we conceive of him as he is, and do accordingly fear, when we come before him. And thus much in general of this Attribute.
Now this greatness of God is seen in four particulars.
First, In the Infiniteness of his presence.
Secondly, In the Infiniteness of his power, which is his Omnipotence.
Thirdly, In the Infiniteness of his wisdom.
Fourthly, In the Absoluteness of his will, that it is without all bounds and limits.
THE SEVENTH ATTRIBUTE OF GOD
The Infiniteness of his presence, Or, His Immensity.
FOR the first. The Infiniteness of his presence, that is another Attribute which he takes to himself in Scripture. As Jer:23:24. Can any man hide himselfe in secret places, that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? Doe not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? That is, he is present every where, in all the parts of heaven and earth, even as water when it fills every place, and as the light when it shines throughout the whole world:―so, Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? So, Eph.4.6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. GOD fills all in all.
Only this question may be asked, Whether he be without the world, as well as he is in the world? Because some have disputed it; therefore we will briefly answer it.
The Scripture is clear in it, that he is without the world:―there is no limits of his essence, that we can set down; he is not contained within the compass of heaven and earth, as you shall see in 2 Chron:2.6. But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven of heavens cannot containe him? But this is but a curious question:―therefore I will leave it, and will come to shew the reason of his omnipresence, why he is immense, why he is every where, as I have done in the rest.
1. This property or Attribute of immensity must needs be given to God, because his essence is infinite, which hath been before proved. Now as the argument holds good, that according to the substance of every thing, such must the quality be in things that have quantity; if the body be great, so must the quantity be:―so, if God be an infinite essence, (as he is) there is as good reason that he should have an infinite presence accompanying it, as that a great body hath a quantity answerable to it. So that he is of an infinite being, and therefore also of an infinite presence.
2. You see it by experience, and cannot deny it, that his power is every where, he guides all things, he puts forth his power every where:―now in the Lord seeing there is no faculty as is in man, but whatsoever is in him, is himself; it cannot be, but that he himself must be in every place where he doth any thing. The fire may heat afar off, and so may the Sun, give light to the whole world, and yet abide in the firmament, because it hath a quality of heat, and light:―but Almighty God is most simple, there is no composition in him, no quality, no executive power, but he is himself what he is, and therefore what he doth is done by himself immediately, immediatione suppositi, as the Schoolmen express it.
Lastly, I add, that GOD must be every where present, not only within the world, but as Salomon expresseth it, The heaven of heavens cannot contain him:―that is, he is without the world as well as within it, because we cannot deny but that he is able to make other worlds as well as this; and then if he should not be without the world, he should move himself, and change his place:―and there should be a world where he is not present:―but he is not capable of any change, of any motion or alteration of place.
Only one caution must be taken in:―you see that the light is in many places throughout the world, but the presence of GOD is not like to that presence, nor the presence of any creature, because he is totally present:―the creatures are not so, but according to the parts of them, one part here, another there:―but GOD being without all parts, wheresoever he is, he must be totally there. Therefore you must not conceive, God is commensurable by the place, as if he were partly here, and partly in another place, but he is every where all present. The heavens you see have a large place, but they have one part here, another there:―but the Lord is totally present, wheresoever he is present.
First, If God be every where present, so that he doth not do any thing by a mediate virtue or power, but he doth it by the presence of his essence, hence we gather:―first, that he governs the world immediately. For though there be means used, yet he is present with those means. Other Kings must needs govern by Deputies and Viceroys; and inferior Magistrates of justice, because they cannot be every where:―whence it comes to pass, that Kings may be good, and yet the people may be oppressed by their wicked instruments. But with the Lord it is not so, but he guides immediately, and being every where present, he needeth no Deputies, for he is not capable of information, as Kings are, but sees all with his own eyes, and hears all with his own ears. And again, he useth no Deputies:―for the use of Deputies argues a defect, as the using of spectacles or crutches doth, if the eyes or legs were well and sound enough, a man would not use them; so a man would not write letters, or use other means to do his business, but from a defect; he is not large enough to do his business immediately:―but Almighty God, he is every where present, and in his governing all things are done by his own Almighty power. Good Governors, may have wicked instruments, contrary to their minds, which they know not of, as Ely, and Samuel had:―but in GOD's government it is not so; therefore learn from hence, not to complain of the iniquity of the times, or the injustice of men. It is true, that a kind mother may ignorantly put her child to a wicked Nurse, that will abuse it:―but GOD never puts any of his children to Nurse, but he is present with them, his government is immediate. So that that which is said of David, he is a man after God's own heart, it may be said of every King and Governor; they do, what God would have them to do, though it be for evil, as his was for good, they are men after God's own heart. As it was in the killing of Jesus Christ, even that is said to be done by the determinate Counsel of God. And therefore let no man complain of his Governors:―for God governs not by Deputies, but by himself. Therefore let no man say, that he hath an evil Master or Governor, but let him acknowledge, that whatsoever he hath from man, it is the work of the Almighty God, that is every where present:―it is he that disposeth of men, and puts them into such a condition; for he is the King of heaven and earth. Therefore complain to him, and be patient, because he hath done it:―do not complain of men, and fret against them, because the Lord is not absent in his kingdom, but is present to guide and dispose them according to his own pleasure.
Secondly, if GOD be every where present in his own essence and person, we should the rather choose him to be our GOD, and rejoice much in the ampleness of our portion, seeing we have such a GOD that is every where:―we can go no whither but he is present with us; we have nothing to do a thousand miles hence, but he is there, and doth our business for us. We seek a multitude of friends, because one cannot do it, because one doth one thing, and another another; one friend may be a comfort to us in one place, but if you come to another place, there you may be destitute; friends cannot be every where, hence we need many friends:―but if you look upon the Lord, and his omnipresence, all this is supplied in him; he is in every place, and he can do your business for you, though you be distant from the place, where they are to be done; and GOD is with you every where, as it was his promise to Jacob, when he went to Padan Aram, I will be with thee, saith the Lord. So he said to David; and when Joseph went into prison, the Lord went with him. When Abraham was called out of his Country, the Lord bid him to go, I will be with thee. Beloved, when you consider this, that GOD is every where present, and can do every thing for you, whereby he hath the sweetness of a thousand friends in him, and the ability of as many; I say, when we consider this, it should teach us not only to be content, but to say that we desire no more.
Learn therefore to study this Attribute. The more we know him by it, the more comfort we gather from it. As, is it not a matter of great comfort, that in all places we should have a GOD to do all our business? To which purpose is that expression in Jer. 23:23, 24. Hee is a God nigh at hand:―that is, though your business lie in other Countries, yet I am there to do them for you. And again, is it not comfort to consider that he is with your enemies (it may be) in a distant place? For you think, that if you were there, you would have something to prevent them. Consider that he is there, and after another manner, than any man is:―he is present with their minds, and knows their counsels, and moves their hearts, and disposeth of all their counsels. As Elisha told the King of Aram's counsel to the King of Israel, (which shewed that GOD was there.) So also he is present with thy friends when they are absent:―it may be that they forget us, yet he can stir them up, as he did stir up Cyrus to do what he did for the people of Israel. So likewise he is present with our children, when we are with GOD, when we are gone out of this world, to provide for them, and to bring them up. He is present with all our affairs and businesses; when we are absent, and know not how things go, we are apt to be solicitous:―but if we would consider, that he is a great God, and that he is every where, this should comfort us, and stay our hearts. And therefore think with thy self, that thou hast a large portion, because thou hast the LORD. And this is the second use.
Thirdly, If God be every where present, hence you may see a ground for his particular providence. It seems something strange to men, that every small thing should be disposed of by him; we think indeed that great things are:―but for the least things, therein we are apt to make a doubt, and can hardly believe it. But this point in hand is a great confirmation of this truth. If an horse stumble by the way, we think it a common accident; if a fly fall into a man's eye, or if a tile fall off from the house, or an axe head, we look upon them as common accidents:―but if we consider that he is present there, it is then an easy matter for us to believe, that God doth dispose all these:―when the axe head falls off, it is in his hand, as before it was in the hand of the workman. If he be present with every small creature, with every fly, with every sparrow and stone, with every motion of the creature, then all the actions that befall us, they are all his works. In him we live, move, and have our being:―that is, he is present with every creature. Therefore it is no difficulty to believe, that he guides the smallest thing. If an enemy hurt us, we are to think, that he is but as a staff in God's hand, as it is said of Nebuchadnezzar. Every accident is but as a cup, as Christ saith of the cup that was brought to him by others, Shall not I drink of the cup, which my Father gives me? So we may say of every affliction. The tongues of men are but scourges in his hand, he can rule them as he pleaseth:―and so we should think of every action. And indeed the more we think of his particular providence, the more we conceive of his infiniteness. For why do we think men to be present, but because they see and hear? Because they do something? If the body be there, and the soul gone, we say, that the man is absent:―it is the action that makes them present. Therefore the Schoolmen say, that the Angels are said to be present here or there, because they work there. Therefore I say, the more that we can see God's hand in every action, the more we acknowledge his presence. Therefore we should labour to be abundant in considering the Omnipresence of God upon all occasions:―as if a man be out of the way, and one come and tells him that he is so, we should be ready to say, that GOD sent him. If we are in a strait, and know not what to do, and there come one, and helps us; we should say that it comes from God. So did David when Abigail came and met him; he saith that the Lord sent her. 1 Sam. 25:32. And this would easily be believed, if we would think that he is present every where. There is no man that speaks for us or against us, that doth us either hurt or good, but GOD is present with him, and stirs him up to it, whatsoever it be. 1 Chron. 5:26. And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul King of Assyria, &c. that is, he himself was present with his Spirit, he stirred him up: (for the thoughts of men have their rising up, from their spirits stirring them to good or evil.) So also for their speeches:―when Shimei cursed David, David saith, that it was the Lord that sent him. So the Lord is present with the creatures:―it is he that acts them, and sets them on work to do us any good. And this is the next use we are to make of it.
Fourthly, If GOD be present every where, it should teach us patience, and meekness, and quietness of mind in all injuries and hard measure which we suffer from men. This use you shall see made of it. Phil. 4:5. Let your moderation be knowne unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Jam. 5:8. Bee yee also patient, stablish your hearts; for the comming of the Lord draweth nigh. Therefore when any injury is done you, when you are oppressed by men that have power over you, yet be quiet:―for GOD sees it, and knows it; and he takes care of you. A man will be ready to say, shall I take this? shall I be trampled under foot? as I shall be, if I resist them not:―saith the Apostle, you need not to fear, for the Lord is present. We use to say, if the Magistrate be not present, we may offend another, to defend our selves; but if the Magistrate be present, there is no excuse:―so here the judge stands at the door. Servants, if their Masters be absent, will defend themselves against their fellow-servants; but if the Master be there, and look on, they will let them alone, because he hath power to punish, and knows better how to revenge them:―so is it in this case; when we consider that GOD is present, and that he sees what we suffer, we should be quiet, and patient, and not only patient within, but let our patient minds be known unto all men, that is, carry our selves so, that men may see it, and take notice of it. And if you say, that nothing is done, but he abuseth me more and more:―i answer. Consider, it is not because the Lord is weak, and cannot help us; or because he is negligent, and will not do it; no, he is present, and sees it all the while:―but you must consider, that the due time is not come, therefore you must be quiet, and not tumultuous in your thoughts, and revengeful in your spirits, because the LORD looks on, and will avenge you in due time. Therefore this is the thing added in Phil.4. Because, when a man suffers any thing from another man, then he will be ready to be solicitous, how to defend himself, and what he shall do hereafter; saith the Apostle, Be you in nothing careful, &c. for the LORD is at hand:―that is, he doth not stand by as a looker on, or a bare spectator, who means to do nothing but see the injuries done and suffered, but he looks on, as one that takes care for you. Therefore be you in nothing careful:―but in every thing by prayer, and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto GOD.
THE SEVENTEENTH SERMON.
EXOD:3:13,14. — And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
AGAIN, If GOD be present with us, this should stir us up to walk with him, to be present with him. Shall he be present with us wheresoever we are; when we go by the way, or lie in our beds, or sit in our houses? and shall not we take notice of his presence, and direct our thoughts to him, and apply our selves to him? It is an exceeding great dishonour to him. You know, a great man, when he is with you, if you neglect him, and apply yourselves to inferiour men, he will take it as a great wrong done unto him, to let him sit alone, and not to regard him. And when the Lord is with us from day to day, will you not take notice of him? Let them consider this, that suffer days to pass without any calling upon the Lord, that never think of him, nor consider that he beholds all that they do:―you know, it was the only commendation of Enoch, that he walked with God.
But you will say, What is this to walk with the Lord?
It is to see him present with us, and to make our selves present with him:―and what that is, we will easily find out, when we consider what it is to be present with any one.
The presence of any man is seen in three things.
First, A man that sees and hears all things that we do, he is said to be present.
Secondly, He that speaks to us, he is present with us.
Thirdly, he that acts or does something about us or toward us, he is present. In this manner is GOD present with us:―and so we should be with him.
First, we must be present with him, that is, we must see him, as he sees us. He that looks upon the Lord, as beholding him, as knowing all that he doth, he that observes all these passages of his providence toward him, and about him, he makes himself present with the Lord.
Secondly, he that speaks to the Lord, and maketh known his secrets unto him, and opens to him all his desires, and all his griefs upon all occasions, he makes himself present with him.
Thirdly, he that pleaseth GOD in all his actions, and doth what is acceptable to him, that doth what he hath commanded, and abstains from what he hath forbidden, he which behaves himself after this manner, he makes himself present with the Lord. For this last, you shall see, if you compare that in Genesis, of Enoch's walking with GOD, with that in Heb:11.5. To make our actions agreeable to the rule of his will, this is to walk with the Lord:―for Enoch is said to walk with God, in Genesis; and in the Hebrewes he is said to please the Lord.
And, as we must be thus present with the Lord, So secondly, we must make him present with us. As first, we must look upon him as one who observeth all that we do. When a man hath this full persuasion in his heart, not only habitually, but actually, that the Lord looks upon him in all that he speaks, and doth, he makes the Lord present with him; So secondly, when a man shall observe the Lord speaking to him, which a man doth in meditating in the word. But this is not enough:―but you must observe what the Lord saith to you upon every occasion, and in every passage of his providence also.
But you will say, that the Lord doth not speak to us now as he did to the Prophets.
• Yes, he doth in a manner speak to us.
• How doth the Lord speak to us now?
He speaks to our consciences:―that is the immediate deputy by which he speaks to every man. And also he speaks to us by the suggestions of the Spirit, and the good motions of it:―he speaks to us by the good counsel of our friends, and of the Ministers, and others; he speaks to us by the passages of providence (for a man may make known his will by his actions, as well as by his word.) I say, to observe what the Lord saith to us in all these, this is a part of our walking with him.
Lastly, so consider what he doth, and what the mercies are, which he shews to thee:―what corrections, what judgements, what turnings of his providence, what he doth to those that are near thee; (for God would have us to take special notice of it, as in Dan.5:22.) So observe what is brought to your knowledge; for as the word of God, so also his works ought to be sought out by them that belong to him.
After this manner we should walk with the Lord from day to day. And it is one thing required, whereof you are put in mind, when you hear that he is every where present, you should be present with him upon all occasions, and observe his dealing towards you, and your carriage to him. Every man walks with something continually:―now look what a man's mind is busied about most, that is what he walks with. And indeed, to walk with any thing, is to give it the honour that is due only to GOD. When a man is busy about what men think of him; about his riches and estate, how they ebb and flow, about his credit with men; these are the things that a man walks with. Beloved, you are not to go a step with any thing, except he send you on such an errand, as a Master doth his servant; but you are to walk with him from day to day. It is possible that a man may be in company, and his mind be in another place, and busied about other things:―and where his mind is, there he walks. A man may be in the world, and yet his mind and conversation in heaven; as Enoch did the things of this life, and yet he is said to walk with God:―if thou doest so, this is a sign that thou lovest GOD; for to walk with a thing, it is the best argument that thou lovest it. Let a man profess never so much love to a friend, if he will not walk with him, it is but in shew, and not in truth. If thou wouldest shew thy love to GOD, why doest thou not walk with him? If there be a friend that thou lovest, doest thou not desire to be with him? And when thou art in company with him, is it not a sign also of respect? As when many are together, all go to the chief man:―so thou must walk with GOD. You know what GOD saith to Abraham, Gen:17:1. I am God All-sufficient:―walke with me, and bee thou perfect. Mark here the connection:―as if he should say, Abraham, when I desire this, thou shouldest withdraw thy self from all other creatures, and things, to walk with me:―know that there is great reason for it, for I am All-sufficient, thou needest no other. If thou hast a friend all-sufficient, hast thou not need to walk with him? But as we shewed you, GOD is in stead of ten thousand friends. A man needs many friends, a friend at Court, a friend at home, a friend abroad, to be there where he himself cannot be:―but wheresoever thou goest, the Lord is with thee:―if into banishment, banishment is nothing you will say, if I might have all my companions with me; now remember, that GOD is with thee:―if thou goest into imprisonment, he is there. A man will say, that no friend in the world can do so, but yet the Lord doth. When Jacob went to Padan Aram, GOD promised him, that he would go with him, Joseph, when he went into prison, GOD went with him:―and with Paul when he was in bonds. And Abraham was banished into a strange Country, and the Lord tells him, that he would be with him there:―and that makes a man's home and country, and liberty to be every where, he is at home, when he is a broad; and at liberty, when he is in prison. Now therefore let a man consider this, that wheresoever he is, that GOD is with him; who is able to direct us in all our doubts, defend us in all danger, and provide for us in all our necessities. And then consider also what benefit comes by this; thou shalt grow acquainted with him, and then thou canst find the way to him upon all occasions whatsoever, when other men cannot. Another man would fain go to GOD but he knows not the way. Job 22:21. Acquaint now thy self with him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee:―that is, serve GOD, and thou shalt prosper. The meaning is this, one that is acquainted with GOD, when he hath any thing to do, he may go to GOD, and get help from him, and so bring his enterprises to pass:―he knows the way to put up a prayer to him, and he shall find a present help upon all occasions.
So consider in the time of death; if thou hast accustomed thy self to walk with God, if in thy life time thou hast been acquainted with him, death will be no death to thee. Death indeed is bitter, because it draws a man from his home, from his friends and acquaintance, and into a strange place:―and therefore you use to say, we know not what we shall have hereafter, we know what we have here, and therefore the soul trembles at it. Whence comes this, but because we have not been wonted to walk with the Lord? Is it a great thing for him to die, when he hath the same company, and the same friends with him still? 32It is but changing the place, not his company:―for he is present every where. Therefore our duty thence is, to maintain such a constant communion with him, that we may be able to fetch help, and comfort, and direction from him, so that we need not turn aside to the creatures, and be dependent upon them. And indeed one that is acquainted with the Lord, and hath full communion with him, may be satisfied with that alone:―for what is it that makes a man to desire company? It ariseth from these two things.
First, partly because one would have fit objects to exercise his faculties upon:―which if he had not, they would languish, and a wearisomeness would grow upon them.
Secondly, because he would have knowledge and direction, and help and advice, and comfort brought into his empty heart, by such friends as are able to suggest these to him:―and therefore they desire company. Now shall they not find this in the Lord more than in any creature? Is not he the worthiest and the highest object, on whom they should bestow their thoughts?
Again, cannot he fill thy heart with joy and comfort? is not he only wise to give thee direction upon all occasions? and is there any then that thou shouldest choose to walk with more than with him? Every man, the more faith he hath, and the more wisdom he hath, the more able he is to walk with GOD, and with himself:―the more unbelieving, and weak, and unconstant, the more unable he is to be alone. And the ground of it is:―by faith a man walks with God, and by reflection he walks with himself. There are two companions which a man needs never to be destitute of, GOD and himself.
First, a man walks by faith when he sees GOD present, and speaking to him, and he speaks again to the LORD:―and the stronger a man's faith is, the more he doth it.
Again, a man walks with himself by reflection on his own actions, and heart, and ways; a beast cannot walk with it self, because it cannot recoil and turn in upon it self; neither can children or fools, or weak and unconstant men:―therefore they cannot be without company, it is a hell to them to be alone; and the less a man's wisdom is, the more he complains of want of company.
Seeing therefore that God is every where present, labour to strengthen thy faith in that his presence, and so thou maist still be with him, and walk with him.
And then secondly, labour to speak to thy self, to reproove and admonish thy self, to consider thine own ways and actions, to cheer and comfort thy self, (for these are all the actions of one that makes himself a companion:) and he that doth these things, shall never complain of want of company, and solitariness.
Sixthly, If God be every where present, then he is present to observe all the sins that thou committest, and to observe all the good that thou doest. Then make this use of it:―that the presence of the Lord should be a restraint to keep thee from sinning, on the one hand, and it should encourage thee on the other hand to abound in every good work. Therefore a man should say thus with himself:―i dare not do this, because God is present, he stands by and looks on. It was Joseph's reason to his Mistress. Though we be alone, yet God is present, and beholds it:―and how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God, As if he should say; though we see him not, yet he is present, and sees it, and knows it. And not only say, I dare not do it, but thou shouldest say, I dare not so much as think it:―for he beholds the thoughts. You shall see an excellent place for this, if you compare Job 31. verse: 1. and 4. together, it is one continued speech. I have made a covenant with mine eyes:―why then should I thinke upon a maid? Doth not hee see my wayes and count all my steps? As if he should say; I durst not so much as give liberty to my thoughts, because he beheld all my ways. It is a question which those that fear God have been wont to ask; How shall I do to be rid of such and such thoughts, that haunt me continually? I would very fain be rid of them. This is an excellent way:―to consider that GOD himself stand by and knows all thy thoughts, and takes notice of them. As put this case; Suppose a wise and godly man should stand by and take notice of all thy base thoughts, that pass through thy heart, wouldest thou not be ashamed of thy self? If thy body were made a glass, and men would see all thy thoughts through it, wouldst thou not be ashamed of them, and careful in them, as we are of our actions now before men? Now to consider that the Lord beholds them, to consider that he sees every thought, (the least whereof is no light matter,) this would be a means to restrain thee. Nay consider, that the Lord doth not only behold them, but he ponders all thy actions, to give thee the fruit of them:―so that God doth not stand by as a mere looker on, but he takes notice of all thy thoughts, that pass through thy heart, and all thy vain words, that he weighs them, as it were. And therefore he is said in Scripture so often, to ponder our ways. He puts thy sins, and those lusts in one balance, and his censure in the other; and gives thee according:―he puts weight for weight; he gives thee correction if thou art his child, and judgement if thou be wicked. Therefore thou must consider who it is that knows them; what a one he is:―as it is in Rev:2. when he tell his Churches that he knows them all, then he describes himself, what a one he is:―as his eyes to be as flaming fire, and his feet like brass. This if considered, would make a man to look about him. If there was a company set together, and there was an informer standing by, and did note down in his table-book what they did, and did declare it to their enemies, or to the King and Counsell, men would be exceeding wary, they would ponder every word before they spake:―so when GOD is present, and beholdeth all that thou doest, hast thou not reason much more to consider thy ways? Men say indeed, that the Lord is present every where, but our lives show that we think like the Atheists in Job, that God is shut up in the thick clouds, and cannot see through them. Yea there is no man, but needs an increase of faith in this point. For if we were fully believed, it could not be, but that we should take more heed to our ways and thoughts than we do. Therefore to convince you of and persuade you to this, I will name two places. One you shall find in Ephe.4.6. One God, one Lord, who is above you all, and in you all, and through all. First he is above all. As a man that stands above can see all that is done below:―so the Lord looks down, and beholds all that is done on earth, as a man in an high place, sees all that is done below.
But it may be objected, though a man be above, yet there may be some corners, some rocks and dens, so that he may hide himself from him that is above him:―therefore it is added, who is in you all; that is, he beholds every thought, every secret place, every corner of our hearts; he is in you all, and through all. This you shall find more at large in Psa:139:1. O Lord thou hast searched me and knowne me, thou knowest my downe sitting and mine up rising, thou understandest my thoughts afarre off &c. The meaning of it is this. David labours to persuade his own heart, that God is present with him; and he doth it by this argument:―if I go forward, the Lord is there; if on this side or that side, yet still he is present, he compasseth me round about, he is behind and before:―therefore it must needs be, that there is not a word that I speak or a thought that I think, but he sees and hears all. Yea, he knows my thoughts afar off, that is, as a man that knows what roots he hath in his garden, though there be not a flower appears, yet he can say, when the spring comes, this and this will come up, because he knows the garden, and knows what roots are there:―so the Lord knows a man's thoughts afar off, because he knows the principles that are within, and he knows what they would do, when occasion is offered; and therefore saith David, I have cause to fear exceedingly before him. Nay, he doth not only see men's thoughts afar off, but he will judge you afar off for them. We use to destroy hemlock even in the middest of winter, because we know what it will do, if it be suffered to grow:―so the Lord doth cut off men long before, because, he knows that they will do this and this. Such passages of his providence there may be, as to cut off children and young men out of the forefight of the evil, that they would do to his Church, because he knows their thoughts afar off.
So he knows thy thoughts for good afar off:―therefore though a child of God may be cut off in some undiscovered sin, when he hath not actually repented, yet GOD forgives it him, because he knows what he would do, if he had time to repent, and should come to discover it:―and therefore GOD judgeth him accordingly:―and likewise if we have begun any good work, if we be cut off before we have finished it, yet remember, that GOD knows what we would do. And seeing he doth this, we should learn, exceedingly to fear before him, to ponder our own thoughts and speeches, seeing GOD himself takes notice of them.
So it should be a continual encouragement to consider that GOD takes notice of all the good that we do, as well as of the evil:―rev:2. and 3. I know thy workes, thy labour and thy patience, I know thy sufferings:―that is, when a man is miscalled, slandered, and evil spoken of, because he serves and fears God, because he is none of the world's own, and therefore it shewes forth its hatred in word, when it cannot in deed, (for malice must have some vent) yet I know thy sufferings, and let it be enough that I know them and register them:―there is not the least suffering but I take notice of it, and it shall be rewarded. Again, men take much pains, and no man regards it; yet God takes notice of their labour and their pains, and not of their works only, but their labour in doing them, and sees what ends they put upon all. Again, men put up injuries, and suffer much wrong, yet saith the Lord, I know thy patience &c. What is said of this may be said of all other good actions. And it is a great honour to the Lord, that we are content with this, that he alone knows it. And so we may be well enough; for this knowledge will bring in a sure fruit with it, as he saith to Jacob. Gen:31. I know all the labour thou hast done unto me. And what followed that? Why, God taught Jacob how to enlarge his wages, and so translated Laban's substance to him. So Psa:1. last. The meaning is, the Lord knows the way of the righteous, and therefore it doth prosper, and it shall. And he knows the way of the wicked, and therefore they shall perish. Therefore it is enough to us, that he is present, and sees it, and knows it.
Again this should stir us up to good duties, seeing he is always present; you know soldiers though they are somewhat cowardly otherwise, yet in the presence of the General, if he look on they will adventure much:―so servants that are otherwise idle, yet they will do eye-service, they will work while the Master looks on; so when we consider that the Lord stands by, and looks on, and takes notice, what pains we take, how we do fight his battles, and what we do for him, it should encourage us and make us abundant in the work of the Lord, seeing we know, that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. Nay it is an encouragement against the discouragement of men; thou maist have discouragement from friends, from neighbours, and the place where thou livest:―yet let this be thy comfort, the Lord is present; he knows thy dwelling, thy neighbours, who is for thee, and who against thee, he knows the difficulties thou meetest within any performance, he knows what hindrance thou hast, as it is there in the verse: 13. I know thy workes, and where thou dwellest, even where Sathan's seat is, and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those dayes wherein Antipas was my faithfull Martyr, who was slaine among you, where Sathan dwellest.
Seventhly, this should be an exceeding great terror to all men that remain in the state of unregeneration. The Lord is their enemy, and they have such an enemy from whom they cannot fly or escape, which is a miserable thing. On earth if man have an enemy in one place, if he go to another he is free; if he have an enemy in one land, yet he may fly to another, and there be free; and how ever, yet when he dies, he shall be free from the voice of the oppressors, and the wearied shall be at rest, as Job saith; his enemy can follow him no further:―but consider what an enemy God is, who is every where present; fly whither thou canst, he follows thee, if thou goest into another Country, he will be with thee there; or if thou diest and go into another world, yet still he follows thee. I press it the rather, because, when some great man makes request to a man, and God commands the contrary; when the commands of God and men differ, they will rather make God their enemy than a powerful man. Thus men wrench their consciences, because they choose rather GOD's enmity than men’s. Do but consider what it is, to have the Lord your enemy, he will meet thee in every place:―though man be thy enemy, yet he meets not with thee every where; if thou be in thy chamber, he cannot come at thee, but God will meet with thee there. And how will he meet thee? He will meet thee as a Lion, and as a Bear robbed of her whelps. You shall see how the Lord expresseth it:―Amos 9:2, 3, 4. Though they digge into Hell, thence shall my hand take them:―though they climbe up to heaven, thence will I bring them downe. &c. It is a common opinion, that if men have strong friends, strong Towers, and a strong Land, that is well beset with Sea, and clifts, or great estates that will defend them; then they are safe:―but if the Lord be thine enemy, none of these will do thee any good, verse 2, 4. and yet if a man hath made peace with his enemies, he thinks himself safe, as if there were no other enemy but mortal men. So the Jews not being killed, but going into captivity only, thought their lives safe, their peace made:―but saith the Lord, If you goe into captivity, yet there I will command the sword to slay you:―verse 4. The meaning is this:―no condition that a man can be in, no greatness, though he be compassed about with friends and safety on every side, can avail, if God be his enemy; he will pull thee from the midst of the sea:―verse 3. and which yet is an hard thing, to find a man in the midst of the sea:―and all this is but to describe that no condition is safe, when God is a man's enemy.
And thus much for this Attribute.
THE EIGHTH ATTRIBUTE OF GOD;
THE next Attribute is the Omnipotence of GOD:―for we told you, that this Infiniteness of GOD consisted in four things.
• First, In the Infiniteness of his presence.
• Secondly, In the Infiniteness of his power.
• Thirdly, In the Infiniteness of his wisdom.
• Fourthly, In the Absoluteness of his will.
The first of these we have spoken of his Omnipresence:―now we come to speak of his Omnipotence.
I will not stand to prove it. It is observed by some divines, that God is almighty, is expressed seventy times in the Scripture. Mat:19:26. Luke 1:39. To God nothing is impossible, he doth whatsoever he will:―and in Genesis, it is said, The God almighty be with thee, &c. Genes:28:3.
In handling this Attribute, I will shew you what it is, and the reasons of it, and the objections against it, as I have done in the rest.
The Omnipotence of God lies in this, that he is able to do what is absolutely, simply, and generally possible to be done. Other things can do what is possible to do in their own kind; as fire can do what belongs to fire to do; and a Lion can do what is possible for him to do:―so men, and Angels:―but no creature can do what is simply and absolutely possible to be done. Now whatsoever can be done, when the nature of the thing is not repugnant to it, without any limitation, that the Lord is able to do:―and herein is his Omnipotence seen. And the ground of it is this.
Because all creatures are put into their several kinds; a man is one kind of creature, he is not an Angel; Angels are another kind, they are not men; and as they are put in several kinds, and hedged in, and limited with bounds and definitions, so is their power limited; they can do what is in their own sphere, and according to their essence and being, such is their power:―but the Lord is a being without all limits and restraint, an absolute being, and an unlimited essence; and therefore he can be said not only to do things within such a compass, within this or that kind, but whatsoever is simply, and absolutely possible to be done; even that his power reacheth unto, and this is properly his Omnipotence.
There is no Attribute of GOD, that doth need a greater degree of faith than this:―therefore reasons are not unnecessary. The first reason therefore is this.
First, consider, that he that made these great things, he that made the highest heavens, and those heavens that thou seest, he that made the earth, and the deep sea, he that made the wind, and the treasures of snow, and hail, he that made the Angels, he that wrought so many miracles, thou must think that he that doth these things can do the like:―as he that hath made a fair picture or statue, he can make another; he that makes a fair house, you are ready to say, that he is able to build another. Look then upon his great works, and you will think that he is able to do the like. This is an argument very frequent in Scripture, when there is any occasion of expressing God's great power to bring any thing to pass:―as he that made heaven and earth, he that brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, he that divided the red sea, he that wrought the wonders in Egypt before Pharaoh and all his host; and such like.
Secondly, consider the manner how the Lord did all these things. You know, he did no more but say, Let there be light, and there was light:―let the trees bring forth, let the fishes multiply, and the air be filled with foul, and it was so. Now to do such things with a word; with such facility, is a sign of an infinite power:―for if one can do great things, with his breath, or little finger, we are apt to say, what could he do if he put his whole strength to it? So the manner of his working doth shew the infiniteness of his power.
Thirdly, the further any thing is off from being, the more power it requires to bring it to Being. As take base materials, and there is great power required, to make a fair building of them; to make a goodly statue of a crooked piece of wood, is harder, than that which comes nearer in propinquity to it. Now no being at all is in a thousand times greater distance, than the basest materials are from such or such a being, and therefore the power must be infinitely greater that brings it to being. Now the Lord hath done this, therefore his power must be infinite great. To make this more plain to you; Consider what it is that restrains man's power, so that he can go no further:―it is because the matter will not permit him. If you give him clay, and straw, he can make brick; but if you give him nothing, he can do nothing; so if you give him timber, he can make an house; but if you give him none of these, he can do nothing. But suppose now there was such an architector, such a builder, that if he did but imagine the model or frame of an house in his mind, he could set it up of nothing, or make materials at his pleasure, he could make it as big as he could conceive it, then also he could make as many houses as he could think of, and in as great and large a manner, as he could conceive, if there were such a one, there would be no restraint to him. Now the Lord is such a builder, whatsoever he conceives, he can make it without any thing, as he did the heavens and the earth:―and therefore there is no restraint in his power, as there is in the creature.
Fourthly, consider that the Attributes of God are equal, and needs must be so, because every Attribute is his essence, and we do but distinguish them in our understanding:―his omnipotence is but the active power, his will, the commanding; and his understanding, the directing:―we distinguish them thus. But in him, they are all one. Hence I reason thus:―the wisdom of GOD, the largeness and infiniteness of his understanding and knowledge, what is it not able to conceive? You know men are able to think much, and Angels more than men, but GOD is able to conceive infinitely beyond them:―for his thoughts are above ours, as the heavens are above the earth. Now whatsoever he can conceive, his power is able to act it. In man it is not so; he imagines and wills many things, but his power falls short, because his faculties are not as large as the object:―but God can imagine infinitely, and his power is as large and infinite as his wisdom:―therefore he must be able to do things that are infinite. So Psalm 135. He doth whatsoever he will, to shew that his power is as large as his will:―which cannot be said of any creature. Consider these things; for when you are in distress, and put to it, you shall find need of them to persuade you that God is Almighty.
Now I come to answer the objections which are made against this; which are these.
First, why doth GOD produce no infinite thing, no infinite effect? All his effects are finite:―therefore we cannot see by any thing he doth, that he is omnipotent.
It is true in natural causes, and such causes as produce things only like to themselves, which are called univocal causes, (but I will not trouble you with that distinction) there the cause goes not beyond the effect:―as fire begets fire, and it cannot but beget it, and it cannot go beyond it, for it is a natural cause, and produceth effects like to it self; So a Lion begets a Lion, because it is a natural cause.
But there are causes wherein it is not so; wherein you must not say, that there is no such effect, and therefore the cause doth not go beyond it:―that is, in voluntary causes, wherein the cause doth not work necessarily, but by the liberty of his will, and he may be able to do much more than he doth.
2. There are some things which GOD cannot do, as things that are past, and have been, he cannot cause them not to have been, &c.
The reason why GOD cannot do these things, is not because there is a restraint to his power, but because the things are not possible to be done; because he cannot make truth to be falsehood, or things that are, not to be; whatsoever implies a contradiction, he cannot do:―and the reason is, because the things are not to be done:―but in things simply possible, therein consists his omnipotence:―as when it is not contrary to the nature of the thing, as when the predicate is not repugnant to the nature and essence of the subject; as a Lion being a Lion cannot be a man, this is a thing that cannot be done:―therefore it is no impeachment to his omnipotence not to do it.
3. God cannot sin, GOD cannot deny himself, he cannot lie, &c.
We need not answer this:―for even for this cause he is omnipotent, because he cannot do these things. As if I should say, the Sun is full of light, it cannot be dark. These are the expressions which the Scripture useth:―as Tit. 1:2. God cannot lie:―and 2 Tim. 2:13. God cannot deny himselfe.
THE EIGHTEENTH SERMON.
Exodus 3:13-14. — “And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent mee unto you, and shall say unto me, what is his name; what shall I say unto them”? And God said unto Moses, I AM, THAT I AM, &c.
IF GOD produceth no infinite effect, and yet is infinite in power, that power which being never brought into act is in vain.
To this I answer, that it is true, when any power is appointed and destinated to any act, it is so far in vain, as it doth not attain to that end and act:―as bread is appointed to nourish; if it doth not, it is not fit for the end to which it is made, and so is vain:―i may say the same of every thing else. But that is not the end of God's power, to bring forth any effect answerable to it self:―for his power (to speak properly) hath no end, but all things are made for it. In other things, the cause is proportionable for its end:―but he himself is the cause of all other things; all that he doth, is for himself; and therefore though he doth not produce any such effect, yet his power is infinite.
Secondly, when there is a repugnancy in the nature of the thing, it is no shortening or limitation of his power. Now a creature, if it must be a creature, must be finite:―and the Lord can do what may be done:―but to make a creature infinite, is a contradiction. And therefore if he do not do it, it is not because he cannot, but because the thing it self cannot be done.
We now come to the application of this point.
If GOD be Almighty, then let all those that are in covenant with God, and that have interest in him, that can say, they are the Lord’s, and the Lord is theirs, let them exceedingly rejoice in this, that they have an Almighty God for their God. To have a friend that is able to do all things, (as we told you before, he is every where present,) it is a great benefit:―to have a friend in Court, in Country, a friend beyond the seas, if you shall have occasion to be banished thither:―but if you add this, he is able to do whatsoever he will, it will add much to our comfort. A friend many times is willing, but he is not able; if able and willing, yet not present:―but seeing he is every where, if thou hast any business to do, thou needest not to send a letter, do but put up a prayer to him, to be thy factor, to do it for thee, to work thy works for thee, he is every where present, and he is Almighty also, able to do it, therefore be content to have him alone for your portion. That is the cause, that men's ways are so unlike one to another:―because they would grasp GOD and the creature. And why do they do so? Because they will not be content to have GOD alone. And what is the ground of that? Because they do not think him indeed All-sufficient and Almighty:―for if they did, they need not to join any other with him.
But you will say, this is against sense:―GOD is All-sufficient, it is true, it is good to have him:―but, do we not need many hundred things besides? Must we not have friends, house, wife, &c.? Can we live without them? Can we live without friends, estate convenient? What is your meaning then to have GOD alone for our portion?
GOD hath all these in him, that is, he hath the comfort of them all:―if he be Almighty and All-sufficient, then look about, and consider the multitude of the things thou needest, and the variety of comforts thou desirest, and thou shalt find all in him. That argument which you are not strangers to. He hath made them all; and there is nothing in the effect, but what is in the cause, because it gave it to the effect first, and it gives nothing, but what it self had before:―if he hath put in beams of comfort, and this beauty in the several creatures, must they not needs be in him?
But you will say, that this is but a speculation.
But that it is more I will put you to one place, which I desire you to consider seriously:―that is, Mark 10:28, 29, 30. Then Peter began to say unto him, Loe wee have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said; verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or Bretheren, or Sisters, or Father, or Mother, or Wife, or Children, or lands for my sake and the Gospel’s; but hee shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, Houses, and Bretheren, and Sisters, and Mothers, and Children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternall life. When it is said here, he shall receive the very same; why doth the Holy Ghost repeat them in particular; He shall receive houses, and Brethren, &c. with persecution? that is, you shall be stript of all these things by persecution, yet at the same time, you shall have them all. At that time when he is in a close prison, & driven from all these, he shall receive them for this present. The meaning is this:―let a man have communion with GOD, let the Lord reveal himself to a man; if he be once pleased to come to a man, and sup with him, if he will but communicate to a man the consolations of the spirit, and fill him with joy and peace through believing:―i say, though he be in a close prison, yet he shall have the comfort of houses, Brethren, Sisters, Mothers &c. That is, that comfort which they would yield him, he shall find them altogether in GOD. So that if one would come and say to him, what if you should have Father, Mother, and friends restored to you, that you may enjoy them; I say, a man that hath a near communion with GOD, to whom GOD says, that he will come and sup with him, at such a time; he will say, I do not care one jot for them, for I have that which is better than them all. For example:―you see this in the Apostles, that rejoiced in prison. What do you think they would have said to men that offered them riches? Would they not have slighted them? They did slight imprisonment:―and in that they did slight shame, and prison &c. they would have slighted the other by the rule of contraries. Therefore labour to be content with GOD alone.
To make this argument without doubt, consider what heaven is. Do you think, that there you shall have a worse condition than here? Here you have need of many comforts and conveniences, it is a variegate appetite, that is, an appetite that is full of multiplicity:―why, when you come to heaven, you do not lay aside your nature, but you desire still; and there you shall have none but GOD alone:―so that there you shall be in a worse estate than here, if all these things were not to be found in the Lord:―if there were not this variety in the Lord, it could not be, that in heaven you should be so happy. Here you need Sun, and Moon, and Stars, and a thousand other things, but there you shall have none, but I, saith he, will be Sun, and Moon, and all to you:―and therefore he saith, that he will be all in all, which is the plural number, and signifies, all things, I will be πάντα ἔν ῶαοι.
Now this Almighty GOD, that will be All-sufficient in heaven, if he will but communicate to a man, and draw him near to his presence, shall not that be enough? Beloved, it is certain, that he will be enough for your portion. As for instance; let a man be stript of all his friends, and brethren and sisters, and country, as Abraham was:―he was stript of all, and had GOD alone left for his portion, yet you see that he was exceeding rich, and made a great Prince, and he had a great posterity. Therefore let us make this use of it:―to care for none but the Lord alone, we know not what shall become of us, we may be led into banishment, as others now are, and have been:―now if you have the Lord with you, it is enough. So if any condition befall you, if you can be content with GOD alone, you are well, what if your friends deceive you? What if you be shut up in a close prison? It is nothing, he is All-sufficient and Almighty, and there is no estate or condition, but he is with you in it, there is no strait, but he can help you out. Therefore study these things, and examine them, and labour to beat them upon your souls:―never rest, till you have brought your hearts to such a condition:―to say, I know that no man can separate between GOD and me, and I am content with GOD alone.
Secondly, If this be so, then labour to make use of this power of his. Why is this Attribute revealed to you? is it not for this, that men might make use of this power of his? Then let every man consider with himself, what he hath need of, what strait he is in, what business he would have done:―remember that GOD is Almighty, and he is able to bring it to pass; be it poverty in your estates, or debts, which a man is not able to over-wrestle, if there be a blemish in your names, and you cannot tell how to have it healed, or any weakness in your body; and which is more than all this, if there be a lust that ye cannot overcome, a temptation which ye cannot be rid of, if there be a deadness of spirit in you, and indisposedness to holy duties, and ye cannot tell how to get life and quickening; remember that there is an Almighty power revealed for that end, and it is our parts to make use of it:―though it be an hereditary disease in thee, (now you know that an hereditary disease is that which we have from our parents,) though thou hast such a disease, such a strong lust, yet think with thy self, the Lord is able to heal this. Jam. 4:6. A place named before, But he giveth more grace, &c. As if he should say:―when he had told them of the lusts that fight in their members, this objection comes in; Alas, we are not able to master these lusts. It is true, saith the Apostle, the lusts that are in us, do lust against the spirit, as naturally as the stone descends downward:―but how should we heal them, say you? How? The Scripture giveth more grace, that is, there is an omnipotent power which can heal all this.
So Matth:19:26. With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. It is a place worthy of 34consideration. Saith our Saviour, It is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdome of heaven:―why, say the Disciples, Who then can be saved? Indeed, saith Christ, it is impossible with men, but with God all things are possible. The meaning is this; when a man hath riches, that is, when the object is present and before him, a man cannot of himself but set his heart upon them; and when a man's heart is set upon them, no man in the world can wean his heart from those riches:―what shall we do then? Why, saith he, the LORD hath an Almighty power, he is able to mortify these lusts. We can no more do it, than a cable rope can go through the eye of a needle. Now that which is said of riches, may be said of any lust. Let an ambitious man have honour, or such an object suitable to a carnal mind, he cannot choose but set his heart upon it:―now when that lust is set upon an object, a Camel may as well go through a needle, as he can loose his heart from these lusts:―but yet the Lord can do it, With him all things are possible. And what the Apostle saith of the Jews, Rom. 11:23. The Lord can ingraft them in again, as bad as they be, though the wrath of GOD be gone over them to the utmost, yet GOD can do it:―so is it true of thy self, and any one else, the Lord can, if he will; to him nothing is impossible. Think with your selves, that he that can draw such beautiful flowers out of so dry an earth, as you look upon in winter; though thou hast an heart as far from grace, as the flowers seem to be from comming forth in the midst of winter, yet he that can do so in nature, is able to do the like in grace also, as he did to Paul, and Mary Magdalen. Now consider what they would have been without his power:―and by his power we may be as excellent as they. To confirm this, consider what a change grace hath wrought even among us:―how many amongst us, that of proud have become humble, of fierce and cruel, have become gentle; of loose, sober; of weak, strong, &c. Go therefore to him, believe this, and apply it:―and it is sure it shall be according to thy faith. If a man would go to the Lord, and say to him, Lord, I have such a lust, and cannot overcome it, and I want grief and sorrow for sin, thou that hast an almighty power, thou that didst draw light out of darkness, thou art able to make such a change in my heart, thou hast an almighty power, and to thee nothing is impossible. I say, let a man do so, and the Lord will put forth his power, to effect the thing that thou desirest. Surely he which establisheth the earth upon nothing, and keeps the wind in his fists, and bounds the water as in a garment, can fix the most unsettled mind, and the wildest disposition, and set bounds to the most loose and intemperate.
If God be almighty, you must believe this almightiness of his:―and whereas you say, we doubt not of his power, but of his will; I will shew to you, that all our doubts, and discouragements and dejections do arise from hence, not because you think the LORD will not, but because you think he cannot. Therefore you know not your own hearts in this, in saying that you doubt not of the power of GOD. I will make this good to you by these arguments.
If we did not doubt of the power of GOD, what is the reason that when you see a great probability of a thing, you can go and pray for it with great cheerfulness:―but if there be no hope, how do your hands grow faint, and your knees feeble in the duty? You pray because the duty must not be omitted, but you do not pray with a heart. And so for endeavors:―are not your minds dejected, do you not sit still as men discouraged, with your arms folded up, if you see every door shut up, and there be no probability of help from the creature? And all this is for want of this faith, would this be, if you did believe this Almighty power of GOD? For cannot GOD do it, when things are not probable, as well as when there are the fairest blossoms of hope?
Besides, do we not hear this speech of man? when the times are bad, do not men say, oh, we shall never see better days? And when a man is in affliction, oh, he thinks this will never be altered:―so if he be in prosperity, they think there will be no change. Whence comes this, but because we forget the Almighty power of GOD? If we thought that he could make such a change in a night, as he doth in the weather, as he did with Job, we should not be so dejected in case of adversity, and so lift up in case of prosperity.
Besides, men have not ordinarily more ability to believe, than the Israelites had which were GOD's own people:―yet consider, that these very men, that had seen all those great plagues, that the Lord brought upon the Egyptians, I therein mean, all his Almighty power; that saw his power in bringing them through the red sea, and giving them bread and water in the wilderness; yet called his power into question, and said, that GOD could not bring them into the land of Canaan. Ye will find they did so, Psa:78.41. They turned backe, and limited the holy one of Israel. And said, he cannot do this and this:―and why? because they have Cities walled up to heaven. That is the thing laid to their charge, They limited the holy one of Israel:―that is, they remembered not that he had an unlimited power, but they thought, if the Cities had been low, and the men had been but ordinary men, he could have done it:―but because they were so mighty men, and the Cities had such high walls; therefore they could not believe, that he could bring them in. Now if they did so, do you not think it is hard for you to do otherwise? Yea take him, that thinks he doth not doubt of the power of God, bring that man to a particular distress, and ye shall see him fail: (for it is one thing to have a thing in the notion, as for a man to think what he would do, if he were a Pilot, or a Captain; and another thing to have it in the real managing, as when he is brought to fight:) so is it here. It is one thing to believe GOD's Almighty power, and who doubts of it? But I ask you, if you have had a trial of your heart; if you have been brought to an exigent. Do you find it so easy a thing, to believe in difficulties, as in facility?
But you will say, the people of Israel were a stubborn and stiffnecked rebellious people:―and I hope our faith is greater than theirs.
I, but do you think that your faith is greater than the faith of Mary or Martha. Joh:11:21. Lord, if thou hadst bin here my Brother had not died. So verse 32. If you observe their reasoning, you shall see, all this doubt was of his power. If thou hadst been here, when he was sick, and when it was time, thou mightest have raised him:―but now it is too late, he hath been dead four days, and his body is putrified. Here is no doubt of his good will:―but all the question was of his power. And so it is with us:―do not we do the same, and say with our selves, if this had been taken in time, it might have been done, but now the case is desperate? Why? is not the Lord as well able to help in desperate cases, if he be Almighty?
Yea, but this were but weak women, and we hope our faith may be stronger than theirs?
But is your faith stronger than that of Moses? Num:11. You shall see there that Moses did doubt of God's power. When God had promised to send them flesh, and that not for a day or two, or five, or twenty, but for a month together, and for so many people:―moses saith, Lord, wilt thou send them flesh for a month together? There are six hundred thousand men of them, and it is in the wilderness. As if he should say, if it had been for a day or two, or in a plentiful Country, or for a few persons:―but there are six hundred thousand, and it is in the wilderness, and that for a month together. Here Moses was at a stand, and could not believe it. The Lord answers him; Is the Lords hand shortened, that he cannot helpe? thou shalt see, that I am able to do it, Numb:11:21. It is therefore not an easy thing to believe God's power. Therefore set your selves with all your might, to believe this Almighty power, and know, that all your strength will be needful for it. It is apt to man to measure things according to their own models, as to think him to be as powerful, as man's understanding can reach, and merciful, as far as man can be merciful; but for a finite creature to believe the infinite attributes of God, he is not able to do it throughly without supernatural grace. You cannot believe that he forgives so much as he doth, or that his power is so great, as his power is, but (though you observe it not) you do frame models of him according to your selves, and you do not think that his thoughts are above yours, as the heavens are above the earth. Therefore labour to get faith in his power. And will you have to lie dead, when you have it? No. Therefore add this for a fourth use.
Fourthly, then whatsoever thy condition be, whatsoever strait thou art in, be not discouraged, but seek to him; that is the ground of your prayers. You know the Lord's prayer is concluded with this:―for thine is thy kingdom, power and glory, for ever and ever. As if that were the ground of all the petitions that went before. So if the Lord be Almighty, and hath an almighty power, then in the most desperate case, when there is no hope or help in the creature, that you can discern, yet then pray, and pray strongly and confidently as men full of hope, to obtain what they desire.
And remember this for your comfort:―at that time, when you are in affliction, and in so great a strait, that you are hedged about, and no hope, no possibility to evade, that is the time that the Lord will shew forth his power; for a man is never discouraged but in this case; I have seen it by many particular experiments:―when the case hath been desperate, when there hath been no hope, yet when God hath been sought to by fasting and prayer, there hath been alteration above all thought, according to that expression used, Ephes:3:20. Hee is able to doe exceeding abundantly above all that we aske or thinke, according to the power that worketh in us:―that is, when they could not enlarge their thoughts far, nor were able to see there could be any way devised, yet enlarging their prayers, the LORD hath devised a way oftentimes; I will give you some instances that the Scripture gives in this case. When Esau came against Jacob, was he not in a fearful strait; there was no hope, and no possibility, Esau was too strong for him; what should he do now? he exposeth himself to the enemy, there was no other remedy; and it was an enmity of twenty years continuance, and the Text saith, that Jacob feared, and yet the LORD delivered him, when he had prayed to him. So when Laban came against him, GOD bid him that he should do him no hurt. So Daniel, when he was cast into the Lion's den, when all the Lion's were present with their mouths opened ready to devour, yet the Lord stopped their mouths, they could do him no hurt. So is it in many cases amongst us; when our enemies are ready to devour us, then GOD comes in in the nick, between the cup, and the lip, and works a way for our delivery. Therefore never be discouraged whatsoever thy case be:―it is a very great matter to say, that the Lord can do such a thing, though you think it but a small thing. As when the Leper could go to Christ, and say, Lord, thou canst make me clean if thou wilt, then the Lord did so. It was a great matter for those three children in Dan:3. to be able to say, when the fire was ready prepared, and the King was wroth, and there was no resistance, yet they said, The Lord is able to save us out of thy hand O King! The LORD did take this so well at their hands, that the LORD did help them, and save them. On the contrary side, when a man doth doubt of his power, you shall see how much moment it is of. As that Prince said to Eliah, Though God should make windows in heaven, yet there could not be such a plenty, as he spake of:―now the LORD was so displeased with it, that he destroyed him for it. So the Israelites did not believe that the LORD could bring them into the land of Canaan, therefore the Lord's anger was kindled against them for this:―psal.78.
But to draw this use to a conclusion. Learn to bring your hearts to this, whatsoever your case is, still to believe his power, and to be able to say still, the Lord can do it; and it is not a small matter to be able to say so. When the Churches are very low, and there is no hope, and you see little help, a man should go and pray with such cheerfulness and such hope, and confidence, as if it was the easiest thing in the world to help them; which you would do, if you did believe that GOD is Almighty. You know what the case of the Church was in Ahasuerus time, yet fasting and praying made a great change on the suddaine35. Nay when the Church is down, yet pray with as great hope, as it had the best props to hold it up, for the Lord is able to raise it up again.
I will give you two instances, that you may consider the Lord's power on both sides; his power to raise it up from a low condition; (as now, if you consider the miserable estate of the Church in Christendom at this time:) as it appears by the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel:―the meaning whereof is, that when the people are as low as low may be, like dead men, buried men, men scattered to the four winds, yet saith the Lord, I will put life into them; I will raise them and make them a great army, and I will put grace into them, and make them living men; that is, though the Church be never so low, yet the Lord can put life into it, and make a wonderful change.
Again, there is no Church so safe, (as we do think our selves now, and as the Palatinate did think themselves) but that yet the Lord can make a sudden change, and bring them down, as well as he could raise these dry bones; and as he hath done to others already. This you shall see, Lam.4:12. The Kings and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed, that the adversary and the enemy could have entred into the gates of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was so strong, there was such probability of safety, that no man would ever have believed that the enemy and the adversary should ever have entered into the gates thereof. Yet the Almighty power of GOD brought them down on a suddaine, and laid them flat to the ground. Therefore let the case be what it will be, suppose a nation be never so strong, yet GOD can bring them down; and let it be never so weak and low, yet the Lord is able to raise them up. And it is true of every particular thing also; then believe this Almighty power of GOD, and apply it, whatsoever thy case be; consider that thou hast to do with an Almighty God.
But you will say, the case may be such, as there is no help, the Lord hath declared his will by an event; and the case is such as never was helped, and will you have us to believe it now, because there is an Almighty power?
You must learn to do in this case, as Christ did:―lord, if thou wilt, let this cup pass form me, yet not my will but thine be done. Just after this manner you ought to do in every one of these cases, where there is no hope:―you must say thus, Lord, it is possible to thee to do it, be the case as desperate as it will be. As suppose a man hath a stone in the bladder, which we think an incurable disease, because the stone is so hard, and cannot be softened, yet it is possible to him; he can so lodge it, and bed it, that it shall do you no hurt; and if he do take away this life, yet he gives you a better; if it do pain you here, yet he will give you joy and peace, which is far better than to endure a little pain in the flesh. I say, you ought to do as Christ did in this case; and remember this, that in such a case, your business is not with the power, but with the will of GOD:―that is, you must say, Lord, I know it is possible that this cup may pass, but Lord, here is all the matter; it is my desire that it should pass, and it may be it is thy will that it shall not, Lord, if this be the case, it is meet my will should yield, and that thy will should be done:―as if Christ should have said, Lord, I will give thee this honour, that thou canst remove this cup from me, but if thou doest not, it is not thy will to do so; and I am content. So do thou give the Lord this glory of his power in every case, that he can do it, if it be his will.
Be it that thy desire is to be delivered from such or such an affliction; consider this:―it is meet God's will should yield to thine, or thine to his? Then bring thy heart down, and be content that it should be so.
But you will say, it is hard to do this, to be willing to undergo such an affliction.
Consider it is God's will; and therefore if it were not best for thee, yet thou shouldest honour him so far, as to prefer his will before thine own:―it being his will, thou shalt be assured if thou art one that belongs to him, that it shall be best for thee. Christ was no loser when he yielded to his Father's will, for God heard him in what he prayed for:―as it is Heb.5. though the Lord's will passed on him, and he drank of the cup. So thou must yield to his will whatsoever it is, be content with what is done, and believe that thou shalt be no loser by it in the end, but thou shalt have what thou desirest, though not in that manner that thou wouldest have it to be done.
The First Sermon.
1 John 5:14. — And this is the assurance which wee have in him, that if we aske any thing according to his will, hee heareth us.
THE scope of the holy Apostle in this chapter, is to set forth some of those principal priviledges we have by Jesus Christ. One main principal (which is the greatest of all the rest) is, that through him we have eternal life; And therefore (saith he) know this, that when you have the Son once, you have life:―in 12. ver. He that hath the Sonne hath life, and he that hath not the Sonne hath not life. Therefore (saith he) have I written this Epistle to you for this purpose, that you might consider well what gain you have by Christ Jesus:―these things have I written (saith he) in the verses before this that I have read unto you, to you that beleeve in the name of the Sonne of God, that you may know that you have eternall life:―after this he names another great priviledge, that we have by Christ; which is this, mentioned in this verse, that I have now read unto you:―this (saith he) is in him:―this assurance, that whatsoever we ask according to his will, he heareth us:―for that is the second great priviledge we have by Christ, we shall be heard in all our requests:―it is no more but ask and have, put up what petition you will, if you be in Christ once, you have this assurance, that he heareth you:―but he delivers it with this condition, you must first be in him:―we have this assurance in him (saith he) that if we ask any thing, according to his will, he heareth us. So that you see, here are two plain points lying evidently before us.
1. That except a man be in Christ, he must not, he ought not apply to himself any of these spiritual priviledges, that we have by him:―if we be in Christ, this and all other are ours; if you be in Christ (saith he) then you have that assurance, for we have that assurance in him. The second point that the verse affords us, is,
2. That whatsoever is in Christ, whatsoever he asks he shall have it. Now my full intention was, only to have handled that which is mainly aimed at in this verse, for the other you see is more touched by the way, which is this great priviledge that belongs to all Christians, that whatsoever they ask in prayer according to the will of God, they shall be heard in it:―but because I understand you had a Sacrament appointed for this day, I have altered a little that course; the hearing of that hath somewhat diverted me, and caused me at this time to pitch upon the other point which I named to you, that except a man be in Christ, he ought not to apply any priviledge to himself, if he be, I say, all belongs to him. When you come to receive the Sacrament, it is a very great priviledge to come to meddle with those holy mysteries, to have those Symbols given to you of the love and favour of God in Christ; but yet you must remember this, that except you be in Christ, you have nothing to do with him, and therefore it is a fit and necessary point for this season:―for when the Apostle would give directions to the Corinth what they should do, to prepare themselves to the Sacrament, that they may be worthy receivers; he gives it in this short precept:―let every man (saith he) examine himself, and so let him eat this bread and drink this cup. Now what is a man to examine himself of? surely all that come to the Lord's Table, are to examine themselves concerning these two things:
1. Whether he be in Christ, and so whether he hath any right at all to come near to him in that holy ordinance.
2. Though he be in Christ, yet he must examine himself, whether he be particularly prepared, quickened, and fitted, whether his heart be put into such a trance of grace, whether it be so fashioned as it ought to be, when he comes to the immediate performance of such a duty as that is. Now because I handle this point, but only for this particular occasion, I will not enter into such a manner of handling of it, as I was wont to do at other times, but only take so much of it as may serve for the present occasion; Therefore when I say this to you. That except a man be in Christ, he ought not to take any priviledge to himself:―we will do these two things; 1 Exhort every man to consider whether he be in Christ:―for that is the present question which any man's heart would ask, when he hears this propounded. Why then if all the priviledges be suspended upon my being in Christ, my main business is to examine that, whether I be in Christ or no. 2 Secondly if a man be in Christ, yet he may be suspended by some intervenial sin, and some intervenial disposition of mind, & heart, that may grow on him, from enjoying, & from having the present fruit and benefit, of that priviledge that belongs to him; Therefore I say, first we will do this, give you rules to examine your selves whether you be in Christ or no. It is very useful to all that now are to receive, or at any other time; it's useful you know too, not only upon such an occasion as this, but upon all occasions, and therefore a point, though peculiarly belonging to this time being taken up for the preparation for the Sacrament, yet I say is useful to all, and therefore we may the more boldly venture upon it, and you ought to attend it more diligently:―i will give you but these two main notes or rules by which you shall try it. Whosoever is in Christ there must pass a double act:―one on our part, another on Christ's part, My beloved is mine, and I am his, we take Christ, and Christ takes us; wheresoever you find these two acts, such a man is in Christ:―there must be an act on our part, something the heart and mind of a man must do to take and receive Christ, Secondly the Lord sends and puts forth something of his, an act of his, he doth put forth an act of the Holy Spirit, whereby he comprehends us, and takes us. Now if thou find in thy self these two, that the heart hath exercised that act of taking the Lord Jesus; Secondly that he hath sent forth a virtue & put forth an act of his to take thee, & to comprehend thee; then certainly thou art in Christ, and if it be so, all the priviledges belong to thee, if not, thou hast nothing to do with this holy Sacrament. Now for that act which is on our part, it is but this, you must consider these things.
1. Whether you make Christ your chiefest Excellency.
2. Whether you make him your chiefest Treasure.
3. Whether you make him your chiefest Joy and Delight.
4. Your chiefest Refuge to whom your hearts retire on all occasions.
5. Whether you set him up in your hearts for the chiefest Commander.
My Beloved, if you find all this done by you, then out of doubt, Christ belongs to you; They are all several, but they meet in one center, and serve together to make up one rule of trial to you, to know whether you have took Christ to you or no, and I will handle them all distinctly as I have named them unto you.
1. Therefore consider whether Christ be thy chiefest Excellency; for it is natural to every man to seek some excellency or other. Indeed beasts, so they may have that which is necessary for the life of nature & service, it is enough for them; and it may be it is enough for all brutish men, whose souls are buried in their bodies that are but sepulchres of men, in whom that spectacle of excellency which is rational, that belongs to a man, is quenched in sensuality; And these men it may be seek no excellency at all, but so they may live in pleasures, so they may have that which belongs to their bodies, and to this present life it is enough for them. But of a man that hath any thing of a man in him, as he is a man, so a man I say considered in these higher parts of his soul, his mind and his will; he seeks another excellency suitable to this part:―he serves a higher, a more difficult, a more spiritual, immaterial substance, such as the soul is, and according as men's minds are of diverse fashions, so a man is in a way of seeking several excellencies, for himself yea according to their different ages, Children delight in childish things, and so do men likewise, from whom this childishness is worn, but I say, to their several fashion and understanding, so they seek a several excellency, some seek learning and knowledge and to be excellent in their profession, and that is the excellency that some would have. Some seek great places of authority and command, & if they had their wish, that is the excellency that they would have; Some seek favour of the Prince:―some to have a great estate, that men may say, he is worth so much, he hath such Lordships, and such fair houses, and lands belonging to him, if he had the excellency he desires, that he would have. Every man in his own kind, according as men's understandings are stronger, according to their different educations as it hath been more noble, and ingenious, according to the several companies that they keep, where they find such and such things magnified; according to the several ages they live in; As we say, something is in request in one age, in one company, something in another; I say according to the several occasions, so every man seeks a several excellency to himself. Now consider what is the excellency thy heart desires, above all things else, whether it be Jesus Christ, to be in him, to excel in grace, to have a new draught of God's Image to be made in thy soul, or whether some such thing as I have named; Consider what is the proper virtue thou wouldest have thy soul to excel in, for there are several virtues, every thing hath some virtue or other which is proper to it, as the virtue of a knife is to cut well, & the virtue of a horse to go well, and the virtue of a soldier is to fight well, and the virtue of a Christian to be a holy man, to be holy, gracious, and unblameable in his conversation. Now what is the proper excellency thy heart aims at, what is that thou esteemest thy virtue, that if thou wert put to thy choice that thou mightest have a wish granted thee; whether thou wouldest desire this, to excel in grace and holiness, to have thy sinful lusts mortified, to have thy heart put into a holy frame of grace:―or whether, if thou wouldest deal impartially with thy self, is it not some other excellency that thy heart runs upon? that thy thoughts and affections are most set upon? Consider when thou lookest upon others, what seems most gracious in thy sight, by what thou doest most value the excellency of another man; for it is likely thou so esteemest thy self also:―consider therefore I say what thou measurest thy self by; A man that is in Christ, sets so much by himself, and by every man as he is in God's book, and as you see, men are rated, and their wealth esteemed, according as they are in the King's books. See what thy heart saith to this, whether thou settest so much by thy self, I say, and by every man else, as he is in God's favour, as he hath the eminency of grace and holiness above others, or whether it be something else by which thou ratest thy self & others:―consider what is that outward Badge, that livery, that Cognizance thou desirest to wear, which thou wouldest boast of among men:―you shall see it in Paul, (saith he) when I come amongst you I do not regard the excellency of natural wisdom, I care not to come with that:―the time was when I prized it, as you prize it now, but now (saith he) it is another excellency which I seek, which I desire to wear (as it were) when I come among you, to preach the gospel (saith he) I care for nothing else, I care not to be thought of to know any else than Christ crucified:―consider with thy self now what thou wouldest have most eminent in thee, in the eyes and ears of men, that which thou wouldest wear in the view of all the world; whether it be the livery of Christ, to profess the fear of God, to excel in grace and holiness though the world disgrace thee, despise thee and hate thee, for it is that thy heart desires? It's a sign thou seekest Christ for thy excellency. Consider likewise what it is that thou esteemest thy chiefest wisdom, for it is the disposition of men before they be in Christ, before they have experience of the ways of God, before they be regenerate, when they look upon those ways in others, they reckon them folly, they are foolishness to every natural man:―but when they are once in Christ, then they are wisdom unto him, that is, he reckons him the wisest man that excels most in those foolish courses, as before he reckoned them; it is the Lord's expression, Deu.4.6. This shall be your wisdome before all people, to keepe my Lawes and Commandements. Consider now what is that thou reckonest thy chiefest wisdom, before all people, whether thou thinkest, that which before thou thinkedst folly & weakness, and hadst a disposition in thy heart to contemn and scorn, whether thou settest it at a higher price, and dost in truth think it thy wisdom, and art willing that all the world should know that thou thinkest so:―thus you shall find that you make Christ your excellency, (that is) whether you in your hearts (seeing every man desires some or other) whether thy heart go this way or no, to seek a virtue in the excellency of Jesus Christ, and to shew them forth to others, that thou mayst be a Christian, that thou mayst be found in him, that thou mayst be able to say as Paul said, I reckon all other things as dross, as base and vile things, only to be found in Christ, to be clothed in his righteousness, to excel in the graces of his spirit, that only I prize as most excellent, and most worthy:―and this is the first.
2. Secondly, consider what is thy chiefest Treasure, for you see, he that had gotten the field, he gave all that he had for it, and went away rejoicing, for he reckoned it his greatest treasure, and worth all the rest. It is certain, whosoever hath taken Christ, doth so esteem of him, he reckons him to be his chiefest treasure.
You will say, How shall I know it?
Why, consider what men do with their treasure, for it is certain (as I said before, of excellency, so) every man hath some treasure or other; The poorest man that is, hath a treasure, something that he esteems of, which he makes account of. I ask not what thou art possest of, but what thou most esteemest? for treasures are as they are most esteemed of. As we say of jewels, the worth of them are according to men's fancies, according as they are esteemed, so every man with a treasure; One makes this thing his treasure, an other that. Now (I say) consider what thou makest thy treasure, and you shall know what your treasure is, by these marks.
1. A man lays up his treasure in the safest place. Then if Christ be thy treasure, thou wilt lay him up in the innermost parts of thy heart, he shall not dwell in thy tongue, he shall be laid up in the closet of thy heart, he shall not dwell in thy outward man, in thy understanding only, but he shall be laid up in thy inward part; (that is) he shall be pitched upon the very bottom of thy heart, and there he shall rest, there thou wilt entertain him.
2. Again, what a man's treasure is that he keeps with his greatest care, with the greatest wariness and solicitude. So wilt thou the Lord Jesus, when once thou layst him up in thy heart, thou wilt not be careful for any thing, so much as to keep him safe, that is, to keep the assurance of his favour safe, to keep him near thee, and thy self near unto him, thy mind will be most careful of this, more than of all things else; Thou wilt then take heed of all things that may cause a distance between thee and him, thou wilt then take heed of whatsoever may loose him, of whatsoever may make a separation between the Lord and thee, thou wilt be more careful for this, than any man is to keep his wealth, or to keep whatsoever it is that he makes his Treasure.
3. Again, whatsoever is thy treasure that thou wilt most esteem, thou wilt set it at the highest rate above all things else. Before a man is in Christ there are many other things, which in truth, (howsoever he pretend something else) which I say, he prizeth at a higher rate than Christ, worldly vanities before he is in Christ they seem great things to him, but when he is in him once, he looks upon them with another eye. My beloved, you know there was a time when God looked upon the creatures and they were exceeding good, even all that are in the world, those things that men magnify so much, I say, there was a time when they were exceeding good; but sin hath blowed upon them; it hath blasted the beauty and vigour of them, so that now when the Lord looks upon them, that is the sentence that is pronounced of them you know, in Eccl. 1. They are all vanity and vexation of spirit. Consider if thou be able to look on all these things, as things (even the best things the world hath) being but mere vanity, things wherein the Lord sowed not men's happiness, and therefore thou canst not think to reap it there. If you mark but the expression the wise man useth in Eccles. 1, saith he, All things are but vanity, all things under the Sun; now there is a reason contained in these words why they are but vanity, for waters you know they ascend not higher than the fountain, and they carry not any thing higher than their own ascent, so all the creatures that be in the world, they be but under the Sun, therefore they cannot ascend to that happiness which is above the Sun, nor carry you to that condition which is above; for happiness is above the Sun, laid up in Heaven. Therefore saith he, all things under the Sun if they be considered to make a man happy; they are but vanity:―now consider whether thy judgment be so of them or no, whether it be conformable to the judgment of the holy Ghost, whether thou hast this conceit of all other things, but the quite contrary conceit of Jesus Christ; whether thou canst think of him, as of one that is the most excellent and thy chiefest treasure, as one that is far beyond all these, as one upon whom thy heart is pitched, as one in whom thy happiness is contained.
4. Again a man's treasure is that, which he will be at any cost to get, he will be at any pains to attain it. It is that, on which his heart is bestowed, and his affections are occupied about. Is it so with thee when thou comest to Christ Jesus? art thou willing to be at more cost and pains to get him, than any thing besides? Is thy heart and affections more bestowed upon him? For where a man's treasure is, there his heart is. I do not ask whether thou bestowest more time upon the matters of grace, than the duties of thy calling; but, whether thou dost them with more intention, whether thou bestowest thy time & pains upon them, as upon that which thou reckonest thy treasure, far exceeding all other?
5. Again fifthly consider whether thou art willing to part with any thing rather, than with Christ Jesus:―for whatsoever is a man's treasure, you know a man will part with any thing rather than with it. Whatsoever it is, that is subject to loss rather than his treasure; Is it so with thee? hadst thou rather part with any thing than with Christ, than to part with a good conscience, than with the graces of the spirit, than to part with any thing that tends to holiness, to build thee up further in the work of God's grace? I say consider whether thy heart be willing to part with any thing rather than with Christ; for you shall find this, that Satan & the world will cheapen Christ, and when they come to bidding, they will bid well. Consider whether thy heart can give a peremptory answer to the world, and say this; I will not sell Christ, I will not sell a good conscience for any thing, yea when Satan & the world bid highest, and tell thee as he did Christ, that he will give thee all the riches, and all the glory in the world, if you will part with Christ, consider whether thy heart be ready to deny whatsoever he offers to thee, as he will be sure to offer that which will be most suitable to thy disposition, whether thy heart hath taken this resolution to it self; Christ is my chiefest treasure, I will part with all therefore, I will part with liberty, I will part with life, with goods, with credit, with pleasures, with profits, with whatsoever is near and dear unto me, rather than I will part with our Lord Jesus. If this be thy heart's resolution and mind, then Christ is thy chief treasure, that's the 2d thing.
3. Thirdly, consider what is thy chief joy & delight, what is thy life, (I put them together, for that which is a man's chief joy indeed, is his life.) For we know life is nothing else but that joy that the heart hath, whereby it is nourished and fed as it were, for life is not to have body and soul joined together, to be a living man, in that sense we usually take life, for if that were life, then the men in hell should not be said to die the death, for you know in hell there is a conjunction of soul & body, and yet men are not said to live there; for it is death which is the punishment of sin; & indeed you shall find that there is something a man's heart cleaves unto, wherein he rejoiceth, which is the same with his life. Therefore look as the Soul enlivens the body, so the conjunction of the present things that he reckons his joy, that is, his life, he cannot live without it. Now if Christ be thy chief joy, thou wilt find this, that thou canst not live without him, as men are wont to say of their delights; Such a man cannot live without such a thing, so it is true of every man that hath taken Christ, he is not able to live without him. This life is no life, and therefore if there be but separation between thee and him, if man's conscience be as it were clouded for a time, he finds no rest, he doth as the Spouse in the Canticles, She seeks from one place to another, and gives her self no rest, till she find him, and why? because it was, he whom her soul loved, So you shall find, Beloved, whosoever it is that your souls love, whatsoever you make your chief joy, you will take no rest, but as far as you love and enjoy it. Therefore for the finding of this, whether Christ be thy life and thy chief joy, consider what it is that thy thoughts feed upon; every wicked man, every man that is out of Christ, there is something that his thoughts feed upon, some things there are in contemplation of which the soul solaceth it self, some pleasures that are past, present, or to come, the very thinking of these are the greatest joy of his heart, he rolls them under his tongue, even as a servant that hath got some dainty bit out of his Master's presence, and eats it in a corner, so the soul of a man hath out of Christ some secret, some stolen, some unlawful delights, that it feeds upon and delights in:―consider therefore well with thy self, what breakfast thy morning thoughts have, (that I may so say) what breakfast they have every morning, what is that Pabulum, that food of thy soul, thy thoughts and affections wherewith they are fed, & nourished and refreshed from day to day; whether it be some carnal pleasure, some reflecting on thy state, upon thy credit, upon thy wealth, upon thy friends, or whether it be on Christ. As David exercised it, whether they be thy songs on the night time, the remembrance of them is so, that they have something past whereby they comfort themselves, something present whereby they cheer up their hearts, something to come, something in hope. So every man that is in Christ, he hath the comforts of the spirit, he hath the meditation of the priviledges that he hath in Christ, he hath the hope of God's favour, such are his appointed, these are the things that his soul feeds on in secret, yea the very works that he doth, that seems to be the hardest part of a Christian's life, the very works that he doth in serving the Lord from day to day, even that is his meat and his drink, that is, it is as sweet and acceptable to his soul, as meat & drink is to the hunger and thirst of his body:―now consider with thy self whether it be so with thee, whether that which is thy continual feast without which thou canst not live, be Christ, that is, the assurance thou hast, that he is thine and thou art his, whether it be the priviledges thou hast in him, things that belong to the kingdom of God, whether these be the things thy soul feeds on, whether this be thy life, the things without which thou couldest not live, or whether it be something else, some stolen delights, some unlawful pleasures, something else that thy soul and affections are set upon. And this is the next thing by which thou mayst try thy self whether thou belong to Christ or no, to consider whether he be thy chief joy, whether thy soul be most filled and satisfied with him. And this is the third thing.
4. The fourth is, he is thy chief Refuge; If thou be one that hast took him and received him, I say he is thy chief refuge. That is, as I said of the rest, for every man hath some refuge, some castle or other to which his soul retires in all difficult and doubtful cases, by reason of that indigency and that insufficiency to which the nature of man is subject:―there is something that he must have to lean unto, (mark it) for mankind is like that generation which the Wiseman speaks of, you know it is said of the Connyes they are a generation not strong, & what then, & therefore they have their burrows to hide themselves in. I say such is the generation of mankind, he is a weak creature, a generation not strong, therefore there is something that he must lean to, something out of himself, some sufficiency besides himself, some strong hold, some refuge every man hath, I say every man hath some refuge or other, whither he thinks his soul may go, and there he may have succour in cases dangerous and in troubles. Now consider what is thy refuge, whither thy heart runs in all such cases, to what wing, to what strong hold:―In dangerous cases, you see every creature hath some refuge or other, The Child runs to his mother, the Chickens run to the hen, the Fox to his earth, the Conneys to their burrows; so every creature to their several corners and receptacles proper to them:―I say so it is with every man, so hath every one of you to whom I speak, there is somewhat that is a secret refuge to which your hearts fly. Now consider whether that be Christ or somewhat else. A covetous man (rather a man of this world) he hath wealth for his strong hold, in which his heart comforts it self, well, what change of time soever come, yet I have an estate to hold me up, and when he is ill spoken of abroad, yet he applauds himself with that he hath at home; The Courtiers, they have the Prince's favour, that is their refuge wherein they comfort themselves; Those that are given to Company, they have good fellows, such as they, that are their companions, and so long as they speak well of them, they care not who speak ill of them; Some of this kind, some of another, every man hath his refuge. If you will look into the scriptures, you shall see David's refuge, see in any distress, upon any occasion, At Ziglag, he comforteth himself in the Lord 38, his heart did fly to him, as the chickens fly to the hen, there he comforted himself, there he shrouded himself, there he encouraged himself in the Lord, when he fled from his son Absolon, was not the Lord his refuge? Yet (saith he) He is my buckler and my strong hold. Psalm 3, which was made upon that occasion:―what was Jacob's refuge when he fled from his brother Esau? Did not he go to the Lord, and seek to him by prayer? Lord thou hast said thou wilt doe me good Psalm 39, now I fly unto thee, I beseech thee perform thy promise, thou art my refuge. Consider others now what was their refuge:―judas, when he hath betrayed his Master Christ, & his conscience was upon him for it, he goes to the high Priests and brings the silver to them, why saith he, you set me a work, you are the authors of it, and I hope to find some comfort from you; you see he found little comfort in his mind, yet that was his refuge. The Kings of Israel and Judah when they were distressed, they fled to Egypt and to Ashur, to this or that help, which (the Lord said) were broken reeds to them, but yet that was their refuge:―this is the manner of every man being out of Christ, that is, an unregenerate man, that is in his natural estate some refuge he hath, friends, or wealth, or credit, or the favour of the Prince, something or other it is:―and if he be destitute and have no refuge (as sometimes it so falls out) then his heart is shaken as the leaves of the forest; Their hearts were shaken even for fear of the king of Aram, 40As the leaves are shaken in the forest; and why? because they knew not how to defend themselves, they had no refuge to fly to:―so you see it was with Belshazar's heart, so Achitophel, and so Saul, when he sees that he must die the next day, and that there was no refuge for him:―then I say their hearts sank and died within them; And now consider how it is with thee, what is the refuge to which thy heart flyeth, and which thy heart makes most account of, (for every man thinks with himself, change of time may come, and what shall be my comfort, what shall be my strong hold at that time.) Dost thou fly to Jesus Christ? is he thy succour when thy heart is dejected at any time and faints within thee? from which fountain dost thou fetch thy comfort? Dost thou fly to Christ, to comfort thy self in him, when thou art in a doubtful case, that concerns thee as much as thy life? whither dost thou go for counsel and direction? is it to Christ, to beseech him to guide thee & direct thee, when thou art pressed hard? whither doth thy heart go for succour & for help to keep thy self safe? Is it to Christ, or to somewhat else? My beloved, I assure you this, that a carnal man that is not in Christ, in these times of distress knows not whither to go, he dares not go to Christ, for he fears that it shall be asked him, upon what acquaintance? for he hath been a stranger to the Lord, he was never acquainted with him:―but a carnal man that is out of Christ, he goes to his Muses, he goes to his farms, he goes to his bushes, as the hunted hare was wont to do, to go to the places that she used when she lived quiet, thither she flies when she knows not how to escape:―so in that fashion it is with men, look what things they were wont, to which their hearts had recourse in time of prosperity, and what their haunts have been, to those bushes they fly:―but alas! they are but bushes, such as will not defend them. But now the Christian on the other side, the muse, the farm as it were (it is but to express it to you) that his soul is acquainted with, (that is my meaning) the strong hold that he was wont to fly unto, upon every several evil, upon every ordinary doubt, upon every dejection and discouragement and fainting of heart; he was wont to fly to Christ, and there he was wont to find comfort, and thither he goes in time of greatest difficulty in the day of death, and there he finds comfort. Consider if he be thy chief refuge, for if thy heart hath taken him as he is thy chief excellency, thy chief joy, thy chief treasure; so he will be thy chiefest refuge, yea when all things else are taken away, yet that cover remains safe:―suppose thou be in prison, suppose thy credit be taken away, (I mean) thy worldly credit, (for the other credit cannot be taken away from any man that hath Christ,) suppose thy life be taken away, suppose thou be stript of all that thou hast; yet thou hast Christ for thy chief refuge, and thou thinkest so, and thy heart is satisfied with it. As Paul saith, when he was a prisoner, when he was naked, when he was destitute, when he was stript of all, yet (saith he) I know whom I have trusted, As if he should say, yet I have him safe, yet my cover was over my head, yet I am safe in my castle, I have chosen him, I have him in death, yea then Christ he is advantage, he is a cover, a castle, & a refuge.
5. Last of all, consider whom thou settest up for thy chiefest Commander, who it is to whom thou givest the chief command in thine heart. You will say how shall I know that? Why (my beloved) he whom a man feareth most, & loveth most, that is he whose friendship above all others he would least loose, and whose dislike and separation he doth most fear, certainly he will be most obedient to him, he will be most observant of him. Art thou so to Christ? take all the things in the world, if thou set up him, as him whom thou most fearest & lovest, thou wilt most obey him. So again, be whom thou thinkest can do thee the greatest good, & the greatest hurt, him thou wilt most obey, if thou thinkest in good earnest that Christ is able to do it, certainly then thou wilt most obey him; As for example, if thou look to any man in the world; a man that is out of Christ, he thinks that the favour or the wealth of the King, can do him more good and more hurt, than the favour or the loss of the favour of Christ; He thinks that wealth, or credit, or something else, (many things there are that he thinks) can do him more good & more hurt; therefore he more respects their command, than the command of Christ, but a man that sets up him for his chief Commander, he regards nothing else when he comes to cross it, when it comes to thwart any command of Christ, because he saith thus to himself in his heart in secret. It is the Lord that can do the greatest good, and the greatest hurt, therefore I care for no more. So Naboth he cared not for Ahab's wrath. So Mordecay cared not for Haman's displeasure:―so did the Apostles they cared not for the High Priests, nor what they could do, Acts 4. So did the 3 children (as you call them) they cared not for the fiery furnace of Nabucadnezar, nor for all that he was able to do; and why? because they thought that Christ, and that God was able to do them more hurt, and more good; Now take any Commander in the world, when you regard not the punishment, nor the reward that he is able to inflict or to give you, his authority is gone, now when you set up Christ, & think so of Christ, you are ready to obey him, and obey him rather than any other:―therefore consider with thy self this, and consider seriously, ask thy heart the question, what is that thou settest up to be thy chiefest Commander? For there are three great Commanders in the world, that divide all mankind between them almost. And that is wealth, and estate, and worldly credit & thy honour to live in esteem, pleasures, and delight, now think with thy self when any of these three great Commanders come with any command, contrary to that which Christ commands, think with thy self what thou wilt do in such a case, what wast thou wont to do, look to past experience:―look back to thy former ways, see what thou wast wont to do:―think with thy self when such a Command comes, what thy heart reasons upon; if concupiscence, if a strong lust, if a strong impetuous desire come, and bid thee to do something, which is contrary to that which Christ would have thee to do, what art thou ready to do in such a case? if thy profit, the maintenance of thy estate, thy liberty, thy wealth, thy convenience in this world come and command thee to do one thing, and thy conscience (which is Christ's visegerent) come in his stead, and command thee another thing, what art thou ready to do in that case? for when thy credit, thy honour, & reputation, thy vain glory shall come and bid thee do one thing, and Christ shall bid thee do another, what is thy resolution, what art thou wont to do? By this thou shalt know whether thou settest up Christ, as the chief Commander in thy heart or no, whether thou givest him thy chief throne, whether thou exaltest him for God in thy heart; you know when you exalt him for God, every thing then yields, if in truth he be set up for God in thy heart:―therefore consider what it is that thy heart sets highest, whether thou exaltest him most, whether (when any of these threatening, crying commands come) thou canst give them an absolute denial, and say with thy self, I will not obey you; and if they threaten imprisonment, or disgrace, and loss of life, and if I do not obey such a lust, I shall be wrung & pincht for it, I shall lose such delights:―well, I am resolved to bear all this:―on the other side, when they shall come with fair proffers, you shall have this honour, and this advancement, & this convenience. If thy heart can say now, I will have none of you, for I see it is a command contrary to his that is above, whom I have set up for my chief Commander whom I resolve to obey, whom I take to be greater than all the friendship in the world, than all the profits, pleasures, and credits in the world, I say thus examine thy self what thy heart is toward Christ, what it is to his command:―and (let me touch that by the way) thou must also shew thy obedience to Christ, in thy obedience to others; My beloved there are indifferent things, that are in themselves not of moment one way or other, whether we do them or not do them, and though the omission of them in themselves be nothing, yet when it shall be of contempt and neglect of those that are set in superiour place over you, in such a case you ought not to do it:―this is a rule, and a true rule in divinity, that indifferent things may be omitted except in two cases, in case of scandal, and in case of neglect, and contempt of authority:―therefore when there is neglect, when men shew contempt, for that case it is to be done, though for the other it is not to be done. This I touch but by the way, that you may consider it in your particular occasion.
Now my beloved, you see these 5 things, by which you may know if you have took Christ or no, ye know when a man comes to examine himself whether he be a fit man, a man that hath any right to come to the Lord's table, he must consider whether he be in Christ; otherwise he hath nothing to do either with this priviledge, or with any other; Now to be in Christ, there must (as I said) go a double act, there must be one on thy own side, there must be one act on thy part to take him; and there must be an act on his part, there goes out a strength and a virtue from him by which he takes thee and comprehends thee:―the time is past, and I cannot proceed further, only remember this that hath been said to you, and examine your selves by it whether you be in the truth, whether you make Christ your chief Excellency, your chief Treasure, your chief Joy, your chief Refuge, your chief Commander, if thou find that thou hast done this, if thou find thy heart wrought to such an act as this, to take Christ in such a manner, then thou hast Christ, thou art in him, then thou hast a right in him, and maist come with comfort, but if thou have it not, then I must charge every one of you in the name of Christ Jesus (in whose authority we come) that you meddle not with such holy mysteries. My Beloved you know what I have often told you, there is a necessity laid on men to come to the Sacrament:―you know he that neglected the Passover was cut off from the people. It was a very great sin:―so it was to omit the Sacrament:―you have diverse Terms, and if your business hinder you from one, you may come to another, I mean in a Term, yea there is a necessity lies upon you to come, but yet we must give you a double charge, one that thou omit it not, and another that thou come not hither unless thou be in Christ; what hast thou to do, thou that art a profane person, thou hast nothing to do with him, thou that art yet a stranger to him, that thou shouldst thrust in to the Lord's table; thou ought’st not to do it, if thou dost, thou eatest & drinkest thy own damnation, instead of thy salvation.
The Second Sermon.
AND so now we come to the Use, and that is, that there is an Act of Christ to make an union betwixt us, that we may be his, and he ours:―there is an act of his, that is, there is a certain power or virtue comes from him, even as there doth from the Load-stone to the iron, that draws thee to him, there goes out a virtue and power from him as to the woman that touched the hem of his garment, that healed her bloody issue, such a power goes out from Christ to every man, that is in him. And as you must examine it by your own act, so in the second place you are to examine it by this; consider whether there hath gone out any such power from Christ to take thee, and comprehend thee:―for you must know this, that when once we are in Christ, then there goes forth an effectual and almighty power from him, which doth not make a little light alteration; a light change on the superficies of the heart, but it alters the very frame of it, it turns the very rudder of the heart, so that a man's course is to a quite contrary point of the compass, it is such an alteration as doth breed us, not some good conception only of purposes and desires which many have, which when they come to the birth, there is no strength to bring them forth:―but he gives to us a power and strength to perform them:―that is, he doth not put upon them a washy colour of profession, but he dyeth them in grain with grace & holiness. And therefore consider whether thou hast found any experience of such a power going out of Christ to thy heart; This my beloved, differs from common graces, from the common form of godliness which is in the world, as much as the life differs from the picture, or as the substance from the shadow, as a through performance differs from a proffer, or an offer:―or as that which has sinews and vigour, differs from that which is weak and powerless. Therefore this power of Christ which he puts forth and diffuseth into the heart of every man that is in him, is called the Kingdom. And the Kingdom of Christ is not in word, but in power:―that is, when once he rules but as a King, he exerciseth a kingdom there, and he saith not only to us; I will have such a thing done, they are not weak and powerless commands that he gives to the heart of a man that he dwells in, but saith he, the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power, that is, there goes an efficacy with those commands, there goes a great strength with them, that brings every thought, and every rebellious affection in subjection to it; & therefore consider I say, if thou wouldst have these virtues, whether thou be in Christ, whether any such power hath gone out from Christ to thy heart.
But you will say, what is this power and virtue, and in what manner is it infused into the heart of man, so this seems to be a narration of a thing a far off?
My beloved we will explain it as well as we can to you, even as you see an Artificer working with his instrument, there goes a certain virtue out from that art which is in his mind, and guides, instrument to make this or that the which without it could not be done, when he makes any artificial thing, as a knife, or a sword; or when the Potter fashions the pot, his hand is set on work, & there is a certain invisible, a certain secret passage, an influence of the heart that goes along with his hand, that brings forth such an artificial thing; or even as you see the members move; a man moving his arm, or his hand, or any part of his body, there goes a certain virtue from his will, a certain secret power, efficacy & command that stirs them this way or that way, the thing we see not, yet we see it in effect:―or as you see it in the creature, you see the creatures that God hath made, they have all the several instincts, by which they are instigated to do this or that; you see the birds are instigated to make their nets of such a fashion, at such a season; so every creature according to his several kind. There goes out from God who is the author of nature to these works of nature, a certain virtue that puts them on, and instigates them, and puts them to this or that:―and as you see an arrow that is shot by the Archer, there goes a virtue together with it, that directs it just to such a mark, so far, and no further. So after this manner comes a power from Christ to his members, that, as soon as a man is in him, there comes such a secret divine, inexpressible efficacy that works upon the heart of him in whom he dwells. And therefore you see the conjunction between him and us, it is compared to that which is between the soul and the body, that acts and stirs us to and fro, according to its will and pleasure, such an efficacy shalt thou find, if thou belong unto him, and therefore consider if there be such a thing in thee or no.
But you will say, to what purpose is this efficacy, and what doth it in my heart when it comes there?
Why I will tell thee what it doth; it is expressed in plain terms 2 Corinthians 5:17. Whosoever is in Christ is made a new creature; That is the work that it effects; it is such a power and efficacy as makes thee a new creature; That is, It breaks in pieces the old building, it quite takes away the first print; As when a man comes to make a new stamp, the first must be removed:―so that this efficacy that goes out from Christ, it hath a double virtue in thy soul, to wear out the old stamp, to breed a death of the old nature, of the old man, to ruin and break down the old building, and to set up a new one; and that the scripture calls a new creature:―and therefore consider with thy self whether thou find such a virtue as hath put thy heart into such a new frame, as hath moulded it altogether, and hath put it into another fashion than it was, consider whether all in thee be new.
You will say this is strange, must all be new?
My beloved, you know the words they are clear, old things are passed away, all things are become new. (In the same place which I quoted before) that as the command was in the offering of the Passover, not a jot of old leaven, but we must part with it; Now this is the nature of leaven, It is always purging out, and it will be purging out while we are here, only the efficacy and strength thereof remains; Then think with thy self, is all new in me, look what natural disposition I have had, look what natural lusts & desires I have had, see what acts I was wont to do, what old haunts and customs I have had, look what old company I kept, what old courses I took, what my tract hath been, is all this altered & every thing become new? (for saith he, it must be a new creature, a new nature:) That is, it is not enough for a man to have a new course for a fit, to have new purposes, and a new change that comes like flashes, I say, that is not enough; you may have many new things in you, that may be in old hearts, like pieces of new cloth in old garments, that will do thee no good at all; the Lord regards not that:―like new wine in old vessels; so it is where there are some new things, that are good things in themselves, in a carnal and old heart, they are not fit for the heart, and therefore they never stay long there:―so saith the text, Put a new piece into an old garment, and it makes the rent greater.
Therefore all must be new; I say there must be a new nature, that these new things may be there:―even as the several creatures are in their several elements, as the elements are in their own place, as the plants are in their proper soil, as the branches are upon their own root; For then they flourish, then they hold out, then they continue; Therefore see whether this vigour, this efficacy, this virtue hath gone out from Christ into thy heart, whether it hath not only renewed all in thee, but also hath given thee a new nature, That is, whether it hath wrought such a change in thee, that all the ways of godliness and new obedience, become in a measure natural to thee, so that thou canst do them cheerfully, even as we hear, and see, and do natural actions, and that thou dost them without weariness:―for you know, things that are natural we are not weary of them; And so thou wilt do them constantly, for what is natural, stays and abides by us, that it out-grows and out-wearies what ever is in us beside; Now hath there a virtue gone out from Christ, that hath wrought all this in you, that hath made all new, & hath not only done so, but hath made it natural to thee? But you will say, must it needs be so, cannot Christ take and comprehend me, but there must be this wonderful change wrought, who can be saved then? I have then but little hope, when I am upon my death bed, and then shall look upon my old nature, and find no such work as this wrought upon me. Beloved, I beseech you consider this, that there is a necessity of it, It is so, and it must be so, and except you have it, you cannot be saved; you see the words in the scriptures are most clear, Whosoever is in Christ is a new creature:―do but consider whether it be so or no, there must be withal a new heaven and a new earth, You see that was the great promise that was to be fulfilled in our times of the Gospel:―was it not a new Priesthood, was it not a new covenant, hath not the Lord said, there must be a new heaven and a new earth, That is, new graces from heaven, and a new company of men wrought on, and changed by those graces? shall old Adam, those that are born of him, shall they receive a power from him, to make them like to him, to carry his Image, to be corrupt, and carnal, and sinful as he is:―and do you not think that the New Adam, the Second Adam, shall have as much efficacy in him to make those new creatures, that are in him, that come to him? Certainly there is as much power, and life, and vigor in the new Adam, to change every man that is in him, that comes to him, & to make them new creatures, As in the old Adam, to make them like him:―besides, hath not Christ said plainly, I come not into the world to save souls only, that is not my business alone (though that was a great part of the business and errant for which he came into the world) but (saith he) I came to purify a people, to my self, zealous of good works:―in the 2 Tit. Now if that were the end of Christ's coming, dost thou think that he will lose his end? And therefore it's impossible, that any man should be saved, to have part in Christ, & that he should be in Christ & Christ in him, except his heart be purified so, as to be zealous of good works. If Christ dwell in thy heart, thou mayst easily know it; for dost thou think, that Christ will dwell in a foul and unclean place? hath he not pure eyes? And therefore it is certain wheresoever he dwells, that place must be a fit Temple for him to dwell in, & therefore of necessity he must clean thy heart, he must fashion it, & keep it pure, and clean, and sweet, so as it may be a fit Temple for him and his Spirit to dwell and delight in. Besides doth he not look to his glory in all those that belong to him? he hath many eyes to look upon them as it were, there are many spectators men and Angels, to see what they are, and how they behave themselves:―if he should have a company of men to belong unto him that are carnal, perverse, and worldly minded, that have crooked ways like other men, would this be for his honour? would it not be said, like men, like Master? would it not reflect upon him? Certainly it would; and therefore the Lord so orders it, that those whom he hath redeemed, should be holy in all manner of conversation:―saith he, you must be as I am, else it will be for my dishonour, As I am holy, so every one of you must be holy, in all manner of conversation; Therefore let no man deceive himself, to think he can go away and yet be in Christ, and be saved through Christ and the mercies of God in Christ, when there goes out no power from Christ, there comes no such virtue from him to change any man, to work on him, to alter him, to make him another creature; And therefore I beseech you in the examining of this, (for it's a matter of great moment) to consider with your selves, if this be wrought in you or no; whether you find any experiment & effect of this mighty power, efficacy, and virtue:―and let me bring you a little to particulars:―hath there gone out a virtue from him to enable thee to believe? there is a faith required in the Deity, there is a faith required in the promises of God, there is a faith required in the providence of God, to think that every particular thing is ordered by it; There is also a faith in all the threatenings of God:―now for the manner of propounding; when the Scriptures come to propound any thing, it propounds it thus, and no more:―as you see in Moses, he writes nothing, but In the beginning God made heaven and earth &c. And so the Apostles write; Such a thing was done, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary; Thus & thus he did:―now when the naked object is propounded, other writers what they deliver or write is rational, They use Reasons and arguments to convince men of those things which they deliver; But when the Scripture sets down any propositions of faith, it doth but barely propound them, for there is the Majesty of God and authority of God in them, to confirm them.
But now here you will demand, (the proposition being but nakedly laid down in the Scriptures) what will enable a man to believe it?
I answer:―that certainly there is a mighty power that goes out from God & from Christ, that enables thee to believe with this efficacy, that where the object is set before thee, there goes out a power from him to work faith in thy heart, whereby thou truly believest it, and so it appears in thy life:―we think we believe those things, but our lives do manifest the contrary; namely that there is not a powerful faith wrought in us, for all the errors of our lives (though we observe them not) arise form hence, that these principles are not throughly believed:―if they were, it could not be, that there should be such inconveniences in the lives of men; Therefore consider if this faith be wrought in thee, whether such a power hath gone out, to work such a faith, that hath changed thy whole course, as it will do, if it be once wrought in thee, by the power of Christ:―so also consider, whether there hath a virtue gone out from him to work love in thy heart to the Lord, for otherwise it is certain that there is no man in the world that is able to love God, or to come near him, for all love riseth from Similitude, there must be an agreement & similitude, between those two that love:―now every man by nature is as contrary to God's pure nature, as fire is to water, and without an almighty power to change his nature, and to work a particular affection of love in him, he can never be able to love God, therefore it's the baptism of the Holy Ghost; I will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire, that is, with the Holy Ghost which is fire:―i will multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions, That is, the sorrows of thy conceptions; Now love is as fire in the heart, and one fire must beget another; And therefore you have it in the common proverb, Love is a thing that cannot be bought with mountains of gold and silver, yet if thou be in Christ, there goes out a virtue from him, that stamps upon thy heart this holy affection, that breeds in thee this holy fire of love, so that thy heart cleaves to him, thou lovest him with as true, and with as genuine, as natural, and as sensible love, as thou lovest any friend, as thou lovest any creature in the world:―consider if this be wrought in thee or no. And so for thy knowledge; there is also a power in it, consider whether any such virtue hath gone out from Christ, to make the knowledge which thou hast, powerful.
You will say, what is that, that is to bring on these truths which thy heart assents unto, to bring them with that evidence, and fullness of demonstration, that thou shalt yield unto them, & practice them according to thy knowledge?
Beloved, there is much knowledge among us, but who practiseth according to his knowledge? we know God, but we glorify him not as God, and the reason is, because there hath not gone a power with that knowledge, to make it lively and effectual, to pass through all the faculties of the soul, and to overrule them, for if there were such knowledge, it would always draw affection and practice with it. So likewise consider, whether there hath gone a power from him to mortify thy lusts:―whosoever is in Christ hath crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, not to lay them a sleep only, but to mortify and subdue them. So likewise whether there hath a power gone out from Christ, to help thee to overcome the world, the lusts of thine eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life, for whosoever is in Christ overcomes the world, and all that is in the world:―the world hath many things to work upon us, and to resist and oppose us:―it hath persecutions, it hath disgraces, it hath slanders and reproaches, which it casts upon holy men, and upon the holy ways of God. And the men that are actors in this, are the devil's factors, though they think not so, as the Apostle James expresseth it, their tongues are set on fire of hell, to devise slanders & false reports, and to fasten them upon holy men, and especially upon the ministers of the Gospel, and so upon the ways of God, I say they are the devil's factors, though they think not so:―and those that believe them are the devil's receivers, the one hath the devil in his tongue, the other in his ear. But the Lord hath appointed this. This is one thing whereby the world fights against the ways of God, to discourage men and to hinder them, that they might be stumbling blocks to them. So it was with Christ, he was the falling of many in Israel by reason of this, so was Paul, as a deceiver, and yet true, &c. Consider if thou hast this efficacy put into thy heart, that thou art able to overcome this, that thou art able to overcome all the offences, and persecutions, all the slanders and the reproaches that are cast upon the ways of God; and notwithstanding that, to think well of them, and to walk in them, and to practice them, likewise as it hath these things on the one hand, so it hath pleasures, preferments, glory, and riches, credit, and all things of that nature on the other; art thou able to overcome all these? so to shut up this point and prosecute it no further, thus you shall know whether you be in Christ:―for that is the point, we have assurance in him, that if we ask any thing, we shall be heard, but first we must be in him, now to know whether we be in him (as you have heard) there must be an act of ours, and secondly an act of his, which is this power that goes out from him, to change, take and comprehend us. So much for the first thing.
Now for the second, if a man will apply and take to himself the priviledges we have by Christ, as this particular priviledge of being heard in our prayers, of coming to the Sacrament, or any other; know this, that it is not enough to be in Christ only, but there must be a certain qualification, a certain immediate fashioning, and preparation of the heart, or else though thou have a right to the priviledges, though they belong to thee, yet thou art suspended from the use, benefit, & comfort of them. And this is considered in these 5 things. (I will but name them very briefly.) First, when a man comes to receive the Sacrament, it's not enough for him to be in Christ, no nor when he is come to do some other duties, but moreover there must be this also, those graces thou hast, this change, this new creature that is wrought in thee, which is but a heap of particular graces, these must be acted and stirred up upon such an occasion:―it is true, no man ought to come except he hath the graces of God's spirit wrought in his heart, that they may lay there in the habits, that they may be in the heart, as fire raked in the ashes. But if a man will come to receive the Sacrament, and suffer these habits, these graces he hath to lay still there, he comes not as a worthy receiver; (there are indeed degrees of unworthiness) he comes not as a worthy receiver except he stir them up, except they be acted at that very time:―as for example, we come to receive the Sacrament, we ought then to have an especial humiliation and sorrow for our sins, we ought then to have an especial love to Jesus Christ, we ought then to have a special rejoicing in him, and in all the priviledges we have by him, we ought then to have a special love to our brethren, the men with whom we converse, and among whom we live:―now if a man come and receive, and do not stir up and act these graces, he receives unworthily, and my ground for it, is this; you see in the feast of Reconciliation, the 10th day of the 7th month, the Lord tells them there, you shall come, and you shall keepe it, and you shall not doe worke, &c. But is this enough? no, he that doth not actually afflict his soule (saith he) that day, he shal be cut off from his people:―Leviticus 23:27-41. That is, though they had a habitual disposition, and their hearts were prepared to sorrow for their sins, and to take them to heart and bewail them, this is not enough, (saith he) at this time you must afflict your souls, that is, there must be a stirring up of that sorrow:―so likewise you find this in the feasts, in more places than one, that when they come to keep the feasts, at that time they shall eat and drink, and refresh themselves, but in any case rejoice Deut:12, & Deut:16:―I will not stand to repeat the places, That is, it's not enough for you to have thankful hearts, to have hearts prepared for these things in the habit, but you must then rejoice, for it is the season of it (for every thing is good in its season) and the Lord requires it at such a time. Therefore thus think with thy self, whensoever thou comest to receive the Sacrament, this is the time that the graces that I have, the habitual graces, must be new pointed as it were, they must be new whetted, and new scoured, that they may be bright and shining upon such an occasion, when the Lord calls for it, you must then quicken them, and stir them up, that they may be all acted in your hearts.
And this is one thing, that it's not enough for a man to be in Christ, to take the priviledges that belong to him, but there is a certain qualification required that must be done at that time, when the Covenant is renewed. And this is one, to have the graces thus acted.
Secondly, there must be a new Reconciliation for the Saints:―those that are in the covenant, those that are regenerate men, (you must mark it well, for it's a point of much use) when they commit sins against God, the guilt of their sins is retained though they are within the covenant, and are not cut off from Christ, but are in him; yet (I say) when they have sinned, the guilt of their sin continues, and is continued till they be reconciled, and renewed by faith and repentance, as you see it was with David:―nathan would not have said, when he came to him, Thy sins are forgiven thee, if there had not been a new thing, if there had not been a thing done at that time; and therefore it intimates so much, that before it was not forgiven:―that is, the Lord was angry with him:―you must know therefore this, that when a regenerate man sins, there is only a particular guilt; the universal guilt of sin returns not, for that would cut him quite off, that would put him absolutely into the state of damnation, but it's a particular guilt, for every particular sin, that is, even as a father is pleased well with his son, and knows him to be his son, he is affected to him as to his son, yet he hath done such a particular action that hath offended him, and for that particular offence, he withdraws himself from him, he carries not himself to him as he was wont to do, being offended with him for such a fault; now till the son hath reconciled and humbled himself for that particular action, though the father have an hundred gifts to bestow on him, yet he shall have none of them, till he hath reconciled himself; For think with thy self (if any sin lie in the way) when thou comest to partake of this priviledge to receive the Sacrament, or when thou comest to call on God for any particular mercy, or to have any request granted, think then with thy self, such a sin I committed, I must humble my self for it, I must labour to make reconciliation, labour to have this taken away, that my father may be reconciled to me, then come and take the priviledge, for now it belongs unto me; therefore there is a necessity of renewing my repentance, and reconciliation most exactly, and to take a very particular examination of our ways when we come to receive the Sacrament, or when we draw near to God upon such special occasion, least our father, (though he be a Father to us) have some particular quarrel against us, for even he whom we call father 1 Pet:1:17. Judgeth every man (even his own son) without respect of persons, that is, he will not bear any ill in them, thus you see he did with Moses, with David, and others, and the like he doth with all the Saints. This is the second qualification that is required before you can have any part, in any of the priviledges, before you can attain unto this assurance, to ask and have, therefore it is not without use, and that not in the Sacrament only, but also in that which we have to deliver.
Thirdly, suppose there be no particular sin, suppose the graces you have, be acted, when you come to receive the Sacrament; yet there is a third thing required, a third qualification that must be found in the heart of him that will be a worthy receiver, and that is, to observe well what distance is grown between the Lord and him ever since the time, that he hath in a more particular manner been reconciled to him. This is another thing than what we named before, to consider what rust hath grown upon his soul, what soil his heart hath contracted, by conversing in the world, & by meddling with worldly and earthly things, for the soul gathers soil with meddling with them, even as the hands do; now thou must think with thy self, when thou comest to the Lord, and draweth near to him in this, or any other duty, thou must recover that distance again, and bring thy heart nearer to the Lord, thou must draw nearer to him, thou must get thy heart to a more close, and near, and inward conjunction with him, thou must labour to have that hardness that thou hast contracted (as it will be in a little continuance of time) thou must labour I say to have that took away and removed, and to have thy heart softened, thou must labour to have the rust rubbed off, thou must labour to have all those things done; for thou must know this, That though there was not a particular sin committed, yet as we see, the outward man is subject to a wasting, though there be no wounds, though there be no sickness, but is in perfect health, and all is well with him, he observes all the rules of diet, yet (I say) you see the outward man is subject to wasting, it is subject to fainting, to weakness, and to decay; And therefore there must be a renewing of diet, and of strength, or else he cannot be able to hold out:―so it is with the inward man, though there be no particular sin, though a man did keep some good course in the ways of godliness, without running out eminently or evidently, yet he is subject to a secret decay, so that sometimes he must have some special meat, some special feast, which the Lord hath appointed for that purpose, (for he doth nothing in vain:) And if this Sacrament could be spared, that a man might keep the strength of the inward man without it, the Lord would not put you to this trouble, but he seeth it necessary & therefore he hath appointed it to be received, and that often, that you might feed upon the body and blood of Christ, that you might eat his flesh and drink his blood, and gather new strength from it, that when there is a decay of grace in your hearts, may go to this Fountain, & fill the Cisterns again to recover your strength; For when a man comes to the Sacrament as he ought, he gathers a new strength, as a man from a feast, his heart is cheered up as it is with Flagons of wine, he is refreshed, his hunger and thirst is satisfied, That is, the desires of his soul that long after Christ, and after righteousness, & assurance. And this is the third thing.
Fourthly, besides all this; first the stirring up of the graces, and the acting of the habits, Secondly besides making thy peace and reconciliation with God, and removing of any particular offence, that is between God and thee, Thirdly besides this scouring off the rust, this recovering the distance between God & thee, the softening of that hardness which thy heart hath contracted, besides this recovering the strength that thou hast wasted; There is a fourth thing required, which is, that there be an Intention, a particular increase of thy will, in taking Christ, and of the desire to Christ, of every grace that knits thee and Christ together; For there are certain cementing graces, certain gluing graces, that join Christ & thy soul together, as faith and love, these are the two main graces; there are a great train of graces that follow them, but these are the chief, and these I say must be intended:―for what is the end of the Sacrament? is it not to knit the knot stronger between Christ and us, to make the union more full and perfect, is it not to increase our willingness to take and receive Christ? for you know all the acts of the soul may be intended. Put the case there be a resolved act in the heart & soul of any man, whereby he saith thus with himself:―i am resolved to take Christ, and to serve him and love him for the time of my life, yet this resolution of his, though it be perfect and sincere, yet it may receive intention, when a man is willing to do a thing truly, there may be degrees added to that will, when there is light in a room (when thou bringest in more candles) that light may be increased:―so it may in this, so may your faith and love, (by faith I mean nothing, but the resolution of the heart to take Christ, I mean not the believing part, but the taking part, the act of the will taking Christ, or receiving him, which is nothing else but the choice of the will that resolves to take him.) I do but touch this by the way, because it is a point I have handled already at large, therefore I do now but mention it. But the thing I aim at is this, I say the gluing graces are these two; Faith whereby you thus take him for your Lord and Saviour; for faith is like the part of the compass that goeth about & doth the work; whereby we are more knit unto the Lord, They have both their office and their place; You know love is an uniting affection, therefore this is the definition of it, It is a desire of union with that it loves; Now when thou comest to receive the Sacrament, or to pray, or put up any special request, when thou comest to have to do with God, to make use of any priviledge thou hast in Christ, thy chief business is to intend this faith and love, at such a time to draw thee nearer, to make the union full and perfect.
You will say, how is this increased and how is it intended?
I answer; Two ways in the Sacrament, one way is the very repetition, the very renewing the covenant, the very doing it over again, the resolution of taking him, (for there is a mutual covenant you know between Christ and us,) it is confirmed to us in the Sacrament, he confirms his, and we confirm ours, as the friendship between Jonathan and David was increased by the renewing of the covenant, or else, why was it repeated? The very repetition of the act intends the habit, the habit is increased by the repetition of the act, though it were no more; so the renewing of the covenant exerciseth thy faith, it sets awork thy faith and thy love, when thou comest to receive the Sacrament, the very intention is increased:―but this is not all, There is another thing in the Sacrament that much increaseth it, and that is a thing I would have you chiefly to take notice of; That is the very Sacrament it self, the element of bread and wine delivered to thee, with the very words of the minister, Take & eat, this is my body, that was broken for thee; Take and drink, this is my blood, that was shed for thee, and for many, for the remission of their sins, for when these words are spoken to us, if we did consider well of them, & think thus with our selves; These words that the Lord himself hath appointed the minister to speak (for therein is the force of them, that they are of the Lord's own institution, therefore the strength of every Sacrament lies in the institution; That is a rule in Divinity; the Papists themselves, that have added five other Sacraments, cannot deny, but that every Sacrament must have an immediate institution from Christ himself, even from his own mouth, or else there is no strength in it; so that even as it is with all things that are symbols of other things, (as take marks in fields that stand for the division of several men's rights, take counters that stand for Thousands and Hundreds, the very essence of these things stands in the very institution of them;) So in the Sacrament, except these words were from the Lord's own mouth that delivered it, this very delivering of the bread and wine, being a sign to you of the forgiveness of your sins, except the Lord had thus instituted it, there had been no force in it self; I say consider, they are words that the minister speaks not in an ordinary course, but he is appointed by the Lord himself to speak them; and now when these words make a new impression upon thy heart, it adds an intention to thy faith and love:―for example, (to make it a little more clear to you, that you may understand it distinctly.) The Lord hath said this, he will forgive the sins of all those that come unto him, he will forgive them that forsake their sins, and take Christ Jesus, and love & fear him for the time to come; The Lord might have suffered it to go thus in general, that he hath delivered it unto you & no more; But he thought good to go further, and say thus to mankind:―it's true, I have said it, but I will not content my self with that, but will add certain seals and symbols, certain external signs, that thou shalt see and look on, and I say to thee, this covenant have I made with thee, and when thou seest the bread and wine delivered by the minister, know this, that the thing that thou seest is a witness between thee and me:―that as it was said between Laban and Jacob when they made a covenant, This stone be witness between us:―and God said to Noah, when I look upon the rainbow, it shall be a sign that I will destroy the earth no more after this manner, when the Lord hath said it, and hath appointed this outward Symbol that thine eyes look upon, I remember the covenant, & this is a sign between us, this shall bind me to it and him likewise; Now when this is done anew, (it may be every month) this is a wondrous great mercy, this is a marvelous great help (if it be rightly understood) to strengthen our faith. Doth it not help us, when we see the Rainbow? It the Lord hath appointed, I will remember my covenant, and when thou lookest on it, it shall confirm me, and I will not break my covenant to destroy the world with a flood; For this administration of the Sacrament, when the Lord looks upon it, he cannot but remember his promise and his covenant, of pardoning our sins; And when thou lookest on it, thou art assured of it, for he hath said it; it shall be a sign and a witness between us; Now I say that new Impression that these words, (thus contrived and understood, and delivered by the minister) make upon the heart, it intends faith and love; as indeed it is a great matter to have it spoken to us by a minister of the Gospel, sent from Christ, from his own mouth; Take and eat this is my body that was broken for you:―and this is my blood that was shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. This is the fourth qualification that is required, that our faith and love be intended, and our union be increased, that the will, resolution, and purpose of taking Christ for our Lord, receive more degrees; so that we may be more fast and firmly united and knit to him, which I say is done partly by the repetition on both sides (for the very repetition doth it) and partly by a new impression that these words (take, eat &c.) make on the soul. Now I add the last thing which is required, (still remember the main thing we are upon, that it is not enough for thee to be in Christ, but if thou wilt be a worthy receiver, thou must have these four qualifications in thee, that I have named already; Thou must reconcile thy self a new, thou must rub off the rust from thy soul which it hath gathered, Thou must recover the distance that is grown between God & thee; Thou must add an intending and an increase, Thou must add more degrees to thy faith and love, and after all these.)
Fifthly and lastly, this is also required (which is much for our benefit and comfort) namely, to put up thy request, when thou comest near to the Lord in the Sacrament:―now thou must not only do this, but thou must also make some use of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with thee for his part, so that thou mayst think this with thy self; When I come to receive the Sacrament, I have but two works to do, one is to recovenant with the Lord, and to renew my repentance, and to set all even; and the other is to remember the Lord's covenant.
You will say, What is the Covenant?
Its a Covenant that consists of these three things or points; Justification, I will forgive thy sins; Sanctification, I will make you new hearts, and new spirits; and the third, all things are ours; that is, I have made you heirs of the world, heirs of all things, you have all the promises belonging to you, that belong to this life, and that which is to come; this is the Covenant which the Lord hath made:―now thou art bound when thou comest to receive the Sacrament, not only to remember this Covenant, Do this (saith he) in remembrance of Me, and not barely of me, and of my being crucified for thee, and of all the love that I have shewed unto thee; but also in remembrance of the Covenant, and of those gracious promises, which are the particulars of which that Covenant is the sum:―and therefore thus a man is to do. What? hath the Lord vouchsafed me this favour, that I may come to his Table, I may come and renew the nuptials with him, and renew my covenant with him? Surely, then I will look about and consider what I want, what request I shall put up unto him, for there is nothing that is wanting, but it is within this Covenant, and thou art to put up thy request in a special manner, whatsoever it be, be it concerning things belonging to thy soul, to have a strong lust mortified, to have thy hard heart softened, to have some sin that lies upon thy conscience forgiven, and to have that forgiveness assured to thee:―be it any thing that concerns thy particular estate, if it be to be delivered from a potent enemy, or whatsoever it be, put up thy request, and that largely, open thy mouth wide, that is, make thy request full, fear it not. Put the case (again) it be somewhat that doth not concern thee, but that it concerneth the Church abroad, or the Church at home, it is a case that much concerns any of these in the Church, put it up to him, and put it up with confidence. For this is a marriage day (as it were) it is the time when he reacheth out his scepter (as you know the things I allude to) and thou maist come to his presence:―you know, when Hester was admitted to the presence of the King, then said he, what request hast thou? when you are admitted to the familiarity and presence of the Lord, he looks for it, and asks what request you have to put up to him? and the promises are large enough:―i will give it, whatsoever it be, if you ask according to my will, and therefore do in this case as Moses used to do:―you shall find when Moses drew near unto the Lord, when he was admitted into his presence, and saw him face to face (for that was the great priviledge Moses had) when there was any special apparition of the Lord to him, Moses makes this argument: (saith he) it is a great mercy that thou wouldest shew me this, that such a poor man as I am, should have this priviledge, and give me leave to make use of it:―lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, that is, since thou hast vouchsafed me such a favour in thy sight, do thus and thus for me:―you see he made this request for the whole Church of God and saved them, or else they had been destroyed. If thou hast not any particular argument in this case, say, If I have found favour in thy sight, do this:―so I say, if thou hast this promise confirmed, that Christ hath given himself to thee, and the symbol of that promise is the bread and wine, which he hath given to thee, put up thy request:―o Lord, if thou hast vouchsafed to give me Christ, wilt thou not with him give me all things else? Lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, to do so great a thing for me, deny me not this particular request. Thus we ought to do, especially when we come to things that are beyond nature:―when we come, let us consider with our selves, indeed I have a natural disposition that carries me strongly to evil, I shall never be able to overcome it, there are such duties to do, I shall never be able to perform them:―in such a case thou must do it the more earnestly, thou must sigh and groan to the Lord:―Elisha, when he comes to do a thing so much above the course of nature, as to raise a dead child to life, he sighed unto the Lord, that is, he prayed earnestly:―Eliah, when he would have Rain, he cried, he took much pains, he prayed:―so must thou do in this case:―and know this for thy comfort, that though thou think thou shalt never be able to do these things, to overcome such lusts, such hereditary diseases, yet the Lord is able to help thee:―though these are past natural help, yet they are not past the help of grace; though the spirit in us lust after envy; yet as the Apostle James saith, The Scriptures offer more grace, that is, the Scriptures offer grace and ability, to do more than nature can do, nature cannot heal a spirit, that lusteth after envy, or any other thing; a spirit that lusts after credit, after money, after the sin of uncleanness, or whatsoever is presented; now the Scripture offers that grace, that will overcome any of these sins, be they never so strong, or so old; Christ healed hereditary diseases, he healed those that were born lame and blind:―so though thou be born with such lusts, Christ is able to heal thee; you see a Prophet could heal Naaman of his Leprosy, when there was no other that could do it; so saith Christ; Come unto me all ye, and I will heal you. So that you see we must put up our requests to God.
The Third Sermon.
WE have already made some entrance upon the words; I told you what the Apostle's scope is in them, which is to make known to all Christians to whom he wrote, another great priviledge, besides that which he named before:―that is, That he that hath the son, hath life, this (saith he) is another priviledge, that whatsoever you ask, you shall have; only remember that you have this assurance in him, that is, in Christ Jesus:―that point, (what it is to be in him, that it may be the ground of all the benefits and priviledges we enjoy) we handled the last day. Now we come to the priviledge it self, If we ask any thing according to his will he heareth us, The words are so plain, I shall not need to spend any time in opening of them, but deliver you the point that lays so evidently before us:―which is this, That all the prayers of the Saints made upon earth, are assuredly heard in heaven:―whatsoever we ask, (saith he) according to his will he heareth us, only the conditions must be observed. When you hear such a general as this, it must be limited, there are certain bounds set to it, which we will name unto you:―which are these four conditions.
First, all the prayers that are made upon earth shall be heard in heaven; if they be the prayers of a righteous man, and are faithful and fervent. The person must be righteous, that must first be remembered:―because, although the prayer be never so good, yet except the person be accepted from whom it comes, the Lord regards it not:―you know in the old law, the blood of Swine was reckoned an abominable Sacrifice, yet if you take the blood of sheep, and compare them together, you shall find no difference; It may be the Swine's blood is the better:―then what's the reason the Swine's blood is not accepted? even because of the subject of it:―it was the blood of Swine, and therefore you see it was put down, that it was an abominable Sacrifice. So it is with prayer; Take the prayer of a Saint, and the prayer of a wicked man, it may be, if you look upon the petitions, or whatsoever is in the prayer it self, you shall find sometimes the prayer of a godly man more cold, and less fervent:―the petitions are not so well framed as the wicked man’s:―yet because this comes from such a person the Lord regards it not; you know the condition is mentioned James 5. The prayer of the righteous man availeth much, if it be fervent. Now as this is required in the person, so there is somewhat required in the prayer also, that is, that it be fervent and faithful; that it be fervent, you have it in the same place; that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much if it be fervent, that is, it must be a prayer made from the sense of the misery that is in us, and from the mercy righteous of God, when a man takes a thing to heart, that he prays for, and comes with confidence to be heard, for that makes him fervent. This the Lord will have, and also he will have it faithful:―james the 1. when the Apostle exhorts them to prayer, If any man want wisdom (saith he) let him ask it of God:―but then mark, he carefully puts in this condition, see that, He pray in faith, that is, believe that is shall be done unto him:―now this faith includes repentance, for no man can believe that he shall be heard, except he make his heart perfect with God:―if he allow any sin in himself, he cannot believe upon any good ground:―therefore when I say it must be faithful, that also is included, we must regard no wickedness in our hearts, for in such a case, the Lord hears not, he hears not sinners. So that this you must remember; First, the person must be righteous, and the prayer must be fervent and faithful.
Secondly, the other Condition you shall hear in the Text, it must be according to his will; you must not think, whatsoever you ask, if you ask it loosely at God's hands, that it shall presently be granted you:―no (saith he) it must be according to his will, if you ask fire from heaven, that is not according to his will, and therefore you see, they that asked it, were denied it, with this reason, you know not what you ask; Likewise to sit at his right hand, and at his left in heaven, which was another request of the Disciples, he puts them by with this:―you understand not what you ask of the Father, and therefore it must be according to his will. And that is the second.
Thirdly, we must ask it in time, in due season:―for the promise is true, Knock and it shall be opened to you, but you know the foolish Virgins knocked, and it was not opened to them; what was the reason of it? because they asked when the time was past:―for there is a certain acceptable time when the Lord will be found:―and when that opportunity is past, he is found no more. It is true, that this life is the time of grace, but God in his secret counsel hath appointed a certain time to every man, which is the acceptable time, the day of grace, therefore he saith unto them, This day if you will hear:―this day if you will come and seek unto me, if you will pray unto me, I will hear you:―when it's past, the Lord suffers not the doors to stand open always, his ears are not always open:―therefore that condition must be carefully remembered, you must ask in time; it is a condition that should be carefully thought on by us; For, for the most part, we fly to prayer as Joab did to the Altar, he went not to it for devotion (for then he would have done it before) but when he was in distress, when he was in extremity, then he fled to it, and therefore you know what success he had by it, it saved not his life:―so we go not to prayer for devotion, that is, out of love to God, to do him that service, but (for the most part) we do it out of self love, when we are in extremity or distress, we pass the acceptable times he requires, and we go to him in a time of our own:―for there is God's time, & there is our own time, God's time is to come to him when we may do him service, in our youth, in our strength, in the flower of our graces:―our time is to go to him when we need him:―will not a friend say (when we never come to him, but when we have extreme need of him) why do you come now? you were not wont to visit me before, this is not out of love to me:―even the very same answer the Lord giveth; Go to your Idols (saith he) those that you served in the time of peace, and see if they can help you.
The fourth and last condition is, that we refer the time, the manner, the measure of granting our petitions to the Lord. That is, we must not think to be our own carvers, to think if it be not granted in such a manner, such a measure, or such a time, presently the Lord hath rejected our petitions; No, he that believes makes no haste:―that is, he waits upon God, he stays himself upon God, he is content to have it in that time, in that manner and measure, as best pleaseth the Lord:―for the truth is, we know not our selves what is meet for us; we are unto the Lord just as the Patient is to the Physician; the Patient is importunate with him, for such things to refresh him, and ease him; But the Physician knows what best belongs to him, and when to give him such things, in what manner, and in what measure; So the Lord knows best what to do:―many times he doth the same things that we desire, though he do it not in the same manner:―even as the Physician he quencheth often the thirst with Barberries, or with such kind of conserves; what though it be not with drink? is it not all one, so the thirst be quenched? Is it not all one whether a man be hindered from striking me, or if I have a helmet to defend the blow? sometimes the Lord keeps not off the enemy; but then he gives us a helmet to keep off those blows, to bear those injuries and evils that are done to us:―he is a wise Physician, he knows what manner, what measure, and what time is best, therefore that must be referred to him:―now these conditions being observed, you must know that this great priviledge belongs to every Christian, That whatsoever prayers he makes on earth, he is sure to be heard in heaven, it is a wondrous priviledge, that which we have all cause to stand amazed at, that the Lord should so far regard the Sons of men, to grant them such a Charter as this; no more but ask and have, and whatsoever you pray for, it shall be done to you. But a man is ready to say secretly in his heart when he hears it, This is too good to be true, That whatsoever I ask, I shall have. My Beloved, I confess, it is a hard thing to believe it as we ought to do:―and therefore we come to apply this, we will spend a little time in endeavouring to convince you of the truth of it, that you may not doubt of it, that what prayers you make to the Lord, he is ready to hear them.
First, consider that whatsoever prayer you make, he takes notice of it, he observes every petition, there is not one petition that you make to him at any time, but he looks upon it, he sees what the prayer is, And this thing although you think it common, (and who is there that know not this) yet (my beloved) to believe this, to think that God is present where I make my prayer to him, to think he stands and hears it, even as I speak to a man that stands & hears me, and understands what I say to him; This is a great help to us. That this is true:―see in 4. Eph.6. Hee is in all, and through all, and over all; That is, the Lord is, in every man, he passeth through every thing, his eyes run through the earth, & he is over all, looking what secrets are in man's heart, what thoughts, yea before he thinks them, he knows them, because he seeth them in their causes:―he that is in a man, that looks in all the secret corners of the heart, he must needs see what thoughts he hath, what petitions he putteth up secretly, even then when his mouth speaks not. And lest that should be enough, saith he, He is over all; you know one that stands on high, and looks over all that is below, he easily can see whatsoever is done; So the Lord, he is in all, he is through all, he is over all. But this is enough for that, only I would have you remember, that he takes notice of all, he knows thy prayers.
But you will say, I doubt not of that, I make no question but he hears me, and understands me well enough:―but how shall I know that he is willing to grant it?
You shall see these 2 reasons, in the 7. Math. where our Saviour urgeth this very point, that we have now in hand, from the 7. verse downward, Aske (saith he) and you shall have, seeke and you shall find, knocke and it shall be opened unto you; here is the promise:―for (he backs it with these 2 Reasons) Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened unto him:―as if he should say; ye have this reason for it, why you should believe it, that it is no more but ask & have, for (saith he) all that ever asked have obtained; all that ever have sought, have found; all that ever have knocked, it hath been opened unto them. That is, look through the whole book of God, & see what prayers ever have been made to him, & you shall find, that there is not a prayer mentioned in all the Scripture, but it hath been heard. Now when we have such a cloud of witnesses, it is a strong reason, when it is said to us that there were never any prayed but were heard.
Why, you will say, There were many prayed that were not heard; Did nod David pray for his Child, and was not heard? Did not Paul pray to be delivered from such a temptation, and was not heard?
My Beloved, It's true, they were not heard for the particular, but yet I dare be bold to say, that David was heard at that time, though (I say) not in the particular; for though his Child was taken away, yet you may see the Lord gave him a Child of the same woman, with much more advantage; he gave him a Child that was legitimate, which this was not:―he gave him a Child that exceeded for wisdom:―solomon was the Child that he had:―so that the Lord did hear him, and gave him this answer, as if he had said to him, David I have heard thee, I know that thou art exceeding importunate; thou shalt not have this, but thou shalt have another Child which shall be better. And so he saith unto Paul 2. Cor. 12. Christ reveals this to him; Paul (saith he) though I grant thee not this particular request, in the manner that thou wouldest have me, (To take away the prick of the flesh which thou art troubled with) thou shalt be a greater gainer by it, thou hadst better have it than want it; when Paul understood that it was a medicine, and not a poison as he took it to be, he was content and resolved in it; And a man resolveth not except he be a gainer. He saw that God's power was manifest in his weakness, and he saw himself humbled by it; and when he saw that God gained glory; and himself humiliation by it, he was content to be denied in it; So I say whosoever asketh findeth, you shall never find any example but that whosoever sought to the Lord as he ought, he was certainly heard, or else he had somewhat that was better granted to him instead of it. And this is the first reason that is used here. The second reason is this; What man among you, if his Son ask bread, will give him a stone; or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent; if you then that are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give good things to them which ask him, (saith he) you be not able to persuade your selves of this truth, because you know not the father, for he dwells in light inaccessible, you are not acquainted with him, saith our Saviour, I will help you out with an argument that you better understand; even upon earth (saith he) take but a father here, a father that is ill (but the Lord is full of goodness, fathers have but a drop, but a spark of mercy in them, whereas the Lord is full of mercy, as the Lord is full of light, he is the God of all comfort; Yet, (saith he) this father (when his son comes to ask him bread) he is ready to give it him, he is full of compassion and tenderness toward him, do you not think that our heavenly father is as true a father as he, that he loves you as well as they, whose compassion and pity is much greater? do you not think he is ready to hear his Children when they call upon him? O this is a strong and unanswerable Reason, and this you see is backed in 16:―John 27. you see there the love of a father how it is expressed to us; I say not unto you that I will aske the father (saith he) the father himselfe loves you, Mark, as if he should have said, let this be one ground to you to think your petitions shall be granted, & that they are not only granted for my sake, for (saith he) the father himself loveth you, and hath a great affection to you, that is in natural parents, there is a natural affection to their Children, So if I were not immediately to present your petitions (though that be not excluded) yet (saith he) the father hath such an affection to you, that he cannot choose but hear you, I say not, (saith he) that I will ask the father, for the father himself loves you. So that this is the second reason, which the promise is there backed with, the love of the father, That he cannot find in his heart to deny us, even for that affection that he beareth to us. We will add a third Reason that we meet here in the same Chap:16. John 23. In that day you shall aske in my name:―verily, verily, I say unto you, yee shall aske the father in my name, and he will give it you; It is brought in upon this occasion:―when our Saviour Christ was to go from his Disciples, they were ready to complain, as we see in the verses before, they were ready to say with themselves, alas, what shall we do when our Master shall be took from our head? Our Saviour answers them, you shall do well enough doubt you not, for though I be not with you; yet (saith he) go to the father in my name and whatsoever you ask of him, you shall have it:―so that he answers this objection, when a man is ready to say.
It's true, I know that a father is exceeding loving to his Children:―but it may be, my carriage hath not been such, I am full of infirmities, I have much in me that may turn the love and affection of my father from me.
Put the case you have, yet Christ adds this for your comfort; If (saith he) the father will not do it for your sake; yet doubt you not, if you ask in my name, he will do it; do we not see it usual among men, That one that is a mere stranger to another, if he get a letter from a friend, he thinks to prevail; and he doth so, because though it be not done for his sake (it may be he is a stranger, one that deserved nothing at his hands) yet such a friend may deserve much:―and when we go to God in the name of Christ, this answers all the in objections whatsoever you can say against yourselves it is all satisfied in this:―i go in his name, I am sure he hath supply, I am sure he is no stranger, I know he hath deserved it, &c. Last of all, as he loves us, and because we ask in the name of Christ is ready to hear us:―we will add this, that he is ready to hear us for his own sake, he is A God hearing prayer, saith the Psalmist, that all flesh might come to him, even for this cause he hears, that men might be encouraged to come and seek to him; for if the Lord should not hear, then no flesh would come unto him, that is, men would have no encouragement, no help, therefore he saith, he is a God hearing prayer, doubt ye not, he will do it, for this purpose, that he might have men to worship him, that men might come and seek unto him. Besides that, he shall be glorified, thou shalt call upon me in the day of trouble, I will hear thee, and thou shalt glorify me, now the Lord is desirous of glory, it was the end for which he made the world:―but in not hearing our prayers, he loseth this glory, by hearing our requests, the more we are heard, the more glory and praise we render unto him. Likewise he doth it for the Spectator's sake; Moses often presenteth that Reason, Lord do it, What will the Heathen say? and lest thy name be polluted among them, they will say thou hast brought out a people, and wast not able to deliver them. So David often, there are many instances in that, I say, for the lookers on sake he is ready to do it. All this is enough to persuade our hearts, that he is ready to hear us, that when prayers are made to him on earth, (So the conditions be observed) they are surely heard in heaven.
Now to apply this. First, if the Lord be so ready to hear, then this should teach us to be more fervent in this duty of prayer than commonly we are, for to what end are such promises as this, but to encourage us to do our duties, when we hear that prayer is of so much efficacy that is prevails with the Lord for any thing, shall we suffer it to lay by (as it were) and not make use of it? if a drug, or a precious balm were commended to us, and it were told us, that if we made use of it, it would heal any wound, it will heal any sickness, & this & this virtue it hath:―will a wise man suffer it to lay by him, will he not use it, and see what virtue it hath? And when it is said unto us, that prayer is thus prevalent with the Lord, that it is thus potent, that it is thus able to prevail with him for any thing, shall we not make use of it, when we are in any distress, when we need any thing:―when we have any disease, either of soul or body to heal? Let us fly to this refuge that himself hath appointed:―if a King of the earth should say to a man, I will be ready to do thee a good turn, make use of me when thou hast occasion, he would be ready enough to do it. Now when the Lord of Heaven saith, ask what you will at my hands and I will do it; shall we not seek to him, and make use of such a promise as this? Beloved we are too backward in this, we should be more abundant in this duty than we are, we should make more account of it:―for whatsoever the case be, if you do but seek to the Lord, if thou dost but set down thy resolution with thy self:―well I see it is a thing (if I look upon the creature & the means) I have little hope of, but the Lord is able to do it, and therefore I will go to him, I will weary him, and I will not give him over, I will not give him, nor my self any rest, till I have obtained it:―i say it is impossible thou shouldest fail in such a case. Only remember to be importunate, for an importunate suiter he cannot deny. You know the parable of the unjust Judge. You know also the parable of the man that was in bed with his children, when the widow was importunate, when she knocked and would give him no rest, he gives her redress, the other riseth and giveth his friend as many loaves as he will, saith the Text; yea though she were not his friend; (for this is the meaning of it:) If saith he, the Lord hath not much love to you, if he had not such an affection, if you did not come to him in the name of Christ whom he loves, in whom he is ready to grant whatsoever you ask, if he were not a friend to you; yet for your very importunity, he is ready to do it. As the unjust Judge (for that is the scope of the parable) he had no mind to grant the widow's request, he had no Justice in him to move him, he had no mercy nor compassion, yet for very importunity he granted it. Remember and observe the condition; for this is commonly a fault among us, when we go to prayer, we think that the very putting up of the prayer will do it; No, there is more required than so. As it is the error of the Country people, when they hear say, that such an herb is good for such a disease, they are ready to think, that (howsoever it be took or applied) it will heal the disease; no, it must be applied in such a manner, it must be used in such a fashion. So it is with prayer, you must not only do the duty, (and therefore when we exhort you to it, not only to call upon God, for men are ready enough to do that, especially in the time of distress,) but with these conditions I have named. You know Gehazi when he had got the staff of Elisha, he went to the Child, but it was not the staff that could raise the child from death to life, there was something more required. So in prayer, it is not mere prayer that will do it, there is something else, there must be other conditions that must be observed. For we are wont to do with it, as those Countries were wont to do with the name of Jesus, they thought if they used the name of Jesus, it was enough:―but ye know what answer the Spirit gives them; Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are ye? so I say we are wont to do in this case, we think it is enough to make our request, and that is all. No, there is somewhat more required, you must make your request in such a manner as ye ought. Then I add this further, that when thou makest them in such a manner, yet thou must not think to be heard for thy prayer's sake:―that is another thing we are apt to fail in. When we have made fervent prayers, and have been importunate with the Lord, we think now surely we shall not fail:―no, you must know this, the promise is not made to the prayer, but to the person praying. You shall not find throughout the whole scripture, that any promise is made thus, because we pray fervently we shall be heard:―but it is made to the person praying, the prayer is but the instrument:―but the means by which the blessing is conveyed to us, is a means without which the Lord will not do it, for the promise is made to the party. A cold prayer (so there be no neglect in it, so a man seek the Lord, & pray as well as he can,) it will prevail sometimes as well, as a fervent prayer:―who indites the petition, who makes the prayer fervent? surely not thy self, but the Holy Ghost:―he makes request in us, sometimes he makes more fervent, he enlargeth the heart more sometimes, again the heart is more straitened in the performance of this duty:―but both may come from the same spirit. Not, but that we have cause of much comfort, when we are able to pray more fervently, for this is a ground of our comfort, that when we pray fervently, it is an argument that the Holy Ghost dwells in our hearts, and that our prayers are dictated by him, it is an argument, that our prayers come from a holy fire within. And therefore fervent prayer may give us hope of being heard, but yet it is not merely the prayer, but because it is an evidence that it comes from a right principle, that it comes from the regenerate part, and is made by the assistance of the Holy Ghost:―it is not the very fervency that prevails. And therefore when you hear this, that the Lord is ready to hear, I say make that use of it, be fervent in this duty, remember the conditions: & yet withal know, that you are not heard for the very prayer's sake, but for Jesus Christ his sake. He makes every prayer acceptable, he mingles them with his sweet odours.
And if you object, O but I am a man full of infirmities.
You know how it is answered in the 5 of James, (saith he) Eliah when he was heard, he was a man, and a man subject to passions, and to the like passions that we are:―as if he should say, do not think that Eliah was therefore heard, because he was an extraordinary Prophet:―for it was because the Lord had made a promise to him, and he comes and urges that promise to the Lord, and therefore the Lord heard him. So (saith he) should every one of you, if you have the promise, you may go and urge it, as well as Eliah did:―though you be subject to many infirmities, Eliah was even so. You know there are infirmities and passions expressed in the Scriptures that he was subject to. And this is the first use we are to make of it, to be frequent and fervent in this duty, since we have such a promise.
Secondly, if we have such a promise, then we should learn hence (when we have put up our prayers at any time) to make more account of them than we do:―for the truth is, that we pray for the most part for fashion sake, many a man saith thus with himself:―i will seek the Lord, if it do me no good, it will do no hurt; but if we made that account of our prayers as we should, we would perform this duty in another manner, but we do not make that account of them as we ought:―we think not with our selves that the prayers that we make are surely heard:―there be many evidences, what is the reason, that when we seek the Lord, we do it so remissly that we have scarce leisure to make an end of our prayers:―we are so ready to hasten and go about other business, we are ready to turn every stone, to use all means to seek the creatures with all diligence:―but who prays to the Lord as he ought, to work his heart to such a fervent performance of that duty as he should? men have scarcely leisure, for it is usual with them when they have business to do, and enterprises to bring to pass, they are exceeding diligent to use all means, and yet are remiss in the chief:―what is the reason else, that we see the doors of Princes and great men so full of suiters, though there be porters set on purpose to drive them away; but the gates of heaven are so empty? It is indeed because we do not believe our prayers are heard, we do but make our prayers for fashion. What is the reason likewise, that we use prayer in the time of distress (if it will be an effectual means to help us, when all other means fail,) why use we it not before? But that is an argument that we trust not to it, seeing we use it, only in the time of extremity:―for if it be not effectual, why do we use it then? If it be effectual, why do not we use it till that accident? therefore this use we must further make, when we hear that the Lord hears our prayers, to make more account of them than we do, to think that our prayers when they are put up to the Lord shall be heard. Say thus with thy self, well, now I have prayed, and I expect that the thing should be granted that I have prayed for, when I seek to the Lord:―it's true, I deny not but we must use the means too, we must lay the hands upon the plough, and yet pray; both ought to be done, as sometimes we use two friends, but we trust one; we use two Physicians, but we put confidence in one of them:―in like manner we must both pray and use the means, but so as we put our chief trust in prayer, it is not means that will do it. But the truth is, we do the quite contrary:―it may be we pray & use the means, but we trust the means, and not the prayer:―that is a common and a great fault among us, it is a piece of Atheism, for men to think the Lord regards their prayers, no more than he regards the bleating of sheep or the lowing of oxen, to think he heeds them not. And it is a great part of faith to think that the Lord hearkens to them and regards them, as certainly he doth.
But you will say, I have prayed, and am not heard, and have sought to the Lord, and have found no answer.
Well, it may be thou hast not for the present, but hast thou stayed the Lord's leisure? (for that is to be considered in this case,) sometimes the Lord comes quickly, he gives a quick answer to our requests; sometimes he stays longer:―but this is our comfort, that when the return is longer, the gain is the greater:―as we see in trades, some trades have their return very quick, it may be the tradesmen's money is returned every week, but then their gain is so much the lighter; but when their return is slower, as is your great merchants, when it stays three or four years, we see the ships come home laden, bringing so much the more:―so (for the most part) when our prayers do stay long, they return with the greater blessings, they return laden with rich commodities. Let this be an encouragement to us, Though I stay, the Lord will grant it; and think not with thy self, I made such a prayer long ago, I found no fruit of it; for be sure, the Lord remembreth thy prayer, though thou hast forgotten it, the prayers that thou madest a good many years ago, may do thee good many years hence; May not a man pray to have his Child sanctified, to have him brought to better order? It may be he lives many years, and sees no such thing, yet in the end, the prayer may be effectual:―so likewise it may be in many cases, you see there are many examples for it:―Abraham prayed, he stayed long, but you see it was a great blessing that he had, when he prayed for a son, you know what a son he was, he was a son of the promise, in whom all the nations of the earth were blessed. So David when the Lord promised him a kingdom, he stayed long for it:―many such examples there are. Therefore comfort thy self with this:―though I stay long, this is my hope, this is my encouragement, that sustains me, If I seek the Lord, and wait upon him, He will come with a great blessing, the gain shall be heavier and greater, though the return be not so quick and sudden.
Last of all when you hear such a promise as this, That whatsoever you ask you shall be heard in it; you should hence learn, to spend some time in the meditation of this great priviledge that the Saints have, & none but they; This I propound to every man's consideration, that those that are not Christians, that is, those that are not regenerate may know what they lose by it; and those that are, may understand the happiness of their condition, that they may learn to magnify it, and to bless themselves in that condition, that they have such a great priviledge as this:―it is no more but ask and have, therefore that which in the third place I exhort you to, is this, namely to spend time in the meditation of it, to consider what a great advantage it is:―David cannot satisfy himself enough in it:―in Psalm 18, and Psalm 116. Psalmes. Lord I love thee dearely, he cannot praise enough, and why? I sought to thee in distresse, and thou heardest me; I called upon thee, and thou inclinest thine eare to my prayer. I say consider this mercy as you ought to do, it is part of the thanks we owe to the Lord for so an exceeding priviledge, That whatsoever our case be, it is no more, but put up our requests, and we shall be heard:―when there was a speech among some holy men (as you know that man that was named in the story:) what was the best trade, he answered beggary; It is the hardest, and it is the richest trade. Now he common beggary (for that is the poorest and easiest trade, that condition he puts in) but (saith he) I understand it of a prayer to God, that kind of beggary I mean; which as it is the hardest, nothing more hard than to pray to God as we ought, So withal there is this comfort in it, it is the richest trade of all others, there is no way to enrich our selves so much, with all the promises that belong either to this life, or to that which is to come:―even as you see among men, a Courtier, a Favorite in the Court, gets more by one suit, (it may be,) than a Tradesman, or Merchant, or husbandman gets with twenty years labour, though he takes much pains; for one request may bring more profit, may make a Courtier richer, than so many years labour & pains:―so in like case a faithful prayer, put up to God, may more prevail with him, we may obtain more at his hands by it, than by many years labour, or using many means, and therefore it is a rich trade, and great priviledge, a priviledge that we cannot think enough of, that we cannot esteem enough. You have heard of a noble man in this Kingdom, that had a Ring given him by the Queen, with this promise, that if he sent that Ring to her, at any time when he was in distress, she would remember him and deliver him; This was a great priviledge from a Prince, and yet you see, what that was subject unto; he might be in such a distress, when neither King nor Queen could be able to help him; or though they were able, (as she was in that case) yet it might be sent, and not delivered:―now then consider what the Lord doth to us, He hath given us this priviledge, he hath given us prayer, as it were this Ring, he hath given us that to use, and tells us, whatsoever our case is, whatsoever we are, whatsoever we stand in need of, whatsoever distress we are in, do but send this up to me, (saith he) do but deliver that message up to me of prayer, and I will be sure to relieve you:―now certainly what case soever we are in, when we send up this, it is sure to be conveyed, wheresoever we are:―again whatsoever our case is, we send it to one that is able to help us, which a Prince many times is not able to do. This benefit we have by prayer, That whatsoever we ask at the Lord's hands, we shall have it; Now consider this great advantage which you have; It is expressed 4 Phil. in these words, Be in nothing careful (saith the Apostle:) And that you may see we have ground for this generality, In nothing be careful, but in all things make your request. That is, whatsoever you case be, I make no exception at all, but whatsoever you stand in need of, whether it concerns your souls or your bodies, your name or your estate; yet be in nothing careful. This is a great matter:―there is none amongst you that hears me now, but sometime or other he is careful for something or other, for which he is solicitous, Now when a man hears such a voice from heaven, that the Lord himself saith to us, Be careful for nothing, do no more but make your request known, it is well enough, I will surely hear in heaven and grant it; It is a great comfort. Beloved, comfort yourselves with these words, and think this with your selves, that this is that Charter, & great Grant that the Lord hath given you, and to none but you, that what prayers you make to him, he heareth you.
But it will be objected, (I see the time passeth, I will but only answer this one objection, that I must not let pass) why is this said so generally? That we must in nothing be careful, but in all things make our request known? For then if a man were but a poor man, it is but going to the Lord, and asking riches, and he shall have them; If a man were sick of an incurable disease, it were no more but going to the Lord, and he should be sure to be recovered; If a man hath an enterprise to bring to pass, It is no more but go to him, and it shall be done:―what is the reason then, that godly & holy men hath not these things granted to them?
To this I answer, you must understand it with this condition, even as it is with a Father (I will prove it to you by that,) suppose he should say to his son, I will deny thee nothing, whatsoever I have, I will deny thee nothing but thou shalt have part in it; Though he say no more, yet we understand it with these conditions.
First, that if his child shall ask him for that, that is not good for him, or if the child should refuse to have that done, or pray his Father and say, I beseech you do it not, when the Father knows it is good:―here the Father is not bound he thinks:―as for example, if a Father sees his child needs Physic42, it may be, the child finds it bitter, and therefore is exceeding loath to take it, it makes him sick, and is irksome unto him, so that he earnestly desires his Father that he may be excused, that he might be freed from it; In this Case, the father will not hear him, for he knows the Child is but mistaken:―on the other side; if the Child ask something that is very hurtful, if he ask for wine in a fever, the Father denies it him; No, (saith he) you are mistaken, I know your desire is that you might have health and recover, and this I know will hurt you, though you know it not; This the Father understands, and therefore he puts in that condition:―so when the Lord saith, In nothing be careful, but in all things make your requests known:―if you mistake the matter at any time, and your prayer shall not be the dictate of the Spirit, (so that ye alway make request according to his will) but the dictate of your own hearts, & shall be the expression of your natural Spirit, and not of the Lord's Spirit:―in this case there is no promise of being heard, and yet the Lord makes his word good; Be in nothing careful, but in all things make your request known.
Secondly, a Father when he saith to his Child, I will deny you nothing, but you shall have part in all that I have, yet the Child may carry himself so, that the Father, upon such an occasion may deny him, and be ready to say unto him; well, if you had followed your book, if you had not run into such disorders, if you had not been negligent to do what I gave you in charge, I would have done it:―in this case, the Father withholds the blessing that he will bestow upon his Child; not because he is unwilling to bestow it, but because he would thus nurture his Child, he useth it as a means to bring him to order; So the Lord saith to Moses, That because he had spoken unadvisedly, because he had not honoured him before the people, at those waters, the waters of strife, Therefore the Lord tells him by the Prophet, he should not go into the good land:―and so he tells David, that because he had sinned against him, he would not give him the life of the Child:―so the Lord saith to us sometimes; I will not grant you this request; for though I be willing to grant it, yet this is one part of the discipline and nurture that I use to my Children, That such a particular request, I will deny you for such an offence; as worshipping of Idols &c. Beloved this is not a general denial, & this is not for our disadvantage, but it is a help to us, it makes us better, that sometime we should be denied; knowing hereby that it is denied to us for our sin, that we may learn to come to the Lord, and renew our repentance, and to take that away, that we may come to prevail in our prayers with him.
Thirdly, when a Father is willing to grant it, yet he will thus say to his child, Though I be willing to do what you ask at my hands, yet I will not have you ask it rudely, I will have you ask it in a good manner, and a good fashion. (For when we come to call upon God, and come in an unreverent manner, in such a case the Lord hears not.) Or again, he will say to his child, I am ready to hear you, but you must not ask in a negligent manner, as if you cared not whether you had it or no:―so the Lord saith to us; I will have you to pray fervently, you shall ask it, as that which you prize. Again he will say to his child, I am willing to bestow this upon you, but I do not give you this money:―to spend it amiss, to play it away, to spend it in trifles, and gewgaws that will do you no good:―so saith the Lord, I am willing to give you riches, but not to bestow upon your lusts. Thus speaks the father to his child, when he comes to ask, he tells him he must come in such a manner as becomes a child, he must speak to him as to a Father, he must speak with confidence to receive it:―so also the Lord tells us, we must come in faith; So that (in a word) this is to be remembered; That though the Lord promise, that he will give whatsoever we ask, and bid us, in nothing be careful, but make our requests known; yet notwithstanding this, he would have us to understand that our requests be made in such a manner as they ought to be. Again, last of all, it may be the Father is willing to do it, but he makes a little pause, he will not give it presently, and suddenly to his child, though he purpose to bestow it upon him, that he may come by it with difficulty:―so the Lord useth to withhold his blessings many times, that his child might be exercised in prayer, and seek him the more, and likewise that he might come the hardlier by the blessing, that so he might learn to prize it more; or else he would be ready to do as young heirs:―as it is with some when they never know the getting of it, they spend it easily, but he that hath known what it is, he takes more care to his estate, he looks more diligently to it:―so it would be with us in any blessing, if we had it with such facility as we would, we would not make much account of it; but when it comes with some hardness, with some difficulty, it teacheth us to set a higher price on it, and so it makes us more thankful, it teacheth us to give more praise and glory to the Lord.
There are many that have had a sickness long, and have obtained health with much prayer, and much contention, and therefore they learn to prize it more, than another that obtains it easily. And thus it is in every like case. So when you hear this great privileged:―that it is no more, but, ask and have:―and, be in nothing careful, but in everything make
your requests known:―yet (I say) these conditions must needs
be inserted, these are such as must be includ-
ed. But these considered, remember
this privileged, rejoice in it, let the
Lord have the praise of it, that
Whatsoever we ask accord-
ing to his will, he