Sermon on the Mount

Matt. 7:13-14—Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: ... Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

“Enter in at the strait gate: for it is the wide gate, and broad way that leadeth to destruction: and many there be which go in thereat. Because the gate is strait, and the way narrow that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”

These two verses, being the fifth part of this chapter, contain the tenth point of doctrine in this sermon of our Saviour Christ; wherein He exhorteth His hearers and us all effectually, to an earnest care in seeking everlasting life; and withal admonish us in the matter of salvation, not to follow the multitude, because most men go the broad way to destruction.

The words contain two parts: A commandment, Enter in at the strait gate; and a reason in the words following: For it is the wide gate &c. Yet for our further edification and instruction, [[227]] I will consider and handle five points, which are here set down by our Saviour Christ:

I. Point. That there be two contrary cities or kingdoms, in one of which every man and woman must abide for ever after this life; and further, that these afford unto men a contrary estate, the one life, the other death and destruction.

II. Point. That there are two distinct ways to these two cities or kingdoms: one leading to destruction, the other leading unto life.

III. Point. The condition and property of these two ways: The way of life is straight and narrow; the way of destruction is broad and wide, and that from the beginning to the end.

IV. Point. What men do in these ways; namely, that many walk in the broad way, and few can find the straight and narrow way.

V. Point. What men ought to do touching these ways; namely, pass by the broad way, and enter into and walk in the strait way; which is the scope of Christ’s exhortation and instruction in this place.

Of these in order:

For the first: These two cities are two distinct places ordained of God for the final and eternal abode of all mankind after this life, according to that which every man hath done in his body. These are termed diversely in Scripture, one, the kingdom of heaven; the other, outer darkness, in the [[chapter following>>Matt. 8:11, 12]]. The one, Abraham’s bosom, the other [[hell fire>>Luke 16:23]]. In the [[21st>>Rev. 21]] and [[22nd chapters>>Rev. 21]] of the Revelation, they are notably described, the one is called the city of God; the other the burning lake; and usually the one is called heaven, and the other hell. And as these are distinct places, so they afford unto men two distinct estates: the one life, the other destruction; as it is said, the narrow way leads to life; the broad way to destruction.

By life is here meant a blessed state of man in which he lives in fellowship with God, and hath his heart filled with the unspeakable love and goodness of God, and with endless joy from God’s immediate presence. And this indeed is the only true life; our natural life is but a shadow thereof.

By perdition, or destruction, we are to understand a cursed state of man, in which he is without all fellowship with God in respect of His favour, mercy and love; and yet in body, soul and conscience doth apprehend the bitterness of God’s wrath and fury for evermore; having no fellowship save only with the devil and his angels, and damned souls. This is no life, but eternal death, though soul and body live together eternally.

The Uses.

Use I. In that Christ doth here mention but two cities or places, to the one whereof every man must resort after death; we may gather that there is no middle place or condition between life and destruction. A third place or state the Scripture knoweth not, and therefore there is no place of purging the souls of men after this life, which the papists call purgatory. If there had, the Word of God would have revealed it. But the papists say, it is the upper part of hell, near to the hell of the damned. I answer, If that were so, then there is no salvation for them that are in purgatory; for there is no returning out of hell to heaven, by reason of the [[great gulf between them>>Luke 16:26]], and they that are in any part of hell are but damned persons.

Use II. If there be but two places, and in them two estates only according to that which men have done here on earth, either good or evil; then we must be admonished with all care and conscience to use all good means, whereby we may escape the one and attain to the other; to be freed from destruction, and to gain salvation. In the massacre and sacking of a city, in which some are slain and some escape alive, everyone hath care to shift for himself, to save his temporal life. Much more then ought we to provide for eternal life, seeing at the last day wherein the whole world shall be ransacked, everyone must undergo either salvation or destruction. If we had our deserving, we should be confounded every moment; but God in mercy grants unto us length of days for this very end, that we should seek God’s kingdom and life everlasting. And therefore this must be our principal care and study, that we may be always ready, whensoever we shall be called hence; and the rather, because we know not when Christ will call us hence. [[Be ye also prepared therefore, for the Son of man will come at an hour when ye think not>> Luke 12:40]].

II. Point. As there be two diverse estates in two distinct places; so there be two several ways that lead thereunto; the [[one the way of life>>Matt. 7:14]], the other [[the way of destruction>>Matt. 7:13]].

First, I will speak of the way of life, and thereby shall we see what the way of destruction is; in which regard it stands us all in hand to know what is the way of life. Now none hath better noted it out unto us, than the prophet Habakkuk, in these words: [[But the just shall live by faith>> Hab. 2:4]]; in which place he foretells the afflictions of the Jews by the Chaldeans; whereupon the Jews might say, whereby then shall we stay ourselves? He answers, By faith. The just man lives, that is, leadeth his life, by faith. Some give this meaning to the prophet: [[The just by faith shall have life everlasting; but the apostle expoundeth it otherwise>>Gal. 3:11]]. So then [[to walk in the way of life is to lead our lives by faith in Christ>>Heb. 10:39]].

Here two points must be considered:

First, What faith is by which men must live in this world; namely, true justifying faith, the very faith by which they are to be saved in the day of the Lord. [[I live by faith (saith Paul) in the Son of God, who hath loved me and given Himself for me>>Gal.2:20]]; where he doth notably expound this text showing that faith in Christ our Redeemer, is that faith whereby we must lead our lives in this world; for they which [[228]] will be saved by their faith, must first live by their faith. He that believes well, lives well; and that faith will never save the soul that cannot guide and order the life. Many men think it is sufficient to salvation to believe the promise of life; but faith hath a further work in them that it saveth; for it also causeth them to live thereby. Now a man lives by faith, when he rests himself on God, and suffers himself wholly to be led and guided by God’s written Word. Example hereof we have in Abraham, who [[by faith forsook his own country, and at God’s commandment went he knew not whither>> Heb. 11:8]].

Secondly, More particularly, a Christian man’s life is twofold: spiritual and temporal; both which he must live in this world, for heavenly life begins before we die; and both these kinds of life must be preserved by faith.

The spiritual life of a Christian is that whereby he hath true fellowship with God. This begins in this life; and it stands in reconciliation with God, wherein a man is accepted to the right of eternal life. This reconciliation is life, and it is held by faith; and faith only in God’s Word and promise in Christ alone, is it that makes us lay hold of, receive and keep this our reconciliation. We must give God this honour, to believe His promise of remission of sins, and life everlasting in Christ; and upon our faith, God vouchsafeth unto us remission of sins and life everlasting. Here some may ask, whether everything that we believe be made ours, as riches, honour and such like. Ans: No; but only that which God promiseth in the evangelical covenant of life everlasting, upon our faith. Here also some will say, If this be all, I am well, for I believe God’s promise. But herein many deceive themselves, believing the promise falsely. True faith is this: men must seek the pardon of their sins, and in seeking, believe it; but they that believe without using that means, deceive themselves, seeing God hath joined His promise to the means. We offend God daily, and therefore must daily renew our repentance, and by faith believe the pardon of our daily sins.

Further, this spiritual life hath its fruits. It is no dead life, for he that hath remission of sins, lives in Christ, and this life shows itself in the fruits of good works; as mercy, love, goodness. And in every good work we must live by faith, for to the doing of any good work, there is a double faith required: first, a general faith, whereby we are persuaded that the work is allowed and required of God; secondly, a spiritual faith, whereby we are persuaded that the particular work done is accepted of God. In the acceptation of the work, God first accepteth the person in Christ, and then the works in and for the person. Yea, we are moved to every good work by faith; for it brings to mind God’s love, mercy and goodness to us; and so motivates to perform the like duties of love and mercy towards our brethren.

Thirdly, spiritual life shows itself in resisting and enduring temptations, for every child of God hath many and grievous assaults, so as the righteous shall scarce be saved; and in all and every one of these, we must live by faith, and thereby rely on Christ, not on ourselves. Example hereof we have in Christ upon the cross, who even then when He felt the wrath of God upon Him, did yet cry unto Him as to His God: [[My God, my God>>Matt. 27:46]]. And Job in grievous temptation and affliction, said unto the Lord: [[Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him>>Job 13:15]]. And so must we even then lay hold on God’s mercy, when we feel no comfort in ourselves. So did David, when he felt no comfort, yet he did [[cleave to God in his meditation>>Psa. 77:7-11]]. In disputations in schools, it is a fault to stick always to the conclusion; yet in this combat with Satan it is no fault, but a good practice of true faith.

Temporal life stands in the practice of some particular calling; and some men be of one calling, some of another; and everyone hath, or ought to have, someone lawful calling or other wherein to lead his temporal life. Now the works of a man’s particular calling, they must be practised by faith, even the duties of the basest callings that is, as of the shepherd. And that a man may do the duties of his calling in faith, he must first have a grounded conscience that his work is allowed of God, and accordingly he must do his work. Again, every man in his calling must have a care of his own self, and of those that belong unto him, to provide for them things necessary, as meat, drink and clothing; and this care must be ruled by faith, that is, a man must use the lawful means to get these things, and yet so as he leave the issue and event unto God’s blessing. We may provide for necessaries, but we must go no further, but use the lawful ordinary means, and sanctify them by prayer, leaving the blessing unto God. [[Cast thy works on God>> Prov. 16:3]], saith Solomon; and St Peter bids us, [[Cast all our care on God>>1 Pet. 5:7]].

Lastly, every calling hath its crosses. No life is so quiet that it wanteth all vexations. Now when crosses come upon any man in his calling, then must he bear the same by faith. He must rest on God’s Word, and quiet his mind with the good will and pleasure of God. He that believes (saith the prophet) [[shall not make haste>>Isa. 28:16]], that is, he shall not be carried headlong with a desire to satisfy his own pleasure and appetite, either in seeking to be freed from evil, or to enjoy some blessing, but shall content himself with the good pleasure of God.

And thus we see what it is to live by faith, which is the right way to life eternal.

The Uses.

Use I. This showeth that a great number are far wide, which think that if they live uprightly among men, then all is well. This [[229]] honest life is very commendable among men, but it is not sufficient to salvation. It is but a work of nature, for a man by natural reason may lead a civil, upright life, as many have done among the heathen; but the life that must bring a man to heaven, must be led by faith; and therefore they that would walk the way to life, must walk by faith, not by reason only.

Use II. This also showeth that they are deceived which live by sense, measuring God’s love and hatred by outward blessings and crosses; and therefore when God takes away the means, they will no longer trust on Him. But we count it a point of dishonesty, not to trust our honest friend without a pawn. Much more then is it a dishonour to God, when we will not rely upon Him, without outward pledges of His favour. And therefore we must rely on God when all means fail, for [[no man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before him>>Eccl. 9:1]].

Use III. Many that profess religion are deceived that measure their grace and goodness in religion by feeling their own hearts. But we must rely thereon, for true faith may be in the heart without inward sense. Again, the devil may put false comforts many times into a man’s heart. The bad man receives the [[Word with joy>>Luke 8:13]]. Look to thy faith by Christ’s Word, and thereby judge thyself, and rest not in thine inward feeling.

Use IV. This teacheth us to acquaint ourselves with all the commandments of God that be in the Bible; and with all the promises that concern the pardon of sins and life everlasting; for without this knowledge there can be no faith; and therefore we must abandon all ignorance of these things, and instruct ourselves, and those that belong unto us, in the Word of God, that they and we may live by faith.

Use V. These are happy days of peace and of many temporal blessings wherein we now live; but we must not live always in this peace. God hath begun to set His judgments among us, and if we do not repent, we must look for further and more grievous judgments, as the less of His Word, and a sword upon ourselves, our friends and children. What if these days come? How must we then live? Namely, by faith in the Word and promise of God. Lay hold on this, and though thou lose friends, goods and thine own temporal life, yet hold fast thy spiritual life; by faith cleave unto Christ, and then in the midst of swords and weapons of death, thou shalt walk the way to eternal life.

And thus much of the way of life.

The second way is the way to destruction; which is called the way of sinners and of the ungodly—Psa. 1:1, 6. This way hath many paths, which tend all to one end, and meet in the same period; and they may all be reduced to these three heads:

The way of nature.

The way of false faith.

The way of faith and nature joined together.

The way of nature is when men only live by the light of nature. Of this St Paul speaks, [[God suffered all the Gentiles to walk in their own ways>> Acts 14:16]]; wherein they were void of God in Christ, and so not under mercy.

The way of false faith is something more than the way of nature; but yet it leadeth to destruction, because their faith is false and profession vain; and this is the way of false religion, whereof there be these three main and principal at this day, to which all other may be referred: The religion of the Turk, of the Jews, and of the papists. The Turks in their religion acknowledge Christ for a great prophet, but not to be God, neither do they look for any salvation by Him. The Jews in their religion acknowledge but one God, yet out of Christ. They acknowledge not His incarnation past, but expect it yet to come. They wait for an earthly kingdom. They hold the Old Testament only and deny the New. Now both these refusing Christ, have not the Father, and so can have no salvation in their religion. The papists acknowledge much truth formally, but then again they overturn it; for they hold that general faith, which the devils may have; but for that special justifying faith whereby a man is to believe his own salvation, the remission of his sins, and his own reconciliation with God in Christ; that they renounce. Again, the Christ of the papist is no true Christ; for they make Him but half a Saviour, or not so much; even only an instrument to make men saviours of themselves; for by His grace, they do works properly meritorious, and fully worthy of eternal life. They rob Him also of His manhood, saying, it is everywhere in his quantity, where mass is said; for they have the self-same body that was crucified. Also, they deny His offices:

His kingly office; for they part stakes with Him, and give it to the pope, in saying he hath power to make laws which bind the conscience, as God’s laws do.

His priesthood, because every mass-priest offers Christ anew; and they make saints intercessors, especially the virgin Mary.

His prophetic office, saying the Scriptures are imperfect without tradition; uncertain without the sense and meaning of the church; the original copies are corrupted; and the church is above them in authority.

The third way is the way of faith and nature together. This is the common way wherein most Protestants walk; for we hold the right faith in word; our profession and judgment is right; but yet our lives are led according to nature.

And these three paths are all in the broad way to destruction And therefore as we hold true doctrine, and right faith in word, so let us lead our lives accordingly, and testify the same by our works, especially in the times of dearth when God lays His hand on the poor, and thereby tries the hearts of the rich.

III. Point. The property of these ways. The way to life is narrow and strait; the way to [[230]] destruction is broad and wide.

1. For the first: The way to life is narrow and strait, from the first entrance to the last passage. Why so?

First, because the way of life is only one single path; but the way of death is manifold, containing sundry paths.

Secondly, they that walk in the way of life, contain themselves within the bonds and lists of God’s Word; for the words of the wise are as nails and pales to keep us in—Eccl. 12:11.

Thirdly, in the way to life, there are many afflictions and offences. [[Through manifold afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven>> Acts 14:22]]; and, [[I will stop thy way with thorns>> Hos. 2:6]]; meaning that by sharp afflictions He would hedge them in the way of obedience. But some may say, why then doth Christ say His [[yoke is light>>Matt. 11:30]]? And St John, [[His commandments are not grievous?>> 1 John 5:3]] And David, [[I will walk at large or liberty?>> Psa. 119:45]] Ans: The way is straight and narrow in respect of our nature; but yet broad and easy by His assisting grace and help. Here then we see what course we must take if we mean to come unto Christ; namely, we must tread in this narrow way, and become like unto Him in suffering afflictions; for this way He went here on earth, and so entered into His glory.

The property of the way of death is breadth. Now the way of death is broad:

First, because the way of sinning is manifold; even as truth is only one, and error manifold.

Secondly, they that walk in this way break out of the bounds of God’s Word, and do not contain themselves therein.

Thirdly, herein they meet with few crosses and impediments; as David saith, [[They are not in trouble as other men…>> Psa. 73:5]]…[[they prosper always and increase in riches Psa. 73:12]]. And the reason is because they seek by all means to satisfy their heart’s desire, whether by right or wrong; saying with the fool in the gospel, [[Soul, soul take thy rest, live at ease>> Luke 12:19]].

IV. What men do in these ways; namely, the greatest part of men walk in the broad way, but few in the narrow way.

Hence we learn sundry instructions:

I. We must not be offended or discouraged when we see most men live either in a false religion, or in gross impiety; for the greatest part walk in the broad way.

II. We must not follow the multitude in matters of religion, but these that follow Christ, the patriarchs, prophets and apostles; for the most go wide, and the fewest hold the right way of life.

III. That universality is no mark of a true church; for the true church is in the strait way, but therein the smallest number walk.

IV. Universal grace is a device of man; for few find the way of life, and therefore it is hid and unknown. If it be said that all might find it if they would; I answer: they cannot; for the word finding doth presuppose a seeking; as if Christ had said, Though many give themselves to seek the way of life, yet few there be that find it. The like phrase we have, [[In the days of Noah they ate and drank>> Matt. 24:38]]; that is, they gave themselves to eating and drinking. Again, St Luke hath it thus, [[And shall not be able to find it>> Luke 13:24]]. Why then do not the most find the way to life? Is it because they seek it not? No, verily; St Luke denies that. Why then is the way hid to the most, and revealed to few? This Christ teacheth us: [[Because it so pleaseth God>> Matt. 11:25-26]].

V. What must we do in regard of these two ways? We must enter, yea, as St Luke hath it, [[Strive to enter in at the strait way>> Luke 13:24]]; and to pass by the broad way. This is the commandment of our Saviour Christ; wherein three things are enjoined us: First, that we must come in to this strait way, and eschew the broad way; secondly, we must not be discouraged for the straightness of the way; and thirdly, we must strive to enter in.

The first is a necessary duty in these times; for we are like unto mariners which pass by many pleasant countries and stately buildings, and do only behold them afar off, but not enter in to them, nor land upon them. We must therefore cease only to talk of the way of life, and begin to walk in it. If any shall ask how we may come to walk in this way, I answer: Read – Jer. 6:16, see there a notable lesson:

First, we must enquire which is the old way, for the old way is the right way. But where shall we learn out the old way? Ans: In the Holy Bible. There shall we see the way that the patriarchs, prophets and apostles went.

Secondly, having found the right way, we must labour to know all the turnings of it. We must see what things we are to believe and do, [[having the mystery of faith in a good conscience>>1 Tim. 1:19]].

Thirdly, we must [[walk in this way>>Jer. 6:16]], for it is not sufficient to know the will of God, and to make profession of religion, but we must put in practice the things which we know.

And lastly, we must be circumspect to keep ourselves in the right way. Set your hearts on your ways>> Hag. 1:5]]. [[I considered my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies>> Psa. 119:59]].

The second charge in this commandment is that when we walk in the way to life, the straightness of the way must not discourage us from going forward therein. This is the principal point intended by our Saviour Christ in this commandment, even to arm us with courage and perseverance against afflictions, crosses and temptations, which might dismay and daunt us in this way. And in this charge we are taught sundry weighty duties to be practised in the profession of Christ’s true religion.

I. Duty. That we are not to give ourselves the liberty of heart which nature desireth in all of us; but we must restrain ourselves thereof, and bring our minds, our thoughts, affections, our wills, speeches and actions into the straits [[231]] of the Word of God. This restraint of our natural desire is twofold: by the law and by the gospel. In the law, every commandment ministereth its particular restraint, as we shall see in their order.

The first commandment concerns the having of the true God for our God. By nature we take liberty to ourselves to conceive of God at our own pleasure; for commonly men conceive of God out of the Trinity, and worship the persons one without another. The Jew, the Turk and all the heathen will not be restrained of this liberty; but the people of God who submit themselves to His Word, then by this law are restrained of this natural desire, and are taught to choose and have to themselves the true God for their God; and to conceive aright of this God; namely, that He is one in essence and three in Person, and that the Persons must be worshipped in the unity of the Godhead; for as they are one in nature, so we must unite them in one and the same worship.

Secondly, Again, by nature, we take liberty to ourselves to forget the true God, and in our own hearts do set up a false god unto ourselves. Some make riches their god, some honours, some pleasures; for look whereon a man bestows his heart and his affections, as his love, his fear, and confidence; that he makes his god. And hence it comes that some in judgment hold the true God, and yet have a false god unto themselves in their hearts. But the first commandment restrains us of this liberty also; and it enjoins us to bestow our whole heart, and all our affections, on the true God; loving, fearing and trusting in Him above all.

Thirdly, our nature is to exalt ourselves and to ascribe something unto ourselves, esteeming the good things that be in us, as of ourselves, and as though they were our own. Whereby we take to ourselves something that is proper to God, becoming like to the prodigal child which would have his portion to himself severed from his father. With this natural pride was David puffed up when he numbered the people. But the first commandment restrains us of this also, prescribing unto us the duty of inward adoration; which we perform, first, when we give unto Him all the honour that we can, esteeming ourselves but dust and ashes, and ascribing unto Him all the good that is in us, as from Him.

Secondly, when we subject ourselves unto Him wholly as our Creator, and do submit our hearts, will and conscience to His holy Word: and these be the strait ways which this commandment prescribes us.

The second commandment concerns God’s outward worship; and it puts unto us many restraints. Our nature desires to conceive of God in some form, and to represent Him in some image; but the Lord is a Spirit, and this commandment enjoins us to worship Him in spirit and truth, and to conceive of Him in His works and properties, restraining our natural desires of conceiving and representing God.

Secondly, it is our nature to perform outward worship unto God only, but for any further thing we would take liberty to ourselves; we would give Him only the outward bodily worship, as come to church, hear the Word, pray outwardly and receive the sacraments. But the Lord in this commandment gives us charge that with as great care and conscience, we would give unto Him the inward worship of the heart; for God must be served with the whole man, our love, and fear, and trust in God, must be conformable to our outward worship.

Further, every man almost can be content to profess religion, and to perform so much as the laws of his country require for the service of God; but yet they would take liberty in their callings to live as they list. But God’s commandment restrains this desire also. We must hold religion not only in the church, but also show the same in our lives and conversations; and therefore is the second table joined with the first, to teach us that we must perform duty to God in the service of man.

The third commandment concerns the holy use of the holy things of God, especially of His Word and sacraments. Now for the outward work of hearing the Word and receiving the sacraments, we are content to perform them; but we would have God think Himself satisfied with the work done. But this commandment restrains us of this desire, enjoining us not only to use His holy things, but also in an holy manner; that is, with repenting and believing hearts; for they are not holy to us, unless we use them in and by faith and repentance.

Again, we take liberty to use God’s Name in oaths, and specially in vows, as in baptism, which we renew when we come to the Lord’s table; but herein we ordinarily abuse this His holy Name, not having like care to make good our vows unto God, as we have to make them.

The fourth commandment concerns the time of God’s worship. We ourselves would have all times in our own disposing, and we think it hard to be restrained of any time; but this commandment restrains us of this desire, binding us in conscience to give one day in seven to the honour of God, in His public and solemn worship.

The fifth commandment concerns the giving of honour and reverence to superiors; and it restrains us of our natural desire, which is to seek for, and to take honour unto ourselves alone; for this enjoineth us to give honour one to another, especially to them to whom it belongs, as to all superiors in authority, in gifts, or age. Let this be your honour, saith Paul, [[to give honour to whom it belongs>> Rom. 13:7]].

The sixth commandment concerneth murder; and it restraineth our natural desire, which is upon small occasion, to conceive malice and to bear grudging against our brother, [[232]] forbidding all thoughts, words, deeds, and gestures, which tend to the impairing or destroying of our neighbour’s life and person.

The seventh commandment concerneth chastity; and it restrains man’s nature, which desires to take liberty in uncleanness and fornication both of heart and life; and it binds us to abstain from all speech, action or gesture which tends to the hindrance of our own, or of our neighbour’s chastity; for God is holy and pure, and so ought our bodies and minds to be, which are temples of His blessed Spirit.

The eighth commandment concerneth our neighbour’s goods; and it restrains our corrupt nature, which desires to have liberty by all means good and bad to enrich ourselves. And it enjoineth us both in will and word, and in traffic also, to seek the common good; and the good of those with whom we live. Again, this also restrains our natural desire of abundance, enjoining us to seek only for necessaries, as food and raiment; for we may not seek to be rich, yet if God gives us more than things necessary in the labours of our calling, then we are to bless God for them, and to use them to His glory. This is a strait way to the worldly man, but it must stand, and we must walk in it, if we would enter into life.

The ninth commandment concerns our neighbour’s good name; and it restrains us of our natural desire, which is to conceive and speak unto others, as also to receive from others, evil report of our neighbour; and on the contrary, it enjoins us, by all good means to seek to preserve our neighbour’s good name and credit.

The tenth commandment is touching lust. Whenas we hurt no man in word or deed, then we take it for granted that we may think what we will, no laws restrain thought; that we hold to be free. But this commandment restrains the very first motions of our hearts, which tend to hurt our brother’s life, chastity, goods, or good name, though they never come into practice, yea, though we never give consent of will thereto.

And these are the restraints of the law, whereto we must conform ourselves, if we would enter into life.

Now follow the restraints of the gospel, which is a part of God’s Word touching remission of sins and salvation. By nature we desire to stand upright and righteous before God by some good thing in ourselves; as the rich man in the gospel, he demands of Christ, [[What good thing shall I do to be saved?>>Matt. 19:16]]. Again, it is our nature not to look to be saved by anything out of ourselves; if we have nothing else, our good meaning and good hope must save us. But the gospel restrains us of these desires, and enjoineth us to renounce ourselves in the matter of salvation, and all that is in us; and to depend upon a righteousness out of ourselves in the Person of Christ, which is His obedience and suffering. Again, we naturally desire to enjoy God’s mercy by sense and feeling; but the gospel restrains us of this kind of assurance, which comes by sense and feeling, and enjoins us to hold and keep God’s mercy by believing only, both in life and death, though we have no sense thereof at all.

I. Duty. Further, the gospel renews the law for the manner of loving; for the moral law required that we should love another as we do ourselves, but the gospel requires us to love one another as Christ loved us; which is a greater measure of love than the law required. For Christ loved us more than Himself; for He gave Himself for us; and so ought we to love even our enemies. And thus we see how the gospel also restrains us from following our own natural desires, and enjoineth us to walk in the narrow way to life; whereto, as also to the restraints of the law, we must apply ourselves, our thoughts, words and deeds. So doing, we walk in the strait way that leadeth unto life. But if we any way exempt ourselves according to our natural desire from any of these restraints, we then walk in the broad way that leadeth to destruction.

II. Duty. Seeing we must be content with the straightness of the way, we learn that when God lays any crosses or afflictions upon us, we must not repine or grudge, but bear the same with patience, and suffer God to break us of our own wills, resting contented in ourselves with the will of God alone; for this is grace, and a sure testimony that we walk in the strait way to life.

III. Duty. In the case of confession and profession of true religion, when we be called thereto, we must be content to forsake goods, friends, yea, and life itself, rather than by enjoying them suffer ourselves to be driven out of this strait way to life. [[My life (saith Paul) is not dear unto me, so that I may fulfil my course with joy>>Acts 20:24]].

Lastly, whosoever is puffed up with the pride of his own heart, is too stately to stoop under the strait door that leadeth to the way of life. He therefore that would walk in this strait way, must cast away all pride of heart, and humble himself for his own sins, making himself nothing in himself. [[Except you be converted and become as little children (who are not proud and haughty), ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. But he that humbleth himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven>>Matt. 18:3-4]].

The third charge given us by our Saviour Christ concerning the strait way of life, is noted by St Luke: that we must [[strive to enter into it>>Luke 13:24]]. From whence we are taught that our principal care must be above all things to come into the way of life everlasting; so much the word striving imports. It is said that when John first preached, [[the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent took it by force>>Matt. 11:12]]; that is, there was such [[233]] forwardness and zeal in them that heard John preach, to procure to themselves the kingdom of heaven, that they strove most earnestly to get in. David [[sware unto the Lord and vowed a vow unto the mighty God of Jacob, that he would not enter into the tabernacle of his house, nor come upon his bed, nor suffer his eyes to sleep, till he had found a place for God’s ark>> Psa. 132: 1-5]]; where he with the rest of his people might come and pray unto the Lord, and receive answer from Him again. Now look what zeal was in them that heard John, and what care was in David for the outward place of God’s worship, the like must be in every one of us for the obtaining of reconciliation and life everlasting.


Use 1. Hereby many that live in the church of God may justly be reproved; for a number there be that though they may partake of the Word and sacraments, yet are most negligent of their salvation, using no means to obtain reconciliation with God, and to come by life everlasting. And this they do profess: that they will leave all to God, relying wholly on His mercy without using any means on their part to attain thereto. But these men sin most grievously, and are their own deadly enemies; for they ought to consider this commandment, which condemneth their security, and straightly enjoins everyone to strive to come into the strait way, and to walk therein.

And because this duty is so necessary, I will use some reasons to persuade them hereto.

I. Consider this: When the Philistines were assembled, and had Samson in the midst among them to make sport, if they had known what he was about to do when he leaned to the pillars of the house where they sat, they would have pressed to the doors and windows, and there have striven to have got out, because of the imminent danger that was unto their bodily lives. Well, all those persons that are cold in their profession, and careless of religion, they have the wrath of God hanging over their heads; and while they walk thus dissolutely in the broad way, their condemnation sleepeth not, but makes post-haste upon them; and if they continue and go forward in this careless course, they shall as certainly perish in God’s wrath, as the Philistines did by the hand of Samson. And therefore as they desire to escape damnation, so let them be careful to cast off this damnable security.

II. If an angel from heaven should come and assure us from God that life everlasting did belong to us; Oh, we would count it a blessed message. Well, look when we turn from the broad way, and walk in the strait way of life, we have as good security of our salvation, as if an angel from heaven should certify us thereof; for true repentance is an infallible note of a child of God, to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven. The consideration whereof ought to stir up all careless persons to return from their evil ways, and to strive to come into this strait way, and to walk therein unto the end.

And yet to induce them further to this duty, I will seek to take from them those excuses which they make to themselves:

First, they say, God is merciful; and therefore they will rely thereon, and take no further care for their souls. Ans: God indeed is merciful, but His mercy is only found of them that strive to enter in at the strait gate. As for those that [[walk in the broad way, it belongs not to them>>Deut. 29:19-20]]. [[And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly appear?>> 1 Pet. 4:18]]

Secondly, they say, at least in heart, that it is the easiest matter in the world to come by life everlasting. If they can call on God when they are dying, all is well. And therefore they will not lend their outward ears to hear, nor apply their minds to conceive and learn that which they may do by nature. And if they do come to the congregation, yet it is for custom or for fear of punishment, not for conscience. But these men deceive themselves. They consider not what Peter saith, that the righteous shall scarcely be saved; and what St Luke addeth to this exhortation of Christ, that [[many shall seek to enter into the door of life, and shall not be able>> Luke 13:24]]; because they neglected the time of grace, and used not good means in due season.

Thirdly, they make this common objection, that either they are elect or reprobate. If they be elect, then let them live as they list, they shall be saved; but if God have eternally rejected them, though they live never so religiously, yet they shall be condemned. And many deceive themselves with this reason.

But they must know that they judge amiss of God’s decree, and the wickedness of this reason may appear by the like: God hath decreed the certain term of every man’s life in this world, as well as his future estate after this life.

Now if any man hereupon should reason thus: If God have decreed that I shall live longer, then I shall surely live; if He have decreed that I shall live no longer, then I shall surely die, for God’s decree must stand; and therefore I will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor use means to preserve my life. If any should thus do upon this ground, would not all men judge him to be a murderer of himself? And surely, he is no less a murderer of his soul, that upon God’s predestination, will take occasion of liberty to live as he list; for God’s decree of the end includes the ordinary means that bring thereto. Again, they are to know that there is a double will of God: His revealed will made known in His Word, and His secret or unrevealed will, whereby He hath determined with Himself what shall be the eternal estate of every person, which is not known unto us ordinarily, but by the event. The revealed will of God must be the rule of our obedience, and according to it must we frame and square our lives; but His secret will we must honour and reverence, not making any rules from it, whereby [[234]] to frame our lives. Now these persons they have the written Word, and betake themselves to His unrevealed will, and out of it will make rules how they will live; but herein they sin greatly, in framing to themselves new rules, leaving His Word, whereby they should order and guide their lives.

Thirdly, I answer that this reason hath in it a plain falsehood; for they that are predestinated to life, are chosen to live a godly life in faith, repentance, and obedience, [[that they might be like to the image of His Son>>Rom. 8:29]]. And indeed, it is impossible that he which lives in wickedness all his life long, and so dies, should be saved; as also that he which lives a godly life unto the end should be condemned; for God hath decreed the means as well as the end.

Use 2. This charge of Christ, for striving to enter in at the strait door, correcteth also a second sort of men, which are of the better sort; for commonly the best men are too careless in regard of this duty of striving. And it may be said of us, as Christ said of the church of Laodicea, We are [[neither hot nor cold>> Rev. 3:15]]; we strive not to go one before another in holy duties; worldly cares and pleasures do dull us and make us faint in this duty of striving. But we must take heed of security, and revive our obedience to this commandment, making this our principal care, to come to life eternal. And all worldly care must come under this; for consider the fearful judgment that hangs over such as are slack in this duty; it is destruction as well as to those that are profane. [[Because thou art neither hot nor cold; I will spue thee out of my mouth>>Matt. 7:16]]; for seeing that God continues His gospel unto us, we ought answerably to increase in knowledge, in faith, and in all obedience. David professeth that his [[heart brake in sunder for the desire that he had to God’s judgments always>>Psa. 119:20]]). We commonly spend our wit and strength about worldly affairs, in matter of commodity and delight; but David’s practice ought to be a pattern unto us; for our chiefest strife must be to attain eternal life.

Matt. 7:15. – “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

From this verse to the twentieth is contained the sixth part of this chapter, and the eleventh part of Christ’s sermon, concerning the discerning and avoiding of false prophets. And it hath an excellent dependence on the former point of exhortation; for having given commandment to walk in the strait way, now like a careful guide He forewarns us of the principal impediments in this way, which be false prophets and seducers, who are like thieves and pirates to hinder us in this way. Touching them, three things are here set down by Christ:

First, a commandment to beware of them; secondly, the danger that comes by them: they come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves; and thirdly, the means whereby to judge and discern of them, from the [[16th verse to the 20th>>Matt. 7:16-20]].

For the commandment:

Beware of false prophets; that is, of false teachers. In a false teacher, two things are required: First, he must maintain some error that overturns true faith and religion; for every erroneous opinion which a man holds, will not make him a false prophet, but only a fundamental error.

Secondly, besides the holding of some damnable error in his own heart, a false prophet must also be a seducer, such an one as labours to make a faction, withdrawing men from true religion, and from true faith, and persuading them both in private and publicly, to receive his error. And that both these are required to make a false prophet, the Scripture is plain. There shall be false teachers among you (saith St Peter), [[which privily shall bring in damnable heresies>>2 Pet. 2:1]]. There is the first property; and for the second, that they must be seducers, Christ Himself teacheth us, [[There shall come false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders>> Matt. 24:24]], so as, if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect. And of both these properties jointly, St Paul speaketh, [[I beseech you brethren, mark them diligently which cause division and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have received, and avoid them; for they that are such, serve not the Lord, but their own bellies, and with fair speech and flattering deceive the hearts of the simple>> Rom. 16:17-18]]. So then Christ’s meaning in this commandment is this: You shall be troubled with many false prophets, which shall bring in damnable doctrines amongst you, and withal labour to seduce you from the truth, and therefore take heed of them.

And these two notes must we make in a false teacher, to distinguish him from a schismatic and from an hypocrite; for every false teacher is a schismatic, but every schismatic is not a false teacher. If we would have examples of false teachers, behold the Jesuits and Romish priests, for they come among us and bring false doctrine, with intent to deceive and seduce our people. Such likewise are the Family of Love, and such were the Arians in time past, that denied the Godhead of Christ. As for others that hold private errors, not raising the foundation, nor seeking to seduce others, they may be hypocrites, schismatics and bad Christians, but they are not false prophets. Thus much for the meaning of the commandment.

The Uses.

Use I. By this caveat, Christ would teach us that the devil shows his exceeding great malice against God’s church and people in these last times of the world; he suborns false [[235]] teachers to bring in damnable doctrine, and moves them to seduce men from true religion. This thing [[Christ did plainly foretell>>Matt. 24:24]]; and St Paul chargeth the elders of Ephesus to take heed unto themselves, and to their flocks; [[for I know (saith he) that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Moreover, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them>>Acts 20:28-30]]. And St Peter foretells of the like, as [[we heard before>>2 Pet. 2:1]]. The truth hereof is verified by experience; for in the first four hundred years after Christ, which were the prime and chiefest times of the church, there arose fourscore and eight several kinds of false prophets, which seduced men from the faith and true religion, and prevailed greatly. And no doubt in the end of the world, Satan will now show his malice as great against the church as he did then; and therefore Christ bids, Take heed of them. And for this cause, when we see men that profess religion fall away to heresy and be corrupted, seeking also to seduce others, we must not much marvel at it, or be thereby discouraged; but rather watch more carefully, for the devil will stir up false prophets daily to deceive the church of God.

Use II. From this commandment we may also see that we are feeble, full of weakness in the faith, so as a little thing will easily make us forsake our faith and true religion. If this were not so, what should we need this exhortation? Who was more courageous and forward in profession than Peter? And yet the voice of a silly damsel made him deny his master, and to forswear his faith and religion. The Galatians received the gospel so gladly from Paul at the first, that he professeth, [[They would have plucked out their own eyes to have done him good>>Gal. 4:15]]; and yet when he wrote unto them, he wonders they were so soon fallen [[to another gospel>>Gal. 1:6]], receiving the doctrine of justification by works. Yea, this showeth that we have itching ears, whereby we will readily and willingly receive wholesome doctrine for a time, but soon after desire new doctrine again; like unto the Jews, who for a while delighted in the [[light of John’s ministry>>John 5:35]]; and to the old Israelites, who liked manna at the first, but after a while were weary of it, and complained that their soul dried away, whereupon they [[lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt again>>Exod. 16:3]]. So we at the first did willingly receive the gospel of Christ; but now many wax weary with it, and begin to like of popish doctrine, preferring their corrupt writers before those that have been the restorers of true religion unto us.

Use III. We must labour to maintain faith and good conscience, and not suffer ourselves to be drawn therefrom. By God’s mercy, we have had the gospel of truth among us a long time, and do still enjoy it; for which we have great cause to praise the name of God, and in this regard we must labour to be constant in holding it, yea, to live and die with it. This is the principal point which Christ here aims at, and therefore we must carefully learn it. And for this purpose, let us remember these particular directions which follow:

I. that God having restored unto us true religion, doth require we should love it as the chiefest treasure that ever this kingdom enjoyed. [[Wicked Ahab could not abide Elias>>1 Kings 21:20]] and Michaiah [[God’s prophets, but hated them; for which cause God left him to himself, and suffered him to be seduced by four hundred false prophets of Baal>>1 Kings 22:8]], and thereby brought him to destruction. And the apostle speaking of the kingdom of Antichrist, saith, [[God herein gives men up to strong delusions, that they should believe lies, because they have not loved the truth. Now this love we must show by our obedience in duties of piety to God, and in the exercise of justice and mercy towards our brethren, else God will translate His gospel from us, and give it to a nation that will bring forth the fruits thereof>>2 Thess. 2:10-11]].

II. A second rule to be observed for the maintaining of true religion is this: that ministers especially, and those intending that calling, should highly esteem, and reverently account of those men and their writings, which by God’s mercy have been the means to restore unto us pure religion; for though they were men subject to error, and in some things might slip, yet they were the worthy instruments of God’s mercy, for the planting of His gospel among us, which since their time hath been sealed with the blood of many martyrs, in England, Germany, and elsewhere; in which regard, though we must only depend on the pure Word of God for certainty of truth, yet we are to give much unto them, and to be followers of them for the substance of religion, wherein they do most soundly consent in one truth. This I note, because they begin to be in disgrace with many, and corrupt popish writers are far better accounted of.

III. if any among us doubt of any point in religion, let him do these two things for his resolution, which are the ordinary means to know the truth:

First, let him search the holy Scriptures diligently, not by private study only, but by conference with the godly.

Secondly, let him in true humility of heart pray unto God for the illumination of His Spirit, whereby he may in mind rightly conceive of the truth, embrace it by faith in his heart, and honour it by obedience in his life. Thus doing constantly, and in sincerity, he shall be sure to be preserved from error, both final and fundamental, and in due time shall know the truth; for the promise is, [[Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find>>Matt. 6:7]]. And St James saith, [[If any man lack wisdom necessary for his salvation, let him ask of God>> Jam. 1:5]], using with all other [[236]] lawful means to come thereby, and it shall be given unto him. Hereto may be added this good help for satisfaction in this case of doubting: namely, to have recourse to the general confessions of Reformed churches, which may be had in the notable book, The Harmony of Confessions, for although private men may err, as also particular churches, not only severally, but jointly in some things in this world; yet the general consent of Reformed churches may be a good direction to the knowledge of the truth, and a good persuasion to constancy therein.

IV, we must keep a good conscience, if we would preserve the truth and purity of religion; for faith and good conscience go always together. Whereupon St Paul persuading Timothy to this duty, bids him [[have faith and a good conscience, which some have put away, and as concerning faith have made shipwreck>>1 Tim. 1:19]], where a good conscience is resembled to a ship, which saileth over the sea of this world, being laden with faith; that is, with true religion, and other spiritual graces needful to salvation. Now, if the ship of our conscience be crazy and unsound, then is our faith and salvation in great danger; and therefore we must endeavour in all things to have a clear conscience, both towards God and towards men.

This commandment of our Saviour Christ, to beware of false prophets, doth bar the church of God, and every member thereof, from conversing with false prophets, after they be convicted to be such. It was Eve’s fault to admit conference with the devil in the serpent, and all of us feel the smart thereof at this day. It was Paul’s counsel to the Romans, [[to mark them diligently which caused division and offences among them, contrary to the doctrine which they had learned, and to avoid them>>Rom. 16:17]]. And St John plainly forbids this society with them, [[Receive not him into thine house, neither bid him God speed>>2 John 10]], that comes to teach you, and brings not this doctrine. [[Yea, though we (saith Paul) or an angel form heaven teach you otherwise than that which we have preached unto you, hold him accursed>>Gal. 1:8]]. In the histories of the church it is recorded that St John would not wash himself in the same bath wherein Cerinthus an heretic was washing himself, nor abide under the same roof, but leaped out, and persuaded others so to do. And indeed by Eve’s example we may see the danger of conference with false prophets; for the same evil spirit speaks in them.

Now this shows:

First, that the practice of many students is dangerous, and against this commandment, who take delight in popish commentaries and postils, ascribing to them more learning and judgment than can be found in those writers that were the restorers of true religion unto us. And hence it is that they labour more in them than in the Scripture itself, or in other sound writers thereupon. But if there be any false prophet at this day, it is the papist, and their writings are dangerous to be read of those that are not well grounded in the truth; for by reading we have a kind of familiarity with them, and indeed many suck out of them at unawares, much venom in weighty points of doctrine and religion. We ought rather to do with them as the believers of Ephesus did with their books of curious arts; namely, to [[bring them out and burn them>>Acts 19:19]], than take such delight in them. Albeit, this must be granted, it is both lawful and necessary for the defence of the truth, that men of sound judgment and piety do labour in them.

Secondly, hence also it may appear that it cannot be but a great hindrance to true religion that heretical books may be publicly sold to anyone that will buy them, without due consideration whether the party have gifts to discern of truth from falsehood. In the popish church they are more careful, they permit not a man to read an heretic’s book (as they call us Protestants) without leave, and that under a great penalty, which is severely inflicted upon offenders that way.

V. This commandment also showeth that it is not lawful to grant to any man, or to any people, the liberty of their own conscience in the matters of religion, permitting them to profess what religion they will; for how should false prophets be avoided, when every man may freely profess what he will in religion? All governors therefore must follow the practice of good king Josiah, who assembled all Judah, and caused all his people to hear the Word of the Lord, and to stand to that religion which [[the book of God made known unto them>>2 Chr. 34:32]].

VI. We have from this commandment, an answer to the false charge of the church of Rome, who accuse us of schism and apostasy because we separate from their church. But we must know that the schism and apostasy is there where the cause of departing is; which indeed is not in us, who do no more herein but obey the commandment of Christ. The cause is in them who are become false prophets, whom we must avoid.

Here yet, two questions may be demanded:

Ques. I. Whether a false prophet may be put to death, seeing Christ bids only to beware of them? Ans: Christ here speaks to His apostles, and to other of His auditors that were private men, whose duty wrought no further; but yet the truth is that a false prophet being judicially convicted, is to be put to death. The Word of God is plain, there is both a commandment and a practice: [[Every blasphemer must die>> Lev. 24:14]]. This, wicked Jezabel knew well, who under pretence of blasphemy, [[caused Naboth to be put to death>>1 Kings 21:10]] and 1 Kings 21:13. And hereupon the Jews sought to put Christ to death.

[[237]] Yea, Nebuchadnezzar, an heathen king, having but a taste of this, that the [[God of Israel was the true God>>Dan. 3:29]], made this law, that whosoever blasphemed the God of Israel should die. And it stands with equity; for he that reviles his lawful prince must die, and that justly. How much more then ought he to die that blasphemes the living God, who is King of Kings? Now, every false prophet is a blasphemer; for his opinions are blasphemies against the truth of God; and therefore he ought to die. [[The express will of God herein is manifest>>Deut. 13:1]]. A prophet comes and works miracles, and shows signs that come to pass, yet if he thereupon entice the people to idolatry, he must be slain. And this is one way whereby the civil magistrate must help the people to avoid a false prophet.

Ques. II. Why doth God then suffer such to live in His church as do seduce men? Ans: For two causes:

First, that such as hold [[the truth in sincerity may be known>>1 Cor. 11:19]].

Secondly, for the punishment of the wicked and ungodly, who [[receive not the love of the truth; to seduce them by strong illusions, and to cause them to believe lies>>2 Thess. 2:11-12]].

The second point: The danger of false prophets: they come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. In these words, Christ alludeth to the practice of false prophets in former times, who counterfeited the true prophets in their attire; for the ancient prophets were usually clothed in rough and course attire. Elias in regard of his garments, is called [[an hairy man>>2 Kings 1:8]], and John Baptist had a [[garment of camel’s hair>>Matt. 3:4]]. And the false prophets did counterfeit the true prophets in their attire for this end: that they might the more easily deceive the people, as is most plain, where the Lord saith of false prophets, that [[they wear a rough garment to deceive>> Zech 13:4]]; for when they wore such course attire, made either of sheep skins or sheep’s wool, wherewith the true prophets were usually clothed, they sought hereby to persuade the people that they had the hearts of the true prophets; when as indeed they were full fraught with damnable errors.

Now Christ’s meaning in this allusion, is to show that false prophets have plausible pretences for their damnable doctrine, and therefore are the more dangerous. Yet that we may the better perceive the danger of false prophets, I will a little stand to describe their clothing; that is, their pretences of deceit. They may be reduced to seven heads:

The first is an allegation of Scripture, which they will use as often as the true prophets; and hereby they blind the eyes of many. But the truth is that in alleging Scripture, they deprave and change the sense, and either add to, or detract from the words, following rightly [[their master Satan>>Matt. 4:6]], who alleged Scripture to Christ, but left out the principal point whereto the promise was made; namely, [[walking in thy ways>>Psa. 91:11]]. And thus deal the papists at this day, sometimes they mangle the text and alter the sense, sometimes they leave the Scripture and go to traditions, to Councils and Fathers. This also is the practice of the Family of Love, and of the Anabaptists, who turn the natural sense of Scripture into mythical allegories.

The second cloak of pretence is [[the depth of their learning>>Rev. 2:24]]. The heresy of the Nicolaitans was by themselves called the deepness of Satan. So play the papists at this day, for sundry points of their religion; for they hold that because the church in the apostles’ time was weak in knowledge and feeble in faith, therefore the apostles omitted sundry deep points, especially concerning the mass, which yet the church, receiving by tradition, doth now teach plainly and fully. But though they match these doctrines of the church with the Holy Scripture, yet we need not to trouble ourselves therewith; for in the writings of the prophets and apostles all things necessary to salvation are made known, and we must not receive any doctrine that cannot be confirmed thence; and therefore in the parable, [[Abraham prefers Moses and the prophets, before visions and revelations from the dead>> Luke 16:31]].

The third cloak of pretence is [[to assume to themselves the persons and titles of most worthy men>>2 Cor. 11:13-14]], Paul speaks of such deceivers that took to them the name of the apostles of Christ, therein following their master Satan, who can transform himself into an angel of light. See this in the papists, especially in the pope, who will be Christ’s vicar, Peter’s successor, and the servant of servants. The doctors call themselves seraphical and angelical doctors, and the church of Rome must be the true church. But all this is counterfeit deceit, for succession in place only, from Peter, and from Christ Himself, is no certain note of truth. The Scribes and Pharisees had their succession from Aaron, appointed by God, and yet Christ bids His disciples [[take heed of the leaven of their doctrine>>Matt. 16:12]]; and calls them, the [[blind leaders of the blind>>Matt. 15:14]]. Succession then in true doctrine is the only and sure note of true religion.

The fourth cloak or pretence is [[forged and counterfeit humility>> Col. 2:18]]. This Paul notes in [[false apostles among the Colossians>>Col. 2:23]]: First, they would not worship God directly, but in and by the angels; secondly, they used much bodily exercise, afflicting their own bodies; and thirdly, their worship was will-worship, devised by themselves. If we would have a lively example hereof, behold the Romish priests; they come to God in the mediation of saints; their whole religion stands in bodily exercises, so as many of their orders are famous for their whippings, and such like trumpery; and their worship of God is will-worship, devised by men.

The fifth pretence is [[working miracles>>2 Thess. 2:9]]. Hereby [[238]] they labour to confirm their doctrine. The coming of Antichrist that man of sin is with signs and lying wonders, through Satan’s working, and of such God forewarns His people – Deut. 13, that they should not be drawn to idolatry for a miracle; for either they be false miracles and lying wonders, or if they be true miracles (as God may suffer such to be wrought by false prophets, for the plague and punishment of the unthankful world), yet their end is to deceive, and to draw men into error from the truth. We have ordinary experience of this pretence among the Romish priests, who by sorcery cast out devils, and cure strange diseases, and so delude the simple. But this must not draw us from the truth. A miraculous work truly done, is not a sufficient warrant of a doctrine in religion; for [[true and sound doctrine may want this confirmation>>John 10:41]], and [[false doctrine may have it>>Deut. 13:1]].

The sixth pretence is fair speech and blessings, pretending the good and salvation of those to whom they come. See this, [[With fair speech and flattering (saith Paul of false apostles) they deceive the hearts of the simple>> Rom. 16:18]]. So dealt Satan with Eve, he made show that he had some good things to tell her, whereby their state might be bettered, but it turned to theirs and our destruction. So did the four hundred false prophets of Baal, contrary to the true prophet Michaiah, prophecy good success to Ahab in his war against the Aramites – 2 Chr. 18; but his hearkening to them cost him his life. And so dealt Hananiah with the Jews when they were besieged by the king of Babel’s army, contrary to Jeremiah’s counsel – Jer. 28. He prophesied peace and safety, but it turned both to his own, and to their destruction.

The seventh pretence is boldness and constancy in suffering for their opinions; for a man in obstinacy may live and die for error, as well as the child of God may do for the truth. Constancy in opinion is no sure note whereby to judge a true prophet; for many heretics have suffered death confidently, for the maintenance of their damnable heresies.

Thus we see the pretences of false prophets. Now hereto we must add this second point, to wit, that for all this they be but wolves, because by their damnable doctrine they seek to poison and corrupt the souls of simple men. If it be said, they have no such intent, they themselves think it to be the truth; I answer, that may be true in some, but this cleareth them not from being wolves; for the devil that hath deluded them, who is their lord and master, doth by them dangerously delude and deceive the simple.

The Uses.

Use I. Considering this danger of false prophets, we must practice Christ’s lesson: [[Be simple as doves>> Matt. 10:16]], that is, be innocent and harmless, thinking evil of none, neither intending evil or offence to any, in thought, word or deed, and yet we must be wise as serpents, who have great subtilty in saving and defending their head from harm. So must every one that looks to be saved, labour for so much wisdom whereby he may preserve himself from the hurt of false prophets. Now the beginning of this wisdom is to fear God in His Word, believing His promises, and obeying His commandments. The true fear of God is not without knowledge; and therefore everyone must labour to be instructed in the principles of religion; for without knowledge we cannot fear God, and so shall want true wisdom to eschew false prophets.

Use II. In that the false teacher by so many fair shows, seeks to bring in false doctrine, it is every man’s duty in his place to labour to preserve wholesome doctrine, and the purity of true religion. This duty is necessary; for we must be as forward for the truth, as the enemy is for falsehood, and do as much for God, as they do for the devil. Again, no poison is more deadly to the body than false doctrine is to the soul; therefore seeing God hath long blessed us with His truth, let us esteem it above all outward blessings, and by seeking to preserve the purity thereof, show ourselves thankful to God for the same.

Matt. 7:16 – “Ye shall know them by their fruits; do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

This verse, and [[those which follow to the 21st>>Matt. 7:16-21]], contain the third point which Christ layeth down concerning false prophets; namely, the means whereby we may discern and judge of them. And herein He observeth this order: First, He gives us a notable rule to direct us in judging of false prophets, Ye shall know them by their fruits.

Secondly, He explains the same rule by a similitude drawn from trees: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

For the rule, that we may understand it the better, we are to search what is meant by the fruits of false prophets. A false prophet must be considered two ways: First, as he is a man taking upon him the name and profession of Christ, for so false prophets use to do; and secondly, as he is a false prophet. In both these respects he hath his fruits.

First. As he is a man taking upon him the profession of Christ’s religion, he may bring forth many outward duties of external obedience unto the moral law; but these fruits are not here meant; for a false prophet may dissemble much and go far in the outward duties of religion, so as he cannot be discerned by his general profession or by the works of his civil conversation.

Secondly, There be other fruits which come from him as he is a false prophet, and by them must he be discerned. These therefore are to be considered. Now we shall know [[239]] them the better by searching out the fruits of a true prophet, as he is a man of God appointed to teach the people.

The fruits of a true prophet be principally three:

First, He teacheth and preacheth in the name of God, by virtue of calling from God, and otherwise dares not presume to teach. [[How shall he teach unless he be sent>> Rom. 10:15]]. And the author to the Hebrews saith, [[Christ took not the honour of being the High Priest and prophet of the church to Himself, but was called thereto by His Father>>Heb. 5:4-5]]. And this stands with reason, for every true prophet and teacher stands in God’s room, and is God’s ambassador to deliver His will to His people; which thing none can do, but he whom God calleth and sendeth for that purpose.

Secondly, Yet the calling of prophets and teachers by God is diverse. Some are called by voice from God immediately, as were Abraham, Moses and Samuel; and all the apostles in the New Testament by the immediate voice of Christ; for Paul was [[called by the voice of Christ from heaven>>Acts 9:4-6]]. Again, others have their calling from God by the special message of some angel, or some men. Thus was Aaron called by Moses; Elisha by Elijah; and Philip by an angel to [[preach to the eunuch>>Acts 8:26]].

Thirdly, others be called by the instinct and motion of God’s Spirit; so Philip was by ordinary calling [[a deacon>> Acts 8]], but by extraordinary instinct he became an evangelist and a preacher of the gospel, for the building of God’s church. These three kinds of calling men into the ministry were extraordinary, and are now ceased, and not to be looked for; neither are they now to be regarded which say they are thus called at this day. A fourth way whereby God now calleth prophets and teachers into His church, is by His church; for God hath given to particular churches, a particular ministerial power and service, whereby they may design a place unto the teacher, and also make manifest that God hath called him. Now this authority is but ministerial, to design and manifest whom God hath called, for the principal calling is from God; for the elders of the church at Ephesus are said to be [[made overseers by the Holy Ghost>> Acts 20:28]]; when as they were designed thereto by men. And by one of these four ways are all true prophets and teachers called.

Here some may demand, what kind of calling had they, who were the first restorers of true religion unto us in this our age, for they were by profession either popish priests or school-doctors. I answer: their calling was partly ordinary, and partly extraordinary; for in the ministry of a prophet there be two things: his office, and the using or exercise of his office. Our first ministers that restored the truth unto us, had but an ordinary office, being either readers in schools, or public preachers; also they had their outward calling thereto from the church of Rome; so as if there be any part of good calling in that church, then was their calling good; which may serve to stop the mouths of all papists that carp at our church, as though our ministers had no calling. But for the using of their office, they were extraordinarily raised and stirred up to do that which they did, in regard of the manifold abuses wherewith the ministry of the church was generally corrupted in their time; for God gave unto them grace and knowledge to discern, to teach, and to maintain the right and true use of the ministry. And that they were thus extraordinarily stirred up by God, may appear by the extraordinary gifts and graces wherewith they were endued; for God that hath always a care over His church, when he saw the same so fearfully corrupted by Antichrist, did stir up these men to reform the same; and besides these singular gifts of knowledge and wisdom, He gave them extraordinary graces of true piety, whereby they were enabled to seal and confirm with their own blood, the truth of that doctrine which they did profess and teach, which was an evident argument they were called of God.

Now opposite to this, we must make the first note of a false prophet; namely, to come on his own head, and to preach not being sent. And by this mark are false prophets noted, [[I have not sent them, neither did I command them…>> Jer. 14:14]]. yet they prophesy in my name. And no less do these words of Christ import, when He saith here, they come unto you, that is, of themselves, without a calling from God, though they pretend a calling, which is one of their cloaks. And therefore they are said to [[creep into the church>> Jude 4]]; as also, [[grievous wolves shall enter in among you, without calling from God>> Acts 20:29]], or from the church.

Secondly, Here, some may ask, how shall we judge of such, and know that they have no calling? Ans: For this purpose, I add a second note of a true prophet, which is the most principal, and it standeth in the right and wholesome handling of the Scriptures of God. This is the proper fruit of a true prophet, [[He that prophesies, speaketh unto men’s edification, exhortation and comfort>>1 Cor. 14:3]]; and, [[Shew thyself a good workman, by dividing the Word of God aright>>2 Tim. 2:15]]; and, The Scripture used in [[teaching, convincing, correcting, and instructing unto righteousness, serves to make a man fit to every good works>>2 Tim. 3:16-17]] of a prophet. Now this wholesome handling of the Word stands in two things: in a right interpretation and opening of the true sense of Scripture, and in a due and sound collection of wholesome doctrine from the same, for the edifying of the church both in sound judgment and in Christian life.

On the contrary, the second fruit of a false prophet is to deliver and maintain corrupt doctrine, contrary to the wholesome doctrine of holy Scripture. And by this principally he is to [[240]] be known for a false prophet that intrudeth himself. For the better conceiving of this note we must know that in the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, there are two things principally to be considered: the scope, and the parts thereof. The scope of all their doctrine tends to maintain Christ Jesus God and man, the alone perfect Saviour of the church. And indeed, he which teacheth any doctrine tending to overthrow Christ, either in regard of His natures, or of His offices, the same is a false prophet, [[Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus is come in the flesh, is not of God>>1 John 4:3]]. The parts of prophetical and apostolic doctrine, are the commandments of the law and the promises of the gospel, and he which overturns either directly, or by just consequence, any commandment of the law or article of faith, must needs be a false prophet; so that a false prophet must be tried by the analogy of faith, comprised in the articles of the Apostles’ Creed and in the Decalogue, which contains the sum of all the doctrine of the prophets and apostles; and he which goeth against them, is a false prophet.

The third fruit of a true prophet is noted by our Saviour Christ; namely, in his ministry to seek God’s glory. Where also He noteth out a false prophet, who in teaching and preaching seeketh not God’s glory, but his own. The same note doth Paul give, [[calling them earthly minded, seeking their own honour, wealth and glory, and not the things of God>> Phil. 3:19]]; and, [[They serve not the Lord, but their own bellies>> Rom. 16:14]].

Thus we see the notes of a false prophet, among which the second is the principal whereby he is to be tried; as we may see plainly, [[If a false prophet come, and work a true sign, yet he must die, if by his false doctrine he seek to withdraw God’s people from the true God>> Deut. 13:1-4]]. So when the Jews asked Christ, by what authority He did those things; that is, what warrant and calling He had to do as He did; He answers them by another question touching John’s ministry; thereby showing that that which He did was warranted by the testimony of John; and John’s testimony was true, because his calling was from God; and his calling He justifies, because his doctrine (signified by his baptism) was from God. So, He which teacheth otherwise than they had learned out of the prophets from the apostles, [[let him be accursed, though he were an angel from heaven>> Gal. 1:8]]. And thus much for the meaning of this rule.

The Uses.

Use. I. From this rule we have to answer the papists, and all popish persons, who used to plead in defence of their religion, after this sort: If our religion be false, show us the time when it was corrupted, the man that corrupted it, and the manner how it was corrupted; for once we had the pure religion. We might answer them by the like, that a man might say as well of a ship that is sunk on the sea, that it is not sunk, because no man can tell where, and when, and by what means it took water. But yet further we have here to answer that though we knew not when that religion was corrupted, and by whom, yet seeing their teachers and people have in them, and among them, the necessary fruits of antichristian prophets and people, we can thereby assure ourselves they are corrupt. And though we cannot see the shadow of the sun move, yet we may perceive that it doth move. Now by their fruits it is clear they are corrupt; for they reverse the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, both in the commandments of the law, and in the articles of faith. First, they disannul the first commandment, by making to themselves other gods beside the true God; for they pray unto saints, and therein acknowledge a divine property in them, and also give unto them the honour due to God alone, and so set up unto themselves the creature in the room of the Creator. The second they reverse by worshipping God Himself, and dead men, in images, and Christ Himself in the crucifix; yea, in a piece of bread, wherein they match the greatest idolatry among the heathen. And the best learned among them teach that the rood, the cross and crucifix, are to be worshipped with the same worship wherewith Christ Himself is worshipped. In the sixth commandment touching murder, they condemn the killing one of another; but yet if a priest come from the pope, and kill a Protestant prince, the Lord’s anointed king or queen, that is not only no sin, but a most notable, rare and memorable work. Against the seventh commandment they maintain the vow of single life necessary in their religious orders, whereby, as also by their sins, they cause all filthiness and abomination to abound among them. And for the tenth commandment, they say that concupiscence after baptism is no sin properly. In the articles of faith they overturn those that concern Christ, making Him no Saviour, but a divine instrument whereby we save ourselves; for they make men’s good works done by God’s grace, after the first justification, truly and properly meritorious, and fully worthy of everlasting life. And His offices they have parted from Him; His kingly and prophetical offices, between Him and the pope; and His priesthood between Him and every popish priest, as we have showed before; so that by these fruits, we plainly see their apostasy; which is enough, though we know not when and by whom it came.

Use. II. Here also we have to answer such among ourselves as renounce our church as being no true church of Christ, because, say they, we do want true ministers, and have not a right ministry among us. But hence we answer that we have the true church of God, and our ministers be [[241]] the true ministers of God. For proof hereof, our ministers have the outward calling of the Church of England. They say indeed, our calling is nought, because they have no power from God to call, in whose hands it is. But to omit that question for this time, sufficient approbation of our ministry may be had from the fruits of our ministers, as they are ministers; for to leave the fruits of their lives as insufficient means to judge them by, our ministers teach, through God’s blessing, the true and wholesome doctrine of the prophets and apostles, and are allotted and called hereto by the governors of the church, and accepted of their people, whose obedience to the faith is the seal of their ministry; and this is sufficient to confirm the calling of our ministers. If it had not, Christ would not have said, [[Ye shall know them by their fruits>>Matt. 7:16]].

Use. III. Whereas Christ saith, Ye shall know them, speaking to all His hearers, He takes it for granted that every believer may be able to judge of false prophets; and therefore everyone in the church of God ought to labour for so much knowledge whereby he may be able to know a teacher by his fruits and doctrine. This then showeth that everyone ought to know the sum of true religion, comprised in the Article of Faith and in the commandments of the law, both for their true meaning, and right and profitable use unto themselves; which thing I note, because I know many deceive themselves herein, thinking that God will excuse them for their want of knowledge, because they are not book-learned. But let us consider, we have everyone this care, to be able to judge of meats which concern our bodies, which be wholesome, and which not; should we not then have much more care of our souls, to be able to discern of doctrines in religion, which be either the poison or salvation of our souls?

Use. IV. Whereas wholesome doctrine out of Scripture is a note of a true prophet, it teacheth us that we may lawfully use the ministry of these men, whose lives and conversations be evil and offensive, if so be their doctrine be sound and good. The disciples of our Saviour Christ must not do according to the ways of the Scribes and Pharisees, but yet they must [[hear them when they sit in Moses’ chair>> Matt. 23:1-3]]; that is, when they teach Moses’ doctrine. And Paul is glad when Christ is truly preached, though it be [[not in sincerity of affection, but of envy>>Phil. 1:18]]. When the disciples saw a man that was not called by any special calling to follow Christ as themselves were, and cast out devils in the name of Christ, they thought it intolerable, and therefore forbade him; but Christ said, [[Forbid him not, for he that is not against us, is with us>> Luke 9:49-50]]. And the like may be said of them that preach wholesome doctrine, though their lives be still offensive; for in doctrine they be with Christ, and so far forth must be approved. Again, consider that the virtue and efficacy of the Word and sacraments administered by men, is not from the minister, but from God. A letter is not the worse because it is brought by a dishonest and unfaithful carrier. Neither doth the evil conscience of the minister defile the good conscience of the honest hearer, and worthy receiver. This must be remembered, because many take offence at the life of the minister, so as they will not hear his doctrine, if his conversation be scandalous.

Use. V. In that a prophet is to be known by his fruits, and the main fruit of a true prophet stands in the good handling of God’s Word for the edification and salvation of his hearers; hence the children of the prophets, and those that are set apart for the ministry of the Word are taught that they must make this the main and principal end of all their studies: to be able to bring forth the fruits of a true prophet; that is, to interpret aright the Word of God, and thence to gather out wholesome doctrines and uses for the edification of God’s people. And for the enforcing of this duty let us consider, first, that it is God’s commandment so to do, [[Seek for spiritual gifts, but specially to prophesy>>1 Cor. 14:1]]. Again, the greatest skill of a prophet stands in the true expounding and right dividing of Scripture, so as it may become food for men’s souls, [[Shew thyself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, in dividing the Word of truth aright>>2 Tim. 2:15]]. And lastly, this true fruit of a minister serves to build up Christ’s kingdom, to beat down the kingdom of sin, and to feed the souls of men with the food of everlasting life. It will be said, this course is good among the common people; but this is not the learning which is required in the handling of the Word in the schools of the prophets. I answer, It is the greatest learning that can be in a minister to be able thus to divide the Word of God aright. It goes beyond the [[gift of tongues and miracles>>1 Cor. 14:1-2]]. I deny not but that it is a part of learning used of the learned, to take a text of Scripture and to make an ecclesiastical discourse upon the same. But yet the work of a prophet stands rather in expounding Scripture by Scripture, and in dividing the same aright; giving there out wholesome doctrine for the edifying of the people of God that hear. In former times when the study of Scripture was neglected, men betook themselves to expound the writings of men, and so prophecy was banished, and all sound knowledge in the truth of God; and hence arose diversity of opinions and multitudes of foolish questions. And so will it be with us, if prophecy fail; for to leave the right handling of Scripture, is the way to bring in all error and barbarism in religion.

Use. VI. Every minister of the gospel is hereby taught that he ought to be answerable to his calling, walking worthy of the same; for a good minister is known by his good fruits, and [[342]] therefore he must be faithful in performing all those duties which his calling doth bind him unto. The titles and calling of a minister be high and excellent, but yet they will not commend any man for good, unless he bring forth the fruits of a minister in a faithful discharge of his ministerial duties.

Lastly, hence we must learn not to take offence thought the minister fails in his life and conversation, yea, though there be contentions in the ministry about matters of doctrine; for these are not the fruits of the ministry which is God’s ordinance, but of sinful men who bewray their imperfections in this holy calling.

Thus much of the rule. Now follows the proof and explication thereof, by a comparison drawn from nature in these words: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? So every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit—Matt. 7:16-18.

The comparison standeth thus: As a tree is known of everyone by his fruit, so is a prophet by his teaching. More particularly, As a good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and cannot bring forth evil fruit; and as an evil tree brings forth evil fruit, and cannot bring forth good fruit; even so, a true prophet teacheth wholesome doctrine, and cannot teach false doctrine; and a false prophet teacheth false doctrine, and cannot teach true doctrine.

Touching this similitude, first observe in general from the ground of this comparison, that our Saviour Christ here makes two kind of trees: a good tree and an evil tree. By an evil tree, meaning that which in regard of any fruit is as a rotten tree, as is the briar, the thorn and thistle; for though they live and grow, yet they are void of good fruit, and so are called evil. Now here it may be well demanded, whence this difference of trees doth come, for all were good by creation, [[God saw all that He had made, and lo it was very good>> Gen. 1:31]]. Ans: Whether thorns or thistles were created of God I will not now dispute. It is not certain that they were. But now it is plain there remains this difference among plants: some are good, some are bad; the goodness that is in some comes from God’s blessing, but the badness and barrenness of others comes from the curse of God upon the earth, and upon all creatures for the sin of our first parents, as we may see, [[The earth is cursed for thy sake…. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee>> Gen. 3:17-18]]. And by this we may see the grievousness of our mother-sin; it hath made the earth barren and cursed, and many a goodly plant to become fruitless and unprofitable. And therefore when we behold these things in the world, we must take occasion hereof to consider our own sin, and blame ourselves and not the creatures, for they were cursed for our sakes.

Now more particularly: This comparison is here specially applied unto prophets. But if we compare this place with St. Luke, we shall see the Holy Ghost there restraineth not this saying to the prophets alone, but enlargeth the same unto other men, saying, [[A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil>> Luke 6:44-45]]. Now by comparing these together, we may see that this comparison reacheth both unto prophets and to all other men. From whence, we may gather these instructions:

Use. I. What we are to conceive and think of a man that is not regenerate. We are all by nature branches of the wild olive, and therefore as a thorn cannot bring forth a grape, nor a thistle figs; no more can a man unregenerate bring forth a good work. And this we may more plainly conceive, if we consider a little the works of man. They may all be reduced to three heads: some are evil, as works forbidden of God; some are things indifferent, being neither forbidden nor commanded; and some are good works, as outward duties of the moral law. Now for evil works, they cannot possibly be good in any man. For works indifferent, as eating, drinking, buying, selling &c., they are sins, not in themselves, but in him that useth them being out of Christ. And for outward duties of the moral law, as civil justice, liberality, and such like, they are good works in themselves, because God requireth them, but yet in the unregenerate they are sins: [[To the pure, all things are pure; but to them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure>>Tit. 1:15]]; and, [[Without faith, it is impossible to please God>>Heb. 11:6]]. It will be said that liberality, chastity &c., be the good gifts of God. Ans: That is true, and they be good works as they are given and commanded of God. But as they are received and used of the natural man, they are sins; for he fails from the right use of those actions; both for the beginning of them (for they proceed not in him from a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned) and also in the end; for he doth them not for the glory of God simply, but withal he aims at his own praise and reputation, or some such sinister respect.

The use of this doctrine is:

That it teacheth us to consider and acknowledge the greatness of our original sin. Our natural corruption is most grievous and fearful; it makes us to sin in whatsoever things we do, though in themselves they be things indifferent, or else good works.

Use. II. This overthrows the conceit of popish writers which teach that God gives to all men a universal common grace, or help sufficient, by which they may be saved if they will. And for them which want the means of the Word of God, they say that if they use that common grace of nature well, God will give them further grace whereby they may come [[243]] to salvation. But here we see a natural man having a good gift of God cannot of himself use it well; the best things that he doth, though they be good in themselves, yet they be sins in him.

Use. III. Here also we may see what a miserable case we are in while we remain unregenerate; for we can do nothing but sin. We be like to thorns and thistles, which either bring forth no fruit, or else bad fruit. And therefore we must labour to become new plants in Christ’s orchard, being ingrafted into Him by faith, and made new creatures by regeneration, having believing hearts and good consciences, that so we may bring forth good fruits unto the praise and glory of God.

Use. IV. We may hence learn a general rule touching righteous man; namely, that a man must first be truly justified and sanctified before he can do a good work. First, a tree must have the sap and nature of a good tree, and then it brings forth good fruits, and not before. And this overturns a point of natural and popish religion, that a man may be justified and saved by his good works. But that which follows cannot be a cause of that which went before. The fruit cannot make the tree to be good; but only declare and manifest that it is good; from whence it comes that the fruit is good. And so good works they proceed from justification. They say justification is twofold: one, whereby a man of an evil man is made a good man; the second, whereby of a good man one is made better. The first they say is of works, but the second justification is of grace. Ans: But this is false; for the fruit makes not the tree a better tree, but if the tree increase in goodness, it proceeds from some other cause, not from the fruit thereof.

Matt. 7:19-20 – “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits shall ye know them.”

These words contain a conclusion gathered from the former similitude, which is here also continued; wherein is set down a grievous threatening of eternal damnation, the deserved punishment of all false prophets. As if Christ had said, Look as in an orchard every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire to be burnt; so in the church of God the false prophets shall not always be reputed for a true prophet, but at the length shall be discovered, put off from the church, and condemned. Answerable to this is the saying of our Saviour Christ, [[Every branch which beareth not fruit in me is taken away, cast forth, and withereth, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they burn>>John 15:6]]. And St Peter saith, [[Their damnation sleepeth not>>2 Pet. 2:3]].

The Use.

Use. I. This serves to comfort God’s children in regard of false prophets; for though God’s church be troubled with them for a time, yet it shall not always be so; for the time will come wherein they must be cast out, and receive their due and deserved destruction. And this especially must be remembered, to stay and comfort our hearts in regard of the popish religion, which doth most of all molest and trouble us; first, because it is natural, and so readily embraced; secondly, many among us do much affect it; and thirdly, it is maintained by mighty monarchs. But yet for all that it must down, [[for it is a plant which God never set nor planted>>Matt. 15:13]], and the chief upholders of it shall be destroyed.

Use. II. This teacheth us to eschew and shun false teachers; and therefore doth Christ add this exhortation, [[Let them alone, they are the blind leaders of the blind>> Matt. 15:14]]; and [[Come out of her (that is, spiritual Babylon which is Rome) my people, for if you partake with her in her sins, ye shall suffer of her punishments>> Rev. 18:4]].

Use. III. The words of this threatening being further applied unto all men (as they are in St Luke), do teach us that it is not sufficient for us to abstain from committing gross sins, and to do no man harm, but beside eschewing evil, we must do good. In the last judgment, the sentence of condemnation shall be pronounced against the wicked, not for robbing the poor, but for not relieving of them, and for not visiting and clothing them — Matt. 25: 42, 45. Which doth notably confute that vain opinion of many ignorant people, who think that if they live an innocent and harmless life, God will hold them excused and save them; but the tree that brings not forth good fruit must be burnt.

Therefore by [[their fruits ye shall know them>>Matt. 7:20]].

Here Christ repeats again the rule He delivered in the [[16th verse>>Matt. 7:16]], which shows that it is a special rule to be observed of us all; for there is no idle word in Scripture, neither anything repeated in vain. The meaning thereof we have heard, and the means whereby a false prophet may be discovered, with the uses thereof; among which we showed that every true believer in God’s church may be able to discover a false prophet, whereto these three caveats must be added:

The party that would discover a false prophet must humble himself before God, and have an heart in some sort emptied of all pride and self-love; for [[the Lord will teach the humble His ways>>Psa. 25:9]]; yea, [[He doth exalt the humble and meek>>Luke 1:52}}; and in all things the humbled heart is preserved with the Lord.

The party humbled must yield himself to obey the will of God.

[[244]] [[If any man do my Father’s will, he shall know of my doctrine whether it be of God>>John 7:17]]. And David professeth of himself that he was wiser than his teachers, and understood more than the ancients, because [[he kept God’s commandments>>Psa. 119:99-100]].

He must pray unto the Lord, and ask wisdom in faith and in humility, And the Lord will give it unto him, [[If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth liberally>>Jam. 1:5]]. Yet some will say, it is an hard matter to discern a false prophet. I answer, we have ordinarily this capacity, when we read or hear read the last will and testament of our ancestors, we are able to conceive and judge of the meaning thereof. Well, our Lord Jesus hath left with us His will and testament in the holy Scriptures; which concerning moral duties, and matters of faith necessary to salvation, is so plain, that it may be understood of the simplest, else Christ would never have sent the Jews to the Scriptures for the certain knowledge of the Messiah. Which notably discovers the fraudulent dealing of the Romish teachers, who in matters of controversy in religion, send us for resolution to the church, calling it the stay and pillar whereto we must lean in all doubts of doctrines. The church I grant is to be reverenced, but yet we must not build our faith upon the doctrine of men. Our Saviour Christ sent the Jews unto the Scriptures; and hereby the Bereans tried Paul’s doctrine, and are commended. And indeed, though men be never so unlearned, yet if they come in humility to search the Scripture, and in obedience unto God, praying for knowledge, they may be able by God’s Word to discern of false teachers.

Matt. 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

From this [[verse to the 24th>>Matt. 7:24]], is contained another portion of Christ’s sermon, being the seventh part of this chapter; wherein he entreateth of the state of those that profess His holy name in His church here on earth. And His main scope and drift herein is to show that men must not content themselves to profess religion outwardly, but therewith they must join true godliness and sincere obedience. This point is as weighty and of as great importance as any of the former, respecting the main point of man’s salvation; and it containeth two parts: a main conclusion in this verse, and a proof and explanation of one part thereof in Matt. 7:22, 23.

The conclusion itself hath two parts: 1. That some men professing the name of Christ shall not be saved, which part is afterward explained and confirmed. 2. That some professors of religion shall be saved, which is not only propounded, but the parties also are plainly described.

1. The first part is a most fearful sentence against many that live in the church, that notwithstanding their profession of the name of Christ, yet they shall never be saved. And this is most true, being spoken by Him that hath the power of life and death, who is also the God of truth that cannot lie, saying, Not everyone that saith, Lord, Lord, that is, that professeth God to be his God, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. There be two kinds of professors in the church of God that shall never be saved:

The first are gross hypocrites, which profess Christ with their mouth, and yet in heart and life renounce Him. Of this sort is, first, the common atheist, who only for fear of the magistrate’s laws professeth religion; secondly, the Epicurean, that is, such an one who bears Christ’s name for fashion’s sake, and yet his belly and pleasure is his god; thirdly, the worldling, who spends the strength of body and mind, and all he hath, on the world for earthly things. Now none of all these can be saved.

The second sort are more close hypocrites, which profess the name of Christ in some truth, and have in them some good gifts of God, by reason whereof both before men and in their own conceit, they are reputed members of the church; and yet for all this they are indeed but hypocrites, which shall never be saved.

And that we may somewhat discern of them, I will note the gifts which they may have, whereby they may come to profess Christ truly. They may be reduced to five heads:

The first, is the [[spirit of bondage to fear>>Rom. 8:15]]. This is a certain gift of God whereby a man doth discern the right meaning, and judicial use of the law in himself, concerning sin and the punishment thereof (for though a man by nature know something of the law, yet he knows not all, nor the right use thereof); now by reason of this knowledge, he sees himself in bondage, and in regard thereof doth fear; from where may proceed many good things, as grief for sin, confession and humiliation for the same, and prayer for pardon. Thus [[wicked Pharaoh confessed the righteousness of God, and that he and his people had sinned>>Exod. 9:27]]. And so did [[Ahab at the heavy message of God by Elijah>>1 Kings 21:27]], He rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon him, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth. [[So Judas when he saw that Christ was condemned, he repented of his fact, being grieved for it, and ashamed to look any man in the face; and also confessed the same before God and men>>Matt. 27:3-4]].

A second gift which a close hypocrite may have is faith; as had Simon Magus, for [[he believed and was baptised>>Acts 8:13]]. Neither was it a false and dissembling faith altogether, but in some sort a true, though not a saving faith; for he believed, and yet was in the gall of bitterness. So [[245]] it is said, [[Certain believed in Christ, but He durst not commit Himself unto them>> John 2:23-25]]. And that we be not deceived herein, we must know that this faith of an hypocrite hath in it three things: knowledge of the truth, approbation thereof with assent unto it, and a kind of persuasion that Christ is His Redeemer. Of the second degree of this faith we have example, where some are said to [[be beguiled with wantonness through fleshly lusts, who had clean escaped from them that be wrapped in error>>2 Pet. 2:18]]; that is, in idolatry. And of the thirddegree, we have example in the [[same chapter>>2 Pet. 2:1]], where false prophets are said to deny Christ that bought them; because for a time they professed themselves to be redeemed, and were also persuaded in a general sort that He had bought them; yet herein they failed: that they did not truly apprehend the merit of Christ, and apply it effectually unto themselves.

The third gift of a close hypocrite is a taste of God’s favour; it is said of some that fall quite away, that they were [[enlightened by God’s Spirit, and had a taste of the good Word of God, and of the powers of the world to come>> Heb. 6:4-5]], though they were never fed or filled therewith.

The fourth gift is good affections; good (I say) not in them, but in their kind, and so far forth as we can judge. They have joy in the good things of God, [[They that are on the stones are they which when they have heard, receive the Word with joy>> Luke 8:13]]. [[They have zeal for God’s glory>>2 Kings 10:16]], as had Jehu, and yet [[he departed not from the sins of his forefathers>>2 Kings 10:31]].

Thirdly, they have reverence to God’s ministers, as Herod to John Baptist, [[Herod, knowing John to be a just and holy man, feared and reverenced him>> Mark 6:20]].

The fifth gift is an outward reformation of life. The stony ground receives the seed with joy, and brings forth some fruit, but it lasteth not. Of such it is said, [[They tread underfoot the Son of God, and count the blood of the Testament an unholy thing wherewith they were sanctified>> Heb. 10:29]]; that is, according to their profession and persuasion.

And thus we see what kind of gifts an hypocrite may have, and yet never be saved.

The Uses.

Use I. The consideration whereof must move us to look unto ourselves, that we have better things in us than the fear; for here we see we may go on to perdition, carrying the profession of Christ in our mouths. And the rather is this to be considered of us, because many look to be saved who come short of Simon Magus in knowledge, and of Saul, Ahab and Judas in humility; yea, and for faith, far short of the devil himself, who is said to believe and tremble. But how canst thou look to be saved, that in regard of grace, comest short of those which are now condemned?

Use II. Secondly, hence we must learn to suspect ourselves, and call ourselves to a reckoning about our faith and obedience, and we must not flatter ourselves herein; for these things before-named will not save us. Many have had faith in some truth for some degrees thereof, and also good affections and other gifts; as we have seen, who are yet for all this condemned.

Use III. Thirdly, seeing there be two sorts of men in the church that shall be condemned, the one whereof have many worthy gifts; this must move us not to rest in these things, but to labour and strive to have our hearts rooted and grounded in the love of God in Christ, and to become new creatures in righteousness and true holiness; and then shall we be as the wise virgins having the oil of grace in the vessels of our hearts, which will never be quenched till we come into the marriage chamber with our bridegroom Christ Jesus.

The second part of the conclusion laid down by our Saviour Christ is this: That some men professing the name of Christ in the church of God shall be saved. And these persons are here described unto us by their effect or action, to wit, The doing of the will of the Father. And because this is an infallible note of them that shall be saved, I will briefly show what it is to do the Father’s will. The Scriptures best expound themselves: [[This is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone that hath seen the Son, and believeth in Him, should have everlasting life>> John 6:40]]. [[This is the will of God, even your sanctification: and that you should abstain from fornication; and that everyone should know how to possess his vessel in holiness and honour. … That no man oppress or defraud his brother>>1 Thess. 4:3]]. … These two places of Scripture laid together, show that the doing of the Father’s will stands in three things: in faith, in repentance and in new obedience. Faith is directly expressed in the place of John, and repentance, which is a fruit of faith, as also new obedience, the fruit of them both, in the words of the apostle Paul; for by sanctification is meant repentance, and new obedience by the duties following.

For the first, in true saving faith there are three things required: knowledge, assent and application. By knowledge, I mean the right conceiving of the necessary doctrines of true religion, especially of those which concern Christ our Redeemer.

Secondly, Assent is, when a man knowing this doctrine, doth further approve of the same as wholesome doctrine, and the truth of God, directing us aright unto salvation.

Third Application is, when we conceive in our hearts a true persuasion of God’s mercy towards us particularly, in the free pardon of all our sins, and for the salvation of our souls. Example of this particular applying we have in the apostle Paul, who professeth thus: [[Now live not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live is by faith in the Son of God>> Gal. 2:20]]; which what that is, he showeth after, saying, Who hath loved me, and given Himself for me. And without this particular application, neither knowledge nor assent can save us.

In the sixth of John, Christ propounds Himself unto us as [[the bread of life>>Jn. 4]], and [[246]] [[the water of life>>Jn. 4]]. Now we know that food, unless it be received, will not nourish the body. Even so, unless we do by the hand of faith particularly receive and apply Christ unto ourselves, all our knowledge and assent will be as food uneaten and undigested.

It may be said that hypocrites have knowledge, assent, and a persuasion of God’s favour, and therefore this is not a sure note of doing the Father’s will. I answer: an hypocrite (as Simon Magus) may have true knowledge of God’s Word, and give assent thereunto, and in regard of both these have true faith in some degree; yea, he may conceive a persuasion of God’s mercy in the pardon of his sins, though falsely in presumption upon false grounds and insufficient. Now that a man may discern the truth of his faith and persuasion of God’s mercy, from that which is in hypocrisy, he is to observe therein three things: the beginning of his faith, the fruits and the constancy thereof.

Firstly, The beginning of true faith is hearing the Word of God preached, especially the gospel; the law going before as an occasion, or preparing-means whereby a man comes to see his sins and his misery thereby, and thereupon to desire reconciliation with God in the pardon of them; and hearing the promises of mercy, to desire faith whereby he may embrace the same, labouring against unbelief. This, though it be not a lively faith, yet it is the beginning of true faith, and no hypocrite hath the same soundly wrought in him.

Secondly, The fruit of true faith is a change of the whole man both in heart and life; making the heart contrary to itself, in moderating the natural affections and passions thereof, and keeping them in compass of true obedience, and causing a man in every estate to rest contented with the will of God, as Isaiah saith, [[He that believeth shall not make haste>> Isa. 28:16]].

Thirdly, constancy in true faith is made known by this: when a man relies wholly on God, even then when he feels no taste of His mercy but hath all tokens of His displeasure. Every man will believe when he hath present signs and pledges of God’s loving favour, but true faith being [[the evidence of things hoped for>>Heb. 11:1]], will make a man believe above hope, as Abraham did. And being the substance of things not seen, will cause a man to believe when he sees no tokens of God’s mercy. And indeed, he that lets go the hold of God’s mercy when he is in distress, may assure himself he never had true faith; for the just shall live by faith in all estates, and will with Job, [[trust in God though He kill them>>Job 13:15]].

The second work wherein consisteth the doing of the Father’s will, is to repent of our sins. And this is a fruit of faith. In true repentance there be two things: the beginning and the nature of it.

The beginning of it is a godly sorrow, when a man is grieved properly and directly, because by his sin he hath offended God, who hath been unto him so long a Father in Christ. This causeth [[repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of>>2 Cor. 7:10]]; and it ariseth not so much from the fear of punishment, as from the consideration of God’s mercy, making a man displeased with himself for offending so loving a God, who hath been so gracious and bountiful unto him in Christ.

The nature of repentance stands in the change of the mind; when any person lays aside the purpose of sinning, and by God’s blessing and grace taketh to himself a new purpose never to sin more. This is properly to repent, and if this be in truth, hence will follow the change of the will, of the affections, and of all the actions of the life.

It may be said that [[an hypocrite may repent as Judas did>>Matt. 27:3]], and therefore this is not a good note of doing God’s will. Ans: Judas did repent. He was indeed grieved for his fact, wishing with all his heart that it had never been done. But this was nothing; [[his sorrow was only worldly, causing death, as the apostle calls it>>2 Cor. 7:10]], arising from the horror and fear of punishment, not from consideration of God’s mercy. It was without true hatred of sin committed, without hope of mercy or purpose to glorify God by new obedience, and so was no true repentance.

The third work wherein consisteth the doing of God’s will, is new obedience; and it is the fruit of both the former, whereby a man being indeed with faith and repentance, doth according to the measure of grace received, endeavour himself to yield obedience to all God’s commandments, from all the powers and parts both of his soul and his body. And this I call new, because it is a renewing of that in man, whereto he was perfectly enabled by creation. But here it will be said that many who shall never be saved, have attained to reformation of life; and therefore this is not a true and sufficient note of him that shall be saved. Ans: True it is, may hypocrites have reformation of life, but yet they fail two ways:

First, their reformation is only outward not inward, their thoughts, wills and affections still remain wicked and corrupt.

Secondly, their obedience is partial, only to some of God’s commandments, not to all. So Herod, he would hear John gladly, and do many things, but yet he would not leave his brother’s wife.

But true obedience, which proceedeth from true faith, hath these heads and branches:

First, the party must [[prove what is the good will of God>>Rom. 12:2]].

Secondly, he must restrain his life from outward offence which tend to the dishonour of God and scandal of the church – 1 Thess. 5:22; 1 Pet. 2:11-12.

Thirdly, he must mortify the inward corruptions of his own heart.

Fourthly, he must labour to conceive new motions agreeable to the will of God, and thence bring forth and practice good duties; so performing both outward and inward obedience unto God.

And by these may a man discern [[247]] the truth of his obedience; and thus we see what professors they be which shall be saved.

The Uses.

Use I. Now considering salvation is promised to them that be doers of God’s will, we must hereby be exhorted to become more cheerful in doing God’s will by faith, repentance and new obedience. And to further us in this duty we must use these helps:

We must labour for a true persuasion of God’s mercy in the pardon of our sins, and for the salvation of our souls, This being truly conceived, will urge a man to true obedience, whereby he may show himself thankful to God for so great a mercy.

We must consider that we are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which is a wonderful dignity to a sinful man. And in regard hereof, we must stir up ourselves so to live, that we make not sad the Spirit of God which dwelleth in us.

We must consider the blessings of God bestowed upon us both in soul and body, one by one. And this will move us to love God, which love we shall show in keeping His commandments. [[For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments>>1 John 5:3]].

Let us consider the threatenings of God against sin, and His judgments upon them that live in sin, for every place is full of God’s judgments; and these will help to restrain our corruptions, that they break not forth into action.

We must meditate on the Word of God, and use fervent prayer unto God for His grace; for by this means David did notably stir up himself to faith, repentance and new obedience, as we may see at large in the 119th Psalm.

Use II. In that many having faith and repentance and outward reformation of life in some degrees, shall never be saved, we must labour to go beyond all hypocrites in these graces:

In faith, we must not content ourselves with a general persuasion of God’s mercy, but we must labour to conceive the same to be true and sound touching the remission of our sins and the salvation of our souls. We must look that it have a sound beginning, good fruits, and steadfast continuance.

And for repentance, we must labour to see that our sorrow arise from the consideration of the goodness of God whom we have offended; and that it breed in us a change of our minds in the purpose of not sinning. Whereto we must be conformable in the will and affections, and the whole man.

And for new obedience, we must be as careful in mind, will and affections, as in the outward actions of our life, to do the will of God; and that in all God’s commandments.

Use III. Many there be that think their case good, because they live a civil honest life, without wronging others openly or wittingly, which thing indeed is commendable; but yet far short of that which is required for salvation; therefore they must not trust to these broken staves of outward and common honesty, though they be good things in their kind; for many there be that shall never come in heaven, which have had far more in them than these things are. And therefore whatsoever these persons be, they must not rest till they find some portion of true grace in their hearts, by virtue whereof they may plainly see themselves gone beyond all hypocrites in the things that concern salvation.

Matt. 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? … And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In these two verses, Christ returns to explain and confirm the first conclusion of the former verse, concerning those professors that shall not be saved. The words contain two parts:

First, [[a description of the persons by their behaviour>>Matt. 7:22]].

Secondly, [[a declaration of their condemnation>>Matt. 7:23]].

For the first: The number of professors which shall not be saved is great, For many (saith Christ) shall say unto me… Indeed we are not able to say how many they be which shall not be saved, for that is a thing proper to God; and yet the Scripture teacheth us that the number of those which shall be condemned is greater than the number of those which shall be saved; for besides that the greatest part of the world in former times did never hear of Christ, here it is plain that among the professors of the name of Christ, many shall be condemned; and [[Many walk in the broad way to destruction, few in the narrow>>Matt. 7:13]].

Whereby we are taught:

First, that we must not frame our lives according to the example of the multitude, to live and do as the most do, because the most shall be condemned. But we must strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to be of that little flock unto whom the kingdom of heaven is promised.

Secondly, hence we learn not to content ourselves [[248]] to live as most men and women do that profess the name of Christ, but we must labour to go beyond the multitude in regard of the truth of our faith and repentance. It was not sufficient for the wise virgins to bear the name of virgins, to have lamps burning and to go forth to meet the bridegroom; for all these things did the foolish virgins also; but one thing more they had, which was the oil of grace, whereby they were enlightened to go with the bridegroom into his chamber; which [[the foolish virgins lacking, were shut out of the doors and not admitted to come in>>Matt. 25]].

The second argument whereby these reprobate professors are described, is the circumstance of time when they shall thus plead for themselves why they should not be condemned; to wit, at the last day when they shall come to be arraigned at the tribunal seat of God’s judgment. This is a point of great weight and moment, worthy all observation; that men not only in this life and in death, but even at the last day should thus plead for themselves.

Hence we learn that many professing service to Christ, shall conceive in their minds a persuasion that they are the true servants and children of God. They shall live and die in this persuasion, and yet for all this at the last judgment, they shall receive the sentence of condemnation. A thing deeply to be weighed of everyone. And the consideration of it ought to teach us all to take heed of spiritual pride and self-love, whereby men flatter and deceive themselves in their estate, over-weening the good things they have, and falsely thinking they have the blessing of God which indeed they have not. This must move us not only to labour to be purged of this pride, but also teach us to suspect the worst of ourselves, and to judge ourselves severely in regard of unbelief and hollowness of heart. For this will be a means to make us escape the judgment of condemnation at the last day, which Christ shall pronounce against many of those that think themselves to be His servants.

Further, observe where Christ saith, In that day, He singleth out the day of judgment as a most terrible day. And saying, They shall say unto me, He makes Himself the judge of all the world in that day; and further pointing out their particular pleading for themselves, He gives us to understand that He is very God, who knoweth long before, not only the speeches and actions, but the very secret thoughts and imaginations of all men that have been, that are, or shall be, from the beginning to the end of the world.

These things laid together and well considered, must stir up in our hearts a special duty, which the apostle had learned, [[Even to know the terror of the Lord>>2 Cor. 5:11]] that is, not only in judgment, but also in heart and affections to be persuaded of the terrible fearfulness of the last judgment; and in this regard not to content ourselves with the gift of knowledge, and with an outward profession, but to labour for soundness and sincerity of faith, of repentance, and new obedience, both in heart and life. This was Paul’s practice in regard of the resurrection to this judgment, he endeavoured himself [[to have always a clear conscience toward God and toward man>>Acts 24:16]]. And this duty is most necessary; for such is our ignorance and unbelief, that we little regard the terror of this day, but either think it shall not come, or though it do, we shall escape well enough.

The third argument here used is drawn from the gifts and qualities of the persons which make this plea for themselves. They are such as have prophesied in the name of Christ, cast out devils, and done many great works in His name. To prophecy here signifieth to teach the people of God by expounding the Scripture and applying the same to the consciences for their edification. And this office is called prophecy, to grace and commend the office of a minister, because it was the principal duty of the prophets themselves, thus to handle the Word of God for the instruction and edification of God’s people, howsoever at some time they did foretell unto God’s people things to come. And therefore he which hath this office, and dischargeth the same with good conscience, doth a work no less honourable than did the ancient holy prophets.

By thy name. The name of Christ here signifieth two things:

First, Appointment and commandment from Christ. Men that preach the Word of God, being rightly called thereunto, teach and preach in the name of Christ; for those whom the church calleth lawfully, Christ Himself calleth, and they preach by virtue of His name.

Secondly, it signifieth to preach in the room and stead of Christ, to preach that which Christ would preach, and in the manner also which Christ would use. [[We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us>>2 Cor. 5:20]] &c. And here we may see a difference among the kinds of teaching which God requireth of men. Masters teach their servants; parents teach their children; and one neighbour and friend another; but all these differ from the teaching of the minister; for he teacheth being called by Christ, and instead of Christ. But the master teacheth not by like virtue, but only by the right of mastership; the father by virtue of fatherhood; and one friend another by virtue of brotherly charity. And this showeth the dignity of the calling of a minister, and the weight of his office. No master, no father, or ordinary professor hath the like.

Cast out devils, and done many great works. For the better understanding hereof, we must entreat something of the working of miracles; [[249]] and first we are to see what a miracle is. A miracle is not only a strange work done, but such a work as is above the strength of all creatures, and beyond the whole power of created nature, for it is done by the power of God Himself immediately, which is above the strength of all creatures. Such a work was [[the staying of the sun>>Josh. 10:12-13]], and [[the going backward of the shadow of the dial>>2 Kings 20:11]].

Secondly, the Lord God alone is the author of a miracle, who created heaven and earth, as David saith, [[Thou art great, and doest wondrous things, thou art God alone>>Psa. 86:10]]. No angel, nor other creature in heaven or earth, no not the manhood of Christ, though exalted above all creatures, is able to work a miracle. How then, will some say, do these men plead their working of miracles? Ans: Not as authors, but as instruments and ministers whom the Lord used in the working of them; for men work miracles by believing, on this manner:

First, they receive a special instinct and inward motion that God will use them as instruments in the working of a miracle, if they pray unto Him, and command the work to be done. Upon this instinct, they believe that if they pray to God, and command in His name, it shall be done; and lastly, they pray and command according to this instinct, and so the thing they believed is done. And thus is this speech to be understood, Have we not cast out devils &c.; that is, thou hast put an extraordinary instinct into our minds, that if we prayed unto thee, and commanded the devils in thy name to depart, it should be done. This we have believed and accordingly practised, and so have cast out devils, and done many great wonders by thy name. This gift of miracles doth not now befall the church of God; all that the church now hath (for ought I see) is the gift of prayer, joined with fasting, which also must be conditional, depending on God’s glory, the good of God’s church, and of the party troubled. They may not pray absolutely for this work of casting out devils, or for the doing of such like miracles, much less may they now give peremptory command for the being of them. If it be said that God’s church hath all needful gifts, as well now as in former times, I answer, It hath all gifts needful to their salvation, and therefore prayer in the church serves now either to deliver the party troubled, or else to procure as good a blessing as deliverance is, which is patience and repentance.

And thus we see what manner of persons they be that shall say, Lord, Lord, and make apology for themselves at the last day, and yet be damned; namely, some that have been excellent preachers of the Word, and some that have had extraordinary powers to cast out devils, and lastly, others that have wrought many strange cures and miracles by faith in Christ’s name.

Now we learn, first, that most excellent gifts will not avail to the salvation of any man or woman, unless they have true faith, sincere repentance and new obedience, whereby they do the will of God; for what an excellent gift it is to be able to teach and preach the Word of God? What a rare thing it is to have heard Christ Himself preach, and to have given Him entertainment? And yet neither of these can save a man. Christ saith here, the apology of preaching can do men no good, and the privilege of eating and drinking with Christ, and of hearing Him teach in their streets, will nothing avail. Christ will say, [[I never knew you>>Luke 13:26-27]]. It is likewise an excellent earthly privilege to be allied unto Christ; and yet Christ preferreth spiritual kindred by faith and obedience far before it, saying to one that told Him His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him, [[Who (saith He) is my mother? And who are my brethren? And pointing to His disciples He said, Behold my mother and my brethren; for whosoever shall do my Father’s will, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother>>Matt. 12:47-50]]. And with reverence it may be truly said of the virgin Mary, that howsoever it was a wonderful privilege unto her to be the mother of Christ Jesus, yet if she had not as well borne Him in her heart by faith, as she did in her body, she had never been saved. And therefore Paul saith, [[Though we had known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more; but if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature>>2 Cor. 5:16-17]]; and, [[In Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love>>Gal. 5:6]].

The consideration whereof must move us all to labour to become new creatures, and to get the graces of God’s children who are regenerate, even true faith, true repentance and new obedience, and not to rest in other gifts though they be most excellent.

Firstly, Again, students that have a great measure of knowledge and other excellent parts, as memory, languages &c., must learn not to be puffed up there with ([[for knowledge puffeth up>>1 Cor. 8:1]]), but withal to get the saving graces before named; for without a repentant and believing heart, all the gifts they have will never save them; nay, rather they must be abased thereby, for without true saving faith, all other gifts be as so many millstones, to press them deeper into the pit of destruction.

Secondly, here note that many learned preachers who have soundly handled the Word of God for the conversion of others, shall yet themselves be condemned, like to the carpenters that built Noah’s ark, and yet were drowned in the flood. The consideration whereof must teach all ministers, according to the counsel of the apostle, [[To take heed, first unto themselves, and then to their flocks>> Acts 20:28]]. So Paul bids Timothy, [[Take heed unto thyself and unto learning, continue therein; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them [[250]] that hear thee>>1 Tim. 4:16]].

Secondly, to be followers of Paul in the practice of mortification, who did [[beat down his body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means after he had preached to others, he himself should be a reprobate>>1 Cor. 9:27]].

Thirdly, the people of God are here also taught their duty; for seeing this fearful judgment shall befall some ministers of the Word, that notwithstanding their preaching, thy shall be condemned; therefore God’s people must not rest upon the example of their minister’s lives, but cleave fast unto that wholesome doctrine, which they gather soundly and directly out of the Word of God. His life and practice is no sure rule to follow, further than it agreeth with the Word of God. And therefore Paul saith, [[Be followers of me, as I follow Christ>>1 Cor. 11:1]]. But the Word is a true rule and square, and as many as walk according to this rule, peace shall be upon them, and mercy>>Gal. 6:16]].

Fourthly, seeing some workers of miracles must also be condemned, this teacheth us not to trust them which bring unto us doctrines because they are confirmed by wonders; for such as work wonders may deceive themselves in the matter of their own salvation, and therefore much more may they deceive us in this or that particular point of doctrine. Whereas therefore sundry points of popery, as purgatory pilgrimages, invocations of saints, and such like, are avouched to be confirmed by miracles (which no doubt were but forgeries and lying wonders), yet let it be granted that they were true miracles, that proveth not that we should believe them, because the Word of God doth not condemn the same unto us; for beside that which is revealed and recorded in Scripture, we must receive no doctrine in religion, be it never so miraculously confirmed.

Use II. And then will I profess to them I never knew you; depart from me ye workers of iniquity.

Here Christ sets down the just condemnation of those men which make an apology for themselves at the day of judgment, and wonder at their condemnation; and withal He answereth them in that wherein they shall plead for themselves.

The words contain three parts:

A profession made by Christ to these men that He never knew them.

A commandment of Christ unto them, Depart from me.

A reason of the commandment, Ye workers of iniquity.

For the profession of Christ: Then that is in the day of judgment, at that time when men shall wonder at their condemnation; making apologies of their service to God; even then, saith Christ, will I profess &c. In this phrase Christ alludeth to the fact of these hypocrites, for they professed the name of Christ, and did plead service done unto Him; as if He should say, Many in that day which have professed my name in the world, shall plead their service done to me; but I will make another profession unto them, that is, I will make it clear and manifest unto all the world, that I never knew them, and that their profession of me was in vain.

The words of Christ’s profession are of great weight and moment, containing some difficulty in regard of the sense, which must be searched out. The knowledge of God whereby He knows His creatures is twofold: General and special.

God’s general knowledge is that whereby He understands and sees all things, both past, present and to come; and in regard of this it is said, [[All things are naked and open before His eyes with whom we have to do>>Heb. 4:13]]. And by virtue of this, Christ here foretelleth what shall be the apology of some wicked men at the last day. And in regard of this general knowledge, all men are known unto God, and the most secret actions of wicked wretches.[[His eyes are open unto all the ways of the sons of men, to give unto them according to their ways, and according to the fruit of their works>> Jer. 32:19]].

The special knowledge of God is that whereby He acknowledgeth, approveth and accepteth of His creature to be His, vouchsafing unto it His special favour. Now this enlargeth not itself to all and every man; for some there be on whom He will show His favour, and of them it is said, [[The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous>>Psa. 1:6]]. Others there be on whom He will not show forth His mercy, and on them it is said, The way of the wicked shall perish. Which opposition showeth what is meant by God’s knowledge of the godly. So likewise, [[Will the Lord destroy His people whom He knew before?>> Rom. 11:2]] That is, whom He approved and loved. And of this special knowledge He speaketh in this place.

Never This word excludeth all time, as if he should say, I do not now, neither ever did approve and accept you for mine own; yea, even in that time when you professed me, preached and wrought wonders in my name; even then I say, I did not accept and approve of you.

From this form of confession, we are to learn sundry points of doctrine:

First, hereby is plainly confuted and overthrown the opinion of some Protestants who hold that Christ shed His blood for all and every man without exception, and that in regard of God’s purpose and will He died for all men; for Cain as well as Abel, for Judas as well as for Peter, and for them which shall be condemned, as well as for them which shall be saved. But mark what Christ saith here to them that shall be condemned: I never knew you, nor approved of you for mine. But if Christ died effectually for all and every man in the world without exception, then He bought all and every man without exception, with the price of His blood; and if that, then everyone without exception is Christ’s; and those which are truly His, Christ will undoubtedly acknowledge for His own. But here we see Christ will not acknowledge all [[251]] and every man to be His, and therefore undoubtedly He did not purchase by the price of His blood, all and every man to be His without exception. I deny not but that Christ died for all men in the sense of Scripture; but the Word of God never saith that on God’s part, and in regard of the purpose of His will, Christ died for every man without exception. And whereas it is thought to be an hard speech, to say that God would have some particular men deprived of grace and redemption by Christ, let us well consider this one thing, and it will not seem strange, no not in man’s reason. God created man in His own image, in righteousness and true holiness, and he gave unto him a blessed estate in an earthly paradise, and that not only for himself, but for all his posterity. For whatsoever he received by creation, he received not only for himself, but for his posterity, being then a public man, and bearing the person of whole mankind, both in the state of his innocency, and in his fall. Whereupon Adam falling from that happy estate, all mankind being in him, fell with him, and so lost God’s image and that good estate which they enjoyed by creation in Adam. Now consider this well, if God had never endued man with grace, nor given him means to come by happiness, and yet had excluded him from all means of grace and happiness, this indeed might have seemed hard; but considering that by creation he gave man happiness, and likewise ability to persevere in the same, if he would; is it any marvel, seeing all men have of themselves lost their own felicity, that some should be deprived of it forever? Nay, rather it is a wonder that all are not condemned which come of Adam; for God in His justice without all cruelty might have condemned every man; and indeed it is His endless mercy, that He hath given Christ to be a Saviour unto some, and that any are made partakers of this salvation by Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Christ here saith of some, [[I never knew you. Yet speaking of others, He saith, I know my sheep>>John 10:14]], and again, [[I know whom I have chosen>>John 13:18]]. And Paul saith, [[The Lord knoweth who are His>>2 Tim. 2:19]]. Now from these places we may gather that there is an eternal work of God, whereby He puts a difference and distinction between man and man, angel and angel, acknowledging some to be His own, and denying the same of others. If God Himself had not avouched this in the Word, no man might have taught it; but being here plainly propounded, it is with all reverence to be acknowledged and received. And that it may be the better conceived, two points are here to be handled:

First, upon what ground and reason God doth know some to be His, and doth not know nor acknowledge others for His own.

Secondly, what is the fruit of this knowledge of God in man.

For the first, why God should know some to be His, and not others, no other reason can be given but God’s good pleasure alone. Christ setteth down this distinction between man and man saying, [[My Father hath hid the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven from some, and revealed the same to others>> Matt. 11:25,26]]. Now what is the cause hereof? It is even so, O Father (saith he), because it so pleaseth thee. So in Jacob and Esau, Paul shows this distinction of mankind: [[I have loved Jacob and hated Esau>> Rom. 9:13-18]], saith the Lord. Neither did this difference come from their works, either good or evil; for this difference God put between them before either of them had done good or evil; but it is wholly ascribed to the will of God, who will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. This must not seem strange unto us. We permit unto men to use their own discretion in their own affairs, and this is a sufficient reason to stop any man’s mouth; It is mine own, [[may I not do with mine own what I will?>>Matt. 20:15]]. Again, in princes’ proclamations, we submit ourselves to this clause: it is our pleasure; so likewise, a man having a flock of sheep, may send some of them to the fatting for the slaughter, and others keep for breeding; this God permitteth unto man, and it is not counted cruelty amongst men. Now if we give this liberty unto man over the creature, why should we not much more give it to the creator Himself over man, seeing the basest and least creature is something in regard of man, but man is nothing unto God? And therefore, though these mysteries cannot be comprehended by reason, yet even in reason we may see some resemblance of the truth and equity of them, which must move us with reverence to submit ourselves unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God herein.

Upon this ground of difference and distinction between man and man, we may well be admonished to beware of the error of some divines, who thus define of God’s will touching man’s estate. They say it is the first will of God that every man in the world should be saved, if they would; and therefore (say they), He ministers unto them all helps both of nature and grace, whereby they may repent and believe if they will. And having laid down this His first will, He then (say they) foresees that some men will not believe, nor persevere in the faith; and hereupon it is (in their conceit) that He will not know some men for His own. Again, foreseeing that others will believe, and persevere in faith, them He knows and acknowledgeth to be His; dealing herein like unto a good father that hath many sons, who would have them all to do well, and to have each one a good portion; but seeing that some will not become frugal and obedient, he changeth his mind, and doth disinherit them. Or like unto a good prince, who would have all his subjects to do well; but seeing some to [[252]] be rebels, he is of another mind, and willeth their death. Ans: But this opinion is a mere invention of man’s brain; for whereas they say that God by a second act of His will acknowledgeth some for His own, and not others, upon the foresight of their faith and unbelief, whereas by His first will He would have all men to be saved, it is not true; for the first will of God is to know some, and not to know others; the ground whereof is His good pleasure alone, and no foreseen works in them. And therefore it cannot be that He should will all men to be saved equally, Cain as well as Abel, Judas as well as Peter. Again, their opinion confutes itself, for God foresees men’s faith and unbelief, because He hath decreed the same, and His decree depends upon His own will alone; and therefore unless we make the same thing in the same respect, both the cause and the effect, we cannot make foreseen works the ground of difference between man and man. Then their comparisons are not fit. A father would have all his children to do well, and to enjoy his portion. True, and more than that, he would make all his children to do well if it lay in his power to make them good. The change of his purpose in disinheriting his son, ariseth from the impotency of his will, that cannot do that he would. And the same must be said of the will of princes toward their subjects. But if there should be such a will in God to have all men saved, if He could save them; then undoubtedly all men should be saved, for who hath resisted His will?>>Rom. 9:19]]. Nay, whatsoever the Lord willeth, that doth he in heaven, in earth and everywhere>>Psa. 135:6]] also, Dan. 4:30.

A second point to be considered in the distinction of men, whereby God knoweth some to be His and doth not acknowledge some others for His, is the fruit of this knowledge of God. It is an effectual and powerful knowledge, working mutual and strange effects in man’s heart, towards God; for from this, that God knoweth some to be His, there followeth another knowledge in man’s heart, whereby he knoweth God to be his God. So Christ saith, [[I know my sheep, and am known of mine>> John 10:14]]. Look as the sun casts down his beams upon us, by means whereof we again see the body of the sun; even so the knowledge of God, whereby He knoweth us for His, worketh in our hearts a knowledge of God in us, whereby we know Him for our God. So, [[Seeing ye know God, or rather are known of God>> Gal. 4:9]]; so that the knowledge of God whereby He knoweth us to be His, is the ground of our knowledge of Him to be our God. Again, in this knowledge of God, whereby He knoweth His elect, is contained His love towards them; for He knoweth and accepteth of man, and therefore loveth him; and this brings forth in men love to God again. [[We love God because He hath loved us first>>1 John 4:19]]. So likewise God by His knowledge chooseth us to be His peculiar people; and hence comes our choosing of God to be our God; for look as the seal sets a print in the wax like unto itself, so the knowledge of God bringeth forth such fruits in us to Godward, as therewith God beareth and manifesteth towards us.

On the other side there be some whom God never knew, and the fruits hereof in them be the fruits of justice. God not knowing them, they know not God; and the fruits of this knowledge, as love, and giving their hearts unto God, they have not. Indeed the sins which men commit, come not from this, that God knoweth them not, but from the corrupt will of man; and yet these wants of knowledge, of love, and faith to God, as they are punishments, come from this, that God doth not know, nor acknowledge men for His.

Now whereas this knowledge of God is powerful in His elect, to produce from them true knowledge, affiance, and love of God again; we are to be admonished to labour to feel in our hearts these graces, which are the impressions and fruits of God’s knowledge of us, that by them we may be able to say, I know God to be my God, and Christ my redeemer. Let us therefore labour to know God aright, and to love God in Christ, and in His members, by true love; and to choose the true God to be our God, bestowing our hearts and affections on Him; for by these graces we shall know certainly that God knoweth us, loveth, and chooseth us for His sons and daughters in Christ; because these graces in us are the proper fruits of the knowledge and love of God toward us; even as we may know the prince’s broad seal by the form of it in wax, though we never see the seal itself. And on the contrary, we must take heed of that heavy judgment of God, whereby men go on without knowledge, love, and affiance in God; for these are fearful tokens of His wrath, befalling those whom He never knew.

The Use.

Whereas God knoweth some men for His own, and will not acknowledge the same of others, and that only upon His will and pleasure, we may see here a wonderful and unsearchable mystery; which first of all ought to stir us up, not to plead with God, but in an holy reverence to wonder at, and to admire His unspeakable power and sovereignty over His creature. [[God hath shut up all under unbelief, that he might have mercy on all>> Rom. 11:32]], saith the apostle. Now he doth not reason the case further, but there stayeth himself, with an admiration of God’s wonderful power and wisdom, crying out, [[O the deepness of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out>> Rom. 11:33]].

This must strike out hearts with fear and trembling towards God in regard of His judgments. The apostle Paul speaking to the Gentiles of God’s [[253]] ancient people, saith, The Jews are cut off through unbelief, and thou standest by faith; and thereupon makes this use unto the Gentiles: [[Be not high-minded but fear>>Rom. 11:20]].

Hence we are taught not to sooth up ourselves (as usually we do) on hope of mercy in the death of Christ, without some ground hereof through true grace; but rather with fear and trembling, so long as we have time, to labour in the means of salvation, which is God’s Word, prayer and sacraments, to become true members of Christ, because we may deceive ourselves with a vain profession; for though God’s mercy be endless in itself, yet it admits restraint to usward; and indeed shall never be extended to all, nay, not to many that in their lifetime made full account thereof in their vain persuasions.

A third point here to be observed is this: that such as professed Christ’s name here on earth, and yet after shall be condemned, never had true faith, nor true repentance, sound love, nor hope; they might have some kind of faith, I confess, and many other excellent gifts; but if they had had true faith, thereby they should have pleased God, and been approved of Christ, and so at some time also, have been accepted and acknowledged of Him for His own. For this we must learn and hold as the truth of God: that where true faith, love and hope are truly wrought, there they remain forever, at least in the root. They may seem for a time to be lost, but yet never can be quite extinct, [[For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance>>Rom. 11:29]].

Fourthly, here it is plain that those whom Christ will not save, He never knew. Hence it follows that whom He knows to be His, them He will know to be His forever. This point must be remembered, because it is the true foundation and ground of the salvation of men’s souls. We are said to be saved by faith, and by the Word of God, yet only as by means, not as causes. But the only cause of our salvation, and of the means that bring us thereto, is this knowledge of God, whereby He accepteth and approveth us to be His own.

Hence we may gather that those who are elect unto salvation, shall never perish; for whom God once knows to be His, them He knows to be His forever. And therefore [[it is made a thing impossible that the elect should perish>> Matt. 24:24]]. And the apostle takes it for granted that the election of God is unchangeable, [[remaining ever, according to His purpose>> Rom. 9:11]]. This knowledge of God is that foundation which remaineth sure>>2 Tim. 2:19]]. The first grace of all is God’s favour, choosing some men to be His of His mere good will; and this first grace, to whomsoever it is vouchsafed, remaineth for ever, admitting no change or alteration, nor interruption. This doctrine must be remembered, as the stay of our faith, and a sure foundation of sound comfort in any distress; for true believers in time of affliction find in themselves much unbelief, and great proneness to fall away from God. Yet here they have a sure stay whereon to rest, they must go out of themselves, and fasten their faith on God’s election, knowing hence, that though they be frail and subject to fall away of themselves, yet their salvation remains fast, grounded on the knowledge and election of God. So the apostle Paul comforts himself and the godly, [[It is God that justifies, who shall condemn?>> Rom. 8:33-34]] And, [[Who shall sever us from the love of God in Christ Rom. 8:35]], whereby He loveth us? And indeed, if a man have received true assurance of God’s favour, though but once in all his life; yet by that one sign he may assure himself of his salvation, upon the ground that God’s love is unchangeable, though ever after he live in temptation,[[ For whom God loveth, He loveth to the end>>John 13:1]].

Depart from me This is Christ’s commandment to those whom He never knew, though they professed His name; and it is a most fearful commandment, being all one with that, [[Go ye cursed into everlasting fire>> Matt. 25:41]].

Now hence we may gather that the second death is properly a separation from the comfortable fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and withal, a sense and feeling of God’s wrath in that separation. This appears by the contrary, for life everlasting stands in fellowship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Now here a question may be asked concerning the suffering of Christ; for our doctrine is that He suffered the second death. Whether then was He severed from God in His suffering? Ans: Christ our Saviour on the cross stood in our room and stead, He bore upon Him the sins of His elect, and for substance, the whole punishment due to the same, which was both the first and second death. But yet concerning the suffering of the second death, there remains some difficulty. Touching it therefore we must hold this ground: that our Saviour Christ suffered the second death, so far forth as the suffering thereof might stand with the union of His two natures, and with the holiness and dignity of His person. And here these caveats must be marked:

I. Caveat. That in His manhood He endured a very true separation from the Godhead, and from His Father; yet not in regard of subsisting and being, but of sense and feeling only. And therefore He cried, [[My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?>>Psa. 22:1]], having for a time no sense of God’s favour, but only the feeling of His wrath and displeasure.

II. Caveat. In His passion He did endure the sorrows of the second death. He did not die the second death, for then He should have been overcome and utterly separated from His Father in subsisting and being. But He suffered the second death, and in suffering overcame it; as a [[254]] man may be at the point of death, and feel the pains of the first death, and yet recover.

III. Caveat. Christ endured the pains of the damned, yet not in that manner which the damned do; for He endured them on the cross, they in the place of the damned. Christ suffered them for a while, they endured them for ever. Christ suffered the second death, yet so as it prevailed not against Him; but the damned are overwhelmed of it, it prevails over them, and causeth them to blaspheme God. Now their blasphemy increaseth their sin, and their sin causeth their torments to be multiplied for ever. This doctrine is suitable to the Word of God, and to reason; for in man’s reason, the death of the body could not be a remedy to such persons as are condemned to a double death, both of body and soul.

The Uses.

Use 1. Seeing the second death is a separation of man from God for ever, we must labour in this life to have some true fellowship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that having it once, we may enjoy the same for ever. This fellowship we shall come unto in the right use of the Word, sacraments and prayer; for in the Word and sacraments, God condescends to speak unto us, and to deal familiarly with us, and in prayer we talk with God.

Use 2. Note also to whom this commandment is spoken: Depart from me; namely, to such as come near unto God with their lips, but yet keep their hearts far from Him. In consideration whereof, we must not content ourselves to profess the name of Christ outwardly, but we must draw near to God with all our affections, our love, joy, fear and confidence, and yield obedience to His commandments. So shall we escape this fearful commandment of final departure from Him.

Ye workers of iniquity This is the reason of the commandment; for the better understanding whereof, this question must be handled: How these men, that make such profession, can be called workers of iniquity; many of them whom undoubtedly live in a civil and unblamable life outwardly, and could not be charged with any horrible capital sins? Ans: There be many great sins for which men may be called workers of iniquity, and be as vile in the sight of God as the murderer and adulterer, though for outward life they be unblamable.

As First, hypocrisy, which is proper to the professors of religion, when as they content themselves to hold religion outwardly, but yet do not bring their hearts, nor conform their lives to their outward profession.

Secondly, to profess love and worship to God, and yet not to perform duties of love and mercy unto men; for we must love and serve God in the works of brotherly love.

Thirdly, to have the heart addicted to this or that sin or sins; whether secret or open, in regard of the world, it skilleth not; for this is to be a worker of iniquity in God’s sight: when the heart taketh a settled delight in any sin. And they are not so called because their iniquity is always outward and seen to the world.

Lastly, all the sins of the first table, especially the sins against the two first commandments, as not to know God, nor to love God, or to trust in Him above all, not to worship Him in heart and life together; these are all works of iniquity, greater than the sins of the second table in their kind. And in regard of these also, professors are called workers of iniquity.

The Uses.

Use 1. Whereas Christ calleth those professors, workers of iniquity, whose profession covered their sins from men’s sight; we may note that Christ is a very strict observer of men’s ways, even of the most secret sins, which appear not to the world. Though men may be deceived by professors in this world, yet Christ cannot be deceived, but at the last day of judgment, He will find them out what they be. Many deceive themselves with a persuasion of mercy, because Christ is a Saviour, and so presume to go on in sin; but they must know that Christ is also a severe judge, who doth straightly observe men’s sins, and will condemn the workers of iniquity, as well as pardon them that repent; and therefore we must not flatter ourselves to live in sin because He is a Saviour; but rather fear to sin because He is a severe judge against all iniquity.

Use 2. This shows that Christ prefers an honest and godly life above most worthy gifts, even before the gifts of prophecy and miracles; and therefore our principal care must be to frame our hearts and lives to true obedience unto our God in all His commandments.

Use 3. This must stir us up to true and unfeigned repentance. If we have not yet repented, it must move us to begin it. If we have repented, we must do it more; for Christ will pronounce a fearful sentence of condemnation upon many professors, because they live in sin, though they have prophesied in His name, and cast out devils, and done many great works; yet because they have been in heart addicted to some sins, He shall say unto them at the last day, Depart from me, and, Go ye cursed into everlasting fire. The horror whereof, seeing Christ hath so long before made it known unto us, ought to move us to humble ourselves, to turn unto God, and to break off the course of our sins, even in the purpose of our hearts. And if we will not now tremble and turn, the day will come when we shall hear a faithful commandment, and obey it, and not be able to turn from it. But if we shall now turn to God by true repentance and new obedience, we shall in that day hear the blessed voice of absolution upon ourselves, when as the fearful sentence of condemnation shall be pronounced upon others.

Use 4. Whereas many men shall be condemned [[255]] because in heart they have been addicted to some open or secret sins, we must in the fear of God labour to purge our hearts from all sin, so as we be not addicted to any one sin, with purpose to live therein. Yea, we must labour to turn ourselves from every evil way, from sins in thought, in affections, in behaviour and actions. The purpose of our heart must be not to live in any one sin, so as if we fall, we may yet truly say, it was against our purpose and intent. And therefore, we must labour to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, even in the most secret part of our souls. It is not enough to leave sin when it leaves us, by reason of weakness, or want of opportunity. Thus doth many an aged man, who having lived in hardness and lust all his youth, doth at length, by reason of weakness in old age, leave those sins in practice; but yet his heart is still addicted to them, and therefore even then, when he cannot go without a staff, will he take great delight in rehearsing and remembering the tricks of his youth. Now this man hath no repentance; for his delight in the remembrance of sin past, is all one before God, as if he had lived still in the practice thereof. Our prayer therefore must be with David, to the Lord continually, that [[He would incline our hearts unto His commandments, and not to covetousness, or any other sin>>Psa. 119:36]].

[[Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: … And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: … And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it>>Matt. 5:24-27]].

[[“Whosoever then heareth of me these words, and doeth the same, I will liken him to a wise man which hath builded his house on a rock, and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was grounded on a rock. But whosoever heareth these my words, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which hath builded his house upon the sand: and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and the fall thereof was great.”>>Matthew 7:24-27]].

Matt. 7:24-25 “Whosoever then heareth of me these words, and doeth the same, I will liken him to a wise man which hath builded his house on a rock, and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was grounded on a rock.”

After the delivery of many notable instructions in this sermon of our Saviour Christ, whereby He hath sufficiently showed Himself to be the true prophet and doctor of His church; [[in this verse, and in those which follow to the 27th verse>>Matt. 7:24-27]] He comes to lay down the conclusion of this excellent sermon, wherein He doth stir up His hearers to a notable duty; namely, that they should not make light account of His doctrine, contenting themselves barely to hear, read, or to learn the same; but further, to go about the practice thereof in their lives and conversations. And for the effecting hereof, He lays down here at large, the fruit of true obedience to the Word.

In this conclusion are these points contained:

Point. A main duty to be done of all His hearers; that is, to hear and do the words of Christ: Whosoever heareth these my words, and doeth the same.

Point. The property of this duty: it is a note of great wisdom: I will liken him to a wise man &c.

Point. The fruit of this duty: safety and security against all perils of body and soul, in the [[25th verse>> Matt. 7:25]]; all which are amplified by their contraries in the [[26th and 27th verses>> Matt. 7:26-27]], as we shall see in their place.

I. Point. The first point is the main duty of every good hearer, namely, to join practice with knowledge of the Word of Christ. This duty is oft urged upon us by the Holy Ghost, [[Not the hearers of the law, but the doers thereof shall be justified before God>> Rom. 2:13]]. And St James stands long on this duty, [[Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls>> Jam. 1:22]]; which after, he enforceth both by the vanity of hearing without doing (Matt. 7:23-24), and by the blessing that accompanies obedient hearing (Matt. 7:25). And when a woman in admiration of Christ’s doctrine, pronounced her blessed that bare Him; Christ answered, [[Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it>> Luke 11:27-28]]. And in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), there are four kinds of hearers, three bad and one only good, who do hear, know, receive, embrace the Word of God, and withal bring forth fruit plentifully. And natural reason may persuade us of the weight of this duty; for the best learning that men have in human things, is too little or of no use without practice; much less can divine doctrine then profit a man, without obedience be joined therewith.

The Use. The consideration hereof must move us to pray to God the Father in the name of Christ, that He would vouchsafe His Spirit unto us, whereby our hearts might be inclined, disposed and bent to an unfeigned love and obedience of God’s precepts delivered in His holy Word, because it is our duty to live in the practice of that we hear. Yea, we must pray so to perform obedience in our life that our consciences may not only not accuse us, but also excuse us before God in regard thereof; or at least, in regard of our true endeavour and desire to obey. This duty being practised, will minister true comfort unto us in time of distress, yea, in the fearful case of death itself. Hereby did good king Hezekiah comfort himself at his death, that he had [[walked before the Lord with an upright and perfect heart>>Isa. 38:3]]. And the Word of God is plain for this comfort, [[If our hearts condemn us not, then we have boldness towards God>>1 John 3:21]], always provided we have a good understanding of our duty to God, for an ignorant conscience will falsely excuse.

II. Point. The property of this duty. It is a part of great wisdom, for he that heareth and obeyeth, is the only wise man, I will liken him (saith Christ) unto a wise man. This point is likewise with care to be remembered, that the [[256]] hearing and doing of the Word of God is a special part of true wisdom. This is notably verified in the [[32nd Psalm>>Ps. 32]], which is entitled David’s learning; and indeed it is a notable psalm of learning, containing the sum of all religion; which David bringeth to these two heads: his repentance and new obedience. So, the people’s obedience to God’s commandments is counted by Moses their wisdom; and for this cause, he there saith, [[They shall be counted the wisest people under heaven>> Deut. 4:6]], because they served and obeyed the true God; to which purpose it is said, [[The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that do thereafter>>Psa. 111:10]].

Hence we learn these instructions:

First. All superiors, magistrates, masters and parents, are bound to go before their inferiors in wisdom, as they are above them in authority; and therefore considering obedience is true wisdom, every superior ought to go before his inferiors in obedience to God’s commandments; for this only is true wisdom, without which all other wisdom is but folly and madness.

Secondly. Hence, all students who profess themselves to seek for wisdom and learning, are taught especially to give themselves to learn and obey the will and commandments of God; for this is true wisdom, both before God and man. And it is a great blemish and disgrace for any man of knowledge to lead a loose and dissolute life; this argues their want of God’s fear, which is the very ground of true wisdom.

Thirdly. This gives a good caveat to ignorant persons, who persuade themselves they may continue in their ignorance because they are not book-learned. But they deceive themselves, for obedience is true wisdom; and therefore they must labour for so much knowledge as will bring them to this wisdom here commended.

Now to come more specially to this true wisdom, we must search out wherein it lieth. This is expressed in these words: which hath builded his house on a rock; which St Luke setteth down more largely, saying, [[he digged deep, and laid his foundation on a rock>>Luke 6:48]]. In which words three parts of this wisdom are propounded:

First. To dig deep;

Secondly. To make choice of a rock for a foundation; and

Thirdly. To build thereon.

First. The builder is the professor of the name of Christ; and this digging deep to find out a fit foundation, signifying thus much: that he that would make sure his own salvation, must come to a deep search and examination of his own corrupt heart, that he may know the iniquity thereof; as also he must renounce himself and his pleasures; and whatsoever may hinder him in this building he must cast out; for without this deep search and ransacking of the heart, there can be no sure foundation laid, nor certainty of salvation attained.

The second point of this wisdom is to choose a foundation to lay our salvation upon; and that is the rock Christ Jesus Himself alone, God and man, He is [[the chief corner-stone on which the whole building is coupled>>Eph. 2:20-21]]. [[Neither is there salvation in any other; for among men there is given no other name under heaven, by which we must be saved>> Acts 4:12]] than Christ Jesus only, [[and no other foundation can any man lay than that which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ>>1 Cor. 3:11]]. [[Christ is the rock and corner-stone, and true Christians are living stones upon Him>>1 Pet. 2:5]]. As for our works, they are fruits, but no part of this foundation, unless to them that build on the sand, like foolish builders.

Thirdly, having found a good foundation, we must build thereon. Our souls and our salvation must be builded on Christ. This is done by our faith in Christ; for as mutual love joins one man unto another; so true faith makes us one with Christ; the Holy Ghost saith that [[Christ doth dwell in our hearts by faith>> Eph. 3:17]]. And, [[He that trusts in the Lord is as mount Sion that cannot be removed>> Psa. 125;1]]. Yet here two caveats must be remembered:

I. Caveat. That Christ is a rock, yet not every way that man frames in his own heart, but only so as He hath offered Himself in the promise of the gospel, which is the Word of the covenant of grace. And for this cause we must labour that this Word of God’s grace may be rooted and grounded in our hearts by faith; for it is all one to believe in Christ, and to believe the Word that reveals Christ unto us. So saith our Saviour, [[He that refuseth me, and receiveth not my Word, hath one that judgeth him>>John 12:48]]. And, [[If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you>>John 15:7]]. We therefore must be like the good ground; for as it receives and keeps the good seed, so doth the good heart receive and keep the word of grace, which being rooted in our hearts, keeps us united unto Christ, and therefore it is called [[the engrafted word>>Jam. 1:21]], which being mingled with faith in our hearts is profitable, for it knits us fast to Christ, and makes us grow up in Him unto perfection.

II. Caveat. We must set all the main affections of our heart on Christ; if hereby must we show forth our faith. We must so esteem and love Christ, as that in regard of Him we [[count all things loss and dung>>Phil. 3:8]], with the apostle; yea, we must so delight in Christ, that we desire Him wholly, and receive nothing into our hearts but Christ alone. [[Thomas desired but to put his finger into His side>>John 20:25]], but we must go further, and desire to have our souls washed in the blood that issued hence, and to have our hearts possessed by His Spirit, whom He giveth to His church.

Use. Seeing Christ Jesus is the rock of our salvation, our duty is to have our hearts rooted and founded on Christ. They which be as the stony ground, hear and receive the Word, and it takes some rooting in them, and brings forth some fruit; but as the rooting is not deep, [[257]] so the fruit is never ripe, and therefore when heat cometh, it withereth. So it is with professors. A man may be one in name, and bring forth some fruit of the Word which he hears, and yet be deceived in the matter of his salvation, because he is not rooted and founded in Christ. This is the point which Paul stands much upon in sundry of his epistles (Eph. 2:20-21; 3:17; Col. 2:7); for show of grace will not serve the turn. Indeed in these happy days of peace, any grace makes a man seem to be a Christian; but when the parching heat of persecution comes, unless we be thoroughly rooted in Christ, we shall never continue to the end, nor bring forth fruit with patience.

III. Point. The fruit of this true obedience, in which men by faith build themselves on Christ Jesus, is security and safety against all temptations of the devil, the flesh and the world; meant by the standing of the house that was built upon the rock, notwithstanding [[the falling of the rain, the beating of the floods and the blowing of the winds>>Matt. 7:25]]; a most notable fruit which nothing else but true obedience can procure unto us. Wealth cannot minister this comfortable security; nay, the more wealth, ofttimes the more trouble; and unto many, riches are the cause of a fearful downfall. No strength of man, nor power of any princes can procure this safety, and yet Christ vouchsafeth the same to them that hear His Word and keep it.

First. The consideration hereof must move us to be most willing and ready to perform obedience to that holy Word of God which we read and hear; for such a benefit comes by it, as no creature in the world can procure besides; and the rather we must inure ourselves hereto, because our sins deserve an end of these happy days of peace, and we may justly look for the black days of persecution, which when they come will surely be our ruin, unless in these days of peace we hear the Word and do it.

Secondly, from this fruit of true obedience we may gather that he which once hath true faith in Christ rooted in his heart, shall never lose the same, either wholly or finally, but shall continue therein unto the end, and enjoy the fruit thereof for ever. For by faith a man is truly built on Christ, as on a most sure foundation, so as neither temptations nor persecutions can drive him off; though they may assault and shake him, yet they can never throw him down. But if a man might quite lose his faith, then might he be beaten down that is built on Christ, which thing this text denieth.

Lastly, this teacheth us that he that is built on Christ by faith, must look for fearful trials and temptations; for he is like an house built on the sea bank, against which wind, and rain, and waves, do all beat and rage. God’s servants must not look to go to heaven in ease, but they must wait for trials and temptations coming hand in hand, as wind and rain, and wind and wave commonly do. And therefore the more careful and earnestly must we labour to be surely grounded on Christ, that though they assault us, yet they may not throw us down.

Matt. 7:26-27. “But whosoever heareth these my words, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which hath builded his house upon the sand: and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and the fall thereof was great.”

In these verses our Saviour Christ layeth down four other points contrary to the former, belonging to an evil hearer:

The fault and bad practice of an evil hearer: to hear Christ’s words, and not do the same;

The property of this vice: it is a point of extreme folly;

The practice of this folly: in building upon the sands;

The fruit and issue of this building: fearful ruin and destruction.

I. Point. The practice of a bad hearer, from which Christ would terrify all men in this place is to hear and not to do. This is no small fault. The ground that receiveth seed and rain, both in measure and season, and yet bringeth forth either bad fruit, or none at all, is by all men condemned for bad ground. The apostle saith, it is [[near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned>>Heb. 6:8]]. The waters that come and issue from under the threshold of the sanctuary, [[whereby is meant the Word of God>> Ezek. 47:1]], when they come into any ground they are of this nature, if [[they make it not fruitful they turn it into barrenness>> Ezek. 47:11]]. A subject that knows his prince’s will, and doeth it not, is indeed no better than a rebel. How much more then is he that hears the Word and doctrine of salvation by Christ, and yet makes no conscience to do the same, to be judged for bad and barren ground, yea, for a rebel against God Himself. Samuel telleth Saul that [[rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and transgression is wickedness and idolatry>>1 Sam. 15:23. And the reason is plain, for they that submit themselves to hear God’s Word, are sundry ways bound to perform obedience.

First, by the law of creation, as they are God’s creatures.

Secondly, by the law of redemption, as they are Christ’s servants, bought by His most precious blood.

Thirdly, in regard of their [[258]] Adoption, as they are, or at least hold themselves to be, His children in Christ. And

Fourthly, in regard of His merciful providence whereof we have daily experience. In regard of all these, we ought by way of thankfulness, to show ourselves obedient unto His Word. And therefore, he that hears the Word of God, and will not do the same, sinneth grievously against God, which in its kind God hateth as the sin of witchcraft. Now this sin of disobedience is a common sin. We are all hearers, but where almost is the man that answerably is a doer? Men content themselves with the bear action of hearing, like unto the papists, who think God is well served with the work done. But the principal thing we omit, which is the treasuring up of God’s Word in our hearts that upon just occasion we might practise the same. Yea, which yet is more lamentable, men are so far from yielding conscionable obedience to the Word, that the endeavour thereunto is commonly judged superfluous niceness and curious preciseness. But this sin of hearing and not doing, will bring many fearful judgments upon us, unless by true repentance it be cut off.

II. Point. The property of this bad practice. It is a point of great folly: He that heareth and doeth not, shall be likened unto a foolish man. This the Author of all wisdom Christ Himself avoucheth. And the Holy Ghost by St James doth notably describe this part of folly: They that be hearers and not doers, deceive themselves, being like unto a man that beholdeth his natural face in a glass; either to spy out some spot, or discern his own countenance; [[but when he hath considered himself, he goeth his way and forgetteth immediately what manner of one he was>> Jam. 1:22-24]].

Again, this folly will further appear in this: if a man should show forth great parts of wisdom in sundry things pertaining to his body, and yet fail in the main point of all, every man would count his wisdom but folly. Now such are all they that hear the Word of God and do it not; they show some parts of wisdom in coming to hear, and in seeking to understand; and yet if they come not to practise, they fail in the main point of their salvation, which indeed ought to be sought for in the first place.

I. Point. By this we may see how to correct and reform our foolish conceit we have of men in the world. We think of those that have worldly wisdom to be able to go beyond others in the greater affairs of this life, that they are the only men, deserving best place of government both in church and commonwealth. But we must know that these men, though they have never so good heads for the things of this life, yet if they fail in the knowledge of this duty to God, or in the practice thereof, are here by our Saviour Christ noted with the brand of folly. The rich man in the gospel had notable forecast for the augmenting of his wealth. When his substance increased, he could pull down his barns and make them greater, but yet because he failed in the main point of his salvation, he is noted for a rich fool. And therefore in all sorts and estates of men, he is the wisest, who hath grace to know, and answerably [[to obey the will of God>>Luke 12:20]].

II. Point. This must excite us to a careful endeavour after true obedience to God in all His commandments. We all desire to be freed from the reproach of folly among men, and we take it for a great disgrace to be counted fools. Well, if we would avoid this ignominy indeed, let us be willing to hear and carefully obey the Word of Christ, both in thought, word and deed; otherwise, let men judge as they list, God will account us fools.

III. Point. The practice of this folly; which consists in this: that he builds his house upon the sands; whereby is signified another thing concerning the soul; namely, to build our salvation upon insufficient foundation; and that doth every hearer of God’s Word that makes not conscience of obedience. For profession is as it were the erecting or rearing of an house. And the not performing obedience withal, is the setting of this house upon the sands. There be three sorts of men that thus build upon the sand:

First. The papist that will be justified and saved by Christ; but yet withal he must have works of grace to concur for the increase of his justification, and for the accomplishment of his salvation. Now this is to build upon the sands, when we join works with Christ in the matter of salvation. For though Christ be a sure rock in Himself, yet if we will fortify Him by our works, we fall from this rock into perdition, and our foundation is no better than sand. [[Behold I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing>> Gal. 5:2]]…. [[Ye are fallen from Christ, whosoever will be justified by the law>> Gal. 5:4]]; in which places the apostle labours to overthrow the opinion of the Galatians learned of the false apostles, which was to join works with Christ in the matter of justification. [[Christ became unto the Jews a rock of offence, when as they would be saved by the works of the law>> Rom. 9:32]].

A second sort that builds upon the sands are the common Protestants; by whom I mean such as bear the name of Christians, and yet rest themselves contented and satisfied with their civil lives; thinking that because they abstain from outward evil and gross sins, and do no man wrong, therefore God will hold them excused; whereupon they profess religion more for obedience to the laws of men, than for conscience to God. But this will not serve the turn; these men, though they profess Christ outwardly, yet indeed they deny Him; for by their course (though it may be they think not so) they will needs become saviours, and so Christs unto themselves; which thing they do when they stay themselves on their [[259]] own civil life. The Scribes and Pharisees for outward actions were very godly, and many of them lived unblamable; but yet Christ saith to His disciples, [[Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven>> Matt. 5:20}}. And Paul goes somewhat further, speaking of himself when he was an apostle, [[I know nothing by myself, and yet am I not thereby justified>>1 Cor. 4:4]]. This was a notable thing, for a man to walk so uprightly in his calling that his own sanctified conscience could not accuse him of any offence therein, either against God or man; and yet this is nothing in the matter of justification, wherein the righteousness of the whole law must be fulfilled, which cannot be done by the obedience of sanctification, which is not perfect in this life. And therefore Paul desires not to be found of God therein, [[much less by civil righteousness, which consisting only in outward behaviour, may be in those that never have the Spirit of grace to renew their souls>> Phil. 3:9]], as the apostle witnesseth of the Gentiles, [[that some of them do by nature the things contained in the law; that is, outwardly>> Rom. 2:14]]. But without the Spirit, they are none of Christ’s, [[for he that hath not the Spirit of God is none of His>>Rom. 8:9]], neither can possibly enter into the kingdom of God; for [[except a man be born again of water, and of the Holy Spirit, that is, be regenerate by the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God>>John 3:5]].

The third sort of those that build upon the sand is the Protestant that is more forward in religion than the former. I mean such as do hear the Word of God ordinarily, and receive it with joy, bringing forth some good fruit thereof. It had been hard, I must confess, to have called such men foolish builders, without good warrant out of the Word. But Jesus Christ hath revealed them to be such as build upon the sand; for in the parable of the sower, [[They that receive the seed in stony ground, are they which hear the Word, and incontinently with joy receive it>> Luke 8:13]]; but they have no roots, which for a while believe, there is some fruit, but in time of temptation they go away. Of such St John speaketh, [[From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him>> John 6:66]]. They were His followers, and heard Him gladly, or else they should never have been called His disciples, but their going back doth plainly discover their sandy foundation. Of such also he speaketh in his epistle, [[They went out from us, but they were not of us>>1 John 2:19]]. For a time they professed Christ, and so were among the faithful, but when trouble and persecution came because of the Word, then they went away, wanting true humility and sound faith, whereby they should have been built upon Christ; which want in time of peace they could not espy.

The Uses.

First. Seeing that men which hear and receive the Word of God with joy may build upon a sandy foundation, we must not content ourselves herewith, but further pray to God for this one blessing: that He would write His Word in our hearts by the finger of His Spirit, as He wrote the law on tables of stone in mount Sinai; for our hearts are deceitful, as the prophet speaketh, and [[in the time of peace will counterfeit grace, which in time of trial will vanish away as the mist before the sun>> Jer. 17:9]]. Now God hath promised this blessing to His church in the New Testament, [[After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts>> Jer. 31:33]] and, [[I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me>>Jer. 32:40]]. This therefore we must pray for, that the Word which we hear may enable us to obedience in the time of peace, and arm and strengthen us against temptation in the day of trial, and so become the power of God to our salvation.

Secondly, This must move us to look unto the deceitfulness of our hearts. The case is weighty respecting the eternal state of our souls, and yet through spiritual guile we may easily deceive ourselves herein; for who would not think himself to be in a good case, when he doth receive the Word with joy and bring forth some fruits thereof? This indeed is a good step towards grace, but if we go no further, we deceive ourselves; this will not serve our turn in the time of trial. As yet we are but those who receive the seed on stony ground; the graces which we make show of will be like the grass on the housetop, which withereth in the blade before it shoot forth. Wherefore we must look well to our souls, that in our profession we carry a true heart toward God, and keep a good conscience in ourselves. And for this cause we must see that we be thoroughly humbled in ourselves for our sins, that we trust not in ourselves but in God, and make His mercy in Christ to be our chief treasure. Also we must remember that we are not our own, but God’s; for He hath bought us, and so we must not take liberty to dispose of ourselves as we list, but must subject ourselves wholly to His blessed will in all things. And because He hath revealed His will in His holy Word, according to which He would have us to frame our lives, we must endeavour to prove and try what is the good will of God and acceptable, and let the obedience of our lives express our faith in God and reverence towards His Word. And if thus we make God in Christ our joy and fear in the days of peace, we shall be sure to find Him the Rock of our salvation in the time of trial.

Thirdly, Seeing men may receive the Word with joy and bring forth some fruit, and yet build upon the sand, we must not content ourselves with this, that we know Christ to be a Saviour, and do embrace true religion in profession; but we must labour for the power of this knowledge in ourselves, that we may know Christ to be our Saviour, and may feel the power of His death to mortify sin in us, and the virtue of His [[260]] resurrection to raise and build us up to newness of life; for knowledge in the brain will not save the soul. Saving knowledge in religion is experimental; and he that is truly founded upon Christ, feels the power and efficacy of His death and resurrection, effectually causing the death of sin and the life of grace, which both appear by new obedience.

IV. Point. The effect and fruit of bad hearing; that is, fearful ruin and destruction, resembled by the issue of building on the sands.

[[The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and the fall thereof was great>>Matt. 7:27]].

Here, two things are to be noted:

First, the cause of this fearful ruin, The falling of the rain, and the beating of the floods and winds;

Secondly, the quality of this ruin, it is great and fearful, The house fell, and the fall thereof was great.

For the first, floods and wind and rain do here betoken trials and temptations, which are here said to befall the professors of the name of Christ. Whence we learn that everyone that doth profess true religion must look for a day of temptation and trial. It is God’s will that whosoever taketh upon him the profession of His name, should be tried and proved what he is. Thus He permitted Adam presently after his creation, to be tempted and tried by Satan; the smart whereof we all feel unto this day. And God gave Abraham a commandment of trial, when He bade [[him take his only son Isaac whom he loved, and offer him up for a burnt offering in mount Moriah>>Gen. 22:1-2]]. So He left Hezekiah to himself to try him, and to make known what was in his heart, [[when the ambassadors of the prince of Babylon came unto him, to enquire of the wonder which God had done in the land>>2 Chr. 32:31]]. And John Baptist saith of Christ, [[that He hath His fan in His hand, to sift and try the good corn from the chaff>>Matt. 3:12]]). And Christ tells Peter that [[the devil sought to winnow the disciples as wheat>>Luke 22:31]]. And for the trial of his faith and patience, [[God gave Job and all that he had into Satan’s hands, except his life>>Job 1:12]]; also, Job 2:6. And Christ tells the church of Smyrna, [[The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have affliction ten days>> Rev. 2:10]]. And St Peter makes it a thing requisite, that the faith of God’s servants should be [[tried by affliction, as gold is tried in the fire>>1 Pet. 1:7]].

The Use.

We now have by God’s mercy true religion maintained and professed among us, and are freed from the bondage of the Turk, Jew and papists, in regard of their idolatries and superstitions. These are inestimable blessings, which we must labour to walk worthy of, and therefore must stand fast in our profession, and quit ourselves like men in the maintenance of true religion, not suffering ourselves to be deprived of it by any adversary power; for times will come when we must be assaulted. The floods, wind and rain of trials and temptations will beat upon the house of our profession; for God hath so dealt with His dearest servants, and we may not look to get free. Now without a good foundation we shall not keep our standing. We must therefore in this happy time of peace and truth, which is to us the day of grace and mercy, seriously labour to have our hearts endued with some good measure of lasting grace, as of sincere love, sound hope, and faith unfeigned, which as good gold may abide the fiery trial of afflictions. This is Paul’s counsel to the Colossians, [[Seeing you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him>> Col. 2:6-7]]; that is, go on forward in the same profession. But how? Rooted and built in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. And when he had told the Ephesians of the mighty spiritual enemies that they must wrestle with for the keeping of faith and a good conscience; he bids them [[take unto themselves the whole armour of God, and put it on, that they may be able to resist and stand in the evil day>> Eph. 6:12-13]], that is, the day of trial. In earthly kingdoms every prudent and well-governing state will have munitions in store, and men in readiness for their defence against an enemy. And surely in God’s kingdom everyone that doth profess the truth, should labour to be furnished with sound grace, that they may be able to fight for the maintenance of the faith. If an householder knew that thieves would come upon him, he would not be taken unprovided. Well, we are taught that trials will come, and therefore let us not be unprepared.

The second point in this effect is the quality of this ruin and fall: it is great and fearful. It fell, and the fall thereof was great. The thing resembled hereby is most fearful, to wit, that such professors of religion as in the days of peace did not join practice with their profession, shall fall away in the time of trial, and come to most fearful perdition. This is the principal point that Christ here aims at, whereby He intends to terrify men from dissembled profession. And the consideration of it must work effectually in our hearts; for we by God’s mercy and blessing, have had the light of the gospel for many years together, in such measure as was never in this land before. So as in regard of the means it may be said of us, as Christ said of Capernaum, that we are even [[lifted up to heaven>>Matt. 11:23]]. The true light now shineth, and in that regard, blessed are our eyes for they see, and our ears for they hear. But yet though the most among us be hearers, where is our obedience? We have indeed the blazing lamp of outward profession, but where is the oil of grace? Alas, some among us grow to be peremptory and flat atheists, denying God that made them, and making but a mock at Jesus Christ. Others, not a few, under the name of religion, root their hearts in the world, some in profits, and some in pleasures, and none of these almost regard religion. Others profess religion, and yet live in gross sins, as swearing, drunkenness, [[261]] uncleanness, &c., making no conscience of gross impiety in their lives. So that if we look into the general state of our people, we shall see that religion is professed, but not obeyed. Nay, obedience is counted preciseness, and so reproached; but we must know that in the end this profaning of religion will soon turn all God’s blessings temporal and spiritual, into fearful curses, both of body and soul. If ever anything bring ruin upon us, it will be the contempt of God’s Word professed. And therefore let us in the fear of God endeavour ourselves not only to know and hear the Word of God, but to turn unto God from all sin, and especially in regard of this sin of disobedience to the Word of God.

[1]Lastly, Christ notes the quality of this fall to be exceeding great, to show unto us the great danger of hypocrisy. For there is great difference between these three sorts of men: a sinner that makes no profession of religion, an hypocrite that makes a great show of piety in profession, and a true believer whose life and conversation is answerable to his profession. For a true professor may fall into sin very fearfully, as Peter and David did, and yet recover again. Also he that is a most notorious sinner, as Manasseh was, may be converted and repent. But when a professor that is an hypocrite in religion is tried, he falls quite from Christ, and makes apostasy from his profession; and in this regard, his fall is called great. And therefore seeing professors may thus fearfully fall away; let us in the fear of God, labour in some truth of heart to yield obedience to that we hear.


[1] The danger of hypocracy.

Matt. 7:28-29 -- And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: … For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

These two verses contain the issue and event of this sermon of our Saviour Christ in His hearers. And in them we may observe two points:

First, [[the good fruit that came of this sermon>>Matt. 7:28]].

Secondly, [[the cause and reason thereof>>Matt. 7:29]].

Of the time when it appeared; to wit, after the sermon was ended;

Of the persons in whom it was wrought, the people, that is the multitude;

Of the matter whereat they were astonished, namely, at the doctrine of Christ.

[[262]] That our Saviour Christ might show Himself willing to undergo that base estate of a servant wherein He was born and continued till His exaltation; therefore He was content to restrain the power of His Godhead even from His ministry, until He were exalted into glory.

That He might make it manifest in His apostles’ times, that being ascended He did not only sit at the right hand of His Father, that is, rule as a king over all in His princely office; but also that He did indeed govern His church by His Word and Spirit. And this reason Christ addeth, to prove that His disciples should do greater works than He did, [[because He went unto His Father>> John 14:12]], there to rule and govern His church.

I. From the matter of His sermon.

II. From the manner of His delivery.

III. From the things that accompanied His teaching.

[[263]] Christ taught in His own name as a lord of His doctrine, and not as a messenger or interpreter thereof, as the prophets were.

His speech and delivery was with special grace, [[The people wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth>> Luke 4:22]]; wherein He expressed His humility, His meekness, love, mercy and compassion, plainly showing by His speech that He was endued with all gifts of the Spirit above measure. In this regard it is said, [[God gave Him (that is Christ) the tongue of the learned, to be able to speak a word in due season>> Isa. 50:4]], for the comfort and appeasing of a distressed conscience; which no man but Christ is able to do.

As he delivered the Word vocally unto the outward ear, so he was able by the power of His Godhead, to make His hearers to give attendance, and to receive and believe that which He taught.

And lastly, His zeal for His Father’s glory and His earnest desire to bring the souls of men unto salvation, which were principal ends of His ministry, did also add grace and authority thereto.

Miracles; as curing the sick and casting out devils; which did greatly confirm His doctrine unto His hearers. When he had cured one that was both deaf and dumb, [[the people were beyond measure astonished>> Mark 7:37]].

An unblameable life; for He was Jesus Christ the righteous, who performed all things that the law required, fulfilling the will of God in suffering, and suffering in His obedience.


I. Doctrine. The fruit was the astonishing of the people; which St Matthew sets out by three circumstances:

Touching this astonishing of the people, in it many things are to be observed:

That though the person of our Saviour Christ were lowly and base, yet His doctrine in preaching was of great force in the minds of His hearers, for it did amaze and astonish them. This caused the officers that were sent to take Him to return without Him, alleging the majesty of His doctrine for the reason of their fact, [[Never man spake as this man did>> John 7:46]], and when the governors came with a band of men to apprehend Him, [[so soon as He did but tell them He was the Christ, they went backward, and fell to the ground>>John 18:6]].

This showeth unto us that the voice and sentence of Christ given at the last day of judgment, will be most fearful and terrible. For if His words were thus powerful in His base estate of humility, what force will they then have, when He shall come in glory and majesty in the clouds, accompanied with thousands of angels, when as His sight shall be so terrible that men shall call to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the rocks to grind them in pieces, if it were possible? Well, let the consideration hereof move us to be obedient to His voice in the ministry of His Word; otherwise we shall one day be subject to that fearful voice of condemnation, [[Go ye cursed into everlasting fire>>Matt. 25:41]].

II. Doctrine. This astonishment of the people argues some fear and reverence in them towards Christ, which is some commendation unto them. And yet it proves not the truth and soundness of their faith and conversion (though no doubt many that heard Him were hereby converted); for a man may be amazed at Christ’s doctrine, and yet not be converted thereby, [[the people of Nazareth did marvellously affect the doctrine of our Saviour Christ, admiring it, and yet they believed not in Him, but took exceptions against Him, because He was the son to Joseph the carpenter>> Luke 4:22]]. Pharaoh, Saul and Ahab, when they were reproved by Moses, Samuel and Elijah, they were oftentimes much amazed and confounded in themselves; and yet they did never truly turn from their sins. And in this place I take it, this astonishment of the people is recorded, rather for the commendation of Christ’s ministry than to note out the faith and conversion of the people.

This we are to observe for special cause; for it is the ordinary manner of the most of our hearers, to mark more or less what is spoken, to approve the doctrine, and to speak well of the minister, which be good things in their kind; but yet this is not enough. We must further labour to receive the Word by faith, to repent of our sins, and to conform our hearts and lives unto the Word, When a woman through admiration at Christ’s doctrine, [[pronounced her blessed that bare Him, and the paps that gave Him suck>>Luke 11:27-28]]; Christ took occasion thence to give unto her and the rest of the hearers this lesson: [[Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and do it>>Acts 2:37]], at the first sermon of Peter after the giving of the Holy Ghost, the people were greatly amazed at His doctrine, and being pricked in conscience, cried, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Now, Peter suffers them not to stand still in this astonishment, but labours further to bring them to true faith and repentance, and to have the same by baptism confirmed unto them, saying, [[Amend your lives and be baptized>>Acts 2:38]]. And so dealt Paul with [[the jailer that would have killed himself upon the sudden sight of the prison doors being open; for after he was truly humbled, he brought him to believe>>Acts 16:27-31]].

It may be here demanded, why our Saviour Christ at this sermon did no more to the most of His hearers, but caused them to wonder; when as the apostles converted many thousands at someone sermon, and after brought the whole body of the Gentiles to the faith? Ans: No doubt He was able to have converted them all, and we may persuade ourselves here were many converted, though it be not recorded, and though indeed the most were only astonished. But this came so to pass that His promise made to His disciples might be verified, which was [[that they should do greater works than Christ did>> John 14:12]]; whereof this questionless was one: to convert more in their ministry than Christ did. And the causes hereof were two:

It may yet further be asked, why Christ did not convert them all, seeing He was able, being true and very God? Ans:No doubt (as hath been said) many here were converted, yet not all, because Christ was [[now the minister of circumcision>>Rom. 15:8]] (as the apostle speaketh), that is, though in regard of His Person He were the prophet of the whole catholic church, yet at this time in this action He was preacher only to the church of the Jews; in which regard He performed this duty as man only, and so could do no more but deliver His Father’s will unto them, and show Himself willing to convert them. And in this manner He speaks unto Jerusalem, [[O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. How often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens; I would, but ye would not>> Matt. 23:37]]; that is, as the minister of circumcision in mine own Person, and as God in the ministry of my prophets.

Thus much of the astonishment itself.

Now followeth the circumstances whereby it is amplified and set out; and they are three:

The first circumstance is the time when they were astonished, namely, when the sermon was ended. No doubt they were amazed in the time of His delivery; but yet they were silent all that while, and showed no signs of their affection till the sermon was ended. And this good order ought to be observed of all God’s people in the public ministry of the Word. In the building of the material Temple, [[there was no noise or knocking heard, so much as of an hammer>>1 Kings 6:7]]; whereby was signified that in the assemblies of the saints, where God’s spiritual temple is building, there should be the like heavenly order observed; men should hear with quietness and silence, and show their affections afterward.

Secondly, we are here taught to labour not only to be affected in the act of hearing while the doctrine is delivered, but to treasure it up in our hearts, that we may afterward be affected with it, as this multitude was.

The second circumstance here noted, is the persons who were thus astounded; to wit, the people or the multitude; for after the sermon was ended, they gathered themselves into companies, and made known one to another the affections of their hearts towards Christ’s doctrine. Here we may gather that our Saviour Christ delivered His doctrine plainly, unto the conference of the meanest, and to the capacity of the simplest; else they could not thereby have been brought to wonder. And this is a precedent for all ministers to follow in the dispensation of the Word. So did Paul, in such plainness deliver the Word of God, that [[if it were hid, he saith, it were hid to them which perish>>2 Cor. 4:2-3]].

The third circumstance is the object of their astonishment; that is, His doctrine. They were astounded at His doctrine. This teacheth us that the Word of God must be so delivered that the doctrine itself may affect the hearers. It is a carnal thing for a man so to preach, as the consideration of his wit, of his memory, of his eloquence, of his great reading, may affect the hearers. Many worthy parts (no doubt) were in our Saviour Christ, for which He might well be admired; and yet in the dispensation of His Word, He labours by His doctrine only to affect His hearers. And so must all they do that will be followers of Christ.

II. Point. Thus much for the fruit of Christ’s sermon. Now follows the cause thereof, which is Christ’s authority in teaching, [[For He taught as one having authority, not as the scribes>>Matt. 7:29]]. This authority in Christ’s ministry was caused from three things:

I. The matter of His sermon was the incomparable excellency of heavenly doctrine. Thus much His enemies the scribes that came to tempt Him, did confess, [[Master, thou art true, and teachest the way of God truly>> Mark 12:14]]. And this was long before confirmed by Moses, who delivered the promise of Christ unto the people, into whose mouth God would [[put His Word>>Deut. 18:18]]. Christ confesseth [[that His doctrine was not His own, but His Father’s that sent Him>> John 7:16]].

II. The manner of His teaching was heavenly; and this showed itself in sundry things, for:

III. The things that went with His doctrine did also cause authority in His ministry; and these were two:

Further, note the phrase in the original it is said here, He was teaching; that is, it was His usual manner and custom thus to preach with authority. Herein Christ is a notable precedent unto us for sundry duties:

First, hereby every minister of God’s Word is taught to maintain the credit of his ministry, and to preserve the same from contempt; especially in his own place and his own person. Though Christ were here in a mean and base estate, yet He would not suffer His calling to be contemned, but gets grace thereunto. And Paul chargeth Timothy to [[see that no man despise his youth>>1 Tim. 4:12]]. And to Titus he gives the like admonition, [[These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority>> Tit. 2:15]]. See that no man despise thee. Now in the example of Christ, we shall see how this is done, not by outward pomp and estate, or by earthly means; but by truth and soundness of doctrine, by zeal for God’s glory, and for the good of men’s souls, and by an unblamable life.

[1]Secondly, hence all God’s ministers (if they will be followers of Christ) must learn not only to teach sound and heavenly doctrine, but to observe therein a divine and spiritual manner of teaching. Paul saith, [[his preaching was not in human wisdom, but in the plain evidence of the Spirit; comparing spiritual things with spiritual things>>1 Cor. 2:4-13]]; which is then done when the people may acknowledge the grace of God in the teacher. And it is said of the ignorant man, who is rebuked of the prophets, [[He falls down on his face, and saith plainly that God is in you indeed>>1 Cor. 14:25]]. There is great difference to be made between discoursing in philosophy, which may be done by human wit, and preaching in divinity. He that can discourse well in philosophy, cannot thereupon presently preach and dispense the Word of God aright; for preaching is a spiritual duty, which cannot be performed by natural gifts only. The prophet Isaiah must have his tongue touched with a coal from God’s altar, before he could speak and utter God’s Word unto the people. And Paul, the most famous of the apostles, desireth in all his epistles [[to be prayed for that his mouth might be opened>> Isa. 6:6-7]]; whereby he doth signify that to deliver wholesome doctrine in spiritual manner, for the glory of God, and the good of His people, is a great matter, and cannot by natural gifts be attained unto. And indeed this is that teaching which saves the soul, and affects the heart of him that belongs to God; which is the thing that every minister of God’s Word ought to labour for.

[2]Thirdly, seeing Christ in His preaching doth maintain the authority of His ministry, every man in his place is taught to maintain and preserve the dignity of his profession. We are all of us by our profession Christians, and by baptism the sons and daughters of God; now our duty is to walk worthy of this our calling, and to take heed that we bring it not into contempt. It is a most heinous wickedness for any man to bring a slander upon the name and religion of God; and yet nothing is more frequent in this our age; for men will needs be Christians in profession, and therefore will receive the sacraments, which be the highest top-sails of all profession; and yet in their lives they are profane, and live as they list; yea, and if others will not join with them in their wickedness, they will not spare to scorn and revile them. But herein they sin fearfully, in dishonouring their profession; and though they charge others with hypocrisy that endeavour in some truth to be answerable to their profession, yet they themselves practice most gross hypocrisy, when as they will bear the name of Christians in profession, and communicate with the Lord in His holy ordinances, and yet make no conscience of sin, but scorn those that do. Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that [[they might walk worthy the vocation whereunto they were called>> Eph. 4:1]]. And, he exhorts Titus hereunto, that [[in all things he should show himself an ensample of good works, with uncorrupt doctrine, with gravity, and integrity>> Tit. 2:7]] &c. Yea, he requires servants to [[shew such faithfulness in their service that they may adorn the doctrine of God>> Tit. 2:10]].

And not as the scribes

For first, they failed in the matter; they delivered not the doctrine of God but the traditions of men about washings and tithings.

Secondly, they failed in the manner; they taught coldly, and without zeal.

Thirdly, they failed in the end; they taught in pride and ambition, seeking themselves, and not God’s glory. But Christ, as we have seen, taught far otherwise; and although He misliked their preaching, both for matter, manner and end, yet He vouchsafed to hear them, or else how could He have reproved these things in them? Which shows that Christ would not separate Himself from their assemblies, whose doctrine he disliked, with the delivery thereof. And therefore no man ought to sever himself from the Church of England, for some wants that be therein. We have the true doctrine of Christ preached among us by God’s blessing, and though there be corruptions in manners among us, yea, and though they could justly find fault with our doctrine; yet so long as we hold Christ, no man ought to sever himself from our church. And thus much for this sermon.

The End.


[1] Right manners of preaching.

[2] We must maintain the dignity of our profession.