A COMMENTARIE Upon the BOOK of the REVELATION.

WHEREIN The Text is explained, the Series of the several Prophecies contained in that Book, deduced according to their order and dependance upon each other; the periods and succession of times, at, or about which, these Prophecies, that are already fulfilled, began to be, and were more fully accomplished, fixed and applied according to History; And those that are yet to be fulfilled, modestly, and so far as is warrantable, enquired into.

Together with Some practicall Observations, and several Digressions, necessary for vindicating, clearing, and confirming many weighty and important Truths.

Delivered in several Lectures, by that learned, laborious, and faithfull Servant of Jesus Christ, IAMES DVRHAM, Late Minister of the Gospel in Glasgow.

To which is affixed a brief Summary of the whole Book, with a twofold Index, one of the several Digressions, another of the chief and principall purposes and words contained in this Treatise.

2 Tim. 3.16, 17.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousnesse: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to all good works.

Revel. 1.3.

Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this Prophesie, and keep those things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.

Revel. 22.7.

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the Pro­phesie of this Book.

EDINBVRGH, Printed by Christopher Higgins, in Harts Close, over against the Trone-Church, Anno Dom. 1658.

To the Judicious and Christian READER.

THe Reverend (now triumphing and glorified) Author, was so famous and deservedly in very high esteem in our Church, both because of the singular and extraordinary way of Gods calling him forth to the Ministery of the Gospel, having left the Vniversity (wherein I was at the same time a Student) before he had finished his course of Philosophie, and without any purpose to follow his book, at least in order to such an end; and having lived severall years a private Gentleman with his wife and children, enjoying a good estate in the Countrie, from which he did, no doubt, to the great dissatisfaction of many of his naturall friends, and with not a little prejudice to his outward condition, retire, and (being called thereto) humbly offer himself to trials, far from his own home, in order to his being licentiated to preach the Gospel; in the Ministery whereof, he was immediately thereafter settled here at Glasgow, where it hath not wanted a seal in the consciences and hearts of his hearers: And also, because of his eminent piety, stedfastnesse, gravity, prudence, moderation, and other great abilities, whereof the venerable General Assembly of this Church had such perswasion, that they did, in the year 1650. after mature deliberation, very una­nimously pitch upon him, though then but about eight and twenty years of age, as amongst the ablest, sickerest, and most accomplished Ministers therein, to attend the Kings fa­mily; in which station, though the times were most difficult, as abounding with tentati­ons and snares, with jealousies, heart-burnings, emulations and animosities, and flow­ing with high tides of many various and not a few contrary humours, he did so wisely and faithfully behave and acquit himself, that there was a conviction thereof left upon the consciences of all who observed him, and so as he had peace through Iesus Christ as to that ministration: The Author, I say, was in these and other respects so famous, that he needs no Testimony or Epistles of commendation, especially from so obscure and worthlesse a person; yet, being of his particular and very intimate acquaintance, daily conversant with him, and withall his ordinary Hearer, being in a good providence Co­leagued with him in the Ministery (though a most unequal yoke-fellow to so strong a la­bourer) I thought it my duty to give thee some brief hint both of himself (who loved alwayes to be hid, except when it was necessary for him to appear) and of his Book, wherein thou wilt find that the spirit of Mr. Durham was not of an ordinary elevation; notwithstanding whereof, as, in Preaching the Gospel, he liked not to soar and hide him­self from the Hearers in a cloud of words (it was not in the wisdom of words, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that he taught) So in his writing, he used the same plainnesse of speech; how low soever his stile seemeth to be, I nothing doubt but that every intelligent Reader will find such certainty of truth to satisfie the mind, and such sweetnesse of matter to engage the affections, that he will count the Author an Inter­preter one among a thousand. And therefore, if at any time thou misse, as possibly thou mayest, that comptnesse and finenesse of phrase which in this phrasing and wordie age is much in use, Know that he had so very sharp and pregnant an ingine, and so exceeding rich and fruitfull an invention, that they ordinarily did outstripe and go beyond his expression and pen, so that these could very hardly and but seldom hold foot with him: beside, if his expression was such as might make his meaning be conceived by the Hearers or Readers, he did not at all affect, neither could be stay, being so close in his pursuit of the matter, to chase, or follow after, fine words (so that I may here, without all [Page] complement, according to the proverb, say, Aquila non captat muscas;) yet none of his expressions were base and unsuitable to the matter, but, ordinarily, very massie, signi­ficant and expressive of his meaning, though plain and simple, and, it may be, some­times not so beautifully situated, nor so adorning and out-setting of it, as possibly some would be at, which the Lord, in the depth of His wisdom, did so order, that, as the Au­thor himself might be kept humble (and indeed he did exemplarily shine in humility) so no other should think of him above what was meet: for, it hath been thought by some, while hearing him discourse, that if he had bad such a polished stile and so well combed words as several others have, whose matter yet falleth exceedingly short of his, he would have been looked upon as a very rare and singular man in his generation, as really he was, and as these same Lecturs of his upon the Revelation (which he was by many impor­tuned to publish) will readily give ground to think of him: which, though for substance (except as to these few intermixed solidly, succinctly, and, I hope, satisfyingly discussed questions) they were delivered by him to the people of his charge within a very short time, one of them every Lords-day before Sermon, when all that time he did also preach twice a week at least, and most ordinarily thrice, beside his daily publick Lecturing every fifth week according to his course in the City, and all his other Ministeriall duties of Catechising, [...]isiting of the sick, exhorting of the whole from house to house, and his weekly meetings with the Congregationall Eldership for the exercise of Discipline, most dexterously, faithfully, condescendingly and indefatigably discharged by him towards about fifteen hundred souls, of whom he alone as Minister had the oversight; yet in the whole series and contexture thereof, thou wilt, notwithstanding, find as much solidity, sobriety and modesty, much quicknesse and sagacity, and very much plainnesse and per­spicuity (considering the obscurity (comparativè I mean) of this Scripture) which is rare, sweetly kissing and embracing each other; so likewise thou w [...]lt discover, beside a clear explication of the Text of this Book and convincing proofes of the Pope of Rome his being that Antichrist (a main scope of it) even to the awakening of the lamentably decayed zeal of the people of God against that Beast, drunk with the blond of Saints, after whom, so considerable a part of the Christian world, and that to the great offence of the Jews, is, alas, still wondering; thou wilt, I say, beside those, discover vast lecture in History, great light in the Scriptures, and very deep reach in the profoundest and most intricate things in Theologie, to a publick profession whereof, in this Vniversity of Glasgow, he was sometime (to wit, a little before his being appointed to attend the Kings Family) by the Commissioners of the Generall Assembly, authorized for visiting the said Vniversity, most unanimously and solemnly designed and called, to the great sa­tisfaction and refreshment of many, and more particularly and especially of famous and worthy Mr. Dickson, to whom the precious Author was chosen to succeed in that Pro­fession, (he being called to a Profession of the same nature in the Vniversity of Edin­burgh) as one of the ablest and best furnished men (all things being considered) [...]n our Church, that were not already engaged in such employments, and most likely to fill Mr. Dicksons room: But, his work will speak for it self, and praise him in the gate, and, no doubt, provoke the Reader, as to blesse God for him, so to lament the Churches great losse in the removall of such an usefull Instrument, in the very flower, prime, and vigour of his grace, gifts and age, being but about six and thirty years: which losse, is so much the greater, that he was eminently and beyond many, as severall other wayes; so, through the healing disposition, and great moderation of spirit given unto him, fitted to deal in the edification-obstructing differences of this poor [...] and divided Church, as may further afterwards appear by a Piece of his concerning Scandal shortly, if the Lord will, to be published. I will not detain thee much longer from perusing of this Work, only I shall in short give thee an account (left his way of Writing should be mistaken by any, because it differeth from that which others, especially of late▪ have followed to the no small edification of the Church of God) of the reasons inducing the Author (as he once passingly shewed me upon his death-bed) to insert these questions that are by way of digression more largely handled in this Book. 1. The importunity of some friends. 2. His perswasion of the soundnesse and in-offensivenesse of the matter: wherein, though he hath here and there differed from some great men; yet hath he car­ried the difference with so much meeknesse, and so few irritating or reflecting expressions, [Page] dealing only by the strength of simple reason, that he hath cast a copy, worthy to be fol­lowed by others in this eristick age. 3. Some apprehension, that to not a few that way of touching upon some questions might be more pleasing and taking. 4. To prevent drowning, as it were, in following the series and tract of the story and Commentary, according to the practice of several Learned and worthy men in their Writings upon the Scripture. 5. Because the clearing of some places along the Book it self did call for severall of them. 6. That if they might any way at all be usefull, they should not altogether perish, there having been no other convenient way for the publishing of them; and indeed it had been a pity to have smothered and kept them from seeing the light, for I have sometimes heard him in his sicknesse, professe, that (however fect­lesse they were) as he had peace in his mind, that there was no new, uncouth or strange thing in them, So he could not deny but that sometimes in them and other parts of the Book, he had found God sensibly assisting and carrying him through beyond his own expectation. Now, desiring that these labours of the Author, which were in­termixed with much prayer to God (for, all the while he was a Lecturing upon this Scripture (and since) there was a considerable part of a day every week extraor­dinarily set apart for prayer, as for other causes, so, no doubt, for seeking Gods help in that work) desiring, I say, that these prayer-full labours of his may be richly blest of God to thee, for making thee read the Revelation (which, it may be, hath lyen by thee, for most of it at least, as a sealed book hitherto) with more under­standing, edification and comfort than ever; and desiring withall, that the bright and Morning-Star, who holdeth the Stars in His right hand, may illuminate and fix many Stars of such magnitude, and keep them long brightly shining in the firmament of His Church, for the direction, guidance and comfort thereof in these cloudy and sad times, I am, at least would be, Christian,

Thy servant for CHRISTS sake, in the work of the Gospel, IOHN CARSTAIRS.
READER,

BEing desired to speak my knowledge of this subsequent Work, I acknowledge that I was one who frequently encouraged the Au­thor to let it go abroad. For, however he had no time to po­lish it, and what is here almost all was taken from his month by the pen of an ordinary hearer: yet I am assured, the matter of it, as I heard it weekl [...] delivered, is so preci us as cannot but be very welcom and acceptable to the world of Believers. I am confident, that the gracious design which some worthy Brethren among us have in hand, and have now far advanced to the good satisfaction of all who have asted of the fi [...]st fruits of their Labours, of making the body of holy Scriptures plain and usefull to vulgar capacities, is not a little furthered by this Piece: For, al­beit with greater length (as the nature of the book of necessity did require) than these Brethrens design of [...]hortuesse doth admit; yet it maketh very plain and use­full that without all question hardest of all Scriptures. This I can say, th [...]t diverse of the most obscure texts of that holy Book, which I unde [...]stood little at the beginning of his Lecture, before he closed his Exercise, were made to me so clear, that I judged his Exposition might well be aquiesced into without much more debate.

That wit were more than ordinary weak, which durst promise from the pen of any man a clear and certain Exposition of all the Revelation before the day of performance o [...] these very deep and mysterious Prophesies. It was not for nought, that most judicious Calvin and acute Beze, with many other profound Divines, would never be moved to attempt any Explication of that Book: Yet I hope I may make bold to a [...]firm, without hazard of any heavie cen [...]ure, that there is here laid Such a bridge over that very d [...]ep river, that who ever goe [...]h over it, shall have cause to blesse God for the Authors labour.

The Epistle speaketh to the man, I shall adde but this one word, That from the day I was employed by the Presbyterie to preach and pray and to impose, with others, hands upon him for the Ministery at Glasgow, I did live to the very last with him in great and uninterrupted love, and in an high estimation of his egregious endu [...]ments, which made him to me precious among the most excellent Divines I have been acquainted with in the whole Isle. O i [...] it were the good pleasure of the Master of the Vineyara to plant many such noble Vines in this Land! I hope many more of his Labours shall follow this first, and that the more quickly as this doth receive the due and expected acceptance.

Thine in the LORD, ROBERT BALIE.

An INDEX of the principall Questions and Contro­versies which are discussed and cleared in this TREATISE.

1. Concerning the holy Trinity, and Object of Worship,
page 6
2. Concerning a Calling to the Ministery, and clearnesse therein,
52
3. Concerning Writing,
61
4. Of Reading and Hearing,
64
5. Concerning Church-government and Discipline in general,
82
6. Concerning a Ministers relation to a particular Congregation,
104
7. Concerning the nature and di [...]ference of common and saving grace,
119
8. Concerning the influence the Devil hath on some wicked mens actions, and how he carrieth on the same,
149
9. Concerning Ministerial qualifications,
198
10. Concerning the identity of Angel, Bishop and Presbyter,
223
11. Concerning the way of Covenanting with God, and of a sinners obtaining justi­fication before Him,
234
12. Concerning Repentance,
248
13. Some general Observations concerning Preaching, and especially Application,
260
14. Concerning the nature of Christs death; or, if it be properly a satisfaction,
295
15. Concerning the extent of the merit of Christs death, or, if it may be accounted a satisfaction for all men,
299
16. Concerning Christs Intercession,
407
17. Concerning learned Mede his Synchronisms,
333
18. Concerning the comfortlesse grounds laid down in Poperie, for easing afflicted consciences,
445
19. Concerning the Idolatry of the Church of Rome,
454
20. Concerning Prophesying,
469
21. Concerning a Ministers particular Message to a particular Auditory, and if it may be again and again insisted on and repeated,
472
22. Concerning the Waldenses,
501
23. Concerning the Constitution of true Churches by Reformation, out of such as have been corrupt,
516
24. Concerning the unity of the Catholick visible Church,
538
25. Concerning the difficulty of salvation under Poperie,
584

Reader, thou wilt find the particulars, relating to each of these heads, digested in the following Table at the end of the Book, according to the order of the Alphabet: And besides, in the perusal of the Book, thou wilt find a detectable variety of other concerning-questions, right satisfyingly, though but shortly, handled.

ERRATA

Discreet Reader,

THe distance of the Author from the Presse, his continuall sicknesse from the time of the off-coming of the very first sheets of this Peece, a part whereof 100 was since that time transcribed, which he was never abie well to re­vise, and his removall by death a long time before the finishing of it, have occasioned severall escapes, viz.

Page.Line.Read.
956named: and dele be
1127dele in after believed
1627dele no
183their fixing in their, &c.
1940lovely
2450this Scripture
3034no other solid
4416in our way of exercising the same
79 [...]6formally
8456to [...]o i [...]
ibidult.if it had
8850of
10634Gal. 4 26.
11616preceeded
ibid28seing also the removing
11717an call
11852Nazianzum
11926their reason
12736objects
12846, 47but gold sim­ply, is not on­ly to be tried by the weight.
1323dele which
13538rationall
13756because they are such
13917dele 1.
14048and in things spirituall
14511or if it may
14910rare
15616his ordinances
17810they may be
1846blank
18619to have
19334freenesse
19415either
19542poor creature
19749third chapter
19814improving
19921equally
20312as well as the fruit
21856main
219554. If
22153close the pa­renthesis be­fore such as
22410after Ancients, adde make against this
22522agreement
ibid44Presbyter
22649Seduliu [...] Sco­tus
ibidult.presbytero
228382. Because these
23233Philip. 1.
23547dele &c.
23637, 38In this indeed
243511. Because
24548they are
24713upon that ac­count
25040purposed
25740cannot but be again renued
26722events that were to fall out to al the world
27821in the beasts praise
2968Christs death and sufferings were not only for
ibid24as man
29816cap. 1. v. 4, 5.
29936eternal suffer­ings
30135Iob. 17.6. and 9
30437premises
32918, 19close the paren. thesis after the sixth preceding
33148and the party
33453trumpets
33947by one of the Sabbaths
ibid46Chap. 5.
34238word
34820Saturninians
35219Basilidians, Carpocratians
ibid28lib. 8.
36143of this prophe­sie
37352changes
3758Maximianus
37635cap. 18.19
37741Sapores
ibid48Valens
37832draw on sin
38091, 2. for 12
ibid43sealed for sepa­rated
38579. ver. for 3.
38733after Elias dayes, adde 3
395ultcap. 5.
39633The first serv­eth to shew, 1.
39735meet as end
398281. Teaching
401ultstreets
41051, 52every evil
41214dele not
413ultand for an
41711seals are
42047(yet-particu­lar)
ibid49declining state
42136Syrmium
4321In Gregorius his life, and dele decretals
43545only for also
43614dele and
43839and did flow
43921killeth for cor­rupteth
4527cuivis
45640sententiarum
4572dele Ergo &c.
45115nobis 14
47055Cominaeus
4749yea if there hath
4756and particular­ly in the E­pistles
48242Hammond
48920they wrong
ibid28and though no
49755will find that
499411054
ibid47sate. About
50050Opeds
50140Illyricus
50214transubstantia­tio
50319Cassaeneus, Ale­nius
ibid40Sadolet
ibid48Turnou
ibid51Oped
50531the seven vials do contempo­rate
52446Malchi
540 [...]an universall
ibid31Cobbet of New England own that and assert the contrary to be a principle
54131Commissio­ners for
54423Martellus
54519his mark
54756I [...]idorus
55156Livius writings
58128imminency
60039beyond for be­hind
ibid46persecution for perfecti­on
60114mile,
61950close the pa­renthesis after remarkable
ibid as also that al­though they be generally very rich, and so in capacity to go in some expedition, yet
62729begin the pa­renthesis im­mediately af­ter the seventh vial
62834, 35(such—hea­thens) and dele because it
62912dele and
63650if papacy be this head then
64211dele had
64519dele the first as
64845Seieucus
ibid56aquitanica
6513either
65352their bulls
65617close the pa­renthesis after Antichrist
66045close the pa­renthesis after Alcasar say
6645de objecto fi­dei
ibid50dele else
66523puncto 7.
66620from it
68657her sins
74982. We acknow­ledge
75011but
752221. Not this for 1. Note this
ibid23the same with her spoken of chap. 19.
ibid48, 49with any one of the vial [...]
753372. Epist.
76111eternal
77049Elect,
78219what
78541prophesies were, as chap. 4 and 5.
787421300. year
78712it speaketh.
39932compleated
40223will find
41242Christ
41734Religion for Church
41835trumpets for beasts
41925Origen in his followers
42636Ierem. 51.
4467dele)

These and other lesser escapes be pleased to help with th [...] pen, at least the most mate­rial of them, and so much the rather as some of them marre or darken the sense, though but few.

AN EXPOSITION Of the BOOK of the REVELATION.

LECTURE I.

CHAP. I.

Vers. 1.

THE Revelation of Iesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His Servants things which must shortly come to passe; and He sent and signified it by His Angel unto His Servant Iohn:

2.

Who bare record of the Word of God; and of the Testimony of Iesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3.

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecie, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

4.

Iohn to the seven Churches in Asia, Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits which are before His Throne.

IT may look well presumptuous-like to read, or undertake to open this Book: and indeed there is need of much humility and sober [...]ss in go­ing about such a work, and that the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who hath given this Book for a benefit to His Church, help us to a [...]ight up­taking of it; Yet, considering that the subject matter of it, is so pro­fitable and comfortable to the Church, to the end of the world; consi­dering also what was Christs and in giving it, as His last Will and Word, to His Church, to wit, to be a Revelation, and thereby to make manifest His mind to them: therefore Iohn is forbidden to seal it, that it might be open for the good of His Church; and considering withall the many motives and encouragements that are given to read and search into it, as ver. 3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy: which saying, is also renewed again after the prophetick part is immediatly closed, chap. 22.7.14. which seem to be notable encouragements, not only to undertake, but also to lay it on as a duty, to read and seek to understand it. We resolve, through Gods grace, to essay it, that it be not altogether useless to the Servants of God to whom it is sent, as ver. 1. It is true, many things in it are obscure; and it is like, that the full clearing of them is not to be expected, till God in some singular way shall open them [Page 2] up, (neither is that undertaken) Yet, there are, 1. many clear, edifying, and comfortable passages of Gods mind in it; the holy Ghost mixing in those to be fed upon, and to sweeten those passages that are more obscure; and to encourage the Reader to search for the meaning of them. And, 2. though we be not clear to apply such passages to this or that particular time, or party, or person; Yet, seing the scope sets out, in general, the enemity of special enemies of the Church; and it being clear who they are: we think they may be exponed not only according to the Analogy of Faith and found Doctrine, but according to the scope of the place, though every thing hit not, yet nothing being contrary to it. 3. In those things that are most obscure, there may be found Doctrines concerning the disposition of enemies, and Gods giving victory over them, and preservation and outgate to His People. And lastly, those things that are most obscure, being particulars, wherein there is no such hazard for us to be ignorant, as in fundamental Truths; and yet being such as God hath allowed folks by wisdom to search out: therefore, here is wisdom, is prefixed to the hardest places in it, as chap. 13. ver. ult. Upon these considerations, we intend (through the Lords help) to hint at some things in the reading of this Book to you, for your up-stir­ring to search further into it. The whole strain and form of it, is by way of an Epistle, Jesus Christ, by Iohn, writing His last Will to His Church.

The Preface is in the words read, to ver. 9. The Body of it, from that to the 6. ver. chap. 22. The Conclusion, is in the end of the 22. chap. where it is closed with the ordina­ry close of other Epistles. We shall first speak to the Preface, and then to the Body, when we come to it. We need not stand upon the Authority, nor Title of it that holds out the Penman; it being of such a divine stamp and Majesty, doth carry Authority in the bosom of it, that if any Scripture hold forth the Soveraignity, Majesty, Justice, Mercy and Truth of God, to the comfort of His People, and the making the hearts of His Enemies to quake, this Scripture doth it. The Author, that is, the Penman, is Iohn the Divine, as he is holden out in the Title. Whether this Title be authentick or not, it's not much to be disputed. It is in some Greek Copies, The Revelation of the holy Apostle and Evangelist, Iohn, the Divine. And, we think it is clear to be Iohn, the Apostle, honoured here to bear Christs last Message to His Church. He got this name in the primitive times, as being most full of Divine Revelations, and prying into the Mysteries of the Gospel, and particu­larly of Christs Divinity. And in the Preface there seems to be some things that bear this out, 1. That he is called Iohn, without designing what Iohn, importing that he was the Iohn, that was well known and famous for an infallible and extraordinary measure of the Spirit. 2. He is said to be that Iohn, that was banished into the Isle of Patmos: which, from the ancient famous story, is clear to be Iohn, the Apostle, he being banished thither un­der the persecution of Domitian the Emperour. 3. It's further clear, from the 2. ver. in his description, Who bare record of the Word of God, and of the Testimony of Iesus Christ, which relates to his writing of the Gospel, as he stiles himself in the close of it, chap. 21.24. This is that Disciple, which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things, and we know that his Testimony is true. Neither doth it make any thing against this, that this Book (being prophetical) doth differ somewhat in stile from his other Writings: for, the stile is not so unlike his; there being many words and phrases in his Gospel, and in several Chapters of this Book so like one another; as, that Christ is called the Word, and the Lamb, in the one and in the other, these phrases being peculiar to Him.

The Preface hath two parts. First, A general Inscription of the Book, ver. 1, 2, 3. Se­condly, A particular Inscription and Direction to the seven Churches in Asia, to which the seven Epistles in the second and third Chapters are written, from ver. 4. to ver. 9. And there are several particulars in every one of these. To begin with the Inscription. The Re­velation, that is, the making open and unfolding of some things, obscure: and though they be still obscure to us, yet not in themselves, nor to us now, as they were before this. 2. It's of Iesus Christ: First, Because given out by Jesus Christ, to Iohn, as from the Admi­nistrator and great Prophet of His Church: And secondly, Because much of this Revelation concerned the governing of His Church. Thirdly, Whith God gave unto him: which de­notes the order of the Persons in their subsisting and operations; the Father working from Himself, by the Son; and the way of Christs working as Mediatour, who doth the will of Him that sent Him: for, as God, He understands all things essentially by Himself, but as Medlatour, He hath that given and communicated to Him. Fourthly, The end of this [Page 3] work, is, To shew unto His Servants things which must shortly come to passe, that this Re­velation may not be kept up, but made forth-coming to His Servants: by whom is under­stood not all Creatures, nor all in the visible Church, nor only such special Servants by Office, as Iohn was; but such as were and are His Followers, Subjects, and Believers in Him in the visible Church. Fifthly, The subject of this Revelation, things which must shortly come to passe, not things past, nor so much things present, (though in the second and third Chapter, such things be spoken to) as mainly, things to come. And it's said, That they must shortly come to passe: because, though the full accomplishment of them was not to be till the end of the world, as will be clear from the Prophecy, and therefore those events cannot be confined within some few years; yet, the beginning of the fulfilling of them was instantly upon the back of this Revelation. Sixthly, He sent and signified it by His Angel, that is, Jesus Christ made use of the ministration of His Angel to signifie this, both to set out His dignity and grandour, and to conciliate the greater credit to it. Seventh­ly, The person it is revealed to, is, His Servant Iohn; His Servant by special Delegation and Office, in a special Imployment, as a Steward in His House.

1. Observe the great advantage and benefit, the priviledge and prerogative that Christ's Servants have beyond all others; Christ writes His Letters to them; there is not a word written to Kings and great men; but it is to shew His Servants things to come to passe: To be His Servants, is to be Gods free-men; and they win fardest benn upon His Secrets and Mysteries, Psal. 25. The Secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will shew them His Covenant.

2. Observe Christ's way of Administration: Though this Revelation be sent to His Ser­vants; yet not immediatly, but first it is given to Christ, and He gives it to His Angel, and the Angel gives it to Iohn, and he brings it out to the Churches. Jesus Christ must have His own place; and the first notice of any thing, concerning the good of the Church, comes to Him as Mediatour; and He doth nothing but He first reveals it to His Servants the Prophets, Amos 3. They are His Servants of State to bear His Mind to His People.

Vers. 2. The second thing in the Preface, is, A description of Iohn, wh [...] bare record of the Word of God: which may relate to the Gospel of Iohn, which holds out Jesus Christ, who was, and is the substantial Word of God, as he begins his Gospel. 2. And of the Testimony of Iesus Christ: which may look to his Epistles. 3. And of all things that he saw: this looks to the particular Visions God gave him in this Book. John's baring record, points out his faithfulness according to the Charge and Commission given him; what is given him to deliver, he keeps not up; what he receives in charge, he discharges.

3. We have the commendation of this Book, ver. 3. to stir up folks to make use of it, because He knew many would scarre at it, and be ready to let it lye beside them as useless and unprofitable; whereas all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, &c. 2 Tim. 3.16. Therefore this is added, Blessed is he that readeth; that is, this Book is not a thing to be spoken of only, and not to be read and studied: for, the Seals of it are opened; and blessed are they that read it. It's a happy and a good thing, soberly and humbly to read, and to seek to understand it: and because every one cannot read, he adds, And blessed are they that hear the words of this Prophecy; it may relate not only to private, but to pub­lick reading and hearing of this Book, when it is read and exponed; So that by Christ's own Ordinance, this Book is to be brought forth to His People: and, because folks are ready to grow vain and secure, and to rest upon reading and hearing. He adds another word, and keep those sayings that are written therein, that is, it's not the reading, nor the hearing simply, that will bring the blessing; but the observing and making right use of it. Then He adds a reason why He would have it read and heard, and the sayings of it observed and made use of, because the time is at hand, the fulfilling of the things in this Book, is at hand; the time hasteth of calling folks to a reckoning, what use they have made of those sayings; the time of pouring out His wrath on His Enemies, and of being very kind to His Church and People, is at hand.

1. Observe, It's a good thing to be studying the Scripture: it's a mark of the blessed man, Psal. 1. It makes the man of God wise to salvation; and it's good that those who want the use of reading themselves, make up that want by hearing others: and particularly, it is good to be reading, and hearing this Book read; those that are fitted for reading, let them use it well; and those that have not this benefit, let them take and improve other [Page 4] opportunities that may bring them to the knowledge of Christ's mind; and the more, that blessedness is given but to six or seven sores in this Book, and twice or thrice over, to those that study it, Rev. 22.7.14.

2. Observe, That it's not enough to be given to reading and hearing of the Word: neither would folks rest on it; but joyn practise with both, Luk. 11.28. Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it. It is not the reader, or hearer, but the doer, that is the blessed man. Yea, though ye were able to open and unfold all the Mysteries that are in this Book, if ye be not suitable and conform thereto in your practice, ye are but like that man spoken of, Iam. 1.23, 24. who, beholding his natural face in a glasse, goeth his way, and forgetteth what manner of man he was. He that is a hearer, and not a doer, deceives his own soul: als much hearing and reading doth you good, as is improven in practice.

Quest. How is this Book called a Prophecy, seing some things in it concern things pre­sent, as in these Epistles, written to the seven Churches in Asia?

Answ. Prophecies are of two sorts. 1. Prophecy, is that whereby things past or pre­sent are known by an instinct of the Spirit: So Moses writeth of the Creation of the World, and things that were before his time; So Ahijah knew the wife of Ieroboam; and Elisha discovered the King of Syria his Counsel, and the covetousness of Gehazi: And, in this respect, as well as in reference to things to come, this Book may be called a Prophecy; because those things that are present are revealed by the Spirit. 2. Prophecy, is of things to come: and in this respect, it's called a Prophecy; because the main drift of this Book of the Revelation, is, to shew things to come, the first three Chapters being introductory to the rest.

Vers. 4. Followeth the second part of the Preface, and it's the particular Inscription and Direction of this Epistle to the seven Churches in Asia, Iohn to the seven Churches in Asia; and it beginneth as the Epistles ordinarily begin, Grace b [...] unto you, and peace. Where we have, 1. the thing wished, Grace and Pea [...]e. 2. The persons to whom, the Seven Churches. 3. The Persons from whom, the Three Persons of the Trinity. 4. And upon the back of this, a thanksgiving. Iohn, is the person wishing; that which is wished, is, Grace and Peace, two words, which comprehend all good: Grace, is the fountain of Gods free love; and Peace, the effect of that free love: which being here put together, is love, vented in its precious effects. The Persons from whom, are Three, or, the Three Persons of the Trinity, 1. From the Father, which is, which was, and which is to come, that is, from God the Father, described from His eternal being, without all beginning or ending. And this de­scription of the Father, relates to that of Exod. 3.14. I AM THAT I AM, hath sent me unto you: and it is a name that God often taketh to Himself, The first and the last, the beginning and the ending: and the Title JEHOVAH taketh up these three; JE, the future time; HO, the time present; VAH, the time past. In a word, it's the paraphrase of the word JEHOVAH: and this title is attributed to the Father, not secluding the Son and Holy Ghost; but the Father, being the fountain of the Godhead, when He is joyned with the Son and Spirit, those things that are essential to God, are ordinarily attributed to Him. 2. From the Seven Spirits: These are not creatures, or created spirits: for, first, created spirits' are not objects of worship, from whom we may wish Grace and Peace. Secondly, neither are created spirits set in betwixt the Father and the Son, as those seven Spirits are here. Thirdly, In the 5. chap. ver. 6. those seven Spirits, are called the Eyes and Horns of the Lamb: Eyes being His Omniscience, whereby He sees every where; and Horns, being His Power, working by His Spirit, and making stubborn fouls submit unto Him: and these seven Spirits being His Eyes, which are every where, and His Power or Omnipotency, which here also are invocated, They can be no other but the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is cal­led the Seven Spirits; not only, because it's frequent in this Book of the Revolution to go on the number of Seven; but also, and mainly, to shew the manifold and various operations of the Spirit, as 1 Cor. 12.4, 6. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and di­versities of operations, but the same God, which worketh all in all. 2. Because it hath relation to the seven Churches He is to write to, their need requiring much; and He being an infinit and powerful Spirit, He was able to let out abundance of grace and all consolation to every one without prejudice to another, as if each of them had the Spirit wholly, There­fore He is so described in this wish. Secondly, These seven Spirits are said to be before the Throne, that is, present with God, yet made u [...]e of by God the Father and the Son, working [Page 5] by the Spirit, effectually communicating what may be for the comfort of His People: and in these words, the holy Spirit is holden out in a posture, apt to execute what is needfull. The third Person is in the 5. ver. And from Iesus Christ; Grace and Peace is wished from Him: He is set out in His Three Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. First, In His Prophetical Office, The faithful Witness, because He reveals the Will of God, and that faithfully: therefore, Isa. 55.4. He is given as a Witness, a Leader and Commander to the People. Secondly, In His Priestly Office, The first begotten of the dead: To shew, 1. that He offered up Himself to the death. 2. Because He was the first that rose from the dead in His own strength, and made others to rise, and He died not again: for, though Lazarus rose, he died again, and though Enoch and Elias did not die, yet that was by vertue of His Power and Resurrection, as also that any other did arise. Thirdly, In His Kingly Office, The Prince of the Kings of the Earth: which Title sets out Christ, not only to be God, equal with the Father, but as Mediatour, King of His Kirk. He is called, Prince of the Kings of the Earth, not as if Kings, and all great men, or others, were in the same manner subjects to Him in the relation that Believers are (in which respect His Kingly Office exten­deth no further nor His Priestly and Prophetical Office) but though so He have not such a near relation to them, nor they to Him; Yet He is King over them, to restrain them that they prejudge not His Kirk; and to judge them for any wrongs or prejudice they do to them, and to inflict temporal judgments on them here, and eternal hereafter, when He shall be their Judge, and the Books shall be opened at the great Day. The wish is from the Three Persons: and though the Holy Ghost be here named before the Son, it is not to con­found the order that is among the Persons of the Trinity in Their subsisting and operations; but for this reason, because Iohn is to insist on Jesus Christ the second Person, he keeps Him last in naming, to make the progress in his writing the more clear.

Observe, There are three distinct Persons of the blessed Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, who are the same one God: in the Name of these Three, is Baptism administrated; and from Them, Grace is wished and prayed for, 2 Cor, 13.14. For, 1. That there are Three, who are distinctly mentioned here, cannot be denied; that the first is the Father; and the third, Jesus Christ, really distinct from the Father, is clear: for, the Son, and not the Father, was incarnate: and therefore the like must be said of the seven Spirits, that they set forth the Holy Ghost personally, seing it is He who in the like places useth to be joyned in with the Father and the Son, as 2 Cor. 13.13. 1 Ioh. 5.7, 8. and therefore it's said in the seven Epistles, to be what the Spirit saith. These Seven Spirits therefore, is that one Spirit, and He a person that speaketh to the Churches. Secondly, That each of these Three must be God, appears, 1. Because the last Two are both joyned as equall with the Fa­ther, of whom there can be no question. 2. Because the Son, Jesus Christ, afterward hath the same Title attributed to Him, which is here given to the Father. 3. Because the same one suit, is prayed for from all of them; and, it being Grace and Peace, which only God can give, suppones divine essential Attributes to be in those from whom they are wished: yea, They are named here, as joynt Senders of this Epistle, and Authorizers of this Word; therefore is it so often afterward said, Let him that hath ears, hear what the Spirit saith: and there can no Authority but what is divine, be sufficient here. Hence also, Thus saith the Lord, and, thus saith the Holy Ghost, are frequently put for one another: each one therefore of these Three must be God. 3. It may appear from this also, that all these Three are One God, thus, This Revelation and Salutation cometh from one God, chap. 1. ver. 1. and 22. 18, 19. and yet this Revelation and Salutation cometh from the Father, Son, and Spirit: therefore They are that One God. Again, If the Grace and Peace pro­ceed from one Essence, which is common to all, then they are the same God essentially, though distinct Persons; but Grace and Peace looks to the same Godhead and Essence, though it be wished for from all, for the effect, Grace and Peace, is but one, it doth therefore suppose an unity in the fountain from which it comes, to wit, these Three Persons of the glorious Godhead, who are named distinctly, not to shew a different effect from the Father, which is not from the Son; but to shew the concurrence of these blessed Three in an united way for bringing forth of these; so that what cometh from the Father, cometh also from the Son and Spirit. These essential Attributes, and that most simple and infinit Essence, being common to all the Three Persons, it rests therefore that they are Three distinct Persons, and yet of the same infinit Godhead. Neither will that which the Secinians and others oppose [Page 6] to this place, have weight. Say they, Christ is spoken of here, as dead; Therefore cannot be God. For, it's one thing to speak of Him who was dead, another to say that it speaks of Him as such. He that died was God, but He died not as God: and therefore this can only prove, that Jesus Christ, as to His Person, is man; but by it, we can no more deny Him to be the second Person of the Godhead, than afterward when He is called the first and the last, by that, we can deny Him to be man. And that the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are equal with the Father, appeareth also in this, That they are both equally with Him, the object of divine Worship here, to wit, of Invocation and Prayer, which could not otherwise be.

Concerning the Holy Trinity and Object of Worship.

THere is much spoken of the Glory of God in this Book; and no where is the distinction of the Persons of the glorious Godhead more frequently and clearly set forth. Iohn was more full in this than any who wrote before him; because that in his time Ebion and some others had arisen, who did deny the Godhead of the Son and Holy Ghost; and there­fore, with a particular respect to These, he did write the more fully of this, for which he got the stile of Divine singularly, as was marked on the Title. It will not therefore be im­pertinent now, once for all, to touch that a little further: and although here curiosity would be restrained, full satisfaction in the up-taking of that Mysterie being peculiarly reserved to that time when we shall see Him as He is, as our Lord's word, Ioh. 14.20. Then ye shall know that I am in the Father, doth import: and therefore we would not presume to satisfie our selves in the [...], or particular manner how that is; but humbly be contented to have our Faith solidly grounded in the [...], or being thereof: which may be done by considering these three, to wit, 1. the truth of the thing, 2. the expressions used in holding of it forth, and, 3. the necessity of the believing thereof.

For the first, we say, That as there is but one God essentially, so there are three distinct, co-equal, co-essential, and con-substantial Persons of that blessed Godhead, the Father, Son, and Spirit, who yet in a most wonderful, excellent and infinitly perfect (though an incon­ceivable) manner, have an order of subsisting and working amongst Themselves. It was a saying amongst the Ancients, That to speak of God, even that which was truth, was dan­gerous; (Etiam de Deo dicere verum, est periculosum:) and indeed here it ought to be remembered. Yet may we consider the former general Proposition in these Assertions.

1. Assert. There is but one God essentially considered: and in this the Scripture is clear, and so in this Book, chap. 1. and last; although there be a plurality of Persons mentioned, yet it is ever God spoken of as One, in the singular number; and thus He is still opposed as the One living God, to the plurality of Idols. And indeed, there can be no plurality in this: for, if that One God have in Him all perfections, There can be no perfection beside Him; and so no God beside this One true God. And, if we supposed any perfection to be beside Him, then were not He God, because not infinit in perfection; and, if infinit, then that which is infinit, in that respect, cannot be multiplied. There is no question of this, seing the most wise Heathens have been necessitated to acknowledge it.

2. Assert. Although there be but One God, yet there are Three Persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit. There is not one of these Epistles to the seven Churches, but this may be gathered from it, 1. The Father is the Sender of them all, as from ver. 1. chap. 1. may be gathered. 2. The Son is He who immediately gives Iohn Commission to write, as the Titles he taketh to himself do clear. 3. The holy Ghost is in the close of all, mentioned as a joynt speaker, Let him hear what the Spirit saith, &c. 2. More particularly, They are distinctly mentioned in the Epistle to Thyatira, chap. 2. ver. 18. These things saith the Son of God; that holds forth the Father and Son: where a son is, there is a father; and God here is personally taken as an other from the Son. And ver. 29. we have the Spirit as distinct from both. 3. They are put together, chap. 3.1. These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God: He, that is, the Son formerly mentioned; God, that is, the Father, distinctly considered as another Person; the seven Spirits, that is, the holy Ghost, in whose name Iohn saluted the Churches formerly, and who is to be heard, as the close of every Epistle sheweth. 4. The like is, ver. 12. where the Son speaketh in the first Person, I and [Page 7] Me. The Father is designed by the title GOD; the Spirit again, as distinct from both, ver. 13. 5. The same may be gathered from ver. 14. with 22. where the faithful Witness, God, and the Spirit, are mentioned as three that are distinct. 6. And lastly, chap. 5. we have Them most fully distinguished, First, there is the Father, on the Throne, with the Book in His hand, ver. 1. Secondly, There is the Lamb, the Son: And thirdly, The seven Spirits of God, the holy Ghost, ver. 6. all of them considered as distinct Persons.

3. Assert. These Three, Father, Son, and Spirit, are really distinct one from another; and so are Three Persons. All that is said, doth confirm this also: for, 1. They are really distinct, though not simply in respect of their essence; yet, as they are personally consi­dered, the Father, is not the Son; and He that sits upon the Throne, is not the Lamb. The Father did not become man, nor the Spirit; but the Son, He died, was buried, &c. which can be said of none, but of a person; and yet cannot be said of either of the other Two. The holy Ghost is the Spirit of God, as the Son is the Son of God: and if that suppose a real distinct personality, this must do also; the Son sayes, so doth the holy Ghost or Spirit say to the Churches: the Father is God, the first, and last; the Son hath the same Title, chap. 2.8. even He who was dead, is the first, and the last; the Spirit hath the same autho­rity, and is to be heard, and hath a divine omnipresence to be in all the earth, chap. 5.6. which can be said of none but of Him that is God. Now, if the Father be God, and the Son God, and the Spirit God also; and if there be but one God, and yet these Three be really distinct, then They must be distinct Persons in respect of Their personal properties, seing they are Persons, and distinct.

4. Assert. Although They be Three distinct Persons, as to Their personal properties; yet are They all Three One God, essentially considered; and all have the same infinit indivi­sible Essence, though we cannot conceive how. This follows on the former: for, if there be Three Persons, and each of them be God, and yet there be but One God, then each of these Persons must be the same One God, co-equal and co-essential: so the Father is alius, another from the Son, and each of Them from other; but He is not aliud, or another thing, but the same. Hence, the Son, is the Son of God, and the Spirit, the Spirit of God: They are upon one Throne, chap. 5. They concur by the same Authority and Soveraignity to write; and He that sends this Epistle to the Churches, is but One God, chap. 1.1. who therefore will avenge adding thereto, or diminishing therefrom, chap. 22. yet, that One God, is the same Three Persons, chap. 1. ver. 4.

Assert. 5. These Three blessed Persons, who are One most glorious Being, have yet an inconceivable order in their subsisting and working; which, being to be admired rather than to be searched, we shall but say, 1. They have all the same One Essence and Being, as is said. 2. They all have it eternally, equally and perfectly: none is more or lesse God, but each hath all the same Godhead at perfection: and therefore must have it equally and eter­nally: for, the Godhead is the same, and the Son is the first and the last, as the Father is; and the Father and Son, were never without the Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, and each of Them is God. It doth confirm all these, that They have One Throne, Name, and Au­thority attributed to Them. Yet, 3. The Father subsists of Himself, and doth beget the Son by an inconceivable and eternal generation: the Son doth not beget, but is begotten, and hath His subsisting, as the second Person, from the Father, So much the titles of Father and Son import here: the Spirit proceeds both from the Father (therefore He is the Spirit of the Father) and from the Son, therefore is He said also to have the seven Spirits of God: and the Spirit doth neither beget, nor is begotten, but doth thus, in an inexpressible man­ner, proceed from Them both.

For the second. If any should wrangle for the expressions that are used by Divines in this Mysterie; we confesse that many of the Schoolmen have exceeded, and have taken too much liberty in this wonderful Mysterie; yet, it is the thing that we especially should be established into, and from Scripture that is clear, that there is but One God, and yet Three, who being denominated in the concrete, must imply three different real Relations, or Sub­sistences, or Persons: and this Essence being infinit and communicable, there is no warrant to bound it to the rules and properties of created beings, who are but finit; and in that respect also incommunicable: And we conceive that the names here given (and elswhere in Scrip­ture) will amount clearly to the equivalent of Essence and Persons, which are most obvi­ously made use of in this matter: for, what is that, I am Alpha and Omega, who was, is, [Page 8] and is to come, but that same, Exod. 3. I AM THAT I AM, which denoteth His Being or Essence, as that which is ever a Being: and Idols, being differenced from the true. God by this, that they are by Nature no gods, Gal. 4.8. it implies on the contrary, that by Nature He is God, and so God in respect of His Essence: and therefore that God may be essentially considered, and in that respect of His Essence. Again, these expressions, that the one is called the Father, and the other the Son, and yet both One God, do clearly hold forth that there are real relations in that Godhead, subsisting in a distinct manner; and so there must be Persons, as Heb. 1. the Son, is called the expresse Image of the Fathers Person, which plainly sayes, that the Father, considered as distinguished from the Son, is a Person, and subsists; and that the Son, as distinguished from the Father, and as so lively and expresly representing His Person, must be a Person also, having this from the Father: and what is said of the Father and Son, must also be true of the holy Ghost, who is God equal with both, yet different from Them both, as They differ from each other, though not in respect of that same incommunicable property, yet he who proceedeth, must differ from those from whom he proceeds, as he who is begotten, must differ from him that begat him.

For Their operations, we may find here, that in some things They concur joyntly, yet some way differently. Some things again are attributed to one, which cannot be to another, as their personal properties; the Son is begotten, and not the Father or the Spirit: therefore He is allanerly the Son: the Father begets; and the Spirit proceeds. These are called Their personal properties, and Their works ad intra, or amongst, or in reference to Themselves: of this kind is the incarnation of the Son, which can neither be said of the Father, nor of the holy Ghost. Again, in things ad extra, or that relate to the Creatures simply, whether in making, or governing of the World, They joyntly concur: the Father createth all, so doth the Son and holy Ghost; the Son, from the Father, by the holy Ghost; the holy Ghost, from the Father and the Son, as those expressions of God, sending His Son, the Son's sending the Spirit from the Father, &c. do declare, Ioh. 14.26. and 16.7. Gal. 4.6.

To the third. This Truth concerning the blessed and glorious Trinity, being so often in­sisted on here, and coming so near to the nature of God Himself, it cannot but be exceedingly necessary for Christians to be through in the faith thereof: yet it is questioned of late, whether it be to be accompted a fundamental point of Faith or not? I say, this of late is questioned by Socinus, and the favourers of a boundless untolerable Toleration: for, of old it was most sacredly received as such, amongst the Ancients, as the Creeds that are called Apostolick, Nicene, and that of Athanasius, do manifest: But this Engine the Devil drives, first, to make the most necessary Truths indifferent, that then he may the more easily en­gage opposers to quarrel the very Truth of them it self; but we conceive, whatever it was of old before Christ, yet now it is to be looked on, not only as a Truth, which is clear from the Word, but also as a fundamental Truth; which being shaken, would overturn Chri­stianity, and the way of Salvation that the Lord hath revealed in His Gospel. This is not to be extended to a rigid degree of knowledge in this wonderful Mysterie, but to so much clearness in this Truth from the Word, as may be a ground to Faith in the thing it self. And that this is necessary, as a fundamental, we think ariseth clearly from these three grounds. 1. That Truth, without which the true God cannot be taken up, believed in, and worshipped, is a fundamental Truth; but, this Truth of the Trinity of Persons, and Unity of the God­head, is such, that without it, that God, which is proposed in the Word, and is the only true God, and the object of all Worship, can neither be taken up, believed in, nor worshipped rightly: Ergo, &c. because the true God is One, and yet Three Persons; and as such, hath proposed Himself to be known and worshipped. 2. That Truth without which the work of Redemption would be overturned, is fundamental; But this is such: for, by taking away the Mysterie of the Trinity, they take away the Godhead and Personality of the Mediatour, and so do enervat His satisfaction. And, as on the former accompt, the true God is otherwise conceived than He is in Himself; so, in this respect, the Mediatour is made a quite other thing. And, can any thing be fundamental, if this be not? 3. The way that God hath laid down in His Worship, requireth this, seing in Baptism there is par­ticular and expresse mentioning of these Three, the Father, Son and Spirit, as the Supe­riour, to whom they that are Christian Souldiers, should be lifted and inrolled: and so we may accompt of all after-worship; seing God requires us to honour the Son, as we [Page 9] honour the Father; and seing these Three equally witness from Heaven, 1 Ioh. 5. the Father, Word, and Spirit; all which Three, are One: can their Testimony be received as of Three, or can they be accompted as One God without this? And yet there can neither be one, in Faith, engaged unto in Baptism, or one, whose Testimony we may receive, but He who is God: and can any think but it's necessary for a Christian, and that, fundamentally, to know to whom they are devoted, whom they are to worship, whose Testimony it is that they receive, whose operations they feel, whom they are to make use of, &c? And there­fore it's necessary to know the Trinity of Persons in that One Godhead.

It may be the exercise of some tender soul, that they know not how to apprehend this Object rightly, when they come to worship; and that often they are disquieted, while their minds are unstable: Concerning this, there is need here to distinguish betwixt what may satisfie us as to the Object in it self, and what may be sufficient to us in di­recting of our Worship to that Object: If we take up God as in Himself, here is a depth that cannot be searched out to perfection: He is broader than the Sea; Who can know Him? higher than the Heaven, What can we do, Iob 11.8? But yet we have footing in His Word, how to come before this God with fear, reverence, holy admiration, &c. and such affections and qualifications as a true Worshipper that worships in spirit ought to have; and in this, the pure Worshippers, who believe this Truth of One infinit God and Three Persons, ought to be taken up, rather that they may be suitable in their worshipping, and have becoming effects on their own hearts, than to be disquieting themselves by poring too curiously on the Object worshipped; except in so far as may serve to transform the heart into a likeness to Him. And, it is not aiming to comprehend the mysteriousness and man­ner of these incomprehensible Mysteries, that doth work this; but the real, through and near impression of the general, which is revealed clearly in His Word. We would there­fore commend these three in Worship. 1. That folks would satisfie themselves in the ge­neral with the solid faith thereof, without descending to particular conceptions or notions concerning the Persons of the blessed Godhead: this particularness, is often that which both confuses the mind, and disquiets the conscience, and cannot but do so in those who would be at the looking upon God immediately here, without making use of the expres­sions, Titles, Names, &c. whereby He hath manifested Himself to us, and wherein, we conceive, it's safest to rest, and to bound all our curiositie within those: for, they must be the most solid notions of God, which Himself hath caught: Thus, Exod. 33 and 34. The Lord did answer Moses his desire of seeing His Glory, by shewing him His goodness in the proclaming of His Attributes to him that are manifested in His Word: thereby teaching men to conceive of God, according as He hath revealed Himself in His Word, in the plain and comprehensive Attributes that describe His Nature, wherein Gods goodnesse is suffici­ently holden forth to sinners, which ought to be a sufficient manifestation of God to them here, without diving immediatly into His Essence, which could no otherways be mani­fested to Moses than by that proclamation. 2. We would beware of forming Idea's, repre­sentations, or shapes of that One God and Three Persons in the heart, or in the head: these cannot but be derogatorie to Him, being a liknesse to Him of our own up-setting in our hearts: and cannot but diminish that Authority, which the true God should have in our hearts. We would remember therefore that He is purely Spirituall, whom no eye hath seen, nor can see: and therefore all such imaginations, are to be abandoned and abhorred. 3. We would beware of dividing the Object of Worship, or separating the Three blessed Persons in our worshipping of them, even in our imagination; as if when One is named, we were not praying unto, and worshipping both the other; and as if the Son were an other God than the Father or Spirit, &c. But still this would be remembered, that what ever Person be named, He is God, and that same One God with the other Two: and there­fore the Object of Worship, is ever the same One God, Father, Son, and Spirit, that are but One God. We Worship the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; but we do not Wor­ship the Father, or the Son, or the Spirit, as if He who is not named, were lesse wor­shipped than He who is named: and seing the Son and holy Ghost, are the same God with the Father (the former ground being laid) it's all one thing what ever Person be named, though in Scripture sometimes respect is had to their order of subsisting and operating; and so the Father is only named sometimes to be the ground upon, and by which, we have accesse to God; and so, the Son, only is named.

[Page 10]Now, by what is said, it doth also appear that the holy Ghost may be expresly prayed un­to, as the Father, and the Son, although it be not so usuall in Scripture, because of the rea­sons formerly hinted at: for, this will follow, He that is God, may be invocated, &c. and where petitions do especially respect the increase of Grace, which is the Work of the Spi­rit, we will find Him expresly mentioned with the Father and Son, as here, ver. 4. and 5. Grace be unto you, &c. And, 2 Cor. 13.14. The communion of the holy Ghost, is sub­joyned, as a distinct petition, to the Love of the Father, and Grace of the Son; and these first two petitions, being directed to the Father and the Son, this third must be to the holy Ghost in like manner: and therefore to plead against the Godhead of the holy Ghost, upon this ground that he is not expresly prayed unto in Scripture, is both inconsequent, and false; and the Apostl's taking the holy Ghost to be his witnesse, Rom. 9. cannot be done without invocating of Him: and the generall commands of glorifying God, must infer so much, supposing the Spirit to be God. There is no weight therefore to be laid on that argument.

If it be objected, against the necessity of believing this Doctrine of the Trinity, or, against the sinfulnesse of tolerating what opposeth the same, That the light of nature doth not discover it; and that the Godhead of the holy Ghost hath sometimes not so much as been heard of by Disciples, as in Act. 19. Therefore, &c.

To the first, we answer, That now nature being corrupted, it can be no good rule to try what is truth concerning God by it; it can hardly be denied, if nature be considered as in Adam at the beginning, but to him there was clearness in this mysterie, there being express mention of the blessed Trinity in his creation, as the word, Let Vs make man according to Our Image, doth import: which is not for nought mentioned then, more than formerly, espe­cially, considering that excellent knowledge that Adam was furnished with, which was a part of the Image of that One God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit. But, not to insist in this, we say, secondly, That if by nature, as it is now corrupted, what is tolerable or in­tolerable in the matters of Religion were to be tried, then were the whole Doctrine of the Gospel and Redemption through the Mediator, to be accounted no fundamental thing; and consequently, no Error, destroying it, were to be restrained, because nature hath not dis­covered that. That therefore must be an unsafe rule to walk by. And indeed if a master of a family and father, who yet, as such, is (to say so) a servant of nature, is not by that ex­empted from the obligation of bringing up his children and servants in the knowledge of God according to the Gospel; but is notwithstanding to exercise his authority in the re­straining of every thing contrary thereunto according to his station. Can it be thought, that a Magistrate, who must count for his Authority over a people, as a master must do for his, over a family, is lesse obliged thereunto? For, Christians are to be Christians in their stati­ons, as in their personal carriage; and so to seek the pr [...]moving of the Gospel, and the re­straining of what may ma [...] it according to their station. Thirdly, we answer, That even this may be drawn from the Morall Law of God; wherein not only the true God is alone to be worshipped, as in the first Command; but also accordingly as he hath prescribed and revealed in His Word, which is the sum of the second Command. Now, this being true, that the Lord hath thus revealed Himself to be worshipped according to the Gospel, it be­comes no lesse necessary to Worship God in that manner, than to Worship Him, who is the true God; and so, i [...] by the first Command, and according to the light of nature, Magi­strates should restrain, and not suffer what is inconsistent with the worshipping of the One true and living God, so is he, by the second Command and that same light of nature, obliged to restrain all manner of Doctrine and Worship, that is inconsistent with what he hath re­vealed, according to the second.

To the [...]ast part of the objection, from that instance, Act. 19. We say, first, That sup­pose there had been great ignorance then of the Godhead of the holy Ghost, while that mysterie of the glorious Trinity was more obscurely revealed; yet, it will not follow, that it is equally excusable and sufferable now, when it is so plainly discovered: yea, can it be said, that they had been excusable, if, after Paul's teaching of them the true nature of Baptism and of the holy Ghost, they had continued not to believe the same, as they were before he did it; or, that we can be so now, having his lesson to them for our instruction▪ Yet, secondly, It seemeth, that the Person of the holy Ghost, is not intended there, but the gifts of the holy Ghost, which often get that name in the New Testament: for, the [Page 11] holy Ghost, which is to be understood in that place, is such as was communicated to Be­lievers, and such as these afterward did receive, as from ver. 2. and 6. is clear. Now there is great odds betwixt the necessity of distinctnesse in the knowledge of these gifts, and of the holy Ghost Himself, who is not, nor cannot be communicated by the laying on of hands, except in respect of His gifts: this place therefore, doth not meet the conclusion formerly laid down, which was in reference to the Faith of the holy Ghost Himself, and not to the knowledge of His gifts.

These generals being granted, there do arise, from this practice of Iohn's, several Questions, concerning the Object of Divine Worship: which, upon this occasion, (it may be) were not unworthy to be more particularly considered, so far as the nature of the place calleth for, and doth become our scope. As first, we see in this Prayer, Iohn doth distinctly name all the Three blessed Persons, for their instruction and consolation to whom he sends this message. Secondly, When he names the Son, he doth name Him by such Titles as agree to Him only as Mediator; yea, and in this song, ver. 6. doth respect that, particularly, which is only applicable to Him as Man and as Mediator, to make them wel­come it the more heartily, and thereby also the more to commend Him to them, and engage them to Him, by remembring them what He is, and what He hath done, that doth thus sa­lute them. Thirdly, He hath a peculiar thanksgiving unto the Son, considered under such designations, as expresse His wonderful love that appears in His sufferings, which cannot be applyed to the Father or Spirit: which is indeed Divine Worship, being the same which is here given to the Father, and Spirit. All which giveth occasion to enquire in these four. 1. Concerning the Object of Divine Worship, in general. 2. In what respect it is to be given to the Mediator. 3. In what form, Petitions may be directed to Him; or, if in any peculiar form. 4. Why the Mediator Christ, is so much, and so warmly, under these con­siderations of His incarnation and sufferings, insisted upon in the New Testament; and what may encourage and help in the improving of those grounds. These things being deipths, are rather to be admired and believed in, in the general, (so far as we see clear in this prece­dent) than curiously to be pried into; yet, that they go not altogether without answer, we shall lay down some generals in reference to all these, which will yeeld some practical and comfortable conclusions. To the first, we say,

1. God is the alone Object of Divine Worship; and there is no Object thereof but God: because there is none who hath these infinit Attributes and Excellencies, which are requi­site in the Object of Divine Worship, but God, such as Omnisciencie, Omnipotencie, Infi­nitness, supream Majesty, Glory, &c. from which (to speak so) results Adorability, an essential Attribute of the Majesty of God, as Immutability and Eternity are; He being adorable, because Infinite, Immense, Omniscient, &c. And therefore it cannot be commu­nicate to any other, more than these incommunicable properties can be; and yet none can be worshipped who is not (so to speak) adorable.

2. There is but one kind of Divine Worship, to wit, that which is Supream, and becom­ing this infinite Majesty of God: and, in a word, that which is required in the first Table of the Law, as that which is competent to this glorious excellent God: and this follows on the former: for, if there be but one Object, there can be but one manner of Worship. Therefore, in Scripture, to Worship God, is alway opposed to the worshipping of any other, and to the admitting of any Worship, which is not competent to God, as Revel. 19.9, 10, and 22.9.

3. Although there be Three Persons of the glorious Godhead, and all are to be wor­shipped; yet, there are not three Objects of Worship, but one; nor three kinds of Wor­ship: Not three Objects, because these Three Persons are the same One infinite God, who is the Object of Worship. For, first, Though the Three Persons, be really distinct each from other; yet, none of them is really distinct from the essence of the Godhead: There­fore, the Father, is that same Object of Worship with the Son, because that same God. And, secondly, Though the Father be infinite, and the Son infinite, &c. yet, there are not two infinitnesses, but the same infinitness and immensness, that which is the Fathers is the Sons also; because these are essential properties, and so common to all the Persons: and therefore, though their personal properties be distinct; yet, their essential Attributes being common, they are not distinct Objects, but the same one Object; seing, still, in Worship, respect must be had to their essential Attributes; and so to the Godhead, which [Page 12] is common to All: and therefore consequently to Them, as They are one Object, it being the Deity (which is One) that is the formal Object of Worship: And, though some­times these Three Persons be named together, as here; yet, that is not to propose them as distinct Objects, but to shew, who this one Object God is, to wit, the Father, Son and Spirit, Three Persons of the same One indivisible Godhead. Hence, the unitie of the Godhead, is inculcated, for this end; The Lord thy God, O Israel, is One Lord.

From which it followeth, 1. That the mind of the worshipper is not to be distracted in seeking to comprehend, or order, in his thoughts, Three distinct Persons, as distinct Objects of Worship; but, to conceive reverently of One infinite God, who is Three Persons. 2. That whatever Person be named, he is not to think that the other is lesse worshipped; but that in one act he Worships that One God, and so the Father, Son and Spirit. 3. That by naming One Person after he hath named an other, (suppose he name the Father at first, and afterward the Son) he doth not vary the Object of Worship, as if he were pray­ing to an other than formerly; but that still it is the same One God. 4. Because our ima­gination is ready to softer such divided conceptions, we conceive it is safest not to alter the denomination of the Persons in the same Prayer, especially, where it is in the hearing of others, who possibly may have such thoughts, though we have none: and I suppose, this way is most ordinarly taken in Scripture.

For answering to the second, to wit, how the Mediator is the Object of Divine Worship: we shall first distinguish this title Object, then answer. By Divines, there is in this case a threefold Object acknowledged (all agreeing to the Mediator in some re­spect.) 1. There is Objectum materiale, or, quod, that is, the Object, or Person to whom Worship is given. 2. There is Objectum formale, or, quo, that is, the account upon which it is given to that Person, or Object. 3. There is Objectum considerationis, that is, the consideration that the worshipper hath of that Object in worshipping of Him; and is as a motive thereto, or is (as the learned Voetius calls it, specificatio Objecti) the specification of the Object, whereby the heart of the worshipper, by taking up the Object worshipped under such a consideration, is warmed with love and thankfulnesse, and strengthened in his confidence, to Worship that Object. Thus, the relations that God took on Him to be the Redeemer of His people from Egypt, and from the land of the North, did give no new Object of Worship; yet, did they give some external denomina­tions, or specifications, of that Object God to them: the consideration whereof, in their worshipping, did much qualifie the Object to them, so that with the more thankful­nesse and confidence, they might approach to him: and thus we distinguish between the Object worshipped, and the consideration which may be had of Him in our Worship. And this doth not make Him adorable simply and in Himself, because He was so naturally; but, it is the ground upon which He is accessible to us, who are sinners and enemies: from which, we may lay down a threefold distinction. 1. Betwixt the material and formal Object of Worship. 2. Betwixt the Object of the act of Worship, and of our considera­tion in worshipping. 3. Betwixt that which is the ground of Worship, suppose Prayer, Faith simply considered in it self, and that which is the ground of our accesse considered in our selves, to pray unto, or believe in, that Object.

To answer then the Question, we say,

1. That the Mediator is the Object of Divine Worship, is fixedly to be acknowledged; even the Man Christ, is to be honoured with Di­vine Worship, prayed unto, &c. as in Scripture is clear. Thus the Mediator is the mate­rial Object of Divine Worship, or, the Objectum quod: for, we worship and invocate Him who is the Mediator; and there is no question of this.

2. Christ, considered as Mediator, and in the vertue of His mediation, is the only ground, upon which we have right to expect to be accepted in any part of our worship; or, to have prayers granted, which we put up to God under what ever designation or title: for, so He is the Door and the Way, Ioh. 10.9. and 14.6. and in this respect though He be not as such, the formal Object of Divine Worship; yet, He is the foundation whereupon it is now built; the Way, by which it must be addressed to God; and He is the High Priest, Heb. 7.25. This was typified by the Temple, Ark, and High Priest under the Law: for, sinners have not accesse to God, but by Him; and this strengthens Faith to approach, that God is manifested in our nature, and that so we have, by His suffering, entry through the Vail, to the Throne of Grace, which formerly, without respect to this, was shut.

[Page 13]3. Our Lord Jesus, who is God, in our worshipping of Him, may be considered as Me­diator; and, upon that ground, the heart may be imboldened to approach unto God: be­cause He that is God, is also Man and Mediator. Thus, we praise and pray to Him that died, and considering Him as once dead, in our uptaking of Him, yet so, as it is, because He is God: for, had it been possible that the Mediator could not have been God, there had not been ground for giving of this Worship unto Him; yet, this consideration warms the heart with love to Him, and gives confidence and chearfulnesse in praying to Him, or praising of Him, as in this same place, and afterward, cap. 5. because seing we have a Man to do with, who hath so experimentally felt sinlesse infirmities, of purpose to be the ground of a sympa­thie with His Members; and seing He hath still humane affections, by having a glorified bo­dy still united in One Person with His Divine Nature, which wants not humane feeling, though in an inconceivable manner; and seing also, that that is given in the Word, as an encouragement for us, to step forward, to expect grace and help in the time of need, Heb. 2.18. and 4.15, 16. and that even from Him: there is no question but, by the actual con­sidering of this, a soul may, and ought to strengthen it self in its approaching unto God.

4. Yet, this Divine Worship is given to Him, as He is God, and because He is God; and so Christ-God is the Objectum formale, or, quo of this Divine Worship, because it is the Godhead that is the alone formal Object of Divine Worship, as is said; and Christ only, as God, hath these essential Attributes of Omniscience, Supream Majestie, Adorabili­tie, &c. which are requisite for the Object of Divine Worship. And therefore in this place, although He be set out in what is peculiar to Him as Mediator; yet, His being reckoned with the other Two blessed Persons, doth prove that notwithstanding thereof He is considered in His Person as God. It is then thus, as we say, Christ-God died, yet as Man; so the Man Christ, is worshipped, yet as God: for, though He be one Person, yet the properties of the two Natures are distinct. Hence, as the Fathers did prove Christs Godhead against the Arrians, from this, that He was worshipped with Divine Worship; and account them Ido­laters for worshipping Him thus, whom they did not esteem to be God; so do the latter Divines in reference to the Socinians.

5. Therefore this Worship that is given to Christ, the Mediator, is of the same kind that is given to God, to wit, Supream, Divine Worship: for, there are not two sorts of Divine Worship. And to give the Mediator, who is God, an inferiour kind of Worship, would, 1. wrong Him who is God: for, by taking to Himself that external relation, He hath not di­minished His essential Glory and Majesty. 2. It suppones two objects of Worship, and two kinds of Divine Worship; which is false. Therefore Divines have ever censured that assertion in the Remonstrants Confession, anent giving a peculiar and middle-kind of Wor­ship to Christ the Mediator, as of it self unsafe and as making way for the Socinian subter­fuge, which is to allow a Worship to the Mediator, as Mediator, inferiour to that which is given to God; and so, that it should not follow from this, that Christ is worshipped. Therefore, He is God equal with the Father. Now, the Scripture giveth Him that same Worship, and not any other, even when it is denied to all creatures; yea, when He is wor­shipped in the dayes of His flesh. He is considered as the only begotten of the Father, as Lord and Almighty, having all creatures as servants under Him, &c. and yet He is stiled the Son of David, He that was to come, &c, even at that time; to shew, that both consi­derations have place in worshipping of the same Person, who is God, and also Mediator; and not to bring in a new Worship; for, none can be more glorious, than what is due to God; but to lay a new ground of having accesse to give Him the Worship which is due, and by a new relation to give a kindly qualification of the Object, whereby the heart may be pro­voked lovingly and thankfully to give the same.

6. When this Worship is given to Him, it is given to the Person who is Mediator, and that in one individual act: for, He, as God, is not worshipped one way; and, as man an other way; nor is there a division of His Natures to be conceived; but the Person, who is Man, is worshipped with this Divine Honour in the same act, because He is God: therefore there is no such precision called for in the intent of the Worshipper, as if one Nature of Christs were to be worshipped and not the other: for, it's the Person, who is worshipped, now consisting of two Natures.

7. When the Mediator is thus worshipped, there is no distinct Object of Divine Wor­ship worshipped: but as whatever Person be named, it's the same God; so, however the [Page 14] Mediator be named, or considered, it's the same Person: for, though the second Person of the Godhead, considered in Himself, be not unum, or, the same thing with the Mediator, (sensu sci-formali, as Divines say) yet is He Vnus, the same Person; and the second Person of the Godhead, being Vnum, to wit, the same God with the other two glorious Persons essentially considered, although He be not Vnus with the Father and Spirit, con­sidered personally: for, the Godhead, essentially taken, is the same thing with the Father, Son and Spirit, as hath been said. Then it will follow, that even when the Mediator is worshipped, there is but still the same one formal Object of Divine Worship, to wit, God; they being still the same essential properties, which alone give ground for a creature to Worship all the Persons of the glorious Trinitie, considered in themselves; or, the Son, considered as Mediator, in the manner expressed. Again it appears thus, the Son who is Mediator, is the same Object of Worship, that the Son the second Person of the Godhead is: for, now He being One Person, cannot be conceived as two distinct Objects of Worship; but the Son, as the second Person of the Godhead, is the same Object of Worship with the Father and Spirit, as hath been said. Therefore the Son, who is Mediator, when worshipped with Divine Honour, is the same formal Object of Divine Worship also. And this also doth confirm, that Divine Worship is given to Him as God; for, so only is He the same Object with the Father and Spirit.

8. When the Son is worshipped, there is no lesse respect to be had to His Mediation, than when the Father is expressed; so that who ever be named, the Son still, as Mediator, is to be made use of, and that in the same manner: for, as there is but One God, So there is but One Mediator betwixt God and man, 1 Tim. 2.3. without whom there is no access for a sinner to approach unto, or worship acceptably, this One God. Thus, God is the formal Object of Worship; the Mediator, considered as such, is the ground upon which with confidence we may approach to that God: therefore is He the Way, and Truth and Life; there is no going to God but by Him, so that in our Worship, God and the Media­tor are not to be separated; yet are they not to be confounded: for, we Worship God, in and by the Mediator: in which respect, the Mediator is called the Door, Altar, Way, &c. because it is by the vertue and efficacy of His Mediation that the sinful distance betwixt God and us is removed, and accesse made for sinners to Worship Him, as was typified by the Temple, and Tabernacle, in which the Mercy-seat was placed; and in looking to which, the people were to worship God.

From all which, it will follow, in reference to the third. First, That our Prayers may be directed to Jesus the Mediator expresly, as Act. 7.59. Secondly, That He may be named by Titles, agreeing only to Him as Mediator, to wit, Mediator, Iesus, Thou who died, Advo­cate, &c. because these, being given Him, in concreto, design the Person. Thirdly, That the heart may be in the instant stirred and affected with this, that He is Mediator, so as to specifie Him, or, to make Him the Object of our consideration as such, in that act, as hath been said. Thus a soul may pray to Jesus, who died, who made satisfaction, who interceeds, &c. and, upon that consideration, be affected with love, strengthned in hope and confidence in its Prayer, which yet is put up to Him, because He is God. Fourthly, We may ask from Him what peculiarly belongs to the Office of Mediation; as, that He may guide His Church, pour out the Spirit, gift Ministers, interceed, &c. because the Person to whom these belong, is God. And that extrinsick relation, or denomination, of being Mediator, doth not marr us to pray to Him; as his being God, hinders not but that He still executes that office by performing of such acts: but both give ground, that confi­dently we may pray to Him, for these things; yet, in that, still His Godhead is the formal Object of our Prayer, though the things we pray for, belong to His Mediation: for, we could not seek these from Him, were He not God; and because He is God and Man, we are imboldened to seek them and to expect them. See Psal. 45.3, 4. &c. for, the matter fought, to wit, riding prosperously, &c. belongeth to His Mediation, as the scope clears; yet, the account upon which, is, that He was God most mighty. For (as they say) it is not Me­diatio, but Deietas, that is the ratio formalis of Divine Worship; or, His Mediation, as it includes His Deiety, by the wise Grace of God these two being now inseparably joyned together: for, certainly, Christ the Mediator, was to be made use of with respect to His future satisfaction, before He actually became Man; as it is since to be done, with re­spect to His incarnation and suffering (for He was Mediator and stood in that relation be­fore [Page 15] He was Man) yet, it cannot be said, that He was then, as such, considered as the formal Object of their Worship (even when they did explicitly consider Him with respect to His Mediation) because He did not then actually exist in two Natures: and therefore, behoved to be the formal Object of Worship, in respect of that Nature, which alone did then exist. Fifthly, As any of the Persons may be named in Prayer; so, for strengthening of our Faith, may the Mediator be named and prayed unto under such titles and relations as agree only to Him, and not to any other Person; Yet, then we would beware, 1. Of conceiving that we are praying to a different Object, or that the Mediator is lesse glorious, just, holy, &c. unto whom we pray, than when God is expresly named. We would also beware of con­ceiving that by so doing, Christ is any way more ingaged to, or imployed by, any, than when any other Person of the Godhead is named; or, when other expressions are used, though we our selves may be more strengthened by such considerations. 2. When there is an alteration of the expression, we would beware of conceiving that we alter the Object; but, would mind that it is the continued worshipping of the same Object GOD, however he be designed: or, what ever be the expressions or different helps, which we seek to strengthen out Faith by. 3. We conceive, that in publick, especially, that change should be warily used, left it breed, or be apt to breed any such thoughts in others, the generality of people, being prone to imagine different Objects of Worship in such cases.

From what is said, we conceive, that the different expressions among Divines in this matter, may be easily agreed; for example, some call Him, as Mediator, Objectum ma­teriale; as God, Objectum formale: some say, as Mediator, He is Objectum quod; and, as God, Objectam quo: some say, "Persona, seu is, qui est Deus, est invocandus, quia Mediator, sed qua Deus: some again say, Christus qua Mediator, est invocandus, sed quia Deus: for when some say, qua Mediator, He is not the Object of Worship, they understand the formal Object; which is that, that is understood by others, when they say, quia Deus. Again, when others say, qua Mediator, He is to be worshipped, they un­derstand it as He is the Object of consideration [...] which is expressed by others, when they say, quia Mediator, Christus Deus est invocandus; or, as such, He is Objectum mate­riale of our Worship.

It may then be asked, what may be thought of such a form of Prayer, O Mediator, or, O Advocate, plead for me, which some may be apt to put up as being comfortable to them? We answer, in these five Assertions.

Assert. 1. It cannot be simply condemned if well understood with these and such like qua­lifications, that is, 1. If the Mediator prayed unto, or He who is to plead or interceed, be not conceived to be any different Object of Worship, from God, with whom He interceeds; otherwise there is no keeping of the unity of the Object of Divine Worship; much lesse is He to be prayed unto as if He were inferiour to God, as easier to [...] dealt with, or, as if He might be spoken unto, When yet we are not praying unto the Father, and Worshipping Him, in that same act: for, as Christ-God, reconciled us to Himself, by His own satis­faction; so, is Himself prevailed with, to make the benefits purchased, forth coming to us by the vertue of His own intercession; and the Person is the same, though the consideration of Him in these, is diverse. 2. If there be a right up-taking of His intercession, that in the time while He, as God, is prayed unto, Faith be exercised on the vertue of His intercession, for attaining what is prayed for; so, that expression is but made use of for strengthening, of Faith, without any new, or different act of Faith, but such as is used with other expres­sions. 3. If the Object prayed unto, be distinguished from the sure or matter prayed for: for so, it is as if we prayed unto Him that is King of His Church, and hath received the go­vernment, to manage the same for His Churches behoof: because, though the thing sought, to wit, Christs intercession, be peculiar to the second Person of the Godhead, and that as Mediator; yet, He from whom it is sought, is God; and so the Object is the same. 4. It must be one in the matter, as if in different expressions by naming the Father, we should pray, O Father, make me partaker of the benefits of Christs intercession: for, if it be thought that that expression cometh more nearly to the improving of Christs intercession, (or, so to say) to the imploying of Him, than any other expression doth. Then it is not to be admitted: because it placeth the improving of His intercession, rather in words, than in faith.

Asser. 2. We grant, that sometimes, de facto, it may be used in sincerity, and accepted [Page 16] by God, when there is much confusion in reference to these qualifications in the Person: because it may have what is essential, to wit, an adoring of God, and an exercise of Faith in Christ, under that expression; so that their meaning is, to obtain what they seek from God, through the vertue of Christs intercession, though themselves be unworthy. Thus, no question, many Prayers of the Saints, where Faith hath been in the Mediator, have been accepted, although there hath been much indistinctnesse, as to the Object, in many things: such were Cornelius his Prayers, Acts 10. And the Apostles, no question, prayed and were accepted; yet, had defect here, Ioh. 16.24.

Assert. 3. Again, we answer, That such a form is not necessary simply to the use-making of His intercession, either as if that were limited to this expression, or, as if it were a way more proper, compendious, weighty, or acceptable, in the use-making of Christ, than ano­ther; even though all these qualifications concur: for, no question, in the Prayers that are registrated in the Scripture, Christs intercession is made use of; yet no such form is recorded therein.

Assert. 4. We say further, that it may be abused, and, we are afraid, often is; and that it hath some aptnesse to softer mistakes concerning the Object of Worship, or our act in it, as, 1. That the Mediator is one Object, and the Father an other, as if we might pray to the Mediator before we pray to God, and not be in that same act worshipping the Fa­ther; or, as if the Mediator that interceeds, were an Object different from God, with whom He is to interceed. If it be said, that He is an other thing than God. Ans. For­mally considered, (as is said) He is another thing than the second Person of the Godhead; but He is not any other Person, nor any other God; and so not an other Object of Wor­ship. 2. It tendeth to propose Christ as more easie to be dealt with than God; and God, (to wit, the Father) as more rigide, and severe than the Mediator, whereas the divine At­tributes are the same in both: for, if Christ-God be considered without respect to His own Mediation, there is no accesse to Him more than to the Father: and if respect be had there­to, there is no equal accesse to the Father, there being the same Covenant and Promises. And it is certain, some will think they may pray to Christ, when they dare not pray to the Father. 3. It obscures the way of the use-making of Christs intercession, which is a most sublime thing; and being the same with praying in His Name, and in Faith, must be conceived to be done Spiritually by Faith, whereas thus Christ is represented as a Me­diator amongst men; to whom first adresse is made, and then by Him to the Principal Party; and so it constitutes two addresses, which brangles the unity of the Object of Worship. 4. It some way lestens the Glory of the Mediator, at least in appearance, as if He, even the Person, were not Supream, but had an other to plead with. It is true, it is so, as He is Mediator; but still it would be adverted that He is also God; and so He may, and can con­fer what His Mediation procures: and expressions in Prayer, would befit that, and would not be as if He were not God as to His Person, since His Incarnation? 5. It seemeth, if not to represent two Objects of Worship, yet two kinds of Worship, to wit, one to the Me­diator, or to Christ, as Mediator; and an other as to God: for, who readily will think, that He who is a distinct Party, intreated to plead, is to be equally honoured, and that in the same act with Him with whom He pleads, or at least, a twofold manner of the same Worship, viz. one in this manner, and an other, when this form is not used. 6. It is hard thus to conceive rightly of Christs Person: for, when we pray to Him, we must consider Him as God, at least that must be implied: then, He is also to be interceeded with by His own Mediation, as the Father is, which, I suppose, few intend. If they take the Father Personally, and so that Christ is to interceed with the Father as a distinct Person, or a distinct Party, and so not with the Son and Spirit also, That will insinuate that the Fa­ther is not the same God with the Son, and infer a divided conception of the most simple essence of the Godhead, which is the One Object of Worship.

Assert. 5. Therefore, When all is considered, although we will not condemn it sim­ply, yet we think it more fit to abstain from such formal expressions; or, at least, to be spa­ring therein, especially in publick: because, 1. So it is difficult to preserve that unity in the one Object of Worship, which should be; for, it is not easie to redd things in practice, as distinctions may be given in doctrinal debates and conclusions: and should souls hazard on what may confuse themselves. I say, especially in publick, or with others: because, if it be difficult to keep our own imaginations stayed in such expressions, it, will be more [Page 17] difficult to redd other mens imaginations, considering what ignorance and vanity usually doth accompany many. 2. There is no such form in Scripture, even in the New Testa­ment, when the Mediator is prayed unto; and it is safest we should follow these that have gone before us: He is indeed prayed unto, considered as Mediator, but still so as the thing prayed for, is expected from Himself, as well as to be obtained by Him.

To close then as we began; here sobriety is called for, and curiosity is to be shun­ned: and in Worship the heart is rather to be occupied with Godly fear, reverence and dread, than the head to be filled with imaginations.

Having these following things fixed in our hearts by Faith (which we conceive more simply necessary to Worship, what ever the expression be,) to wit. 1. An impressi­on of the Holinesse, Justice, Omnisciencie, and Glory of God, &c. and suitable affections with the present work, to wit, such as the worshipping of such a God doth call for. 2. A conviction that we are praying to that One glorious God, what ever our expressions be; that it is He we are worshipping, that it is our design to adore Him, and that it is from Him that we expect what we pray for, what ever the designation in the petition be, and what­soever Person be named. 3. An impression of our own sinful dis-proportionablenesse to that work, and of the utter incapacity that we stand in of having accesse to God, or any ground of expecting any thing from Him, in respect of our selves; if it be not obtained by vertue of Christ Jesus His satisfaction and intercession. 4. An exercising of Faith on Christ the Mediator, for attaining of what is prayed for, from God, by vertue of the Mediation of the Mediator. All which are necessary; and where they are, we conceive, the soul is to silence all other questionings, and to hold here; and when doubtings arise, to put these two Queries to a point within it self. 1. To whom art thou praying? Or, was thou praying? Or, from whom expects thou what thou was seeking? Was it not to, and from God? And, 2. For whose cause, and by vertue of what, dost thou expect it from God? What gives thee confidence to put that sute to Him? is it not only through the Mediation of Christ Jesus alone? And where these two are fixedly answered by the conscience, when ten­tation would jumble, because of indistinctnesse in Prayer, there may be quietnesse notwith­standing: because, these two are the essentials of Worship, to wit, First, That God be ap­proached unto and adored. Next, That in and by the Mediator, addresse only be made unto Him, and this may be where there is no such explicite expression of either; for, where God is mentioned, the Mediator is implyed as the ground upon which we approach unto Him; and when the Mediator is expressed, it is understood, that God in and by Him is worshipped; and that no other God but He who is the Father, Son, and Spirit. And if in all these a conscience were posed, that, may be, had no such explicite thoughts (nor is it possible in worshipping actually, to entertain them distinctly) it would answer, that so it intended and meaned, from one question to another, till it result to this, to wit, that he were praying to the One God, through the vertue of the Mediator Christ Jesus, which is the scope. And thus, much anxiety may be prevented.

As to the fourth Question formerly mentioned, to wit, What may be the reasons why Christ is so much infitted on in particular, in the Saints approaching to God, so as the heart is especially rejoyced at the mentioning of Him? or, what may help to improve that ground of accesse which we have by Him? Answ. To the first part: It is no marvel that this re­lation that Christ doth stand in, be much insisted on, in such a case; and, that thereby the heart be warmed, and made to exult.

First, Because, by that consideration, there is some staying of us in approaching to God: for, the Godhead considered in it self, is an infinit, inconceivable thing: and as there is no proportion betwixt Him and us; so not betwixt Him and our capacities of reaching Him so considered, but by this union of the Godhead with our nature in the Person of the Son; so that He who is Man, is also God, Having the fulnesse of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily, Coloss. 2.9. There is a condescendencie upon the Almighties side, shewing Him­self accessible to sinners, and as appointing this (to say so) for a trysting place with them, to wit, that, He is in Christ reconciling the World to Himself, 2 Cor. 5.19. whereupon the heart fixeth, there to meet God, and find Him there; and is thereby imboldened and helped to tryst with the great and dreadful God. This was typified by the Lords placing of the Mercy-seat above the Ark, by the giving of His answers from thence, and appointing the people with respect thereto to make their addresses to him; whence we see, looking [Page 18] toward the Temple, Jonah 2.4. toward the holy Hill, and holy Oracle, &c. frequently mentioned in the Saints straits; which were typical of this true Tabernacle, which God pitched and not man; and also held out there in their fixing Worship, where God had by His Ordinance trysted them, though it was but in Type. And, seing they made so much of it, what wonder is it that the Saints, since Christs incarnation and suffering, make so great account of the Substance and Antitype it self?

Secondly, A second reason; is, Because in Christ Jesus the glory and riches of the Grace of God, in the work of Redemption, doth most eminently and palpably appear: which is both sweetest to the Saints, to insist on, and also tendeth to the advancement of the glory of God, dwelling in Him, and so furnishing Him for them. And therefore, these commen­dations that are given expresly to Christ the Mediator, and whereby Faith is strengthened in Him, do also set forth and commend exceedingly the Majesty of God, and His Grace condescending thus to men; and, in the same act, do serve to strengthen Faith in Him: for, honouring of God, and the Mediator, and also the speaking to the praise of God, and to the commendation of the Mediator, cannot be separated; and what strengthens Faith in the one, doth it also in the other.

Thirdly, A third is, Because there is most sensible footing and (to speak so) gripping to be gotten by looking to the Mediator, and mentioning of Him: for, He being God and also Man, there is more accesse to conceive what the affections and bowels that He as Man hath, and for this end hath taken up to Glory with Him, that sinners thereby might have confi­dence in approaching to, and by, an experienced high Priest, Heb. 2.18, and 4.16. than can be had to consider God abstractly in Himself: of whose divine Attributes, there can be no such apprehension. And this is not to give a new Object of our Faith, as if thereby it were surer, (for nothing can be added to the fulnesse of God) But, is to make that Object (to say so) more discernable, conceivable, suitable and accessible unto us; and to give us a new ground to strengthen our Faith, and a new way of having our necessities made sensible (to say so) to Him, that is, when not only by His Omnisciense, He knows them fully, as God, but also being acquainted thereby with the same; In respect of His humane affecti­ons, He is, in an inconceivable manner, by sympathie affected therewith: which though it adde not to the hight or degree of His love and pity; yet, doth it bring it to such a channel (to say so) that hearts are more able to conceive thereof, and are more delighted and comforted therein. And therefore it is no marvel, that the same be most frequently mentioned.

Fourthly, He is (as is frequently said) the ground upon which we have accesse: for, sin made a gulf betwixt God and man; man could not step over the same to God, but God stepped over, and hath come to mans side by being manifested in our nature, in the Person of the Son, that so He might give men accesse again to Him. Hence Christ is, in going to God, the Door, and Way; and, as it were, the bridge by which they passe, and that safely unto their former communion with God; and therefore Christ being God, so that they cannot have Him but they must have God; and, being also the Way, by which accesse is given them to God, it is no marvel that the mentioning of Him be sweet.

Fifthly, The great effects of the love of God have kythed, and have been brought about in the Person of the Son, the Mediator: and, though there be no greater love, as to its ex­tent, degree, or freenesse in the Son, than in the Father and Spirit, (as is said) nor can be; yet, that maketh the Mediator more obviously lovely to the sinner, although indeed, in the same things, the love of the other two Persons doth appear also. And, seing this maketh the Object of our love more sensible to us, and helpeth us to understand Gods love the better, which otherwise is inconceivable: therefore, God, by proposing this as the pattern and evidence of His love, and as the Object of ours, doth even allow sinners to feed their love, and strengthen their faith on this Object, and on the immediate and explicite thoughts thereof, which yet is the delighting and feeding on the love of God so manifested, which cannot be so well read and understood, as by direct looking upon it, as it is manifested in the Mediator, who, being God, became Man, suffered, died, and is now, though glorified, yet a true Man, touched in a humane manner with our infirmities, as a mother, or friend are touched with the difficulties of a child, or one intirely beloved, though still in a man­ner becoming His sinlesse, glorified, and most perfect state. This is a main attractive, to make souls look to God by this open Door; and also by expressing this, which is [Page 19] nearest to their own comfort, and conception to expresse their Faith in God, or their love to Him.

For encouraging and clearing of us in the improving of these grounds, these things would be remembered.

1. That our blessed Lord is true Man, having these affections and properties that are na­tural and not sinful, truly, and really: and that therefore, there is a greater nearnesse con­ceivable in our approaching to Him, than to God simply considered in Himself.

2. That, as He is Man, having such properties; so He is affected suitably thereunto, that is, He hath a humane affection to, and sympathie with these He loveth; and hath the experimental ramembrance of His by-past sufferings, which also hath its own affecting in­fluence on His soul, for awakning of such pity as is consistent with His inconceivable glo­rified state.

3. That He who is Man, and thus affected, is also God; and so by His Omniscience, acquainted with every need and strait of His people; and with every petition of theirs, whereby His former affections are stirred, (to say so) and His sympathie awakned, to make His divine Attributes forth-coming for their good.

4. It would be considered, that the Scripture allows these considerations of Christ to Be­lievers, for helping them up to communion with Him, and so with God in Him; and for strengthening them to approach to Him with confidence on that ground.

5. As there is an exercising of Faith in God, and thereby, a keeping of communion with Him; so there is a proportionable sympathizing, heart-warming, and bowel-moving af­fection allowed us, even towards the very Man Christ, as one hath to a dear friend, or most loving husband: that so, in a word, we may love Him, who is Man; as He, who is Man, loves us. And, this kind of communion, is peculiar to the Believer, with the second Person of the Godhead, as it is peculiar to the second Person of the Godhead, as Man, by humane affections, to love Him; And thus we are not only one Spirit with Him as with the other Persons of the Godhead, 1 Cor. 6.17. but we are one body with Him; of His flesh, and of His bone, Eph. 5.30. in respect of this union and communion that is betwixt a Be­liever and the Man Jesus Christ.

6. Hence, 6. As we have most access [...] to conceive of Christs love to us, who is Man; so we are in the greater capacity to vent our love on Him, and to have our bowels kindled upon the consideration of His being Man, and performing what He did in our nature for us; so the Object is most suited, to be beloved by us, in His condescending to be as a Bro­ther to us. And this doth confirm what is said, and is a reason also why Believers vent their love to God by flowing in its expressions directly concerning Christ: Because, He is both the more sensible Object of our Faith, and love; and also because there is more possibi­lity to conceive and mention what He in our nature hath done, than to consider God, and His operations, in Himself abstractly.

7. Hearts would always remember that He is God, and so that they love, and keep com­munion with Him that is God: that makes the former the more wonderfully lively; as this should make souls keep up the estimation and dignity that is due to such a Person, so con­descending. And so by the Man Christ, both to love, and believe in God.

And in sum, having the excellencies of God dwelling in the Man Christ, whose affecti­ons they are more able to conceive of, whose sufferings have made H [...]s love palpable, in whom God hath condescended to deal with us▪ and on whom our affections and Faith also may have the more sensible footing by the consideration of His humane affections, There is no wonder that this way of adoring, praising, and loving of God, be so much insisted upon; and yet; even then when the heart is upon this consideration delighting and feeding it self upon the Mediator; still His Godhead is emplyed, and God in Him delighted in; without which, all other consolations would be defective. And so it is God, in the Mediator, who is the Object of this delight. Now, unto this One God, be praise in the Church, by Jesus Christ, for now and ever.

LECTURE II.

Vers. 4.

Iohn to the seven Churches in Asia, Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits which are before His Throne.

5.

And from Iesus Christ, who is the faithfull witnesse, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth: Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own bloud,

6.

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

WE heard of the Persons from whom: follows now these to whom the Epistle is sent, to wit, the seven Churches in Asia; and they are particularly named, v [...]r. 11. and are severall times spoken of in the two Chapters following: Therefore, at the entry, we shall speak to a doubt or two concerning this inscription to them.

Quest. 1. Why is this Revelation, in form of an Epistle, sent to particular Churches, rather than to the Whole Church? 2. And why is it sent particularly to the seven Churches in Asia? 3. Why are they stiled seven Churches, and not one Church.

To the first of these: Though it be sent to particular Churches; yet, this excludes none from the use of it to the end of the world: for, though many particular Epistles, as the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, &c. be directed to particular Churches; yet, the benefit of the Word contained in them extendeth to all Believers in all ages, as well as to them to whom they were directed: So, those particular Epistles, directed to the seven Churches in Asia, in the 2. and 3. chapters, are useful and behoveful to all the Churches of Christ in the like cases, as if they had been particularly directed to them: therefore is that Word cast to, in the close of each of those Epistles, Let him that hath a [...] [...]ar, hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches. 2. As to the general subject matter of this Book. It concerns not those particular Churches, more than others, as we told at the entry. For, ver. 1. It is directed to his Servants, to be made use of to the end of the world, and it's sent to those particular Churches to be transmitted by them to other Churches; and in this sense, the Church is called the pillar and ground of Truth, 1 Tim. 3.15. as holding forth and transmitting the Truth to others.

To the second, Why is it dedicated to the seven Churches in Asia? Answ. 1. Either because those Churches were next to Pasmos, where Iohn was now banished; for, those who are skilled in Geography know, that this little Isle lyes off Asia the lesse. Or, 2. Be­cause it's like Iohn had particular inspection of those Churches in Asia committed to him: which though it be not particularly set down in Scripture; yet, it's clear from Scripture, that there was a division of inspection among the Apostles, without limiting any of them. Peter was sent to the Circumcision; Paul to the Gentiles; Iames shode at Ierusalem. And in the Ecclesiastick Story, it's asserted, that after Paul had planted Ephesus, Iohn stayed there, who lived l [...]st of the Apostles: And so these Churches being (as would seem) under his special oversight, while he is absent from them by [...]anishment, he com­mends this Epistle to them. 3. Jesus Christ sends it to them, partly, because of some spe­cial faults that were among them, their need so remaining; and because of some special try­als they were to endure, and the need they had of consolation under these trials: partly, because they were the most famous Churches then: for, Ierusalem was now destroyed this being written in the days of Domician the Emperour.

To the third, Why writes [...]e to them as particular Churches, To the seven Churches in Asia, and not to the Church in Asia? Answ. For clearing of this, the Scripture speaks of the Church in a threefold sense, 1. As comprehending the whole number of visible Pro­fessors, scattered through the world; so the Gospel-Church is spoken of from the dayes of Christ to His coming again, as 1 Cor. 12.28. God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secundarily Prophets, &c. where, by Church, is not to be understood this or that particular Church, nor the Church in Corinth: for, the Church he is speaking of, is [Page 21] such a Church, as God had set the Apostles in, and all Officers; and that was in no parti­cular Church, but is the universal Church, spoken of in the Verse before, made up both of Iews and Gentiles: and so the word is often used elswhere, as it is said, Paul made havock of the Church, and that he persecuted the Church. It was not this or that parti­cular Church, but all that called on the Name of Jesus Christ, to whatsoever particular Church they did belong. So, (1 Cor. 10.32.) the Church is contradistinguished from Iews and Gentiles, Give none offence to the Iews, nor Gentiles, nor to the Church of God, that is, to the Church visible, professing Faith in Christ. And this Church, R [...]vel. 12. is set out under the similitude of a woman in travel, in readiness to be delivered, and afterward doth flee: which is not this or that particular Church, but the Mother-Church, comprehending the whole visible number of Professors. 2. It is taken, as comprehending a number of Believers, meeting together in one place ordinarily for the Worship of God, the smallest associated part of this body of the universal visible Church, as 1 Cor. 14.34. a company of professing Believers met, or meeting together for Preaching, or Prayer: and in this sense, the Scripture speaks not so often of the Church. 3. It's taken neither for the whole body of visible Professors, nor yet for such a part of that Body, that is, a compa­ny met or meeting together; but, for a number associated and combined under one Go­vernment, meeting in their Church-Guides and Officers, though under this combination and Government there be many Congregation [...] and Meetings: and so the Church at Corinth, Ephesus, and Ierusalem, is to be understood: not for the Universal Catholick Church, nor for a particular Congregation; but for a number of particular Congregations under one Government, such as there was in Corinth and Ephesus. And yet, when he directs his Epistle to one Church, as under one Government, particular Congregations are included; as in Ierusalem, there were many Churches and many Watch-men, and they could not meet together in one place, for the exercise of Gods Worship; yet it was not unsuitable to say, the Church at Ierusalem, (as the Church at Glasgow) as under one Government, though it were not suitable to speak of them as of one Congregation met together; for, there were many moe Congregations of people in one of those Towns, as 1 Cor. 14.34. com­pared with 1 Cor. 1.3. there were Churches under one Church: therefore, it behoved to be a mutual combination, that made up one body. In answer to the Question therefore, While he speaks to them as Churches in Asia, it is because he looks on them as so many di­stinct incorporations, parts of the whole; or, because their cases and conditions were distinct; and one message could not agree to all, the case of Ephesus, was one; the case of Smyrna, another, &c. And severall cases and conditions, required severall letters.

But if any say, It is improper to speak of a Church in the New Testament, except of a particular Congregation, because it's said here to the seven Churches in Asia, and elswhere the Churches in Judea, &c.

We answer: 1. That inference will not hold; but rather the contrary: for here, it's said, the Church at Ephesus; and in Ephesus were many particular Congregations: there­fore, it's meaned of a Church associated and combined under one Government: neither ever are Churches in one place mentioned, of whatsoever number they be, but as one. 2. Though seven Churches of Asia be spoken of here; yet, Revel. 12. the Church is spoken of, under the similitude of one woman: and these Churches, must be parts of that one; the seed of that woman, and children of that mother. See more, chap. 11. at the end.

Observ [...], That our Lord Jesus Christ taketh notice of the particular estate of His Churches: not only how it goeth with the Church, in general; but how it goeth with this or that particular Church; how it goeth with Edinburgh, Glasgow, &c. which shews a reason why he distinguisheth them in the inscription.

The second part of the inscription, is, a thanksgiving, from the midst of the 5. vers. to the 7. vers. when he hath wished Grace and Peace from Iesus Christ, whom he calls the first begotten from the dead: because by vertue of Him, all do arise; and because He was the first that rose and went to Heaven (for, though Enoch and Elias be personally in Heaven, they tasted not of death; and so cannot be called the first begotten from the dead; others died again, as Lazarus) And when he hath called Him the Prince of the Kings of the earth, as set down now at His Fathers right hand, as the Fathers Lord-Deputy, to point out His Mediatory and given Kingdom; and His reigning, for the good of the Elect, and to rule [Page 22] others for their sake: though not to subdue and make them willing Subjects; yet, to bruise them with His Mace and Iron-Scepter. When, I say, he is speaking thus of Jesus Christ, his heart beginneth to warm; and he breaketh out in a word of thanksgiving: wherein there is, 1. a description of the Person, to whom the thanksgiving is made. 2. The thanks­giving it self. The description is excellent, and of exceeding great consolation to the Church, as holding out Christs bowels, and the priviledges and benefits that Believers have in and through Him. 1. In the Fountain they come from, Him that loved us. What a One is Christ? He is He who loved us: this is the Bosome-grace, from whence all other Graces and Benefits do flow, Prov. 8. everlasting love, and the first and chief stile in all our praise. If Believers would know who Christ is? It's he who loved us: a most com­fortable stile. 2. In the particular benefits that flow from this love, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Every word hath an emphasis in it: He had not an empty and complementing love; but such a love as moved Him to leave the hight of Glory, and come down and take on our nature; and in that nature to die, and shed His blood for us; and by that blood, to wash us from the filthinesse and guilt of sin, in taking away the evil of sin and wrath. And, in that He is said to wash us from sin in His own blood, It suppones, 1. That sin is a filthinesse. 2. That this filthinesse is not easily washen away. 3. That there is a great efficacie and real vertue in the blood of Christ, to wash the soul and cleanse it from sin, as if it had never sinned; as there is efficacie and vertue in a fountain of water, to wash a filthie thing. And this was typified in those ceremonial and legal washings under the Law. 4. That, that wherewith Christ washeth Believers, is, His own blood: not the blood of Bulls and Goats; but the blood of the first begotten from the dead, the blood of the true and faithful witnesse, the blood of the Prince of the Kings of the earth; yea, the blood of Him which is, which was, and which is to come, the blood of Him who was, and is God, Therefore (Act. 20.28.) it's said, Feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. It holds out, not only the efficacie and satisfactorinesse of the blood of Christ; but also the end of His death: that it was not a meer Testimony and Witnesse-bearing, nor only to leave an example to others, (as profane men, derogating from our blessed Lords death, affirm) but, to wash His own from their sins in His blood, to take away the guilt of sin in Justification, and to make the Power of His death come in and slay sin, and to sanctifie, as it is 1 Cor. 6. Such were some of you, but now you are washed, that is, Justified and Sanctified. There is not a Name that Christ hath, but it hath some priviledge and benefit in it to Believers; it holds out love on His side, and con­solation on ours; and every benefit which comes to us, is a Name and Commendation to Him, and may be so used by us.

Vers. 6. In the description, He sets out how Christ, not only takes away what is ill, from us; but how He abounds in conferring priviledges on us. He not only takes away sin; but, He hath made us Kings and Priests to God His Father: First, Kings, 1. In delivering us from the slavery of sin, that the most part of the world lives in; and in making us masters over sin and sinful lusts, masters over the Devil and the World, and the Flesh in some mea­sure. And this is a Princely thing: so the Church is set out, Rev. 12. as having the Moon, that is to say, the transitorie world under her feet. 2. Kings, in respect of a Spiritual reign­ing in our spirits with God, by an heavenly conversation; having our conversations in Heaven, Philip. 3.20. Col. 3.1. in an holy and heavenly pride, and in a sort of kingly majesty, disdaining the ups and downs in the world. 3. Kings also, in title and right, being set as Kings on the Throne with Him, to execute the judgment written, Psal. 149.9. This honour have all His Saints, in a spiritual way, and some way to judge the world in their practice: and they shall be Kings in possession, when that, which is here, shall have the full accomplishment: and all the Saints, as so many crowned Kings, shall follow Him in the clouds. Secondly, Priests, to offer their bodies a living Sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, Rom. 12.1. to offer Prayers and Praises, the calves of their lips: and this is no small priviledge, to have accesse to God as Priests. The Iews held these two, as great digni­ties, the Kingly and Priestly offices; and Believers are called by Christ to both, so that they may come with boldnesse to the Throne of Grace, and enter within the Holiest, through the Vail, by that new and living way, being freed from the spirit of bondage and fear, which in a great part accompanied the Iews ceremonial Worship. 1. How many ex­cellent consolations are here to Believers, and grounds of directions to them? What [Page 23] grounds of consolation comparable to these, to be washen in that bloud of the Lamb; to be made Kings and Priests to God and Christs Father, that is, to no Idole, but to H [...]m, to whom Christ is a Priest? Here is life and immortality brought to light by the Gospel, pri­viledges and benefits of an exceeding passing worth and excellency.

1. Comparing this verse with vers. 1. Here Kings and Priests; and there, His Ser­vants. Observe, That there is no such royalty and dignity in the World, as to be our Lord Jesus his Servant; it is truely to be a King, to reign; and a Priest, to be consecrated to God: It consists not in loosnesse and carnall liberty, but in new obedience: and the more obedient, circumspect and strict in Holinesse, the greater liberty, majesty, and kingly stateli­nesse. All our Lords Servants are Kings, so great a King is He, and so happy are they.

2. These Priviledges lay an obligation on Believers, to carry themselves as such. 1. If Christs bloud be given as a fountain to wash at, then make use of it for pardon of sin, Mortification and Sanctification. 2. Let us carry our selves Kingly. Its a beastly thing to be a servant of sin; but, it's a Kingly thing and stately, to be minding the Throne, we are called to the faith and hope of; to have our hearts and conversation suitable to that holy and heavenly place; to have royall spirits, disdaining, and trampling on the things of a present world, as unworthy of our hearts and affections.

3. Comparing this with the former, when he speaks of Christ, his affections warms; and when he speaks of the benefits, which come by Him, it leades him to the love they came from: and by that, again, he is led to praise Him, and he cannot get Jesus-Christ set high enough. Observe, Believers hearts should warm, and be often warming themselves with thoughts of Christ, and vent [...]g their warmnesse of affection to Him in pra [...]se: It's a sweet thing, when Believers hearts cannot part with Christ; but, when ever He comes in their mind or mouth, still to give Him a word of praise, and come to their purpose again, as Iohn doth here; And it's often thus with Paul, as 1 Tim. 1.17. Eph. 3.20.

LECTURE III.

Vers. 7.

Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which peir [...]ed him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him: even so, Amen.

8.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

9.

I Iohn, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and p [...]tience of Iesus Christ, was in the Isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Iesus Christ.

IT's a concerning message that Christ is now sending to His Church: therefore there is the larger preface to stir them up he writs to, to make that which he sends welcome.

We heard, from the 4. verse, the particular Inscription or direction of this Book, as an Epistle: and when he hath wished grace and peace, and set down the partie [...] from whom the grace and peace is wished, and the Epistle is sent; he turns it over in a thanksgi­ving to Christ, especially, pitching on Him, as looking to the benefits and priviledges they injoyed through Him; as being, in a speciall way, purchased by Him: and this thanksgi­ving, or doxologie, is all, that he and all Saints can give Christ, for all that He hath done for them; unto him be glory and dominion. Believers, in looking on Christs purchase, would be more in ascribing glory and dominion to Him; not that they can add any new glory to Him, or enlarge His Dominion; but it is to acknowledge, that to Him belongs glory and dominion, as it's afterwards, Chap. 5. vers. 12. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and blessing. It's Believers expression, and hearty assent, in approving Gods purpose and project in making Him Head over all the Church.

[Page 24] Vers. 7. He seems to come back where he left, when he began his thanksgiving, to speak of Jesus Christ under the last title of Prince of the Kings of the earth; and that by way of pre-occupying an objection, which carnall hearts might make: and it is this. Is He Prince of the Kings of the earth, who was put to death, and laid in the Grave? Where Is He now, if He be such a Prince? He answereth, Behold, he cometh with clouds: though many profane carnall hearts now do not acknowledge Him; yet, He shall one day be ac­knowledged: He is now out of sight; but it will not be long so: He is making ready for His coming to Judgement, and is coming, Chap. 22.20. Surely I come quickly. This coming, in the present time, implyeth two things. 1. The seasonablnesse of His coming; He misses no time, He comes quickly. 2. That even the short time He delayes, He is making ready, as it were, for His coming; He is leading Witnesses, and fitting Processes, and discovering the truth and falshood of every thing; and every thing that may further His coming, is going forward; He is not idle in reference to His last coming to Judgement, but is hasting all. Secondly, His coming to Judgement, is set out in the majesty and state­linesse of it, under an expression ordinary in the Prophets (as much of this Book is) He cometh with clouds. So Psal. 97.2. Clouds and darknesse are round about him; and Mat. 24.30. He shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. So Psal. 18.10, 11. To set out the statelinesse of the Judge that cometh thus backed with Coelestiall Majesty. Thirdly, His coming is set out by the palpablenesse and visiblenesse of it, Every eye shall see him: though most part of Atheists think not of his coming now; yet when He shall come, there shall not be a reasonable creature, that ever had life on Earth, whether Believer, or unbeliever, but they shall with their eyes see Him in that day. Fourthly, Among them that shall see Him, these are added, They also who peirced Him: under which is comprehended His greatest Enemies; and it takes in both those, who had their hands hote in his bloud, and killed him bodily; and those who crucified, and do crucifie Him spiritually, as it's said, Chap. 11.8. He was crucified in spirituall Sodom, they shall all, in that day, be called before His Barr, and be forced to look on Him. A fifth circum­stance in His coming, All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him; in the Origi­nall, all the Tribes of the earth: it is a word borrowed from the Iews their manner of reckoning, who counted their Kingdoms by Tribes. The meaning is, all the Kingdoms of the earth, and those that laugh at Him now, and think little of His coming, when it is spoken of, shall wail because of Him, that is, because of their slighting of Him; and now seeing Him to be their Judge, whom they slighted and contemned: and though there be now a kindly mourning, like that in Zach. 12.10. They shall look [...]pon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn; yet, this being to be at the day of Judgement, and spoken of the enemies that think nothing of Him now, we take it to be an anxious howling of enemies, when they shall see Christ come in the clouds to the great Judgement, and all His Angels and Saints about Him, as Matth. 24.30. The [...] shall all the Tribes of the earth mourn. Sixtly, There is a sixth circumstance added, even so, Amen: which is Iohns setting to his seal, to His coming; and its doubled (as it is ordinary) both in the Greek and Hebrew. He wisheth He may come, and believeth He will come, that it may be as he hath said, even as he closeth his Revelation, Amen, Even so, come Lord Iesus. And so it looketh to His stately way of coming, and the effects it shall have in the world, it being for His Glory, to vindicate Himself from the rubs that His profane enemies put upon Him in the world, he sayes Amen to that, even so, Amen.

Observe, 1. Our Lord Jesus, that was Crucified, and thought little of, shall be as high as ever He was low in the open view of all His enemies. The time is coming (and now is advancing fast forward) when He shall take unto Him His Kingdom; and be visibly seen by all the Kingdoms of the earth, to be the Judge of quick and dead, the Prince of the Kings of the earth. This is one of the Articles of our Creed; and we would make use of the Scrip­ture, to confirm it: there is a time coming, and it is not far off, when He shall set His Throne in the Clouds, and all eyes shall see Him. Think ye this true, that there is a time coming, when we that are here, and all others, shall see Christ in His Humane Nature, and also much of His Godhead as He shall be pleased to let out, and we capable of? Think on it, and let it not go with a word; but consider how ye will meet Him and stand before Him: and when ye meet with difficulties, or creature-comforts that would turn you aside, Remem­ber on this day: and where will they all be, when ye shall be arrested to stand before Him, Eccles. 11.9.

[Page 25] Obs. 2. Christs coming to Judgement, is a special part of His statelinesse, and a main part of the Universalnesse of His Kingly Office as Mediator, when He shall come and sit as Judge, and give sentence on godly and wicked, and send away the one, and welcome the other. This will be one of His stateliest dayes, when He shall vindicate Himself from pro­fane men, and bear Himself out to His people in His exceeding Glory. Believers, believe there is such a Day; and let it quiet your hearts in the mean time of all these confusions.

Obs. 3. Our Lord Jesus His coming to Judgement, will be a doleful coming to the most part of the world: they also who peirced Him, and all kinreds of the earth shall wail be­cause of Him; they shall cry to the hills, Fall on us, and to the mountains, cover us; and would be glad to get into the clefts of the rocks, and to the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the Glory of His Majesty, Isa. 2.12. Men would think the greatest hill or mountain a light burden in that Day, to get themselves bid from the peircing view of a slighted and provoked Mediator. Oh, but that will be bitter and sore to bide! Think upon it. There is a time coming, when many of you that hears this same word, if Grace prevent not, shall see and find the truth of it. It's terrible, but experience will make it true: many of you now skars to hear tell of Christs coming to Judgement; but when that day cometh, it shall be bitter in another kind to you, when this bitter yelling noise, crying and howling, shall be among the carnal world that slighted Him, and ye shall find your selves among them, and shall share with them; and every cry and yell about you, shall be a new wound. Therefore humble your selves, and seek for mercy and reconciliation in time: for, either must you get it now, or never.

Obs. 4. A hearty consenting and saying Amen to Christs coming to Judgement, to have fore-thoughts of it, and to be longing for it, and wishing that it may come, is a good token of a Believer and friend of Christ, to whom this day will be a comfort. But, if many of us had our own mind, we would never wish to die, nor that there should be a day of Judgement.

Vers. 8. Christ cometh in Himself to tell what He is, and to confirm what Iohn hath said of Him, I am Alpha and Omega: which are two letters in the Greek Alphabet; Alpha, the first, and Omega, the last: and the meaning is in the next words, the begin­ning and the ending. The beginning, He who gives all things a being and beginning, and have no beginning My self: The ending, He who puts an end to all things, and in whom all things end, and hath no ending my self: for, all things terminate in Him as their end, Rom. 11.36. To Him are all things, which is, which was, and which is to come, the same description which was given to God the Father, vers. 4. setting out the immutability and unchangeablenesse of His being, that He is from Eternity to Eternity the same, and, as we shew, the title JEHOVAH taketh in these three words. Then more plainly, the Almighty: every word here is a proper Attribute of God; He is infinite in power, soveraign in dominion, and not bounded as creatures are; And this is clear to be spoken of Christ, not only from the scope, (Iohn being to set out Christ from whom He had this Revelation) but from the 11. vers. following, where he gives Him the same titles over again; or rather, Christ, speaking of Himself, taketh and repeateth the same titles.

Obs. 1. Our Lord Jesus Christ, is God equal with the Father, and holy Ghost: He, who is the first and last, the beginning and the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty, must be God. These titles can agree to no other: there is no created being capable of any of these titles; but He is such. Therefore, &c.

Obs. 2. the statelinesse and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ: What an excellent and stately Person is He? there is not a property attributed to God, but it is agreeable to Christ. The use of it, is, to bring hearts to high thoughts of Christ and it is not for nought, but for this end that the Scripture insists so much in giving Him such stately stiles, even to wear souls out of these Atheistical thoughts of Him, and to prefer and esteem Him above all.

3. Looking upon these words as spoken by Christ Himself: after Iohn hath described Him, He cometh in, and takes it off Iohns hand, and describes Himself. Observe, That our Lord Jesus own mouth, can best tell what Himself is: hearing, reading, speaking, writing will not do it; If the description come not out of Christs own mouth, it will do little on bearers.

Vers. 9. Follows the body of this Book, or Epistle. We will not now enter on a parti­cular division of it. That which is vers. 19. of this same Chapter, shall serve for the time, Write the things which thou hast sern, and the things which are, and the things which [Page 26] shall be hereafter. The whole may be taken up in these two, 1. Iohn his representing the case of things, as they were for the present, and, 2. as they were to be hereafter.

The first of these, to wit, his representing the case of things as they then were, is, that which is set down in the first three Chapters: wherein is set out the case that the seven Churches of Asia were in; which he discovers to themselves, and to the world; and shews how many foul faults they had under a fair name and profession: and this takes up Iohn's first vision.

That which is from the 9. vers. to the end of this Chapter, we take up in these three. 1. There is the vision it self, what Iohn saw and what he heard, from vers. 10. to vers. 17. mixed throw other. 2. In the 9. and 10 verses, some circumstances are set down concern­ing Iohn and the manner of his receiving the vision, to make way for the faith of the visi­on, and the whole story that follows. 3. From the 17. vers. to the end, some circum­stances, that make way for Iohn his writing and publishing what he saw and heard, are recorded.

The first circumstance that makes way for the faith of the vision and story, is, the person by whom Christ wrote, 1 Iohn: of whom we have heard before in the entry. And he sets out himself here further, under several expressions or titles. 1. Who also am your brother; a son of the same house, a joynt heir with you in the same Kingdom; a com­forting title to them, and a humbling title to him. Those he wrote to, being brethren, he reckons in himself a brother with them: for, the most eminent Believers, Iohn, Paul, Abraham, David, &c. come in to be brethren with the meanest Believers; all being chil­dren of one Father, of one House, heirs of one Inheritance: and Abraham, his being a brother, and Iohn his being a brother, prejudgeth not the least of them to whom he writeth. And as all have one Father; so all are begotten by the same word, have one Spi­rit here, and Glory for ever hereafter. 2. The next title he describes himself by, is, com­panion in tribulation, that is, a fellow sufferer with you, a sharer of the sufferings of Christ as well as you; I, who am a great Apostle am not exempted from sufferings more than ye are, who are in Smyrna, Philadelphia, &c. I have mine own share of the Crosse, as ye have; yea, he takes it to himself as a title of honour, as a great prerogative and dignity, as Paul, Eph. 3.1. I Paul the prisoner of Iesus Christ for you Gentiles, So it is, Iohn, who, as I am suffering with you, so I am confined for Preaching to you in Patmos: pointing out this, that as all Believers are brethren; so all have one lot in suffering here away; and none are exempted from the Crosse: were it the Disciple whom Jesus loved and leaned on His bosom at the Supper, the night He was betrayed; yet, he must be a companion in tribulation, and come into heaven at the same door with the rest. Folks would not think this strange, that afflictions light on these whom Christ loves best: the servant is not greater than the Lord. It should comfort sufferers, and make them look on it, as their prerogative, to be sufferers for Christ. 3. There is a further aggravation, or explication, of the former, and in the Kingdom and Patience of Iesus Christ. Lest it should be thought any thing derogatory to be a sufferer, he says, he is a companion in the Kingdom and Patience of Jesus Christ with them. And these two words, Kingdom and Patience, are put together, not only to shew He is a King and a Priest with other Believers; but to shew this much, that Christs Kingdom, is often more in the exercise of patience than in dominion; and that the Subjects of Christs Kingdom here, are more put to exercise patience than to reign. His meaning is, I am a sharer with you in the Spiritual Kingdom of Christ, that needeth no worldly gran­dour, but hath need of patience. And it saith, that he counts it his prerogative to be singled out, and put to patient suffering, for giving testimonie to Christ as King of His Church. Afflictions for Christ, and sharing in His Kingdom, may stand well together for the time and in reference to the upshot, if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.

A second circumstance, which is also a further description of himself, is, from the place and cause. 1. From the place of his suffering, I was in the Isle which is called Patmos. This Patmos, is an Isle in the Aegean-Sea, near the coast of Asia the lesse, not far from the seven Churches in Asia, to whom he writeth: a place which is called barren, by them who write of it; not much inhabited then, not now, because of the barrennesse of it: therefore it was a greater evidence of the cruelty of Iohns persecuters that banished him thither. 2. The cause, is, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, that is, for his Preaching the Word of God, and for his owning and maintaining Christs [Page 27] Gospel; for, his bearing testimonies that Jesus Christ was the King, Priest, and Prophet of His Church, and the eternal substantial Word of the eternal Father; for Christs cause, who is the Word of God; or, for bearing testimony to Him. The way how he came to this Island, is not set down; but Historie tells, [Euseb. lib. 3. cap. 14. ex Ireneo & Clem. Alex.] it was in the fourteenth year of Domitian the Emperour, when he raised the second persecution against the Church of Christ, about the 97. year of our Lord, that he, after he had tortured Iohn, banished him to this Isle: near about the same time of Iohn's age. This then is the place that Iohn was banished to; and yet, in the same place, he hath sweet fellowship with God; is countenanced of Him, and honoured to be the carrier of this Revelation to the Church.

1. See here how far gracelesse and profane persecuters, (such as this beast Domitian was) may prevail against the servants of Jesus Christ, when he doth banish Iohn to Patmos, beside other horrible persecutions, which he raised against the Church. Christ, by this, would have us know His Kingdom is not of this world.

2. Solitarinesse for Christ, is not the worst condition. Christ can make up that another way: and if there be a necessity of withdrawing men from their duty, as of Ministers from their publick Ministry, He can make it tend as much to their private benefit, and to the publick good of His Church, if not more: neither doth Iohn lose any thing by his banish­ment and confinement; for, he finds more intimate and sweet communion and fellowship with Christ, and gets more of His mind: nor doth the Church lose any thing by it; for, she gets this Revelation of Gods mind. If we believed this, we would never go out of Gods way, to make up His Work: for, if He please to lay us by, He knows how to make up that, both to our selves and Gods people. The Christian Church, is as much beholden to Paul's imprisonment in Epistles, as to his liberty in Preaching.

3. Honest suffering for Christ, hath often with it the freshest and clearest manifestations of Christ. Folks that will continue faithful, and bide by their duty through sufferings, they shall not only not be losers, but gainers, 1 Pet. 4.14. If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happie are ye; for, the Spirit of God, and of Glory resteth upon you. I would have none carnal nor vain in this, but humbly confident and constant, as they would thrive in their Spiritual condition and maintain their peace.

LECTURE IIII.

Vers. 10.

I was in the spirit on the Lords day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.

BEfore Iohn come particularly to the Vision he saw, he insisteth in some particular circumstances, that make way to the more full faith and credite of the Vision and Story that followeth: and though they be only circumstances in themselves; yet they are profitable and conducing to the main end he hath before him. We heard of the first and second circumstance how, and where Iohn was, when he got this Vision.

Followeth in the 10 vers. the third and fourth circumstances, that is, the day when he got this Vision, and the frame he was in, I was in the spirit on the Lords day. The words, in the Originall, are, I was in the spirit on that Lords day, pointing out a day singular­ly, and a day that in a particular and speciall manner is called His Day, beside any other day, that Dominik day, or day which is the Lords.

That we may have accesse to the use, we shall speak a little to these two. 1. What particular day this is, seing there is no mention made what day it is, more than this, that it is called The Lords day. 2. What it is to be in the spirit on this day.

For clearing of the first of these two, ye would consider, that there is but one other phrase in Scripture like this, and it's spoken of the Lords Supper, 1 Cor. 11. This is not to eat the Lords Supper. They that know the Originall, know also this phrase to be singu­lar, like this of the Lord's day, [...], and 1 Cor. 11.20. [...] which is opposed unto, and contradistinguished from, [...]: which was not see [Page 28] apart from other suppers, and common use, as this was: And these two, being by one particular phrase expressed, we must expound the one by the other. Now, the Lords Supper, is called so, for three Reasons; for which also, we conceive this day, to be called the Lords day. 1. The Lords Supper, because of the Lords singular instituting that Bread and Wine for a speciall and religious end, distinguishing, diffe­rencing and setting it apart from a common use, to a more speciall use: And so, this day, is called the Lords day: because of the Lords separating and setting apart this day for His speciall Service and Worship; and in that, distinguishing it from other dayes, as He had done that Supper from common suppers, 2. The Lords Supper, for its speciall signi­fication, Jesus Christ and His benefits being especially set out in it, His death and suffe­rings pointed at, and the benefits we have thereby. So this day, is called, the Lords day, because it's of speciall signification, pointing out not so much Gods ceasing from the work of Creation, as our Lords ceasing from the work of Redemption: as the Lords Supper is for the remembrance of His death till He come again; so is this day for remembring the work of Redemption, and His Resurrection, till He come again. 3. The Lords Supper: because of its speciall end, to set out the honour of the Mediator, and the Worship, and Ordinances brought in by Him under the New Testament; so to distinguish it from the Passeover. So this day, is called the Lords day, for the same reason, to set out the honour of the Mediator, and that it may be enrolled among the Ordinances of the New Testament: therefore, when in the New Testament, ought is called the Lords, it points ordinarily at Christ the Mediator, and at the second Person of the God-head, as 1 Cor. 8.6. One God, distinguished from One Lord. We take it then for granted, that it is called, the Lords day, for these Reasons: because its a speciall day, set apart for the Lords use, of speciall signification, and for a speciall end. And Secondly, That it is a speciall day, known to the Church, may appear: for else, Iohn would not have given it such a denomination; and that it points at some thing of Christ, and so is separated from any Jewish day, and common day, It is a day known singularity to relate to Christ. To clear it, consider, it must either be the first day of the Week, or some other: But none other day it is. Ergo, &c. If any other, it can be supposed onely one of these two: either, not any particular day of the Week, but any speciall day or time of Christs appearing or ma­nifesting Himself; Or else the Jewish Sabbath day. Now, neither of these can be meant by the Lords day. 1. Not the former: for, such a day of Christs speciall appearing not be­ing named here, it would leave the Church in an uncertainty to know what day was meaned; yet is this day mentioned, to point it out from other dayes; that is the scope why it is so designed. Beside, if it were any such day, it would point at no one day; for there are many times of Christs appearing. It's not so to be understood then, though even so our Lords appearing may agree to the first day of the Week, whereon most frequently He appeared after His Resurrection to His Disciples, as Mat. 28. Ioh. 20.26. Acts 1.2. 2. Neither the latter, to wit, the Jewish Sabbath day. 1. Because it's ever called the Sabbath, and gets the own name that it formerly had and the giving of it this name, will more obscure then clear the day. 2. Because the Jewish Sabbaths were then annulled, as Colus. 2.1 [...]. Let none judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new Moon part of the Sabbath dayes: Therefore then can they not be called the Lords day. And Gal. 4.10. they are reproved for observing Dayes, and Moneths, and Times, and Years, where it is clear, the Jewish new Moons, Sabbaths and Festivities were then, and before that time abolished in so far as peculiar to them, though all distinction of dayes was not taken away, more than all distinctions of the Elements in the Lords Supper from other Meat: because distinction of meat was condemned there also; But this followeth, all Jewish distinction both of meat and dayes was taken away, but what is still assigned by Christ, that con­tinues. 3. The Lords day, in the phrase of the New Testament, looks to Christ, as ha­ving its name some way from him: which cannot be said of the Jewish Sabbath; But this is called the Lords day, as pointing at an Ordinance of the New Testament, whereas the Jewish Sabbaths had a respect to the Old Testament Ordinances. 3. It remaineth there­fore, it must be the first day of the Week, because no other day can lay claim to it: i [...] is that day, which we call Sunday, or, the Christian Sabbath; and was, in the Primitive times, called The Lords day. 1. Because the Reasons why a day is called The Lords day, do agree to it especially. The Jewish Sabbath, was called The Lords day, Exod. 20 & [Page 29] because on it He ceased from the works of Creation: this day is called The Lords day; because on it He ceased from the work of Redemption, Mar. 16.1, 2. Luk. 24.1, 2. Ioh. 20.1. It's that day, whereon our Lord not only rose; but severall times did meet with His Disciples: and many mark severall priviledges and benefits conferred on this day; as the pouring out of the holy Ghost, Acts 2. And moe reasons might be given, whereby this day is singularly beyond others to be called His. 2. Because this first day of the Week and no other, was set apart for the Lords Worship and Service, as distinguished from other dayes. And Iohns end here, is, to fix on a particular day known to them, and so esteemed of among them, as such a day. That it was set apart for the Lord and His Worship, is clear, not only from places we have named, but from Act. 20.7. Vpon the first day of the Week, when the Disciples came together, to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech untill midnight: Which inti­mates not onely a meeting, but a custom of meeting, and that for Preaching, Prayer, and celebration of the Lords Supper. So 1 Cor. 16.2. Vpon the first day of the Week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him; and in the 1. vers. he tells, concerning the Collection of the Saints, he had given the same order to the Churches of Galatia. If it be asked, Why doth Paul point at the first day of the Week, and bids give themselves to Charity that day: here it is, because that day was dedicated to Gods Service and Worship, whereof Charity was a pendicle: And (as we hinted at) this was not peculiar to one Church, as Corinth; but was common to all the Churches. The like order was in all the Churches of Galatia: and it doth not point at Paul's instituting a day; but at his supposing of it to be instituted; and at his injoyning of a positive dutie of Charity meet for that day. And it's observable, that though the Saints had meetings on other dayes; yet, is it never said, they did meet the second, third, or fourth dayes, &c. but on the first: which certainly is done, to shew a pecullarnesse in that day, and the meetings on it; yea, few or none deny this denomination to signifie the first day on this account, it being so clear from Antiquity, and no other day being here to compet with it, and that can lay such claim to this denomination, as this day doth; and was by the most Ancient still so named.

For the second thing to be cleared: What it is to be in the spirit on the Lords day? To be in the spirit, is, First, to be Spirituall, to have the habits of Grace, and a new Na­ture: and thus it taketh-in the ordinary walk of Believers, Gal. 5.16. 25. Secondly, More especially, it is for these who are habitually in the Spirit, to be actually and in a more eminent measure in the Spirit, as Eph. 5.18. to be filled with the spirit, to be in a holy rapture and ecstasie, is warranted and allowed to Believers in a more speciall frame, and at more speciall times to be in a spiritualnesse abstracted from e [...]nalnesse, and lawfull things, more than ordinary. Thirdly, It is to be in the Spirit in an extraordinary manner and measure, or to be in an extraordinary rapture, the Spirit revealing something extra­ordinarily: and this is to be in the Spirit, in a sense different from the former, albeit con­sisting with them. We cannot seclude any of these, in this place: for Iohn was regene­rated, and was habitually Spirituall and Gracious; but we especially include the last two: As if he said, though I was absent from company and Christian fellowship, and had not a Congregation to Preach in on the Lords day; yet I was in the Spirit, exercising the ha­bits of Grace, and I was in an eminent, Spirituall and Holy Frame; the Spirit, elevating my spirit: (which is that spoken of Isa. 58.13. If thou cast the Sabbath a delight, the Holy of the Lord, &c.) and the Lord taketh him in this spirituall frame and strain, and ra­visheth him in the Spirit: and from the second step He brings him up to the third, to be in Spirit as an extraordinary Prophet, as we take Peter to have been, Act. 10. when he went up to Pray, that is, to the second step; and fell in a Trance, and saw Heaven opened, which is the third. We think the same hath been Iohn's case here.

The words give occasion to speak of severall Doctrines, as 1. The good that is to be gotten on the Lords day, when folks are in a spirituall frame. 2. That when folks are separated from the publick Ordinances, they would be making it up in private, by giving themselves to spirituall exercises, 3. And that God not only can, but doth make up the good to be gotten by the publick, by private and secret fellowship with Himself, when Be­lievers in Him are banished from, or denuded of the publick Ordinances. But nor to insist on these, they give occasion to speak a little of these three things. 1. The institution of [Page 30] he Lords day. 2. The name that the Lords day gets. 3. Of the sanctification of it, or of a speciall part, wherein the sanctification of it consists.

For the First, To wit, for the institution of this Day, severall Arguments are here; or, we may argue severall wayes to prove it. 1. If in the Apostles time this day was set apart for the Lords Worship and Service, and in a speciall manner called His, as being kept to Him on a morall ground, Then we have warrand, and it's our duty to keep it for the same end and use: for, the practice of extraordinary men, grounded on morall and perpetuall Reasons, and that were not peculiar to them as extraordinary, but are common to them and us (as the Grounds and Reasons of the setting apart this day are, it being for the re­membrance of His Resurrection, and the bringing in of a new World; and therefore, all did from the beginning, keep that day) are binding to us, as is clear. But the first day of the Week, was appointed to be the Lord's day, in the Apostles times; and singled out and set apart for His Service on a morall ground, (for, no ground peculiar to them can be given) Therefore certainly it must be our dutie to keep it. 2. If the first day of the Week, was singled out from other dayes, and counted the Lords day, Then there behoved to be an in­stitution for it, or, a supposed institution, that is, it must be the Lords day, either because He instituted it, when He spoke many things to His Apostles after His Resurrection, con­cerning the right ordering of His House and Worship; and by His practice, observed and sanctified it, for His speciall Service; or, because these that were infallibly guided and led by His Spirit, instituted and gave warrand to keep it: for, without an institution and com­mand, it is not to be kept, or named so, more than another day: But this first day, was in practice, singled out beside all other dayes, and is accounted the Lords in a speciall man­ner, as is said, Therefore there must be some institution of it. 3. Comparing this Text with 1 Cor. 11.20. If the first day of the Week be the Lords day, as the Sacrament of the Supper is the Lords Supper, then it must be by His appointment and institution Hi [...]; But so the phrase in both places is to be understood. Ergo, by comparing these two places, the peculiarnesse of the phrase is such, that (there being no other phrase like them in Scripture) it seemeth the holy Ghost warrands us to gather the reasons of this denomina­tion of the one from the other, though the institution of this day be not so clearly expressed, as the institution of the Lords Supper. For it's a received Rule for expounding Scripture, to expound more dark places, by places that are more full and clear: And therefore con­clude we, that the Lord's day is to be called the Lords: because of its institution, though we know not where; because, for the same reason, the Supper is called His, there being no solid ground to conclude upon. And they who give reasons to the contrary, must make it appear, that there are other reasons more pregnant, or else the language of the holy Ghost must have weight with us. 4. This first day is the Lords, as the seventh day is called His, or any other thing in the Old Testament; but that is ever because of His setting apart that day or that thing for His own, from others of that kind, Therefore it must be so here.

There are some exceptions, made by some worthy men, which we shall speak a word to, As 1. If it be so, it will follow that all dayes are not alike, contrary to Rom. 14.14. Gal. 4.10. Col. 2.16. where the Scripture seems to say plainly, that all dayes are alike: There­fore the Lords day cannot be so understood. Answ. This doth indeed directly contradict the letter of the Text: for either this Text pointeth at one day by another, or else it doth nothing. 2. The Apostles scope in the places that seem to be contrary to this, is clear: when he casts the Jewish Sabbath and holy dayes, he casts them alike in respect of Jewish observation only; or, in so far as they were Jewish and Typical: for, Christ had taken them away in that respect, even as He casteth meats also, yet without prejudice of the Sacraments: and this confirmeth our Argument. For if Jewish Dayes and Sabbaths, were taken away fourtie years and more, as is clear by Paul, before Iohn wrote this Revelation, in as far as they were Jewish, and yet Iohn speaks of a Lords day, as differenced from other dayes, it sayes it continued when they were abolished. There is a great odds betwixt laying­aside of Jewish dayes, and the Lords day: and when Iohn speaks of the Lords day, he speaks of it in the singular number, in opposition to those many dayes, the Jews had, under the cere­monial Law. And even that learned Doctor granteth this place to speak of the first day, and the Churches practice to meet on it also, and, in several respects, to be priviledged beyond other dayes.

[Page 31]A second exception is, If this day be so counted of, it will bring in the sanctifying of it, in as eminent a measure, as the Jews Sabbath was. And, is not that to judaize? Answ. Di­stinguish betwixt things Ceremoniall or Typicall, and things Morall and Perpetuall: We bring back nothing that was Ceremoniall and Typicall, as their Sabbaths of Weeks, Sacri­fices, and many other things were; but for Morall duties, they become us as well as the Iews, and bind Christians to the end of the World. And this brings not back Judaisme, neither leads us to Sacrifices, and the like, which pointed at Christ to come; but contrarily, this day and the duties of it, hold out Christ already come: which destroyeth all these Ce­remonies and Sacrifices, and declareth them to be gone.

A third exception, It cannot be compared with the Lords Supper: for, 1. The Lords Supper, is clearly instituted; but this is not clear in the institution thereof. 2. The Lords Supper, is a Sacrament; this is not: and dayes may be changed, as Sacraments cannot. Answ. 1. To the last part: It is a begging of the Question: if it be the Lords day, set apart for His Service, all the world cannot change it, except He, who can change Sacraments also. 2. To the first part: That the institution of this day is not so clear, as the institu­tion of the Supper. Answ. We do not paralel them in respect of clearnesse of institution; but, in respect of the ground, or reason why they get this name: which suppones an insti­tution. If the Sacrament of the Supper, be called the Lords Supper, because instituted by Him, for a speciall use; so must the Lords day get this name on this reason; or, some bet­ter or clearer reason from Scripture must be given.

For the second, Seing it gets this name to be called the Lords day: It may be questioned here concerning our manner of speaking of dayes, calling the Lords day Sunday, the next day after it Monday, &c. which hath the first rise from Superstition, if not from Idolatry; some of them being attributed to Planets, as Sunday and Monday; some of them to Idols, as Thursday, &c. But to speak to the thing it self, look to the Primitive times, we will find Sunday called the Lords day; and the dayes of the Week by the first, second, third, &c. But the names of dayes, being like the names of places and moneths, folks must speak of them, as they are in use, and Scripture warrands us so to do, Acts 17.22. Paul is said to stand in the midst of Mars hill. Acts 28.11. speaketh of a Ship, whose signe was Castor and Pollux. So, March, Ianuary, Iuly and August, are from the Idols Mars and Ianus; or, de­rived from men that appropriate more than ordinary to themselves. And though it was ordi­nary to Christians, in the primitive times, to call this day the Lords day among themselves; yet, when they had dealing with the Iews, they called it the Sabbath; and when they had dea­ling with the heathen, they called it the Sunday. And so, though it be best to speak of days as Scripture nameth them; yet, it is agreeable with Scripture, to design or denominate them, as they are in use among a people, especially where no superstitions use is in naming of them.

For the third, The Sanctification of this day. It is pointed out in Iohn his saying he was in the Spirit on the Lords day: to point out this, that this day requireth a special Sanctifi­cation and setting apart to Worship God. And there are four steps of it mentioned in the Scripture. The 1. is negative abstinence, not only from sin, but from our civil and ordinary affairs, which are lawful on other dayes, but not on this day, Isa. 58.13. The 2. is positive: in devoting it to God, and spending the whole day in duties of Worship, in reading, hearing, praying, singing, breaking of bread, or celebrating the Communion, Acts 20.7. And that, not only in private duties; but in publick: and in private, when the publick is interrupted, except in cases of necessity. 3. It should be spent in the duties of charity: though the sanctification of this day cannot consist with working; yet, it may stand well with giving of almes, and seeing to the necessities of others, 1 Cor. 16.1, 2. A fourth step, is, in the Text: to have a holy and sanctified frame, a divine stamp, a heavenly conversa­tion, more than ordinarly taken up with God and Christ, and the things of another Life that day. This is the main thing wherein the Sabbath is to be Sanctified, and wherein it represents heaven, to be abstracted from the world, and to be living above in our Spirits, emi­nently ravished in Spirit, as abstracted from things, we are to be taken up with on other days. The frame of a Sabbath, should be a kind of ravishment, wherein not only we are not taken up with working our ordinary callings, but we do go about Prayer and other Spiritual duties in a more heavenly way, than on other dayes, and that with a difference in our frame, being more elevated and Spiritual, we should be other men, in more divine contemplation. This is the main thing called for in sanctifying the Sabbath: and therefore, Heb. 4. heaven [Page 32] is set out by the Sabbath: wherein there ought not only to be a ceasing from our own works; but an entering into our rest, Heb. 4.10. as it is (Isa. 58.13.) a delighting in God, calling the Sabbath our delight, the holy of the Lord and honourable, the heart being taken up with it.

Remember from all that hath been said, this day is the Lords day: and it saith that folks should spend it, not as they like; but for Him, and about the duties of His service. It is not the sanctifying of the Sabbath to spend an hour or two in publick, and the rest of it in our own discourses, pleasing and delightsome to our selves. All dayes are Gods; but He hath given you six, and reserved the seventh to Himself. Ye should be with Him in the spirit on the Lords day: which is the main use of all that hath been said.

LECTURE V.

Vers. 10.

I was in the spirit on the Lords day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.

11.

Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and what thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven Churches which are in Asia, unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and Philadelphia; and unto Laodicea.

JOHN hath in the verses before, and in the beginning of this, put by the particular circumstances relating to this vision: we shall say no more of them. We come to the vision it self, in the rest of the chapter, with some circumstances, making way to Iohn's writing of what he saw.

We comprehend, under the vision, not only what is objected to the eye, or what Iohn saw; but all that he sees or hears, whereby some new thing is represented to Iohn, or that which he had heard or seen before, is again more clearly revealed, and made known to him, as it used to be in the extraordinary Prophets, having Gods mind, several wayes, manifested to them.

This part of the vision hath three steps, First, What Iohn heard, from the midst of vers. 10. to vers. 12. Secondly, What he did, vers. 12. And, Thirdly, Followeth that which he saw, to vers. 17. The rest of the chapter from vers. 17. hath some following effects and circumstances, to clear the vision, and Iohn's writing of it.

That which Iohn heard, is three wayes described. 1. In the nature of the voice, which he heard. 2. From the place where, or the manner or way how he heard it; the voice spake behind him 3. The particular matter that was spoken. First, The nature of the voice which he heard, is set out with two words. 1. It's called a great voice. 2. It was a voice as of a trumpet, or, like a trumpet.

1. A great voice, that is, a mighty sound, a voice that made a great noise, as afterwards, vers. 15. His voice was as the sound of many waters, like the tumbling down of a great river over a high fall or precipire.

2. It was a voice as of a trumpet, that is, 1. Not a confused or inarticulate sound, but a stately voice, having a kind of majesty with it. 2. Like a trumpet, giving a certain and distinct sound. And, 3. Like a trumpet, to stir up Iohn to attention, to give him an alarm, to set him on his watch and guard to observe what he saw and heard. And it imports these four things, which might be so many grounds of Doctrine. 1. The majesty of the Person, who was speaking to Iohn, that Iohn may come to take Him up; it is to shew that it was no common Person, but our Lord Jesus Christ, that is stately in His coming: and this is the first thing that follis should have, when they come to hear the Word, they should be affected with the majesty of Him who speaketh and consider it's His voice, who stakes the heaven and the earth, th [...] makes the bindes to calve, &c. Psal. 29. 2. It is to point out to Iohn the great distance between him and the Person that speaketh to Him, and so to humble him, and to affect him with a humbling and kindly sense of his own infirmity. And these two go together, to wit, an impression of the statelinesse and majesty of God, [Page 33] who speaks; and an humble sense of infirmity in the creature. See it in Abraham, Gen. 18. 17. Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, Who am but dust and ashes. and vers. 25. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? And they are also joyned, Eccles. 5.1, 2. Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God: God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: let thy Words be few. 3. It is to put Iohn to an holy attention to hear, and to be watchful in hearing what He was to say to him; the trumpet soundeth that he may be the better taken heed to when He speaks. And this is also a good property of hearers, when, as it is Acts 10.33. We can say with Cornelius, We are all here present before God, to hear Whatsoever things are commanded thee of God; to be in a humble, watch­ful posture having the heart laid open to whatsoever God will say; hanging on Him, as the phrase is, Luke 19.48. 4. The sound of the trumpet, is not only to waken to attention; but to put to action: it gives, not only a distinct sound for direction; but it puts to doing: to point at the nature of our Lords voice, and how it ought to be heard. It's not enough to hear, but there would be a suitablenesse to the voice heard, according as the trumpet sounds distinctly. Folks would hear suitably, and welcome what is said, and conform their practice thereto; taking with convictions, challenges, directions to duties, promises, &c. as the Word giveth them. Therefore the Preaching of the Word, is compared to the sounding of a trumpet, Isa. 58. Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, that is, powerfully and distinctly: and, as it suppons some thing on the Ministers side, that he would have his voice trumpet-like; so it suppons some thing on the side of the hearers, that they would conform their practice suitably to it, as Souldiers prepare themselves at the sound of a trumpet, 1 Corinth. 14.8.

The second circumstance, is the place where, or the manner how, he heard the voice; it spoke behind him; it came not as before Iohn; but as it were unawares surprising him behind him. 1. The more to affect Iohn with the sound, and to make him inquire in it: for, the more surprising a thing be, it affects the more, and wakens up the more desire to enquire in it. 2. That our Lord may even try Iohn how he will carry himself in following the enquiry of the voice; and so to put Iohn to pains to find it out. Therefore, Isa. 30.21. it is said, Thou shall hear a voice behind thee: partly, to signifie that our backs are on God, when he speak, we are running away from him: partly, to stir us up to turn our face about, as it were, and to enquire after what is spoken.

Vers. 11. The third thing, is, the matter spoken: and it contains two things. 1. A de­scription of the Speaker, His Title and Name, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the last two words, are an exposition of the former two. 2. The Commission Iohn gets, and the direction given him. 1. Generally, To write what he saw. And 2. More particularly, To send it to the seven Churches. For this Title, we spoke of it before, vers. 8.

It is our Lord, asserting His own Godhead, as being the first, the beginning of all the Creation of God actively, being of Himself God essentiall, and giving a beginning and being to all things that exist, Ioh. 1.3. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made; and the last end of all things: not only everlasting Himself, without end; but to whose Honour are all things that have a beginning: He is the ultimate end; they are all for Him.

Quest. Why is this Title so often repeated?

Answ. Besides this generall, that it is to hold out Christs Godhead: therefore, this and other such like Titles, are so often given Him in this Book: which is of excellent use and benefit, to have this born in upon the hearts, and minds of sinners. It is repeated here: 1. That Iohn might know from whom he had this Commission; even from Him, who had power to give him a Commission both to speak and to write; The first and the last: a thing that concerns Ministers to know when they come out to Preach the Word, whose Commission they have, that they take not this honour to themselves, nor from men, except in the ordinary way appointed by Him: for except they have Christs Warrand mans, will not Commissionate them to go to Churches and Preach at their own hand. 2. It is also for the Peoples cause, to learn them to take the Word off Iohn's hand. It is not Iohn's word, that cometh to them; but the Word of Alpha and Omega, the first, and the last: And it were good for us so to speak; and good for you so to hear the Word. That same Jesus Christ, that gave Iohn and the Apostles warrand to Preach and Write, it's that same Jesus Christ that sendeth out Pastors and Teachers to Preach; it's He that gives gifts to [Page 34] men for edifying the body, Eph. 4.12. His Warrand to both, is one; and His Authority, Commissionating both, is one, and both are gifts for the Churches good.

The second thing in this verse, is, The Commission Iohn gets. 1. In generall, to write what he saw. 2. More particularly, to send it to the seven Churches.

1. Write what thou seest: that is, not this Vision only, which thou hast seen; but all the Words and Circumstances which thou hast seen, or shall see and hear: And so it's his first warrand to write this Revelation, and send it to the Churches: it points at the Au­thority, on which the written Word is founded; it depends not on men, but on Jesus Christ that gives warrand to write: and we should look on the Bible, and every Chapter thereof as by Christs direction written to us.

2. The matter he should write is restricted, Write, not every thing that pleaseth thee, but what thou seest: to point out the guiding and inspiration of the Spirit in these holy Men, who were Pen-men of the Scripture; they spake and wrote, as they were inspired and guided by the holy Ghost.

3. It shews, that there is need, and it is requisite, that men have a particular Commission to carry the Word to People: not only a Commission, in generall, to write, or, to carry the Gospel; but for every particular message. Not that men should be anxious, or perplexed, about their Warrand, or Commission, in an extraordinary way; but to weigh well the Time, Place, Persons, and such Circumstances as may clear their Commission in an ordinary way, there being some things to be written and sent to one Church by Christs Warrant, which are not so to another; every Church hath their particular Message and Commission renewed.

2. More particularly, what he should do with it, when it is written in a Book; Send it to the seven Churches, that is, Iohn, this Revelation is not to ly beside thee; but it's for the benefit of the Church: send it therefore to the seven Churches in Asia. 1. Be­cause most famous in that time; and because near to Patmos, where he was; and because it's probable Iohn had some particular relation to them: and their need presently required it. This Book of the Revelation, is sent for the benefit of the Church: and therefore ought to be welcomed thankfully, as a rich Jewel.

We shewed before, why these Churches were called seven, and not the Church in Asia, vers. 4. and say no more of it now. These Churches, are particularly named. We shall not stand on a Geographicall description of the Places. Ephesus, is spoken of at large, Act. 19.20. This Church and Smyrna, were in that part of Asia the lesse, called Ionia; Per­gamos, in that part, called Aetolia; Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, in Lydia; and Laodicea, in that part, called Caira, or, Caria: which not being profitable to you to insist upon, we shall take some generall considerations from the words and so proceed.

And, 1. It would be considered why these Churches, are designed from the name of the Cities wherein they were. We rather speak a word to this: because we find Churches in the New Testament, named by Towns. It's true, the Churches in Galatia, are also named; but most frequently they are named by Cities, as the Church at Ierusalem, the Church at Rome, the Church at Corinth, &c. And Titus is to ordain Elders in every City, by Pauls appointment: which was for the City; and it's like also, for the edification of these about, God making the Gospel spread from Cities to Countries about, as it is said, The Word spread from Ephesus to all Asia, though there were other Churches beside these, that were within the walls of these Towns. The reasons of this, we conceive to be, 1. Because the Cities, or Towns, were most famous for their populousnesse; and were well furnished with Officers: and there was most occasion of getting a Harvest of Souls in them, by spreading the Net of the Gospel among them, in respect of which accidentall and poli­tick considerations, which belong not to the essence of a Church, some Cities being more famous and able to keep the word of truth, and make it furth-coming to other Churches. It is not un-agreeable to Scripture, to have particular respect to Cities, and Churches in them, as they may further the work of the Gospel. 2. Because in these great Cities, and Places of concourse, the Ministers and Officers of the Church, who served in the work of the Lord, and went round in a circuit in the Churches about, had their most ordinary re­sidence, as it would seem; and that their fixed, collegiat meetings and combinations were there. 1. Because we find no particular Congregations mentioned, but only the Church at such a Town written unto, though there was many particular Congregations about; and these Cities kept not the Word within themselves. 2. Where they are mentioned, [Page 35] as the Church at Ierusalem: it taketh in not only these within the walls; but all the Churches in Iudea: so Corinth, takes in Cenchrea, &c.

2. Consider those Churches as once given to Idolatry: Ephesus, was famous, or rather, infamous for that, Acts 19. yet now Christ esteems them all Churches, bestows an Epistle upon them, holding out, 1. His love. 2. The power of His Grace and Gospel. 3. The soveraignity and freenesse of His Grace, breaking in on the kingdom of sin and Satan amongst them; and that Christ can winn in Churches to Himself, out of the most profane heathen­nish and Idolatrous cities and people.

3. Consider, These cities are respected by Christ: and it's not because they are cities; but because they are Churches: that which makes them to be preferred before others, is the Churches in them: And this is it that maketh places carry respect with Jesus Christ, more than all the glancing victories and glory of the world.

4. Consider them, as they are some of them more, some of them lesse; yet, none of them, are called lesse or more Churches. Ephesus, where were many thousands, is but a Church, as Smyrna, and other lesser towns are: the reason is, the Scripture goes not upon multi­tude, and external considerations of that kind; but upon the unitie that is among Mini­sters, and Officers, which is not astricted to one particular Congregation: and where it is, it makes an union among many, as amongst few; and amongst few, as amongst many.

5. Consider, That the number of these Churches is according to the places where they were fixed, and where the members did inhabit: which shews, that Parochial marches by bounds or towns in convenient lying, is not unsuitable; but consonant to Scripture: where­fore the Church of Ephesus, or, of any certain place, includeth all the Professors living there, they are accounted of that Church and no other, as providence hath put them toge­ther: and the Churches are divided as they live sundry. No indweller of Ephesus, is accounted of the Church of Smyrna, or contrarily; order in this, being well consistent with the Gospel: and as we will not find mention made in Scripture of two Churches, in one place, what ever the number be, (save when they are after subdivided, as 1 Cor. 14.) So we will not find any Saint spoken of, as belonging to any Congregation, but as they dwell: and the Church at such a place, and Saints of such a place, are still taken to be of a like extent.

6. Consider, Some of them were more corrupt, others of them were more pure; yet, he writes an Epistle to them all: some hath a name that they are living, when they are dead; some are fallen from their first love; some have in them those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans; some are luke-warm, &c. Yet, they are all of them owned as Churches, and written to. 1. Because our Lord looks on them, as having that which made them to have the essence of Visible Churches: and in so far, He gives them the name, though many defects were in them: and therefore intitles them so. He stands not to give Laodicea the title of a Church to Him, which many, it may be, would scarcely count worthy the name of Christians. 2. Because our Lords way, is not at first to give up with Churches, and Persons, who are joyned to Him in Church-relations; but to presse upon them to be forth­coming to their obligations: He sayes not, ye are no Churches; but reckons them Churches: and on that ground, founds His promises, threatnings and directions; and gives them reproofs for what is wrong, and His advice to amend the same: an excellent way of dealing, to have Churches answerable to their obligation, and not to cast them off. Rejection is the last thing used, when neither threatnings, promises, reproofs, nor directions have place to do them good. And we may say it on the bye, it is Christs prerogative to remove Candlesticks, and dissolve ties between Him and Churches.

7. Consider, These Churches as they are now, comparing them with what they were once: Golden-Candlesticks; now dens for Mahomet: the Godhead of Christ once written of to them; now trampled on. Which shews, 1. How doleful a thing it is to despise war­nings. 2. To what a hight Churches defection may come to: when there is not a healing in time; when falling from the first love is not taken heed to, it may come to make a Church no Church. These Churches were once as glorious as ever Glasgow was, and more, Paul writing to sundry of them, and here Iohn to them all; yet, for contempt of the Gospel, God breaks the stayes of beauty and bands, and they are no Churches to Him. Tremble to think upon it.

8. Consider, That Iohn now in prison writes: the Church is obliged to Iohns imprison­ment. [Page 36] We now have moe writings by the Apostles Epistles from their prisons, than we have from their liberty, God making this good use of mans malice.

9. He repeats his commission, not only in generall, but to every Church, as their pecu­liar message was, that he might bear out his commission in his dealing with them; and that they might know the warrand they had to hear him. Neither Ministers ought to speak, or people to hear, except they be warranded: there is an unwarrantablenesse in hearing, as there is in speaking, Prov. 19.27. And people would make conscience in hearing, that it be not done indifferently; and there would not be indifferent accesse for all to Preach, nor for hearing, but as the Lord warrands.

LECTURE VI.

Vers. 12.

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.

13.

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a gol­den girdle.

14.

His head, and his hairs were white like wooll, as white as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire.

15.

And his feet like unto fine brasse, as if they burned in a furnace:—

THe second circumstance, or step, of the first part of the Vision, is what Iohn did, vers. 12. or his carriage when he heard the voice, spoken of before, vers. 10. I turned to see the voice that spake: a voice is not properly the object of sight; but it's two wayes to be understood. 1. Either Iohn turned him, that is, gave pains more clearly to perceive and understand that which was spoken: for, seeing, in Scrip­ture, is often so taken, for a more clear up-taking and understanding of a thing: and so the meaning is, Iohn having heard the voice behind him, he lends to his ear to take it up better. Or, 2. It may look to Iohn's desire, to see him that spoke: and so he turned, not to see the voice; but the speaker: and on the back of this, the heavenly Vision is re­presented to him. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks. Follows what Iohn saw upon his turning about; he gets this Vision. Folks that go about the use of the means seriously, minding edification, they readily profit.

Let us speak to that which properly is the Vision. It holds out, or, there are holden forth in it, three things. 1. The Church, is holden out under the similitude of a Candlestick; or, the seven Churches of Asia, under the similitude of seven golden Candlesticks: so they are expounded, vers. 20. 2. The Ministers of the Churches, are holden out under the similitude of seven Stars, vers. 16. So are they expounded in the 20. vers. also. We shall forbear any further exposition, or speaking of them, till we come to that place. The main thing in the Vision, is, Our Lord Jesus, represented these wayes. First, in His Offices. Secondly, In His excellent qualifications for His discharging these Offices. Thirdly, In His care of His Churches, and actuall executing of His Offices, and exercising of His quali­fications for the good of His Churches and Ministers: He is among the one, walking; and holding the other in His hand; and hath a sword, going out of His mouth, for the good of both.

Quest. 1. Whether is it Christ that appears and speaks here, or not? The reason of the doubt, is from vers. 1. Where it is said, Iesus Christ sent and signified these things by his angel.

Answ. It is He that appears and speaks here to Iohn, who gave him the Commission to write: and certainly, it was no Angel that gave Iohn Commission to write and send it to the seven Churches; but it is Jesus Christ, who intitles Himself before, to be the first and the last: no Angel can give Commission, nor dare take upon him these titles and stiles, but Jesus Christ only. 2. It's clear also to be Christ, from the parts of the description, and from the particular charge that Christ is holden out to have, to wit, in having a care of the [Page 37] Churches, in holding the Stars in His hand, and sending a sword out of His mouth. Who can do these things but Christ? 3. From the seven Epistles, which begin with some part of this description, as belonging to Him: He is still stiled by some part of it, Chap. 2. and 3.

Quest. 2. Whether doth Iesus Christ appear here really in His Man-head? or, Is it only a representation of Him in a Vision, for signifying and holding forth the excellent properties and qualifications that are in Him, as sometime God appeared of old to weak man, condescending to his capacity for his comfort, as Dan. 7.9. and sometime Christ, as Dan. 10.5. to which this Vision seemeth to relate?

Answ. We take it not for any reall apparition of Christ in His Humanity, or as He was Man, conceived in and born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, dead and buried, and in that nature risen again and ascended; but we take it only to be a representation, or vision of the glorious properties and qualifications, and stately Majesty of the Son of God, who was, and is, and is to come, the first, and the last: who as He is God, so also was and is Man; but doth not now appear in His Humane nature, but as God. Reason, 1. Because in sub­stance it is the same Vision that we find, Dan. 7.9. and 10.5. where God, and Christ, as God, are holden out under the same expressions: and if these expressions cannot be applyed in these places to signifie the parts of a Humane body (which God hath not, for He is a Spirit) there can be no reason why the same expressions here, should be applied to the parts of a body. 2. It's clear also, if we look to the end, which Jesus Christ hath be­fore Him in this representation: He being to direct seven Epistles to the seven Churches in Asia, He sets out Himself by some excellent properties, to ground the faith of His People, and move them to reverence, receive, and give obedience to what He writs unto them. 3. Look through all this Vision, it cannot be applyed literally; the seven Churches, cannot be seven Candlesticks; the seven Ministers, cannot be seven Stars, &c. but it's to evidence the excellent qualifications that are in Christ, under these representations: and therefore what some would draw from this, or other representations of this kind, concern­ing Christs Body on earth, or the ubiquitie of His Humanitie, or bodily presence with His Churches, or, for portracting of His Body (as Winckelmannus and other Luthe­rans alledged) hath no ground from this place; but rather the just contrary: if Christ appeared after His Ascension, no other wayes than He did before His Incarnation, He would take away all carnall thoughts of His bodily presence on earth. 4. It's said, One like unto the Son of Man: and this holds out, He was not indeed Man in this Vision; but appeared to Iohn, as He did to Daniel; some way representing Himself so. But, 5. The application and exposition of many of these expressions, Chap. 2. and 3. holding forth His eyes, to signifie His Omniscience and the like, will shew the absurdity of this. But come to the three parts of the discription, more particularly: wherein, as we said, 1. We have his Offices and Authority, 2. His qualifications for executing these Offices. 3. His care of His Churches, and His actuall executing of His Offices, and exercising of His qualifications for the good of them, and His Ministers.

First, His Offices and Authority are represented; His Kingly and Princely Offices, un­der His Garments; His Propheticall Office, by the Sword that proceedeth out of His mouth.

Long garments, were especially used by two sorts of Persons, Kings and Priests. Exod. 28.29. Aaron, the high Priest, and His Sons, have holy Garments appointed them; and the high Priest was to have a long Robe curiously sewed and embroidered: so also, long Garments, were for a signe of Authority and reverence; and Christ casts that up to the Scribes and Pharisees, Mat. 23.5. Mark 12.38. And Christ was clothed with a purple Robe; which was a speciall Robe, designing great men from others, though they did it in derision to Him.

He is girt about the paps with a golden girdle. A girdle hath two uses, 1. It was used for neating the long Robe; for binding it up, that it might not be cumbersome to men in their imployment, Luk. 17.8. Gird thy self and serve me. 2. A golden girdle signi­fieth Authority and Eminence; so the girdles of Kings signified, Isa. 22.21. when Elia­kim is constituted a Ruler, it is said, I will cloath him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle: and what is meant by that, is expounded in the following words, I will commit the Government into his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Ieru­salem, [Page 38] and to the house of Iudah, and I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: he shall open, and none shall shut, &c. This girdle of Christ's, is spoken of, Isa. 11.5. Righteousnesse shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulnesse the girdle of his reins.

The expression holdeth out these three things, which we conceive to be understood by it. 1. The Authority and warrantablenesse of our Lord Jesus Christ His Kingly and Princely Office, as that which followeth, doth of His Prophetical Office: hereby letting us know, that our Lord Jesus His being in heaven and in glory, hath not made Him lay by His Offices, or the executing of them; but He remains King and Priest for ever, Psalm 110. even in heaven He bears His Offices to His Churches. 2. That our Lord Jesus Christ, not only bears these Offices; but, in an excellent and glorious manner: there is no such King, no such Priest, no such Prophet as He: so that whatsoever belongs to any of His Offices, or any part of any of them, He would have His people looking to Him as eminent therein: He is a King ruling in Righteousnesse, stately in Majesty and dominion; a Priest, that continueth for ever, and hath an unchangeable Priesthood; and, is able to save all them, to the utter­most, that come unto God by Him, seing He lives for ever to make intercession for them: and, such an high Priest becomes us, who is holy, and harmlesse, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher then the heavens, Heb. 7.24, 25, 26. He is a Prophet, such as hath no equal: none teacheth like Him. Therefore it becometh us not only, not to have low thoughts of Christ, as bearing those Offices; but to think of Him as being eminent and glorious in them, and all that concerns them. 3. It holds out, that our Lord Jesus His statelinesse and glory, doth not marr, nor hinder Him in the application of His Offices, and executing them for the good of His Church: but, for as stately as He is, for Authority, having on His long robe, and being girded with a golden girdle; yet, His garment is so truced and girded, as He is fitted for His imployment, and to make use of His Offices, for the benefit of souls (See Iohn 13. v. 3.) as ever He did when He was on earth. Christs greatnesse and glory, is so far from unfitting Him for the discharge of His Offices, that He hath robes compacted, and Himself so fitted, as He may handsomly go about the discharge of them, being still girded, though the girdle be of gold.

The second part of the description, vers. 14 is His qualifications for His Offices, set out under the particular parts of a body, First, His head and His hair were like wool: this would not agree to Christs Manhead in all appearance, He not having come to that age, at which men use to become white haired. It is an application of, or an allusion to that of Dan. 7.9. if not taken out of it. And the reason of the allusion, is, to set out, 1. The Eternitie of Christs Godhead: that though He was, and is Man; yet, before the world was, He was, and is the Eternal God, without beginning, that whitenesse of the hair, being spoken of God, to set out His Eternity: He is not from yesterday, as poor creatures are; but from everlasting, though His Eternity maketh no change nor alteration on Him, as age doth on men. 2. It sets out our Lord Jesus His wisdom and experience, and the reverence that is due to Him: He is set out as one having gray hairs, being eminently endued with wis­dom and experience, as old men use to be in comparison of others, and as these of younger years usually are not. Therefore, Dan. 7.9. He is called, the ancient of dayes, which expounds His appearing with white hairs. Isa. 11.2. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.

The second part of this qualification, is, in His eyes: His eyes were as a flame of fire. He is also thus set forth, Dan. 10.6. These eyes, point out the omniscience of Christ, who, as God, sees every thing: and they are said to be as a flame of fire, partly, because of their peircing nature: that as all things are naked before Him and bare; so He sees throughly, in through and out through them all. All things are lying open, and, as it were, imbowelled before His eyes, Heb. 4. And, partly, because of the dreadfulnesse, and terriblenesse that will arise from His omniscience to the wicked of the world: His, and His Churches enemies, nothing will be more terrible to them, nor a glance of Christs eye, whereby he can destroy worlds of them, as when he looked down on Sodom and Gomorrah, fire and brimston fol­lowed His eye, and destroyed them.

The third part of His description, is vers. 15. His feet like unto fine brasse: this is excel­lent brasse, glittering brasse, nearest unto gold, as being some way mixed with it: and these [Page 39] feet of brasse, point out not only His power, but especially His wayes, counsels, and dispen­sations toward His people in ordering of His Churches, Gods paths and wayes being the manner of His guiding of the world, So Christs feet do signifie His stepping up and down in His Church, ordering all things well, wisely, and holily to His glorious ends: and consequently, His dispensations, whereby He makes His presence manifest among His People. 2. These feet, are said to be like unto fine brasse, as if they burned in a furnace: to point out, 1. That all His dispensations are pure and perfect. 2. Excellent and firm, solide and durable: there is no prevailing by the gates of hell against them. They are pure, spotlesse and clean: no iniquity is in them, Deut. 32.4. He is the Rock, His work is per­fect: for, all His wayes are judgement: a God of Truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He. We think this to be the meaning here: His wayes in His Church, His stepping up and down in it, are pure and spotlesse, firm and solid: all on-lookers cannot mark a spot in them; they cannot be mended, or bettered, nor hindered, He so sickerly sets them down. It serves to hold forth the statelinesse of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to bring our hearts to a holy awe and reverence of Him, O, that folks knew what He were, they would walk in more awe and reverence, before and with Him, who is such a stately Person I Love, reve­rence, and admire Jesus: there is no such stately and lovely Person in the world; submit to Him, He will do no wrong. Contend not with Him: for, on He will go, so sickerly sets He down His steps, like pillars of brasse. The reasons of these expositions, will appear more, in the Inscriptions of the Epistles, chap. 2. and 3.

LECTURE VII.

Vers. 15.

—And his voice as the sound of many waters.

16.

And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the Sun shineth in his strength.

I Told you, that this Vision doth not represent the Body of our Lord Jesus, or His humane nature; but it is to point out His divine qualifications, wherewith He was furnished as God-Man in one Person, for the good of His Church. And these things spoken of, as parts of a body, bear out some resemblance and analogie of these quali­fications, that are in Him, far beyond any thing that can be conceived.

The fourth property or qualification, is, his voice: which is said to be as the sound of many waters. It was said in the 10. vers. to be a great voice, like a trumpet; here it is said to be like the sound of many waters, both high and great, heard afar off, and very terrible and dreadfull. By His voice, in Scripture is understood mainly two things: both which may well relate to this resemblance. 1. His effectuall willing and commanding of things to be, as it's said, He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast, (Gen. 1.) Let there be light, and it was light: for, Christ as God, hath not a voice properly; but the voice, being that by which a man signifies his command and will, and being here attri­buted to Christ as God, It is to point out His effectual willing, and bringing that forth which He would have done: and so points at the effectualnesse of Christs government. There is nothing called for by Him, but it cometh to passe; nothing commanded, but is done, and that with a word. 2. It's taken for the manifestation of Gods terriblenesse and majesty, Psal. 18.13. The Lord also thundred in the heavens, and the highest gave His voice; hail­stones and coals of fire. In which sense, it is applied to the thunder; because, by it He ma­nifests His power, and shews Himself terrible. Hence there is so much spoken of His voice, Psal. 29.3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The voice of the Lord, &c. To shew not only the powerful effects of the voice of God in the thunder, and the way it produceth its effects; but the terriblenesse and majesty of God who hath such a voice, that, as it is Hag. 2.6. Can shake heaven and earth: which is to point out His dreadfulnesse and terriblenesse, against the enemies of His Church. If He speaks the word, they evanish: one word of this King will make the stoutest Tyrants to quake, as is clear from Scripture, and the storie of former times.

[Page 40]A fifth qualification, is, vers. 16. He had in his right hand seven stars. The seven Stars are expounded in the last verse, to be the Ministers of the Churches. And the reasons of it we forbear, till we come to that: only here, our Lord Jesus is said to have a right hand, that is, power, and skill, and activity in exercising His power: for, the right hand, is the strongest hand, and that by which men skilfully, and dexterously go about the bringing to passe of that which they would be at: He hath not power and fury, but power and skill; and with power and skill He manages all His matters. Believers have not a handlesse Medi­ator, (to speak so) He hath hands, as well as feet. But more of this in the third thing, contained in this description.

Sixthly, He is described further, Out of his mouth went a two edged sword: whereby is meaned the Word of God, especially the Gospel: His voice, spoken of before, is more generall, relating to His universall power and soveraignty over all the World: This re­lates more particularly, to the written and Preached Word, called The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Eph. 6. and sharper then a two edged sword, dividing betwixt the joynts and the marrow, the soul and the spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Heb. 4. The Word is compared to a sword, and a two edged sword, for these reasons. 1. Because of the power of it: it hath a discerning, peircing, pene­trating power with it, to come in on hearts; and to discover the thoughts and intents of the heart, when Christ blesseth it, and maketh it strik at the roots of corruption, it will humble the proudest heart, and quicken the deadest spirit, and pierce through the Soul and Conscience of the most obdured person, as Act. 2. Peters Preaching did prick his hearers. This is the saving and proper effect of the Word, when it Anatomizes folks, and layeth open their thoughts, their security, pride, formality, &c. and strikes at the root of the body of death, to kill it, and be its death. 2. Because of the effect it hath among carnall hearers and hypocrites: in which respect, we think it is especially looked on here, as afterwards in the Epistle to Pergamos, Chap. 2. vers. 12.16. I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. This sword, when rightly handled, proves a torture to the wicked men in the world, when it discovers their rottenesse: so it's said of the two faith­full Witnesses, Revel. 11.10. that they tormented them that dwelt on the earth; the Word of God was so sharp in their mouths, that it did hew (Hos. 6.5.) their minds and consciences, and galled them at the heart; so (Act. 7.) it is said, Stephens hearers were cut in their heart, and gnashed upon him with their teeth; they could not abide the plainnesse and evidence of the Word, accompanied with power. 3. Because it hath a fur­ther cutting vertue to wicked men, when it proves through Gods Justice, plaguing to their hearts and minds, and hath an instrumentall efficacy for their slaying, when God draws out the sentence, and gives the Word an edge, and makes it cut, and, in His Justice, to promove their destruction, Isa. 11.4. With the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked, 1 King. 19.17. Him that escapeth the sword of Iehu, shall Elisha slay; and Hos. 6.5. I hewed them by my Prophets, and slew them by the words of my mouth, through Gods pronouncing of sharp threatnings, and their corruption abusing the threatnings, it becomes their death. 2. This sword, is said to proceed out of his mouth: to point out where- from the force, efficacy, and power of the Word cometh, when it pierceth: It's not the Word, as it is written, or spoken by mens mouth; but as it proceedeth out of Christs mouth, which makes it profitable or convincing: and it is this which makes sinners guilt so great, and tormenteth hypocrites when He addeth weight with it, to thwart their cor­ruption, and they repine against it.

The last qualification, is, His countenance was as the Sun shineth in his strength: where­by is meaned the love that He sheweth to His People, and the Glory and Majesty that is in Himself, Psal. 4.6. Lord lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, that is, the ma­nifestation of thy love. And Psal. 80. the causing of His face to shine, is severall times spoken of. And this favour and stately Majesty in Christ, is compared to the Sun shining: not as in the morning, nor at even, nor under a cloud; but in his strength. 1. Because of the glorious majesty that is in it, as Chap. 5.15. of the Song, His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars: there is an excellency and beauty in it that dazels and obscures all the excellency and beauty of the World, even as the light of the Sun obscures the Stars. 2. Because of the lightsomnesse of it: for, Christ is to Believers, as the Sun is to the World, Ioh. 1.9. He is that true light, that enlighteneth every man that cometh [Page 41] into the world. Light, both for direction and consolation: and that is a third reason of the similitude. His countenance is as the Sun shining in his strength, for the refreshingnesse of it. Psal. 4.6, 7. His countenance maketh the heart more glad than corn, and wine, and worldly comforts whatsoever. 4. His countenance is so compared, from the effectual influ­ence it hath on Believers growth: even as the Sun hath influence on the growing of cornes, grasse, trees, herbs, and all things in the inferiour world: so Christs countenance hath influ­ence on Believers growth in all things. Therefore, Mal. 4.2. It's said, The Sun of righ­teousnesse shall arise with healing under His wings to such as fear His Name, and they shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall. His presence and favour, hath a reall and effectual influence on all that are united to Him, as the sun in his strength, hath on herbs and plants. We point but at these things, which are infinite in themselves. O that neces­sitie of union with Christ! O the excellencie of that condition of being near to Him! He is our light: there is no living without Him; and how lightsom is it, to walk with Him, and to dwell in Him?

The third thing in the description, is, Christs actuall exercising of His Offices and qualifications for the good of His Churches and Ministers (which are the objects about which His care is especially exercised) holden out in these two. 1. He walks among the golden Candlesticks. And, 2. He keeps the Stars in His right hand, that is His Work and great imployment, as vers. 13, 16. and chap. 2. vers. 1.

1. His walking among the golden Candlesticks, points out, 1. His special presence in His Church: though He be omnipresent through all the world; yet He hath a special manife­station of His presence in His Church: and there is a special relation between Him and them, as it's spoken of Israel, Psal. 147.19. compared with Deut. 4.7. What nation so great that hath God so near them in all things, &c? He is near to His Church in a singular manner, in the special effects of His presence. 2. It points out His special care of His Church; He chooseth His Church as the pleasantest place in all the world to walk in; and He taketh plea­sure there, as in His Garden and Gallerie: His common providence is extended to all the world; but He taketh special notice, and hath a special care of His Church above all the world. Isa. 27.3. I the Lord do keep it, I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. See Isa. 43.3, 4. 3. It points out His special taking notice of, and observing the carriage of His Church and of all within the same: He knoweth all the world, and the thoughts, words, and actions of every one, all projects, counsels, and events before they come; but in a special manner He taketh notice of all His Church, how the Work of Grace thriveth in His people; what fruit His Ordinances have among them, who are making progresse, who are backsliding, what is the particular posture of every soul, to sned off luxuriant branches, to purge out what is corrupt, to help forward what is right, to prevent any prejudice may come unto them; to fore-see and provide for any thing, as it may be for their good. Which shews, 1. What a great benefit it is to be a Member of this Church: if it be a mercy to be under His special and singular care, it must be no small privi­ledge and benefit to be a Member of His Church. 2. It letteth us see what manner of per­sons we ought to be, who have Christs presence so near us, nearer than all the world beside: when ever we are in the Ordinances, we would take up Christ, as walking amongst the midst of us; and in all our conversation, apprehend Him at our ear: it both calls for holi­nesse from us, and laieth watchfulnesse on us, knowing how narrowly He taketh notice of us. 3. It points out, how inexcusable, the faults and failings of these who live in the Church, are. Christ walks among them; and yet they stand not awe of Him: the signs of His presence are alwayes with them; and yet they take no notice of them: the nearer the signs of His presence, and His special care be, the greater is our sin, if it have not influ­ence on us. 4. It points at Christs tendernesse and care, for the comfort of them that dare not trust themselves, but commit themselves to Him and trust to His care and tendernesse: He seeth well to all His Churches, and every particular persons condition; and is never from them: His being in heaven, hath not made Him to lay by His care of His people. This were a great consolation, if we would singly make use of it. Matth. 28. Lo, I am with you to the end of the world; and He keeps His promise.

The other word, His holding the Stars in His right hand, holds out His care of His Ministers: the meaning is, that as He walks in the midst of the Churches, and takes special care of them; so He takes a special care of the Ministers of these seven Churches, and so of [Page 42] the Ministers of all the Churches. And under this is holden out, 1. The difficulty of the Ministers station: they are not able to stand their alone, except they be upholden by Christ: partly, because of the malice and opposition of men, and Devils that by wicked men seek to ruine and overturn the Church and Work of God in their hands; the venting of their malice begins at them: and partly, because of the greatnesse of the burden and charge, that lies on them: and partly also from their own infirmities, &c. 2. It points out the Lords special care of them, according to their station, strait, and charge: as their charge is great, and their difficulties great and many; so He exercises His power for their direction, defence and protection: He hath care of all the world; but more especially of His Churches: but for His Churches sake, He hath, most of all, a special care of His Ministers, who are called the Messengers of the Churches and the Glory of Christ, 1 Cor. 8. they being the men that He makes use of for the handling of His Sword, and subduing of souls to Him. They often meet with little estimation from men, and walk among many snares and dangers: therefore He holds out His care, and the application of His power, especially, to incourage and strengthen them to duty in the midst of these snares and difficulties. 3. By His holding them in His right hand, he points at that dependency that Ministers ought to have on Jesus Christ: they should go about their duty, as in His hand; lippening to His strength and power, rather than to ought in themselves, for the performing of the task committed to them.

1. This is for special consolation in evil times, that Christ hath such a care of His Mini­sters and Churches: let the Devil pluck again and again to have a Ministery down, somtimes by force, somtimes by slight, it will not be, they are stars, and in Christs hand: sooner will Stars be plucked from heaven, than they from Him.

2. Christs care of His Church, kyths in caring for His Ministers: The right care of the one, is carried along with the right care of the other: and it's not a right care of Churches, where there is not a respect to Ministers: Christ knoweth the good and the ill of the one, stands and falls with the good and ill of the other: there is such a connexion between them, and such a sibnesse, they are so interested the one in the other, that according as the one is, so is the other: ordinarly, if the Minister be carnal and secure; so is the flock: and if the Minister be in a lively temper; there will also be some life among the flock. And if we speak in reference to those who have enmity at the Church, hatred against the Church is vented, and begineth at hatred against the Ministerie. It's impossible to be careful of Christs Church and despise and hate His Ministers, or overturn a Ministerie.

3. It shews, that there is a respect due to them that Christ puts in this place: and where Christ hath put respect, it becometh us to put respect also: there should be a sympathie with them, and a reverencing of them, if it were for no more but for this cause, that he keeps them in His right hand: respect to Him, should make respect to them: It's a strange Religion, to professe respect to Churches and Saints, and show so little to Ministers: Christ did never so.

LECTURE VIII.

Vers. 17.

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead: and he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not, I am the first and the last.

18.

I am he that liveth, and was dead: and behold, I am alive for ever­more, Amen,—

YE have heard of this Vision, which Iohn saw: the Lord beginneth with it at the entry of this task of writing this Book of the Revelation, to imprint on him a stamp and impression of His own excellencie, as a preparation and fitting of him for the Work; even as He began with Isaiah, chap. 6. and with Ezekiel chap. 1. Bearing out, by these Visions, a representation of His Glory and Majesty, thereb [...] to fit and qualifie them for their duty: for, they are fittest to bear Gods message, and to describe Him to others, that are thus prepared, and qualified, and have some reverence and awe of God imprinted on their own hearts.

[Page 43]From the 17. vers. and forward to the end, we have some consequents, that followed this Vision, or, some circumstances for the edification of the Church, for clearing of the Vision before mentioned, and for making way for Iohn's writing of what he saw. And they are four in number. 1. The effect, which the Vision had on Iohn, in the beginning of vers. 17. for as stately and lovingly as Jesus Christ represented Himself, he could not bear it; but faints when he sees Him, and he falls at His feet as dead. 2. A consolation proposed by our Lord to Iohn, which hath severall steps, in the latter part of vers. 17. and 18. wherein as Iohn kythed weaknesse, so Christ kythed much love, tendernesse, and skil­fulnesse in applying an effectuall remedy, for curing the distemper Iohn was into. 3. A re­petition of Iohn's Commission and Warrand to write, vers. 19. And 4. An explication of that part of the Vision, concerning the meaning of the seven golden Candlesticks, and the Stars, vers. 20.

1. And when I saw him, I fell down at his feet as dead, This is the first consequent or effect of the Vision. I fell down as dead: that is, I was benummed (as it were) and dam­mished with the sight of the excellent Majesty and Glory that I saw in Him, and I was put out of capacity to act the acts of body or mind, as if I had been dead; I could no more exercise, or act the acts of a living man, than a dead man can, as Daniel, Chap. 10.8.9. And it hath been often seen in the best of Gods Children, when more than ordinary representa­tions of God have been let forth, they have become as dead men, unfit for action. And it pro­ceeds from two grounds. 1. From the exceeding great distance that is betwixt the infi­nite Majesty of God, and finite creatures: the brightnesse of the Glory, Excellency, and Majesty of God the Creator, burdeneth and over-burdeneth the weaknesse and infirmity of the best of creatures: for, if the eyes of creatures be that weak, that they cannot look on the Sun, what wonder that flesh and bloud is not able to look on the Sun of Righteous­nesse. This new wine, is too strong for our old bottles. 2. From the fear of a begun quarrell, and grounds of a continued quarrell then apprehended, making not only a dis­proportion, through infirmity, betwixt the Majesty of God and the creature, which is so many wayes defective to comprehend Him; but also making a disconformity through sin, and so a fear to appear before Him: which makes the creature fear undoing, as in Isa. 6. Wo is me, I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts: For, though before the Fall, when God and Adam were friends, he could have endured God to speak to him; yet, after the Fall, the appearance of God is terrible unto Him: when he hears His voice, he is afraid, and runs and hides himself. And there is some thing of this fear, that sticketh to the best; a fear that riseth from the sight of sin, which nearnesse to God doth discover. And it's like that some thing of both these grounds were in Iohn, as may be gathered from our Lords application of the remedy, and the grounds whereupon He goes in comforting him, He layeth his hand on him, and strengthens him, and and saith, fear not, &c. whereby it seemeth. 1. Iohn conceived, from a distemper of mind, Christ would reckon with him, and with Peter, Luk. 5.8. fears (as a sinfull and pro­fain person in his own account) his being so near such a Glorious and Holy Majesty. And 2. This distemper of mind kyths, and hath influence on his body, and maketh him fall down at His feet: not out of reverence, to worship Him; but being overswayed with the excessive­nesse of fear, that mastered and overcame him, he cannot stand up, but falleth down as dead.

1. This sets out to us the great disproportion, that is betwixt creatures and the Majesty of God: the beloved Disciple Iohn, cannot stand before Him when he kyths; but falleth down as dead. Isa. 40.15, 17. and 41.11, 12, 24. All Nations are as nothing before Him, or as the dust in the ballance; a little nearnesse to God, should leave a stamp of humility, and an impression of the Majesty and excellency of God upon us. This is one of the foun­tain Graces, humility, and a holy awe of the Majesty of God: and this is the way to come to it, to get a right sight of that excellent Majesty that is in Him. 2. Reverence and ad­mire Gods wise and well ordered governing of this World, especially these things that con­cern His Church and People. Wonder that God hath carved out such a way in the works of Creation and Providence, and in the dispensation of the Gospel, and mysteries of Sal­vation sutable to our weaknesse; and so as there may be communion kept with Him, Iob. 26.9. It is made one of the stately steps of His power, that He boldeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it: He draweth the vail of the firmament before His Throne, to keep His Glory from breaking forth, and eating up men: And in the dispen­sation [Page 44] of the Gospel, He hath chosen the Ministery of weak men, to reveal His mind by them to us: and speaketh not immediately Himself; because we could not endure it: if ye heard Him once speak, as He did on mount Sinai, ye would say as Israel did, L [...] not God speak to us l [...]st we die. And this way of revealing Himself, should be so far from making us cast at it, that it should make us wonder at His condescendency in hedging up of Himself (as it were) for our good. 3. It lets us see how much we are in His reve­rence, that deals so tenderly with us, when a little glimpse of His Glory, a looking of His eye, a drawing by of the vail, would kill us, and make us as if we had never been. 4. It sheweth us also, that humility and reverence even in the best of Gods People, is often ready to degenerate into servile fear and discouragement. The worshipping of Jesus Christ in humble reverence, was a duty called for from Iohn; yet this distemper of excessive fear was not called for: such is our weaknesse, and the slipperines [...]e of our walking that hardly can we keep the right path; but deviat to one side or other: our faith is ready to degene­rate into presumption; and our humility to fainting and despondency of spirit; and our fear, to discouragement, heartlesnesse, and distrust; our corruption is ready to abuse any thing: for though there be no excesse in these graces; Yet there may be in us excesse in the exercise thereof, by reason of the corruption which is in us.

The 2. thing, is Christs tender care of Iohn under this fit: When he falls at his feet as dead, He comforts him: and this is set down in three steps. 1. He laid his right hand upon him, as a sign of His kindlinesse, for his encouragement. 2. Giveth him a generall word of exhortation, for his comfort, fear not. 3. He giveth him three generall grounds why he should not fear, to support his faith. Observe, in generall, Our Lord Jesus His exceeding tendernesse of folks, especially in their fits of fainting and discouragement, which ariseth through their mistaking, or wrong uptaking of Him. First, It points at the ex­ceeding tendernesse and effectualnesse of His care, that on the back of this fit, layeth on His hand, and saith, fear not; that taketh him at this nick of his distemper, and raiseth him. Secondly, what is the great ground of consolation that is proposed, it is a holding forth of Himself, I am the first and the last. And it lets us see when folks scares at Christ, and discourages and faints through their mistaking of Him, there is no such way of curing that distemper and mistake, as by a right uptaking of Him. The Note hath these two branches. 1. That the great ground of our mistaking of Christ, is our ignorance of Him, in His Offices and worth. 2. That the right curing of that mistake, is the right knowledge and uptaking of Him. 3. It sayes this, that when souls are fainted and discouraged, Christ is both the Cure and the Curer: He must lay on His hand, and speak the word; He is the Cure that is applyed, and the Physician that applyeth it; He toucheth, and speaketh, and the Cure followeth. This also sheweth. 1. That there are some kind of bodily exercises, that arise from a distemper of the mind, that so faints and weakeneth the body, that none can cure but Christ: and this of discouragement and fainting, is one. 2. It sheweth to Believers their necessity of having the word out of Christs mouth for their encourage­ment, erre they can shake off discouragement: He hath gotten the tongue of the Learned, to speak a word in season to the weary soul: if He were more waited on in Ordinances; and if the word were taken as from His mouth, we should come better speed than we do, and profit more by the Ordinances. 3. More particularly, His right hand is His Power: and His laying it on Iohn, is not any personall touch; but an inward strengthening and up-stirring, as Daniel, Dan. 10.10. Behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees, that is, some power for my strengthening and comfortable up-stirring. And Psal. 138.3. David saith, In the day when I cryed, thou answeredst me: and strengthnedst me with strength in my soul, which is the communicating of inward strength, to keep him unsinking under the sad condition he was in. 1. It points out what our need is: our weak­nesse and discouragement is often such, that we have need not only of comfort, but of strength. 2. It points at Christs way of dealing with souls, that will sometimes strengthen, ere He comfort; first lay on His hand, and then let the word of comfort, fear not, come behind; He seeth this meet, and its a main evidence of Christs tendernesse, faithfulnesse and wisdom, that takes this way with His People.

The second step of Christs care, is, His saying, fear not: a word that is often used and repeated in the Prophets, especially, Isa. 41.43.44. and 56. Chapters. Obs. 1. There is an excessive fear that God alloweth not in His People: every thing that passeth for fear [Page 45] and humility, should not be admitted. Christ saith to Iohn, fear not: which hath three marks from his experience. 1. It's a degenerating fear that breeds mistakes of Christ, and scares them at Him; that weakens and faints them in their fellowship with Him. Christ alloweth not Iohn's fear to the marring of that. 2. It maketh folks uncapable of hearing or receiving a message from Christ: so that when He speaketh, they are benummed, sense­lesse and dead, having ears, but hear not: and it locketh them so up, that no word taketh hold of them. Christ alloweth not this in Iohn. 3. It disables, obstructs and marreth in the discharge of that duty that Christ calls to. When Iohn is called to write the Vision, he falleth as dead: therefore, Christ saith, fear not; but rise up and write: thou art called to reverence and fear me; but to such a fear as may stand well with thy duty, and further thee, and doth not hinder thee in it. And we would learn not to fear, in so far as it works any of these effects. Obs. 2. When fear exceeds, degenerates, and groweth excessive in these three spoken of, our Lord alloweth it no more than He doth proud security: only Jesus Christ, is much more tender of souls under the one, nor He is under the other; yet, let us not please our selves in these excessive fits, as if we were in no hazard. Obs. 3. It faith that folks would be tender in dealing with souls under such distempers, knowing there is a great difference betwixt these, who are under carnall presumption, and others, under fainting.

The third step of Christs care, is, in giving Iohn grounds of consolation to warrand his faith: and they are three. The first, is from His own God-head, I am the first and the last: I am God that speaks to thee; I was before the world, and will continue when the world shall be ended, the eternall God, a singular property of God, and a demon­stration of Christs God-head: therefore would He say, thou needest not fear, Iohn: I am not an enemy, nor a stranger, or terrible spirit; but God: and that may sustain one in friend­ship with God: and it is also a proof, that the Vision before, was a Vision of Christ, as God.

2. The second ground, is, the union of His God-head and Man-head, in one Person; and His suffering in His Man-head, united to His God-head, I am he that liveth, and was dead: and behold I am alive for evermore. In the Originall, it is otherwise, and better for the understanding of the words, I am the living, and I was made dead, and behold, I live for evermore. I am the living, that is, I am the living God, who had life from all Eternity of my self, and gave life to all creatures that have life, as it is, Ioh. 5.26. As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself: and I that was, and is this living God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, was made dead, that is, I became Man, was made of a Woman, made under the Law, Gal. 4. pointing out the true Mediator (God-Man in one Person) His taking on the nature of man; and satisfi­ing the Justice of God, in undergoing the wrath of His Father; and in subjecting Himself to the death of the Crosse, for the sins of His own Elect: both Natures are joyned in one Person; yet, it was not as God that he died, though the Person that was God, died. And behold, I live for evermore, Amen: in as far, as I was once dead, as Man, now I am alive, and shall live for evermore. And this last expression, hath two words put to it, to point out its excellency. 1. Behold, I live: pointing at His Resurrection, and the consola­tion that flowes from it to Believers; I have overcome death, and live; and so I live, as I shall live for ever, for the benefit of Believers in me. That is of speciall consolation to us, our life being linked to Christs life, who is God Man and our Mediator: because He lives, we shall live also, Ioh. 14.19. His life is a pledge and pawn of ours. 2. Amen, or Verily: an asseveration to confirm the truth of His Resurrection, and to put all the world out of doubt of His living, not only as God, but as God and Man in one Person. Be assured ye have a living Christ.

The third ground, is, And I have the keyes of hell and death: to point out His absolute soveraignity, as Mediator in the state of Humiliation, and Exaltation: therefore fear not, Iohn: for I have the keys of hell, and ordereth even what concerns them. The keys, are the sign of Government, Isa. 22.21. It's spoken of Eliakim, a type of Christ, I will commit the Government into his hand: and then followes, the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder. The meaning is, I have absolute soveraignity and dominion over heaven and hell; I deliver and carry to heaven whom I please, none go there, but those whom I take in: and hell prevaileth not, at its own will; but is under my dominion: [Page 46] for, I have supreme power over hell and death: Not that Christs dominion is limited to these; but, because hell and death are the two things that Believers most fear. He tells that they need not fear them: for they are both His Vassals: the devil bears not the keys; but He bears them Himself. These are the grounds of consolation, that are given to Iohn: and they are strengthening grounds of faith and salvation to all Believers.

Observe, 1. Our Lord Jesus, is God; the first and the last; He that was born of the Virgin Marie: and so a true Man, is God; He that was crucified, dead and buried, is God. This is one of the Articles of our Faith: and this place of Scripture, is to be looked on, as a proof of it, against all the most cavilling enemies of our Lords Deitie: He that died, was, and is, the first and the last; and the incommunicable Attributes of the Godhead agree to Him.

2. This is proposed, as a ground of consolation to Iohn and all Believers. And it hath a world of consolation in it, as 1. Not only that there is a God; but that our Lord Jesus Christ, is God; and that, notwithstanding His being God, yet He hath loved sinners so well, that He took on mans nature; and in that nature, died for them; and that He, who wooes sinners, and offers to marry them, is God, and yet is very tender to them and of them: which is no small consolation. And it sheweth also, that He is faithful and power­full to perform His promise to Believers: so there is not a design of enemies laid from the beginning to this day; but He hath a hand beyond it. 2. That folks may expect good of God: seing Christ is God, can Believers look for hard dealing from Him? He is absolute in His soveraignty and dominion, yet swaying it for the good of Believers. What would folks have more for a ground of consolation in times of confusion, than this? let the world go as it will, our Lord Jesus, is God, and wisely orders all. 3. It saith this, that folks when their discouragements prevail, as they are ready to mistake Christ, so they are ready to reflect on His Godhead, as if He were not faithful, or powerful, or wise, or tender enough. 4. The solid cure of fear and fainting, is, to be acquainted with Christ as God: the ignorance of Christ is the ground of their being anxious, impatient, and dammished with faithlesse fears, 1 Ioh. 5.4, 5.

From the second ground, I am living and was dead, Observe, 1, That this Eternall Son of God became Man, else He could not have died; He that was God, was also true Man: and this is another ground of our Faith, or, a confirmation of an Article of it. 2. That Jesus Christ, in His Man-head, satisfied Justice: for, He was dead, He laid down His life, and that willingly: No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down, and take it up again. 3. That Jesus Christ is God and Man, having two distinct Natures in one Person; for, in the one Nature, He is living; and in the other Nature, He that was living became dead; yet it's but one Person, that was both living and dead: some things (as is ordinary) are attributed to the Person, that agree but to one of the Natures, as (Acts 20. 28.) God is said to have purchased His Church with His own Blood: not that the God­head could suffer, but He that was God, suffered: so of the Man Christ, it may be said, that He is Omnipotent, yet not as man, but the Person that was, and is Man, is Omnipo­tent: so the Person that is God, died, though not as God, but in respect of His humane nature, and as He was Man. These phrases from Christs own mouth, do both clear and con­firm our Faith.

And behold I am alive for evermore. Then 1. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died once, shall die no more. 2. He who died out of love to His people, is risen and exalted to hea­venly glory and dignity, and bears the Office of Mediator, for the consolation of His people for evermore. 3. His exaltation maketh Him no lesse mindfull, nor lesse affectionate, and tender of Believers in Him: for, Iohn might have thought, that now there was a distance and drinesse come in between Christ and Him, especially considered as God; but He tells Iohn, He liveth for his comfort: and that he may expect, that He who gave life to all, and laid down His life for him, and other Believers, would be tender of Him and of His life.

Which letteth us see, 1. That the price of Believers Redemption, is paid. 2. That it is paid by a Brother, that had a humane nature, and was like us in all things except sin. 3. That Christ, who is God, is also Man; and that, to put us in a capacity of living. 4. See here Christs Resurrection and victory over death; so that the bargain is compleated and finished: and consequently, that Believers shall rise and live for ever through Him. Every word here, is bigg with consolation to us, if we know, how to suck at it.

LECTURE IX.

Vers. 18.

—And have the keys of hell and of death.

19.

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.

20.

The mystery of the seven Stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden Candlesticks. The seven Stars are the Angels of the seven Churches: and the seven Candlesticks which thou sawest, are the seven Churches.

THe Lord is now comforting Iohn, 1. From His Natures, or, Person. 2. From His dying and victorie over death. 3. From His Office, which, as Mediator, He executes; instanced especially over hell and death, for these reasons, 1. Because hell and death, were the last enemies Christ had to subdue, as if He said, I have gotten power over the greatest enemies; and consequently, I have power over the rest: and so it points at the greatnesse and universality of His power, as Mediator, He being made head over all things to the Church, and having all things put under Him, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth, and which are under the earth, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow. 2. For the comfort of His people. Particularly, for the comfort of Iohn: because now, Iohn was affrighted with the Majesty of God and the challenges of his own sinfulnesse, and was overcharged with fear: therefore Christ saith to him, fear not hell nor death, Iohn, for I have the keys of both, and can dispose so of them, as they shall not hurt thee; so guarding him and His people against fears and down-casting, which may flow from the apprehension of hell and death, which are the main things that the wakened person, cast down at Christs feet, doth fear.

1. From our Lords repeating these grounds of consolation for Iohn's incouragement, in general, Observe, That when fear groweth excessive, and degenerates, even in these that should least mistake Jesus Christ, it is not easily removed; but will take one ground of encou­ragement and confirmation after another, ere the soul be erected. This is clear from the many Arguments, and the repeating of them, to remove Iohn's fear: for, Christ doth nothing idely: so apprehensive and jealous is flesh, when the Majesty of God kythes, and the sense of sin, and challenges for sin are wakened, and the creatures infirmitie and weak­nesse is discovered, and so strong is misbelief, That the souls of these who are most tenderly dealt with, (and readily none was more tenderly dealt with nor Iohn, the beloved Disciple who lay in Christs bosom) are hardly raised up to comfort and confidence. This flowes partly, from the pronenesse of our nature to mistake Christ, and sink in discouragement: and partly, through our weaknesse and sinfulnesse; so that the worth of Christ, gets no credit in the general, far lesse in our paticular, at such a nick of time as this is, when discou­ragement prevaileth: a thing that experience teacheth, and that souls would walk in fear of, at such times; a temper like unto which we may see, Psal. 77. My sore did run in the night, my soul refused comfort.

The second general, is this, That it is no great hazard for a discouraged soul to be laid at Christs feet: it's a good posture, when a soul cannot bear the weight of a difficultie, to throw it self down before Him. Christ is tender to these, and though souls sin in giving way to ex­cessive fear, through the apprehension of wrath and guilt; yet our Lord deals gently with them; when the reed is bruised, He will not break it; when the flax is but smoaking, He will not quench it; when the ewes are with young, He softly drives them, and carries the lambs in His bosome, and suits His tendernesse in reference to them, Isa. 40.11. If any be in such a condition, it were good to believe this: Christs tendernesse in such a case when the soul is laid low, is abundantly clear in this one instance.

Thirdly, More particularly. Observe, 1. That Believers may have apprehensions and fears of hell and death; or, the fears of hell and death may sease and be excessive in them: therefore Christ guards against it, which otherwise were not needfull.

Obs. 2. Much of this fear proceedeth from the ignorance of Christs' Natures, Per­son, and Offices, or, from the ignorance of Him in the administration of these His Offices. Therefore when He comes to comfort Iohn, He holds out His Offices, and lets Him know [Page 48] that life and death are at His disposing. There is some secret mistake of Christ, and some strange mould of Christ in the mind, where excessive fear prevaileth: therefore it is often said, fear not, it is I, be not afraid: and through the following Epistles to the Churches, He ever telleth what He is, with some property.

Obs. 3. That our Lord Jesus Christ, hath the absolute guiding and administration of what concerns His People; yea, hath their greatest enemies at His command; He lets into hell and death, and keeps out whom He pleaseth, He gives orders in all.

Obs. 4. That there is no greater consolation to Gods People in time of their fears of hell and death, than to know that our Lord Jesus hath the keys of both, and all in both, that devils will not winn out of the pit, till He open the door, nor lengthen their chain one link, but as He lets it out, Rev. 20.4.14.

5. Lay all these together, what needs Iohn fear? If evil spirits act by Christs orders, and the most wicked in hell or earth cannot exceed their orders, what needs there be fears? seing Christ keep the keys of the devils house, and hath orders given, and imployment carved out to them, as acurately as He hath to men on earth, good or bad; for death and hell are His servants, and go not their own errands, but His; and therefore dare not exceed their Commission, yea, they must not, nor cannot, what ever malice they have in prosecuting His order: What ground then of fear is there? And so it may serve to comfort us against the evils of our outward and inward condition: there is nothing comes in Church, or Commonwealth, but as He orders it, who is faithfull in all the house of God, as a son. It were good if our meeting together had this fruit to get the faith of His Soveraignity sealed up in our hearts. If folks would choose a good Friend, Patron, or Master, He is the Party: stick to Him, and fear nothing.

Vers. 19. Followeth the third thing, and it is some circumstances, that make way for Iohns writting what he saw, or, our Lords repeating and inlarging of Iohns Commission. This Commission is so often repeated, to tell, 1. How punctuall He would have Iohn in keeping himself by his Commission, neither altering nor diminishing it, nor doing any thing lesse or more, but what he had Commission for. 2. To shew on what ground this word depends, and the Authority of it: it's not to be accounted authentick, because Iohn wrote it simply, or because the Church accounts it so; but because Iohn at Christs command wrote it: Christ will have the Warrand and Authority of His Word discernable, and out of que­stion, especially what is contained in this Revelation: We will not find the Warrand of any so often repeated, as the Warrand to write this. 4. It may be for this reason, Iohns former fainting and fagging might have made him forget his errand: therefore, He will re­peat it to him: to tell that discouraging and fainting must not marr folk in their duty; but they would alwayes labour so to compose their spirits, as the duty they are called to may not be neglected: and though they may be surprized with fear and fainting; yet, they would up, and fall to work again. We may consider the reasons of this repetition more fully afterward.

That which He commands Him to write, doth more accurately and distinctly divide this Book, nor he did formerly, vers. 11. So that these words, are the compendious division of the Book and Prophecy that followeth. And we take it to be a division of it, in three sorts of things. 1. The things which thou hast seen. 2. The things which are. 3. The things which shall be hereafter; or otherwise, the first branch comprehendeth the second also: and so it's divided in two.

1. The things which thou hast seen, that is, the things that in thy time have happened, or fallen forth since the Gospel began, the History of the Gospel in its rise and victories to this time: And we expone it thus, and do not refer it only to the particular Vision spoken of before, for two reasons, 1. Because, These things which thou hast seen, hold forth the subject matter of the Book, as well as the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. And the things which thou hast seen are distinguished from the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter: they must therefore be of one sort. And so, the things which thou hast seen, relate to the time past; the things which are, to the time present, as the things which shall be hereafter, to the time to come. 2. Because, com­paring these words with vers. 11. we will find a clear difference: for in vers. 11. it's said in the singular number, What thou seest, write in a Book, and send it to the seven Churches: which looketh to the particular Vision, spoken of there, or to the following Visions; [Page 49] looking on the Revelation, as one Vision with so many parts; but here, it is written, the things, in the plurall; and which thou hast seen, in the preterite time, that is, write the things which are past; to distinguish them from things present and to come: and so we expound these things, of the things past, from the rise of the Gospel to this time, according to the scope of this Prophecy.

2. The things which are, that is, the present estat of the Churches, in the two follow­ing Chapters: which holds forth the state of these Churches, as they were for the time.

3. The things which shall be hereafter, or, which must be hereafter, point at the Story and State of the Church from Iohns time to the second coming of Christ: for, from the rise and beginning of the Church here, it ends not, till it bring the Church Militant to Glory, and put the wicked in the bottomlesse pit, Chap. 20. and 22. I mark it, because it serves to be a key to the rest of the Story. And this division, sheweth, 1. That we are not to seek in this Book of the Revelation, things that were before Christs time, as some need­lesly draw it to the four Monarchies. 2. That the things contained in this Book, relate not to a generation or two only; but to things falling out in the Church to the end of the world: for, though some little things before Christs time, be hinted at in this Book; yet they are not brought in, as principall Prophecies, but as usefull, to expound these principall Prophe­cies, as when Rome is spoken of (Chap. 17.) and its bypast Governments under the name of Babylon, it is brought in, to clear what is meaned by the whore which Iohn saw.

Again, Two things further, are observable here, 1. Our Lord Jesus His care and respect to His Church, that will acquaint her with things past, present, and to come, for their comfort and edification, So well would He have them provided with lessons, and guarded against all times, and what ever difficulties may come. 2. Being now to enter to the story, which He is to write, He divides it ere He begin, both to make way for clearnesse in the thing, and for distinctnesse in the uptaking of it; to make it the more intelligible to them to whom He writeth, and to all that should read it, He draweth it all up to three heads. And there is a profitable use to be made of this for men, in speaking and writing, to be methodi­call and orderly: our Lords way of writing, is no friend to confusion, nor enemie to order, if so be, order be made subservient to edification, and not to curiositie, such is Christs order here; and to that scope doth that recapitulation serve, Heb. 6.1. and 8.1. And so are the writings of Paul often, most exact in this.

Vers. 20. This verse containeth an explication of the mystery, spoken of before in the Vision, which Iohn saw: at least of so much of it, as is usefull and needfull to be known: as usually He leaveth alwayes somewhat at the back of the Vision, to be a key to open the rest; So this serveth to open somewhat that is past; something that is spoken in the seven Epistles to the Angels, and several times hereafter. There is something to be supplied here, while He saith, The mystery of the seven Stars which thou sawest, that is, I will shew thee, or, I will tell thee the mystery of the seven Stars, &c. as He saith, Revel. 17. I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, that is, I will let thee know what it meaneth: Jesus Christ being the best Interpreter of His own mind, condescendeth to open up so much of the mystery as was usefull and needfull, 1. He expoundeth the Stars: and then, 2. the Candlesticks.

1. He expoundeth the Stars: The seven Stars, are the Angels of the seven Churches, that is, the seven Stars signifie, mean, and represent the Angels, or Ministers, or Officers of the seven Churches: for, it's a thing ordinary, to call Ministers, Angels, Mal. 2.7. The Priests lips should keep knowledge, and the people should seek the Law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. In the Original, it is, For he is the Angel of the Lord of Hosts. So, Iudges 2.1. it is said, an Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim: the word in the Original, is, a messenger came up; one, particularly sent for that earand. Ministers are called Angels, 1. For Gods speciall imploying them about His holy things, beyond others. 2. Because of that their sanctified station: to put them in mind, that they should be in their conversation, Angelical. 3. To make them to be received as Angels by others: that is the dignity due to them. By Angels here, is not meant some more eminent nor another in these Churches, such as the Lord Bishop; but by An­gels, we understand all the Bishops and Presbyters that were over these Churches. 1. Because, when it is said, the seven Stars, are the Angels of the seven Churches, it speaketh of them indefinitly, whether they be moe or fewer; and he faith not, they are [Page 50] the seven Angels of the seven Churches, as it saith, the seven Candlesticks, are the seven Churches; but supposeth, that the number is not so exact in the one as in the other: for, if the number of Ministers were definite, as of the Churches, Why should the manner of speech be different? nor saith it, the eminent Angels of the Seven Churches; but indefi­nitly, they are the Angels of the seven Churches. As Philip. 1. He writeth to the Bishops and Deacons, supposing a plurality of such in one Town, lesse than Ephesus, or others men­tioned here. Therefore, 2. It is not to be expounded of one man, as if some one man in each of these Churches, had had the preheminence, because our Lord writing to some of these Churches, and directing the Epistle to the Angel, speaketh of them as moe; As when He writeth to Smyrna, chapter 2. vers. 10. He saith, Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried: which must relate primarily, to the Ministers in Smyrna: and supposeth moe Ministers than one; and that in directing the Epistle to the Angel of such a Church, he understood the whole collective body of Ministers and Church-Officers, that afterward He distributes in moe individual persons. See the Notes there, and on chap. 2. vers. 24. where the Church in Thyatira, is distributed in three, 1. In these, who are polluted Members thereof. 2. In these, who were free of these pollutions called the rest. 3. In the Mini­sters, who are stiled You, [...], as distinct from the other two; yet All in the plurall number.

3. What is then to be understood by Angel of Ephesus (and so of the rest) we may learn from Acts 20.17. with 28. where Paul having the same businesse to do on the matter, in recommending the care of that Church to some, for preventing ills which He foresaw to be coming, He calleth not One, but the Elders of the Church of Ephesus: and giveth not to One, the charge or name of Bishop; but to All of them He committeth it. Therefore, seing Paul comprehendeth all in his Sermon under that name [...], vers. 28. (and would by writ, as well as word, done it) we must so expound Iohn to do also, though he write in a more obscure stile, as best agreeth with this Prophecie. For this Argument is sure, These that Iohn wrote to, under the name of the Angel of Ephesus, (and so of other Churches) are these who have the oversight of, and authority over, these Churches; But these are clear to be many Elders, or Bishops; Acts 20. &c. Ergo, &c. Therefore take we the stile Angel, to be collective, i.e. to the Angels (seing the stile, as also the matter agreeth to all) or Ministers of such a Church: as suppose one were writing to a City, governed by a number of Magistrates, in an Aristocratick Government, might it not be directed to the Magistrate of such a City, and yet no particular person be pointed at, but the whole be collectively understood? and so we conceive it here. Even as, by one beast, chap. 13. &c. or head, chap. 17. he doth expresse a Civil Government, to wit, of Rome, before it was Monarchick; so may he be understood to do, by the figurative title Angel here, though it be in the singular number; Considering with all, that the things charged on this Angel, or required of him, are such as agree not to one; but to the collective body, of Church-Officers together. Beside, moe Ministers there were than one in those Churches: that is certain. Either then they must be comprehended under the title of Angel, or else ta­ken in as contradistinguished from them with the rest of the Church; But that will be found absurd, that the Church and her guides should be some way contradistinguished, and yet Ministers not to fall under that distinction: for, Stars they must be, that is, Angels; or Candlesticks, that is, amongst the people, as distinguished from the Stars; But the last cannot be. Therefore of necessity, the first must be understood. We conceive then, as by Church, or Candlestick, is understood many Professors or Churches, (for under Church here, such who thus plead, will grant moe particular Churches to be comprehended: for, say they, they are Diocesian Churches) in an united way of worshipping or Government; So, by Angel, many Church-guids in an united way of Governing may be understood. Ministers are called Stars, for these reasons. 1. To signifie and point out the eminence and dignity of the Office, that it is a glorious and shineing Office. 2. To point out what is the especiall end of this Office; It is to give light: as the use of Stars is, to give light to the world; so it's Ministers main imployment, to shine and give light to others; to make the world which is a dark night, to be lightsome. In which sense, Mat. 5.14. It's said, They are the light of the world. 3. It is to signifie, that they are but subservient lights: Our Lord Jesus is the Sun of Righteousnesse, that Light, that great Light; and Ministers [Page 51] are lesser lights. 4. It is to point out the way how Ministers become lightsome. Stars receive their light from the Sun, and by vertue of that borrowed light are made lightsome; so Ministers, are made lightsome, and shine to give others light, by vertue of the light that they receive from Christ: they are lights, but their light is Star light, a borrowed light: and ecclipses betwixt Jesus Christ and them, will darken them, seeing they have no light, but what they receive from Him. This would learn Ministers and People a right uptaking of the nature of this Office, and keep off contrary extremes, that both re­spectively are subject unto.

The second part is expounded, the seven Candlesticks, are the seven Churches, as be­fore he expounded the seven Stars to be the Angels of the seven Churches. The Churches are called Candlesticks, for these Reasons. 1. Because the Candlestick is that which pro­perly the light is set into: and it's fitted for receiving of light, though it have none of its own; so the visible Church, is that wherein Christ Jesus sets His lights, 1 Cor. 12.28. God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly Prophets, &c. The Church is, as it were, the Candlestick to the Candle, the proper seat of the Apostles, Prophets and Ministers after them. 2. Though the Candlestick give no light; yet it makes the light set on it to be the more usefull to others, as Mat. 5.14. Ye are the light of the world: a city set on a hill cannot be hid: neither do men light a candle to put it under a bushell, but on a Candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house: So Ministers are set in the Church; and their setting in the Church, is the way whereby God preserves light, ordi­narily, and makes it shine. And so, the excellent comely order of the visible Church, kyths in this, that it is like a City set on a hill. And hence the Church is called the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. 3.15. The light of the Truth being set in the Church, as on a pillar to make it kyth the more, and be seen the further, that others may fall in love with it. And laying both these together, the Ministers being Lights, and the Churches Candlesticks, it holdeth out a near and sib relation betwixt Ministers and People, as if the People were dark without Ministers; and the Ministers would not shine far, nor be usefull, if they had not Churches to bear them up. We ought not to strain this similitude too far, as if Churches might be Churches without Ministers, much lesse before Ministers be set in them, as a Candlestick still is a Candlestick, without a light, but certainly, very dark. That is not the scope; but it is to shew that in Constitute Churches, what is Christs esteem, both of Ministers and People, and what is the mutuall relation that stands betwixt them, each to other. We know that the Church organized, is but one body, whereof the Pastors are a principall part; and that these derogate not to the other relations betwixt Ministers and People, as to be Fathers to them, to beget them, to nourish them, as a Nurse doth in giving suck; to be Mothers, travelling in birth with them: in which respect, particular Churches, and Christians have their being from Ministers, as such instruments who hath begotten them by the immortall seed of the Word.

2. Golden Candlesticks, 1. To point out comparatively, the excellency of the Visible Church, above all other Societies in the World; and positively, the excellency that is among the Churches: as gold is the most excellent mettall; so the Church is the choice and waill of all the World beside: it's Gods Garden. 2. To let us see what is Believers duty, and what all the members of the Church are obliged to, they ought to be as gold that will abide the tryall, and hath no drosse. The Church of Christ should be throughly sincere, as gold: to be like every sort of mettall, will not be enough.

Quest. How can these Churches be called gold, seing many of them are of so little worth, that they could scarce abide the tryall, as Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, &c. and Laodicea is so corrupt that she hath no commendation at all?

Answ. Our Lord Jesus designes the Visible Church, or Churches, not according to the plurality; but according to the better part: and when there is any gold, He counts by it: even as one may call an heap, a heap of corn, though the greatest part be chaffe. 3. There is something essentiall to the Church as Visible, which makes them get this deno­mination: for, the Visible Church hath a comparative excellency beyond others that are without; and Jesus Christ looking not to what they were, but to the nature of a Visible Church, He calls them golden Candlesticks, even as He calls the Ministers Stars, though there were some among them of little worth, as that Angel of Laodicea: because by vertue of their Office they were so: So the Churches written to, by the Apostles, are called [Page 52] Saints, and Holy, in so far, as by vertue of their profession and Church-state-relation that they stood in to God, they were so. 3. He designes them so by vertue of their obligation, to let them see what they should be, and were obliged to be. This is a main reason why the Church of the Iews, is called a Holy people: not for any great holinesse that often was amongst them all; but because they were separated from other People, to be a peculiar People to Him: in which respect, the children of Believers, are called holy, 1 Cor. 7. which is not to be understood of any personall holinesse; but of a holinesse in respect of a federall or Covenant relation: in which respect, they are separated from the rest of the world, who have not an externall right to such Church-priviledges. Thus, both stock and branches are holy, and no otherwise, Rom. 11.

Which lets us see, 1. What respect Jesus Christ hath to His Churches and Ministers. 2. That the Scriptures way of expounding it self, is to expound one place by another: one verse or phrase, darkly set down in one place, by an other, more full and clear in an other place. 3. Particularly, how to expound the word are, or is, the seven Stars: are, that is, they signifie and represent: a word often used, Gen. 41.26. The seven good kine, are seven years, &c. So the Lamb, is the Passeover, and Mat. 26.26. Take eat, this is my body, This cup is my bloud, &c. which expressions hold out no Transubstantiation, or transmutation, or turning of one substance into another, more than what is said here imports that the Mini­sters were transubstantiated in Stars, or the Churches in Candlesticks, or contrarily; But it is a mysterious, and Sacramentall way of speaking, to set forth the thing signified, or repre­sented, by giving the name thereof to the signe, which represents it. And this is in many places to be adverted unto.

Concerning a Calling to the Ministerie, and clearnesse therein.

THis command of writing, was particularly set down, vers. 11. Here again, it's re­newed; and afterward, Chap. 2. and Chap. 3. is seven times repeated, with respect to every Church he writes unto: which certainly is to shew, of what concernment clear­nesse of a Call is, and that both in generall, and particular; and is done amongst other rea­sons for this end, to clear [...]ohn in his Call, and to warrand the People in their receiving of his Message. From which we may gather this, That a Minister that taketh on him to edifie a Church in the name of the Lord, had need to be clear of his Call thereunto from the Lord: it's not the generall that we now insist on, to wit, that there is such a peculiar Calling, or, that none but the Lord can authorize for it; but it's especially concerning that clearnesse which every Minister ought to have in his Call, that with holy boldnesse he may go about the work, having peace in himself (what ever he may meet with in it) as one who hath not run, whereas the Lord did not send him, Ier. 23.21. That this is exceedingly requisite to a Minister, we suppose will be out of question to all who know that Ministers are but Ambassadors; and so for them to want clearnesse of the Lords Call, is to be uncertain whether they have a Commission or not: and therefore they who look not to it, can nei­ther have that confidence of the Lords owning them, or accepting of them in their duty, except there be some satisfaction herein, to wit, that the Lord hath sent them, or doth send them. It will be a pusling question to many one day, Man, who made thee a Minister? Who gave thee Commission to treat for Christ? And although others may have peace in the use-making of such a mans Ministery; yet himself can have none, he being ever lyable to this question, Friend, how enteredst thou hither? and how obtained thou this honour? Doubtlesse from the defect of this tryal, it is, in part, that many thrust themselves into the work at first, whose after-carriage and way proves them never to have been sent, [...] which they durst not have done, had they walked by this rule of waiting for a Commission thereto. And on the other hand, some really called to the Ministery, are yet kept in a kind of bon­dage, both as to their duty and their peace; because it's not clear to them that it is so: for, although the being of a Minister and his Calling, simply depends not on his clearnesse of his Call: as the being of a Believer doth not necessarily infer that he must know himself to be a Believer; yet, no question, as a Believers particular comfort depends on the clearnesse [Page 53] of his interest, for which cause he should study it; so a Ministers confidence and quietness in his particular Ministry, doth much depend on this, that he be clear in his Call to be a Minister: for which cause, they who look there-away, or are entred therein, would humbly enquire for nothing more than this, that they be clear that they have Christs Commission for their engageing. And although it be impossible to be particular, or fully satisfying in this, so as to meet with all the difficulties that may occurr; but Christian prudence and tendernesse will still find matter of exercise in the deciding thereof; Yet, having this occasion here, (which is also frequent in this Book) we may, once for all, say a word in the generall to what may give a Minister clearnesse in his Calling: which we may take up in a five-fold consideration. 1. Of a Ministers Call to that work, in generall. 2. To a particular People. 3. In carry­ing a particular Message to that People. 4. What is required of him as to writing for the benefit of the Church. 5. And what respect People ought to have to Gods calling of a man, in their hearing and reading.

For the first, we say, 1. That Ministers would soberly endeavour satisfaction at their entry, if they be called to that work or not; and begin with that: This is certain, that it's not indifferent, whether men betake them to this Calling or an other: for God hath not indifferently dispensed His talents: nor hath He left men to that liberty, to choose as they will; but willeth them to continue and abide in that calling whereto they are called; and not which they have chosen themselves: yea, that a man have some knowledge or affection to that work of the Ministery, will not prove him to be called, although all that is exter­nally needfull for his promoving therein did concurr; for that will not prove a Call to an other Charge or Trust; and so not to this: and no question, it being a desirable thing in it self to be a Messenger for Jesus Christ to His Church, many may desire the office of a Bishop, and be approven of God in their look there-away; and yet indeed never be called of God actually to it, as experience may confirm.

Secondly, When we speak of a Call in any of the former respects, it's not to be under­stood, that men now are to look for an immediate and extraordinary Call, as Iohn and the Apostles had, That were as unwarrantable as to look for an extraordinary measure of gifts, such as they were furnished with, and that in an immediate way; but it is that as extraordinary Officers had extraordinary and immediate evidences of their Call (for so it required) so Ministers and ordinary Office-bearers, that are called in a mediate way, would seek for such evidences, as mediately may satisfie them: for, the mediate calling of the Church, according to Christs Ordinance, is Christs Call, as that more immediate was: and therefore, Act. 20.28. and elsewhere, these Elders and Pastors of Ephesus (who yet, no question, had but such a Call as these that were chosen by the People, and ordained by the Presbytery, Act. 14.23. and 1 Tim. 4.14.) are said to be set over the Flock by the holy Ghost: and so Pastors and Teachers, who are to be continued in the Church by a mediate way of mans transmitting it to others, as Pauls word is, 2 Tim. 2.2. are yet accounted a gift of Christs to His Church, as the Offices of Apostles, Evangelists, &c. are, Ephes. 4.11.

Thirdly, In this inquiry, the great stresse would not be laid on a mans own inclination, or a supposed impulse, which yet may be but the inclination. That being sound to flow from, on to go along with rationall grounds, may have its own weight; but otherwise, not: for we see often men more affectionately inclining to what they should not, than to what they should. Hence many run who are not sent; whose inclinations certainly lead them to it: and others again, that are most convincingly called, have yet difficulty to go over their inclinations, as doth appear in Moses, Ieremiah and Ionah, at least in his Call to Niniveh. And our hearts being deceitfull, and we ready to account the motions of our own spirits to be better than they are, There is need, whether in the generall, or in the particular Call, to be wary here.

More particularly, we conceive, that both in generall, and with relation to a particular place for the clearing of a Ministers Call, respect is to be had to these four: which may be satisfying as to his peace, when they concurr.

1. A mans Gift, is the great differencing Character of a Call, though it be not of it self, constitutive of a Call, that is, that one be in some measure [...], or, apt to teach a this being infallibly true, that whom the Lord designes for any imployment in His House, if it were but to make Curtains, Sockets, &c. to the Ark, Hewill some way fit, and make [Page 54] them sutable to it: and this is as the Seal whereby He evinceth in the hearts of Hearers, that he who treats, is His Authorized Ambassador.

2. To clear a man to exercise his Gift: it must not only be a Gift, but found and declared to be so, by these to whom the tryall of Gifts is committed by Iesus Christ: for, it's not the having a Gift, that maketh a Call; yea, nor that which maketh it a publick Gift, or to be acknowledged as such; but it's the orderly Authoritative mission, that followeth upon that Gift: in which respect, the exercise of the Gift, and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, are put together, 1 Tim. 4.14. even though it seemeth that he had know­ledge and Gifts before. If it were not thus, what a confusion would there be in the Church of Christ, more than in any Commonwealth? Where it's not Gifts that constitutes a Magi­strate, or an Officer; but the orderly calling of a person thereunto by such as have Autho­rity: which ought also singularly to be observed here. And the Lord hath appointed this, not only for the publick order of His house, which is exceedingly prised by Him; but also for the particular clearing of the person that is to be designed. Thus, I conceive, a person that is at some doubt about his Gift, and possibly thinking it fit to edifie; yet, upon sup­position that it be found otherwise by these to whom the Spirits, or Gifts, ought to be subjected, he may have peace in abstaining, what ever his own thoughts be: because the Lord hath not made these his rule. Hence also, on the other hand, some who may esteem their Gift unfit for edifying of the Church; yet if it be found otherwise by these whose place leads them to decide, and whose conscience will make them tender in it, they ought, and may with peace yeeld: whereas, if there were no Authoritative trial, what a torture would it be to some to have the weight wholly lying on themselves? and what a door would be open to the most self-confident persons on the other hand? Yea, were it not thus, there would be no need of the trial of Gifts, enjoyned, 1 Cor. 14.29, 31. which being in extraordinary gifted Prophets, it's much more to be respected in ordinary Ministers: nei­ther were there use for so many precepts to try, and so many characters how to discern them that are fitted for, or called to the Ministery; whereof, to be apt to teach, is a main one, if there were not weight to be laid on the probation, and determination of a Presby­terie, who are to count to God for their decision in such a case, and are not left to indiffe­rencie or arbitrarinesse therein.

3. For a mans peace, beside the former two, singlenesse in himself is necessary, without which, both the former two will not sustain him against a challenge: except there be a testi­monie here, that conscience to duty, and obedience to Gods Call made him yeeld to it; that Gods glory, and promoving of the Work of the edifying of Christs Body, was his end; and that his taking up of Christs mind, to be calling him to follow this Call, was his motive that made him betake himself to this Calling and not to another, and that upon deli­beration and search made, to discern the mind of God. Where these three concurr, to wit, a Gift, and that orderly approven, with the hearts yeelding to the Call, upon that account, to do Christ service in that, more than in an other station, because it apprehends him to call to that imployment and not to another, we conceive there is good ground of peace, so as there cannot be a torturing challenge upon this occasion: for, although men intrusted to try, are not infallible in discerning of Gifts; yet, when use is made of this way, as Christs Ordinance, for attaining satisfaction in this matter of a Call, it's not like that His Ordinance will be a snare to any: and if triers of Gifts should mistake; yet may it be expected, that either the Lord will discover it timously some other way to the person concerned, or gra­ciously some other way pity him, who did yeeld only out of respect to his Call as it was supposed by him. And who knoweth also, but Gifts may follow by Gods blessing upon Labours, when He so clears a Call, if the Question only be there? As one may have peace in a Magistracie, when singly it's imbraced out of the conscience of Gods Call, although it may be they who had hand in his election did unfitly make choice of such a person. And though this singlenesse be not simply necessary to the being of a Call; (for, there may be a Call without it, as in Iudas) yet, it's simply necessary for the mans peace that accepts it.

4. We take in here the considerations of Gods providence, and the concurrence of His dispensations: which, though they will not determine a Call simply, nor make a thing law­full to one, which is not in it self lawfull; yet, in positive duties, they may do much to cast the ballance in swaying a man to one Calling beyond another; as suppose one hath [Page 55] means and wayes in providence provided for his education, which others have not; or, he hath been led to study, conscience puts at him to take some calling, and it may be, pointeth at this, at lest so far as to make proof of it: all doors for other Callings are shut upon him, so that he must betake himself to this, or languish in doing of nothing: somtimes others may be made use of to put at him, and the mind is kept in disquiet while he essayeth any other thing: reason here sheweth, such and such like things concurring, may have so much weight as to encourage one to follow this motion, and may confirm him when this goeth along with the former three, or hath them following upon it.

If there were more particular enquiry called for concerning that impulse of the Spirit, which may be in one, in reference to the Ministery, how to discern it? and what weight to lay on it? We confesse that it is hard to decide therein: the operations of the Lords Spirit being mysteries, and often seeming unreasonable to men; as also the deceits of our own hearts are deep, and not easily reached: Yet, for helping in this, we may say, That it's not unusuall to the Lord, to pouse one by His Spirit, when He mindeth to have him to the Ministery; and thereby to stir the heart of one, more than another, and more to this Cal­ling than another, though in all, or at all times, not in the same measure. This in experi­ence hath been found, and God hath afterward sealed it to have been of him: and by this, many have been brought to the Ministery, who have been profitable in it; who, had not this been, would never have thought on it, or have been perswaded thereto by others. And seing the Calling of the Ministery is in an especial and peculiar way from God, and emi­nently His choice herein doth appear, it's not inconsistent with His soveraignty and interest therein, that he use this mean or way of an inward impulse. And although what is expresly spoken of this in Scripture be for the most part in reference to extraordinary Officers, and that in an extraordinary manner; yet by proportion may an ordinary impulse be gathered from that as concurring in the sending of ordinary Officers, as there is an ordinary motion of the Spirit acknowledged in other lawful duties. Yet, 1. Advert, that this impulse of the Spi­rit, is not in all alike or equally discernable. The Lord sometimes will thrust one forth by a more inward impulse; and will draw others by more external means: Hence it will be found, that if the thing be of God, where the way is most improbable, and there be fewest encou­ragements and least outward drawing, there the inward thrust is the more strong: because by it the Lord doth supplie the want of that weight, which these outward helps might have on Him. And again, where outward things do more convincingly concur, as that a man is purposly, as it were, educated in reference to that end, provided for, and encouraged by others in the undertaking thereof, &c. In these, although the end may be single, yet often is the inward impulse lesse discernable: because the Lord hath provided other means to draw them forth, which do supply that: neither is he to be astricted to one way of proceeding in this. 2. Advert, that this impulse may be, when yet it is not discerned, either because it is not taken heed unto; or, because the inclination may be prejudged, and the person not dis­cern the language thereof. Or, because the Lord may make it ascend by the steps and degrees, as it were, at first withdrawing the mind only from some design that it was set upon; and it may not be positively at first known what he aimeth at: And, Secondly, He may incline the heart to, and bring it in love with reading, and studying, and other means which after­ward he may make use of in reference to this end; and yet possibly hide from the person that which he aimeth at by this. Thirdly, He may make a stir inwardly in the heart, making it some way disquiet in every other thing, and restlesse in whatsoever it turneth it self to, as not being its proper work; that thereby He may constrain it to look some other-where. Fourthly, When this is done, He may make the person content to essay the trial of his Gift, if so be by that he may attain quietnesse, and yet still the person be but trying what the language of that impulse may mean, and not be distinctly clear of the result. And, the Lord doth wisely follow this order, partly, to draw on the person by steps, who might other­wise be scared, if all were presented to him together: and partly, that in due order he might effectuate his point, and train up the instrument to a fitnesse for the work he is to call him to, whereas, if he had perswasion of Gods calling of him to the Ministry at first, before any acquired fitnesse for the same, he might be in hazard to slight the means, and precipitate in the thing, which the Lord alloweth not: partly also he doth it, to keep such in dependence on Him for through-bearing in every step, one after another; so that although at first, one be not clear that God calleth him to the Ministery it self, yet if he be so far [Page 56] clear, as that He calls him to forbear such an other Calling, to follow such a Study, to essay trials, &c. he ought to yeeld to that, waiting for what God may further reveal to him. Therefore, 3. Advert, that difference ought to be made between an impulse to the study of Divinity, and an impulse to the Ministery: one may really be stirred to the first, and ought to account it so, and so far to yeeld, without disputing what may follow; as we may see in many, who in the study of Divinity, and in trials have given good proof of Gods approving them in going that length, and yet he hath thought meet by death, or other­wayes to prevent their being entered actually to the Ministery; which declareth that they were never called thereunto: as therefore, by any impulse, one cannot warrantably con­clude that he is certainly to live so long; so can be not certainly gather, that he is called to be actually a Minister, which supposeth the former: and therefore certainty in this, is not to be at first enquired for, or expected; but so much is to be rested in, as may give the con­science quietnesse in the present step, supposing that death should prevent an other: this being the Lords way, that the further one follow His Call, it will be clearer unto him a like one that ascendeth by degrees, he is still in capacity to behold the further. Yet, 4. Ad­vert, that every impulse, which may be to the Calling of the Ministery, is not to be accounted an impulse of the Spirit of God; or, as his moving either to the studying of Divinity, or the following of the Ministery, as we may see in the multitude of false Prophets of old, and in the experience of later times, wherein many have, and do run, whom the Lord never sent. And considering the nature of our spirits, and the way that the devil may have in the seducing of some, and jumbling of others: this needeth not to be thought strange. The great difficulty then will be, how to discern the voice of the Spirit of God in this particu­lar, from the voice of our own spirits, or of the devil, in this respect, transforming himself into Angel of light, and sometimes even driving honest hearts to the attempting of this as a good thing, who yet may not be called thereunto of God indeed.

To help then in the trial of this, Consider,

1. That that which is an impulse of the Lords Spirit, doth more compose and sanctifie the whole frame of the inward man, it being that same Spirit which is the Spirit of Grace and supplication: therefore the more sensibly he pouse, the more sensibly are these effects; and the more composed and sanctified a heart be, the more clear and distinct will that impulse of the Spirit be: because then the heart is more im­partial to discern the same. And although this impulse of the Spirit be but a common work, which may be in a hypocrite, and so alway hath not this sanctifying efficacie with it, yet, we conceive where one, out of conscience, reflecteth on it, to try whither it be of God or not, there can be no conclusion drawn from it to quiet the conscience in the acknowledgment thereof, except it be found to be like His Spirit in the effects of it.

2. That this impulse of the Spirit, is not backed with the assistance of our spirits; but some way it constraineth them to yeeld to it, even contrary to their own inclination, So that it moveth and carrieth a man over the thoughts of gain, reproach, credit or losse, over his inability and unfitnesse; which are never more discovered than when this impulse is strongest and most distinct, as we may see in the examples of Moses, Ieremiah, &c. where­as motions from our own spirits, do often lessen the difficulties, and hide the unfitnesse and inability that is within us, and readily ground themselves upon some supposed ability or pro­bability, more than there is apparent reason for.

3. That Gods Spirit moveth by spiritual motives like himself, as the promoving of Gods glory, the edification of His people, the preventing of a challenge, by giving obedience to Him, and such like: whereas other motions have ends and motives like themselves, as in the false prophets and other teachers in the New Testament may be seen; who fed not the flock, but themselves, and served not the Lord Christ, but their own bellies, and sought their own credit, ease, &c. yea, even Iudas, though extraordinarily moved by the Spirit; yet it's like that was not the motive which prevailed with him to yeeld; but some carnal motive, whe­ther gain, credit or such like, as is held forth in the Gospel.

4. That the motion of the Lords Spirit, is, in its nature, kindly; and in its way, regular, according to the rule of the Spirit in the Word, that is, it doth not drive the heart violently as the Devils injections do, nor doth it precipitat in the following and persuing of what it moveth to; but, as having the command of the heart, he moveth natively, without making the spirit confused, and He presseth the prosecuting of what He moveth unto, orderly, it being the same Spirit that hath laid down a rule to walk by in the Word, and now stirs [Page 57] within the heart: and therefore, the inward impulse, cannot but be answerable to the out­ward rule. Hence also the spirits motion, is submissive to the way of trial, appointed in the Word, and is not absolute or peremptory: whereas motions from our selves, or from the devil, are head-strong, and irregular, aiming at the end or thing, without respect to the way prescribed for attaining it; or, at least, do not so heartily approve of the one as of the other; especially if it be thwarted in its design by them.

5. That this motion of the Spirit putteth to the use of all means that lead to the end, as well as to the end it self, that is, reading, studying, praying, or what may fit one for that end: for, the Spirit never divideth the end and the means: and Pauls word to Timothie, subjoyning that precept, give thy self to reading, to that other of his fulfilling his Mi­nistrie, doth confirm this: whereas, when these are divided, there can be no claim made to a motion of the Spirit of God.

6. Consider, that the impulse of the Spirit, is a fitting, gifting impulse, and carrying along with it a capacity in some measure for, and a suitablenesse to, the thing that it calls to. Hence, in the Scripture, the Call of the Spirit, and the Gifts of the Spirit go toge­ther. And this last, is given as the evidence of the first, and in this respect, although there may be an impulse to the study of Divinity without the Call of the Spirit unto the Mini­strie; yet can that never be counted an impulse of the Spirit actually to enter the Ministrie, where this gifting of the Spirit is not: for, it can never be instanced in all the Word of God, that His Spirit sent any, but his Call was sealed by His Gifting of them. And so, in effect, the trying of this impulse, so as one may have satisfaction therein, will for the most part resolve in the trial of those two formerly mentioned, to wit, the fitnesse of ones Gift to teach. Secondly, The singlenesse and sincerity of the motive whereby one is swayed to follow the impulse: for, although the Spirit may move; yet if it be some carnal ground that perswadeth the person to yeeld to that which the Spirit moveth unto, it can be no ground of peace. These two then are at least, as to a mans peace, the sine quibus non, in the trial of this impulse; so that without them, he cannot conclude himself to be called actually to enter the Ministrie, or have peace in the undertaking thereof.

To speak a word then to what weight is to be laid on this impulse: Concerning it, we say,

1. That if all things beside concur to the fitting and qualifying of a Minister, this is not simply to be accounted a sine quo non in ones undertaking: Because, 1. There may be some impulse, though we discern it not. 2. Because there are more clear grounds to gather Gods mind from, as the effects of the Spirit fitting one with Gifts for the charge, and other grounds laid down, whereupon weight may more safely be laid, than upon any inward apprehending, or not apprehending of the Spirits motion, which is never given to us in any thing, as the alone rule of obedience; and we must suppose the motion of the Spirit to h [...] where these Gifts are, seing as the impulse hath alway the Gifts with it, so we may gather the impulse from the Gifts.

2. We say, that where other things concur not, no impulse is to be accounted a sufficient evidence of a Call to the Ministery simply, upon the grounds formerly given: yet, 3. A distinct native, sanctifying impulse, may be a Call to use means, and to wait on in Gods way for attaining of fitnesse in a submissive manner, seeking rather to know what God intends, than as being absolutely determined in respect of the end. 4. Although Gifts, singlenesse of heart, and an impulse concur together; yet will not these constitute a Minister, though they may evidence a Call to the Ministery, and warrand one to step in, when a door is opened to them: because neither of these, do include an Authoritative Commission for him to treat, although they do put him in a capacity to be sent as an Ambassador of Christ, when he shall be Authorized. Hence it is, that in the case of Deacons, Act. 6. who are by Gifts fitted for their Office; and of Bishops, Tit, 1.7.8 and 9. who are, in the respects there set down, to be found qualified for their imployment; yet is the Authoritative ordain­ing of both, mentioned, as that which did constitute them Officers in these respective sta­tions. Lastly, we say, that yet this impulse, when all concur with it, may have its own cumulative weight, for the strengthning of one that hath it, to the undertaking of this Charge, when the Lord in His ordinary way opens the door unto him.

To shut up this part of the discourse, we conceive, that it were usefull to the Church, and conducing exceedingly for the clearing of Entrants to the Ministery, that there were some choice and way of tryall, both of such as might be presently found fit to enter the Mini­stery, [Page 58] and also of others that might be advised to study in reference thereunto; and that it might not be left unto men themselves alone, whether they will offer themselves to tryall in reference to that Charge or not. For so, many may, and no question do, smother good Gifts which might be usefull, thereby prejudging the Church thereof, who by this grave convincing, and (ere it fail) Authoritative way, might be brought forth, and would more easily be made to yeeld thereunto, when the burthen thereof were not wholly left on themselves; whereas now, partly, from shame and modesty, partly, from custome, and undervaluing of the Ministery, none ordinarily who otherwise have a temporall being, or any place, do betake themselves to this Calling; and it's hard to say that either none such are gifted for it, or that such Gifts should be lost. And by this, on the other side, we suppose, that many who do now design themselves to the Ministery, (because none but such as take that way are called thereto) would be ashamed to thrust forth themselves; and so the Church might have accesse a great deal better to the providing of her self with able and qualified Ministers; whereas now she is, almost, confined in her choice to a num­ber that give themselves, or at most, are designed by their Parents, or possibly constrained by necessity to follow such a study. It's true, this way the Lord may provide His House, and may so engage those whom He minds to make use of; yet certainly, it looks not so like, in an ordinary way, for attaining of edification as the other: and considering that the Church as such, is one body, and so ought to make use of every member, and any mem­ber, as may most conduce for the good of the whole body. There is no question, but the Church might call a member, upon supposition of his qualifications, to tryall, and (being found conform, to what was supposed) might appoint him to the Ministery: and that member ought to yeeld to both, from that duty that lyeth on every member in reference to the whole body, which is to be preferred to any particular member's interest: and this without respect to mens outward condition or place; providing their being imployed in this station, may be more usefull to the Church, and the edification of Christs Body, than their being imployed in no Calling at all, or in any other Calling. This being also to be granted, that some men may be so usefull in, and fit for publick civill Callings, as that thereby the Church may be benefited so far, that it will not be meet in every case, and in every person, to use this power, yet such extraordinary cases being laid aside, no doubt ordinarily it were usefull: And seing all Incorporations and Commonwealths have this liberty to call, and imploy their members, without respect to their own inclinations, so as it may be most behovefull for the good of the Body; this which nature teacheth, and experience hath confirmed in them, cannot be denied to the Church, which is a Body, and hath its own policy given to it by Jesus Christ for the building up of it self. This way is also agreeable to Scripture; and to the practice of the Primitive times: none can say that the Church did not choose her Elders and Deacons, and other Officers out of all her members ind [...]fferently, as she thought fit, Act. 6. seven men fitly qualified are to be looked out amongst all the People; so in Pauls practice through the Acts; and in his directions to Timothy, and Titus: such only are not to be chosen, who offer themselves to it; but indifferently, such as may be best qualified, are to be enquired for; and when found, what ever they be, to be called and ordained to the Ministery. By all which, it appears like the Apostolick way to enquire for men that may be found qualified for the Ministery: and also, that shuning, or repining to enter the Ministery in any person found qualified for it, and thus called to it, hath never been supposed as allowable by the Apostles; but it was looked upon as a duty, for those that were so called, to obey, as it was the duty of others to enquire for such. To this also, may that exhortation of Peter relate, 1 Epist. 5. Chap. and 2. vers. Feed the flock of God which is amongst you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but wil­lingly, &c. whereby it would seem, that he is pressing obedience from those that were called, that willingly they should undertake the oversight of Gods flock. Which words, if well considered, would pinch exceedingly a tender Conscience of any man, if a Call were thus pressed upon him. And indeed, if it were at mens option arbitrarily to refuse such a Call, the directions that are given to People and Ministers for searching out, calling and ordaining such, were to no purpose; for thus they might all be frustrated. We do not say this to prejudge the laudable way of training up Students in reference to this end, it seemeth that even amongst the Iews, these who were to teach the People, were numerous, and as it were in Colledges, trained up with the Prophets, and these who were able to teach [Page 59] them. The Apostles also were not defective in training of young men in reference to this, which shews the laudablenesse of that way. And although the main part thereof be not to be placed in Scholastick debates; yet is training necessary, which in the meanest Calling is found usefull: and therefore, not justly to be denied here. We would only say, 1. That there would be some choice made in the designing of Youths for that Study: so that in an orderly way, some might be so trained, and not have liberty otherwayes to withdraw; and others timeously advised to look to some other imployment. 2. We would not have Elections bounded and limited to that number, so as either any whosoever thus trained up, might certainly be supposed as capable of being Mini­sters, or as if no Congregation or Presbytery might fix their eye upon, or give a Call unto any other. This way of calling was long continued in the Primitive Church, as we may see in the example of Ambrose, who being a Senator and President (although not yet Baptized) neverthelesse, because of his known ability, piety, and prudence, was unexpectedly, and unanimously called to be Bishop of Millan: and notwithstanding of his great oppositnesse thereto, was at length so pressed as he was made to yeeld: and after proved a notable instrument in the Church of Christ. And it's remarked, that the good Emperour Valentinian, did exceedingly rejoyce, when he heard it, blessing God that had led him to choose one to take care of bodies, who was accounted fit to take care of souls. Theoderet. Hist. lib. 4. cap. 6. The like is recorded by Euagrius. Hist. lib. 4. cap. 6. Of one Euphraimius, who, while he was Governour of the East, was chosen to be Bishop of Antioch, which the Author calleth sedes Apostolica. This is also the established Doctrine of our Church in the first Book of Discipline, in that head that concerneth Prophesying and interpreting Scripture, whereof these are the words, Moreover men in whom is sup­posed to be any Gift, which might edifie the Church, if they were imployed, must be charged by the Ministers and Elders to joyn themselves with the Session and company of interpreters, to the end that the Kirk may judge whither they be able to serve to Gods glory and the profit of the Kirk, in the vocation of Ministers or not. And, if any be found disobedient, and not willing to communicate the Gifts and special graces of God with their brethren, after sufficient admonition, Discipline must proceed against them, provided that the civil Magistrate concur with the judgement and election of the Kirk: for no man may be permitted, as best pleaseth him, to live within the Kirk of God; but every man must be constrained by fraternal admonition, and correction, to bestow his labours, when of the Kirk he is required, to the edification of others. Which if it were zealously fol­lowed, might by Gods blessing prove both profitable, and honourable to the Church.

To say something to the second head proposed, to wit, of a mans clearnesse to the Mini­strie of a particular Congregation, we suppose that this also is necessary for his peace, seing there is no reason that men ought arbitrarily to walk herein, but accordingly as they are called of God to one place and not to another: therefore we see that in Iohn's commission, the general is not only expressed; but particularly, he is instructed in reference to such and such particular Churches: and according to this, we see in the History of the Acts, that some were ordered to Preach in one place, and some in another; and Acts 13. Paul and Silas in their leaving Antioch, and going to the Gentiles, were not only called by word, but confirmed and authorized by the laying on of hands; and we doubt not but this general also will be granted. For helping to clearnesse therein, The former general rules, are also to be applied with special respect to the particular case, As, 1. It is to be tried, if the Gift be not only suitable to edification in general, but to the edification of that people in particular: so that if when their case, dispositions, qualifications, &c. and his gifts, disposition, and other fitnesse, both in reference to his publick Ministrie in Doctrine and Discipline, as also to his induments in reference to his private conversation (yea, their very corruptions and infirmities being compared together) If, I say, such a man may, in well grounded reason, be looked upon as qualified for the edifying of such a people: In this comparison also, respect would be had even to the more publick state of the Church: so as a mans fitnesse would not only be tried with respect to the Congregation it self; but with respect to other things. 2. This fitnesse would be found and determined to be so, by these whose place it is to try Gifts, even in this respect. 3. The trysting of providences is to be observed; as, the rise of the Call, if it proceed from no natural or carnal end? if no other door be opened elswhere to him who is called, he may the more warrantably step in there, if no probable [Page 60] settling of that Congregation appear otherwise than by him, so as his refusing might occa­sion a detriment to that place? If things look so as he have an esteem without prejudice in the hearts of that people; so as he may probably expect to be looked on as a Minister, and to have the Word without prejudice received fom him in that place? also if without carnall respects his heart be made to incline that way, or if unexpectedly and over many difficul­ties the people have pitched on him and adhered to him? These, and such like, may have their own weight, so as to help to gather this conclusion, That probably such a mans Ministrie may be useful and profitable in such a place: Neither is the advice of sober and unbyassed men, Ministers and others, to be neglected; seing often they may see more in a mans particular case, nor he can discern himself: and that is oft found to be a mean made use of by God, for manifesting of His mind in such cases. Again, if there be any com­petition of places, so as one be sought by moe Congregations at once, the cafe is here some­what different, supposing the man to be equally fitted for several places; otherwise greater suitablenesse to the one, nor to the other, where it is palpable, doth cast the ballance. In deciding what to choose in this competition, there is much need of singlenesse and denied­nesse to all outward and carnal things, both in him that is fought, and in them who seek, and in all others interessed; this being a great ill to suffer carnalnesse and contentions to steal in, even in persuit for a good Minister. Neither is there great weight to be laid upon prio­ritie or posterioritie in the applications that are made, the matter it self and causes which may be given for the last and for the first, can only satisfie the conscience as to the great scope of the Ministrie, to wit, the edification of the Church: seing a man is obliged to look to edification in his Ministrie, and so to settle, where probably that may be best attained, and not as an occasion may be, first, or last moved to him: and it were good that both he who is called, and they who call, would submit all interests, and be regulated by this. We conceive also, that the decision of this, doth not mainly or principally lye upon the person himself: for, as he is not simply to judge, whether his Gifts be meet for the Ministrie in general, or for the edification of such a people in particular; so neither comparatively is he to decide, whether it be more conducing for edification, that he imbrace one Call rather than another; but this is to be done rather by these, whose place leads them indifferently to look to the general good of the Church. This then is the great rule to decide by, whe­ther his Ministrie, considered complexly in all circumstances, may most conduce to the edi­fication of Christs body by the accepting of this or that charge, when all things are singly and impartially weighed and compared together? so as in the result, it may, upon good grounds, be made to appear, that the one will prove a greater furtherance to the perfecting of the saints, and inlargement of Christs Kingdom than the other: as if his Ministrie in one place, may be profitable to moe souls than in an other: and that not only with a respect to the particular Congregation; but as it may have influence to the preventing or suppres­sing of some general evils, or the promoving of some general good in moe Congregations beside: If his Ministrie may probably have more acceptance and fruit in one place, than in an other; if by some present circumstance, the planting of one place be more needful, and the delay thereof be more dangerous than in another, which seemeth more difficult than the place in competition therewith; if the man find, after some trial, his liberty greater, his bowels more stirred, and his mouth more opened as the Apostle speaks, 2 Cor. 6. in refe­rence to one more than another; if the harmonious judgement of single and uninteressed faithful men prefer the one, as more edifying, to the other; and many such like, whereby Christian prudence, after the inquiring of the Lords mind, may find the general end of edifi­cation to sway more on the one side than on the other, accordingly conscience is to deter­mine that to be Gods Call, and the person is to yeeld: for, although in every case these could not sway a man warrantably and simply in respect of his Call; yet, where the com­petition is in a case, that is almost equal on both sides, they may have place to cast the ballance.

For the third, That when a man is cleared in reference to a particular Charge, there doth remain yet a necessity of clearing him in reference to a particular message to that Charge: for, as the condition of every Congregation, is not alike; so is not one way to be followed with all. Hence we see that Iohn hath a particular and several message in reference to these seven Churches, though all agree in the one generall scope, to wit, their edification. This is not to awaken at every time an anxious dispute, what matter to Preach; But, 1. To [Page 61] consider what particular faults have need to be reproved; what Truths have need especially to be cleared; what duties are especially to be pressed, as being most slighted amongst them; what snares they are most in hazard of, and need most to be warned against, and so accord­ingly to insist: for, though all duties be good, and all sins be to be eschewed; yet do we see in the Word, that sometimes, and in some places, some are more insisted on than others, upon the former grounds. 2. The necessary Truths of the Gospel, as they tend to instruct, convince, convert, comfort, &c. which are the great task of a Minister, are necessary to all people; yet in the pressing of instruction and conviction, more than consolation; or, again, consolation and healing applications, more than sharper threatnings and reproofs, That is to be regulated according to the temper and case of the people, as also the manner of proposing and following of them, according as may among such prove most edifying, as the Lord, in these seven Epistles, doth more sharply or more mildly deal with them to whom he writes. But because there may be occasion to touch this on the 10. Chapter, and here we have already exceeded our bounds, we shall say no more of it, but shall say somewhat particularly to writing, and the peoples use-making thereof.

Concerning Writing.

IN reference to this, we say,

1. That men may by writing, communicate what light God gives them, for the good of the Church. It's true, the Gospel was at first spread and planted by Preaching, that is more properly the mean of conversion. It's true also that all the Apostles Preached; but all did not write: yet we will find, that the Apostles made great use of writing, for the informing, reproving, strengthening, and every way edi­fying of Churches and Persons brought to the faith; for, they wrote these Epistles, not only as Scripture, for the Church in generall, but also for the edifying of such persons, in particular, and for clearing of such and such particular Doubts, or Truths, which the state of such times, or Churches did most call for. There is reason also for this, if we consider, 1. The relation that is amongst all the members of the Catholick Church, whereby all are tied, to be edifying one to another, &c. 2. The end wherefore God hath given men Gifts, which is to profit withall: and yet, 3. That a man cannot by word make his Gift forth-coming in the extent that he is obliged; there is therefore a necessity of using writing for that end, it being a singular gift of God for promoving edification. It's upon this ground, as we said, that many Epistles are writen, to be usefull; where the Writers could not be, and when they were to be gone. It's upon this ground also, we conceive, that many Psalms, and Songs (as that of Hezeksahs. Isa. 38.) are committed to writing by the Authors: that by it their Case or G [...]ft might be made usefull to others, for their instruction, as the Titles of sundry Psalms bear.

This way, for many Ages, hath been blessed, for the good of the Church of Christ, who have reason to blesse God, that put it in the hearts of many Ancients and others, thus to be profitable in the Church. And it may be, some able men have been but too sparing to make their talent forth-coming that way to others. And as we may conclude, that Mi­nisters may Preach the Gospel who are called, because the Apostles did it, even though Mi­nisters are not gifted with infallibility of Preaching, as they were, because that was for edifying the Body, so may we conclude, that men called to it, may write for the edification of the Church, although they be not gifted with infallibility in their writing.

2. We gather from this, that none should take on them to write any thing, as the Lords mind, for the edification of the Church, without a Call to it: I mean not an extraor­dinary Call, as Iohn had; but this I mean, that as there is an ordinary Call needfull, to the Preaching of the Gospel, (and we may conclude from Gods extraordinary way of calling the Apostles to Preach, the necessity of an ordinary Call) So, in the generall, that same consequence will hold in respect of writing, for such an end. And if we look through the Scripture, we will find a Call for Writing, as well as for Preaching; and readily he who was called to the first, was also called to the second, as being a Prophet of the Lord. Though this particular we do not absolutely and simply presse, seing men may be called to write, and not be fitted to Preach; yet I conceive, Solomon is called the Preacher from his writing. And to warrand writing, we would conceive so much to be necessary as may, [Page 62] 1. Satisfie the man himself, as to his being called to such an eminent duty by God, and therefore there must be somewhat to hold out to Him, that it's Gods mind he should under­take such a task. 2. That men walk not by their own satisfaction alone; but that there may be so much, as to convince others, that God put them on that work: and therefore though we would not presse an authoritative mission to write, as to Preach; yet, considering that Iohn's warrand to write, is also a warrand to others to make use of it, and that people would have a warrand for making use of writings, as well as a man for his writing, There is some orderly thing necessary, as to point out to the man his duty in writing, for his peace; so also to point out to others their duty in use-making of it. So that neither any that pleaseth may write (but he would give some reason, beside his pleasure) nor would every one use the writings of all, as they please.

Reason 1. A Call is necessary for every thing; and men in lawfull duties are to walk by it: otherwise, all lawfull duties would lye upon all men as their calling, or be at their pleasure: which stands not with Gods putting the task, even of particulars, into mens hands.

2. To write of the holy things of God, is to take on us, to tell what God thinks, and what is His will, which is a most concerning thing; especially to do it solemnly in writ, lest it prove, at least, a taking of Gods Name in vain; when without a Call we do it.

3. This may clear it, That neither publick Preaching, nor private edification by word, can be discharged rightly, but when men walk according to Gods Call in these, which is also necessary in writing.

4. There is no promise to be guided in it, or of successe to it, without some clearnesse of a Call to it; and so it cannot be comfortably undertaken nor prosecuted.

5. All the Saints had their Call to write, who took that way: hence some Apostles have writen, others not; some Saints have recorded their case, others not. The reason of this difference is, because some were called to write, and others otherwise imployed; else we must say, they failed who wrote not. Neither will it simply warrand one, that he writes truth­there was doubtlesse truth in the Preaching of the Sons of Thunder, and also of the Son of consolation; yet God thought it not good to call them all to write. And experience hath often made this truth out, that many have taken on them to write, whose writings have been exceeding hurtfull to the Church; so that had all men walked by a Call in writing, there had been fewer errours, at least they had not come unto such an height; and the Church would have been free of many subtile Disputations, that have more prejudged than advanced Godlinesse in it. As therefore some may fail in not writing, when they are called to it, so others may in going about it, whiles they are not called to it.

If we might enquire in the generall (for particulars cannot be pitched on) what may evidence a Call to write? We shall shew, 1. What is not needfull. 2. What will not satisfie and be sufficient. And 3. What is needfull and may be satisfying.

1. An extraordinary Call by revelation, or immediate impulse of the Spirit, such as Iohn and the Apostles had, is not needfull: It might make a Writer as well as a Preacher to be suspected, if they should pretend to any such Call.

2. We think not an authoritative mission in the person who is writer, simply needfull: One may be fitted to edifie by writing, whose Gifts lead not to edifie by Preaching: yet ought not the Church to be frustrate of the benefit of his Gift.

3. We think not a pressing inclination simply necessary; seing often, inclination thwarts with duty; and mens modesty, lazinesse or other respects, may much divert the inclination, as in Moses, Ieremiah and others, when called to Gods Work.

4. We think it not necessary, that there be any singular or extraordinary measure of Gifts beyond others: Some may be called to write by particular providences, when others of more understanding may be spared; even as some may be called to Preach, and others of more learning and ability, are passed by.

On the contrary, It will not be sufficient to evidence a Call to write. 1. To have an in­clination. 2. To have Gifts: Or, 3. To be found in truth: Nor, 4. To have a good meaning and end. These will not serve in other duties; and so neither in this, without respect had to the particulars after mentioned.

[Page 63]That a man therefore may have peace, as to his undertaking, we conceive there is a con­currance of several things needful, to be observed: As, 1. There is a necessity of a single end, to wit, Gods glory, others edification; and in part may come in, his own exonera­tion, as to such a duty. It's not self-seeking, nor getting of a name, nor strengthening such a particular party or opinion, that will give one peace in this matter. 2. It is necessary, not only that the thing be truth; but that it be edifying, profitable, and pertinent, at such a time: Gods Call to any thing, doth ever time it, and tryst it well, as most subservient to the scope of edification. Hence, that which is Error, or impertinent, can never plead a Call in writing, more than in preaching; yea, we conceive, the writing of many light, frothie subjects, or of speculative janglings, and contentions about words, is exceedingly contrary to edification, which ought to be the end and also the rule of our practice in writing. 3. Besides these, there are circumstances in the concurrence of providences tryst­ing together, in reference to the person writing, to the subject writen of, the time wherein and occasion whereupon, and such like: which being observed, may contribute to give some light in the thing. As,

1. If the person be called publickly to edifie the Church; if he be of that weight, as his testimonie may prove profitable in the Church, for the strengthening and confirming of others, or the like considerations; though no new thing be brought forth by him: which ground, as a moral reason, Luke gives to Theophilus of his writing the Gospel, Luke 1.1.

2. Considerations may be drawn from the subject. As, 1. If it be a necessary point, that is controverted. 2. If the Scripture opened be dark, and obscure; and possibly not many satisfyingly writing of it. 3. If the way of handling it, be such, as gives any new advan­tage to truth; or, to the opening of that Scripture, (though it be not so accurate every way) that is, if the manner be more plain, or more short, or more full; or, touching at some things, others have passed, or clearing what they have mistaken, or confirming, what they asserted only, or such like cases wherein they may contribute, and be useful, for the understanding of what is already written; or occasion others, to form and mould their inven­tion, and what God hath given them, for better advantage to others; seing some hath the faculty of inventing, others of improving what is invented: thus both are made use of, for one end, when they are brought forth together: even as in building, some are useful for plotting, or contriving, some for digging stones, some for hewing, others for laying by square and line; yet must be furnished by the former: So is it also in an edifying way of writing, every one have not all; yet should none refuse to contribute their part.

3. The time would be considered, if such a truth be presently controverted, or such a sub­ject necessary to be spoken unto now; if such a persons interposing may be useful, if such a duty be neglected, or if such a Scripture be not made use of, and the like. These may have their weight to put folks to it, even though they should say little more than what is said by others: because then all are called, to put to their hand to help; that is the time of it. And there is this advantage, that when many do write, it serveth not only to confirm and strengthen what another hath said, but it occasions some to read that subject, that readily would never have read it, had not such a man written thereon, seing another book of that subject might possibly never have come to their hands: and withall, this is advantageous when moe are engaged in the same subject. This consideration is alleged by Bellar, praefa. in Tom. prim. out of Augustine, as a reason to put men to write, who were not of the most excellent parts; that it was edifying, and better than nothing; yea, that it was be­seeming at such a time, to see many armed in the Camp of Christ, against His adversaries, although all be not leaders and captains.

4. Occasion also may be, from Gods putting one to have thoughts of such a subject when others are otherwise taken up, some not having accesse to be edifying otherwise; as when occasion of study is given, and the thing by publick delivery, or secret communica­tion is known to others, and called for by them to be made publick: or that they would set themselves to it, God giving occasion of health, quietnesse, means, &c. for it: the thing getting approbation from such as are single, and intelligent, judging such a thing usefull; in this the spirits of Gods servants would be subject to others. Such considerations are fre­quently mentioned by worthy men, in their prefaces to their Books. And it's observed in Vita Pellicani, as swaying him to publish his writings, though not accounted (by himself [Page 64] at least) to be of accurate learning, that, mediocriter & simpliciter scripta, mediocri­ter doctis placitura videns, & quod illorum major sit capia, quam, eximie doctorum, gratificari petentibus voluit. For, as the most learned Preachings, do not alway edifie most; so neither is it in writing: and though (as a learned man observeth in a preface) that which is accurate, edifieth most intensively, and best explaineth the thing; yet often, what is more popular, edifieth most extensively, and proveth profitable to many moe who are but of ordinary reach.

Of Reading, and Hearing.

IN the last place, it is also clear, that people are not indifferently and without warrand to read or hear, except they know that they be warranted therein: for, this command of wri­ting, is not only ins [...]rted, for the confirming of Iohn in his Call to write, but also tendeth to warrand these who are written unto, confidently to receive and make use of what is writen. And it follows upon the former: for, if a Call be necessary, to speak or write in the Name of the Lord, then ought also people some way to be clear, that in their reading and hearing they may be walking according to Gods rule and call to them in reading what He calleth them to read, seing men cannot be supposed to be left to arbitrarinesse therein. Hence it is, that where the Lord disowneth the commissionating of such to teach, and accounts them guilty for running whom he hath not sent, and that either by writ or word, as may ap­pear, by Ier. 23. and 29. vers. 24. &c. So also doth he reprove the people that do counte­nance such in their hearing or reading, while as their Call is not evidenced to be of Him. Hence so frequently, both in the Old and New Testament, are we commanded not to coun­tenance such, but to beware of them; and that must reach the reading of their writing as well as conversing with their persons, the one being dangerous, as the other is: for, one of these two must necessarily follow, supposing them not to be called of God thereto.

1. Either they are ensnared by such and such errours, as others take on them to vent; and they are brought to give heed to lies in stead of truth: and so though reading and hearing be good in it self; yet that wise advice of Solomon, Prov. 19.27. doth here take place, Cease, my son, to hear instruction, that causeth to erre from the words of know­ledge. This effect is frequent, the Lord thereby in His secret Justice punishing the light­nesse and curiosity of presumptuous persons, that dare hazard upon any snare. Hence it is that so often that lightnesse and indifferency in the practice of reading and hearing such as are not called, hath with it an itching after some new Doctrine, and a secret discontent with sound Doctrine, which putteth them to this, to heap up teachers to themselves, which is said, 2 Tim. 4.1, 2, 3. 1. to shew the difference that is betwixt Teachers sent of God, and such as People choose to make so to themselves, without His warrand, And, 2. It sheweth what ordinarily doth accompany that itching practice, vers. 4. They turn away their ears from truth, and are turned to fables: for, as it is ordinarily a lusting to vent some strange Doctrine, which doth make men write or Preach without Gods Call thereunto; so it is an itching after some such thing, or at least a loathing of sound simplicity, that makes people thus bestow their time in the reading or hearing of such. And if no such thing be at first sensible; yet doth such persons tempt the Lord to give them up unto it.

2. Or if this follow not, we are sure that it shall no way prove usefull unto [...] fol­lowers thereof, as that word (Ier. 23.38.) i [...], I sons them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all. And seing edification is Gods gift, can it be expected but in His way? or can that be accounted His way, which He hath not war­ranted? At best, it putteth, 1. The person in the hazard of a snare, which hath taken many off their feet, which sometime seemed to be strong: and can they pray unto the Lord that they may not be led into temptation, when they do cast themselves into the snare? 2. It carries offence along with it, in reference to the party who runs unsent, it proves a strengthening and confirming of him, and so a partaking of his sin: in reference to others, it either strengthens them, by that example, to cast themselves in that [...]; which possibly may be their ruine; or, it grieves them and makes them sad who are tender of such things; or, gives occasion to make all difference of that kind to be thought light of. All which should be eschewed: at least it doth this, it diverth men from that which might be more [Page 65] profitable, and to which they might expect a blessing which they have not a promise of, nor can expect in this.

And seing reading is a special mean of edification, if well imployed, and a great step to destruction when otherwayes, as experience doth prove, people who are commanded to watch, and to choose that which is most excellent, cannot be left in an indifferencie in this; yea, the spending of our time rightly being the improving of a special talent, which, in reading many things, may be exceedingly mispent, if not hurtfully abused: Christian wisdome therefore is mainly called-for in this, that a right choice may be made. Especially, consi­dering, that it's but little time that many can spend in reading; therefore by a wrong choice they incapacitate themselves from reading that which may be more profitable for their case and station. And also, seing every one hath not that ability to discern poison from good food, there must be therefore a necessitie that people regulate their Christian libertie in this rightly, lest it become loosnesse, and turn to be a snare. Also, though some, whom God hath furnished with Gifts, and by their place and station calleth them to con­vince gainsayers, may, and are called to acquaint themselves with writings of all kind; yet ought not all to take that liberty to themselves, more than they durst hazard publickly to debate with adversaries of any kind; seing the strength and weight of their errors are stuffed into their writings, and we are no lesse unable to encounter there writ than their word.

In matter of hearing, it is not so hard to discern who are to be accounted to speak with­out Gods commission: because ordinarily, such have either no warrantable Call at all, (no not in the outward form; and so cannot be accounted but to run unsent) or, by palpable defection from the truth, and commission given them in that Call, they have forfeited their commission, and so no more are to be accounted ambassadours to Christ, or watch­men of His flock, than a watchman of the city, is to be accounted an observer thereof, when he hath publickly made defection to the enemie, and taken on with him. For we are here to rest in the externall Call, and not to dispute that which is inward: because it passeth our reach; and Christ hath furnished His House with external Ordinances, for the warranding of His peoples peace in reference to these things: there is therefore great diffe­rence to be placed here between one that is called, and one whom we think not worthy to be called: it's the first that warrands hearing, whereof we may afterward have some occasion to speak.

It is more difficult to give directions in reference to reading: yet, seing that now God hath furnished His people with many useful books, that in experience have been found to be such, we may for the help of the weaker propose these general directions. 1. That they would spend their time in the reading of such books, as judicious tender Christians have found good of before, or shall recommend to them: such as (so to say) have been tried and tasted, and therefore may be, as good food in which there is no hazard, medled with. And there is no difficultie here: for, such and such books are commonly esteemed such, and it is easie to attain to the knowledge of them. 2. Some respect may be had to the Author so far as may help to a decision in this, whether such and such a book may be made use of, if it be known to be his? that if by other writings, preaching, or otherwayes he be known to be sound and serious, such a book, may with the more confidence be hazarded upon: It is for this that frequently the names of Authors are inserted in their writings, as is done by Iohn frequently in this Book. For, though no mans name ought to bear such sway with any, as to make them digest any thing without trial, because it cometh from him; yet it may give to one, freedom to make use of the writings of such, rather than of another, of whom there is no such ground of confidence. 3. Where Books and Authors are noted by the judicious and Godly to be dangerous and unprofitable, and in experience have been found to have been so to others, distance would be kept with such; lest we find the proof thereof by our own experience, which we would not learn from others. 4. Where Books and Authors are both unknown, we conceive that it's more safe for pri­vate persons for a time to abstain the reading of them, untill it be found what they are by some others who may more judiciously discern the same, and in the mean time to spend that time in the reading of such as unquestionably are profitable: because by this we lose no time, and this may be done in faith, knowing that we are not hazarding our selves upon a tentation, which by reading the other, that is unknown to us, cannot be. And seing men usually take this way in making choice of Physicians for the body, who are in [Page 66] experience found by others to be skilfull and usefull, rather than to hazard on any who are yet unknown and have given no such proof; wisdom would say, that no lesse should be required in the making use of Physicians or remedies that tend to our spirituall edification, it being of no lesse concernment than the other. And if these things were observed in writing, reading, and hearing respectively (as they may be applied in cases) the Church of Christ might be preserved from many Errors and offences, which by this liberty is occa­sioned; and many persons saved from much hurtfull, and unprofitable labour, both in writing and reading.

LECTURE 1.

CHAP. II.

Vers. 1.

UNto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus, write, These things saith he that holdeth the seven Stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden Candlesticks:

2.

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil, and thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

3.

And hast born, and hast patience, and for my Names sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

FOlloweth now the particular Epistles to the seven Churches, wherein our Lord maketh them know how privie He is to their actions, ill or good, commending the one and reproving the other; with some pro­mises and threatnings, intermixed. There are some things common to all these Epistles; some things peculiar to the Churches He writes unto, as they are commended only, as Philadelphia and Smyrna; or discom­mended only, as Laodicea; or somewhat of both, as the other four.

1. It's common to all, to have their Epistles agreeing in the form, though different in the matter: As, 1. to be divided in an inscription, comprehending the party to whom and from whom, 2. A narration, or body, comprehending the particular message Christ sends to them. 3. A conclusion, comprehending some promise to the over-comers; and an adver­tisment to all hearers to profit.

2. All are directed to the Angels, or the Ministers, of the Churches, and not to the Churches themselves immediatly, though the first direction, (Chap. 1. vers. 11.) be to them. And in the close of every Epistle, it's said, what the Spirit saith to the Churches. If any ask how the Churches and Angels, or Church-guides, are so indifferently and promiscu­ously named? Answ. For these reasons. 1. Because the Church and the collective body of Officers are so exceeding neer of kin each to other, and in their interests, so interwoven, that, in the Scripture phrase, to write unto the Church, and to write unto her Officers, are one; as to tell unto the Church, Mat. 18. and to tell unto the Church-officers, are one. 2. Because the Church is virtually comprehended (to speak so) under her Officers, who are not only the special members, but also the representers of that body: and and as one, writing to an Incorporation, or Burgh, and directing his letters to the Magi­strate thereof, may be said to write unto the Burgh; even so it's here: for, though Mini­sters in respect of their Authority and Administration of the Ordinances, do not represent the Church, but Jesus Christ, whose Ambassadors they are; yet in respect of their united way of acting together, and their sympathizing with all the members, and their joynt interest in all the affairs belonging to the members, and the reciprocall sharing that is between them and the members, of all good or evil temperatures, they may well be said to represent the Church, whose servants they are for Christs sake: even as the Magistrate, acting in his duty, representeth God; yet in some sense also may be said to represent the people. 3. Because there is ordinarly a great sutablenesse and likenesse between the Minister [Page 67] and people of that Church whereof he is Minister; he lukewarm, and they are lukewarm; he lively, and readily it is so with them, as we will see in all the seven Epistles following: and therefore the writing unto and describing of one, doth by consequence include both; espe­cially, considering that whether the Churches estate be good, or ill, the Minister hath much influence on it: and therefore, both in reproofs and commendations, the first word is directed to him. 4. Because the order Christ hath instituted in His Church, doth so require: he reveals not His mind immediatly to the people; but first to His Ministers, and by them to the Church: for, our Lords way, is orderly, so as may prevent confusion in His Church: which is done, not by putting it in the hands of people; but by putting His Ministers to it in these things which concern their station, and these being such things as belong peculiarly to Ministers to be amended, in the Epistles therefore doth He particularly direct it to them.

3. All the titles given to Christ, are for the most part taken out of the Vision, chap. 1. only they are chosen and pitched on as may best serve the scope of every Epistle; as the Lord is to discover their case, or, accordingly to threaten or promise, the title is wailed which is most sutable to that end: as here, Christs presence, care, and soveraignty over His Churches and Ministers, are laid down, when He is to discover a secret fault in them, and to threaten the un-churching of them for it, there being ordinarly in every Epistle two titles, one respecting the case of the Church writen unto, the other the promise or threatning which is annexed: and therefore are they, upon the matter, often in plain tearms resumed in the close of the Epistle, which may give some insight in the meaning of them.

4. It's common to them all, to begin with this word, I know thy works: that so there may not only be an evidence of Christs God-head; but also to remove all exception, which might be made against His testimony. We take it to look ordinarily, not so much to His ap­probation, as to His Omniscience, simply: because it is indifferently made the ground of re­proof, as well as of the commendation: and therefore is used in the Epistle to Laodicea, where no commendation is given.

For more particular use-making of these Epistles, Consider, 1. the immediate scope of them, which is to stir up the seven Churches, according to their severall conditions, to hold fast what was right, and to amend what was wrong, having in them the discovery of the then estate of those Churches, and some warnings sutable to that end: and so they are not in a Prophetical way primarily to represent particular Churches in ages following: Yet, 2. Are they useful in a special manner to other Churches, being doctrinally applied to their case, as the Lord applieth the words of Isaiah 29.13. Matth. 15.7. Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophecie of you, &c. while as Isaia's words do principally respect the people in his own time; yet may they be applied to all Hypocrites in such a case, as if it had been intentionally spoken of them: so may it be here in the application of them to particular Churches, in the like cases: yea, to particular persons, according to the common close, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, &c. And the Epistles may be so much the more usefull in application, than other Scriptures: because in one mapp they comprehend toge­ther the complex case of a Church, with the particular directions, reproofs, and encourage­ments, which befits the case. 3. The Epistles being directed to both, the Angels and Churches, to the one mediately, to the other immediately, as we shew, we would beware of con­founding the directions and matter contained in them as equally agreeing to both, as also, of too rigide separating of them; as if what principally belonged to the Minister, did no way belong to the people, and contrarily; but to look what may agree to either, without confounding of stations or sexes. As in all other Scriptures we take directions in things belonging to Magistrates, to be given to them, and so to others in all several stations respe­ctively; so here, what belongeth to Ministers, apply it to them: as for instance, preaching, and judicial trial of corrupt men; that, so far as it is authoritative, belongs to Officers: yet so far as people have accesse in their stations to promove such ends (as many wayes they may) in so far it belongs to them, and so in other cases.

Vers. 2. Followeth the body of the Epistle (for, the inscription is opened, chap. 1. except what concerneth the application of it to the estate of this Church) and it hath seve­rall steps in it,

1. A general word, which is the ground of our Lords pronouncing His censure, I know thy works, to hold out His Omniscience without approbation or commen­dation. The meaning is, I know all thy works inward and outward; thy form and way of Administration of all things in the Church, all thy outward carriage in things, the things [Page 68] themselves, and thy frame in going about them, the matter and manner of doing them, and the end thou hadst before thee in them; and I know them perfectly, exactly, and throughly; a thing that in the entry to His service and every other thing, we would look to and bear in mind, that Christ is acquainted with all our carriage, and every thing that escapeth us. And this being often repeated, it saith, that Christ counts this a main part of His message, to have souls convinced of His perfect and through knowledge of their works.

He proceedeth to the commendation, vers. 2, 3. The commendation is, 1. shortly set down: And, 2. more particularly explained: primarily, it's applicable to the Angel; but secundarily to others. It's shortly set down in three steps in the words, thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil. Having told them in the general, that He knew all their works, good and evil, He tells the particular works he commends, 1. Their labour: the Word in the Original, is [...], the labour which is properly applied to Ministers in their Ministerial work: It's that word, 1 Tim. 5.17. Let the Elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially these who labour in the Word and Doctrine; And, 1 Thess. 5.12. Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord; and it's a word that sets out the great carefulnesse and pain­fulnesse of the Ministrie: and being spoken especially to the Angels, the meaning is, I know thy painfulnesse and care in the work of the Ministrie, committed to thee, especially thy painfulnesse in Preaching, although proportionably we are to look upon Christs taking notice of; and approving the carriage of the several members of this Church in reference to their duty. 2. Their patience: this respects their suffering: labour in duty, and submis­sion in suffering, go well together. I know (saith He) very well all the persecution and suffering thou art under, all the ill-will of some within, all the malice of others without, against thee, and all the troubles thou hath met with from Satan and his instruments, and how patiently, submissively and constantly thou hath born them all. The 3. thing whereby they are commended (and it relates especially to the Ministers) is, their zeal in executing Discipline, They could not bear them which were evil: and therefore, for as patient as they were under crosses; yet they were stout, couragious, and zealous against corrupt men; by trying, censuring, and giving no toleration to them. And this He also points at, with a commendation.

2. He explicateth more fully these three steps; beginning at the last, first: and so goeth backward through the three. 1. He beginneth at and explicateth their zeal, in not bearing with corrupt men, Thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. Wherein these three particulars are explained, 1. Who the ill men were whom they could not bear, even false teachers, that took upon them to call them­selves Apostles, as if they had been indued with an infallible Spirit, and had an universal charge. And it's set out, as a part of their zeal and commendation, that these false teachers, that pretended to such a Commission, and to be so forward for Christ, were yet put to proof and trial by them. 2. The orderlinesse of their proceeding, is commended, that they took not things by guesse, nor upon hear-say, but tried them: they first tried their doctrine by the touchston; and then by the doctrine, whether they who preached it were of Christ or not, or had a call and commission from Him: it holds out an exact and judicial way of proceeding and trial of them, both in their doctrine and call. 3. That as they were not indeed Apostles, though they called themselves Apostles; so they found them out to be what they were, liars and deluders of the people, especially in alledging a commission from Christ, when they had none. And this being a main part of the commendation of the Angel, and of his exercise, it's most largely insisted on.

Vers. 3. He explaineth their patience, and hast born, and hast patience: their hearing, looks to the sufferings they met with from the false Apostles, in the prosecuting of their trial: wherein they met with many afflictions; yet they endured to prosecute their duty as good Souldiers do. 2 Tim. 4.2, 3. And hast patience: which relateth to the quiet and patient manner of their suffering affliction. It is nothing to suffer, when folk cannot eschew it; but they suffered patiently in the doing of their duty, and continued in patient suffering. 3. He commends and explains their labour; For my names sake, thou hast laboured and not fainted: which first words, for my names sake, will agree well to the word going before; and so is the ground of their submission and patience under crosses: or, [Page 69] it may look to the words following; and so the meaning is, for zeal to my glory thou hast endured all this pains; for my names sake, thou hast been at pains in doing, and hast over­come all rubs in the way. And hast not fainted: that is, thou hast not been wearied of, nor scared or boasted from, thy duty; nor made to desert it for all the suffering thou hast met with, but respect to my Name, hath made thee persevere. So then, their labour, as it was spoken of before, points at their painfulnesse; and here it respects their singlenesse, that it was not in a way of self-seeking, but for His Names sake. 2. That it was con­stant and continuing: they were carried on without interruption in prosecuting their zealous intention.

If it be asked here, how such as call themselves Apostles, or do count themselves not subject to the Discipline of a particular Church (as these who pretended to be Apostles behoved to do) can be orderly proceeded against by Church triall and censure, especially of a particular Church?

Answ. 1. There is no Apostle nor Angel, in the preaching of the Gospel, that is alto­gether above triall: they are, as such, above erring in Doctrine; yet may and should their Doctrine be tried according to the Word, Act. 17.11. Gal. 1.8. Because, even Apostles are but Ambassadors, and are not Lords over the Faith of Gods People, but helpers of their joy, 2 Cor. 5.20. 1 Pet. 5.3. &c. Secondly, Apostles in the guiding of a constitute Church, oftentimes used not their extraordinary Authority, as acting by themselves by vertue of their infallibility; but joyntly with others, in an ordinary way, clearing and confirming their Doctrine and practices from Scripture, and Gods Call, warranting them in that particular, as appears by Peters apologie, Act. 11. and Paul with the rest of the Apostles their proceeding, Act. 15. In which two respects, it's suteable for Believers, to try the Spirits, 1 Ioh. 4.1. Thirdly, We say, that no presumptuous title assumed by ones self, nor any irregular walking, as belonging to no Church, or not to such and such a par­ticular Church, can exempt any member of the Catholick Church from triall, and, if need require, from censure of the particular Church, where such person, or persons, shall reside; which we shall confirme from these reasons. 1. Not from triall: because in so far the Doctrine and practices of the Apostles themselves (who were not fixed members of any particular Congregation for their Membership, and their Office behoved to be of equall ex­tent) were subject to tryall, that it might be known whether they were of God or not, as is said. Yea, 2. Neither from censure (supposing it possible that they should erre, and them actually to have erred) as we may see by Pauls supposition, Gal. 1.8. If I preach another Gospel, &c. and also by Pauls open rebuking of Peter when he was to be blamed, Gal. 2.14. 3. This same practice may confirme it, the Church rulers of Ephesus were not scared by that title, nor yet by their not having Membership among them (as it seemes such could not have, being readily strangers, and thereby having the greater accesse to give out themselves for the thing they were not) yet they went on to try and censure, which is particularly commended in them by Jesus Christ. 4. It may be confirmed from that power that Christ hath given to His Church-officers for edification, and for preserving the Church committed to them from infection, which would seem to be defective, if men had liberty (under the former pretexts) to vent errour and commit scandalous practices, for the ensnaring of others, in Churches whereof they were not properly members: and though it might be said, that simply such persons were not under the triall and censure of such a Church; yet eatenus and in that respect, as it's necessary, for the good of that Church, to have these persons tried and censured, they do fall under their authority; and warrantably it's put forth for putting some note on them, for the preventing and removing of offences from the People. 5. It may be confirmed from the unity of the Catholick Church visible, by which any member thereof (if no particular thing impede) may claim the pri­viledges of a member by communion in publick Ordinances of Word and Sacraments in whatsoever Church, though he be no particular member thereof: and therefore à pari he ought also to be liable to the Discipline of Christ in any particular Church, where he shall fall to be: (seing that claiming the priviledges of a Church, and submission to the Ordinances thereof, are in themselves reciprocall) and though some profane wretch re­nounce his own priviledge; yet that makes not the Church to losse hers; but so long as he continues a member of the Catholick visible Church, as long is he under censures of the Church, which are put forth in particular Congregations. 6. It may be confirmed [Page 70] from the absurdities, that otherwise would follow, As, 1. There might be a scandalous member of the Catholick visible Church, who could not be reached by Church-censure. 2. One Christian might offend and stumble another: and telling to the Church, would be no remedy to it, Mat. 18. if no particular Church had power over such a one, which is contrary to Christs scope. 3. A door would be opened to a loose liberty within Christs House: for, in such a case, men could neither be censured, nor cast out of the Church, nor in any Ecclesiasticall way, be compelled to take on Church-membership, or live regu­larly in the Church; by this, there might be some Christians sick and needing this cure of Discipline, to whom it could not be applyed; by this the ordinance of Discipline would not be of equall extent with the Sacrament of Baptism: All which, are absurd.

Observe, 1. Christ would have us alwayes walking in the sense of His Omniscience, which makes him begin all these Epistles with this, I know thy works: a profitable, but a difficult Truth to be believed by Christians.

2. Christ is an unprejudged witnesse, and should be esteemed so by His Church; He beareth testimony unto them, as He taketh notice of their good, as well as their evill.

3. Such as Christ never called, may take on them highest titles in the Church, pretend confidently to a most immediate Call, carry fair, and gain respect, and have some gifts for that end, as it seemeth these had who called themselves Apostles.

4. That diligence in duty, and difficulty in the performance of it, often go together: to do, and to bear, are often joyned: two things that in our resolution and practice we would not sunder; and if it were believed, we would not scare at the very shadow of suffer­ing in, or following upon, our duty as we do.

5. Patience in suffering, and impatience against corruptions and corrupt men, can well stand together. This people is said to bear and suffer; and yet it's said, they could not bear: the reason is, because their patient suffering, or bearing, in the one word, relates to their enduring of crosses; and their not bearing, or suffering, in the other word, relates to corrupt men, and their zeal against them. It were a good thing to knit these two together, not to let our zeal wear away our patience, nor our patience prejudge our zeal. There is a kind of zeal that puts folks alway to do, to the end they may shun suffering, that is not good; and there is a sort of patience and meeknesse that wants zeal and sharpnesse in reference to the purging of Christs House; a patience that can bear with ill men: and this is no more to be commended than the former. This Angel is commended that he eschewed both, and had both patience and zeal in exercise, running in their right channel, and put forth toward the right objects: and would God these were more seen and discernable in our practice; the one would make our zeal to shine, and the other would make our patience and humility, praise-worthy: and if they be not joyned, our zeal shall be carnall, and our patience, luke­warm; and neither of these will be commended of Christ.

6. There is no name, priviledge, or title, that should scare people, especially the Mini­sters of God, from searching or trying corrupt men, that bring corrupt Doctrine, pre­tending a Commission from Christ when they have none, though they should have the pretext of Ministers and Apostles, and had never so great gifts (for very like these men who took this name to themselves wanted not gifts) or so smooth a carriage to insinuate themselves on people, and to commend their presumption to them: for, it was commendable zeal in this Angel, to try them, and discover them.

7. If folks will put to proof and triall many things and persons that have fair names, they will be found very unlike the names they take. It is a time wherein we had need not to take every thing on trust from all persons, though their gifts were great, and they had big titles and names; but humbly and soberly to wait on God for light and direction, searching and trying both mens carriage and Doctrine, and the Commission they pretend to in carrying of it.

8. Where an immediate Call is pretended unto, and great titles assumed, ordinarily it is to carry on some strange Doctrine or designe, and is therefore to be suspected by the people of God, 2 Cor. 11. vers. 13.

9. The censuring of corrupt unsent Ministers, is a most difficult task, what from their nature, and sometimes from their parts; what from the addictednesse of many unto them, Yet it is a speciall duty: and although it be often difficult to follow, and be mistaken by many others; Yet that it's acceptable before Jesus Christ, may appear from these consi­derations,

[Page 71]1. That the Scripture holdeth forth no kind of persons as more abominable in themselves, and more hatefull to Him; for which cause, they are called dogs, and dumb dogs that cannot bark, Isa. 56.10. Salt without savour, wolves, idol-shepherds, such as feed themselves, and kill his flock, blind guids, &c. Hence it is that there are not more sad expostulations with complaints of, or threatnings pronounced against any, than against these: Our blessed Lord Jesus multiplies woes unto such in a more terrible manner than was usuall to Him, Mat. 23. 2. There is no kind of persons that prove more dishonourable to our Lord Jesus, and to His Gospel than such: these make the Law to be despised, Mal. 2. and the Sacrifices and Ordinances to be counted vile and contemptible, 1 Sam. 2. Such especially open the mouths of prophane men against Religion, and the Author thereof, and exceedingly derogate from the authority of Him they pretend to have sent them, and to the Ambassage they are sent with, while as they look so unlike Him. And upon this account it is amongst others, that such particular directions for the singular qualifying of Church-officers, are given in Scripture: and the censuring of such, and that by Christs own Authority, vindicateth Him, which cannot be but honourable and acceptable to Him. 3. The scandalous miscarriages and unfaithfulnesse of Ministers bring a speciall blot upon all Religion, as if it were but meer hypocrisie and tended to the fostering of such ills: and profane men are exceedingly strengthened in such Atheisticall apprehensions, when these ills are not taken notice of, and censured by Church Authority: whereas by this severity in the exercise of Discipline, the faults are seen to be in persons and not in Religion, or the Ordinances thereof. 4. There is no such contempt done to our Lord Jesus, as for one to pretend to have Commission from Him; and yet to be running unsent by Him; or, having gotten Commission, to miscarry by unfaithfulnesse in it: this is a betraying of trust, and cannot but be looked on as a high contempt against Him. 5. As there is a suitablenesse in the censuring of such Church-officers to Christs mind, so there doth appear in the same a ten­derness of, and zeal unto His Glory. Hence it is, that His most zealous servants, as Elias, Paul, (yea, and Himself when on earth) did set themselves most against that generation. 6. There is no sort of men more hurtfull to the Church, by obstructing Christs end in His Ordi­nances, to wit, the edification of His People: for, such profit them not at all, Ier. 23. yea, they stand in the way of their profiting, sometimes by corrupt Doctrine; sometimes by example; sometimes by sadning and weakening of these who look more tenderly to the practice of Godlinesse: and if no-other way; yet by filling the room, and so standing in the way of the peoples being provided with such as might be helpfull and faithful. Now, considering the great respect that our Lord Jesus hath to the edification of His People; and considering the weight that He hath placed upon this Ministery, as a mean for promo­ving of that end, and withall, the great obstruction that followes to that end, when this mean disappoints, it cannot but be accounted acceptable to Him to remove such an ob­struction. Yea, 7. Considering that there is nothing He commends more than mutuall love to His Disciples, and there is nothing wherein love can appear more to them, than in seeking their spirituall edification, which was that wherein His own love eminently kythed; and there is nothing wherein this kind of love kythes more to Him or them, than that they be fed with knowledge and understanding, by Pastors according to His own heart, accord­ing to His word to Peter, Peter, loves thou me? then feed my lambs: it cannot therefore but be looked on by Him as acceptable service. And indeed, if it be commendable to relieve a neighbours beast from hazard, when there is a slothfull shepherd; or to relieve the bodily life from temporall hazard, how much more must it be commendable to prevent the eternall hazard of immortall souls, which by corrupt Ministers cannot but be in hazard? 8. There is nothing that more rejoyceth and hardneth corrupt men, than when they are like People, like Priest, and have Pastors according to their own heart; and there is nothing that they are more provoked and displeased with, than the censuring of such: yea, even men who have no respect almost to Religion at all, yet abhorr and oppose the censuring of such, as if it were a peece of Religion (or rather of opposition to Religion) to do so; which cer­tainly sheweth that the following of this triall, must be a main furtherance to Godlinesse, and cometh near the Kingdom of Christ. 9. Not only is there an obstruction to Godli­nesse by such, but they have a main influence upon the advancing of prophanity, and the kingdom of the devil, as if professedly they had confederated with him against Christ. Hence it's said, that from them doth prophanity go out to the whole Land, Ier. 23. [Page 72] And they are called Ministers of Satan, 2 Cor. 11. as Ambassadors employed by him in his service. And where it's thus, not only are scandalous practices committed, but avowed, as it were in contempt of Godlinesse, and of faithfull Ministers, who seriously study the promoving of it. Hence it is, that often there is a kind of stated enimity against faithfulnesse and faithfull men, not only amongst such Ministers themselves, but in their Congrega­tions and Followers; which sheweth the prejudice that cometh by them, and so the neces­sity of removing them.

It may now look like cruelty (it may be) rigidly to pursue such, and like pity to spare them which may much be applauded unto by many: yet if we could consider what hazard may come to immortall souls in a short time by the want of a powerfull Ministery, much more by the having of corrupt men, either in Life or Doctrine in that station, and what thoughts souls will have of that cruel pity in the day of Judgement: we are perswaded horrour would affect the hearts of these who are concerned; considering how many are palpably in hazard through defect in this: Can it be thought that Christs ordaining of a Mi­nistery was only to have men bearing such a name, and not to have such as effectually and seriously would promove His design? and can that be expected, whilst men unfit for it, or unworthy of that calling possesse the room? and if it be a deplorable condition to have Congregations desolate without the Ordinances, and living like Heathens, or as sheep without a Shepherd, or blind men without a Guide, is it any lesse, yea, is it not much more lamentable to have such as rather marr than further the main design? which breedeth con­fidence and security in some naturall men, occasioneth prophanity and loosnesse in others, and almost serveth to no end, but to keep such a Congregation from one that may guide them, and them from knowing their want, or hazard: and in sum to obstruct, and put in a non­entry, their edification, more than if none were there at all: for, Christs way appointed for edifying of His Church, is not only to have the form of Ordinances, by men supplying these places; but to have such as may by His approbation follow His way of attaining His end. We conceive that the regulating of the entry of Church-officers, so that none but such as are thereby approven may be admitted, and of the tryall of these who are in, that such who carry themselves unworthily may be removed, is one of the main ends why Church­authority is given by Jesus Christ for the edification of His Body, as the speciall directions to Timothy and Titus, which do regulate Church-officers, especially in the admission and accusation of Elders, do demonstrate; and if this main point be neglected by Church­officers, it may justly provoke God to weaken, if not to break that Authority to them, and to make them and it in their hands justly to become despiseable, which nothing furthers more than the admitting and permitting of corrupt and unmeet Officers to be in the Church. And if people delight to have it so, and fret at any thing which may amend it, much more if they affect the continuance thereof, and concur to the supporting of such, it may be that the Lord give them a fill of their own wayes; and by errour, confusion, or some other way, so bring it about in His just Judgement, that either they shall have no face of Ordi­nances at all, or have the carcasse of them as a snare and a curse unto them, who received not the love of the Truth, that they might be saved, but contented themselves to have the shape and form of Christs Ordinances only among them without respect to the end for which He appointed them. That zealous and pungent discourse, which Mr. Baxter hath to this purpose in the close of his Agreement, is most weighty and convincing; and the matter thereof, so far as concerns this, worthy to be considered. All which is still to be understood of such legall trialls as are followed on solide grounds, and in an orderly circumspect manner; for such was this triall of the false Apostles, by the Angel or Elders of the Church of Ephesus, which usually is cited by Divines to confirm the power of the Church in censuring her Officers.

LECTURE II.

Vers. 4.

Neverthelesse, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

5.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy Candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

OUr Lord Jesus is the faithful and true witnesse, who impartially testifieth, both of what is right, and what is wrong in His Church: we have heard His commenda­tion, shewing what was right; He began at that, to make way for the other part of His testimonie, which is to discover what was wrong; and it is set down, vers. 4.1. More generally by a transition from the commendation, Neverthelesse, I have some­what against thee, that is, though all these things be true, and thou be commendable in them, and I commend thee for them; yet, there is a neverthelesse added; that is not all, there are somethings wrong which I also take notice of, and will quarrel for, though there be many things right. This shews, 1. our Lord Jesus His impartiality in taking notice of all, good and ill. And, 2. It shews the extent of duty which consists in an universal respect to all His commands; and failing in somethings, may be as a dead flie in a box of ointment, to marr the savour of the rest. And, 3. That it's meet for Believers to know their whole estate, their ill as well as their good: both are useful to them to be known, and both are represented by our Lord Jesus unto them; His commending of them, alters not what is justly reprovable, His reproof prejudges them not in what is commendable: this way Believers ought to take in reference to themselves. 4. It shews, that even Believers should take a reproof, as well as a commendation, especially when it cometh from our Lord Jesus His mouth; yea, though in many things they be right, yet should a reproof, notwithstand­ing thereof, be digested in any thing wherein they are wrong.

2. The particular reproved, is set down, thou hast fallen from thy first love. 1. By love here is not understood the object beloved, as it's said of widows, 1 Tim. 5.12. who had cast off their first faith; it was not so here: there was no publick defection in matter of Doctrine, as the commendation preceding clears. Nor, 2. is it necessary here to be under­stood principally of a decay of love in the habit it self, but in the exercise and fruits thereof, as is clear by the opposition following, do the first works: which points out the fault re­proved, to have consisted in the neglect of these, which is again removed by the perform­ing of them; though we think there is a suitablnesse between the habit and its fruits, as it is with the one, so is it with the other: and few acts and fruits do evidence the habit thereof to be cold and languishing. 3. Neither do we understand here by falling from their first love, a total falling from fruits; but comparatively a falling from some former acts and degrees, or their vigorous manner of acting from love, as they had wont formerly to do, called first love here, and afterwards, first works. By comparing then this reproof with the commendation, we conceive, it doth include these three, 1. A falling from those duties, wherein especially true love to God, and charity to others consisted, that is, they were much in outward reformation, profession and zeal that way; but wanting inwardly, heart-burning love and af­fection to God, and so in some measure were hypocritical; in that their love within was not answerable to their profession without, but were more taken up in external fruits, than in the inward exercise of love, in so far agreeing with the Pharisees in that fault reproved, Luk. 11.42. Ye tithe mint, &c. but passe over judgement and the love of God. 2. As it looks to others, it may say, though there was zeal in the external Worship of God; yet there was great defect of that love, sympathie and affection of one of them, with and to another, that should be; this being ordinary, that love inflamed to God-ward, and love one to another, go together: and therefore as it importeth they had fallen from their former warm impressions of love to God; so also from their kindly affection one to another, and had fallen in part to be more in Sacrifice, and externals of Worship, than in Mercy and love one to another, Hos. 6.7. and Matth. 12.7. The third is, a decay of love in the manner of doing duties; so that though they continued in the practice of former duties [Page 74] towards God, and towards others: yet in respect of love to God, as the principle acting them in such duties or affections towards others, they had much decayed; and therefore may be charged to have fallen from their first love, though they continued in the externall performances, because the former native vigour and life in those duties was decayed. Whence we may gather, that there may be many things commendable in a Church, or in a person, and yet there may be a secret quarrel between Christ and them, as Psal. 78. vers. 34, 35, 36. compared together, do shew; yea, that there may be many things right in a Believer in respect of externals, and yet a dissatisfaction to Jesus Christ in their secret condition. That this Angel, and many of these written to in this Church were Believers, this reproof clears, which supposeth them once to have had love; that they have many things commendable, the former verse is clear; to wit, pure profession of truth, zealous exercise of discipline, diligence in doing, and labouring, patience in suffering, honestie in their end, for Christs names sake, and continuing in all these without fainting; yet is there a never­thelesse added, which may make hearts to tremble, and not to reckon their condition from externall performances; and ought to put Believers to it, to see how they will free them­selves from this part of the challenge. 2. Our Lord Jesus doth especially take notice of the love of His people, and is much swayed in His commendations and reproofs according as He findeth it in exercise towards Him, and towards others. 3. Love within may be cold, when folks practices without look very hot, and upon the matter may be accepted of Christ. 4. Believers often at their first engaging to Christ, have their love more warm toward Him, and towards others, than afterward it will be; or, Believers ordinarly slips from that warmnesse of affection that accompanieth their entry, and becometh more cold in their affections towards God, and towards others; the first love continueth not. 5. Back­sliding and declining from what folk have been, either in profession or practice, is, and will be a special article of Christs charge. Hence is it, that hold fast is so frequently repeated in the following Epistles: not only to intimate what is our duty; but also to evidence how ill the Lord taketh declining when He finds it among His people, Heb. 10. vers. 38. If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 6. Every decay is a falling, and hu [...]ts the Work of Grace proportionably as grosse commissions do; and it's as impossible for a man to sit up in the exercise of inward Graces, and not to hurt them, as for a man to fall from a hight and not be wounded.

Vers. 5. Followeth the direction, which our Lord prescribeth as the duty suting their case, and the threatning wherewith He backs it. The direction hath three steps, every one of them making way for another. The 1. is, Remember from whence thou art fallen, that is, advert and consider how it is with thee, be it was at the beginning; that so by reflecting upon themselves, and comparing their present condition with what is past, they might be brought to take up their own condition. In sum, it implieth, that there had been in them an inadvertencie unto, and forgetfulnesse of their own condition for a time, which had made them without challenges slip into, and continue in that backslidden condition. Unto this, remembring is opposed, which taketh in, not only a simple act of memorie, but a sensible exercise of the conscience and affections also, following upon their reflecting on themselves; like the word, Ezek. 16.61. Thou shalt remember thy Wayes, &c.

The second part of the direction is, repent; this is the fruit and end of the former, relating also to what was past, that not only they should look upon their own wayes, but that their eye should affect their heart, for the upstirring of them in the exercise of Repentance: which includeth these two, 1. A kindly indignation against their sin, and against them­selves for their sin, so as in some part, they avenge God of themselves in the judging and censuring of themselves in the behalf of God, as it is in 2 Cor. 7.11. 2. It taketh in an inward and outward change of their way for the time to come, which is ever a fruit of true Repentance; when the party is brought not only to confesse, but to forsake their sin, as the words following clear in the third direction; which is, do the first works. This relateth unto the time to come, that is, that what once they had been at in the performance of Worship to God, and in duties one to another in the manner, as well as in the matter, and were now fallen from (as we hinted at in the reproof) that they should by all means set themselves to recover the same, this being a native fruit and companion of Repentance carefully to abstain from the evils, and perform the duties which they have been most touched with in the challenge. These three go well together, and notably prescribe the [Page 75] remedie of a soul backslidden from livelinesse to deadnesse, and directs to the recovery of their former state, which will not be attained by lazie Prayers, and fainting complaints; but by serious up-stirring, and exercise of these three, self-searching, repentance, and practice, and that in the native order as they lye.

More particularly, from the severall directions, Observe, 1. That as forgetfulnesse of our own condition, and not reflecting on our selves, is the great cause of much declining and backsliding in heart, and of continuing therein; so upon the contrary, self examina­tion, and remembering of our own way, and reflecting on our selves, is a notable mean to pre­vent decay, and to entertain a good frame; as also to further the exercise of repentance, and to recover a frame when it's lost. 2. Believers may fall into that neglect. 3. When Believers become negligent, they decline in part, though not wholly. 4. When Believers fall, they are to take the same way for their recovery. 5. Believers may be under great decay, and yet not take great notice of it, nor from whence they are fallen; yes, it implyeth fur­ther, that where the decay is within, and the carriage fair without, (as here) it's hard to get them convinced of it.

From the second step of the direction, Repent, &c. Obs. 1. That Repentance is a duty incumbent even to Believers, 1 Ioh. 1.8. 2. That it is called for, whereever there is sin, even of ommissions, as here. But, 3. Especially where there is declining. 4. Change of practice, where there hath been sin, will not be sufficient, if repentance for what is past do not accompany it.

From the third step, Do the first Works, Obs. 1. That Believers first works, are often more commendable, than these which come after. 2. There may be great difference in the same works on the matter, even of the same person, in Christs account. 3. Works, and works livelily gone about, are called for from Believers: Christ Jesus was no legall Preacher; yet doth He require both Repentance and Works from these Ephesians.

The third thing in this Epistle, is the threatning, or certification, wherewith this direction is pressed, (which doth the more confirm the former Doctrine) or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy Candlestick out of its place, except thou repent: In which words, we are to consider the thing threatned. 2. The persons threatned. 3. The certifi­cation, upon which it's pronounced. 4. The person threatning. And lastly, The speedi­nesse or suddainnesse of His performing what He threatned. The thing threatned, is the removing of the Candlestick out of its place. By Candlestick, Chap. 1. vers. 20. is under­stood the Church: Therefore by the removing thereof must be understood the un-Churching of them; So that Ephesus now a Church, and Candlestick, should have that removed, and not be continued a Church; this is in effect like that, Zach. 11. of the Lords breaking the two slaves, and refusing to feed that people any more. This is a sad, though a just threatning, which may put us to enquire wherefore the Lord thus threatneth this Angel, and Church, beside any other? especially considering they were not the worst, (as was seen in the com­mendation,) why then is she threatned? and how usually the Lord doth execute this, shall be spoken unto, when the words are opened.

2. The person threatned, is most especially and immediately the Angel, as is clear by using of the singular number, thy Candlestick, and I will come to thee, &c. And with him, we conceive, that the threatning respects most these who were really Believers in that Church: because especially, the charge of falling from the first love, and direction of doing the first works agree to them. The threatning also of removing the Candlestick, would be most laid to heart by them. Thus Christ usually threatneth; Yea, correcteth His own, when He lets others slip, Amos 3.2. Neither doth He here so particularly charge and threaten the Hea­thens for refusing the Gospel, nor yet the false Apostles, or Nicolaitans, for open abusing it, as He doth this zealous Angel: the reason is, not because He loves them lesse; but because their sins come nearer His honour, and He is more affected with them; and because He mindeth their good, He judgeth and chasteneth them, lest they should be condemned with the world, 1 Corinth. 11.32. whereas He suspendeth His judging of the rest, and bestoweth not a reproof upon them, untill judgement altogether surprise them.

3. The certification upon which this great judgment (which is greater than either Sword, Famine, or Pestilence) is threatned, is, except they repent: by which we may ga­ther, the necessity of Repentance in it self, and its acceptation by Jesus Christ, not as if [Page 76] there were any merit in it to deserve, or any moving impulsive vertue in it to perswade Him to pity (as humiliations use to perswade men) He is not capable of such motives: nor yet as if He had any delight in the sadning, and exercising of His People; but that He may shew the peremptory connexion between Repentance and Pardon; which in the order of Salvation He hath laid down, thereby to make the sinner know something of the ill of sin, and worth of grace: which is the reason why the preaching of the Gospel ordi­narily begins with this. By Repentance here, we do not understand strictly the grace of Repentance, as it is contradistinguished from Faith, much lesse any naturall or worldly sorrow, which may be in a hypocrite; but we take it as it comprehendeth the whole work of Conversion and Faith in Jesus Christ, as sometimes it's taken, Math. 4.17. compared with Mark 1.15. because it is proposed here, as the way to prevent wrath which is due for sin, which cannot be done without faith.

The fourth thing to be considered, is, the person threatning, I will come, I Jesus Christ who walks among the golden Candlesticks, I the Lord of the Vineyard, Math. 21.40, 41. This is mentioned, First, To let us see Christs absolutenesse and soveraignity over His Churches, to dispose of them as He pleaseth; that Ministers and People may learn to hold their Church-being of Him: Secondly, To hold forth Christs peculiar Autho­rity, in Churching, and un-Churching; and that peculiarly, this belongeth to Him: there is no Man, nor Enemy, nor Persecution, &c. can loose the relation of a Church in its being, but Christ Jesus, or they, as ordered by Him.

The fifth is, I will come quickly, yea, and unexpectedly, as the word imports. This is added to shew that Christs threatnings are in earnest, and that Hearers would not dally with them. It sheweth also, how easily He can overturn a Church, and make no Church of it; He hath often gathered Churches quickly, and can He not dissolve them when they look to be in their prime? Who, having read the commendation of Ephesus in the former verses, would have expected such a threatning in the close?

The words now being opened, we may enquire, 1. How this threatning of un-Church­ing a Church useth to be executed?

Answer, We conceive it doth not necessarily imply the overrunning, wasting and destroying of such a City or Land, that it should be no City, but that it should be no Church. Sometimes indeed God will even by such a mean bring about this thing threatned; But here we take it to hold out some other thing, than if He had threatned Sword or Pestilence upon them: It is the same upon the matter with that, Math. 21.43. The kingdom of God shall be taken from them, &c. which was Christs word to the Iews, and is especially these wayes brought to passe. The first, is sinfull, that is, when a Church fell themselves to false Doctrine, which overturneth the foundation: in which sense, Hos. 2. the Lord denies Ephraim to be His Wife, because of her spirituall whoredoms whereby she had broken her tye: thus a people may be said to un-Church themselves by their unbelief, confusions and errours (unconsistent with the foundation) according to that, Isa [...]. 50.1. And Rom. 11. the Iews are said to have broken themselves off by their unbelief. The second way is penall, that is, when the Gospel hath not fruits among a people, the Lord removeth the Light, and His Ordinances from them, taketh down His hedge from about them, and (as it were) sendeth them a bill of divorce, refusing to own them afterwards as a Church: not by giving them up to outward enemies oppression (which for a time they may be free of) but by ratifying their own sentence of rejecting of the Gospel, as it is, Act. 13.46. and thus the Kingdom of God was translated from the Iews; and they became no Church, when the Gospel was taken from them and sent unto the Gentiles. A third way may be mixed, partly sinfull, partly penall, a people upon the one side not receiving the love of the Truth; and therefore upon the other side, God gives them up to strong delusion, whereupon they proceed from evill to worse in the be­lieving of lies, as it is, 2. Thes. 2.10. However, this is certain, this flourishing Church of Ephesus, hath now long since been a proof of this Truth; for, errour growing to an hieght, and delusion and ignorance following upon the back of despising the Gospel, hath brought that Church into the estate that it is now into.

For the second Question, Why the Lord peculiarly threatens the Church of Ephesus with these punishments?

Answ. It is not because His discontentment was more with her than with other Churches; [Page 77] But, 1. It's like they thought outward honesty and reformation enough for their Church­estate, and that there was no cause of fear of un-Churching, so long as they continued pure in profession, and zealous in purging, &c. And therefore to beat down this conceit▪ and to shew the necessity of power, as well as of form, for continuing of a Church-estate▪ He doth subjoyn this threatning of un-Churching, especially to this Church. 2. Because these here threatned, would lay more weight on this threatning, and be more affected with shoring to be un-Churched, than with either Sword or Pestilence, &c. The Lord therefore applieth wisely that which He thinks most conduceable to this end. 3. It's like, their outward Church-estate was something thought of by them, and the externall frame of Ordinances in purity, and that of Discipline in vigour, might be rested on, and too much esteemed of, especially by the Ministers (it being too ordinary for men to think too much of external forms) The Lord therefore in this threatning toucheth the fault that might stick secretly to them, even in their zealous prosecuting of externall reformation. 4. Be­cause He would have all men knowing the respect He hath to sincerity, and the influence which the exercise or not exercise of grace hath upon keeping, or loosing of externall Privi­ledges. Therefore doth He so threaten this Church when no outward cause of such con­troversie seemeth to be before men.

If it be asked further, Why this Church is called the Angels? For, Thy, hath refe­rence to the Angel, and by the Candlestick, is meant the Church it self. Or, 2. How this becomes a threatning to the Minister, it being liker a plague upon the People? Or, 3. How the People can be plagued for a sin in their Minister? We shall consider the first by it self, after we have gone through this Epistle. And now to the second question, we say, This threatning becomes his plague. 1. Because of his interest in them, and affection to them: nothing can come on a People, but it affects the Minister; their stroak is his: yea often it's sorer which is on them, than what is on himself. 2. Cor. 11.29.30. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? was Pauls touch of the infirmities of the People. 2. It's the nearest stroak can be on a Minister, to be stricken in his Charge, or blasted in his Ministery, &c. in this he is smitten as a Minister, in things peculiar to a Minister: other stroaks are common to all men: yea, thus to be smitten in the un-Church­ing of his Flock, is striking at his Crown, and his Joy, 1 Thess. 2. ult. for, a faithfull Minister will so account it. 3. It's probable, it was some contentment to him to see things go right in his outward Ministery, Censures to be weighty, Discipline vigorous, the People to give him credit and countenance, &c. without reflecting on his own spirituall condition, or aiming at the inward warming of love in the hearts of his People, but thought all well, and who but he, that had such a well ordered Church? The Lord therefore threatneth to take that ground of boasting, or self-pleasing from him. It's a sad thing when a Minister cannot carry even, when things go well, and cannot look to himself and the people also, and be humble when he is countenanced: want of this, spilleth many hopefull beginnings in Ministers hands. And this relation, thy, is particularly mentioned here, to make the threatning touch him the more; it is not the Candlestick, but thy Candlestick, which was to be removed. For there be two things that make a thing to be in esteem with men, and the losse thereof to affect them. The First is, That it be in it self [...], that is, a thing lovely and desireable. The second, That it be [...], that is, a thing which is a mans own; These two going together, That it is both an excellent thing in the self, and withall a mans own: when once evill befalls that thing, it doth exceedingly presse a man. Now both these are here, a golden Candlestick, there is its excellency in it self, and thy Candlestick, there is the Angels interest and propriety in it; Both are set down to affect him the more. And indeed a Church being in its blossoming and rising condition, and all things seeming to go well therein, even then, to be threatned thus, cannot but greatly affect the heart of a faithfull Minister.

To the third, How can People be punished for Ministers faults?

Answ. If they were altogether innocent, it might seem hard: but when they also are guilty; yea, and it's like here under the same guilt, there is no wrong, but it's the cor­recting of two by one whip, both Minister and People, for their formality and resting in out­ward forms, without power. 2. Though People in one particular be innocent; yet a Mini­sters fault may occasion a plague on the People, who are guilty by other sins, even as the fault of a Magistrate, as we may see in Davids numbering the People, and Gods plaguing him [Page 78] in the People for it, though they were in much, free from that particular sin, and as sheep, what had they done? So, when a Peoples outward profession, or observance to the Mini­stery and Ordinances, become the ground of a Ministers pride, or boast, they may by some confusion be put through other, and so his pride and glory is stained, and their hypoc [...]isie and formality punished; even as on the other side, a Peoples vanity of their Minister, may have influence on the Lords blasting of him, that it may be seen, all flesh is grasse. Which consideration ought to make Ministers and People walk respectively one to each other, yet soberly; left the Lord be provoked against both.

From this threatning, Observe, 1. That no Church or Minister hath a lease of a Church-state and the Gospel, if they abuse it. Ephesus is now no Church; yea, Israel was broken off. 2. It's one of the greatest threatnings that can be, to be un-Churched; Sword and Pestilence are not like it. 3. It may surprise a Church in a very flourishing out­ward condition, if love be wanting. 4. Nothing hath more influence in procuring of judgement, than coldnesse in love to God and others. 5. The estate, good or ill of Gods own People, hath most influence on the continuing or removing of the Gospel. It's not for the guilt of Nicolaitaus, or false Prophets, that this is threatned; but for their sin who once had love. 6. Repentance and diligence hath great influence to prevent such a threat­ning. 7. Ministers and People may have much influence on one anothers good or ill condi­tion; and sometime we may read our own distemper and scourge, in the distemper of one another.

LECTURE III.

Vers. 6.

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

THe sixth verse containeth the last thing that is comprehended in the body of the Epistle to Ephesus, and it's a kind of mitigation of the sharp reproof and threat­ning going before: as He began with a word of commendation, so he will close with it, and will let them see, that though He had marked their sin, and reproved them for it; yet He was the same in His love, and had the same thoughts He began with towards them: and it is in sum, this, for as much wrong as is in you, and for as much as ye are fallen from your first love, yet there is some sparkle of zeal in you, ye have this good thing, that the corrupt doctrine of the Nicolaitans (which began soon to corrupt the sim­plicity and purity of the Doctrine of Christ) is hated and abominated by you, even as it is by Me.

To clear this a little more, we shall speak to these three things. 1. What these Nico­laitans were. 2. What this hatred was. 3. How it was commendable; or, what is the ground on which it is commended.

For the 1. We shall consider first what the Nicolaitans were. 2. What was the occa­sion and rise of their error, or erroneous Doctrine.

For the first, what they were. There is not much recorded of them in Scripture; yet it seemeth from all that is written of them (being compared with what is written of them in this Chapter) that they were such a sort of Schismatical Hereticks, as had corrupt Doctrine in their mouths, and corrupt and licentious practices in their conversations. Therefore their deeds are spoken of in this verse, and their Doctrine, vers. 15. both which are said to be hated of Christ, there being a suitablnesse between their Doctrine and their deeds.

For the particulars of their Doctrine and deeds, many are asserted by the Ancient, but two things mainly are pitched on. 1. In their Doctrine they opened a door to licentiousness, and maintained, that fornication and adultery were no sin, and they cried down Matrimo­niall chastity, though called for and approven of God. 2. In their practice, without all [Page 79] respect to offence and scandal, they lived as they lifted, eating things Sacrificed to Idols (a thing much stumbled at in those dayes) abusing their Christian liberty to licentiousnesse and lousnesse, taking advantage of, and abusing the decree of the Apostles, Acts 15.20. that Christians would abstain from pollutions of Idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood, as if all these things had been of one and the same nature, as indeed at that time they were, all necessarily to be abstained from, as if they had been of one nature. These are granted by all to be the two main things that these Nicolaitans were guilty of: though there be that add many moe, as Epiphanius doth: and if we look to the 14. and 15. vers. of this chapter, it is not unlike, that the Lord points at these two faults: for in the 14. verse, He tells Pergamos, that she had them that held the Doctrine of Ba­laam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things Sacrificed unto Idols, and to commit fornication: and in the 15. verse, So hast thou also them that hold the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Where they that maintained the Doctrine of Balaam, and the Nicolaitans are the same: and He meaneth, as Balaam taught Balac to ensnare the Israelites, by drawing them to their Idol feasts, and commit fornication with the daughters of Moab; So saith the Lord, ye have the Nicolaitans that follow the same footsteps, and teach the same Doctrine.

2. There is more difference concerning the occasion and rise of this Heresie. It is com­monly and by the most part (if not by all) attributed to that Nicolas, that (Acts 6.) is mentioned among the seven Deacons that were chosen to wait upon the tables, and who gets there a testimonie, that he was a man full of the holy Ghost: but there being various opi­nions about the occasion and rise of it, I shall name two that are special, and choose which of the two we think safest.

1. Some write of him, that having fallen from his integrity, and become dissolute in his practice, he strove to maintain it in his Doctrine (a thing too common to draw our Doctrine to maintain our practice) and form [...]ly taught this error, and begat many profane follow­ers. Neither (say they) is it like, that such a vile sin would have been fathered in Scrip­ture on such a man, if he had been innocent. Others set it down with more mitigation and charity to Nicolas, thus, That this Nicolas having a beautifull wife, was suspected to entertain jealousie of her, it's like from some others, Members of the Church; and being too inadvertant and rash in the way which he took for removing that suspicion, to make it be seen that he had none, he brought his wife in publick, and holding her forth, said, he cared not who conversed with her, so far was he from being suspicious of her honestie.

This rash fact, though flowing from a good intention (say they) was abused by some to patronize the errors formerly mentioned beyond his intention: And they were called Nico­laitans on this occasion: not because he taught so; but that they concluded so from that his practice, and fathered what they maintained on that worthy man; as it is ordinary for corrupt men to father their corrupt opinions upon, and to shelter themselves under grave and Godly mens names. This last, in the doubtfulnesse of this case, it being asserted by the most ancient (to wit, Clemens Alexand.) we rather embrace, partly, because of that mans commendation, Acts 6. where it is said, he was a man full of the holy Ghost: and partly, because it is most charitable; and therefore is safest, especially, where such a testi­mony is given to the man in Scripture. And for as abominable as this was, it was for many centuries of years, revived and continued with many additions in the Church, by Gnosticks, Basilides, &c. by those, called the Saturnians, Carpocratians, and many others, who made a pretext of Nicolas for their patron. A thing to be wondered at, that so soon after Christ, while Iohn the beloved Disciple was living, Satan should assault and set upon the Church with such errors: and yet as wonderfull, that after those errors were refuted by an extraordinary Apostle, speaking from Christs own mouth, they were vented and main­tained by those Hereticks, a symptom of that peartnesse and impudencie that corrupt men are led with, when so soon, at such a time, contrarie to so clear reproofs, men durst vent and abide by such grosse things: O what force and efficacie hath the spirit of delusion when it's letten loose! and what a hight may it come to! Tremble at the beginnings of it: it's hard to conceive, with what audacity and boldnesse it will bear it self out, that though our Lord would write an Epistle from Heaven, delusion will so blind folks, that they will not question their errors.

The second thing to be spoken unto in this commendation, is, that they hated the deeds [Page 80] of the Nicolaitans: not their persons simply, but their deeds, and them as promoving these deeds: though the Church had these men among them, and was severe in her Disci­pline; yet the Lord taketh notice of this especially, that she kept a secret, sincere abhor­rencie of them in her heart: not only did not the Angel and Church countenance them, nor only censure them, nor only forbear their company; but they had such an abhorrencie of their deeds and of themselves, in carrying on these deeds, that the thinking of them was abominable; as saith David, Psal. 139.21, 22. Do not I hate them that hate thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred. And Ps. 119.104. I hate every false way. So this hatred in reference to these Nicolaitans, was not carnal, or in reference to their persons simply; but in these three respects especially, 1. In respect of their deeds and Doctrine, it struck at their deeds as here, and at their Doctrine, as vers. 15. And, 2. Looking upon them as instruments and Ministers of Satan, made use of by him for corrupting and poisoning of souls, and shaming of the Gospel, they abhorred them considered as such, what ever pity to their persons, or desire to their Salvation they had. 3. As they conceived them to be hateful to Christ and hated by Him, so did they hate them; squaring their hatred, as they did conceive Christ to hate.

Observe 1. That there are some things and persons, especially at some times, that it is not enough for the people of God to abstain from them in their practice, if there be not an abhorrencie of them in their hearts. The way of error and corrupt practices that follow on it, should be abhorred, as any other sin, how grosse and scandalous soever; Heresie as murther, and Schism as witchcraft, Gal. 5.19. and there is good reason for it: for if folk be not serious in hatred of, and so out of love with the thing, they may soon fall in the practice of it: and simple abstinence will never be counted sincerity before God, whose trial is how it stands with the heart and affections, how the heart is affected or dis-affected to­ward the thing?

2. Our Lord Jesus counts it some mark of sincerity, when there is a single hatred of the way of errour, as it is in it self evill and hatefull to, and hated by Him.

The third thing in this mitigation, is the ground on which their hatred is commended; It is conformity with Christ, which I also hate, I hate them: therefore it's commendable in thee to hate them; It's a sure ground of commendation, to hate what He hates, and love what He loves. This ground of commendation, implyeth two things: 1. That it's well done to hate what Christ hates. Observe, Gods People should love and hate one thing with Jesus Christ; they should study to be conform to Him in the exercise of all their passions and affections. 2. It implyeth a likenesse to Christs hatred in the nature thereof, that they hated them as they were hated by Christ, and not as they were enemies to them. Obs. It's a good way to square folks hatred and zeal so, as it degener not into passion: to look to the matter that it be such as is hated by Christ, and to the manner that it be such as His is, single, and zealous; and that it be on that account, because hatefull to Him: otherwise, men may carnally and selfishly hate, but without commendation. 3. It implyeth also, that corrupt Doctrine is most hatefull to Christ Jesus, and should be to His People.

Vers. 7. Followeth the conclusion: wherein we have two things, 1. A general adver­tisement, or exhortation common to, and repeated in, all the Epistles, Let him that hath an ear hear. 2. A particular promise for upstirring of them to wrestle and overcome, To him that overcometh, will I give, &c.

For the exhortation, it's shortly the Lords giving this watchword and warning to all that are in Ephesus, and all that should hear this Epistle, to observe what the Spirit saith to them. 1. Because, it's of Ephesus concernment as well as the Angel's. 2. Because it is of particular Believers concernment as well as the Churches: therefore, He would have all hearers looking on it as particularly spoken to them. 3. Because usually all hear not. 4. Yet these that have ears should hear.

The scope implyeth these three Notes. 1. The Lord supponeth here, that every one this Word cometh unto, will not have hearing ears, they will not hear this Word so as to lay weight on it, and give themselves up to it. 2. It implyeth that folk that have any con­viction, wakening, or life, sitting them for hearing, should especially be busie in improving the Word heard; To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given, &c. It would become Believers (what ever others do) to be busie laying up some promises, directions, reproofs, threatnings, &c. it's mainly for their use [Page 81] written and taught, to make the man of God perfect. 3. It implyeth that hearers would labour so to make use of the Word spoken (to whomsoever it be first spoken,) as if it were particularly and especially spoken to them: this being the excellency of the Word, that it contains in it many conditions, and suits many Generations, and some in this place, as well as in Ephesus.

2. The last and speciall part of the conclusion, is a promise, To him that overcometh will I give, &c. Wherein, 1. The party is described, to whom the promise is made, To him that overcometh, in the singular number: to point out that our Lord Jesus taketh notice not only of a Church that fights, but of every particular Believer in it. This description of the party, implyeth, 1. A case or exercise that these to whom the promise is made are supposed to be in, and it is that they are wrestling or fighting: these are the object of the promise. It imply­eth, that Believers have difficulties to fight with, and a fighting life of it here away. 2. Their duty to fight and wrestle with these difficulties, outward and inward. 3. That there is an actual fighting according to their duty. 4. A victory, overcoming, a getting of their foot some way on these difficulties: a victory followes the wrestling to every Believer: what ever he be, that in the way of duty meets with difficulties, and setteth to, to overcome them, he shall get the victory: yea, fighting seriously, is some advancement in victory; therefore is it in the present tence, to the overcomer, or who is a overcoming: because fighting and victory are never separated, finally, in this case. 2. The promise made to the overcomers for their encouragement, is, I shall give them to eat of the tree of life, &c. It's an allusion to that tree planted in Eden, Gen. 2.3. That tree was called the tree of life, &c. not for any physicall efficacy that was in it, as Papists glosse here, (though God might have made it instrumentall as a mean of it) therefore, when sin entred, there was no use of that tree; neither could it do any thing, but it was so called, to hold forth to Adam Sacramentally the eternity of life, which he might expect by keeping the Covenant of Works; that tree was given him to signifie, and seal up that life to him, upon condition of his obedience: and in allusion to it, Christ saith here, to the man that sighteth and overcometh, I will make him partaker of eternall life, not in any earthly Paradise, but in Heaven; for so Para­dise is taken in the New Testament, Luk. 23.43. This night shalt thou be with me in pa­radise. By eating then of the tree of life, we mean Heaven, with all the great advantages of it, especially Jesus Christ who makes up that life to fallen sinners, which that tree could not do.

From this promise, Obs. That our Lord Jesus would have His followers cheerfull in their services: therefore He setteth a recompence in their view: not to make them mer­cenary and servile; but hearty and cheerfull in their obedience, because they serve such a good Master. It's a great mistake in some, to say that looking to the reward maketh a soul servile; upon the contrary, it maketh a soul free and willing: and this is the ground of Gods giving promises of rewards; and the use which the Saints make of them, Heb. 11. Moses had respect to the recompence of reward, and it sweetned his crosse, and made him cheerfull in obedience.

2. From the particular promise He maket, Obs. That there cannot be a greater pro­mise nor encouragement for duty, than the happinesse that God hath provided for His People in Heaven, when i'ts rightly eyed: and the frequent laying down of this promise, is for this end, to make Believers bear difficulties patiently, and wade through them wil­lingly: a broader sight of Heaven, and Faith and Hope strengthened, in expectation of it would make folks fight stoutly.

3. The thing He promises for their present sustaining, is, Heaven, as that which they might hope for after this life. Obs. 1. That Christs followers would suspend their full life, till after this life; they would not expect an other life or heaven here. 2. The hope of heaven, should comfort wrestlers before it come. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; and look not for it till then. Christ speaketh of the wrestling, as here, To him that overcometh; and of the victory, as in heaven, I will give him to eat of the tree of life. The not thinking rightly on this, maketh us so often grumble when we want satisfaction in the things of a world. We propose to our selves a quiet life, whereas the Word of God never promises quietnesse, and a compleat victory and triumph here; yet the time cometh, when wrestlers shall be conquerours over crosses and corruptions: [Page 82] and carnall men, who live now as Kings, without any fight, shall lye under wrath: there is no such promise made to them.

Before we proceed to any other of the Epistles, there are some things insinuated in this, the clearing whereof may be usefull in many of the rest: we shall therefore take occasion to speak somewhat now, once for all, to these three. 1. To Church-government and Discipline in generall. 2. To that relation which is betwixt a particular Minister and his Flock. And, 3. To the nature of the difference that is betwixt saving and common grace. All which will be usefull for the understanding of many things in these Epistles.

1. Concerning Church-government and Discipline, in generall.

THe matter of Discipline, is much insisted upon in these Epistles; and often the great weight of the commendations or reproofs that are given in them, is laid on this, as they were faithfull or defective in the administration thereof: which doth certainly show, not only the lawfulnesse of a Church government and Discipline; but also the usefulnesse and necessity thereof to the Church of Christ when faithfully exercised, as being a speciall mean and ordinance appointed by Jesus Christ for the edification thereof, and a thing that is not indifferent to her O [...]ficers to exerce or forbear at their pleasure, but lyeth on them, to be discharged, as they would have Christs commendation on the one side, and as they would eschew His sharp reproof on the other, and as they would prevent the offence and de­struction, and promove the edification of the People over whom they watch, as they that must give account. It is therefore no wonder that the devil hath in all ages either sought to oppose, or corrupt so excellent a mean of the Churches edification: he began even un­der heathen Emperours to traduce this Government, as inconsistent with civil Authority; and did provoke persecutors by nothing more than this, that Christ was accounted a King by Christians, and that accordingly they did keep distinct Courts under Him, which the Politicians of the world did account inconsistent with Governments, as may appear from the History of Primitive times, and the Apologies of Christians, particularly of Origen against Celsus, wherein he doth particularly and fully insist upon this. When the Lord had vindicated His Ordinance of Government (with all His other Ordinances,) the devil set himself to corrupt the same, and to pervert it in its nature, and divert it in its exercise from the appointed end of edifying the Church, to be an occasion of offence to her, and tyranny over her, by the many debates concerning precedency, which he stirred up after the Churches freedom from heathenish persecution, till at last he brought Antichrist to tyrannize over the face of the visible Church, that thereby he might either make the Government hurtfull or odious unto the members thereof and others. Even as in reference to the Doctrine of Christ, he did endeavour the corrupting thereof by errour, when he could not altogether suppresse the same. Again, when the Lord brought the light of the Gospel to publick, at the time of Reformation, and Antichrists tyranny is by many casten off, he seeketh by all means to effectuate one of these two, to wit, that either the Church should have no distinct Government at all, or that, at least, it should be of ano­ther form, and of another nature than is appointed in the Word. Hence it is, that there have ever been such debates in the Church concerning the Government and Discipline thereof, and even whether there be such a thing or not: And although the opposers there­of, do not professedly oppose the truth of the Gospel, nor intend confusion in the Church; yet hath it with it no little advantage to the Kingdom of Satan and prejudice to Christs.

For, 1. By this means Satan obscures the beauty and excellency of the Church of Christ, and draweth men to undervalue the same; as being at best but a refined peece of civil policy, as but subservient to politick ends, and the upholding of temporall greatnesse of men in place. Hence it is, that we will finde the most worldly-wise and politick men (that are least zealous ordinarily in things of God) to be the greatest favourers and abettors of this: and it is no wonder, seing Christs way of Government, even as His Doctrine, is foolish­nesse to the wisdom of men: It's observeable also, that where this opinion hath place, [Page 83] there is little account of any other ordinance; the Sacrament of the Lords Supper is pro­stituted promiscuously to all; the Ministery, is either accounted a thing indifferent, or Ministers made the servants of men, and arbitrarily to be put out or in, as they are pleasing or displeasing to them; and it is specially intended to curb free faithful speaking, and to be a snare to make them flatter Magistrates and Powers. All which shew the undervaluing principle that this opinion doth proceed from.

2. This opinion hath ordinarily with it more licentiousnesse, and that both in Doctrine and Practice: for, necessarily, one of these two do follow: either many errours and scandals in practice are accounted light and not censurable at all; or, if that in way of rea­son be granted, yet in practice it is never performed. And can it ever be made out in any practice past, or possibly to come, that offences in People or Ministers have been so exactly taken notice of, and restrained, or removed, where Church-government hath been denyed, as where it hath been in exercise?

3. Although such Magistrates might be found, as would take notice of every thing exactly; yet their medling with it furthers not spirituall edification, so as the way of Church-government doth: for at best, it would make men but civill, and make Reli­gion look like the way of ancient Philosophers, who pressed the rectifying of nature; whereas a Church reproof, or censure, hath both more edification to others, and more convincing shame to the parties themselves, in respect of the sin thereof, as flowing more immediatly from Jesus Christ, and more directly representing to them His Authority, and their reckoning to Him, who more singularily binds in heaven, what by His Officers is bound on earth. And we conceive, that even the prophanest, in experience will finde this true, that a verball Church-censure (which considered of it self, is but light) will yet have more impression (as to the ends aforesaid) than sentences of a civill Magistrate, that in themselves may be heavier; and this will be, even when the parties in their outward carriage will seem to reverence the Magistrate, and to contemn the Church.

4. Although it should be yet said, that Magistrates could make things more effectuall, as in censuring of corrupt Ministers, and such like, which indeed is a benefit in it self to the Church; yet, considering this manner of performing it, especially being compared with the performing thereof by the Churches own Authority, it proveth more disparaging unto the Church of Christ: because if Ministers and Church-members, should be apt to fall in scandalous offences, and yet the Church have no Authority, but what is extrinsick for the remeding thereof, then is she apt to be looked upon as a sufferer of profanity, and as a nest to unclean persons of her self, if by the Magistrate, course were not taken with her: and although by his means such should be purged out; yet in the opinions of natural men this imputation sticks to the Church, as if such things and persons were well consistent with her profession, and liked of by her special Officers and Members. Now censuring of these by her own Authority, doth fully and only vindicate her and them from these asper­sions, which are frequent upon the out-breakings of such scandals in the mouths of many profane men. And this revenging of disobedience, and vindicating of the Church of Christ, is none of the least ends of this Church-authority, which by no other power can be attained. And no question, the devil loves to have scandals breaking out in the Church, especially in her Officers, which do once put a blot upon her. And if it be to be taken notice of at all, he had rather that some other did it than the Church her self: because so the commendation becometh theirs, and the blot sticks to her: and thus (as it were) he proclames to all, what sort of persons would these Church-officers, and Church-members be, for all their profession, if they were not even as other men by some other hand restrai­ned? And thus the wisdom and holinesse of our Lord Jesus, is reflected on, as if He had approven corrupt mens designs, who love to have a blot on the Church; but not to have her vindicated from it: because by this, the Church is capable to give offences; but, in a incapacity, to remove them, or to vindicate her self from them: which standeth not with that zeal, which our Lord hath to His own glory in the Church. And certainly, it's not the punishing of faults simply, that vindicateth the Churches holinesse; but it is the censu­ring of them in such a way as evidenceth the Churches abhorrencie thereof, that doth it: otherwise, Christians and heathens living under one Commonwealth, might be supposed to have the same indignation at scandalous ills. And so the denying of the Churches Authority, if it doth not permit faults to be unpunished (at least all) yet it secludeth [Page 84] such a way of censuring them, as may vindicate the Church and Christ Jesus the King thereof in an singular manner: and (if we may so say) puts her; yea, the Lord Himself in their reverence, whether she shall be free of corrupt Teachers and Members or not? or whether she shall lye under that blot or not?

5. By the denying of this Ordinance, the other Ordinances which are acknowledged, are made weak and obstructed in their exercise. Concerning the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, it is clear: for, by this the rail whereby it is in a singular manner separated, is broken down; many offices of the Church, as these of Elders and Deacons, are made void; and that of Preaching, made contemptible or maimed. For, publick authoritative rebuking of all, and sometimes of some in particular, is a special part thereof. Now, where Church-government is denyed, either the Minister must do it abitrarily by himself, and so he is more liable to a snare, and the party reproved to be stumbled, as having only to do with the Minister, who may partially proceed therein; or, it must be forborn, and so his Ministrie be made obnoxious to despising, which by his rebuking, with all Authority, is to be prevented, and every way plainnesse and freedom, even in Preaching, especially to­wards these in place, is so far as can be, restrained.

6. By this, the devil aimeth still either to make Religion to suffer as a thing that men may carve on according to their interests, as in other matters of policie (therefore he mixeth all together) or, he doth continually lay grounds of jealousie and difference between Magi­strates and Ministers; thereby to make, that Ministers and these who will be faithful, should either sinfully connive at what may prejudge the Kingdom of Christ, or by their testifying against the same, make themselves more odious to the Rulers: for, lay this once for a ground, that there is no Church-government but what the Magistrate hath, then either the Mini­ster must say, that none ought to be admitted to Civil-government, but such as both for skill and conscience are fit to mannage the matters of Religion (which Civil States will not alwayes be content with, neither often is it possible) or, they must account any man, who may be fit to mannage Civil things, fit also to mannage the Affairs of Christs House, which in conscience cannot alwayes be done, whereby necessarily, they must be brought in tops with Magistrates, except we say that either unskilfull Magistrates use not to be in place, or that such may yet be tender and dexterous in the mannaging of every Church mat­ter that comes before them. And on the by, we may say, that seing qualifications, fitting one for any place and Government, are simply called for in these who should supplie the same (though sometime de facto they be not so qualified) and seing special qualifications, are required for governing of the Church of Christ, which are not required in these that govern a Civil State, and will not be accounted simplie necessary to them: It must there­fore follow, that by the Lords Ordinance, these two Governments are not conjoyned in one person, seing he hath not alwayes conjoyned the qualifications that are requisite for both. We shall insist no more in this: the reading of these Epistles will sufficiently shew how concerning this truth is: and although this controversie be abundantly cleared by the writings of many worthy men, that there needeth no more be said therein; yet, having such occasion from these Epistles, we shall, once for all, touch some things concerning Church-government, as it is holden forth therein: whereby we will find it clear. 1. That there is such a thing as Church-government, distinct and independent from the Civill. 2. Wherein it consisteth. And, 3. Who are the Subjects thereof. And, 4. We shall lay down some conclusions or observations concerning the same, as they may be gathered from the Text.

1. The Church of Christ is furnished with a Government and Authority within her self, for the ordering of her own affairs, trying and censuring of her own Members, and that immediatly from Jesus Christ, distinct and independent from any Civil Government on earth. That there is such a thing as Government and Authority in her, is clear by these, 1. The practice of the Angel of Ephesus in the trying and censuring of false Apostles, which cannot be done without Authority and Government. 2. This practice of theirs, is com­mended by our Lord Jesus: it can therefore be no usurpation in them. 3. In the Church of Pergamos, we will find the Angel reproved, that they had them that held the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans, &c. which doth suppose Authority in them, even to have censured and cut off these from their society: for, if they had not had Authority to do it, it was not their duty to have done it; and if i [...] had not been their duty to do it, our Lord Jesus had [Page 85] not reproved them for committing it, 4. The Church of Thyatira, is reproved also for suf­fering the woman Iezebel to teach and seduce His Servants: which doth imply an Au­thority and Government, fitting them to whom he writeth, to have marred and hindered her Preaching, and somewhat to have been in their power to have done, which was not done by them: otherwise our Lord Jesus would not have to reproved them. The making out of these three will confirm this. 1. That the thing commended in Ephesus, and desiderated in the other two Churches, doth imply Authority and Power. 2. That this is in the Church as distinct and independent from any Civil Government. 3. That this is a thing perpetually belonging unto the visible Church, and was not temporary, as peculiar to that time.

That there is an Authority implyed here, the considering of these three will make out. 1. If we consider what is commended in Ephesus and desiderated in the other two: the very expressions and acts do bear forth an Authority. As, 1. That is commended in Ephe­sus, That they cannot bear them which are evil, but have tried false Apostles, and have found them liars. All which hold forth a judicial way of proceeding and trying, which implieth a citing of such a party and witnesses, for the discovering of such and such things, according to the rule given to Timothie, 1 Tim. 5.19. Against an Elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses: for, there can be no trial without witnesses, there can be no witnesses without Power to call them, and exact an oath of them, that being the end of all strife, which cannot be done without Authority. The word added, and hast found them liars, doth confirm, that it is a judicial finding after trial, whereby they decide.

1. In the general, that such and such things are evidences of false Apostles: and then in particular, that such and such things are found to be in them: and therefore that they are false Apostles, which presupponeth this trial before they judicially pronounce; than which, nothing doth look more Judicature-like. Which will be the more clear, if we consider, 1. That this trial and finding, proceedeth from their zeal, and not bearing with evil men; and therefore cannot be a trial for private information. 2. It's a trial, tending to the edification of the Church, and the preventing of that snare amongst the people, which no personal or private thing could effectuate. 3. It's a trial and finding, opposite to what is reproved in Pergamos and Thyatira, and so such a processe and sentence as rid that Church of them, which no private or personal act could do. 4. It's a poceeding and tryall, which relates to these directions, which Paul giveth to Timothy and Titus, as the coincidency of the matter, scope and other circumstances do demonstrate such, as, 1. Receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses: which is the ground of that which followeth, vers. 20. Them that sin, rebuke before all. Now if that rebuke be an authoritative act (as cannot be denied, which yet is but the execution of the sentence that followeth the former triall) then the triall it self must be judiciall and authoritative also; and therefore so must this triall be here understood. To say that this is a Ministeriall act, and that that triall preceding, is only the Ministers private act, for his own clearing, cannot be admitted: for, that tryall belongeth to many, as after will appear. 2. To whomsoever it be supposed to belong, it inferreth an authority to try, and so to conveen and examine: otherwise that triall might be made ineffectuall; and so the party wanting authority, not to be chargeable with short-coming therein. Or 3. This trial must be commended to Church-officers without Authority to effectuate it, and so it will not be a mean suitable to the end. 4. Ministerial trial and reproof, will not be enough to gain the end, and to make a corrupt Member to be no Member of such a Church, which is the thing desiderated in Pergamos and Thyatira. And considering the commendation of these Angels and Churches, it is not like that they were defective in their personal avers­nesse from and rebuking of these Errors, and yet they are reproved as being defective: which must infer that they came short in respect of that judicial trial and censure, which is here commended in Ephesus, as the considering of them will clear.

2. Pergamos reproof (vers. 14. and 15.) is, Thou hast there them that hold the Do­ctrine of Balaam, and them that hold the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans: the fault is, not that they approved that Doctrine or connived at it; for, they denied not the Faith; and A [...]tipas is commended as a faithful Martyre amongst them: nor is it their fault, that such lived in the Town; or, as other Heathens might, did somtimes enter the Congregations: [Page 86] nor is His quarrel only against these Nicolaitans themselves, but against the Angel of the Church, because they had them in their society as Members with them, and had not cut them off: and seing this cutting off, is such a thing as made them cease to be Members of that body, and relateth to that which Paul wisheth to the troublers of the Church, Gal. 5. and commends to Titus, Chap. 3. Him that is an Heretick, reject, &c. it must imply an Authority and Power, without which this cannot be done, this un-Membering or un-Churching of a Person being a censure of highest concernment, and that same which we call excommunication; It followeth then, that this Church had that Power, and ought to have executed it against these corrupt Members, seing her failing therein doth make her reprovable.

If it be said here that this doth imply no Authority and Power, but what is common to all Societies by the Law of Nations and Nature, such as companies of Chirurgians, Wrights, and such like, have in excluding men from their own Society: which yet is no distinct Authority, but subordinate to, and derived from the Magistrate?

We answer, 1. That even these Societies in these things act by Authority, however it be derived: and so the Argument holds, that the exclusion of Members from Church-com­munion, doth imply an Authority: and what is said of the necessity of such a thing by the Law of Nature and Nations, doth confirm the same: for, if every Society be furnished for the maintaining of it self by the Law of Nature, so must also the Church be; except we say that it is more defective than other Societies. Beside, even such Societies could not do such a thing, were not priviledges granted them by Authority for that end. 2. We answer, That although the argument hold in the general, that there is an Authority necessary; yet will it not prove it to be dependent in the Church, as in these Societies it is. For, 1. The derivation of Authority from the Magistrate to these Societies, is clear: for, such and such Societies have that Power, because it is granted to them by the superiour Magistrate; and others want it, because it is not granted them: but I suppose none will plead for a derived Power to the Church from the Magistrate in this place: yea, the greatest opposers of Church-government, do acknowledge that it is not derived from him as L [...]d. Mol. pag. 654. There is no reason therefore that Church-government should be subordinate to Ma­gistracie as other Societies are, which she exerces (as they speak) by a proper right and divine without delegation, Iure proprio & divino, non delegato. 2. The Magistrate may enter by his Authority such and such persons to the rights and priviledges of such So­cieties and exclude others from them (though possibly it may be done unjustly) yet, was it ever heard of, that a Magistrate might priviledge any with the priviledges of Church-member­ship, or by his Authority un-Church any? The paralel therefore cannot be universall in these. 3. All other Societies as such, are parts of a Commonwealth, and together make up the body: and therefore in reason ought to be subordinate to the common Government; but the Church, as a Church, is no essentiall or integrall part of a Commonwealth: there is therefore not the like reason for their subordination.

If any should yet except and say, that an Authority may be immediately from God, and not derived; and yet be by Him appointed to be subordinate to the civill Magistrate, as is instanced in that Power, that a Husband hath over the Wife; or a Parent over his Children.

We Answer, 1. That it may be questioned, if a Parent, as a Parent, be subordinated to the Magistrate, although, as a man and member of the Commonwealth, he be: for, he may command his Children without any Authority from him: yea contrary to the com­mands of Magistrates (and in some cases warrantably, suppose in their Marrying, ad­hering to the truth of God, &c.) neither can the Magistrate increase or diminish their power, although they may strengthen them, or marr them actually in the exercise thereof; yea, suppose a Parent to incline to match Son or Daughter in a way that is not sinfull or incon­venient; and for this end, to command them to give obedience: and again, suppose the Magistrate to command them otherwayes to match: The Magistrat's command here, will not loose the Childe from the Parents Authority: because, although both Parent and Child be the Magistrat's subjects; yet their obedience is called for in reference to these things that belong to a Magistrate only. Hence that case of a Magistrat's requiring one thing, and a Parents commanding of another to the same Child, is by Divines solved by this distinction, That in things belonging to the Magistrat's command, the Child ought to be [Page 87] obedient to him in what concerns the duty of a subject; but in things that concern the duty of a Son properly, he is to be obedient to the Father, whatever the Magistrate command: which sheweth, that simply the commands of a Father, as a Father, are not subordinate to the Magistrate: and so that in reference to some persons, there may be two supream Powers, upon divers considerations, who may command without subordination one to another; and yet their Authority be no way inconsistent together.

2. We Answer, That although the Authority of Fathers and Husbands were subject to the civil Magistrate as such; yet can it not weaken this consequence, [If the Authority of the Church be not derived from the Magistrate, Then can it not be subordinate to him:] for, the Authority of Parent, Husband, &c. is personall and naturall, that is, founded in nature: and the [...]efore is derived by nature to Parents, Husbands, &c. And such, do not make a body of themselves, but are members of another greater body; whereas a Church, is a Society and Incorporation, compleat in it self: and as such, is not founded on nature; but by Gods posi­tive grant and foundation is such: and therefore Authority must be immediatly derived to the Church by the same mean, (to wit, of a positive grant) by which its being as a Church is derived. And can it be instanced that there is any such, to wit, a compleat Incorporation, having immediate power from Christ for the governing of it self and shutting out of corrupt members without any derived power from the civil magistrate, who yet, are subordinated to his power in the exercise of theirs. We grant indeed, that the Church, considered as subjects and members of the commonwealth, are subject to him; but it will no way follow, that the Authority or Government wherewith she is furnished, as a Church, is to be subjected to him. Neither can this be thought strange; that a Church [...]udicatory, considered as such, should be accounted independent, as to the civil Magistrate, seing we must either say, that a Mi­nister, in his Ministeriall and Pastorall duty, acteth by an Authority immediately from Christ, without any dependency on the civil Magistrate (which yet readily cannot be ad­mitted in any other case, to wit, that a person should command without dependence on the Magistrate) Or, we must say, that the Minister preacheth and acteth in his Ministery, in the Magistrate's name mediately, and by his Authority, or by none at all: which I suppose, none will affirm. And what greater inconsistency is it with civil Power, to have distinct Authoritative Courts, than to have Rulers distinctly and Authoritatively commanding per­sons, especially themselves?

3. If we consider the Epistle to Thyatira, where much is commended; yet there is a notwithstanding, and reproof cast in upon this account, because thou sufferest that wo­man Iezebel, that calleth her self a Prophetesse, to teach and seduce my servants. This suf­fering, can be no defect in respect of civil Authority: for, that was not in their power, or is it any defect of any personall or private dutie: because none such can imped other per­sons teaching, if willfully they will set themselves to it; nor can they be thought defective in th [...]t, that are so commended for Faith, Charity, Works, &c. and that even in respect of their thriving and growing in their private conditions: it must therefore be a suffering of her in so far as by Church Authority she was not censured and restrained, that thereby the seducing of Christs servants, might be prevented, whose edification is the end of this as of all other Ordinances: and so consequently, the Church of Christ is furnished with power and authority in reference to her own affairs and members.

2. This will also be clear by considering these who are primarily in this respect commended and reproved in these Epistles: it is not the body of private Christians; but the Church­officers, as peculiarly distinguished from them: so that these threatnings and reproofs, do otherwise belong to them, than to the Church, as we will find in the progresse. And there can be no other reason given of this, but because these faults were the faults of these that had Authority to right them, and did it not: which will be more clear afterward, when we consider the subject of this power.

3. These acts, are either acts of private Christians, or personall acts of Ministers and Church-officers (both which, are already overturned by the forementioned reasons) Or, it must be by some extraordinary act, as Peter's smiting of Ananias and Sapphira; or, it must be the exercise of some ordinary Power and Authority: there is no other thing con­ceivable; But none of the first three can be said. Not one of the first two, for the rea­sons given; not the third, Because, 1. There is no warrand to look upon these Officers as furnished with that gift; nor was it ordinary to the Church, and her ordinary Officers, [Page 88] such as these were. 2. That would not attain the scope proposed here, which is, in part, the recovering of the offending party: therefore saith the Lord of Iezebel, vers. 21.22. I gave her space to repens; and doth threaten her but conditionally: which sheweth, that He meaned no such extraordinary off-cutting of them. It remaineth then, that it must be the exercising of an ordinary Authority and Government: and therefore such must be in the Church.

The second thing to make out the Argument, is, that this Authority and Power in the Church, is distinct and independent from any civil Government; which from the Text, may thus appear, 1. The subject is distinct, to wit, Church-officers. 2. The object is distinct, to wit, the Church and the members thereof alone, and as such: it is not the in­habitants of Pergamos and Thyatira; but the Church-members that are under the same. 3. The matter falling under that cognition, is distinct, to wit, that which is hurtfull to souls, as the seducing of Christs servants, and scandals, considered as such. 4. The cen­sures inflicted, are different, to wit, no civil mulct upon estates, nor punishment upon bodies, nor cancelling of the freedom of their Burgeships in Towns or such like; but se­clusion from Church-priviledges and membership. 5. The end is distinct, to wit, the re­claiming of the party offending, and the bringing of them to Repentance, and the preventing of soul-hurt to others, and the vindication of Christs name. 6. The manner is different, there is no externall Pomp nor Power or force in the mannaging thereof, such as is in civil Governments: for, that is not here conceiveable, considering the afflicted and persecuted condition of these Churches, but the sword of the mouth, and triall, and censures. And 7. They differ in their rise, civil Power being derived from Superiors to Inferiors; but this hath no rise or derivation from any civil Power, although for the time these Cities and Nations wanted it not; but did arise from that intrinsick oeconomie and power, which accompanies the very being of a Church, and which by Christs appointment doth reside in such a number of persons, considered as a Church, which did not reside in other inhabitants of the same Towns, nor did in these before this their Church-state. 8. The account, upon which, this Government doth consider persons and actions, is di­stinct from the civil: men are not considered as men, nor as in-dwellers in such and such Places one [...]y; but as Christs servants: and actions, are not considered, either as profitable or hurtfull to men simply; but as profitable or hurtfull to their spirituall estate. And there­fore, it is seducing of Christs Servants, and as such, the deeds of the Nicolaitans and Iezebel, are to be taken notice of by it.

2. We say, as it is a distinct Government from the civil; so it is independent as to it: and if the former be true, that there is an Authority and Government included here and in the former respects exercised as distinct from the civil power then in being, it will also necessarily follow, that this Authority was independently exercised in reference to that civil power?

For, 1. There is no derivation of this Church-power, from that civil power, as is said. There­fore it cannot be dependent on it, seing it neither did, nor could derive it. And although some except (as was hinted) that there may be a power in Fathers, Husbands, and other such natu [...]rall relations, over Children, Wives, &c. which yet is dependent on the Magistrate; yet sup­pose that by the law of nature, Parents did combine in one Society and Government among themselves, as a Church doth, and in that case had a distinct Government, could that Au­thority and Government be accounted dependent, Seing no Superior Authority could marr them in the exercise of their power without injustice, more than a Magistrate can marr a Father in the exercise of His Authority towards his Children when he doth it justly? So this Church-power, not being a personall priviledge, but belonging to her as a body and Society of many members combining together, having that by the law of nature, as is granted (and we adde, if Jesus Christ allowed them) she cannot therefore be marred [...] any Authority in the exercising of that Government, what ever injust violence may do.

2. It appeareth to be independent in this, that there is a Church-government among Christians, even when Magistrates were setting themselves to undo the same: If then Go­vernment be necessary to the Church, and yet it be so ordered in the Lords providence that civil Government may be for hundreds of years enemies to the Church, as was in these Primitive times. Then it will follow, that the Church-government and Authority is not placed in the Magistrate, or civil Governours: because, in that case either she should have [Page 89] no Government at all (which by these Epistles will be found false) or she must have a Government and Authority destructive to her, which is contrary to the end thereof; or, in the last place, her Authority must be independent, save of Jesus Christ alone: and if it were not so, considering now that these to whom Christ writeth, were not civil Magi­strates, there had been no such accesse to expostulate with them for their ommission, if they might not have acted independently on them.

3. It may appear thus, that if the civil Magistrate cannot repeal by his Authority any of their sentences, then is their Authority independent as to him. Now, suppose a Church justly to degrade, or depose a false Teacher, or to cut off a rotten member, could any Magistrate by his Authority continue that man to be a Minister, or that member to be a Church-member, (what ever violence might do) Suppose some Emperour (as in some cases Iulian did) had taken the recognition of Ephesus sentence against these false Apostles, and had declared it null? would not still their sentence have stood in force notwithstanding? Or suppose Pergamos, or Thyatira, had cut off Iezebel or the Nicolaitans from their So­ciety, could any civil Mag [...]strate, Heathen or Christian, have enacted them to be conti­nued Church-members? And this doth not only flow from the injustice of the matter: for, suppose a Proconsul had justly degraded some Judges of Ephesus; and the Town of Ephesus, had justly casten out some members from their Society; yet, by the Emperours interposing his Authority, as the supream Magistrate, both might have been fully restored (though injustly) so as they might have been really again Magistrates and Burgesses of such a City: which cannot be said in this case. No Emperours Authority could have constitute such (though injustly) to have been Officers, or members, at all of these Churches. The difference then, (I say) cannot consist in the injustice of the matter alone; (for both are injust) but it must consist in this, that civil sentences are subordinate to the supream Magi­strate, but Church-sentences are not: although by violence they might have countenanced such and such persons, and have made the effects of the sentence in many things void; yet could their Authority have never reached to the formal removing of them, as in civil cases was h [...]nted.

Thirdly, To make out the Argument, we say, that this distinct independent Power here mentioned, is a thing that agreeth to the Church in all Ages and conditions, and is not peculiar to any one time: as suppose, because the Church wanted Christian Magistrates at this time, it had been lawful to exercise Authority independent from them: which in other cases, where the Magistrate is Christian, is not to be granted. Therefore we say, 1. That which is attributed to these Churches here, agrees to them as Churches: and therefore to all Churches at all times: for, the duties are common, and the hazards are common, to Churches at all times. Therefore this remedy of Church-discipline, must be perpetuall also, it being the cure that is appointed for such a disease. And, that often repeated word, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, doth speak in all ages to the end of the World, alswell as then. 2. If all other directions, ex­hortations, &c. in these Epistles, be perpetuall and binding to the Church, to the end of the World, then this must be so also: and there can be no reason given why this is to be ac­counted temporary, more than the other: especially, considering that Christs sending of this Revelation, is for the good of His Servants unto the end of the World: and that especially, is aimed at in these Epistles, as the forcited close doth confirm. It must then be injurious to Christs mind, to sc [...]ape out so much as concerneth Government, as not belonging to His Church for so many ages. 3. If the grounds, requiring the exercise of this power in the Churches, during this time, be perpetuall, agreeing to all ages, Then it is not to be astricted to the time of the Churches being under heathen Magistrates alone; But the ground are perpetuall: for, that is not because the Magistrate is a heathen; but that the person offending may be brought to repentance; and the seducing of others may be prevented: Now these ends are perpetuall, which the Church is to study in all times: and seing Church Authority and Government, is here holden forth, as a mean appointed by Jesus Christ for attaining of these ends, It must therefore be of perpetuall use to the Church also.

Although these Truths be clear from the Word; yet there are some things, which are partly exceptions, partly objections, insisted on by Adversaries, which we shall speak a little to, as the nature of our intended purpose will permit.

A forcited Author? pag. 545. doth confidently undervalue all Arguments to this pur­pose; [Page 90] and denieth all distinctnesse of Government in the Church by any Power distinct from that of the Magistrates; and to maintain it, doth, 1. assert, That all sort of Power whatsoever, is supreamly in the Magistrate, whether Heathen or Christian, by that place, Rom. 13.2. he heaps up with many bigg words several absurdities that accompany (as he alledgeth) that opinion of a distinct Church-government, which he calleth invidiously the building of an Empire within an Empire. Yet, 3. He granteth, that where the Civil Magistrate taketh not on him the care of the Church, and maintaineth it not: in that case, by the Law of Nature and Nations, the Church cometh to have an Authority, or some­what equivalent in the place of that, whereby she is qualified for the ordering of what concerneth her Members, during that case of such a Magistracie allanerly; and denyeth any other Authority to have been in the Church, during the time that these Epistles were written, but what was by voluntary confederacie, and association of Members amongst themselves: and therefore saith, That they had and exercised no lesse Authority, during that time, in Civil things: for which end, he maketh use of that place, 1 Corinth. 6.1, 2. &c.

In reference to all which, we say, 1. That Authority cannot be denied here (however it be derived) seing it is a Power to Excommunicate and Exauthorate Officers and Members which they assume, as he speaks, pag. 654. Yea, a Power equivalent to that of the Magi­strates, because it's a Power adequate for the time to this end of governing the Church, pag. 545. And therefore, we say, if this confederating, or up-making of this Government, be a thing jure called for, and necessary to be done, for this end; it is the thing which we assert also; and, in respect of the particular circumstances, that is, what places or persons are to associate together, is to be regulated by Christian prudence; but if it meaned of a voluntary association and confederacie, such as trades and crafts use in their Societies, as that alone which is the ground of this Power, This we altogether deny: Because, 1. If that confederating be called for, by the Law of Nature, Then it is not voluntary and free. And this Authority, is not grounded meerly upon voluntary confederating: because as it is not arbitrary to a converted Christian to be Baptized or not; so, being Baptized, it is not arbitrary to him whether to joyn with the Church or not. And being joyned, submitting to its Government, is a necessary duty to him. And it becometh not Authority to him: because he submits to it; but he is to submit to it, because it is Authority: and therefore supposing that these false Apostles, or Iezebel, or the Nicolaitans, had never con­sented to subject themselves to the Discipline of these Churches (as, by their taking such names of Apostles and Prophets to themselves, it's like they did never) yet notwithstand­ing had these Churches Authority over them, and it was their duty to submit unto them. 2. It's granted that the Authority that the Church hath in such a case, is equivalent to what the Magistrate hath and might exercise: and if it be not equivalent to this, then the Church of Christ under such Magistrates would not be so perfect as to their Church-state and wel-being, as otherwayes: which cannot be said without wronging the wisdom of God, as if he had left His Church destitute of inward Power when she had least outward Protection; but if it be such a Power, it cannot be arbitrary and meerly grounded upon the confederacy; but must be authoritative upon an other account, and may authoritatively enjoyn one to confederate: And so confederating, is not the ground that constituteth the power; but a mean, making way for the exercise thereof. 3. If it were asked, What evidence or proof could be given of such voluntary confederating in the Churches for that time? It would be hard to show, that universally in all the Churches, there was such for­mall compacting actually agreed upon; and yet, that there was Government and Authority in them all, is evident. 4. Suppose confederacies to have been; yet could they never have constituted an Authority and Government distinct, and independent from the civil supream Power, especially while the supream Power opposed the same; as supposing (to keep the similitudes proponed) that many Chirurgians and Tradsemen of any kind, did live under a Magistrate and Laws, which would admit no such, by their Authority to live and confederate under them, will any say that in that case, by voluntary confederating, they could assume an Authority to themselves; and censure any Person (especially against their will) without wronging and encroaching upon that Authority, under which they live? Yet it cannot be denyed to a Church, and that without any prejudice to the Magistrate: because it in nothing lessens his Authority or withdraweth any thing from his cognition, [Page 91] which formerly used to belong unto him: but as the arising of a new Church within a Na­tion, hath with it new cases, actions, and considerations of persons, and deeds; so it is reason that it should have with it a new Authority to govern the same. 5. If the Church had another kind of interest, in reference to spiritual offences, than in reference to civil debates, then this confederacie cannot be the ground of such an Authority: this will not be denied according to the former principles, which do paralel both these in the primitive Church, and make this the proof of the former; But it's clear, that the Church-autho­rity did far otherwayes reach Church-members in spiritual offences, than in civil things: which may thus be made out, 1. They might Excommunicate and un-Church for spiri­tual offences and for disobedience in these, if a brother did not hear the Church, and oft­times they did so; But it cannot be said, that if a brother had been disobedient to an arbi­trary decree in civil things, that upon that account, they would have proceeded against him to Excommunication, and constrained him to have submitted: sure we are, it was never put in practice, at least till Antichrist arose. 2. In that Chapter, 1 Cor. 6.7, and 8. the Apostle reasoneth for submission to this; and exhorteth Christians, so wronged, to suffer the wrong rather than to pursue it before Infidels: which doth suppose, that the Church was not furnished with Authority to redresse civil wrongs, as she was to redresse scandals. And therefore, Matth. 18. our Lord giveth order to proceed, in case of non­satisfaction, to the highest degree. And on the by, we may say, it is an odd thing to expound that place of Matthew, by this place of Paul. As if the Lord did only there warrand a man to pursue injuries before heathen Judges, when he would not submit to the advice of Church [...]members, seing expresly Paul enjoyneth them rather to suffer wrong, than to make the Gospel contemptible before Infidels by the contentions of Christians; which yet that exposition of Matth. 18. will approve of: which sheweth, that it must be understood to speak of Church-offences: in respect of which, suffering and bearing with them, is condemnable, as we see in these Epistles. 3. If what the Church did in civil things be common to any person or persons in any rank or condition whatsoever, and to Christians in any time and case, that is, that they may and should submit their differences to some; and these to whom they are submitted, may decide: And upon the other side, if what the Church exerced in reference to Ecclesiastick offences and censures, be not common, but so that no submission to others but such as are in power could warrand one to draw forth such censures as are here mentioned, (yea according to the principles which we oppose, it were not lawfull for Christians to do so now in civil things; for, they say it's not lawfull to do now in Church-things, as these did at that time) Then the Churches Authority was not equal in civil things, as in spirituall things: And so consequently, no confederacy can warrant­ably ground this Church Authority; But the former, we conceive, is clear: Therefore, &c. 4. It may be clear by this, that the Church did never exact civil mulcts or inflict bodily pu­nishments: which sheweth abundantly, that she did not exerce Authority in civil things equally as in spirituall: and yet had her Authority been only grounded on the voluntary confederacy, she might have inflicted the one, as well as the other. 5. Suppose a Church­member had wronged an Heathen by his miscarriage; No question, Church-discipline would have reached him: which is not the intent of that, 1 Cor. 6. Therefore that cannot be the ground of their Power alone. 6. That direction, Matth. 18. Tell the Church, was given, before this was written: seing then, this is the foundation of civil association, as is pre­tended, That of Matth. 18. must be of another kind. 7. This opinion will infer the set­ting up of a civil Power in civil things, where the Magistrate is not Christian; yet, that was never asserted by any. 8. The Adversaries themselves grant, that in such cases, the Church may do much more in Church-matters, than in civil: because that the Magistrate doth allow his power to rectifie civil things; and yet, this doth make both equally lawfull. 9 Suppose the Magistrate had repealed a sentence, past in civil things; no question, it had bound them, though it had been unjust; Yet supposing he had repealed one of their Church censures, and declared excommunication void, It had not done so, nor had been acknowledged: yea, had he inhibited them to decide a particular in civil things, they would not have proceeded; but when he did inhibit censures, notwithstanding, they did proceed, and actually did suffer Martyrdom upon that account: which, in a civil action, I suppose they would not have done. 10. That, 1 Cor. 6. admitted any to be Judge that men submitted unto, or had wisdom; But Church-things were governed only by these who by office were Rulers. All [Page 92] which do shew the vanity of that assertion, that they equally meddled with both kinds; and yet, this one thing, is the ground of all that is said to evert this Authority. Add that, 1 Cor. 6. the parties offending are reproved for going to him; here, the Church-officers, for not censuring these that offended: which supposeth a power to be in them. And it cannot be thought, that the Angels had been so censurable, had they not decided civil businesses, as for this.

Beside (pag. 548.) He denies that there was a necessity of obedience in civil things: which yet clearly, is here asserted in these Church censures. Whereas it is said, as a further evidence, that the Churches Authority during this time was only built upon this voluntary confederacy, that after supream Magistrates became Christian, they did intermeddle with all Church power without any contradiction (pag. 544.) It is either a meer mistake or an untruth: a mistake in this, that it accounteth their meddling in a civil way with many things, which the Church still meddled-with as formerly, and adding of their civil sanction thereto, for strengthening, not for diminishing the Churches power; to be an assuming of Church Power and Authority, which are things most distinct; even as a Christian Magistrate, doth command the Son of a Christian Parent to do the same things, which his Parent doth com­mand him in reference to the Christian Religion, which a heathen Magistrate did not; yet is the Parent's power and authority over his Son no lesse than when the Magistrate was hea­then, because the Magistrates command is not privative; but cumulative to the Parents Authority: even so is it here. And there can be no greater reason to say that Church Power and Authority over Christians, did cease in spirituall things after Constantine became a Chri­stian, than to say that the Power and Authority of a Christian Parent and a Christian Master did expire at that time. And seing it is granted, that Church power, and Parentall power, are both immediately from God, without any mediate derivation by the Magistrate, It is reason that they should be of equal duration and continuance also. And in matter of fact it is clear, that the Church continued to exercise the same power, which formerly she did; and also that the Magistrate concurred in his station for the strengthening thereof: and there is not the least shadow for any delegation after that, more than formerly; But, that now by the approbation of civil Authority, the Church had accesse to do that, for which before that time she was persecuted, even as there was full liberty given to Preach the Gospel, which formerly was inhibited: yet, none will say, that that power of the key of Doctrine, was derived from the Magistrate. For, what is alledged of the Emperours calling of Councels, That will prove him to have put them to the exercise of their power; but not that it was derived from him, more than when before that time Provincial Councels were called by some eminent Bishops, it will prove that their Call did authorize them, But rather both these Calls do suppose Authority to be before in these that are called. And therefore there is no question, that if Constantine had called others than Church-officers, to judge and cen­sure in reference to these differences Ecclesiastically, he could not have derived Authority to them, so as to have made them equally Rulers, and with the same Authority as if they had been Church-members and Officers: which yet might have been done, if their Authority had resided in him alone. Beside, he commanded the preaching of the Gospel also, as is said.

Whence we may see that Christian Magistrates, did not meddle with that Power and Au­thority, which formerly resided in the Church: neither ever was it heard of, that a Magi­strate did excommunicate, authorize or ordain a Minister, and such like, wherein Church­power is exercised. And though it be said that he doth these things mediately, by putting the Church to it, and by calling Church-officers to consult in Ecclesiastick things, which he doth confirm by his Authority, even as he doth govern other Societies, as Physicians, Lawyers, &c. by Authorizing some of their own number to mannage what concerneth such Callings and Functions (in which respect, say some, the Function is different from the Magistrate,) Yet he is not the Lawyer, nor the Physician, more than he is the Minister; but the Autho­rity is on him alone. To this we say, 1. That the paralel, is most unequal: because although a Magistrate be not by his station a Physician, or Lawyer; yet supposing him to have skill, he might lawfully do any act incumbent to these Stations: which doth indeed show, that the same Authority, whereby they act, doth reside in him: but suppose he had the Theorie of Ecclesiastick things, and skill in them; yet he might not step [...] to himself, to act the acts of a Ministeriall Function; nor as a Magistrate, to sentence with Church sentences, [Page 93] Administer Sacraments, as he might do in the sentences of inferior Magistrates and Courts: which doth shew, that that Authority doth not reside in him. 2. We grant that he may be said to govern mediately, as he may be said to Teach and Preach mediately (for, he ought to provide for that) But that will not infer that the Authority of Preaching is derived from him: yet, no way doth the weight of this controversie so much ly on matters of fact, what Churches or Magistrates did since the Apostles dayes, as by what right and warrand they did what they did.

This last assertion therefore although made out, could prove nothing without the for­mer; nor will the instancing of exorbitancies in Church-governours, infer any nullity of that Power, more than the enumerating of miscarriages of men in civil place, will enervate that ordinance of God: yea, we are sure much ill hath come by Magistrates intrusion in this Church Power, and many have miscarried in it; much lesse will heaps of slanders against most faithful men do it, whom God eminently countenanced, and who singularly by suffering were honoured to testifie for Him, such as Mr. Welsh, Mr. Melvil, Mr. Davidson and others, who, we are perswaded, in the great Day, will be as bold in refe­rence to their being approven in their stations, as any of their opposers or traducers on this account. This way of writing, will not be found to proceed from zeal for the Lord, which hath so little respect to such who eminently adhered to him; and let these traducers of His Ordinances and Servants, prepare for giving account for both to Him, to which we leave them.

For the absurdities wherewith he doth load this truth, they being for substance the same which often have been fully wiped away, we shall only say these two, 1. That either they are no absurdities; Or, 2. Not such as the grounds acknowledged by him will infer. For, 1. It is no absurdity simply, that a man in diverse considerations should be subject to diverse co-ordinate powers, as a son is to the Magistrate as a Member of the Commonwealth, to his parent as a child and member of the family: and in some things (as formerly hinted at) he is so obliged to be subject to the parent, that no command of a Superiour can loose him from it; and in other things, so subordinated to the Magistrate, that therein the parents authority hath no place. And the same may be seen in wives, who, in some things, are subject to their husbands commands, and no Authority can warrant them to do otherwise. 2. We say, that this same absurdity might have been instanced in these Churches, that the Lord writes to, su [...]pose (as he doth in the other case) that the Magistrate had appointed some, whom the Church had called to her Synods (as for example, to that mentioned, Acts 15.) to some other civil imployment, as they were subjects; would not the same absurdity of the interfereing of the two Authorities have followed? he must either then say that such a case was not conceivable in these times, or he must say the absurdity must be evited, or it will be fastened upon the way approven by the holy Ghost, as the Churches governing of her self distinctly is granted to be, at least during such a case: and when he loses and vindicates his own concession, it will be easie to answer his objection. 3. It can­not be denied but that a Minister may independently command a Magistrate in the Name of Christ according to the Word, and that not only by reason of the matter, as an other pri­vate subject may do; but by vertue of his Office and Authority: in which respect he is not only a reporter, to tell what is Truth, but a Messenger and Herauld authorized to charge all hearers to the obedience thereof, as Iohn the Baptist did Herod, who in some respect might be subject to Herod, as in other respects Herod was to him: and if this be no absurdity in reference to particular Governours, why should it be thought absurd in reference to the Powers by which these govern? Supream Church-Power then, and Su­pream Civil-power in distinct persons, cannot be absurd. And we suppose there can be no Authoritative Officer, that upon any civil account can so independently command the Civil Magistrate: Church-power therefore is not to be regulated in every thing; as the Civil is. It's strange to say that it's lawfull to a Magistrate to receive Ministeriall injuncti­ons, or not as he pleaseth, or at least no more than a sick person is subject to the Physician. can it be said that a sent Minister can have no more Authority in prescribing duty in the name of Christ, than a Physician in giving directions for health? Or, will it be thought equally sinfull or lawfull, to disobey the directions of the one as of the other, even laying aside the matter? or, shall every one, skilfull in Divinity, be counted of equall Authority with a Minister, as the counsel of one that is skilfull in Medicine, is to be counted of the [Page 94] same weight, as if he were a graduat Physician, if his reasons be as weighty? or, is there any exception of some, more than others from Ministeriall power, because of any outward place or grandou [...]? These things can hardly be conceived without wronging the Ordi­nances of Christ. 4. It's thought absurd to say that a Magistrate is not blindly to act according to Church conclusions and determinations but deliberately to try his own act, and yet not to be the proper Judge thereof. It cannot be denied, that a Minister is to try and judge of what commands the Magistrate shall lay on him in reference to his duty: if therefore the Magistrate's subsequent judgement, did demonstrate him to be supream in Ecclesiastick things, the same will prove the Magistrate's judgement in the case foresaid to be subordinate to the Ministers: that therefore is no absurdity. 5. An Ambassadour from one King to another, or to some inferiour Magistrate, is in his personall carriage subject to the Authority within whose bounds he is; but as an Ambassadour in the following of his Commission and instructions, and as such, he is only countable to these that sent him: and never was it heard that one subjected his Ambassadour to the Authority of those to whom he was sent, even amongst men, But that was reserved at least, for some others appointed for that end by him: neither doth a Magistrate account an Ambassadours independency on him to be inconsistent with his Authority. Now Ministers being Ambassadours sent by Christ to Magistrates as to others, we must either say these to whom they are sent, must judge when they faithfully exerce their Commission or not, in their Masters name: which is absurd amongst men, and could not but look partiall like; or we must say, they are not countable or censurable on earth; or, that Christ hath intrusted His Ambassadours and Church officers with this power of censuring men, who shall walk unworthy of their Trust.

If it be said that an Ambassadour is no Magistrate, and hath but an instructed power?

Answ. Yet is it a power, and in that respect such as Church-officers have: and suppose there were a plurality of Ambassadours for a King or State within the Dominions of ano­ther, instructed to act joyntly for his affairs, and to censure any of their own number, or retinue, that should walk unworthy of their place; would any Magistrate think that these wronged his power; if they shat some from their fellowship without his warrand? or could he claim to recognosce their deed; although in a criminall case, he only might have accesse to punish even their members in that place?

For that qualification of his concession, which is to allow this confederate Authority only to the Church that lived under such a Magistrate, as doth not undertake the care thereof; we suppose it will not be easie to free it of absurdities, if this distinct Government be not acknowledged to be perpetuall.

For, 1. Do not the same Scriptures (that place all Authority in the Christian Magi­strate; and require absolute obedience from his Subjects to him) in the same manner belong to any Magistrate, as a Magistrate, and his Subjects under him, and particularly that place, Rom. 13. And suppose the Magistrate should not assume that power, and put it in exercise; yet if Ecclesiastick power be in that same gift committed to the Magistrate with the civil power, no private persons could upon any pretext meddle therewith.. For suppose the Magistrate should abstain to punish some kind of Murthers, Witchcrafts, &c. no private persons could confederate themselves to assume a power of punishing these: becaus [...] civil power to punish these things, is not committed to them; but to the Magistrate. If then the Church might censure scandals, without incroaching upon these Scriptures at that time, Why may it not do so even when the Magistrate is Christian? This Church power then cannot be understood to be comprehended under the Magistrates Commission, seing Paul is exercising it, even while he is extending to the utmost the Magistrates Commission in all things, and quarelling Christians for encroaching upon any thing due to him; and no que­stion he knew best the extent of these directions.

2. There is no Magistrate, who will professedly disclaim the charge and Government of any people; although in practice many of them prove negligent of the Church of Christ. Now it may be asked, if this necessity of confederating for exercising of Church-authority doth [...]ly upon the Church only when the Magistrate is professedly Heathen, or if also when Erroneous or Atheisticall and Prophane, or in practice negligent and carelesse (like Gallio) in what concerneth the Church? It cannot be astricted to the first: because the Church is no more obliged to an Erroneous Magistrate, then to a prophane and carelesse Magistrate (though he be not professedly an Heretick or Erroneous) if that Autho­rity [Page 95] be not improven for them: and so according to these principles, the Church is to con­federate and exercise Authority within her self, even then: which will come to this, that the Church is called to assume this Authority, except in such cases as the Magistrate doth take it on him and exercise it for her good, (for if he exercise it to her hurt, it is better to want it) and so it will turn near to this, that the Church is to assume this power, save where the Magistrate is Godly, and according to conscience doth exercise his power for her good. And then it may be asked, (supposing that the Magistrate professe willingnesse to govern the Church,) how shall it be judged whether such and such a Magistrate be to be admitted to Govern? or, whether they be to assume Government to themselve? It will come to this, that it must rest in the judgement of discretion of these private Christians, whether they will admit the Magistrate to Govern, or not? And according to the prin­ciples of that Author, if they judge him according to their light, to be one that taketh no care of the Church, they should assume that power to themselves: for elsewhere he affirmeth the judgement of discretion to be the great decider; and that a man had better do according to the light of an erring Conscience, than against it.

Yea, 3. According to his grounds, they may not only assume power in Ecclesiastick things; but equally in civil things also. And will he say, that the Church of France may take power in civil things, as they do in Ecclesiastick, and not wrong the Magistrate? Or, can it be said that this is a priviledge to the Magistrate, which makes him so to depend both in things Ecclesiastick and Civil upon a Peoples estimation of him?

4. By these grounds, either a Church should never assume power under any Magistrate however carelesse and profane, and so as is granted, wrong her self, contrary to the law of nature; or by assuming power, they declare that they account the Magistrate a Hea­then, Erroneous or Atheisticall, &c. and is not that a greater irritation, and probable occasion of division betwixt the Magistrate and Church, than to continue this power di­stinct under all Magistrates equally? And truly it looketh not like Gods Ordinance, that putteth His Church oftentimes in this strait, that it must either suffer prejudice, or dis­clame and provoke the Magistrate so as to account him an Atheist unworthy of Govern­ment; but to have forfeited so much of his Power, &c. And suppose a profane [...]on succeed in the Magistracie to a gracious father, or profane men be chosen to succeed others who bare rule before them even in Church-affairs, (which case is often incident) what strait would it be to the Church either to continue to be governed by the Magistrate as formerly? or, with so much disadvantage upon personall considerations, to assume a power which formerly they did not?

5. Either the Church assumeth that power contrary to the Magistrate's command; and so there is clear ground of a Persecution and War; or, it is with his good will, or, at least, permission; and that must presuppose this, that he doth account himself Heathen, Erroneous or profane, which cannot easily be expected, especially from a man not so de­nied and mortified, as such a Magistrate is supposed to be: for, delegated it cannot be, seing in that case this assuming of Authority is not called for.

6. It may be asked, what degree of erroneousnesse, profanity, or carelesnesse in a Ma­gistrate, may warrand a Church to assume this power: seing even amongst heathens there are degrees? and if so, then how shall that be judged? Suppose a Christian Magistrate should neglect Church affairs, otherwise than as they fall within the compasse of civil Go­vernment: in which respect Heathens did own them? or suppose he should own some sen­tences, punish some scandals, which, it seemeth Aurelian did in expelling Samosaten [...]s, and Severus, in commanding to give again to the Church a place where they used to meet, that some Rogues had violently put them from, saying, that it was fitter that God should be worshipped there, than that it should be imployed for such an use. Now, what is called for in such a case, might be a debate; whether might not such Heathens be accounted to take care of the Church, and so it became not these Primitive Christians to have retained power during their reigns? or, what may be thought of Christian Magistrates that do no more, and, it may be, lesse than these? whether are these to be retained or not?

7. It may be asked in such cases, whether is explicit confederating for that end necessary or not? and suppose some would not submit willingly, How could they be compelled? Or, if so, were they lyable to no censure, because of their obstinacy? It were good that these things were cleared, if it be supposed that this be a practicable thing▪ and often to be practised.

[Page 96]It is further said, That the Churches greatest hazard, is from the great power of Church-men, and not of the civil Magistrate, as experience sheweth: therefore it's dan­gerous to give them power. Answ. So the greatest danger of Errour, is from Church Teachers: shall they therefore have no Teachers? So the greatest hazard of tyrannie to a State in civil things, is from a civil Government: is it not therefore to be allowed? Yea, this is the reason of it, that corrupt Church-officers wrong the Church most, and that both in Government and Doctrine: because in both they come nearest Her heart: and therefore when they miscarry, it cannot be but worse than when an Authority more extrin­sick doth miscarry; and by their Power, they had ever greatest accesse to do her good or evill: and this rather confirmeth what was said, That properly the Power doth belong to her, and had need to be well mannaged, because corruptio optimi est pessima. But was it ever heard of, that Church Authority, well mannaged, did hurt to the Church or State either, under what ever Magistrate? It followeth only that the abuse of Church Power is ill, But no more.

2. We come now in the second place to consider wherein this Authority is exercised: which we shall speak to only in so far as these Epistles give ground, and we will find it to be in these four.

1. There is a Triall, thou hast tried them that call themselves Apostles, &c. which triall inferreth Authority to cite and warn parties, to call and examine witnesses, 1 Tim. 5.19. to take Oaths; which is requisite to triall and witnessing, as that alone which put­teth an end to strife amongst men, Heb. 6. Therefore, Mat. 18. the Lord giveth the same rule concerning procedor by witnessing in the Church, which Moses gave in reference to all Courts, That out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, &c. shall every matter be established. This showeth also, that they may receive the complaints of offended Bre­thren, (as is in Mat. 18.) keep meetings for that end, lead inquiry upon the crying fame of offenc [...] (as is like they did in this case of Ephesus) and, in a word, do every thing that is needfull for compleating triall: for where the end is approven, the means that are necessary to the attaining thereof, must be approven also.

2. There is a Power here to judge and determine, thou hast found them liars: which doth respect these two, 1. The nature of offences: they must judge what is truth and what error; otherwayes they can not tell who is a false Apostle and who a liar: and they must judge what is scandalous in practice, and so what is lawful or not; otherwayes they can make no progresse in trial or censure: for, they must find such a thing to be an error or scandal, and so not to be suffered in the Church. 2. It hath reference to persons: there is a Power in judging such and such persons to be guilty, whereby they pronounce not only such Doctrine to be erroneous, but such a Minister or person to be guilty thereof, as is clear from the Text, and so must judge what is proven or not, and every thing tending to that, as citing witnesses and parties, hearing exceptions and answers, &c.

3. There is a Power of censuring a person found guilty. These words, thou canst not bear them, &c. thou hast them, and sufferest them, do import that, as is cleared: this having of them, implying a fault, which was, that by their Authority such were not cut off from the Church: which is the highest degree of ordinary censures; for if it be a privi­ledge and benefit to be admitted to the visible Church, and the Ordinances of Jesus Christ therein, it cannot but be a high degree of censure to be cut off from both: and yet this is im­plied here to be in the Power of these Churches, and they cannot be conceived to have cutted off such from their society so as not to have had them or suffered them to remain therein, but by this which we call Excommunication. From which necessarily this followeth, that not only the Church hath a Power of censuring; but particularly of censuring thus, by cutting off one from Church-membership, and from the priviledges of the external Ordinances thereof: this is called by our Lord Jesus, Matth. 18, an accounting of one a heathen and a publicane, 1 Corinth. 5.13. a putting away of the wicked person from among them; a cutting off of troublers, Gal. 5.12. and (Titus 3.10.) a rejecting of them. There is nothing almost more frequently and clearly held forth in Scripture than this, both in Doctrine and practice. The Lord hath furnished His Church with this Power to censure, that He may preserve a Majestie in His Ordinances, which appear to the most part but foolishnesse and weaknesse; and that He may have weapons of His own kind, to batter down the proud imaginations of Church-Members, and revenge all disobedience, as the [Page 97] Apostle speaketh, 2 Corinth. 10.6. for which cause, he calleth it a rod, 1 Corinth. 4.21. and a punishment, 2 Corinth. 2.6.

4. There is here a Power of ordering and making Laws of what concerneth the affairs of the Church, as may be gathered, 1. From this, that they try Officers: whereby it is apparent, that the Church had her Laws in reference to the admission of Ministers, before they could be accounted such; and that these who were found by their trial, to be liars, should not be accounted Apostles, or Church-officers: otherwise Authority, in the for­mer respects, would be maimed and defective. 2. It may be gathered from this, that they might conclude what was offensive, and what not, who was to be tried, and upon what grounds, when the trial was to proceed; who and what was to be suffered in the Church, and what not; who might Preach, and what might be Preached; and in every thing that concerneth Doctrine, Worship, and Order, according to the rule of the Word, and the great end of the Ordinances, to wit, the edification of the People: beside which, there is no Church Authority any where, it being a Power indeed, but a Power given for edi­fication, and not to destruction, 2 Cor. 10.8. and 13.10. This Power being exercised, maketh decrees: therefore such acts are called, (Act. 16.4.) The decrees that were or­dained of the Apostles and Elders; and by Paul, a setting of things in order, 1 Cor. 11.34. And (1 Cor. 16.) such were contributions for the poor, orderlinesse for prevent­ing of confusions in Preaching and Hearing; calling of the people to Fasts, as Act. 12.5. and 13.3. and Chap. 14.23, &c. trying, proving, admitting, or censuring of Officers, and such like, as in the Epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus, are clear.

The third thing we are to enquire for in these words, is, who are the proper and first sub­ject of this Authority and Power? And we Answer, 1. negatively.

1. The civil Magistrate, is not the subject of this Power: for they to whom Christ writteth these Epistles, are the subject of this Power; But the civil Magistrate is not the party to whom Christ writeth these Epistles, as is clear, and it can be alleadged by none: Therefore it is clear, that the civil Magistrate is not the subject of this Church Power. Yet, no question, our Lord Jesus knew best to whom it belonged: neither is it like, when he accounts them to have Authority, that he doth account them to have it from voluntary confederating for the time: for, he accounts their neglect of the practice of it, to be a sin, against the breach of their duty; even as He quarrelleth with the Angel of Sardis for be­ing defective in the Doctrinall part of his Ministery; and He commendeth the Angel of Ephesus for his labour in Doctrine, zeal, and Discipline, as duties equally belonging to the Ministery upon one and the same account. And it must either be said that a Magistrate, in his Election to be a Magistrate over a Church, is necessarily to be qualified in reference to these affairs; or, that the Government thereof, doth not belong unto him; Or, that one may be called of God warrantably to a Government over a Society, and that in respect of things and persons of no les [...]e concernment than the civil State; and yet it not be necessary that he should be qualified in reference thereunto: which is absurd.

2. We say, that it is not the body and community of the Church and People to whom this Power is committed: which appeareth thus, 1. By the same Argument, these are the subject of this Power to whom Christ principally directeth His Epistles, whom He com­mendeth for the exercising of this Power, and reproveth for the ommitting thereof; But these are Church-officers, contradistinguished from the rest of the Church, as appeareth not only by the common Inscription, unto the Angel of the Church, &c. whereby they are distinctly considered; but also Chap. 2. Vers. 5. where the Church is distinguished from the Angel in the threatning, I will remove thy Candlestick, &c. which saith, that what He had spoken in the former commendation of that triall, did peculiarly belong to the Angel, whom He considereth as distinct from the Church, spoken of under the terme of Candlestick. Also in the Epistle to Thyatira, the Officers are especially reproved, as appeareth from vers. 24. But unto you I say, &c. that is, the Church-officers to whom He had been formerly speaking; and to the rest in Thyatira, that is, the members, as distinct from them. It is hinted also, in the Epistle to Pergamos, as the exposition thereof cleareth; and no where in any of these Epistles is that distinction so clear, as in these, where He speaketh of the exercise of this Power: thereby the more clearly to shew where it resideth. And though it be said in the close, Let him that hath ears, hear what the spirit saith unto the Churches: yet, that is not to extend every thing equally to all the members: [Page 98] for, then the M [...]nistery of the Doctrine, would be common to all also. It is therefore to be understood w [...]th respect to their places and stations, as was said in our entry to speak upon the second Chapter. 2. The Church here, is divid [...]d in Angels and Candlesticks, that is, O [...]icers and Members Now, we must either give the Power to the whole, that are comprehended under the titles of Angels, that is, Officers; and Candlesticks, that is, Churches and Members; or, we must give it to the Officers alone, as distinct from the Churches: for there is no warrand to give it to the Angels, and to some of the Church­members, and not to all: for, that were again to sub-divide the Church, as if all its members were not (as to government) of one rank, contrary to the way keeped here. And indeed we know no other reason more palpable, why the Officers and Members of the Church, are so distinctly set forth; but that their distinctnesse in this respect might be held forth: But the first cannot be said, that all come in equally in Government, who are members: because that would take in Women and Children: Therefore it must belong to the Officers, as distinct from the other three; seing much of this Church-power, is conversant about things of that nature, as trying of false Apostles, corrupt Doctrine, &c. which do require both fitnesse of qualificaton, and continuance in respect of time, and painfulnesse, beyond that which alwayes Church-members use, or, are called to have in re­spect of the one, or can bestow in respect of the other. And seing these are certain Truths, that these who are ordinarily called of God to the exercise of any Authority, are to be fitted for it, and patiently to follow the tryall (for here these who are to censure, are also to try,) It will follow therefore that this power in such things cannot be thought to be committed unto the body of the People: especially, if we consider these two. 1. That in the choice, even of a Deacon, there is such exactnesse required in the trial of his qualifica­tions, and authority to his admission to that Office: yet the power of Governing, doth not belong to this Officer, as such; but he is inferiour to that. Now if it be supposed that the people generally have interest in Government and Ruling: Then it will follow, 1. That there are moe qualifications required in a Deacon, which as such, is but a service, than there is required in these that Govern in the highest things. And, 2. That to be a member of the visible Church, hath more Authority in it, than to be a Deacon, at least than a Deacon can have as such: because the one Governeth by Authority in the highest things, and the other as such but serveth: And by the Institution and rules for the Election of Deacons, it would seem that there is by that Office an accession of somewhat to them, like Authority, more than they had before, or other members have: and seing this acces­sion hath no Authority with it, It will seem strange to say, that a Church-member, that is overseen by an ordinary Deacon, hath Authority in him, which the Deacon, as such, hath not.

In the second place we may add this consideration, That it is simply impossible for all Church-members (even the generality of them) to understand many questions that may be agitated; yea, we may say further, they are not called to understand them; and again, others cannot possibly give their attendance for the triall of intricat things, which may draw a great length. For it is asserted by learned Thomas Hooker of New England, part. 3. chap. 3. pag. 36. and 37. That the preparation, is to be made by the Elders, because the body of the People, if numerous, they will be unable with any comely conveniency to consider and weigh all the circumstances with all the emergent difficulties, which will certainly and necessarily occur in such agitations, nor can in reason bestow their time and pains upon them, as the intricatie and perplexity of the work will sometime require. Thus farr he, which doth certainly render it at least exceeding suspicious, that they should be instated with Authority to judge and determine, who cannot possibly wait on the triall; especially, considering that in all Judges and Governments, mentioned in the Scripture; and particularly in these Epistles, these two are joyned together, to wit, triall and censure.

3. We say, that it is not one person or Church-officer above other Church-officers, to whom this Power and Authority is committed. Because, 1. It is to the Officers who are contradistinguished from the People, and are not comprehended under the title Candlestick or Church; But that must be understood of all Ministers, and not of one only. 2. By this one Angel collectively taken, many Rulers governing one Body in an associated manner, are to be understood as was cleared, chap. 1. vers. 20.

[Page 99]And therefore, 4. The associated number of ruling Church-officers, is the proper subject of this Church-power: because it is to them that Christ directeth these Epistles un­der this name Angel, as was shown, Chap. 1. vers. 20. It's these He commendeth and reproveth; it's those to whom the oversight of the People belongeth in reference to these snares, Acts 20.28. &c. It's these to whom the power of triall and admission of Church­officers pertaineth, 1 Tim, 4.14. which is the work here commended in Ephesus. And if this be true, that by Angel here is to be understood a plurality of united Church-rulers, as was said, Then this assertion laid down will also follow: for, no other rests to lay claim to this Authority.

To close then, in the fourth place, we may shortly lay down these conclusions further from these Epistles,

1. That this Discipline and Authority is to be exercised on all sorts of persons, members of the Church, whether they be pretended Teachers, as Apostles and Prophetesses, whether M [...]n or Women; in a word, all who are capable to give offence and to be edified by Church censures, which young Children, mad men, and such like, are not in the reach of.

2. It concerneth all sorts of cases, whether of Errour or practice; and is to be exer­cised in reference to the first, as well as to the last, as is clear from these Epistles.

3. These highest censures, are to proceed against Errours and Scandals of a high nature, as these mentioned in the Text are; or such as are agreged with hightening circumstances, as disobedience and contempt in not hearing the Church, &c. Mat. 18. and which after triall, are clearly made out: that thereby the sentence in its equity, may be convincing for the gaining of its end, both on the offending party and others.

4. It followeth here, that when offences are so circumstantiated in Church-members, censures are to proceed against them, and they are not to be suffered to enjoy Church-pri­viledges, as if they were not under these offences, except they repent of them; yea, that un-Churching and Excommunication in such cases, is an Ordinance of Jesus Christ.

5. Church-officers may be often defective in reference to Discipline as well as to Doctrine, which is also a guiltinesse before the Lord, as appeareth here.

6. Although a Church be defective in the purging out of corrupt members; yet that doth not pollute the ordinances to others, or necessitate them to separate from them. These Churches continue to be Churches, and the Ordinances to be Ordinances of Christ, although such were continued in communion with them; and notwithstanding thereof, these who were free of those corruptions, are approven and commended by Jesus Christ. And if it were not so, that a persons endeavouring in his station to amend such a fault, and to have such scandals censured, did not exempt him from guiltinesse, so as to continue in Church­communion, although the plurality of Officers should be short of their dutie: in that re­spect then there might be still separation after separation in infinitum: which absurdity the learned H [...]oker, and Norton of New England, do presse for the obtaining of sub­mission to their Church censures and keeping of communion with their Churches; even upon supposition, that the plurality of a Congregation, should refuse to shut out some deserving the same. Otherwise (say they) when these did separate, upon such a new emergent occasion, there behoved to be a new separation, and so forth; because no Church or men can be expected to be so straight, as either not to keep in some injustly, or not to suspect that some such are keeped in: which also would be a snare to their consciences who judged so, and be a cause of separation, although it were not so indeed. And were this applyed to the defects of Presbyteriall Churches, there would be no pressing necessity of separating from them, or from communion, in any ordinance, with them.

7. We may see from these Epistles, that although exact holinesse be, de jure, required of all Church-members; yet, de facto, often, They are not all exactly such, and that there­fore the holinesse which is spoken of, as essential to visible-Churches, or to Membership in them, is not rigidly to be extended to a reality therein. If this Church of Laodicea (wherein nothing is commended, but much found-fault with) be considered, it will be found that this holinesse will not abide a rigid trial; yet it cannot be denied, but they have what is essential to a visible Church, and Membership therein; even as her Ministers, were Ministers, although not answerable to their stations, as was said: and if what these wor­thy men, Mr. Cotton, Norton, and Hooker, do assent unto in their writings, were according­ly adhered to in all practices, we conceive there needed not be any great controversie con­cerning [Page 100] this point. The second of these forcited Authors, part. 1. pag. 20. layeth down the pinch of the difference in these words (as he calls it.) Whether such as walk in a way of profannesse, or remain pertinaciously obstinate in some wickednesse, though otherways professing and practising the things of the Gospel, have any allowance from Christ, or may be accounted fit matter according to the tearms of the Gospel, to constitute a Church? Which Authors, also do acknowledge, that casting out of a Church, is but to proceed upon clear scandals of a grosse nature, convincingly made out, and no otherwayes, part. 3. pag. 39. And if there be defect in the executing thereof, separation upon that account, is disclaimed, as is formerly hinted, if the Church in Doctrine and administration of Ordi­nances be pure, that is, without error. The judicious Cobbet of new England, hath an excellent saying (as he hath many to the Anabaptists) against whom he writeth (p. 2. cap. 1. sect. 11.) Better (saith he) they who have not so peculiar a title thereto, be folded up in the Church, than that one of such lambs be left out in the wild wildernesse. And again, cap. 3. sect. 3. is full, to shew that there was no strictnesse observed in the admission of Professors to Baptism; but rather an enquiry of their purpose for the time to come, in bidding them bring forth fruits, and believe in Him that was to come, as from Iohn's example, Mat. 3. and Pauls, Act. 16. where there is no mention of trying the faith of the housholds of Lydia and the Iaylor; who yet were instantly baptized; as also were these Pharisees so checked by Iohn, Matth. 3. and much more hath he well to this pur­pose. I have but hinted at these things, to shew that although there be many questions of Church-discipline; yet they are not all of one nature and hazard, with all adversaries. And the last doth rather concern the constituting of Churches, and admission of Members, supposed yet to be without, than the governing of Churches, and inchurched-members: in reference to which there is great difference.

8. We may see, that the sustaining of, and submitting unto this Church-power, is a necessary and concerning duty: and if, what is said of Church-power and Government be truth, then this submission must follow: otherwise there could be no Government nor exercise of Power, if those who are called by their stations to be governed, were not sub­missive thereto: and if it were the Church-officers duty to try and censure, even by cut­ting off such and such scandalous persons, Then it behoved to be their duty to submit, and the Churches to acknowledge these sentences, as Christs Word is, Matth. 18. Let him be to thee as a heathen, &c. And Heb. 13.17. it is thus expressed, obey them that rule over you, and submit to them: which certainly, looks as well to the Authority of Discipline, that requireth submission, as to the obedience that ought to be given to the Word in Doctrine: for this cause, Officers are designed by the title Rulers: which is often given to civil Governours, and the fainting of such soul-overseers, is marked as a thing most un­profitable to the people themselves: and therefore is the more to be shunned.

Amongst other batteries against this Ordinance of Discipline, this is not the least that is raised against it, that it hath no compulsive force, if men willingly do not yeeld, which indeed tends to place all Authority in strength and force: for, by that same Argument, a strong son rebelling against his father, or a people or armie against their Magistrate or Ge­neral, should be exempted from their subjection to them; and the Parent, Magistrate or General, be denuded of their Authority over them: because they have not force to compel obedience. Authority lyes in Gods appointing of such to rule, and such others to obey; although some sinfully should invert that order, as such disputes teach men to do. And the Question here cometh, if in reason a Church-member may disclame Church-authority and censures simply, or de jure, though by Power or violence they may do so de facto: yea, this doth indeed prove Church-government to be distinct from the civil: because it is not armed with worldly Power and strength, as other Governments of the world are; and in that respect, is not of this world, as the Lord Christ said of His Kingdom, Joh. 18. yet was He still a King, and it cannot be but a high guilt to mar this, either by overturning of it altogether, or by encroaching on it, and thereby to mar its freedom or enervat its Power, or by refusing to submit unto, acknowledge, or authorize the sentences thereof, as mens places call them to do.

We may therefore propose a word or two to all, but especially to Magistrates in ref [...] ­ference to this. 1. Let Magistrates in the fear of God consider what they do, lest they in­volve themselves in this guilt; it hath ever been hard to kick against the pricks: and [Page 101] although some would make encroachment on this Government to be a sweet thing; (which men easily admit in their own persons without any restraint,) yet the end thereof is bitter­nesse. And it would be considered, if such counsels tend to commend Religion and further it, or not? which at the best are but to mould and restrain it, so as it may be subservient to their own greatnesse and ends, as in Henry the 8. of England did appear. 2. They would consider if conscience put them to it, or if the most zealous presse it, or if some other thing drive it on, and to what sort of persons that design is most savourie? If it be not ordinarly the most profane, or otherways erroneous? and shall Magistrates be subservient to such? 3. They would consider the absurdities and consequents alledged, if they be hinderances or ills to Religion and Godlinesse, or but to their own power and greatnesse, and that in pretext only? is it because they will more zealously or profitably do it them­selves, or because they had rather it were not done at all, nor done by them, and such like? If it be the strengthening of their own Power, more than of Christs that moves them: for it hath often been a miserable mistake of the Powers of the earth, to seek the strengthen­ing of their Government by their enervating of Christs, which hath proven to be the overturning of their own. If Magistrates cannot in conscience clear themselves in these things, it cannot but be found to be an encroachment on Christs Ordinances, which are use­full and necessary in His Kingdom. 4. Consider the consequents, when things are marred and lye undone, or when misguided by undiscreet hands, who love nothing more than to make Ordinances despicable: for, if indeed a distinct Government be inconsistent with the civil, then a distinct incorporation as a Church is, must be inconsistent, even in its being, with a civil State and Commonwealth. And if Church-government be needlesse, because all things may be done by civil Rulers that are incumbent to it, a Ministrie also will be needlesse, because civil men that have knowledge may supplie that: and seldome is any found that rejects the one, but he is (at least) exceedingly lax in the other.

5. Suppose it be obtained, that this Government be born down, what doth the Magi­strates gain thereby? It is but, either that such things, that Church-discipline takes notice of, should altogether be slighted, that so there may be confusion in the Church: which is but a poor advantage: or, it is that the burden may be doubled on him who had it heavy enough before, and so he be made more immediatly liable for all the defects that shall be in those things. And at the most, supposing that they should be diligent in the outward duties for the restraining of the outward man; yet doth never that come up to the use of edify­ing, as it doth by Christs Ordinance of Discipline: for men, are but punished as men, and not as Christians; and faults are but censured, as in other States, and not as in Christs Church.

6. Let them consider, that the establishing of this Power, as distinct from theirs, doth not ex­clude them upon the matter from having accesse to any thing which may edifie the Church: for they are admitted to oversee the spreading of pure Doctrine and the restraining of false Doctrine, error and vice, and to every other thing conducing to the end of edification in the way suitable to their places: only it bounds them here, that pure Doctrine be Preached by Christs orderly called Ministers, and not by themselves or others, upon their meer command, and so that order be preserved, and Discipline and censures be exerced and made effectual in the Church in the same method. And this is not to restrain them in Govern­ment and incapacitate them for edifying the Church in their places, more than by refusing them power to Preach authoritatively, and to administer the Sacraments as Christs Ambassa­dors; or, more than a Father is incapacitated to exerce his fatherly power on an unruly child, because a Magistrate or Church-Judicatory doth concur with him.

7. They are no way weakened in civil things: for, what ever the Magistrate formerly possessed before the constituting of the Church, or what ever Magistrates in other States, where no Churches are, do possesse, that is still allowed to him, where this di­stinct Government is erected: therefore it cannot be said, that it doth encroach on him: for, what cases do flow from a State, as a State, are still left untouched by this Authority: only what cases flow from it as a Church, or from the Members thereof, considered as Chri­stians, these only are meddled with by it, to wit, trial of Gifts, admission of Ministers, cen­suring of Church-officers and Members, and that with Church censures, others than have been, or are used in any meer State or Commonwealth, and such like, &c. And seing none of these belonged to the Magistrate formerly, and do but flow from this consideration of [Page 102] their being a Church: It follows that the keeping of Power distinct in these, can no way be said to encroach on the Magistrates Power, seing he possesseth still, what ever any Magi­strate possessed: yea, seing by the Church there is a new relation arising from what formerly was, it seems convenient and necessary, that there should be a new distinct way of ordering and governing the same: else supposing that a Magistrate had under him both Christians and Heathens in the same incorporation, he were either not to censure Christians other­wayes for their faults than heathens: which is absurd, seing the fault of a Christian hath a distinct notion from the same fault in a Heathen, to wit, it is an offence and scandal which ariseth from this, that the person committing it, is a Church-member; and so by their miscarriages, they reflect more on their head, and the profession of the Gospel, than the faults of others: or, he must punish the same faults that are done by persons under the same civil Law with several and distinct punishments, which is no lesse inconsistent with the na­ture of a civil State considered in its self, which admits not of distinct censures of the same faults and persons, more than of a distinct Power. And so if the consideration of a new Church-relation will admit of distinct Laws and censures, without wronging of the nature of a State, and that equity which ought to be kept in reference to Subjects, neither ought this of a distinct Power to make these Laws, and execute these censures, be thought in­consistent with Magistracie, seing it flows from the same new relation; and this equity among Subjects, is no lesse essential to a well ordered Commonwealth, than universal Supremacie and Power to the Magistrate. And the conveening of Church-officers for the exercising of Discipline, and that without dependence on the Magistrate, can be no more inconsistent with subjection to him in civil things, than the conveening of Church-members for hearing of the Word and receiving of the Sacraments, even though it should be expresly contrary to His command.

8. It would be considered, that the right exercise of Church-power, doth not only not weaken; but on the contrary, doth exceedingly strengthen civil Authority and obedi­ence thereunto in the Church. For, where this is, a Magistrate hath all Authority that civil Laws give him, and all the power that the Word upon consciences doth imprint; and he hath beside these, Church-power and censures concurring for his strengthening: because disobedience to him, is accounted a scandale by the Church; and therefore is amongst other scandals to be taken notice of, and censured by this Power; even as they take no­tice of disobedient Children, Servants, and Wives; which doth exceedingly strengthen the Authority of these relations in the Church, beyond that which can be elsewhere. And thus the Churches Power doth confirm the Power of the State, when they censure disobe­dience to them, and when they censure the same faults in the same persons, which the State doth, though under a different notion: and by so doing, they pronounce the Power and pro­ceeding of the civil State to be just, when the things punished by it, are thus represented to them, and not only as faults against humane Laws and inconsistent with Civil-states, but also as sins against Christ and unbecoming His Church: which certainly cannot but add a great impression of reverence unto the civil Power. Thus these two distinct Governments, do no way interfere, but support each other. And so as it's no obstruction, but a great furtherance unto Church-power in the exercise thereof (although it be still distinct and independent as such) to have Civil-power after its own manner concurring with it; so is it a strengthening to Civil-power, to have the accession of Church-power in its kind, to concur with it. And if indeed we suppose Magistrates to punish all things that are scandalous in the Church, there can be no prejudice to the Power by this, which doth censure the same things on ano­ther account. And if we suppose them not to do so, Then there is necessity for this Church-power, that such things may be taken notice of, as hath been said.

9. The exercise of this distinct Church-power, is a great advantage to the Church; and so cannot but be well consistent with Magistracy: for these two ordinances, cannot but be consistent. 1. It maketh sin hatefull. 2. It strengtheneth the Authority of all other Ordinances. 3. There can be no such way for trying qualified men fit to mannage Church-censures and Church-affairs, as such who are purposely chosen. 4. It hath what the Magistrate can give, and this beside. 5. It proveth more convincing and edifying to the person censured: for, (what ever is said to the contrary) experience doth prove, that no censure hath such convincing weight on consciences, as when it's distinctly administred by Church-officers. 6. It doth more shew the Holinesse of the Head Christ, and the [Page 103] compleatnesse of His Ordinances, and other advantages that may be gathered from what we said at the entry to this d [...]gression. In a word, if civil powers mind edification in their place, and to be a terrour to evil doers, this proves strengthening to them: because it fur­thers that end. If they mind not that, it is no marvell such a power be suspicious like, which tendeth only to the carrying on thereof.

It is ordinary to men to suspect more the encroaching of Church-men in Power and their exorbitancy than of any other, that being ever thought by naturall men to be a bondage, and these ever esteemed to be more proud, rigid, &c. and I know not what in the exercise of their Power. But men would soberly consider, 1. If that be the fault of the Ordi­nance, or of the persons, and if Discipline well discharged and Ecclesiastically followed with love, meeknesse, conviction, &c. if so it were not usefull? And if the fault be in the persons, why should it be imputed to the Power it self in this case, more than in other cases? 2. Is there any thing in a Church-office to occasion this exorbitancy and miscar­riage, more than in another civil Station? This looketh not like in it self. 3. If more neerly we consider Church-officers, there is no such reason to suspect them: for, is there any rank of persons so regulated, and to be tried in their qualifications for the exercise of their Trust, as by the Scripture they are? Or, are any places more deliberately filled, that men conscientious and fit for such a Trust may be called thereto? And are there any sort of persons so bounded with profitable rules in the exercise of their Authority? If there be defect in the observing of these, it ought tenderly to be remedied; yet, it cannot be thought but Church-officers must be most fit to mannage Church-matters. 4. Let them that are imployed in Church-power be considered, without respect to that, are they not of them­selves men of tendernesse, conscience, and gifts proportionably, as men in any other Station are, so that it may be supposed for their qualifications and carriage, they might have been men of other Stations; and if called thereto, Judges, Rulers, &c. without any just ground of suspicion more than others? And if so, shall the very Office, which ought to capacitat them more, only render them obnoxious to suspicion? This had need to be adverted unto, least their office be reproached. And may not that Power put in civil hands, be as ready to miscarry as in theirs? 5. What Church-men are usually most mistaken? is it not they who still have been most faithfull and zealous in their duty? Have not such ever also been thought most intolerable even in respect of their freedom in the Word, as we may see in the case of Elia, Iohn the Baptist, &c. and the two Prophets, chap. 11. Shall therefore Doctrine and Power in the Word, be thought insufferable? Or, shall the false Prophets of Baal, or of Antichrist, be thought more fit to have place than the Lords faithfull ser­vants? This can be no good ground that doth reflect only upon these that are faithfull, others being ready to apply themselves to the pleasing of men both in Word and Dis­cipline. 6. It would be considered, what may move men of judgement and parts (espe­cially if they be conscientious) to top with Magistrates? It's not like that self interests doth that; seing flatterers that seek that most, take the contrary way and come speed, when as the most faithfull are often under a cloud. Or, is it like that the most zealous, humble and tender, should be most subject to miscarry? And if there be ground to reprove or censure either by Word or Discipline, is it not most profitable, even though most dis­pleasing, that it be done? 7. Consider, who most readily fret at this Power? it will be found they are such, who from inclination to lousnesse or errour cannot abide any bands, or from a principle of politick indifferency in the matters of Religion, would mould all in a State-frame; and such are imbittered at freedom in Preaching, as well as Power in Governing; or, they are such as are led with a prejudice at the power of Ordinances, which certainly men naturally are not free of: and it would be adverted in this. 8. Consider, that this mistake of Church-mens Power, doth often arise in such cases, wherein they are serving Christ: and men entertain it most in such times, when their frame is least spirituall and so­ber, as the observation thereof in experience will evidence. What man at the approach of death hath been comforted in such an opposition, or challenged for submission? Although contempt thereof hath lien heavy on many, and that to scare others from following their wayes. All therefore of all ranks, would be obtested to advert to this, lest they be found even fighters against God: especially at such times, when this designe by some is driven; least by putting to their hand to pull down this Authority, they themselves perish in the fall thereof. And what doth the advantage at most amount unto? It is this, there shall be [Page 104] greater freedom to sin, and fewer means to reclaim from it; or what censure shall be in­flicted, may be done in such a way as may stand with mens laughing at their sin, without being affected in the conscience by any convincing mean? Hath this ever profited any hither­to? Or, hath the right exercise of Discipline ever been prejudiciall to any? And do not or­dinarily Religion and Discipline flourish together? And are not Congregations in best case, where this Ordinance is most vigorous? And do not the sad effects of the want of this in other places evidently demonstrate the necessity thereof? People would consider these things, especially these who are engaged singularly for the supporting of this Ordinance: for, a time of reckoning will come, when this exercise of Discipline and submission thereto according to mens places and engagements, will not be found so indifferent as now it is esteemed by many. And disputes of this kind, we suppose, will not be admitted, when the Lord will declare that he hath ratified in Heaven, what according to His will hath been pro­nounced in this ordinance of Discipline upon earth: which by Divines, is well accounted to be the ratification and confirmation of the threatnings contained in His Word, and added to make them the more weightie, as the Sacraments are unto the promises of His Grace.

2. Concerning a Ministers relation to a particular Congregation.

THis relation between the Angels and the Churches, is mentioned in all these Epistles. The Minister, or Angel, is called the Minister of such a Church peculiarly: here the Church, or Candlestick, is called His, I will remove thy Candlestick. It will not therefore be impertinent to enquire a little concerning this mutual tye and relation in these three, 1. In the general. 2. In the grounds of this peculiar tye. 3. In the nature of it; particularly, in these two, 1. If a Minister, as such, be only a Minister to a particular Congregation, in which he serves: And, 2. If that tye be such, as upon no consideration it may be broken or loosed, and he removed by transportation to some other charge. We are the rather to take notice of this: not only because it serves to clear the Text in hand; but also because it supplieth somewhat yet defective in reference to a Ministers Call, (of which we have formerly spoken) to wit, what may be thought of a Call, that is, by transporting of a man that is already fixed in a particular Congregation; or, if a Minister settled in some particular charge, may upon occasion act Ministerially in things peculiar to a Minister with­out the same.

For clearing of the first, we would distinguish a threefold relation that a Minister of the Gospel stands into. The first is, a relation that is between Christ the Master and Lord, and him as his Servant and Ambassador. This is the first relation, and fountain of all the rest: in this respect, they are the Ministers of Christ, and Stewards of the mysteries of God, 1 Corinth. 4.1. and Ambassadors for Christ, 2 Corinth. 5.20. &c. because they have their Authority and Commission from Him, and He peculiarly is their Master and owner. In this respect also we may consider the Church; and so she is Christs Church, purchased with His own blood, Acts 20.28. This is the principall relation, by which both Angels and Churches are Christs, as He is the Soveraign Master and owner of both: And so neither are the Churches the Ministers, nor the Ministers the Churches; but both are Christs.

2. There is a lesse principall relation, which is delegatory, and flows from the former, He, to whom both Ministers and Churches do belong, thinking good to bestow Ministers as a Gift unto His Church: in this respect, Ministers relation is primarily unto the Catho­lick Church, and so, 1 Corinth. 12.28. it is said, God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily Prophets, thirdly Teachers, &c. And again, Ephes. 4.11, 12. He gave some Apostles, some Pastors, some Teachers, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Here we may see that Ministers belong to the Church universall, and have relati­on to it, they being Ministers of that same Church, that the Apostles were Apostles of, and for that same end, to wit, the building of Christs body, which takes in both Iew and Gen­tile, as from that, 1 Corinth. 12. vers. 13. &c. doth appear. In this respect the Mini­sters principall relation and charge, is Christs Church universal, and His body: and they [Page 105] are given thereto, to wit, to the House of God, which is the Church of the living God, into the which they are to behave themselves as Stewards, &c. as Paul hath it, 1 Timo­thie 3.15.

3. We may consider this relation, as more particular, and lesse principal and as subservient to the former end: and so Ministers, are Ministers to particular Churches, and not to others; and Churches, are the Churches of such Ministers, and not of others, as we may see in these Epistles. These relations are neither inconsistent, nor yet to be confounded: and may, from the comparisons used in Scripture, be thus illustrated. The Church is compared to a City, or Vineyard, or Flock; the Ministers are Watchmen, Dressers, or Pastors: The Lord Christ is the Soveraign, and owner of all. Now, if the question be moved con­cerning these Watchmen, Dressers, or Pastors, to whom they belong? First of all, they are Christs, as appointed by Him for such a Work, and countable to Him in it, as Watch­men are the Watchmen of such a State, or King, whom they serve. Secondly, They are also Watchmen of the City, in common, as that is the object of their watching, committed to them; or, they are Dressers of the Vineyard, &c. and so it may be said, they are Watch­men to the whole City. Yet, Thirdly, Because there are several Towers of that one City, and it requires several Watchmen, and these require an orderly appointment of them to their several posts; and so in this respect, a Watchman that is a Watchman of the whole City, may be called peculiarly the Watchman of such and such a particular Tower, and Fort, for distinguishing him from other Watchmen of the same City; who, in that re­spect, cannot be called Watchmen of any particular Tower, but such as is allotted to them, although they be Watchmen of the whole City principally; and so may be said of the other similitudes. Even so it is with Ministers, who are primarily Christs, and by Him are delegates principally to the oversight of His whole Catholick Church; yet so, as for the better attaining of that end, each hath his particular Post assigned him; from which, for distinctions sake, he is denominated, as specially belonging to it. The former relation is essential to a Minister of Christ, to wit, that he belongs to Christs Church, and is com­missionated for the edifying thereof. The last, to wit, a Ministers relation to this, or that particular Church, is not essential to a Minister of Christ; but is to be subservient to the former: for, we see Apostles and Evangelists had no such particular relation: and it is not impossible but a Minister may be separated from such a relation; yet is he still to continue a Minister of Christ: much lesse is the difference between one particular Church and another, to be counted essential to a Ministerial relation. Thus, in a great house, there may be many Stewards for distributing to the Children or Servants; and for order, each may have his number assigned to him for whom he is to provide, and on whom he is to wait. They are all, 1. Stewards of that one Master. And, 2. in reference to his own house, they are all also Stewards of it. Yet, 3. By peculiar delegation, they are only Stewards according to their peculiar assignments. It's essential by their commission to be Stewards of that house; but not that they should be Stewards of such and such a number: for, this addeth no new power to them; but orders them in the exercise of the former.

In the second place, this particular relation between the Minister and a particular Flock, doth arise from these grounds, 1. From the Lords speciall assigning of one particular Church, to one man, rather than to another: in which he is to labour for the good of the whole. In which respect, as he is a Minister of Christ, to the Catholick Church, and hath that common with all other Ministers; so hath he this peculiar to him, that he is specially designed in reference to that portion, as it were his particular Post, as hath been said. 2. Upon this delegation by the Master, such a people become peculiarly his; and by the Masters appointment, are to submit to the Ordinances administrated by Him: because, that same Lord and Master of the Minister, who warrands him peculiarly to treat with such a people, being also Master of that Flock, calleth them peculiarly to submit to Him: from which, according to his appointment, there doth arise a mutual obligation between such a Minister and such a People: he is, obliged to minister unto them in the Gospel; and they, are obliged to submit to him, strengthen him, acknowledge him, communicate to him in all good things, and to provide for him, &c. And this mutual relation, is not founded meerly on voluntary consent, nor is of a personal nature (to speak so) that is, as if he, or they were disposing of themselves as principal parties; but it is an obligation flowing from the former delegation, and cannot but follow from the nature thereof, and [Page 106] by vertue of the general commands given, Heb. 13.17. 1 Thes. 5.12. Gal. 6.6. &c. although there were no explicite covenanting in reference to these ends amongst these parties: and where any is, it is but a formal expressing of that which otherwise is implied: and is necessa­ry, not for binding up that relation simply; but for the better furthering the ends thereof. Therefore in that tye, Ministers and People both, are to look upon that obligation as a mean subservient to an end, & so to be regulated by it: and (as was hinted at) both would remem­ber that they do principally belong to Christ; and that therefore it is not free to them to ar­ticle or not, or as they will in that obligation, or otherwayes than may stand with the Ma­sters end, and delegation foresaid. 3. From this mutual obligation, there doth arise a more near mutual sympathie between that Minister and Church, than between him and any other Church, or them, and any other Minister: they have common interests, common hazards, common joy and grief, &c. in which respect a crosse to one of them, is a crosse to both, as this threatning here doth clear: and in this respect, there is a greater sibnesse between them than others not in this peculiar relation. 4. As there are peculiar duties called for on both sides from each to other, which are not so required between them and others; so there is a particular charge or reckoning and account, which will follow thereupon: in this respect, a Minister is to count more peculiarly for that particular Church than others; and the people again for the reverencing and encouraging of him in a special manner, as may be ga­thered from, Heb. 13. vers. 17. And upon this account, Paul did particularly aggrege the Ge [...]les slighting and grieving of him, in his Epistle to the Corinthians and Galati­ans, because of his particular delegation in reference to them. In which respect, although he was an Apostle of the universal Church; yet peculiarly was he the Apostle of the Gen­tiles: and upon that ground, did plead a peculiar claim to them; But still as subordinate and subservient to the former.

The third thing proposed, is, that which mainly is to be enquired into, to wit, The na­ture of this eye and relation betwixt the Minister and a particular Church; if it be such as doth bound him in his Authority, so as he may not perform any Ministerial act without the same? and so upon the other side, if he be so tyed to that Church, that, for the greater good of the universall Church, he may not be loosed from it, and be made use of, as a Minister, elsewhere?

For the first, We may take these generall Conclusions for helping us in the understand­ing thereof. The first is, That there is an Union and Communion in the Catholick visible Church: which is one Body, 1 Cor. 12. and that both of Iews and Gentiles, one City and House, one Commonwealth, Ephes. 2.19. &c. one Mother of us all, Gal. [...]. one Bride and Spouse, &c. Which expressions, do hold forth this Uunion in reference to all vi­sible Churches, and all the members thereof. There are not two Bodies, Cities, or Common­wealths in this respect; yet must these places be understood of the visible Church, it being that Bodie, into which we are entred by Baptism, 1 Cor. 12.13. and that City, in which Watch-men are set, and externall Ordinances; and that Commonwealth, which succeedeth to that which once was peculiar to Israel, and from which the Gentiles were once sepa­rated by a Partition [...]wall, which is now taken down by the Gospel.

Conclusion 2. Although this Church be one in it self; yet it is sub-divided in particular Churches, which are as parts of that whole. This ariseth from accidental considerations of the number of Professors, distance of place, and such like: in which respect, it's needful for her edification, and the going about of the Ordinances, that this should be; yet is this sub­division without prejudice of the Union foresaid, yea it is subservient thereto; even as suppo­sing a numerous City or Incorporation should be sub-divided in so many Quarters, or lesser Societies, for the good of the whole. Thus the Church at first, being one, upon the for­mer considerations, upon this occasion did extend her self in this manner; and these who just now were of one Church, and meeting together for the Ordinances, were induced to divide in severall Societies and meeting-places, (as may be gathered from the History of the Acts) yet continuing still of the same Bodie together, in the first respect. In which respect, somtimes the visible Church is spoken of in the plural number; sometimes again only in the singular, as pointing out an Unity: such are these phrases, to edifie the Church, to add to the Church, to cast out of the Church, &c. which respect the whole Church, considered as an integrall whole, existing in particular Churches, as we say, the whole world, which doth yet but exist in so many particular Notions, and hath no existence di­stinct [Page 107] from them; and to say it were considered as a genus in this sense; would not be intelligible.

Conclus. 3. Our Lord Jesus, the owner both of Ministers and Church, hath given Ministers, principally for the edification of His Catholick Church, without respect to this or that particular Congregation, but as that is subservient to the former end, as it is, Ephes. 4.11, 12. 1 Cor. 12.28. it being one Church to which both Apostles, Pastors, Prophets, and Teachers are given; and they having all one scope, to wit, the perfecting of the Saints; and one Commission, to wit, the preaching of the Gospel, which principally is to engage Souls to the Bridegroom. Hence in their Preaching, we are to conceive this order, 1. Apostles and Ministers, &c. treat with sinners, to have them engaged by faith to Christ, as the Master for whom they treat. 2. To enter them in the Catholick visible Church by Baptism as the entring of them within Christs House in generall, without respect to this or that particular Congregation: as when Philip, Acts 8. did first Preach Christ to the Eunuch, and afterward did Baptize him, and then left him. And, 3. Being thus entred and brought in to the Catholick Church, thereupon followeth their entring into par­ticular Congregations, that so they may be the more conveniently and commodiously edified and provided for, as all that are in Christs House should be: who therefore are committed to some speciall Overseers and Stewards for that end: as suppose the Eunuch had been ad­mitted to some particular Church for partaking of the Ordinances therein after his Baptism; that he should be a member of Christs Church in generall, which is sealed by Baptism, 1 Cor. 12.13. was not indifferent to him, but of what particular Church he might be a member, that by after conveniency was to be regulated. Whence it doth appear, 1. That there is a consideration of the Church as universall, beside the considering of her in par­ticular Churches. 2. That the Church so considered, as an integrall whole, is before the particular Churches; and they are derived from her. 3. That the work of the Ministery doth relate principally to the whole, their Commission being, in common, to build the Bodie, to watch the City, feed the Flock, preach the Gospel, &c. and their delegation to particular Churches, is in a subserviency to this, that is, so as this may be the more orderly and conveniently followed: even as suppose so many Eldermen or Watchmen were by some Superiour designed for the governing and watching of one City, and should for the better accomplishing thereof, have their severall Quarters and Divisions assigned to them; yet still were they to be accounted as Governours and Watchmen of the City prin­cipally, and not of these particular portions only.

Conclus. 4. Although they be designed principally for the Catholick Church, and their Commission will bear them to treat any where; yet are they not Catholick Officers of that Church, nor at their arbitriment to treat where they will; but (according to the order which he hath setled) in particular Churches as parts of that whole; that being the way which He hath laid down for edification. I say, 1. They are not Catholick Officers, there being great odds here betwixt Officers of the Catholick Church, and Catholick Officers of the Catholick Church, such the Apostles and Evangelists were; such the Pope claims to be, that is, to have an immediate accesse for exercising the Trust equally to all places. Officers of the Catholick Church, are such as are placed in it for the building up thereof, and have Commission in reference to that end; yet is it to be executed according to the rules laid down, that is, as Christs Call in an ordinary way shall give them accesse. For although (as was said,) they have a Power and Commission, actu primo, to be Mi­nisters of the whole Church, and Watchmen of the City indefinitly; yet, actu secundo, they are specially delegated for such and such Congregations or Posts, as was hinted in the former similitudes. In this respect, Peter and Paul were Apostles of the Catholick Church equally; yet, for the good thereof, by speciall appointment Peter becometh the Apostle of the Circumcision, and Paul of the Gentiles: and so Paul could not be called the Apostle of the Circumcision, nor Peter of the Gentiles, in an equal manner. Hence that Argument may be answered, if a Minister be a Minister to more Congregations beside his own, Then he must either be a Minister to them as to his own equally, and so have common charge of all: which were indeed absurd, and would constitute him a Catholick Officer; or, he behoved to be to them a Minister or Officer of some other kind than to his own, which were also absurd, and would introduce a new kind of office and Officer: It's answered, actu primo, he is a Minister of the same kind to all the Churches, to wit, [Page 108] a Minister or Ambassadour of Christ; but, actu secundo, and in respect of special delegation, he is peculiarly Minister of that Congregation, whereto particularly he is appointed: in which respect, Paul and Peter are equally, and yet not equally Apostles of the same Ca­tholick Church.

Conclus. 5. Notwithstanding of this particular delegation; yet is it profitable that a Minister should exerce Ministeriall acts, upon occasions warrantably calling for the same in other Churches; and when called to it, he may do it, not only by vertue of his gift; but also Authoritatively and by vertue of his Office and Commission, as a Minister of Jesus Christ: even by that same Authority and Warrand, whereby ordinarily he ministers within his own Congregation; and they are acts of Ministeriall Authority in the one as well as in the other: for Ministers in the Church, are not to be looked upon as Majors of severall Towns, or Sheriffs of severall Counties, who cannot exerce Authority out of their own Bounds; but they are to be looked upon as Heraulds of one King, having Authority to charge in His Name, where ever it be, within His Dominions, although for the better supply of the Subjects, some of them be designed for one corner, some of them for an­other of the Kingdom: or, they are like Ambassadours, Authorized to treat with rebel­lious Subjects, who have each of them Authority to treat and conclude with whosoever shall come in their way: although for the better carrying one of that treaty, some of them be designed for such a corner, and to tryst at such a place, and others elsewhere; yet all of them being joyntly Ambassadours, and any of them warranted, if it were possible, to treat and conclude with all, by vertue of their Power: so that the ending of the Capitula­tion with one of them, is equally strong and binding as if it had been closed with another, although for eschewing of confusion they met in their treaty severally. It is so here, every Ambassadour of Christ, upon Gods occasionall Call, hath warrand to propose the same termes, and conclude the treaty with a sinner; yea, to seal it in any Congregation, as well as in his own: which may be cleared and confirmed further in these following considerations.

1. The Power and Commission, which a Minister hath to perform Ministeriall duties, he hath it from Christ the Master and Lord of the whole Church: and in this respect, is the Minister of Christ, 1 Cor. 4.1. and His Ambassadour, 2 Cor. 5.20. and therefore may his power extend it self to His visible Kingdom, he being a Herauld Authorized to proclaim in the Name of that King: as far therefore, as His Authority as Master doth reach; so far may his Ministeriall delegation under Him, upon just occasion, be extended. Indeed were his Authority derived from a particular Church, it could be extended no further than it self; (which is the ground of this mistake) But his Authority being de­rived from Christ, the Master, though in a mediate way; and the Minister being His Am­bassadour, treating and performing all his acts in His Name, There is no ground to deny this Ministeriall Authority of the servant, where the Master is acknowledged.

2. Consider, that the Masters intent in sending Ministers, is, by them not only to edifie particular Congregations, but the whole Bodie, as is said. A Minister therefore in his acting as a Minister upon such occasions, must be as a Minister in them; otherwise he were only given as a Minister to that particular Church.

3. If his relation to the Catholick Church be principall, and his relation to a particular Congregation subordinate to that, Then must his Ministeriall Authority, in the case fore­said, extend it self to others of the visible Church, beside that particular Congregation: because, according to the rule, propter quod unumquedgue est tal [...], id ipsum est magis tale, that is to say, if because he is a Minister of the Catholick Church, he is therefore capable to be a Minister of a particular Church; or, if his Authority reacheth to that par­ticular Church, because it is a part of the whole, Then much more must he have a relation to the whole: But the former is true, as hath been cleared. Ministers are in capacity of taking the Oversight of such and such Congregations, because such Congregations, are parts of the whole Church; and Ministers are appointed to edifie the same; and do under­take that particular charge, as it is subservient to the generall end of edifying the whole: even as Watchmen take the oversight of such a Post, because they are Watchmen of the City; and their overseeing such a place in particular, doth contribute to the good of the whole.

4. Their Commission which they have from Christ, will suit as well in one Congre­gation [Page 109] as in another, it being indefinit to Preach the Gospel without respect to this or that particular People; and it agreeth also with their office, and His end: seing therefore their Commission, in the matter of it, is not bounded, What warrand is there to bound their Authority, as if as Ambassadours they did treat with one People, and as private persons with another; whereas their Commission, in it self, is indefinite, and by acci­dentall considerations but appropriated some way to one people more than another? For further clearing whereof, consider,

1. That the Apostles had their bounds in Christian policy asigned to them; yet notwith­standing might they Authoritatively, as Apostles, act anywhere in the Church: therefore will not the particular allotting of Congregations for Ministers in a speciall manner, confine their Authority within the same. It's true, they were Apostles of the Catholick Church, and so might use Apostolick power in any part thereof, which a Minister cannot do; yet proportionally, he is a Minister of that same Church, as is said: and therefore as that pe­culiar delegation did not marr the Apostles in the use of their Apostolick power when it was called for any other where; (for, although they did it in an extraordinary way, yet Peter had still Apostolick power in reference to the Gentiles, and Paul to the Iews, when they exercised it;) So may a Minister have Ministeriall power, in Ministeriall acts, and may act by vertue thereof, when in an ordinary way he is called to it without the bounds of his own Congregation.

2. If Apostles might use Apostolick Power, and, as Apostles, act without the bounds of the Catholick Church, Then may Ministers act, as Ministers, without the bounds of their particular Churches: because there is a proportionablnesse in respect of the extent of power betwixt Ministers in their particular Congregations, and Apostles in the Catholick Church; But it's certain that the Apostles, as Apostles, did Preach to Heathens, and engage them to Christ, and enter them in the Church, and that by vertue of their Apo­stolick Commission and Authority: It will follow therefore, that a Minister is not so bounded by his relation to a particular Church, but that he may exercise Ministeriall power [...] without the bounds thereof.

3. If a Minister, by that same Authority, may Preach and administrate the Sacraments to others without the Congregation, as to these within, Then is not his Ministerial Autho­rity confined to one particular Congregation; But the former is true. For the matter of Preaching, it is not denied: only it is said that they Preach not by Ministeriall Authority, but as gifted private men. Unto which we oppose, 1. If a Ministers warning, reproof, invitation, &c. have equal weight with it in every part of the Church, as it hath in his own Congregation, Then must he Preach every where as a Minister; because, it cannot be denied, but he hath in his own Church a Ministeriall Authority, beside that which a gifted Brother would have; But the former is true, the Word by him hath the same weight as preached by Commission from, and in the Name of, Christ, so that he may say, We pray you in Christs stead be ye reconciled, which another cannot do: and the guilt of refusing the Word from him, will be found upon the account of his Authority, no lesse inexcusable than if the refuser were a member of his own Congregation. And I suppose a conscience will not get a defence tabled for excuse upon this exception. Beside, the Minister hath Ministeriall Authority, as an Ambassadour, to conclude with them that receive his word; and by the power of the keyes, to pronounce pardon upon the termes of the Gospel in one Church, as well as in an other; and one may receive that word, and rest on it as spoken by an Ambassadour, and expect the ratifying thereof. And if it were not so, their con­solation were exceedingly lessened, and the Minister disabled from concluding the treaty as an Ambassadour, which doth not agree with Christs end of sending Ministers, which is the perfecting of the Saints, and edifying the Bodie indefinitely, Ephes. 4.12. And there­fore may he, as an Ambassadour, act in these Ministeriall duties.

The considering of the second Branch, will clear it more, to wit, thus, If a Minister may administrate the Sacraments without his own Congregation, Then must his Mini­steriall power go beyond that relation: because there is a Ministeriall power requisite for these, which no gifted person whatsoever can assume; But the former is true. Ergo, &c.

This minor is denied by some, as being an unwarrantable practice; yet being generally used by all, it is thus answered, That a Minister may give the Sacrament of the Lords Supper to one not of his Congregation, because the bodie of the Church thinks good to [Page 110] admit them: and therefore he may warrantably administrate it to them, it being still law­full to him in it self to consecrate the elements in his own Congregation. But we reply, 1. That a Minister may warrantably Baptize one, who is no member of his Congregation: and therefore neither of the former answers will weaken this Argument; As suppose a Mi­nister did encounter some heathen, it cannot be denied, but he might Preach the Gospel to him; and upon his professed Faith and Conversion, baptize him: otherwayes it were now impossible to baptize and bring in a heathen: which were absurd. Yet could not that be done, without Authority, as is granted; nor could it be done to him as to a Mem­ber of a particular Church: because, even after his Baptism, it were lawfull for him to choose what particular Church he would joyn unto; neither before that, were he in ca­pacity thereof, nor could the Minister act therein by the Churches warrand: because, 1. The Church could not judge a person that is without: that were not within their reach. 2. Because a Minister might do this upon occasion, where there could not be accesse to have any Church determination concerning the thing, as suppose it were abroad on a journey, as Philip's encounter was with the Eunuch, Acts 8. yet can it not be said that upon the hea­thens proposing this question, What doth hinder me to be baptized? that it might be an­swered warrantably by the Minister, it hindereth, because thou art no Church member; or, my Church is not here to authorize me, &c. such answers would be uncomfortable to the man, and disproportionable to Christs end. It followeth therefore, that the Minister, as a Minister, might baptize him, and seal the treaty, and so Authoritatively treat and Preach as a Minister, seing Authoritatively he may seal it. The former answer is therefore weak: And, 1. doth speak nothing at all to the case of Baptism; Nor, 2. to the administration of the Lords Supper out of his own Congregation, seing it alloweth him power only to con­secrate the elements there: yet there can be no question, but Authority to administrate the Lords Supper, must be as broad in this respect, as to administrate Baptism, seing they are both seals of the same Covenant. 3. If a Ministers power were peremptorily commen­surable with his flock, even in that case of the plurality of the Church their admitting of such a member, the Minister could not be warranted to administrate to him; because still notwithstanding that person continues to be no member of that particular Church, nor subject to other Ordinances of Discipline: and therefore, according to the former grounds, no such determination of a people could communicate Authority to a Minister by such an act, as to make him use Ministerial power in reference to a person, not under his charge; if otherwayes he were not furnished therewith.

4. These principles seem to be repugnant, both to the commission, and practice gene­rally of all the Ministers of the Gospel: For, 1. They have one commission for all places and persons where they shall be called: this maketh them to act as Ministers in one place, and not in another. 2. Their commission is to treat for Christ indefinitly, and for the car­rying on of His design, without respect to this or that particular charge, except in a subor­dinate manner, so that by their commission, they are constitute Christs Ambassadors, Mi­nisters and Stewards simply for the Preaching of the Gospel and edifying of His Body. This saith, they are but Ambassadors in reference to such and such a people: and so consequently, could not by His warrand, close a treaty in His Name with any other. 3. A Minister by his commission, is absolutely set a part for the Work of the Ministrie, so long as Christ hath Work for him, if he continue faithful; yea, by vertue of this his commission, he is to fol­low the same. Now by this, suppose a particular Congregation to be dissolved or destroy­ed; or, suppose them to reject him that he hath no accesse to exercise his Ministrie amongst them, In such a case he ceaseth to be a Minister, and his commission expireth, according to these principles, so that he stands afterward in no other relation to Christ than any private person so qualified.

It doth also thwart with their practices, it being acknowledged and practised almost by all ever since the dayes of the Apostles, that Ministers might and did administrate Word and Sacraments Authoritatively beyond the bounds of any particular Congregation. And although in the primitive times, there was strict interdiction, that no Bishop should exer­cise jurisdiction at his own hand, within the bounds of another; (which was necessary for preventing of confusion and keeping of order) yet was it never heard that a Minister might not Authoritatively Preach, and administrate the Sacrament by the key of order in any part, as he might be called: yea, it is not to be thought that the Ministers of particular Churches [Page 111] in their voyages to the Apostles, or scatterings and otherwayes, whereby they were neces­sarily withdrawn from their own particular charges, that they did, during that time, abstain all Ministerial exercises, because so it should prejudge the Church of their labours as Mi­nisters, during that time: which is not likely, considering, that their help in the Ministrie of the Gospel, is sometimes insinuated, and acknowledged by Paul; and they counted his fellow-labourers, such as Aristarchus, Epaphras and others, companions and fellows, both in Paul's sufferings and labours. It is like therefore, that their Ministerial acting, cannot be confined to any particular place or Congregation.

Lastly, This opinion would infer many absurdities; As, 1. A Minister could administer no Ordinance as a Minister, and some, not at all, but in his own Congregation. 2. Nor in it, but to such as were of his own Flock. And, 3. If any other were present, he should be the Ambassador of Christ to one, and not to an other; and that in the same message. 4. Suppose a Congregation to want a Minister; or, that he be, by sicknesse or otherwayes, incapacitated from exercising of his Office, By this ground they could have no Ministeriall act administred amongst them, and so no Baptism, or Sacrament; nor yet have any benefit of a Ministrie more than if there were no such Ordinance. 5. By this, no particular Church might have Ministerial communion (to say so) in Church-ordinances together, but such as private persons; yea, as heathens might have in the hearing of the Word. 6. There could be no Ministerial communion and help amongst Ministers: for so, no Minister could supplie another, more than a private person, though Ministers, as joynt workers in one Work, be called in a special manner to have communion together. 7. No Member, how ever gracious, being withdrawn from his own Congregation, could be under any Ministe­riall charge, or have accesse to the Preaching of the Word, as it is a treaty by an Ambas­sador; or, to any Sacrament for himself or his: which is hard, considering that it is the same Master, and the same house; and seing often occasions may draw men abroad where the Ordinances are, this would make them in a great part to be strangers even within the Church whereof they are children. 8. No Minister might Authoritatively reprove any offending brother not of his own Congregation, nor censure such as did not willingly joyn, howsoever scandalous: which is contrary to the practice of Ephesus, as already hath been said. Neither would this bring in confusion, or the making of the particular priviledges of a Congregation common, more than is allowable: because this pleadeth not for an arbitrarinesse in the exercise of this power; but that there may be a power to be exercised for edification, when it shall be called for.

Neither will it hence follow, that a Minister, Elder, or Deacon, may thrust himself in, to the exercise of Jurisdiction in every place, because they are Officers of the Catholick Church: because, 1. This only saith, that he, being called orderly by an opened door may exerce his power in one place and Congregation, as well as in another. 2. Because ruling belongeth to the power of Jurisdiction; which, beside instalment in an Office, doth require other things to concur with it, before it can be exercised: Preaching and administra­tion of the Sacraments, are done by the power of order, and by vertue of the Office as such. Hence a Minister might Preach to Heathens without the Church, and Baptize in due order; because he doth that as a Minister: yet could he not censure one such, till he were a Church member, and untill there were some orderly way of trying, judging, censuring, &c. by a Church Judicatory setled: because the exercise of this power doth require more than the being of an office. And therefore even the Apostles who did thus preach and administer the Sacraments; yet neither judged these that were without at all; nor these that were within (when they acted by ordinary rules) except in the way of orderly proceeding. Therefore, Acts 15. Paul found it meet to go to Ierusalem to a Synod for deciding of some things by this power of Jurisdiction, although still by his Doctrine he was Autho­ritatively condemning the Errour: which sheweth, that there is more required in the one than in the other. And in that practice, the Apostles gave a precedent to Ministers where­by to be directed in ordinary cases, because in it they did follow ordinary rules common with them to all Ministers, and did not act as extraordinary Apostles, for so one was equally sufficient for deciding of the matter as all were, but in this a copy is given how the Church is to walk in such cases ordinarily.

[Page 112]The last thing which we are to enquire into, is, If this relation betwixt a Minister and a particular Congregation be such, as the Church for a greater good to the whole bodie may not loose it, and call one, serving at one particular Church, to fix and serve elsewhere, upon supposition that it may more further the good of the Whole Church?

Answ. What is already said, doth make way for the answering of this, which we shall comprehend in these three Assertions,

Asser. 1. No Minister ought to dispose of himself at his own private arbitrement, to the prejudice or dissolution of a tye betwixt him and a particular Congregation that is or­derly and legally settled. For, first, no Minister being free of such a relation, ought to dispose of himself arbitrarily, (as was said in the close of the first Chapter) much more being under a tye and particular relation. 2. It's a generall to all, 1 Cor. 7. Let every man abide in that calling wherein he is called; but especially, Ministers are to walk by a singular call, even in reference to a particular Charge: so as it may be the Flock over which the Holy Ghost hath set them: which must, at least, include his being set there in the me­diate way of Church order; which is that that the Holy Ghost ownes, as by comparing, Acts 13.3. and 4. and Acts 14.23. with Act. 20, 28. is clear. This therefore cannot be left to any private way of transacting betwixt a Minister and a People. 3. If it were so, then this particular relation were of no value, neither could properly a Minister be called the Minister of such a Church; or such a Church be his in a more peculiar manner than other Churches, if he might at his pleasure and of himself dissolve that Union. 4. Mini­sters being servants of Christs House and Watchmen put to their Posts by Him, as being specially to count for that People committed to them, they ought not and cannot without His warrand remove: this would be found to be treachery and unfaithfulnesse in any other Servant or Watchman, much more must it be here. 5. Whereas Christ hath appointed these particular relations for the entertaining of order, the preventing of confusion and promoving of edification, This would destroy these ends and bring confusion into the Church: which is contrary to the order that He hath established in it. Lastly, It would beget despising of the Ministery in the hearts of the People, and lay them open to snares, if a Ministers settling in a place stood so upon his own Election (especially after a former tye) as is usually in men who are of other professions. And there are many strict acts of Councels in all times against this: as a most wretched abuse, if it should be admitted in the Church.

Assert. 2. Although this tye cannot be loosed by any private consent, so that no Mini­ster can transport himself upon that account; yet may the Church for her own greater good transport a man from one particular place to another, and that warrantably, not­withstanding of the former particular tye and relation: yea, sometime it will be expedient for the good of the Church so to do. The application of the former grounds and the lay­ing down of some others, will make way for the clearing and confirming of this. The first is, If there be an Union and Communion in the Catholick visible Church, and if Mini­sters be especially given to the edifying of it, and in a subordination thereto, to the edifi­cation of particular Churches, Then supposing that a Ministers transportation from one place to another may further more the good of the whole than where he is, in that case, it ought to be done. Because the whole is to be prefered to the part, the good of the Bodie to any particular member: and in that case, it is not the prejudice of that particular Church, that their Minister be set where he may more profite the Bodie, but (as the Learned Bowles in his Treatise of a Gospel Ministery, lib. 3. cap. 7. saith) ‘It's rather their preservation and safty, even as it's the good of any particular Fort of a City, when a Watchman is removed from it to some other Post, where he may be more usefull to the whole City: because the benefit of the City, is the advantage of every person therein.’ But both the former are true, as hath been said, to wit, that there is an Union and Com­munion in the Catholick visible Church; and that a Ministers relation, standeth principally to serve Christ in reference to the edification of the whole: Therefore, &c. 2. The ex­amples used already, hold this forth, the Church being one City, and Ministers appointed to be Watchmen thereof, there can be no reason why one may not be removed from one corner to another, if so it may conduce for the good of the whole. This is allowed in all Commonwealths, Cities, and Incorporations, &c. and is engraven by nature on the hearts of all men to preserve themselves into Societies by such means: and can that be [Page 113] denied to the Church of Christ, which nature maketh common to all Incorporations? 3. If a Ministers relation to a particular Charge be lesse principall and subordinate to his re­lation to the whole Bodie, Then ought it not to stand in the way of his being usefull to the whole, But rather it is in such a case to cede and give place to the other: otherwise that particular relation would be principall, and would not be subservient to the other, as a higher end: because so, the Church in generall would be more frustrated and prejudged of the benefit of such a mans Ministery, than if there had been no such relation at all. But the former is true, This particular relation is subordinate to the other, as [...] said. Therefore, &c. These consequents do follow upon the grounds formerly laid down. More­over we may add these uncontrovertible conclusions.

Conclus. 1. There is a diversity in the cases of particular Congregations; and there is diversity also in the gifts of Ministers. Some Congregations are more weighty, and much more of the good or hurt of the Church dependeth upon their plantation than others. Again, some are more intelligent, some are more uneasie and dangerous to deal withall, &c. as experience cleareth. Whereby it is apparent that the planting of some places, is of great consequence for the Gospels advancement, above the planting of others; and also that comparatively, one place will require Ministers otherwise qualified than another. Again, there are diversities of gifts among Ministers, some are fit for one People, and not for ano­ther, as is clear from, 1 Cor. 12. 14. 15. &c. There are diversity of gifts, but the same spirit, differences of administrations, &c.

Conclus. 2. Ministers ought so to be distributed and placed in particular Charges, as that there may be some proportionablenesse and suitablenesse betwixt the Minister and his Charge, that is, the ablest Minister should have the weightiest Charge; the weakest, the easiest burthen: and as their gift is more eminent in learning, teaching, prudence in Go­vernment, &c. there likewise ought a proportion to be keeped in laying on their Charge, so as there may be a fit object for such qualifications, and as the good of the Bodie may be most advanced. This also we take for granted: for, that is the end of all gifts which are given to every man that he way profite withall, 1 Cor. 12.7. whether it be the word of knowledge, or, the word of wisdom, &c. they are all members of one body, vers. 12. and therefore are to concur for the good of the Body, according to their severall qualifica­tions, as different members of that one Bodie: and in this respect, a disproportionating of a Ministers Charge to his gift, it is as if we would put the foot to do the hands work, or the ear to supply the room of the eye: which were absurd; and would argue either such and such distinction and difference not to be necessary, and so all the members might be eye or head, or any one member; or, it will say, that we are not to walk according to that which the Lord hath distributed to every one: both which are absurd, and expresly con­trary to that which is said, 1 Cor. 12. Where expresly these three are held forth, 1. That the Church is one Body. 2. That there are different gifts, which are as different members of one Body, some more eminently for one use, and some more eminently for another. 3. That the Lords intent by that difference, is, to have all these members con­curring in their severall places for the good of the whole Bodie: that so, as it is, vers. 25. by each members concurring in its own place, there may be no [...]chism in the Bodie: which cannot be eschewed, if this proportionating of publick Charges and Gifts be not observed.

Conclus. 3. There cannot be ordinarily such a discerning of the proportionablnesse of mens gifts to a particular station at the first entry, as to fit every one sufficiently, and to place them in their right room. This we suppose, is also clear from experience, where­in it is seen that many, at first, are fixt in Congregations wherein afterward there proveth to be a disproportionablnesse. And it cannot be otherwise, upon these considerations, 1. Because it cannot then be known fully what will prove to be the peculiar gift of every man, till triall and experience evidence the same. 2. Because this proportionablnesse is not only to be tried by comparing a man and a particular Congregation simply; but it is to be taken by trying him comparatively, and that both in reference to other gifts and other Congregations: for, a man absolutely considered, may be fit for such a Congregation; yet when other Congregations and gifts are considered, it may possibly be seen that he is more fit for an other Congregation than many other Ministers; and yet possibly some of these may be as fit for his Congregation. In that case, it cannot be denied, but it looketh liker the [Page 114] right proportionating of every member, that men be put to serve in these Congregations, for which according to their gifts they are best fitted. 3. Because at a Ministers first entry there is not occasion to try a mans proportionablnesse to any other Charge but one, or at most in reference to so many as shall at that present be vacant and give him a Call. Now, suppose some other Charge should thereafter vake, it's hard to say that they should be simply excluded from having any accesse to that person, if his gifts were more proportionable to them: Because, as we said, this proportionablnesse is to be looked to in reference to what is most fit for the whole Bodie: for although (if we may so compare it) it is not unfit that the foot should be guided by sight; yet with respect to the whole Body, it is more fit for the whole Bodie, that the eye should be placed in the head, than in the foot: because it is not to give light to one member only, but to the whole Bodie, So is it here, a Minister may suit a particular Congregation, giving light as it were to the foot, whereas if we consider his office, which is to be an eye to the whole Bodie, he is disproportionably placed: for so the Bodie is darker, when the foot hath more light: which is absurd.

Conclus. 4. Christ hath furnished His Church with Power in her Judicatories and Offi­cers, to proportion Ministers Gifts suitably to the good of the Body. Hence is the trial of Spirits and Gifts appointed: and in that respect, the spirits of the Prophets, are to be sub­ject to the Prophets, 1 Cor. 14. otherwayes the Church in her Government were defective in that order which is in other Societies: and it would not be adequate and proportio­nate to its end, if that were not: for so there might be an inconveniencie and disproportio­nablnesse in the Church, and no remedy to cure the same. From which grounds put toge­ther, we may thus argue, 1. If God hath given diversitie of Gifts to Ministers, and they be to be improven for the good of the whole Body, Then supposing that a Minister setled in some more private or lesser Congregation be more proportionably qualified to fill such a place as is more large and eminent, than any other who can be had without a charge. Then in this case he is to be transported: because otherwayes, that being denied and the Charge put upon a man of no competent ability, there would be a disproportionablnesse be­tween the Gift and the Charge. For, that would joyn the able man and the light burden, and the weak man and the heavie burden: which were absurd; But the first is clear from the former conclusions. Therefore, &c. 2. If by a Ministers first plantation in a particular Charge there be a disproportionablnesse in the Body, which transporting of him to another Charge would remeed, Then is he to be transported: and transportation in that case must be allowable and expedient: because by it that due proportionablnesse is preserved among Ministers, and Members of the Body, which otherwayes would be defective, and so a Schism is prevented: For if the end, to wit, that proportionablnesse be necessary, Then transportation, which is a necessary mean whereby it is attained, cannot but be necessary also; But the first is true from the former grounds. Ergo, &c. 3. If transportation were unlawfull, Then we behoved to say, that either no Minister could be at first misplaced to the prejudice of the Body: or, that there were no remeed for such a case, for the reco­vering thereof; But both these are absurd, as the former grounds do clear. 4. If Mini­sters were peremptorly fixt by their first tye to particular Congregations, Then could not their Gift come under cognition in reference to any other charge; which would inferre these absurdities, 1. That the Church were bounded and limited in the use-making of her own Members for her own good: which is contrary to the nature of a body; for so she might have Members, fit for such and such stations; and yet could not make use of them. 2. In proportionating Gifts for places, there would be little place for Christian prudence and deliberation: because so the case would be determined necessarily by providence, that such vacant places behoved to call such men as were not under any former tye, and they behoved to accept these particular charges; or, must both necessarily forbear; and so such Churches be without Ministers, it may be for a long time, before any did occur whom with confidence they might Call: and it will be hard to fasten any of these necessities upon the way of Christ. 3. By this, the Church should have little or no accesse at all to cognosce of mens Gifts, so as to proportion them for her good, if she had no place for it after their first entry to the Ministrie: because, then often there doth lye much of it upon the mans deter­mining himself; or, at most a Presbyteries determining of him, and a particular Congrega­tions pressing, who often are more swayed with respect to themselves, than to the Church in common. Beside, that there is no accesse to cognosce thereof upon other grounds given: [Page 115] if then the Church be any wayes allowed to cognosce or dispose of Members according to their Gifts, and that be not left to particular inclinations, transportation must be allowed. And if it be singly done, we suppose, there is no such accesse to cognosce of a mans Gift, and to proportionate it for the good of the body, as may be done in transportation. 5. We may argue thus, If Ministers be lights planted in the Church for the good of the whole, Then ought they so to be placed, as they may most extensively give light to the whole. Now, these are certain, 1. That there are some Congregations where a Minister may more con­spicuously hold forth the light of the Gospel than in others, some places being as Tables or Candlesticks from which light doth shine; other places again, being as corners. 2. Some­times a light may be set in a corner, or under a bushell comparatively, and not be set on the place where the greatest light is called for. 3. When it's misplaced, it ought to be removed from the corner to be set on the Candlestick: and although it may be, that that corner be­come more dark; yet the house in general becometh more lightsome. And if these for­mer grounds be true, Then transportation, when it proves the removing of a light from under a bed, to the Candlestick, for the greater good of the whole house, must be allowed and admitted: But these two considerations will make this appear, 1. Christs expresse words, Matth. 5.14, 15. ye are the light of the world, &c. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushell, but on a candlestick, that all in the house may see light, (com­pared with Luke 8.16.) which demonstrates there, that Ministers are so to be placed as they may most lighten the whole house: and if any place conduce more for that than ano­ther, they are accordingly to be placed. 2. The Apostles practice clears this: we will find them in their Preaching especially, to frequent most populous places, because there was most occasion of spreading the Gospel in those: Paul is marked, Acts 19.10. to have staied two full years in Ephesus, and that all Asia, upon that occasion, heard the Word: which doth hold forth, 1. That there are some places (particularly populous and publick places) of more concernment for the spreading of the Gospel, when they are well planted, than other places. And, 2. That the Apostles were in their abode and Preaching exceed­ingly swayed by that consideration: so that although in some respect they had equal inte­rest in all persons and Churches, yet did the consideration of the good of the whole engage them to have particular respect to some places beyond others; and so, as it were, to trans­port themselves from private places to more publick, that they might give light to the moe. 6. If the good of a particular Congregation, and necessity of a particular Minister, may warrand a transportation, much more may the publick good of the Church do the same: this cannot be denied; But both the first are true, 1. The good of a particular Congregation may warrand it, as suppose they be utterly prejudged against a present Minister, who yet elswhere may have accesse to be profitable; either transportation must be allowed, or he must be rendred unprofitable, contrary to the end for which Christ hath given Gifts, 1 Cor. 12. and they put in a worse condition by having, than by wanting: For the second, That a Ministers particular necessity may constrain this, as suppose there be no possibility to live and follow the Ministrie in such a place, because of outward straits: thus, Nehemiah, 13.10. the Levites by the withdrawing of their maintenance, are made to flie every one to his field: and Nehemi [...]h contends with the Rulers, and removes that obstruction, and doth not challenge the Levites, as Mr. Bowls doth observe. We find also in Church-story (Socrates, lib. 7. cap. 36.) of one Sylvanus, who not being able to live in one place [...] because of his infirm health, which did disagree therewith, he was transported to another more wholesome and agreeable to his constitution. 7. If notwithstanding of that relation between a Minister and a people, any particular Member, or any other Officer, upon weighty consideration, may remove themselves, or be removed from that Congregation, Then may the Minister be removed also, upon supposition of the publick good: because there is that same tye between the people and the Minister, and other Officers and the people, that is between the Minister and them: for, the relation is mutual; But that pri­vate Members, and Elders or Deacons may remove, or be removed orderly, hath never been questioned. Ergo, &c. 8. If a Minister, upon particular occasion, for publick good, may perform Ministerial acts without his own Congregation for a time, Then supponing these grounds to be urgent, and Authority to interveen, why may he not be fully removed? for, the same ground that calleth to act for a time, to wit, the good of the body whereof he is a Minister, may call for it to be perpetual, and ought not to be rejected; But the first [Page 116] is true. Ergo, &c. 9. If we will consider the Word of God more nearly, we will find this to be conform thereto.

And, 1. If we consider the Old Testament, it is certain that the Levites had their own fixednesse in the severall Cities beside Ierusalem, seing that was their Office to teach the People: and no question, it was done orderly: hence, Thou and the Levite within thy gates, is so frequently mentioned: and Act. 15.21. it is said, that of' old time Moses had them in every city that did preach him. It is certain also, that notwithstanding of that fixednesse, Levites might be removed to more publick service at Ierusalem, as is gathered from Deut. 18.6. and 7. If a Levite come from any of thy gates, out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and shall come with all his desire to the place which the Lord shall choose, then shall be minister, &c. where a Levit's removing from Ministring in one place to another, is clearly approven. Neither is it to be thought, that this removall was left arbitrarie to the Levite himself: because so, confusion could not have been eschewed; but when it is so qualified, that he cometh with all his desire, it doth suppose a triall thereof, and an orderly way of disposing of him, for the attaining of that end, to have proceeded, as the learned Iunius doth observe on the place.

2. If we come to the New Testament, there we will find our Lord Jesus himself going from City to City; He sendeth His Disciples to go through the Cities, Preaching the Gospel: the Apostles follow the same way in their practice: And we will find them sending Mini­sters sometime to one place, sometime to another; sometimes keeping particular Ministers with themselves, as from the History of the Acts, and from the beginning and close of severall Epistles, may be gathered. And although these practices may seem, at first, to be extraordinary, yet considering the end thereof, which is the spreading of the Gospel, and the ground upon which it is built, to wit, the unity of the Church, the good whereof is to be sought by all the Ministers who are Christs Servants, in reference thereunto; con­ [...]idering also that the Church, to the end of the world, is furnished with power for prose­cuting of moral ends in an ordinary way; and that the Churches propagation, is the end now as then; seing the removing of Ministers sometimes from one place to another, may conduce to that end now as then; and the ground, to wit, the good of the Church uni­versall, is the same now as it was then, We conceive the practice it self must be moral, as the ground was, although then the manner and power was extraordinary, which is now to be performed in an ordinary way.

3. If we will particularly consider, Act. 13.1, 2, 3. we will find this, near almost in an example. For, 1. There are there severall Prophets and Teachers in the Church of Antioch, as Barnabas, Lucius, Simeon, &c. 2. They are Ministring there in a collegiat way, and that for a long time. 3. Two of them are pitched on, to be sent elsewhere, for the spreading of the Gospel; it being in the wisdom of God thought fit, to call some from Antioch, where were many, that others might be helped, who had nothing: although no question, there was work for all of them in Antioch it self: And He might have thrust out moe immediately Himself, if this way had not been pleasing to Him; yet their sun­dering was thought fitter for the Churches universall good. 4. This is execute in a mediate way by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, and with fasting and prayer. Whence we may argue, If for the greater good of the Church, some Teachers were taken from Antioch and sent elsewhere, Then may a Minister, by Church-authority, for the end foresaid, be removed from one place to another; But the former is true. Ergo, &c. There is nothing can be objected against this, save to say that this was extraordinary, in that it was particularly commanded of God: And, 2. That they were extraordinary Officers that were sent; But this will not enervate the Argument: for, in these practices of extraordinary Officers in the Primitive times, we must observe some rules to difference what is ordinary, from what is extraordinary in them, and so know what is to be imi­tated, and what not: otherwise we may reject all the practices of Christ, and the Apostles upon that account, and so prejudge our selves exceedingly of a great part of the Word that is written for our direction. Let us therefore observe these rules;

1. Where the ground and reason of a practice, is moral, although the Call thereto and manner of discharging thereof be extraordinary; yet must the practice it self be moral, although the manner in so far as is extraordinary be temporary: Thus, that the Kirk have Teachers (supposing that there must be a Church) it is morall; as also that her Teachers [Page 117] have a Call, This will follow from Christs sending of Apostles, Disciples, and others: Because the same reason saith, that a Minister who is Christs Ambassador, according to his station (as an Apostle was in his) should have his commission as an Apostle had: but that the Church should alway have Apostles, or that her Teachers should be immediatly called of God, That will not follow: because the reasons thereof are not moral. Now, if we may safely reason in the general, that a Church must have Officers with a lawful Call, be­cause Christs Apostles had such, though it was immediate, and also he that was called ought to obey: by proportion we may gather, that a Church-officer may be called from one place to another, upon a moral ground, although there be no immediate Call at his removall, more than at his first entry: because the ground whereupon this practice is founded, and which is the reason thereof, to wit, the greater good of the Church, is still binding now as then.

Rule 2. In these primitive practices, there is a proportionablenesse to be observed be­tween the Officers who act, and their call and manner of proceeding, to wit, an extraor­dinary Officer, must have an extraordinary call, as such; and he may act extraordinarily in the prosecution thereof, by extraordinary Power, whereas an ordinary Officer must act, by an [...] ordinary call and Power, the same things, suppose in Preaching, Discipline, or­daining of Ministers, &c. and in so far, that laying on of hands was extraordinary, as being done upon an immediate Call. But Ministers may follow it in an ordinary way, that is, by a mediate Call, they may ordain Ministers to a particular Congregation, or transport from one to another by proportion: because the Apostles by an immediate Call did send out extra­ordinary Officers to any particular place.

Rule 3. We would in such practices difference such things as are temporary, that is, such as have special relation to that time and state of the Church (as extraordinary Officers and Gifts were) from such things as agree to the Church as a Church, and serve to the edification thereof at all times. And thus also transporting of a Minister, must be allow­able in such case: because there can be no reason given why that practice should be peculiar or only agreeing to that time and case of the Church, or during the Apostles lifetime: but the grounds that infer the conveniency of it, are in a good measure common to us with them, to wit, the furtherance of the Churches good, which cannot otherwayes be so well done. And if it may be as well done without this, we acknowledge that this practice will not be binding. And certainly the Lords putting of the Church to this, to send out some already called, when immediatly he might have thrust out others, doth say, that he minded to teach what ordinarily should be done by the Church in the like case: for, his sending of them mediately by the Church, and not immediately by himself, as at other times, doth insi­nuate this.

Rule 4. We are to distinguish things wherein the Apostles acted extraordinarily, by rea­son of their infallible Gift, extraordinary Power, &c. from such things as were common to them with other Ministers, and wherein they acted in an ordinary way common to them with all Ministers: of the first sort were their immediate deciding of controversies, appoint­ing of censures, sending of Ministers, &c. by vertue of their own alone power: this is not to be imitated: of the other sort are their admitting of Ministers upon a mediate Call to Congregations, as Acts 14. their debating and deciding of controversies, and making of Laws in a Synodical way, by reasoning from Scripture in an ordinary way, as Acts 15. These are imitable; and what they did in that manner may be followed: And their laying on of Hands (when the Call was intimate) their Praying and Fasting, which are mentio­ned in this place, were of the last kind; and so upon supposition of the intimation of a Call, this their practice for the substance is to be followed.

Now, to resume a little further the application, that we may know what is ordinary and what is extraordinary in this case; or, what is moral, and what perpetual, or what is temporary. 1. That there be a Call of God, that is moral and perpetual; and it may be concluded from this, that no Minister without Gods Call, is to be transported; but that that Call is immediately revealed by God Himself, is temporary, and not to be pleaded for in ordinary cases. 2. This is moral, that he who is called of God to edifie His Church, by leaving one place to serve Him in another, should obey the same. 3. It's moral, that this removall should not be at the mans own determination; but that it be done by Church Guides, and Church Judicatories. 4. It's a moral ground upon which this proceeds, to [Page 118] wit, the greater edification of the Church, whether by engaging and grafting in of Strangers, or building up of these that are brought in; this ground can no way be thought more pe­culiar to these times than to after time: and therefore it is laid down as the great end of Pastors and Teachers, as well as of Apostles, as may be gathered from, Ephes. 4.11, 12, 13, 14. This reason then must have weight to the end of the world. 5. It's an ordinary way by which they proceed, to wit, fasting and prayer, shewing the necessity of a concur­rence of Gods orderly and external Call with his inward, for warranting of this practice; and also shewing that when the removing of a Minister from one place to another may contri­bute to the good of the Body, they are in that heartily to concur who have most special inte­rest. Now, these things being moral and of perpetual weight in the Church, although it will not plead that the Church may send out Apostles by an immediat Call, or that they may send out ind [...]finitely without respect to any place, or not knowing where; yet this will follow, upon the grounds laid down, that when God calleth a man for the edifying of the body of His Church from one place to another, there it ought to be obeyed; and that somtimes God may Call, for the greater good of His Church, to have men removed from one place to ano­ther. He is Master of the Harvest: and therefore may either thrust out Labourers of new to His Field, or may take from one part of the Field to set upon an other. Only these things would be adverted here according to the former rules, 1. That by Gods Call, is not to be understood any extraordinary thing, but His signifying of His mind in an ordinary way, that such a mans removal from such a place, to another, is upon consideration of his gifts, upon comparing of the places, and the respecting of the state of the Church, a hopefull mean through Gods blessing for the further promoving of edification. 2. As an immediate and extraordinary Call was necessary for such officers in such a case; so proportionally is an or­dinary Call by ordinary Officers, acting by ordinary Power, only necessary for ordinary cases, seing in moral things ordinary Officers, are to do by their ordinary Power what extra­ordinary Officers did by their extraordinary Power. And if we will consider this practice, we will find it this far to be intended for imitation: For, 1. Although the Lord immedi­ately reveal the Call; yet doth He follow His design in an ordinary way: not by thrusting out new Officers, which he might have done, if he had walked altogether absolutely and ex­traordinarly in this; but he doth it in a mediate way of providence, in the making use of some already called. 2. The circumstances seem so to be recorded, as if the Lord were giving the reason of calling some from Antioch, rather than from any other Church, to wit, because there was a considerable number in that place of fit qualified men; and that so in reason it were more agreeable for the good of the body, that some should be taken from them to supplie the want of the other, rather than that others should be altogether desti­tute, or some removed from such places as might not so well spare: and there can be no rea­son of the mentioning of this, but to show the moral equity of this practice, that Mini­sters would be proportionated in the Church so as may be extensively for the good of the whole: and that where some places abound, and others have scarcity; the abundance of the one, should condescend to supplie the other, and that not of the weakest or least able. 3. The Lord useth a mediate way of sending them by the Churches interposing of her Au­thority and Prayers, which He did not use in the sending of Apostles; nay, Matthias had no imposition of Hands; and this was because the election of Apostles was no way to fall with­in the compasse of ordinary Church-power, nor to be followed. It would seem therefore, that it is made use of in this practice, to signifie, that it is a thing to be continued in the Church, and to be performed by ordinary Church-judicatories, and imitated by them.

If we consider the times following, it hath ever been practised in the Church. It's marked to have been the practice of the first two famous general Councels, as a mean use­full exceedingly for the good of the Church. The Nicaen Councel did transfer Eustachius from Berrhea to Antioch. Sozom. lib. 7. Cap. 2. And it's observed particularly of Gr [...] ­gorius Nazianzenus, that he was thrice transported: first, he was Bishop in Cappadocia, thereafter brought to Nazianz [...]; and thereafter to Constantinople by the second famous general Councel, and it's marked to have been of great use to the Church. Cent. 4.15. 300. and to have been their common practice in this time. Socrates, lib. 7. cap. 35. doth for this very end, give many instances of this in several persons. At the beginning of the Reformation, it was one of the great means that was made use of by God for propagating the Gospel in severall places: the transporting, or removing of Ministers [Page 119] from one place to another was exceeding usefull: and what cruelty had it been to have re­fused the desire of people, seeking Ministers from those that had them? And how else could they have been supplied? And proportionably the same weight lyeth here in all times.

Asser. 3. Although in some cases this be for the good of the Church, and is to be practised by Church Judicatories; yet it is to be done with great singlenesse, tendernesse, prudence and caution, least that which of it self, being rightly managed, is a benefite to the Church, be turned to an abuse, and prove hurtfull to her.

These Cautions and Rules must be regulated according to particular circumstantiate cases, which cannot be numbred. Yet these things may be said,

1. That no self respect ought to have place here, but the greater good of the Church and advantage of the Gospel, is the great [...] whereby this is to be decided.

2. This generall is to be found out, by comparing of places and qualifications with respect to the number of the hearers, their qualifications as they are strong or infirm, tra­ctable or stubborn, pure or corrupt; In respect of their stations, as they have influence on publick things or not, as they may have influence in communicating their light to other places; as the word in his mouth may be more readily and freely received without prejudice, and such other considerations of this kind: some whereof, are hinted in the close of the for­mer Chapter concerning a Minister's Call at his first entry.

3 This comparison would not be considered between places, as if there were no tye standing between him and either of them: certainly there is more disproportionablenesse required to loose one from a charge, than would have cast the ballance between places at his entry. Also other means of a proportionable setling and providing of such a place, would be first seriously essayed and followed if they occur.

4. This would be endeavoured to be done by convincing reasons, so as (if possibly) they who have interest may be satisfied, if not in respect of their affection, yet in respect of their reason, to wit, that it is the more publick good of the Church.

5. No people ought to oppose the removall of their most faithful and beloved Ministers, when it's done upon convincing reasons. These people are content to yeeld to the removing even of Paul and Barnabas, who, no question, were most dear unto them. And certainly were there endeavours to convince on the one side, and an acquiescing to conviction on the other, it would look much more Christian-like, and prove much more usefull. And if this be a called-for duty, to wit, that a Church [...]judicatory remove one from a setled Con­gregation, upon such grounds, it must be a sin and an opposing of duty, wilfully to obstruct the same; and if it may be a Call of God, there is more need of conscience and submission here, to try if it be so or not, than absolutely to resolve a peremptory and pertinacious op­position to the same without any respect to the grounds thereof. And we conceive that the keeping of a right mean in this practice, and eschewing of extreams, might conduce exceed­ingly to the advantage of the Church: and it would be exceeding suitable to the unitie of the Cathol [...]ck Church and that communion that ought to be in her, and well becoming that Authority and care that is committed to Church-judicatories, that the severall particular Ministers were upon just grounds proportioned with respect to the edification of the whole. And so we have done with this particular relation.

3. Concerning the nature and difference of saving and common Grace.

IN this Epistle, there is a large commendation of this Angel's practice: which is not only given to him in respect of the matter of his actions; but in respect of the qualifi­cations of them: as, first, that he did not only suffer for, and have patience in, that which was materially right; but that he suffered for Christs Name sake: and that he did not only hate thee deeds of the Nicolaitans; but did it with a respect to Christ: which is here added, to difference the sincerity of these actions from others that are materially good also: for, no question, there may be much suffering, which is not commendable before Christ. And certainly many others, even among heathens, did hate these Nicolaitans, [Page 120] who yet cannot be thought to be alike comprehended under this commendation. This therefore that is added, for my Names sake, must be to show the sincerity and gracious­nesse thereof, as that which did put a difference, between their sufferings and patience, and the sufferings of others. And it doth imply, that this qualification, was that mainly, which made the Lord take notice thereof. It is therefore the same on the matter with that, Matth. 5.11. of being persecuted for Christs sake, to which the promise is made, vers. 12. and the same, with that 1 Pet. 4.13. of being made partakers of Christs sufferings, and of being reproached for his Name: which being an evidence, and part of blessed­nesse in these places, cannot be conceived but to imply sincerity; without which, suffering it self, even where the cause is good, would be of no weight as to that end. We do therefore conceive these words undoubtedly to be added, to point out that wherein their sincerity consisted, and wherewith the Lord was especially well pleased: from which we may gather these Doctrines.

First, That there is a great difference between an action morally or materially good, and that which is gracious, and as such acceptable to God. It is not simply suffering and hatred, which the Lord commends here; but suffering and hatred so and so qualified. Hence we will find frequently in the Scripture, difference made between these, to do that which is good upon the matter, and to do it with a perfect heart. In actions therefore, there are these three to be distinctly considered, 1. The act it self, as it is natural, suppose an act of hatred, love, grief, &c. 2. As the act is moral, and is directed toward an object that is agreeable to the Law, that is, to love that which is good, and to hate that which is evil, and so forth: both which, in many respects, may be in hypocrites, who may do that which is materially good. 3. We are to consider an act as gracious, that is, when not only the thing for the matter is agreeable to the will of God, as suppose, one were acting, or suffering for a truth; but also when that is done in the manner that the Law requireth, and with a suitablnesse thereunto: and so one suffers not only for a truth; but as a Chri­stian he carrieth himself in his suffering for the same: it is this last which makes the diffe­rence, and which the Lord doth especially take notice of, and commend by this qualification, that it is done for his Names sake.

Secondly, We gather, that this difference, wherein the graciousnesse of the act doth consist, is not to be inquired for in any incense degree of the act it self, whether positive or comparative (at least only) but it is to be inquired for in the nature and kind thereof, to wit, in respect of positive qualifications concurring therewith, and having influence there­on: For, this commendation, is not given upon the degree; but from the nature of these acts: it is not commendable hatred, because it is in such an intense degree positively: nor comparatively, because it hateth these errors more than it doth hate truth; but because in their hatred of these errors, they conform themselves to Christs hatred of them. And likewise by that commendation for Christs Name sake, is not holden forth any degree either of their labour, or patience simply, nor yet comparatively, that they laboured more, or did suffer more for that which is materially good, than they did for any other thing; or, because their patience was for degree more than their impatience; but, that there was a peculiar respect to the Lords Name both in their labour and patience.

If it be asked, What this is, which beside the moral rectitude of the act, must concur for the making of it to be accounted gracious?

It may be answered in these four. First, There is a different spiritual principle in the per­son acting, which must actually have influence upon the act, and from which the act, as gracious, proceedeth. This in Scripture is called the Spirit, Inner-man, New-creature, &c. and is different in its acting from the Old-man and Flesh; yea, and from the faculties of the soul, considered meerly as natural: for, if we consider an act, suppose of love, submis­sion under sufferings, or such like; it is the natural act of the soul as formally elicited by it: but if we consider them as gracious acts, they do proceed from the Spirit influencing them (to say so) with a suitablenesse to it self, by the co-operation of the Grace of God. Secondly, There is a difference in respect of the end; there is a gracious and spirituall end proposed in performing of such a lawfull thing: this is implied here in this, that they had the glory of the Name of Jesus before them in their suffering and patience, as seeking to pursue that, and not to gain credit to themselves. Thirdly, There concurreth to qualifie a gracious action, a spiritual motive inclining the spirituall principle to follow this end, [Page 121] which can never be separated from the former, and here is clear in the two instances that are in the Text; where, as respect to Christs Name, is the end, so, love to Christ, and zeal to His Glory moveth them, and swayeth them to pursue this end, by such means, as Labouring, Patience, hating of the Nicolaitans, &c. and thus to have patience for Christs Names sake, is out of respect to Christs Glory, to be swayed thereunto. Fourthly, There is a difference in respect of the formality of the act, when not only the thing that is good is yeelded unto, upon a good motive; but as such, it's yeelded unto or acted, that is, when the object, as so considered, is acted upon: and so not only is one swayed to patience in suffering from respect to Christs Name; but upon this formall consideration, they yeeld themselves to it, and do it as such. So that still there is a reduplication in the act, suitable to the end and motive proposed: and as the person in the act hath another principle to act by, another end proposed to himself, and another motive perswading him to it; so hath he a different uptaking of the act or object in the act, not only as considered in it self as good; but as considered in reference to such an end, and as such he acts on it. As for instance, it is laudable and commendable to give to one that is in misery, and more laud­able to love one that is gracious, and to supply his wants; yet both these are not suffici­ent to make the act to be accounted gracious, even though the love to them should be most intense, and the beneficence large; but there must be a concurrence of these four formerly mentioned, to wit, 1. An inward gracious principle acting: otherwise, one may be renewed, and carry love to another that is gracious; and yet if it proceed not from this principle, it is not to be accounted sincere gracious love. 2. There must be a spirituall single end in their loving of them, and giving to them, to wit, the honouring of Christ in them, and their good. 3. A spirituall motive, to wit, the considering of them not only as in strait, or as lovely in themselves; but as gracious and beloved of Jesus Christ, whose command calls for love to them. And lastly, this is done to them as such, when the heart in it's affection, closeth with them upon this account, that they are beloved of Christ, and, as being themselves called of God to that dutie. Thus, Mat. 10. To give to a disciple, is one thing; but to give to him in the name of a Disciple, is ano­ther, that is, to give him upon that account that he is such; or, as it is, Mark 9.41. Because they belong to Christ: the former may be often in many naturall men, and hath no such promise; this cannot be in any but a Believer, who only may expect the promised reward. This as, is to be understood, as 1 Cor. 8.7. where some men not only did eat that which was sacrificed; but as such a thing, and under that formall consideration, that is, with some conscience of the Idol, as the words before carry it: and this as maketh it quite another thing. So is it to be understood here, when we say the object is to be consi­dered as such. And in this reduplication, we conceive, that a main peece of singlenesse and sincerity doth lye, when not only we do what is commanded, or suffer for what is truth; but when we do it as a thing commanded, and suffer for it as for His names sake: and in some respect, it may take-in the two former last differences; and so if any shall make the number fewer, we shall not debate, providing that under any name these be taken-in.

Hence, thirdly, We gather also, That what ever act is so qualified (as in the former is expressed) it is a sincere gracious act in whatsoever degree it be, so that it be an act of Patience, Love, Hatred, &c. proceeding from an inward renewed principle, tending to a spirituall end, swayed by a supernaturall motive; and upon that account acting, it can­not be but accounted an act of sincere Patience, Love, Hatred, &c. although as to the degree of it, it be but like the grain of mustard seed. For although the acts themselves, even toward such objects, may be distinguished from gracious acts; yet they cannot be conceived to be so and so qualified in any degree, but hoc ipso they must be conceived to be gracious; because in so far they are agreeable to the Law, and that not only in the mat­ter, but in the manner of them. And this agreeablnesse to the Law, being a proof that one is Sanctified, without which no such act could be performed, it may be also an evidence of Justification, although it be not considered as a condition thereof, which is accepted by the Covenant of Grace. And although these acts be imperfect in respect of degree; yet they cannot be denied to be sincere, or perfect, in respect of their kind. Every act of the new nature in whatsoever degree being like it self, and conform to the principle from which it proceedeth; even as on the contrary, the least motion of the old man is sinfull [Page 122] according to the root from which it flowes: for, these two cannot be separated, which the Lord hath put together; a good tree must have good fruit, and cannot bring forth evil fruit, Mat. 7.17.18. &c. Now, acts in the least degree so qualified, as before is said, are in so far, at least, fruits of a good tree; yea, of a gracious principle within: and therefore they cannot but be such also. And if it were not thus, that this Angel had pa­tience for Christs Names sake, it could be no ground of commendation for differencing his patience, from the patience of hypocrites, if it did not sufficiently prove his carriage to be sincere. And hence,

Fourthly, Ariseth also this, that no naturall man or hypocrite, though coming the greatest length in the state of hypocrisie, can in the least degree perform an act so and so qualified, as is before said, more than they can act from a principle which they have not: for, if they might in any measure have patience for Christs Names sake, in respect of the end, motive, and account upon which the heart yeeldeth to suffering, it could be no ground of a peculiar commendation to this Angel, which is yet contrary to the scope. And if the former be true, that every act so and so qualified, is a sincere act, this must necessarily then follow thereupon. And so more particularily we say, that no hypocrite can thus for­mally do any thing that is good, as, to give instances, 1. In the duty of love to God; an hypocrite cannot love God as God, and to suffer for Christs Names sake, as is formerly expressed. Because, 1. That is given here as the evidence of this Angel's gracious practice, that it was so qualified; and the promises that are annexed to this of suffering for his Names sake (whereat formerly we hinted) do confirm it. 2. This being true of all naturall men, that they are reall haters of God; and it being true also, that naturall men and hypocrites may go a great length in loving God, and in expressing the evidences thereof in some respect; It must either be said then, that they hate God in respect of the mate­riality of their actions, or in respect of the want of the qualifications formerly mentioned, that is, because they love not him, and what he loves as such, and upon such an account: now, it cannot be said that they love not God in the former respect; Nay, not only in re­spect of their being defective alanerly in the degree or intensnesse of the act, as may be shewed afterward. It must be true therefore in the last respect. And so it will follow, that no man in nature can be said to love God, or perform any act in things materially good, according as it is formerly qualified. 3. This may be added, that if respect to good, could sway the naturall man so as to make him act according to the former qualifications in any one act, then might he perform all other acts upon that same account also: for, à qua [...]enus ad omno, vales cons [...]quentia. Now, if it be absurd to say, that one can be a hypocrite, and yet in all his performances and actions be so swayed (which is the clear evidence of a sincere Professor which needeth not to be ashamed, Psal. 119.6.) Then it must also be absurd to say, that a hypocrite may perform any commanded thing upon that account as such, and is formerly qualified. 4. The doing of acts so qualified, doth necessarily presuppose a gracious principle, or habituall change in the person that acts it: for, it being a fruit, (In so far as it is so qualified) that is good, and agreeable to the Law of God in the spi­rituall meaning thereof, it must be supposed to proceed from a tree that is good, seing grapes are not gathered from Brambles, &c. It cannot therefore be consistent with the state of hypocrisie, for one to perform acts so qualified, who in practice is still a stranger to the spirituall meaning of the Law in the kind of the act. 2. It may be instanced in hatred: for, though one in nature or an hypocrite may hate that which is sin; yet from this we may gather that he cannot hate it as sin, and as it is hatefull to God: Because, 1. This hating of the Nicolaitans deeds, is given here as a proof of this Angels sincerity: and if it were a thing common, there could be no such peculiarnesse in it; and there can be no peculiarnesse here, but that they hated them upon that account as hatefull to God, and out of zeal to him they did it: otherwise, no question, heathens and naturall men might have hatred at them in greater vehemency for the degree thereof, than these who are commended. The difference then must be in the qualifications, as is said. 2. The reasons for the former instance will confirm this also: for, if one might hate sin as sin, and as hatefull to God, then might he hate all sin, and what is hatefull to God, according to the axiome formerly laid down, à quatenus ad omne, &c. and so he might hate his loving of any thing more than God, and his being defective in the degree and manner of any dutie: and consequently, he could not be said to love any thing more than God, seing no man can [Page 123] actually love a thing, and, upon that same account and consideration, hate that act of their love, at the same very time, in the same very degree: It must then follow, that what hatred they bear to sin, is for some other ends, and not upon this account. Again, if one might hate sin as sin, one might love grace as grace, it being equally approveable by God to hate sin as sin, and to love good as good. Now, this being disproved in the former in­stance, must also fall in this. Lastly, The hating of sin as sin, must suppose a different principle, whence that act doth proceed, beside what is in it self sinfull: for, it cannot be conceived that a sinfull principle, as such, can hate it self: and in Scripture, lusting against the flesh, or fighting against the law in our members, which must be a warring against sin as sin, and as proceeding from such a root as the flesh or the old man, is ever attributed to the Spirit, Gal. 5.17. or the inner man, and law of the mind, Rom. 7. which doth necessarily inferr a change of the root in these who do hate sin as sin: and therefore this can be within the compasse of no hypocrite. Neither will it infringe this, that by expe­rience we find drunkards, swearers, and other unrenewed persons, hating not only these acts in themselves; but even in their children; or, that we may find it to have been in our selves before regeneration: This indeed will prove that a naturall man, may hate that which is sin; but will not prove that he hates it as sin, but as that which is hurtfull or shamefull to him, or proves disquieting to the peace of his naturall conscience, as from the same ex­perience may be gathered; for, these sins in others will never affect them; and there will still be many delightsome sins continued in, which, it may be, they will know to be sins, and yet carry no such hatred to them. And though naturall men in their judgement may be convinced that sin as sin is hatefull, and evil in it self; yet it will not follow that they will actually hate it as such upon that consideration: because there is no particular sin, that from the Word may be gathered to be sin, but a naturall mans judgement may be con­vinced, that as such it is evill; and yet oftentimes do they continue drunk with the love of many of them'r because men do not consider and hate ill simply as ill, but as evil to them; even as they desire not that which is good simply, but that which they conceive good to them: and experience daily will make this appear, that the heart loveth not, or hateth not things as they appear simply in themselves, but as it conceives them to be in reference to its present condition. Now, considering sin as sin simply, without reference to any other thing, there is nothing upon that account can be conceived in it that can be hatefull to a naturall man, who is dead in his sinfull condition. It must be therefore for some other respect that he hates any particularl ill, as these whom God afterward renews will find in their own experience.

Fifthly, This also will follow, that then there is a difference between the acts of saving Grace and the acts of common Grace, beside any consideration of the degree thereof: so that this difference may well be said to be in kind, or ipso genere. We need not be curious in the tearms of Physical, or moral differences, this must be a Physical and real difference, as Grace is a Physical and real thing, and doth not only differ from common gifts in respect of the Covenants accepting of such a degree, and not of another; but also in respect of con­curring qualifications formerly mentioned: for, an act performed with these qualifications, must either be of the same kind that an act is without them, or it must differ from it because of these qualifications. And if it differ because of these, then is that difference real, flowing from the kind of the act, and not from the consideration of the degree alone; and so not graduall only.

Lastly, It will follow, that one in the search and trial of the sincerity and savingnesse of his Grace, is not only to consider it in the degree thereof, either positive or comparative; but may also look to the nature and kind thereof, and cannot conclude the sincerity of it, except they consider the qualifications formerly mentioned: for, that must be the only sure way to find out the sincerity of an act, which our Lord Jesus proposeth as the ground of the commendation thereof: but here we see that the grounds upon which He commends both their patience for Him, their respect to Him, and their hating of what was evil, is, not (only at least) because of any degree, that is considered in these acts; but because of their kind, or qualifications wherewith they are qualified, as it is not patience (that is, pati­ence as it is a Grace) because it suffers so much, or suffers more for Truth, than for any other cause, considered upon the matter; but because their suffering in a good cause was so qualified, as is said: we will see this same to be clear in all other instances, as, it is true saving [Page 124] Repentance, not that which hath the deepest sorrow positively, nor that which hath more sorrow for sin comparatively than pleasure in it, but it is according as the principle and motive are, from which the sorrow proceeds, and by, and according to which it acts: otherwayes, no question, Iudas his sorrow might have been said to have been true Repentance: which was certainly not only an intense grief; but also comparatively, it affected him more than any worldly losse could affect him, or any pleasure or advantage, which by his sin accreased to him, as the story of the Gospel doth clear. The like may be said of fear, There is no positive or comparative degree can prove it to be saving, this being certain, that for degree some natural men may fear and tremble, and that with anxietie, so as the Lord may be more feared in this manner by them than any other thing else: trial then must especially be, by considering the principle whereby the person is acted in this fear, the motive that swayes him to it, and the account upon which he acteth on God in it, whereby filial fear is differenced from servil: and this can be by no consideration of the degree, however considered; but must be in respect of the qualifications of the act.

If it should be said, That it's single respect to God swaying one to sorrow for sin or fear more than any other motive doth; & so in that respect, it may be said to consist in the degree.

Answ. 1. This supposeth the concurring of positive qualifications. 2. It supposeth the concurring of the same qualifications mentioned. 3. This placeth not the difference in the intensnesse of the act only, but in the qualifications that have influence on it; and so it doth confirm what we said, to wit, that more respect is to be had to the nature of the act, and the qualification thereof in our trial, than to the degree thereof.

Here it is to be adverted,

1. That in all this discourse of the positive qualifications of sincerity, they are still to be considered with respect to Christ and the Covenant of Grace, so that singlenesse in the end, taketh in the glorifying and worshipping of God in Christ, and in the motive, the consideration of Gods worth and love, as considered in Him, comes in (as the words, out of the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, put in the defini­tion of Repentance, do import) and in the reduplication, it acts on Him considered as such, that is, it loves God, fears him, and believs in Him as considered in Christ: and this hath an universal approbation of the way of the dispensation of Grace, and that as proceeding from a principle of life communicate to them by Christ Iesus: whereby they become not only obliged to God for it; but obliged to Him in Christ Iesus. And thus we may see, that this single respect to God and His own goodnesse for Himself, doth not shut out sim­ply all respect to our own good: for, the considering of Him in Christ, cannot but include that; but it derives all our good from that Fountain, and by that Channel Christ; and subordinateth all the thoughts thereof to the praise of Gods Grace in Him. And this is to be remembered throughout: because this doth fully difference true Gospel-sincerity from the moral flashes of love, fear, faith, &c. which by some legal work may proceed from na­tural men, who yet can never act any thing for kind the same with these qualifications: be­cause the considering of God, and acting on Him so by love, fear, faith, &c. is really to call Him and count Him Father in whatsoever degree they be, which hath the promise of acceptation, and is a fruit of the Spirit of Adoption: for, Gods Covenant runs not to him who believes at such a degree; but simply, to him that doth believe, thus qualified, whe­ther his faith or unbelief be more or lesse: and so the marks run not, these that have Grace or fruits at such a bignesse only; but these that have good fruits in any measure, have them from Christ; and may conclude that the tree is good: and therefore cannot but be accounted living branches, that will never be broken off: which of no hypocrite can be said, who do never bring forth their fruits in Him. And it is hard to say, that fruit brought forth by ver­tue and communication of life from Christ, doth not differ but in degree from fruit brought forth from, and to our selves. Especially considering, that the Scripture doth contradistin­guish them on that account, without this respect to their degree, as we may gather from Hos. 14.8. being compared with Ioh. 15. v. 2.4.5.

2. We would advert, that this reduplication consisteth not only in the proposing of such an end, or being acted by such a motive, to wit, a command, &c. but it takes in a single­nesse in both, and gives such an end and motive the chief consideration in the act, whereby in the practice of duty the heart not only purposeth the pleasing of God in the giving of obe­dience to a command, but goes about it as a thing pleasing to God and honourable to Him, and as such doth approve of it: for, a servant may desire to please his Master, and do what [Page 125] he hath commanded, and yet possibly not to be single in it, as it is pleasing to him: which, as we said, is the thing wherein the great pinch of discerning these differencing qualificati­ons will lye.

Learned Baxter, in his excellent Treatise of the Saints everlasting rest, part. 3. doth otherwise expresse the Doctrine of the difference and trial of saving and common Grace, than what hath been usually rested in among practicall Divines, which doth necessitate us some­way to insist a litle further in the clearing thereof. He hath these Assertions, 1. That it is not the Law but the Covenant, that can clear the sincerity of Grace as saving, to wit, as it is accepted by the Covenant as the fulfilling of the condition thereof, pag. 205. and 206. 2. He saith that God hath not in the Covenant promised Justification upon any meer act, or acts considered without their degree and suitablenesse to their object, &c. pag. 210. 3. There is no act, considered in its meer nature and kind, which a true Christian may per­form, but one that is unsound may perform it also, pag. 211. From which he draweth, That wicked men may really rely on Christ, have recumbencie on him, love God, &c. pag. 211. and 231. and that they may hate sin as sin, and as displeasing to God, Ibid. 4. He asserts, That the sincerity of saving Grace as saving, lieth materially, not in the bare nature thereof but in the degree; not in the degree considered absolutely in it self, but compara­tively as it is prevalent against its contrary, that is, when love adhereth more to God than any other thing, and such like, pag. 222. which he endeavoureth to show both in the infused habits, and in the acts of saving Grace: and pag. 235. doth assert, That in loving God and Christ as Mediator, there is no more than a graduall difference between the regenerate and unregenerate; and in the end, he doth load the common opinion with many dange­rous consequents.

These assertions do seem, at the first, to be expresly contradictory to what hath been said; yet if we will consider the explication thereof, we will not find so great difference in the matter it self as to be the rise of a new debate and controversie in the Church, where­in there are, alace I too many already; nor any just cause to reject the former received opinion for any prejudice that follows upon it: to which two we shall speak a little.

1. We conceive that the difference will not be found so great as the expressions at first seem to carry, and were it not that this opinion of his, is expresly laid down in opposition to what is commonly received, there might be not so great ground to suspect it: For. 1. the infusing of habits as necessary and antecedaneous to gracious acts, is acknowledged by both: and expresly, part. 1. pag. 158. and 159. he doth condemn the contrary in Grevincho­vius, at least as an error. And, part. 3. pag. 224. he hath somwhat to the same purpose. 2. It is not questioned whether true acts of saving Grace have a rational and deliberate prevalencie over the opposite lusts, as he asserts, part. 3. pag. 212, 213. that will be also granted by all Divines, that though where true Grace is, it may be captivated and not alwayes actually prevail against the opposite suggestions of the flesh; yet in a sober and deli­berate frame, the interest of God and spiritual things will have more room in the heart of one that is renewed (as he is such at least) than sinful lusts unto which the flesh doth intice.

3. It is granted also, that beside the act there is necessary for the constituting of it to be saving, a sutablenesse and adequatnesse to the object, which we will find in the explication thereof to be almost the same with the positive qualifications, which formerly we did lay down, as pag. 211. and 212. he doth thus expresse it, The sincerity of the act, as saving, consisteth in its being suted to its adequat object (considered in its respects which are essential to it as such an object) and so to believe in, and love God as God, and Christ as Christ, is the sincerity of these acts; but this lieth in believing, accepting and loving God, as the only supream God, &c. where expresly the act is considered as acting upon its object under the reduplication formerly mentioned, and seems to be by him accounted the same with accepting and loving God above all. And again, pag. 229. to will God and Christ above all (saith he) this is to will savingly, which he explains thus, to will God and God, the chief good, and Christ as Christ the only Saviour: and pag. 230. he saith, that a man may will God and Christ, who by the understanding are apprehended as the chief good (as the devils do) and yet by not willing Him as so considered, that willing is not saving, and wherefore? It must be because it wants that reduplication: which reduplica­tion in the terme as, must be indeed extended to the will, as well as to the understanding, as he there asserts; but is not to be restricted to the degree of its act, to speak so, but is to [Page 126] be extended also to the nature of it. Further, we will find the same learned Author else­where (to wit, in the Appendix to his Aphorisms, m. lib. pag. 242. In answer to the 4. objection) giving the difference between sincere Covenanting with God and that which is not sincere, where he doth lay down six concurring qualifications, and so concludes thus; Ye see that there is a great difference between covenanting sincerely and covenanting in hypocrisie, and so between faith and faith, and yet the difference will be found no other thing but what almost is usually asserted by Divines in the like case.

4. We will find him also come near in expressions, as pag. 226. a specifick difference is acknowledged: and although he call it a moral specifick difference; yet doth he expresse the same, thus, that is proceedeth from the agreement and conformitie of our actions and dispositions to the Law (which determineth of their duenesse) or their disconformitie thereunto: again, pag. 229. he instances love and delight, &c. as these things wherein sin­cerity may be tried, (for certainly delighting in God, is a Grace and a commanded duty, as loving of Him is) compare it with pag 213. and 214. he doth assert that hypocrites may have delight in the same objects (to wit, the knowledg of God and His Works) which are objects also of the delight of the Regenerate; but (saith he) ‘In the sinner, these delights are nearest of the same nature with the former sensual delights: for it is not the excellencie or goodnesse of God Himself that delighteth them; but the novelty of the thing, &c. as receiving thereby some addition to its own perfection, and not as from God, &c. and though they delight in studying and knowing God, and Heaven, and Scripture; yet not in God as God or the chief good, not out of any saving love to God (this contradistinguishing of saving love, from knowing of God as God, and from hy­pocritical love, doth seem to place the difference in some other thing than the degree alone) but either because (as some Preachers) they make a gainfull trade of it by teaching, others; or, because it is an honour to know these things, or be able to discourse of them, or at best (nota, if these be their best motives, or the highest account upon which they delight, Then they cannot delight in God as God, which sincere Believers do; nor can they do an act for kind the same: and sith there must be a difference between their delight, and the delight that is gracious in respect of the kind, because they go on different accounts, so must it be in other Graces) as I said before, they delight to know God out of a delight in the novelty, &c. and natural elevation of the understanding thereby; it is one thing to delight in knowing, another in the thing known. And afterward neer the foot of that page, saith, So it is the same kind of delight that such a man (to wit a hypocrite) hath in knowing God and knowing other things: whereby it is clearly insinuated, that it is ano­ther kind of delight, which the Believer hath in delighting in God, than any unrenewed man can have, seing it's an other kind of delight than he hath in any other thing. And wherein this kind of difference consisteth we may gather from what is said. 1. There is supposed to be a different principle, to wit, an infused gracious habite, which must precede this act. 2. There is a different end, the one seeketh to please his own curiosity, the other respecteth God and his own spirituall good. There is, 3. a different motive; the one delighteth in it, because it is profitable, or honourable, or pleasing to himself to know such things, the other delighteth in God Himself, as acted therein from the excellency that is in himself, and the love that he hath to himself, and the spirituall satisfaction that he hath in it. 4. There is a reduplication in the act, they not only delight in God, but in him as God, moved thereto out of true love to God, which (saith he) the naturall man doth not. Now, these four being granted by the said Reverend Author, and being the very same thing upon the matter with that which formerly we asserted, we may see that beside any consideration of the degree, there must be a concurrance of these qualifi­cations, wherein ordinarily the difference in kind, betwixt saving grace and common, is placed; and the thing that they call the physicall and reall difference being acknowledged by him, as by others; it is not of great moment to debate for the termes of physicall or morall. Seeing then, upon the one side, the supremacy of Gods interest in the act is not denied, and that in respect to its eminent degree, if it be well understood; and upon the other the concurrance of these qualifications is acknowledged, The difference cannot be great: for understanding of this difference (which must be lesse than appeared at first) we would consider these two, 1. That when the degree of grace is spoken of, it may be considered either more strictly, as contradistinguished from the former qualifications, [Page 127] which in this respect are said to be the kind of the act; or, it may be considered more largely, as it comprehendeth the principle, motive, end, &c. and so it taketh in the former qualifications. It seemeth that this Learned Author, when he speaketh of the degree, doth take it in this large sense; whereas usually it is taken in the first and strict sense, and this maketh the difference appear greater than it is: and if this distinction might reconcile these mistakes, it were desireable. 2. The supremacy, or precedency and prevalency of the interest of God in us above the interest of flesh (in which alone that Reverend Author doth place the sincerity of saving Grace, pag. 211. prop. 10.) may be considered in respect of the degree of the act it self, being compared with the objects whereupon it acts; and so comparatively, that act may be said to be prevalent, suppose of love, fear, sorrow, &c. that loves and fears God more than any other thing, and hath more sorrow for sin than delight in it, &c. or we may consider this supremacy and prevalency of Gods interest in respect of the qualifications of the act, that is, of the end, motive, &c. and thus the in­terest of God may be said to be prevalent, when it is respect to God Himself, and the souls esteeming of Him as He is God, that maketh it love Him and fear Him, and sorrow for dishonouring of Him, so that it's His interest, more than any other end or motive that hath influence on these acts: in this latter sense, there is also no difference from what was formerly said; and if that proposition could be so understood, there might be an accomo­dation: but the instances and explications added by the fornamed Author, seem to limit this prevalency of Gods interest to the act it self, as being only compared with other ob­jects, or as acting on God, or what is approven by Him prevalently, beyond what it doth on other opposite objects. In a word, this, when the good that is in God is considered on the one hand, and the good that is in creatures on the other hand, if the soul choose God and love Him beyond any created good, That is accounted by him to be saving sincere love, and the sincerity thereof to consist in this degree alone. From this the ordinary Doctrine differeth especially in these, 1. That usually Divines consider the prevalency of Gods interest to be especially in the motive swaying to the act, and other qualifications, and the act to be sincere, suppose of love, fear, sorrow, &c. not only because it loves or fears God more than any other object; but because, single respect to God and spiritual good, maketh it love Him, fear Him, sorrow for the offending of Him, in what ever degree the act it self be. In the former respect, supposing that an act could be prevalent, to wit, in loving or fearing God more than any other thing, such acts behoved to be accoun­ted sincere and saving without any respect to the motive, or other qualifications of them; and it supposeth that an act may have these qualifications and not be gracious: in the last respect, acts so qualified (supposing that there may be such prevailed over by the violence of other subjects) yet are to be accounted gracious, because so and so qualified, without respect to the degree of the present act; and so, that no act of an hypocrite can be so qua­lified. 2. The difference is in this, that this Reverend Author doth only constitute the difference in that comparative prevalent degree alone: and therefore expresly asserteth, pag. 235. that there is no more but a graduall difference betwixt the grace that is in an re­generate man and the love that he hath to God, and the common grace and love that may be in one unregenerate: which would seem to say, that the one may love God on the same consideration and account, and from the same motives that the other may, especi­ally considering that he doth extend this meer graduall difference, both to the habits and acts: and so the question here cometh to this, if there be any other difference than a graduall difference to be inquired for? And this is that which we assert, that there is be­side any gradual difference, a difference in kind (that is, in respect of the former qualifi­cations) betwixt saving and common grace, and that in our search the one is to be in­quired for with the other; so that no degree simply can quiet the mind, except it be so qua­lified as aforesaid. And we conceive that the instances, reasons, similitudes, and Scrip­tures that are adduced by that Reverend Author to illustrate and confirm his opinion, will do no more but this, to wit, shew that when a gracious person is acting rationally, Gods in­terest will be prevalent with him in degree; and that ever it should be so, and that it is most usefull for a Believers clearnesse that it be so in an high degree. All which are without question: but they will no wayes exclude the qualifications mentioned; but rather do presuppose them, as for example, pag. 231.32. he saith, That sincere sorrow must be at such a degree that it prevail over our delight in sin and love to it, also i [...] cannot be saving: [Page 128] although this be true; yet, can any say that this is enough, except the principle, motive, &c. from which in proceedeth, and by which it's qualified be considered, as was formerly hinted? Again, pag. 234. he saith, True love to the brethren consisteth in this degree, that it love them above our honour, wealth, &c. And (saith he,) What did the love of some in Queen Maries dayes want but a more intense degree to make it prevail over love to their houses, to their honour, safety, &c. that it might be sincere? Beside this intense degree, there might be wanting a right principle, for bringing forth of love, and a right account upon which to love them, without which the hazarding of lives and estates both for them, had never been accounted sincere love before God; and with which, the giving unto them a cup of cold water as in the name of a Disciple, Mat. 10. would have been acceptable. And no question, many who through fear, and self love, did keep down the stirrings of sincere love within them, so that it prevailed not to make them publickly own these Sufferers as they should have done; yet might still carry sincere love in their hearts to them, although sin­fully they obscured it: which will indeed prove them to be guilty, and their love to be im­perfect; but will not prove it altogether to be hypocriticall and unsound in the kind there­of: and therefore seing without these qualifications, no degree can be sufficient to prove the sincerity of an act: and where these are, the act in whatsoever degree cannot but be ac­counted sincere; it must rather be these that constitute the sincerity of the act, than any degree considered as distinct from them. That assertion therfore, which is, pag. 238. That a hypocrite may love a Godly man for his Godlinesse, or a Christian for Christs sake, seemeth to be un­warrantable, and utterly to make void that mark of the Grace of God, which consisteth in true love to the brethren: for, nothing can be conceived in the comparative degree with­out the kind, but may be in hypocrites: and often these that are sincere will be for a time so captivated with self-love, that they will not evidence their love to others; but see for themselves, as the Disciples did, when Christ was betraied: yet it cannot be denied but that then they loved him sincerely; and that not in word only, but in deed also. And although it was exceedingly defective, yet unsound it cannot be called: and so may be said of love to others. And considering, that where nature hath dominion, there is still enimity at the seed of God as such, how can it be that a natural man can love, and hate the same person, upon the same account, at one time? It cannot be denied, but natural men may intirely love these that are gracious; and that also their supposing them to be be­loved of God, may have some weight with them: yet is not that respect had to them upon this account as they are beloved of God, or like to Him; but at the most, as thereby they may gain Gods love, or have some benefit by their loving of them, or the preventing of some evil, or the confirming of themselves in their security and self-conceated opinion from this, that they love such an one, &c. And it appears further in this, that they love not all who are Godly, and hate not, and shun not, all that are opposite to Godlinesse; and so do not love God and Godlinesse it self singly as such: because then their own inclination and secret delights, would be hateful to themselves. And yet certainly, all this would be, if Godly men were loved, upon this account, because they are such. Again, pag. 226. he illustrateth it by this comparison of eating much and little, to shew that the moral good of an action consisteth in the degree thereof. Now, none will say, that simple shunning of ex­treams of eating and drinking too much or too little, will constitute an act to be sincerely gracious, and acceptable to God, except it be considered as qualified with its motive and end, to wit, Gods Glory, &c. And elsewhere, gold (saith he) is to be tried by weight, at by the touchstone: now this is true that the quantity of gold is to be tried so, (but not only to be tread by the weight; and then also Grace is not only to be tried by the degree) yet cer­tainly the reality and truth of it, is to be tried by the touchstone, and it is here the since­rity and truth of Grace that we are inquiring for: and, saith he, Ibid. it is not the wrestling, but the overcoming, that the promise is made to, which is true in respect of the promises of full fruition: for, these do presuppose a full and total victorie; but can it be said that no wrestler may be said to have true Grace, or may conclude that he hath it, till he have in this sense fully overcome? That would directly thwart the Authors scope, which is to presse the making of our election and calling sure, and by this debate to help therein: for, upon this ground, none in this life could attain assurance, because this victory, that is mentioned in these Scriptures, Rev. 2.3. &c. He that overcomes, &c. is the result of all: that therefore which he asserts, pag. 243. cannot be granted, to wit, that fighting is the [Page 129] same action naturally in both, to wit, in these who overcome, and these who are overcome, 1 Jo [...]. 4.5. with 2 Pet. 2.19, 20. For both fight, but the valiant, strong, and constant do conquer, when the feeble faint, and cowardly and impatiently do turn their backs and are overcome. It may be observed, that though fighting be the same (possibly Physically un­derstood) yet it's one thing to fight valiantly, and stoutly, another to do it cowardly and faintingly, or to fight for respect to their Captain, or for love of wages, &c. and so there is a great difference morally between fighting and fighting, and also in respect of the positive qualifications thereof: and thus the difference is admitted here. Beside, that word [...] in the present, sheweth that the Lord doth reckon a difference before this victory be obtai­ned. And (saith he) the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence; and violence is no di­stinct action but a different degree of action. These things (I say) may serve clearly to illustrate what we asserted: for here, fighting is contradistinguished from the victory that followeth it. Now can it be said, that there is no true Grace in the person that fights, or in fighting that he may overcome? And if there be, then the sincerity and truth of Grace consisteth not in this actual overcoming only: nor can it be said, that the renewed fighter wrestleth in the same manner, or that his fighting is in the same kind, considering that he fighteth by his faith, 1 Ioh. 5.4. that he mortifieth the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit, Rom. 8.13. that he putteth on the whole armour of God, Ephes. 6. &c. And seing an unrenewed man, neither hath such weapons or spritual armour, nor hath a life or dexterity to use them, nor such arguments inducing him to the fight, or such an end before him, or such a principle as is capable, so to be wrought upon, &c. can it be said that his fighting is the same with the former? And that other expression of offering violence to the Kingdom of God, is but a borrowed expression: and therefore ought not so to be made use of here, as if there were stronger and weaker assaults made at Heaven indeed; and as if there needed no more to the weak assault, but a further degree only, when, at least, there must be new conveighed skill and strength, and a new way must be followed for attaining it. For, the scope of that place, is, to shew the necessity of taking hold of Christ by Faith, notwithstanding of what ever impediments and discouragements would scare one in the way: and so it proves, that the Faith of a Believer, is far different from the Faith of a Hypocrite; because the one steps over difficulties upon the consideration of Gods faithfulnesse, and by taking hold of Jesus Christ doth prevail in the conquering of Heaven, as if by violence and might they did carry it, whereas others, who never took hold on Him, or by their Faith improved His offices, for the upmaking of their own needs, have no ground of expectation to be admitted to Heaven; and nothing they can do, can be of force to do violence to the King­dom of God without this. And so in this respect the fighter prevaileth and overcometh, and gaineth Heaven: because, as the Apostle saith, he striveth lawfully, 2 Tim. 2.5. and because he fighteth in the right manner; and his fighting is not, not to be accounted sincere, till he overcome; but he overcometh, because it is sincere; and so it's sincere before that. Beside, the native exposition of that place, looketh to a violence peculiarly called for in that time: for, since the dayes of John Baptist, saith the Text, which will concern this nothing, For indeed then, there was a great difficulty to get the Messiah closed-with as already in­carnate, and to lay by all Types, as now having their accomplishment. By all which, we think it is more agreeable to Truth, to continue the received Doctrine of inquiring for the Truth and sincerity of Grace in the kind thereof, and not in the degree only. For further confirming whereof, (beside what is said) we shall first shew that there is a real difference between the habites of saving Grace in the Regenerate, and the common dispositions that may be in hypocrites. 2. We shall shew that there is such a difference also in the acts of saving Grace, in respect of these former qualifications, beside the consideration of the prevalency of the degree, and the acts that may be in hypocrites. And, 3. That this new opinion, hath no more advantage with it, than the former; but that it hath the same inconveniencies, (if they be inconveniencies) which are alleged against the former, waiting upon it and others also besides these.

1. That the infused habits of Grace which are called the new nature, seed of God, the unction, and spirit, &c. do differ from the habits and dispositions that are in unrenewed men and hypocrites, and that by a real and Physical difference even in kind, may thus be made out, 1. If the Flesh and Spirit, &c. be different in kind, having different originals, and different effects, &c. Then Grace, thus considered in a renewed person, must be diffe­rent [Page 130] in kind from what is, or can be in any hypocrite: because the one is Spirit, the other is still Flesh: and there is no mids between a natural and a renewed man, and what proceed­eth from them as such: for, what is born of the one, is Spirit; and what is born of the other, at what ever length it be, it's Flesh: But the former is true; Flesh and Spirit are most opposite in all the former respects: this, to wit, the Spirit, is an immediate effect of a Physical operation of the Grace of God working a change upon the heart; and so must have some suitable Physical thing in the nature of it, different from any thing which is not produced by the same cause, or by the same manner of causality; such as common dispo­sitions are: and in the effects, there is contrariety, the one lusteth against the other, for the one is contrary to the other, Gal. 5.17. and therefore there must be some real, Physi­cal difference between these, whose causes and effects are so different. 2. If they do not differ in kind, then it is either because they are both fruits of the Spirit, and that equally, or, because neither of them is so, or, because that which is of the Spirit savingly, doth not differ from that which is not saving. Now, none of these can be affirmed. Concerning the last, this only can be said for answer, that although nature and saving Grace may differ so, yet common Grace cannot be said to make such a difference, it being also a fruit of the Spi­rit. And to this we reply, If these common gifts can be consistent with a dominion of sin, and compleat deadnesse therein, and saving Grace cannot be consistent with these, Then there must be a real difference, seing saving Grace not only importeth a relative change of a man, to wit, that he is justified, but also a real and Physical change, to wit, that he is a new, or renewed creature, which by no common Gifts or Graces can be: But the former is true. And therefore again, 3. If saving Grace be somewhat Physical, (to speak so) and constituteth a Physical difference between a man that hath it and others; yea, between a man and that which formerly he himself was; and if common Grace cannot do that, but the man that hath it and no more, is the old man still, and in nature, Then there must be a Physical difference between them: But the former is true. Ergo. For, this is ever cer­tain, a man is either renewed or unrenewed and in nature, there is no mids: Now if there be any difference that is Physical between these two (which must be, as there is between a good tree and an evil, a new creature and an old, and not as between a little creature, and one that is more big: for, new and old respect the kind) Then habituall Grace must differ from all other common works Physically: because it is that which constituteth this difference. Adde, 4. These common dispositions may evanish or never be so through, but the person which hath had them may perish: which cannot be said of saving Grace, called the Seed of God, immortal, and inccorruptible, that remaineth in them that once had it, &c. especially, considering that it is called immortal, in respect of the nature of it: and that, that continuance is one of the properties thereof. For although nothing of it self be eternal, and immortal but God; yet it cannot be denied but what the Lord mindeth to make immortal, He doth otherwise fit and qualifie it for that end than other things, as we see in the difference that is between Angels and other creatures, and the souls and bodies of men, and of that glorious conformity that shall be put on the glorified Members of Christ unto their head. And though (as he saith) that all, both Philosophers and Divines do say more; yet this is enough: which also the forementioned Author acknowledgeth in the Appendix to his Aphorisms, pag. 240. And saving Grace being of the same nature with Glory, it were hard to say, that a man in nature, did for kind partake of the Divine nature, and of the first fruits of the Spirit and Glory, who, yet may be tormented in hell for ever. Lastly, The multiplying of these common gifts, could never alter the tree and make it good; so as if it were possible that they might grow to the greatest hight and bignesse, they would be still but common gifts, seing they grow from that root: therefore the tree must first be good, ere the fruit be good. Now common gifts never being able to alter the tree, as is said, there must therefore be a difference between them and saving Grace in some other thing than in the degree. And indeed if these dispositions be of the same kind with gracious habits then the root of common and saving Grace would be one; which the Scripture doth still difference: and in this respect the habit hath not its sincerity from the acts, as if it were gracious, because the acts thereof are thus comparatively prevalent; but the acts, are gra­cious and prevalent, and cannot but be so, because they proceed from such an habit; and the habit is first gracious, before the acts thereof be sincere: and therefore there must be a real and Physical difference in the habit it self from common dispositions, as it is considered [Page 131] (at least) in order of nature, before the acts: and so, the difference doth not only lye in the acts themselves. Neither can it be said here, that habits and dispositions do not differ in kind: therefore that difference is not to be sought here: for, beside that this Assertion will find opposition among Philosophers, it can no wayes be acknowledged here, where the habit is not natural, nor acquired. And certainly the names and titles, whereby the Scripture doth set forth this habitual Grace, (as the New-nature, Spirit, New-man, New­creature, Gods Workmanship, His Seed, the Heart of Flesh, &c. whereby it is not only contradistinguished in its kind from nature and flesh, taken in their most grosse acception; but from all common gifts of the Spirit also) do hold forth a real difference to be be­tween them.

2. Concerning gracious acts, that are fruits of this Spirit and grow upon this tree of habituall Grace, mainly the question is here, If that act of love, whereby a Believer loveth God, doth differ any other way than gradually, from that act of love whereby an unrenewed person loveth Him, or which he while unrenewed had unto Him, that is, that the one loveth Him above all and the other doth not, though both love Him really and in the same kind for the nature of the act? And so if this be not the only mark by which the sincerity of all Graces are to be tried? whereof this is a particular instance.

To say somewhat to this, we conceive, that the truth and reality of sincere saving Grace in its acts is otherwise to be inquired for, than in such a degree only: for, true love loveth God above all, because that is the nature of true Grace as such, to have such acts: and so it is rather a consequent following on, or a concomitant of true Grace where it is sincere, than that which constitutes the truth and sincerity thereof: although it may well (being rightly understood) evidence that: even as a Woman that loveth her Hus­band chastly, cannot but love him beyond any other; yet doth not that constitute the sin­ceritie of her love; because an Adulteresse may do so to an Adulterer; But especially, it is in loving him as her Husband, and according to that relation: otherwise we suppose it is not impossible for a Wife to love her Husband, beyond any other man, and yet not to do it with true conjugall love, but possibly upon some worldly (and it may be sinfull) principle: which if contraried, would soon discover that love not to be sound, as not loving him as her Husband, but for some other advantage or satisfaction, as often experience doth clear: and must not that differ from the love of another, who cleaveth to the Husband out of conscience and affection, from that conjugall relation that they stand in, and because he is her Head, even when many crosses and discontentments occur to her in her adhering to him? So it may be in other cases, a Servant may fear his Master more than any man, as a Son may do his Father; yet that there is difference in that fear (although both agree in the comparative degree, and neither of them dare offend him) none will deny. This diffe­rence then, must be in the formality of it, (to speak so) as the same person is distinctly or differently considered by the one, and the other; and as they are differently swayed, and acted in the same thing, as in the instance of filial and servil fear, is ordinarily illustrated: much more may this be conceived in the acting of grace on God, there being so many re­lations under which we may consider Him, and act on Him. And may it not be supposed that a Woman may at first love a Man above all others, and yet not love him for himself conjugally, who afterward being Married to him, may come to love him on other principles, and from other grounds? and though there be no difference in the comparative degree, and the first possibly seemed to be most vehement; yet is there a difference really betwixt what it was, and what it is. And if this may be in moral and naturall acts, may it not be much more in spirituall saving acts, when compared with those that are not so? It's upon this ground that the acute Divine Cameron doth expresly assert, that the love whereby a Wife loveth her Husband, doth differ specie from that whereby she may warrantably love ano­ther, so that if she loved any other in the least degree with that kind of love wherewith she loveth her Husband, she were really an Adulteresse. And this is when he is speaking of that question, Num Christus Mediator sit adorandus? intending thereby to shew, that that kind of love, adoration, &c. which is due to God, can be given to none other in any degree, without manifest impiety. And will it look well▪ to say that warrantably we may give love and fear, &c. of the same kind to men and creatures, which we are called to give to God? and that only the degree to Him, is comparatively to be supream; yet upon the former assertion, this will necessarily follow: for, if a Believers love, fear, &c. [Page 132] differ no otherwise from the love, fear, &c. of hypocrites, Then that act of love which he hath to God, must be of the same kind with what he hath to Wife, Children, &c. ex­cept in the degree: yet I suppose he would be mightily affected within himself, to approve himself to do so in the least degree. We say then, that the sincerity of Grace is not to be inquired alanerly in this prevalent and predominant comparative degree thereof; but there must be some other things concurring, at least, that constitute the difference be­twixt saving acts of spirituall Grace, and these common acts which may be in hypocrites. For, if these two may be separated, that is, if there may be this comparative degree, in the common gifts or graces which an hypocrite may have, Then that which constitutes the difference of the sincerity of Grace, cannot consist in that only: for, that must be proper to saving Grace quarto modo, which doth difference it from all other things: but we may see in instances, that if we consider this degree without respect to any other thing, it may be found where saving Grace or sincerity is not; and contrarily, saving Grace may be (at least in respect of particular acts) where that degree is not. Therefore it is not that alone wherein properly, and essentially the difference doth consist.

Before we give any instances, we would premit some advertisements, especially concerning the first, which may possibly look strange-like to some, to wit, that there may be such a comparative degree of love, fear, sorrow &c. in hypocrites, who yet have nothing of sincere Grace; and that therefore sincerity is not to be tried by that comparative degree alone. Concerning which it's to be adverted,

First, That when we say, there may be in an hypocrite such a degree of love, fear, &c. that may be comparatively prevalent, that is not to be understood, as if there were love, fear, &c. in sincerity in the least degree in any hypocrite; but only this, that seing it's cer­tain (and this Learned Author asserteth it) that hypocrites upon carnall considerations may love and fear God in some respects, which yet is out of no true respect to God: so it may be supposed, that upon the same considerations they may come to love Him, or fear Him above any other object comparatively. Certainly upon this supposition, that it were at that degree upon these carnall considerations, it would still be but of the same kind of which it was, to wit, carnall, and hypocriticall love, and servile fear. Neither can this supposition be thought strange, Seing. 1. No hypocrite can fear God sincerely more than love Him; yet that such an one may, upon apprehensions of Gods terrour, fear His wrath more than all the world beside, cannot be denied. 2. Seing also it's but some carnal mo­tive that leadeth natural men to love any thing most, why should it be thought impossible, that upon such motives and considerations, they may be swayed to love God most? Espe­cially considering what flashes of joy may be in temporary Believers (although they con­tinue not) and what may be supposed to have been in Nebuchadnezar, Dan. 4. and Darius, cap. 6. and possibly in many hypocrites amongst the Iews and others, upon some signal manifestations of Gods goodnesse to them; yet, even the supposition of the being of such a thing, although it actually had never been, Even that were enough for confirming of what we say. 3. It cannot be denied but hypocrites may have a zeal of God, which may bear great sway with them and more than any meer temporal thing, as in the instance of the Iews, Rom. 10. Yet there cannot be zeal of any kind without love of that same kind; yea, zeal presupposeth love, and that in an high and intense degree. But we shall offer some instances afterward.

Secondly, It would be adverted, that we do not assert that hypocrites may thus love or fear God habitually, and (to say so) in their ordinary strain: nay, we think it extra­ordinary to them to attain even to this; and that it followeth upon the back of some ex­traordinary manifestation, either of Gods love, wrath, terrour, &c. If it be said, that this meeteth not the question. Answ. Indeed that Reverend Author, stateth it upon ha­bituall and deliberate acting; yet, considering that the thing enquired in here, is the since­rity of particular gracious acts: if there can be any particular act which hath that com­parative degree, and yet is not sincere, nor will prove the person to be gracious, Then it will follow that the sincerity of particular gracious acts, is not alone, nor mainly to be enquired for in that.

Thirdly, It would be remembered, that when we speak of this prevalency in the com­parative degree, that we take not the phrase largely, as including the motive, end, &c. or Gods interest swaying to such an act, by such a spirituall motive, &c. but strictly, accor­ding [Page 133] as we held it forth in two distinctions, mentioned before this. Gods interest then in this act, is not to be considered, as it respecteth motives, and compareth all these, amongst which respect to Him doth sway; but it's to be understood, as it respects the act only, without respect to the motive, what ever inducement it be that perswadeth thereto. Otherwise, as we said, the difference is but in expressions: and it's not our purpose to contend for words. And therefore in such an explication, we shall acquiesce, as to this, and we professe not to dispute against that.

If it be said, that the loving of God so comparatively above any thing, is not to love Him above all: because that for which we love Him, is more beloved by us, even though thereupon we should be induced to give our lives for His Cause, &c. Answ. 1. It's true, this proveth it not to be sincere love, or to proceed from right principles and motives, as is said; and this is not intended: for even such a person hates God really, as was formerly asserted. Yet, secondly, it's such love as hypocrites use to have to other things, to wit, that love wherewith they love the world, their Patrons and Idols of any sort, which is certainly still from some selfish principle or motive: and therefore indeed still they love them­selves best; yet are they said to have such things to be their Idols, and comparatively to love them above all other things, even above the Lord Himself, although it be such a mo­tive as prevaileth with them for that end: and may not the same be acknowledged here, supposing that the Lord may for a time get that from a man upon carnall considerations which some Idol useth to have? Thirdly, We conceive it will be, in this case, argumentum ad hominem: for, this Reverend Author instanceth the prevalency of love to God and the Brethren, not in the motives that swayeth to love them most, but in the acts, being compared with other objects, that is, if God be loved above His temporall good things, if the Saints be loved more than our estate, place, &c. so as we can quite all these for them, as the former instances do clear. Now supposing it may be made out, that as to the effects, hypocrites may so love God and the Saints, as to abandon all their temporall satisfactions for them, and possibly even their life (which is the only thing that that Reverend Author saith was desiderated in the love of some in Queen Maries dayes, pag. 237.238.239.) though still upon carnall principles and motives: Then it will follow that the assertion as formerly understood, will be sufficient to oppose that proposition, that the difference be­twixt saving and common grace is only graduall, and that in respect of such a degree as is explained. Now we come to instances.

1. We may find it in love: one that is an hypocrite, may in some respect (as is qualified) love God above all: For, 1. May it not be said from the zeal that many Iews had, that they loved God above all; and out of their blind zeal would have preferred Him to their lives, or what else was dear to them? Yea, 2. Was not that in Paul while yet a Pha­risee before his Conversion, who in some respect had that testimony from his Conscience, that zeal and love to God put him to all that he did, so that it is like he could have suffered the losse of all things in that quarrell? yet, it cannot be said, but that his love to God after his Conversion was exceedingly different from what it was before, although in this com­parative degree it might be some way the same, to wit, he loved God above all before; and he continued to do so thereafter, but with love, far otherwise qualified, than formerly he did. If it be said, that although the Iews and Paul had a zeal of, and did love God above all; yet, was it not according to knowledge, as is said, Rom. 10. and so could not be accepted by the Covenant as sincere love. Answ. This is truth, and doth confirm our assertion: for, wherefore was it not accounted sincere, and as such accepted? It cannot be said simply, because they loved some other thing better: for, the degree of their zeal and love, is not controverted; but it is in respect of the qualifications thereof, it was not according to knowledge, that is, in a word, not regulated and qualified in respect of the principle, end, motive, and account thereof, according to the rule whereby true love should vent, which in their ignorance they could not do; and therefore still there is some thing be­side this degree necessary to the constituting of the sincerity of love, that it may be ac­ceptable: and so in other acts, this must ever be presupposed, that they be according to knowledge, that is, 1. That the matter of it be right in it self. 2. That the manner be according to the rule prescribed, that is, not only Gods glory for the end, but the glori­fying of Him according as He requireth and prescribeth. 3. That both these be known to the person. And, 4. That as such he perform them; and upon that account, act in them, [Page 134] as they agree to His will: otherwise it can never be accounted to be an act according to knowledge, as in the former instance is clear: whereby it appeareth, that the sincerity of an act, and this prevalent comparative degree thereof, may be separated.

Thirdly, That men may love their Idols above all, cannot be denied, seing men are naturally mad upon their Idols, so Turks love their Mahomet, Baal's Prophets their Baal, even beyond their own lives. Now, may not one love God and Christ, as one may love Mahomet or their Idols? This Argument is also made use of by the forcited Author, to prove that a natural man may love Christ really for kind, pag. 236, 237. And will not this [...]ame hold in respect of the degree also? Considering that there is as good ground, and more, even in a humane respect, for Historical faith to believe the truth of the being and worth of God, and Jesus Christ, and as much proof and experience of the advantages and benefits that come from him, as there are for any to be assured of the being and worth of Mahomet, Iupiter, Apollo, &c. Now suppose one that formerly loved Mahomet, or Iupiter, above all, should by the force of Historical faith, or some extraordinary deliverance be brought to account of, and love the only true God, as he did formerly love Mahomet or his Idols, could that be accounted to be sincere love, because the object were changed? Supposing still no change to be in the man, nor intrinsickly in the act it self in respect of its kind? and yet upon the supposition foresaid, this act would not be defective in respect of the compa­rative degree, supposing him to love God now, as formerly he did his Idol: It must there­fore be in kind. And may not such acts as have proceeded from Nebuchadnezar and other hypocrites, upon special and singular appearances of God, be accounted such, wherein there was some kind of reality as to their actual esteeming of God above all; yet still being with­out sinceritie, as the zeal of the Iews was, because God was not esteemed of according to knowledge, that is, as in Christ Jesus: in which respect He hath manifested Himself in His Word, and without which, there can be no degree of love acceptable to Him.

Fourthly, Might not one have loved Christ above all, while He was upon earth, from the convictions of the worth that was evidently seen in Him, and from particular favours, received from Him, suppose of health, freedom from the rage of the devil, &c. as one man may love another, especially His benefactor above all things, so that He may become his Idol? Now, suppose it had been so (which was not impossible) that men had known and loved Christ thus after the flesh (as the Apostle speaketh, 2 Corinth. 5.17.) could that have proven that love to be sincere? And yet the fault, is not in respect of that degree.

Again, we may instance it in faith: for, that one may trust Christ in some respect above all, is clear by the many examples of the faith of miracles, and that both active, and passive; yet is it also clear that saving faith is of another nature, and hath other qualifi­cations concurring in it's acting as such: the first acteth on Him, as powerfull to bring forth such an act, and in respect of some particular manifestation of His Will for the bringing forth thereof; the other considereth Him as a Saviour offered to us by Gods faith­fulnesse in the Word; and for that end, to wit, Salvation; and upon that account, to wit, as offered, and as such, it receiveth Him and resteth on Him, being moved thereunto by its giving credit to the faithfulnesse of God in respect of His Covenant and offer of spe­ciall Grace. So, to be willing to have Christ, is a main act of Faith; and that one in nature may in some respect be willing to have Christ and Heaven above all, cannot be denied, especially by this Author. Neither can it be said, that this respect to God and Christ, is in­feriour to their love to earthly blessings, which they prefer to Him, as is insinuated, pag. 237. for certainly they may esteem Him beyond temporal blessings: therefore they will suffer the losse of these, and their life it self upon this presumptuous ground of gaining Him by the abandoning of these; yet cannot that be accounted sincere willing, because they will Him not as such, and according to the tearms of His Covenant.

Further it may be instanced in fear, repentance, love to the brethren, &c. as was for­merly hinted: wherein we will find that natural men may come to this comparative degree in respect of the external object, to wit, to fear God more than to fear men, or any other thing; to sorrow for sin in such a degree, that it may prevail over delight in it, and love to it: wherein the comparative degree that constituteth the sincerity thereof, is instanced, pag. 231, 232. and they may love the brethren so as to relive, clothe, visite them, &c. and for this end to part with their own case and estate, which is the degree that is only marked as [Page 135] wanting to such as loved the Saints; but yet could not part with temporal things for them, pag. 239. and upon this ground it is, we conceive, that pag. 232. this necessary advertise­ment is given, That these graces which are expressed by the passion, as fear, love, joy, &c. are not so certainly to be tried by the passion that is in them, as by the will that is contained in them or supposed to them: which must either be to shew, that somtimes the vehemency of the passion may seem more towards one object, suppose in fear of men, or love to creatures; when yet the will rationally feareth and loveth God more: or, it is added to shew that som­thing must be respected in the trial beside the degree simplie; so that this degree is not to be accounted the alone mark of trial: otherwise this advertisement were needlesse. And what is spoken of the will its acting rationally in its act, as contradistinguished from the passion, or act of the sensitive part, must infer some concurring qualifications to be necessary in the act of the will, which cannot be in the sensitive part, which doth necessarily infer a racite acknowledging of the necessity of observing somthing in the nature of the act, beside this degree alone, for the evidencing of the sincerity thereof.

On the other side, may not habits for a time be without acts, at least, without acts pre­valent in respect of this degree? Now then, what shall be judged of such acts, suppose of love, fear, faith, &c. which for a time are prevailed over, and the heart is led captive by the opposits? They cannot be denied to be sincere acts of Grace; nor can it be said, that there are none such at all: for, in that one place, Rom. 7. we will find the Apostle speaking of such motions of the Spirit or Inner-man, which yet prevail not as to the effect, but the heart is led captive over them, so that what he would, that he doth not; and he is led captive to the law of sin, over the law of his mind; yet, even then doth he acknowledge these acts of the Inner-man to be sincere acts of Grace: and therefore doth comfort him­self in them; and doth oppose them to the law of sin in his members, which otherwise he could not do. And this sincerity cannot flow from this degree, which then is not: it must therefore flow from the kind thereof, and so be contradistinguished in that respect from any common work of a hypocrite. If it be said here, that it is true love, faith, &c. that in its sober, composed and deliberate rational actings doth prefer God, although at fits and times it may be overpowered; and that in this respect Paul did in his deliberate actings, prevail over the Law of his members, though by its surprizals it did captivate him. Answ. Although this be granted to be truth; yet it will not infringe the Argument: be­cause we ask not only what Paul was in respect of his state, or of his deliberate acting, but what these motions and stirrings of the Spirit in him were, that were overpowered, whe­ther even these were gracious and sincere, or not? For, if these stirrings be acts, as is acknowledeged, pag. 224. they must either be sincere, or not; it cannot be said, not, upon the grounds formerly given; they must be then sincere: and if sincere, then they must be sincere, not in respect of the prevalencie of the degree; but in respect of the nature of the act it self, as is said. For although we say that such a person did in his [...]ionallacting of love, &c. prefer God above all; yet that would only prove that the person were habitually gracious, and a true lover of God; or, prove that once he hath had acts truely sincere; but that could never be the ground upon which the sinceritie of these present acts could be founded. And so as the close of all, seing this prevalent degree may be separated from sincere acts, and may be in acts that are not sincere in the manner qualified & contrà: Therefore the formal reason of sincerity, is not to be inquired in it alone. If it be said, that even in such acts wherein corruption prevaileth in the affection or passions; yet Grace is still prevalent in the will. Answ. Then whether can it be said that there is no true Grace in the affections, or, whether the actings thereof in them be not sincere, although not prevalent? If they be gracious, even as such, Then the Argument doth still hold, that Grace may be sincere where it prevaileth not as to the effect: if it be denied that they are sincere as such, Then it will follow that true Grace is not universal as to the subject thereof; or, that it may be sincere in the will and not in the affections: which yet are acts of the same Grace and soul, in so far as renewed, striving with it self in so far as unrenewed. Beside, prevalencie is but in the will as renewed, so that it is only as such induced to dissent or consent; whereas that same will, as unrenewed, yeeldeth over that dissent of the renewed will: whereby it cometh to passe that acts are elicited thereby, which the renewed part did oppose; and so indeed, as to the effect, the renewed will is not prevalent: because that is not acted, which it would be at; yea, acts are elicited by the will, as is said, which, had the renewed part been prevalent, [Page 136] had not been at all, which sheweth that in such a case there is a prevalencie, even in the will.

If it be said further, That the love wherewith natural men love God, as it is formerly described, is but still self-love: because they love not God as God; but upon some other self-account: and therefore do still love themselves more; and so do not love God above all soveraignly: because they love Him not for the goodnesse that is in Himself; whereas if Gods interest were main and chief in that love, it were to be accounted sincere: and this presupposing the habits to be infused, this soveraign interest of God in the act will take in the end, motive, and that which we called the reduplication of the act. Answ. If that Assertion, that sincerity doth lye in the comparative prevalent degree, be thus explained, as to take in Gods interest as soveraign in the end, motive, and formal consideration of the act, Then it cometh indeed to be one: and if so, then there were no reason to fall out with the Doctrine that ordinarily is delivered concerning this: and, for the expressions we will not contend, as we formely said: but when we consider the explication of the Author, especially as it is opposed to the common Doctrine, it seemeth that he meaneth the sove­raignity of Gods interest in respect of objects, compared together, that is, God more sove­raignly loved, feared, and trusted, than any other; and doth not take in the consideration of God in the motive, end, and formall consideration of the act, which hath influence on the person for bringing forth of such an act; and so on the act it self, that is brought forth: for, the comparison runneth thus, betwixt the objects, flesh and spirit, who doth preva [...]l most on the heart, but is not in comparing the motive and other qualifications of that act, which materially is spirituall: and therefore still in that respect, the former Argument will hold, and the ordinary expressions will suit better to the thing.

It may be further argued against the placing of the nature of sincerity in the prevalent degree alone, Thus, if the acts of saving grace be sincere, before they be in this degree prevalent, Then this prevalency of the degree, cannot be the thing that constitutes the sin­cerity thereof, much lesse alone be it; But the former is truth, That act of love, faith, &c. is saving, which is wrestling against its opposits, so as to win the heart to love God more than all other objects, even before it attain it: For, we are to suppose this method, 1. Gracious habites are supposed as infused, whereby the tree is made good. Then 2. That these habites have their inclinations and acts, that lust against the flesh, and fight with the flesh for winning of the heart to the following of its motions: and as fighting goeth before the Victory; so in this spirituall combate, do these lustings and actings go before the pre­valent degree, and by these the heart is engaged to love God above all; whereupon followeth that prevalency as a degree of Victory. And yet we suppose, that were the least sparkle of grace kindled in the heart, so that it were but smoaking in desires of love to God and faith in Him, it cannot be denied to be sincere; although it hath not broken out in a flame. For, if this prevalent degree be in some respect an effect of these stirrings, these stirrings must be sincere before they come this length, as to prevail: for, they were acts before, and if not gracious acts, then how could acts that are of themselves unsound, produce an effect that is sincere, seing the cause must be of the same nature, and as noble as the effect? And so consequently its sincerity doth not flow from this degree; but on the contrary rather, this degree is attained by these stirrings, because such stirrings, are acts of sincere love and grace: whereas they are extinguished in another, and come not up that length (at least in the former respects) because these stirrings were for their kind unsound: and so natively the actings and stirrings of grace of any kind, must go before, either the prevalency or repulse thereof. For, supposing creatures once to have the heart of man, there is first an eslaying (as it were) by some inward motions to gain the heart from these, before actually it be gai [...]ed. Now, we say, that which maketh some motions gain the heart deliberately to prefer God above all, is, because these motions are sincere, and do suppose as antecedaneous to that degree, at least in order of nature, 1. An in­ward gracious principle [...]itting the heart so to conceive of God, and making it capable to be swayed by spirituall and supernaturall motives, and in sincerity to act on them as such. 2. It presupposeth an actuall putting forth of this gracious principle in its considering God as such a good in Himself, and for its happinesse in Himself desirable, and lovely in an other kind than any creature: Whereupon, 3. The heart is actually inclined as being swayed by such a motive, to wit, the goodnesse of God Himself, and the spirituall happi­nesse [Page 137] that is in enjoying of Him, and as such, and upon that account to love Him, desire Union with Him, and prefer Him above all; whereby self (as it is properly self, sinfull and corrupt) is shut by, and a spirituall motive beareth sway in the act, and so must be supposed in order of nature (at least) to be before it. 4. When the heart is thus affected towards God, then the former three (to wit a spirituall end, the enjoying of God, a spirituall motive, that is, a respect to His worth, and a spirituall principle whereby he was enabled so to conceive of Him) do concur for the eliciting of this act, and that in a new manner, upon that object so considered; whereupon it acts otherwise in the closing with God as God, than ever formerly it did. Upon which this prevalent degree and Victory doth follow, as the result of the hearts so acting on God, which cannot but prevail. And thus it loveth God above all, and shutteth down all competitours, because considering Him as such as He is, and to it in respect of the understandings uptaking of Him, it doth for such an end, from such a motive, by such a principle, and in such a manner, act on Him, as so considered; which others do not, who though they may have a sort of striving in them; yet their fighting, not being according to the former qualifications, can never pre­vail, as it cannot but in the end be a Conquerour in them that thus fight.

Further, supposing this sincerity to lye in that prevailing comparative degree, we ask, what maketh the love which is in one to prevail, so as to love God above all, more than in another? Or what made Paul, after conversion, love God in that respect sincerely, more than before? It must be said, that it floweth from the interveening work of the Spirit, both operating in the infusing of habits, and co-operating in the bringing forth of acts; where­by Paul, is now enabled to do that which could not be done, till first the tree was made good. And if so, then there must be a real difference in the act it self, as being the fruit of another tree, or of a tree that is changed: and if the trees be different in kind, the fruits must be so also: for, grapes are not gathered off thistles; nor contrà: and so must it be said of these acts, either they proceed from different habits, and so must differ in kind; or, both must be from a gracious habit: which cannot be granted, seing often these acts in hypocrites evanish, which of gracious habits cannot be asserted: and to say that diffe­rent infused habits are not requisite to either, will not be urged by any, as hath been said.

We adde, that acts of love that flow from common dispositions in a natural man, may be considered as acts before they be thus prevalent: for, he loves, fears, &c. and so they be acts, although not gracious acts or sincere; but we cannot consider the acts of the gracious habits of love, faith, fear, &c. (as that a man, as renewed, doth love, fear, &c.) but we must conceive them as such to be gracious and sincere: for, they are of the Spirit, and what is of it, is of that kind; and what is but like to a grain of mustard seed, and cannot be considered as lesse, is yet saving and true Grace, having the qualifications foresaid; the least blossom on that tree being good fruit: therefore there must be some difference in kind between common acts, and these of saving Grace, beside any thing that can be conceived to be in the degree: because in the one, the qualifications may be, and are separated from the act; but in the other, no act can be conceived as influenced by the Spirit, and proceeding from it, but it must be conceived as having these qualifications in it, to wit, it hath a spiri­tuall end, is swayed by a spirituall motive, and acteth from a spirituall principle; and as such, is swayed to such an act. If it be said, that it is the least degree of Grace when it is sincere, that is so to be accounted, that is, when it is so prevalent; and that in that respect no act as such, is in the least degree prevalent, but it is sincere. Answ. That will not satis­fie: for, here it is asserted that the act of love as proceeding from these habits, cannot be conceived as an act; but must also be conceived as gracious, and as arising from that root: but according to the other opinion, these may be separated, that is, although love act; yet is it not sincere love, till it act prevailingly; and so it may be considered as an act before it come to that prevalent degree of acting, which cannot be in the other. Beside, if so, then were not saving Grace, Grace, as having a different original from common gifts; but as having different fruits or effects, or different degrees of fruits. For clearing whereof, we may sup­pose gracious habits to be in one. And, 1. do not the acts of love, faith, fear, &c. pro­ceed from these infused habits; and are they not actings of the New creature? And, [...]. are not these acts gracious as such? and because they are such, they are saving and sincere, that is, because acts of the New-nature. 3. Do not these habit [...] fit and qualifie one to act [Page 138] otherwise than one can do who hath not these habits; and that not only in respect of degree, but in respect of kind? otherwise these habits would not be a different principle from common dispositions, or, as infusing a different life, but helping one to exercise the life which he had: which were absurd. 4. Do not men who are so sitted by these habits, act accordingly in the producing of their acts otherwise than any other who is not so quali­fied? And so, 5. must not then the acts produced, be differenced, which are thus diffe­rently produced? And wherein can this difference consist but in the kind? For, if it be said, they differ, because these gracious habits bring forth acts in that prevalent degree, wherein the Lords interest hath the chiefest room, Then it may be enquired, 1. Is that the alone difference? or can it be said that the new life hath no influence even on the manner of acting? considering that the person is furnished with new qualifications, both in the understanding, will, and affections: and these cannot but concur in the act; and yet must concur differently in respect of what one in meer nature can do. 2. It may be enquired, could that man have brought out these acts without these habits? And if not, they must be then different in kind from what formerly he did bring forth, seing they could not be produced without a new and different cause. 3. Neither can any acts proceeding from these habits be accounted common acts; they must then, even the least of them be saving. And, 4. if they be saving, and that as acts simply, it must be because of something that is in their kind, without respect to their degree; as the least motions and actings of corruption are sin, because they are from flesh, even when by Grace they are kept from victory: So is it, on the contrarie, with the least motions of the Spirit.

Yea, if we were strictly considering this very difference, as it is proposed in respect of the prevalent comparative degree, we will find it to infer a real difference in the kind of the act, beside this comparative degree: for (suppose in the act of sincere love) by one the Lord is preferred, and all other objects are rejected; by another, He is loved, but some other thing is preferred to Him: now that act of love, which respects God as the chief good, and as such closeth with Him, must be different in kind from that that taketh Him, but not as the chief good: and therefore loveth some other thing more. For, in this act there is not only a comparing of God with other things; but an act resulting from that compa­rison, whereby the heart of one saith, when this question is proposed, Is God thy chief good? Yea: and so positively it closeth with Him as such: in the other, when the heart compareth, it saith, Nay, God is not the chief good: and therefore closeth not with Him as such; but refuseth Him. Now these two, nay and yea, to accept of Him as such, or to refuse Him, must differ oppositly, and not in degree only. For the consideration of God here in the act of the heart, is not simply if he be good: for, that cannot come under considera­tion, but if He be the chief good, and so to it, and if it will take Him as such; and so that act of love to Him must be such as determineth that question by yea, or nay; and in that respect the one yeeldeth, the other rejecteth. Therefore here it is not yeelding in this or that degree, but yeelding, or refusing; which in that pinch are contradictory. 2. By the one act of love, God getteth the chief room, and other things are casten down: it is quite contrary in the other; and can these two be of one kind? Or can that act of love which preferreth many things to Him, act for its kind on God, as that act of love that taketh Him as infinitly preferable to all? Because the one considering Him as the chief good, accord­ingly loveth Him; and the other, not doing so, but otherwise, This difference must follow thereupon. 3. That act wherein there is this prevalencie, must either have somwhat pecu­liar in it which doth make it prevail over its opposits, as to love God above all, which ano­ther hath not, that loveth created things above Him; or, it must have its prevalencie from what is common to both. Now, this last cannot be said: because so, it were man himself that did make himself to differ: there must therefore be somthing peculiar in the other, as a cause producing that effect; and if there be a peculiar cause, and some peculiar thing in the one which is not in the other, differing the rise of this from the rise of the other, Then this prevalent act of love which is the effect of that peculiar cause, must beside this degree differ in kind also, as being peculiarly influenced by that cause which the other is not. And seing this peculiarnesse is presupposed to proceed the prevalencie of the act, It must neces­sarily follow according to the same grounds, that there must be some positive qualifications concurring for the constituting of the sinceritie of Grace beside the prevalent degree there­of, And that therefore sinceritie doth not consist alone in it: and so, that hypocrites can­not [Page 139] not do the same acts for kind, which the Regenerate may do, without respect to this com­parative degree.

To conclude then, we may illustrate all, thus, Suppose a dead body were by the power of God made to move, or speak, as once Balaam's Asse did, There is motion and speech there, suppose it be to the same object, and in the same words; yet doth it differ from the motion and speech of a living man that acteth according to reason. 1. A dead man is mo­ved only from some extrinsick power without the interveening principle of life from within: although he may be moved more speedily and swiftly toward a certain object, than one that from an inward principle of life acts himself; yet doth the motion of the living man, differ in kind (beside any comparative degree which can be in the act of moving) by a positive concurring of an inward principle of life and a locomotive faculty whereby he is immediately acted: So, naturall men being dead in sins, what ever acts are produced by them, are meerly produced by the common work of Gods spirit from without, without the interveening of any spirituall principle influencing these acts, whereas the acts of a renewed man are indeed performed by the power of Gods speciall grace; but (mediantibus habitibus) by the interveening of infused habits, whereby he not only is acted, but acts himself in the bringing forth of these. As, A tree in the Spring-time, doth send forth her buds, from the native season of the year its having influence thereupon; yet also by the quickning of that naturall sap and moistnesse wherewith it is furnished within it self. 2. A dead man hath no end before him in his motions or actings, as a living man habitually hath concurring in his act: so an unrenewed man hath no pure spirituall end in the best acts, which the gracious man hath; the one, eating, drinking, living and bringing forth fruit to himself, Hos. 10.1. Zech. 7.5.6. and the other living, and thenceforth bringing forth fruits to God, 2 Cor. 5.16. Hence, men in nature are said to serve sin, and men in grace to become servants to God, Rom. 6. in respect of their design in the same acts. 3. Dead men, as they have no end before them, so have they no reasonable motive, as a living man is supposed to have in his actings; so naturall men have no spirituall motive, supposing it be, in loving of God, it is some carnal selfish-thing that swayeth them: for, having no spi­rituall principle within, as matter to work upon, No spirituall motive can have influence upon them, more than fire can be kindled by any blowing, where no kindling, or com­bustible matter is: a renewed man as such hath a spirituall motive concurring with, and having influence on, his actings: and so, not only loveth God, because of some externall benefit; but he loveth Him, as being provoked from that inward principle of the Divine nature that is in him, and respect to Gods Commands and Goodnesse, whereby as such he cannot but love Him, and these who bear His Image, and what is spiritually good: even as a naturall Parent, or Son, cannot but love his own Child, or Father, and that from ano­ther speciall principle than they love any other Child or Parent; so also he hath a pure spi­rituall motive, warming this principle, and kindling the sympathy: and thus he is swayed to love God, because of some spirituall good, as the subduing of sin, the conforming of him to Gods Image, the manifesting of Himself to him, and such like: and he loves Gods People, because he taketh them to be beloved of God, or to love Him, or be like Him, as suppose a Woman did carry affection to a Man, it may be from some carnal principle, as his furnishing of her in her vanity, and his being subservient to the lust of vanity, pride, &c. in her; yet afterward, being matched with him, might love him because he were her Husband, and had condescended to marry her, although he should not serve her vain humour as formerly: in this respect, her love doth differ from what it was, as having a conjugall motive added to it, which it had not formerly. 4. A living man, in his actings, is swayed to them as good, and as good to him; and it is impossible for him to will any thing even though it be good, but as it is considered as such by him; yea, even things that are hurtfull are in his desiring of them considered under this notion as good to him; but there is no such thing in the motion of a dead man: so, a renewed man, not only acteth on that which is spiritually good, suppose in the loving of God or His People; but also he is swayed therein, and acteth therein upon this formall consideration as it is such, that is, he loveth God as He is good in Himself, and to Him in what is spiritually good; and others as they are such as have title to Him, that is, Mat. 10. To love them in the name of righteous men, that is, upon that formall consideration as such, to love them. And this is that wherein mainly Godly sincerity and singlenesse doth kythe, when we are [Page 140] not only moved to do what is good, and that from a spirituall motive upon the matter good; but are swayed to that thing, by this motive, as they are such, and so considered by us: and thus, this as doth not only respect the object, as it is conceived by the un­derstanding to be such; but it doth respect the act, as it is inclined to, undertaken and per­formed by the will, to wit, it willeth it as such: although the act it self be not in respect of its degree every way adequate to such an object, that is, though God get not so much of the heart as it becometh Him to have; yet, the heart, considering Him as such a God who deserveth the heart, and ought to have no competitor with Him, and as sufficiently able of Himself to make it happy, doth so will Him; and upon that account, doth love Him and delight in Him, although it be exceedingly defective in the degree of both, and they be but conceived as such, to have a being. Now, as a man is to try the truth of his life, not only because he moveth and speaketh, but because he moveth and speaketh so, in respect of the kind formerly mentioned; So a renewed man, is not simply to try his new life from his acts, but as they are so qualified, as is said.

If it be objected, That hither to this seemeth to admit no motive that concerneth our selves, as suppose one loved God, for being good to him; or, heaven, because they expected to be happy in it? and that as if no motive could be admitted in loving God but for himself; or▪ how may this motive be differenced in the love of a natural man, from one that is renewed?

Answ. There is no such thing as the first intended: it will only say this, that as the natural man is swayed in the persuing of moral good, as it is so considered by him; so a re­newed man doth that which is spiritually good, and that as it's considered as such by him. Hence there is this difference, that a natural man in his considering any act, which in it self is spiritually good, and materially agreeable to the Law; yet in his yeelding to perform it, he doth still consider it as a natural good, or moral at the best; as suppose in loving of God, he is considered by such, as good to them, on a natural, or (as to them) a sinful account, as he loveth God, because He hath gotten temporal peace, deliverance from bodily hazards, an easie or honourable life; it may be, because in providence He hath prospered him in some sinful course, this the learned forementioned Author, pag. 203. doth justly call one of the greatest of all sins, when the holy God is made a pander and servant to our flesh: and no question, many do love God upon such an account; or, if they love God for the hope they have of being brought to heaven by Him (which is one of their highest motives) it is because they hope to get heaven from Him, and accesse to their sinful lusts here also; there­by supposing, because of His goodnesse and mercy, that they may sin, and serve their lusts, and expect even heaven also afterward: or, they love Him under the hope of heaven; not because there they do expect or desire spiritual or heavenly satisfaction in Himself, in being satisfied with His likenesse (which they never delight in here) But because they have a sup­posed opinion of a greater degree of that same happinesse, which now they hunt for: and so heaven is never considered by them as a spiritual good: or, they may love God, as sup­posing Him to love and esteem of them, because of some lovelinesse and excellencie that is in themselves: and upon that ground expect, even heaven from Him, and love Him, because He so esteemeth of them: and this is to think God like themselves, and not to love Him upon any spirituall account, as is said.

Again, The renewed man as such, is swayed by spiritual motives in these things, that are but naturally and morally good; and under a spiritual consideration He acteth on them, to wit, as they are commanded of God, tend to His honour, and are usefull to help one in the worshipping of Him, and so forth: and thus He may be acted even in Eating and Drink­ing, and things that are spiritually good in themselves, as the loving of God, studying of holinesse, &c. He acteth in them as such, that is, he loveth God, because He is an infi­nit spiritual good in Himself, and because he hopeth to be made blessed and happy in Him: thus, to love God, and desire union and communion with Him, that we may not simplie be happy, but happy and blessed in the enjoying of Him, and in being made conform to Him, is no carnal, sinful or mercenary love: because, this the Lord Himself doth warrand: and it supposeth a spiritual principle, withdrawing one from common satisfactions and delights; and it loveth God as God, because thus God is considered as the chief good, sufficiently and only able to make happy in Himself: and therefore He is desired, because no other thing is accounted sufficient or meet for happinesse, but he. And so, love to God for himself, and [Page 141] love to Him because we expect to be happy in Him, or have already gotten spiritual good such as Regeneration, Sanctification, Repentance, &c. from Him, are no way inconsistent together: and therefore, when we speak of loving God for Himself, it is not to exclude all respect to our selves, and our own good in Him; but it excludeth all carnal respect to our selves, or respect to our selves as carnal, and delighted with things that are such; and to shew that the good which we expect from God, and for which we love Him, is a spiri­tual and heavenly good, having the enjoying of Himself joyned with it: which doth com­mend all other good to us; so that it is respect to God, and our enjoying of Him, that doth make these things lovely. And so we love God, because He is good, and because He hear­eth our Prayers, and because He furnisheth us with what is needful, and so forth: not be­cause any fleshly lust is pleased, or temporal end is gained; but, because He confirmeth our faith or spiritual joy in Him: which many that have the same things which we have obtai­ned from Him, and are also carnally chearful in the use of them; yet, are not joyful upon this account, but are delighted in the things themselves, or what pleaseth their natures in them, but not in God Himself, and so in other things.

Before we close, it will be of concernment for the understanding of all this Question, to take up rightly the true difference between a moral specifick difference (which is acknow­ledged) and a physical difference, which is denied. This physical difference doth flow from some positive qualifications concurring in the act it self, which are not in another act, that hath other, or contrary qualifications in the place of these: again, a moral difference, as it's expressed, doth not consider the act with respect to any positive qualifications in it self; but, in respect of some extrinsick consideration; as a pound of gold, and an ounce of gold, are of the same kind in respect of their qualifications physically; yet, suppose one had hired a servant for a pound, or had conditioned so much for the rent of some lands by a subscribed Contract and Covenant; in this respect, the pound would differ from the ounce morally: because the pound, by vertue of such Covenants, would become the servants hire, and the landlords rent, which the ounce would not be. This is a moral difference, and floweth from the bargane, wherein it was conditioned that so much, and no lesse, should be accoun­ted so; so saith the forenamed learned Author, that this moral difference of Grace, doth flow from the consideration of the Covenant, whereby only it can be determined what is saving Grace, according to the tennor thereof, whereby Justification or Salvation are be­stowed upon any act, pag. 205. And therefore, Grace, that is thus comparatively prevalent in degree, is to be accounted true saving Grace: because, by the Covenant of Grace that is called for, and only accepted as the condition thereof, pag. 226. where also he doth say, That the sinceritie of Grace doth lye in the degree, not formally, but materially only: because the form of these gracious acts, consisteth in their being the condition on which Salvation is promised. Where, 1. To forbear the Authors esteeming of all Graces equally, and gracious acts indifferently to be the condition of the Covenant, (which yet ne­cessarily this opinion doth presuppose, and so is the more to be adverted unto) There are two things to be observed, wherein the mistake lyeth here. 1. That it accounteth nothing to be saving, or an evidence of what is saving, but what is called for, or accepted by the Co­venant as the condition thereof, whereas any thing that consequently will prove one to be renewed, will also prove him to be justified; although it be not that to which his Justifi­cation is covenanted; but is something that doth necessarily presuppose it, and follow after in a justified person, and can be in no other else: for, if an act, so and so qualified, will prove one to have the habits of Grace, without which he could not produce it; Then must they prove him to be renewed, and so to be justified: because, these acts are holy acts, and fruits of the Spirit, as they are called, Gal. 5. and motions of the Inner-man, Rom. 7. and fruits of a good tree: and therefore, must prove that the tree is good. 2. There is a mistake in this, that it supponeth the Covenant not to accept of Graces (whether as the con­dition or otherwise) suppose of love, faith, &c. but at such a comparative degree only; and not simply to accept of them as sincere, although not as fully perfect. As suppose one by covenant had farmed some portion of land, that doth for the time bear nothing but brambles, upon this condition that he should have returned to him so many wine grapes, bigger than the brambles that grow thereon; in this respect, one that really gave grapes, could not expect to have these accepted, as being the covenanted fruit of the vineyard, or the rent of his lease, if they were not bigger than the brambles which formerly did, or doth [Page 142] continue to grow therein: whereas the tennor of the Covenant in the condition that it proponeth, and in its acceptation of Grace (to speak so) doth ever propose and accept these Graces, simply considered as such, that is, it accepteth of Faith: and the Believer is to be accounted a Believer, and in Covenant, not only because of the degree of his Faith in Christ; but because he, considering Him as the Saviour of sinners, and as sent of God for that end, is drawn, out of respect to the faithfulnesse of God in His Word, to receive Christ, as He is offered to him; and upon that account, according to the tearms of the Covenant, to submit to His righteousnesse, and rest on Him for attaining of Salvation. Likewise in Repentance, Pardon and Justification are not knit to any degree of sorrow (as was former­ly hinted) that is, that God will account him a penitent, whose sorrow for sin doth exceed his delight in it; but unto true Repentance, which is for its qualifications such, is the promise made, whosoever r [...]pents, &c. And in this respect, Gods Covenant runneth not, that He will have grapes bigger than brambles, or gold of more weight than the person himself; but, if they be true grapes, growing upon a good tree, and not grapes of Sodom, or brambles, He doth accept of them, and saith, destroy not, for there is a blessing in it, though it be like unto the smallest berrie upon the uppermost tops of the boughs, and although still He call for perfection in the degree of all as the Covenanters duty. And if it be gold, and may abide the touchstone and fire, and not be consumed, He rejects it not, of what ever weight it be in the scales, as 1 Cor. 3.13, 14, and 15. is clear. Now gold abideth the fire, not as it is in quantity but as it is in kind, and for the quality upright: and no place is there which doth expresse Gods way of trial more plainly; and it hath the promise to the man whose work in any de­gree will abide the fire, though the drosse that is with it (which shall be consumed) be in the quantity far beyond what is solid. Hence we will find in Scripture, that such expressions are used as do ever lay the weight of the sincerity of mens acts, and place the difference of gracious and sinfull acts in the kind thereof, as accounting all of such a kind to be gra­cious, without such respect to its degree, as when it is said, a tree is known by its fruit, Mat. 7. the meaning is not, that it is known by fruit of such a bignesse, but by their kind; so it's not every tree, that bringeth not forth fruit at such a degree, but that bringeth not forth good fruit, that is, of such a kind; that is h [...]n down, Mat. 3. A vine is known to be a vine, by its grapes of the smallest bignesse; ye [...], even by its blossoms. Hence so frequently in the Song, the Lords trees are differenced by their buddings, and blossomings, and most tender grapes, or first buds: which could not be, if it were not the kind of fruit that evidenced the difference of trees: for, men gather not grapes (even of the smallest bignesse) from thorns, nor figs from brambles. So all true Believers, are said to have the same spirit of faith, 2 Cor. 4.13. and the like precious faith, 2 Pet. 1.2. Which doth hold forth thi [...], that as all Believers, who have faith, have the same for kind, though not for degree precious; so also, all these who partake of that faith, that is true for its kind, must also necessarily be Believers, and in Covenant with God, of what ever degree it be, if it be the same for its qualifications and kind with the former, it is precious; otherwise, even Believers have not the like faith in degree: the likenesse then and precious­nesse thereof, must be in the kind, which no hypocrite can have, and it cannot but be accepted by God; so true Repentance, and worldly sorrow, are differenced, 2 Cor. 7. not in respect of any degree, but in respect of the kind; and the one is Worldly, and the other is sorrow (v. 9.) after a Godly manner, and (v. 11.) after a Godly sort: which must be because of positive qualifications concurring in it, which the other hath not. And the instances that are brought to prove their sorrowing after a Godly manner, in the word [...] following, do confirm this, to wit, their carefuln [...]ss [...], zeal, &c. 1 Pet. 1.22. there is unfained love; and else where unfained faith, which are differenced from counterfeits in hypocrites, as that which hath reality, is from that which is only in appearance. For although they may have really Historicall faith, and a kind of naturall love to God (to let these go, as supposed) yet, can they never have justifying faith, or real spiritual love, or of that kind: otherwise, it were not fained, and could not but be accepted, seing what is unfained is ever accepted. Now, love and faith, cannot be called fained simply in these who have truly the same kind of acts of love and faith, or yet true acts of some kind: they must therefore be in this respect fained, that though they be in their own kind, true acts of Historicall faith, and common love; yet in this they are fained, that they seem to be of another kind than they are of, to wit, saving and gracious: and therefore common [Page 143] acts in an unrenewed man, and saving acts in him that is renewed, must differ in kind, as that which hath reality and such a being, doth differ from its counterfeit, and that which is but in shew.

The same might be followed in all such Scriptures, where some practices are differenced from other in respect of positive concurring qualifications, as to do with a perfect heart, is frequently in the History of the Kings, to walk with godly simplicity, and sincerity, and that as in the sight of God, 2 Cor. 1.13. and 2.17. to have zeal qualified according to knowledge, and so forth, and almost ever when a gracious act is described: yea, we will find it even in outward duties, suppose in the duty of Praying, or Preaching: that is acceptable Prayer to God, which is Praying in the Spirit, in the Name of Christ, and so forth: otherwayes the Gift of Prayer may be, where the Grace thereof is not, and no intensnesse of the exercise of the common gift can make it, without these qualifications, to be acceptable, &c. whereas the least sigh or groan rightly qualified, and arising from the right root, cannot but be acceptable.

To come then to say a word to the third thing proposed, to wit, that this inquiring for the truth of Grace, in its kind, and not in its degree only and simply, but at least in its de­gree and kind together, is no way prejudicial but helpful to the exact and safe search of our selves. This seemeth to be the reason that moveth that learned Author (who is an emi­nent batterer down of presumption, and a presser of holinesse) to place the sinceritie of Grace in this comparative degree, that thereby presumptuous hypocrites be not strength­ened in their self delusions, who may abuse this maxime, which saith, that the truth of Grace lyeth in the kind and not in the degree thereof: for, readily do they think they are assured they love God, and belie [...]e Him truely, &c. But there is no ground for fear of that here.

Therefore, 1. We say, that this degree being well understood and expressed, is indeed ne­cessarily knit with saving Grace; so that if any man deliberatly and habitually prefer the interest of flesh, or any carnal respect to the interest of God and His way, or love any thing more than God, or equally with Him, that man can never warrantably conclude that he hath saving Grace, this being inconsistent with it; and also one who loveth God sincerely, cannot when he acteth deliberately, and according to the former qualifications, but love Him beyond all, because that is the nature of sincere love.

And, 2. We do not seclude this, but adde the former qualifications of the kind thereof; and therefore this way must be both more convincing to discover a hypocrite, when he must not only look to the degree but to the kind also: and on the other side, be more satisfying to the poor Believer, when he hath not only his mark to gather from the degree, which often may be exceeding dark and doubtful to him, when he considereth many Idols that may have great place in himself, and how far hypocrites may come in that respect; but when he may also reflect within himself upon his end, motive and manner of acting, &c. he may be helped to discern the sinceritie and honestie of his own act and purpose, and have the help of his conscience testimony in reference to these also; and so come more confident­ly to conclude concerning himself.

It is true, it is a most hard task (though a most necessary task) to discover the nature of sinceritie and saving Grace for the comfort of a tender Believer, so as presumptuous hypocrites may not justly stumble thereon to their own ruine; yet, are they, to wit, hypo­crites, more apt to flatter themselves in the truth of their grace, suppose of faith, love, &c. in respect of the kind thereof, than in respect of the comparative degree thereof. And are they not as confident and perswaded of this, that they love God above all, and trust and lippen to Him more than to any other thing for attaining to life? And will be ready to say, there is no [...]her thing they can lippen to; and in this they are fixed so, as none shall be able to convince them of the contrarie, because Gods soveraignity in that respect, is so naturally fixed in the conscience, that they never debate it, but thinks themselves through in it, the conviction of its reasonablenesse is so strong on their judgements. And indeed upon what hath been said, if we will separate the degree from the kind and qualifications former­ly mentioned, they will have much seeming reason for them: and yet even then, they will bewray that love, faith &c. which they esteem to be in this degree, to be unsound in its kind, as being but the fruit of nature, and somewhat (readily) which is of age equal to themselves, &c. and therefore cannot be found. Therefore we adde, that [Page 144] this way will be more useful to convince natural men, than the other is: because generally, they are perswaded of the truth and reality of their grace: and to say that their grace were but defective in its degree, would, 1. keep them from the through conviction of their gracelesnesse, and the right uptaking of their deceitful nature; which yet is mainly and principally necessary to the work of conversion. For it would make them suppose that they had already att [...]ined some beginnings, whereas this placing of the sincerity of true Grace in the kind, doth at the first, point out to them the necessity of a change, and more easily discovereth the unsoundnes [...]e of every thing that groweth from the naturall root of an un­renewed condition. 2. This placing of it in the degree, doth put hypocrites only to amend or quicken their pace, and to be adding to their building; but not to take a new way, or to lay a new foundation: now this exceedingly suit [...] with a presumptuous hypocrit's humour, who easily will grant that their faith is weak, but not that it is unsound, and are ever desirous to encrease what they have, which will prove but a building upon sand: and if this were the alone mark of trial, whether God had the chief room by this comparative degree in their acts, they would be exceedingly confirmed in their opinion that all is well. It's like when Nicode [...] came to our Lord, he would not easily have been convinced that he loved or trusted any thing more than God; neither doth our Lord take that way for convincing of him; but doth shew the unsoundnesse of what he had▪ in respect of the kind thereof, and that the tree behoved to be made good and of another kind, before any fruit thereof could be approvable: and therefore He Preacheth to him the Doctrine of Regeneration, and the necessity of being born again, and doth not insist to shew any de­fect of degree, but of kind, as in that, Io [...]. 3. is clear, that, saith He, which is born of the flesh, is flesh, that is, what ever fruits may be in a natural man, they are of a corrupt kind as the root is: whereby He would obviat a secret objection that Nicodemus, or a for­mal hypocrite, might have from the degree or abundance of seeming good acts of zeal, love, prayer, &c. (as may by Nicodemus his words to Christ be gathered to have been in him) be it so, saith He, let there be many fruits, and that in a great degree, that is not the thing that maketh them acceptable [...] for, they are still but flesh, that is, of a corrupt kind: and thus He rejecteth them all at once, and stoppeth his mouth without comparing them in re­ference to their objects, wherein Nicodemus had not been so easily convinced. And on the contrary, saith the Lord, What is b [...]rn of the spirit, is spirit: whereby He doth not only shew, that there must be fruits of another kind, to wit, spirituall; and that nothing of whatsoever degree can be accounted sincere, except it proceed from this principle, to wit, the Spirit; but also it sheweth that there is nothing which doth come from that principle, if it were but the least motion, but it is spirit, and acceptable according to the root that it cometh from, without consideration of the degree thereof. And seing our Lord took that way, to discover and convince, it cannot but be safest. 3. This way also would be dangerous to many poor tender Believers, if they were put to try the sincerity of their Grace by this prevalent degree alone: for, do not they often find their unbelief or leaning to creatures (at least in their sense) to exceed their faith in God? And do not they find love to things of the world more frequently carry the heart to delight therein, than in God alone? And shall they cast all as unsound in such a case? What had Paul done if he had walked by this mark, when the motions of sin captivated him, Rom. 7. and yet is he still comforted in the sincerity of His Grace, and in the actings of the inner­man: which cannot be grounded upon this comparative degree; but upon the kind thereof. Now, if this maxime were true, these things would follow it, 1. He could have no evi­dence of his sincerity, except he had more grace (and that still in exercise) nor corrup­tion, and that to his sense: for, every grace hath some opposite corruption: and if it were not prevalent over its opposite corruption, then could he not conclude that he were graci­ous, and so not except he were more gracious than corrupt. 2. If any grace were pre­vailed over by its opposite corruption, he could not conclude that he were in a gracious estate: because this is certain, that where one grace is sincere, there all graces are, they being all members and parts of the new creature, which in Regeneration is brought forth; and it being certain also, that for a time, some graces will be exceedingly prevailed over by their opposites, more than others, as the fear of men will keep a Believer under in a parti­cular more than the fear of God, Then it will follow that either he hath true fear of God at the same time; and so the sincerity of this grace of fear doth not consist in the prevalent [Page 145] degree thereof, or, hath no grace sincere at all, because where one is unsound, all is un­sound, & contrà; or, one grace must be sound and another unsound, which cannot be said simply, upon the ground formerly given. The Believer then, in such a case, must either conclude himself to be unsound; or, he must try it by some other mark from the kind thereof. And though a Believer ought to account himself greatly faulty, when any one cor­r [...]ption prevaileth; yet it will not follow that he should reckon all to be unsound, which this would infer, and so contr [...]dicteth the Saints practices in such cases.

From all this we conclude, that it's more safe to keep both the common doctrine and expressions: and although we have been longer upon this than possibly may be thought suitable to our purpose; yet we have adventured upon it, if so be it may conduce any thing to the clearing of that wherein the triall of mens states is so much concerned; or, if it may occasion some more unanimous expressing of this matter, by others who may more dexterously perform it, that so this be not stated as a new controversie in the Church, at such a time when she is almost overwhelmed with intestine debates already. For we are sure in the generall, that these qualifications formerly mentioned, of the end, motive, re­duplication, &c. are necessary to the constituting of any act to be sincere, as hath been said. And if they be necessary, they must either be comprehended under the expression of this prevailing degree of the act, and so it is but ( [...]) a striving for words, which are not to be contended for. And so both these are upon the matter one. Or, if they be not comprehended under that expression, then they must be somewhat different from it; and so there must be more requisite to constitute the sincerity of grace, and to difference it from common works in hypocrites, than this degree foresaid. Or, we must say, that these qualifications must be accounted common to the acts of hypocrites, and these that are renewed: which is a thing that we cannot admit, upon the grounds formerly laid down: although we still acknowledge that the pressing at the most eminent degree of grace, even in that comparative respect is exceeding necessary, and usefull for attaining to the clear discerning of the sincerity of grace: for, often Believers do make their own search ex­ceedingly difficult, because of the want of this. And the agitation of this question, being somewhat new, we hope what is said will be the more favourably constructed: especially this being our fear, that by such expressions, or assertions, as this opinion hath with it, grace may come to be looked on as too common a thing, and it and nature, to be thought more sib than indeed they are.

LECTURE IIII.

Vers. 8.

And unto the Angel of the Church in Smyrna, write, These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.

9.

I know thy works, and tribulation, and povertie, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Iews and are not, but are the syna­gogue of Satan.

10.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten daies: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death.

THe second Epistle, is directed to the Church of Smyrna: and as her case doth differ from the case of Ephesus, and that both in respect of suffering and integrity; so doth the Lords message to her differ, and is wholly comfortable.

There is no charge against this Church, as in many of the rest: this doth not imply an universal freedom from guiltinesse of all sorts; But, first, that this Church hath been free of grosse evils, and hath been in honest simplicitie aiming at their [Page 146] duty. And, secondly, it [...]eareth out the Lords tendernesse in passing over many infirmities in an honest Church where there is much suffering.

It is not our purpose to insist in these Epistles (the matter being clear, and ye having good opportunity of hearing them more fully opened) we shall only give a view of the [...]cope, to keep the coherence of the whole Book.

The Epistle hath the division common with all the rest, in those three general parts; to wit, first, a Preface or Inscription, comprehending the Person from whom, and to whom, this message is directed. The Titles given to Christ, the Sender, were spoken to, chap. 1. They are two, 1. He is the first and the last: this setteth out the eternity of His God-head, of His eternity as He is God. 2. He is stiled, He that was dead and is alive: this setteth out Hi [...] O [...]fice with the effi [...]a [...]i [...] of His death, and the victory that He had obtained by overcoming death, and the devil; and being now above death and suffering, to live God and Man in One Person for ever. These Titles are specially chosen here for the consolation of this suffering honest Church: for, His suffering and dying commendeth Him as pitiful and compassionate; and His God-head and Victory, setteth Him out as sufficiently able: both which being put together, do exceedingly comfort His people, who cannot but live, seing He liveth, and cannot but continue so for ever, Psal. 18.46. Ioh. 14.19.

Secondly, The Body of the Epistle, is contained, vers. 9, 10, 11. it especially runneth on these two, 1. To hold out Smyrna her case, and that both in respect of what was pre­sent, vers. 9. and also in respect of what was to come, vers. 10. 2. It holdeth out the consolations which are allowed to her for her incouragement in reference to both, and these two are intermixed.

Her present case hath two things in it. 1. Her outward afflictions are mentioned. 2. Her honesty and integrity under them, is taken notice of, and approven by Jesus Christ. And this last, is a main ground of consolation against the first.

Her outward afflicted condition, is expressed in these three words. 1. They were under tribulation, that is, sad and greatly straitning pressures, as the Word signifieth: and by this may be understood the afflictions of body, name, and estate, and the sad consequents following thereupon, which the Godly are put to by the persecution of wicked men. The 2. word is, povertie; I know thy poverty: we take it literally to be understood of such pinche [...] and straits in their outward estates, as plundering, sequestration, finings, and other means of that kind use to bring upon men: unto this sort of affliction the Christians in the primitive pe [...]secutions were exceedingly liable; who yet joyfully suffered the spoiling of their goods, Heb. 10.34. This is indeed no little part of trial, when parents and chil­dren are casten loose of all temporal things, and have not for the refreshing of themselves and their families. The 3. part of their affliction, is, the reproach of wicked men that wanted not altogether profession; I know (saith the Lord) the blasphemie of th [...]se which say they are Iews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan. Amongst all the Saints crosses, there are none more bitter than cruel mockings, as they are called, Heb. 11.36. and mockings from Iews that pretended to Worship the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Iacob, would be more heavie than the reproaches of heathens: there were none also more bitter revilers of the Son of God and of His follower [...], than these hardned Iews; who having synagogues in considerable Cities, did ever with all their might joyn themselves to reproach and persecute the Christians. It is like that they had a synagogue in this place, pre­tending to worship God according to the manner of His Law; but because of their obsti­nate maliciousnesse, they are by the Lord denied to be Iews; and are said to lie, and to be of the synagogue of Satan: because indeed they looked liker a combination for the devil, th [...]n a Congregation for worshipping of God, who slew the Lord, forbade to speak in His Name, and did persecute His Ministers and People, as the word is, 1 Thess. 2.14, 15.

From which we may see, 1. That the most honest and tender, may be liable to most sharp afflictions. 2. That often rods and crosses of several kinds are joyned together. 3. That reproach is not the least part of affliction of the people of God; and the shame thereof, being well endured, will be accounted honest suffering of a crosse, as if it were a bodily affliction. 4. There is no person more bitter and invective against those that are sincere▪ than such as have had some engagements to God by profession, and have fallen from the same. 5. Pretended friends (as these Iews were) may come to be most grosse enemies, which is both their sin and their plague: therefore, 1 Thess. 2.—16. [Page 147] it is said, that wrath was come upon them to the uttermost. 6. Gods people may look to be met with, and entertained by men, as the Lord Jesus useth to be: if He be well enter­tained, so will it be with them; if He be despised, as He was by these Iews, let them look to be blasphemed and despised also: for, it is enough to the servant that he be like his Master.

The consolation that is proposed against the foresaid affliction, is two wayes set down, 1. More generally, I know thy works: which doth not only relate to His Omnisciency, as is usuall in these Epistles; but here it taketh in His approbation, as the word after cleareth. Also it is opposed to His taking▪ notice of their enemies malice, I know the blasphemy of them that call themselves Iews, &c. Therefore, His knowing of their works, must include His respect to their honesty, as His knowing of their blasphemy pointeth out His detesta­tion of the same. It is no little part of Believers consolation in any strait, that the Lord Jesus knoweth how it is with them, and can bear testimony to their integrity, when they are even almost overwhelmed with reproaches before men. It is no little encouragement [...]lso, that He doth take notice of enemies their malice, as here is observed.

The second way the consolation is expressed, is more direct, by Christs plain testimony in these words, thou art rich, that is, what ever men think of thee, as being most de­spicable, or, whatever thou be in thy own estate, most poor and desolate; yet really, and in my estimation, thou art rich, that is, thou art indeed strong in the grace of God, well furnished with Promises and Priviledges, and abundantly rich in faith and good works, Iam. 2. vers. 5. 1 Tim. 6.18. In which things, true riches do consist. This seemeth to be a strange paradox unto the men of the world, thou art poor, and yet thou art rich; yet often have the Saints found this to be a truth; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things, 2 Cor. 6.10. And if this were believed, it might allay the fervour that men have in pursuing after temporall riches: for, the having of them cannot make them rich, (the greatest men in Smyrna get not this testimony from our Lord Jesus, that they are rich) and the want of them cannot make them poor: and therefore Smyrna, even in her poverty, is rich. This also would make the heavenly Riches to be esteemed of, if men believed that their life did not consist in the abundance of the things that they enjoy, as it is, Luk. 12.15.

The future case of Smyrna, which is set down, vers. 10. is also an afflicted condition; and hath its encouragements suitable thereto, laid down. It is, 1. generally proposed to be suffering, Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer. This Church had been suffering; and though honest, was yet to suffer more.

Obs. 1. Sufferings when they begin, oftentimes are not instantly at a close. Yea, 2. The Lord will sometimes exercise these that are most tender, with one crosse upon the back of another. 3. He Himself is notwithst [...]nding still tender of them, even when they suffer, as may be gathered from this comfortable message to Smyrna.

2. These sufferings are more particularly described, 1. In the kind of suffering, to wit, I [...]prisonment: this is not so to be understood, as if they were to be tried by no other kind of suffering; but it setteth out a main part of their crosse, to wit, that some of them should be cast in Prison, and liberty taken from their persons, which it may be, heretofore they enjoyed. 2. It is described in the principall Agent and Instrument of their suffering, The devil shall cast some of you into prison. Heathen Emperours, wicked Governours and Souldiers, were instrumentall therein; yet it is ascribed to the devil, as if it were imme­diately acted by him, for these reasons, 1. To shew what influence the devil hath in the acting of wicked men, so that in effect their deed, is his deed, they are so subservient to him. 2. It is to shew from what author all persecutions do flow, to wit, from the devil, who is a murderer and a liar from the beginning, and father thereof, Ioh. 8.44. 3. It is to aggrege the horriblnesse of this sin of persecution, as being a main peece of the devils bu­sinesse, be instrumentall therein who will. 4. It serveth also to comfort and encourage the suffering people to patience and constancy, seing the devil is their special enemy, they ought therefore not to faint in opposing of him, nor to stumble in being opposed by him.

3. Their suffering is described by a designation of the persons, who were especially thus to suffer, he shall cast some of you into prison, &c. By you, we understand especially the Ministers; some whereof, saith the Lord, were to be cast in prison; and yet but some: [Page 148] to shew that He was not altogether to extinguish their light. The reasons why we un­derstand it especially of Ministers, are, 1. Because that doth especially prove a triall to the Church, when her Ministers are set upon. 2. Because the p [...]eserving of some of them, i [...] a speciall comfort against affliction, according to the promise, Isa. 30.20, 21. And were it not to be understood of Ministers, it might have a fulfilling, though they should [...]ll be cast in prison. 3. The sensible [...]lte [...]ing of the number from [...] in the singular, to you in the plural number, doth clear that the same party is to be understood by both: and seing by the first, the Angel, collectively taken, is certainly to be understood; this sheweth that in this [...]ast place, such, to wit, Ministers, are also to be understood. This form of changing the number, will be more clear in vers. 24.

4. This future affliction, is described in its end, that is, trial; that ye may be tri [...]d: this is neither the end that the devils or persecut [...]rs have before them; but that which the Lord intends, who, by this suffering, minded to discover some infirmities to themselves, and to bring forth the solidity and str [...]ngth of His grace, to His praise and their comfort before others.

5. It is described in its height, and conti [...]ance: it [...] height is tribulation, that is, very sore and great pressures▪ its continuance, is, [...]yes, in definite, for an indefinite time▪ and doth set out, 1. That their afflictions in general were determined by the Lord, to a day. 2. That it was not long; it was but for dayes. The saddest affliction of the people of God have an end. Yet, 3. It is for ten dayes: to shew that it was for some conti­nuance, and that the people of God ough [...] not to look for freedom from their crosse [...] in the first, second, or fifth day. Some apply it to the persecution that followed in the dayes of Trajan, for the space of ten years; but we conceive the most generall acceptation is safest.

The speciall encouragements that are expressed, are two: (for, some are implyed in the former words) The first, is, fear none of th [...]se things, &c. This is a generall comfort, frequently given by the Lord, fear not, &c. Isa. 41.42, 43. &c. And certainly though it be generall; yet being spoken out of Christs own mouth, must be very comprehensive and massie. By which we learn, That the Saints consolations flow not from their freedom, or being pres [...]rved from crosses, (for, that is not their comfort here) but they flow from Christs being engaged to sustain them under the same, and from His Word, which ought to keep them from anxiety and fainting in the greatest tribulations. The second encourage­ment, is subjoyned to an exhortation, Be thou fa [...]thfull unto death, and I will g [...]ve th [...] [...] crown of life. The Lord subjoyneth the promise to the exhortation, 1. To shew the ne­cessity of stedfastnesse, even under suffering, seing without it there is no promise of re­ward. 2. It is done to mol [...]ifie and sweeten the p [...]remptorinesse of that exhortation by such a sweet encouraging promise annexed to it. The promise is of a crown of life: which looketh to the eternall happinesse that Believers are to enjoy after this, as 2 Tim. 4.7.8. It is called life: because of the cheerfulnesse of that condition, where Mortality is swal­lowed up of life: and the life that is here, is not worthy of that name. And it is a crown of life: to shew the dignity and excellenty thereof; and also to intimate that it is [...] prize to be obtained (as Crowns usually were given) after a fight. Also, the Lord saith, I will give it, if thou be faithfull unto death: to shew, that faithfulnesse and perseverance there­in, is a necessary pre-requisite to the obtaining of this Crown; yet that it h [...]th no merito­rious influence to alter the nature and freenesse of it, it is still a gift of grace even to those that persevere.

Observe, 1. That faithfulnesse and perseverance in Holinesse, are no lesse necessary than Heaven: for, a man cannot attain the one without the other. 2. What ever pinches a Believer may have, the Crown of Glory ought to make all sweet in the very hope ther [...]: therefore is it proposed here. 3. It is not every one that have this promise, nor every one that may warrantably apply the same, although most men usually exceed in this, and beg [...]ile themselves.

The Conclusion (which is the third part of the Epistle) followeth, vers. 11. Wherein there is, 1. The common advertisement to all that have an ear, to hear: which sheweth how carefull men ought to be in hearing of this Word, even as if particu [...]ly it were spo­ken to them. 2. There is a spec [...] promise made to overcomers, he that ov [...]c [...]et [...], shall not be hurt of the s [...]ord [...]. The person to whom the promise i [...] made▪ was [Page 149] form [...]ly spoken of: it is not the man that pleaseth himself, or yeeldeth to [...]ll sort of [...]en­ [...]atio [...], or for [...]a time seemeth to be dilige [...] but he that fighteth and overcom [...]th▪ The thing promised, is to be [...]eeped from [...]he hurt of the second de [...]th there is a first death which is a separation of the Soul from the Body, common to good and bad▪ there is a second [...]th, which i [...] to b [...] eternally separated from the presence of God and the Lamb, [...]specially at the day of Judgement▪ to wi [...] when all the wicked as d [...]gs, sorcerer [...], and li [...]rs, shall be cast int [...] the lake, which is the second death, Rev. [...]1.8▪ In sum, the promise is, he: that overcometh shall be keeped from hell.

From which we may gather, 1. That there is a second death after men are laid in the grave. 2. That this death is most horrible and dreadfull. 3. That it is a singular care and speciall favour and priviledge to be keeped from that second death. [...]. It is implyed, that the generality of men, who [...]re slaves do▪ their lusts, and war not against them for Christ, shall be made liable to this second death, and forever be a pr [...]y to the same▪ 5. It sheweth what is the Believers advantage by Christs moyand and friendship that lives for ever, he shall be freed from this. And lastly, from the scope, we may gather, that if a man may [...]e keeped from the second death and wrath to come, he may the more patiently endur [...] what ever else he may meet with in this world, though it were even the first death it self.

Concerning the influence that the devil hath on some wicked mens actions: and how he doth carrie-on the same.

ONe thing may be further inquired here, to wit, concerning the devils influence on men [...] actions▪ for, that this effect is attributed to the devil, (the devil shall cast some of you into prison), it holdeth forth a special hand that he hath in acting men to do evil, so that their deed is his. Concerning which, we may in generall say, that the devil may have and often hath great power on men▪ especially wicked men, in making them subser­vient to his designs. Thus, he maketh men cast some faithful Ministers in prison here: he reigneth, as having men at his command, in the next Epistle▪ and leadeth them captive at his will, 2 Tim. 2.26. he fighteth with Michael, and stirreth up Heresies as well as per­secution, chap. 12. he deceiveth the Nations, chap. 20. And often his power is spoken of in this Prophesie: and it is certain that it is very great, 1. having effects upon the bodies of men, to carrie them from one place to another, as he did to the body of Christ, Matth. 4. to afflict them by sicknesse, pain and sores as he did Io [...]: and the Woman (Luke 13.16.) whom, being a daughter of Abraham, Satan hath [...]ound, saith Christ, lo, these eighteen years, &c. 2. Upon the external senses▪ he can delude ears, eyes, &c. either by mis­representing external objects, or by inward disturbing of the faculties and organes, whereby men and women, may, and do often apprehend that they hear, see, &c. such and such things, which indeed they do not. 3. Inwardly he may have influence to disturb the reason, and mar the judgment, as he did in these men whom he possessed, Matth. 8. vers. 28. He hath influence on the understanding, and so he is said to blind men, 2. Corinth. 4. vers. 4. 4. He may work on the memory and affections also, as by stealing away the Word, Mat. 13. vers. 19. and also wakening hatred, lust, envie, &c. Yea, some way he may work on the will, and so he is said to put resolutions in the hear [...], as it is said of Ana [...]ias and Sap­phira, to li [...] to the holy Ghost, Acts. 5.3. and of Iudas, to betray Christ, Ioh. 13.27. So, 1 Chron. 21. being compared with, 2 Sam. 24.1. it is said, that he, that is, Satan, did move and provoke David to number the people. All which in the effects▪ are clear: therefore is he said both to reign in some at his pleasure, and to deceive or delude others by wiles and subtilty, 2 Corinth. 2. vers. 11. which are his devices. These are all certain: Although we cannot fully shew how he effectuateth them; yet, this we may say;

First, He hath no [...]bsolute independent power to do what he will, but is limited, orde­red, and bounded by the Lord. And, secondly, He hath no infallible, insuperable way of acting by himself on men; but as men through their sin yeeld unto him: for, he is [Page 150] dependent, Iob 1.7, 8. and can violent none to sin. Thirdly, He can have no immediate infallible acquaintance with what is in mens hearts: for, that is Gods property. Fourthly, He hath no immediate determinating influence on the will of men: so that although he may perswade violently; yet he cannot determine men to follow: that is the Lords prerogative alone, to have hearts in His hand, Prov. 21. vers. 1. to turn them whithersoever He will. And therefore, whatsoever way the devil prevaileth, it is but by a mediate way of alluring, or deceiving, by making use of means for that end. Fifthly, He can infuse no new cor­ruption, nor can he create any inward species or representations, thereby to tempt: for, that is a work of omnipotencie; but, he must work upon what is within the person that he acteth upon, for producing of these: yet, being permitted of God, he may use most powerfull perswasive means, by his skill and agility to draw men (being now corrupt) in­sensibly to many grosse sins; or, at least, to tempt them. Which temptation, meeting with corruption in us, and the Lord justly giving over some to it, Satan may prevail over them by such and such like means, as,

1. He may by signes know mens particular inclinations and predominants (although he reach not to the understanding of the thoughts immediatly:) and he may gather what snare may most readily prevail with men for the time, according as evidences may appear in their way, either by their not praying to God, or, by what kythes in words and other carriage, wherein certainly he goeth beyond any man, to wit, in taking up of mens inclinations. 2. He may suit and fit external temptations to their distemper, and tryste them so as there may be accesse to the venting of such lusts: thus, he maketh Iudas his inclination to cove­tousnesse and the Pharisees envie, to tryste together; David to behold Bathsheba in such a posture, when he is somewhat secure, &c. 3. He may jumble, confound and put through other the inward frame, by working on what is natural in the humours of the body, for awakening lust, passion, revenge, suspicion, fears, &c. whereby men are some way dis­posed to yeeld to the tentation offered, which he timeth with this. 4. He may cast-in representations in the mind, of such and such things, diverting the imagination from objects which might mar his design; and so he may order what is within, as out of it, or by it, to form representations in the imagination of such and such things: whereby, proposing them (as it were) objectively to the understanding, he may mediately offer them to the will: and for that end also, for a time keep such thoughts in the mind and in the memory. Thus, often the Saints cannot be free of imaginations (by his abusing of the fantasie) which they hate, and at which they have horrour: and therefore, these cannot be thought natively, and naturally to arise from themselves, which are so strange and uncouth to th [...]m. Thus, some things come unexpectedly, by Satans furnishing the thoughts with a sinful midse for attaining of an end, that is desired; and, it may be, is desirable. Thus also he may darken Scripture, offer diverse senses to it, furnish objections against the truth of it, or against the true meaning of it, obstruct their taking up of the weight of any reason against their Errors, &c. as he is said, to blind. (2 Cor. 4. vers. 4.) the minds of them that believe not, &c. and to spew out a floud of error, Rev. 12.15. He may not only objectively thus present such a thing; but he may continue to bear it in, and to use motives drawn from seeming reason to ingage the will to yeeld to it, as he did to Adam and Eve at the first: and thus, he stirreth not only natural humours of the body; but natural corruptions, engaging all the lusts, as they may have influence to prevail with the will, for yeelding to these ten­tations; So Iudas his covetousnesse, is engaged to deal with him to sell his Master: for, the devil though he infuse no covetous humour; yet he may act on what there is: and he stirreth the Pharisees envie to concur and make them accept of that offer. And in this doth lye a main part of the tentation, and the devils wiles and devices, whereby he deceiveth, to wit, in making seeming reasons to have weight, as if there were force in them, and true grounds to be rejected as not for such a time, &c. nor of such weight. Thus he pre­vailed with Eve, presenting the tentation with its plausible, (though false) reasons. And this way, though indirectly, as the Apostle saith, 2 Corinth. 11.3. he continueth to deal with Adams successors; to prevail with them as he did with Eve by his subtilty: and thus he leadeth men at his pleasure, by proposing to them what he will: otherwise he could have no such dominion over men in the world as he hath: and thus, many sins are born-in on men, without any connexion with their natural complexion: and if it were not thus, one man might prevail in some respect more with another (for he can deal by reason with him) [Page 151] than the devil could, if he had no objective influence on them: and the tentations being often unto particular designs, it sheweth, that the d [...]vil [...]ath a moral objective way of dealing with men: otherwise it were no more to say that the devil put it in Iudas heart to betray his Master, than to say he stirred him up to love money; but this sheweth, that to him who loved money formerly, the devil proposeth this, as a fit mean to gain somewhat of it. Also, Acts 5. it said to Ananias, Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie? &c. so that (as it were) when it was objected within themselves, what if it be asked whether the Lands were sold at so much? the devil furnisheth the answer: say (saith he) i [...] was: and he maketh it probable that none should know it, seing both man and wife were to agree in their answers: and so he presenteth that to them, by which their covetous and distrust­full humours prevailed with them; and they both yeelded: therefore it is also said, Acts 5.4. Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? And, v. 9. How is it that ye have agreed together? The seed, as it were, cometh from the devil who injected it; the conceiving is from our corruption, which entertaineth the motions stirred up by him. And how can it be otherwise said that he blindeth mens eyes that they should not understand the Gospel? for, if it were only by a natural stirring of humours, it would distemper them for every thing; but here lieth the tentation, that they are wise in all other things, but in spiritual things, the devil blindeth them, and maketh the Gospel seem foolishnesse to them. Thus, he [...]etteth on Ahab by entysing him without by his prophets, and swaying him within out of pride; and he prevailed with the false prophets, by stirring them up to lie, and that in reference to that particular design, which no mere influence on the body could have done.

By all which we may see, that it is not without good reason said, that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour; he is near the heart, & is often upon folks counsel when they are not aware. And this sheweth, what need there is of watchfulnesse, that we give not place to the devil, and that he get not occasion to tempt: for, with much subtilty can he make use of it; and act men in executing of his orders, when they know not what he is doing, as likely it was with these persecuters whom he engaged thus to persecute these Ministers: which way of his, being frequently mentioned in this Book, we have, once for all, said this of it.

From this we may also gather, how little weight is to be laid upon the testimonie of this de­vil, whose work it is to suppresse the Truth of Christ, and to traduce His Servants: for which cause, our Lord and His Apostles, would not suffer him to speak, even when he pretended to confesse Him; because, he was a liar from the beginning, and the father thereof. It's therefore not unworthy the observing how contrary to our Lords way the Jesuites are in this; who, to supplie the defect of other testimonies for their way against the Calvinists, (as they call them) do carefully and industriously gather and heap up testimonies from the devils mouth, and insult therein as a proof incontrovertible: for this end, L [...]rinus, in cap. 5. act. v. 16. having cited some pretended Histories holding forth the little weight the Lutherans had with the devil, doth subjoyn this as an infallible confirmation of their compliance with him, Sed & ex ore energumenae Laudunensis tota Gallia, ac toto orbe Christiano celebratissima, Calvinianos daem [...]n irrid [...]ns, nihil sibi ab illis timendum cla­ [...]bat [...]nctis audientibus, Anno 1566. quoniam amisi essent, & foederati, sicut [...]estan­tur act [...], Gallicè samma fide scripta, &c. It is in sum, this, That the devil out of the mouth of one that was famous for being possessed by him, did mock the Calvinists, crying out, and that openly before all, that there was nothing to be feared from them, for they were friends and confederates: and for confirmation of this, he asserteth the thing to be with great faithfulnesse recorded: as if the weight did only lye in the matter of fact, and that there were no cause to question his faithfulnesse who gave this testimonie. But of this enough: we have reason to thank God, that our faith in the Truths of God, and our clear­nesse of the Errors of their way, are built upon a more sure foundation▪ and that our con­troversie with them, is not at the devils decision, from whom indeed the Calvinists might expect no favourable sentence. But the Lord is judge Himself, To Him be praise for ever.

LECTURE V.

Vers. 12.

And to the Angel of the Church in Pergamos, write, These things saith he, which hath the sharp sword with two edges,

13.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satans seat is, and thou holdest fast my Name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those dayes wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14.

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the chil­dren of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto Idols, and to commit fornication.

15.

So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

16.

Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden Manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.

FOlloweth now the third Epistle, directed by the Lord to the Church of Pergamos: the estate of it is implyed in the Body of the Epistle to be a suffering condition: and though having much integrity, honesty, and constancy under her sufferings; yet in some things reproveable and defective; especially in her zeal against false Teachers: for which cause, the Lord doth here, though with great tendernesse, reprove her.

The division of the Epistle is common with all the rest. The Inscription is in the 12. vers. The Body of the Epistle, in the 13, 14, 15, 16. verses. The Conclusion in the 17. vers.

The direction, (which is the first part of the Inscription) is, To the Angel of the Church of Pergamos, a famous City in Asia the lesse, sometimes the seat of Kings; and for that present time, a seat of the Roman Governours: a place full of sin, Idolatry, and cruelty; Yet hath our Lord a Church here, to which He writes, when He taketh no notice of the Governour, or of these who were most eminent: which doth shew, 1. The power and efficacy of the Ordinances of Jesus Christ, in reaching whom He pleaseth, though in the most desperate condition. 2. It sheweth the freenesse of grace, that condescends to gather a Church here. 3. It sheweth His tendernesse to, and care of those whom He hath gathered to be a Church unto Himself, beyond any other in the World.

The iTtle He taketh to Himself, is, He who hath the sword with the two edges: the sword with the two edges, is the word of God, Ephes. 6.17. Heb. 4.12. which we heard (Chap. 1. v. 16.) did proceed out of Christs mouth. It sheweth, that Christ hath the command of the Word, to make it effectuall for the good of His Elect; and for the convincing, smitting, wounding and slaying of His enemies by spiritual plagues: and it is chosen in this place, because He doth make use of this as His soveraigne priviledge in the threatning, for stirring up the Angel to his duty.

In the Body of the Epistle (besides the common assertion of Gods Omniscience) we have, First, the commendation of this Angel and Church, vers. 13. Secondly, the re­proof, vers. 14.15. Thirdly, an exhortation to duty, with a sharp threatning added, as a motive to presse the same, vers. 16.

In the commendation, we have, 1. the thing commended. 2. Some excellent aggrava­tions, (to call them so) or commending qualifications of this commendation. The thing commended, is in two expressions to one purpose, Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith: By name, we understand the Doctrine of the Gospel, whereby Christs [Page 153] Name, that is, Himself is held forth and manifested: for, in the Gospel, to preach Christs Name, and to declare it to the Gentiles, is all one with preaching Himself, or His Gospel. By faith, is understood the Doctrine of faith in Him, which is the same thing. The holding fast of His Name, is a zealous adhering to the profession of His Truth, as it were, hold­ing it by both hands; and not denying His faith, is an open avowing of the same by a publick profession, and honouring Christ by their avouching of their faith in Him, without fainting, or shifting in the same, notwithstanding of any peril that might follow thereupon. For, this negative, Not denying His faith, doth import more than is expressed.

The commendation, is amplified by two speciall circumstances, that serve to heighten the same, 1. From the place where; And, 2. from the time when; they expresse this constancy. 1. For the place: it is where Satans throne was. It is not much to avow a profession in some places; but to do it in such a place as Pergamos, where Satan had a seat or throne, (as the word is) is much. Satans having a throne, implyeth not only a sinfulnesse in that place, common with other places; but it doth insinuate such an open avowed opposition to Christ and His followers, and such an adhering to Satan, that, on the matter, it looked as if Satan had commanded expresly there in chief: for, not only was wickednesse tolerated; but carried on, and established by a law: nor only had he a seat in hearts, as he hath in all men by nature; but in the Magistracy and Judicatories, whereby orders were given in publick, in reference to persecution and profanity; and men did so walk, as if directly orders had been given by Satan, and taken from him, in that place: he did so effectually without controll (as it were) obtain his will, the Lord so permitting and ordering it in His wise and secret providence and Justice.

From which, 1. We may see how tyrannously the devil would mannage every thing, if he had things at his disposall. 2. At what great height he may have his dominion, even beside the Gospel, and in the place where it is. 3. How fully men naturally are slaves to the devil, he being the prince of this world, that worketh in the children of disobedience, Ephes. 2.2. And, 4. We may see what need there is to pray that Christs Kingdom may come, and how thankfull we ought to be, who are in any measure freed from this tyrannie.

The second circumstance in this commendation, is, the time, that is, it was even in those dayes wherein Antipas was my faithfull Martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. This is also an excellent part of the commendation, that it was not only in such a place, that was wicked and profane; but at such a time when wickednesse and profanity was exercised in its height, which is proven by the death of a faithfull Martyr, who was then violently slain amongst them: at such a time to hold fast His Name, was indeed commendable. Whereby we see how the Lord doth take notice of the commendable circumstances of His peoples duties, as He doth of the aggravations of their sins. What this Antipas was, there is no more mentioned in Scripture concerning him: it is recorded in Story that he was a Minister in Pergamos, and it is not improbable, seing these are most ordinarily the object of persecuters malice and violence. However, the Lord putteth three great titles upon him, 1. He is a Martyr: this signifieth a witnesse, and that not only such a witnesse, as witnesseth by word and profession, but as sealeth it with his bloud: thus Paul speaketh of Stephen, Act. 22.20. when the bloud of thy Martyr Stephen was shed. And therefore in the Primitive times, Martyrs were distinguished from confessors, thus, Martyrs, were such as suffered to death; confessors, were such as suffered impri­sonment, mutilation of some member, whippings, or such like, for the faith of Christ. 2. He calls him a faithfull Martyr: to shew that not only the cause was honest, for which he suffered; but also that he was honest in his suffering for the same. 3. He is my faithful Witnesse: which setteth forth, 1. The end of Antipas suffering, which was to bear witnesse for Christ. 2. It holdeth forth the Lords owning of him in that testi­mony, and now by this, as it were, from Heaven writing this kindly and honourable Epitaph upon him, he is my fatithfull Martyr. It may be, he was stoned in some tumult as a seditious person, or one not worthy to live, because of some reproaches or other put upon him; yet thus doth the Lord own him, to wipe all these away, and to make his memory to be the more savory; and witnesse bearing for Christ, to be the lesse scared at; that so others may be animated and encouraged to be followers of Him.

From all which we may gather, 1. That it is exceeding commendable to be zealous, and [Page 154] stedfast in such a place, and at such a time as Religion is hazardsome and dangerous. 2. That the death of any of the Lords people, especially when it is in witnessing for Him, is exceeding precious in His sight. 3. That honest witnessing for Christ is a most honou­rable thing Antipas being particularly named with these titles, for setting forth the honourablnesse of his suffering. 4. We may see also, that there is an implied distinction of Martyrs, some are faithful, and, it may be, some dying the same death, and before men for the same cause, may yet not be accounted faithful before the Lord. If it be asked, What is necessary to make one to be accounted a faithful Martyr before God? We suppose these four are necessary, 1. That the person suffer as a wel-doer, so it must be for the Truth of Christ, or righteousnesse sake, Matth. 5.10, 11. for, non est mors, sed causa mortis quae facit Martyrem. 2. Not only would suffering be stated upon a particular account, wherein they have the side that is right comparatively; but they would be right simplie in the main Truths of Christ, as for instance, somtimes Arrians and Iews, after Christs coming in the flesh, and other Hereticks, did suffer by Heathens, either because they would not wor­ship their Idols, and disclame the true God; or, because they would not simplie deny them­selves to be Christians: they had indeed the better, if we look to the Question as stated between them and Heathens; yet they cannot be called Christs faithful witnesses, seing they did not faithfully give testimonie to Him in His Person, Natures, and Offices. 3. It is necessary that the person be, as to his state, a Believer, without which none can be a faithfull Martyr, although possibly his testimonie may be a faithful testimonie: for, without faith it is impossible to please God, especially in such a great thing as suffering for Him. 4. It would be gone about in the right manner, so as thereby the testimonie given to Christ, may be made the more to shine, to wit, there would be blamlessenesse in the mans conversation, singlnesse in his end, deniednesse, zeal, humility and love kything and in exercise in his un­dertaking and undergoing those sufferings, as we may see in Stephen, Acts 7.51. &c. And this is to suffer as a Christian, and not as an evil doer, and busie body, 1 Pet. 4.15, 16. and according to the will of God, by which such may be incouraged to commit the keeping of their souls to Him in wel-doing, Ibid. vers. 19. This is also confirmed from, 1 Corinth. 13.

He doth again repeat where Satan dwelleth. 1. To shew that the devils dominion in that place, was not by starts and fits; but that he had a setled, and (as it were) a con­stant residence there. 2. To commend their honesty and stedfastnesse the more. 3. It is to shew the great evidence of the devils dominion, to wit, that faithfull men were put to suffering for the cause of Christ.

The reproof followeth, vers. 14, 15. First, generally, but I have a few things against thee: this is not to be understood as if the faults were little in themselves; But it is thus expressed, 1. To shew how tender He was of them, when (as it were) He heightens their commendation, and extenuates their faults. 2. It is to encourage and hearten them to mend cheerfully that which He reproveth.

Hence Observe, 1. There may be corruption and defects, where there are very many things commendable. 2. Where there is honesty in the main, and a suffering condition for Christ, there He is no rigid or severe censurer; but a most tender constructer of His Peoples infirmities.

Secondly, More particularly He setteth down by way of similitude the ill reproved, vers. 14. Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, &c. which He apply eth, vers. 15. It is not to be thought that there were any professed followers of Ba­laam in that Church; but the intent is, to shew, that, upon the matter, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans did agree therewith; and if Balaams practice was hatefull, theirs must also be such. And so, by proposing the hatefull way of Balaam, He discovereth the odi­ousnesse of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans: which will be found, upon the matter, to be the same. The History of Balaam is recorded, Numb. 22, 23, 24, and 31. Chapters. In sum this, he was a greedy covetous wretch, who greedily aimed at the wages of unrighte­ousnesse; and being restrained from cursing the people of Israel by the Lord, he gave subtile advice to Balak to draw the people of Israel into a snare, that thereby God might be provoked against them; and so, in the close, they might be prevailed over. Iosephus, in the fourth Book of the Antiquities of the Iews, expresseth it thus, That he advised Balak to send some of the beautifullest Women of Midian to wander about the Camp of [Page 155] Israel; who, though they should intertain the Israelites familiarly, yet that they should not yeeld any thing to their lust; but that they should pretend to run from them, till they should partake of their Idol feasts with them: in reference to both which, they prevailed with the Israelites, and drew them both into bodily, and spiritual fornication: which were the two great faults of the Nicolaitans, to wit, liberty in fornication, as if it were not sinful; and indifferencie in eating of things sacrificed to Idols, without respect to offence, as was showen on vers. 6. Therefore the Lord here speaketh of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, as being indeed tho reviving of Balaam's old condemned Error: And so they became guilty before God of his practices, as if they had expresly professed the main­taining of the same, It is said, That Balaam taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, &c. His wicked advice getteth that name: because, it proved an occasion of falling and stumbling to the Israelites, as if a stumbling block had been cast in the way of some man, to make him fall. Thus many sinful practices have not only the consideration of guiltinesse, in respect of the persons themselves, who commit the same; but have also the consideration of offence, as they are apt to prove occasions of falling, and ruine unto others. This also, to wit, of laying a stumbling block before others, will agree well in application to the Nicolaitans: who, as they were guilty in the sin of uncleannesse; so were they carelesse in reference to offence, not regarding how offensive their way was unto others in the use of indifferent things, such as eating of things sacrificed, &c. which in these primitive times was to many the occasion of stumbling, when Christian-liberty was not rightly bounded, as we may gather from, 1 Corinth. 8.9, 10. And these two also often go together, to be carelesse of guilt before God, and of offence before others.

From which we may gather, 1. That the most vile Errors and delusions may increase exceedingly: This of the Nicolaitans had spread in Ephesus, Pergamos, and several other Churches, even in the dayes of Iohn the Apostle. 2. That new-upstart grosse abo­minations, are oftentimes indeed but the reviving of some old buried and condemned pra­ctices or doctrines. Thus the Error of the Nicolaitans, is but indeed, on the matter, the putting of Balaam's practice in a doctrine, and maintaining the same under another name. 3. We may see that it is an allowed way of confuting new start-up delusions, to shew their agreement, on the matter, with former old acknowledged and condemned Heresies. Thus the Lord doth here; and in the Epistle following, he compareth them to Iezebel: for, often men will more impartially judge of by-past Errors, than of what seemeth to be new: and therefore the devil useth most cunningly to disguise those things, and to endeavour to have old Errors vented under the notion of new lights, and depths, when indeed they are but old rotten delusions.

If it be said here, That ordinarily the most grosse men use to brand the most Orthodox with this, as being revivers of old Heresies, whereof many instances may be given. For Answer, We say, That a simple asserting of this, is not sufficient to bear it out: we would therefore propose these qualifications, 1. That the thing esteemed to be an Error or Here­sie, be indeed incontrovertibly such, and that in some fundamental thing: indeed some­times, even the Ancients, do put somethings in the Catalogue of Heresies, which will not be found to be of such weight. It is not those we speak of, nor is it such that are men­tioned here. 2. The application also would be clear; and men would not charge others with Heresies of an odious name or nature upon prejudice, or upon mistake of some expres­sion: nay, not upon some seeming consequence, which the Authors do deny, and, it may be, others cannot demonstratively shew the inference thereof. Here it is not so, the practice and doctrine of the Nicolaitans, is so clear, that they cannot deny it in particulars, though it may be, at first, they would refuse it to be the doctrine of Balaam. 3. Such an appli­cation would be made in knowledge, and from through acquaintance with the alleged old Heresie upon the one side, and with particular tenents of others, who are supposed to maintain that error, upon the other side. Oftentimes men speak in those things, what they know not, or with a too lightly passing view; or, upon some probable resemblance, or appearance, are ready to ground such an application. 4. This would be remembered, that the old condemned Heresie must be such as is condemned in Scripture, and that still the Word is to be acknowledged as the supre [...]m rule. All which agree in this application; and where they agree, it is not a little prejudice to an opinion, to say, it is, on the matter, the [Page 156] same with such and such an old Heresie, that is, to mens conviction long since condemned upon grounds from the Word of God.

This was a foul Error: and it is not to be thought that this Angel, who is here so com­mended, was guilty of any of these evils, by any positive accession to them; but this is the fault charged upon him, That thou hast them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, that is, the Angel had such in the Church, who continued to be Members, and were not by Discipline cut off. This is his fault: for, it was not the Churches fault that such lived in Pergamos, because they had no civil Authority to impede that; yet it was their fault that they lived Church-members there, because they had Church Authority to remedie that, which yet was not put in exercise against them, as by Ephesus had been done.

From which we may gather, 1. That the Church is invested with a Power and Autho­rity for cutting off of corrupt Members. 2. That it is a most horrible fault where there is defect in this. Our Lord Jesus quarrelleth the want of this in Pergamos, where He com­mendeth much honestie: and He commendeth it in Ephesus, where there wanted not in­ward defects: because there is nothing that more occasioneth the Name of Christ to be re­proached, His Ordinances to be despised, His people to be offended and stumbled, than the suffering of corrupt Members that are tainted with Errors to continue in the Church. Therefore much of the Churches commendations or reproofs in these Epistles is founded on this, as it is rightly, or, partially exercised. 3. By this it appeareth, that our Lord Jesus is no friend to Toleration; and that the tolerating of corrupt Teachers, can no way be approven of Him. It is true, this is directly spoken against Church-men their tolerating of corrupt Teachers; But will any think that that will be approven in civil Powers, which is so hateful in the Church-officers? or, that Jesus Christ will account Toleration in the one to be hateful, and in the other to be approvable? 4. There is diversitie of tempers in Church-officers, and diversitie of conditions in Churches, even where there may be real honesty in both: Ephesus had much coldnesse within, and yet much zeal against those Nico­laitans: Pergamos again, is much commended for their zeal and constancie in suffering; and yet reproved for want of zeal against these corrupt Members. 5. Men may be very straight and tender in the work of God, and bold in reference to suffering; and yet faint and be defective in the prosecuting of Church-censures against erroneous men. This ap­peareth both from this Epistle and that which followeth, where their particular condition and publick carriage in other things, is exceedingly commended; yet is there a notwith­standing in both in reference to this.

If it be asked, What can be the reason that honest, tender, and zealous men should be so often defective in this, who yet may be zealous and fervent against scandalous practices?

Answ. These reasons may be given, 1. It is more difficult to get the impression of the odiousnesse of corrupt doctrine on the heart, than of grosse outward practices: be­cause grosse practices offend nature more directly, and are hatefull even to naturall men: and even some good men are ready to foster such an opinion, as if grace were more con­sistent with error than with profanity. Upon this ground the Lord Himself, and the Apostles do more frequently give people warning to mark and abstain from them that cause offences contrary to the Doctrine of the Gospel, than they do in matters of grosse practice. 2. Persuing of persons that are erroneous, hath often little fruit with it as to the persons themselves, there being but few that are recovered out of that snare of the devil, and to whom God giveth repentance, who once deliberately oppose themselves to the Truth; but on the contrary, they seem to be more bold, and to make a greater stir than if they had not been taken notice of, as we see in Corinth, and Galatia; the more that Paul pressed them, the more they seemed to despise him, and they go on in their contradiction and blasphemy, as in the History of the Acts, and instances of Hymeneus and Philetus, is clear. This maketh that even sometimes good men, out of fear of the inconveniences that may follow, and the difficulties that accompany such a work, may be too prone to oversee and forbear them. 3. Sometimes respect to the persons of some who may be car­ried away, may have influence on this, as suppose some persons for a name of piety, sometimes favorie, should be seduced; preposterous tendernesse to those may make men cruelly to spare them to their prejudice. This fault the Lord seemeth to quarrel in Thyatira, that they suffered his servants to be seduced. 4. There may be also a design by more gentle means to restrain such an errour, and recover such as are fallen, whereby they [Page 157] may come to exceed and turn to be defective in not using the means appointed, as if such censures had been needlesly appointed, or, as if the Lord did not make use of mediate means for the restraining of errour. 5. Such businesses also have often their own mistakes among many tender members of the Church; some whereof, may be too favourable con­structers of the most grosse seducers, and so fear to offend them; and love to keep all in peace, oftentimes may steal in to have weight to the prejudice of the Lords Ordinance. It is written of the Schism in Phrygia, which arose for Montanus, that many did con­struct too well of him; as not thinking it impossible but he might be a good man, who, therefore could not go alongst in the thoughts that others had of him. There is readily something of this amongst the weakest sort where deluders come, which getting way for a time, doth rather increase than diminish; and so leaveth this duty in a greater none-entry than at first.

We come now to the remedy, or duty exhorted to, which is laid down and pressed vers. 16. It is in short, Repent; that same which was proposed to Ephesus, vers. 5. The Lord hereby signifying, 1. That when sins are fallen into, it is not enough to forbear them, but there must be an exercising of repentance for them. 2. That there is no ex­pectation to be keeped free from wrath where there hath been sin without repentance. 3. That ommissions are sinfull and to be repented of, even as commissions are. And, 4. That sinfull ommissions in a mans publick Station (such as this is, which is reproved) are to be repented of, as grosse personall faults are.

The threatning annexed, is, in these words, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. It hath two parts: The first, re­specteth the Church or Angel of Pergamos, I will come unto thee quickly, that is, if thou repent not, I will one way or another come in judgement against thee. We conceive it re­lateth to the Angel especially, it being in the singular number: because this fault being a defect in Discipline, is not so to be imputed to the People, as to him whose place it was to take order with such corruptions: which will appear more clearly afterward. The second part respecteth these grosse members that were suffered to be in the Church, to wit, the Nicolaitans, I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth, that is, seing ye are guilty of defect here, if there be not repentance for it, I will come in an extraordinary way and my self punish those whom ye have suffered. For clearing of this threatning, we may consider, 1. Wherein it consisteth. 2. How it can be a threatning to the Angel. 3. Wherefore he is so peculiarly threatned.

To the first, It is clear here, that the party immediately threatned, is the Nicolai­tans, whom the Lord threatneth to fight against with the sword of His mouth: which looketh not to any external, or corporal plague: for, the sword of His mouth, is not the weapon that inflicteth such: But it looketh especially to these, 1. To a discovery of their wickednesse, and of the hatefulnesse of their way, by His Word. 2. To a censuring, threatning, and sentencing of them by the same. 3. To a fruitlesnesse of such discoveries, threatnings and sentences, as to any spiritual or saving work upon them; but that they should be by such clear convictions and sentences, in Gods secret Wisdom and Justice, more hardned, convinced, irritated and affected with spiritual plagues, than if they had not been so dealt with: in this respect often in the Scripture we have mentioned, hewing by the Prophets, and slaying by the words of the Lords mouth, as Hosea 6.5. and fighting with Antichrist, and destroying him by the Spirit of His mouth, 2 Thess. 2.8. and else­where the like expressions to that purpose. This is a sad plague, when the Table of the Gospel becometh a snare, and when through mens own corruption they become more drunk with their own delusions, even under convincing Light; and when the Word of God, which is the only Weapon whereby they may offend their enemies, is through their opposing the Light thereof, turned to fight against them, as they have turned themselves to fight against it: the event here as to them, cannot but be desperate.

For the second, It may be questioned how this can be a threatning to the Church or Angel that the Lord would take such course with these corrupt Nicolaitans? It might rather look like a favour to them? Answer, If we consider it more particularly, we will find it a threatning in these respects, 1. That it implies Christ to be angry at their neglect­ing of their duty; and that this extraordinary way doth insinuate His esteeming of them not to be worthy to have this employment: therefore he taketh their duty off their hand, [Page 158] and provideth Himself of some others for the performing thereof. Thus, when Paul is threatning the Corinthians, 1 Epist. Chap. 4. vers. 21. What, shall I come unto you with a vod? &c. whereby he sheweth himself to be angry. In the beginning of the next Chap, he reproveth them for suffering the incestuous person, and commandeth him to be Excom­municated: which beareth out this, that Paul's coming over them to presse such a duty, was a stroke or note for their defect in the same. 2. It is a threatning in this respect: be­cause the taking of some extraordinary way and mean as in reference to these Nicolaitans, hath strange-like and uncouth effects oftentimes following upon it: thereby the Church is put through other, and revolutions follow; and often the Wheat is trode upon, when the Tares are a weeding: which cannot but be hurtful to the Church. 3. It supponeth a laying-by of this Angel and making use of some other for this work of convincing, reprov­ing, and confounding, &c. of those wicked men, which should be to His disgrace, when he should have no hand in so good a work: and so the meaning of the threatning, is, to the Angel, if thou spare these wicked men, and do not thy duty in reference to them, I my self will come in another way, and lay thee by, and follow my purpose in sentencing, and censuring of them by some other mean. And this is to give another his Crown, which is so oft commended to the Angels in those Epistles to be kept. Thus the threatning is not to remove a Ministrie or Church-estate from Pergamos as was in the case of Ephesus; but it is the Lords threatning to lay aside such particular Ministers, and notwithstanding thereof to carrie on His Work.

Now for the third, To wit, wherefore this threatning respecteth the Angel more peculiar­ly, than that of Ephesus, did. Answ. The reason was formerly hinted, to wit, Ephesus sin and defect was in the practice of the power of Godlinesse, common to Ministers and people: therefore doth that threatning extend almost equally to both: this sin again, which is re­proved here, doth peculiarly resfect upon the Ministers: and therefore the weight of the threatning doth peculiarly respect them.

From which we may learn, 1. That fainting and unfaithfulnesse in the Work of the Mi­nistrie, may procure an interruption by one mean or other in the exercise thereof, or a blasting of a man in Gifts and Parts, who somtimes hath been usefull. 2. It sheweth that somtimes God may keep His Word in a place, and exercise it in reference to some per­sons, between whom and Him there is a standing or stated fight, they fighting against Him and not receiving the love of the Truth, and He fighting against them by giving them up to hardnesse of heart and strong delusions; and, in His secret and holy Justice, making His Word and Ordinances to promove the same. 3. It followeth also, that it is a most dread­full thing when the Lord and His Word become our party, and when He fighteth against a people with that Sword: it is here a more terrible threatning to fight against those with the Sword of His mouth, than if He had sent the Sword, Famine, or Pestilence upon them. 4. It implieth, that this is a plague, and a way of punishing, that the Lord in His Justice often sendeth and exerceth upon deluders and corrupt Teachers, who have not re­ceived the love of the Truth, and have perverted the Word of God to their own destru­ction, to wit, that it should be a weapon of Gods indignation for the inflicting of Spiri­tual plagues upon them.

The Conclusion followeth, vers. 17. and hath two parts common with the rest; 1. All that are spiritually affected, and have the sense of right hearing, are exhorted to hear what God saith by His Spirit to the Churches, as if particularly it were spoken to them. This is so far from supposing that men naturally have ears to hear, that it doth imply the contrary, to wit, that it is not every one that hath ears to hear, but that he is a rare man that hath them; for, none can hear spiritually what the Lord saith to the Churches, but such as have gotten them as Moses word is, Deut. 29.4.

The second part of the Conclusion containeth some encouragements to the wrestling Be­liever, as all the rest of the Conclusions do. The party to whom the promise is made, is the same, to wit, him that overcometh, or he that is a overcoming, as it may be read: which pointeth at the zealous, single, constant, and faithful Wrestler, though he hath not yet obtained the victory. The encouragements given him, are, on the matter, the same with the rest, to wit, the happinesse that may be expected in heaven; but are set down in three, or four different expressions, for commending of the same. The first, is, I will give him to eat of the hidden Manna. Manna is called, (Psal. 105.) Angels food; and, Ioh. 6. bread [Page 159] from heaven. It is, in a word, the most excellent, and refreshing food; yea, Christ Him­self, who is called the true Bread from heaven, Joh. 6. of whom whosoever eateth shall not die. It is hidden Manna, possibly relating to that pot of Manna that was kept within the Ark of the Testimonie: and so it pointeth at such food as is hid with Christ in God, and to be enjoyed with God in the heavens: which was typified by the most Holy. However, it importeth, First, The excellencie of this food, and the satisfaction which the overcomer may expect: it is inconceivable and inexpressible, The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard of it, nor hath it entered in mans heart to conceive thereof, Isa. 64. Secondly, It importeth its sickernesse: it is bid, it cannot but be sure to the over­comer, seing it is kept in the secret place of the most High. Thirdly, It importeth the rarity and singularity of this excellencie, being a thing altogether unknown to the world, as if it were hidden: in which respects (Coloss. 3.3.) our life is said to be hid with Christ in God. The second expression, is, I will give him a white stone: white stones were used in those dayes, for two ends, as may be gathered from Heathen writers, 1. In their wrestlings and games, he that overcame, and was victor, got a white stone, as a badge of honour put upon him. 2. It was used in civil Courts (when men were accused and challenged of crimes) to be given as a sign of absolution: thus a man that was found innocent and absolved, got a white stone, and he that was condemned got a black stone: both answer well here, where Christ promiseth to give to the overcomer a Crown, in pledge of his victory, and a full, publick, and open absolution in the great Day, before men and Angels. 3. This white stone hath a new name written upon it: a Name, is some honourable thing; a new name, is something eminently honourable: It was the Lords way to change the name of some, whom He eminently loved; and for confirmation of His favour to them, He gave them new Names: so he did to Abraham, Iacob, &c. This saith that the believing overcomer shall be made by Jesus Christ quite another thing, where He shall have such Glory and Majesty bestowed upon him, as will need a new Name to expresse the same, and make him think himself another thing than ever he thought to have been. We take it, on the matter, to be that same which is expressed, chap. 3. v. 12. by having the Name of God, and Christs new Name written upon them. 4. It is a Name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. This must be an excellent motto that only the spiritual senses of the receiver is able to discern the excellencie thereof, so that no on-looker can tell what the satisfaction, dignity, and honour of such a person is; but he who is possessed with the same: and proportionally, these who are made joynt Heirs of the same Glory. These promises may in some part be applicable to the first fruits of the Spirit that the Believers are partakers of here: which, in respect of carnal delights, are unspeakable and glorious, and such as passe all understanding; yet the proper fulfilling of them, and the main scope of the place, is to be applied only to the enjoyments that Believers have to expect in heaven; when they shall reap the full Harvest, and be brought to the possession of the Kingdom prepared for them: for, all of them do presuppose a full accomplished victorie before they be attained: which cannot be expected in this life. O but heaven must be an excellent hap­pinesse: seing the satisfaction thereof is so inexpressible I even the Apostle Paul who was ravished to the third heavens, must give it over, and say, he heard what was impos­sible to be uttered. 2 Cor. 12.

LECTURE VI.

Vers. 18.

And unto the Angel of the Church in Thyatira, write, These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brasse,

19.

I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works, and the last to be more then the first.

20.

Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Iezebel, which calleth her self a prophetesse, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21.

And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not.

22.

Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23.

And I will kill her children with death, and all the Churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24.

But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I will put upon you none other burden.

25.

But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.

26.

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27.

(And he shall rule them with a rod of iron: as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers) even as I received of my Father.

28.

And I will give him the morning star.

29.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

THis is the fourth Epistle, directed to the Church of Thyatira. The division is com­mon with the rest of the Epistles, To wit, 1. An Inscription, vers. 18.2. The Body of the Epistle, vers. 19.20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. The Conclusion is in the rest.

In the Inscription, Christ taketh three Titles to Himself; The first is, Thus saith the Son of God. This is (to say so) His royall Stile, than which there can be none higher: For, 1. It beareth out His God-head: for, Christ is not the Son of God by Adoption, as Believers are; but He is the Son of God by an eternall Generation, being begotten of the Father in an inconceiveable way: in which respect, He is frequently called the only be­gotten of the Father, 1 Joh. 14.18. and the brightnesse of his glory, and expresse image of his person, Heb. 1.3. 2. It points out the unity of the Essence of the God-head, which is common to the Father and the Son: for, this same that is the Son of God here, as being a distinct person from the Father, is the first and the last, who is, who was, and is to come, the Almighty, Chap. 1.8.11. which are essentiall Attributes of the God-head. 3. This title being compared with the Vision in the former Chapter, wherein Christ was spoken of as true Man, doth point out the Union of the two Natures in one Person: for, the Son of Man, is the Son of God; and the same Person who is the Son of God, is the Son of Man. All which, are considerations that bear forth excellency in Him; and give ground of comfort to His People. The reason why He taketh this stile to Himself in this place, is, because He is Soveraign to reprove faults in, and to give directions unto, His Church; and that with severe threatnings in reference to persons that were guilty: there­fore, to make all the more weighty, He taketh this stile.

The other two Titles, are taken out of the Vision, Chap. 1. To wit, Who hath eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brasse. The first of them, setteth forth His Omnisciency, that is able to reach the secrets of hearts, and discover the hypocrisie of the [Page 161] most subtile hypocrite. Answerable to this title (vers. 23.) He is said to search the heart and the reins: and His being manifested to be such, is His being known to have eyes like unto a flame of fire. The last title, and his feet like unto fine brasse, sheweth the in­corruptnesse and justnesse of His way in mannaging the affairs of His House, and His so­veraign irresistible manner in promoving His designes; as having both absolute Authority to Govern, and absolute power to execute what He intendeth. Answerable to this, (vers. 23) He is said to render to every one according to their works. He taketh the first of these two titles: because He is to discover the hypocrisie of a counterfeit Pro­phetesse. And He taketh the last: because He is to threaten her and her followers.

In the Body of the Epistle (beside the generall asserting of His Omniscience) there are four main things, 1. There is a commendation, vers. 19. 2. There is a quarrel, with some aggravations thereof, vers. 20. and 21. 3. There is a threatning, including a duty, or, comprehending the way how the thing threatned might be prevented, vers. 22. and 23. This is in reference to them that were corrupted. 4. There is a mitigation of the threat­ning, or, a consolation laid down in reference to these that were keeped free from these corruptions, vers. 24, 25.

The commendation is great, both as to the extent of the matter commended, and as to the qualification thereof. Beside the generall, I know thy works, the things com­mended in them, are set down in five words, exceeding comprehensive. The first is, their charity, or love: this setteth forth the inward frame of their heart in reference to God and the Saints: and is, in effect, the sum and fulfilling of both the Tables of the Law. This was defective in Ephesus. The second is, their service: this looketh to their ministering to the Saints of their substance, and otherwise; and is a fruit and proof of the former. The third is, their faith: which respecteth not only the purity of their profession, by their keeping themselves from Error; but mainly it looketh to their exercising of faith in Him, and dependence on Him: for, it is faith, to wit, the grace of faith that is commended here, as it is the grace of love, patience, &c. The fourth thing, is, patience: which is a fruit of faith; and importeth their submitting to suffering for the Gospel of Christ, without fainting or shifting in respect of the outward profession before others, or fr [...]ting in respect of the inward frame of their spirit as to themselves, notwithstanding of all these sufferings. The fifth word is, and thy works; which generally looketh to the strain of their carriage, which by this the Lord holdeth forth as commendable. All these being put together, they shew an excellent frame this Church once had, and withall, give a Copie unto us. Yet there is a circumstance or qualification added, which doth exceedingly heighten the com­mendation, that is, and the last to be more then the first, The meaning whereof, is, although thou hast been in a good condition for charity, patience, works, &c. since the beginning; yet thy last works are, for extent in practice, for livelinesse in the degree, and for a spi­ritual manner of performing of them, beyond what they were; so that he [...] present con­dition is set forth to be a growing condition, which doth confirm her to have been really sincere and in a most lively frame. The commendation was excellent; but this qualification putteth the crown upon it: for, where a decay cometh upon the graciousnesse of a peoples frame, (as was in Ephesus) or, where there is an up-sitting without progresse, these be­come as a dead she that maketh all the box of ointment to stink.

The challenge followeth, vers. 20. and 21. 1. Generally proposed. 2. Particularly expressed. 3. It is aggreged. Who could have thought that the next word to such an ex­cellent commendation, should be a notwithstanding? But this sheweth, 1. The deceit­fulnesse and desperatnesse of our corruption, that may have its influence beside much grace, he hath been frequently marked. 2. It sheweth the Lords condescending and graciousnesse, who giveth such a testimony, even where there are faults. The generall expression is, I have a few things against thee: which is the same, upon the matter; and so to be under­stood as was spoken to Pergamos. vers. 14. We shall therefore say no more of it.

More particularly, the quarrel, is, because thou sufferest that woman Iezebel, which calleth herself a prophetesse, &c. For clearing of which, we would, 1. consider Iezebels fault, which the Lord chargeth upon her. 2. The Angel's fault, for which he is charged, who yet was free of her grosse evils.

For the first: Iezebel is described by her name and practice. It is not to be thought that there was such a woman, bearing such a name, or owning the practices of Iezebel [Page 162] Queen of Israel, who is recorded, 1 King. 16.31. &c. But it is like, there hath been in this Church some impudent woman, who, for her furthering the abominable Sect of the Nicolaitans, getteth this name Iezebel, to make her and her Tenents the more odious, even as in the former Epistle, some were said to hold the doctrine of Balaam, for this very end. For Iezebels practice, 1 King. 16, &c. is recorded to be infamous for these two, 1. For grosse idolatry and the spreading thereof. 2. For painting and fairding her­self in an impudent way, which insinuateth her being guilty of Adultery and uncleannesse. Which two being the faults whereof this counterfeit prophetesse was guilty, the Holy Ghost giveth her this name of Iezebel: thereby to scare His People the more from her, &c. for, what ever she intended, she was, upon the matter, but a Iezebel. By this it ap­peareth also, that she hath been some special promoter of the Sect of the Nicolaitans: for, we will find her practice and Tenents to agree therewith. 1. She calleth her self a prophetesse, that is, she took on her, and so gave out her self, as if she had been extra­ordinarily inspired by the Holy Ghost, thereby to gain more credit to her opinions. It's marked in Ancient History, that there was never almost an eminent Heresie or Heretick, but had some special women for the promovers thereof, who oftentimes took to themselves the name of prophetesses. Eusebius, lib. 5. cap. 16. (which is cited in the second Cen­turie. cap. de Hares.) marketh it of many: Simon Magus had his Helena; Carpocrates his Marcellina; Apelles his Philumena; Montanus had two, whom he called prophe­tesses, to wit, Priscilla and Maximilla: and Augustine frequently mentioneth one Lu­cilla, who was a great ring-leader of the Donatists: so it is like the Nicolaitans had such a prophetesse, for furthering of their designe.

If it be asked, Why the devil seeketh thus to engage women, and to put them on the top of such designes?

Answ. These reasons may be given, 1. Because often women are most easily engaged and carried furthest on in the delusion; and it is not so easie to make a man give out him­self for a prophet, as a woman to take on her the name of a prophetesse. This generall we may gather from, 2 Tim. 3.6.7. 2. Women are most eager, vehement, and dili­gent in pursuing what they are engaged into: even late times may teach how they may prevail and insinuate on many by their diligence, if we consider what is recorded of Mi­stris Hutchinson and some others, mentioned in that little Story of the Rise, Reigne, and Ruine of Familists, Libertines, &c. in New England. 3. Women are oftentimes lesse suspected than men; and any seeming parts or abilities, which in the Lords secret Justice they may be furnished with, is usually more admired and taking than in men, as if it looked like a thing above nature. This same consideration, occasioned a Schism in Phrygia, because some had more respect to Montanus his prophetesses, than was fit. 4. Women also have more secret, and private accesse to tempt and infect others, than men can have: for, partly, they are lesse suspected; partly, more slighted and despised by others; partly also, more forborn because of their sexe than men would be: whereupon often they arro­gate to themselves a greater liberty and impudency in speaking when they are corruptly principled, than would be suffered in men. And lastly, There is more accesse for them to converse with women, and to infuse their venom in them than there is for men. Eusebius marketh this as a reason of such Hereticks associating with women, that thereby there might be the greater facility to seduce the simple of both sexes. Sometimes also they were helpfull by their means and credite to further Sect-masters in their designes, and to hold them on in them: sometimes again, they were exceeding dexterous and diligent in venting and spreading false reports upon honest Ministers, and to beget a favourable opinion of these that were erroneous. All which tend exceedingly to the promoving of Error and to the hurting of the truth. And we will find Augustine often complaining of the mali­cious reports that this Lucilla used to spread upon them, whereby the calumnies of the Donatists were strengthened. Upon which grounds and the like, we may see what the devils design is in seeking to engage such in the head of such a design. This then is the first fault charged on her, that contrary to truth, and without warrand from God, she did call her self a prophetesse; even though she had not proposed any Error.

Her second fault is, that she teacheth: this was forbidden, 1 Cor. 14, 34. and 1 Tim. 2.12. And it appeareth, that even these Prophetesses, who had an extraordinary Gift from God, as Philips daughters had, Acts 21. Yet were not publickly and Authoritatively to [Page 163] Preach: for, Paul commands them silence, 1 Cor. 14. even when he is speaking of extra­ordinary Prophets. And we will not find in the New Testament (at least) any ground for a woman publickly to officiate in the Ministrie of the Gospel, as an Authorized Office-bearer.

The third part of her challenge, is, that by her Teaching she did seduce: which is a chal­lenge to her, though she had been guilty of none of the former two. This, to wit, seduction and leading of people out of the way of Truth, doth ever almost follow upon persons usurping a Calling to themselves, or upon persons stepping without their own bounds and station to Teach; and we will seldome find persons to run unsent in any of the former re­spects; but itching after some new thing, hath had influence upon them, to carry them with­out their bounds, as we may see in Iezebel here, and ordinarily through the Scripture and Church-historie. The particulars wherein she seduced her hearers, are two. The first is, to commit fornication, that is, by her asserting fornication to be no sin, she occasioned and stirred them up to take liberty therein, which possibly otherwayes they would not have done. The second is, to eat things sacrificed to Idols, that is, by propounding the indiffe­rencie of meats, and pretending to Christian-liberty, she induced them without all respect to scandal, to eat of these things, to the stumbling, grieving and wounding of others that were weak and tender: which two, are the very doctrines and practices of the Nicolaitans, as was shown in the Epistles to Ephesus and Pergamos.

But it is a different quarrel from this which the Lord hath with the Angel: it's expressed thus, because thou sufferest that woman Iezebel, &c. that is, not that they countenanced her in her Errors, or did hear her in her Teaching; but that they suffered her, and did not impede her. If it be asked, How they can be quarrelled for suffering of her, seing they were not Magistrates, nor had civil Authoritie to restrain her? Answ. That is not the quarrel; but this, that they being invested by Christ Jesus with Church-power to cen­sure corrupt Ministers, and cut off rotten Members, did not exercise the same in censuring and Excommunicating of this false Prophetesse and these that adhered to her, as Ephesus had censured the false Apostles, vers. 2. So, on the matter, it's the same fault which is condemned in Pergamos, vers. 15. who had such corrupt Members in their societie, and did not by Excommunication cut them off: which sheweth that the Church is invested with such a Power (for, no civil Power can be alledged here) and that the neglecting of the exercise thereof, is exceedingly displeasing to Christ Jesus.

If it be asked, 1. How Church-censures, when backed with no civil Authority, can impede one to teach? 2. Why the Lord is so displeased with Church-rulers their suffering of corrupt teachers? 3. If this relate any way to civil Powers as well as Ecclesiastick?

To the first, we answer, Although Church-censures have no civil compulsion with them or bodily violence or strength to restrain any from corrupt teaching; yet they have a threefold weight, when rightly gone about: they have an authority and weight as to the conscience of the gain-sayer: because censures, being the Ordinance of Jesus Christ, and, as it were, a seal put by His Authority to a conditionall threatning, they have a stamp of His Majesty upon them: and so they serve to humble men, or to revenge their disobe­dience: and therefore these who seemingly professe to despise sentences, want not an inward apprehension of the terrour of Excommunication, and would gladly not have that sen­tence past upon them. 2. If men obstinately suppresse the weight of the censure upon the conscience, as well as of the Word; yet, being a mean appointed of God for the restrain­ing of such evils, it's oftentimes countenanced by Him, if not to the humbling, yet to the blasting of such persons in their designes: whereby in His secret Providence and Justice it often cometh to passe that sentences against such persons, are eminently owned and coun­tenanced by Him, with some concurring dispensation, evidencing His ratifying of the same, as sometimes, such, are in Justice given up to more vile delusions, sometimes to grosse out-breakings in practice, sometimes their very natural judgement and senses are blasted, their credit and reputation evanisheth, and, it may be, some way He doth signally follow them with His own immediate Hand by some stroak upon their Estates, Persons, or Families, even when they seem to be countenanced by civil Power, as it is written in Church­story He did to Simon Magus, & Arrius after he was Excommunicated, by taking him away in the very height of his insolency, who having again recovered Court and being in a solemn manner with many attendants coming to appear for his pretended vindication, was smitten as he thought with a desire to ease himself, and for that end withdrawing to a retiring place [Page 164] in one of the streets of Constantinople, he did instantly expire, and having been waited-for long by his attendants, was at last found dead in the seat, his intestines being dissolved and voided. That little Book (formerly cited) of the Rise, and Reigne of the Familists, &c. hath some dreadfull instances of this. Thus the Lord hath often made such a way to stink, by smiting the head thereof in some extraordinary manner. And though this be not the proper end of Excommunication; yet when it meeteth with mens corruptions, it is often a just consequent thereof. And these, or such like wayes of disappointment, cannot be so warrantably expected where this Ordinance is not improven: because it hath the pro­mise, and is a mean appointed for this end, that men may learn not to blaspheme, as the Apostle speaketh, 1 Tim. 1.20. 3. It hath weight as to others, to scare them from countenancing of such; and is, as it were, a Mark or Beakon set upon them, thereby to give warning to others for eschewing of their company, as it is, Rom. 16.17.18. and in many other places: and if it have this fruit, it cannot but in a great part blast their de­signe. Now, the neglect of this sentence, made all these restraints void, as if no weight had been in Christs Ordinance: this was the Angels fault.

As to the second, to wit, wherefore Christ is so displeased with the suffering of corrupt Teachers, we may gather the reasons thereof from what is said: For, 1. it sheweth little zeal to His Glory, when His Name is suffered to be blasphemed. 2. It sheweth little love to His People, when they are suffered to be seduced. 3. It sheweth little respect to His Ordinances, when they are not made use of for the end appointed, and when corrupt men are suffered to invert the order appointed by Him: in a word, Error and false Teachers have brought more reproach upon the Name of Christ and Profession of the Gospel, and have made Religion more despicable to profane men, than any grosse out-breakings have done: also, moe souls have been destroyed thereby, and that speedily with swift destruction, 2 Pet. 2. and, as it were, carrying them away with a flood, as it is, chap. 12. Lastly, Other sins are fallen into, by some more pretext at least, of tentation and corruptions prevailing, but this is done with a high Hand, whereby men not only break the command themselves, but teach others so to do, Matth. 5.19. And therefore it is called a Teaching of rebel­lion against the Lord, Ier. 28.16. and is fallen into, with more deliberation than other sins: for which cause, an Heretick is said to be condemned of Himself, Tit. 3.11. Which being put together, with many other aggravations of this sin of corrupt Teaching, and ills that follow thereupon, it is no marvel that the Lord Jesus who is jealous of His Glory, and affected with the hazard of His People, be exceedingly displeased at the neglect of such a duty, as is the using of the Authority which he hath given to His Church-officers for edifi­cation, and particularly for the curbing of corrupt Teachers, and the taking of the foxes that spoil the Vines. Song. 2.15.

We suppose now, it is not difficult to Answer to the third Question, to wit, If the suf­fering of corrupt Teachers be reprovable in men, who have civil Authority to restrain the same? for, the same grounds that ought to awaken zeal in Ministers against this ill, ought also to stir up Magistrates zealously in their places to use their Authority for vindicating of the Name of Christ, and preventing of the hurt of His Church and People, seing the Sword is not delivered to them in vain, but for the terror of them that do evil, Rom. 13.3. Sure we are, in the Old Testament, Magistrates were included within the command of re­straining and punishing such as did intise to false Worship, as well as the Priests were, Deut. 13.1. &c. And, in the New Testament, we find no repeal of the same: and though there be no instance thereof in the Gospel, or Acts of the Apostles, because Magistrates were not then Christian; yet, in the progresse of this Book of Revelation, we will find, that when Magistrates became Christian, it's looked upon as reprovable in them that countenanced Antichrist; and it's highly commended in these, that out of zeal to God, should with­draw from the whore and burn her with fire, chap. 17. vers. 16, 17. And seing in the Scripture, all Sect-masters are accounted Antichrists, as, Mat. 24. 1 Ioh. 2.18. 2 Epistle, vers. 7. &c. can there be any better rule to try what is duty in reference to them, than by what is approven of God in reference to him who is the prime Antichrist? And this is clear, that the Lord hath not more clearly engaged Himself to fight against any Error by His Word than this; yet, He will not have that a pretext to Magistrates for shunning to exercise their civil Power against Him. We see also in Church-historie, that the most ten­der Magistrates, when they were in the best frame, have ever been most zealous in this, as [Page 165] by the examples of Constantin, Gratianus, Theodosius, &c. is clear: and the most unten­der friends, or greatest enemies of the Truth, have striven to have all sorts of Religions equally tolerated, or, at least, to have a sort of harmonie amongst them, by the removing, or burying of all Laws Civil and Ecclesiastick, that did strike against some Errors. In refe­rence to the first, it's observed by Ammianus, an Heathen writer, and a great friend to Iulian, that amongst other devices that Iulian used to root out Christianity, this was one, that he gave toleration openly to all the different Professions that were amongst Christians, (which then after the Councel of Nice were very many) and required no more of them, but that they should abstain from civil discords; and so without fear follow any Religion they pleased. The words are (as they are cited by Ludovicus Molineus, pag. 560.) ut con­sopitis civilibus discordiis, suae quisque Religioni serviret intrepidus. And certainly, it can be no acceptable service to Jesus Christ, to follow that way, which this expert child of the devil made use of against Him. And Anastasius also, is condemned for this, that he endeavoured such an oblivion, or [...] in the Church, as tended to suppresse all the former Cannons, Decrees, or Confessions, which had been enacted in the former famous general Councels against grosse Errors, as may be seen in the beginning of the sixth Centurie of the Church-historie. Lastly, This is also sure, that the asserting that Magistrats ought not de jure, or might not de facto, meddle with restraining of Hereticks, was ever in the Pri­mitive times accounted a grosse Error. Augustine professeth himself sometime to have been of that opinion; yet often in his writings doth he professe himself to have been convinced with the reasons of his brethren, and with the experience that he had both of the neces­sity and advantage of the Magistrates interposing in such a thing; so that he became a most vehement presser of this, as in his Epistles is clear: and he feareth not to account the oppo­sers of this, (to wit, such as pleaded for toleration from Magistrates) amongst Hereticks; and often nameth them under the Title of Rogatiani, from one who it seemeth, was some eminent pleader for this forbearance, and one of the Donatists party.

It is not intended that Magistrates, or Ministers, should account alike of all Errors or Hereticks; much lesse that indifferently the highest degrees of civil punishments, or Church-censures, should be execute against them; but that according to Spiritual prudence, both Civil and Church Authority should be exercised, for the restraining of such evil work­ers from, and punishing of them, for hurting of the Church of Christ and dishonouring of His Name. In which, Christian prudence will make difference, 1. between Errors that destroy the foundation, and are called damnable, 2 Pet. 2.1, 2, &c. and other Errors, which are consistent with the foundation, although they be as hay or stubble built thereon. 2. Difference is to be made between Errors that are simplie Doctrinal, such as these that are about the object of Predestination, order of Gods Decrees, or such like: wherein cer­tainly there is a right and a wrong, yet are they not so intolerable as Errors that imply a Schism in practice to the renting of the union of the Church, as these Errors of the No­vatians and Donatists were. 3. Difference also is to be made, betwixt a man who enter­taineth an erroneous opinion, and an other who is an Heretick, that is, who not only after admonition, doth continue in the same opinion; but also doth persist to vent and propagat the same to the hurt and offence of others. 4. Although he that is seduced is guilty, as the seducer is; yet reason would put a difference between him that actively teacheth and seduceth, and him that is out of weaknesse seduced, and is but a follower of such a leader. 5. There may be a censuring in some degree either by civil or Church-Authority, when yet there is no procedour to any high degree in either: and thus the censuring in some cases, may be distinguished, not only from forbearance and negligence; but also from such censures as may appear rigid, or unseasonable: thus Paul sometimes reproveth and threatneth in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, when yet he will neither altogether forbear them, nor passe the highest sentences upon them. Christian prudence is to lay weight upon such and such considerations in the managing of such an Authority; but still so as nothing extinguish that zeal which Magistrates and Church-officers ought to have for exercising of their respective Authorities in restraining of such an evil. But we will insist no more on this.

Followeth now, that we should consider the aggravations of the Lords quarrel, both in respect to Iezebel, and to the Angel. They are two, relating to both: 1. She seduced Christs servants: and this is the greater guilt both in reference to her practice, and also to their suffering of her. 2. It's aggreged from this, vers. 21. I gave her space to repent [Page 166] of her fornication and she repented not: whereby it appeareth, that she had continued for a time in her practice, and, notwithstanding of Gods forbearance, had not amended: therefore her sinful practice, and their neglective forbearance, became the more inex­cusable.

Concerning the first aggravation, we are to consider, 1. Who are to be understood by this Title, Christs Servants. 2. Why they get this Title in this place. To the first we say, By Christs Servants, are not understood men indifferently: for, heathens and those that are without the Church, get not this name; but it is peculiarly applied to the whole house of Israel, Lev. 25.55. and so here it is to be applied these two wayes, 1. To Christians and Church-members: so Iezebel aimed not to seduce Pagans, and infect them with her Errors, but Christians and Church-members. 2. It may respect some more eminent in the Church nor others for Parts or Profession: and so amongst Church-members she aimed most to seduce these that were found in the matter of Doctrine, and infected with no Error; and these that were clean in their conversation and free of grosse scandals, rather than such as were grosse and offensive in their carriage. Both these are clear in matter of fact by experi­ence: and by proportion it will follow, that as Hereticks, upon their own considerations, seek to infect Church-members rather than these that are without; so among Church-members they will seek rather to engage these who are eminent for parts, blamelesse in their carriage, or appearing to be gracious, than others, who are not of such esteem. For the second, to wit, why Christ giveth them this Title in this place who were seduced? We may give these reasons for it, 1. It is to aggrege the guilt of both, as hath been said. 2. It is to give the alarm and warning unto these that are His own People, seing even His Servants may be seduced. 3. It is to shew His own resentment of the successe of Error in His Church the more, that it draweth away these that stand in such a relation to Him, and (as it were) diminisheth the number of His Familie and Servants.

For further opening of this aggravation these things may be enquired into, 1. If any truely gracious may be engaged by false Teachers and seduced to Error? 2. What may be the reasons that maketh the devil aim at the seduction of Christs Servants, rather than others? 3. Why Christ doth so expresly aggrege this guiltinesse upon this account?

In Answer to the first Question, we say, first, That these that are truely gracious, are not so readily and frequently seduced to Error, at least to be leaders therein and promoters thereof, as they are unto grosse practical offences: For, 1. we will not find in Scripture so many examples of the one as of the other. 2. It is a most rare thing for an opposer to get Repentance, 2 Tim. 2.25, 26. and therefore the Believers; yea, even the Elect before their conversion cannot be said frequently to fall in this evil, 3. It's an ill that is followed with more deliberation, and cometh not from the surprising of some particular tentation, as other grosse evils do: therefore cannot be so consistent with gracious principles, and a spiritual walk, as particular outbreaking wherein a person is captivated. 4. To be a Teacher of Error, is to be a Teacher of rebellion against the Lord, Ier. 28. and to be a Mini­ster and promoter of Satans kingdom, 2 Cor. 11.14, 15. which at first appeareth to be abominable unto any of a gracious principle, and more than a sin of infirmitie. 5. Also the promises seem especially to relate to Gods guiding of His People in the way of Truth, and keeping them from being seduced by false Teachers: which, though it be not to be ex­tended simplie to all; yet it appeareth it is to be extended further than in reference to practi­call scandals.

Yet secondly, we say, That it is possible, even for these that are truely gracious to be seduced to Error: for, 1. There are promises indeed, that they shall be kept from the sin against the holy Ghost, and from total and final apostasie and impenitencie in respect of any ill; but there is no promise that a Believer otherwayes shall be kept from any ill inci­dent to one that is unrenewed. 2. Even Believers have corruption, and so have much dark­nesse and ignorance in their judgement, and much perversnesse in their inclination and affe­ctions. It cannot be thought strange then, that they be capable to be carried away by a tentation to Error, there being no ill but it hath a party in them to take part with it. 3. The many warnings that are given in Scripture, even to Believers, to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadduces, to beware of false Prophets that come in sheeps cloathing, &c. shew, that they are not without the reach of the hurt of such a tentation. 4. Experience also doth confirm this: for, it seemeth that in some measure Solomon wanted not his acces­sion [Page 167] to this evil, if we consider what is recorded, not only of his suffering of corrupt wor­ship to be within his Dominion; but also of his countenancing of the same, by building altars and otherwayes, although we cannot particularly determine. Neither can it be de­nied, but that some of these that were seduced by false Teachers in Corinth and Galatia, might be gracious: and in after-times also it hath been out of question.

To the second, to wit, wherefore Satan aimeth to seduce Christs Servants unto Error rather than others? We may answer in these reasons, 1. He doth it, because his hatred is most at such; and it's their ruine, which especially he hunteth for. 2. Because men that are in Error and profanity already, are his own; and it's no gain for him to take pains to seduce them unto such delusions, so long, at least, as they continue such. 3. He hath other more sutable baits for other men that are given to grosse ills: therefore he reserveth this for others. 4. In some respect, these who have a form of Religion, or some inclina­tion towards it (especially if weak in knowledge) are in some respect more obnoxious to this tentation than grosly profane men are: for they, like Gallio, care not what be Truth and what be Error: but one, who hath some tendernesse, and withall weak, is more ready to debate, and inquire for Truth; and so not being strong enough to rid himself of diffi­culties, he is the more easily intangled. 5. Grosse tentations to profanity, are not so taking with them: therefore the devil assayeth them by this, that under the colour of some new discoverie of Truth, or some more perfect way of Christianity, or such like, he may draw them to Error: and, by this more subtile tentation, whereby he transformeth himself to an Angel of light, he doth often prevail when other tentations would not. 6. It's most advantagious to his way, to have some eminent for piety and parts engaged for it: for, by this, he gaineth credit to it, and maketh it the better digest with others, who often respect an opinion, as they respect these who own the same: thus he aimeth at this as a main engine whereby he may prevail with many; whereas the engaging of profane men bringeth no credit to such a way; neither is it his advantage to divert them from their profanity. It was a great stumbling in old, especially in the case of the Novatians, that many confes­sors and eminent men were drawn away with that Error: and this was often cast-up to the Orthodox, as a matter of great weight: whereupon Cyprian, in his book De unitate Eccle­siae, taketh occasion particularly to Answer this Objection, that people be not prejudged at Truth, because of some mens name; especially, considering that there were many moe more eminent of the contrary mind. And, by the way, this slight of the devil may be observed, that men will make more work, and greater noise in commending Error by the name of one or two that favoureth the same, as if that were of so great weight, than they will allow to Truth, though it have many moe eminent names standing for it. 7. When men are aiming to be serious in Religion, the devil casteth this stumbling in their way, that if he prevail not to draw them to Error, he may at least mar them or divert them, by putting them through other, in making them debate such and such needlesse Questions; and so keep them from the more serious and profitable exercise of Repentance, self-examination, making of their Calling and Election sure, &c. Hence it is, that while men lye in security or profanity, they are not much troubled with this tentation; but being once awakened, then he setteth upon them, if so be he may extinguish that wakening, or give them a wrong set before they be fully formed and setled. And this is one reason why Errors and delusions do often accompanie the first rise of the Gospel amongst people. 8. By seducing of these that appear to be Godly, the devil bringeth most reproach upon the Name of Christ and Religion, and maketh it the more to be stumbled at by these that are in nature, as being but some fancie and conceit, which would not follow upon the fall of many pro­fane men: therefore he aimeth rather to seduce them that are Christs Servants and appear to be Godly.

To the third, We may see why the Lord especially aggregeth His quarrel from this, 1. Because His Servants come more near to Him than others. 2. He will have us knowing that Error is not to be extenuated or commended, nor false Teachers to be tolerated, even though many of His Servants should come to countenance the same: yea, on the contrary, it is the more aggreged and to be abhorred. 3. He doth by this shew the Church-officers, that the moe that are engaged to love Error or follow false Teachers, they ought to be the more stirred up with zeal in their duty against seducers, that they have prevailed with many of His Servants. And by this, He sheweth His tendernesse to affectionate Professors, rather [Page 168] to censure for their sake corrupt Teachers whom they respect, than to forbear them. 4. This is also mentioned, to shew this woman, and all corrupt Teachers, what they gain by having most successe against Christs Servants, to wit, this, that they have the more guilt, and are the more obnoxious to Christs quarrel. 5. The moe advantages the devil hath to his kingdom by the seduction of Christs Servants, it concerneth Him the more in that to oppose him, as in a thing, which in a speciall manner reflecteth upon His honour; which maketh Him so to quarrel for Iezebels practice, and the toleration of the same.

From all which, what we have said, is confirmed, to wit, that corrupt Teachers are not to be tolerated in a Church, even when civil Powers do take no notice of them: it is well known from the History of the Primitive times, that severall Godly and zealous men have censured; yea, and even Excommunicated many Hereticks, as Arrians and others, when they have been sure to be instantly persecuted for the same: and it is recorded of some, who though they were threatned before hand, that yet having first provided their Churches with well qualified Successours, they did afterward proceed to pronounce sentence; thereby shewing their readinesse to undergo what ever trouble might follow upon that same account, and withall their zeal and tender care of the Churches edification.

We come now to the second aggravation, which is in vers. 21. and it is made up of these two, 1. There is a forbearance upon the Lords side, I gave her space to repent, that is, I did not suddenly and at first execute judgement upon her; but did for a time forbear her, thereby giving her an opportunity to repent: and indeed His long suffering and forbearance, doth of it self lead to repentance, according to what is said, Rom. 2. vers. 4

The second part, is, but she repented not: which holdeth forth the abuse of this mercy upon her side, to wit, that notwithstanding of the Lords forbearance she continued in her former practice without repenting of, or turning from, the same: therefore she is the more inexcusable, and they also in suffering of her. This aggravation doth import these four, First, that the Lords forbearing of a sinner, ought to be an inducement to them to repent, as is clear from that place, Rom. 2.4. Secondly, It importeth that sometimes God will give time and opportunity to repent, by His forbearance, unto most grosse sinners; and suffer with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fired to destruction, Rom. 9.22. Thirdly, It importeth also, that such opportunities are often abused; and particularly, that it's a rare thing for an opposer of the Truth to repent, The Apostle putteth a per adv [...]nture in it, 2 Tim. 2.25. in meeknesse instructing those that opose themselves, if per adventure God will give them repentance, &c. We find also, Chap. 9. and 16. of this Book, that on the back almost of every plague upon Antichrists kingdom, it is marked, that yet they re­pented not for all that.

If any should ask the reason, Why repentance is so rare in reference to this sin?

We answer, 1. It's a sin of a high nature, being deliberate and against sufficient grounds of conviction: and therefore in Gods Justice, is plagued with impenitency beyond other sins: and as in some respect, it commeth nearer to the sin against the holy Ghost than other sins in its nature; so also in Gods Justice it commeth nearer to it in its punishment. 2. The nature of this sin is such, that men tai [...]ted with it, are thereby in a greater incapacity to re­pent than these who are guilty of grosse ills in practice: because, 1. Nature doth not so challenge and convince for sins against the Truths of the Gospel, at for sins against the Moral Law. 2. Because men in Errors and delusions have their judgements so engaged, blinded and prejudged, that they think often such Errors are no Errors: and therefore there is the greater difficulty to bring them to the acknowledgement of the Truth, and of their being wrong; and yet this must precede their repentance! 3. The Lord also by this doth for a mark upon this sin, to scare all from the same: men oftentimes think little of this ill. He hath therefore put this mark of His displeasure thereupon the more expresly. Hence it is, that His threatnings are more clearly and expresly annexed to the second and third Commandments than any other, that He may make men know He is jealous of His Truth and Ordinances, and will by no means acquit such as take His Name in vain, whatever men think of these sins. In the fourth place, this aggravation impor [...], that when time and good opportunities are abused, guilt becometh the greater and the more inexcusable, and the Lords controversie becometh the more sharp.

There are two Conclusions aimed to be drawn from these words, by some, which no [Page 169] way they will bear, 1. Some say, that Iezebel had an ability and power to repent, seing she hath time allotted to her for it, and God expecteth it of her. For Answer, To say nothing of this generall, which is found to be an untruth from other clear Scriptures, which hold out men to be dead in sins, Ephes. 2.1. &c. and unable for any spiritual good. These things will vindicate this place, 1. If we consider who this party is, to wit, a most vile Seducer and Adulteresse: and even such Patrons of nature, will grant, that such high and grosse sins do justly deprive persons of any ability to repent, and do incapacitate them for exercising of the same. 2. If we compare this with 2 Tim. 2.25. we will find that patient waiting upon opposers, and thereby giving them opportunity to repent, is one thing; and to have repentance given them, is another: for, many have time allowed them, when yet it's at a peradventure if God shall give them Repentance. Which sheweth, that Grace to exercise Repentance, when an opportunity is, must be given of God as well as the opportunity it self: otherwayes no opportunity can be rightly improven: which sheweth again, that men in such a case, have not this ability of themselves to repent. 3. The words do not speak out her ability; but what was her duty under such a long suffering dis­pensation, as the opening of the words cleareth.

If it be said then, How can she be more inexcusable?

Answ. 1. Because this inability is of her own on-bringing. 2. Because it was not in­ability that swayed her to continue in her sin, and reject Repentance; but it was her posi­tive inclination to these Errors, and her aversnesse from the Truths of God. And what ever men may dispute for the patronizing of nature against the Justice of God, now; yet when He cometh to judge, and when the conscience beareth witnesse of the vehement affe­ction and delight which men had to, and in their, wickednesse, There will be none who shall dare to enter a defence upon their inability, seing in conscience they will be convinced, that that was not the thing which made them willingly choose such and such evils, and made them reject all means tending to recover them. 3. This also will make her, and such as she, inexcusable, that they did not improve such opportunities so as they might, and did not abstain from the following and committing of such grosse evils, which even many unrenewed men have done; who yet had not ability to repent of themselves more than they: and thus, none in such a case will be able to say in judgment, that they did make such use of the Word and other means as they might have made, even in such a condition; or, that they have come that length in outward Reformation, that they might have done.

The second Conclusion pretended to be drawn from this, is, That the Lord hath an uni­versal will to have all men saved, seing He giveth her time to repent. This we say doth not follow hence: For, 1. suppose it might be said in some respect, that he willed the Repentance of such a particular person, who lived under His Ordinances, It will not fol­low thereupon, that He willeth the Salvation of all; even of such who never heard of Re­pentance. 2. It will not follow, God giveth some time, which ought to be improven to Repentance, and doth not instantly execute His Judgment, Therefore He willeth such a persons Salvation: for, God for a time forbare Pharaoh, even after he had evidenced his purpose in so doing, to be the exalting of His own Glory in his destruction, 3. If it were so, what might be said of such as the Lord doth not forbear, nor give time to repent; but taketh away in their sin, as he did Zimri and Cozbi? It cannot be said on this ground, that He willeth their Salvation; and so not the Salvation of all. 4. It will not follow, Christ willeth persons to repent, Therefore He willeth their Salvation: because He may be said to will them to repent, when he requireth it of them as their duty: and thus, their duty of repenting, is the immediate object of His revealed and preceptive will: but a persons Salva­tion is the proper object of His will of good-pleasure, or of His decreeing and purposing will. And no otherwayes can He be said, to will such persons Salvation (because He com­mandeth them to repent) than this, to wit, that in His Word He hath signified Repen­tance to be such a persons duty, and that He hath appointed a connexion between Repen­tance and Salvation; which still relateth to His revealed will: even as when God made the first Covenant with Adam, it might be said that He willed Adam to be holy, and that by that Covenant He had made a connexion between holinesse and life; yet it is not proper to say, that the Lord willed life to Adam upon that condition: because that looketh to the event, and respecteth the Lords will of purpose: which cannot but be effectual. And if the Lords willing of men (at least such as are under His Ordinances) to be saved be thus [Page 170] understood, as including only the duty which God layeth upon men, and the connexion that He hath made between it and Salvation in His Word, It may be admitted: but if it be ex­tended to any antecedent will in God Himself, distinct from that which is called His revea­led will, This place and such like will give no ground for such an Assertion. If it be asked then, Why did He give her space to repent, if He intended not her Salvation? Answ. To forbear deciding of what might be His purpose to this particular person, (who haply may be an Elect,) because nothing is decided of her final condition in the Word; These reasons may be given, 1. thereby the Lord commendeth His Grace that doth so condescend to such a person. 2. The aggravation of her guilt and inexcusablnesse, are the more clear, as hath been said; and thereupon He hath the more accesse to manifest the spotlessenesse of His Justice, as is in the threatning, vers. 23. 3. It doth the more comfort and encourage a penitent sinner, to step forward in the hope of Mercy, seing even such a person as Iezebel hath had such an offer; and that she, if penitent and believing, would have been accepted.

The third thing in the Body of the Epistle, is, the threatning, vers. 22, and 23. Where­by He again wonderfully presseth her, and these who were seduced by her, to the exercise of that much slighted duty of Repentance. The threatning hath three parts, 1. Somthing is threatned. 2. An exception is put in, leaving a door open to Mercy. 3. The scope or effect of the Lords executing this threatning, is set down. The thing threatned, is threefold, according to the several parties that He threateneth. 1. For Iezebel, Behold, I Will cast her upon a bed: which pointeth out some remarkable stroak or plague threatned to be inflicted upon her, whereby she should become a spectacle to others, and yet not be instantly re­moved. 2. For them that commit adultery with her, I will cast them into great tribula­tion, that is, I will bring upon them that partake of her sin, whether in respect of spiritual or bodily adultery (for she was guilty of both) grievous and publick temporal stroaks. And, 3. I will kill her children with death: for, her children, it's like were children begot­ten in their unclean conversing together: them the Lord threatens to remove; and thereby to give an evidence of His displeasure at their way, as He did Davids child for his adulte­ry. For, we conceive, the children of her spiritual whoredom are understood under that expression, these that commit adultery with her. From which we may see, that grosse Errors may procure many temporal and bodily crosses, as was formerly said.

Yet secondly (as is said) even this threatning hath a door open in it, and is not absolute, but conditional, except they repent, &c. which doth indeed exceedingly set forth and com­mend the Grace of God.

The third thing, is, the Lords end, which is the manifesting of Himself in two or three of His Attributes, to wit, His Omniscience, Justice, and Power, as was hinted in the entry. When the Lord forbeareth wicked men, He is either thought not to see, or know such things; or not to be just, and powerful to redresse and avenge the same: and when He se­verely and publickly inflicteth judgment upon such, then He is known not only to be Omni­scient, but also Just and Powerful; and this is that which He aimeth at, especially in His Churches.

The last thing, is, the mitigation of this threatning, vers. 24, 25. Wherein we may consider these two, First, To whom it is directed. Secondly, What is the mitigation it self. 1. It's directed, to you, [...]; to you, in the plural number, that is, to the com­panie of Ministers, who were designed by the Title Angel, at the entry. And to the rest in Thyatira, that is, the Members of the Church, contradistinguished from the Ministers. It's added, that have not this Doctrine and have not known the depths of Satan, &c. This is to dinstinguish the Church-members, that were pure and clean, from these that were corrupted with Iezebels doctrine. So there are three parties implied here, 1. The Mi­nisters. 2. The pure Members. To both these this consolation is directed. 3. There are some led away with these corruptions, which are not included. The pure Members, are qualified and distinguished by these two, 1. They have not this doctrine, that is, they own not, nor maintain, nor approve this corrupt doctrine. 2. They have not known the depths of Satan, that is, they have not loved nor approven the same, nor in their practice experi­mentally meddled therewith. They, that is, corrupt Teachers, counted such doctrines and practices, depths and high mysteries and attainments in Religion: therefore they gave them this name of depths. And it's not to be thought that they called them depths of Satan; [Page 171] but the Lord addeth this, to shew indeed what kind of depths they were: they are (saith He) depths indeed, as they speak; but they are the devils depths, or depths of Satan. Which expression, holdeth out these two, 1. The great subtilty of the adversary of mans Salvation, the devil, he hath depths in his way; all his designs are not obvious; he can vail and cover things and make them appear far otherwayes than they are; and he exerciseth his subtilty most especially and deeply, in the carrying on of Error, and drawing of souls from the Truth: these are his depths here; and his subtilty is spoken of, 2 Cor. 11.3. his wiles and cunning craftinesse and special slight, Ephes. 4.14. whereby it cometh to passe that he in­tangleth, and, as it were, bewitcheth, Gal. 3.1. many with the most grosse delusions. 2. It holdeth out what influence delusion will have upon poor creatures; it will even make them cry up the most absurd Errors for mysteries and depths, as if there were nothing in Religion so excellent as these.

The mitigation it self, is in two expressions: the first, is negative, vers. 24. I will put upon you none other burden, that is, in sum, I will not give you any other direction, nor prescribe to you any new duty, beside what formerly ye have had given unto you, and to which ye have submitted: for, though burden somtimes signifie some weighty threatning, or denun­ciation, or judgment, as may be gathered from Ier. 1.23. Yet in this place, it cannot be so understood; but must be understood as it implieth some new duty beside what formerly was imposed upon them, as the exposition in the next verse doth clear. And so som­times in Scripture, duty is compared to a burden and yoke: not because of its burdensom­nesse and troublesomnesse, in respect of it self; but because every duty hath some obligation with it, which in respect of our corruptions and infirmities are burdens, though by Christ Jesus they become light.

The second part of the mitigation, is positive, vers. 25. and will help to expound the former, But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come: which doth imply, First, That they had some duties prescribed unto them already: whereby it appeareth that an other burden, did signifie some other duty: for, that was the thing they had already. Se­condly, It sheweth, That by having of such duties (to speak so) is not only understood the having of them prescribed unto them; but their being a great length in the obedience thereof, as may he gathered from the like Phrase, chap. 3.11. where hold that fast which thou hast, doth signifie their endeavour to keep what they had attained to. And thus the mean­ing of this mitigation here, is, I have prescribed to you that are pure in Thyatira, no other duty or direction; but that with all sincerity and zeal ye keep the directions prescribed unto you, and continue to walk in the way which hitherto ye have followed, unto the end. This is pressed by Christs second coming, 1. To let them know He was to come again. 2. To let them know, that at his second coming, He will reckon with His Churches according as they obey or disobey His directions. 3. To teach all to walk so in making use of the Word, especially in corrupt times, as they may with confidence appear and reckon for the same be­fore Jesus Christ at His second coming. 4. To shew, That Believers ought to set no other tearm to their persevering in duty, but Christs second coming.

From what is past we may Obseve 1. That in these Epistles, expresse difference is made between Ministers and People: to you I say, relateth to the Ministers, and, to the rest, re­lateth to the Members of that Church. And therefore in the application of things contai­ned in them, we would distinguish them also.

2. That by Angel, in the Inscription, is understood Ministers collectively: to you, is in the plural number; and yet it's to these that the Epistle was directed under the name of Angel, in the singular: and therefore are they contradistinguished from the rest, which looketh to the Members of that Church, you and the rest being the same thing here upon the matter, that Angel and Church were in the Inscription; save, that the rest, even as many, &c. distinguisheth the pure Members from the impure, the Church comprehend­ing both.

3. That a Ministers guilt, or the guilt of Officers in not secluding scandalous persons from Church-communion, doth not lye on the people, as upon the Ministers: therefore the duty common to the Ministers and people, is commended to both, whereas that reproof was peculiar to the Ministers: and, the rest, are taken-in only in the mitigation or consolation; but it was, Thou sufferest, in the reproof.

4. Christ thinketh much of zealous executing of Discipline, and would not have Mini­sters [Page 172] sparing it against Hereticks or corrupt Teachers, more than other scandalous persons: yea, the reasons from the hazard of infecting the Flock, and the examples of it in Scripture, are most pressing in reference to them.

5. Here also we may see, That there is a Church-power and Authority, distinct from what is civil; and censures to be inflicted by Church-officers on scandalous persons, even where Magistrates are Heathen.

6. That delusion may come to a great height: As, 1. That a woman Preacheth. 2. That she calleth her self a Prophetesse. 3. That she seduceth Christs Servants, and they are sedu [...]ed by her. 4. That this is immediatly after Christ, while Iohn the beloved Disciple liveth. 5. That all these Errors and abominations are covered with the title of myste­ries and depths: what may we expect in our times, when such was the lot of those who lived at that time?

7. The writings even of the Apostle Iohn, could not prevail so far as to make them re­nounce and abandon them.

8. See here, how Christ accounteth of Members of a visible Church: He stileth such as were seduced to adultery and Error, His Servants: and they were Servants still, who were seduced; and are afterward threatned, as Iezebel is. Whereby it appeareth, that these Titles go more upon the relation, that Church-members stand in, and the obligation that lieth on them, than upon the qualifications that are alwayes to be found in them.

9. Our Lord Jesus, is no approver nor countenancer of separation from a true Church, for the faults of some Members in it: neither do faults in some Members, and defects in Ministers and Officers in executing Discipline, pollute the Ordinances in themselves, or to others, who are free of that guilt: and so do not necessitate a separation from such a Church, or any Ordinance thereof: for, this, and the former Epistle, being compared together, these things are cle [...]r, 1. That there were grosse Members in the Church, Adulterers, Nicolai­tans, Seducers, &c. 2. That they were continued in Church-communion; thou hast them and sufferest them, clearly import this: for, that Angel no otherwayes had them, but as Church-members under His charge. 3. That this Angel sinfully permitted them to continue Church▪members: and therefore is reproved.

Yet, we conceive also, it's clear in matter of fact, 1. That many who were free, continued in Church-fellowship with this Angel, in that Church, notwithstanding thereof; so, the words to you, and to the rest, a [...] of that same Membership▪ import, it being but one Church. And, 2. That our Lord did not reprove them for their so continuing, even when He re­proveth the Angel for his fault of being defective as to his censuring of Iezebel. Yea, 3. that He approveth their not separating, in His approving the general strain of their car­riage, which could not otherwayes be approven, this being so obvious to view, if it had been a fault, or if they had by it partaken with them in their sin. 4. That our Lord war­randeth them to continue so; and layeth no burden of separating from them, on these who were honest: only, saith He, Hold fast that which ye have already till I come, that is, keep your selves according to the rule given unto you, and according to your present practice.

Hence may be argued, 1. If where Church-members are polluted, and suffered not­withstanding by Church-officers to remain in Church-communion, Christ doth not only, not condem the clean for keeping fellowship with them; but expresly requireth them to continue, as they did, Then He alloweth not separation on that account: But the first is truth: He condemneth them not, but requireth them to hold fast till he come. Erg [...], &c. 2. If Christ lay upon Members no other burden, but to keep themselves from personal pol­lution, Then He laieth not on them separation: (and it must be a burden not of His laying on) But the former is true, Hold f [...]st that which ye have already. Ergo, &c. 3. If separation thwart with Christs direction to a Church in that condition, Then it's not a duty: But if the honest Members in Thyatira had separated, they had not held fast what they had already, but would have gripped to some new thing, and so have thwarted with the direction laid on them. Ergo, &c. 4. If this direction containeth all their duty in re­ference to that defection, or these polluted Members, Then separation is not a duty in such a case: for, it's inconsistent with it. But this containeth all, 1. Otherwayes it would not befit their case: which to do, is Christs scope. 2. It's not only negative, not condemning them for not separating: nor only positive, giving them other dire [...]tions inconsistent with [Page 173] it; but it's exclusive, I lay on you no other burden, this, and no other. And though other particular duties may be alleaged to be comprehended under this generall; yet sepa­ration cannot be comprehended: because it's inconsistent with it, as appeareth: For, if the thing that Christ calleth for from these who were honest in Thyatira, be such a thing as was consistent with their former practice of keeping Church-fellowship with such, Then separation must be inconsistent with it; But the former is truth, and appears thus: If Christs direction to them be, to hold as they were, and not to alter, Then certainly▪ it is consistent with their own former practice: But the words are plain, I lay on you, to wit, that are clean, no other burden, but abstain from their way, and hold fast. And certainly it would look very strange, to say, that separation from them were commanded under that word, hold fast, &c. And that so, hold fast, were to be expounded, separate from that society; and yet that must be comprehended under this, or it's not a duty for such a case.

Beside, This duty which Christ commends to them, is a duty which every one of them ought personally to go about, though others did not. And if separation were included here, according to that ground, it would infer many absurdities, as, first, suppose the Mi­nister to continue defective in his duty, are all the pure members to separate from him? Or, Secondly, Suppose none but two or three did lay that duty to heart, were these two or three to separate from all fellowship with the rest, and quit all publick Ordinances? yet, no question, in such a case they were to hold fast what they had already. Thirdly, Suppose the pure members to continue in fellowship with their Officers that were thus de­fective as formerly they have done; yet keeping themselves clean in their own stations, can it be thought that they disobeyed this direction of Christ, That which thou hast already, hold fast till I come? Or, Is it not rather to be thought that they did more nearly con­form to Christs direction by so doing, than if they had withdrawn, and separated?

We may also argue against separation in such a case, [...]rom this Scripture, thus: If separation be an other burden to Christs Church than what He laid upon Thya­tira, Pergamos, &c. in such a case when their officers were defective in executing Dis­cipline, Then it is not to be allowed in the Church of Christ afterward in such like cases; But the former is true. Therefore, &c. If these two things be clear, this Argument will be clear, 1. That though these Churches were in such a case, yet there was not separation from the Ordinances in practice or exercise amongst them upon that account; This, we sup­pose, is clear from what is said. 2. If this also be clear that the pressing of separation upon such a ground, will prove a burden unto the people of God: Then it will follow, that Christ doth not lay it on upon these Churches, seing He expresly signifieth that He intends to lay no other burden upon them, but to hold fast what they had already. It must therefore be an untender thing to burden honest souls with the apprehension of being pol­luted from the personall faults of joynt-Worshippers or Communicants: for, first, this putteth them to try all that they so keep fellowship with: and they cannot have peace, ex­cept they have some confidence that others, by their joynt Communicating, do not pollute the Ordinances: and this confidence cannot be, till sufficient triall be made thereof; and yet Believers find it sufficiently difficult to try themselves. 2. It putteth them to an utter uncertainty, in respect of any comfortable fruit of Ordinances: because so, it hangs not only upon their own frame and good condition; but also upon the good frame and dispo­sition of these that Communicate joyntly with them. And so, supposing that a Believer may be out of the present exercise of grace, and a joynt Communicater with them; in that case, the Ordinance is polluted unto them, because they are polluted even to that Be­liever that is in such a case. And, can any have confidence that no natural person, or in­disposed Believer hath Communicated with them? Neither will it remove this difficulty, to say, that men may have peace, if the offences or indispositions of others be not known unto them: For, 1. What if it be said, if triall had been made, they might have been known? 2. Suppose it were not possible to know them; yet if the Communicating of corrupt men did not only pollute the Ordinance to themselves, but also pollute it in it self, that is, make it want the nature of such an Ordinance as to others; Then, whether it were known or not, the Ordinance were no Ordinance, because of its being polluted in something essential to the being thereof: otherwise, the same Ordinance might be an Ordinance to one who knew not of such scandals; and no [...] be an Ordinance of Christ to another, who knew such things, though, it may be, in his own particular case, no lesse gracious, and [Page 174] lively than the other: for, it cannot be our knowing that such a person is scandalous that Communicates with us, that can pollute the Ordinance to us, except upon supposition that the being of such a thing did pollute the Ordinance in it self before we knew the same. 3. If this ground were laid, it might be a scruple to a tender Believer to Communicate with himself, to say so: for, he hath corruption in him; and it will be hard to say, that the corruption of others, will have more influence to pollute an Ordinance to him, than his own can have: especially considering, that he is most throughly acquainted therewith: and it will be as hard to say, that Christs call doth warrand a Believer to Communicate with peace, notwithstanding of his own seen corruptions; and yet that that same call will not warrand him to Communicate with peace, if he be in his own duty and frame approveable, notwithstanding of the corruptions of others. All which, being grievous burdens, cannot be supposed to agree with our Lords scope in this place.

Hence also we may see, that Christ doth not rigidly cast off Churches, for defects in Discipline, and grosnesse of particular members, when, in the main, the foundation is keeped: and though the Lord never look on these but as faults, and as reproveable where they are, as we may see in many of these Epistles; yet, to allow separation from a Church, because of these, and to account it no Church, is with Him all one, as when He calleth His people from Babel, Chap. 18.

We come now to the Conclusion of the Epistle, which is contained in the 26, 27, 28, and 29. verses. Wherein, 1. Some promises are laid down, in the first three verses; and the common advertisement, is repeated in the last verse, as is usuall in the rest of the Epistles. The object of the promises, is the same, to wit, the overcomer: only here, he is described by an other property, which interpreteth that generall, to wit, He keepeth my works unto the end, that is, one who in the sincere practice of Religion hath ceased from his own works (as it is, Heb. 4.10.) and hath given up himself to live to Me, as it is, 2 Cor. 5.15. that is, to have My glory for his end, and My Will for his rule; and doth continue to prosecute that end according to that rule, notwithstanding of all difficulties to the end. This is the overcomer, and the person to whom all these promises of being ad­mitted to Heaven, are made, and who may expect the same.

There are two excellent promises made to such a person in these words, 1. To him will I give power over the Nations: which doth indeed speak out an excellent Dominion, but no earthly Dominion: For, 1. This promise is to be performed after the full victory. 2. All overcomers are not capable of temporall Power over the Nations. It imports then these two. First, an excellent Dominion that the Believer may expect. Secondly, a joynt sharing in Christs Conquest over the Nations: in which respect, it is said, 1 Cor. 6. They shall judge Angels and all the wicked in the day of judgement. This Dominion is two wayes amplified, vers. 27. First, In respect of the absolutnesse thereof over all the wicked, they shall be bruised with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: this is a figurative expression, tending to set forth this, that though often Be­lievers are now oppressed by the wicked of the world; yet the day is coming, when it shall be otherwise: Believers shall not only be free from their oppressions; but shall be as abso­lute Kings, having Dominion over them in the morning, as it is, Psal. 49.14. when the condition of the wicked in Gods Justice shall be most miserable. The second way how it's amplified, is, even as I received of my Father: which respecteth, 1. The thing given, they are made joynt partakers of that which Christ receiveth. 2. It respecteth the security whereby it's given: and so I will give him power, even as I received of my Father, imports that the Believers Dominion shall be no lesse sure unto him by Christs gift, than Christs Dominion is sure unto Him by the Fathers conferring the same upon Him.

The second promise, is, and I will give him the morning star: by the morning star, is understood Christ Himself, as He Himself expounds it, Chap. 22. vers. 16. I am the bright and morning Star, so it is, I will give him my self. The first promise was much, but this is more: and though heaven be much when it is promised; yet this promise containeth more: for He that built the house, is of more worth than the house. Christ is called the morning Star for these reasons, 1. Because the morning Star is most eminent amongst the Stars; so is Christ among the Sons, Cant. 2.3. He hath an eminencie beyond all other consolations whatsoever. 2. He is called the morning Star, because when He is bestowed upon any, the dark night of their former miserable and disconsolate condition is put to an [Page 175] end, as the Day-star putteth an end to the preceding night. 3. Christ brings in the Day-Spring from on high unto the soul who receiveth Him: and never was the Day-star so re­freshfull to a Traveller wearied with the darknesse of the night, as Christ will be to the wrestler, who is longing to have the Day-star arising in his heart, 2 Pet. 1.19. And although these be hints, to shadow out the excellency of Christ, yet the truth is, neither Day-star, nor Sun, nor Moon, nor all the Stars put together, can sufficiently resemble His worth and lovely beauty, and refreshfull seasonablenesse to a soul, when He mani­festeth Himself to it.

If it be asked, why Christ promiseth to give Himself to the overcomer, and under that name? Answ. It is for these reasons, 1. Because there is no other thing that can be absolutly satisfying to the Believer, but Christ Himself: and seing Christ aimeth at the sa­tisfaction of the Believer, this glorifieth His Grace and Love, that He will for that end bestow Himself upon them 2. It is, to teach them where to expect their happinesse when this life is ended, and so where to seek it while they are here: this is not to be had in, and amongst creatures, but is to be sought and looked for in Christ Jesus Himself. 3. It is done to comfort and encourage the Believer: for when Christ bestoweth Himself upon him, what will He not else communicate to him that may be for his good? as the Apostle rea­soneth to this purpose, Rom. 8.32. Believers may be encouraged to wrestle a while; this night will have an end, and the Day-star will arise: after which, there shall be no more night, nor darknesse, nor Sun to give light, but the Lord God shall enlighten them, and the Lamb Himself shall be a light unto them; for holding forth of this consolation, is Christ expressed by this name in this promise.

In the 29. vers. the Epistle closeth with the common advertisement, He that hath an ear to hear, &c. which is not done for the fashion; but is the Lords commending of what hath been said unto the consciences of the Hearers: because what is said, is said by the Spirit to the Churches; and it becometh well these who have ears to hear, to hear what is said by Him.

LECTURE I.

CHAP. III.

Vers. 1.

ANd unto the Angel of the Church in Sardis, write, These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven Stars; I kn [...]w thy w [...]rks, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

2.

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfe [...]t before God.

3.

Remember therefore how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

4.

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

5.

He that overcometh, the same shall be cloathed in white raiment, and I will not bl [...]t out his name out of the book of life, but I will confesse his name before my Father, and before his Angels.

6.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

THis is the fifth Epistle, directed to the Church in Sardis. It hath the division that is common to the rest, to wit, there is, First, an Inscription, vers. 1. Secondly, the Body of the Epistle, vers. 2, 3, and 4. And, Thirdly, A Conclusion, vers. 5, and 6.

The party unto whom it is directed, is, the Angel of the Church of Sardis: this was spoken of, Chap. 1. vers. 11. It was once the seat of the rich King Cresus, abounding in much wealth, and also in much sin, and profanity; yet Christ by His Gospel begetteth a Church in this place. Although it be directed in common to Ministers and People, and for that end doth contain what respecteth the Church in common; yet we conceive it doth especially and principally relate to the case of the Minister, and to the People as joyned and agreeing with him in that dead condition, as the Exposition thereof will clear.

The person from whom the Epistle is sent, is set forth by two titles, First, He hath the seven Spirits of God: this was expounded, Chap. 1. vers. 4. and it is again repeated, Chap. 4. vers. 5, and 6. By these seven Spirits are understood the holy Ghost, in His severall Gifts, Graces, and Operations. Christ is said to have these: because He hath committed unto him the dispensing of these Gifts and Graces of the Spirit to the Church, and doth joyntly with the Father, send the holy Ghost the Comforter for the good of His People, as is clear from Ioh. 14. vers. 16, 17. and Chap. 16. vers. 7, 8, &c. and many other places. He taketh this title in this place: because having to do with a dead Minister and People, He would both make them know what must quicken them, to wit, the Spirit; and how they may attain the same, to wit, by Him. It is no little part of Christs glory, nor of the Believers consolation, that Christ hath the dispensing of life, and livelinesse unto His People. The second title, is, which hath the seven Stars: this is in part taken out of Chap. 1. vers. 16. where Christ is described as having in His hand seven Stars.

By Stars are here understood Ministers, as Chap. 1. vers. 20. is clear. Christ is here said to have them, as He hath the seven Spirits: which doth import. 1. His speciall in­terest in, and title to Ministers: He hath a peculiar right to the Church beside what He hath to the world; yet hath He a more peculiar right to the Ministers, as having their Com­mission from Him, and dependance on Him, in a more special manner. Therefore, Psal. 68. vers. 18. He is said after His Ascension peculiarly to have received gifts for men, or in the man: And yet these gifts, are no other but the gifts of Apostles, Pastors and Teachers, &c. which He again giveth to His Church, as is clear from Ephes. 4. vers. 8. and 11. Secondly, This title importeth Christs absolute Soveraignity over His Ministers in a special manner; [Page 177] for, he hath them: And so they being His, He may dispose of them at His pleasure, for f [...]rthering of them in His work if they be faithfull, and for blasting of them if it be otherwise. Thirdly, It points at Christs care of His Ministers, who doth in a special man­ner keep and preserve these Stars, as something that is much esteemed of by Him. Christ taketh this title unto Himself in this Epistle, 1. That He may provoke this lifeless Angel, to seek life in Him, seing He who had the seven Stars, had also the seven Spirits; and so especially they, to wit, His Ministers might expect to be made lively by Him, if He were improven by them, and so this title doth back the directions that follow. 2. It is also to let them know that are Ministers, that though they be in an eminent place; yet are they subject to Christ who is their Soveraign, and so ought to be dependent on Him, otherwise they are liable to His triall and censure, who can dispose of them as He will: and so this title addeth weight to the threatning, which is contained, vers. 3.

The Body of the Epistle followeth in the close of the first verse, with the 2, 3, and 4. We may take it up in these four, First, The Lord discovereth the hypocrisie and deadnesse of this Minister and Church, vers. 1. Secondly, He proposeth many directions as reme­dies, fit for their recovery. Thirdly, He presseth the practice of these directions by several weighty reasons and threatnings; and these two are intermixed, vers. 2, 3. Fourthly, There is a qualification of this charge, and a consolation in reference to some Members that were free from this challenge; aud this is held forth, vers. 4.

The case of this Minister and Church, is, in two expressions, 1. Setting out what they were thought-of by others. 2. Expressing what indeed they were before God. Before others they had a name that they were living, that is, they were thought to be in some good and lively condition more than ordinary, and were thought by others about them to be a Church, in better condition than other Churches: for, to have a name, doth import the esteem of somewhat in her, which was not ordinary; yet, saith the Lord, notwithstanding of that name they were dead, that is, very unsurable to that they were esteemed to be; and in respect thereof, indeed but spiritually dead. By this deadnesse we understand, First, A simple deadnesse in hypocrisie, and so it is to be understood, there are but many of you meer hypocrites, although ye have a fair shew. Secondly, Deadnesse may be understood compa­ratively, that is, either in respect of what they seemed to be, and were thought to be by others, or what they ought to have been; or, in respect of what somtimes they had been. And so even Believers may be thus charged, who having some life, yet in these respects were defective. And by considering what is said, v [...]. 2. where somthings ready to die, are spoken of, it will appear that this charge is so to be applied in reference to declining Believers in part, as to others who were altogether hypocrites. It is like this Church hath been free of grosse Errors; for there is no mention of the Nicolaitans in the same as in other Churches: It is like also there hath been no inward division amongst themselves, or grosse profanity of practice, or such like: for there is no mention of such in the reproof, nor would such have stood with an eminent name; but on the contrary, it is like they had Ordinances in frequen­cie and purity, the Minister had Gifts in some eminencie, external subjection was given to the Ordinances, and they were waited upon; and, it may be, there was zeal in outward Reformation, as was in Ephesus. Upon these, and the like grounds, they came to be esteemed-of by others, as being in an excellent frame; the Preachers were thought excellent Preachers, and no Church thought more happy than the Church of Sardis; and it is like, it was coun­ted a blessed thing to live in such a place: and, it may be, that the Minister and People had their own too great esteem of themselves, as being priviledged beyond others, because they were free both of the Errors in Doctrine, defects in Discipline, and also of the crosses and trials, which we find other Churches lying under: whereupon they are said to have a name; and yet they were indeed, and before the Lord, in the respects formerly mentioned, dead, and unanswerable to that name: which is indeed a sad charge, and a most dangerous condition. Whence we may observe, That a Church, or Minister, or a particular person, may have a great esteem from others, and also have much esteem of themselves, and have some seeming grounds for the same; and yet either totally, or in part, and comparatively, be but dead and lifelesse; and in no such estimation before God. This may make all, both Ministers and People, to tremble, and to beware of being pleased with forthy and empty names, which oftentimes are found to be exceeding light before God.

It may be enquired on this occasion, 1. as to a private person, what grounds one may [Page 178] have to account himself living, when yet indeed he may be dead? For answer, We conceive that the Lord in His wisdom hath made a peremptory decision of this Question to be impossible, to wit, how great length an hypocrite may go, and yet be still in the state of hy­pocrisie; as also of that other, to wit, how far a Believer may decline in the estate of Grace, and yet continue to be a Believer? because the deciding of these, as to the maximum or minimum quod sic, doth not tend to edification: And He would have His People keeping a distance, even from the borders and marches of these things in their practices. Yet we conceive, that it is clear from Scripture, that a hypocrite may have very many things that may be the occasion of a name to him; and yet really he may be still unfound. We may, for example, instance them in these particulars, 1. If we look to negatives, they be justly chargeable with nothing before men, either as to ommissions or commissions: and in this re­spect Paul was blamlesse, even while a Pharisee, Phil. 3, 6. 2. If we look to the common gifts of the Spirit, which come under that name of Gratia gratis data, they may come a great length here, as, to speak with tongues, to understand all Mysteries, to have all knowledge, 1 Cor. 13.2. And in this respect they may Preach well, Write well, Dispute well; yea, even to the edification of others; and, as to the exercising of a gift, Pray well also. And, no question, Iudas and others, whom the Lord will not own for His in the day of Judgement, were eminent in all these, as they were for casting out of devils and the working of miracles. 3. If we will look to the performance of externall duties, it will be found they may come a great length in this respect. That Pharisee, Luk. 18.11, 12. prayed and fasted often, and gave tithes of all: and that man, Matth. 19.20. said, All these things did I keep from my youth: which might be true, as to the outward perfor­mance of duties, and so as they understood them; which also is confirmed from the example of Paul. 4. If we look in to the spirituall meaning of the Law, as it doth obliege the in­ward man to a conformity thereto, we will find that hypocrites may go a length even in that: thus we find a discreet Scrib (Mark 12.32, 33.) acknowledging, that to love the Lord with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, with all the strength, and to love our neighboar as our self, is more than all burnt offerings or sacrifices. This is indeed much, to prefer internal moral duties to external ceremonial performances; and is more than usually was acknowledged amongst them: for which cause, the Lord saith in the next word, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God; yet He insinuateth he was not in the Kingdom of God, and so not really found notwithstanding. 5. They will sometimes have seeming fruits, even as to suffering: although no hypocrite can have a sincere end therein; yet it is clear, that many of them may suffer many things materially for the Truth of Christ. The Apostle, 1 Cor. 13. supposeth that one may give his body to be burnt, and yet want love: and, Gal. 3.4. he supposeth that there may be much suffering in vain. And certainly experience in all ages of the Church, hath made this appear to be truth. 6. If we look further in reference to Gospel duties, there may be fair flourishing in this re­spect also; as first, convictions of sin may be carried on a great length: Saul was often brought to say, I have sinned; Felix trembleth, while Paul preacheth to him, Act. 24.25. and even Simon Magus is brought to desire the help of Peters prayers, as being convinced of his hazard, Act. 8.24. Secondly, This conviction may be followed with something like Repentance, and sorrow for the committing of sin: thus, even Ahab humbleth himself, 1 King. 21. vers. 27, 29. and these that are mentioned, Psal. 78. vers. 34. &c. did seek and enquire after him who slew them. And certainly there wants not sorrow and bitter­nesse in Iudas his repentance, Mat. 26.3, &c. when he did really rew what he had done. Thirdly, There may be also something like faith; whereby one may in part be brought to believe the generall truths of the Gospel concerning Christ, &c. and to his own apprehension be perswaded in himself, that he hath received him; and so carry within himself as if in­deed there were ground to expect what is promised in him. This is clear also from the many instances of historicall and temporall faith, that are recorded in Scripture: and in this respect, it is said of the temporary Believer, That anone he receiveth the word with joy, and goeth forth as if all were well. Thus Agrippa, is by the force of the Word almost perswaded to be a Christian, Act. 26.28. And, Isai. 48.1. and 2. some are said to call themselves of the holy city; and stay themselves on the Lord God of Israel (which sup­poseth an exercise of faith, at least in their account) and yet, it was not done in truth and in righteousnesse. In the seventh place, we may instance it in the common operations of [Page 179] the spirit on the affections within: we have already hinted something of convictions for sin, of fear, of wrath, and destruction of the soul, which certainly may sometimes affect many hypocrites; also of grief and worldly sorrow, which may seaze upon such, and in an high degree; who yet may have nothing of God in them: upon the other side, there may be much of it also in respect of the flashes of joy, tendernesse, and meltings of heart, which hypocrites may have at one time, either in some publick Ordinances, or possibly in secret, or otherwise, more than at other times; and yet there be nothing but the common operations of the spirit, such as were in many of Iohns Hearers, who for a srason rejoyced in his light, Iob. 5.35. and in the temporary Believer, as was formerly cited: for, the Lord that dispenseth the common gifts of the Spirit as He pleaseth, doth also dispense of these common effects of the Spirits operation, such as liberty, fear, joy, sorrow, and the like, according to his Soveraign pleasure, without respect to the eternall state, good or bad of the person on whom He bestoweth them. Now seing these things and such like may be where yet sincerity is not, what wonder is there that a person be said to have a name by others, or be thought to have reality by himself, when yet indeed there is nothing but deadnesse? Oftentimes men (that are ordinarily admirers of themselves and what is in themselves) are brought to think highly of themselves, and of the sincerity of their own state, and that w [...]th great perswasion, upon lesse grounds than these that are laid down, as we will find in the Epistle to Laodicea.

If it be asked, (supposing such things to be,) What can further be defective to reality?

Answ. To say no more, all these things may be, and yet there may be defect in these three, which are simply necessary for the differencing of a sincere person from an hypocrite, First, There may be a want of the new nature, and the person not yet be born again, as it is, Ioh. 3.3. Secondly, All these may be, and yet the person not be brought really to deny his own righteousnesse, and positively to receive Christ offered in the Gospel, and to rest upon Him, for the attaining of life through His righteousnesse and satisfaction: although they may be convinced it is good to do it, and although they may think they have done it, (being blinded by their own pride) and although they may some way comfort themselves as if they had done it in this their presumptuous dream; yet, really it is never done: for so, they could not but be saved, because of the immutable tearms of Gods Covenant, which say, Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Thirdly, All these things may be, when yet there is defect in the nature of the inward duties (to say so) and in the manner of performing what is outward, that is, they may be both without the qualifications required to the constituting of sincerity and sincere acts spoken to, Chap. 2. So that still these fruits, are but fruits of the old tree and flesh, and are not brought forth by faith in Jesus Christ, without which nothing can be pleasing to God; neither is His glory singly aimed at in them, &c. without which the most glancing fruits, will be but rotten before the Lord.

Again, Secondly, considering this, Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, with respect to the Minister: it may be enquired, 1. What kind of Minister this is, who may be said to have a name that he liveth, and is dead, 2. What may be the reasons that make even Ministers to rest satisfied in the applause of others, and in such things as may gain an approbation before men, without that which may make him approveable before God?

To the first, we say, that in the describing of such a Minister, we must, 1. look to some­thing [...] which he hath, that give the ground of his having a name. And, 2. to something which he hath not, the want whereof, proveth him to have no more but a name. First then, A Minister may be in his particular condition such an one as was formerly de­scribed with many commendable things in his outward carriage. Secondly, he may have some good measure of gifts, and a pleasing quicknesse and dexterity in Preaching and mannaging of other duties that belong to his Calling. This gift it seemeth was in many Church-officers at Corinth, which made them appear exceeding eminent. Thirdly, he may have a fre­quency, and accurate formality in the discharge of all duties, as bearing forth much dili­gence and faithfulnesse in the discharge of them, with a seeming fervour and earnestnesse. It is like that these who preached Christ out of envy, Philip. 1.15. wanted not a good mea­sure of this. Fourthly, he may have a great plausiblnesse, and a familiar kind of humanity, and discretion (to speak so) in his conversation with others, which often tendeth to gain applause from them, as if it were a speciall sign of humility, and an evidence of love and [Page 180] respect, whereby men oftentimes are engaged to esteem of such a Minister, more upon such an account, to wit, as being particularly friendly to them, than for their works sake, as the word is, 1 Thess. 5.13. It is like, that these false Teachers that got such a name, as, who but they, in Corinth and Galatia, had much of this way of insinuation: and also these mentioned, Philip. 1. cannot well be thought to be free in this respect, seing they Preached Christ out of envie and strife, vers. 15. as minding to gain a name thereby be­yond Paul. Fifthly, Such a Minister may also have seeming countenance in his Ministrie with Authority and respect amongst his people, and seeming countenance and fruit in out­ward things, as in the bearing down of Error, the suppressing of grosse scandals and out­breakings, and the bringing of his people to some conformity in publick and private duties: in which respects, his Congregation may be more formal than many others. Upon these and such like considerations, a Minister may have a name of a very eminent and excellent Minister; and yet there may be much unsoundnesse in two respects, 1. As to his own per­sonal condition, he may be without life, or at the best without livelinesse in any sutable de­gree. 2. As to his publick Ministrie, he may be in many things defective as to the sinceri­ty of his practice before God, even when he appeareth to be found and diligent before men, as it is here, vers. 2. I have not found thy works perfect before God. Where we shall con­sider this more particularly: and do therefore now leave this first Question.

The second Question, is, What may make a Minister so ready to please himself in the having of Gifts, and a name before others, when yet he may be so faulty before God?

Answ. The deceits of mens hearts are very deep: and although it be exceedingly to be regrated that Ministers should fall in this evil of resting in the applause of others, when in the mean time they want Gods approbation in a great part at least; yet it cannot be deni­ed to be a truth: and what is written to the Angels of Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea, doth abundantly confirm the same: and these reasons may be given thereof, 1. Because oftentimes Ministers, especially such Ministers aim too much at the pleasing of men, and at the gaining of respect and applause amongst them: this may be a tentation to the most sin­cere, but it is really that which unfound men are swayed with, as it is clear, Philip. 2.21. and therefore when what they principally designed, is attained, it is no wonder that they rest therein. 2. Of all men in the world, Ministers are most obnoxious to this tentation of vanity, and seeking approbation from others; because, most of their appearances are in publick before others, and that in the exercise of some Gift of the mind, which is supposed to hold forth the inward worth of a person more than any other thing. Now, when this meeteth with applause, it holdeth out a peoples estimation of such a persons worth, which hath a great subtilty in its pleasing and tickling of him, and so is ready to incline him to rest satisfied therein. 3. Many Ministers are not travelling in birth to beget souls, and to have successe as to the Salvation of many, as well as outward fruits; but are at best studying to exoner themselves as having been diligent in their duty. Now, when such meet with ap­plause from others, it is interpreted by them, as some confirmation of their diligence and seal of their exoneration in their Ministrie: for, men being naturally willing to absolve themselves, are easily induced to admit of any testimonie, which may seem to confirm their own integrity. 4. Oftentimes Ministers take more pains in external duties of their Mini­strie that are obvious to the view of others, than they do in the inward secret duties of Christianity upon their own hearts, such as self-examination, the making of their own cal­ling and election sure, the keeping of themselves in the love of God, the exercising of Faith, Repentance, &c. whereby it cometh to passe, that often that may be their regrate which is spoken, Song 1.6. They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not keeped. And from this it is, that though their condition be exceeding defective before God; yet, they being unacquainted therewith cannot be affected with the same. An [...], no question, many Ministers have much carnal quietnesse in their Ministrie, who could not enter­tain the same, if they knew how things were with them before God. 5. This evil also is incident to Ministers, and hath great influence upon the other, that their having such Gifts, seeming fruits and approbation before others, is oftentimes made use of to counterballance, and bear down any challenge that may arise concerning their own unfoundnesse, as if all these were testimonies to the contrary: and so, as oftentimes outward prosperity doth, through mens corruption, bear down challenges in some private persons, which adversity doth waken up in others; so an outward prosperous Ministrie (to say so) doth often smother many [Page 181] challenges of a mans inward unfoundnesse, which readily had been more taken notice of, had there not been such Gifts, outward countenance in external duties, and approbation from others. Hence we see, That as often the most tender Christian is under the crosse, so it is the most lively Minister who laboureth most under the sense of his own insufficiencie and short-coming in Gifts, who hath most grosse out-breakings in Errors, and profanity weight­ing him amongst his people; who meeteth with most disrespect, and maniest disappointments among the people and such like; these are often blessed of God to keep such a person lively, when others without these do sit up and forget themselves. O but Ministers that have a name, and some seeming countenance in the exercise of their Gifts, great applause and ac­ceptation amongst the people, had need to be humble and watchful, lest they be liable to this charge, Thou hast a name that thou livest, but art dea [...]! And, no question, many inad­vertantly are slain by such things themselves, when they Preach to others.

We come now to the second thing in the Body of the Epistle, which is the directions that the Lord giveth both to Minister and people, for the recovering of them out of that condition, vers. 2, 3. And because the reasons whereby he presseth these directions, are intermixed, we shall speak to both in order as they ly. The directions are of two sorts. The first re­specteth their present duty, and their carriage for the time to come, in reference to what might occur; the other respecteth what was past, and their carriage in reference to that. The first is in the 2. vers. comprehended in two directions: both which implie their former guiltinesse. The first is, be Watchful: which looketh both to watchfulnesse in the private duties of Christianity, and also to a more watchful sympathizing manner of going about the duties of the Ministrie: which implieth, that what ever name they had before others, that yet really there was much deadnesse and security, unwatchfulnesse, and untendernesse in both these respects before God. The second direction is, and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die: By things that remain and are ready to die, may be understood, 1. some remainders of the work of God in some that were honest, which being through carelesnesse and security exceedingly weakned and brought very low, were in hazard to die out, if not prevented: this respecteth especially these members who had de­clined from somewhat which once they had been at. And although, no question, there were many in that Church who never had any thing; yet it is no marvell that the Lord mould His directions with a speciall reference to such as had some honesty in them. 2. These words may be understood as peculiarly spoken to the Minister; And so the things that remain, &c. are some little stirrings amongst the People, as the fruits of his Ministery, which now are like to die out, because of his formall way of carrying of himself in his duty: or, it may look to the few honest ones, which were among them, who were not fed and nourished by him in their spiritual conditions, and so were like to starve, even when he was flourishing in the exercise of his gifts to the admiration of others. The direction, and strengthen the things that remain, must be expounded with respect to both these: and so with respect to the first, it saith, they that ever had any thing of God, and now have taken a stand, had need warmly and tenderly to nourish and confirm that which is behind; that by the exercise of tendernesse, prayer, repentance, and other things that belong to the life of Religion, that spunk may be keeped from dying out. With respect to the second, to wit, the Minister, it putteth him to a more carefull, painfull, and sympathizing way of looking to the Flock, and feeding them according to their several tempers, with what might be solide and nourishing to them; lest the blossoms of fruits, which he had in his Ministery, should evanish, and be blasted. And thus he is reproved for taking pains possibly in fitting his Sermons to the tastingnesse of some curious and vain Hearers, by the bringing forth of high notions and great words, whereby himself might be accounted a great man; and that yet in the mean time there was no care had to provide food, or Physick for hungry and sick souls.

This part of the directions, is backed by two Arguments. The first is implyed in these words, that are ready to die: which is in sum, if ye that are Christians be not diligent and serious, and ye that are Ministers be not watchfull and faithfull, ye that are private Christians are in hazard to have any beginnings that are in you extinguished: which may be understood respectively, both of saving and common stirrings; and ye that are Ministers may have your Ministery blasted, if these directions be not followed. This doth not imply any uncertainty of the persevering of the truely Godly; But doth set out, First, the con­nexion [Page 182] which God hath made betwixt livelinesse and diligence: And, Secondly, it sheweth how God sometimes useth to stir up secure Believers, to wit, by giving and blessing to them some sharp warnings.

The second way by which he presseth these directions, is more expresly set down in the end of vers. 2. For I have not found thy works perfect before God: which is, in a word, what ever men think of them as before them; yet I, having tried them according as they are before God and in His sight, who seeth further than men, have not found them to be perfect before Him. This word in the Greek is