A Practical COMMENTARY, VPON THE Two first Chapters of the first Epistle General of St. Peter. By the Most Reverend Dr. ROBERT LEIGHTON, Some-time Arch-Bishop of Glasgow. Published after His Death, at the Request of his Friends.

YORK, Printed by I. White, Their Majesties Printer, for the City of York, and the five Northerne Counties. And are to be Sold at London by Sam. Keble at the Turks-head in Fleet-street. 1693

To the Pious Reader.

THou mayest Remember in publishing some of this Authors Discourses about two Yeares ago, A Promise was made, That if they happend to be well received, more of them should see the Light.

The general acceptance they have met with (especially from those for whom they were chiefly design'd) And the necessity the Book-seller found to make a second Edition (tho by the Printers ovresight very incorrect) are sufficient grounds to oblige me to the making good that Promise. And here it is in part perform'd, by offering to thee the following Meditations of this Primi­tively Devout Author upon the two first Chap­ters of the first Epistle General of St Peter. His Latin Discourses which he had to the Students when he was Principall of the College of Edenburgh, are now in the Press.

Matters of Controversie in Religion among Protestant Divines, this good Man, upon all oc­casions, [Page] in his Life time, either absolutely shunn­ed, or endeavoured to soften, and where he could not Conciliat the Termes and Points them­selves in dispute, yet he endeavoured to reconcile the Persons Disputing: For [out of his great Charity] he had much better thoughts of each of them, than they ordinarly have one of another. And even when he gives in these Papers, his own Opinion in some few of those Points, he does it, with that Moderation, and discretion, that can give no offence to any of the Parties, Except to such of them, who will needs be contentious: He was a singular Instance how far good Men may differ in Iudgment about some Abstruse points in Religion; Yet without Diminution of Affection, either to Truth, or to one-Another.

If his way of Expression, or Method of hand­ling the Passages of Scripture here treated of, are not according to the Modern Critical exactness, or if his Stile is not after the Mode and dress of those times, And hence perhaps may be less gratifying to some, such are humbly desired, that they would be pleased to enjoy those other Writings they so deservedly value, and whereof they have so great store in this Age: Yet at the same time, its hoped from their good [Page] Nature, that they will bear with such, who do, and must own to their great Comfort, that they find a sweetness in this Divine Authors thoughts, and way of writeing peculiar to him, which make those Scriptures, thus treated by him, drop sweeter to their souls than Honey, and the Honey-comb. While they Enlighten their understandings, at the same time they purify, and rejoyce their hearts; While they make wise the Simple, they convert their Soul. This was his design in Preaching those Discour­ses above thirty Years ago. And this is the Design in Publishing them now, God grant that the success in perusing them may answer the good intention of both. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God giveth the in­crease, which that it may be in that abundance, which shall make both Planters, and Waterers rejoyce in that Great and last Harvest, is, and shall be the fervent Prayer of the Pub­lisher.

J. F.

I. Ep. St. Peter Chap. 1.

verse 1.

Peter an Apostle of Iesus Christ, to the stran­gers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.’

THe grace of God in the heart of man, is a tender Plant in a strange unkindly▪ soyle, and therefore cannot well prosper and grow, without much care, and pains, and that of a skilful hand, and that hath the art of cherishing it; for this end, hath God given the constant Ministry of the Word to his Church, not only for the first work of conversion; but also for confirming, and increasing of his grace in the hearts of his Children.

And though the extraordinary Ministers of the Gospel, the Apostles, had principally the former for their charge, the converting of unbelievers, Jews and Gentiles, and so the planting of Churches; to be after kept, and watered by others, as the Apostle intimates, 1 Cor. 3.6. Yet did they not neglect the other work of strengthening the begun grace of God in the new Converts of those times, both by revisiting [Page 2] them, and exhorting them in person as they could, and by the supply of their writing to them when absent.

And the benefit of this extends (not by accident, but by the purpose, and good Providence of God) to the Church of God in all succeeding Ages.

This excellent Epistle (full of Evangelical Doctrine and Apostolical authority) is a brief, and yet very clear summary both of the consolations and Instructi­ons needful for the incouragement and direction of a Christian in his Journey to Heaven, Elevating his thoughts, and desires to that happiness, and strength­ning him against all opposition in the way, both that of Corruption within, and Tentations and Afflictions from without.

The heads of Doctrine contain'd in it are many, but the maine that are most insisted on are these Three, Faith, Obedience and Patience. To establish the believing, to direct them in doing, and com­fort them in suffering; And because the first is the ground-work and support of the other two, this first Chapt. is much in that, perswading them of the truth of that Mistery they had received and did believe, viz. their Redemption and Salvation by Christ Jesus; that Inheritance of immortality bought by his blood for them, and the evidence and stability of their Right and title to it.

And then he uses this belief, this assurance of the glory to come, as the great perswasive to the other two, both to holy Obedience, and constant Patience, since nothing can be too much either to forgo, or undergo, either to do, or to suffer for the attain­ment of that blessed State.

[Page 3]And as from the consideration of that Object, and matter of the Hope of Believers, he encourages to Patience, and exhorteth to Holiness in this Chapter in general, so in the following Chapters, he expresses more particularly, both the universal, and special Duties of Christians, both in doing and suffering, often setting before them to whom he wrote, the matchless example of the Lord Jesus, and the great­ness of their engagement to follow him.

In the two first verses, we have the Inscription and Salutation, the usual stile of Apostolick Epistles.

The Inscription hath the Author and the Addresse, from whom, and to whom. The Author of this Epistle is design'd by his Name Peter, and his Calling an Apostle.

We shall not insist upon his Name, that it was im­posed by Christ, and what is its signification, this the Evangelists teach us. S. Ioh. 1.42. S· Mat. 16.18. &c.

By that which is spoken of him in divers passages of the Gospel, he is very remarkable amongst the Apostles, both for his Graces, and his failings, Emi­nent in zeal and courage, and yet stumbling oft in his forwardness, and once grosly falling, and these by the Providence of God being recorded in Scrip­ture, give a check to the excess of Rome's conceit concerning this Apostle; Their extolling and exalt­ing him above the rest, is not for his cause, and much less to the honour of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ, for he is injured and dishonoured by it; but 'tis in favour of themselves, as Alexander distinguished his two friends, that the one was a friend of Alex­ander, the other a friend of the King, That prefer­ment they give this Apostle, is not in good will to [Page 4] Peter, but in the desire of Primacy. But whatso­ever he was, they would be much in pain to prove Rome's right to it by succession. And if ever it had any such right, we may confidently say, it has for­feited it long ago by departing from St. Peters foot­steps, and from his faith, and retaining too much those things wherein he was faultie, namely,

His u [...]willingness to hear of, and consent to Christs sufferings, his Master spare thy selfe, or far be it from thee, in those they are like him, for thus they would disburden and exempt the Church from the cross, from the real cross of afflictions, instead of that, have nothing but painted, or carved, or guilded Crosses, these they are content to embrace, and Worship too, but cannot endure to hear of the other, instead of the Cross of Affliction, they make the Crown or Mitre, the badge of their Church, and will have it known by Prosperity, and outward Pomp, and so turn the Church Militant, into the Church Triumphant, not considering, that it is Ba­bilons voice, not the Churches, I sit as a Queen and shall see no sorrow.

Again his saying on the Mount at Christs Trans­figuration, when he knew not what he said 'Tis good to be here, So they have litle of the true glory of Christ, but the false glory of that Monarchy on their seven hills, 'tis good to be here, say they.

Again in their undue striking with the Sword, not the Enemies, as he, but the faithful Friends, and Servants of Jesus Christ; but to proceed.

We see here S Peters Office, or Title An Apostle, not Chief Bishop. Some in their glossing have been so Impudent as to add that beside the Text. Though [Page 5] Chap. 5.4. He gives that Title to Christ alone, and to himself only fellow Elder, and here not Prince of the Apostles, but An Apostle, restored and reestablish­ed after his fall, by repentance, and by Christ him­self after his own Death and Resurrection, Ioh. 21. Thus we have in our Apostle, a singular instance of humane frailty on the one side, and of the sweetness of Divine grace on the other. Free, and rich grace it is indeed, that forgives and swallowes up multitudes of sins, of greatest sins, not only sins before Conver­sion as to S. Paul, but foul offences committed after Conversion, as to David, and to this Apostle, not only once raising them from the dead, but when they fall, stretching out the same hand, and raising them again, and restoring them to their Station, and com­forting them in it by his free Spirit, as David prayes Not only to cleanse polluted clay, but to work it in­to Vessels of honour, yea of the most defiled shape, to make the most refined Vessels, not vessels of ho­nour of the lowest sort, but for the highest and most honourable Services, vessels to bear his own precious Name to the Nations; making the most un­worthy and the most unfit, fit by his grace, to be his Messengers.

Of Iesus Christ.) Both as the beginning, and end of his Apostleship, as Christ is called Alpha and Ome­ga, Rev. 2.11. Chosen and called by him, and cal­led to this, to Preach him, and salvation wrought by him.

Apostle of Iesus Christ.) Sent by him, and the Message no other but his Name, to make that known, An [...] what this Apostleship was then; after some extraordinary way, befitting these first times of the [Page 6] Gospel, That is Now, the Ministry of the word in Or­dinary, and therefore an imployment of more difficul­ty and excellency then is usually conceiv'd by many, not only of those that look upon it, but even of those that are exercised in it, to be Ambassadour [...] for the greatest of Kings, and upon no mean im­ployment, that great treaty of peace and reconcile­ment betwixt him and mankind. 2 Cor. 5.20.

This Epistle is directed to the Elect who are descri­bed here, By their Temporal, and by their Spiritual conditions. The first hath very much dignity, and comfort in it, but the other hath neither, but rather the contrary of both, and therefore the Apostles in­tent, being their comfort, he mentions but the one in passing, to signifie to whom particularly he sent his Epistle; But the other is that which he would have their thoughts dwell upon, and therefore prosecutes it in his following discourse, and if we look to the order of the words, their temporal condition is but interjected, for 'tis said, to the Elect, first, and then To the Strangers scattered, &c. And he would have this as it were drown'd in the other, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

That those dispersed Strangers that dwelt in the Countries here named, were Iews, appears, if we look to the foregoing Epistle, where the same word is used, and expresly appropriated to the Iews. S Iam. 1.1. And Gal. 2. S Peter is called An Apostle of the Circumcision, as exercising his Aposteship most to­wards them, and there is in some passages of the Epistle, somewhat that though belonging to all Chris­tians, yet hath in the strain and way of expression a particular fitness to the believing Iews, as being par­ticularly [Page 7] verified in them, which was spoken of their Nation, Chap. 2. v. 9.10.

Some argue from the Name Strangers that the Gentiles are here meant, which seems not to be; For Proselyte Gentiles were indeed called stran­gers in Ierusalem, and by the Iews; But were not the Iewes Strangers in these Places, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia? Not strangers dwelling together in a prosperous flou­rishing condition, as a well planted Colonie, but Strangers of the dispertion, scattered too and fro, and their dispersion which was partly, first by the Assyrian Captivity, and after that the Babylonish, and by the Invasion of the Romans, and it might be in these very times increased by the believing Iews flying from the hatred, and persecution that was raised against them at home.

These places here mentioned through which they were dispersed, are all in Asia. So Asia here is Asiae the lesser. Where its to be observed, that some of these who heard S Peter, Act. 2. are said to be of those regions. And if any of those then converted were amongst these dispersed, the Comfort was no doubt the more grateful from the hand of the same Apostle by whom they were first converted, but this is only conjecture. Tho Divine truths are to be received equally from every Minister alike, yet it must be acknowledged that there is something (we know not what to call it) more acceptable reception of those who at first were the means of bringing men to God then others, like the opinion some have of Physitians whom they love.

[Page 8]The Apostle comforts these strangers of this dis­persion by the spiritual union which they obtained by Effectual calling, and so calls off their eyes from their outward dispersed and dispised condition, to look above that, as high as the spring of their happiness, the free love, and Election of God. Scat­tered in the Countries, and yet gathered in Gods Election, chosen or pickt out, Stangers to men a­mongst whom they dwelt; but known, and fore­known to God, removed from their own Country to which men have naturally an unalterable affection but made heirs of a better, as followes verse 3.4. And having within them the evidence both of Eternal Election, and that expected salva [...]ion, the Spirit of holiness, verse 2. At the best a Christian is b [...]t a Stranger here, set him where you will, as our Apo­stle teacheth after, and 'tis his priviledge, that he is so, and when he thinks not so, he forgets and dispa­rages himself, and descends far below his quallity when he is much taken with any thing in this place of his Exile.

But this is the wisdom of a Christian when he can solace himself against the meaness, and any kind of discomfort of his outward condition with the com­fortable assurance of the love of God, that he hath called him to holiness, given him some measure of it, and an endeavour after more, and by this may he conclude, that he hath ordained him unto salvation, if either he is a Stranger where he lives, or as a stranger deserted of his friends, and very near stript of all outward comforts, yet may he rejoyce in this, that the Eternal unchangable Love of God that is from Everlasting to Everlasting is sealed to his soul, [Page 9] O what will it avail a man to be compassed about with the favour of the world, to sit unmolested in his own home and possessions, and to have them very great and pleasant, well moneyed, and landed, and befriended, and yet estranged and sever'd from God, not having any token of his special Love.

To the Elect,] The Apostle here denominates all the Christians to whom he writes by the condition of true Believers, calling them Elect and sanctified, &c. And the Apostle St. Paul writes in the same stile in his Epistles to the Churches, not that all in these Churches were such indeed, but because they pro­fessed to be such, and by that their profession, and Calling as Christians, they were obliged to be such, and as many of them as were in any measure true to that their Calling, and profession were really such. Besides it would seem not unworthy of Consideration▪ that in all probability there would be fewer false Christians, and the number of true believers usually greater, in the Churches in those Primitive times, then▪ now in the best reformed Churches, because there could not then be many of them that were from their Infancy bred in the Christian Faith, but for the greatest part, were such, as being of years of discretion, were by the hearing of the Gospel, converted from Paganisme and Iuduisme to the Christian Religion first, and made a deliberate choise of it, to which there were at that time no great out­ward Encouragements, and therefore the lesse dan­ger of multitudes of hypocrites, which as Vermine in Summer, breed most in the time of the Churches Prosperity. Tho no Nation or Kingdom had then [Page 10] universally received the faith, but rather hated and persecuted it, yet were there even then amongst them, as the writings of the Apostles testifie, false Brethren, and inordinate walkers, and men of cor­rupt minds, earthly minded, and led with a spirit of envy and contention, and vainglory.

Howsoever the question that is moved concerning the necessary qualifications of all the members of a true visible Church, can no way (as I conceive) be decided from the Inscriptions of the Epistle, but eertainly they are useful to teach Christians, and Christian Churches what they ought to be, and what their holy profession requires of them, and sharply to reprove the gross unlikeness, and incon­formity that is in the most part of man, to the descrip­tion of Christians. As there be some, that are too strait in their Judgement concerning the being, and na­ture of the visible Church; so certainly the greatest part of Churches are too loose in their practice.

From the dissimilitude betwixt our Churches, and those, we may make this use of reproof. That if a [...] Apostolical Epistle were to be directed to us, it be­hoved to be Inscribed to the Ignorant, prophane, mali [...]ious &c. As he, who at the hearing of the Gospel read, said, Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians. So either these Char [...]cters, given in the Inscription of these Epistles, are not true Characters, or we are not true Christians.

Verse 2.

‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Fa­ther, through Sanctification of the Spirit, unto Obe­dience, and sprinckling of the blood of Iesus Christ.’

IN this verse we have their Condition, and Causes of it, Their Condition, Sanctified, and Iustified, the former expressed by Obedience, the latter, by sprinkling of the blood of Christ. The Causes, 1 Eter­nal Election. 2. The Execution of that Decree, Their Effectual Calling, which (I conceive) is meant by Election here, the selecting them out of the World, and joyning them to the fellowship of the Children of God, so Ioh. 15.19. The former, Election, particularly ascribed to God the Father, the latter to the Holy Spirit, And the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God is here the cause of their Justification, and so the whole Trinity concurring, dignifie them with this their Spiritual and happy estate.

First, I shall discourse of these seperately, and then of their Connection. 1. Of the state it selfe, and first of Iustification, tho named last.

This sprinkling has respect to the Rite of the Le­gal Purification by the sprinkling of Blood, and that appositely, for these Rites of sprinkling and Blood, did all point out this Blood, and this Sprinkling, and exhibited this true ransome of souls which was only shadowed by them.

As the use and end of Sprinkling was Purification and Expiation, because sin merited death, and that the pollutions and staines of human nature was by [Page 12] sin, Such is the pollution, that it can be no man­ner of way washt off, but by Blood Heb. 9. [...]2. Neither is there any Blood able to purge from sin, except the most precious Blood of Jesus Christ, which is called the blood of God, Act. 20.28.

That the stain of sin can only be washt off by Blood, in [...]imates, that it merits Death, And that no Blood, but that of the Son of God, can do it, in­timates, that this stain merits Eternal Death, and it had been our portion, except the death of the Eter­nal Lord of life had freed us from it.

Filthiness needs sprinkling, Guiltiness (such as deserves death) needs sprinkling of Blood, and the death it deserves being Everlasting death, The Blood must be the Blood of Christ. The Eternal Lord of life, dying to free us from the sentence of death.

The Soul (as the body) hath its life, its health, its purity, and the contrary of these, its Death, Di­seases, Deformities, and Impurity, which belong to it as to their first Subiect, and to the body by participation.

The Soul and Body of all mankind is stained by the Pollution of sin; The impure Leprosie of the Soul, is not a spot outwardly; but wholly inward, hence as the corporal Leprosie was purified by the sprinkling of blood, so is this. Then by reflecting, we see how all this that the Apostle St. Peter expres­seth, is necessary to Justification. 1. Christ the Me­diator betwixt God and man, is God and man. 2. A Mediator not only interceeding, but also sa­tisfying, Eph. 2.16. 3. This satisfaction doth not reconcile us unless it be applyed. Therefore there [Page 13] is not only mention of blood, but the sprinkling of it, the spirit by faith sprinkleth the soul as with hysop, wherewith the sprinkling was made, this is it of which the Prophet speaks, Isai. 52.15. So shall he sprinkle many Nations. And which the Apostle to the Hebrewes prefers above all Legal sprinklings Chap. 9.12, 13, 14. both as to its duration, and as to the excellency of its effects.

Men are not easily convinced and perswaded of the deep stain of sin, and that no other La [...]er can fetch it out, but the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ. Some that have moral Resolutions of amendment, dislike at least gross sins, and purpose to avoid them, and 'tis to them cleanness enough to reform in those things; but they consider not, what becomes of the guiltiness they have contracted already, and how that shall be purged, how their natural pollution shall be taken away; be not deceived in this, 'tis not an eva [...]ishing sigh, or a light word, or a wish of, God forgive me, no, nor the highest current of Re­pentance, nor that which is the truest evidence of Repentance, Amendment. 'Tis none of these that pu­rifies in the sight of God and expiats wrath, they are all imperfect and stained themselves, cannot stand and answer for themselves, much less be of value to counterpoise their former guilt of sin, the very tears of the purest Repentance, unless they be sprinkled with this Blood, are impure, all our washings without this, are but washings of the Blackmore, it is labour in vain, Ier. 2.22. Iob. 9.30▪ 31. There is none truly purged by the Blood of Christ, that do not endeavour purity of heart and Conversation; but yet it is the Blood of Christ by [Page 14] which they are all fair, and there is no spot in them, here 'tis said, Elect to obedience, but because that obedience is not perfect, there must be sprinkling of the Blood too. There is nothing in Religion fur­ther out of natures reach, and out of its likeing and believing, then the doctrine of Redemption by a Sa­viour, and a Crucified Saviour, by Christ, and by his blood, first shed on the Cross in his suffering, and then sprinkled on the soul by his Spirit. 'Tis easier to make men sensible of the necessity of Repentance, and amendment of life (though that is very difficult) then of this purging by the sprinkling of this precious Blood. Did we see how needful Christ is to us, we would esteem and love him more.

'Tis not by the hearing of Christ, and of his blood in the Doctrine of the Gospel, 'tis not by the sprink­ling of water, even that water that is the sign of this blood, without the blood it self, and the sprinkling of it. Many are present where it is sprinkled, and yet have no portion in it. Look to this, that this blood be sprinkled on your souls, that the destroying Angel may pass by you. There is a Generation (not some few, but a generation) deceived in this, they are their own Deceivers, pure in their own eyes, Prov. 30.12. How earnest­ly doth David pray wash me, Purge me with hysop. Though bathed in tears, Psa. 6.6. that satisfied not wash thou me. This is the honourable condition of the Saints. That they are purified and consecra­ted unto God by this sprinkling, yea have on lo [...]g while Robes washt in the Blood of the Lamb, There is mention indeed of great Tribulation, but there is a double comfort Joyned with it. 1. They come out [Page 15] of it, that tribulation hath an end. And 2 They pass from that to glory; for they have on the Robe of Candidates, long white Robes washt in the blood of the Lamb, washt white in blood, as for this blood, 'tis nothing but purity and spotlesness being stained with no sin, and besides, hath that vertue to take away the stain of sin where, 'tis sprinkled, My Wellbeloved is white and ruddy saith the Spouse, thus in his death, ruddy by bloodshed, white by Inno­cence, and purity of that blood.

Shall they then that are purged by this blood return to live among the Swine, and tumble with them in the pudle, what gross injury is this to themselves, and to that Blood by which they were cleansed. They that are chosen to this sprinkling, are likewise cho­sen to Obedience, this blood purifieth the heart, yea, This blood purgeth our Consciences from dead works to serve the living God. Heb. 9.14.

Vnto Obedience] 'Tis easily understood to whom, when obedience to God is expressed by the simple absolute name of Obedience, it teacheth us, that to him alone belongs Absolute and Unlimited Obedi­ence, all obedience by all creatures, And 'tis the shame and misery of man that he hath departed from this Obedience▪ that we are become Sons of disobedience, But Grace renewing the hearts of believers, chang­eth their natures, and so their names, and makes them Children of obedience. As afterwards in this Chapter. This Obedience consists as in the receiving Christ, as our Redeemer, so also at the same time, as our Lord, or King, an intire rendring up of the whole man to his obedience. This Obedience then [Page 16] of the only begotten Jesus Christ may well be under­stood not as his Actively, as Beza, but Objectivly, as 2 Cor. 10.5. I think here 'tis contain'd, yea chiefly understood, To signifie, that Obedience which the Aposte to the Romans calls the Obedience of faith, by which the Doctrine of Christ is received, and so Christ himself, which uniteth the believing soul to Christ, he sprinkles it with his blood to the re­mission of sin, and is the root and spring of all fu­ture obedience in the Christian life.

By Obedience, Sanctification is here intimated, it signifies then, both habitual, and active obedience, Renovation of heart, and conformity to the Di­vine will; the mind is illuminated by the Holy Ghost to know and believe the divine will, yea this Faith is the great and chief part of Obedience Rom. 1.8. the truth of the Doctrine is first impressed on the mind, hence flowes out pleasant obedience, and full of love, hence all the affections, and the whol body with its members learn to give a willing obedience and submit unto God, whereas before they resisted him being under the standerd of Satan.

This Obedience tho imperfect, yet hath a certain (if I may so say) imperfect perfection, Its universal three manner of wayes. 1. in the subject. 2. In the Object. 3. In the duration, the whole man subjec­ted to the whole Law, and that constantly, and perseveringly.

The first universality, is the cause of the other, because its not in the tongue alone, or in the hand, &c. but has its root in the heart, therefore doth not wither as the grasse, or flower lying on the superfice of the earth: but it flourishes because rooted, and therefore [Page 17] it embraces the whole Law, because it arises from a reverence it has for the Lawgiver himself. Re­verence I say, but tempered with Love, hence it accounts no Law nor command little, or of small value which is from God, because he is great and highly esteemed by the pious heart. No command hard, (tho contrary to the flesh) because all things are easie to Love, there is the same authority in all, as St. Iames divinely argues. And this Authority is the golden chain of all the commandments, which if broke in any link all falls a pieces.

That this three fold perfection of obedience is not a picture drawn by fancy, is evident in David, Psal. 119. where he subjects himself to the whole Law. His feet, v. 105. his mouth, v. 13. his heart v. 11. the whole tenor of his life v. 24. He subjects himself to the whole law, v. 6. and he professes his constan­cy therein, in v. 16. and 33. teach me the way of thy Statutes and I shall keep it unto the end.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father,] The exactest knowledge of things is to know them in their causes; it is then an excellent thing, and wor­thy of their endeavours that are most desirous of knowledge, to know the best things in their highest Causes, and the happiest way of this knowledge is, to possess those things, and to know them in Expe­rience, to such the Apostle here speaks, and sets before them the excellency of their spiritual condi­tion, and leads them to the causes of it.

Their Estate is, that they are sanctified, and justified, the nearest cause of both these is Iesus Christ, he is made unto them both Righteousness and Sancti­fication, [Page 18] the sprinkling of his blood purifies them from guiltines, and quickens them to obedience.

Now followes to consider the appropriateing, or applying Cause the Holy, and holy making, or sancti­fying Spirit, the Author of their selecting from the world, and effectual calling unto grace.

The source of all, the appointing, or decreeing Cause, is God the Father, for though they all work Equally in all, yet in order of working, we are taught thus to distinguish, and particularly, to ascribe the first work of Eternal Election to the first Person of the blessed Trinity.

In, or through Sanctification,] for to render it Elect to the sanctification is strained: so then I con­ceive this Election, is their Effectual Calling, which is by the working of the holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 26.27.28. where Vocation and Election are used in the same sense. Ye see your Calling Brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, &c. but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to condemn the wise 'tis the first act of the decree of Election, the beginning of its perfor­mance in these that are Elected, and 'tis in it self a real seperating of men from the profane and miserable Condition of the world, and an appropriating and consecrating of a man unto God, and therefore both in regard of its relation to Election, and in regard of its own nature, it well bears that name. Rom. 8.28.30. Act. 2.47. & 13.48. Ioh. 15.19

Sanctification in a narrower sense, as distinguished f [...]om Iustification, signifieth the inherent holiness of a Christian, or his Inclinement, and Innablement to obedience mentioned in this verse: but 'tis here more large and so extends with the whole work of [Page 19] Renovation. and is the severing and seperating of men to God, by his holy Spirit, drawing them un­to him, and so it comprehends Justification (as here) and the first working of faith by which the soul is justified, through its apprehending, and applying the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Of the spirit,] The Word calls men externally, and by that Eternal calling prevails with many to an External receiving and professing of Religion, but if it be left alone it goes no further▪ it is indeed the means of sanctification and effectual calling, Joh. 17.17. Sanctifie them through thy truth. But this is doth when the spirit that speaks in the Word works in the heart, and causes it to hear and obey. The Spirit or Soul of a man is the chief and first subject of this work, and 'tis but slight false work that begins not there, but the Spirit here, is rather to be taken for the Spirit of God the Efficient, then the Spirit of man the Subject of this sanctifica­tion. And therefore our Saviour in that place prayes to the Father, that he would sanctifie his own by that truth, and this he doth by the concurrence of his Spirit, with that word of truth which is the life and vigour of it, and makes it prove the power of God unto salvation to them that believe, 'tis a fit means in it self, but 'tis then a prevailing meanes when the Spirit of God brings it in to the heart, 'tis a Sword, and sharper then a two edged Sword, fit to divide, yea even to the dividing of Soul and Spirit. But this it doth not without it be in the Spirits hand, and he applyes it to this cutting and dividing. The word calls, but the Spirit Drawes, not sever'd from that word, but working in it, and by it.

[Page 20]'Tis a very difficult work to draw a Soul out of the hands and strong chains of Satan, and out of the pleasing Entanglements of the world, and out of its own natural perversness to yield up it self unto God, to deny it self, and live to him, and in so doing to run against the main stream, and the current of the ungodly world without, and Corruption within.

The strongest Rhetorick the most moving and persuasive way of discourse is all too weak, the tongue of Men and Angels cannot prevail with the soul to free it self and shake off all that deteins it, although it be convinced of the truth of those things that are represented to it, yet still it can and will hold out against it, and say, non persuadebis etiamsi persuaseris.

The hand of Man is too weak to pluck any soul out of the croud of the world, and set it in amongst the select number of Believers. Only the Father of Spirits hath absolute command of Spirits, viz. the Souls of Men, to work on them as he pleaseth, and where he will. This powerful, this sanctifying Spirit knowes no Resistance, works sweetly, and yet strongly; it can come in to the heart, whereas all other speakers are forc'd to stand without. That still voice within perswades more then all the lowd crying without, as he that is within the house, though he speak low, is better heard and under­stood, then he that shouts without doors.

When the Lord himself speaks by this his spirit to a Man selecting and calling him out of the lost world, he can no more disobey then Abraham did when the Lord spoke to him after an extraordinary manner to depart from his own Country and Kindred, Gen. 12.4. Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken to [Page 21] him. There is a secret but very powerful vertue in a word, or look, or touch of this spirit upon the soul, by which 'tis forced, not with a harsh but a pleasing violence and cannot chuse but follow it, not unlike that of Elija's Mantle upon Elisha. 1 Kin. 19.19. How easily did the Disciples forsake their cal­lings, and dwellings to follow Christ.

The spirit of God drawes a Man out of the world by a sanctfied Light sent into his mind discovering to him. 1. How base and false the sweetness of sin is that withholds men and amuses them, that they re­turn not, and how true and sad the bitterness is, that will follow upon it. 2. Setting before his eyes the free and happy condition, the glorious liberty of the Sons of God, the riches of their present enjoy­ment, and their far larger and assured hopes for af­terwards. 3. Making the beauty of Jesus Christ visible to the soul which straight way takes it so, that it cannot be stayed from coming to him: though its most beloved friends, most beloved sins lye in the way and hang about it and cry will you leave us so; It will tread upon all to come within the embrace­ments of Jesus Christ, and say with St. Paul, I was not disobedient to, or unperswaded by the heavenly Vision.

'Tis no wonder that the Godly are by some called singular and precise, they are so, Singular, a few se­lected ones pickt out by Gods own hand for him­self, Psal. 4.3. Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself, Therefore saith our Saviour the world hates you because I have chosen you out of the world. For the world lyes in unholiness and wickedness, is buried in it. And as living men [Page 22] can have no pleasure amongst the dead, neither can these Elected ones amongst the ungodly; they walk in the World as warily as a Man or Woman neatly apparel'd would doe amongst a multitude that are all sullied and bemired.

Endeavour to have this sanctifying spirit in your selves, pray much for it, for his promise is past to us, that he will give this holy spirit to them that ask it, and shall we be such fools as to want it, for want of asking, when we find heavy setters on our souls and much weakness, yea aversness to follow the voice of God calling us to his obedience, then pray with the Spouse, Draw me, She cannot go nor stirre without that drawing, and yet with it, not only goes but runs. We will run after thee.

Think it not enough you hear the word and use the outward Ordinances of God and profess his Name, for many are thus called, and yet but a few of them are chosen. There is but a small part of the world outwardly called in comparison of the rest that is not so, and yet the number of true Elect is so small that it gains the number of these that are called, the name of many. They that are in the visible Church, and partake of external vocation are but like a large list of names (as in civil elections is usual) out of which a small number is chosen to the dignity of true Christians, and invest­ed into their priviledge; some men in nomina­tion to Offices or employments, think it a worse disapointment and disgrace to have been in the list, and yet not chosen, them if their names had not been mention'd at all, certainly 'tis a greater [Page 23] unhappines to have been not far from the Kingdom of God (as our Saviour speaks) and miss of it, then still to have remained in the furthest distance, to have been at the mouth of the Haven (the fair Havens indeed) and yet driven back and Shipwrackt, your labour is most preposterous, you seek to ascertain and make sure things that cannot be made sure, and that which is both more worth and may be made surer then them all, you will not endeavour to make sure, Hearken to the Apostles advice, and at length set to this in earnest, to make your calling and Election sure, make sure this Election as 'tis here (for that's the Order) your effectual calling sure, and that will bring with it assurance of the other, the eternal Election and love of God towards you which fol­lows to be considered.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.] Known unto God are all his works from the begin­ning saith the Apostle Iames Act 15.18. He sees all things from the beginning of time to the end of it and beyond to all Eternity, and from all Eternity he did foresee them, but this foreknowledge here▪ is peculiar to the Elect, Ver [...]a sansus in sacra scrip­tura connotant affectus, as the Rabbins remark, so in man Psal. 66. if I see Iniquity, and in God, Psal. 1. ult. Amos 3.2. and in that speech of our Saviour, relating it as the terrible doom of Reprobates at the last day Depart, &c. I know you not, I ne­ver knew you, so St. Paul, Rom. 7.15. and Bez [...] observes that [...] is by the Greeks sometimes taken for dece [...]ere, judicare, thus some speak, to cog [...]osce upon a business, so then this foreknow­ledge is no other, but that Eternal love of God, or [Page 24] decree of Election by which some are appointed unto life, and being foreknown or elected to that end, they are predestinate to the way to it, Rom. 8.29.

'Tis most vain to Imagine a foresight of faith in men and in the vieu of that, as the Condition of Election it self, to have chosen them; for 1. No­thing at all is futurum, or can have that imagined futurition, so to speak, but as it is, and because 'tis decreed by God to be; and therefore as before the Apostle St. Iames sayes known to God are all his own works, therefore because his works in time, and his purpose from Eternity. 2. 'Tis most absurd to give any reason of Divine will without himselfe. 3. This easily solves all that difficulty that the Apostle speaks of, and yet he never thought of such a so­lution but runs high for an answer, not to satisfie cavilling reason, but to silence it, and stop its mouth. For thus the Apostle Argues, Rom. 9.19, 20. Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth he yet find fault for who hath resisted his will? Nay, but O man who art thou that replyest against God? Who can conceive whence this should be, that any man should believe unless it be given him of God, and if given him, then it was his purpose to give it him, and if so, then is it evident that he had a purpose to save him, and for that end he gives faith, not therefore purposes to Save, because Man shall believe. 4. This seems cross to these Scriptures where they speak of the subor­dination, or rather Coordination of those two, as here, Foreknown, and Elect, not because of Obedi­ence, or sprinkling, or any such thing, but to Obe­dience, and sprinkling, which is by faith. So he [Page 25] predestinated, not because he foresaw Men would be conform to Christ, but that they might be so, as Rom. 8.29. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate. and the same order, Act. 2.47. And the Lord added to the Church dayly such as should be saved. and 13.48. And as many as were ordained to Eternal life believed.

This Foreknowledge then, is his Eternal and Unchangable Love, and that thus he Chuseth some, and rejecteth others, is for that great End, to ma­nifest and magnifie his Mercy and Justice; but why he appointed this Man for the one, and the other for the other, made Peter a vessel of this mercy, and Iudas of wrath, this is even so because it seemed good to him. This if it be harsh, yet is Apostolick Doctrine, Hath not the Potter (saith St. Paul) power over the same Lump to make one Vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour. This deep we must admire, and alwayes in considering it, close with this. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Now the Connexion of these, we are, for our pro­fit to take notice of, that effectual Calling is inse­parably tyed to this Eternal Foreknowledge or E­lection on the one side, and Salvation on the other. These two links of the chain are up in Heaven in Gods own hand, but this middle one, is let down to earth, into the hearts of his Children, and they laying hold on it, hath sure hold on the other two, for no power can sever them, and therefore the reading the characters of Gods Image in their own souls, those are the counterpain of the golden cha­racters of his Love, in which their names are written [Page 26] in the Book of Life. Their believing writes their names under the promises of the revealed Book of Life, the Scriptures, and so ascertains them that the same names are in the secret Book of Life that God hath by himself from Eternity. So finding the stream of grace in their hearts, tho they see not the Fountain whence it flowes, nor the Ocean into which it returns, yet they know that it hath its source, and shall return to that Ocean which aris­eth from their Eternal Election, and Salvation, and shall empty it selfe into Eternity of happiness.

Hence much joy ariseth to the Believer, this tye indissolvable, as the Agents are the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. So Election, and Vocation, and Sanctification, and Iustification, and Glory, and therefore in all conditions they may from the sence of the working of the Spirit in them, look back to that Election, and forward to that Salvation; but they that remain unholy and dissobedient have as yet no evidence of this Love, and therefore can­not without vain presumptions and self delusion, Judge thus of themselves, that they are within the pe­culia [...] Love of God: but in this, Let the Righteous be glad, and let them shout for joy all that are upright in heart.

'Tis one main point of happiness, that he that is happy doth know, and judge himselfe to be so; this being the peculiar good of a reasonable creature, 'tis to be enjoyed in a Reasonable way, 'tis not as the dull resting of a Stone, or any other natural body in its natural place; but the knowledge and con­sideration [Page 27] of it, is the fruition of it, the very re­lishing, and tasting its sweetness.

The perfect blessedness of the Saints is abiding them above: but even their present condition is truly happy, tho incompleatly, and but a small be­ginning of that which they expect, and this their present happiness, is so much the more, the more clear knowledge, and firm perswasion they have of it, 'tis one of the pleasant fruits of the Godly to know the things that are freely given them of God. 1 Cor. 2.12. Therefore the Apostle to comfort his dispersed Brethren sets before them a description of that excellent Spiritual Condition to which they are called.

If they be inseparably linkt together, then by any one of them a man may lay hold upon all the rest, and may know that his hold is sure, and this is that way wherein we may attain, and ought to seek that comfortable assurance of the Love of God. Therefore Make your Calling sure, and by that your Election: for that being done, this follows of it self. We are not to pry immediately into the Decree, but to read it in the performance, though the Mariner sees not the Pole-star, yet the Needle of the Compass that points to it, tells him which way he sails, thus the heart that is touched with the Load­stone of Divine Love, trembling with godly fear, and yet still looking towards God by fixed believing, it points at the Love of Election and tells the soul that its courss is heavenward towards the Haven of Eternal rest. He that Loves may be sure he was loved first, and he that chuses God for his delight and Portion, may conclude confidently, that God [Page 28] hath chosen him, to be one of those that shall en­joy him, and be happy in him for ever, for that our Love and Electing of him, is but the return and repercussion of the beams of his Love shining upon us.

Find thou but within thee Sanctification by the Spirit, and this argues necessarily, both Justifica­tion by the Son, and the Election of God the Fa­ther 1 Ioh. 4.13. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spi­rit. 'Tis a most strange demonstration, ab Effectu reciproco, He Called, those he hath Elected, he Elected those he Called, where this sanctifying Spirit is not, there can be no perswasion of this Eternal Love of God, they that are Children of disobedience, can conclude no otherwise of them­selves but that they are the Children of wrath. Al­though from present unsanctification, a Man cannot inferre that he is not Elected, for the Decree may for part of a Mans life run (as it were) under-ground; Yet this is sure, that that estate leads to death, and unless it be broken, will prove the black line of reprobation. A man hath no Portion amongst the Children of God, nor can read one word of Comfort in all the Promises that belongs to them, while he remains unholy. Men may please themselves in prophane Scoffing at the Holy Spirit of Grace, but let them withal know this, that that Holy Spirit they mock, and despise is that Spirit, that seals men to the day of Redemption. Eph. 4.30.

If any pretend they have the Spirit, and so turn away from the straight rule of the Holy Scriptures, they have the Spirit indeed; but 'tis a fanatical Spi­rit, [Page 29] the Spirit of Delusion, and Giddiness; but the Spi [...]it of God that leads his Children in the way of truth, and is for that purpose sent them from Heaven to guide them thither, squares their thoughtts, and wayes to that Rule. And that Word whereof it is Author, which was inspired by it, sanctifies them to Obedience. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his Commandments, is a Lyar and the truth is not in him. 1 Ioh. 2.4.

Now this Spirit that sanctifieth, and sanctifieth to Obedience, is within us the Evidence of our Electi­on, and Earnest of our salvation, and whoso are not sanctified, and led by this Spirit, the Apostle tells us, what is their Condition, Rom. 8.9. if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Let us not delude our selves, this is a truth, if there be any in Religion, they that are not made Saints in the estate of Grace, shall never be Saints in Glory.

The Stones that are appointed for that Glorious Temple above, are hewen and polished and pre­par'd for it here, as the stones were wrought and prepared in the Mountains for building the Temple at Ierusalem.

This is the Order Psal. 84.12. He gives Grace, and Glory, as Moralists can tell us, that the way to the Temple of Honour, is through the Temple of Vertue. They that think they are bound for Heaven in the wayes of sin, have either found a new way untroden by all that are gone thither, or will find themselves deceived in the end. We need not then that poor shift for the pressing of [Page 30] Holiness, and Obedience upon Men. to represent it to them, as the meriting cause of Salvation, this is not at all to the purpose, seeing without it, the Necessity of Holiness to Salvation is pressing enough, for holiness is no less necessary to Salvation, then if it were the meriting Cause of it, it is as insepara­rably tyed to it as the purpose of God, and in the Order of performance, Godliness is as certainly be­fore Salvation, as if Salvation did wholly, and all▪ together depend upon it, and were in point of Justice deserved by it. Seeing then there is no other way to Happiness, but by Holiness, no Assurance of the Love of God without it. Take the Apostles ad­vice study it, seek it, follow earnestly after holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

Grace unto you and peace be mult [...]plyed] It hath al­ways been a civil custom amongst Men, to season their intercourse with good wishes one for another, this the Apostles use in their Epistles, in a spiritual di­vine way, suitable to their holy Writings. It well becomes the Messengers of Grace and Peace to wish both, and to make their salutation conform to the main scope, and subject of their discourse. The Hebrew word of salutation we have here Peace, and that which is the spring both of this, and these good things, are all in the other word of Salutation used by the Greeks, Grace. All right Rejoycing, and Prosperity, and Happiness flowes from this source, and from this alone, and is sought elsewhere in vain.

In general, this is the Character of a Christian spirit, to have a heart fill'd with Blessing, with this sweet good will, and good wishing to all, especially to those that are their Brethren in the same Profession [Page 31] of Religion. And this Charity is a precious Balm diffusing it self in the wise, and seasonable expressi­ons of it, upon fit occasions, and those expressions must be cordial, and sincere, not like that you call Court Holy-water, in which there is nothing else but falshood, or vanity at the best. This manifests Men to be the Sons of Blessing, and of the ever blessed God, the Father of all Blessing, when in his name they bless one another, yea our Saviours Rule goes higher, to bless those that curse them, and urges it by that Relation to God as their Father, that in this they may resemble him. That ye may be the Chil­dren of your Father which is in Heaven.

But in a more eminent way, its the duty of Pas­tors to bless their People, not only by their publick and Solemn Benediction, but by daily and instant Prayers for them in secret. And the great Father who seeth in Secret will reward them openly.

They are to be ever, both endeavouring and wishing their increase of knowledge, and all Spiri­tual grace, in which they have St. Paul a frequent Pattern.

They that are Messengers of this Grace, if they have Experience of it, 'tis the Oyl of gladness that will dilate their heart, and make it large in Love and spi­ritual desires for others, Especially their own Flocks.

Let us 1 Consider the matter of the Apostles desire for them, Grace and peace. 2. The measure of it, that it may be multiplyed.

1 Grace] We need not make a noise with the many School-distinctions of Grace, and describe in what sense 'tis here to be taken, for no doubt 'tis all saving Grace to those dispersed Brethren, so [Page 30] that in the largest Notion that it can have that way, we may safely here take it.

What is preventing Grace, assisting Grace, Working and Co-working Grace, (as we may admit these dif­ferences in a sound sense) but divers Names of the same effectual saving Grace in relation to our diffe­rent Estate, as the same Sea receives different names from the different parts of the shoar it beats upon.

First, It Prevents and Workes, then it Assists and Prosecutes what it hath wrought, he worketh in us to will and to do: but the whole sense of saving Grace, I conceive, is comprehended in these two 1 Grace in the Fountain, that is the peculiar Love and Favour of God. 2. In the Streams, the Fruits of this Love, (for 'tis not an empty, but a most rich, and liberal Love) viz. All the Graces and spi­ritual Blessings, of God bestowed upon them whom he hath freely chosen; The Love of God in it selfe can neither Diminish nor Increase, but it is Multi­plied, or abounds in the Manifestation and Effects of it, so then, to desire Grace to be multiplied to them, is to Wish to them the living Spring of it, that Love that cannot be exhausted: but is ever flowing forth, and in stead of abateing, makes each day richer then another.

And this is that which should be the top and summe of Christian Desires. To have, or want any other thing indifferently; but to be resolved and resolute in this, to seek a share in this Grace, the free Love of God, and the sure Evidences of it within you, the fruit of holiness and the Graces of his Spirit, but the most of us are otherwise taken up. We will not be convinc'd how basely and foolishly we are busied, [Page 33] though in the best and most respected employments of the World. So long as we neglect our noblest trade of growing Rich in Grace, and the comforta­ble enjoyment of the Love of God. Our Saviour tells us of one thing needful, Importing that all other things are comparatively Unnecessary, By-works, and meer Impertinences, and yet in these we lavish out our short & uncertain time, we let the other stand by, till we find leasure. Men who are altogether pro­phane, think not on it at all, some others possibly deceive themselves thus, and say, When I have done with such a business in which I am engaged, then I will sit down seriously to this, and bestow more Time and pains on these things that are undeniably Greater, and Better, and more worthy of it; but this is a slight that is in danger to undo us; what if we attain not to the end of that business, but end our selves before it, or if we do not, yet some other business may step in after that. Oh then, say we, that must be dispatch'd also, thus by such delayes, we may loose the present opportunity, and in the end our own souls.

Oh be perswaded it deserves your dilligence, and that without delay to seek somewhat that may be constant enough to abide with you, and strong enough to uphold you in all Conditions, and that is alone this free Grace, and Love of God. While many say, Who will shew us any good, set you in with David in his choise, Lord lift thou up the light of thy Countenance upon me, and this shall rejoyce my heart more then the abundance of Corn and Wine.

This is that Light that can break into the darkest dungeons, from which all other Lights and Comforts [Page 30] [...] [Page 33] [...] [Page 34] are shut out, and without this, all other enjoy­ [...]ents are, what the world would be, without the Sun, nothing but darkness. Happy they who have this light of Divine favour, and Grace shining into their souls, for by it they shall be led to that City where the Sun and Moon are needless, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof ▪ Rev. 21.23.

Godliness is profitable for all things, saith the Apostle, having the Promises of this life, and that which is to come, all other blessings are the atten­dants of Grace and follow upon it. This blessing that the Apostle here (and so St. Paul in his Epistles) joynes with Grace, was with the Jewes of so large a sense, as to Comprehend all that they could de­sire, when they wish'd Peace, they meant all kind of good, all welfare and prosperity. And thus we may take it here, for all kind of Peace, yea, and for all other blessings, but especially that spiritual Peace, which is the proper fruit of Grace, and doth so in­trinsecally flow from it.

We may and ought to wish to the Church of God outward blessiings, and particularly outward Peace, as one of the greatest, so one of the most valluable favours of God, thus prayed the Psalmist, Psal. 122.7. Peace be within thy walls, and Prosperity within thy Palaces.

But that wisdom that doth what he will, by what means he will, and works one contrary out of ano­ther, brings Light out of Darkness, Good out of Evil, Can, and doth turn Tears, and Troubles to the advantage of his Church, but certainly in it self, Peace is more suitable to its increase, and if no [...] [Page 35] abus'd proves so too. As in the Apostolick Times, its said, The Church had Peace, and Increased exceed­ingly. Act. 9.31. We ought also to wish for Ec­clesiastical Peace to the Church, that she may be free from Dissensions and Divisions.

These readily arise more, or less (as we see in all times) and haunt Religion, and the Reformation of it, as a malus genius. S. Paul had this to say to his Corinthians, though he had given them this testimony that they were enriched in all Utterance, and Knowledge and were wanting in no guift, Cap. 1. v. 5. Yet presently after v. 13 I hear that there are Di­visions and Contentions among you. The Enemy had done this, as our Saviour speaks, and this Enemy is no fool: for by divine permission, he works to his own end very wisely: for there is not one thing that doth on all hands choak the seed of Religion so much, as Thorny debates and differences about it selfe. So in succeeding Ages, and at the breaking forth of the Light in Germany in Luther's time, Multitudes of Sects arose.

Profane men do not only stumble, but fall and break their necks upon these Divisions. We see (think they, and some of them possibly say it ou [...]) that they who mind Religion most, cannot agree upon't. Our easiest way is, not to Embroyl our selves, nor at all to be troubled with the business. Many are of Gallio's temper, they will care for none of those things, Thus these Offences prove a mischief to the prophane World, as our Saviour sayes, Wo to the World because of Offences.

Then the erring side, that is taken with new o­pinions and fancies, are altogether taken up with [Page 36] them, their main thoughts spent upon them, and thus the sap is drawn from that which should nourish, and prosper in their hearts sanctified useful knowledge, and saving grace. The other are as weeds that di­vert the nourishment in Gardens from the Plants and Flowers: and certainly these weeds, viz. Mens own conceits, cannot but grow more with them, when they give way to them, then solid Religion doth: for their hearts (as he said of the earth) are Mother to those, and but Step-mother to this.

It is also a Loss even to those that oppose Errors and Divisions, that they are forced to be busied that way; for the wisest and Godliest of them find (and such are sensible of it) that disputes in Religion, are no friends to that which is far sweeter in it; but hinders and abates it viz. these pious and devout thoughts, that are both the more useful, and truly delightful.

As Peace is a choice blessing, so this is the chois­est Peace, and is the peculiar inseparable Effect of this Grace, with which it is here joyntly wish'd, Grace and Peace. The flower of Peace growing upon the Root of Grace. This spiritual Peace hath two things in it. 1 Reconciliation with God, 2 Tran­quillity of Spirit. The quarrel and matter of enmity, you know, betwixt God and Man is the Rebellion, the sin of Man; and he being naturally altogether sinful, there can proceed nothing from him but what foments and increases the Hostility. 'Tis Grace alone, the most free Grace of God, that contrives, and Offers, and makes the Peace, else it had never been. We had universally perish'd without it. Now in this is the wonder of Divine Grace, that the Al­mighty [Page 37] God seeks agreement, and entreats for it, with sinful clay which he could wholly destroy in a moment.

Jesus Christ the Mediator and Purchaser of this Peace, bought it with his Blood, kill'd the enmity by his own Death, Eph. 2.15. And therefore the Tenor of it in the Gospel runs still in his name, Rom. 5.1. we have Peace with God, through Iesus Christ our Lord. and St. Paul expresses it in his Salutations, that are the same with this. Grace and Peace from God the Father and our Lord Iesus Christ.

As the free Love, and Grace of God appointed this means, and way of our Peace, and Offered it, So the same Grace applies it, and makes it Ours, and gives us faith to apprehend it.

And from our sense of this Peace, or Reconcile­ment with God, arises that which is our inward Peace, a calm and quiet temper of Mind. This Peace that we have with God in Christ, Is Invio­lable, but because the sense, and perswasion of it may be interrupted, the soul that is truly at Peace with God, may for a time be disquieted in it self, through weakness of Faith, or the strength of Temptation, or the Darkness of desertion, losing sight of that Grace, that Love and Light of Gods Countenance on which its Tranquillity, and Joy de­pends. Thou hid'st thy face, saith David, and I was troubled, but when these Eclipses are over, the Soul is revived with new Consolation, as the face of the Earth is renewed, and made to smile with the return of the Sun in the Spring, and this ought alwayes to uphold Christians in the saddest times, viz that the Grace, and Love of God towards them, depends [Page 38] not on their sense, nor upon any thing in them, but is still in it selfe incapable of the smallest alte­ration.

'Tis Natural to Men to desire their own Peace, the Quietness and Contentment of their Minds: but most Men miss the way to it, and therefore find it not, for there is no way to't indeed, but this One, wherein few seek it, viz. Reconcilement and Peace with God. The perswasion of that alone makes the Mind clear and serene, like your fairest Summer Dayes. My peace I give you, saith Christ, not as the world. Let not your hearts be troubled. All the Peace and Favour of the World cannot calm a trou­bled heart, but where this Peace is that Christ gives, all the trouble and disquiet of the world cannot dis­turb it, When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a Nation, or against a man only. See also for this Psal. 46.123. All outward distress to a mind thus at Peace, is but as the ratling of the Hail upon the Tiles, to him that sits within the House at a sumptuous Feast. A good Conscience is called so, and with an advantage that no other Feast can have, nor could men endure it. A few hours of feasting will weary the most pro­fest Epicure, but a Conscience thus at Peace, is a continual Feast, with continual unwearied delight, What makes the World take up such a prejudice a­gainst Religion, as a sour unpleasant thing? they see the Afflictions and griefs of Christians; but they do not see their Joyes, the inward pleasure of mind that they can possess in a very hard Estate. Have you not tryed other wayes enough? hath not [Page 39] He tried them that had more ablility and skill for't then you, and found them not only vanity but vexa­tion of Spirit. If you have any belief of holy Truth, p [...]t but this once upon the tryal, seek Peace in the way of Grace. This inward Peace is too precious a Liquor to be poured into a filthy Vessel; a holy Heart, that gladly entertains grace, shall find that it, and Peace cannot dwell assunder.

An ungodly Man may sleep to Death in the Le­thargy of Carnal Presumption and Impenitency; but a true lively, solid Peace he cannot have. There is no Peace to the wicked, saith my God, Isa 57.21. And if He say there is none; speak Peace who will, if all the World with one voice would speak it, it shall prove none.

2ly. Consider the Measure of the Apostles desire for his Scattered Brethren, that this Grace and Peace may be Multiplyed. This the Apostle wishe [...] for them knowing the Imperfection of the Graces, and Peace of the Saints while they are here below, and this they themselves in sense of that Imperfection dai­ly do desire. They that have tasted the sweetness of this Grace and Peace call uncessantly for more. This is a disease in Earthly Desires, and a disease incurable, by all these things desired; there is no sa­tisfaction attainable by them, but this Avarice of Spiritual things is a Vertue, and by our Saviour is called Blessedness: because it tends to Fullness and Satisfaction. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after Righteousness for they shall be filled. Mat. 5.6.

Verse. 3, 4.

Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Iesus Christ, who according to his abundant Mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the Resur­rection of Iesus Christ from the dead.

To an Inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

'TIs a cold lifeless thing to speak of spiritual things upon meer Report; but they that speak of them, as their own, as having share, and interest in them, and some experience of their sweetness, their discourse of them is enlivened with firm belief, and ardent affection; They cannot men­tion them, but their hearts are straight taken with such gladness, as they are forc'd to vent in praises. Thus our Apostle here, and St. Paul, Eph. 1. and often elsewhere, when they consider'd these things, wherewith they were about to comfort the Godly, to whom they wrote, They were suddenly Eleva­ted with the Joy of them, and broke forth into Thanksgiving. So teaching us by their Example, what real Joy there is in the Consolations of the Gospel, and what praise is due from all the Saints to the God of those Consolations. This is such an Inheritance, as the very thoughts, and hopes of it are able to sweeten the greatest Griefs, and Afflicti­ons. What then shall the Possession of it be? where­in there shall be no Rupture, nor the least drop of [Page 41] any grief at all. The main Subject of these ve [...]ses is, that which is the main Comfort that supports the Spirits of the Godly in all Conditions.

I. Their after Inheritance in the 4 verse. 2. Their present Title to it, and assured hope of it, v. 3. 3dly. The immediate cause of both assigned viz. Iesus Christ. 4ly. All this derived from the free Mercy of God, as the first and highest Cause, and return'd to his Praise and Glory as the last and high­est End of it.

For the First. The Inheritance. [But because the 4th. verse which describes it, is link't with the sub­sequent, we will not go so far off to return back again, but first speak to this 3 verse, and in it,]

Consider 1. Their Title to this Inheritance. Be­gotten again. 2. Their assurance of it, viz. A holy or lively Hope. The Title that the Saints have to their rich Inheritance is of the validest, and most un­questionable kind, viz. by Birth. Not by their first natural birth. By it we are all born to an In­heritance indeed; but we find what it is, Eph. 2.3. Children of Wrath, Heirs apparent of Eternal flames. 'Tis an Everlasting Inheritance too, but so much the more fearful, being of Everlasting Misery, or (so to speak) of Immortal Death, and we are made sure to it, they who remain in that Condition cannot lose their Right although they gladly would escape it, they shall be for [...]'d to enter Possession. But 'tis by a new and supernatural Birth, that men are both freed from their Engagement to that woful Inhe­ritance, and invested into the Rights of this other here mentioned, as full of happiness as the former is miserable. Thefore are they said here to be begotten [Page 42] again to that lively Hope. God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us again. And thus are the Regenerate the Children of an Immortal Fa­ther, and so entituled to an Inheritance of immor­tality, if Children then Heirs, heirs of God. This Sonship is by Adoption in Christ, therefore added, joynt heirs with Christ, Rom. 8.17. we Adopted, and He the only begotten Son of God by an Eter­nal Ineffable generation.

And yet this our Adoption is not a meer extrin­secal denomination, as is adoption amongst Men: but accompanied with a real Change in those that are adopted, a new Nature, and Spirit infus'd into them▪ by reason of which, as they are Adopted to this their Inheritance in Christ, they are likewise begotten of God, and born again to it, by the Super­natural work of Regeneration. They are like their heavenly Father, they have his Image renewed on their Souls, and their Fathers Spirit. They have and are acted, and led by it. This is that great Mistery of the Kingdome of God, that puzled Nico­demus, it was darkness to him at first, till he was instructed in that Night, under the covert whereof he came to Christ.

Nature cannot conceive of any Generation or birth, but that which is within its own compass, only they that are partakers of this Spiritual Birth, understand what it means; to others it is a Ridle, an unsavory unpleasant subject.

'Tis sometime ascribed to the subordinate means, to Baptism, called therefore the Laver of Regene­ration. Tit. 3.5. To the Word of God. Iam. 1.18. Its that Immortal Seed, whereby we are born [Page 43] again; by the Ministers of this Word, and the seals of it, as 1 Cor. 4.15. For though you have ten thou­sand Instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many Fa­thers; For in Christ Iesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. As also Gal. 4.19. But all those have their vigour and efficacy in this great work, from the Father of Spirits, who is their Father in their first Creation, and Infusion, and in this their Re­generation, which is a new and second Crea­tion. 2 Cor. 5.17. If any man be in Christ he is a new Creature.

Divines have reason to inferre from the Nature of Conversion thus exprest, that Man doth not bring any thing to this work himself, 'tis true he hath a will, as his natural Faculty, but that this Will Em­braces the offer of Grace, and turns to him that of­fers it, is from Renewing Grace, that sweetly, and yet strongly; strongly, and yet sweetly, inclines it.

I. Nature cannot raise it selfe to this, more then a man can give natural being to himselfe. 2. 'Tis not a superficial change, 'tis a new life and being. A moral man in his changes and Reformations of himselfe, is still the same man, though he Reform so far, as Men in their ordinary phrase, call him, quite another Man, yet in truth, till he be born a­gain there is no new nature in him. The Slugard turns on his bed as the door on the hinges, sayes So­lomon. Thus the Natural man turns from one custome and posture to another, but never turns off. But the Christian by vertue of this new birth can say indeed. ego non sum ego. I am not the same man I was.

You that are Nobles, aspire to this honourable [Page 44] Condition, add this Nobleness to the other, for it far surpasses it, make it the Crown of all your ho­nours and advantages. And you that are of mean birth, or if you have any Crack or stain in your birth, the only way to make up, and repair all, and truly to Enoble you, is this, to be the Sons of a King, yea of the King of Kings, and this Honour have all his Saints. To as many as received him, he gave this pri­viledge to be the Sons of God. Joh. 1.12.

Vnto a lively Hope,] Now we are the Sons of God, (saith the Apostle 1 Ioh. 3.2.) But it doth not yet appear what we shall be. These Sons, are Heirs; but all this lifetime is their underage; yet even then be­ing partakers of this New Birth, and Sonship, they have Right to it, and in the assuronce of that Right, this Living Hope; As an Heir when he is Capable of those thoughts, hath not only Right of Inheri­tance; but may rejoyce in the hope he hath of it, and please himself in thinking on't; but hope is said to be only of an uncertain good; true, in the world's phrase 'tis so; for their Hope is conversant in un­certain things, or in things that may be certain, after an uncertain manner, all their woldly Hopes are tottering, built upon sand, and their Hopes of Heaven are but blind, and groundless Conjectures: but the Hope of the Sons of the Living God, is a living Hope. That which Alexander said when he dealt liberally about him, that he left hope to himself, the Children of God may more wisely and happily say, when they leave the hot pursuit of the world to others, and despise it, their Portion is Hope, the thread of Alexanders life was [...]ut off in the midst [Page 45] of his Victories, and so all his Hopes evanished; but their hope cannot dye, nor disapoint them.

But then its said to be Lively, not only Objective­ly, But Effectively, Enlivening, and Comfort­ing the Children of God in all Distresses▪ Ena­bling them to encounter and surmount all difficul­ties in the way. And then it is formally so, it can­not fail, dyes not before accomplishment. Worldly Hopes often mock Men, and so cause them to be ashamed, and Men take it as a great blot, and are most of all ashamed of those things that discover weakness of judgment in them, now worldly Hopes doe thus, they put the fool upon a Man, when he hath judged himself sure, and laid so much weight and expectation on them, then they break, and foyl him, they are not Living, but Lying Hopes, and dying Hopes; they die often before us, and we live to bury them, and see our own own Folly, and Infelicity in trusting to them: but at the utmost they dye with us when we dye, and can accompa­ny us no further. But this Hope answers Expecta­tion to the full, and much beyond it, and deceives no way, but that happy one of far exceeding it.

A living Hope, living in Death it selfe. The World dare say no more for its devise, but dum spiro spero; but the Children of God can add, by vertue of this living Hope, dum exspiro spero. 'Tis a fearful thing when a Man and all his hopes dye to­gether. Thus saith Solomon of the Wicked, when He dyeth (many of them before, but at the utmost then all of them) then dye his Hopes. Prov. 11.7. but the Righteous hath hope in his Death Prov. 14.32. [Page 46] Death that cutts the sinews of all other Hopes, and turns men out of all other Inheritances, it alone fulfils this Hope, and ends it in Fruition. As a Mes­senger sent to bring the Children of God home to the possession of their Inheritance.

By the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead,] This referrs to both Begotten again by his Resurrection, and having this living Hope by his Resurrection; and well suits both, it being the proper cause of both, in this order. First then of the Birth, then of the Hope.

The Image of God is renewed in us by our Union with him who is the express Image of his Fathers per­son, Gal. 4 19. Therefore this new birth in the Conception is exprest by the forming of Christ in the Soul, and Resurrection particularly is assign'd as the cause of our New Life, this New Birth is called our Re­surrection, and that in conformity to Christ, yea by vertue and Influence of His. His Resurrection is called a Birth, he the first begotten from the dead, Rev. 1.5. and that Prophesie Psal. 2.7. Thou art my Son this day have I begotten thee, is applyed to his Resurrection as fulfilled in it. Act. 13.33. God hath fulfilled the same unto us their Children, in that he hath raised up Iesus again, as it is also written in the second Psalm. Thou art my Son this day have I begotten thee. Not only is it the Exemplary, but the Efficient cause of our new birth. Thus Rom. 6. at large, and often elsewhere, and thus likewise it is the cause of our Living hope, that which indeed inspires and maintains life in it, because he hath Conquered Death, and is risen again, and that implyed, which followeth, is set down at the right hand of God, hath [Page 47] entered Possession of that Inheritance, This gives us a Living Hope, that according to his own Request, where he is there we shall be also. Thus this Hope is strongly underset, on the one side by the Re­surrection of Christ, on the other by the abun­dant mercy of God the Father. Our hope depends not on our own Strength, or Wisdom, nor on any thing in us, for then if it did, it would be short-liv'd; would die, and dye quickly: but on his Resurrecti­on that can dye no more, for in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Rom. 6.10. This makes this Hope not to imply in the notion of it Uncertainty, as worldly hopes; but 'tis a firm, stable, inviolable hope, an Anchor pitch'd within the vail.

According to his abundant mercy,] Mercy is the Spring of all this: yea great Mercy, and manifold Mercy: for (as St. Bernard saith) Great sins, and Great Miseries, need Great Mercy, and many sins and Miseries, need many Mercies, and is not this great Mercy, to make of Satans slaves, Sons of the most high. Well may the Apostle say, Behold what manner of Love, and how great Love the Father hath shewed us, that we should be called the Sons of God. The World knows us not, because it knew not him. they that have not seen the Father of a Child, can­not know its Resembling him, for the World knowes not God, and therefore discerns not his Image in his Children to esteem them for it. But whatever be their Opinion, this we must say our selves, Behold what Love to take fire-brands of Hell, and to appoint them to be one day brighter then the Sun in the firmament, To raise the poor out of [Page 48] the dunghil, and set them with Princes Psal. 11.38.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Iesus Christ,] Lastly, we see it stirs up the Apostle to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, This is the stile of the Gospel, as formerly under the Law, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Iacob, and the God that brought thee up out of the Land of E­gypt, &c. This now is the Order of the Government of Grace, that it holds first with Christ our Head, and in Him with us, so he sayes, I go to my Father, and your Father, and my God, and your God. Which as St. Cyril of Hierosol. in his Catechism observes, shows us not only our Communion with him, that might have been exprest thus, I go to my God and Father, but the Order of the Covenant, First my Father, and my God, and then yours. Thus ought we in Consideration of the mercies of God, still take in Christ, for in him they are conveyed to us, Thus Eph. 1.3. With all spiritual Blessings in Christ Iesus.

Blessed] He blesseth us really, benefaciendo bene­dicit, We bless Him by acknowledging His good­ness. And this we ought to do at all times, Psal. 34.1. I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. All this is far below Him, and His mercies. What are our lame praises in comparison of his Love? Nothing, and less then nothing: but Love will stammer rather then be dumb. They that are amongst his Children begotten again, they have in the Resurrection of Christ, a lively hope of glory, as 'tis Col. 1.27. which is Christ in you the hope of Glory. This leads them to observe and ad­mire that rich mercy whence it flowes, and this con­sideration [Page 49] awakes them, and strains them to break forth into praises.

To an Inheritance incorruptible] As he that tak­eth away a garment in cold weather, and as Vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth Songs to a heavy heart, Prov. 25.20.

Worldly Mirth is so far from curing Spiritual Grief, that even worldly Grief, where 'tis great, and takes deep root, is not allayed but increased by it, a man that is full of inward heaviness, the more he is compassed about with mirth, it exasperates and enrages his Grief the more, like ineffectual weak Physick, that removes not the humour but stirs it, and makes it more unquiet, but spiritual Joy is sea­sonable for all Estates. In prosperity 'tis pertinent to crown, and sanctifie all other Enjoyments, with this that so far suspasses them; and in distress 'tis the on­ly Nepenthe, the cordial of fainting Spirits. So Psal. 4. He hath put joy into my heart, this mirth makes way for it selfe which other mirth cannot do, these Songs are sweetest in the Night of distress. Therefore the Apostle writing to his scattered afflicted Brethren, begins his Epistle with this Song of Praise, Blessed be the God and Father, &c.

The matter of it is, the Joyful Remembrance of the Happiness laid up for them under the name of Inheritance. Now this Inheritance is described by the singular Qualities of it. They Contain. 1. The Excellency of its Nature. 2. The certainty of its attainment, the former in these three, Incorruptible, Vndefiled, and that fadeth not away. The latter in the last words of this verse, and in the following▪ Reserved in heaven for you, &c.

[Page 50]God is bountiful to all, gives to all men, all that they have, Health, Riches, Honour, Strength, Beau­ty, and Wit, but those things he scatters (as it were) with an Indifferent hand. Upon others he lookes, as well as on his beloved Children: but the Inheri­tance is peculiarly theirs, Inheritance is convertible with Sonship, for Gen. 25.5. Abraham gave gifts to Ke­turah's Sons and dismiss'd them; but the Inheritance was for the Son of the Promise. When we see Men rising in Preferment, Estate, or admir'd for Excel­lent Gifts, and Endowments of mind, we think there's a happy man: but we consider not that none of all those things are matter of Inheritance, with­in a while, he is to be turn'd out of all, and if he have not somewhat beyond all those to look to, he is but a Miserable man, and so much the more Mi­serable, that once he seem'd, and was reputed hap­py. There is a certain time wherein heirs come to possess, thus it is with this inheritance too, there is by the Apostle mention made of a perfect man, un­to the measure of the Stature of the fulness of Christ, Ephes. 4.13. And though the Inheritance is Rich and honourable, yet the heir being young is held under discipline, and is more strictly dealt with pos­sibly then the Servants, sharply corrected for that which is let pass in them, yet still even then, in regard, of that which he is born to, his Con­dition is much better then theirs, and all the Cor­rection he suffers, prejudices him not, but fits him for inheriting. The Love of our heavenly Father is beyond the Love of Mothers in tenderness, and yet beyond the Love of Fathers (which are usually said to Love more wisely) in point of wisdom. He will [Page 51] not undo his Children, his Heirs, with too much Indulgence? 'tis one of his heavy Judgments upon the foolish children of disobedience, that ease shall slay them, and their Prosperity shall prove their destruction.

While the Children of God are childish and weak in faith, they are like some great Heirs, before they come to years of understanding, they con­sider not their Inheritance, and what they are to come to, have not their Spirits Elevated to thoughts wor­thy of their Estate, and their behaviour Con­formed to't, but as they grow up in years they come by litle and litle to be sensible of those things, and the nearer they come to possession, the more apprehensive they are of their Quality, and what doth answerably become them to do, and this is the duty of such as are indeed Heirs of Glory, to grow in the understanding, and consideration of that, which is prepared for them, and to suite them­selves, as they are able, to those great Hopes. This is that the Apostle St. Paul prayes for, for his Ephe­sians, Chap. 1. v. 18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his Calling, and what the riches of the Glory of his Inheritance in the Saints. this would make them holy and heavenly, to have their Conversation in Heaven from whence they look for a Saviour, that we may then the better know somewhat of the Dignity and Riches of this Inheritance, Let us Consider the de­scription that is here given us of it, And first,

Incorruptible, Although this seems to be much one with the 3d. that fadeth not away, which is a bor­rowed Expression for the illustrating of its Uncor­ruptibleness, yet I conceive there is some diffe­rence, [Page 52] and that in these three qualities there is a Gradation. Thus its called, Incorruptible, that is, it perisheth not, cannot come to nothing, is an Estate that cannot be spent; but though it were abiding, yet it might be such, as the Continuance of it were not very desirable, this Life at the best, were but a mi­sery to continue alwayes in it. Plotinus thanked God that his Soul was not tyed to an Immortal body. Then Vndefiled, 'tis not stained with the least spot, this signifies the purity and perfection of it, that the perpetuity of it, it doth not only abide, and i [...] pure, but those together, it abideth alwayes in its Integrity. And lastly it Fadeth not away, it doth not fade nor wither at all, is not sometimes more, some­times less pleasant, but ever the same, still like it selfe and that's the Immutability of it.

As it is Incorruptible, It carries it away from all Earthly Possessions and Inheritances; for so all those Epithits are intended to signifie in opposition to the things of this World, and shewing how far it ex­cels them all; and thus comparatively we are to Con­sider it: for as Divines say, of the knowledge of God, that we have here: the Negative Notion makes up a great part of it, we know rather what he is not, than what He is, Infinite, Incomprehensible, Immutable &c. so 'tis of this Happiness, this Inhe­ritance, and indeed 'tis no other but God. We can­not tell you, what it is, but we can say so far, what it is not, as declares 'tis unspeakably above all the most excellent things of the inferiour World, and this present life, 'tis by privatives, by re­moving Imperfections from it, that we describe it, and can go no further. viz. Incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

[Page 53]All things that we see, being Compounded, may be dissolved again, the very visible Heavens that are the purest piece of the material World. (not­withstanding the pains the Philosopher takes to exempt them) the Scriptures teach us, that they are Corruptible Psal. 102.26. They shall perish but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a Garment: as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. And from thence the Apostle to the Hebrewes, Chap. 1. v. 10. And our Apostle in his other Epistle cap. 3.11. use the same expression. But 'tis needless to fetch too great a Compass, to e­vince the Corruptibleness of all Inheritances. Be­sides what they are in themselves, 'tis a shorter way to prove them Corruptible in Relation to us, and our Possessing them by our own Corruptibleness, and Corruption, or perishing out of this life in which we enjoy them, we are here inter peritura perituri, the things are passing we enjoy, and we are passing who enjoy them. Earthly Inheritance is so called in regard of Succession: but to every one 'tis but at the most for term of life. as one of the Kings of Spain answered to one of his Courtiers, who think­ing to please his Master wished that Kings were Im­mortal. If that had been said he, I should never have been King. When Death comes, that removes a Man out of all his Possessions to give place to ano­ther; therefore are these Inheritances Decaying, and and dying in Relation to us: because we decay, and dye, and when a Man dyes his Inheritances, and Honours, and all things here, are at an end in respect of him: Yea, we may say the World ends to him.

Thus Solomon reasons, that a Mans happiness can­not [Page 54] be upon this Earth: because it must be some durable abiding thing that must make him happy, abiding, to wit in his Enjoyment. Now though the Earth abide, yet because Man abides not on the Earth to possess it: but one Age drives out another, one Generation passeth and another cometh. velu [...] unda impellitur undâ, therefore his Rest and his Hap­piness cannot be here.

All possessions here are defiled, and stained with many other defects and failings, still somewhat want­ing, some damp on them, or crack in them, fair houses, but sad cares flying about the Guilded and Cieled Roofs, Stately and soft Beds, a full Ta­ble: but a sickly body and queasy stomack. The fairest face some Mole, or Wart in it. All Possessi­ons stained with sin, either in acquiring or in using rhem, therefore called Mammon of Vnrighteousness. St. Luk. 16.9. Iniquity so involved in the notion of Riches, that it can very hardly be separated from them. St. Hierom. sayes, verum mihi videtur illud, dives aut iniquus est, aut iniqui Haeres. Foul hands pollute all they touch, 'tis our sin that defiles what we possess, 'tis Sin that burdens the whole Creation, and presses Groans out of the very frame of the World, Rom. 8.22. For we know that the whole Creation groaneth and travelleth in pain toge­ther until now. This our Leprosie defiles our Houses, the very walls, and floors, our meat and drink and all we touch, polluted alone, and polluted in socie­ty, our meetings, and Conversations together being for the greatest part nothing but a Commerce, and Interchange of sin and vanity.

We breath up and down in an infected Air, and [Page 55] are very receptive of the Infection by our own cor­ruption within us. We readily turn the things we possess here to Occasions, and Instruments of sin, and there is no Liberty, nor delight in their use with­out abusing them, how few are they, that can carry (as they say) a full Cup even, that can have digesti­on strong enough for the right use of Great Places and Estates, that can bear Preferment without Pride, and Riches without Covetousness, and Ease with­out Wantonness.

Then, as those Earthly Inheritances are stained with sin in their use; so what Grief, and strife, and Contentions about Obtaining or Retaining them. Doth not matter of Possession, this same Meum and tuum divide many times the affections of those who are knit together in Nature or other strait tyes, and prove the very Apple of strife betwixt nearest Friends?

If we trace great Estates to their first Origi­nal, how few will there be found, that owe not their Beginning, either to Fraud, or Rapine, or Oppression, and the greatest Empires, and King­domes in the World have had their foundations laid in blood. Are not those defiled Inheritances?

That withereth not] A borrowed speech allude­ing to the decaying of plants and flowers that bud, and flourish at a certain time of the year, and then fade and wither, and in Winter are as if they were dead.

And this is the 3d. disadvantage of Possessions, and all things worldly, that they abide not in one Estate; but are in a more Uncertain; and Irregular Incon­stancy, then either the flowers and plants of the [Page 56] Field, or the Moon, from which they are called sub­lunary: like Nebuchadnezzar's Image, degenerating by degrees, and in the end into a mixture of Iron and clay.

The Excellency then of this Inheritance is, that it is free from all those evils, falls not under the stroak of time, comes not within the compass of its Syth, that hath so large a Compass, and cuts down all other things.

There is nothing in it weighing it towards Cor­ruption. 'Tis Immortal, Everlasting, for 'tis the fruition of the Immortal Everlasting God by Im­mortal souls, and the Body rejoyned with it, shall likewise be Immortal, having put on Incorruption as the Apostle speaks.

That fadeth not away] No spot of sin, nor sor­row there, all pollution wiped away, and all tears with it, no Envy, nor strife, not as here among men one supplanting another, one pleading, and Fight­ing against another, dividing this point of Earth, with fire and sword, No, this Inheritance is not the less by division, by being parted amongst so many Brethen, every one hath it all, each his Crown, and all agreeing in casting them down before his Throne from whom they have received them, and in the harmony of his Praises.

This Inheritance is often called a Kingdome, and a Crown of Glory. This word may allude to those Garlands of the Antients, and this is its property, that the Flowers in it are all Amaranthes, as a cer­tain plant is named, and so its called. 1 Pet. 5.4. a Crown of Glory that fadeth not away.

No change at all there, no Winter and Summer, [Page 57] not like the poor comforts here, but a Bless alwayes flourishing. The grief of the Saints here, is not so much the changes of outward things, as of their in­ward Comforts. suavis hora, sed brevis mora. Sweet presences of God they sometimes have; but they are short, and often interrupted, but there; no Cloud shall come betwixt them, and their Sun, they shall behold Him in his full brightness for ever; and as no Change in their beholding, so no wea­riness, nor abatement of their Delight in beholding. They sing a new Song, alwayes the same, and yet alwayes New. The sweetest of our Musick, one day of it will weary them that are most delighted with it, what we have here cloyes; but satisfies not▪ the Joyes above, never cloy, and yet al­wayes satisfie.

We should here Consider the last property of this Inheritance, namely the Certainty of it.

Reserv'd in Heaven for you. But that is connect­ed with the following verse, and so will be fitly joyned with it. Now for some Use of all this.

If these things were believed, they would per­swade for themselves, we needed not add any in­treaties to move you to seek after this inheritance: Have we not experience enough of the vanity, and misery of things Corruptible? and are not a great part of our dayes already spent amongst them? is it not time to consider whether we be provided of any thing surer and better, then what we have here? if we have any Inheritance to go home to after our wandering? or can say with the Apostle. 2 Cor. 5.1. We know that if our earthly house of this Taberna­cle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an [Page 58] house not made with hands, Eternal in the Heavens.

If those things gain our assent while we hear them yet it dies so; None almost retire themselves after, to follow forth those thoughts, and to make a work indeed of them, but busy their heads rather another way, building Castles in the air, and spinning out their thoughts in vain Contrivances. Happy are they whose hearts the spirit of God sets, and fixes upon this Inheritance; they may joyn in with the Apostle. And say as here, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Iesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto this lively Hope, to this Inheritance in­corruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away.

Verse. 5.

‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. ready to be revealed in the last time’

'TIs no doubt a great Contentment to the Chil­dren of God to hear of the Excellencies of the life to come, they are not readily weary of that subject, yet there is one doubt, that if it be not re­moved may dampt their Delight, in hearing and considering of all the rest. The Richer the Estate is it will the more kindle the Malice, and Dilli­gence of their Enemies to deprive them of it, and to cut them short of possessing it. And this they know, that those spiritual Powers that seek to ruin them, do overmatch them far, both in Craft and Force.

[Page 59]Against the fears of this, the Apostle comforts the Heirs of Salvation, assuring them that as the Estate they look for is Excellent, so it is Certain and safe, laid up there where it i [...] out of the reach of all ad­verse Powers. Reserv'd in Heaven for you. Besides that this is a further evidence of the worth and ex­cellency of this Inheritance, it makes it sure, it con­firms what was said of its Excellency, for it must be a thing of greatest worth that is laid up in the highest, and best place of the world, namely in Heaven for you. Where nothing that is impure once enters, much less is laid up, and kept. Thus the Land where this Inheritance lyes, makes good all that hath been spoken of the Dignity and Riches of it.

But further, as it is a rich and pleasant Country where it lyeth, it hath this priviledge, to be the a­lone Land of Rest, and Peace, free from all possi­bility of Invasion. There is no spoiling of it, and laying it waste, and defacing its Beauty, by leading Armies into't, and making it the seat of war, no noise of Drums, nor Trumpets, no Inundations of one People driving out another, and sitting down in their Possessions, In a word; as there is nothing there subject to decay of it selfe, so neither is it in danger of Fraud or Violence. When our Saviour speaks of this same Happiness, St. Mat. 6.20. in a like term, whats here called an Inheritance, is there called a Treasure. He expresses the permanency of it, by these two, that it hath neither Moth nor Rust in it selfe to corrupt it, nor can Thieves break through and steal it. There is a worm at the root of all our Enjoyments here, Corrupting causes with­in [Page 60] themselves, and besides that, they are exposed to injury from without, that may deprive us of them, how many stately Pallaces that have been possibly divers years in building? hath sire upon a very small beginning destroyed in a few hours? What great hopes of gain by traffick hath one Tempest mocked, and diss [...]pointed? How many that have thought their Possessions very sure, yet have lost them by some trick of Law, and others (as in time of war) driven from them by the Sword; nothing free from all danger but this Inheritance, that is laid up in the hands of God, and kept in Heaven for us. The highest stations in the world, namely the Estate of Kings, they are but Mountains of prey, one robbing and spoiling another: but in that holy Mountain above, there is none to hurt, nor spoil, nor offer violence. What the Prophet speaks of the Church here, 'tis more perfectly and Eminently true of it above. Is [...]i. 65.25.

This is indeed a necessary condition of our joy in the thoughts of this happy Estate, that we have some perswasion of our Propriety, that 'tis ours: that we do not speak, and hear of it as Travellers passing by a pleasant place do behold, and discourse of its fair structure, the sweetness of the Seat, the planting, of the Gardens, and Meadowes that are a­bout it, and so pass on; having no further interest in it; but when we hear of this glorious Inheritance, this Treasure, this Kingdom that is Pure, and Rich, and Lasting, we may add, it is so called, and it is Mine, it is reserved in Heaven and reserv'd for me, I have received the Evidences, and the Earnest of it, and as it is kept safe for me, so I shall likewise [Page 61] be preserv'd to it, and that's the other part of the Certainty, that compleats the Comforts of it. see Eph. 1.14.

The salvation that Christ hath purchased is indeed laid up in Heaven, but we that seek after it, are on Earth, Compassed about with Dangers, and Tenta­tions. What avails it us that our Salvation is in Haven, in the place of safety and quietness, while we our selves are tossed upon the stormy Seas of this World, amidst Rocks and shelves, every hour in hazard of shipwrack, our Inheritance is in a sure hand indeed, our Enemies cannot come at it, but they may overrun and destroy us at their pleasure, for we are in the midst of them. Thus might we think, and complain, and lose the sweetness of all our other thoughts concerning Heaven, if there were not as firm a Promise for our own safety in the midst of our dangers, as there is of the safety of our Inheri­tance that is out of Danger.

The assurance is full, thus, it is kept for us in Heaven, and we kept on Earth for it, as it is Re­served for us, we are no less surely Preserv'd to it. There is here. 1. The Estate it selfe, Salvation. 2. The preservation, or securing of those that ex­pect it. 3. The Time of full Possession. In the last time.

Vnto Salvation] Before it's called an Inheritance, here more particularly what meant by that, namely Salvation. This is more expressly sure, being a de­liverance from Misery, and imports withal the Po­ssession of perfect Happiness. The first part of our Happiness is to be freed from those Miseries to which we are subject by our Guiltiness. To be set [Page 62] free from the Curse of the Law, and the wrath of God, from everlasting death. 2. From all kind of mortality or decaying. 3. From all power and stain of Sin. 4. From all Temptation. 5. From all the Griefs and Afflictions of this Life. To have the per­fection of Grace, to be full of Holiness, and the per­fection of Bliss, full of joy, in the continual Vision of God, but how little are we able to say of this our Apostle here teacheth us, that it is vailed to us, only so much shines through, as we are capable of here: but the Revealed knowledge of it is only in the Po­ssession. 'Tis to be revealed in the last time.

Then there is, their Preservation, Kept. 2. The causes of it. By the power of God, through Faith ▪ the Inheritance is kept not only in safety; but in quietness. The Children of God for whom it is kept, while they are here, are kept safe indeed, but not Unmollested, and Unassaulted, they have Ene­mies, and such as are Stirring, and Cunning, and Powerful; but in the midst of them, they are Guarded, and Defended, they perish not; according to the Prayer of our Saviour poured out for them, Ioh. 17.16. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the World: but that thou shouldest keep them from the Evil.

They have the Prince of the power of the Air, and all his Armies, all the forces he can make against them. Though his power is nothing but Tyranny, and Usurpation, yet because once they were under his yoak, he bestirres himselfe to pursue them, when they are led forth from their Captivity, as Exod. 14.5.9. Pharaoh with all his Chariots, and Horses, and Horsemen pursues after the Israelites going out of Egypt.

[Page 63]The word in the Original here translated Kept, is a Military term, used for those who are kept as in a Fort, or Garrison Town besieged. So Satan is still raising Batterries against this Fort, using all wayes to take it, by Strength, or Sratagem, unwearied in his Assaults, and very skilful to know his Advantages; and where we are weakest, there to set on. And besides all this, He hath Intelligence with a Party within us, ready to betray us to him; so that it were impossible for us to hold out, were there not another Watch, and Guard then our own, and other walls, and Bul­warks then any that our skill and Industry can raise for our own Defence. In this then is our safety, that there is a Power above our own, yea, and a­bove all our Enemies, that guards us. Salvation it selfe our Walls and Bulwarks. We ought to watch, but when we do in Obedience to our Commander, the Captain of our Salvation, yet it is his own Watching, who sleeps not, nor so much as slumbers, 'tis that preserves us, and makes ours not to be in vain. Psal. 126.1. Isa. 27.3. And therefore those two, are joyntly Commanded▪ [...]atch and Pray that ye enter not into Temtation. Watch, there's the nece­ssity of our Diligence. Pray, there's the Insufficiency of it, and the necessity of his Watching, by whose Power we are effectually preserv'd, and that Power is our Fort. Isa. 26.1. Salvation hath God appointed for walls and Bulwarks, what more safe then to be wall'd with Salvation it self, [...]o Prov. 18.10. The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the Righteous fly into it and are safe.

Now the Causes are two. 1. Supream, the Pow­er of God, 2. Subordinate Faith. The Supreme [Page 62] [...] [Page 63] [...] [Page 64] Power of God is that on which depends our Stabi­lity and Perseverance. When we consider how weak we are in our selves, yea the very strongest amongst us and how Assaulted, we wonder, and Justly we may, that any can continue one day in the Estate of Grace: but when we look on the strength by which we are guarded, the power of God; then we see the reason of stability to the end. For Omnipotency supports us, and the Everlasting Armes are under us.

Then Faith is the 2d. cause of our Preservation; because it applies the first Cause, the Power of God. our Faith layes hold upon this Power, and this Pow­er strengthens Faith, and so we are preserved. It puts us within those walls, set [...] the Soul within the Guard of the Power of God, which by selfe confi­dence, and vain presuming in its own strength is ex­posed to all kind of danger. Faith is a humble self-denying Grace, makes the Christian nothing in him­self, and all in God.

The weastest Persons that are within a strong Place, Women and Children, though they were not able to resist the Enemy if they were alone, yet so long as the place wherein they are, is of sufficient strength and well man'd and every way accommodate to hold out, they are in safety, thus the weakest Believer is safe, because by believing he is within the strongest of all Defences. Faith is the Victory, and Christ sets his strength against Satans, and when the Christian is hard beset with some Tentation, too strong for him­selfe, then he looks up to him that is the great Con­querour of the powers of darkness, and calls to him, Now Lord assist thy Servant in this Encounter, and [Page 65] put to thy strength, that the Glory may be thine. Thus faith is such an Engine as draws in the power of God, and his Son Jesus into the works, and conflicts that it hath in hand. This is our victory even our faith. 1. Iohn. 5.4.

'Tis the property of a good Christian to magnifie the power of God, to have high thoughts of it, and therefore 'tis his Priviledge to find safety in that po­wer. David cannot satifie himselfe with one, or two Expressions of it, but delights in multiplying them▪ Psa. 18.1. The Lord is my Rock, and my For­tress and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust, my Buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Faith looks above all, both that which the soul hath, and that which it wants, and answers all Doubts, and Fears with this Almigh­ty Power upon which it rests.

To be revealed in the last time:] This Salvation is that great work wherein God intended to mani­fest the Glory of his Grace, contriv'd before Time, And in the severall Ages of the world brought for­ward, after the decreed manner, and the full ac­complishment of it, reserved for the End of Time.

The souls of the faithfull, do enter possession when they remove from their houses of Clay; yet is not their happiness compleat till that great day of the appearing of Jesus Christ; they are naturally Imper­fect till their bodies be raised, and rejoyned to their Souls, to partake together of their Bliss. And they are mistically Imperfect, till all the rest of the mem­bers of Jesus Christ be added to them.

But then shall their joy be absolutely full when [Page 66] both their own bodies, and the misticall body of Christ shall be Glorified, when all the Children of that glorious Family shall meet, and sit down to that great Mariage Supper at their Fathers Table. Then shall the Musick of that new song be full, when there is not one wanting of those that are appointed to sing it for Eternity. In that day shall our Lord Jesus be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe. 2 Thes. 1.10.

You see what it is that the Gospel offers you, and you may gather, how great both your folly, and your guiltiness will be, if you neglect, and slight so great salvation when 'tis brought to you, and you are intreated to receive it, this is all that the preach­ing of the word aimes at, and yet who hearkens to it. How few lay hold on this Eternal life? This Inheritance, this Crown that is held forth to all that hear of it.

Oh that you could be perswaded, to be saved, that you would be willing to embrace salvation. You think you would, but if it be so, then I may say, though you would be saved, yet your custome of sin, your Love to sin, and Love to the world, will not suffer you. And these will still hinder you, unless you put on holy Resolutions to break through them and trample them under foot, and take this kingdome by a hand of violence, that God is so well pleased with, he is willingly overcome by that force, and gives the kingdome most willingly, where it is so taken, 'tis not attain'd by slothfullness, and sitting still with folded hands. It must be invaded with strength of faith, with armies of Prayers, and Tears, and they that set upon it thus are sure to take it.

[Page 67]Consider what we are doing, how we misplace our diligence on things that abide not, or we abide not to enjoy them. We have no abiding City here (saith the Apostle) but he adds, that which com­forts the Citizens of the new Ierusalem: Wee look for one to come whose builder and maker is God. Hear not those things idley, as if they concerned you not, but let them move you to Resolution and Actions say, as they said of Canaan, 'tis a good land, Let's go up and posses [...], it. Learn to use what you have here as Travellers, and let your home, your Inheri­tance, your Treasure be on high, which is by far the richest and the safest, and if it be so with you, then Where your Treasure is, there will your hearts be also.

Verse. 6.

‘Wherein ye greatly Rejoyce, though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.’

THe same Motives cannot beget contrary passions in the soul, therefore the Apostle reduces the mixture of sorrowing, and Rejoycing that is usuall in the heart of a Christian, to the different causes of them, and shews which of the two hath the stronger cause, and therefore is alwayes predominant, En­tertains it and Considers it aright.

His Scope is to stir up, and strengthen spirituall joy in his afflicted Brethen, and therefore haveing set the matter of it before them in the preceeding verses, [Page 68] he now applies it, and expresly opposes it to their distresses.

Some read those words exhortatively, In which r [...]joyce ye, 'tis so intended, but I conceive it serves that end better indicatively, as we now read it, in which ye rejoyce. It exhorts more insinuatively and perswa­sively that it may be so, to urge it on them that it is so. Thus St. Paul, Acts. 26.27. King Agrippa believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. And straight he answered, Thou almost perswadest me to be a Christian. This implies how just, and how rea­sonable it is, that the things spoken of should make them glad, they will Rejoyce in those: Yea do Re­joyce, certainly if you know and consider what the causes of your joy are, ye cannot chuse but find it within you, and in such a measure as it swallowes up all your temporary Sorrowes, how great and how many soever their causes be.

We are then to consider severally those bitter waters, and sweet, this Sorrow, and this Joy 1. in their Springs 2. in their Streams.

And first they are called Temptations, and mani­fold Temptations. The habits of divine supernaturall Grace, are not acquirable by humane study, or In­dustry or by Excercise, they are of immediate Infu­sion from Heaven, yet are they infus'd to that end, that they may act and exercise themselves in the se­verall conditions and occurrences of a Christians life, and by that they grow stronger. Whatsoever oppo­sitions or difficulties Grace meets with in its acting, go under this generall name of Temptations. It is not necessary to reckon up the variety of senses of [Page 69] this word, in its full latitude, how God is said to tempt man, and how 'tis said that he tempts him not, how man tempts God, and how 'tis said that God is not tempted, how Satan tempts men, and men one another, and a man himselfe. All those are severall acceptations of this word, But Temptations here meant, are they, by which men are tempted, and particularly the Saints of God, and though there is nothing in the words, that may not agree to all sorts of Temptations the godly are subject to, yet I conceive it is particularly meant of their Afflictions, and Distresses as the Apostle Iames likewise uses it Chap. 1. ver. 2.

And they are so called, because they give parti­cular and notable proof of the temper of a Christi­ans spirit, and draw forth Evidence both of the Truth, and the measure of the Grace that is in them, if they fail and are foyled as sometimes they are, this convinces them of that humane frailty, and weak­ness that is in them, and so humbles them, and drives them out of themselves to depend upon another for more strength, and better success in after Encounters. If they acquit themselves like Christians indeed (the Lord managing and assisting that Grace which he hath given them) then all their Valour, and Strength, and Victories return to his praise, from whom they have received all.

A Man is not onely unknown to others but to him­self, that hath never met with such difficulties, as require Faith and Christian Fortitude and Patience to surmount them, how shall a man know whether his meekness and calmness of spirit be reall or not while he meets with no provocation, nothing that [Page 70] contradicts or crosses him: but when somewhat sets upon him that is in it self very unpleasant and grie­vous to him, and yet if in that case he retains his Moderation of spirit, and flyes not out into Impati­ence, neither against God, nor Men, this gives ex­periment of the truth and soundness of that Grace in him; whereas standing water that's clear at top while 'tis untouch'd, yet if it have mudd at the bottome, stirre it a little, and it rises presently.

'Tis not altogether unprofitable, yea 'tis much wisdom in Christians to be arming themselves against such Temptations as may befall them hereafter, though they have not as yet met with them, to labour to overcome them before hand, to suppose the hardest things that may be incident to them, and to put on the strongest Resolutions they can attain unto; yet all that, is but an imaginary effect; and therefore there is no assurance that the victory is any more then imaginary too, till it come to Action, and then they that have spoken, and thought very confi­dently, may prove but (as he said of the Athenians) sortes in tabula, Patient, and Couragious in Picture, or fancy, and notwithstanding all their armes, and dex­terity in handling them by way of exercise, may be foully defeated when they are to fight in earnest. The Children of Ephraim being armed, and carrying bowes (says the Psalmist) Psa. 78.9. yet turned back in the day of battell. 'Tis the battell tries the Soul­dier, and the storm the pilot, how would it appear that Christians can be themselves not onely patient but cheerfull in Poverty, in Disgrace, and atempts and Persecutions, if it were not often their Lot to meet with those, He that framed the heart knows [Page 71] it to be but deceitfull, and he that gives Grace knows the weakness, and strength of it exactly, yet He is pleased to speak thus, that by afflictions and hard tasks he tries what is in the hearts of his Children: for the word of God speaks to Men, and therefore it speaks the Language of the Children of Men: thus Gen. 22.12. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not with held thy Son, thine onely Son from me.

God delights to call forth his Champions to meet with great Temptations, to make them bear Crosses of more then ordinary weight, as Commanders in War put Men of most valour, and skill upon the hardest services. God sets some strong furious triall upon a strong Christian made strong by his own grace, and by his victory, makes it appear, to the world that though there is a great deal of counterfeit coyne of profession in Religion, yet some there are, that have the power, the reality of it, and that 'tis not an Invention, but there is Truth in it, that the invincible Grace, the very spirit of God dwells in the hearts of true believers, that he hath a number that doe not onely speak big, but doe indeed and in good earnest despise the world, and overcome it by his strength. Some men take delight to see some kind of beasts fight together, but to see a Christian mind encountering some great Affliction and con­quering it, to see his valour, in not sinking at the hardest distresses of this life, nor the affrightfullest End of it, the cruelest kindes of death for his sake, this is (as he said) dignum Deo spectaculum, this is a combat that God delights to look upon, and he is not a meer beholder in it; for tis the power [Page 72] of his own grace that Enables and Supports the Christian in all those Conflicts and Temptations.

Multitude of Temptations, and of divers kindes, many and manifold. It were no hard condition to have a Triall now and then, and long ease, and pro­sperity betwixt; but to be plied with one Affliction at the heels of another, to have them come throng­ing in by multitudes, and of different kindes, un­couth, unaccustomed evils, such as a Man hath not been acquainted with before, this is that which is often the portion of those that are the beloved of God. Psa. 42.7. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water spouts, all thy waves, and thy billows are gone over me.

Ye are in Heaviness] This the Apostle blames not, but aimes at the moderating of it, seek not al­together to dry up this stream, but to bound it, and keep it within its banks. Grace doth not destroy the life of Nature, but add's to it a life more excel­lent, yea Grace doth not onely permitt but requires some feeling of Afflictions. There is an affected Pride of spirit in some men, instead of Patience, Sutable to the Doctrine of the Stoicks (as 'tis usually taken) they strive not to feel at all the afflictions that are on them, but this is to despise the Correction of the Lord, which is alike forbidden, as fainting under it. Heb. 12. We should not stop our ears, but Mic. 6.9. Hear the Rod, and him that hath appointed it, as the Prophet speaks. Where there is no feeling at all, there can be no Patience. Consider it as the hand of God, and thence argue the soul into sub­mission. Psa. 39.9. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. But this Heaviness is miti­gated, [Page 73] and set as it were within its banks, betwixt these two Considerations. 1. The Utility of it. 2. The Brevity, profitableness, and shortness of it.

To a worldly Man great Gain, sweetens the hard­est Labour; and to a Christian, Spiritual profit, and Advantage may do much to move Him to take well with those Afflictions that are otherwise very unpleasant, though they are not joyous for the pre­sent, Heb. 12.11. Yet this allayes the sorrow of them, the fruit that grows out of them, that peaceable fruit of Righteousness.

Abundle of folly is in the heart of a Child, but the Rod of Correction shall beat it out, saith Solomon. Tho the Children of God are truly (as our Saviour calls them) the Children of wisdom: Yet being renewed only in part, they are not altogether free from those follies that call for this Rod to beat them out, and sometimes have such a bundle of follies as require a bundle of Rods to be spent upon it, many and manifold afflictions.

'Tis not an easy matter to be drawn from, nor to be beaten from the Love of this World, and this is that which God mainly requires of his Children, that they be not in Love with the World, nor the things of it, for that is contrary to the Love of God, and so far as that is entertain'd, this is wanting. And if in the midst of afflictions, they are sometimes sub­ject to this disease, how would it grow upon them with Ease and Prosperity? when they are beaten from one worldly Folly or Delight, they are ready through Natures corruption to lay hold upon some other, being thrust out from it at one door, to enter at some other, and as Children unwilling to be wean­ed, [Page 74] if one breast be imbitter'd, they seek to the other, and therefore there must be somewhat to drive them from that too. Thus 'tis clear, there is need, yea great need of Afflictions, yea of many Afflictions, that the Saints be chastened by the Lord, that they may not be Condemned with the World. 1 Cor. 11.32.

Many Resemblances there are for Illustration of this Truth, in things both of Nature, and of Art. Some common, and others choycer. But this is not needful. The experience of Christians tells them, how easily they grow Proud and Secure and Carnal with a little Ease, and with outward things going smoothly with them, and therefore what unhappiness were it for them to be much happy that way.

Let us learn then that in regard of our present frailty there is need of afflictions, and so not promise our selves Exemption, how calm soever our Seas are for the present; and then for the Number and Mea­sure and Weight of them, to Resign that wholly into the hands of our wise Father, and Phisitian, who perfectly knows our mould, and our maladies, and what kind, and quantity of chastisment is needful for our cure.

Though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heavi­ness] The other Consideration that moderates this Heaviness is, its shortness: because we willingly for­get Eternity, therefore this moment seems much in our eyes, but if we could look upon it aright, of how litle concernment is it, what be our condition here, if it were as prosperous as we could Wish or Imagine, it is but for a little season, the Rich man in the Gos­pell talk'd of Many Years; but Thou fool this night [Page 75] shall thy Soul be required of thee, was the longest pe­riod. The many years quickly drawn to a very great abatement, and if full of pains and griefs, those do help to put an end to themselvs, and hasten to it. Then well might St. Austin say. Hic ure, caede, modo ibi parcas, use me here as pleaseth thee, so as that hereafter it may be well with me.

Wherein] This Word though it cannot fall amiss being referr'd to any particular, to which Interpre­ters have appropriated it, yet it is rather to be taken Relative to the whole complex sense of the pre­ceding verses, concerning the hope of Glory. In this thing ye rejoyce, that ye are begotten again, that there is such an Inheritance and you made heirs of it, that it is kept for you, and you for it, that nothing can come betwixt you and it, to dissapoint you of possessing and Enjoying it, though there be many Deserts and Mountains, and Seas in the way yet you are ascertain'd, that you shall come safe thither.

This is but one thing, but the cause of your grief is Temptations, and manifold Temptations, yet this one thing weighs down all that Multitude, naturally the heart being grieved in one thing, looks out for its ease to some other, and there is usually some­what that is a mans great Comfort, that he turns his thoughts to, when he is cros'd and afflicted in o­ther things, but herein is the folly of the world that the things they chuse for their Refuge and Comfort, are such as may change themselves, and turn into discomfort and sorrow, but the godly man, that is the fool in the natural Mans eyes, goes be­yond all the rest in his wise choyce in this. He rises [Page 76] above all that is subject to change, pitches his An­chor within the Vail. That in which he rejoyceth is still matter of joy unmoveable and unalterable, though not only his estate, but the whole world were turn'd upside down, yet this is the same, or rather in the Psalmists words; Though the Earth were re­moved and the greatest Mountains cast into the Sea; yet will not we fear. When we shall receive that Rich, and Pure and Abiding Inheritance, that Salvation that shall be revealed in the last time, and when Time it self shall cease to be, then there shall be no more reckoning of our joyes by d [...]yes and houres: But they shall run paral­l [...]l with Eternity. When all our Love that is scatter'd and parcell'd out upon the vanities amongst which we are here, shall be united and gathered into o [...]e, and fixed upon God, and the soul fill'd with the delight of his presence.

The Sorrow was limited, and bounded by these Considerations we spoke of, but this joy, this Exal­tation, and leaping for Joy (for so it is) is not bounded, it cannot be too much; Its measure is to know no Measure, the Afflictions, the matter of Heaviness are but a transient touch of pain; but that whereon this joy is built is most permanent, the Mea­s [...]re of it cannot exceed, for the matter of it is In­finit and Eternal, beyond all Hyperbole, there is no Expression we have can reach it, much less go be­yond it, it selfe is the Hyperbole, still surpassing all that can be said of it, even in the midst of Heaviness it self, such is this Joy, that can maintain it self in the depth of sorrow, this Oyl of gladness still swims above, and cannot be drowned by all the floods [Page 77] of Affliction, yea 'tis often most sweet, in the great­est distress. Then the soul relishes spiritual Joy best, when it is not glutted with worldly delights, but finds them turn'd into Bitterness.

For Application. In that we profess our selves Christians, we all pretend to be the Sons of God, and so Heirs of this Glory, and if each man were particularly ask't, he would say, he hoped to attain it: but if there were nothing else, this may abun­dantly convince us, that the greatest part of us de­lude our selves and are deceived in this, for how few are there, that do really find this height of Joy, Gladness and exultation, in their thoughts and hopes of it, that do daily more refresh and glad themselves with the Considerarion of that which is laid up for them above, then with all their Enjoyments here below.

Consider how the newes of some small outward advantage that is to come to us, raises our light vain Hearts, and makes them leap within us, and yet this newes of a Kingdom prepared for us (if indeed we be Believers) stirres us not, our hearts are as litle affected with it, as if it concern'd us not at all, and this is too clear an Evidence against us, that indeed it concerns us not, our portion as yet is not in it.

In what a fool's Paradise will Men be with the thoughts of worthless things, and such things too, as they shall never obtain, nor ever shall have any further being, then what they have in their Fancy. And how will men frequently roll over in their minds the thoughts of any pleasing good they hope for? and yet We, that say we have hopes of the Glory [Page 78] to come, can pass many dayes without one hour spent in the Rejoycing thoughts of the Happiness we look for. If any of a mean Condition for the pre­sent were made sure to become very Rich, and be advanced to great honour within a week, and after that, to live to a great age in that high Estate, en­joying Health and all immaginable Pleasures, judge ye, whether in the few dayes betwixt the know­ledge of those Newes, and the enjoying them, would not the thoughts of that he were to attain t [...], be fre­quent with him, and be allwayes wellcome. There is no comparison betwixt all we can Imagine this way, and the hopes we speak of, and yet how sel­dome are our thoughts upon those, and how faint, and slender our Rejoycing in them? Can we deny, that 'tis unbelief of those things, that caus­eth this neglect and forgetting of them? The dis­course, the tongue of Men and Angels cannot be­get divine belief of the happiness to come, only he that gives it, gives Faith likewise to apprehend it, and lay hold upon it, and upon believing to be fill'd with Joy in the hopes of it.

Verse. 7.

‘That the tryal of your faith being much more precious then of Gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and Glory at the ap­pearing of Iesus Christ.’

THe way of the Iust (saith Solomon) is as the shining light that shineth more and more to the perfect day. Still making forward, and ascend­ing towards perfection, moving as fast when they are clouded with affliction as at any time else, yea, all that seems to work against them, fu [...]thers them. Those graces that would possibly grow heavy and unweildy, by too much ease; are held in breath and increase their activity, and strength by Conflict. Divine grace even in the heart of weak and sinful man, is an invincible thing. Drown it in the wa­ters of Adversity, it rises more beautiful, as not being drowned indeed, but only wash't throw it into the furnace of fiery tryals, it comes out purer, and loses nothing but the dross which our corrupt nature mixes with it. Thus here the Apostle ex­pounds the (if need be) of the former verse, and so justifies the joy in Affliction, which there he speaks of, by their utility and Faiths advantage by them, 'tis so tried that it shall appear in its full brightnes [...] at the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

[Page 80]The peculiar treasure of a Christian, being the Grace that he receives from Heaven, and particu­larly that Soveraign Grace of Faith, whatsoever he can be assur'd will better him any way in this, he will not only bear it patiently, but gladly imbrace it. Rom. 5.3. Therefore the Apostle sets this be­fore his Brethren in those words of this verse. where is; 1. The Worth and Excellency of Faith. 2. The usefulness of Temptations in relation to it.

The trial of Faith, is call'd more precious, a work of more worth then the tryal of Gold; because Faith it selfe is of more value then Gold, the A­postle chuses this comparison, as fitting his purpose for both, for the Illustration of the worth of Faith, and likewise the use of Temptations, representing the one by Gold, and the other by the trying of Gold in the Fire.

The worth of Gold is. 1. Real, the purest and preciousest of all mettals; having many excellent pro­perties beyond them, as they that write of the nature of Gold observe. 2. Far greater in the Esteem and Opinion of Men. See how Men hurry up and down, over Sea, and Land unwearied in their pursuit with hazard of life, and often with the loss of Upright­ness, and a good Conscience; and not only thus Esteem it in it self; but make it the Rule of their Esteem, one of another, valuing Men less, or more, as they are more, or less furnish't with it, and we see at what a height that is, for things we would commend much, we borrow its name to them, viz. Golden Mediocrity, and that Age which they would call the best of all, they name it the Golden Age, and as Seneca observes describing heavenly [Page 81] things (as Ovid the Suns Pallace, and Chariot) still Gold is the word for all.

And the Holy Scriptures descending to our reach, do set forth the Riches of the new Ierusalem, by it. Rev. 21. And the Excellency of Christ. Cant. 5.11.14. And here the preciousness of Faith, whereof Christ is the Object, is said to be more precious then Gold.

I will not insist in the parallel of Faith with Gold in the other Qualities of it, as that it is pure, and sollid, as Gold. And that 'its most ductile, and malleable as gold, beyond all other mettals, it plies any way with the Will of God. But then Faith truly Enriches the soul, And as Gold Answers all things, so Faith gives the Soul propriety to all the rich Consolations of the Gospel, to all the promises of Life, and salva­tion, to all needful Blessings, it draws vertue from Christ to strengthen it self, and all other Graces.

And thus 'tis not onely precious as Gold, but goes far above the Comparison 'tis more precious, yea much more precious. 1. in its Originall, the other is dig'd out of the bowels of the Earth: but the Mine of this Gold is above, it comes from Heaven. 2. In its Nature, answerable to its Originall, it is Imma­teriall, Spirituall and pure, we refine Gold, and make it purer, but when we receive Faith pure of it self, we mix dross with it, and make it Impure, by the allay of Unbelief. 3. in its Endurance flowing from the former, it perisheth not, Gold is a thing in it selfe Corruptible, and perishing, and to particular owners, it perisheth in their loss of it, being depriv'd of it any way.

Other Graces are likewise tryed in the same Fur­nace: but Faith is named as the Root of all the rest▪ [Page 82] Sharp afflictions give a Christian a tryal of his Love to God, whether it be single, and for himself or not; for then it will be the same when he strikes, as when he Embraces, and in the fire of affliction will rather grow the hotter, and be more taken off from the world and set upon him. Again the Grace of Pa­ [...]ience is put particularly upon triall in distresses: but both these spring from Faith. for Love rises from a right and strong belief of the Goodness of God, and patience, from a persuasion of the Wisdom and Love of God, and the truth of his promises. He hath said, I will not fail thee. And that we shall not be tempted above our strength, and he will give the Issue. Now the belief of those, Causes pati­ence. The triall of faith worketh Patience. Iam. [...].3. For therefore doth the Christian resigne up himselfe, and all that concerns him, his triall, the measure and length of them all, unto Gods dispose, because he knowes that he is in the hands of a wise and loving Father. Thus the trial of those, and o­ther particular Graces, doe still resolve into this, and are compris'd under it, the triall of Faith.

This tryal (as [...] of Gold) may be for a [...] [...]old end. 1▪ for Experiment of the truth, and p [...]re­ness of a Christians faith. 2. for r [...]fining it ye [...] more▪ and to raise it to a higher pitch or degree of p [...]reness.

1. The furnace of Affliction shows upright [...]eal Faith to be such indeed, remaining st [...]ll the same even in the fire, the same tha [...] it was, undiminished, as good Gold [...] none of its quantity in the fire. Doubtless many are deceiv'd in time of ease and pro­sperity with imaginary Faith, and Fortitude: so that there may be still some doubt while a Man is under▪ [Page 83] set with outward helps, as Riches, Friends, Esteem &c. whether he leanes upon those, or upon God who is an Invisible support though stronger then all that are visible, and is the peculiar, and alone stay of Faith in all Conditions. But when all these out­ward props are pluckt away from a Man, then it will manifest, whether something else upholds him or not▪ for if there be nothing else then [...]e falls, but if his mind stand firm and unremoved as before; then 'tis evident he laid not his weight upon these things he had them about him but was built upon a foundati­on though not seen, which is able alone to stay him although he be not only frustrated of all other sup­ports, but beat [...]n upon with stormes and tempests; as our Saviour sayes, the house fell not because it was founded upon a rock. Mat. 7.25.

This testified the truth of Davids Faith, who found it staying him upon God, when there was nothing else near that could do't I had fainted unless, I had believ'd. Psa. 27.13. So in his strait. 1. Sam. 30.6. Where its said, that David was greatly distressed: but he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Thus Psa. 73.26. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and portion for ever. The Hearts naturall strength of spirit and Resolution may bea [...] up under outward weakness, or the failing of the flesh: but when the Heart it self fails, that is the strength of the flesh, what shall strengthen it? nothing but God; who is the strength of the heart and its portion for ever. Thus Faith worketh alone, when the Case suites that of the Prophets Haback. [...].17. Although the fig tree shall not Blossom neither shall fruit be in the vine &c. yet vers. 18. I will re­joice [Page 84] in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

In spirituall tryalls that are the sharpest and fiery­est of all, when the furnace is within a Man, when God doth not onely shut up his loveing kindness from its feeling; but seems to shut it up in hot dis­pleasure, when he writes bitter things against it, yet then to depend upon Him, and wait for his salvation, this is not onely a true, but a strong, and very re­fined Faith indeed, and the more he smites, the more to cleave to him; well might he say When I am tried I shall come forth as Gold, who could say that word, though he slay me yet will I trust in him; though I saw (as it were) his hand lifted up to destroy me, yet from that same hand would I expect salvation.

As the furnace shews faith to be what it is, so also it betters it, and makes it more precious and purer then it was.

The Graces of the spirit as they come from the hand of God that infuses them are nothing but pure­ness: but being put into a heart where sin dwells, (which till the body be dissolved and taken to pieces, cannot be fully purg'd out) there they are mixed with Corruption and dross. And particularly Faith is mixed with Unbelief, and Love of earthly things, and dependance upon the Creature, if not more then God, yet together with him, and for this, is the fur­nace needfull, that the soul may be purified from this dro [...]s, and made more sublime and spirituall in beli­eving. Tis a hard talk and many times comes but slowly forward to teach the heart by discourse and speculation to sit loose from the world at all sides, not to cleave to the best things in it, though we be compass'd about with them, though Riches do in­crease, [Page 85] yet not to set our hearts on them, not to trust in such uncertain things as they are, as the Apostle speaks. Therefore God is pleas'd to chuse the more effectual way to teach his own the right and pure ex­ercise of Faith, either by witholding, or withdrawing those things from them, makes them relish the sweet­ness of spirituall Comfort, by depriving them of those outward Comforts wherein they were in most danger of excess to have doted on them, and so forget them­selves and him; when they are necessitate, and ex­perimentally train'd up easily to let go their hold of any thing Earthly, and to stay themselves onely upon their Rock, this is the very refining of their faith, by those losses and afflictions wherewith they are exercised; they that learn bodily Exercises, as fen­cing &c. Are not taught by sitting still, and hearing Rules, or seeing others practise, but they learn by exercising themselves. The way to profit in the art of believing or comeing to this spirituall activity of faith, is, to be often put to that work, in the diffi­cultest way, to make up all wants and losses in God, and to sweeten the bitterest griefs with his loving kindness.

Might be found unto praise and honour and glory] This is the end that is intended, and shall be cer­tainly obtain'd by all these hot trials. Faith shall come through them all and shall be found unto praise. &c. An unskillfull beholder may think strange to see Gold thrown into the fire, and left there for a time, but he that puts it there would be loath to lose it, his purpose is to make some costly piece of work of it,; every believer gives himself to Christ, and he undertakes to present them blameless to the [Page 86] Father, not one of them shall be lost, nor one dram of their faith, they shall be found, and their Faith shall be found when he appears. That faith that is here in the furnace shall be then made up into a Crown of pure Gold, it shall be found unto praise and honour and Glory.

This Praise, and Honour, and Glory may be referr'd to believers themselves according to the Apostle S. Pauls Expression Rom. 2.7. or to Christ that ap­pears: but the two will agree well together, that it be both to their Praise, and to the Praise of Christ; for certainly all their praise and glory, shall terminate in the Glory of their Head Christ; who is God blessed for ever, they have each their Crown, but their Honour is, to cast them all down before his Throne. He shall be glorified in his Saints and admired in them that believe ▪ They shall be glorious in Him, and there­fore in all their glory he shall be glorified, for as they have derived the [...]r glory from him, it shall all return back to him again.

At the appearance of Iesus Christ] This denotes the Time when this shall come to pass. For Christ is faith­full and true, he hath promised to come again, and to Judge the World in Righteousness, and he will come, and will not tarry, he shall Judge Righteously, in that day, that was himself unrighteously judged here on Earth. Tis called the Revelation; all other things shall be Revealed in that day, the most hidden things, good and evil unvail'd, but 'tis eminently the day of His Re­velation, it shall be by his Light, by the brightness of his coming that all other things shall be reveal'd but he himself shall be the worthiest sight of all: All eyes shall behold Him. He shall then gloriously appear be­fore [Page 87] all Men, and Angels, and shall by all be acknow­ledged to be the son of God, and Judge of the World, some shall with joy know him, and acknowledge him to be fo [...] others [...]o their Horrours, and amazement.

How beautifull shall he be to those that Love him; when he as the glorious Head shall appear with his whole body mysticall together with him?

Then the Glory and Praise that all the Saints shall be honoured with, shall recompense fully all the Scorns and Ignominies, and Distresses they have met with here. And they shall shine the brighter for them, Oh! if we Consider'd often of that solemn day, how light would we se [...] by the opinions of Men, and all ou [...]ward hardships that can befall us, digest dispraise and dishonour here, and pass through all cheerfully, providing we may be then found in him, and so partakers of Praise, and Glory, and Honour in that day of his appearing.

Verses. 8, 9.

8. Whom haveing not seen, yee Love; in whom tho you see him not; yet believing ye re [...]oyce, with joy unspeakable and full of Glory.

9. Receiveing the End of your faith even the Salvation of your Souls.

IT is a paradox to the world that the Apostle hath asserted, that there is a Joy that can subsist in the mid [...] of sorrow; therefore he insists in the Con­firmation [Page 86] [...] [Page 87] [...] [Page 88] of it, And in all those words proves it to the full, yea, with advantage, that the Saints have not only some measure of Joy in the griefs that abound upon them here, but excellent and eminent Joy, such as makes good all that can be said of it, cannot be spoke too much of, for 'tis Vnspeakable, nor too much mag­nified for it is Glorious.

To Evidence the truth of this, and to confirme his Brethren in the experienc'd knowledge of it, he ex­presses here more particularly, and distinctly the causes of this their Joy which are.

1. The Object or Matter of it. 2. The Apprehen­sion and appropriation of that Object, which two con­joyn'd are the entire cause of all Rejoyceing.

The Object is Jesus Christ, verse 8. And the Salva­tion purchased by him verse 9. For these two cannot be sever'd, and these two Verses that speak of them, require (as is evident by their connexion) to be con­sidered together 2. The apprehension of these, 1. set forth negatively, not by bodily sight. 2. Positive­ly, whereas that might seem to abate the certain [...]y and liveliness of their Rejoyceing that 'tis of things they had not seen, nor do yet see, that is abundantly made up by three for one, each of them more ex­cellent then the meer bodily sight of Christ in the flesh, which many had, which were never the better by't; the three are, those three prime Christian Gra­ces, Faith, Love, and Hope: The two former in ver. 8. the 3d. in ver. 9. Faith in Christ begetting Love to him, and both these giving assured Hope of salvation by him, making it as certian to them, as if it were already in their hand, and they in possession of it. And from all those together results this Exulta­tion, [Page 89] or leaping for joy, Ioy unspeakable and full of Glory.

This is that one thing that so much concerns us. and therefore we mistake very far, and forget our own highest interest too much when we either speak or hear of it slightly, and apply not our hearts to it. What is it that all our thoughts and endeavours drive at? What means all that we are doing in the World, tho we take several wayes to it, and wrong wayes for the most part, yea such wayes as lead not to it, but set us further off from it, yet that which we all seek after by all our labour under the Sun, is something that may be matter of Content­ment, and rejoycing to us when we have attain'd it, now here it is, and in vain is it sought for else­where. And for this end 'tis represented to you, that it may be yours, if ye will entertain it: not only that you may know this to be a truth, that in Jesus Christ is laid up true Consolation and Rejoyce­ing, that he is the Magazine and Treasury of it, but that you may know how to bring him home into your hearts and lodge him there, and so to have the spring of Joy within you.

That which gives full joy to the Soul must be something that is higher and better then it self, in a word, he that made it, can only make it glad after this manner, with unspeakable and glorious joy, but the Soul remaining guilty of Rebellion against him, and unreconcil'd, cannot behold him, but as an Ene­my, any belief that it can have of him while 'tis in that posture, is not such as can fetch Love, and Hope, and so Rejoycing: but such as the Faith of de­vils produceth, only begetting terrour and trem­bling [Page 90] but the light of his Countenance shining in the face of his Son the Mediator, glads the heart: and 'tis the looking upon him so, that causeth the soul to Believe, and Love, and Hope, and Rejoyce. There­fore the Apostle, Eph. 2. In his description of the estate of the Gentiles before Christ was preach'd to them, joynes these together, without Christ, that was the cause of all the rest; therefore without comfort in the Promises, without Hope and without God in the world; So he is here by our Apostle ex­prest, as the object. In all these therefore he is the matter of our Joy, because our Faith, and Love, and Hope of Salvation.

The Apostle writing to the dispersed Jewes many of whom had not known nor seen Christ in the flesh, commends their Love and Faith, for this reason, that it did not depend upon bodily sight; but was pure, and spiritual, and made them of the number of those, that our Saviour himselfe pronounces blessed, who have not seen and yet believe. You saw him not when he dwelt amongst men, and walked to and fro Preach­ing, and working Miracles, Many of those that did then hear and see him believed not, yea they scoff'd, and hated, and persecuted him, and in the end Crucified him, you that have seen none of all those things yet having heard the Gospel that de­clares him, you have believed.

Thus Observe, the working, or not working of Faith, doth not depend upon the difference of the external Ministry and gifts of Men: for what greater difference can there be that way, than betwixt the Master, and the Servants, betwixt the great Prophet himself, and his weak sinful Messengers, and yet [Page 91] many of those that saw, and heard him in Person, were not converted, believ'd not in him, and thou­sands that never saw him, were converted by his A­postles, and as it seems, even some of those that were some way accessory to his death, yet were brought to Repentance by this same Apostles Ser­mon. Act. 2.

Learn then to look above the outward Ministry and any difference that in Gods dispensation can be there, and know, that if Jesus Christ himself were on Earth, and now Preaching amongst us, yet might his incomparable words be unprofitable to us, not being mix'd with faith in the bearers. But where that is, the meanest despisable conveyance of his Message received with humility, and affection will work blessed Effects.

Whom not seeing, yet believeing] Faith elevates the Soul not only above sense, and sensible things; but above Reason it selfe, as reason corrects the Errours that sense might occasion; So supernatural Faith cor­rects the Errours of natural Reason, judging ac­cording to Sense.

The Sun seems less then the wheel of a Chariot: but Reason teaches the Philosopher, that 'tis much bigger then the whole Earth, and the cause why it seems so little is, its great distance.

The Naturally wise man, is as far deceiv'd by this carnal Reason in his estimate of Jesus Christ the [...]un of Righteousness, and the cause is the same, his great distance from him, as the Psalmist speaks of the wick­ed. Psal. 10.5. Thy Iudgements are far above out of his sight. He accounts Christ, and his Glory a smal­ler matter then his own Gain, Honour, or Pleasure [Page 92] for these are near him, and he sees their quantity to the full, and counts them bigger, yea far more worth then they are indeed, but the Apostle St. Paul and all they that are enlightened by the same Spirit, they know by Faith, which is divine Reason, that the Excellency of Jesus Christ far surpasses the worth of the whole Earth, and all things earthly. Phil. 3.7.8.

To give a right assent to the Gospel of Christ is Impossible, without divine and saving Faith infused in the Soul, to believe that the Eternal Son of God cloath'd himselfe with humane flesh, and dwelt a­mongst Men in a Tabernacle like theirs, and suffer­ed death in the flesh, that he who was Lord of Life, hath freed us from the sentence of Eternal Death, that he broke the bars and chains of Death, and rose again, that he went up into Heaven, and there at the Fathers right hand sits in our flesh, and that glorified above the Angels. This is the great Mistery of Godliness. And a part of this Mistery is. that he is Believed on in the World. 1 Tim. 3.16. This Natural Men may discourse of, and that very knowingly, and give a kind of natural Credit to't, as to a History that may be true; but firmly to believe, that there is divine Truth in all these things, and to have a perswasion of it stronger then of the very things we see with our eyes, such an assent as this, is the pe­culiar work of the spirit of God, and is certainly sav­ing Faith.

The Soul that so believes, cannot chuse but Love, 'tis commonly true, the Eye is the ordinary door by which Love enters into the Soul, and it is true in this Love, though tis denied of the Eye of sense [Page 93] yet (you see) 'tis ascrib'd to the Eye of Faith. though you have not seen him you Love him, because you be­lieve. Which is to see him spiritually, Faith indeed is distinguish'd from that Vision that is in Glory: but it is the Vision of the Kingdom of Grace, 'tis the Eye of the New Creature, that quicksighted Eye, that pierces all the Visible Heavens, and sees above them, that looks to things that are not seen. 2 Cor. 4.18. And is the evidence of things not seen Heb. 11.1. that sees him that is invisible, v. 27. 'Tis possible that one may be much Lov'd upon the report of their worth, and Vertues, and upon a Picture of them lively drawn before sight of the party so com­mended, and represented, but certainly when they are seen, and found answerable to the former, it raises the Affection that it first begun, to a far greater height. We have the report of the perfections of Jesus Christ in the Gospel, yea, so clear a description of him, that it gives a picture of him, and that together with the Sacraments, are the only lawful, and the only live­ly pictures of our Saviour. Gal. 3.1. Now this Report Faith believes and beholds this picture, and so lets in the Love of Christ to the Soul: but further it gives a particular experimental knowledge of Christ, and acquaintance with him. It causes the Soul find all that is spoken of him in the Word, and his beauty there represented, to be abundantly true, makes it really taste of his sweetness, and by that possesses the heart more strongly with his Love, per­swading it of the truth of those things, not by rea­sons, and arguments; but by an Inexpressible kind of Evidence, that they only know that have it. Faith perswades a Christian of these two things, [Page 94] that the Philosopher gives as the causes of all Love, Beauty, and Propriety, the Loveliness of Christ in himself, and our interest in him.

The former it eff [...]ctua [...]s not only by the first ap­prehending, and believing of those h [...]s Excellencies and Beauty, but by frequent beholding of him, and Eyeing him in whom all Perfection dwells, and looks so of [...] on him, till it sets the very Impression of his Image (as it were) upon the Soul that it can never be blotted out, and forgot. The latter it doth by that particular Uniting Act, which makes him our God and our Saviour.

Ye Love] The distinctions that some make of Love, need not be taken as of differing kinds, but different actings of the same Love, by which we may try our so much pretended Love of Christ, which in truth is so rarely found. There will then be in this Love, if it be right, these three qualities, Goodwill, Delight, and Desire.

1. Goodwill, earnest wishing, and (as we can) pro­moting Gods Glory, and stirring up others so to do. They that seek more their own things then the things of Jesus Christ, more their own Praise, and Esteem then His, are strangers to this divine Love-For it seeks not her own things. This bitter Root of self-love, is most hard to pluck up: this strong­est and sweetest Love of Christ alone doth it actu­ally, though gradually. This Love makes the Soul as the lower Heaven, slow in its own motion, most swift in the motion of that first that wheels it about: so the higher degree of Love, the more swift. It Loves the hardest tasks, And greatest difficulties, where it may perform God service, either in doing, or [Page 95] in suffering for him. It is strong as death, and many waters cannot quench it. The greater the task is, the more real is the testimony, and ex­pression of Love, and therefore the more accepta­ble to God.

2. There is in true Love, a complacency, and delight in God. A Conformity to his will, Loving what he Loves, and studious of his will, ever seek­ing to know more clearly, what it is that is most pleasing to him, contracting a likeness to God in all his actions, by conversing with him, frequent con­templating of God, and looking on his beauty as the Eye lets in this Affection, so it serves it constant­ly, and readily looks that way that Love directs it, thus the soul that is possess'd with this Love of Jesus Christ hath its eye much upon him, thinks often on his former sufferings, and present Glory, the more it lookes upon Christ, the more it loves, and still the more it loves, the more it delights to look upon him.

3. There is in true Love a Desire, for 'tis but small beginnings, and tastes of his Goodness that the soul hath here, therefore 'tis still looking out and longing for the day of Marriage, the time is sad and wearisome, and seems much longer then it is, while 'tis deteind here. I desire [...] to be dissolved (saith St. Paul) and to be with Christ.

God is the Sum of all things lovely, thus excel­len [...]ly Greg. Nazian expresseth himself Ovat. 1. ‘If I have any Possessions, Health, Credit, Learn­ing this is all the contentment I have of them, that I have somewhat, I may despise for Christ, who is totus, d [...]s [...]der [...]bilis, & totu [...] desiderabile. And [Page 96] this Love is the sum of all he requires of us, 'tis that which makes all our meanest Services acceptable, and without which, all we offer to him is distasteful. God doth not only deserve our Love by his match­less Excellency, and Beauty: but by his Matchless Love to us, and that is the strongest Loadstone of Love, He hath loved me, saith the Apostle, Gal. 2.20. How appears that? in no less then this, he hath given himself for me. Certainly then, there is no other Character of our Love then this, to give our selves to him, that hath so loved us, and giv­en himself for us.

This affection must be bestowed somewhere, there is no Man but hath some prime choyce, some­what that is the predominant delight of his soul, will it not then be our wisdom to make the wor­thiest choyce? seeing it is offered us, and is ex­tream folly to reject it.

Grace doth not pluck up by the roots and whol­ly destroy the natural passions of the mind, because they are distempered by sin: that were an extreme remedy, to Cure by killing, and heal by cutting off, no, but it corrects the distemper in them, it dries not up this main stream of Love, but purifies it from the Mud it is full of in its wrong Course, or calls it to its Right Channel by which it may run into Happiness, and empty it selfe into the Ocean of goodness. The Holy Spirit turns the love of the soul towards God in Christ; for in that way only can it apprehend his Love; so then Jesus Christ is the first Object of this divine Love, he is Medium unionis, through whom God conveys the sense of his Love to the soul, and receives back its Love to him.

[Page 97]And if we will consider his incomparable Beauty, we may look on it in the holy Scriptures, particul­arly in that divine song of Loves, Wherein Solomon borrowes all the beauties of the Creatures, dips his pencill in all their severall Excellencies, to set him forth unto us, who is the chief of ten Thousands. There is an inseparable intermixture of Love with Belief, and a pious Affection, receiving divine Truth, so that in effect, as we distinguish them, they are mutu­ally strengthened the one by the other, and so though it seem a Circle, 'tis a divine one, and falls not un­der censure of the School's Pedantry. If you ask how shall I do to Love? I Answer, Believe. If you ask how shall I believe? I Answer, Love. Although the Expressions to a carnall mind are altogether unsavoury, by gross mistaking them, yet to a Soul taught to Read and Hear them by any measure of that same Spirit of love, wherewith they were penn'd, they are full of heavenly and unutterable sweetness.

Many Directions, and means of begetting and in­creasing this Love of Christ may be here offered: but they that delight in number may multiply them, but sure this One, will Comprehend the greatest, and best part, if not all of them. Believe, and you shall Love; Believe much, and you shall Love much, labour for strong, and deep persuasions of the glorious things that are spoken of Christ, and this will command Love. Certainly did Men indeed believe his worth they would accordingly Love him; for the Reason­able Creature, cannot but affect that most, which it firmly believes to be worthy of affection. O this mischief of Unbelief, is that which makes the heart [Page 98] cold, and dead towards God. Seek then to believe Christs Excellency in himselfe, and his Love to us, and our interest in him, and this will kindle such a fire in the heart, as will make it ascend in a Sacrifice of Love to him.

Many Signes likewise of this Love may be multi­plied, according to the many fruits, and workings of it: but in them all, it self is its own most infallible Evidence. When the soul finds that all its Obedi­ence, and endeavour to keep the Commands of Je­sus Christ, which himself makes its Character, do flow from Love, then it is true and sincere: For do, or suffer what you will, withour Love, all passes for no­thing. All are Cyphers without it, they signifie nothing. 1. Cor. 13.

This is the Message of the Gospell, and that which the Ministry aimes at, and therefore the Ministers ought to be Suitors, not for themselves, but for Christ to Espouse souls to him, and to bring in many hearts to Love him. And certainly this is the most com­pendious way to perswade to all other Christian duties, this is to converse with Jesus Christ; and therefore where his Love is, no other incentive will be needfull. For Love delights in the presence and converse of the party Loved. If we are to perswade to duties of the second Table, the summe of those is Love to our Brethren resulting from the Love of Christ, which diffuseth such a sweetness into the soul that its all Love, and meekness, and Gentleness and long suffering.

If times be for suffering, Love will make the soul not onely bear, but welcome the bitterest afflections of life, and the hardest kinds of death for his sake. [Page 99] In a word, there is in Love a sweet constraint, or tying of the heart to all Obedience, and Duty.

The Love of God is requisite in Ministers, for their preaching of the word, so our Saviour to St. Peter. Iohn, 21.15. Peter lovest thou me? then feed my lambs. It is requisite for the people that they receive the Truth in the Love of it, and that Christ preach'd be Entertain'd in the soul, and Embrac'd by Faith, and Love.

You that have made choyce of Christ for your Love, let not your hearts slip out, to renew your wonted base familiarity with Sin. For that will bring new bitterness to your souls and at least for some time will deprive you of the sensible favour of your beloved Jesus, delight alwayes in God, and give him your whole heart; for he deserves it all, and is a satisfying good to it, the largest heart is all of it too strait for the riches of consolation that he brings with him, seek to Increase in this Love; for tho its at first weak, yet Labour to find it daily rise higher, and burn hotter, and clearer, and consume the dross of Earthly desires.

Receiving the end of your Faith,] Although the soul that Believes, and Loves, is put in present pos­session of God, as far as it is Capable, in its sojourn­ing here: yet it desires a full Enjoyment; which it cannot attain to, without Removing hence. While we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord, saith the Apostle. And because they are assur'd of that happy Exchange, that being united, and freed of this body, they shall be present with the Lord, and that having his own word for't, that Where he is, they shall be also: this begets such an assured [Page 100] Hope, as bears the name of possession▪ Therefore its said here Receiveing the end of your faith.

This Receiveing likewise flows from Faith. Faith apprehends the present Truth of the divine Promises, and so makes the things to come, present; and Hope looks out to their after Accomplishment, which if the promises be true, as Faith averrs, then Hope hath good reason firmly to expect it. This desire, and Hope are the very wheels of the Soul that carry it on, and Faith the common Axis on which they rest.

In the words there are two things. 1. The good hoped for in Christ, so Believed on, and Loved. 2. The assuredness of the Hope it selfe, yea as sure as if it were already accomplished. As for the good hoped for it consists. 1. In the nature of it Viz. The Salvation of their Soul. 2. in a Relative Pro­perty of it, the End of their Faith.

The nature of it is, Salvation, and Salvation of the soul, it imports full deliverance from all kind of mi­sery, and the safe possession of perfect happiness, when the soul shall be out of the reach of all Adversaries, and adverse Accidents, no more subjected to those Evils that are its own properly, namely the Consci­ence of Sin, and fear of Wrath, and sad Defections. nor yet subject to those other Evils it endur'd by Society with the body, outward distresses, and Affli­ction, Persecutions, Poverty, diseases &c.

'Tis call'd Salvation of the soul, not excluding the body from the society of that Glory, when it shall be rais'd and reunited to the Soul: but because the soul is of it self an Immortall substance, and both the more Noble part of Man, and the prime sub­ject [Page 101] both of Grace and glory, and because it arrives first at that blessedness, and for a time leaves the body in the dust to do homage to its Originall; there­fore it is only named here: but Jesus is the Saviour of the body too, and he shall at his coming, change our vile bodies, and make them like his glorious body.

The End,] End, or Reward, for it is both. Its the End, either at which Faith aimes, or wherein it Ceaseth; its the Reward, not of their Works, nor of Faith, as a work deserving it, but as the Condition of the New Covenant, which God according to the tenour of that Covenant first works in his own, and then Rewards, as if it were their work. And this Salvation, or Fruition of Christ, is the proper Re­ward of faith, which Believes in him unseen, and so obtains that happy sight▪ 'tis the proper work of faith to believe what thou seest not, and the Reward of faith, to see what thou hast believed.

This is the Certainty of their Hope, that 'tis as if they had already receiv'd it, if the promise of God, and the merit of Christ hold good; then they that believe in him, and Love him, are made sure to salvation. The promises of God in Christ are not yea and nay: but they are in him yea, and in him Amen; sooner may the Rivers run back-ward, and the course of the Heavens change, and the frame of nature be dissolv'd, then any one soul that is united to Jesus Christ by Faith and Love can be sever'd from him, And so fall short of salvation hoped for in him; and this is the matter of their rejoycing.

Ye Rejoyce with Ioy unspeakable.] The naturall Man (sayes the Apostle) receiveth not things of [Page 102] God, for they are foolishness unto him, and he adds the Reason why he cannot know them, for they are spiritually discern'd, he hath none of that faculty by which they are discern'd, there is a vast dispropor­tion betwixt those things, and Natures highest Ca­pacity, it cannot work beyond its Sphere. Speak to the Naturall Man of the matter of Spirituall grief, the sense of Guiltiness, and the Apprehension of Gods displeasure, or the hiding of his favour, and the Light of his countenance from the soul, these things stirre not him, he knows not what they mean; Speak to him again of the Peace of Conscience, and sense of Gods Love, and the Joy that arises hence, He is no less stranger to that: As our Saviour speaks, mourn to him and he laments not, pipe to him and he dances not, Mat. 11. but as it there follows, there is a wisdom in those things though they seem Folly, and Non-sense to the foolish world, and this wisdom is justified of her own Children.

Having said somewhat allready of the Causes of this spirituall Joy, the Apostle speaks of here. It remains now, that we consider those two things 1. How Joy ariseth from those Causes. 2. the Ex­cellency of this Joy as 'tis here express'd.

There is here a sollid sufficient Good, and the heart made sure of it, being partly put in present posse­ssion of it, and in a most certain Hope of all the rest. And what can be more required to make it joyfull? Jesus Christ the treasure of all blessings received, and united to the soul by Faith and Love and Hope.

Is not Christ the Light and Joy of the Nations? such a light as Abraham at the distance of many ages, of more then two thousand years, yet saw by [Page 103] faith, and seeing Rejoyced. Besides this brightness that makes, light a joyfull object, Light is often in Scripture put for Joy. Christ this Light brings Salvation with him, He is the Sun of Righteousness, and there is healing under his wings. I bring you, said the Angel, good tydings of great Ioy, that shall be to all people. And their Song hath in it the matter of that Joy, Glory to God in the Highest, peace on Earth, and good will toward Men.

But to the end we may Rejoyce in Christ, we must find him ours, otherwise the more Excellent he is, the more Cause hath the heart to be sad, while it hath no portion in him: my spirit hath Rejoyced (saith the Blessed Virgin) in God my Saviour.

Thus 1. Ioh. 1.3. Having spoken of our Com­munion with Christ, he adds these things I write that your Ioy may be full. Faith worketh this Joy by uniteing the Soul to Christ, and applying his merites, and from that application arises the par­don of sin, and so that load of misery which was the great Cause of Sorrow, is removed, and so soon as the Soul finds it selfe lightned, and unloaded of that burden that was sinking it to Hell, it cannot chuse but leap for Joy in the Ease, and Refreshment it finds. Therefore that Psalm that David begins with the doctrine of the Pardon of Sin, he Ends it with an Exhortation to Rejoyceing. Blessed is the Man whose transgression is forgiven whose sin is covered. Psal. 32.1. Thus he begins, but he ends vers. 11. Be glad in the Lord, and Rejoyce ye Righteous, and shout for joy all ye that are [...]pright in heart. S. Peter speaks to his hearers of the Remission of sins. Act. 2.38. and verse 41. 'tis added, they received his words [Page 104] Gladly, and our Saviour joynes these two together, be of good Comfort thy sins are forgiven thee; Thus Isaiah, 61.1. Good tidings of Liberty to Captives is proclaimed, and a notable change there is of their Estate Who mourn in Zion, Giving them beauty for ashes, the Oyle of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the Spirit of Heaviness. Think with what Joy the long imprison'd debter drown'd in debt rec [...]ves a full Discharge, and his Liberty; or a con­demned Malefactor the news of his Pardon, and this will somewhat resemble it; but yet fall far short of the joy that Faith brings, by bringing Christ to the Soul, and so forgiveness of sins in him.

But this is not all. This Believing Soul, is not only a debter acquitted, and set free, but Enrich'd besides, with a new and great Estate, not onely a pardon'd Malefactor, but withall highly preferr'd and advanc'd to honour, having a Right by the pro­mises to the unsearchable Riches of Christ, as the Apostle speaks, and is receiv'd into favour with God, and unto the Dignity of Sonship, taken from the dunghill, and set with Princes.

As there is Joy from Faith, so also from Love. Though 'tis in it self the most sweet and delightfull passion of the Soul, yet as we foolishly misplace it, it prove often full of bitterness, but being set upon Jesus Christ the only right, and worthy Object, it Causeth this unspeakable Delight and Rejoycing.

1. Tis matter of joy to have bestowed our Love so worthily, and though our Saviour seems to withdraw himselfe, and sometimes sadden the soul that loves him, with absences, in regard of sense, yet even in those sad times, the soul delights to Love him, and [Page 105] there is a pleasure in the very pains it hath in seeking after him. And this it knowes that his mercies are Everlasting, and that he cannot be long unkind; but will return and speak comfortably unto it.

2. Our Love to Christ gives us assurance of His to us, so that we have not only chosen worthily, but shall not be frustrate and dissapointed, and it assures us of his, not as following, but preceeding and Causing ours: for our Love to Jesus Christ is no other but the reflex of his on us. Wine maketh glad the heart; but thy love is better then wine, saith the Spouse. And having this perswasion that he hath loved us, and wash'd us in his blood, and for­gets us not in our conflicts: that though he himself is in his Glory, yet that he interceed's for us there, and will bring us thither, what condition can be­fal us so hard, but we may Rejoyce in it? And in them so far as we are sure to arrive at that full Sal­vation, and fruition of him who hath purchas'd it, Then there is the third Cause of our Rejoyce­ing viz. our Hope.

Now Hope is our anchor pitch'd within the vail, that stayes us against all the stormes that beat upon us in this troublesome Sea, that we are tossed upon. The Soul that strongly Believes, and Loves, may confidently Hope to see what it believeth, and En­joy what it loves, and in that rejoyce. It may say whatsoever hazards whether ontward, or inward, whatsoever Afflictions and Temptations I endure, yet this one thing puts me out of hazard, and in that I will Rejoyce, the salvation of my Soul de­pends not upon my own strength, but is in my Sa­viours hand, my life is hid with Christ in God, and [Page] [Page 112] when he who is my Life shall appear, I likewise shall appear with him in Glory. The Childish world is hunting shadows, and gaping and hoping after they know not what, but the Believer can say, I know whom I have trusted, and am perswaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day. Now we have not only right to those things; but withal there must be frequent Consideration of them to work Joy. The Soul must often view them, and so Rejoyce: My meditation of him shall be sweet, saith David, I will be glad in the Lord, Psal. 104. And the Godly failing in thi [...], deprive themselves much of that Joy they might have, and they that are most in these sublime thoughts, have the highest and truest Joy.

The Excellency of this Joy the Apostle here ex­presseth by these two words, Vnspeakable, and full of glory.

That 'tis Vnspeakable, no wonder, seeing the mat­ter of i [...] is Inconceivable, it is an Infinite Good. God reconciled in Jesus Christ, and testifying, and seal­ing his Love unto the soul, and giving assured hope of that blessed Vision of Eternity, what more un­speakable than this? And for the same Reason 'tis Glorious, or glorified joy, having the highest and most glorious Object, for it derives all its Excellen­cy from thence.

Vnspeakable] The best worldly Joyes are ea­sily speakable, they may be express'd to the u [...]most, yea usually more is spoke of them then they are indeed. Their name is beyond their worth, they are very seldom found upon experience equal to the opinion and expectation that men have [Page 109] of them. But this spiritual Joy is above the report any can make of it, say what they can of it who are of happiest Expression, yet when a Man comes to know it in his own breast, he will say (as that Queen said of Salomons wisdom) the half was not told me of it.

Again earthly Joyes are Inglorious. Many of which, Men are asham'd of, and those that seem most plausible, yet are below the Excellency of the Soul, and cannot fill it, but the Joyes that arise from Uni­on with Christ, as they are most avowable, a Man needs not blush to own them, so they are truly con­tenting, and satisfying, and thats their Glory, and the Cause why we may glory in them▪ My soul shall make her boast in God, sayes David.

For Application of all this. If these things were believed we would hearken no more to the foolish prejudice that the World hath taken up against Re­ligion, and wherewith Satan endeavours to possess mens hearts, that they may be scarr'd from the wayes of Holiness, 'tis, that they think it a Sour Melanel o­ly life, that hath nothing but Sadness and Mourn­ing in it, but to remove this prejudice.

Consider, 1. Religion barres not the lawful de­lights that are taken in natural things, but teaches the moderate, and regular use of them, which is far the sweeter, for things lawful in themselves, are in their excess sinful, and so prove Bitterness in the end, and if in some cases it require the forsaking of lawful Enjoyments as of pleasure, or Profits, or Honour, for God and for his Glory, this is Gene­rous, and truly more delightful to deny them for this reason, then to enjoy them. Men have done much [Page 108] this way for the Love of their Country, and by a Principle of Moral Vertue, but to lose any delight or to suffer any hardship for that highest End, the glory of God, and by the strength of love to him, is far more Excellent, and truly Pleasant.

2. The delights and pleasures of sin, Religion in­deed banishes, but 'tis to change them for this Joy that is unspeakably beyond them, it calls men from sordid and base delights, to those that are pure de­lights indeed, it calls to Men, drink ye no longer of the pudle, here are the Crystal streams of a living fountain. There is a delight in the very de­spising impure delights,Quam sua­ve est istis suavitati­bus carere Aug. as he said, how pleasant is it to want these pleasures. But for such a change, to have in their stead such delights, as in compari­son, the other deserve not that name, To have such spiritual joy, as shall end in Eternal Joy, 'tis a won­der we hasten not all to chuse this joy; but 'tis indeed because we believe it not.

3. 'Tis true the Godly are subject to great Di­stresses, and Afflictions; but their Joy is not ex­tinguished by those, no nor diminished either: but often sensibly increas [...]d. When they have least of the Worlds joy, they abound most in Spiritual Consolations, and then Relish them best. They find them sweetest, when their taste is not depraved with Earthly enjoyments, We rejoyce in tribulation, sayes St. Paul, and here our Apostle insists on that, to ve­rifie the subsistance of this Joy in the midst of the greatest afflictions.

4. Spiritual Grief that seems most opposite to this Spiritual Joy prejudgeth it not, for there is a secret delight and sweetness in the tears of Repentance, a [Page 109] Balm in them that refreshes the Soul, and even their saddest kind of mourning, viz. The dark times of Desertion, hath this in it, that is some way sweet, that those mournings after their Beloved, who ab­sents himselfe, is a mark of their Love to him, and a true Evidence of it, and then all these spiritual sorrowes of what nature soever, are turn'd into Spiritual Joy, that's the proper End of them, they have a natural tendency that way.

5. But the Natural Man still doubts of this Joy we speak of; because he sees and hears so little of it from them that profess to have it, and seem to have best right to it. If we consider the wretched­ness of this Life, and especially the abundance of Sin that's in the World, what wonder though this their Joy retire much inward, and appear litle abroad, where all things are so contrary to it, and so few that are capable of it,Pauperis est nume­rare pecus. to whom 'twere pertinent to vent it. Again we see here, 'tis Vnspeakable, it were a poor thing if he that hath it could tell it all out. And when the Soul hath most of it, then it remains most within it self, and is so inwardly taken up with it, that possibly it can then least of all ex­press it. 'Tis with Joyes, as they say of Cares, and Griefs, Leves Loquuntur, ingentes stupent. Res severae est verum gaudium. Sen. The deep­est waters run stillest, true Joy is a sollid grave thing, dwells more in the heart, then the Counte­nance; whereas on the Contrary, base and false Joyes, are but superficial skin-deep, (as we say) they are all in the face.

Think not that it is with the godly, as the Prophet sayes of the wicked, that there is no peace to them▪ and the LXX Reads it, no Ioy. Certainly 'tis true. [Page 108] There is no true Joy to the wicked, they may re­vel and make a noise; but they Rejoyce not, the Laughter of the fool, is as the crackling of thornes un­der the pot, a great noise but little heat, and soon at an End. There is no continuing Feast, but that of a good Conscience. Wickedness, and real Joy can­not dwell together, as the very Moralist Seneca hath it often, and at large: but he that can say the Righ­teousness of Jesus Christ is Mine, and in him the favour of God, and the hope of Eternal Happiness, hath such a light as can shine in the darkest Dun­geon, yea in the dark valley of the shadow of death it selfe.

Say not thou, if I betake my self to the way of Godliness, I must bid farewel to gladness, never a merry day more, no, on the contrary, never a tru­ly Joyful day till then, yea, no dayes at all, but night to the soul, till it entertain Jesus Christ, and his kingdom, which consists in those, Righteousness, Peace, and Ioy in the Holy Ghost. Thou dost not sacrifice Isaac, which signifies Laughter, as St. Bern. but a Ram. Not thy Joy, but filthy sinful delights that end in Sorrow.

Oh seek to know in your Experience what those Joyes mean, for all describing and commending it to you will not make you understand it, [...]audaemel [...]is dulcedi­nem quan­tum potes qui non gustaverit non Intelli­ge [...]. Aug. but taste, and see that the Lord is good, you cannot see, and know it, but by tasting it, and having tasted that goodness, all those poor Joyes you thought sweet before, will then be bitter and distasteful to you.

And you that have Christ yours by Believing know your happiness, and Rejoyce, and Glory in it. Whatsoever is your outward Condition, Re­joyce [Page 105] alwayes, and again I say Rejoyce: for Light is sow [...] to the Righteous, and Ioy for the upright in heart.

Verses. 10, 11, 12.

10. Of which Salvation the Prophets have en­quired, and searched dilligently, who pro­phesied of the Grace that should come unto you

11. Searching what, or what maner of time▪ the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signifie, when he testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the Glory that should follow.

12. Vnto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did Minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have Preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, which things the Angels desire to look into.

IT is the Ignorance, or at least the Inconsiderance, of Divine things, that makes Earthly things, whether good, or evil, appear great in our Eyes. Therefore the Apostles great aime is, by represent­ing the Certainty, and Excellency of the Belief, and Hope of Christians to his afflicted Brethren, to [Page 112] strenthen their minds against all discouragements, and oppositions. That they may account nothing too hard to doe, or suffer, for so high a Cause, and so happy an End. 'Tis the low and mean thoughts, and the shallow perswassion we have of things that are spiritual, that is the Cause of all our Remisse­ness, and Coldness in them. The doctrine of Sal­vation he mention'd in the former verse, at the End of our Christian Faith, is illustrated in these words, from its Antiquity, Dignity, and infallible truth.

'Tis no more Invention: for the Prophets en­quir'd after it, and foretold it in former ages from the beginning. Thus the prejudice of novelty is removed, that usually meets the most ancient truth in its new discoveries.

Again, 'tis no mean thing that such Men as were of unquestion'd Eminency in Wisdom, and Holiness did so much study, and search after, and having found out, were careful not only to publish it in their own times, but to record it to posterity, and this not by the private motion of their own spirits, but by the Acting, and Guidance of the Spirit of God, which sets likewise the truth of their Testimony above all doubtfulness, and uncertainty.

But taking those three Verses entirely together, we have in them those three things, testifying how Excellent the Doctrine of the Gospel is. 1. We have the Principal Author of it. 2. The matter of it 3. The worth of those that are exercis'd about it; viz. The best of Men the Prophets, and Apo­stles in administring it, and the best of all the Crea­tures the Angels, in admiring it.

The first Author is the absolutely first, the Spirit [Page 113] of God in the prophets Ver. 11. in the Apostles Ver. 12. but Ver. 11. The spirit of Christ there, is the same spirit that He sent down on his Disciples after his Ascending to Glory, and which spoke in his Prophets before his Descending to the Earth. It is the spirit of Christ, proceeding joyntly from him with the Father, as he is the son of God, and dwelling most richly, and fully in him as the son of Man.

The Holy Ghost is in himself Holiness, and the Source, and worker of Holiness, and Author of this holy doctrine that breaths nothing but holiness, and urges it most pressingly upon all that receive it.

This is the very life of divine Faith touching the Mysteries of Salvation, firmly to believe their Reve­lation by the Spirit of God, this the Word it selfe testifies, as we see, and it is really manifest in it, it carries the lively stamp of divine Inspiration, but there must be a spirituall Eye to discern it, he that is blind knows not that the Sun shines at noon, but by the report of others; but they that see, are assur'd they see it, and assur'd by no other thing; but by its own Light, To ask one that is a true Believer, how know you the Scriptures to be divine? is the same as to ask him, how know you Light to be Light.

The Soul is nothing but Darkness, and blindness within, till that same spirit that shines without in the Word, shine likewise within it, and Effectually make it Light, but that once done, then is the word Read with some measure of the same spirit by which it was written; and the Soul is ascertain'd that it is divine, as in bodily fight, there must be a meeting of inward Light Viz. the visuall spirits with the out­ward Object.

[Page 114]The spirit of God within, brings Evidence with it, and makes it self discernable in the word, this all arguments, all Books, and study cannot attain unto. it is given to believe.

No Man knows the things of a Man but the spirit of Man. 1. Cor. 2.11. But how holds that here▪ for if a Man speak out the things that are in his spirit then others may know them, But the Apostle's aime is there, to conclude, that the things of God, even such as were Revealed in his Word, could not be known but by his own spirit, 'its so, though Revealed, yet they remain still unreveal'd, till the spirit teach within, as well as without: Because intelligeable by none, but by those, that are the private Scholers and Hearers of the holy Ghost, the author of them; and because there are so few of these, therefore there is so little reall Believeing amongst all the noise, and profession that we make of it, who is there (if you will believe them) that Believes not, and yet truely there is too much Cause to continue the Prophets regret. who hath believed our Report?

Learn then to suspect your selves, and to finde out your own Unbelief, that you may desire this Spirit to teach you inwardly those great Mysteries, that he outwardly Reveals, and Teaches by his Word. Make use of that promise and press the Lord with it. They shall be all taught of God.

But 2. There is here the Matter of this Doctrine which we have in three severall Expressions 1. That which is Repeated from the foregoing Verse, 'tis the Doctrine of Salvation, that's the end of it▪ and 2. The Doctrine of sufferings and glory of Christ as the means. 3. The Doctrine of Grace, the spring of both.

[Page 115]And 1. Salvation, the onely true Doctrine of true happiness, which the wisest of naturall Men have grop't and sought after with much earnestness; but with no success, they had no other then the dark Moon light of Nature, and that is not sufficient to find it out, onely the Sun of Righteousness shining in the Sphere of the Gospel, brings Life and Im­mortality to Light. 2. Tim. 1.10. No wonder that naturall Wisdom, the deepest of it, is far from find­ing out the true method, and way of cure, seeing it cannot discover the disease of miserable Mankind, Viz. the sinfull and wretched Condition of nature by the first Disobedience.

Salvation expresses not only that which is Negative; but Implies likewise positive and perfect Happiness, thus forgiveness of sins is put for the whole nature of Iustification frequently in scripture, 'tis more easy to say of this unspeakable Happiness, what it is not, then what it is, there is in it a full and final free­dom from all Annoyance, all tears are wip'd away, and their fountain dryed up, all feeling, and fear, or danger of any the least evil either of sin, or puni­shment banish'd for ever, no Invasions of Enemies, no robbing nor destroying in all this holy Mountain no voice of complaining in the streets of the new Jerusalem here, 'tis at the best but interchanges of Mornings of joy, with weeping of sad evenings, but there, there shall be no Light, no need of Sun, nor Moon, For the glory of the Lord shall lighten it and the Lamb shall be the Light thereof.

Well may the Apostle (as he doth here through­out this Chap.) lay this Salvation to Counter ballance all sorrows, and Persecutions, and whatsoever hard­ships [Page 116] can be in the way to it. The soul that is per­swaded of this, in the midst of Storms, and Tempests enjoys a Calme, Triumphs in Disgraces, grows Richer by all its Losses, and by Death it self, attaines this Immortall life.

Happy are they that have their eye fixed upon this Salvation, and are longing and waiting for it, that see so much of that brightness, and Glory, as darkn [...] all the lusture of Earthly things to them, and makes them trample upon those things, which formerly they admir'd, and doted on with the rest of the foolish world. Those things we account so much of, are but as rotten wood, or Glow-wormes that shine onely in the night of our Ignorance, and Vanity: so soon as the Light beam of this Salvation enters into the soul, it cannot much esteem or affect any thing be­low it, and if those glances of it that shine in the Word, and in the Soul of a Christian be so bright, and powerfull, what then shall the full sight and real possession of it be?

The worker of this Salvation whom the Prophets and Apostles make the summe of all their doctrine is Jesus Christ, and the summe of that work of Re­demption, as we have it here, is his Humiliation and Exaltation. His Sufferings, and the Glory that followed thereupon, now, though this serve as an Encouragement to Christians in their Sufferings, that this is the way by which their Lord went into his Glory, and is true also of Christ mysticall, the Head with the Members, as the scriptures often teach us. Yet I conceive 'tis here main [...]ly intended as a summary of the work of our Redemption by Jesus Christ, relateing to the salvation mention'd [Page 117] Verse 10. And as the Cause for the Effect, so 'tis put for it here. The Prophets enquired, and pro­phecied of that Salvation. How? By searching out, and foretelling the Sufferings, and Glory of Christ: His sufferings then, and his after Glories are our Salvation His sufferings is the purchace of our Sal­vation, and His Glory is our assurance of it, He as our head having Triumph'd, and being Crown'd, makes us likewise sure of Victory, and Triumph. Having entered possession to glory makes our Hope certain; this is his prayer, that where he is there we may be also and this his own assertion, the glory which thou gavest Me, I have given them. Ioh. 17.22, 24. this is his promise, because I live ye shall live also Ioh. 14.19. Christ, and the Believer are One, this is that Great Mystery the Apostle speaks of, Eph. 5. though 'its a common known truth, the words and outside of it obvious to all, yet none can understand it, but they that indeed partake of it, by vertue of that Unction their sins were accounted His, and Christs sufferings are accounted theirs, and by consequence, His Glory the consequent of his sufferings is likewise theirs, there is an indissoluble connection betwixt the life of Christ, and of a Beli­ever. Our life is hid with Christ in God; and there­fore while we remaine there, our life is there, though hid, and when he who is our life shall appear we like­wise shall appear with him in glory. Colos. 3.14. See­ing the sufferings, and Glory of our Redeemer, are the maine subject of the Gospel and the Causes of our salvation, and our comfortable persuasion of it, 'its a wonder that they are not more the matter of our thoughts, should we not daily consider the bit­terness [Page 118] of that cup of Wrath he drunk for us, and be wrought to Repentance, and Hatred of sin, to have sin imbitter'd to us by that Consideration, and find the sweetness of his Love in that he did drink it, and by that, be deeply possessed with Love to him, these things we now and then speak of, but they sink not. As our Saviour exhorts, where he is speaking of those same sufferings. O that they were engraven on our hearts and that sin were Crucified in us, and the world Crucified to us, and we unto the world by the crosse of Christ.

And then considering the Glory wherein he is, And to have our eye often upon that, and our hearts solaceing and refreshing themselves frequently with the thoughts of that Place, and condition wherein Christ is, and where our hopes are ere long to be­hold lin. Both to see his Glory, and to be Glori­fied with him, is it not reason? Yea 'its necessary it cannot be otherwise, if our Treasure, and Head be there, that our hearts be there likewise.

The Third Expression here of the Gospell, is, that 'tis the Doctrine of Grace. The work of Redemption it self, and severall parts of it, and the Doctrine re­vealing it, have all the name of Grace: because they all flow from free Grace, that is their spring, and first Cause.

And 'tis this wherein the Doctrine of Salvation is mainly comfortable, that it is free, ye are saved by Grace. Eph. 2.8. 'tis true God requires faith, it is through faith, but he that requires that▪ gives it too, that's not of your selves 'tis the gift of God 'tis won­derfull Grace to save upon believing, believe in Jesus for Salvation, and live accordingly and 'tis done; [Page 119] there is no more requir'd to thy pardon; but that thou receive it by faith. But truely Nature cannot do this, 'tis as impossible for us of our selves to Be­lieve, as to doe, this then is that which makes it all Grace from Beginning to End, that God not onely saves upon believeing, but gives believeing it self, Christ is called not onely the Author and finisher of our Salvation, but even of our Faith.

Free Grace being rightly apprehended, is that, which stayes the heart in all Estates, and keeps it from fainting, even in its saddest times, what though there is nothing in my self, but matter of sorrow, and discomfort, it cannot be otherwise, 'its not from my self that I look for Comfort at any time: but from my God, and his free Grace. Here is Com­fort enough for all times, when I'm at the best, I ought not, I dare not rely upon my self, when Im at the worst, I may, and should rely upon Christ and his sufficient Grace. Though I be the vilest sinner that ever came to him, yet I know he is more Gra­cious then I am sinfull, yea, the more my sin is, the more Glory will it be to his Grace to pardon it, it will appear the richer, doth not David argue thus. Psa. 25.11. For thy names sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity for it is great: But 'Tis an empty fruitless notion of Grace, to Consider it onely in the Generall, and in a wandring way, we are to look upon it particularly, as address'd to us, and 'tis not enough, that it comes to us, in the message of him that brings it onely to our ear, but that we may know what it is, it must come into us, then 'tis ours in­deed; but if it come to us in the message only, and we send it away again, if i [...] shall so depart, we had [Page 120] better never have heard of it, it will leave a Guilti­ness behind it, that shall make all our sins weigh much heavier then before.

Enquire whether you have entertain'd this grace, or not, whether it be come to you, and into you, or not, whether the kingdom of God is within you. As our Saviour speaks, 'tis the woefullest condition that can be, not to be far from the kingdom of God, and yet to fall short, and miss of it. The Grace of God revealed in the Gospell is intreating you daily to receive it, is willing to become yours, if you Reject it not, were your eyes open to behold the Beauty, and Excellency of this Grace, there would need no deliberation, yea, you would endure none, desire your eyes to be opened, and light from above, that you may know it, and your hearts open'd, that you may be happy by receiving it.

The Apostle speaking of Jesus Christ, as the foun­dation of our Faith, calls him the same yesterday, and to day and for ever. Yesterday under the Law, to day in those primitive times, neerest his Incarnation, and for ever, in all succeeding ages. And the Re­semblance holds good between the two Cherubims over the Mercy-seat, and the two Testaments, those had their faces towards one another, and both toward the Mercy-seat, and these look to one another in their Doctrine, agreeing perfectly, and both look to Christ the true Mercy-seat, and the great Sub­ject of the scriptures. This we see here, the things that the Prophets foretold to come, and the Apostles reported were accomplished, were the same, and from the same spirit, they were the sufferings of Christ, and his after Glory, and in them our Salva­tion [Page 121] by free Grace. The Prophesies look forward to the times of the Gospel, and the things then ful­filled, look back to the Prophesies, and each confirms the other, meeting all in Christ who is their truth and Center.

We have spoken already of the Author, and sub­ject of this salvation; Now we come to say some­thing of those who are Employed about it, as well in Administring to it, as in Admiring it. And those are, the Prophets, and Apostles, the first foretold what was to come, the second Preached them when they came to pass.

In the Prophets there are three things here re­marked. 1. Their Dilligence. 2. The Success of it. 3. The Extent of its usefulness.

This disparages not their extraordinary Visions, and Revelations, and that which is added, that the Spirit of Christ was in them, and did foretel the things to come.

It was their constant Duty, and they being sensi­ble of their duty, made it their constant Exercise, to search into Divine Misteries by Meditation, and Prayer: yea, and by Reading such holy writers as were already extant in their times, as Dan. 9. and 10. For which Cause, some taking the word active­ly, Conceive Daniel, to be call'd there a Man of desires, because of his great desire, and dilligent search after the knowledge of those High things. And in this dilligent way, they constantly waited for these Revelations, which sometimes, when it seem'd good unto the Spirit of God, were impart­ed unto them.

Prophesie resideth not (say the Hebrew Doctors) [Page 122] but in a Man that is great in Wisdom and Vertue, whose affections overcome him not in any worldly things; but by his knowledge, he overcometh his Affections continually; on such a Man the Holy Spirit cometh down. And his Soul is associated to the Angels, and he is changed to another Man. thu [...] Maimonides.

'Twas the way of the Prince of darkness amongst the Idolatrous Gentiles, to speak either through senseless Statues, or where they uttered his Oracles, it was by such profane Prophets as he had, to cause them in a fury tumble forth words they understood not, and knew not what they said, but the Spirit of God being Light, and the Holy Prophets In­spired with it, they being dilligent attendants on its Motions and Searchers of the Misteries of Salvation, understood well what their business was, and to what purpose tended those things of the Kingdom of Christ, which they by Inspiration did foretel; and therefore bended their thoughts this way, praying, and searching, and waiting for Answers, studying to keep the passage, as it were open, for the beams of those Divine Revelations to come in at; not to have their Spirits clogg'd, and stopt with earthly and sinful Affections, endeavouring for that calm and quiet Composure of Spirit in which the voyce of Gods Spirit might be the better heard. Thus Psal. 85.8. and Hab. 2.1. In both which places fol­lowes an excellent Prophesie Concerning Christ, and that Salvation which he wrought for his People.

Were the Prophets not exempted from the pains of Search, and Inquiry, that had the Spirit of God not only in a high measure, but after a singular [Page 123] manner? how unbeseeming then is slothfulness and Idleness in us? whether is it, that we judge our selves advantag'd with more of the spirit then those holy men? or that we Esteem the Doctrine, and Misteries of Salvation on which they bestow'd so much of their labour, unworthy of ours? these are both so gross that we will be loath to own either of them, and yet our laziness, and negligence in search­ing after those things, seems to charge us with some such thought as one of those.

You will say, this concerns those that succeed to the work of the Prophets, and Apostles in ordinary, the Ministers of the Gospel. And it doth indeed, fall first upon them. It is their task indeed to be dilli­gent, and as the Apostle exhorts his Timothy, to at­tend on reading, but above all to study to have much Experimental knowledge of God, and his Son Jesus Christ, and for this end, to disentangle, and free themselves as much as is possible, from lower things to the search of heavenly Misteries, Prov. 18.1. As they are called Angels, so ought they to be as much as they can attain to it, in a constant nearness unto God, and attendance on him, like unto the An­gels, and look much into these things, as the Angels here are said to do, to endeavour to have their souls purified from the affections of sin, that the light of Divine truth, may shine clear in them, and not be fogg'd, and misted with filthy vapours, to have the Impressions of God clearly written in their breasts, not mix'd and blurr'd with earthly characters, sea­soning all their readings and common way of studies with much Prayer, and divine Meditation. They that Converse most with the King, and are inward [Page 124] with him, know most of the affairs of state, and even the secrets of them, that are hid from others, and certainly those of Gods Messengers that are of­tenest with himself, cannot but underdand their busi­ness best, and know most of his meaning, and the affairs of his Kingdom. And to that End 'tis con­fess'd, that singular dilligence is requir'd in them; but seeing the Lord hath said without exception, that his secret is with them that fear him, and that he will reveal himself and his saving truths to those that humbly seek them. Do not any of you your selves so much injury, as to barr your selves from sharing in your measure of the search of these same things, that were the study of the Prophets, and which by their study, and publishing them, are made the more accessible, and easie to us. Consider that they doe concern us universally, if we would be saved; for 'tis Salvation here that they studied, Search the Scriptures, sayes our Saviour, Ioh. 5. And that is the motive, if there can be any that may be thought in reason pressing enough, or if we doe indeed think so, For in them ye think to have Eter­nal life, And it is there to be found, Christ is this Salvation, and that Eternal life, and he adds further it is they (those Scriptures) that testifie of me. These are the Golden mines in which alone the abiding treasures of Eternity are to be found, and therefore worthy all the digging, and paines we can bestow on them.

Besides their Industry in this enquiry, and search, there is here expressed their ardent affection to the thing they Prophesied of, and their Longings, and Wishes for its Accomplishment viz. The coming of [Page 125] Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, the top of all their desires, the great Hope and the Light of Israel. No wonder they desired his day, that had so much joy in the seeing it: So far off, as over the head almost of two thousand years, Faith overlook­ing them, and foreseeing it so in Abraham, his heart danc'd for joy, Ioh. 8.36. Abraham saw my day and Rejoyced.

And this is conceived to be the meaning of those Expressions in that mistical Song, as they suit those times of the Jewish Church, breathing out her long­ings for the coming of her Beloved, his speaking by the Prophets, were his voice as afar off: but his incarnation was his coming near, and kissing his Church, with the kisses of his mouth, as Cant. Chap. 1. Verse 1. and to omit other expressions through­out the Song, the last Chapter Verse 1. is tender and pathetical. Oh that thou wert as my Brother, &c. and the last words of it, Make hast my Beloved, and be thou like a Roe, or a young Hart upon the Mountain of Spices. And when this salvation came in the fulness of time, we see how joyfully good old Simeon embraces it, and thought he had seen enough, and therefore upon the sight desired to have his eyes clos'd. Now let thy Servant depart in Peace, for my eyes have se [...]n thy salvation. Therefore our Saviour sayes to his Apostles. Math. 13.16. Blessed are your eyes for they see, for many Prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them. This is he whom we disesteem and make so small account of, being now so clearly Revealed that they studied, and sought, and wish'd so much for, so many ages before.

[Page 126]Now the sucess is, in seeking they found the cer­tainty, and the time of that his coming, they sought out till they found, and then they prophesied of that Salvation, and Grace, they searched what, and what manner of time, and the Spirit did manifestly foretel it them.

They sought to know what manner of time it should come to pass, viz. In a time of great di­stress, and bad Estate of the People, as all the Pro­phets testifie, and particularly that place Gen. 49.10. gives an express character of the time, though there be some diversity of Exposition of the particu­lar words, yet the main sense is agreed on by all sound Interpreters, and the Chal. Parah. hath it ex­presly, that that Shiloh, is the Messiah.

And of his sufferings, and after glories they pro­phesied very clearly as Psal. 22. Isa. 53. &c. And our Saviour himself makes use of their testimony in both these points, S. Luke 24.25, 26, 27.

Then there is the benefit of their search, and finding, in the extent of it, in Verse 13. to the Be­lievers in the Apostles times, and to the succeeding Christian Church, and so to us in these dayes; but in some peculiar sense the Prophets ministred to them of those times, wherein Christ did suffer, and en­ter into glory; for that they were the first that en­joyed the accomplishment of those Prophesies, they being fulfilled in their own dayes.

They knew well that the things they Prophesied were not to be fulfilled in their own times, and there­fore in their Prophecying concerning them, though both themselves, and People of God that were con­temporary with them did reap the comfort of that [Page 127] Doctrine, and were by faith partakers of the same Salvation, and so it was to themselves as well as to us, yet in regard of the accomplishment, they knew it was not to themselves, it was not to be brought to pass in their dayes, and therefore, speak­ing of the Glory of Christs Kingdome, they often foretel it for the Latter dayes, as their phrase is, And as we have the things they Prophesied of, so we have this peculiar benefit of their Prophesies, that their fuiting so perfectly with the event, and performance, serves much to confirm our Chri­stian Faith.

There is a foolish, and miserable way of verify­ing this, Men ministring the Doctrine of Salvation to others, and not to themselves, carrying it all in their heads, and tongues, and none of it in their hearts, not hearing it even while they Preach it, reaching the Bread of Life to others, and eating none of it themselves. And this the Apostle sayes, that he was most careful to avoid, and therefore dealt severely with his body, that it might not this way endanger his soul. I beat down my body, sayes he, and keep it in subjection, lest when I have Preach'd to others I my selfe should be a Castaway. 'Tis not in this sense, that the Prophets ministred to others, and not to themselves. No, they had Joy and Comfort in the very hopes of the Redeemer to come, and the belief of the things that any others had spoke, and that themselves spoke concerning him, and thus the true Preachers of the Gospel though their Ministerial gifts, are for the use of others, yet that Salvation they Preach, they lay hold on, and partake of themselves, as your boxes [Page 128] wherein perfumes are kept for Garments, and other uses, are themselves perfum'd by keeping them.

We see how the Prophets Ministred it, as the great and never failing Consolation of the Church in those dayes, in all their distresses 'tis a wonder when they are foretelling either the sorrowes and afflictions or temporal restorement, and deliverances of that People of the Jewes, what sudden outleaps they will make to speak of the King­dome of Jesus Christ, and the dayes of the Gospel, that who considers not the spirit they were moved by, would think it were Incoherence, and Imper­tinency; but they knew well what they meant, that those newes were never unseasonable, nor besides the purpose, that the sweetness of those thoughts, viz. The Consideration of the Messiah was able (to such as belie'v'd it) to allay the bitter­est distresses, and that the great deliverance he was to worke, was the top and summe of all delive­rances. Thus their Prophecies of him were present Comfort to themselves, and other believers then, and further, were to serve for a clear evidence of the divine truth of those Misteries in the dayes of the Gospel in and after their fulfilling.

These sweet streams of their Doctrine doe as the Rivers, they made their own banks fertile, and plea­sant as it ran by, and flowed still forward to after Ages and by the Confluence of more such Prophecies grew greater as it went, till it fell in with the main current of the Gospel in the New Testament, both acted, and Preach'd by the great Prophet himselfe, whom they foretold to come, and recorded by his Apostles and Evangelists, and thus united into one [Page 129] River, clear as Crystall, This doctrine of Salvation in the Scriptures, hath still refresh'd the City of God, his Church under the Gospel, and still shall do so, till it empty it self into the Ocean of Eter­nity.

The first discovery we have of this stream nearest its source, the Eternall purpose of divine mercy, is in that Promise which the Lord himself preach'd in few words, to our first parents, that had newly made themselves, and their Race miserable The seed of the Woman shall break the head of the serpent. Gen. 3.15.

The agreement of their Predictions with the things themselves, and the preaching of the Apostles fol­lowing, the other kind of Men employed in this Salvation make up one Organ, or great Instrument, Tun'd by the same hand, and sounding by the same breath of the spirit of God, and that is express'd here, as the common Authority of the Doctrine in both, and the cause of their harmony, and agreement in it.

And all these extraordinary Gifts of the holy Ghost, the Calling of Prophets, and Apostles, and Evange­lists, and the ordinary Ministry of the Gospel by pa­stors, and Teachers, tends to that great designe, that God hath in building his Church; making up that great assembly of all the Elect, to enjoy and praise him for all Eternity. Eph. 4.11. For this end sent he his Son out of his bosome, and and for this end sends he forth his messengers to di­vulge that salvation, that his Son hath wrought, and sends down his spirit upon them, that they may be fitted for so high a service. Those Cherubims won­der [Page 130] how guilty man escapes their flaming swords, and Reenters paradise, The Angels see that their Compa­nions that fell are not restor'd, but their room fill'd up with the spirits of just men, and they envy it not, which Mistery the Angels desire to look into, and this is add­ed in the close of these words for the extolling of it.

The Angels look upon what they have seen al­ready fulfill'd with delight and admiration, and what remains, namely, the full accomplishment of this great work in the end of time, they look upon, with desire to see it finish'd, 'tis not a slight glance they take of it, but they fix their eye, and look stedfastly on it, viz. That mistery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, and 'tis added, seen of Angels.

The word made flesh drawes the eyes of those glorious Spirits, and possesses them with wonder to see the Almighty God-head joyn'd with the weak­ness of a Man, yea, of an Infant. He that stretcheth forth the heavens, bound up in swadling cloaths. And to pass all the wonders of his life, this is beyond all admiration, that the Lord of Life, was subject to death, and that his Love, and Rebellious mankind, moved him both to take on, and lay down that life.

'Tis no wonder the Angels admire those things and delight to look upon them, but 'tis strange that we do not so. They veiw them stedfastly, and we neglect them, either we consider them not at all, or give them but a transient look, half an eye. That which was the great business of the Prophets, and Apostles, both for their own times, and to convey them to us, we regard not; and turne our eyes to foolish wandering thoughts, which Angels are ashamed at. They are not so con­cern'd in this great mystery as we are, They are but [Page 131] mere beholders in comparison of us, yea, they seem rather to be losers someway, that our nature in it self inferiour to theirs, is in Jesus Christ exalted a­bove theirs. Heb. 2.16. We bow down to the earth, and study, and grovell in it,, take into the very bow­els of it, and content our selves with the outside of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and look not with­in it, but they having no will, nor desir [...], but for the glory of God, being pure flames of fire burning one­ly in love to him, are no less delighted then amazed with the bottomless wonders of his wisdom, and good­ness shining in the work of our Redemption.

'Tis our shame, and our folly that we lose our selves, and our thoughts in poor childish things, and trifle away our days we know not how, and let these rich mysteries lye unregarded, they look up, upon the deity in it self with continuall admiration, but that they look down, to this mystery is another wonder. We give them an ear in publick, and in a cold formal way stop Conscience's mouth, with some religious performances in private, and no more: But to have deep and frequent thoughts, and to be ravish'd in the meditation of our Lord Jesus once on the cross and now in glory, how few of us are acquaint­ed with this?

We see here excellent Company, and Examples, not onely of the best of Men that have been, but we have them fellow-servants, and fellow-Students, if that can perswade us, we may all study the same Lesson with the very Angels, and have the same thoughts with them, this the soul doth, that often entertains it self with the delightfull admiration of Jesus Christ, and the Redemption he hath wrought for us.

Verse. 13.

‘Wherefore Gird up the loyns of your mind be sober and hope to the End, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the Revelation of Iesus Christ.’

THe great error of Mans mind, and the cause of all his Errors of Life, is the diverting of the soul from God, and turning down-ward to in feriour confidences, and comforts; and this mis­choyce is the very root of all our miseries, therefore the maine end of the holy word of God, is, to untye the hearts of Men from the world, and reduce them. To God as their onely rest, and solid comfort; and this is here the Apostles mark at which all the pre­ceeding discourse aimes, it all meets and terminates in this exhortation. Wherefore gird up the loyns of your mind &c.

In the words are those 3 things 1. the great stay, and comfort of the soul, which the Apostle repeats, and represents to his afflicted brethren. 2. his Exci­ting them to the right apprehension, and confident Expectation of it. 3. the Inference of that Exhor­tation.

The matter of their comfort is, the grace which is brought to them at the Revelation of Iesus Christ. some for grace read joy, having as it seem's for [...] read [...] the words are not more near one to an other, than the things they signify. Grace and joy, but 'its most commonly thus read.

[Page 133]The estate of Grace, and that of glory are not onely so inseparably connexed, but so like one to the other, yea, so essentialy the same, that the same ex­pressions in scripture do often fit both of them, and so fit them, that it is doubtfull for which of the two to understand them, but the hazard is not great, seeing they are so near, and so one, grace being glory begun, and glory grace compleated, both often called the Kingdom [...] of God. So grace here brought to them, is either the doctrine of grace in the Gospel, wherein Jesus Christ, is reveal'd, and that Grace in him, for all the whole tenour of the Covenant of Grace, and every Clause of it holds in him. His precious name runs throw it all, 'tis the Grace of salvation to be fully perfected at the last, and clearest Revelation of Jesus Christ, and for this ra­ther I take it here, for that the Apostles nearest fore­going words were concerning that, and it is set up here as the object of hope, which though often put for faith, yet in its proper notion, looks out to that which is to come.

This is the last act of Grace, and yet still it is call­ed by it self, and not turn'd into the name of merit, notwithstanding all the obedience, and all the suffer­ings of the Saints that have gone before it, yea, even the salvation to be revealed to them is called Grace▪ but 'tis needless to insist on this, for certainly none that partake of Grace, will be of another mind, or ever admit the mixture of the least notion of self deserving.

Though much dispute hath been bestow'd on this, and Questions multiplying in the disputants hands, (as is usuall in Controversies) one growing out of [Page 134] another, yet truely, I think, the debate in this, to be but waste, 'tis not onely against the voyce of the scriptures, and of Grace it self in the soul; but even against sound Reason, to imagine any meriting, pro­perly taken, in any mere Creature at his Creators hands, who hath given him his being of which gift all his services, and obedience fall short, so that he can never come to be upon even disengaged terms, much less to oblige a new, and deserve somewhat further. besides, that same Grace by which any serves, and obeys God, is likewise his own gift, as 'tis said, All things come of thee, and of thine own have I given thee; both the ability, and the will of giving to him, is from him, so that in these respects, not Angels; nor Man in Innocency could properly merit at the hands of God, much less Man lost, redeemed again, and so coming under the new obligation of Infinite Mercy. And this is so evident a truth, that the learnedst and most ingenuous Jesuits, and Schoolmen have in di­vers passages of their writings acknowledg'd it, that there cannot be any Compensation, and much less me­rit from the creature to God. but onely in relation to his own free purpose, and the tenour of his word, and Covenant, which is inviolable, because he is un­changeable, and truth it selfe.

His first grace he gives freely, and no less freely the increases of it, and with the same gracious hand sets on the Crown of glory upon all the Grace that he hath given before. 'Tis but the following forth of his own work, and fulfilling his own thoughts of free Love, which love hath no cause, but in himself, and finds none worthy: But gives them all the worthiness they have, and accepts of their Love, not [Page 135] as worthy in it self to be accepted, but because he himself hath wrought it in them, not onely the first tastes, but the full draught of the waters of life is freely given Reve. 22.17. nothing brought with them but thirst.

That is to be brought] not that is brought, or that shall be brought, but if we will render it strictly, it is, that is a bringing to you. That blessedness, that Con­summation of grace the Saints are hastening forward to, walking on in their way wheresoever it lyes indiffer­ently, through honour, and dishonour, through evill re­port, and good report. And as they are hastening to it, it is hastn'ng to them in the course of time, every day brings it nearer to them than before, and notwith standing all difficulties, and dangers in the way, they that have their eye and hopes upon it, shall ar­rive at it, and it shall be brought safe to their hand, all the malice of men and Devils shall not be able to cut them short of this grace, that is a bringing to them against the day of the Revelation of Iesus Christ.

At the Revelation of Iesus Christ.] This is repeat­ed from the 7th. Verse. and it is a day of Revelation, a Revelation of the just judgement of God▪ Rom. 2, 5. And thus it would be to all, were it not, that it is withall, the Revelation of Iesus Christ; therefore is it a day of Grace, all Light, and blessedness to them that are in him, because they shall appear in him, and if he be glorious, they shall not be inglo­rious, and ashamed, indeed were our secret sins then to be set before our own eyes, in their affrightfullest visage, and to be set open to the view of Angels, and Men, and to the eye of divine Justice, and we lest alone so revealed, who is there that could gather [Page 136] any comfort? and would not rather have their thoughts fill'd with horrour at the remembrance and expectation of that day, and thus indeed all unbe­lieving and ungodly Men may look upon it, and find it terrible, but to those that are shadowed under the Robe of Righteous Jesus, yea that are made one with him, and shall partake of his glory in his appearing, 'tis the sweetest, the most comfortable thought that their souls can be entertain'd, and possess'd withall, to remember this glorious Revelation of their Redeem [...]r.

'Tis their great grief here, not that themselves are hated, and vilified; but that their Lord Jesus is so little known and therefore so much despised in the world, he is vail'd, and hid from the world, many Nations acknowledge him not at all, and many of those that do in word confess, yet in deed deny him, that have a form of Godliness and do not onely want but mock and scoffe the power of it, and to such Christ is not known, his Excellencies are hid from their eyes, now this glory of their Lord being tender to them that Love him, they rejoyce much in the con­sideration of this, that there is a day at hand, where­in he shall appear in his bright, and full glory to all nations, and all shall be forc'd to acknowledge him it shall be with out doubt, and unquestion'd to all, that here is the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Judge of the world.

And as it is his day of Revelation, 'its also the Re­velation of all the adopted sons of God in him, Rom. 8.9. they are now accounted the refuse of the world, exposed to all kind of comtempts, but then; the beams of Christ's glory shall beautifie them, and they shall be known for his 1 Ioh. 3 [...] 2. Col. 3, 4.

[Page 137]Next there is, The Exhortation. Hope to the end. The difference of these two graces, faith and hope is so small, that the one is often taken for the other in Scripture, 'tis but a divers aspect of the same confidence, faith apprehending the infallible truth of those divine Promises, of which Hope doth assur­edly expect the accomplishment, and that is their truth, so that this immediately results from the other· This is the Anchor pitch'd within the vail that keeps the soul firm against all the tossings on these swell­ing Seas, and the winds and tempests that arise upon them. The firmest thing in this Inferiour world is a believing soul.

Faith establishes the heart on Jesus Christ, and Hopelifts it up, being on that Rock over the head of all intervenient Dangers, Crosses, and Tenta­tions, and sees the glory and happiness that followes after them.

To the end] Or perfectly, and therefore the Christian seeks most earnestly, and yet waits most patiently, Psal. 130.6. Indeed this hope is perfect in continuance, 'tis a hope unto the end, because 'tis perfect in its nature, although imperfect in de­gree, sometimes doubtings intermixed with it in the Christian soul, yet this is their infirmity, as the Psalmist speaks, not the infirmity, and insufficiency of the object of their hope. Worldly hopes are in their own nature imperfect, they do imply in their very be­ing doubtfulness, and wavering, because the things whereon they are built are inconstant, and uncertain and full of deceit, and disappointments, how can that Hope be immoveable, that is built upon moving sands or quagmire. 'Tis that which is it self unfix­ed, [Page 138] cannot give stability to any other thing resting on it, but because the truth and goodness of the im­mutable God is the foundation of spiritual hope, therefore it is assur'd, and like Mount Sion that cannot be removed, and this is its perfection.

Now the Apostle exhorts his Brethren, to en­deavour to have their hearts possess'd with as high a measure, and degree of this hope, as may be, seeing in it self it is so perfect and firm, so assur'd an Hope, that they aspire to all the assurance and perfection of it they can attain.

This Hope, as I conceive, is not only to have the habit of it strong in the Soul, but to act it often, to be often turning that way; to view that approaching day of Liberty. Lift up your heads for the day of your Redemption draweth nigh. Where this hope is often acted, it will grow strong, as all habits doe and where 'tis strong, it will work much, and de­light to act often, and will control both the doubtings and the other many impertinent thoughts of the mind, and force them to yeild the place to it: Cer­tainly they that affect that coming of Christ much, will look often out to it, we are usually hoping, after other things, that doe but offer themselves to draw us after them, and to scorn us. What are the breasts of most of us, but so many nests of foolish hopes, and fears intermixed, that entertain us day and night, and steal away our precious hours from us, that might be laid out so gainfully upon the wise and sweet thoughts of Eternity, and upon the blessed and assured hope of the coming of our beloved Saviour.

The other words of Exhortasion hereu [...]ed are [Page 139] subservient to this end, that this hope may be the more perfect and firm, and is much after the same manner joyned by our Saviour. Luke. 12.35. with the expectance and waiting for his coming, and in this posture the Israelites eating the passover were expecting their deliverance, so we our full and final freedom.

If you would have much of this, call off your affections from other things, that they may be capable of much of it. The same eye cannot both look up to Heaven, and down to earth at the same time; the more your affections are truss'd up, and disentangled from the world, the more expe­dite and active will they be in this hope; the more sober they are, the less will they fill themselves with the course delights of earth, the more room will there be in them, and the more they shall be fil­led with this hope. It is great folly in our spiri­tual warfare, to charge our selves superfluously. All fulness of one thing hinders the receiving, and admittance of any other; especially of things so op­posite, as these fulnesses are opposed. Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be ye filled with the Holy Ghost, saith the Apostle, that is a brutish ful­ness, makes a Man no Man, this Divine, makes him more than a Man, 'twere happy to be filled thus, as that it might be call'd a kind of drunken­ness, as it is was with the Apostles. Act. 2.

Be sober] Or Watch, the same word signifies both, and with good reason; for you know the unsober cannot watch. Now though one main part of sobriety is that which more properly and particu­larly bears this name, temperance in meat, and drink, [Page 140] and against this, not only the purity, and spirtualness of Religion; but even moral vertue inveighs as its spe­cial Enemy; yea nature it self, and they that only na­turally consider the body, and its interest of Life, and health, find reason enough to cry down this base intemperance, which is so hateful by its own deformi­ty, and withal carries its punishment along with it. But this sobriety is indeed most necessary for the preservation of grace, and spiritual temper of the soul, and is here intended; yet I conceive 'tis not all that is here meant, the word is more general, for the moderate and sober use of all things worldly, as he sayes, Gird up the loynes of your mind, so 'tis to be understood, let your minds be sober, all your affections inwardly attempered to your spiritu­al condition, not glutting your selves with fleshly, and perishing delights of any kind, for the more you take in of these, the less you shall have of spiritual comfort, and of this perfect hope. They that pour out themselves upon present delights look not like strangers, and hopeful expectants of another Life, and better pleasures.

And certainly the Captain of our Salvation will not own them for his followers, that lye down to drink of these waters, but only such as in passant take of them with their hand. As excessive eating or drinking makes the body sickly, and lazy, fit for nothing, but sleep, and besots the mind, cloyes up the way with filthy crudities through which the spirits should pass, bemires them, and makes them move heavily as a coach in a deep way; thus doth all immoderate use of the world, and its delights wrong the soul in its spiritual condition, makes it [Page 141] sickly and feeble, full of spiritual distempers, and inactivity; benummes the graces of the spirit, and fills the soul with sleepy vapours, makes it grow se­cure, and heavy in spiritual exercises, and obstructs the way and motion of the spirit of God in the soul: therefore if you would be spiritual, healthful, and vigorous, and enjoy much of the consolation of heaven, be sparing, and sober in those of the earth, and what you abate of the one shall be certainly made up in the other. Health, and a good constitution of body is a more constant remaining pleasure then that of excess and momentany pleasing of the palate, thus the comfort of this hope is a more refined, and more abiding contentment than any is in the passing enjoyments of this world, and 'tis a foolish bargain to exchange a drachme of the one for many pounds of the other. Consider how pressingly the Apostle St. Paul reasons. 1 Cor. 9.25. And take withall our Saviours exhortation. Be sober and watch, for ye know not at what hour your Lord will come.

The double minded man (sayes S. Iames) is unstable in all his wayes; although the word signifies usually deceitfulness and dissimulation of mind, answering to the Hebrew phrase of a heart and a heart: Yet here I conceive it hath another sense agreeable to the Apostles present discourse and scope; 'tis doubt­fulness, and unsetled wavering of mind.

'Tis impossible that the course of Life can be any other but uneven, and incompos'd, if the spring of it, the heart, whence are the issues of Life, be so, a Man that is not agreed within, not of one mind with himself, although there were nothing to trou­ble, nor alter him from without, that inward com­motion [Page 142] is a sufficient principle, and cause of inconstan­cy: How much more then must he waver, when he is assaulted, and beat upon by outward oppositions he is like the waves of the Sea, of himself ever fluctu­ating to and fro according to the Natural Instabili­ty of that Element: and then being expos'd to the tossings of all the waves that arise.

'Tis therefore in Religion a main thing to have the heart establish'd, and fixed in the belief, and hope of the great things we look for, this will be­get strength of resolution, and constancy in action, and in suffering too. And this is here our Apostles great intent to ballast the souls of his Brethren with this firm belief, that they might sail even, and steady in those Seas of trouble. Wherefore (sayes he) if these things we have spoken be thus, if there i [...] indeed truth in them, and you believe it so, what remains then, but to resolve for it upon any terms, to fit for the journey whatsoever be the difficul­ties, and in them all to keep up the soul by that certain hope that will not dissappoint us.

What he hath said before, is as it were showing them some fruits, some clusters of grapes of that promised Land, and this Exhortation is answerable to Caleb's word there Num. 13. Seeing 'tis so good a Land, let us go up and possess it, though there be fleshly objects, Sons of Anak, Giants of tentations and afflictions, and sins to be overcome ere it be ours, yet 'tis well worth all our labour, and our God hath ascertain'd us of the victory, and given us by his own word undoubted hope of possessing it.

That which he principally exhorts in this Verse, is the right placing and firm continuing of our hope. [Page 143] When we Consider, how much of our Life is taken up this way, in hoping for things we have not, and that even they who have most of what others are desiring and pursuing; yet are still hop­ing for somewhat further, and when Men have at­tained one thing, though it be something they pro­mis'd themselves to rest contented withal, yet pre­sently upon obtaining it, Hope begins to find out some new matter for it selfe. I say considering the uncessant working of this passion throughout our life, 'tis of very much concernment for us to give it a right object, and not still to be living in vani­ty, and uncertainty. Here is then that for our hope to apply it self to, after which it needs not change, nor can change without the greatest loss. Hope for the Grace that is coming at the Revelation of Jesus Christ, bestow all your hope on this, and recal it not. Hope perfectly and to the end.

The other part of the Exhortation relates to this as the main end, and in the Original runs in this form, wherefore girding up the loines of your mind being sober, hope, and, to the end hope may be the more perfect, and endure to the end, and more like it selfe heavenly, your minds must be freed from the Earth, that they may set for heaven, and this is ex­pressed in two several words but both meaning much the same thing; that temper of sobriety, and pos­ture of being girt, are no other, but the same remo­val of earthly mindedness, and incumbring cares and desires of earthly things.

Gird up the loynes] The custom of those Countries was, that wearing long garments they trussed them up for work or journey. Chastity is indeed a [Page 144] Christian grace, and a great part of the souls free­dom and spiritualness, and fits it much for Divine things, yet I think it is not so particularly, and on­ly intended in this expression, as St Ierom and others take it, for, though the girding of the loynes seem to them to favour that sense, 'tis only in allusion to the manner of girding up used, and besides the Apostle here makes it clear, he meant somewhat else; for he sayes, the Loynes of your minds, gather up your affections that they hang not down to hin­der you in your Race, and so in your Hopes of ob­taining, and do not only gather them up, but tye them up, that they fall not down again, or if they do, be sure to gird them straiter then before, thus be still as men for your journey, tending to another place. This is not our home, nor the place of our rest, therefore our loines must be still girt up, our affections kept from training and dragging down upon the Earth.

Men that are altogether earthly and profane, are so far from girding up the loines of their mind, that they set them whole downwards, the very highest part of their soul is glued to the Earth, and they are daily partakers of the Serpents curse, they go on their Belly, and eat the dust they mind earthly things. Now this disposition is inconsistent with Grace; but they that are in some measure truly godly, though they grovel not so, yet may be somewhat guilty of suffering their affections to fall too low, that is, too much conversant with vanity, and further engag­ed than is meet to some things that are worldly, and by this means abate of their heavenly hopes, and make them less perfect, less clear and sensible to their souls.

[Page 145]And because they are most subject to take this Liberty in the fair and calm weather of porsperity, God doth often, and wisely, and mercifully cause rough blasts of affl [...]ction to arise upon them to make them gather their loose garments nearer to them and gird them closer.

Let us then remember our way, and where we are▪ and keep our garments girt up, for we walk amidst thornes and briers, that, if we let them down, will entangle and stop us, and possibly tear our gar­ments, we walk through a world where there is much mire of sinfull pollutions, and therefore cannot but defile them, and the croud we are among will be ready to [...]read on them, yea our own feet may be entangled in them, and so make us stumble, and possibly fall. Our onely safest way is to gird up our affections wholly.

This perfect hope is inforced by the whole strain of i [...]: for well may we fixe our Hope on that hap­piness to which we are appointed in the Eternall Election of God. Ver. 2. and born to it by our new birth. Ver. 3, 4. and preserv'd to it by his almighty power. Ver. 5. and cannot be cut short of it by all the afflictons and oppositions in the way, no nor so much as depriv'd by them of our present Joy, and comfort in the assurance of it. Ver. 6, 7, 8, 9. And then being taught the Greatness and Excellency of that blessed Salvation by the doctrine of the prophets, and A­postles, and the admiration of Angels, all these con­spire to confirme our Hope, to make it perfect, and persevering to the End.

And we may also Learn by the foregoing doctrine that this is the place of our triall and conflict, but [Page 146] the place of our rest is above, we must here have our Loynes girt, but when we come there, we may wear our long white Robes at their full length with­out disturbance, for there is nothing there, but peace and without danger of defilement, for no unclean thing is there, yea the streets of that new Jerusalem ar [...] pav'd with pure gold, to him then that hath prepared that City for us let us ever give praise.

Verses. 14.15, 16.

Verses, 14. As obedient Children not fashioning your selves according to the former Lusts, in your Ignorance.

Verse. 15. But as he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of Conver­sation.

Verse. 16. Because it is written, be ye holy for I am holy.

THy word is a Lamp unto my feet, says David, and a Light unto my paths, not onely comfort­able as Light is to the eyes, but withall directive, as a Lamp to his feet. Thus here the Apostle doth not onely furnish consolation against distress, but Exhorts and directs his Brethen in the way of Holi­ness, without which the apprehension, and feeling, of those comforts cannot subsist.

[Page 147]This is no other but a clearer and fuller expressi­on, and further pressing of that sobriety, and spiri­tualness of mind, and life that he joyntly exhorted unto with that of perfect hope, ver. 13. as in separably connext with it; if you would enjoy this Hope be not conform to the lust of your former ignorance, but be holy.

There is no doctrine in the world either so plea­sant, or so pure, as that of Christianity. 'Tis matchless, both in sweetness, and holiness. The Faith, and Hope of a Christa in have in them an abiding pre­cious balm of comfort, but this is never to be so lavish'd away, as to be poured into the puddle of an impure Conscience. No, that were to lose it un­worthily, As many as have this hope purify themselves, even as he is pure, 1. Ioh. 3, 3. Here they are com­manded to be holy as he is holy, Acts. 15. Faith first purifies the heart, Empties it of the love of sin, and then fills it with the Consolation of Christ, and hope of Glory.

'Tis a foolish misgrounded fear, and such as argues inexperience of the nature, and workings of divine Grace, to imagine that the assured hope of salvation will beget unholiness and presumptuous boldness in sin, and therefore that the doctrine of that assu­rance is a doctrine of Licentiousness. Our Apostle, we see is not so sharp sighted as these men think themseves, he apprehends no such matter, but in­deed supposes the contrary as unquestionable he takes not assured hope, and holiness as Enemies, but joynes them as nearest friends, hope perfectly and be holy.

They are mutually strengthened, and increas'd each [Page 148] by the other, the more assurance of salvation, the more holiness, the more delight in it, and study of it as the onely way to that End, and as labour is then most pleasant when we are made surest it shall not be lost, nothing doth make the soul so nimble, and actitve in obedience as this oyle of gladness, this assured hope of glory. Again the more holiness is in the soul, the clearer always is t [...]is assurance, as we see the face of the heavens best, when there are fewest clouds· The greatest affliction doth not damp this hope so much, as the smallest sin; yea, it may be the more lively and sensible to the soul by affliction, but by sin it always suffers loss as the Experience of all Chri­stians does certainly teach them.

The Apostle exhorts to Obedience, and enforceth it by a most persuasive Reason. His exhortation is 1. Negative, not fashioning your selves. 2. Posi­tive, Be ye holy.

That which he would remove and separate them from is Lusts, This is in Scripture the usuall name of all the irregular, and sinfull desires of the heart, both the polluted habits of them, and their corrupt streams, both as they are within, and outwardly vent themselves in the Lives of Men. The Apostle St. Iohn (1 Ioh. 2, 17.) calls it the Lust of the world, and Verse 15. love of the world. And then Verse, 16. Branches it into those three, that are indeed the base Anti-trinity that the world worships, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of Life.

The soul of Man unconverted, is no other but a den of impure Lusts, wherein dwells, pride, Un­cleanness Avarice, Malice &c, just as Babylon is des­cribed. Revelation ▪ 18.2. or as Isa. 13.21. Were [Page 149] a Man's eyes opened he would as much abhorre to remaine with himself in that condition, as to dwell in a house full of Snakes, and Serpents as S. Austin says, and the first part of conversion is once to rid the soul of these noysome Inhabitants, for there is none at all found naturally vacant and fr [...]e from them; thus the Apostle here expresses it of the believers he wrote to, that these lusts were theirs before in their Ignorance.

There is a truth in it, that all sin arises from some kind of Ignorance, or at least, from present Inadver­t [...]nce, and Inconsideration, turning away the mind from the light, which therefore, for the time, is as if it were not, and is all one with Ignorance in the [...]ffect, and therefore the works of sin are all called works of darkness; for were the true visage of sin seen at a full light, undress'd, and unpainted, it were impossiable while it so appear'd, that any one soul could be in love with it, but would rather flye it as hideous, and abominable; but because the soul un­renewed is all darkness, therefore it is all lust, and love of sin, no order in it, because no light, as at the first in the world, confusion and darkness went toge­ther, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, 'tis so in the soul, the more Ignorance the more abund­ance of Lusts.

That light that frees the soul and rescues it from the very kingdome of darkness must be somewhat beyond that which nature can attaine to; all the light of Philosophy, naturall, and morall is not suffi­cient, yea, the very knowledge of the Law sever'd from Christ, serves not so to enlighten, and renew the soul, as to free it from the darkness or Ignorance [Page 150] here spoke of; for our Apostle writes to Jews, that knew the Law, and were instructed in it before their conversion, yet he calls those times wherein Christ was unknown to them the times of their Ignorance, though the stars shine never so bright, and the moon with them in its full, yet they do not all together make it day, still 'tis night till the sun appear. There­fore the Hebrew doctors upon that word of Solo­mons, Vanity of vanities all is vanity, say, vana eti­am Lex, done [...] venerit Messias. Therefore of him Zacharias sayes, that the day spring from on high hath visited us to give light to them that sit in dark­ness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

A naturall Man may attaine to very much ac­quir'd knowledge of the doctine of Christ, and may discourse excellently of it, and yet still his soul be in the chains of darkness, fast lockt up under the Ignorance here mention'd, and so still of a carnal mind in subjection to these lusts of Ignorance.

The saving light of faith is a beam of the sun of Righteousness himself, that he sends into the soul, by which he makes it discern his incomparable beauties, and by that sight alienates it from all those lusts, and desires that do then appear to be what indeed they are, vileness, and filthiness it self, makes the soul wonder at it self, how it could love such base trash so long, and so fully resolves it now, on the choyce of Jesus Christ the cheif among ten thousands, yea, the fairest of the Children of men, for that he is withall the onely begotten Son of God, the bright­ness of his fathers glory and the express image of his Person. Heb. 1.3.

[Page 151]The soul once acquainted with him, can with dis­dain turn off all the base sollicitations, and impor­tunities of sin, and command them away, that for­merly had command over it, though they plead former familiarities, and the interest they once had in the heart of a Christian before it was enlightned, and renewed. He can well tell them after his sight of Christ, that it is true, while he knew no better then they were, he thought them lovely and pleasing, but that one glance of the face of Jesus Christ, hath turn'd them all into extream blackness, and defor­mity, that so soon as ever Christ appear'd to him, they straightway lost all their credit, and esteem in his heart, and have lost it for ever, they need never look to recover it any more.

And 'its from this, that the Apostle enforceth this dehortation, 'its true the lusts, and vanities that are in request in the world were so with you, but 'twas when you were blind, they were the lusts of your Ignorance, but now you know how ill they will suite with the light of that Gospel which you profess, and that inward light of faith which is in the souls of such as be really believers.

Therefore seeing you have renounc'd them, keep them still at that distance, do not ever admitt them more to lodge within you, that sure you cannot do, but do not so much as for custom sake, and compliance with the world about you, outwardly conform your selves to any of them, or make semblance to par­take of them as S. Paul sayes, have no more fellow­ship with the unfruitfull works of darkness; but ra­ther reprove them, reprove them by your carriage, and let the light of your holy lives discover their soulness.

[Page 152]2. Positive Be yea holy. This includes the for­mer, the renouncing of the lusts, and pollutions of the world, both in heart, and life; and addes far­ther, filling of their room being cast out, with the beauti [...]ying graces of the spirit of God, and the act­ing of those in their whole conversation in private, and abroad, [...]n conversing with themselves, and conver­sing with others, whether good or bad, in a constant even cour [...]e, still like themselves, and like him who hath called them, for 'tis a most unseemly, and unpleasant thing to see a Man's life full of ups and downs, one step like a Christian, and another like a wordling, it cannot chuse but both pain himself & disedifie others.

But as he that calleth you is holy, Consider whose you are, and you cannot deny, that it becomes you to be holy, your near Relation to the holy God, this is express'd two wayes, namely, As children, and as he which hath called you. Which is all one as if he had said, hath begotten you again, the v [...]ry outward vocation of those that profess Christ, presseth holi­ness upon them, but the inward far more, you were running to destruction in the way of sin, and there was a voyce together with the Gospel preached to your ear that spake into your heart and call'd you back from that path of death, to the way of holi­ness, which is the onely way of life. He hath sever'd you from the mass of the perfane world, and pickt you out to be jewels for himself, he hath set you apart for this end, that you may be holy to him, as the Hebrew Word that signifies holiness is from set­ing [...]part, or fitting for a peculiar use, be not then u [...]true to his designe, he hath not called you to uncleanness, but unto holiness. Thes. 4. Therefore be [Page 153] ye holy, 'tis sacriledge for you to dispose of your selves, after the impure manner of the world, and to apply your selves to any profane use, whom God hath consecrated to himself.

As children] This is no doubt relative to that which he spoke, Verse 3. by way of thanksgiving, and that wherefore, of the 13. Verse, drawes it down hither by way of Exhortation. Seeing you are by a spiritual and new birth the Children of so great, and good a Father, he commands you holi­ [...]ss, be obedient Children, in being holy, and see­ing he himself is most holy, be like him as his Chil­dren, be ye holy as he is holy.

As obedient Children] Opposit to that Eph. 2 [...] Sons of disobedience, or unbelief, as the word may be rendered, and that is alwayes the spring of disso­bedience. Sons of misperswasibleness, that will not be drawn, and perswaded by the tenderest mer­cies of God. Now though this Hebrew manner of speech Sons of obedience and disobedience signifie no more but obedient or disobedient Persons, yet it doth signifie it most emphatically and means a high degree of obedience, or disobedience, these Sons of disobedience, Verse 2. are likewise Sons of wrath, Verse 3.

Of all Children the Children of God are most ob­liged to Obedience, for he is both the wisest, and the lovingest of fathers. And the summe of all his Commands is that which is their glory and happi­ness, that they endeavour to be like him, to resem­ble their heavenly father, be ye perfect as your hea­venly father is perfect, sayes our Saviour. And here the Apostle citing out of the Law, be ye holy for I [Page 154] am holy. Levit. 11.44. Law and Gospel agree in this. And as Children that resemble their Fa­thers, as they grow up in years, they grow the lik [...]r to them, thus the Children of God do increase in their resemblance, and are dai [...]y more and more renew'd after his Image. There is in them an in­nate likeness by his Image impress'd on them in their first renovation, and his spirit dwelling within them, and there is a continuing increase of it, by their pi­ous imitation, and study of conformity which is here exhorted to.

The imitation of vitious Men, and the corrupt world is here forbid, the imitation of Mens indif­ferent customes is base and servile, the imitation of the vertues of good Men is commendable: but the imitation of this highest pattern this Primitive good­ness the most holy God, is the top of Excellency. And 'tis well said: Summa Religionis est imitari quem colis. All of us offer him some kind of wor­ship, but few seriously study, and endeavour this blessed conformity.

There is no question among those that profess themselves the People of God, a select number, that are indeed his children, and bear his Image both in their hearts and in their lives, this Impres­sion of holiness is on themselves, and their conver­sation; but with the most, a name and a form of godliness is all they have for Religion. Alas! We speak of holiness, and we hear of it, and it may be we commend it, but we act it not, or if we do, 'tis but acting of it, in that sense the word is taken, for a personated acting, as on a stage in the sight of Men, not as in the sight of our lovely God, lodg­ing [Page 155] it in our hearts, and from thence diffusing it into all our actions. A child is then truly like his father, when not only his visage resembles him, but more his mind and inward disposition. Thus are the true children of God, like their heavenly father in their words, and in their actions; but most of all in heart.

'Tis no matter though the profane world (that so hate God that it cannot indure his Image) do mock and revile, 'tis thy honour as David said to be thus more vile, in growing still more like unto him in holiness, and though the civil Man count thy fashi­on a little odd, and too precise, 'tis because he knows nothing above that model of goodness he hath set himself, and therefore approves of nothing beyond it, he knowes not God, and therefore doth not discern, and esteem what is likest him. When Courtiers come down into the Country, the com­mon homebred People possibly think their habit strange, but they care not for that, 'tis the fashion at Court. What need then the Godly be so ten­der foreheaded, as to be out of countenance be­cause the world lookes on holiness as a singularity, 'tis the only fashion in the highest Court, yea, of the King of Kings himself.

For I am holy] As it will raise our endeavour high to look on the highest pattern, so it will lay our thoughts low concerning our selves: Men com­pare themselves with Men, and readily with the worst, and flatter themselves with that comparative betterness; this is not the way to see our spots, to look into the muddy streams of profane Mens lives; but look into the clear fountain of the Word, and [Page 156] there we may both discern and wash them, and con­sider the infinite holiness of God, and this will hum­ble us to the dust, when Isaiah, saw the glory of the Lord, and heard the Seraphims cry, holy, holy, holy, he cried out of his own and the Peoples un­holiness. Woe is me for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a People of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord of Hosts.

Verse 17.

‘And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every mans work, pass the time of your sojurning here in Fear.’

THe tentations that meet a Christian in the world to turn him aside from the straight way of obedience and holiness, are either such as present the hope of some apparent good, to draw him from that way; or the fear of some evil to drive and affright him from it: And therefore the word of God is much in strengthning the Christian mind against these two, and it doth it mainly by possessing it, both with hopes, and fears of a higher nature, that do by far weigh down the other.

The frequentest assaults of tentation are upon these two passions of the mind, therefore they are mainly to be fortified and defended by a hope and fear opposit to those that do assault us, and suffici­ently strong to resist and repel them.

These two therefore our Apostle here exhorts. 1. The hope of that glory that the Gospel propounds, [Page 157] and so outbids all the proffers of the World, both in the greatness, and the certainty of its promises. 2. The fear of God, the greatest and justest judge, only worthy to be fear'd and reverenc'd; the high­est anger and enmity of all the world being less then nothing in comparison of his smallest displeasure. There is here.

1. This fear. 2. The reason enforcing it. 3. The The term or continuance of it.

In fear.] But how suites this with the high dis­course that went before of perfect assured hope? of faith and Love; and Joy, yea, Joy unspeakable, and glorious, arising out of these: How are all those excellencies fallen as it were into a dungeon? when fear is mention'd after them, doth not the Apostle St. Iohn say that true love casteth out fear, and is it not more clearly opposi [...]e to perfect or assured hope and to faith and joy?

If ye understand it aright, this is such a fear as doth not prejudge, but preserve those other graces and the comfort and joy that arises from them. And they all agree so well with it, that they are naturally helps each to other.

It were superfluous to insist on the defining this passion of fear, and the manifold distinctions of it, either with Philosophers or Divines. The fear here recommended is out of question, a holy self suspicion and fear of offending God, which may not only consist with assured hope of salvation, and with faith, and love, and spiritual joy, but is their inseparable companion as all Divine Graces are linkt together, as they said of their three graces, and as they dwell together they grow or decrease toge­ther. [Page 158] The more a Christian believes, and loves, and rejoyces in the love of God, the more unwil­ling sure to displease him, and if in danger the more afraid of it; and on the other side this fear being the true principle of a wary and holy Conversa­tion, flying sin, and the occasions and tentations of sin, and resisting them when they set on, is as a watch or guard, that keeps out the Enemies, and distur­bers of the soul, and so preserves its inward peace, keeps the assurance of faith and hope unmolested, and that joy which they cause, and the intercourse and societies of love betwixt the soul and her belov­ed uninterrupted; all which are then most in dan­ger when this fear abates, and falls to slumbring; for then readily some notable sin or other breaks in, puts all into disorder; and for a time makes those graces and the comfort of them to present feeling, as much to seek, as if they were not there at all.

No wonder then if the Apostle having stirr'd up his Christian Brethren, whatsoever be their estate in the World, to seek to be rich in those Jewels of faith, and hope, and love, and spiritual joy, and then considering that they travel amongst a world of Thieves and Robbers (no wonder I say) that he addes this, advises them to give those their jewels in custody, under God, to this trusty and watchful grace of godly fear; and having earnestly exhorted them to holiness, he is very fitly particular in this fear, which makes up so great a part of that holiness, that its often in Scripture nam'd for it all.

Solomon calls it the beginning, or the top of wis­dom; the word signifies both, and it is both. The [Page 159] beginning of it is the beginning of wisdom, and the progress and increase of it, is the increase of wisdom That hardy rashness that many account valour is the companion of ignorance, and of all rashness boldness to sin, is the most witless and foolish. There is in [...] as in all fear an apprehension of an evil, where­of we are in danger. The evil is sin, and the displea­sure of God and punishing following upon sin. The Godly Man judgeth wisely as the truth is, that sin is the greatest of evils and the cause of all other evils, 'tis a transgression of the just Law of God, and so a pro­vocation of his just anger, and the cause of those punishments temporal and spiritual and Eternal which he inflicts. And then considering how migh­ty he is to punish, both the power and reach of his hand, that it is both most heavy and unavoidable. All these things may and should concurre to the working of this fear.

There is (no doubt) a great difference betwixt those two kinds of fear that are usually differenc'd by the name of servile and filial fear, but certainly the most genuine fear of the Sons of God, that call him father, doth not exclude the consideration of his justice, and of the punishment of sin that his justice inflicts; we see here 'tis us'd as the great motive of this fear, that he judgeth every Man ac­cording to his workes. And David in that Psalm wherein he so much breaths forth those other sweet affections of love, and hope, and delight in God, and in his Word, yet expresseth this fear even of the justice of God. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy Iudgements. Psal. 119.120. The flesh is to be enaw'd with divine judge­ments, [Page 160] though the higher and surer part of the soul is strongly and freely ty'd with the cords of Love, temporal corrections indeed▪ they fear not so much in themselves, as that Impression of wrath that may be upon them for their sins. Psal. 6.1 &c. That is the main matter of their fear, because their happi­ness is in his Love and the light of his countenance, tha [...]' [...] their life, they regard not how the world look [...] upon them, care not who frown so he smile [...] and because no other enemy nor evil in [...] can prejudge them in this but their own sin, [...] it is that they fear most.

As the evil is great, so the Christian hath great reason to fear in regard of his danger of it, consider­ing the multitude, and strength, and craft of his enemies, and his own weakness and unskilfulness to resist them, and his sad experience in being often foyled, reacheth him that it is thus; he cannot be ignorant of it, he finds how often his own resolves and purposes de [...]eive him. Certainly a godly Man is sometimes driven to wonder at his own frailty and unconstancy, what strange differences will be, be­twixt him and himselfe, how high and how de­lightful at some times are his thoughts of God, and the glory of the life to come, and yet how easily at another time, base tentations will bemire him, or at the least molest and vex him, and this keeps him in a continual fear, and that fear in continual vigi­lancy and circumspectness. When he looks up to God and considers the truth of his Promises, and the sufficiency of his grace and protection, and the Al­mighty strength of his Redeemer, these things fill his soul with confidence and assurence: But when [Page 161] he turnes his eye downward again upon himself, and finds so much remaining corruption within, and so many tentations and dangers and adversaries without, this forces him not onely to fear but to despair of himself; and it should doe so, that his trust in God may be the purer and more entire: That confidence in God will not make him secure and presumptuous in himself, nor that fear of himself make him diffident of God. This fear is not opposite to faith but high-mindedness and presumption is, Rom. 11.20. To a naturall mind it would seem an odd kind of reason­ing that of the Apostle Phil. 2.12.13. 'Tis God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. Therefore (would he think) you may save a labour you may sit still, and not work, or if you work you may work fearlesly, being so sure of his help, but the Apostle is of another mind, his inference is therefore Work out your own salvation and work it with fear and trembling.

But he that hath assurance of Salvation why should he fear, if there is truth in his assurance nothing can disappoint him, not sin it self; 'tis true, but it is no less true, that if he do not fear to sin, there is no truth in his assurance: 'tis not the assurance of faith, but the mispersuasion of a secure and profane mind. 2. Suppose it so; that the sins of a godly Man cannot be such as to cut him short of that salvation whereof he is assur'd, yet they may be such as for a time will deprive him of that assurance, and not onely remove the comfort he hath in that, but let in horrours, and anguish of conscience in its stead; though a Believer is freed from hell (and we may overstrain this assurance in our doctrine, beyond what the soberest [Page 162] and devoutest Men in the world can ever find in them­selves, though they will not trouble themselves to contest and dispute with them that say they have it) so that his soul cannot come there, yet some sins may bring as it were a piece of hell into his soul for a time, and this is reason enough for any Christian in his right wits to be affraid of sin. No man would will­ingly hazard himself upon a fall that may break his leg, or some other bone, though he could be made sure, both that he should not break his neck, or that his life were not at all in danger, and that he should be perfectly cur'd; yet the pain, and trouble of such a hurt would scarre him, and make him warry and fearfull when he walks in danger. The broken bones that David complains of after his fall, may work fear and warriness in these that hear him, though they were ascertain'd of a like recovery.

This fear is not cowardise, it doth not debase, but Elevates the mind, for it drownes all lower fears, and begets true fortitude, and courage to encounter all dangers, for a good Conscience, and the obeying of God. The Righteous is bold as a Lyon, he dares doe any thing, but offend God; and to dare that is the greatest folly, and baseness, and weakness in the world. From this fear have sprung all the generous Resolutions, and patient sufferings of the Saints, and Martyrs of God, because they durst not sin against him; therefore they durst be imprison'd, and impo­verish'd, and tortur'd, and dye for him. Thus the Prophet I say sets carnall, and godly fear as opposite, and the one expelling the other. Isa. 8.12.13. And our Saviour, Luke 12.4. Fear not them that kill the body: But fear him which after he hath kill'd [Page 163] hath power to cast into hell▪ yea, I say unto you, fear him. fear not, but fear, and therefore fear, that you may not fear. This fear is like the trembling that hath been observed in some great Courages before their battels, Moses was bold, and fearless in dealing with a proud and wicked King, but when God ap­peared he said, sayes the Apostle, I exceedingly fear, and quake. Heb. 12.21.

The Reason that we have here to perswade this Fear, is twofold. 1. Their Relation to God. 2. Their Relation to the world.

First. To God as their Father, as their Judge, because you do call him father, and profess your selves his Children, begotten again by him (for this looks back to that) it becomes you as obedient Child­ren to stand in awe, and fear to offend him your father, and a father so full of Goodness, and tender love, but as he is the best father, so consider, that he is withall, the greatest, and justest judge, Iudges according to every mans work.

God allwayes sees, and discerns Men, and all their work, and judgeth, that is, accounteth of them as they are, and sometimes in this life declares, this his judgement of them to their own Consciences, and in some to the view of others, in visible punshments, and rewards: but the most solemn judgement of all is reserv'd to that Great day which he hath appoint­ed Wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by his son Iesus. Act. 17, 32.

There is here, The Soveraignty of this judge, the universality of his Judgement, and the Equity of it. all must answer at his great Court, he is supreme Judge of the world, he made it, and hath therefore [Page 164] unquestionable right to Judge it, he judgeth every­man; and 'tis a most righteous Judgement, which hath these two in it. First, an exact and perfect knowledge of all Mens works. 2. impartiall judge­ment of them so known. This Second is express'd negatively, by removing the crooked Rule which mans judgement often follows, 'its without Consi­deration of those personall differences that men eye so much. And the first is according to the work it self. Iob. 34.19. He accepteh not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor, and the reason is added, therefore they are all the work of his hands. He made all the persons, and he makes all those differences himself as it pleaseth him, there­fore he doth not admire them as we do, no, nor at all regard them: we find very great odds betwixt stately palaces, and poor Cottages, betwixt a Princes Robes, and a Beggars Cloak; but to God, they are all one, all these petty differences vanish in Com­parison of his own greatness, Men are great, and small compar'd one with another, but they all together amount to just nothing in respect of him: We find high mountains and low valleys on this Earth, but compar'd with the vast compass of the heavens 'tis all but as a point, and hath no sensible greatness at all.

Nor regards he any other differences to byasse his Judgement, from the works of men, to their persons. You profess the true Religion, and call him Father; but if you live devoid of his fear, and be disobedient Children, he will not spare you because of that Re­lation, but rather punish you the more severely, because you pretended to be his Children, and yet [Page 165] obeyed him not, therefore you shall find him your Judge and an impartiall Judge of your works. Remem­ber therefore that your father is this Judge, and fear to offend him: But then indeed a Believer may look back to the other for comfort, that abuses it not to a sinfull security. He resolves thus willingly, I will not sin, because my father is this just Judge; but for my frailties I will hope for mercy, because the Judge is my father.

Their works, comprehends all actions, and words; yea, thoughts, and each work intirely taken outside and inside together, for he sees all alike and judgeth according to all together, he looks on the wheels, and paces within, as well as on the handle without, and therefore ought we to fear the least crookedness of our intentions in the best works; for if we entertain any such, and study not singleness of heart this will cast all, though we pray, and hear the word, and preach it, and live outwardly unblameably. And in that great Judgement, all secret things shall be ma­nifest; as they are alwayes open to the eye of this Judge, so he shall then open them before Men, and Angels: therefore let the Remembrance, and fre­quent Consideration of this all-seeing Judge, and of that great Judgement wean our hearts, and beget in us this fear. 2 Cor. 5.10.11. If you would have confidence in that day, and not fear it when it comes, fear it now, so as to avoid sin, for they that now tremble at it, shall then, when it comes, lift up their faces with joy, and they that will not fear it now, shall then be overwhelm'd with fears, and terrour, they shall have such a burden of fear then, as that they shall account the hills and mountains lighter than it.

[Page 166] Pass the time of your Sojourning here in Fear, In this I conceive is Implied another persuasive of this fear. You are Sojurners, and Strangers, as here the word signifies, and a warry circumspect carriage be­comes strangers, because they are most expos'd to wrongs and hard accidents: You are encompassed with enemies and snares, how can you be secure in the midst of them? this is not your rest, watchfull fear becomes this your sojurning. Perfect peace, and security is reserved for you at home, and that's the last term of this fear, it continues all the time of this sojurning life, dyes not before us, we and it shall expire together.

Blessed is he that feareth alwayes says Salomon, in secret, and in society, in his own house, and in Gods, we must hear the word with fear, and preach it with fear, affraid to miscarry in our Intentions, and Man­ners. Serve the Lord with fear: yea, in times of inward comfort, and joy; yet, rejoyce with trembl­ing. Psa. 2.11. Not onely when he feels most his own weakness, but when he finds himself strongest: None so high advanc'd in Grace here below, as to be out of need of this Grace; but when their sojourning shall be done, and they are come home to their fa­thers house above, then no more fearing. No entry for dangers, there and therefore no fear: A holy Reverence of the Majesty of God they shall indeed have then most of all, as the Angels still have, be­cause they shall see him most clearly, and the more he is known, the more Revernc'd: but this Fear that relates to danger shall then vanish: For there, there is neither sin, nor sorrow for sin, nor tentation to sin, no more Conflicts; but after a full, and [Page 167] finall victory an Eternall peace an Everlasting Triumph. Not onely fear; but faith and hope do im­ply some Imperfection not consistent with that blessed Estate, and therefore all of them having obtained their End, shall end; Faith in sight, and Hope in posse­ssion, and fear in perfect safety, and Everlasting Love and delight shall fill the whole soul in the vision of God.

Verse. 18.

‘For as much as ye know, that ye were not Re­deemed with corruptible things, as Silver, and Gold, from your vain Conversation received by tradition from your fathers.’

IT is Impossible for a Christian to give himself to conforme with the world's ungodliness, unless first, he forget who he is, and by what means he attain'd to be what he is; therefore the Apostle per­suading his Brethren no holiness, puts them in mind of this, as the strongest incentive; not onely have you the Example of God set before you as your father, to beget in you the love of holiness, being your liveliest resemblance of him; and the justice of God as your Judge, to argue you into a pious fear of offending him; but Consider this, that he is your Redeemer, he hath bought out your liberty from sin, and the world to be altogether his, and think on the price laid down in this Ransome, and these out of question will prevaile with you.

[Page 168]We have here The evil dissuaded from, viz. A vain Conversation, 2. the dissuasion it self. 1. 'tis called Their vain Conversation. 2. Receiv'd by tradition from their fathers. By this I conceive, is not onely understood the superstitions, and vain devices in Religion, that abounded amongst the Jews by tradition, of which our Saviour often reproved them while he was con­versant amongst them, as we find in the Gospel, and all this was mean't, Verse, 14. by the Lusts of their former ignorance: but generally all the corrupt, and sinfull customes of their lives: for it seems not so pertinent to his purpose exhorting to Holiness of life, to speak of their superstitious▪ Traditions as their other sinfull habitudes, which are no less hereditary, and by the power of Example traditionall; which by reason of their common Root in Mans sinfull nature, do so easily pass from parents to Children, Nature making their Example powerfull, and the Corruption of Nature giving i [...] most power in that which is Evill. And this is the rather mention'd to take away the force of it, and cut of that influence which it might have had into their mindes, there is a kind of Conversation that the authority of your fathers pleads for▪ but Remember, that it is that very thing from which you are delivered, and called to a new estate and form of life, and have a new patterne set before you instead of that corrupt Example.

'Tis one great Errour, not onely in Religion and manners, but even in humane science, that Men are ready to take things upon trust unexamin'd, from these that went before them, partly out of easiness, and sparing the paines of triall▪ partly out of a su­perstitious overesteem of their Authority: but the [Page 169] chief Reason why corruptions in Religion, and prac­tice of preceeding ages, take so much with poste­rity, is that before mention'd, the universal sym­pathy, and agreement that those evils have with the corrupt Nature of Man,

The Prophet Ezekiel observes this particularly in the Jewes, Chap. 20. Verse 24. That their eyes were after their Fathers Idols, Contrary to Gods express forewarning, Verse 18. This was the great quar­rel of the Heathens against the Christian Religion in the Primitive times, that it was new, and unknown to their Fathers, and the ancient Writers of those times are frequent in shewing the vanity of this ex­ception, particularly Lactantius, Instit. lib. 2. cap. 7, 8. The same prejudice doth the Church of Rome sing over continually against the Reform'd Re­ligion, where was it before Luther, &c. But this is a foolish and reasonless diversion from the search of Truth, because Errour is more at hand, or from the entertaining it being found, because falshood is in possession.

As in Religion, so in the course and practise of Mens lives, the stream of sin runs from one age into another, and every age makes it greater, adding somewhat to what it receives, as Rivers grow in their course, by the accession of Brookes that fall into them, and every Man when he is born falls like a drop into this main current of Corruption, and so is carried with it down, and this by reason of its strength, and his own nature which willingly dis­solves into it, and runs along with it. In thi [...] is manifest the power of Divine Grace in a Mans Con­version, that it severs him so powerfully from the [Page 170] prophane World, and gives him strength to run contrary to the great current of wickedness, that is round about him, in his Parents possibly, and in his Kindred, and Friends, and in the most of Men that he meets withal. The voice of God▪ that pow­erful word of Effectual calling that he speaks in to the heart, makes a Man break through all, and leave all to [...]ollow God, as Abraham did, being called out from his kindred and Fathers house, to journey towards the Land that God had pro­mis'd him. And this is that which is spoke to the Church, and to each believing soul by the spirit of God. Forget also thine own People and thy Fathers house so shall the King greatly delight in thy beauty, regard not what others think, though thy nearest friends; but study only to please him, and then thou shalt please him indeed, do not deform thy face with looking out a squint to the custom of the World, but look straight forward on him, and so thou shalt be beautiful in his eyes. When God calls a Man in a remarkable manner, his pro­phane Friends are all in a tumult, what needs this, to be more precise then we, and all your Neighbours; But all this is a confused noise, that works nothing on the heart that the Lord hath touched; it must follow him, though by trampling upon friends, and kindred if they lye in the way, we see how power­fully a word from Christ drew his Disciples to leave all and follow him.

The Exhortation, is against all sinful and unholy conversation, by what Authority, and Example so­ever recommended to us, the Apostles Reasons in those words are strong, and pressing, there is [Page 171] one express'd in the very Name he gives it, 'tis vain Conversation.

The mind of Man the Guide, and source of his actions, while it is Estranged from God, is nothing but a forge of vanities, the Apostle St. Paul speaks this of the Gentiles, that they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkned, Rom. 1.21. Their great Naturalists and Philoso­phers not excepted, and the more they strove to play the wise men, the more they befool'd, themselves, thus likewise Eph. 4.17. and thus the Lord com­plains by his Prophet of the extream folly of his Peo­ple, Isay. 44.20. and by Ieremy that their bear [...]s are lodges of vain thoughts, and these are the true cause of a vain Conversation.

The whole course of a Mans life out of Christ, is nothing but a continual trading in Vanity, run­ning a Circle of toyle and labour, and reaping no profit at all. This is the vanity of every natural Mans Conversation, that not only others are not benefited by it, but it is fruitless to himself, there arises▪ to him no solid good out of it. That is most truly vain, that attains not its proper end: Now all a Mans endeavours aiming at his satisfaction, and Contentment, that Conversation that gives him nothing of that, but removes him further from it, is justly called vain conversation. What fruit had ye sayes the Apostle, in those things whereof ye are now asham'd; Either count that shame that (at the best) growes out of them, their fruit, or confess they have none, therefore they are called the un­fruitful works of darkness.

Let the Voluptuous Person say it out upon his [Page 172] death-bed, what pleasure, or profit doth then abide with him of all his former sinful delights. Let him tell if there remain any thing of them all, but that, that he would gladly not have to remain, the sting of an accusing Conscience, which is as lasting as the delight of sin was short, and evanishing. Let the cove­tous, and ambitious, declare freely, even those of them that have prospered most in their pursuit of Riches, and Honour, what ease all their Possessi­ons, or titles do then help them to, whether their pains are the less, because their Chests are full, or their Houses stately, or multitude of friends, and servants, waiting on them with Hat and Knee, and if all these things cannot ease the body, how much less can they quiet the mind. And therefore is it not true, that all pains in these things, and the un­even wayes into which they sometimes stept aside to serve those ends, and generally that all the wayes of sin, wherein they have wearied themselves, were vain Rollings, and tossings up and down, not tend­ing to acertain Haven of peace and happiness, 'tis a lamentable thing to be deluded all a Life time with a false dream, Isa. 2.8.

You that are going on in the common Road of sin, although many, and possibly your own Parents have trod it before you, and the greatest part of these you now know are in it with you and keep you Company in it; yet be perswaded to stop a lit­tle, and ask your selves, what it is you seek, or expect in the end of it, would it not grieve any la­bouring Man to work hard all the day, and have no wages to look for at night, 'tis a greater loss to wear out our whol [...] life, and in the evening of our [Page 173] dayes find nothing, but anguish and vexation. Let us then think this, that so much of our life as is spent in the wayes of sin, is all lost fruitless and vain Conversation.

And in so far as the Apostle saye here. You are re­deemed from this Conversation, this Imports it a [...]er­vile slavish Condition, as the other word expresses it, to live fruitless. And this is the Madness of a sinner, that he fancies Liberty in that which is the basest thraldome, as those poor frentique Persons that are lying ragged▪ and bound in Chaines, yet Imagine that they are Kings, that their Irons are Chaines of gold, their rags Robes, and their filthy Lodge a Pallace. As 'tis misery to be liable to the sentence of death, so 'tis slavery to be subject to the dominion of sin, and he that is delivered from the one is likewise set free from the other. There is one Re­demption from both. He that is redeem'd from de­struction by the blood of Christ, is likewise redeem'd from that vain, and unholy Conversation that lead [...] to it. So Tit. 2.14. Our Redeemer was anointed for this purpose, not to free the Captives from the sentence of death, and yet leave them still in Pri­son, but to proclaim liberty to them, and the open­ing of the Prison to those that are bound, Isa. 61.1.

You easily perswade your selves that Christ hath died for you, and Redeem'd you from Hell, but you Consider not, that if it be so, he hath likewise Re­deem'd you from your vain Conversation, and both set you free from the service of sin [...] ▪ Certainly while you find not that, you can have no assurance of the other, if the Chaines of sin continue still upon you▪ for any thing you can know, these Chaines do bind [Page 174] you over to the other Chaines of darkness, the Apostle speaks of. Let us not delude our selves, if we find the love of sin, and of the World work stronger in our hearts, than the love of Christ, we are not as yet partakers of his Redemption.

But if we have indeed laid hold upon him, as our Redeemer, then are we Redeem'd from the service of sin, not only from the grossest Profaness, but even from all kind of fruitless, and vain Conversa­tion. And therefore ought to stand fast in that Li­berty and not entangle our selves again to any of our former vanities.

Not redeemed with Corruptible things] From the high price of our Redemption the Apostle doth mainly inforce our Esteem of it, and the preserva­tion of that liberty so dearly bought, and the avoid­ing all that unholiness, and vain conversation, from which we are freed by that Redemption. 1. He expresseth it negatively, not with corruptible things, (Oh foolish we, that hunt them, as if they were Incorruptible▪ and Everlasting treasures) no, not the best of them, these that are in highest account with Men, not with Silver and Gold, these are not of any value at all towards the Ransom of Souls, they cannot buy off the death of the Body, nor cannot purchase the continuance of temperal life, much less can they reach to the worth of Spiritual and Eternal life. The precious soul could not be redeem'd but by blood, and by no blood but that of this spotless Lamb Jesus Christ, who is God equal with the Fa­ther. And therefore his Blood is called the blood of God. Act. 20. So that the Apostle may well call it here precious, exceeding the whole World, [Page 175] and all things in it in value. Therefore frustrate not the sufferings of Christ, if he shed his blood to Redeem you from sin, be not false to his End.

As of a Lamb without blemish.] He is that great and everlasting Sacrifice that gave value, and ver­tue to all the Sacrifices under the Law; their blood was of no worth to the purging away of sin, but by Relation to his blood, and the Laws concerning the choyce of the Pascall Lamb, or other Lambs for Sacrifice, were but obscure and imperfect shadowes of his purity and perfections, who is the undefiled Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the World. A Lamb in meekness, and silence, he opened not his mouth. Isa. 53.7. And in purity, here, without spot or blemish. My well beloved, sayes the Spouse, is white and ruddy, white in spotless Innocency, and red in suffering a bloody death.

For as much as ye know] 'Tis that must make all this effectual, the right Knowledge, and due Con­sideration of it: Ye do know it already, but I would have you know it better, more deeply and practi­cally, turn it often over, be more in the study, and meditation of it, there is work enough in it still for the discerningest mind, it [...] a mystery so deep, that you shall never reach the bottom of it, and withall so useful, that you shall find alwayes new profit by it: Our folly is, we gape after new things and yet are in effect Ignorant of the things we think we know best, that learned Apostle that knew so much, and spake so many tongues, yet I determined, sayes he, to know nothing among you, save Iesus Christ and him Crucified, 1 Cor. 2.2. And again he expresses this as the top of his Ambition, [Page 176] that I may know him, and the power of his Resur­rection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; That Conformity is this only knowledge. He that hath his lusts un­mortified, and a heart unweaned from the World, though he know all the history of the death, and suf­ferings of Jesus Christ, and can discourse well of them, yet indeed he knows them not.

If you would increase much in holiness, and be strong against the Tentations of sin, this is the only art of it, view much, and so seek to know much of the death of Jesus Christ, Consider often at how high a ra [...]e we were redeem'd from sin, and provide this answer for all the enticements of sin, and the world▪ except you can offer my soul something be­yond that price, that was given for it on the cross, I cannot hearken to you. Far be it from me (will a Christian say, that considers this Redemption) that ever I should prefer a base lust, or any thing in this World, or it all to him that gave himselfe to death for me, and payed my Ransom with his blood: his matchless love hath freed me from the miserable Captivity of sin, and hath for ever fasten­ed me to the sweet yoke of his Obedience: Let him alone to dwell and rule within me and let him never go forth from my heart▪ who for my sake refus'd to come down from the Cross.

Verse. 20.

‘Who verily was foreordained before the founda­tion of the world; but was manifest in these last times for you.’

OF all those Considerations (and there are many) that may move Men to Obedience, there is none that persuades both more sweetly, and strongly then the sense of Gods goodness, and mercy towards Men, and amongst all the Evidences of that, there is none like the sending, and giving of his Son for Mans redemption, therefore the Apostle having mentioned that, insists further in it, and in these words expresses the performance, and the Application of it.

1. The purpose, or Decree foreknown, but 'tis well rendred, fore ordained, for this knowing is De­creeing, and there is little either solid truth or profit in the distinguishing them,

We say usually, that where there is little wisdom there is much chance, and comparitively amongst Men, some are far more foresighted, and of further Reach then others, yet the wisest, and most provi­dent Men, both wanting skill to designe all things a­ [...]ight, and power to act as they contrive, meet with many unexpected Casualties, and often Disappoint­ments in their undertakings, but with God, where both wisdom, and power are infinite, there can be neither any Chance, nor Resistance from without, nor [Page 178] any Imperfection at all in the contrivance of things neither himself can give that cause to add or abate or alter any thing in the frame of his purposes. The modell of the whole world, and of all the course of time was with him one and the same from all Etenity, and whatsoever is brought to pass, is exactly answer­able to that pattern, for with him there is no change, nor shaddow of turning. Iam. 1.17. There is no­thing dark to the father of lights, he sets at one view through all things, and all ages, from the beginning of time to the end of it, yea, from Eternity to Eter­nity. And this Inccomprehensible wisdom is too won­derfull for us, we do but childishly stammer, when we offer to speak of it.

It is no wonder that Men beat their own braines, and knock their heads one against another, in the contest of their opinions to little purpose, in their severall Mouldings of Gods Decree. Is not this to cut, and square Gods thoughts to ours, and Examine his Soveraign purposes, by the low principles of Humane wisdom, how much more learned, then all such knowledge; is the Apostles Ignorance, when he crys out, O the depth of the Riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearch­able are his judgements, and his wayes past finding out. Rom. 11.33. Why then should any man d [...]bate what place, in the series of Gods decree, is to be assign'd to this purpose of sending his son in the flesh, Let us rather (seeing it is manifest that it was for the Redemption of lost Mankind) admire that same Love of God to mankind that appears in that purpose of our recovery by the word made flesh, that before Man had made himself miserable, yea, before either [Page 179] he or the world was made this thought of boundless love was in the bosome of God to send his son forth from thence, to bring fallen Man out of misery and restore him to happiness and to do this not onely by taking on his nature▪ but the curse, to shift it off from us, that were sunk under it, and to bear it himself, and by bearing it to take it away, he laid on him the iniquity of us all, And to this he was appoint­ed says the Apostle. Heb. 3, 2.

Before the foundation of the world] This we understand by Faith, that the world was framed by the word of God; Although the Learned probably think it evincible by humane Reason, yet some of those that have gloried most in that, and are reputed generally masters of Reason, have not seen it by that light, therefore, that we may have a divine belief of it, we must learn it from, the word of God and be persuaded of its truth by the spirit of God, that the whole world, and all things in it, were drawn out of Nothing by his almighty power, that is the one­ly Eternal, and Increated being, and therefore the fountain and source of being to all things▪

Foundation▪] In this word is cl [...]ar the Resem­blance of the world to a building, and such a building it is, as doth evidence the greatness of him that fram'd it, so spacious, Rich, and comely, so firm a foundation and rais'd to so high, and stately a roofe, and set it with variety of stars as with Jewels, there­fore call'd, as some conceive it, Psa. 8. the work of his fingers ▪ to express the curious artifice that appears in them. Though Naturalists can give the reason of the earth's stability from its heaviness, which stayes it necessarily in the lowest part of the world▪ yet▪ [Page 178] [...] [Page 179] [...] [Page 180] that abates nothing our admiring the wisdom, and power of God, in laying its foundation so, and esta­blishing it for it is his will that is the first cause of that its nature, and hath appointed that to be the property of its heaviness to fix it there, and there­fore Iob alledeges this amongst the wonderfull works of God, and evidences of his power that he hangeth the earth upon nothing.

Before there was Time, or place, or any Creature, God, the blessed Trinity, was in himselfe (and as the Prophet speaks) inhabiting Eternity, compleatly happy in himself; but intending to manifest, and com­municate his goodness, he gave beginning to the world, and to time with it, made all to set forth his goodness, and the most excellent of his Creatures to contemplate, and enjoy it: But amongst all the works that he intended before time, and in time effected, this is the master piece, that is here said to be for [...] ­ordained the manifesting of God in the flesh, for mans Redemption; and that by his son Jesus Chirst, as the first born amonst many brethren. That those appointed for salvation should be rescued from the common misery, and be made one mysticall body whereof Christ is the head, and so entitled to that Everlasting glory and happiness that he hath pur­chas'd for them.

This, I say, is the great work, wherein all those glorious attributes shine joyntly, the Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness, and Justice, and Mercy of God; as in great Maps, or Pictures, you will see the border decor'd with Meadows, and fountains, and flowers &c. Represented in it; but in the middle you have the main designe, thus is this fore­ordained [Page 181] Redemption amongst the works of God, all his other works in the world, all the beauty of the Creatures, and the succession of Ages, and things that come to pass in them, are but as the border to this as the main piece: But as a foolish unskillfull beholder, not discerning the excellency of the princi­pall piece in such Maps, or Pictures gazes onely on the fair border, and goes no futher, thus do the greatest part of us; our eyes are taken with the goodly show of the world and appearnce of earthly things, but this great work of God, Christ foreordained, in time sent for our Redemption, though it most de­serves our attentive regard, yet we do not view and consider it as we ought.

Was manifested in those last times for you.] This is the performance of that purpose, he was manifest­ed, both by his Incarnation, according to that word of the Apostle St. Paul, Manifested in the flesh, &c. manifested by his marvellous Works, and Doctrine, and by his Sufferings, and Death, and Resurrection, and Ascension▪ by the sending down of the Holy Ghost according to his promise, and by the preaching of the Gospel, in the fulness of time that God had ap­pointed, wherein all the prophecies that foretold his comeing, and all the Types, and Ceremonies that prefigur'd him had their accomplishment.

The times of the Gospell are called the last times often by the Prophets; for that the Jewish Priest­hood, and Ceremonies being abolished, that which succeeded was appointed by God to remain the same to the End of the world, besides this, the time of our Saviours Incarnation may be called the last tiemes, because, although it were not near the End of [Page 182] time by many ages, yet in all probability it is much nearer the end of time then the beginning of it, some resemble the time of his sufferings in the end of the world, to the paschal Lamb in the Evening.

It was doubtless the [...] time, but not withstand­ing the Schoolmen offer at reasons to prove the fit­ness of it, as their humour is to prove all things. None dare I think conclude, but if God had so ap­pointed, it might have been either sooner, or later, and our safest is to rest in that, that it was the fit time, because so it pleased him, and to seek no other Reason, why having promis'd the Messiah so quickly after Man's fall, he deferr'd his coming about Four Thousand years, and a great part of that time shut up the knowledge of himself, and the true Religion, within the narrow compass of that one nation of which Christ was to be born: Of these and such like things we can give no other reason but that which he teach­eth us in a like case, even so Father because it seemeth good unto thee.

For you▪] The Apostle represents these things to those he writes to particularly for their use, there­fore he applies it to them, but without prejudice of the Believers that went before, or of those that were to follow in after ages. He that is here said to be foreappointed before the foundation of the world, is therefore called▪ a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And as the vertue of his death looks backward to all preceeding ages, whose Faith and Sa­crifices look'd forward to it, so the same death is of force and perpetuall value to the End of the world▪ after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, says the Apostle, to the Heb [...] He sate down on the [Page 183] right hand of God▪ for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The Crosse on which he was extended points in the length of it to Heaven and Earth reconciling them toge­ther, and in the breadth of it to former and follow­ing ages, as being equally salvation to both.

If this appropriating, and peculiar interest in Jesus Christ is not happiness without which it availes not that he was ordained from Eternity, and in Time manifested, 'tis not the Generall contemplation, but the peculiar possession of Christ that gives both solid Comfort and strong persuasion to Obedience, and Holyness which is here the Apostle's particular sc [...]e.

Verse 21.

‘Who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory that your Faith and hope might be in God.’

NOW because 'tis Faith that gives the soul this particular title to Jesus Christ, the Apostle addes that, to declare who he meant by You; (sayes he) who by him do believe in God, &c.

Where we have. 1. The compleat Object of Faith. 2. The Ground, or Warrant of it. The object, God in Christ. The Ground or warrant, In that he raised him up from the dead and gave him glory.

[Page 184]A Man may have (living out of Christ) yea, he must, he cannot chuse but have a conviction within him that there is a God, and further he may have, even out of Christ, some kind of belief of those things that are spoken concerning God, but to repose on God, as his God, and his Salvation which is indeed to believe in him, this cannot be, but where Christ is the mids through which we look upon God; for so long as we look upon God through our own Guiltiness, we can see nothing, but his wrath, and apprehend him as an armed enemy, and be so far off from resting on him, as our happiness, that the more we view it, it puts us upon the more speed to fly from him, and to cry out, Who can dwell with Everlasting burnings, and abide with a consum­ing fire: But our Saviour taking sin out of the way, put himself betwixt our sins, and God, and so makes a wonderfull change of our apprehension of him. When you look through a red glass, the whole Heavens seem bloody: But through pure unco­ [...]our'd glass, you receive the clear light, that is so refreshing and comfortable to behold: When Sin unpardoned is betwixt, and we look on God through that, we can perceive nothing but Anger, and Enmi­ty in his Countenance: But make Christ once the Medium, our pure Redeemer, and through him as clear transparent Glass, the beams of Gods favour­able Countenance shine in upon the soul, the Father cannot look upon his wellbeloved son, but graciously and pleasingly. God lookes on us out of Christ, sees us rebels, and fit to be condemn'd, we look on God as being just and powerfull to punish us▪ but when Christ is betwixt, God looks on us in him, as justi­fied, [Page 185] and we look on God in him as pacified, and see the smiles of his favourable countenance: Take Christ out, all is terrible; interpose him, all is full of peace. Therefore set him always betwixt, and by him we shall believe in God.

The warrant and ground of believing in God by him is this that God rais'd him from the dead, and gave him glory, which evidences the full satisfaction of his death, and in all that work both in his humi­liation, and exaltation standing in our room, we may repute it his as ours: if all is payed that could be exacted of him, and therefore he set free from death, then are wee acquitted and have nothing to pay: If he was rais'd from the dead and exalted to glory then so shall we, he hath taken possession of that glory for us and we may judge our selves possessed in it, already, because he our head possesseth it. And this the last words of the Verse confirm to us, in meaning this to be the very purpose and end for which God having given him to death raised him up and gave him glory, its for this end expressly that our faith and hope might be in God: The last end is that we may have life and glory through him; the nearer end, that in the mean while, till we attain them, we may have firme belief and hope of them, and rest on God as the giver of them, and so in part enjoy them be­fore hand, and be upheld in our joy and conflicts by the comfort of them; and as St. Steven in his vision, faith doth in a spirituall way look through all the visible heavens, and see Christ at the Fathers right hand, and is comforted by that in the greatest troubles, though it were amidst a showre of stones, as he. The comfort is no less than this, that being by faith [Page 186] made one with Christ, his present glory wherein he [...]its at the Fathers right hand is assurance to us, that where he is we shall be also.

Verse 22.

‘Seeing ye have purified your Souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeign­ed Love of the brethren; see that ye Love one another with a pure heart fervently.’

JEsus Christ is made unto us of God, Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, 1 Cor. 1.30. 'Tis a known truth, and yet very needful to be often represented to us, that Redemp­tion and holiness are undivided Companions, yea, that we are redeem'd on purpose for this End, that we should be Holy. The pressing of this, we see is here the Apostles scope, and having by that reason enforc'd it in the general, he now takes that as con­cluded, and confess'd, and so makes use of it par­ticularly to exhort that main Christian Grace of brotherly love.

The Obedience, and holiness mention'd in the foregoing Verses, comprehends the whole duties, and and frame of a Christian life towards God, and Men and having urg'd that in the general, he speci­fies this Grace of mutual Christian Love, as the great Evidence of their sincerity, and the truth of [Page 187] their Love to God: for Men are subject to much hypocrisie this way, and deceive themselves if they find themselves diligent in religious Exercises, they scarce once ask their hearts, how they stand affected this way, Namely, in love to their Brethren. They can come constantly to the Church, and pray, it may be, at home too, and yet cannot find in their hearts to forgive an Injury.

As forgiving Injuries argues the truth of Piety, so 'tis that which makes all converse both sweet and profitable, and besides it Graces, and commends Men, and their holy profession to such as are with­out and strangers to it, yea, even to their Enemies.

Therefore is it, that our Saviour doth so much recommend this to his Disciples, and they to others as we see in all their Epistles.. He gives it them as the very badge and Livery by which they should be known for his followers, by this shall all men know that ye are my Disciples, if ye Love one another. And St. Paul is frequent in exhorting and extolling this Grace Rom. 12.10. & 13.8. 1 Cor. 1.13 Gal. 5.13. Eph. 4.2. and in many other places. Colloss. 3.14. he calls it the bond of perfectness, that Grace which unites, and binds all together. Our Apostle here, and of­ten in this and the other Epistle, and that beloved Disciple St. Iohn who leaned on our Saviours brest, drunk deep of that spring of Love that was here, and therefore it streams forth so abundantly in his writings, they contain nothing so much as this di­vine Doctrine of Love.

We have here 1. The due Qualifications of it· 2. A Christians Obligation to it.

The Qualifications are three: Namely, sincerity, [Page 188] purity and fervency. The sincerity express'd in the former clause of the Verse, unfeigned Love and re­peated again in the latter part, that it be with a pure heart, as the purity is in fervency.

It appears that this dissimulation is a disease that is very incident in this particular. The Apostle St. Paul hath the same word, Rom. 12.9. And the the Apostle St. Iohn to the same sense, 1 Ioh. 3.18. That it have that double reality, which is opposed to double dissembled love, that it be Cordial, and Effectual that the professing of it arise from truth of affection, and as much as may be, be seconded with action; that both the heart, and the hand may be more the seal of it than the tongue. Not Court­holy water, an empty noise of Service, and affecti­on, that fears nothing more than to be put upon tryal. Although thy Brother with whom thou conversest cannot, it may be, see through thy false appearances, he that commands this Love looks most within, seeks it there, and if he find it not there, hates them most that most pretend it; so that art of dissembling, never so well studied, cannot pass in this Kings Court, to whom all hearts are open, and all desires known. When after Vari­ances Men are brought to an agreement, they are much subject to this, rather to cover their remain­ing malices with superficial verbal forgiveness, than to dislodge them, and free the heart of them, this is a poor self deceit, as the Philosopher said to him that being ashamed that he was espyed by him in a Ta­vern in the outer Room withdrew himself to the inner, he called after him, thats not the way out, the more you go that way you will be the further [Page 189] within it. When hatreds upon admonition are not thrown out, but retire inward to hide themselves, they grow deeper, and stronger than before, and those constrained semblances of reconcilement are but a false healing, do but skin it over, and there­fore usually it breaks forth worse again.

How few are there that have truly maliceless hearts, and find this intire upright affection towards their Brethren meeting them in their whole Con­versation, this Law of love deeply impress'd on their hearts, and from thence express'd in their words, and actions, and that is unfeigned love as real to their Brethren as to themselves.

2. It must be pure, from a pure heart, this is not all one with the former as some take it: 'Tis true doubleness, and hypocrisie is an impurity, and a great one, but all impurity is not doubleness, one may really mean that friendship, and affection he expresses and yet it may be most contrarie to that which is here requir'd, because impure; such a bro­therly Love, as that of Simeon and Levi brethen in Iniquity as the expressing them brethren Gen. 49. is taken to mean. When hearts are cemented toge­ther by impurity it selfe, by ungodly conversation and society in sin, as in uncleanness, or drunken­ness, &c. This is a swinish fraternity, and friend­ship that is contracted as it were by wallowing in the same mire, call it good fellowship or what you will, all the fruit that in the end can be expected out of unholy friendliness, and fellowship in sinning together, is to be tormented together, and add each to the torment of another.

The mutual Love of Christians must be pure, [Page 190] arising from such causes as are pure and spiritual, from the sense of our Saviour's Command, and of his example: For he himself joynes that with it. A new Commandment give I you, saith he, that as I have loved you so you also love one another. They that are indeed Lovers of God they are united, by that their hearts meet in him, as in one center. They cannot but love one another; where a godly Man sees his Fathers Image, he is forc'd to love it, he he loves those he perceives Godly, so as to delight in them, because that Image is in them, and those that appear destitute of it, he loves them so, as to wish them partakers of that Image. And this is all for God, he loves Amicum in Deo & inimicum propter Deum. That is, he loves a friend in God, and an Enemy for God. And as the Christians love is pure in its Cause, so in its Effects, and Exercise, his society, and converse with any, tends mainly to this, that he may mu [...]ually help, and be helpt in the knowledge, and love of God, desires most, that he and his brethren may joyntly mind their journey heavenwards, and further one another in their way to the full Enjoyment of God. And this is truly the love of a pure heart, that both begins and ends in God.

Fervently] Not after a cold indifferent manner. Let the Love of your Brethren be as a fire within you, consuming that selfishness that is so contrary to it, and is so natural to Men, let it set your thoughts on work to study how to do others good, let your love be an active Love, intense within you, and extending it selfe in doing good to the souls, and bodies of your Brethren as they need, [Page 191] and you are able, Alium re, alium concilio, alium gratiâ. as Sen. de benef. Lib. 1. cap. 2.

It is selfe-love that contracts the heart, and shuts out all other Love both of God and Men, save on­ly so far as our own Interest carries, and that is still self-love: But the Love of God dilates the heart, purifies Love, and extends it to all Men, but after a special manner directs it to those that are more peculiarly beloved of him, and that is hero the particular love required.

Love of the Brethren] In this is Implied our Obli­gation to it after a special manner, to love those of the houshold of faith, because they are our Brethren. This concludes not only, as Abraham said that there ought to be no strife; but it binds most strongly to this sincere and pure and fervent love; and there­fore the Apostle in the next Verse repeats expresly the Doctrine of the mysterious New-birth, and explains it more fully, which he had mention'd in the entrance of the Epistle and again referr'd to it, Verse 14, 17.

There is in this fervent Love, sympathy with the griefs of our Brethren, desire and endeavour to help them, bearing their Infirmities, and recovering them too, if it may be; raising them when they fall, ad­monishing and reproving them as is needful, some­times sharply, and yet still in Love, Rejoycing in their good, in their Gifts, and Graces, so far from envying them, that we be glad as if they were our own, there is the same blood running in their veins, you have the same Father, and the same spirit with­in you, and the same Jesus Christ the head of that glorious fraternity, the first born among many Bre­thren, [Page 192] of which the Apostle saith, Eph. 1.10. that he hath, recollected into one, all things in heaven and in earth. The word is, gathered them into one head. And so suits very fitly to express that our union in him, in whom, sayes he, in that same Epistle c. 4.16. The whole body is fitly compacted to­gether, and addes that which agrees to our purpose, that this body grows up and edifies it selfe in love. All the members receive spirits from the same head and are useful and serviceable one to another, and to the whole body. Thus these Brethren receiv­ing of the same spirit from their head Christ, are most strongly bent to the good one of another. If there be but a thorn in the Foot, the Back boweth, the Head stoops down, the Eyes look, the Hands reach to it, and endeavour its help, and case. In a word, all the members partake of the good, and evil one of another. Now by how much this body is more spiritual, and lively, so much the stronger must the union and love of the parts of it be each to other. You are brethren by the same new birth, and born to the same Inhe­ritance, and such an one as shall not be an Apple of strife amongst you, to beget debates and contenti­ons. No, 'tis enough for all, and none shall pre­judge another, but you shall have joy in the hap­piness one of another, seeing you shall then be perfect in love, all harmony, no difference in judge­ment, nor affection, all your harps tun'd to the same new Song, which you shall sing for ever, let that love begin here which shall never end.

And this same union (I conceive) is likewise [Page 193] pressed in the first words of the verse, seeing you are partakers of that work of sanctification by the same word, and the same spirit that works it in all the faithfull, and by that are called, and incorporate into that fraternity; therefore live in it and like it. You are purified to it, therefore love one another after that same manner purely, Let the profane world scoffe that name of Brethren, you will not be so foolish as to be scorn'd out of it, being so honourable, and hap­py, and the day is at hand wherein those that scoffe you, would give much more than all that the best of them ever possess'd in the world to be admitted into your number.

Seeing you have purifi'd your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit] Here is. 1. The chief seat, or subject of the work of sanctification, the Soul. 2. The subordinate means, Truth. 3. The Nature of it, obeying of truth. 4. The chief worker of it, The Holy Spirit.

For the first,] 'Tis no doubt a work that goes through the whole man, renews and purifies all. Heb. 10.22. 2 Cor. 7.1. But because it purifies the soul, therefore 'tis, that does purifie all. There begins impurity, Mat. 15. not onely evil thoughts, but all evill actions come forth from the heart, which is there all one with the soul, and therefore this purifying be­gins there, makes the tree good that the fruit may be good. 'tis not so much externall performances that are the difference of Men, as their inward tem­per, we meet here in the same place, and all partake of the same word, and prayer. But how wide a difference is there in Gods eye, betwixt an unwash'd profane heart, in the same exercise, and a soul puri­fied [Page 194] in some measure in obeying the truth, and de­sirous to be further purified by further obeying it.

2. That which is the subordinate means of this purity is the Truth, or the word of God. it is truth, and pure in it self, and begets truth, and purity in the heart, by teaching it concerning the holy and pure nature of God, shewing it, and his holy will, which is to us the rule of purity. And by represent­ing Jesus Christ unto us as the fountain of our puri­ty, and Renovation, from whose fulness we may receive grace for grace.

3. The nature of this work, that wherein the very being of this purifying consists, is, the Receiving, or Obeying of this Truth So Gal. 3.1. Where 'tis put for right believing. The chief point of obedi­ence is believing, the proper obedience to Truth is, to give credit to it; and this divine belief doth neces­sarily bring the whole soul into obedience, and con­formity to that pure Truth, which is in the word, and so the very purifying, and renewing of the soul is this obedience, of faith, as unbelief is its cheif im­purity and disobedience, therefore Act. 15.9. faith is said to purifie the heart.

4. The chief worker of this sanctification is the Holy spirit of God, they are said here to purifie them­selves. For 'tis certain, and undeniable that the soul it self doth act in believing, or obeying the truth, but not of it self▪ it is not the first principle of mo­tion. They purifie their souls, but 'tis by the spirit. They doe it by his enlivening power, and a purify­ing vertue recevied from him, Faith, or obeying the truth works this purity: But the Holy Ghost works that faith, as in the forecited place, God is said to [Page 195] purifie their hearts by faith. Verse, 8. He doth that by giving them the Holy Ghost. The truth is pure, and purifying, yet can it not of it self purifie the soul, but by the obeying or believing it, and the soul can­not obey, or believe, but by the spirit, which works in it that faith, and by that faith purifies it, and works Love in it, 'its the Impurity and Earthliness of Mens minds that is the great cause of disu [...]ion, and disaffection amongst them, and of all their stri [...]es. Iam. 4.1.

This spirit is that fire that refines, and purifies the soul from the dross of earthly desires that pos­sess it, and sublimates it to the love of God, and of his Saints because they are his, and are purified by the same spirit. Tis the property of fire to draw together things of the same kind, the outward fire of Enmities, and persecution that are kindled against the godly by the world, doth some-what, and if it were more considered by them would do more in this knitting their hearts closer one to another, but it is this inward pure and purifying fire of the Holy Ghost that doth most powerfully unite them.

The true reason why there is so little truth of this Christian mutuall Love amongst those that are cal­led Christians, is, because there is so little of this purifying Obedience to the truth whence it flowes, Faith unfeigned would beget this Love unfeigned, men may exhort to them both, but they require the hand of God to work them in the heart.

Verse 23.

‘Being borne again not of Corruptible seed: But of Incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.’

THE two things that make up the Apostles Ex­hortation, are the very summe of a Christians duty to walk as obedient children towards God, and loving brethen one towards another: And that it may yet have the deeper impression he here represents to them anew, that new birth he mentioned before, by which they are the children of God, and so brethren.

We shall first speak of this Regeneration. And then of the Seed. This is the great dignity of beli­evers, that they are the sons of God Io. 1.12. and the great Evidence of the love of God, that he hath bestow'd this dignity on them 1 Io. 3.1. For they are no way needfull to him▪ he had from Et­ernity a Son perf [...]ctly like himself, the character of his person, and one Spirit proceeding from both, and there is no Creation, neither the first, nor the second, can add any thing to those, and their hap­piness, 'tis most true of that blessed Trinity. Satis amplum alter alterj Theatrum sumus. But the gra­cious purpose of God, to impart his goodness ap­pears in this, that he hath made himself such a multitude of sons, not onely Angels, that are so [Page 197] called, but man, a little lower than they in nature▪ yet dignified with this name in his Creation, St. Luke, 3.38. Which was the Son of Adam, which was the son of God. He had not onely the Impre­ssion of Gods footsteps (as they speak) which all the Creatures have, but of his Image; and most of all in this is his rich Grace magnified, that sin having defac'd that Image, and so degraded Man from his honour, and devested him of that title of sonship, and stampt our polluted nature with the marks of vileness and bondage, yea, with the very Image of Satan, Rebellion, and Enmity against God; that out of Mankind thus ruin'd, and degenerated, God should raise to himself a new Race, and Generation of sons.

For this designe was the word made flesh, Io. 1. The son made Man, to make men the sons of God, and 'tis by him, alone we are restor'd to this, they that receive him, receive with him, and in him, this priviledge Verse. 12. And therefore 'tis a sonship by Adoption, and is so called in scripture, in differ­ence from his Eternall, and Ineffable Generation, who is, and that was the onely begotten son of God, yet that we may know that this divine adoption is not a mere outward Relative Name, as that of men; The sonship of the Saints is here, and often else­where in scripture express'd by new Generation, and new birth. They are begotten of God. Io. 1.13. 1. Io. 2.29. There is a new being, a spirituall life communicated to them, they have in them of their Fathers spirit, and this is derived to them through Christ, and therefore called his spirit. Gal. 4.6. They are not onely accounted of the family of God [Page 198] by Adoption, but by this new birth they are indeed his Children, partakers of the divine nature as our Apostle expresseth it.

Now though it be easie to speak, and hear the words of this Doctrine, yet the truth it self that is in it, is so high and mysterious, that it is altogether im­possible without a portion of this new nature to con­ceive of it. Corrupt nature cannot understand it, what wonder that there is nothing of it in the subtilest Schooles of Philosophers, when a very doctor in Israel mistook it grossely. Io. 3. It is indeed a great my­stery, and he that was the sublimest of all the Evange­list, and therefore call'd the Divine, the soaring Eagle (as they compare him) he is more abundant in this subject than the rest.

And the most profitable way of considering this Regeneration, and Sonship, is certainly to follow the light of those holy writings, and not to jangle in dis­putes about the order, and manner of it, of which though somewhat may be profitably said, and safely, Namely, so much as the scripture speaks, yet much that is spoke of it, and debated by many, is but an useless expence of time and paines. What those previous dispositions are and how far they go, and where is the march, or point of difference betwixt them and the infusion of spirituall life, I conceive not so easily determinable.

If Naturalists, and Physicians cannot agree upon the order of [...]ormation of the body's parts in the womb, how much less can we be peremptory in the other▪ If there be so many wonders (as indeed there be) in the naturall structure and frame of Man, how much richer in wonders must this divine and supernaturall Gene­ration [Page 199] be, see how David speaks of the former Psal. 14.15. Things spirituall being more refin'd than Materiall things their workmanship must be far more wonderfull and curious. But then it must be with a spirituall eye. There is an unspeakable lustre and beauty of the new Creature, by the mixture of all divine Graces, each setting off another, as so many rich severall colours in embroidery, but who can trace that invisible hand that works it, so as to determine of the order, and to say, which was first, which second, and so on, whether, Faith, or Repentance, and all Graces &c. This is certain, that these and all gra­ces doe inseparably make up the same work, and are all in the new formation of every soul that is born again.

If the wayes of Gods universall providence be untraceable, then most of all the workings of his Grace in a secret unperceivable way in this new birth: He gives this spirituall being, as the dew which is silently and insensibly formed, and this Generation of the sons of God compar'd to it by the Psalmist; they have this originall from heaven as the dew; Io. 3.3. Except a man be born from above, he can­not enter into the Kingdom of God. And 'tis the pe­culiar work of the spirit of God as he himself speaks of the dew to Iob. Iob. 38.28. hath the Rain a Father, or who hath begotten the drops of the dew. The sharp­est witts are to seek in the knowledge and discovery of it, as Iob speaketh of a way that no fowl knoweth, and which the vultures eye hath not seen, Iob. 28.7.

To contest it much how in this Regeneration he works upon the will, and renews it, is to little pur­pose [Page 200] providing this be granted, that it is in his power to Regenerate, and Renew a Man at his pleasure: And how is it possible not to grant this? unless we will run into that Error to think, that God hath made a Creature too hard for himself to Rule, or hath willingly exempted it, and shall the works of the Al­mighty, and of all others, especially this work where­in he glories most, fail in his hand, and remain Im­perfect? shall there be any abortive births whereof God is the father? shall I bring to the birth (sayes he) and not cause to bring forth? No, no sinner so dead but there is vertue in his hand to revive out of the very stones. Tho the most impenitent hearts are as stones within them, yet he can make of them children to Abra­ham, He can digg out the heart of stone, and put a heart of flesh in its place, otherwayes he would not have made such a promise. Io. 1.13. Not of flesh nor of the will of Man, but of God. If his sove­raigne will is not a sufficient principle of this Rege­neration why then sayes the Apostle, St. Iames Of his own will begat he us, and he addes the subordi­nate Cause, by the word of truth, which is here cal­led the Immortall seed of this new birth.

Therefore 'tis, that the Lord hath appointed the continuance of the Ministry of this word, to the end that his Church may be still fruitfull bringing forth sons unto him. That the Assemblies of his people may be like flocks of sheep coming up from the wash­ing, none harren amongst them.

Though the Ministers of this word, by reason of their employment in dispensing it, have by the Scrip­tures the Relation of Parents imparted to them, which is an exceeding great dignity for them as they [Page 201] are called co-workers with God. And the same Apostle that writes so calls the Galatians his little Children of whom he travell'd in birth again till Christ were formed in them. and the Ministers of God have often very much pain in this travel, yet the priviledge of the Father of spirits remains un­touched, which is effectually to beget again these same Spirits which he creates, and to make that seed of the word fruitful that way, where, and when he will. The Preacher of the Word be he never so powerful can cast this seed only into the Ear, his hand reaches no further, and the hearer by his at­tention may convey it into his head, but 'tis the Supream Father, and Teacher above that carries it in to the heart, the only soyl wherein it proves lively and fruitful. One Man cannot reach the heart of another, how should he then renew its fruitfulness? If natural births hath been alwayes acknowledged to belong to Gods prerogative, Psal. 127.3. Lo Chil­dren are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward, And so Iacob answered wisely to his Wife's foolish passion, am I in Gods stead, how much more is this new birth wholly depen­dant on his hand.

But though this word cannot beget without him, yet 'tis by this Word that he begets, and ordinarily not without it. 'tis true that the substantial Eternal word is to us (as we said) the spring of this New birth, and life, the head from whom the spirits of this supernatural life flow, but that by the Word here is meant the Gospel the Apostle puts ou [...] of doubt, Verse last, and this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you. Therefore it is [Page 202] indeed that this Word is thus the seed of this New birth, because it contains and declares that other word, the Son of God as our life. The word is spoken in common, and so is the same to all hearers, but then all being naturally shut against it, God doth by his own hand open some hearts to receive it, and mixes it with faith, and those it renews, and restoreth in them the Image of God, drawes the traits of it anew, and makes them the Sons of God. My Doctrine shall drop as the dew sayes, Moses, the word as a heavenly dew not falling be­side, but dropt in to the heart by the hand of Gods own spirit makes it all become spiri [...]ual and hea­venly, and turns it into one of those drops of dew that the Children of God are compared to. Psal. 110. Thou hast the dew of thy youth.

The natural estate of the soul is darkness, and the word as a divine light shining into it trans­forms the soul into its own nature; that as the word is called Light, so is the soul renew'd by it, ye were darkness but now are ye, not only en­lightn'd, but light in the Lord. All the evils of the natural mind, are often compriz'd under the name of darkness, and Errour, and therefore the whole work of conversion likewise signified by light and truth, he begat us by the word of truth. So 2 Cor. 4 6. alluding to the first fiat Lux, or Let there [...]e Light, in the Creation: The word brought within the soul by the spirit lets it see its own necessity, and Christs sufficiency, convinceth it throughly, and causeth it to cast over it self upon him for life, and this is the very begetting of it again to Eternal life,

[Page 203]So that this Efficacy of the word to prove suc­cessful seed, doth not hang upon the different abili­ties of Preachers, their more or less Rhetorick, or Learning. 'Tis true Eloquence hath a great ad­vantage in civil, and moral things to perswade, and and to draw the hearers by the Ears, almost which way it will: but in this spiritual work to revive a soul, to beget it anew, the Influence of heaven is the main, there is no way so common and plain (being warranted by God in the delivery of saving truth) but the spirit of God can revive the soul by it, and all the skilful, and most autoritative way, yea, being withal very spiritual, yet may effect no­thing, because left alone to it self: One word of holy Scripture, or of truth conform to it, may be the principle of Regeneration to him that hath heard multitudes of excellent Sermons, and hath often read the whole Bible, and still unchang'd, if the spirit of God preach that one or any such word to the Soul, God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. It will be cast down with the fear of perishing, and driven out of it self by that, and rais'd up and drawn to Jesus Christ by the hope of everlasting life, it will believe on him, that it may have life, and be in­flamed with the Love of God, and give it self to him, that so loved the World, as to give his only begotten Son to purchase us that everlasting life. Thus may that word prove this Immortal Seed, which tho very often read and heard before, was but a dead letter: A drop of those liquors that are cal­led Spirits operates more than large draughts of [Page 204] other waters; one word spoke by the Lord to the heart, is all Spirit, and doth that which whole streams of Mans eloquence could never effect.

In hearing of the Word, Men look usually too much upon Men, and forget from what spring the Word hath its power, they observe too narrowly the different hand of the Sowers, and too little de­pend on his hand that is great Lord both of Seed­time and Harvest: Be it sowen by a weak hand, or a stronger, the Immortal seed is still the same, yea, suppose the worst that it be a foul hand that sowes it, that the Preacher himself be not so sanctified, and of so edifying a life as you would wish, yet the seed it self being good contracts no defilement, and may be effectual to Regeneration in some, and strengthening of others; Although he that is not renew'd by it himself, cannot have much hope of such success nor reap much comfort by it, and usu­ally doth not seek nor regard it much; but all Instru­ments are alike in an Almighty hand.

Hence learn. 1. That true conversion is not so slight a work, as we commonly account it. 'Tis not an outward change of some bad customes, which gains the name of a reform'd Man in the ordinary dialect, 'tis a New birth, and Being, and elsewhere called a new Creation, though it be but a change in qualities as 'tis such a one, and the qualities so far distant that it bears the name of the most substantial productions, from Children of disobedience, and that which is link't with it, heirs of wrath, to be sons of God and heirs of glory: They have a new spirit giv­en, a free princely noble spirit, as the word is Psal. 51. and this spirit acts in their life and action.

[Page 205]2. Consider this dignity, and be kindled with the ambition of it, how doth a Christian pity that poor vanity that men make so much noise about, of of their kindred, and extraction; this is worth glo­rying in indeed, to be of the highest blood royal and in the nearest Relation, Sons of the King of Kings by this new birth, and addes Matchless honour to that birth which is honourable.

But we all pretend to be of this number. Would we not study to cozen our selves, the discovery would not be so hard to know whither we are or not.

In many their false confidence is too evident: No appearance of the spirit of God, not a foot-step like his leading, and that character, Rom. 8.14. not a li­neament of God's visage, as their father, if ye know that he is righteous, (sayes St. Iohn 2.29.) ye know then that every one that doth righteousness is born of him. And so on the contrary, how contrary to the most holy God the lover and fountain of holiness are they, that Swinishly love to wallow in the mire of un­holiness. Is Swearing and Cursing the accent of the Regenerate, the Children of God? No, 'tis the lan­guage of Hell. Do children delight to indignifie, and dishonour their Fathers Name? No, Earthly mindedness is a countersign. Shall the King's Chil­dren, they that were brought up in scarlet (as Ieremy laments) embrace the dunghil? Princes by their high birth and Education have usually their hearts fill'd with far higher thoughts than mean persons, the children of the poorer sort being pinch'd that way, their greatest thoughts as they grow up, are ordina­rily how they shall shift to live, how they shall get [Page 206] bread, but Princes think either of the conquest, or governing of Kingdomes. Are you not born to a better Inheritance, (if indeed born again) why then do you vilifie your selves? why not more in Prayer? no dumb children among those that are born of God? they have all that spirit of Prayer by which they not only speak, but cry Abba Father.

2. The most part of us esteem the Preaching of the Word, as an evanishing discourse, that amuses us for an hour, we look for no more, and therefore we find no more, we receive it not as the Immortal seed of our Regeneration, as the ingrafted Word that is able to save our Souls. Oh! learn to Reverence this holy, and happy Ordinance of God, this word of life, and know that they that are not Regenerated, and so sav'd by it, shall be judg'd by it.

Not of Corruptible seed] It is a main cause of the unsutable, and unworthy behaviour of Christians (those that profess themselves such) that a great part of them either do not know, or at least do not seriously, and frequently consider what is indeed the Estate and Quality of a Christian, how excel­lent and of what descent their new Nature is, there­fore they are often to be remembred of this. Our Apostle here doth so, and by it binds on all his Exhortations.

Of this New being we have here these two things. 1. Its high Original from God, begotten again of his word. 2. That which so much commends good things, its duration, and this followes of the other▪ for if the Principle of this life, be Incorruptible, it self must be so too. The word of God is not only a living and ever abiding word in it self; but like­wise [Page 207] in reference to this New birth, and spiritual life of a Christian, and so 'tis here intended that is spoke of it, and therefore called not only an abiding word, but Incorruptible seed, which expresly relates to Regeneration. And because we are most sensi­ble of the good and evil of things by comparison, The everlastingness of the word and that spiritual life which it begets is set off by the frailty, and shortness of natural Life, and all the good that con­cerns it. This he expresseth in the words of Isay in the next Verse.

Verse 24.

‘For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of Grass, the Grass wither­eth, and the flower thereof falleth away.’

IN expressing the vanity and frailty of the natural life of Man, it is very agreeing with the subject to call him flesh, giving to the whole man the name of his corruptible part, both to make the wretched and perishing Condition of this life more sensible, and Man the more humble by it: For though by providing all for the flesh, and bestowing his whole time in the indeavours which are of the flesh's con­cernment, he remembers it too much, and forgets [Page 208] his spiritual and Immortal part; yet in that over eager care for the flesh, in some sense he seems to forget that he is flesh, or at least that flesh is perishing, because Flesh, extending his desires and projects so far for the flesh as if it were Immortal, and should alwayes abide to enjoy, and use these things; as the Philo­sopher said of his Countrymen, upbraiding at once their surfettings and excess in Feasting, and their sumptuousness in building: that they eat as if they meant to die to morrow, and yet built as if they were never to die. Thus in Mens immoderate pursuits of earth, they seem both to forget that they are any thing else beside flesh, and in this sense too, to forget that they are flesh, that is mortal and perishing; they neither rightly remember their Immortality nor their Mortality. If we consider what it is to be flesh, the naming of that were sufficient to the pur­pose. All Man is flesh, But 'tis plainer thus, All flesh is grass, thus in the Psalme, he remembred that they were but flesh, that speaks their frailty enough, but it is added to make the vanity of their estate the clearer, a wind that passeth and cometh not again. Psal. 78.39. So Psal. 103.15. As for man his dayes are as grass, as a flower of the field so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.

This natural Life is compar'd (even by natural Men) to the vainest things, and scarce find they things light enough to express it vain, and as here called grass, so they compar'd the generations of Men to the leaves of trees. But the light of Scrip­ture doth most discover this, and it is a lesson re­quires the Spirit of God to teach it aright. Teach [Page 209] us (sayes Moses Psa. 90.) So to number our dayes that we may apply our hearts unto Wisdom. and David Psa. 39 Make me to know my life how frail I am.. So Iam. 4.14. And here its called grass. So Iob. 14.12. Man that is born of a Woman is of few dayes and full of trouble, He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down.

Grass hath its root in the Earth, and is fed by the moisture of it, and for a while, but besides that, it is under the hazard of such weather as favours it not, or the [...]ythe that [...]urs is down, give it all the for­bearance that may be, let it be free from both those, yet how quickly will it wither of it self: Set aside those many accidents, the smallest of which is able to destroy our naturall life, the diseases of our own bodies, and outward violences, and casualties that cut down many in their greeness, in the flower of their youth, the utmost term is not long; In the course of nature it will wither. Our life is indeed a lighted torch, either blown out by some stroake, or some wind, or if spar'd, yet within a while burnes away, and will dye out of it self.

And all the Glory of man] That is elegantly added. There is indeed a great deal of seeming difference betwixt the outward condition of li [...]e amongst Men, shall the Rich, and Honourable, and beautifull, and healthfull go in together under the same name with the baser, and unhappier part, the poor wretched sort of the world, that s [...]em to be born for nothing but sufferings, and miseri [...]s? At least hath the wise no advantage beyond the fools, is all grass? make you no distinction? no, all is grass, or if you will have some other name, be it so, once this is true that all flesh is grass, and if that glory that shines so much [Page 210] in your eyes must have a difference, then this is all it can have, it is but the flower of that same grass, somewhat above the common grass in gayness, a little comelier, and better apparrel'd than it, but partaker of its frail and fading nature, hath no priviledge nor im­munity that way, yea of the two the less durable, and usually shorter liv'd, at the best it decayes with it, the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.

How easily and quickly hath the highest splendor of a Mans prosperity been blasted, either by Mens power, or the immediate hand of God? The spirit of the Lord blowes upon it (as Esay there sayes) and by that, not only withers the grass; but the flower fades, though never so fair. When thou cor­rectest Man for iniquity thou makest his beauty to consume like a moth. Psal. 39.11. How many have the casualties of fire, or war, or shipwrack in one day, or night, or a small part of either turn'd out of great riches into extream poverty? And the Instances are not few of those, that have on a sudden fallen from the top of honour into the fowlest disgraces, not by degrees comeing down the stair they went up, but tumbled down headlong. And the most vigorous beauty, and strength of body, how doth a few dayes sickness, or if it scape that, a few years time blast that flower. yea, those higher advantages that have somewhat both of truer, and more lasting beauty in them, the Endowments of witt, and Learning, and Elo­quence, yea and of morall Goodness, and vertue, yet they cannot rise above this word, they are still in all their glory but the flower of grass, their Root is in the [...]earth: Natural ornaments are of some use in this present life, but they reach no further. When Men have [Page 211] wasted their strength and endur'd the toyl of study night and day, 'its but a small parcell of knowledge they can attain to, and are forc'd to ly down in the dust in the midst of their pursuit of it; that head that lodges most sciences shall within a while be dif­furnish'd of them all, and the tongue that speaks most languages silenc'd.

The great projects of Kings, and Princes, and they also themselves, come under this same notion, all the vast designes that are framing in their heads, fall to the ground in a moment, they returne to their dust and in that day all their thoughts perish. Archimedes was killed in the midst of his demonstration.

If they themselves did consider this in the heat of their affairs, it would much allay the swelling and loftiness of their minds, and if these that live upon their favour, would consider it, they would not value it at so high a rate, and buy it so dear, as often they doe, Men of low degree are vanity, sayes the Psalmist, but he adds Men of high degree are a lie, from base mean persons we expect nothing, but the estate of great persons promises fair, and often keeps not, therefore a lie, although they can least endure that word.

They are in respect of mean persons as the flower to the grass, somewhat a fairer lustre they have; but no more endurance, nor exemption from decaying, thus then it is an universall, and undenyable truth. It begins here with a [...] and is as sure a Conclu­sion as the surest of these in their best Demonstra­tions which they call [...]. And as particular Men so whole States, and Kingdomes are thus, they have their budding, and flourishing, and withering, and it is in both as with flowers, when they are fullest [Page 212] spread, then they are near their declining, and with­ering, and thus it is with all whole Generations of Men upon Earth, as Solomon sayes, One goeth and another cometh; but not a word of abiding at all. We in our thoughts shut up death into a very nar­row compass, namely, [...]n the moment of our expir­ing, but the truth is, as the Moralist observes, it goes through all our life, for we are still losing, and spending it as we enjoy it, yea, our very enjoying it, is the spending it▪ yesterdayes life is dead to day, and so shall this day's life be to morrow. We spend our years, sayes Moses, as a tale, or as a thought, so swift and evanishing is it. Each word helps a tale towards its end, and then in that the vanity, when 'its done it evanishes as a sound in the air. What's become of all the pompous solemnities of Kings and Princes, at their births, and Marriages and Co­ronations, and Triumphs? they are now as a dream Act. 25.23.

Hence learn the folly, and pride of Man that can glory and please himself in the frail and wretched be­ing he hath here, that dotes on this poor natural life, and cannot be persuaded to think on one hig­her, and more abiding. Although the course of times and his daily Experience tells him this truth, that all flesh is grass, yea, the Prophet prefixes to these words a command of Crying, they must be shouted aloud in our ears ere we will hear them, and by that time the sound of the cry is done, we have forgot it again. Would we consider this in the midst of those vanities that tosse our light minds too and fro, it would give us wiser thoughts, and balast our hearts make them more solid, and stedfast [Page 213] in those spirituall endeavours, which concerne a durable condition, a being that abides for ever, in comparison of which the longest term of naturall life is less than a moment, and the happiest estate of it, but a heap of miseries; Were all of us more constantly prosperous than any of us is, yet that one thing were enough to cry down the price we put upon this life, that it continues not. As he answered to one that had a mind to flatter him in the midst of a pompuous triumph, by saying, what is wanting here? continuance said he: 'Twas wisely said at any time, but most of all to have so sober a thought in such a solemnity, in which weak heads cannot escape either to be wholly drunk, or somewhat giddy at least: Sure we forget this, when we grow vain upon any humane glory, or advantage, the colour of it pleases us, and we forget that it is but a flower, and foolishly overesteem it, this is that madness upon flowers, that is somewhere in request, where they will give as much for one flower as would buy a good dwelling house. Is it not a most foolish bar­gain to bestow continuall pains, and diligence upon purchasing of great possessions, or honours? if we believe this that the best of them is no other, but a short liv'd flower, and neglect the purchase of those glorious mansio [...]s of Eternity, a garland of such flow­ers as wither not, an unfading crown, that everlast­ing life, and those Everlasting pleasures that are at the right hand of God.

Now that life which shall never end must begin here, it is the new spirituall life, whereof the word of God is the immortall seed, and in opposition to corruptible seed, and the corruptible life of flesh it [Page 214] is here said to endure for ever. And for this end is the frailty of naturall life mention'd, that our affecti­ons may be drawn off from it to this spirituall life that is not subject unto death.

Verse. 25.

‘But the word of the Lord endureth for ever, And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.’

THE word of God is so like himself, and car­ries so the Image and impression of his po­wer, and wisdom, that where they are spoke of together it is sometimes doubtfull, whether the words are to be referr'd to himself, or to his word, so Heb. 14.12. And so here: But there is no hazard, seeing there is truth in both, and pertinency too, for they that referr them to God, affirm that they are intended for the extolling of his word, being the subject in hand, and that we may know it to be like him. But I rather think here, that these words are meant of the word, it is called living as here, Heb. 4. And abiding for ever is expressely repeated of it here in the Prophet's words. And (with respect to those Learned Men, that apply them to God) I re­member not that this abiding for ever is us'd to ex­press Gods Eternity in himself. Howsoever this in­corruptible seed is the living and everlasting word of the living and Everlasting God, and is therefore such, because he whose it is, is such.

Now this is not to be taken in a abstract sense of the word onely in its own nature, but as the princi­ple [Page 215] of Regeneration, the seed of this new life; be­cause the word is enlivening and living; therefore they with whom it is effectuall, and into whose hearts it is receiv'd are begotten again, and made alive by it, and because the word is incorruptible, and en­dureth for ever, therefore that Life begot by it, is such too, cannot perish nor be cut down, as the na­turall Life; No, this Spirituall Life of grace is the certain beginning of that eternall Life of glory, and shall end in it, and therefore hath no end.

As the word of God in it selfe cannot be abolish'd, but surpasses the endurance of the Heaven and Earth as our Saviour teaches, and all the attempts of men against the Divine truth, of that word to undo it, are as vain, as if they should consult to pluck the Sun out of the Firmament, so likewise in the heart of a Christian, it is Immortall, and incorruptible. Where it is once received by faith, it cannot be obliterated again, all the powers of darkness cannot destroy it, al­though they be never so diligent in their attempts that way; and this is the comfort of the Saints, that the life which God by his word hath breath'd into their Souls, though it have many, and strong enemies, such as they themselves could never hold out against, yet for his own glory, and his promise sake, he will maintain that life and bring it to its perfection; God will perfect that which concerneth me, saith the Psal­mest. 'Tis grossely contrary to the truth of the Scrip­tures to imagine, that they that are thus renewed can be unborn again: This new birth is but once of one kind, though they are subject to frailties and weaknesses here in this spirituall life, yet not to death any more, not to such way of finning as would ex­tinguish [Page 216] this life. This is that which the Apostle Iohn sayes, he that is born of God sinneth not, and the reason he addes, is the same that is here given, the permanence and incorrup [...]ibleness of this word, the seed of God abideth in him.

This is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.] 'Tis not sufficient to have these thoughts of the word of God in a generall way, and not to know what that word is, but we must be perswad­ed, that that word which is preached to us, is this very word of so excellent vertue, and of which these high things are spoken, that it is incorruptible, and abideth for ever, and therefore surpasses all the world, and all the excellencies and glory of it. Although delivered by weak Men the Apostles, and by far weaker than they in the constant ministry of it, yet it loseth none of its own vertue, for that de­pends upon the first owner, and author of it, the [...]verliving God, who by it begets his chosen unto life eternall.

This therefore is that which we should learn thus to hear, and thus to receive, and esteem, and love this holy, this living word, to despise all the glistring vanities of this perishing life, all outward pomp, yea all inward worth, all wisdom, and naturall endow­ments of mind, in comparison of the heavenly light of the Gospell preach'd unto us. Rather to hazard all than lose that, and banish all other things from that Place that is due to it, to lodge it alone in our hearts, as our onely treasure here, and the certain pledge of that treasure of glory laid up for us in heaven: To which blessed state God of his Infinit mercy bring us. Amen.

Chap. Second.

1 Pet. Chap. 2. Verse 1.2.

Wherefore laying aside all Malice, and all guile, and Hypocrisies, and Envies, and all evil speakings,

Verse. 2. As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.

THe same power, and goodness of God that manifests it self in giving being to his crea­tures, appears likewise in their sustaining, and preservation; to give being is the first, and to support it, is the continued effect of that power, and goodness: Thus it is both in the first Creation, and in the second, In the first the creatures to which he gave Life, he provided with convenient nourishment to uphold that life, Gen· 1. So here in the close of the former Chapter we find the Doctrine of the New birth, and life of a Christian, and in the beginning of this, the proper food of that life, and it is the same word by which we there find it to be begotten, that is here the nourishment of it, and therefore Christians are here exhorted by the Apostle so to esteem, and so to use it, and that is the main scope of the words,

[Page 218] Obs. in general. The word, the principle and the support of our spiritual being, is both the in­corruptible seed, and the incorruptible food of that new life of grace, which must therefore be an in­corruptible life; And this may convince us, that the ordinary thoughts even of us, that hear this word, are far below the true excellency and worth of it, the stream of custom and our profession brings us hi­ther, and we sitt out our hour under the sound of this Word, but how few consider and prize it, as the great Ordinance of God for the salvation of Souls? The beginner and the sustainer of the Divine life of Grace within us? and certainly untill we have these thoughts of it, and seek to feel it thus our selves, although we hear it most frequently, and slip no occasion, yea, hear it with attention, and some present delight, yet still we misse the right use of it, and turn it from its true end, while we take it not as that ingrafted word which is able to save our souls.

Thus ought they that Preach to speak it, to en­deavour their utmost to accommodate it to this end, that sinners may be converted, begotten again, and believers nourish'd, and strengthned in their spiri­tual life, to regard no lower end, but aim steddi­ly at that mark. Their hearts and tongues ought to be set on fire with holy zeal for God, and love to souls, kindled by the Holy Ghost that came down on the Apostles in the shape of fiery tongues.

And they that hear, should remember this as the end of their hearing that they may receive spiritual life and strength by the word, for though it seems a poor despicable busines, that a frail sinful Man like [Page 219] your selves speak a few words in your hearing; yet look upon it as the way wherein God communicates happiness to them that believe, and works that be­lieving unto happiness, alters the whole frame of the soul, and makes a new creation, as it begets it again to the Inheritance of glory: Consider it thus, which is its true notion, and then what can be so pre­cious? Let the world disesteem it as they will, know ye, that it is the power of God unto salvation. The Preaching of the cross is to them that perish fool­lishness: but unto them that are saved, it is the power of God, sayes the Apostle, 1 Cor. 1.18. And if you would have the experience of this, if you would have life, and growth by it, you must look above the poor worthless Messenger, and call in his al­mighty help who is the Lord of life. As the Philo­sophers affirm, that if the Heavens should stand still there would be no generation, nor flourishing of any thing here below, 'tis the moving and influence of the spirit that makes the Church fruitful. Would you do this before you come here, present the blindness of your minds and the deadness of your hearts to God, and say, Lord here's an opportunity for thee to shew the power of thy word. I would find life and strength in it, but neither can I that hear, nor he that speaks, make it thus unto me, that's thy prerogative, say thou the word, and it shall be done. God said let there be light and it was light.

In this Exhortation to the due use of the word, the Apostle continues the resemblance of that new birth he mention'd Chap. 1.

As new born babes] Be not satisfied with your [Page 220] selves till you find some evidence of this new, this supernatural life. There be delights and comforts in this life, in its lowest condition that would per­swade us to look after it, if we knew them: The most cannot be made sensible of those, consider therefore the end of it. Better never to have been, than not to have been partaker of this new being. Except a man be born again, sayes our Saviour, he cannot enter into the Kingdome of God. Surely they that are not born again, shall one day wish they had never been born. What a poor wretched thing is the life that we have here, a very heap of follies and miseries, now if we would share in a happier be­ing after it, that life that ends not, it must begin here; grace and glory, is one and the same Life; only with this difference, that the one is the beginning, and the other the perfection of it; or if we do call them two several lives, yet the one is the undoubt­ed pledge of the other. 'Twas a strange word for a Heathen to say, that, that day of death we fear so, aeterninatalis est, is the birth day of Eternity: Thus it is indeed to those that are here born again, this new birth of grace, is the sure earnest and counter­pawn of that birth day of glory. Why do we not then labour to make this certain by the former? Is it not a fearful thing, to spend our dayes in vanity? and then ly down in darkness and sorrow for ever, to disregard the life of our soul while we may and should be provident for it, and then when its going out cry, quo nunc abibis, whither art thou going O my soul?

But this new life puts us out of the danger and fear of that Eternal death, we are passed from death [Page 221] to life, sayes St. Iohn, speaking of those that are born again, and being passed, there is no repassing, no going back from this life to death again.

This new birth is the same that St. Iohn calls the first Resurrection, and pronounces them blessed that partake of it, Blessed are they that have part in the first Resurrection, the second death shall have no pow­er over them.

The weak beginnings of grace in comparison of further strength attainable even in this life, are sometimes express'd as the infancy of it, and so be­lievers ought not to continue Infants, and if they do, 'tis reprovable in them, as we see Eph. 4.14. 1 Cor. 2.2. & 1 Cor. 14.20. Heb. 5.12. though the Apostle writes to new Converts,, and so may possi­bly imply, the tenderness of their beginnings of grace, yet I conceive that Infancy is here taken in such a sense as agrees to a Christian in the whole course, and best estate of his Spiritual life here be­low; and so likewise the milk here recommended is answerable to this sense of Infancy, and not to the former; as 'tis in some of those cited places, where it means the easiest and first Principles of Religion, and so is oppos'd to the higher mysteries of it, as to strong meat; but here it signfies the whole word of God, and all its wholesome and saving truths, as the proper nourishment of the Children of God. And so the Apostles words are a standing Exhortation for all Christians of all degrees.

And the whole estate and course of their Spiritual life here, is called there Infancy, not only as op­pos'd [Page 222] to Corruption and wickedness of the old man but likewise as signifying the weakness, and imper­fection of it, at its best in this life, compar'd with the perfection of the life to come; for the weakest beginnings of grace, are nothing so far below the highest degree of it possible in this life, as that highest degree falls short of the state of glory; so that, if one measure of grace is called Infancy in respect of another, much more is all grace Infancy in respect of Glory. And sure as for Time, the time of our present life is far less to eternity than the time of our natural Infancy is to the rest of our life, so that we may be still call'd but new or lately born, Our best pace and strongest walking in obedience here, is but as the stepping of Children when they begin to go by hold, in comparison of the perfect obedience in glory, when we shall follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes, all our knowledge here, is but the Ignorance of Infants, and all our expressions of God, and of his Praises but as the first stammerings of Children in compari­son of the knowledge we shall have of him hereafter, when we shall know as we are known, and of these praises we shall then offer him, when that new song shall be taught us. A Child hath in it a reasonable soul, and yet by the indisposedness of the body, and abundance of moysture, it is so bound up, that its difference from the beasts and partaking of a ra­tional life is not so apparent as afterwards; and thus the spiritual life that is from above infus'd into a Christian, though it doth act and work in some de­gree, yet is so clogg'd with natural corruption still remaining in them that the excellency of it is that [Page 223] way much clouded and obscur'd, but in the life to come, it shall have nothing at all incumbring, and indisposing it, and this is the Apostle St. Pauls Doc­trine. 1 Cor. 13.9, 10, 11, 12.

And this is the wonder of Divine grace, that brings so small beginnings to that height of perfection that we are not able to conceive of; that a little sparkle of true grace, that is not only indiscernable to others, but often to a Christian himself, Yet should be the beginning of that condition, wherein they shall shine brighter then the Sun in the Firmament. The difference is great in our natural life, in some per­sons especially, that they that in Infancy were so fee­ble, and wrapt up as others in swadling cloaths, yet afterwards come to excel in wisdom and in the knowledge of sciences, or to be Commanders of great Armies, or to be Kings. But the distance is far greater and more admirable betwixt the weak­ness of these New born babes, the small beginnings of grace, and our after perfection, that fulness of knowledge that we look for, and that crown of Immortality, that all they are born to, that are born of God.

But as in some Childrens faces, or actions, have ap­pear'd some characters, and presages of their after greatness, as a singular beauty in Moses's face as they write of him, and Cyrus made King among the Shep­herds Children with whom he was brought up, &c. so also certainly in these children of God there be some Characters, and evidences, that they are born for Heaven by their new birth. That Holiness, and Meekness, that Patience, and Faith that shine in the actions and sufferings of the Saints, are Charac­ters [Page 224] of their Fathers Image, and shew their high Ori­ginal, and foretel their glory to come, such a glory as doth not only surpass the Worlds thoughts, but the thoughts of the Children of God themselves. 1 Ioh. 3.2.

Now that the Children of God may grow by the word of God, the Apostle requires these two things of them. 1. The Innocency of Children. 2. The appetite of Children. For this, As I conceive, is relative, not only, to the desiring the milk of the word; but to the former Verse, the putting off ma­lice ▪ as the Aposte Paul, 1 Cor. 14.20. as concern­ing malice, be ye children.

Wherefore laying aside.] This imports, that we are n [...]turally prepossess'd with these evils, therefore exhorted to put them off: our hearts are by nature no other but cages of those unclean birds, malice, envy, hypocrisie, &c. The Apostles sometimes name some of these evils and sometimes other of them: But they are inseparable all one garment, and all comprehended under that one word, Eph. 4. the old Man, which the Apostle there exhorts to put off: And here 'tis press'd as a necessary evidence of their New birth, and furtherance of their Spiritual growth, that these base habits be thrown away, ragged filthy habits, unbeseeming the Children of God; they are the proper marks of an unrenewed mind, the very Characters of the Children of Satan, for they are his Image. He hath his names from enmity, and envy and slandering, and he is that grand hypocrite, and deceiver that can transform himself into an Angel of Light.

So on the contrary the Spirit of God, that dwells [Page 225] in his Children is the spirit of meekness, and Love, and Truth. That dove-like spirit that descended on our Saviour, is from him communicated to Belie­vers. 'Tis the grossest impudency to pretend to be a Christian, and yet to entertain hatred, and envyings upon whatsoever occasion, for there is nothing more recommended to them by our Saviour's own doctrine, and more imprest upon their hearts by his spirit than love. [...] may be taken generally, but I conceive tis that which we particularly call malice.

Malice, and envy are but two branches growing out of the same bitter root, self-love and evill speak­ings are the fruit they bear. Malice is properly the procuring or wishing anothers evil; Envy the repining at their good, and these vent themselves by evil speaking. This infernall fire within smoaks, and flashes out by the tongue which S. Iames sayes is set on fire of hell, and fires all about it miscensuring the actions of those they hate or envy, aggravating their failings, and detracting from their vertues, taking all things by the left Ear, for (as Epictetus sayes) Every thing hath two handles, The art of taking things by the better side, which charity alwayes doth, would save much of those janglings, and heart burnings that so a­bound in the world. But folly and perverseness possess the hearts of the most, and therefore their discourses are usually the vent of those: For out of the abun­dance of the heart the mouth must speak. The unsavory breaths of Men, argues their inward corruption: Where shall a Man come almost in societies; but his ears shall be beaten with the unpleasant noise (sure 'tis so to a Christian mind) of one detracting, and disparaging another: And yet this is extreme base­ness, [Page 226] and the practice only of false counterfeit good­ness, to make up his own esteem out of the ruines of the good name of others; real vertue cannot en­dure, nor needs not that dishonest shift: It can subsist of it self, and therefore ingenuously commends and acknowledges what good is in others, and loves to hear it acknowledged, and neither readily speaks nor hears evil of any, but rather, where duty and con­science require not discovery, casts a vail upon Mens failings to hide them, this is the true temper of the Children of God.

These evils of Malice, and envy, and evil-speakings, and such like, are not to be dissembled by us in our selves, and conveyed under better appearances: But to be cast away, not to be covered, but put off, and therefore that which is the upper garment and cloak of all other evills the Apostle here commands to cast that off too namely, hypocrisie.

What availes it to wear this mask, a Man may indeed in the fight of Men act his part handsomely under it, and pass so for a time; but know we not? There is an eye that sees through it, and a hand, that if we will not put of this mask, will pull it off to our shame either here in the sight of men, or if we should scape all our life, and go fair off the stage under it; yet there is a day appointed wherein all hypocrites shall be unvail'd, and appear what they are indeed before Men and Angels; 'tis a poor thing to be approved, and applauded by Men while God condemns, to whose sentence all men must stand or fall. Oh seek to be approved, and justified by him, and then who shall condemn? 'Tis no matter who do. How easily may we bear the mistakes and dislikes of [Page 227] all the world, if he declare himself well-pleas'd with us. It is a small thing for me to be judged of Man or mans day, he that judgeth me is the Lord. Saith the Apostle.

But these evils are here particularly to be put off, as contrary to the right and profitable receiving of the word of God, for this part of the exhortation [Laying aside, Desire] look's to that which follows, and is specially so to be considered.

There is this double task in Religion. When a Man enters to it, he is not only to be taught true wisdom, but he is withall, yea, first of all, to be untaught the Errours and wickedness that are deep rooted in his mind, which he hath not only learn'd by the corrupt conversation of the world, but brought the seeds of them into the world with him, and they improve and grow indeed by the favour of that example that is round about a Man: But they are orginally in our nature as it is now, they are con­naturall to us, besides continuall custome which is another nature. There is none comes to the School of Christ suiting the Philosopher's word ut ta [...]ula rasa, as blank paper to receive his doctrine, but on the contrary all scribl'd, and blurr'd with such base habits as these, malice, hypocrisie, envy, &c.

Therefore the first work is to raze out these, to cleanse and purifie the heart from these blotts, those foul characters, that it may receive the impression of the image of God. And because it is the word of God, that both begins, and followes forth this work, draws the lineaments of that divine Image on the soul, therefore to the receiving this word aright, and this proper effect by it, the conforming of the soul to [Page 228] Jesus Christ, which is the true growth of the spirit­uall life, this is prerequir'd that the hearts of them that hear it, be purged of these such and like impurities, malice, hypocrisie &c.

These are so opposite to the profitable receiving of the word of God, that while they possess and rule the soul, it cannot at all embrace those divine truths; While it is fill'd with such guests, there is no room to entertain the word.

They cannot dwell together by reason of their contrary nature, the word will not mixe with th [...]se; the saving mixture of the word of God in the soul, is that the Apostle speaks of, and gives the want of it, as the cause of unprofitable hearing the word. Heb. 4.2. the mixing of it with saith. For by that the word is concocted into the nourishment of the life of grace united to the soul, and mix'd with it by being mix'd with faith, as the Apostle's expression imports: That's the proper mixture it requires, but with these qualities here mention'd it will not mix: There is a naturall antipathy betwixt them, as strong as in those things in nature, that cannot be brought by any means, to agree and mingle together.

Can there be any thing more contrary than the good word of God, as the Apostle calls it, and those evil speakings? Than the word that is of such excellent sweetness, and the bitter words of a malignant tongue? Than the word of life, and words full of deadly poyson? For so slanders and diffamings of our brethren are. And is not all malice, and envy most opposite to the word, that is the message of peace and Love, how can the gall of malice and this milk of the word agree? Hyp [...]crisie and guile stand in direct opposition to the [Page 229] name of this word, that is called the word of truth and here the very words shew this contrariety sincere milk and a double unsincere mind.

These two are necessary conditions of good nouri­shment. 1. That the [...]ood be good, and wholesome. 2. That the inward constitution of them that use it be so too: And if this fail the other profit's not. This sincere milk is the only proper nourishment of spiritual Life, and there is no defect nor undue qua­lity in it, but the greatest part of hearers are inward­ly unwholesom, diseas'd with the evils here menti­on'd and others of the like nature, and therefore, either have no kind of appetite to the word at all; but ra­ther feed upon such trash as suite with their distem­per, as some kind of diseases incline those that have them, to eat Coales, or Lime, &c. Or if they be any wayes desirous to hear the Word, and seem to feed on it, yet the noxious humours that abound in them make it alltogether unprofitable, and they are not nourish'd by it; as this evill of malice, and envy­ing so ordinary among Men, and (which is most strange amongst Christians) as an overflowing of the Gaul possesses their whole minds, and not only they are not nourish'd by the word they hear, but are the worse by it, their disease is fed by it, as an unwholsom sto­mach turns the best meat it receives into that bad humour that abounds in it: Do not they thus, that ob­serve what the Word sayes, that they may be the better inabled to discover the failings of others, and speak malitiously and uncharitablely of them, and vent themselves, as is too common? This word met well with such a one's Fault, and this with anothers: Is not this to feed these diseases of Malice, Envy, and [Page 230] evill-speakings with this pure milk, and make them grow, in stead of growing by it our selves in grace and holiness.

Thus likewise the hypocrite turnes all that he hears of this word, not to the inward renovation of his mind, and redressing what's amisse there: But only to the composing of his outward carriage, and to inable himself to act his part better to be cunn­inger in his own faculty, a more refin'd and expert hypocrite, not to grow more a Christian in deed, but more in appearance only and in the opinion of others.

Therefore it is a very needfull advertisment see­ing these evils are so natural to Men, and so contrary to the nature of the word of God, that they be purg'd out, to the end it may be profitably receiv'd: A very like exhortation to this hath the Apostle S. Iames and some of the same words but in another Methapor Iam. 1.21. Wherefore lay apart all filthi­ness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word. He compares the word to a plant of excellent vertue, the very tree of life, the word that is able to save your souls, but the only soyle wherein it will grow is a heart full of meekness, a heart that is purg'd of those Luxuriant weeds that grow so rank in it by nature; they pluck up and throw them out to make place for this word.

And there is such a necessity of this, that the most approv'd teachers of wisdom, in a human way, have requir'd this of their Scholars that to the end their minds might be capable of it, they should be purified from vice, and wickedness; for this reason the Phi­losopher judges young Men unfit hearers of morall [Page 231] Philosophy because of the abounding, and untamed­ness of their passions, granting that if those were compos'd, and order'd, that they might be admitted. And it was Socrates his custome, when any ask'd him a question to be inform'd by him, before he would answer them, he ask't them concerning their own qua­lities, and course of life.

Now if Men require a calm and purified dispositi­on of mind to make it capable of their doctrine, how much more is it sutable, and necessary for learning the doctrine of God, and those deep mysteries that his word opens up, 'tis well express'd in that Apo­cryphal Book of Wisdome, that forward thoughts separate from God, and wisdom enters not into a malitious soul, no indeed, that's a very unfit dwell­ing for it, and the very Heathen could say the mind that is impure is not capable of God, and divine things. Seneca. Therefore we see the strain of that book of Proverbs, that speaks so much of this wisdom, it requires in the first chap. That they that would hear it, do retire themselves from all ungodly cust­omes and practices. And indeed how can the soul apprehend spirituall things, that is not in some mea­sure refin'd from the love of sin, that abuses and be­mires the minds of Men, and makes them unable to arise to heavenly thoughts? Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, sayes our Saviour, not only shall they see him perfectly hereafter, but, as they can receive him, he will impart and make known him­self unto them here, so Iohn. 14.23. This is it that makes the word obscure namely, the filthy mists within, whereas on the contrary he will in just judgement hide himself, and the saving truth of his [Page 232] word from those that entertain and delight in sin: The very sins, wherein they delight shall obscure and darken the light of the Gospel to them, that though it shine clear as the Sun at noon-day, they shall be as those that live in a dungeon, they shall not discern it.

And as they receive no benefit by the word that have these evils here mention'd reigning, and in full strength in them, so they that are indeed born again, the more they retain of these, the less shall they find the influence, and profit of the word; for this ex­hortation concernes them, they may possibly some of them have much remainder of these corruptions un­mortified, therefore exhorted to lay aside intirely those evils, all malice, all hypocrisie &c. And so though they hear the word often, yet be in a spirit­uall Atrophy, eat much, and grow nothing by it, find no increase of grace, and spirituall strength.

Would we know the main cause of our fruitless hearing of the word, here it is, Men bring not meek and guiless spirits to it, not minds emptied and purified to receive it, but stuff'd with Malice, and Hypocri­sie, and Pride, and other such evils, and where should the Word enter, when all is so taken up? And if it did enter how should it prosper amongst so many enemies? Or at all abide amongst them, ei­ther they will turn it out again, or choak and kill the the power of it. We think Religion and our own Lusts, and secret heart-Idols should agree together, because we would have it so, but this is not possible, either therefore labour to entertain the word of Truth in the [...]ove of it, and lodge the mystery of Faith in a pure conscience, as the Apostle St. Paul speaks, [Page 233] joyn those together with David, Psal. 119 113. I hate vain thoughts; but thy Law do I love. And as here our Apostle, Lay aside all malice, and hypocrisie, and envy, and evil speakings, and so receive the Word, or else look for no benefit by it here, nor for sal­ [...]ation by it hereafter but cast out all impurity, and give your whole heart to it, so desire it, that you may grow, and then as you desire, you shall g [...]ow by it.

Every real Believer hath receiv'd a life from Hea­ven, far more excelling our natural life, than that ex­cels the life of the Beasts. And this life hath its own peculiar desires, and delights, that are the proper actings and the certain characters and evidence of it; amongst others, this is one and a main one, answer­able to the like desire in natural life, namely, a de­sire of food, and because 'tis here still imperfect, therefore the natural end of this, is not only nour­ishment, but growth, as 'tis here express'd.

The sincere Milk of the word] The Life of grace is the proper life of a reasonable soul, and without it, the soul is dead, as the body is without the soul: so that without untruth, this may be rendered, reasonable milk, as some read it, but certainly that reasonable milk is the Word of God, The milk of the Word.

It was before call'd the immortal seed, and here 'tis the milk of those that are born again, and thus it is very agreeable nourishment to that spiritual life according to their saying, iisdemalimur ex qui­bus constamus, as the milk that Infants draw from the brest, is most connatural food to them, being of [Page 234] that same substance that nourish'd them in the womb. But when they are brought forth, that food followes them as it were for their supply, in that way that is provided in nature for it, by certain veins it ascends into the breasts, and is there fitted for them, and they by nature directed to find it there. Thus as a Christian begins to live by the power of the word, he is by the nature of that spiritual life directed to that same word as its nour­ishment. To follow the resemblance further in the qualities of milk, after the Monkish way, that runs it self out of breath in an Allegory, I conceive, is neither solid nor profitable, and to speak freely, the curious searching of the similitude in other qua­lities of milk, seems to wrong the quality here giv­en it by the Apostle, in which it is so well resembl'd by milk, namely, the simple pureness and sincerity of the word; besides that the pressing of compari­sons of this kind too far, proves often so con­strain'd ere they have done with it, that by too much drawing they bring forth blood in stead of milk.

Pure and unmix'd, as milk drawn immediate­ly from the brest; the pure word of God with­out the mixture not only of errour, but of all o­ther composition of vain unprofitable subtilties, or affected humane eloquence, such as become not the Majesty and gravity of Gods word. If any man speak, sayes our Apostle, let him speak as the Oracles of God; light conceits and Flowers of Rhetorick wrong the word more than they can please the hear­ers, the weeds among the Corn make it look gay, but it were all the better they were not amongst it. [Page 235] Nor can those mixtures be pleasing to any but car­nal minds, they that are indeed the Children of God (as Infants who like their brest milk best pure) do love the word best so, and wheresoever they find it so, they relish it well, whereas Natural Men can­not love Spiritual things for themselves, desire not the word for its own sweetness, but would have it sau [...]'d with such conceits as possibly spoyl the sim­plicity of it, or at the best love to hear it for the witt, and learning, which without any wrongful mix­ [...]ure of it, they find in one delivering it more than another, but the Natural and Genuine appetite of the Children of God, is to the word, for it self; and only as milk, sincere milk. And where they find it so, from whomsoever, or in what way so­ever deliver'd unto them, they feed upon it with delight: before conversion Witt or Eloquence may draw a Man to the Word, and possibly prove a happy bait to catch him, as St. Augustin reports of his hearing St. Ambrose, but once born again, then 'tis the Milk it self they desire for it self.

Desire the sincere milk] Not only hear it because it is your custom, but desire it because it is your food, and 'tis 1. A natural desire, as the Infants of milk, not upon any external respect or inducement, but from an inward Principle and bent of nature, and because natural, therefore, 2. Earnest not a cold indifferent willing, that cares not whether it ob­tain or no, but a vehement desire, as the word sig­nifies, and the resemblance clearly bears, as a child that will not be still'd till it have the breast; offer it what you will, Silver, Gold, or Jewels it regards them not, these answer not its desire, and [Page 236] that must be answered. Thus David My soul break­eth for the longing it hath to thy judgements; As a Child like to break its heart with crying for want of the Breast: And again because natural 'tis 3. Constant, the Infant is not cloy'd, nor weary­ed with daily feeding on the breast, but desires it every day, as if it had never had it before; thus the Child of God, hath an unchangeable appetite for the word, 'tis daily new to him, he finds still fresh delight in it, thus David as before cited, My Soul breaketh for the longing it hath for thy judge­ments at all times, And then Psal. 1. this Law was his Meditation day and night. Whereas a Natural Man is easily surfeited of it, and the very common­ness and cheapness of it makes it contemptible to him. And this is our case, that wherein we should wonder at Gods singular goodness to us, and there­fore prize his Word the more, that very thing makes us despise it: Whereas others our Brethren have bought this milk with their own Blood, we have it upon the easiest terms that can be wish'd, only for the desiring, without hazard of bleeding for it, and scarce at the pains of sweating for it.

That ye may grow thereby] This is not only the end for which God hath provided his Children with the Word, and moves them to desire it, but which they are to intend in their desire and use of it, and answerable to Gods purpose, they are there­fore to desire it, because it is proper for this end, and that by it they may attain this end, to grow thereby. And herein indeed these Children differ from Infants in the Natural life, that are directed to their food beside their knowledge, and without intention of [Page 237] its end; but this rational milk, is to be desir'd by the Children of God in a rational way, know­ing and intending its end, having the use of Na­tural reason renew'd, and sanctifi'd by superna­tural grace.

Now the end of this desire is growth. Desire the Word not that you may only hear it, that is to fall very far short of its true end, Yea, 'tis to take the beginning of the work for the end of it; the Ear is indeed the mouth of the mind, by which it re­ceives the Word, as Elihu compares it, (Iob. 34.2.) but meat that goes no further than the Mouth (you know) cannot nourish. Neither ought this desire of the Word to be only to satisfie a custom, 'twere an exceeding folly to make so superficial a thing the end of so serious a work. Again, to hear it only to stop the Mouth of Conscience, that it may not clamour more for gross impiety in contempt of it, this is not to hear it out of desire, but out of fear; to desire it only for some present pleasure, and de­light that a man may find in it, is not the due use and end of it; that there is delight in it, may help to commend it to those that find it so, and so be a meanes to advance the end, but the end it is not. To seek no more but a present delight that evanisheth with the sound of the words, that dye in the air, is not to desire the Word as Meat, but as Mufick, as God tells the Prophet Ezekiel of his People. Ezek. 33.32. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely Song of one that hath a pleasant voyce, and can play well on an Instrument, for they hear thy words, and they do them not. To desire the Word for the increase of knowledge (although this is necessary and [Page 238] commendable, and being rightly qualified is a part of spiritual accretion, (yet take it as going no fur­ther) it is not the true end of the Word, nor the venting of that knowledge in speech and frequent discourse of the Word, and the Divine truths that are in it; which, where it is govern'd with Christian Prudence, is not to be despis'd, but commended; yet certainly the highest knowledge, and the fre­quentest, and skilfullest speaking of the Wo [...]d se­ver'd from the growth here mention'd misses the true end of the Word. If any one's Head or Tongue should grow apace, and all the rest stand at a stay, it would certainly make him a Monster; and they are no other, that are knowing and discoursing Christians, and grow daily in that, but not at all in holiness of heart, and life, which is the proper growth of the Children of God. Epictetus his com­parison of the sheep, they return not what they eat, in grass; but in Wool. David in that 119. Psalm that is wholly spent upon this subject, the excellency and use of the Word of God, expresseth Verse 11, 6. his delight in it, his earnest desire to be further taught, and to know more of it, his readiness to speak of it, Verse 13, 27. but withal you know he joynes his desire and care to keep it, to hide it in his heart, &c. Psal. 119. Verse 11, 5, 24. To make it the Man of his Counsel, to be as the whole Assembly of his privy Counsellors, and to be ruled and guided by it, and with him, to use it so, is indeed to grow by it.

If we know what this Spiritual life is, and wherein the nature of it consists we may easily know what is the growth of it, when holiness increases, the sancti­fying graces of the Spirit grow stronger in the soul, [Page 239] and consequently act more strongly in the life of a Christian, then he growes Spiritually.

And as the word is the means of begetting this Spiritual life, so likewise of its increase.

1. If we consider the nature of the Word in ge­neral, that it is Spiritual and Divine, treats of the highest things, and therefore hath in it a fitness to elevate Mens minds from the Earth, being often conversant with it to assimilate them to it self, as all kind of Doctrine readily doth to these that are much in it, and apply their minds to study it. Doubt­less such kind of things as are frequent with Men, have an influence into the disposition of their souls. The Gospel is called Light, and the Children of God are likewise called Light, as being transform'd into its nature, and thus they are still the more, by more hearing of it, and so they grow.

If we look more particularly unto the strain and tenour of the Word, it is most fit for increasing the graces of the Spirit in a Christian; for there be in it particular truths relative to them, that are apt to excite them, and set them on work, and so to make them grow, as all habits do, by acting, it doth (as the Apostles word may be translated) stir up the sparks, and blow them into a greater flame, makes them burn clearer and hotter. That it doth both by particular Exhortation to the study and Exercise of those graces, sometimes pressing one, and some­times another; and by right representing to them their objects. The Word feeds faith by setting be­fore it the free grace of God, his Rich Promises, and his Power, and truth to perform them all, shews it the strength of the New Covenants, not [Page 240] depending upon it, but holding in Christ, in whom all the Promises of God, are Yea, and Amen, and drawing faith still to rest more intirely upon his Righteousness. It feeds Repentance by making the vileness and deformity of sin daily more clear, and visible; still as more of the Word hath admission into the Soul, the more it hates sin, being the more discovered, and the better known in its own native colour. As the more light is in a House, the more any thing in it that is uncleanly or deform­ed is seen, and dislik'd.

Likewise it increaseth love to God by opening up still more and more of his infinite Excellency and lovelyness, and as it borrowes the resemblance of the vilest things in nature to express the foulness and hatefulness of sin, so all the beauties and digni­ties that are in all the creatures are call'd together in the Word, to give us some small scantling of that uncreated beauty, that alone deserves to be loved. Thus might it be instanc'd in all other graces.

But above all other Considerations, this is in the Word observable, as the increaser of grace, in that it holds forth Jesus Christ to our vieu to look upon, not only as the perfect pattern, but as the full fountain of all grace, from whose fulness we all receive the contemplating of him, as the perfect Image of God, and then drawing from him as having in himself a treasure for us, these give the soul more of that Image, which is truly Spiritual growth. This the Apostle expresseth excellently, 2 Cor. 3. ult. speak­ing of the Ministry of the Gospel, revealing Christ that beholding in him, as 'tis Chap. 4. Vers. 6. In his face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the [Page 241] same image from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord. Not only that we may take the Copy of his Graces, but have a share of them.

There be many things might be said of this spirit­uall growth, but I will add only a few. 1. In the judging of this growth, some conluding too rigidly against themselves, that they grow not by the word, because it is not sensible to them as they desire.

But 1. this is known in all things that grow, that 'tis not discerned in motu sed in termino, not in the growing, but when they are grown. 2. Besides other things are to be considered in this, although other graces seem not to advance, yet if thou growest more self-denying, and humble in the sense of thy slow­ness, all is not lost, although the branches shut not up so fast as thou wishest, yet if the root grow deeper, and fasten more, its an usefull growth, he that is still learning to be more in Jesus Christ, and less in himself, to have all his dependance, and com­fort in him, is doubtless a growing believer.

On the other side a far greater number conclude wrong in their own favour, imagining that they do grow, if they gain in some of those things we men­tion'd above, namely, if more knowledge, and more faculty of discoursing, if they find often some present stirrings of joy, or sorrow in hearing of the word, if they reform their life, grow more civil, and blame­less &c. Yet all these and many such things may be in a naturall Man, who notwithstanding grows not, for that's impossible, he is not in that estate a subject capable of this growth, for he is dead, he hath none of this new life to which this growth relates. Herod heard gladly and obey'd many things.

[Page 242]Consider then what true delight we might have in this. You find a pleasure, when you see your Children grow, when they begin to stand and walk &c. You love well to perceive your estate, or your honour grow, but the soul to be growing liker God and nearer heaven, if we know it, is a pleasure far beyond them all, to find pride and Earthliness and vanity abating, and faith, and love, and spirituall mindedness increasing, especially if we think whither this growth be not as our naturall life that is often cutt off before it attain full age as we call it, and if it attain that, falls again to move downwards and decays, as the Sun, being at its Meridian begins to decline again: But this life shall grow on-in whomsoever it is, and come certainly to its fullness, after which there is no more need of this word either for growth or nouri­shment, no death, no decay, no old age, but perpe­tuall youth and a perpetuall spring ver aeternum, ful­ness of joy in the presence of God and everlasting pleasures at his right hand.

Verse 3.

‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is Gra­cious.’

OUR Naturall desire of food, arises principally from its necessity, for that end which nature seeks, the growth or at least the nourishment of our bodies, but besides, there is a present sweetness, and [Page 243] pleasingness in the use of it, that serves to sharpen our desire, and is plac'd in nature for that purpose; thus the Children of God in their spiritual life are naturally carried to desire the means of their nouri­shment and of their growth, being alwayes here in a growing estate; but withall, there is a spiritual de­light and sweetness in that word, in that which it reveals concerning God, and that addes to their de­sire, stirres their appetite towards it, the former is in the foregoing verse, the latter in this. Nature addresses the infant to the breast, but when it hath once tasted of it, that is a new superadded attractive, and makes it desire after that the more earnestly: So here.

The word is fully recommended to us by these two, usefulness, and pleasantness, so like milk (as 'tis compar'd here) which is a nourishing food, and withall sweet and delightfull to the taste, by it we grow, and in it we taste the graciousness of God. David in that Psalm that he dedicates wholly to this subject, gives both these as the reason of his appetite, his love to it he expresses patheticaly. Psa. 119. Ver. 97. O how love I thy law? and then he addes, that by it he was made wiser than his enemies, than his teachers ▪ And than the ancients; taught to refraine from every evil way, taught by the Author of that word the Lord himself, thou hast taught me to grow wiser and w [...] ­ [...]ier, and holier in thy wayes, and then Ver. 103. He addes this other reason, How sweet are thy words unto my taste, yea sweeter than the hony and the hony Comb.

We shall speak 1. Of the goodness or graciousness of the Lord. 2. Of this taste. And 3. Of the In­ference from both.

[Page 244]1. Gracious] Or of a bountifull kind disposi­tion, the word Psa. 34. Whence this is taken is Tob. And which signifieth, good. The Sept there render it by the word used here by our Apostle, both the words signifie a benignity, and kindness of nature, it is one of loves attributes 1 Cor. 13. It is kind, e­ver compassionate, and as it can be helpfull in straits, and distresses still ready to forget, and pass by evil and to do good, and in the largest most comprehen­sive sense must we take it here, and yet still speak, and think infinitely below what his goodness is. He is naturally good, yea goodness in his nature, he is goodness and love it self, he that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. 1 Io. 4.8. Primitively good, all goodness is deriv'd from him, and all that is in the Creature comes forth from no other but that Ocean, and this graciousness is still larger then them all.

There is a common bounty of God wherein he doth good to all, and so the whole earth is full of of his goodness: But the goodness that the Gospel is full of, the particular stream that runs in that chan­nel, is his peculiar graciousness, and love to his own Children; that by which they are first enliven'd, and then refresh'd, and sustain'd in their spiritual being. This that is here spoken of, gracious to them in freely forgiving their sins, and giving no less than himself unto them, frees them from all evils, and fills them with all good. Psa. sati­sfies thy mouth, and so it followes with good reason, Ver. 8. that he is mercifull and gracious, and his graciousness there further express'd in his gentle­ness, and slowness to anger, bearing with the frailties [Page 245] of his own, and pitying them, as a father pityeth his Children.

No friend so kind and friendly (as this word signi­fies) and none so powerfull, a present help in trou­ble, ready to be found, whereas others may be far off, he is alwayes at hand, and his presence is alwayes comfortable.

They that know God, still find him a real use­full good. Some things and persons are usefull at one time, and others at another, but God at all times. A well furnish'd table may please a Man, while he hath health and appetite; but offer it to him in the hight of a fever, how unpleasant would it be then? Though never so richly deck'd, 'tis not only then useless, but hateful to him: But the kindness and love of God is then as seasonable, and refreshing to him, as in health, and possibly more; he can find sweetness in that, even on his sick bed. The bitter Choler abounding in the mouth in a fever doth not disrelish his sweetness, it transcends and goes above it. Thus all Earthly enjoyments have but some time (as meats) when they are in season but the graciousness of God is always sweet, the tast of that is never out of season. See how old age spoyles the relish of out­ward delights in the example of Barzillai 2. Sam. 19.35. But it makes not this distastful; therefore the Psalmist prayes, that when other comforts forsake him, and wear out, ebb from him, and leave him on the sand, this may not. That still he may feed on the good­ness of God Psa. 71.9. Cast me not off in old age, for­sake me not when my strength faileth. 'Tis the conti­nual influence of his graciousness makes them still grow like Cedars in Lebanon, Psa. 92. To bring forth [Page 246] fruit in old age to be still fat, and flourishing, to shew that the Lord is upright, as is there added, that he is even (as the word is) still like himself, and his good­ness ever the same.

Full chests, or large possessions, may seem sweet to a Man, till death present it self, but then, as the Prophet speaks of throwing away their idols of silver and gold to the Battes, and Moles, in the day of cala­mity, then he is forc'd to throw all he possesses a­way with disdain of it, and his former folly in dot­ing on it, then the kindness of friends and Wife, and Children can do nothing, but increase his grief, and their own: But then is the love of God the good indeed and abiding sweetness. And it best relisheth when all other things are most unsavoury, and un­comfortable. God is gracious, but 'its God in Christ, otherwise, we cannot find him so; therefore here this is spoken particular of Jesus Christ (as it ap­pears by that which followeth) through whom all the peculiar kindness, and love of God, is con­vey'd to the soul, and can come no other way, and the word here mention'd is the Gospel Chap. 1. Ver. ult whereof Christ is the subject. Though God is Mercy, and Goodness in himself; yet we cannot find, nor apprehend him so to us; but only looking through that medium, the Mediator.

That main point of the goodness of God in the Gospel, that is so sweet to a humbled sinner, the forgiveness of sins, we know we cannot taste of, but in Christ Ehp. 1.7. In whom we have Redemp­tion. And all the favour that shines on us, all the grace we receive, is of his fullness, all our acceptance with God, taking into grace, and kindness again, is [Page 247] in him, Ver. 6. He made us accepted in the beloved. His grace appears in both, as tis there express'd, but it is all in Christ. Let us therefore never leave him out, in our desires of tasting the graciousness and love of God: For otherwise, we shall but dishonour him, and disappoint our selves.

The free grace of God was given to be tasted, in the promises, before the coming of Christ in the flesh: But being accomplish'd in his coming, then was the sweetness of grace made more sensible: Then was it more fully broacht, and let out to the Elect world when he was pierc'd on the Cross, and his blood poured out for our redemption. Through those holes of his wounds way we draw, and taste that the Lord is gracious sayes S. August.

2. Taste] There is a tasting of temporary believers spoke of Heb. 6.4. Their highest sense of spirituall things (and it will be in some far higher than we easily think) yet is but a taste, and is call'd so in comparison of the truer fuller sense, that true beli­evers have of the grace, and goodness of God which compar'd with temporary taste, is more than tasting, the former is tasting, rather an imaginary tast then real, but this is a true feeding on the graciousness of God, yet call'd but a tast in respect of the fulness to come, though it is more than a tast, as you difference it from the hypocrites sense, yet 'tis no more but a tast compar'd with the great marriage feast we look for.

Jesus Christ, being all in all unto the soul, faith ap­prehending him, is all the spirituall senses, it is the eye that beholds his matchless beauty, and so en­kindles love in the soul, and can speak of him as [Page 248] having seen him, and taken particuliar notice of him. Cant. 5.9. 'Tis the eare that discernes his voyce. Cant. 2.8. 'Tis faith that smells his name poured forth as an ointment, faith it touches him and draws vertue from him, and faith that tastes him. Cant. 2.3. And here If ye have tasted, &c.

There must be, 1. a firme believing the truth of the promises, wherein the free Grace of God is exprest, and exhibited to us. 2. A particular ap­plication, or attraction of that grace to our selves, which is as the drawing those breasts of consolation, namely the promises contain'd in the old and new Testament. 3. There is a sense of the sweetness of that grace, being applied or drawn in to the soul, and that is properly this tast. No unrenewed Man hath any of these in truth, not the highest kind of temporary believer, he cannot have so much as a real lively assent to the generall truth of the promi­ses, for had he that, the rest would follow, but as he cannot have the least of these in truth, he may have the counterfit of them all, not only of assent, but application, yea, and a false spiritual joy ari­sing on it, and all these so drawn to the life, that they may resemble much the truth of them, and to give clear characters of difference is not so easie as most imagine; but doubtless, the true living faith of a Chiristian, hath in it self, such a particular stamp, as brings with it, its own evidence, when the soul is clear, and the light of Gods face shines upon it: Indeed in the dark, we cannot read, nor distinguish one mark from another but when a Christian hath light, to look upon the work of God in his own soul, although he cannot make another sensible of that by [Page 249] which he knows it, yet he himself is ascertain'd, and can say confidently in himself, this I know, that this faith and [...]ast of God I have is true, the seal of the spirit of God is upon it, and this is the reading of that new name, in the white stone, that no Man knowes, but he that hath it. There is in a true Believer such a constant love to God, for himself, and continual desire after him, simply for his own excellency, and goodness, that no other can have. On the other side, would an Hypocrite deal truly and impartialy by himself, he would readily find out something that would discover him, more, or less to himself: but the truth is, Men are willing to deceive themselves and thence arises the difficulty.

One Man cannot make another sensible of the sweetness of Divine Grace, he may speak to him of it very excellently, but all he sayes in that kind is an unknown language to a natural Man, he hath many good words, but he cannot tell what they mean. The natural Man tastes not the things of God, for they are spiritually discern'd.

A Spiritual Man himself doth not fully conceive this swetness that he tastes of, 'tis an infinite Good­ness, and he hath but a taste of it, the Peace of God is a main fruit of this his goodness, it passeth all under­standing, sayes the Apostle, not only all natural un­derstanding as some modifie it; but all understand­ing, even the supernatural understanding of those that enjoy it, and as the Godly Man cannot conceive it all, so that which he conceives, he cannot ex­press it all, and that which he doth express, the carnal mind cannot conceive of it by his expression.

But he that hath indeed tasted of this goodness, [Page 250] O how tastless are those things to him, that the World call's sweet, as when you have tasted some­what that is very sweet, it disrelisheth other things after it. Therefore can a Christian so easily either want, or use with disregard the delights of this earth. His heart is not upon them: for the delight that he finds in it God carryeth it unspeakably away from all the the rest, makes them in comparison seem sapless to his tast.

Salomon tasted of all the delicacies, the choisest dishes that are in such esteem amongst Men, and not only tasted, but eat largly of them, and yet see how he goes over them, to let us know what they are, and passes from one dish to another, this also is vanity, and of the next this also is vanity, and so through all, and of all in general, All is vanity and vexation of Spirit, or feeding on the Wind, as the word may be rendred.

3. We come in the third place to the Inference. If ye have tasted, &c. Then lay aside all Malice and guile and Hipocrisies and Envies, and all evil speak­ings, Verse 1. For it looks back to the whole Ex­hortation; sure if you have tasted of that kindness and sweetness of God in Christ, it will compose your spirits, and conform them to him, it will diffuse such a sweetness through your soul, that there will be no place for malice and guile. There will be nothing but love, and meekness, and singleness of heart, therefore they that have bitter malitious Spirits, evidence they have not tasted of the love of God, as the Lord is good, so they that taste it are made like him. Eph. 4.32. Be ye kind one to [Page 251] another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ sake hath forgiven you.

Again if ye have tasted, then desire more, and this is the truest sign of it; he that is in a continual hunger, and thirst after this graciousness of God, sure he hath tasted of it. My soul thirsteth for God, (saith David,) he had tasted before, Verse 4. he re­members that he went to the house of God with the voice of Ioy.

This is that happy circle wherein the soul moves the more they love it, the more they shall tast of this goodness; and the more they taste, the more they shall still love, and desire it.

But observe, if ye have tasted that the Lord is gra­tious, then desire the milk of the Word. This is the sweetness of the word, that it hath in it the Lords graciousness, gives us the knowledge of his love; this they find in it, that have Spiritual life and senses and those senses exercis'd to discern good, and evil; and this engages a Christian to further desire of the Word: These are fantastical deluding tastes that draw Men from the writen Word, and make them expect other Revelations. This graciousness is first conveyed to us, by the Word; there we tast it and therefore there still we are to seek it; to hang upon those breasts that cannot be drawn dry, there the love of God, in Christ, streames forth in the sever­al promises; the heart that cleaves to the word of God, and delights in it, cannot but find in it daily new tastes of his goodness, there it reads his love, and by that stirs up his own to him, and so growes, loves every day more than the former, and thus is tending from tastes to fulness. 'Tis but little we can [Page 252] receive, some drops of joy that enter into us, but there we shall enter into joy, as vessels put into a Sea of happiness.

Verse. 4, 5.

4. To whom coming unto a living Stone disal­lowed indeed of men but chosen of God and pretious.

5. Ye also as lively Stones are built up a Spi­tual, House, an holy Priesthood, to offer up Spiritual Sacrifices, acceptable to God by Iesus Christ.

THe spring of all the dignities of a Christian, and therefore the great motives of all his du­ties, is, his near relation to Jesus Christ. Thence it is, that the Apostle makes that the great subject of his Doctrine, both to represent to his distress'd Brethren their Dignity in that, and to press by it, the necessary duties he exhorts unto. Having spoke of their Spiritual life, and growth in him, under the resemblance of natural life; he prosecutes it here, by another comparison very frequent in the Scrip­tures, and therefore makes use in it, of some pas­sages of those Scriptures, that were Prophetical of Christ and his Church. Though there be here two [Page 253] different similitudes, yet they have so near Relation one to another, and meet so well in the same sub­ject, that he joynes them together, and then illu­strates them severaly in the following Verses, a Tem­ple, and a Priesthood, comparing the Saints to both. The former in these words of this Verse.

We have in it. 1. The nature of the building. 2. The materials of it. 3. The structure or way of building it.

1. The nature is, a spiritual building. Time, and place (we know) receiv'd their being from God, and he was Eternaly before both, therefore stiled by the Prophet, the high and lofty one that inhabiteth Eternity: but having made the World, he fills it though not as contain'd in it, and so the whole frame of it is his Palace, or Temple; but after a more special manner, the higher and statelier part of it, the highest Heaven: Therefore call'd, his holy place and the habitation of his holiness, and glory: and on earth the houses of his Publick Worship, are called his houses; especially the Jewish Temple in its time, having in it such a relative typical holi­ness; which others have not; but besides all these, and beyond them all in excellency, he hath a house wherein he dwells more peculiarly: than in any of the rest: even more, than in Heaven, taken for the place only, and that is, this spiritual building. And this is most suitable to the nature of God, as our Sa­viour sayes of the necessary conformity of his Wor­ship to himself, God is a spirit, and therefore will be worshipped in spirit and in truth. So it holds of his house, he must have a Spiritual one, because he is a spirit, So Gods Temple, is his People.

[Page 254]And for this purpose chiefly did he make the world, the heaven, and the earth: That in it he might raise this spiritual building for himself to dwell in for ever, to have a number of his reason­able creatures to enjoy him, and glorifie him in e­ternity; and from eternity he knew what the de­mensions, and frame, and materials of it should be. The continuance of this present world, as now it is, is but for the service of this work, like the scaf­folding about it; and therefore, when this Spiritual building shall be fully compleated, all the present frame of things in the world, and in the Church it self, shall be taken away and appear no more.

This building, is, as the particular designing of its materials will teach us, the whole invisible Church of God, and each good man is a stone of this build­ing, but as the nature of it, is spiritual, it hath this priviledge, [as they speak of the soul] that 'its tota in toto & tota in quâlibet parte, as the whole Church is the spouse of Christ, and each believing soul hath the same title, and dignity to be called so, thus each of these stones is called a whole Tem­ple, Temples of the holy Ghost, though taking the temple, or building in a compleater sense, they are but each one a part, or a stone of it, as here it is express'd.

The whole excellency of this building is compris'd in this, that 'tis called spiritual, differencing it from all other buildings, and preserving it to them, and because he speaks immediately after, of a Priesthood, and sacrifices, it seems to be call'd a spiritual build­ing, particularly in opposition to that material. Temple wherein the Iews gloried, which was now [Page 255] Null in regard of its former use, and was wholly after destroyed: But when it stood, and the legal use of it stood in fullest vigour, yet in this still it was inferiour, that it was not a spiritual house made up of living stones as this, but of a like matter with other earthly buildings.

The spiritual house is the palace of the great King, of his temple. The Hebrew word for palace, and temple, is one. Gods temple is a palace, and there­fore must be full of the richest beauty, and magni­ficence: But such as agrees with the nature of it, a spi­ritual beauty. In that Psalm that wishes so many pro­sperities, one is that their daughters may be, as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace, thus is the Church, that is called the Kings daughter. Psa. 45. but her comliness, is invisible to the World. She is all glorious within, through sorrowes, and Persecutions, she may be smoaky, and black to the World's eye, as the tents of Kedar: but in regard of Spiritual beauty, she is comely as the Curtains of Salomon, and in this the Jewes Temple resemble it right, which had most of its riches, and beauty in the inside; Holiness is the gold of this Spiritual house, and 'tis inwardly enrich'd with that.

The glory of the Church of God is not in stately buildings of Temples, and rich furniture, and Pom­pous ceremonies, these agree not with its Spiritual nature. Its true, and genuine beauty is, to grow in spiritualness, and so to be liker it self, and have more of the presence of God, and his Glory filling it, as a cloud, and it hath been observed, that the more the Church grew in outward riches and state, the less she grew, but abated sensibly in Spiri­tual [Page 256] excellencies. But the Spiritualness of this build­ing, will better appear in considering particularly the materials of it as here express'd.

Now 2. The whole building is Christ mysticall; Christ together with the entire body of the Elect, he as the foundation, and they as the stones, built upon him: He the living stone, and they likewise by union with him livings stones He having life in him­self as he speaks, Iohn. 6. And they deriving it from him, he primitively living, and they by parti­cipation: For therefore is he called here a living stone, not only, because of his immortality, and glo­rious resurrection, being a lamb that was slain, and is alive again for ever: But because he is the prin­ciple of spiritual, and eternal life unto us, a living foundation that transfuses this life into the whole building, and every stone of it, in whom (sayes the Apostle Eph. 2.) all the building is fitly framed to­gether: 'Tis the spirit that flows from him, which enliven's it, and knitts it together, as a living body, for the same word is us'd chap. 4. For the Church under the similitude of a body. Now that 'its there said, Chap. 2 Ver. 20. to be built upon the founda­tion of the Prophets and Apostles, is no other, but their doctrine, concerning Christ and therefore it is added, that he, as being the subject of their doctrine, is the chief corner stone. The foundation then of the Church lyes not in Rome, but in Hea­ven, and therefore is out of the reach of all Enemies, and above the power of the gates of hell: Fear not then when you see the stormes arise, and the winds blow against this spiritual building, for it shall stand, it is built upon an invisible, immovable Rock, and it [Page 257] great Babylon, Rome it self, that under the false title, and pretence of supporting this building, is work­ing to overthrow it, shall be utterly overthrown, and laid equal with the ground, and never be re­built again. But this foundation stone as 'tis com­mended, by its quality, that 'tis a living, and enli­vening stone, having life, and giving life to those that are built on it. 'Tis further described by Gods chusing it, and its own worth, both oppos'd to Mens disesteem, and therefore said here: To be chosen of God. God did indeed from Eternity contrive this building, and chuse this same foundation, and ac­cordingly in the fulness of time, did perform his purpose, so the thing being one, we may take it, either for his purpose, or performance, or both, yet it seems most sutable to the strain of the words, and the place after alledged, for laying him in Sion, and opposing the rejection of Men, that we take it, for Gods actuall employing of Jesus Christ, in the work of our Redemption, he only fit for that work, impo­ssible utterly that any other should bear the weight of that service [and so of this building] but he who was Almighty. Therefore, the spouse calls him, the select, or choyce of ten thousand, yet rejected of Men. There is that antipathy (so to speak) betwixt the mind of God, and corrupt nature; the things that are highly esteem'd with men are abomination to God; and thus we see here, that which is highly e­steem'd with God, is cast, and disallowed by Men. But sure there is no comparison, the chusing, and esteem of God stands, and by that, (judge Men of Christ as they will) he is the foundation of this building. And he is in true value answerable to [Page 258] this esteem pretious, which seems to signifie a kind of inward worth, hidden from the eyes of Men, blind unbelieving Men; but well known to God, and to those to whom he reveals him. And this is the very cause of his rejection by the most, the igno­rance of his worth, and excellency. As a precious stone that the skilful Lapidary esteems much worth, an ignorant beholder makes litle or no account of.

These things hold likewise in the other stones of this building, chosen before time, all that should be of this building foreordain'd in Gods purpose, all written in that book before hand, and then, in due time, they are chosen by actual calling according to that purpose; hewed out, and sever'd by Gods own hand, out of the quarry of corrupt nature: Dead stones in themselves, as the rest; but made living, by his bringing them to Christ, and so made truely precious, and accounted precious by him that hath made them so. All the stones in this building are called Gods jewels, Mal. 3. Though they be vilified, and scoffed and despised by Men. Though they pass for fools, and the refuse of the world, yet they may easily digest all that in the com­fort of this, if chosen of God, and precious in his eyes, this is the very Lot of Christ, and therefore by that the more wellcome that it conformes them to him, suites these stones to their foundation.

And if we look right on't what a poor despise­able thing, is the esteem of Men? how soon is it past, it is a small thing for me, sayes the Apostle to be judg'd of men. Now that God often chuses for this building, such stones, as men cast away, as good for nothing, see 1. Cor. 1. And where he sayes Isa. [Page 259] 51. That he dwells in the high, and holy place, What is his other dwelling? his habitation in earth, is it in great palaces and Courts? No. But with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit. Now these are the basest in Mens account, yet he chuses them, and preferr's them to all other palaces, and temples Isa. 66.1.2. you cannot gratifie me with any dwelling for I my self have made all, and a surer house than any you can make me, the heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool, but I, that am so high, am plea­s [...]d to regard the lowly.

3. To whom comeing] First. Coming, then built up. They that come unto Christ, come not only from the world, that lyeth in wickedness, but out of themselves. Of a great many that seem to come to Christ, it may be said, that they are not come to him, because they have not left themselves. This is believing on him, which is the very resigning the soul to Christ, and living by him. Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life, sayes Christ. Io. 5.40. He complains of it as a wrong done to him: But the loss is ours, it is his glory to give us life, that were dead: But it is our happiness to receive that life from him. Now these stones come unto their found­ation, which imports the moving of the soul to Christ, being moved by his spirit, and that the will acts, and willingly, for it cannot act otherwise: But as being acted, and drawn by the father. Ioh. 6. No man can come to me Except the father draw him And the outward means of drawing, is by the word, 'tis the sound of that harp, that brings the stones of this spiritual building together, and then being uni­ted to Christ they are built up. That is as S. Paul ex­presses [Page 260] it. Eph. 2.21. They grow up unto a holy temple in the Lord.

In times of peace, the Church may dilate more, and build as it were into bredth: But in trouble, it arises more in hight, is built upwards, as in cities, where men are straitned, they build usually higher than in the country. Notwithstanding of the Churches afflictions yet still the building is going forward, 'tis built (as Daniel speaks of Ierusalem) in troubleous times. And 'tis this which the Apostle intends as suiting with his forgoing Exhortation, this may be read exhortatively too, but taking it ra­ther as asserting their condition, 'tis for this end, that they may remember to be like it, and grow up. For this end he expresly calls them living stones, an ad­junct, not usual for stones, but here inseperable. And therefore though the Apostle changes the simi­litude from Infants, to stones; yet he will not let go, this quality of living, as making chiefly for his purpose.

To teach us the necessity of growth in Believers, they are therefore much compar'd to things that grow, to Trees planted in fruitful growing places, as by the River of waters; to Cedars in Lebanon where they are tallest. To the morning light, to Infants on the brest, and here where the word seems to re­fuse it, to stones, yet (it must and well doth admit this unwonted Epithete) they are called living and grow­ing stones.

If then you would have the comfortable perswa­sion of that union with Christ, see whether you find your souls establish'd upon Jesus Christ, finding him as your strong foundation, not resting on your selves, [Page 261] nor on any other thing either within you, or with­out you, but supported by him alone, drawing life from him by vertue of that union as from a living foundation, so as to say, with the Apostle, I live by faith in the son of God, who both loved me, and given himself for me.

As these stones are built on Christ by faith, so they are cemented one to another by love, and therefore, where that is not, 'tis but a delusion to think them­selves parts of this building. As it is knit to him, 'tis knit together in it self through him, and if dead stones in a building support and strengthen mutual­ly one another, how much more ought living stones in an acttive lively way to do so, the stones of this building keep their place, the lower rise not up to be in the place of the higher, as the Apostle speaks; of the parts of the body, so the stones of this build­ing in humility and love, keep their station, and grow up in it, edifying in love Eph. 4.16. The Apostle importing, that the want of this, much prejudges edification.

These stones because living, therefore they grow in the life of grace, and spiritualness; being a Spirit­tual building, so that if we find not this, but our hearts are still carnal, and glued to the earth. mind­ing earthly things, wiser in those, than in Spirituals, this evidences strongly against us, that we are not of, this building. How few of us have that spiritual­ness that becomes the Temples of the holy Ghost or the stones of it, base lusts, and those still lodging, and ruling within us, and so hearts as Cages of un­clean Birds, and filthy spirits.

Consider this as our happiness, and the unsolidness [Page 262] of other comforts, and priviledges, if some have called those stones happy, that were taken for the building of Temples, or altars, beyond those in com­mon houses, how true is it here, happy indeed the stones, that God chuses to be living stones in this Spiritual Temple, though they be hammer'd, and hewed to be polish'd for it, by afflictions and the in­ward work of mortification, and repentance, 'tis worth the enduring all, to be fitted for this building, happy they, beyond all the rest of men, though they be set in never so great honours, as prime parts of politick buildings, states, and Kingdomes in the Courts of Kings, yea, or Kings themselves: For all other build­ings and all the parts of them shall be demolish'd and come to nothing from the foundation, to the cope stone, all your houses both cottages, and pa­laces the elements shall melt away; and the earth with all the works in it shall be consum'd, as our Apostle hath it, but this Spiritual building, shall grow up to Heaven, and being come to perfection, shall abide for ever in perfection of beauty, and glory, in it shall be found no unclean thing, nor unclean person: But only they that are written in the Lambs book of Life.

An holy priesthood] As the worship, and Cere­monies of the Jewish Church were all shadowes of Jesus Christ, and have their accomplishment in him not only after a singular manner in his owne Person; but in a deriv'd way, in his mystical body, his Church. The Priesthood of the Law represented him, as the great high priest, that offered up himself for our sins, and that is altogether incommunicable; neither is there any peculiar Office of Priesthood for offering [Page 263] Sacrifice in the Christian Church, but his alone who is head of it, but this Dignity that is here mention'd of a Spiritual Priesthood, offering Spiritual Sacrifice, is common to all those, that are in Christ as they are living stones built on him into a Spiritual Temple, so they are Priests of that same Temple, made by him, Reve. 1.6. As he was after a transcendent man­ner, Temple, and Priest, and Sacrifice; so in their kind, are Christians all these three through him; and by his Spirit, that is in them, their Offerings through him are made acceptable.

We have here, 1. The Office. 2. The service of that Office. 3. The success of that Service.

The death of Jesus Christ, as being every way powerful for reconcilement, and union, did not only break the partition wall of guiltiness that stood be­twixt God and Man, but the wall of ceremonies that stood betwixt the Jews, and Gentiles, made all that believe one with God, and made of both one as the Apostle speaks, united them one to another, the way of salvation made known, not to one Nation only, but to all people, that whereas the knowledge of God was confin'd to one little corner, 'its now di­ffus'd through the Nations, and whereas the dignity of their Priesthood stayed in a few Persons, all they that believe are now thus dignified to be Priests unto God the father, and this was signified by the rending the vail of the Temple at his death, not only that those cermonies, and sacrifices were to cease, as being all fulfill'd in him: But that the people of God, that were before by that vail held out in the outer Court, were to be admitted into the holy place, as being all of them Priests and fitted to offer sacrifices.

[Page 264]The Priesthood of the Law was holy, and its holi­ness was signified by many outward things sutable to their manner, by anointings, and washings, and vest­ments; but in this spiritual Priesthood of the Gos­pel, holiness it self is in stead of all those, as being the substance of all, the Children of God are all anoint [...]d, and purified, and cloath'd with holiness. But then.

2 There is here the service of this office namely to offer, There is no Priesthood without sacrifice, for these are relative, and this was the chief employ­ment of the legal Priests, now because the Priesthood here spoke of, is altogether Spiritual, therefore the sacrifices must be so too, as the Apostle here ex­presses it.

We are sav'd the paines, and cost of bringing bul­locks, and rams, and other such sacrifices, and these are in their stead; as the Apostle speaks Heb. 7. of the high Priesthood of Christ, that the Priestood be­ing changed there followed of necessity a change of the Law, so in this Priesthood of Christians, there is a change of the kind of sacrifice, from the other. All sacrifice is not taken away, but it is chang'd from the offering of those things formerly in use, to Spiritual sacrifices.

Now these are every way preferable, they are easier, and cheaper to us, and yet more precious, and acceptable to God. As here followes in the text, even in the time when the other sacrifices were in request, yet those Spiritual offerings, had ever the precedence in Gods account, and without them, he hated, and despis'd all burnt offerings, and the largest sacrifices, though they were then conforme to his [Page 265] own appointment; how much more should we a­bound in Spiritual Sacrifice, that are eas'd of the other? How much more holds that answer now, that was given even in those times, Mic. 6.6. Where­with shall I come before the Lord, &c. you need not all that trouble and expense, it is at hand that God re­quires most of all, Namely, to do justly, and to love mer­cy, and to walk humbly with thy God. So Psal. 50.23. That which is peculiarly spoke of Christ holds in Christians by conformity with him.

But though the Spiritual sacrificing is easier in its own nature, yet to the corrupt nature of Man 'tis by far the harder. He would rather chuse still all the toyl, and cost of the former way, if it were in his option; this was the sin of the Jews, in those times, that they lean'd the soul upon the bodies ser­vice too much, and would have done enough of that to be dispenst from this Spiritual service. Hence are the Lords frequent reproofs and complaints in this, Psal. 50. Isai. 1 &c. Hence the willingness in Popery for outward work, for Penances, and satis­factions of Bodies, and Purses, any thing of that kind, if it might serve, rather than the inward work of Repentance, and Mortification, the Spiri­tual Service, and sacrifices of the Soul, but the an­swer of all those from God is that of the Prophet who required these things at your hands.

Indeed the works of Charity they press, if they be done with a right hand, and the left hand not so much as acquainted with the business, as our Saviour speaks, Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. They must be done with a right, and singular intention, and from a right Principle mov­ing [Page 266] to them, without any vain opinon of Meriting by them with God, or any vain desire of gaining applause with Men; but merely, out of Love to God, and to Man for his sake, thus they are one of these Spiritual Sacrifices. And therefore ought by no means to be neglected by Christian Priests, that is by any that are Christians.

Another Spiritual Sacrifice is, The Prayers of the Saints, Revel. 5.8. Psal. 141.2. Let my Prayer be set forth before thee as Incense, and the lifting up of my hands as an Evening Sacrifice. 'Tis not the compo­sure of Prayer, or the eloquence of expression that is the sweetness of it in Gods account, and makes it a Sacrifice of a pleasing smell or sweet odour to him: But the breathing forth the desire of the heart, that's it, that makes it a Spiritual Sacrifice, otherwise 'tis as carnal, and dead, and worthless in Gods account, as the carcases of Beasts. Incense can neither smell, nor ascend without fire, no more doth Prayer unless it arise from a bent of Spiritual affection, 'tis that both makes it smell, and sends it Heavenwards, makes it never leave moving upwards till it come be­fore God, and smell sweet in His Nostrils, which few, too few of our Prayers do.

Praise also is a Sacrifice, to make respectful and honourable mention of the Name of God, and of his goodness, to bless him humbly and heartily, Heb. 13.15. Psal. 50.14.23. Offer unto God thanksgiving Whoso offereth praise glorifyeth me. And this is that Sacrifice that shall never end, but continues in Hea­ven to Eternity. Then a holy course of life is called the Sacrifice of Righteousness, Psal. 4.6. Phil. 4.18. Heb. 13.16. Where he shews what Sacrifices suc­ceed [Page 267] to those, that thus he hath taught, so much are abolish'd. Christ Sacrific'd for us, and that only powerful to take away sin; but our gratulatory Sa­crifices, Praise and Almes are as Incense burnt to God, of which as the standers by find the sweet smell so the holy life of a Christian, smell sweet to those with whom they live, but the wicked as putrified Carcasses are of a noysom smell to God, and Man. Psal. 14.4. They are Corrupt they have done abomi­nable works.

In a word, that our Sacrifice, that includes all these, and without which, none of these, can be rightly offered, is Our selves, our whole selves, our Bodies a living sacrifice, Rom. 12.1. and they are not that, without our Souls, 'tis our heart given, that gives all the rest, for that commands all. My Son give me thy heart, and then the other will fol­low. Thine eyes will delight in my wayes, this makes the Eyes, and Ears, and Tongue, and Hands, and all to be holy, as Gods peculiar, being once given, and consecrate to him, and therefore sacriledge to turn them to any unholy use. This makes a Man de­light to hear, and speak of things that concern God, and to think on him frequently, to be holy in his secret thoughts, and all his wayes, in every thing we bring him, every Thanksgiving and Prayer we offer, his eye is upon the heart, he lookes if it be in together with our offering, and if he miss it, cares not for all the rest; but throwes it back again.

The heart must be offered withal and the whole heart, all of it entirely given to him: se totum ob­tulit Christus pro nobis. In another sense, which crosses not this, it must not be whole but broken. [Page 268] Psal. 51. But if thou find it unbroken, yet give it him, with a desire that it may be broken; and if it be broken, and when thou hast given it him, he break it more, yea and melt it too, yet thou shalt not re­pent thy gift, for he breaks, and melts it, that he may refine it, and make it up in a new and excellent frame, and may impresse his own Image on it, make it holy, and so like to himself.

Let us then give him our selves, or nothing, and to give our selves to him, is not his advantage but ours, as the Philosopher said to his poor Scholar, that when others gave him great gifts told him, he had nothing but himself to give. 'Tis well said he, and I will endeavour to give thee back to thy self, better than I received thee. Thus doth God with us, and a Christian makes himself his daily Sacrifice, he renews this gift of himself every day to God, and receiving it every day better'd again, still he hath the more light to give it, as being fitter for God, the more 'tis sanctified by former Sacrificing.

Now that, whereby we offer all other Spiritual Sacrifices, and our selves withal, is Love, that is the holy fire that burns up all, sends up our Prayers, and our hearts, and our whole selves a whole burnt offer­ing to God, and as the fire of the Altar, it is origi­nally from Heaven, being kindled by Gods own love to us, and by this the Church and each Be­liever ascends like a straight Pillar of smoak, as the word is, Cant. 3.6. going even up to God per­fum'd with Aloes, and all the Spices, all the graces of the Spirit, receiv'd from Christ, but above all with his own Merits.

How far from this is the common Multitude of us [Page 269] though professing to be Christians? Who considers his holy calling: As the peculiar holiness of the Mi­nistry should be much in their Eye and thoughts that are call'd to't, to study to be answerably eminent in holiness, so all that are Christians consider you are Priests unto God, being called a Holy Priesthood; thus you ought to be, but if we speak what we are indeed, we must say rather we are an unholy Priest­hood, a shame to that Name and holy Profession, in stead of the Sacrifices of a godly Life, and the in­cense of Prayer, and Praise in Families, and alone, what is with many, but the filthy vapours of pro­phane speaking, and a profane life, as a noysome smell arising out of a dunghil.

But you that have once offered up your selves unto God, and are still doing so, with all the ser­vices you can reach, Continue so, and be affur'd, that how unworthy soever your selves, and all your offerings be, yet they shall not be rejected.

The 3. thing here observable is the success of that Service, acceptable to God by Iesus Christ. Heb. 13.16. The Children of God do delight in offering Sacrifices to him: but if they might not know that they were well taken at their hands, this would discourage them much; therefore this is added; how often do the Godly find it in their sweet experience? That when they come to Pray, he welcomes them, and gives them such evidences of his love, as they would not exchange for all World­ly pleasures, and when this doth not so presently ap­pear at other times, yet they ought to believe it, he accepts themselves and their wayes offer'd in sin­cerity, though never so mean, though they some­times [Page 270] have no more, but a sigh or groan 'tis most pro­perly a Spiritual Sacrifice.

Stay not away because thou, and thy gifts thou offer'st, are below others, no, none are excluded for that, only give what thou hast, and act with affection, for that he regards most: Under the Law they that had not a Lamb, were welcome with a pair of Pigeons, so that the Christian may say, What I am Lord. I offer my self unto thee, to be wholly thine, and had I a thousand times more of outward, or inward gifts, all should be thine, had I more Estate, or Wit, or Learning, or Power, I would endeavour to serve thee with all. What I have I offer thee, and it is most truly thine, it is but of thy own that I give thee. None needs forbear Sacrifice for Poverty, for that he desires is the heart, and there is none so poor but hath a heart to give him.

But meanness is not all, there is a guiltiness on our selves, and on all we offer, our Prayers and Ser­vices are all polluted: But this hinders not neither; for our acceptance, is not for our selves; but for one, who hath no guiltiness at all. Acceptable by Iesus Christ] In him our Persons are cloath'd with righteousness, and in his cloathing, we are as Isaac said of Iacob in his Brother's garments, as the smell of a Field that the Lord hath blessed. And all our other Sacrifices, our Prayers, and Services if we offer them by him, and put them into his hand to offer to the Father, then doubt not they will be accepted in him, for this by Iesus Christ, is relative both to our Offering and acceptance, we ought not to offer any thing, but by him. Heb. 13.15. And so we are well pleasing, for he is his wellbeloved [Page 271] Son, in whom his soul is delighted, not only de­lighted, and pleas'd with himself, but in Him. with all things and Persons that appear in him, and are presented by him.

And this alone answers all our doubts, for we our selves, for as little as we see that way, yet may see so much in our best Services, so many wandrings in Prayer, so much deadness, &c. as would make us still doubtful of acceptance, and might say with Iob, although he had answered me, yet would I not b [...]lieve that he had hearkned to me, were it not this, that our Prayers, and all our Sacrifices pass through Christs hand, he is that Angel that hath much sweet odours, to mingle with the Prayers of the Saints, he purifies them with his own Merits, and Intercessi­on, and so makes them pleasing unto the Father. How ought our hearts to be knit to him? by whom we are brought into favour with God, and kept in favour with him, in whom we obtain all the good we receive, and in whom all we offer is accepted. In him are all our supplies of grace, and our hopes of glory.

Verse 6.

‘Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, behold I lay in Sion a chief Corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.’

THat which is the chief of the works of God, is therefore very reasonably the chief Subject of [Page 272] his word, as both most excellent in it self, and of most concernment for us to know.

And this is the saving of lost Mankind by his Son. therefore is his name as precious Ointment or per­fume diffus'd through the whole Scriptures, all these holy leaves smell of it, not only those that were written after his coming, but those before. Search the Scriptures, sayes he himself, for they testify of of me. Namely, the Scriptures of the Old Testa­ment which were only then written, and to evidence this, both himself, and his Apostles make so fre­quent use of their testimony, and we find so much of them inserted into the New, as being both one in substance, their lines meeting in the same Jesus Christ as their center.

The Apostle here, having express'd the happy Estate and Dignity of Christians under a double no­tion. 1. Of a Spiritual House or Temple. 2. Of a Spiritual Priesthood, he amplifies and confirmes both from the Writings of the Prophets. The former Verse 6, 7, 8. The latter Verse 9. These places that he cites, touching this building are most pertinent, for they have clearly in them, all that he spoke of it, both concerning the foundation, and the Edifice, as the first in these words of Esay 28.16. Behold I lay in Sion a chief Corner stone, &c.

Let this commend the Scriptures much to our dili­gence, and affection, that their great Theme is our Redeemer, and Redemption wrought by him, that they contain the Doctrine of his excellencies, are the lively picture of his matchless beauty; were we more in them, we would daily see more of him in them and so of necessity love him more, but [Page 273] we must look within them, the Letter is but the case; the Spiritual sense is that we should desire to see: We usualy huddle them over, and see no further than their outside, and therefore, find so little sweetness in them, we read them, but we search them not, as he requires. Would we digg into those Golden Mines, we would find treasures of comfort that cannot be spent, but would furnish us in the hardest times.

The prophecy here cited, if we look upon it in its own place, we shall find it cast in, in the middle of a very sad denounciation of judgement against the Jewes. And this is usual with the Prophets, parti­cularly with this Evangelicall Prophet Esay, to up­hold the spirits of the godly, in the worst times, with this one great consolation, the promise of the Me­ssiah; as weighing down all, both temporal distresses, and deliverances. Hence are those sudden ascents (so frequent in the Prophets) from their present subject to this great hope of Israel. And if this ex­pectation of a Saviour was so pertinent a comfort in all estates, so many ages before the accomplishment of it, how wrongfully do we undervalue it being ac­complish'd, that cannot live upon it, and answer all with it, sweeten all our griefs in this advantage, that there is a foundation stone laid in Sion, on which they that are builded shall be sure not to be a­shamed.

In the words there are 4 things. 1. This founda­tion stone. 2. The laying of it. 3. The building on it. 4. The greatness and Excellency of the work.

1. For the foundation called here a Cheif corner stone, Though the Prophet's words are not precisely [Page 274] render'd, yet the substance, and sense is one: There, both the foundation and corner stone is express'd, the corner stone in the foundation being the main support of the building, and throughout the corner stones uniting and knitting the building together; and therefore this same word of a corner, is frequently taken in Scrip­ture for Princes, or Heads of people: Iud. 20.2. 1 Sam. 14.38. because good governours, and government are that, which upholds, and unites the societies of people in states or kingdomes, as one building. And Jesus Christ is indeed the alone head, and King of his Church, that gives it lawes, and rules it in wisdom, and righteousness, the alone rock on which his Church is built, not Peter, if we will bel [...]eve S. Peter himself, as here he teaches us, much less his pretended Successors; he is the foundation, and corner stone that knitts together the walls of Jews and Gentiles, having made of both one, as S. Paul speaks, and unites the whole number of believers into one everlasting temple, and bears the weight of the whole fabrick.

Elected] or chosen out for the purpose, and al­together fit for it, Isaiah hath it, a stone of triall, or a tryed stone: As things amongst Men are best chosen, after trial, so Jesus Christ certainly known by the fa­ther, as most fit for that work, to which he chose him before he try'd him, as after upon tryal in his Life, and death, and resurrection he prov'd fully answerable to his fathers purpose, in all that was appointed him.

All the stre [...]gth of Angels combin'd had not suffic'd for that business, but the wise architect of this build­ing, knew both what it would cost, and what a foun­dation [Page 275] was needful to bear so great, and so lasting a structure as he intended. Sin having defac'd, and demolish'd, the first building of Man in th' integrity of his creation, it was Gods design out of the very ruines of fallen Man to raise a more lasting edifice, than the former one, that should not be subject to decay, and therefore fitted a foundation, that might be everlasting: The sure founding is the main, there­fore that it might stand for the true honour of his Majesty (which Nebuchadnezzar vainly boasted of his Babel) he chose his own son, made flesh; he was God that he might be a strong foundation, he was Man that he might be sutable to the nature of the stones whereof the building was to consist, that they might joyn and cement together.

Precious] Inestimably precious, by all the conditi­ons that can give worth to any, by rareness, and by inward excellency, and useful vertues. Rare he is out of doubt, there is not such a person in the world again. Therefore called by the same Prophet, won­derful, full of wonders, the power of God, and the frailty of Man dwelling together in his person the ancient of dayes, becoming an Infant: He that stretch'd forth the Heavens, bound up in swadling cloaths in that his Infancy; and in his full age, stretch'd forth on the crosse; altogether spotless, and Innocent, and yet suffering, not only the unjust cruel­ties of Men; but the just wrath of God his Father; the Lord of life, and yet dying. His excellency ap­pears in the same things, In that he is the Lord of life, God blessed for ever, equal with the father; the sparkling brightness of this precious stone is no less, than this, that he is the brightness of the fathers [Page 276] glory; so bright, that Men could not have beheld him appearing in himself, therefore he vailed it with our flesh, and yet through that, it shined, and sparkl­ed so, that the Apostle S. Iohn saves of himself, and those others that had eyes opened, and look'd right upon him, he dwelt amongst us, and he had a [...]ent like ours, and yet through that, wee saw his glory, as the glory of the only begotten son of God, full of grace and truth. The Deity filling his humane nature with all manner of grace, in its highest per­fection. And not only thus Excellent in himself; but of precious vertue, which he lets forth, and imparts to others, of such vertue, that a touch of him is the only cure of Spiritual diseases: Men tell of strange vertues of some stones, but it is certain, that this pre­cious stone, hath not only vertue to heal the Sick, but even to raise the dead. Dead bodies he raised in the dayes of his abode on earth, and dead Souls he still doth raise by the power of his word. The Prophet Malachy calls him, the sun of righteousness, which hath in it the rareness, and excellency we speak; of he is singular, as there is but one Sun in the world, so but one Saviour, and his lustre such a stone, as outshines the Sun in its fullest brightness; and then for his usefull vertue, he addes, that he hath healing under his wings, this his worth is unspeakable, and remains infinitely beyond all these resemblances.

2 There is here the laying of this foundation, and its said to be laid in Sion, that is, it is laid in the Church of God, and first laid in Sion literaly, being then the seat of the Church and true Religion, he was laid there, in his manifestation in the flesh, and suffering, and dying, and rising again, and afterwards [Page 277] being preached through the world, became the foundation of his Church in all places where his name was receiv'd, and so was a stone growing great till it fill'd the whole earth, as Daniel hath it.

He saith, I lay, by which the Lord expresseth this his own proper work, as the Psalmist speaks of the same subject. Psa. 118. This is the Lords doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. So Isa. 9.7. Speak­ing of this promis'd Messiah, the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.

And this is not only said I lay because he had the first thought of this great work, the model of it was in his mind from eternity, and that the accomplish­ment of it was by his Almighty power in the morn­ing of his Sons birth, and his Life, and death, and Resurrection, but to signify withal the freeness of his grace, in giving his Son, to be a foundation of hap­piness to Man, without the least motion from Man▪ or motive in Man, to draw him to't; and this seem's to be signified by the unexpected inserting of these prophetical promises of the Messiah, in the midst of complaints of people's wickedness, and theatning them with punishment, intimating that there is no connexion betwixt this work and any thing on Mans part, fit to procure it; although you doe thus pro­voke me to destroy you, yet of my self I have o­ther thoughts, there's another purpose in my head. And Isi. 7. 'tis observable to this purpose, that, that clearest promise of the virgin's son, is given▪ not only unrequir'd, but being refus'd by that pro­fane King.

This again, that the Lord himself is the layer of this corner stone, teaches us, the firmness of it, which [Page 278] is likewise expres'd in the Prophets words very em­phatically by redoubling the same word, Musad, Mu­sad; fundamentum, fundamentum.

So Psal. 2.6. I have set my King upon my holy hill of Sion, who then shall dethrone him? I have giv­en him the Heathen for his Inheritance, and the ends of the earth for his possession, and who will hinder him to take possession on his right? if any offer to do so, what shall they be, but a number of earthen vessels, fighting against an Iron Scepter, and so certainly breaking themselves in pieces. Thus here, I lay this foundation stone, and if I lay it, who shall remove it? and what I build upon it, who shall be able to cast down? For it is the glory of this great Master-builder, that the whole Fabrick, that is of his build­ing, be unruinable, and for that end hath he laid an unmovable foundation, and for that end are we taught and remembred of its firmness, that we may have this confidence concerning the Church of God, that is built upon it. To the Eye of Nature the Church seems to have no foundation, as Iob speaks of the earth, that it is hung upon nothing, and yet as the Earth remaineth firm being establish'd in its place by the word and power of God, the Church is most firmly founded upon the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, as its chief Corner stone, and as all the winds that blow cannot remove the earth out of its place, neither can all the attempts of Men, no nor of the gates of hell prevail against the Church, it may be beat with very boysterous stormes; but it cannot fall, because founded upon this Rock. Thus it is with the whole house, and thus with every stone in it, as here it followes he that believeth shall not be confounded

[Page 279]3. There is next the building on this foundation This is plainly to be built on Christ, to believe in him: But in this, the most deceive themselves, they hear of such priviledges, and happiness in Christ, and pre­sently imagine, 'tis all theirs, without any more ado, as that Mad man of Athens, that wrote up all the ships came into the haven for his own: We consider not, what this is to believe in him, and what is the necessity of his believing, that we may be partakers of the salvation that he hath wrought. 'Tis not they that have heard of him, or that have some common knowledge of him, or are able to discourse of him, and speak of His Person, and nature aright: But they that believe in him. Much of our knowledge, is, as the poor Philosopher, (or as a Geometer that can mea­sure Land exactly in all its dimensions, but possesseth not a foot.) who defineth riches exactly, and dis­courseth of their nature, but possesseth none; and truely 'tis but a lifeless unsavoury knowledge men have of Christ, by all books and study, till he Re­veal himself, and perswade the heart to believe in him. Then indeed it sayes of all the reports it heard, when it sees him, and is made one with him, I heard much, yet the halfe was not told me. There is in lively faith, when it is infus'd into the soul, a clearer know­ledge of Christ, and his excellency than before, and withall a recumbence, of the soul upon him as the foundation of its life, and comfort; a resolving to rest on him, and not to depart from him, upon any termes. Though I be beset on all hands, be accus'd by the law, and mine own conscience, and by Satan, and have nothing to answer for my self, yet here I will stay, for I am sure, in him there is salvation, and no where [Page 280] else. All other refuges, are but lies, as its in the words before these in the Prophet, poor base shifts, that will do no good, and God hath laid this Precious stone in Sion, for this very purpose, that weary souls may rest upon it, and why should not I make use of it according to his intention, he hath not forbid any how wretched soever to believe, but commands it, and himself works it where he will, even in the vilest sinners.

Think it not enough that you know this Stone is laid, but see whether you are built on it by faith: The multitude of imaginary believers ly round a­bout it, but they are never the better nor the surer for that, no more than stones that ly loose in heaps near unto a foundation, but are not joyned to't, there is no benefit to us by Christ, without union with him. No comfort in his riches, without interest in them, and title to them, by that union, then is the soul right, when it can say, He is altogether lovely, and as the spouse there, He is mine, my welbeloved. And this union is the spring of all Spiritual consolations, and faith, by which we are thus united, is a divine work; he that laid this foundation in Sion with his own hand, works likewise with the same hand faith in the heart, by which it is knit to this corner stone, 'its not so easy a thing as we imagine to believe, Eph. 1.19. Many that think they believe are amongst the others quite contrary, that the Prophet there speaks, of hardened in sin, and carnally secure, which he calls to be in covenant with hell, and death, walk­ing in sin, and yet promising themselves impunity.

4. There is the firmness of this building, Namely, He that believeth on him shall not be Confounded] [Page 281] This firmness is answerable to the nature of the foun­dation. Not only the whole frame; but every stone of it, abideth sure. 'Tis a simple mistake, to judge the perswasion of perseverance to be self-presumpti­on, they that have it are far from building it on them­selves, but their foundation is that which makes them sure, because it doth not only remain firm it self, but indissolubly supports all that are once built on it. In the Prophet, whence this is cited, 'tis, shall not make hast, but the sense is one, they that are disappointed, and ashamed in their hopes run to and fro, and seek after some new recourse; This they shall not need to do, that come to Christ. The be­lieving soul makes hast to Christ, but it never finds cause to hasten from him, and though the comfort it expects and longs for, be for a time deferr'd, yet it gives not over, knowing that in due time, it shall rejoyce; and shall not have cause to blush, and think shame of its confidence in him. David expres­seth this distrust, by making haste. Psal. 31.22. and 116.11. I was too hasty, when I said so. Hopes frustrated, especially where they have been rais'd high, and continued long, do reproach Men with folly, and so shame them. And thus do all earthly hopes serve us, when we lean much upon them. We find these things usually, that have promis'd us most content, pay us with vexation, not only prove broken reeds, deceiving our trust, but hurtful, running their broken spinters into our hand, that lean'd on them. This sure Foundation is laid for us, that our souls may be establish'd on it, and be as Mount Sion that cannot be removed. Such times may come, as will shake all other supports, but this [Page 282] holds out against all, Psal. 46.2. Though the earth be removed yet will not we fear. Though the frame of the World were cracking about a Mans ears, he may hear it unaffrighted, that is built on this Foun­dation. Why then do we chuse to build upon the sand? Believe it, wheresoever we lay our confi­dence, and affection besides Christ, it shall once re­pent us, and ashame us, either hapily in time, while we may change them for him, and have recourse to him, or miserably, when 'tis too late: Remember that we must die, and must appear before the Judg­ment Sent of God, and that the things we dote on here, have neither Power to stay us here, nor have we power to take them along with us, nor if we could, would they at all profit us there; and there­fore when we look back upon them all at parting, we shall wonder what fools we were, to make so poor a Choyce, and then in that great day wherein all faces shall gather blackness, and be fill'd with con­fusion, that have neglected to make Christ their stay when he was offer'd them: then it shall appear, how happy they are that have trusted in him, they shall not be confounded, but shall lift up their faces and be acquitted in him. In their present estate they may be founded, and exercis'd, but they shall not be con­founded, nor ashamed; a double negation in the Ori­ginal, by no means, they shall in all be more than Con­querours through him that hath loved them.

Behold] The last thing Obs. is in that first word importing this work to be great, and remarkable, and caullng the eyes to behold it.

The Lord is marvellous in the least of his works, but in this he hath manifested more of his wisdom, [Page 283] and power, and let out more of his love to Man­kind, than in all the rest, but we are foolish, and childishly gaze about us upon trifles, and let this great work pass unregarded, scarce afford it half an Eye. Turn your wandring Eyes this way; Look upon this precious Stone, and behold him, not in mere speculation, but so behold him, as to lay hold on him: For we see he is therefore here set forth, that we may believe on him, and so not be confound­ed, that we may attain this blessed union, that can­not be dissolv'd, all other unions are dissoluble, A Man may be pluckt from his dwelling House and Lands, or they from him, though he have never so good title to them, may be removed from his dearest friends, the Husband from the Wife, if not by other accidents in their lifetime, yet sure by death, the great dissolver of all those unions, and of that straitest of the Soul with the Body; but it can do nothing against this union but perfects it, for I am perswaded (sayes St. Paul) that neither death nor life, nor Angels, nor Principallities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to s [...]pe­rate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Iesus our Lord.

There is a twofold mistake concerning faith, 1st. They that are altogether void of it, abusing and flattering themselves in a vain opinion that they have it; and on the other side, they that have it, mis­judging their own Condition, and so prejudging themselves of much comfort, and sweetness that they might find in their believing.

The former is the worse, and yet the far com­moner [Page 284] evil, and as one sayes of Wisdom, 'tis true of Faith, Many would seek after it, and attain it, if they did not falsly imagine that they have attained it al­ready. There is nothing more contrary to the lively nature of Faith, than for the soul not to be at all busied with the thoughts of its own Spiritual condi­tion, and yet this very character of unbelief passes with a great many for believing; they doubt not, that is indeed they consider not what they are, their minds are not all in these things, are not awak'd to seek diligently after Jesus, and not to rest till they find him, they're well enough without him, it suf­fices them they hear there is such a one, but they ask not themselves, is he mine, or no? But sure if that be all, not to doubt, the Bruites believe as well. It were better out of all question to be labouring under doubtings; if it be a more hopeful condition, to find a Man groaning and complaining, than speechless, and breathless, and not stirring at all.

There be in Spiritual doubtings two things, their is a sollicitous care of the Soul concerning its own estate, and diligent inquiry into't; and that is laudable, being a true work of the spirit of God, but the other thing in them, perplexity and distrust that arises from darkness and weakness in the soul; as where there is a great deal of smoak, and no clear flame, it argues much moysture in the matter, yet it witnesseth certainly that there is fire there; and therefore dubious questioning of a Man concerning himself, is a much better evidence, than that sense­less deadness that most take for believing. Men that that know nothing in sciences have no doubts, he never truly believ'd that was not made first sensible [Page 285] and convinc'd of unbelief. This is the Spirits first er­rand in the World to convince it of sin, and the Sin is this, that they believe not. If the Faith that thou hast grew out of thy natural heart of it self, 'tis but a Weed be sure, the right plant of Faith is alwayes set by Gods own hand, and 'tis watered and preserv'd by him, because expos'd to many hazzards, he watches it Night and Day. 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.

Again how impudent is it in the most, to pretend believing, while they wallow in Profaness, if Faith unite the soul unto Christ, certainly it puts it into participation of his Spirit, for if any Man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his, sayes St. Paul. This faith in Christ bring us into Communion with God. Now God is light, says St. Iohn, and therefore inferrs, if we say we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. The lie appears in our practise, an unsuitableness in our carriage, as he said of him that sign'd his Verse wrong, fecit solaecismum manu.

But there be imaginary Believers, that are a little more refin'd, that live after a blameless, yea, and a Religious manner, for there outward; and yet are but appearances of Christians, have not the living work of Faith within, and all these exercises are dead works in their hands. Amongst these some may have such motions within themselves, as may de­ceive themselves, as well as their outward deportment deceives other; some transient touches of desire to Christ, upon the unfolding of his excellencies in the Preaching of the word, and upon some conviction [Page 286] of their own necessity, and conceive some joy upon thoughts of apprehending him, and yet all this proves but an evanishing fancy, an embracing of a shaddow. And because Men that are thus deluded meet not with Christ indeed, do not really find his sweetness, therefore within a while, they return to the pleasure of sin, and their latter end proves worse than their beginning; their hearts could not possibly be stedfast, because there was nothing to fix them on, in all that work wherein Christ himself was wanting.

But the truly believing Soul, that is brought unto Jesus Christ, and fastened upon him by Gods own hand, abides stay'd on him, and departs not. And in these the very belief of the things that are spoken concerning Christ in the Gospel, the perswasion of Divine truth, is of a higher nature than the common consent that they call Historical, another knowledge and evidence of the mysteries of the Kingdom than natural Men can have; this is indeed the ground of all, the very thing that causes a Man rest upon Christ, when he hath a perswasion wrought in his heart by the Spirit of God, that Christ is an able Redeemer, a sufficient Saviour, able to save all that come to him. Then upon this, the heart resolves upon that course, seeing I am perswaded of this, that whoso believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life, as here it is, shall not be confounded, I am to deliberate no longer, this is the the thing I must doe, to lay my soul upon him, upon one that is an Almighty Redeemer. And it does so. Now these first act­ings of Faith have in themselves an evidence, that distinguishes them from all that's counterfeit, a light [Page 287] of their own, by which the soul wherein they are, may discern them, and say this is the right work of Faith, especially, when God shines upon the Soul, and clears it in the discovery of his own work within it.

And further, they may find the influence of Faith upon the affections, purifying them; as our Apostle sayes of it, Act. 15.9. Faith knits the heart to a holy Head, a pure Lord, the spring of purity, and therefore cannot chuse, but make it pure, it is a beam from heaven that raises the mind to a Heavenly tem­per. Although there remaines of sin in a believing soul, yet 'tis a hated wearysome guest there, 'tis not there, as its delight, but as its greatest grief, and malady, that it is still lamenting and complaining of, and had rather be rid of, than gain a World. Thus 'tis purified from affecting sin.

So then where these are, a Spiritual apprehension of the Promises, and a cleaving of the Soul unto Christ, and such a delight in him, as makes sin vile, and distastful, that the heart is set against it, and as the Needle touch'd with the Loadstone, is still turn'd towards Christ, and lookes at him in all estates. The Soul that is thus dispos'd, hath certain­ly Interest in him, and therefore ought not to affect an humour of doubting, but to conclude that how unworthy soever in it self, yet being in him, it shall not be ashamed, not only it shall never have cause to think shame of him, but all its just cause of shame in it self, shall be taken away, it shall be cover'd with his Righteousness, and appear so before the Father. Who must not think, if my sins were to be set in order, and appear against me, how would [Page 882] my face be fill'd with shame? Though there were no more, if some thoughts that I am guilty of were laid to my charge, I were utterly sham'd and undone. Oh! Nothing in my self but matter of shame, but yet in Christ more matter of glorying, who endured shame, that we might not be ashamed. We cannot distrust our selves enough, nor trust enough in him. Let it be right Faith, and there is no excess in be­lieving. Though I have sinn'd against him, and abus'd his goodness, yet I will not leave him, for whether should I go, he and none but he, hath the words of Eternal life: yea, though he being so often offended, should threaten to leave me to the shame of my own follies, yet I will stay by him, and wait for a better answer, and I know I shall obtain it, this is assur'd me for my comfort, that whosoever be­lieves in him shall not be ashamed.

Verse 7.

‘Vnto you therefore which believe he is precious, but unto them who be disobedient, the stone which the Builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the Corner.’

BEsides all the opposition that meets Faith with­in, in our hearts, it hath this without, that it rowes against the great stream of the Worlds opinion. And therefore hath need, especially where it is very tender, and weak, to be strengthened against that. [Page 289] The multitude of unbelievers, and the considerable quality of many of them in the world, is one con­tinuing cause of that very multitude: And the few­ness of them that truely believe, doth much to the keeping of them still few; and as this prejudice pre­vails with them, that believe not, so it may some­times assault the mind of a believer, when he thinks how many, and many of them wise men in the world, reject Christ, Whence can this be? Particularly the believing Jews, to whom this Epistle is address'd, might think it strange, that not only the Gentiles that were strangers to true Religion, but their own Nation, that was the select people of God, and had the light of his Oracles kept in amongst them only; that yet so many of them, yea, and the chief of them, should be despisers, and haters of Jesus Christ. And that these that were best vers'd in the Law, and so seem'd best able to judge of the Messiah foretold, should have persecuted Christ all his life, and at last put him to a shameful death.

That they may know, this makes nothing against him, nor ought to invalide their faith at all, but ra­ther indeed testifies with Christ, and so serves to confirm them in believing, the Apostle make use of those Prophetical Scriptures, that foretell the unbelief, and contempt the most would entertain Christ withal, as old Simeon speaks of him, when he was come, conform to these former predictions: That he should be a sign of contradiction, as he was the promis'd sign of salvation to believers, so he should be a very mark of enmities, and contradictions to the unbelieving world; the places the Apostle here useth, suite with his present discourse, and the words cited [Page 290] from Esay in the former Verse continuing the resem­blance of a corner stone, they are partly from Psa. 118. partly out of 8th. of Esay.

Vnto you, &c.] Wonder not that others refuse him; but believe the more for that, because, you see the word to be true even in their not believing of it, it is fulfill'd and verified by their very reject­ing it as false.

And whatsoever are the worlds thoughts, con­cerning Christ, that imports not: For they know him not, but you that do indeed believe, I dare ap­peal to your selves, your own faith, that you have of him, whether he is not precious to you, if you do not really find him fully answerable to all that is spoken of him in the word, and that accordingly, you have believ'd concerning him.

We are here 1. To Consider the opposition of the persons. And then 2. Of the things spoken of them. 1. They are oppos'd under the name of believers, and disobedient, or unbelievers; for the word is so neer that it may be taken for unbelief, as is by some so rendered. And the things are large as near, as the words that signify them; disobedience, and unbelief. 1. Unbelief is it self the grand diso­bedience, for this is the work of God, that which the Gospel mainely commands, Ioh. 6.29. that ye believe: Therefore the Apostle calls it the obedi­ence of faith. Rom. 1.5. And there is nothing indeed more worthy the name of obedience, than the subjection of the mind to receive, and believe those supernatural truths, that the Gospel teaches concerning Jesus Christ. To obey, so as to have, as the Apostle speaks, the impression of that divine pat­tern [Page 291] stamp'd upon the heart, to have the heart de­livered up, as the word there is, and laid under it, to receive it, Rom. 6.17. The word here us'd for disobedience, signifies properly unpersuasion, and there is nothing can more properly express the nature of unbelief than that, and it is the very nature of our corrupt hearts: We are Children of disobedience or unpersuasibleness, altogether incredulous towards God, who is truth it self, and as pliable wax in Satan's hand, he works in them what he will, as there the Apostle expresses, most easie of belief to him, that is the very father of lies, as our Saviour calls him, a Liar and a murderer from the beginning, murdering by lies, as he did in the beginning.

2. Unbelief is radically all other disobedience: For all flowes from unbelief. This we least of all suspect; but 'tis the bitter Root of all that ungodli­ness that abounds amongst us. A right, and lively persuasion of the heart concerning Jesus Christ alters the whole frame of it, brings low its high lofty Ima­ginations, and brings not only the outward acti­ons, but the very thoughts unto the obedience of Christ.

Concerning these disobedient unbelievers, these two testimonies taken together have in them. 1. Their rejection of Christ. 2. Their folly. 3. Their misery in so doing.

1. They did not receive him, as the father ap­pointed, and design'd him, as the foundation, and chief corner stone, but slighted him, and threw him by, as unfit for the building, and this did not only the ignorant multitude; But the builders, they that pro [...]ess to have the skill, and the office, or power [Page 292] of building. The Doctors of the Law, the Scribes, and Pharisees, and chief Priests, and think to carry the matter by the weight of their authority, as overbalancing the belief of those that followed Christ. Have any of the Rulers believed in him? But this People who know not the Law are cursed. Iohn. 7.48.49.

2. We need not wonder then, that not only the powers of the world are usualy enemies to Christ, and that the contrivers of policies, those builders, leave out Christ in their building, but that the pre­tended builders of the Church of God, though they use the name of Christ, and serve their turn with that, yet reject himself, and oppose the power of his spiritual kingdom. There may be Wit, and Learn­ing, and much knowledge of the Scriptures amongst those that are haters of the Lord Christ, and the power of godliness, and corrupters of the worship of God. 'Tis the Spirit of humility, and obedience, and [...]aving faith, that teaches Men to esteem of Christ, and build upon him.

But the vanity of those builders opinion appears in this, that they are over power'd by the great Architect of the Church, his purpose stands, notwithstanding their rejecton of Christ, he is still made the head corner stone. They cast him away by their miscen­sures and reproaches put upon him, and by giving him up to be crucified, and then cast into the grave, and a stone to be roll'd upon this Stone, which they had so rejected, that it might appear no more, and so thought themselves sure: But even from thence, did he arise, and became the head of the corner. The disciples themselves spake (you know) [Page 293] very doubtfully of their former hopes, We believ'd, this had been he, that would have delivered Israel, but he corrected their mistake, first by his word, shewing them the true method of that great work, Ought not Christ to suffer first these things? And so enter into glory, and then really, by making himself known to them, risen from the dead. When he was from these rejected, and lay lowest, then was he nearest his exaltation, as Ioseph in the prison, was nearest his preferment. And thus is it with the Church of Christ; when 'tis brought to the lowest desperatest condition, then is deliverance at hand; it prospers, and gains in the event, by all the practices of Men against it. And as this corner stone was fitted to be so, by the very rejection; even so is it with the whole bulid [...]ng, it rises the higher the more Men seek to demolish it.

3. Their unhappiness that believe not is express'd, in the other word, He is to them a stone of stum­bling, and a rock of offence, because they will not be saved by him, they shall stumble, and fall, and be broken to pieces on him, as it is in Esay, and in the Evangelists: But how is this? is he that came to save, become a destroyer of Men, he whose name is salvation, proves he destruction to any? Not he in himself, his primary and proper use is the former, to be a foundation for souls to build, and rest upon; but they that in stead of building upon him, will stumble, and fall on him, what wonder, being so firm a stone, though they be broken by their fall; thus we see the mischief of unbelief, that as other sins disable the Law, it dis­ables the very Gospel to save us, and turns life it self into death to us. And this is the misery, not [Page 294] of a few, but of many in Israel, many that hear of Christ, by the preaching of the Gospel, shall lament, that ever they heard that sound, and shall wish to have liv'd and dyed without it, finding so great an accession to their misery, by the neglect of so great salvation. They are said to stumble at the word; because the things that are therein testified concern­ing Christ, they labour not to understand and prize aright; but either altogether slight them, and ac­count them foolishness, or misconceive them, and prevert them.

The Jews stumbled at the meaness of Christ's birth, and life, and the ignominy of his death, not judging of him according to the Scriptures, and we in another way think we have some kind of belief, that he is the Savior of the world, yet not making the Scripture the rule of our thoughts concerning him, many of us undo our selves, and stumble, and break our necks upon this Rock, mistaking Christ, and the way of believing; looking on him as a Saviour at large, and judging that enough; not endeavouring to make him ours, and to embrace him upon the termes of that New-Covenant, whereof he is Mediator.

Whereunto also they were appointed.] This the Apostle addes for the further satisfaction of Believers in this point; how 'tis that so many reject Christ and stumble at him? Telling them plainly, that the secret purpose of God is accomplish'd in this, hav­ing determin'd to glorify his justice on impenitent sinners, as he shews his rich mercy in them that be­lieve. Here it were easier to lead you into a deep, than to lead you forth again. I will rather stand on [Page 295] the shoar, and silently admire it, than enter into it. This is certain that the thoughts of God are all no less just in themselves, than deep, and unsoundable by us. His justice appears clear, in that Mans de­struction is alwayes the fruit of his own sin: But to give causes of Gods decrees without himself, is nei­ther agreeable with the primitive being of the na­ture of God, nor with the doctrine of the Scrip­tures; this is sure that God is not bound to give us further account of these things, and we are bound not to ask it, Let these two words (as S. Austin sayes) answer all What art thou O man? And O the depth!

Our only sure way to know, that our names are not in that black line, and to be perswaded, that he hath chosen us to be saved by his Son, is this, to find that we have chosen him, and are built on him by faith, which is the fruit of his love, that first chuseth us. And that we may read in our esteem of him.

He is precious] or your honour. The difference is small you account him your glory, and your gain, he is not only precious to you, but preciousness it self. He is the thing that you make acount of, your Jewel, that if you keep, though you be robb'd of all besides, you know your selves rich enough.

To you that Believe] Faith is absolutely necessary to make this due Estimat of Christ.

1. The most excellent things, while their worth is undiscern'd, and unkown, affect us not; Now faith is the proper seeing faculty of the soul, in relation to Christ, that inward light must be infus'd from above, to make Christ visible to us; without it, though he is beautiful, yet we are blind, and therefore cannot [Page 296] love him for that beauty, but by faith we are in­abled to see him that is fairer than the Children of Men, yea, to see in him, the glory of the only begot­ten Son of God; and then it is not possible, but to account him precious, to bestow the entire affection of our hearts upon him. And if any say to the Soul what is thy beloved, more than another, it willingly layes hold on the question, and is glad of an op­portunity to extoll him.

2. Faith as it is that which discernes Christ, so it alone appropriates him, makes him our own. And these are the two reasons of esteeming, and affecting any thing; its own worth, and our interest in it, and faith begets this esteem of Christ by both. 1. It discovers to us his excellencies, that we could not see before. 2. It makes him ours, gives us posse­ssion of whole Christ, all that he hath, and is. As it is faith that commends Christ so much, and de­scribes his comeliness in that song, and withal, that word is the voyce of faith, that expresses propriety, My Wellbeloved is mine, and I am his, and these toge­ther make him most precious to the soul, having once possession of him, then it looks upon all his sufferings as endur'd particularly for it, and the benefit of them all as belonging to it self; sure it will say, can it chuse but account him precious that suffer'd shame, that he might not be ashamed; and suffered death that he might not die; that took that bitter cup of the fa­ther's wrath, and drunk it out, that he might be free from it.

Think not that you believe, if your hearts be not taken up with Christ, if his love do not possesse your soul, so that nothing is precious to you in respect [Page 297] of him, if you cannot despise, and trample upon all advantages, that either you have or would have, for Christ, and count them with the great Apostle loss and dung in comparison of him. And if you do esteem him, labour for increase of Faith, that you may esteem him more; for as Faith growes, so will he still be more precious to you. And if you would have it grow, turn that Spiritual Eye frequently to him that's the proper object of it; for even they that are Believers may possibly abate of their love, and esteem of Christ, by suffering Faith to ly dead with­in them and not using it in beholding and applying of Christ: And the World, or some particular vani­ties, may insensibly creep in, and get into the heart, and cost them much paines ere they can be thrust out again, but when they are daily reviewing those ex­cellencies that are in Christ, which first perswaded their hearts to love him, and discovering still more, and more of them, his Love will certainly grow, and will chase away those follies that the World dotes upon, as unworthy to be taken notice of.

Verse 9.

‘But ye are a chosen Generation, a Royal Priest­hood, an holy Nation, a peculiar People, that ye should shew forth the Praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’

IT is matter of very much both consolation, and instruction to Christians, to know their own Estate, what they are, as they are Christians. This [Page 298] Epistle is much and often upon this point for both those ends, both, that the reflecting on their digni­ties in Christ, may uphold them with comfort under suffering for him, and may lead them in doing, and walking, as becomes such a condition. Here it hath been represented to us by a building, a Spiritual Temple, and by a Priesthood conform to it.

The former is confirm'd, and illustrated by testi­monies of Scripture in the preceeding Verses, In this the latter, in these words: tho 'tis not expressly cited, yet 'tis clear, that the Apostle here hath reference to Exod. 19.5, 6. where this dignity of Priesthood, together with the other titles here express'd, is ascrib'd to all the chosen People of God. 'Tis there a promise made to the Nation of the Jewes, but un­der the condition of obedience, and therefore is most fitly here apply'd by the Apostle, to the be­lieving Jews, to whom particularly he writes.

'Tis true, that the external Priesthood of the Law, is abolish'd by the coming of this great high Priest; Jesus Christ being the body of all those shaddowes: But this promis'd Dignity of Spiritual Priesthood, is so far from being nulled by Christ, that it is altogether dependant on him, and there­fore fails in those that reject Christ, although they be of that Nation, to which this Promise was made: But it holds good in all, of all Nations that believe, and particularly, sayes the Apostle 'tis verified in you. You that are believing Jewes, by receiving Christ, you receive withal this dignity.

As the Legal Priesthood was remov'd by Christs ful­filling all that it prefigur'd, so he was rejected by them that were at his coming in possession of that Office: as [Page 299] the standing of that their Priesthood was inconsistent, with the revealing of Jesus Christ; so they that were then in it, being ungodly Men, their carnal minds had a kind of antipathy against him, though they pretended themselves builders of the Church, and by their calling ought to have been so, yet they threw away the foundation stone that God had cho­sen, and design'd; and in rejecting it, manifest that they themselves are rejected of God; but on the contrary, You that have laid your soules on Christ by believing, have this your chusing him as a cer­tain evidence, that God hath chosen you to be his peculiar People, yea, to be so dignified, as to be a Kingly Priesthood through Christ.

We have here 1. To Consider the estate of Christi­ans, in the words that here describe it. 2. The opposi­tion of it to the state of Unbelievers. 3. The end of it.

A chosen Generation,] Psal. 24. The Psalmist there speaks first of Gods universal Soveraignty, then of his peculiar choyce. The earth is the Lords. But there is a select company appointed for this holy Moun­tain describ'd and then clos'd thus. This is the gene­ration of them that seek him. Thus Deut. 10.14, 15. So Exod. 19.5. Whence this is taken; for all the Earth is mine, and that Nation which is a figure of the Elect of all Nations, Gods peculiar, beyond all others in the World. As Men that have great va­riety of Possessions, yet have usually their special delight in some one, beyond all the rest, and chuse to recide most in it, and bestow most expence on it, to make it pleasant. Thus doth the Lord of the whole earth chuse out to himself from the rest of the World, a number that are a chosen generation.

[Page 300]Chusing here, is the work of effectual calling, or se­vering of Believers from the rest, for it signifies a diffe­rence in their present estate, as the other words joyned with it. But this election, is altogether conform to that of Gods Eternal Decree, and is no other, but the execution, or performance of it, Gods framing of this his building, just according to the Idea of it, which was in his mind, and purpose, before all time. The drawing forth, and investing of such into this Christian, this Kingly Priesthood, whose names were expresly written up for it, in the Book of life.

Generation] This imports them to be of one race, or stock, as the Israelites who were by outward cal­ling the chosen of God, were all the seed of Abraham according to the flesh: So they that believe in the Lord Jesus; are Children of the Promise, and all of them by their new birth, one People or Generati­on, they are of one Nation, belonging to the same blessed Land of Promise, all Citizens of the new Ierusalem, yea all Children of the same family where­of Jesus Christ, the root of Iesse, is the stock, who is the great King, and the great high Priest, and thus they are a Royal Priesthood, there is no de­volving of his Royalty, or Priesthood on any other, as it is in himself, for his proper dignity, is Supreme, and incommunicable, and there is no succession in his Order, he lives for ever, and is Priest for ever. Psal. 110.4. and King for ever too, Psal. 45.6. but they that are descended from him, do derive from him by that new original this double dignity, in that way that they are capable of it, to be likewise Kings, and Priests; as he is both. They are of the [Page 301] Seed-Royal, and of the holy seed of the Priesthood, in as much as they partake of a new life from Christ; First there's his own dignity express'd, then his dig­nifying us, who is himself the first begotten among the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth. Revel. 1.5. and then, as followes, Verse 6, hath made us Kings and Priests unto God the Father.

A Royal Priesthood] That the Dignity of Belie­vers, is express'd by these two together, by Priest­hood and Royalty, teaches us, the Worth and Ex­cellency of that Holy Function taken properly, and so by analogy, the dignity of the Ministry of the Gospel, which God hath plac'd in his Church in stead of the Priesthood of the Law: for therefore doth this Title of Spiritual Priesthood fitly signify a great Priviledge, and Honour, that Christians are promoted to, and is joyn'd with that of Kings, be­cause the proper Office of Priesthood was so Ho­nourable. Before it was establish'd in one Family, the chief, the first born of each Family had right to this, as a special Honour; and amongst the Hea­thens in some places, their Princes, and greatest Men, yea, their Kings were their Priests, and universally the performing of their Holy things, was an imploy­ment of great Honour, and esteem amongst them. Though humane ambition hath strain'd this consi­deration too high, to the favouring, and founding of a Monarchical Prelacy in the Christian World, yet that abuse of it ought not to prejudge us of this due and just consequence from it, that the holy Functions of Gods House have very much Honour and Dignity in them. And the Apostle we see 2 Cor. 3. preferr's the Ministry of the Gospel, to the Priest­hood [Page 302] of the Law, so then they mistake much that think it a disparagement to Men that have some advantage of Birth, or Wit more than ordinary, to bestow them thus, and judge the meanest Persons, and things good enough for this high calling, sure this conceit cannot have place, but in an unholy, Irreligious mind, that hath either none, or very mean thoughts of God. If they that are called to this Holy Ser­vice, would themselves consider this aright, it would not puff them up, but humble them; comparing their own worthlesness with this great work, and won­der at Gods dispensation, that should have honour'd them so Eph. 3.8. So the more a Man rightly extols this his Calling, the more he humbles himself under the weight of it, and would make them very care­ful to walk more like it in eminency of holiness, for in that consists the true dignity of it.

There is no doubt that this Kingly Priesthood is the common Dignity of all Believers, this honour have all the Saints, they are Kings, have victory, and Dominion given them over the powers of dark­ness, and the lusts of their own hearts, that held them captive, and domineer'd over them before. Base slavish lusts, not born to command, yet are the hard taskmasters of unrenewed minds, and there is no true subduing them, but by the power, and spi­rit of Christ; thay may be quiet for a while in a Na­tural Man, but they are but then asleep, as soon as they awake again, they return to hurry, and drive him with their wonted violence. Now this is the benefit of receiving the Kingdom of Christ into a Mans heart, that it makes him a King himself, all the Subjects of Christ are Kings, not only in regard [Page 303] of that pure Crown of Glory they hope for; and shall certainly attain: but in the present, they have a Kingdom, that is the pledge of that other, over­coming the World, and Satan, and themselves, by the power of Faith. Mens bona regnum possidet, 'tis true, but there is no mind truly good, but that wherein Christ dwells. There is not any kind of Spirit in the World Noble, like that Spirit that is in a Christian, the very Spirit of Jesus Christ that great King, the spirit of glory, as our Apostle calls it infr. c. 4. This is a sure way to enoble the basest, and poorest amongst us, this Royalty takes away all at­tendors, nothing of all that is past to be laid to our charge, or to dishonour us.

They are not shut out from God, as before: But being in Christ are brought neer unto him, and have free access to the Throne of his grace, Heb. 10. They resemble in their Spiritual estate the legal Priesthood very clearly. 1. In their Consecration. 2. In their service, and 3. In their Laws of living.

1. They were wash'd; therefore this express'd Revel. 1.5. He hath washt us in his Blood, and then followes, made us Kings and Priests. There were no coming near unto God in his holy Services as his Priests, unless we were cleans'd from the guiltiness and pollution of our sins. This that pure and purg­ing Blood doth, and it alone, no other Laver can do it, no water, but that fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness. No blood, none of all that blood of Legal Sacrifices, Heb. 9. but only the Blood of that spotless Lamb, that takes away the sins of the World. So with this, we have that other Ceremo­any of the Priests Consecration, which was by Sa­crifice, [Page 304] as well as by washing, for he at once offer'd up himself, as our Sacrifice, and let out his blood for our washing, and with good reason, is that pre­fix'd there Revel. 1.5. He hath loved us, and then it followes, washed us in his blood, that precious stream of his heart blood, for our washing, told clear­ly, that it was a heart full of unspeakable Love that was the source of it. 3. There is anointing, Namely, The graces of the Spirit, confer'd upon Believers, flowing unto them from Christ: For 'tis of his ful­ness, that we all receive, grace, for grace, and the Apo­stle St. Paul sayes 2 Cor. 1.21. that we are establish'd, and anointed in Christ, it was poured on him, as our head, and runs down from him unto us. He Christ and we Christians, as partakers of his anointing. The consecrating Oyl of the Priests, was made of the richest Oyntments, and Spices, to shew the precious­ness of the graces of Gods Spirit, that are bestow'd on those Spiritual Priests, and as that holy Oyl was not for common use, nor for any other Persons to be anointed withal, save the Priests only; so is the Spirit of grace, a peculiar gift of Believers; others might have costly oyntments amongst the Jewes, but none of that same sort with the Consecration-Oyl. Natural Men may have very great gifts of Judgment and Learning, and eloquence, and Moral Vertues; but they have none of this precious Oyl, Namely, the spirit of Christ communicated to them. No, all their endowments, are but common and pro­fane, that Holy Oyl signified particularly, Eminen­cy of light, and knowledge in the Priests; therefore in Christians there must be light, they that are grosly ignorant of Spiritual things, are (sure) not of this [Page 305] order, this anointing is said to teach us all things, 1. Iohn. 2.27. That holy Oyl was of a most fra­grant sweet smell, by reason of its precious compo­sition, but much more sweet is the smell of that Spirit, wherewith believers are anointed, those several odoriferous graces, that are the ingredients of their anointing oyl, that heavenly mindedness, and meek­ness, and patience, and humility, and the rest, that diffuse a pleasing sent into the places, and societies where they comes; their words, actions, and their de­portment smelling sweet of them. 4. Their garments wherein they were inaugurate, and were after to wear in their services, were outshin'd by that purity, and holiness, wherewith all the Saints are adorn'd: But more by that imputed righteousness of Christ, those pure Robes, that are put upon them, where­in they appear before the Lord, and are accept­able in his sight, these Priests are indeed cloath'd with righteousness, according to that of the Psal­mist Psa. 132.9.

5. They were to have the offerings put into their hands; from thence, filling of the hand, signifies consecrating to the Priestood, and this doth Jesus Christ, that is the Consecrator of these Priests, he puts into their hands by his spirit these offerings, they are to present unto God. He furnishes them with prayers, and praises, and all other oblations, that are to be offer'd by them, he gives them them­selves, that they are to offer a living sacrifice, rescuing them from the usurp'd possession of Satan and sin.

2ly· Let us Consider, their services which were divers; to name the chief: They had charge of the [Page 306] Sanctuary, and the vessels of it, and the lights, and were to keep the Lamps burnings.

The heart of every Christian, is made a Temple to the holy Ghost, and he himself, as a priest consecrat­ed unto God, is to keep it diligently, and the furni­ture of divine grace in it, to have the light of Spirit­ual knowledge with in him, and to nourish it by drawing continually new supplies from Jesus Christ. 2ly. They were to bless the People, and truely 'tis this Spiritual Priesthood, the Elect, that procure ble­sings upon the rest of the world, and particularly on the places where they live; they are daily to offer the incense of prayer, and other Spiritual sacrifices unto God, as the Apostle expresseth it, supr. Verse. 5. Not to neglect those holy exercises together, and apart. And as the Priests offer'd not only for them­selves; but for the People: thus Christians, are to extend their prayers, and to intreat the blessings of God, for others, especially for the publick estate of the Church. As the Lords Priests they are to offer up those Praises to God, that are his due from the other creatures which praise him indeed, yet cannot do it after that manner, as these Priests do. There­fore are they to offer as it were their Sacrifices for them, as the Priests did for the People, and because the most of Men neglect to do this, and cannot do it indeed, because they are unholy, and not of this Priesthood; therefore should they be so much the more careful of it, and diligent in it. How few of these that the Heavens calls to by their light and re­volution that they enjoy, do offer that Sacrifice which becomes, for this acknowledging the glory of God which they declare. This therefore is, as it were, put [Page 307] into the hands of these Priests, namely, the God­ly, to do.

3ly. Let us Consider their course of life. We shall find rules given to the Legal Priests, stricter than to others; of avoiding legal pollutions, &c. And from these this Spiritual Priesthood must learn an exact holy conversation, keeping themselves from the pollutions of the world, as here it follows, a holy Nation, and that of necessity, if a Priestood, than holy.

Purchas'd indeed to be a peculiar treasure to God, as Exod. 19.5. at a very high rate. He spared not his only Son, nor spared the Son himself; so that these Priests ought to be the Lords peculiar poriton: All believers are his Clergy, and as they are his por­tion so he is theirs: The priests had no assign'd Inhe­ritance amongst their Brethren, and the reason is added, for the Lord is their portion; and truely so they needed not envy any of the rest, they had the choycest of all, the Lord of all. Whatsoever a Christian possesses in the world, yet being of this Spiritual Priesthood, he is as if he possess'd it not, lays little account on't: That which his mind is set on, is, how he may enjoy God, and find clear assurance that he hath him for his portion.

'Tis not so mean a thing, to be a Christian, as we think, 'tis a Holy, an Honourable, a Happy estate; few of us can esteem it, or do labour to find it so. No, we know not these things, our hearts are not on them, to make this dignity and happiness sure unto our souls. Where is that true greatness of mind, and holiness to be found, that becomes those, that are Kings, and Priests unto God? That contempt [Page 308] of earthly things, and minding or Heaven that should be in such? But sure, as many as find themselves indeed partakers of these dignities, will study to live conform to them, and will not fail to love that Lord Jesus, that hath purchas'd all this for them, and exalted them to it, humbled himself to exalt them.

We best discern, and are most sensible of the evils and good of things, by comparison. In outward condition how many be there, that are vexing them­selves with causless murmurings, and discontents, that if they would look upon the many in the world that are in a far meaner condition than they, it would cure that evil, and make them not only content, but chear­full and thankfull: But the difference here express'd is far greater, and more considerable, than any can be in outward things. Though the estate of a Christian is very excellent, and precious, and rightly valued hath enough in it self to commend it, yet it doth, and ought to raise our esteem of it the higher, when we compare it, both with the misery of our former condition, and the continuing misery of those that abide still, and are left to perish in that wofull estate. We have here both these parallels. The hap­piness and dignity to which they are chosen, and call [...]d, is oppos'd to the rejection, and misery of them that continue unbelievers, and rejecters of Christ.

Not only Naturall Men; but even they that have a spiritual life in them, yet when they forget them­selves, are subject to look upon the things that are before them with a natural eye, and to think hard­ly, or at least doubtfully concerning Gods dispen­sation, Beholding the flourishing, and prosperities of the ungodly together with their own sufferings, [Page 309] and distresses, thus Psa. 73. &c. But when they turn the other side of the Medal, and view them with a right eye, and by a true light, they are no longer abus'd with those appearances, When they consider unbelievers, as strangers, yea enemies to God, and slaves to Satan, held fast in the chains of their own impenitency, and unbelief, and by those bound over to eternal death, and then see themselves call'd to the liberties, and dignities of the Sons of God, partakers of the honour of the only begotten Sons, on whom they have believed, made by him Kings, and Priests unto God the father: then sure they have other thoughts, it makes them no more envy, but pity the ungodly, and account all their pomp, and all their possessions, what it is indeed, no other, but a glistering misery, and themselves happy in all estates to say with David. The lines have fallen to me in a pleasant place, I have a goodly heritage. Makes them digest all their sufferings, and disgraces with patience, yea with joy; and think more of prai­sing, than complaining, of shewing forth his honour, who hath so honoured them, especially considering the freeness of his grace, that it was that alone ma [...]e the difference, calling them altogether undeserved­ly from that same darkness, and misery in which unbelievers are deservedly left.

Now the third thing here to be spoken to, is the end of their calling, to shew his praise, &c. And the more to prize the reasonableness of that their hap­py estate, to which God hath exalted them, it is ex­press'd in other termes, which therefore we will first consider, and then the end.

To magnifie the grace of God the more, we have [Page 310] here 1. Both the termes of this motion, or change from whence, and to what it is. 2. The principle of it, the calling of God.

From darkness. There is nothing more usual not only in divine, but in humane writings, than to bor­row outward sensible things, to expresse things intel­lectual; and amongst such expressions, there is none more frequent, than that of Light and darkness, transfer'd, to signifie the good, and evil estate of Man, as sometimes for his outward prosperity, or adversity, but especially for things proper to his mind, the mind is called Light because the Seat of Truth, and Truth is most fitly called Light being the chief beauty, and ornament of the rational world, as Light is of the visible. And as the Light, because of that its beauty is a thing very refreshing, and com­fortable to them that behold it, as Salomon sayes 'tis a pleasant thing to see the sun. So is Truth, a most delightfull thing to the soul that rightly ap­prehends it.

This may hely us, to conceive of the Spiritual sense, in which it is here taken. The estate of Lost Mankind, is indeed nothing, but darkness, being destitute of all Spirituall truth, and com­fort, and tending to utter and everlasting dark­ness.

And it is so, because by sin the soul is separate from God, who is the first and highest light, that primitive truth, as he is light in himself, As the A­postle 8. Iohn tells us, God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all; expressing the excell­ency, and purity of his nature, so he is light relati­vely to the soul of Man. Psa. 27. the Lord is my light sayes, David.

[Page 311]And the soul being made capable of divine light, cannot be happy without it, give it what other light you will, still 'tis in darkness, so long as 'tis without God, being the peculiar light, and life of the soul. And as truth is united with the soul in apprehend­ing it, and light with the visive faculty, so, that the soul may have God as its light, it must of necessity be in union with God. Now sin hath broke that union, and so cut off the soul from its light, and implung'd it into spiritual darkness.

Hence all that confusion, and disorder in the soul, which is ever the companion of darkness Tohu vahohu, as at first, when darkness was on the face of the deep: Being ignorant of God, and of our selves, it followes that we love not God; because we know him not, yea (though we think it a hard word) we are haters of God, for not only doth our darkness import Ignorance of him, but an enmity to him, because he is light and we are darkness. And being ignorant of our selves, not seeing our own vileness, because we are in the dark, we are pleas'd with our selves, and having left God, do love our selves in stead of God. Hence are all the wickednesses of our hearts, and lives, which are no other but in place of obeying, and pleasing God, a continual Sacrificing to those Gillulim, those base dunghill Gods, our own lusts. For this the Apostle gives, as the root of all those evils 2 Tim. 3.2. covetous, boasters &c. Because in the first place, lovers of themselves, therefore proud. &c. And lovers of pleasures more than of God; and this self-love can­not subsist without gross ignorance, minds so dark­ned, that we cannot withal see what we are: For [Page 312] if we did, it were not possible, but we would be far of another mind, very far out of loving, and liking with our selves. Thus our souls being filled with darkness, are likewise full of uncleaness; as that goes along too with darkness, they are not only dark as dungeons, but withall filthy as they use to be, so Eph. 4.18. understandings darkned, alie­nated from the life of God. And therefore Ver. 19. give themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleaness with greediness. They have no light of solid comfort. Our great comfort here is not in any thing present; but in hope now being without Christ and without God, we are without hope Eph. 2.12.

And as the estate from whence we are called by grace, is worthily called Darkness, so that to which it calls us deserves as well the name of Light. As Christ likewise, that came to work our deliverance, is frequently so call'd in Scripture Io. 1. &c. Not only in regard of his own nature, being God equal with the father, and therefore light, as he is God of God, and therefore Light of light: But relating to Men Iohn. 1.4. that life was the light of Men. as he is stiled the word, and the wisdom of the father, not only in regard of his own knowledge; but as revealing him unto us Iohn. 1.18. 1 Cor. 1.24. Compared with Ver. 30. And stiled by Malachy the sun of righteousness. Now the sun, is not only a Luminous body, but a Luminary giving light unto the world, Gen. 1.

He is our light, oppos'd to all kind of darkness: to the dark shaddow's of the ceremonial Law, which possibly is here meant, as a part of that darkness, [Page 313] from which the Apostle Writes that these Jews were delivered also by the knowledge of Christ: When he came, the day broke, and the shaddowes flew away: To the darkness likewise of the Gentiles superstitions, and Idolatries; therefore these two are joyned by old Simeon, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his People Israel.

And to all that believe of both, he is Light oppos'd to the Ignorance, and slavery, and misery of their natural estate, teaching them by his Spirit, the things of God, and reuniting them with God, who is the light of the Soul. I am sayes he, the light of the World, he that followes me shall not walk in darkness.

And it is that mysterious Union of the Soul with God in Christ (which a Natural Man so little under­stands) that is the cause of all that Spiritual Light of Grace, that a Believer does enjoy.

No right knowledge of God to Man, once fallen from it, but in his Son, no comfort in beholding God, but through him. Nothing but just anger and wrath to be seen in Gods lookes, but through him, in whom he is well pleased. The Gospel shews us the Light of the knowledge of God. 2 Cor. 4.6. but 'tis in the face of Iesus Christ; therefore the Kingdom of light, oppos'd to that of Darkness, Col. 1. is called the Kingdom of his dear Son, or the Son of his Love.

There is a Spirit of Light, and Knowledge flowes from Jesus Christ into the Souls of Believers, that acquaints them with the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which cannot otherwise be known. And this Spirit of Knowledge is withal a Spirit of Holiness, for Purity, and Holiness is likewise signified by this Light; he remov'd that huge dark body of sin, that [Page 314] was betwixt us, and the Father, and eclips'd him from us; the light of his countenance sanctifieth by truth; 'tis a light that hath heat with it, and hath influence upon the affections, warmes them towards God, and divine things, this darkness here is in­deed the shadow of death; and so they that are without Christ, till he visit them, are said to sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death. So this Light is Life, Ioh. 1.4. Doth enlighten, and enliven, be­g [...]ts new actions, and motions in the Soul, the right notion that he hath of things as they are, work upon him, and stir him accordingly, discovers a man to himself, and lets him see his own Natural filthiness, and makes him loath himself, and fly from himself, run out of himself. And the excellency he sees in God, and his Son Jesus Christ by this new Light, enflames his heart with their Love, takes him up with estimation of the Lord Jesus, and makes the World, and all things in it, that he esteemed be­fore, base, and mean in his eyes.

Then from this Light arises Spiritual Joy, and Comfort, so Light signifies frequently, as in that of the Psalmist, the latter clause expounds the former, Light is sowen for the Righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. As this Kingdom of Gods dear Son, that is, this Kingdom of Light, hath righteousness in it; so it hath Peace and Ioy in the Holy Ghost, Rom. 14. 'Tis a false prejudice the World hath taken up against Religion, that 'tis a sowr Melancholly thing: There is no truly Lightsome, and Comfortable life but it. All others, have what they will, they live in dark­ness, and is not that truly sad, and comfor [...]less? Would you think it a pleasant life, though you had [Page 315] fine Cloathes, and good Die [...]; but never see the Sun; and were still kept in a Dungeon with them? thus are they that live in Worldly Honour and Plen­ty; but still without God they are in continual darkness with all their injoyments.

It is true, the light of Believers is not here per­fect, and therefore their joy is not perfect neither: sometimes over clouded, but the comfort is this, that it is an everlasting light, it shall never go out in darkness, as is said in Iob of the light of the Wicked; [...]nd it shall within a while be perfected. There is a bright morning without a Cloud, that shall arise. The Saints have not only Light to lead them in their journey, but much purer Light at home, an Inheri­tance in Light, Colos. 1. The Land where their Inheritance lyeth, is full of Light, and their Inhe­ritance it self is light: For the Vision of God for ever is that Inheritance, that City hath no need of the Sun, nor of the Moon to shine in it, for the glory of the Lord doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. As we said that increated Light is the happiness of the Soul, the beginnings of it are our begun happiness, they are beams of it sent from above, to lead us to the Fountain and fulness of it. With thee (sayes David) is the Fountain of Life, and in thy Light shall we see light.

There are two things spoken of this Light, to commend it, His Marvellous Light; that it is after a peculiar manner Gods, and then that is is Marvellous. All light is from him, the light of sense, and that of reason; therefore he is called the Father of Lights: but this Light of Grace is after a peculiar manner his, being a light above the reach of Nature, in­fus'd [Page 316] into the Soul, in a supernatural way. The light of the Elect World, where God specially and graciously recides. Natural Men may know very much, in natural things, and it may be in superna­tural things, after a natural manner. They may be full of School-Divinity, and able to discourse of God, and his Son Christ, and the Mystery of Redemp­tion, &c. and yet want this peculiar light, by which Christ is known to Believers, they may speak of him; but 'tis in the dark, they see him not, and therefore they love him not, the light they have, is as the light of some things that shine only in the night, a cold Glow-worm-light that hath no heat with it at all.

Whereas a Soul, that hath some of His Light, Gods peculiar Light communicated to it, sees Jesus Christ, and loves, and delights in Him, and walks with Him: A little of this light is worth a great deal, yea, more worth than all that other common, speculative, and discoursing knowledge, that the greatest Doctors can attain unto, 'tis of a more excellent kind, and original, 'tis from Heaven, and ye know that one beam of the Sun is more worth than the light of ten thousand Torches together; 'tis a pure undecaying Heavenly light, whereas the other is, gross, and earthly (be it never so great) and lasts but a while. Let us not there­fore think it Incredible, that a poor unletter'd Chris­tian may know more of God in the best kind of knowledge, than any the wisest, and Learnedest na­tural Man can do, for the one knowes God only by Mans Light, the other knowes him by his own light, and that's the only right knowledge; as the Sun cannot be seen but by its own light, so neither can [Page 317] God be savingly known, but by his own revealing.

Now this Light being so peculiarly Gods, no mar­vel if it be Marvellous, the common light of the world is so, though because of its commoness, we think not so, The Lord is Marvellous is Wisdom, in Pow­er, in all his works of Creation, and Providence: But above all, in the workings of his Grace. This Light is unknown to the World, and so Marvellous in the rareness of beholding it, that there be but a few that partake of it. And to them that see, it is Mar­vellous; because in it, they see so many excellent things, that they knew not before. As if a Man were born, and brought up, till he came to years of understanding in a Dungeon, where he had never seen light, and were brought forth on a sudden; or, not to need that imagination, take the Man that was born blind, at his first sight, after Christ had cur'd him, what wonder, think we, would seize up­on him, to behold on a sudden the beauty of this visible World, especially of that Sun, and that Light, that makes it both Visible and Beautiful. But much more matter of Admiration is there in this Light to the Soul, that is brought newly from the darkness of corrupt Nature: They see as it were a new World, and in it such wonders of the rich Grace, and Love of God; such matchless worth in Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, that their Souls are fill'd with admiration, and if this Light of Grace be so Marvel­lous, how much more Marvellous shall the Light of Glory be in which it ends.

Hence learn, 1. To Esteem highly of the Gospel, in which this Light shines unto us, the Apostle calls it therefore, the Glorious Gospel, 2 Cor. 4. sure we [Page 318] have no cause to be asham'd of it, but of our selves that we are so unlike it.

2. Think not you that are grosly ignorant of God, and his Son Christ, and the Mysteries of Salvation, that you have any Portion as yet in his Grace; for the first Character of his renewed Image in the Soul, is Light, as it was his first work in the World. What availes it us to live in the Noon-day-light of the Gospel, if our hearts be still shut against it, and so within we be nothing but darkness, as a House that is close shut up, and hath no entry for light, though 'tis day without, still 'tis night within.

3. Consider your delight in the works of Dark­ness, and be affraid of that great Condemnation, this is the Condemnation of the World, that light is come into it, and Men love darkness rather than Light, Joh. 3.19.

4. You that are indeed partakers of this happy change, Let your hearts be habitations of light, Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of dark­ness, but rather reprove them. Study much to in­crease in Spiritual light, and knowledge, and with­al in holiness, and obedience; if your light be this Light of God, truly Spiritual Light, these will ac­company it: Consider the rich Love of God, and account His Light marvellous, as in it self, so in this, that he hath bestow'd it on you, and seeing you were once darkness, but now are light in the Lord, I be­seech you, nay 'tis the Apostle and in him the Spirit of God does it, Walk as Children of the Light.

But to proceed to speak to the other parts of this Verse. 'Tis known, and confess'd to be a chief point [Page 319] of Wisdom in a Man, to consider what he is, from whom he hath that his being, and to what end. When a Christian hath thought on this in his Natu­ral being, as he is a Man, he hath the same to con­sider over again of his Spiritual being, as he is a Chris­tian, and so, a New Creature. And in this notion all the three are very clearly represented to him in these words. 1. What he is. First, by these Titles of Dignity in the first words of this Verse. And again by an estate of Light in the last clause of it. 2. Whence a Christian hath this Excellent being, is very expresse here, He hath called. That God, who is the Author of all kind of being, hath given you this, called you from darkness to his marvellous Light, if you be a Chosen Generation, it is he that hath chosen you, 1 Pet. 1.2. if you be a Royal Priest­hood, you know that 'tis he that hath anointed you. If a Holy Nation, he hath sanctified you. Iob. 17.17. If a Peculiar or Purchasd People, 'Tis he that hath bought you. 1 Cor. 6.20. All are in this calling, and they are all one thing. 3. To what end, to shew forth his Praises. Of the first of these in all the se­veral expressions of it we have spoken before, now are to be considered the other two.

2. Called you] They that live in the Society, and profess the faith of Christians, are called unto Light, the light of the Gospel that shines in the Church of God. Now this is no small Favour, and Priviledge, while many People are left in darkness, and in the shaddow of death, to have this Light arise upon us, and to be in the Region of it, the Church, the Goshen of the World, for by this outward light we are invited to this happy State of saving inward [Page 320] Light, and that is here to be understood, as the means of this. These Jewes that were called to the Profession of the Christian Faith, to whom our Apostle writes, were even in that called unto a Light, hid from the rest of their Nation, and from many other Nations in the World: But because the Apostle doth (out of doubt) describe here the lively Spiri­tual Estate of true Believers, therefore this calling doth further import the effectual work of conversion, making the day-light of Salvation, not only without, but within them, the day star to arise in their hearts, as he speaks, 2 Ep. 1.19. When the Sun is arisen, yet if a Man be lying fast in a dark Prison, and in a deep sleep too; 'tis not day to him, he is not call'd to Light, till some open the doors, and awake him, and bring him forth to it; this God doth, in the calling here meant: That which is here called, Calling, in re­gard of the way of Gods working with the Soul, in re­gard of the power of it, is called a rescuing, & bringing forth of the soul, so the Apostle St. Paul speaks of it, Col. 1.13. Delivered from the power of darkness, and translated to the Kingdom of his dear Son. That deli­vering, and translating, is this calling, and 'tis from the Power of Darkness, a forcible Power, that detains the Soul Captive, as there are chaines of Eternal darkness upon damned Spirits, which shall never be taken off, wherein they are said to be reserv'd to the judgment of the great day, so there are chaines of Spiritual darkness upon the Soul unconverted, that can be taken off by no other hand, but the Pow­erful hand of God; He calls the sinner to come forth, and withal causes by the power of that his voyce the bolts, and fetters to fall off, and inables the Soul [Page 321] to come forth into the Light, 'tis an operative word that effects what it bids, as that in the creation, He said let there be Light, and it was Light. To which the Apostle hath reference, 2 Cor. 4.6. God calls Man, he works with him indeed, as with a reasonable creature, but sure he likewise works as himself, as an Almighty Creator. He works strongly, and sweetly with an Almighty easiness. One Man may call another to this Light, and if there be no more, he may call long enough to no purpose, as they tell of Mahomet's miracle that misgave, he call'd a mountain to come to him, but it stirr'd not; but His call that shakes and removes the mountains, doth in a way known to himself turn and wind the heart which way he pleaseth. The voyce of the Lord is powerfull and full of Ma­jesty. Psa. 29. If he speak once to the heart it cannot chuse but follow Him, and yet most wil­lingly chuses that. The workings of grace (as oyl to which it is often compar'd) do insensibly, and silently penetrate, and sink into the soul, and dilate themselves through it, that word of his own cal­ling, disentangles the heart from all its nets (as it did the Disciples) to follow Christ; that call that brought St. Matthew presently from his receit of custom, puts off the heart from all its customes, and receits too, makes it reject gains, and pleasures, and all that hinders it, to go after Christ: And it is a call that touches the Soul so, as the touch of Elijah's Mantle, that made Elisha follow him. Go back said he, for what have I done unto thee, yet he had done so much, as made him forsake all to go with him. And this every Believer is most really to acknow­ledge, [Page 322] that knows what the rebellion of his heart was and what his miserable love of darkness was, that the gracious, yet mighty call of God, was that, which drew him him out of it, and therefore he willingly assents to that. Which is the third thing, that it becomes him, to shew forth his praise who hath so mercifully, and so powerfully called him, from so miserable, to so happy an estate.

For 1. This is Gods end in calling us, to com­municate his goodness to us, that so the glory of it, may return to himself. The highest agent cannot work, but for the highest end, so that, as the Apostle speaks, when God would confirm his Covenant by an oath, he sware by himself, because he could swear by no greater, so in all, he must be the end of his own actions, because there is no greater, nor better end, yea none by infinite odds so great, or good, particularly in the calling, and exalting a number of lost Mankind to so great honour, and happiness, both in designing that great work, and in performing it, he aimes at the opening up, and declaring of his rich grace, for the glory of it. As the Apostle S. Paul tells us once, and again. Eph. 1.

2. As this is Gods end, it ought to be ours, and there­fore ours, because it is His. And for this very purpose, are we elsewhere, and here, put in mind of it, that we may be true to his end, and intend it with Him: This is His purpose in calling us, and therefore our great duty being so called, to declare his praises. All things, and persons shall pay this tribute; even they that are most unwilling: But the happiness of His chosen is, that they are active in it, others passive only: Whereas, the rest have it wrested from them, [Page 323] they do declare it cheerfully, as the glorious An­gels do: As the Gospel brings them glad tydings of peace from God, declares to them, that love, and mercy that is in Him, they smother it not, but answer it, they declare it, and set forth the glory of it, with their utmost power, and skill.

There be in this Two things. 1. Not only to speak upon all occasions to the advantage of his grace, but that the frame of their actions be such as doth tend to the exalting of God: And 2. That in those actions they do intend this end, set up this for their aim.

1. Their words and actions being conform to their high, and holy estate, to which they are called, do commend, and praise their Lord, that hath called them to it; the vertues that are in them tell us of his vertues, as Brooks lead us to their Springs: When a Christian can quietly repose, and trust on God, in a matter of very great difficulty, wherein there is no other thing to stay him but God alone, this de­clares, that there is strength enough in God that bears him up, that there must be in Him that real abundance of goodness, and truth that the word speaks of Him. Abraham believed, and gave glory to God, this is that which a Believer can do, to de­clare the truth of God, he relies on it, he that be­lieves sets to his seal that God is true. So also their holiness is for his praise. Men hear that there is a God who is infinitely holy, but they can neither see him, nor his holiness, but when they perceive some lineaments of it in the faces of His Children, which are in no others; this may convince them that its perfection, which must be somewhere, can be no where else, but in their heavenly Father. [Page 324] When these that are His peculiar plants bring forth the fruits of holiness, which naturally they yielded not, it testifies a supernatural work of his hand, that planted them, and the more they are fruitful the great­er is his praise. Herein (sayes our Saviour) is your heavenly Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Were it not the conscience of this duty to God, and possibly the necessity of their station, and calling, it may well be, some Christian had rather al­together look up, and keep within any grace he hath, than let it appear at all, considering some hazards he and it runs in the discovery: and it may be could take some pleasure in the worlds mistakes, and dis­esteem of him: But seeing both Piety, and Charity requires the acting of graces in converse with Men, That which Hypocrisie doth for it self, a real Chri­stian may, and should do for God. The other thing mention'd as making up this rule, will give the diffe­rence, that not only, what we speak and do should be such as agrees with this end, but that in so speaking and doing our eye be upon this end, that all our Chri­stian conversation, be directly intended by us, not to cry up our own vertues, but to glorifie God, and His vertues, to declare his praises who hath called us.

Let your light, sayes our Saviour, shine and shine before Men too, that's not forbidden, yea 'tis com­manded, but 'tis thus commanded. Let your light so shine before Men, that Men seeing your good works, your selves as little as may be, your works more than your selves (as the Sun gives us its light, and will scarce suffer us to look upon it self) may glorifie whom? You. No, but your father which is in hea­ven. [Page 325] Let your light shine, 'tis given for that pur­pose, but let it shine alwayes to the glory of the Father of Lights. Men that seek themselves, may share in the same publick kind of actions with you; but let your secret intention (which God eyes most) sever you. This is the impress, that a sincere hum­ble Chiristian sets upon all his actions, to the glory of God: He useth all he hath, especially all his graces to His praise that gives it, and is sorry he hath no more for this use and is daily seeking after more, not to bring more esteem to himself, but more honour to God. 'Tis a poor booty to hunt after that, Namely, an airy vain breath of Men. The best things in them, their solidest good, is altogether vanity. How much more that which is lightest and vainest in them. This is the mind, that is in every Christian, in all his wayes to deny himself, and be willing to abase himself to exalt his Master, to be of St. Paul's temper, that regarded not himself at all, honour, or dishonour, prison or liberty, life or death, content of any thing, so Christ might be magnified. Phil. 1. And as every godly mind, must be thus affected, especially the Ministers of the Gospel, they that are not only called with others, to partake of this marvellous Light, but are in a special manner to hold it forth to others; How pure affections, and ardent desires becomes them to his glory, who hath so called them? A rush for your praise, or dispraise, only receive Jesus Christ, and esteem highly of him, and 'tis enough. That's the thing we give to some of you. We preach not our selves (sayes the Apostle) but Christ Iesus the Lord. That's our errand, not to to catch, either at base gain, or vain applause for [Page 326] our selves: But to exalt our Lord Jesus, in the hearts of Men, and to those that are so minded, there is a reward abiding them, of such riches, and honour, as they would be very loath to exchange for any thing to be had amongst Men.

But in his station, this is the mind of every one, that loves the Lord Jesus most heartily, to make a Sacrifice of himself, and all he is, and hath, means, and esteem, and life, and all to His glory, that humbled himself so low, to exalt us to these digni­ties, to make us Kings and Priests unto God.

"Tis most just, seeing we have our Crowns from Him, and that he hath set them on our heads, that we take them in our hands, and throw them down before his throne. All our graces (if we have any) are his free gift, and are given as the rich garments of this Spiritual Priesthood, only to attire us, sutably for this Spiritual Sacrifice of his praises. As the costly vesture of the high Priest under the Law, was not appointed to make himself gay for himself, but to decore him for his holy service, and to com­mend, as a figure of it, the perfect holiness, where­with our great high Priest Iesus Christ was cloathed. What good thing have we, that is not from the hand of our good God, and receiving all from him, and after a Special manner Spiritual blessings, is it not reasonable, that all we have (but those Spiritual gifts especialy) declare His praise, and His only. Pas. 30.1. David doth not grow big with vain thoughts, and lift up himself, because God had lift him up: but I will extol thee, because thou hast lifted me up. The visible heavens, and all the beauty, and the lights in them speak nothing, but [Page 327] His glory, that framed them, as the Psalmist teach­eth us, and shall not these Spiritual Lights, his cal­led ones, whom he hath made Lights so peculiar­ly for that purpose: These stars in his right hand, do it much more? Oh! Let it be thus with us, the more he gives, be still the more humble, and let him have the return of more glory, and let it go entire to Him, 'tis all His due, and in doing thus, we shall still grow richer, for where He sees the faithfullest Servant that purloins nothing, but improves all to his Masters advantage, sure, him He will trust with most.

And as it is thus, both most due to God, and most profitable for our selves, in all, to seek his praises, with our own Interest, so 'tis the most excellent and generous intent, to have the same thought with God, the same purpose that is his, and aim no lower, than at his glory: Whereas 'tis a base poor thing for a Man to seek himself, far below that Royall dignity, that is here put upon Christians, and that Priesthood joyned with it. Under the Law, they that were squint ey'd were uncapable of the Priest­hood, truely, this squinting out to our own interest, looking aside to that (in Gods affairs especially) so deformes the face of the soul, that it makes it altogether unworthy the honour of this Spiritual Priesthood. Oh! this is a large task, an infinite task the several creatures bear their part in this, the Sun sayes somewhat, and Moon, and Stars, yea, the lowest have some share in it, the very plants, and herbs of the field speak of God, and yet the very highest and best, Yea, altogether, the whole Con­sort of Heaven, and earth, cannot shew forth all his [Page 328] praise to the full. No, 'tis but a part, the smellast part of that glory, which they can reach.

We all pretend to these dignities, in that we pro­fess our selves Christians, but if we have a mind to be resolv'd of the truth in this (for many, many are deceiv'd in't) we may, by asking our selves seriously, and answering truely to this. 1. Whether are my actions, and the course of my life such, as give evidence of the grace of God, and so speak his praise? if not, sure, I am not of this number, that God thus call'd, and dignified, and this (I fear) would degrade many. 2ly. If my life be somewhat regular, and Christian like, yet whether do I in it all, singly, and constantly without any self, or sini­ster end, desire, and seek the glory of God alone? Otherwayes I may be like this chosen generation; but I am not of them: And this out of doubt, would make the number yet far less. Well, think on it 'its a miserable condition for Men, either to be gro­ssely staining and dishonouring the holy Religion they profess, or in seeming to serve, and honour God to be serving, and seeking themselves; it is the way to lose themselves for ever. Oh! 'its a comfort­able thing to have an upright mind, and to love God for himself, and love seeks not its own things; they are truely happy that make this their work sincere­ly, though weakly, to advance the praises of their God in all things, and finding the great imperfec­tion of their best diligence in this work here, are still longing to be where they shall do it better.

Verse. 10.

‘Which in time past were not a People, but are now the People of God, &c.

THe love of God to his Children, is the great subject both of his Word, and of their thoughts, and therefore is it, that his word (the rule of their thoughts, and whole lives) speaks so much of that love to that very end, that they may think much, and esteem highly of it, and walk answerably to it. This is the Scope of St. Pauls Doctrine to his Ephesians, and the top of his desires for them. Eph. 3.17. And this is here our Apostles aim. As he begun with it op­posing their Election in Heaven to their Dispersion on Earth, the same consideration runs through the whole Epistle. Here he is representing to them, the great fruit of that Love, that happy, and high Estate, to which they are called in Christ, that the chusing of Christ, and Believers, is as one act, and they as one entire Object of it; one glorious Temple, He the Foundation, and head corner Stone, and they the Edifice; one honourable Fraternity, He the King of Kings and great high Priest, and they like­wise through him made Kings and Priests unto God the Father, a Royal Priesthood &c. He the Light of the World, and they through him Children of Light, Now that this their Dignity, which shines so bright in its own innate worth, may yet appear the more, he sets it off by a double opposition.

[Page 330]1. Of the misery, under which others are.

2dly. That Misery under which, they themselves were before their calling. And this being set on both sides is as a dark shadowing round about their hap­piness here describ'd, setting off the lustre of it.

Their former misery express'd in the former Verse by Darkness, is here more fully and plainly set before their view in these words; They are borrowed from the Prophet Hosea 2.23. Where (as is usual with the Prophets) he is raised up by the Spirit of God, from the temporal troubles, and deliverances of the Israelites, to consider, and foretel that great re­storement wrought by Jesus Christ, purchasing a New People to himself, made up, both of Jews, and Gentiles that believe; and therefore the Pro­phecy is fit, and applicable to both, so that the de­bate is altogether needless, whether it concerns the Jews, or Gentiles: For in its Spiritual sense, as re­lating to the Kingdom of Christ, it foretels the making up to the Gentiles, that were not before the People of God; and of the Jews likewise, that by their Apostacies, and the Captivities, and Dispersions come upon them, as just punishments of those Apo­stacies, were degraded from the outward Dignities they had, as the People of God, and withal were Spiritually miserable and Captives by Nature, and so in both respects laid equal with the Gentiles, and stood in need of this Resti [...]ution, as they. St. Paul [...]iseth it concerning the calling of the Gentiles, Rom. 9. And [...]ere St. Peter Writing, as is most Probable, particularly to the Dispers [...]d Jews, applies it to them as being in the very reference it bears to the Jews, truly fulfill'd in those alone, that were Believers; [Page 331] Faith making them a part of the true Israel of God, to which the Promises do peculiarly belong, as the Apostle St. Paul argue at large, Rom. 9.

Their former Misery, and so their present Happi­ness we have here under a double expression, they were not a People, destitute of mercy, not the Peo­ple of God, sayes the Prophet, Not a People, sayes our Apostle, being not Gods People, so base and mi­serable as not worthy the Name of a People at all, as 'tis taken, Deut. 32.21.

There is a kind of being, a life that the Soul hath by a peculiar union with God, and therefore in that sense the Soul without God is dead, as the Body is without the Soul Eph. 2.1. Yea as the Body sepe­rated from the Soul is not only a liveless lump, but putrifies, and becomes noysome and abominable, thus the Soul seperated from God; is subject to a more loathsome and vile putrefaction, Psal. 14.3. So that Men that are yet Unbelievers, are Not, as the Hebrewes express'd death, multitudes of them are not a People, but a heap of filthy Carcases. Again take our Natural Misery in the notion of a Captivi­ty, which was the judgement threatned against the Jews to make them not a People, therefore their Captivity is often spoke of as a Death (by the Pro­phets) and their reduction as their resurrection, Ezek. 37. And as a Captive People is civilly dead, as they speak, so are Souls captive to Sin and the and the Prince of darknes, Spiritually dead, want­ing happiness and well being which if it never attain, it had better (for it self) not be at all. Nothing but disorder and confusion in the Soul without God, the affections hurrying it tumultuously.

[Page 332]Thus Captive sinners are not, are dead, they both want that happy being that flowes from God to the Souls that are united to himself, and consequently must want that Society and union one with another, which results from the former, from the same union that Believers have with God and the same being in Him; which makes them truly worthy to be called a People, and particularly the People of God. His People are the only People in the World worthy to be call'd a People, the rest are but refuse and dross; although in the Worlds esteem, that judges by its own rules, and favour of it self, the People of God be as no body, no People, a company of silly crea­tures, yea, we are made (sayes the great Apostle) as the filth of the World, and the offscouring of all things, yet in his account who hath chosen them (who alone knowes the true value of things) His People are the only People, and all the rest of the World as nothing in his eyes, He Dignifies and beau­tifies them, and loves in them that Beauty which He hath given them.

But under that term, is not only compriz'd, that new being of Believers in each one of them apart; but that tie and union that is amongst them as one People, being incorporated together and living un­der the same Government and Laws, without which a People are but as the Beasts of the Field, or the Fishes of the Sea, and the Creeping things that have no ruler over them, as the Prophet Habak. speaks. That regular living in Society, and Union in Laws, and Polity makes many Men to be One People, but the civil Union of Men in States and Kingdoms, is nothing comparable to the Mysterious Union of the [Page 333] People of God with him, and one with another. That Commonwealth hath a firmer Union then all others, Believers are knit together in Christ as their Head, not merely a Civil or Political Head ruling them, but as a Natural Head enlivening them, giv­ing them all one Life. Men in other Societies though well ordered, yet are but as a Multitude of trees regularly planted indeed, but each upon his own Root: But the Faithful are all Branches of one Root, their Vnion is so Mysterious, that it is re­sembled to the very union of Christ with his Father, as indeed the product of it, Ioh. 17.

People of God] I will say to them thou art my Peo­ple, and they shall say thou art my God, Hos. 2.23. That Mutual Interest and possession is the very foun­dation of all our Comfort, He is the first Chuser, He first sayes My People, calls them so, and makes them to be so, and then they say My God, therefore a Relation that shall hold and shall not break, be­cause it is founded upon His choyce who changes not. The tenor of an external Covenant with a People (as the Jewes particularly found) is such, as may be broken by Mans unfaithfulness, though God remain faithful and true: but the New Covenant of Grace makes all sure on all hands, and cannot be broken, the Lord not only keeping His own part, but likewise performing ours in us, and for us, and establishing us that He departs not from us first, so we shall not depart from Him. I will betroth thee to me (sayes he there) for ever, 'tis an indissoluble Marriage that is not in danger to be broke either by Divorce or Death.

My People. There is a treasure of Instruction and [Page 334] comfort wrapt up in that word, not only more than the profane world can imagine (for they indeed know nothing at all of it) but more than they that are of that number are able to conceive of, a deep unsoundible. My People. They his portion, and He theirs; He accounts nothing of all the World be­side them, and they of nothing at all beside Him: For them He continues the World. Many and great are the priviledges of his people contain'd in that great Charter the Holy Scriptures, and rich is that Land where their Inheritance lies; but all is in this reciprocal, that he is their God. All his power and Wisdom is engag'd for their good, how great and many soever are their enemies, they may well oppose this to all, he is their God, they are sure to be pro­tected and prosper'd and in end to have full victory. Happy then is that People whose God is the Lord.

Which had not obtained Mercy] The Mercies of the Lord to his Chosen are from everlasting, yet so long as His Decree of mercy runs hid, and is not discover'd to them in the effects of it, they are said not to have receiv'd or obtain'd mercy, and when it begins to act and work in their effectual calling, then they find it to be theirs, it was in a secret way moving forward towards them before, as the Sun after Midnight is still coming nearer to us, though we perceive not its approach till the dawning of the Day.

Mercy] The former word teaches us how great the change is that is wrought by the Calling of God, this teaches us how free it is; the People of God, that's the good attained in the change, obtain'd Mercy, that's the Spring whence it flowes; 'tis im­plied [Page 335] indeed in the words of the change of no People such as have no right to such a Dignity at all, nor in themselves no disposition for it, to be made His people, can be by no other but free grace, such mercy as supposes nothing nor seeks nothing but misery in us and works upon that. As it is express'd to have been very free to this people of the Jews, in chusing them before the rest of the World Deut. 17. So 'tis to the Spiritual Israel of God, and to every one particular­ly belonging to that company. Why is it that he chused me of a Family, and leaves another; But because it pleaseth him, he blots out their transgres­sions for his own Name sake. And 2. as 'tis free mercy, 'tis Tender mercy, the word in the Prophet signifies tenderness or bowels of compassion, and such are the mercies of our God towards us, Ier. 31.20. The bowels of a Father, Psal. 103.13. and if you think not that tenderness enough, those of a Mother, yea more than a Mother Isa. 49.15. 3. 'Tis Rich mercy; delights to glorifie it self in the greatest misery. Pardons as easily the greatest as the smal­lest of Debts. 4. A constant unalterable Mercy, a stream still running.

Now in both these the Apostle drawes the eyes of Believers to reflect on their former misery and view it together with their present Estate. This is very frequent in the Scirptures, Ezek. 16. Eph. 2. 1 Cor. 6.11. &c. And it is of very great use, works the soul of a Christian to much Humility and Love, and Thankfulness and Obedience.

It cannot chuse but force him to abase himself and magnifie the free Grace and Love of God, and this may be one reason, why it pleaseth the Lord to [Page 336] suspend the Conversion of many, for many years of their life, yea, to suffer some of them to stain those years with grievous and gross sins; that the riches and glory of his Grace and the freeness of his choyce may be the more legible both to themselves and others. Likewise those apprehensions of Wrath due to sin, and sights of Hell as it were, that He brings some unto, either at or after their Conversion, make for this same end. That glorious Description of the New Ierusalem, Revel. 21.16. is abundantly delighful in it self, and yet the firy Lake spoke of their makes all that's spoke of the other sound much the Sweeter.

But universally all the Godly have this to con­sider, that they were Strangers and Enemies to God, and think whence was it that I a lump of the same polluted clay with those that perish, should be taken and purified and moulded by the Lords own hand for a Vessel of Glory? There is nothing here but free mercy makes the difference, and where can there be Love and Praises and service found to an­swer this, all is to be ascribed to the Mercy, Gifts and calling of Christ, and His Ministers, as St. Paul 2 Cor. 4.1.

But alas! we neither enjoy the comfort of this Mer­cy as obtain'd, nor are griev'd for wanting it, and stirr'd up to seek after it as not yet obtain'd. What do we think? Seems it a small thing in your eyes to be shut out from the presence of God and bear the weight of His wrath for ever? that you thus slight this Mercy, and let it pass by you unregard­ed; or will that an imagin'd obtaining, divert you from the real pursuit of it? Will you be willingly [Page 337] deceiv'd? And be your own deceivers in a matter of so great importance? You cannot think too high­ly of the riches of Divine mercy, 'tis above all your thoughts, but remember and consider this, that there­is a peculiar people of His own, to whom alone all the riches of it do belong.

And therefore how great soever it is, unless you find your selves of that number, you cannot lay claim to the smallest share of it. And you are not ignorant what is their character, what a kind of people they are, that have such a knowledge of God as him­selfe gives, they are all taught of God, enlightned and sanctified by his spirit, a holy People, as he is a holy God, such as have the riches of that His grace by which they are saved, in most precious esteem, and their hearts by it enflamed with his love; and there­fore their thoughts taken up with nothing so much as studying how they may obey and honour Him, rather chusing to displease all the world than offend him, and accounting nothing too dear, yea nothing good enough to doe him service, if it be thus with you, then you have indeed obtain'd mercy.

But if you be such as can wallow in the same pudle with the profane world, and take a share of their ungodly wayes, or if your outward carriage be somewhat more smooth, tho you regard iniquity in your hearts, have your hearts ardent in the love and pursuit of the World, but frozen to God, if you have some bosome Idol that you hide and entertain, cannot find in your heart to part with some one be­loved sin, whatsoever it is, for all the love that God hath manifested to Man in the Son of his love Iesus Christ, In a word if you can please and delight your [Page 338] self in any way displeasing unto God, [though His People while they are here have spots, yet these are not the spots of His people that I am now speak­ing o [...]] I can give you no assurance that as yet you have obtain'd mercy, but on the contrary, 'tis certain that the wrath of God is yet abiding on you if you con­tinue, and you are in apparent danger to perish under it; you are yet Children of Spiritual darkness, and in the way to utter and everlasting darkness. Know we what it is to be destitute of this mercy; 'tis a wo­full estate, though you had all worldly enjoyments, and were in the top of outward prosperity, but shut out from the mercy and love of God.

There is nothing doth so kindly work repentance, as the right apprehension of the mercy and love of God, the beams of that love are more powerfull to melt the heart than all the flames of Mount Sinai, All the threatnings and terrours of the Law. Sin is the root of our misery, and therefore 'tis the pro­per work of this mercy, to rescue the soul from it, both from the guilt and the power of it at once. Can you think there is any suitableness in it, that the peculiar People of God should despise his Laws, and practise nothing but rebellions, that those in whom He hath magnified his mercy, should take pleasure in abusing it, and that He hath wash'd any with the blood of His Son to that end that they may still tum­ble themselves again in the mire; as if we were re­deemed not from sin, but to sin: As if we should say We are delivered to do all these abominations, as the Prophet speaks. Oh Let us not dare thus to abuse and indignify the free grace of God, if we mean to be sav'd by it, as many as would be fou [...]d amongst [Page 339] those that obtain mercy, walk as his people whose peculiar inheritance is, His mercy: And seeing this grace of God hath appeared unto us, Let us em­brace it, and let it effectually teach us to deny un­godliness and wordly lusts.

And if you be perswaded to be earnest suiters for this mercy and to fly in to Iesus, who is the true mercy Seat, then be assured it is yours, Let not the greatest guiltiness scar you and drive you from it: But rather drive you the more to it, the greater the weight of that misery is, under which you ly, the more is your necessity of this mercy, and the more will be the glory of it in you: 'Tis a strange kind of argument and yet a sure one, concludes well and strongly. Psa. 25. Lord pardon my iniquity for it is great. The Soul press'd with the greatness of its sin lying heavy upon it, may by that very great­ness of it pressing it, presse the forgiveness of it at the hands of free mercy, 'tis for thy name sake, that makes it strong, the force of the inference lyes in that. Thou art nothing and worse than nothing, true; but all that ever obtain'd this mercy were once so, they were nothing of all that which it hath made them to be, they were not a People, had no interest in God, were strangers to mercy, yea, Heirs of wrath; yea, they had not so much as a desire after God, untill this mercy prevented them, and show'd it self to them, and them to themselves, and so moved them to desire it, and caus'd them to find it, caught hold on them and pluckt them out of the dungeon. And it is unquestionably still the same, and fails not ever expending, and yet never all spent, yea, not so much as at all diminish'd, flowing as the rivers from [Page 340] one age to another, serving each age in the present, and yet no whit the less to those that come after. The Lord forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin to all that come unto him, and yet still keeping mercy for thousands that come after.

You that have obtain'd this mercy, and have the Seal of it within you, it will certainly conform your hearts to its own nature, it will work you to a mer­cifull compassionate temper of mind to the souls of others that have not yet obtain'd it, you will indeed as the Lord doth, hate sin, but (as he doth likewise) you will pity the sinner: You will be so far from mis­construing and grumbling at the long suffering of God, as if you would have the bridge cut because you are over (as St. Augustin speaks) that on the contrary, your great desire will be, to draw others to partake of the same mercy with you, knowing it to be rich enough. And you will in your station use your best diligence to bring in many to it, both in love to the souls of Men, and to the glory of God.

And withall you will be still admiring and extoll­ing this mercy as it is manifested unto you consi­dering what it is, and what you were before it vi­sited you. They confess'd at the offering of the first fruits to set off the bounty of God. A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and their Captivity in Egypt, far poorer; and baser is our naturall cond [...]tion, and more precious is that land of which this free mercy doth possess us.

Do but call back your thoughts, you that have in­deed escap'd it, and look but into that pit of misery whence the hand of the Lord hath drawn you out, and you cannot miss to love him highly, and still [Page 341] kiss that gracious hand, even while 'tis scourging you with any affliction whatsoever, because it hath once done this for you namely, pluckt you out of everlasting destruction. As the thoughts of this change will teach us to praise Psa. 40.23. He hath brought me up out of an horrible pit then followes, He hath put a new song in my mouth even praise unto our God, not only redeem'd me from destruction, but withall crown'd me with glory and honour Psa. 103.4. He not only doth forgive all our debts, and lets us out of prison▪ but enriches us with an estate that cannot be spent and dignifies us with a crown that cannot wither, made up of nothing of ours. These two will stretch and Tune the heart very high, to consider from what a low estate grace brings a Man, and how high it doth exalt him, in what a beggerly vile condition the Lord finds us, and yet doth not only free us thence, but puts such dignities on us. raises the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy from the dunghill, that he may set him with Princes even with the Princes of his people. Or as Ioshua the Priest Zach. 3.3, 4. So those of this Priesthood are dealt withall.

Now that we may be the deeper in the sense and admiration of this mercy, it is indeed our duty to seek earnestly after the evidence, and strong assurance of it, for things work on us according to our Notice and apprehensions of them, and therefore the more right assurance of mercy, the more love and thank­fulness, and obedience springs from it: therefore 'tis that the Apostle here represents this great and hap­py change of estate to Christians, as a thing that they may know concerning themselves, and ought [Page 342] to seek the knowledge of, that so they may be duely affected with it, a happy thing to have in the soul an extract of that great Archive and act of grace towards it, that hath stood in heaven from eternity, it is sure both a very comfortable and profitable thing to find and read clearly the seal of mercy up­on the soul which is holyness that by which he is mark'd by God, as a part of his peculiar possession, that he hath chosen out of the world: And When we perceive any thing of this, let us look back, as here the Apostle would have us to do, how God has called us from darkness, to his marvelous Light.

Verse. 11.

‘Dearly Beloved, I beseech you as Strangers and Pilgrims, abstain from Fleshly Lusts which war against the Soul.’

THe right Spiritual knowledge that a Christian hath of God and of himself, differenceth it self from whatsoever is likest to it, by the power and in­fluence it hath upon the heart and life. And in this it hath the lively impression of that doctrine of the holy Scriptures that teaches it. Wherein we still find throughout, that the high mysteries of Religion are accompanied with practical truths, not only as agreeing with them, but as drawn out of them, and that not violently draw but naturally flowing from them, as pure streams from a pure spring. Thus in this E­pistle, we find the Apostle intermixing his divine doc­trine with most useful and practical exhortations. [Page 343] Chap. 1. Verse, 13.22. And in the beginning of this Chap. Again, and now in these words.

And upon this model ought both the Ministers of the Gospel to form their preaching, and the hearers their ear. Ministers are not to instruct only, or exhort only, but to do both, to exhort Men to holiness and the duties of a Christian life, Without instructing men in the doctrine of faith and bringing them to Jesus Christ is to build a house without a foundation, And on the other side, to instruct the mind in the knowledge of divine things, and neglect the pressing of that practice and power of godliness that is the undivided companion of true faith, is to forget the building that ought to be rais'd upon that foundation once laid, which is likewise a point of very great folly. Or if Men laying that tight foundation do proceed to the Superstructure of vain and empty Spe­culations 'tis but to build Hay and stuble in stead of those solid truths that direct the soul in the way to happiness which are of more solidness and worth than Gold and Silver, and precious stones. 1 Tim. 3.9. Christ and the doctrine that reveals him is called the mystery of the faith and Ver. 16. The mystery of godliness, as Christ is the object of faith, so he is the spring and fountain of godliness. The Apostle hav­ing, we see, in his foregoing discourse unfolded the excellency of Christ, and of Christians in Him, pro­ceeds here to exhort them to that pure and Spirit­ual temper of mind and course of life that becomes Christians.

These hearers are to blame and do prejudge them­selves that are attentive only to such words and di­scourse as stirre the affections for the present, and [Page 344] find no relish in the doctrine of faith, and the unfold­ing of those mysteries that bear the whole weight of Religion, and are the ground both of all Christian obedience, and all exhortations and persuasives to it. These temporary sudden stirrings of the affections, without a right informed mind, and some measure of due knowledge of God in Christ, do no good. 'Tis the wind of a word of exhortation that stirres them for the time against their Lusts, but the first wind of tentation that comes, caries them away, and thus the mind is but Toss'd too and fro like a wave of the Sea with all kind of winds, not being rooted and grounded in the faith of Christ. As it is Col. 2.7. and so in the love of Christ Eph. 3.17. Which are the conquering graces that subdue his Lusts and the world unto a Christian 1 Ioh. 5.4. 2 Cor. 5.14.15. Love makes a Man dead to himself, and the world and to live to Christ that died for him.

On the other part, they are no less, yea more to blame that are glad to have their minds instructed in the mysteries of the Christian faith, and out of a mere natural desire to know, are curious to hear such things as inform them, but when it comes to the urg­ing of holiness and mortifying their Lusts, these are hard sayings, they had rather there were some way to receive Christ, and retain their Lusts too, and bring them to agreement: To hear of the mercies of God and the dignities of his people in Christ is very pleasing, but to have this follow upon it abstain from flesh [...]y Lusts, this is an importune, troublesome dis­course: But it must be so for all that, these that will share in that mercy, and happiness, must abstain from fleshly lusts. &c.

[Page 345] Dearly Beloved, I beseech you] There is a faculty of reproving required in the Ministry, and sometimes a necessity of very sharp Rebukes, cutting ones. They that have much of the Spirit of meekness, may have a rod by them too, to use upon necessity: But sure the way of Meekness is that they use most wil­lingly, as the Apostle there implies. And out of all question with ingenuous minds, the mild way of sweet intreaties is very forcible; as oyl that penetrates and sinks in insensibly or (to use that known resemblance) they prevail as the Sun beams, that without any noise, make the Traveller cast his Cloak, which all the blustering of the Wind could not do: But made him rather gather it closer, and bind it faster about him. We see the Apostles are frequent in this strain of Intreaties. I beseech you, Rom. 12.1. Now this word of intreatie is strengthned much by the other Dearly Beloved, scarce can the harshest Reproofs much less gentle Reproofs be thrown back, that have upon them the stamp of Love. That which is known to come from Love cannot readily but be so receiv'd too, and 'tis thus express'd, for that very purpose, that the request may be the more welcome, Beloved, 'tis the advice of a Friend, one that truly loves you, and aims at nothing in it but your good, 'tis because I love you that I intreat you, and intreat you as you love your selves to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against your Souls. And what is our purpose when we exhort you to believe and re­pent, but that you may be happy in the forgive­ness of your sins? Why do we desire you to embrace Christ? but that through him ye may have ever­lasting life.

[Page 346]Howsoever you take these things, 'tis Our Duty uncessantly to put you in mind of them, and to do it with much love and tenderness of affection to your Souls, not only pressing you by frequent warnings, and exhortings, but also by frequent Prayers and tears for your Salvation.

Abstain] 'Twas a very wise abridgment that Epicte­tus made of Philosophy into those two words, bear and forbear. These are truly the two main Duties that our Apostle recommends to his Christian Bre­thren, as in this Epistle. 'Tis one and the same strength of Spirit that raises a Man above both the trou­bles and pleasures of the World, and makes him de­spise and trample upon both.

We have first briefly to explain what these fleshly lusts mean, then to consider the exhortation of ab­staining from them.

Unchast desires are particularly called by this name indeed, but to take it for these only in this place, is doubtless too narrow. That which seems to be the true sense of it here, takes in all undue desires and use of Earthly things, and all the corrupt affecti­ons of our carnal minds.

Now in that sense, these fleshly lusts comprehend a great part of the body of sin, all those three the Worlds acccursed Trinity, 1 Ioh. 2. are under this name here of fleshly lusts. A crew of base impe­rious Masters they are, to which the Natural Man is a slave, serving divers lusts. Some more addicted to the Service of one kind of lust, some of another: But all in this unhappy, that they are Strangers, yea Enemies to God, and as the bruite Creatures, Servants to their flesh, either beasts of the field as covetous [Page 347] with their eye still upon the earth; or voluptuous, swiming in pleasures as the Fishes of the Sea, or Fowls of the air in vain ambition. All the strifes that are rais'd about these things, all malice, and envyings all bitterness and evil speaking, which are works of the flesh and tend to the satisfy­ing of its wicked desires, we are here requested to abstain from.

To abstain from these lusts is to hate and fly from the very thoughts and first motions of them, and if surpris'd by those, yet to kill them there, that they bring not forth: And to suspect our selves even in those things that are not sinful, and to keep afar off from all inducements to those polluted wayes of sin.

In a word, the serving of our flesh either in things forbidden us, as unjust gain or unlawful pleasures &c. And withal from immoderate desire of, and delighting in any earthly thing, although such as is lawful, yea necessary in some degree to desire and use them, to have any feverish pressing thirst after gain, even just gain or after earthly delights though lawful is to be guilty of those fleshly lusts and a thing very unbeseeming the dignity of a Christian, they that are cloath'd in Scarlet to embrace a Dunghil is a strange sight; therefore the Apostle having so cleared that immediately before, hath the better rea­son to require this of them that they abstain from fleshly lusts.

Let their own slaves serve them, you are redeem'd and deliver'd from them, a free People, yea Kings, and suits it with Royal dignity to obey vile lusts? You are Priests consecrated to God, and will you [Page 348] tumble your selves and your precious Garments in the Mire? It was a high speech of a Heathen, that he was greater and born to greater things, than to be a servant to his body; how much more ought he that's born again say so? Being born Heir to a crown that fadeth not.

Again, as the honour of a Christians estate is far above this baseness of serving his lusts, so the happiness, and pleasantness of his Estate, sets him above the need of the pleasures of sin. He said before, if ye have tasted that the Lord is graci­ous, desire the sincere Milk of the Word, desire that word wherein you may taste more of his gracious­ness, and as that fitly urgeth the appetites desire of the word, so it is strong to perswade this abstinence from fleshly lusts, yea the disdain and loathing of them, if you have the least experience of the sweet­ness of his love, have but tasted of the Crystal Ri­ver of his pleasures, the muddy pudle pleasures of sin will be hateful and loathsome to you; yea the best earthly delights that are, will be disrelish'd and unsavoury to your taste. The imbittering the breasts of the World to the Godly by afflictions, doth some­thing indeed to their weaning from them, but the breasts of consolation that are given them in their stead, weans much more effectually.

The true reason why we remain Servants to these Lusts, some to one, some to another, is, because we are still Strangers to the Love of God, and those pure pleasures that are in him; Though the Pleasures of this Earth be poor and low, and most unworthy our pursuit, yet so long as Men know of no better, they will stick by those they have, such as they are. [Page 349] The Philosopher gives this as the reason why Men are so much set upon sensual Delights, because they know not the higher pleasures that are proper to the soul, and they must have it some way, 'Tis too often in vain to speak to Men in this, to follow them with the Apostles intreaty I beseech you abstain from fleshly lusts, unless they that are spoke to, be such as he speaks of in the former words, such as have ob­tained mercy and have tasted of the graciousness and love of Christ, whose loves are better then Wine. Oh that we would seek the knowledge of this love, for seeking it we should find it, and find­ing it, no force would need to pull the delights of sin out of our hands, we would throw them away of our own accord.

Thus a Carnal mind prejudices it self against Re­ligion, when it hears that it requires an abstinence from fleshly lusts, bereaves Men of their mirth and delight in sin: But they know not that it is to make way for more refin'd and precious delights, there is nothing of this kind taken from us, but by a very advantageous exchange, 'tis made up, in the World ye shall have affliction, but in me ye shall have Peace. Is not want of the Worlds peace abundantly paid with peace in him? Thus fleshly lusts are cast out of the hearts of Believers as Rubbish and trash to make room for Spiritual comforts, we are barr'd fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness to the end we may have fellowship with God and his Son Jesus Christ, this is to make Men eat Angels food indeed, as was said of the Manna. The serving of the flesh, sets Man below himself down amongst the Beasts, and the consolations of [Page 350] the Spirit and Communion with God raises him above himself and associates him with the Angels. But let us speak to the Apostles own disuasives from these lusts. 1. From the Condition of Christians. 2. From the Condition of those lusts.

As Strangers] These Dispersed Jews were Stran­gers scatter'd in divers Countries as Chap. 1. V.1, but here that is not intended, they are called Strangers in that Spiritual sense that agrees in common to all the Saints, possibly in calling them thus, he alludes to their outward dispersion, but means their Spiri­tual alienation from the World, and Interest in the New Ierusalem.

And this he uses as a very pertinent enforcement of his Exhortation. Whatsoever others do, the serving of the flesh, and love of the World is most incongru­ous and unseemly in your Person. Consider what you are: If you were Citizens of this World, then you might drive the same trade with them, follow the same lusts, but seeing you are chosen and called out of this World, and invested into a new Society, made free of another City, and are therefore here but Travellers passing through to your Countrey? 'tis very reasonable that there be this difference be­twixt you and the World, that while they live as at home, Let your carriage be such as fits Stran­gers, not glutting your selves with these kind of pleasures, surfeiting upon their delcious fruits, as some unwary Travellers do abroad; but as wise Strangers living warily, and soberly, and still mind­ing most of all your journey homewards, suspecting dangers and snares in your way, and so walking with holy fear, as the Hebrew word for a Stran­ger imports.

[Page 351]There is indeed a miserable party even within a Christian, the remainder of corruption, that is no Stranger here, and therefore keeps friendship and correspondence with the World, and will readily betray him if he watch not the more: so that he is not only to fly the Pollutions of the World that are round about him, and to chuse his steps that he be not ensnared from without, but he is to be upon a continual guard against the Lusts and Corruption that is yet within himself, to curb and control his own lusts, and give them resolute and flat refusals when they sollicit him, and to stop up their Essayes and opportunities of intercourse with the World, and such things as nourish them, and so to do what he can to starve them out of the holds they keep with­in him, and to strengthen that new nature which is in him; to live and act according to it, tho so he shall be sure to live as a Stranger here, and a de­spis'd mock'd and hated Stranger.

And 'tis not the worse that it be so, if Men in Forraign Countreys be subject to forget their own at any time, 'tis sure then, when they are kindlyest us'd abroad, and are most at their ease; and thus a Christian may be in some danger when he is best ac­commodate, and hath most of the smiles and caresses of the World, that though he can never wholly for­get his Home that is above, yet his thoughts of it will be less frequent, and his desires of it less earnest, and it may be he may insensibly slide into Customes, and habitudes, as men will do that are well seated in some other Country: But by the troubles, and unfriendliness of the World he gains this, that when [Page 352] they abound most upon him, he then feels himself a Sranger, and remembers to behave himself so, and thinks often with much delight, and strong desires on his own Country, and the rich and sure Inheritance that lyes there, and the ease and rest he shall have when he comes thither.

And this will persuade him strongly to fly all pollut­ed ways and lusts, as fast as the World followes them; it will make him abhorr the pleasures of sin, and use the allowable injoyments of this earth warily and moderately, never engaging his heart to them as Worldlings do, but alwayes keeping that free, free from that earnest desire in the pursuit of worldly things, and that deep delight in the obtaining of them, which the Men of the earth bestow upon them. There is a diligence in his Calling and pru­dent regard of his affairs, not only permitted to a Christian, but requir'd of him; But yet in compari­son of his great and High Calling (as the Apostle calls it) he followes all his other businesses with a kind of coldness and indifferency, as not accounting very much which way they go, his heart is elsewhere. The Traveller provides himself as he can of enter­tainment, and lodging where he comes, if it be com­modious 'tis well; but if not, 'tis no great matter, if he find but necessaries, he can abate delicacies very well, for where he finds them in his way he neither can, nor if he could, would chuse to stay there, though his Inn were dressed with the richest hangings and furniture, yet 'tis not his home, he must and would leave it. That's the character of ungod­ly Men they mind earthly things. Phil. 3. they are drown'd in them over head and ears as we say.

[Page 353]If Christians would consider how litle, and for how litle a while they are concern'd in any thing that's here, they would go through any estate, and any changes of estate, either to the better or the worse with very composed equal minds, always mo­derate in their necessary cares, and never taking any care at all for the flesh to fulfill the lusts of it.

Let them that have no better home than this world to lay claim to, live here as at home, and serve their lusts, they that have all their portion in this life, no more good to look for than what they can catch here; Let them take their time of the poor profits and pleasures that are here: But you that have your whole estate, all your riches and pleasures laid up in Heaven, and reserv'd there for you, let your hearts be there, and your conversation there, this is not the place of your rest, nor your delights, unless you would be willing to change and to have your good things here, as some foolish Travellers, that spend the e­state they should live on at home in a litle whiles braving it abroad amongst strangers, will you with profane Esau sell your birthright for a messe of pot­tage? Sell eternity for a moment, and such plea­sures, as a moment of them, is more worth than an eternity of the other.

It were quarrel enough against fleshly lusts, which war against the Soul. That they are so far below the Soul, that they cannot content, no not at all reach the Soul, they are not a sutable, much less a satisfying good to it. Although sin hath unspeak­ably abus'd the Soul of Man, yet its excellent na­ture and original does still cause a vast dispropor­tion betwixt it, and all those gross base things of the [Page 354] earth that concern the flesh and go no further. But this is not all, these fleshly lusts are no benefit to the Soul, but they are its pernicious enemies: They war against it, and their war against it, is all made up of Stratagem and slight, for they cannot hurt the Soul, but by it self, they promise it some contentment, and so gain its consent to serve them, and undo it self, they embrace the Soul that they may strangle it. The Soul is too much diverted from its own proper business, by the inevitable and uncess­ant necessities of the body. And therefore 'tis ex­ceeding injustice, and cruelty to make it likewise serve the extravagant and sinfull desires of the flesh, so much time for sleep, and so much for eating, and drinking and dressing, and undressing, and to many the greatest part of the time that remaines from these spent in labouring and providing for those. Look on the employments of most Men, all the labour of the Husband-men in the Countrey and Tradesmen in the City, the multitude of shops and callings, what are they all? But the interest and service of the body, and in all these the immortal Soul is drawn down to drudge for the mortal body, the house of clay wherein it dwells. And in the sense of this, those Souls that truely know, and consider themselves in this condition do often groan under the burden, and desire the day of their deliverance. But the ser­vice of the flesh in the inordinare lusts of it, is a point of far baser slavery, and indignity to the Soul, and doth not only divert it from spiritual things for the time: But habitualy indisposes it to every Spiritual work and makes it earthly and sensual, and so unfits it for heavenly things: Where these lusts or any [Page 355] one of them have dominion the Soul cannot at all perform any good, neither pray, nor hear, nor read the word aright, And in as far as any of them pre­vail upon the Soul of a Child of God, they do dis­joynt and disable it for holy things.

Although they be not of the grossest kind of Lusts, but such things as are scarce taken notice of in a Man, either by others or by his own conscience, some irregular desires, or entanglments of the heart, Yet these litle Foxes will destroy the vines, they will prey upon the graces of a Christian, and keep them very low: Therefore it concernes us much to study our hearts, and be exact in calling to account the several affections that are in them; otherwise even such as are called of God, and have obtain'd mercy (for such the Apostle speaks to) may have such lusts within them, as will much abate the flourish­ing of their graces and the Spiritual beauty of the Soul.

The Godly know it well in their sad experience, that their own hearts do often deceive them, har­bouring and hiding such things as prejudge them much of that liveliness of grace and comforts of the Holy Ghost that otherwise they would be very like­ly to attain unto.

This warring against the Soul, meaning the mis­chief and hurtfullness of them, hath this under it, that these lusts as breaches of Gods Law do subject the Soul to his wrath. So that by this the Apostle might well urge his point. Besides that these lusts are unworthy of you, the truth is, if you Christians serve your lusts, you kill your Souls. So Rom. 8.13.

Consider when Men are on their death-beds, and [Page 356] near their entering eternity, what then they think of all their Moyling in the earth, and serving of their own hearts and lusts in any kind, when they see that of all these wayes nothing remaines to them but the guiltiness of their sin, and accusations of conscience, and the wrath of God.

Oh! that you would be persuaded to esteem your precious Souls, and not wound them as you do, but war for them, against all those lusts that war against the Soul▪ The Soul of a Christian is doubly preci­ous, being besides its natural excellency ennobled by grace, and so twice descended of heaven, and there­fore deserves better usage than to be turn'd into a Scullion, to serve the flesh. The service of Jesus Christ is that which only fits it, only honourable for the Soul to serve so high a Lord, and only due to serve Him that bought it at so high a rate.

Verse. 12.

‘Having your Conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as Evil doers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’

THese two things that a Natural Man makes least account of, are of all things in highest regard with a Christian, his own Soul, and Gods glory. [Page 357] So that there be no stronger persuasives to him in any thing than the interest of these two, and by these the Apostle urgeth his present Exhortation to holi­ness and blamelesness of life, for the substance of his advice or request in this, and the former Verse, is the same, a truely honest conversation, is only that which is Spiritual, not defil'd with the carnal lusts and pol­utions of the world.

The abstaining from those lusts doth indeed Com­prehend, not only the rule of outward carriage, but the inward temper of the mind, whereas this honest conversation doth more expressely concerne our ex­ternal deportment amongst Men, as 'tis added, honest among the Gentiles. And so tending to the glory of God: So that these two are inseparably to be re­garded the inward disposition of our hearts, and the outward conversation and course of our lives.

I shall speak to the former first as the spring of the latter, Keep thine heart with all diligence. For all depends upon that for from thence are the issues of Life. Prov. 4.23. And if so, then the regulating of the tongue, and eyes, and feet and all will follow. As there it followes, Ver. 24. That the impure streams, may cease from running, the corrupt spring must be dried up. Men may convey them closely to run under ground as it were, as they do vaults and ditches, Sentinas & cloacas; but till the heart be renewed and purg'd from base lusts, it will still be sending forth some way or other the streams of ini­quity, as a fountain Swelleth out, or casteth forth her waters uncessantly, so she casteth out her wicked­ness, sayes the Prophet, of that very People, and City that was called holy by reason of the ordi­nances [Page 358] of God, and profession of the true Religion that was amongst them. And therefore tis the same prophet's advice from the Lord. Wash thine heart O Ierusalem how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee. Ier. 4.14.

This is the true Method, according to our Saviours Doctrine Make the tree good, and than the fruits will be good, not till then: for Who can gather grapes of thornes, or figs of Thistles. Some good outward actions avail nothing, the Soul being unrenewed. As you may stick some figs or hang some clusters of grapes upon a thorne bush, but they cannot grow upon it.

In this Men deceive themselves, even such as have some thoughts of amendment, when they fall into sin, and are reprov'd for it, they say and possibly think so too, I will take heed to my self, I will be guilty of this no more, and because they go no deeper, they are many of them ensnared in the same kind again: But however, if they do never commit that same sin, they do but change it for some other; as a cur­rent of waters, if you stop their passage one way, they rest not till they find another. The conversa­tion can never be uniformly, and entirely good till the fram of the heart, the affections and desires that lodge in it be changed. It is naturally an evil treasure of im­pure lusts and must in some kind vent, and spend what it hath within. 'Tis to begin with the wrong end of your work to rectify the outside first, to smooth the conversation, and not first of all purge the heart. Evil affections are the source of evil speeches and a­ctions. Whence are strifes and fightings (sayes St. Iames) are they not from your lusts which war in [Page 359] your members: Unquiet unruly lusts within are the cause of the unquietnesses and contentions abroad in the world. One Man will have his corrupt will, and another his, and thus they chock and justle one ano­ther, and by the cross encounters of their purposes as flints meeting, they strike out these Sparkes that set all on fire.

So then according to the order of the Apostles Exhortation, the only true principle of all good and Christian conversation in the world, is the mortifing of all earthly, and sinfull lusts in the heart while they have possession of the heart, they do clog, it and straiten it towards God and his wayes, it can­not walk constantly in them, but when the heart is freed from them 'tis enlarg'd and so (as David speaks) fits a Man not only to walk but to run the way of Gods commandements: And without this freeing of the heart a Man will be at the best very uneven, and incongruous in his ways, one step like a Chri­stian and another like a worldling, which is an un­pleasant and an unprofitable way, not according to that word Psa. 18. Thou hast set my feet as hindes feet, set them even, as the word is, not only swift but straight and even, and that is the thing here requir'd the whole course and revolution of a Christian's life to be like himself, and that it may be so, the whole body of sin, and all the member [...] of it, all the deceitful lusts, must be crucified.

In the words there are 3. Things 1. One point of a Christians ordinary entertainment in the world is to be evil spokne of. 2. Their good use of that evil, to do the better for't. 3. The good end and certain effect of their so doing, The glory of God.

[Page 360]1. Whereas they speak against you as evil doers] This is in the general the disease of Mans corrupt nature, and argues much the baseness and depraved­ness of it, this propension to evil speaking one of a­nother either blotting the best actions with miscon­structions, or taking doubtful things by the left ear, not chusing the most favourable, but on the contrary the very harshest sense that can be put upon them. Some Men take more pleasure in the narrow Eying of the true and real faults of Men, and then speak of them with a kind of delight. All these kind of evil speakings are such fruits as spring from that bitter root of pride and self-love; which is naturaly deep fastened in every Mans heart: But besides this gene­ral bent to evil speaking, there is a particular malice in the world against those that are born of God which must have vent in calumnies and reproaches. If this evil speaking be the hissing that is natural to the Serpents seed, sure by reason of their natural antipathy it must be breath'd forth most against the seed of the Woman, those that are one with Jesus Christ: If the tongues of the ungodly be sharp swords even to one another, they will whet them sharper than ordinary when they are to use them against the righteous, to wound their name. The evil tongue must be alwayes burning, that is set on fire of hell as St. Iames speaks; but against the Godly it will be sure to be heated seven times hotter than 'tis for others. Reasons of this are 1. Being naturaly ha­ters of God and yet unable to reach him, what won­der if their malice act it self against His Image in His Children, and labour to blot and stain that all they can with the foulest calumnies.

[Page 361]2. Because they are neither able nor willing them­selves to attain unto the Spotless holy life of Chris­tians they bemire them, and would make them like themselves by false aspersions, they cannot rise to the Estate of the Godly, and therefore they endeavour to draw them down to theirs by detraction.

3. The Reproaches they cast upon the Professors of Pure Religion, they mean mainly against Religi­on it self, and intend them to reflect upon it.

These evil speakings of the World against pious Men professing Religion, are partly gross falshoods invented without the least ground or appearance of truth, for the World being ever credulous of evil, especially upon so deep a prejudice as it hath against the Godly, the falsest and absurdest calumnies will alwayes find so much belief as to make them odious or very suspected at least, to such as know them not; this is the Worlds Maxime, Lye confidently and it will alwayes do something. As a Stone taken out of the Mire and thrown against a white Wall, tho it stick not there but rebound presently back again, yet it leaves a spot behind it.

And with those kind of evil speakings, were the Primitive Christians surcharg'd, even with gross and horrible falshoods, as all know that know any thing of the History of those times, even such things were reported of them, as the worst of wicked Men would scarce be guilty of, The Devil for as witty as he is, makes use again and again of his old inventions, and makes them serve in several ages, for so were the Waldenses ac­cused of inhumane banquetings and beastly pro­miscuous uncleanness, and divers things not once to [Page 362] be named amongst Christians, much less to be prac­tised by them; so that it is no new thing to meet with the Impurest vilest slanders as the Worlds reward of Holiness, and the practice of pure Re­ligion.

Then again Consider, How much more will the wicked insult upon the least real blemishes that they can espy amongst the Professors of Godliness. And in this there is a threefold injury very ordinary. 1. Strictly to pry into, and maliciously to object a­gainst Christians the smallest imperfections and frail­ties of their Lives, as if they pretended and pro­mis'd absolute perfection. They do indeed exercise themselves (such as are Christians indeed) with St. Paul, to keep a good Conscience in all things towards God and Men, they have a regard unto all Gods Com­mandments, as David speaks, they have a sincere love to God which makes them study the exactest obedience they can reach, and this is an imperfect kind of perfection, 'tis Evangelical, but not Ange­lical. 2. To impute the scandalous falls of some particular Persons to the whole number: 'Tis a very short incompetent rule, to make judgement of any one Man himself by one action, much more to mea­sure all the rest of the same Profession by it; and they yet proceed further in this way of misjudging. 3. That they impute the personal failings of Men to their Religion, and disadvantage it by the faults of those that profess it, which as the Ancients plead well, is the greatest injustice, and such as they would not be guilty of against their own Philoso­phers. They could well distinguish betwixt their Doctrine and the manners of some of their followers, [Page 363] and thus ought they to have dealt with Christians too. Consider their Religion in it self, and the Doctrine that it teaches, and if it were vitious the blame were just, but if it taught nothing but Holi­ness and righteousness, then the blame of any un­holiness or unrighteousness found amongst Christi­ans was to rest upon the Persons themselves, that were guilty of it, and not to be stretch'd to the whole number of Professors, much less to the Reli­on that they profess: And yet this is still the custom of the World upon the least failing they can espy in the Godly, or such as seem to be so, much more with open mouth upon any gross sin in any of them.

But seeing this is the very Character of a profane mind, and the badge of the Enemies of Religion, beware of sharing at all with them in it, give not easy entertainment to the reports of profane, or of mere civil Men, against the professors of Religion, they are undoubtedly partial, and their testimony justly suspected, Lend them not a ready ear to re­ceive their evil speakings, much less your tongue to divulge them, and set them further going: Yea, take heed that you take not pleasure in any the least kind of scoffs, against the sincerity and power of Religion. And all of you that desire your selves to walk as Christians, be very wary, that ye wrong not one another, and help not the wicked against you, by your mutual misconstructions and miscen­sures one of another, far be it from you to take pleasure in hearing others evil spoken of, whether unjustly, or though it be some way deservedly, yet let it be alway grievous to you, and no way plea­sing [Page 364] to hear such things, much less to speak of them It is the Devils delight to be pleas'd with evil speakings, The Syrian calls him an Akal Kartza eater of slaunders or Calumnies. They are a dish that please his pallate, and Men are naturally of his Diet. In the 35. Psal. V.6. There is a word that is rendered mockers at Feasts, or feasting-mockers, that feasted Mens ears at their meetings with speak­ing of the faults of others scoffingly, and therefore shared with them of their cakes, or feasts as the word is; but to a renewed Christian mind, that hath a new taste, and all new senses, there is no­thing more unsavoury, than to hear the defaming of others, especially of such as profess Religion, did the Law of Love possess our hearts it would regu­late our Ear and Tongue, and make them most ten­der of the name of our Brethren, it would teach us the faculty of covering their infirmities, and judging favourably, taking alwayes the best side and most charitable sense of their actions, and to blunt the fire-edge of our censures upon our selves, our own hard hearts and rebellious wills within, that they might remain no more sharp against others, then is needful for their good.

And this would cut short those that are without, from a great deal of Provisions of evil speaking a­gainst Christians that they many times are furnish'd withal by themselves, through their uncharitable carriage one towards another. However this being the hard measure that they alwayes find in the World, it is their wisdom to consider it aright, and to study that good which according to the Apostles advice, may be extracted out of it, and that is the second thing to be spoken to.

[Page 365]2. Your Conversation] As the Soveraign power of drawing good out of evil resides in God, and argues his primitive goodness, so he teacheth his own Children some faculty this way, that they may resemble Him in it, he teacheth them to draw sweetness out of their bitterest afflictions, and in­crease of inward peace from their outward troubles. And as these buffetings of the tongue are no small part of their sufferings, so they reap no small bene­fit by them many wayes, particularly in this one, that they order their Coversation the better, and walk the more exactly for it.

And this no doubt in Divine Providence is in­tended and ordered for their good, and all their other trials. The sharp censures and evil speakings that a Christian is incompassed withal in the World is no other but a hedge of thornes set on every side, that he go not out of his way, but keep straight on in it betwixt them, not declining to the right hand nor to the left; whereas if they found nothing, but the favour and good opinion of the world, they might as in a way unhedged be subject to expati­ate, and wander out into the Meadowes of Carnal Pleasures that are about them, that would call and allure them, and often amuse them from their journey.

And thus it might fall out that Christians would deserve censure and evil speakings the more, if they did not usually suffer them undeserved. This then turnes into a great advantage to them, making them more answerable to those two things that our Savi­our joynes, to Watch and Pray, to be the more vigi­lent over themselves, and the more earnest with [Page 366] God for his watching over them, and conducting of them, Make my wayes straight, sayes David, be­cause of mine enemies. the word is My Observers, or those that scand my wayes every foot of them that examine them as a Verse, or as a Song of Musick, if there be but a wrong measure in them, they will not let it slip, but will be sure to mark it.

And if they that are the Godly's enemies wait for their halting, shall not they themselves scand them that they may not halt, and examin them to order them, as the wicked do to censure them, and with­al depend wholly upon the Spirit of God as their guide to lead them into all truth, and to teach them how to order their Coversation aright that it may be all of one piece holy, and blameless and still like it selfe.

Honest] Fair, or Beautiful, the same word doth fitly signifie goodness and beauty. For that, that is the truest and lastingest beauty growes fresher in Old age as the Psalmist speaks of the Righteous Psal. 92. as trees planted in the house of God. Could the Beauty of Vertue be seen, said he, it would draw all to love it. A Christian holy Conversation hath such a beauty, as when they that are Strangers to it begin to discern it any thing right, they can­not chuse but love it, and where it begets not love, yet it silences Calumny, or at least convinces its falshood.

The goodness, or beauty of a Christian's Con­versation consisting in that Symmetry and Con­formity to the word of God, as its rule▪ he ought diligently to study that rule, and to square his wayes by it, not to walk at random, but to [Page 367] apply that rule to every step at home, and abroad, and to be as careful of the beauty of his wayes, to keep that unspotted, as those Women are of their faces and attire, that are most Studious of com­liness.

But so far are we that call our selves Christians from this exact regard of our Conversation, the most part not only have many four spots, but they them­selves, and all their wayes nothing but defilement▪ all one spot, as our Apostle calls them, blots are they and spots ▪ 2 Pet. 2.13. and even they that are Christians indeed, yet not so watchful, and accurate in all their wayes as becomes; [...] staining their holy Profession either with Pride, or Coveteous­ness, or contentions, or some other such like un­comeliness.

Let us therefore resolve all, more to study this good and comely conversation the Apostle [...]ere ex­horts to, that it may be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ, as St. Paul desires his Philippians.

And if you live amongst profane Persons, that will be to you as the unbelieving Gentiles were to these believing Jewes, that lived amongst them, tradu­cers of you, and given to speak evil of you, and of Religion in you, trouble not your selves with many apologies, and clearings, when you are evil spoke of, but let the [...]act of your life answer for you: your honest and blameless conversation: that will be the shortest and realest way of confuting all obloquies, as when one in the Schools was proving by a sophistical Argument that there could be no [...]; the Philosopher answered it fully, and short­ly by rising up and walking. If thou would'st pay [Page 368] them home, this is a kind of revenge not only al­lowed thee, but recommended to thee, be aveng'd on evil speakings, by well doing, shame them from it. It was a King that said, it was Kingly to do well and be ill spoke of. Well may Christians acknow­ledge it to be true, when they consider, that it was the lot of their King Iesus Christ, And well may they be content, seeing he hath made them likewise Kings, as we heard V. 9.) to be conform to him in this too, this Kingly way of suffering to be unjust­ly evil spoken of, and still to go on in doing the more good, alwayes aiming in so doing (as our Lord did) at the glory of our Heavenly Father. that is the 3d. thing.

That they may glorifie God▪] He sayes not they shall praise or commend you, but shall glorifie God. What way soever this time, this day of Visitation be taken, the effect it selfe is this, they shall glorifie God, 'tis this the Apostle stills holds before their eye, and that upon which a Christian doth willingly set his eye, and keep it fixed on it, in all his wayes; he doth not teach them to be sensible of their own esteem as it concerns themselves, but only as the glory of their God is interess'd in it, were it not this, a generous minded Christian could set a very light rate upon all the thoughts and speeches of Men concerning him, whether good or bad, and could easily drown all their mistakes in the Conscience of the favour and approbation of his God, 'tis a small thing for me to be judged of Man, or the day of Man, he that judgeth me is the Lord. Man hath a day of judging, but it and his judgment with it soon passes away, but God hath his day, and stand his sen­tence [Page 369] abideth for ever, as the Apostle there adds, as if he should say, I appeal to God.

But considering that the Religion he professes, and the God whom he worships in that Religion are wrong'd by those reproaches, and that the calumnies cast upon Christians reflect upon their Lord, this is the thing that makes him sensible, he feels on that side only, the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me, sayes the Psalmist. And this makes a Christian desirous even to Men, to vindicate his Religion, and his God, without regard to him­self, because he may say the reproaches of them that reproach only me have fallen upon thee.

This is his intent in the holiness and integrity of his life, that God may be glorified, this is the Axis about which all, this good conversation moves, and turnes c [...]n [...]inually.

And he that forgets this, let his conversation be never so plausible and spotless, knows not what it is to be a Christian. As they say of the Eagles who try their young ones whether they be of the right kind or no, by holding them before the Sun, and if they can look stedfastly upon it, they own them, if not they throw them away; this is the true evidence of an upright and real Christian, to have a stedfast eye on the glory of God the father of Lights. In all, Let God be glorified, sayes the Christian and that suffices, that's the summe of his desires far from glorying in himself, or seeking to raise himself, for he knows that of himself, he is nothing, but by the free grace of God he is what he is, whence any glorying to thee, rottenesse and dust? (sayes, St. Bern.) whence is it to thee if thou art holy? Is it not the holy [Page 369] spirit that hath sanctified thee. If thou couldest work miracles, though they were done by thy hand, yet it were not by thy power, but by the power of God.

To the end that my glory may sing praise unto thee sayes David Psa. 30. Whether his tongue, or his soul or both. What he calls his glory he shews us; and what use he hath for it, namely to give the Lord glory, to sing his praises, and that then it was truely Davids glory when 'twas so employ'd in giving glory to him whose peculiar due glory is. What have we to do in the world as his creatures? Once and again his creatures, his new creatures created unto good works, but to exerise our selves in those, and by those to advance his glory; That all may return to him, from whom all is, as the rivers run back to the Sea from whence they came; Of him and through him and therefore, for him are all things, says the Apostle: They that serve base Gods seek how to advance and agrandize them. The covetous Man studies to make his Mammon as great as he can all his thoughts and pains run upon that service, and so the voluptuous and ambitious for theirs. And shall not they that profess themselves the servants of the only great and the only true God have their hearts much more, at least, as much possess'd with desires of honouring and exalting him, should not this be their predominant design and thought: What way shall I most advance the glory of my God, how shall I that am engaged more than they all, set in with the Heavens and the earth, and the other crea­tures to declare his excellency his greatness, and his goodness.

[Page 370] In the day of Visitation] The beholding of your good works may work this in them that they may be gained to acknowledg and embrace that Religion and that God, which for the present they reject; but that it may be thus, they must be visited with that same light and grace from above which hath sancti­fied you. This I conceive is the sense of this word though it may be, and is taken divers other ways by Interpreters. Possibly in this day of visitation is im­plied the clearer preaching of the Gospel amongst those Gentiles, where the dispersed Jews dwell, and that when they should compare the light of that do­ctrine with the light of their lives, and find the agree­ment betwixt them, that might be helpfull to their e­ffectual calling, and so they might glorify God: But to the end that they might do thus indeed, as with the word of God and the good works of his People there must be a particular visiting of their Souls by the Spirit of God: Your good conversation may be one good mean of their conversion; there­fore this may be a motive to that: But to make it an effectual mean, this day of gracious visitation must dawn upon them. The day spring from on high must visit them, as it is Luke. 1.78.

Verse. 13, 14.

Submit your selves unto every Ordinance of man for the Lords sake, whether it be to the King, as Supreme.

Or unto governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.

IT is one of the falsest, and yet one of the com­monest prejudices that the world hath always entertain'd against true Religion, that it is an enemy to civil power, and government. The Adversaries of the Jews charged this fault upon their City, the then Seat of the true worship of God. Ezra. 4.15. The Jews charged it upon the preachers of Chri­stian Religion Act. 17.7. As they pretended the same quarrel against Christ himself. And generally the enemies of the Christians in the primitive times loaded them with the slander of Rebelion, and con­tempt of authority. Therefore our Apostle descending to partacular rules of Christian life, by which it may be blameless, and to silence calumny, begins with this, not only as a thing of prime importance in it self, but as particulary fit for those he wrote to, being both Jews, and Christians, for the clearing of themselves and their Religion, Submit your selves &c.

[Page 373]There are in the words divers particulars to be considered, all concurring to press this main duty of obedience to Magistrates, not only as well consistent with true Religion, but as indeed inseparable from it, not to parcell out the words into many pieces, they may (I conceive,) be all not unfitly compris'd under these two 1. The extent of this duty. 2. The ground of it.

First The extent 1. To all Civil power, of what kind soever, for the time receiv'd, and Autoris'd. There being no need of questioning, what was the rise and original of civil power either in the nature of it, or in the persons of those that are in possession of it, for if you will trace them quite through in the succ [...]ssion of ages, and narrowly eye their whole cir­cle, there be few crowns in the world in which there will not to be found some crack or other more or less. If you look on those great Monarchies in Daniel's Vision, you see one of them built up upon the rui­nes of another, and all of them represented by terrible devouring beasts of monstrous shape, And whether the Romane Empire be the fourth there, as many take it, or no, yet in the things spoken of that fourh and the rest, it is inferiour to none of them, enlarg­ing it self by conquests in all parts of the world; and under it, were the Provinces to which this Epistle is address'd; yet the Apostle enjoyn's his brethren subjection and obedience to its Authority.

Nor is it a Question so to be mov'd as to suspend, or at all abate our obedience to that which posse­sses in present where we live; What forme of go­vernment is most just and commodious?

God hath indeed been more express in the officers [Page 374] and government of his own house, his Church: But Civil Societies he hath left at liberty, in the chusing and modelling of Civil government, though alwayes indeed overruling their choyce, and changes in that, by the secret hand of his wise and powerful provi­dence; yet he hath set them no particular rule touch­ing the frame of it, only the common rule of equity and justice were to be regarded, both in the con­triving and managing of Government; And yet though it be some way defective in both, they that be subject to it are in all things lawful to submit to its Authority, whether suprem or subordinate as we have it here expressely, whether to the King as Supreme, Namely To the Emperour, or to the Governours sent by him, which though a Judicious Interpreter re­fert's to God, and will not admitt of any other sense, yet it seem's most sutable both to the words, and to the nature of the Government of those Pro­vinces to take that word To him, as relating to the King, for the them that are sent, Answers to the other, The King as Supreme, and so is a very clear designment of the inferiour Governours of those times, and places. And whatsoever was their end that sent them, and their carriage that were sent, that which the Apostle addes, expresses the end for which they should be sent to govern, and at which they should aime in governing, as the true end of all go­vernment. And though they were not fully true to that end in their deportment, but possibly did many things unjustly, yet as God hath ordain'd authority for this end, there is alwayes so much justice in the most depraved government, as is a publick good, and therefore puts upon inferiours an obligation to obe­dience, [Page 373] and this leads us to consider the Second thing The ground of this duty.

2 The main ground of submitting to humane au­thority, is the interest that divine authority hath in it, having both apponited Civil government as a com­mon good amongst Men, and particularly command­ed his people obedience to it, as a particular good to them, and a thing very sutable with their profession it is, for the Lords sake. This word carries the whole weight of the duty, and is a counter balance to the former, which seem's to be therefore on purpose so expressi'd, that this may answer it. Although Civil Authority in regard of particular formes of Govern­ment, and the choyce of particular persons to govern, is but a humane ordinance or mans creature, as the word is; yet both the good of government, and the duty of subjection to it, is Gods ordinance, and therefore for his sake submit your selves.

1. God hath in general instituted Civil govern­ment for the good of humane society, and still there is good in it, tyranny is better than Anarchy. 2. 'Tis by his providence that Men are advanc'd to places of authority. Psa. 75.6, 7. Dan. 4.25. Iohn. 19, 11. 3ly. 'Tis his command that obedience be yeelded to them Rom. 13.1. Tit. 3.1. &c. And the consideration of this tyes a Christian to all Lo­yalty and due obedience, which being still for the Lords sake cannot hold in any thing that's against the Lords own command, for Then Kings and Rulers, leave their station, Now the Subjection here is, be subject to them, as it were in your rank, still in subordination to God, but if they go out of that [Page 376] even line follow them not. They that obey the un­lawfull commands of Kings do it in regard to their God no question, but that their God, is their belly or their ambition, or their avarice.

But not only ought the exercise of authority, and submission to it be in things just, and lawful in them­selves, but the very purpose of the heart, both in command and obedience should be in the Lord and for his sake, this is the only straight, and only safe rule both for Rulers, and for people to walk by. Would Kings and the other powers of the world consider the supremacy and greatness of that King of whom they hold all their Crownes and dignities, they would be no less carefull of their submission and ho­mage to him, than they are desirous of their Peoples submission unto them.

I will not speak at all of their civil obligations to their people, and the Covenant of justice that with good reason, is betwixt them in the funda­mentall constitutions of all well ordered Kingdomes, nor meddle with that point of the dependance that Humane Authority hath upon the Societies of Men over whom it is, according to which it is here call'd Mans ordinance or creature. This is a thing that the greatest and most absolute of Princes cannot deny, that all their authority is dependent upon the great God, both as the Author of it in the generall, and the Soveraigne disposer of it to particular Men, giving the kingdomes of the earth to whom he will, and therefore he may most justly require obedience and fealty of them, that they serve the Lord in fear, and it they rejoyce in their dignities over Men, yet do it with trembling in sense of their duty to God, [Page 377] and that they throw down their Crownes at the feet of Christ the Lords anointed.

And to this they are the more oblig'd, consider­ing that Religion and the Gospel of Christ doth so much press the duty of their peoples obedience to them, so that they wrong both it, and themselves very far in mistaking it, as an enemy to their autho­rity when it doth not only, not prejudge it, but con­firms it, and pleads for it. Sure they do most in­gratefuly requite the Lord and his Christ, When they say (as Psal. 2.) Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us. Whereas the Lord binds the cords of Kings and their Authority fast upon their People, not the cords of Tyrany indeed, to bind the Subjects as Beasts to be Sacrifices to the Passion of their Rulers, But the cords of just and due Obedience to their Kings and Governours. The Lord doth (as you see here) bind it upon all that profess his Name, and strengthens it by the respect his People carry to himself, enjoyning them, that for his sake they would obey their Rulers; so that Kings need not fear true Religion, that it will ever favour any thing that can be call'd Rebellion, but on the contrary still urges Loyalty, and Obe­dience, so that as they ought in Duty, they may in true Policy and Wisdom befriend true Religion, as a spe­cial friend to their Authority, and hate that Reli­gion of Rome which is indeed Rebellion, and that Mother of abominations that makes the Kings of the Earth drunk with her cup, and makes them dream of increase of Authority while they are truly on the loosing hand. But besides that they owe their Power to the advancement of Christs Kingdom [Page 378] so employing themselves, by strengthening it, and doing themselves good, they confirm their own Thrones, when they erect his, as it was said of Cesar that by setting up Pompey's Statue he setled and fa­stened his own.

But it is an evil too natural to Men to forget the true end, and use of any good the Lord conferr's on them. And thus Kings and Rulers consider not readily, for what they are exalted, think 'tis for themselves, to honour and please themseves, and not to honour God and benefit their People, to en­courage and reward the good (as here it is) and punish the wicked, they are set on high, for the good of those that are below them, that they may be refresh'd with their light and influence, as the Lights of Heaven are set there in the highest parts of the World for the use and benefit of the very lowest. God set them in the Firmament of Heaven, but to what end is added, to give light upon the earth, and the Mountains are rais'd above the rest of the earth, (not to be places of prey and robbery, as sometimes they are turn'd to be) but to send forth streams from their Springs into the Valleys, and make them fertile, the Mountains and Hills, greater and lesser Rulers, higher and lower are to send forth to the People the streams of Righteousness and Peace. Psal. 72.3.

But 'tis the corruption and misery of Mans nature that he doth not know and can hardly be per­suaded to learn, either how to command aright, or how to obey; and no doubt many of those that can see and blame the Injustice of others in Authority, [Page 379] Would be more guilty that way themselves if they had the same power.

'Tis the Pride and self-love of our Nature that begets disobedience in Inferiours, and violence and in [...]ustice in Superiours. That depraved humour that [...]ies to every kind of Government a propension to a particular disease, that makes Royalty easily dege­nerate into tyranny, and Nobles Government into faction, and popular into confusion.

As civil Authority and subjection to it, is the in­stitution of God; so the peaceable correspondence of those two, just Government and due obedience is the especial gift of Gods own hand, and a prime blessing to States and Kingdomes, and the troubling and interruption of their Course is one of the highest Publick Judgments by which the Lord punishes of­tentimes the other sins both of Rulers and People. And whatsoever be the cause and on which side soever be the justice of the cause, it cannot be look'd upon, but as a heavy Plague and the fruit of many and great provocations, when Kings and their People that should be a mutual blessing and honour each to other are turn'd into scourges one to ano­ther, or into a devouring fire, as 'tis in his Parable Iud. 9.20. Fire going forth from Abimelech, to de­vour the Men of Sechem and fire from Sechem to de­vour Abimelech.


Verse. 15.

For so is the will of God, that with well do­ing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish Men.

Verse 16. As free, and not using your Liber­ty for a Cloak of Maliciousness: but as the servants of God.

THis continues the same reason of the same Christian Duty, if they will obey the Lord, then they must obey Civil Powers, for that is his will, and they will not deny that their Obligation to him for they are his servants Verse. 16. The words indeed are more general than the former, but they relate chiefly in this place to the particular in hand, so that neither in that kind nor in any other they dishonour their profession, and abuse their Liber­ty, mistaking it as an exemption from those Duties to which it doth more straitly tye them, so then here the point of civil Obedience and all other good conversation amongst Men, is recommended to Chri­stians, as conform to the will of God, and the effectuallest clearing of their profession, and very agreeable to their Christian Liberty.

The will of God] This is the strongest and most binding reason that can be us'd to a Christian mind [Page 381] that hath resign'd it self to be Govern'd by that rule, to have the will of God for its Law. Whatsoever is requir'd of it upon that Warrant, it cannot re­fuse; although it cross a Mans own humour, or the interest of his private advantage, yet if his heart be subjected to the will of God, he will not stand with him in any thing, one word from God, I will have it so, silences all, and carries it against all opposition.

It were a great point if we could be perswaded to esteem duly of this, it were indeed all, it would make light and easy work in those things that go so hardly on with us, though we are daily exhorted to them. Is it the will of God that I should live so­berly? Then though my own corrupt will and my companions be against it, yet it must be so; wills he that I forbear Cursing and Oaths, though my custom is for it? Yet I must offer violence to my Custom, and set against the stream of all their cus­tomes that are round about me, to obey his will, who wills all things justly and holily; will he have my Charity not only Liberal in giving but in forgiving, and real and hearty in both? Will he have me Bless them that Curse me, and do good to them that hate me, and love mine Enemies? Though the World count it a hard task, and my own corrupt heart possibly find it so; yet it shall be done, and not as upon unpleasant necessity, but willingly and chearfully, and with the more delight because 'tis difficult: For so it proves my Obedience the more, and my love to him whose will it is. Though mine Enemies de­serve not my love, yet he that bids me love them does, and if he will have this the touchstone to [Page 382] try the uprightness of my love to him, shall it fail there? No, his will Commands me so absolutely, and he himself is so lovely, that there can be no body so unlovely in themselves, or to me, but I can love them upon his Command and for his sake.

But that it may be thus, there must be a renewed frame of mind, by which a Man may renounce the World, and the Formes of it, and himself, and his own sinful heart, and its way, to study and follow the only good and acceptable and perfect will of God, Rom. 12.2. To move most under that line, not willingly declining to any hand, to have our whole minds, taken up in searching it, and our whole heart in embracing it: Be ye not unwise but understanding, what the will of the Lord is, sayes the Apostle, Eph. 5.17· Being about to exhort to particular Du­ties as our Apostle here is doing.

This is the task of a Christian to understand his Lords will, and with a practical understanding, that he may walk in all well pleasing unto God, thus the Apostle likewise exhorts the Thessalonians pa­thetically, 1 Ep. Chap. 4.1 and addes Verse 3. This is the will of God even our Sactification. And then proceeds particularly against uncleanness and deceit, &c.

Let this then be your endeavour to have your wills Crucified to whatsoever is sinful, yea to will out­ward indifferent things with a kind of indifferency, the most things that men are so stiff in, are not worth an earnest willing. In a word, it were the on­ly happy and truly Spiritual temper to have our will quite rooted out, and the will of God placed in its [Page 383] stead, to have no other will but his, that it might constantly yea (so to speak) identically fol­low it in all things. This is the will of God there­fore it is mine.

That with well doing ye may put to silence the igno­rance of foolish men.] The Duties of the second Tab­le, or well doing towards Men, are more sensible to Men void of Religion than these things that have immediate relation to God, therefore (and so in o­ther Epistles) the Apostle is here particular in these for the vindicating of Religion to them that are with­out. Ignorance usually is loud, and pratling, mak­ing a mighty noyse and so hath need of a muzle to silence it. They that were ready to speak evil of it are called wittlessor foolish Men, there was pervers­ness in their ignorance as the Word imports. And generally all kind of Evil speakings, uncharitable censurings doe argue a foolish worthless Mind whence they proceed, and yet they are the usual divertise­ment of the greatest part, and takes up very much of Mens converse, and discourse, which is an evi­dence of the baseness and perversness of their minds, for whereas these that have most real goodness, delight most to observe what is good and commeda­dable in others, and to pass by their blemishes, 'tis the true Character of vile unworthy Persons, as scurvy Flies sit upon Sores, to skip over all the good that is in Men, and fasten upon their infirmities.

But especially doth it discover ignorance and fol­ly, to turn the failings of Men to the disadvantage of Religion, none can be such Enemies to it, but they that know it not, and see not the beauty that [Page 384] is in it. However the way to silence them we see is by welldoing, that silences them more than whole Volumes of Apologies. When a Christian walks unreproveably, his Enemies have no where to fasten their teeth on him; but are forc'd to gnaw their own malignant tongues, as it secures the Godly thus to stop the lying mouths of foolish Men, so it is as painful to them to be so stopt, as muzling is to Beasts, and punishes their Malice.

And this is a wise Christians way, instead of im­patient fretting at the mistakes or willfull miscen­sures of Men, to keep still on in their calm temper of mind and upright course of life, and silent inno­cency, as a wind it breaks the waves into foam that Roar about it.

As free] This the Apostle addes, lest any should so far mistake the Nature of their Christian Liberty as to dream of an exemption from obedience either to God or to Men for his sake, and according to his appointment.

Their freedom he grants, but would have them understand aright, what it is. I cannot here insist at large on the Spiritual freedom of Christ [...] ­ans, nor is it here needful, being mention'd onely for the clearing of it in this point, but free they are, and they only that are partakers of this liber­ty. If the Son make you free you shall be free in­deed, the restare slaves to Satan and the World, and their own lusts, as the Israelites in Egypt, working in the clay, under hard taskmasters.

Much discourse and much Ink hath been spilt up­on the debate of free will, but truly all the liberty it hath, till the Son and his Spirit free it, is that mi­serable [Page 385] freedom the Apostle speaks of Rom. 6.20. While ye were servants to sin, ye were free from righteousness.

And as we are naturally subject to the vile drudg­ [...]ry of sin, so we are condemn'd to the proper wages of sin, which the Apostle there tells us, is death, according to the just sentence of the Law. But our Lord Christ was anointed for this purpose to set us free, both to work and to publish liberty, to proclaim liberty to Captives and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound, having pay'd our compleat ransome, he sends his word as the me­ssage, and his Spirit to perform it effectually to set us free, to let us know it, and to bring us out of pri­son. He was bound and scourg'd as a slave or Ma­lefactor to purchase us this liberty, therefore ought it be our special care, first to have part in it, and then to be like it, and stand fast in it in all points.

But that we deceive not our selves as too many do, that have no portion in this liberty, we ought to know, that 'tis not to inordinate walking and licentiousness, as our liberty, that we are call'd: But from them, as our thraldome, not called from Obe­dience, but to it. Therefore beware that you shuffle in nothing under this specious name of Liberty that belongs not to it, make it not a Cloak of malicious­ness 'tis too precious a garment for so base an use. Liberty is indeed Christ's livery that he gives to all his followers: But the sutable living of it is not wickedness, and disobedience of any kind, but Obe­dience and Holiness; you are called to be the ser­vants of God, and that is your dignity and your Liberty.

[Page 386]The Apostles of this Gospel of Liberty, gloried in this title, the servants of Iesus Christ, David be­fore that Psalm of praise for his victories and exal­tations being now settled on his throne, prefixes that as more honour than all these a Psalm of David the Servant of the Lord. To Kings and Subjects and all, 'tis only happiness to be his Subjects, 'tis the glory of the Angels to be his ministring Spirits. The more we attain unto the faculty of serving him cheer­fully and diligently the more still we find of this Spiritual Liberty, and have the more joy in it. As it is the most honourable, it is likewise the most com­fortable, and most gainful service, and they that once know it, will never change it for any other in the world. Oh that we could live as his Servants imploying all our industry to do him service in the condition and place wherein he hath set us, what­soever it is, and as faithful Servants, more careful of his affairs than of our own, accounting it our maine busines to seek the advancement of his glory. Happy is the the servant whom the Master when he cometh shall find so doing.

Verse. 17.

‘Honour all men. Love the Brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King.’

THis is a precious cluster of Divine Precepts, the whole face of the Heavens is decored with stars But of different greatness, and in some parts they are thicker set then in the rest, thus is it likewise in the holy Scriptures, and these are the two Books that the Psalmist sets open before us Psa. 19. The Heavens as a choyce piece of the works of God instructing us, And the word of God more full and clear then they. Here is a constellation of very bright stars near together. These words have [very briefly, and yet not obscur'd by briefness, but withall very plainly] the Summe of our duty towards God and Men, to Men both in general Honour all Men, and in special Relations, in their Christian or religious relation, Love the Brotherhood, and a chief civil relation Honour the King. And our whole duty to God compris'd under the name of his fear, is set in the middle betwixt these, as the common Spring of all duty to Men and of all due observance of it, and the Soveraigne rule by which it is to be re­gulated.

I shall speak of them as they lye in the text, we need not labour about the Connexion; for in such variety of brief practical directions it hath not such place as in Doctrinal discourses. The Apostle [Page 388] having spoke of one particular, wherein he would have his brethern to clear and commend their Chri­stian profession, now accumulates these directions as most necessary, and after goes on to particular duties of Servants &c. But first observe in general how plain, and easy, and how few these things are that are the rule of our life, no dark sentences to puzle the understanding, nor large discouses and long peri­ods to burden the memory, they are all plain. There is nothing wreathed nor distorted in them, as wisdom speaks of her instructions. Prov. 8.

And this gives check to a double folly amongst Men, contrary the one to the other, but both, agreeing in mistaking and wronging the word of God. The one is of those, that despise the word, and that Do­ctrine and Preaching that is conform to it, for its plainess and simplicity. These certainly doe not take the true end for which the word is design'd that it is the Law of our life, and it is mainely requisite in Lawes, that they be both brief, and clear, that it is our guide, and light to happiness, and if that which ought to be our Light be darkness. how great will that darkness be?

It is true (but I am not now to insist on this piont) that there be dark and deep passages in Scripture for the exercise, yea for the humbling, yea for the amazing, and astonishing of the sharpest-sighted readers: But this argues much the pride and vanity of Mens minds when they busy themselves only in those, and throw aside altogether the most nece­ssary, which are therefore the easiest and plainest truths in it as in nature, these commodities that are of greatest necessity God hath made commonest and [Page 389] easiest to be had, so in Religion, such as these now in our hands, that are given us to live and walke by, and in the search of things that are more obscure and less useful, Men evidence that they had rather be Learned then holy, and have still more mind to the tree of knowledge, then the tree of life. And in bear­ing of the word, they that are any whit more know­ing then ordinary, are they not still gaping after new notions? Something to add to the stock of their speculative, and discoursing knowledge, loathing this daily manna, these profitable exhortations, and re­quiring meat for their lust. There is an Intempe­rance of the mind as well as of the mouth, you would think it, and may be not spare to call it a poor cold Sermon, that were made up of such plain pre­cepts as these Honour all men, Love the brother-hood, fear God honour the King. And yet this is the Langu­age of God, 'tis his way, this foolish despiseable way by which he guides, and brings to Heaven them that believe.

Again we have others that are still complaining of the difficulty and darkness of the word of God, and Divine truths, to say nothing of Romes doctrine, that talk thus, to excuse their Sacriledge of stealing a­way the word from the people of God, a senseless pretext, though it were true, because the word is darke of it self, that therefore they should make it darker, looking it up under an unknowne Tongue. But we speak of the common vulgar excuse, that the gross Ignorance and Profaness of many seeks to shroud under, that they are not Learned, and cannot reach the Doctrine of the Scriptures. There be deep mysteries there indeed, but what say you to these [Page 390] things, such rules as these, Honour all men, &c. Are such as these ridles that you cannot know their meaning, for doe not all understand them, and all neglect them. Why set you not on to doe these? And then you should understand more. A good understanding have all they that doe his commandments, sayes the Psalmist, and as one said well, the best way to understand the my­sterious and high discourse in the beginning of St. Pauls Epistles, is to begin at the practice of these rules and precepts that are in the latter end of them, the way to at [...]ian to know more, were to receive the truth in the love of it and obey that you know. The truth is, such truths as these will leave you inexcusable, even the most ignorant of you, you could not but know, you heard often that you ought, to love one another, and to fear God, &c. And yet never apply your selves in earnest to the pra­ctice of these things, as will appear to your own con­sciences if they deal honestly with you in the par­ticulars.

Honour all men.] Honour in a narrower sense is not an universal due to all, but peculiar to some kind of persons. Of this the Apostle. Honour to whom honour, and that in different degrees, to Parents, and Masters and other Superiours, there is an hon­our, that hath, as it were, Caesar's image and Super­scription on it; is particularly due to him, And as here it followes Honour the King; but there is some­thing that goes not unfitly under the name of ho­nour, generally due, from every Man without exception, and it consists (as all honour doth) part­ly in inward esteem of them, partly in outward be­haviour [Page 391] toward them, And the former must be the ground, and cause of the latter.

We owe not the same measure of esteem to all, we may, yea, we ought to take notice of the diffe­rent outward quality, or inward Graces and gifts of Men, nor is it a fault to perceive the shallowness and weakness of Men with whom we converse, and to esteem more of those on whom God hath con­ferr'd more of such things as are truely worthy of esteem: But unto the meanest we doe owe some measure of esteem. 1. Negatively, we are not to entertain despising disdainful thoughts of any, how worthless and mean soever, as the admiring of Men, the very best is a foolish excess that way, so the total contemning of any, the very poorest, is against this rule, for that contemning of vile persons, the Psal­mist speaks of, and commends, is the dislike and hatred of their sin, which is their vileness, and not to account them for outward respects worthy of such esteem, as their wickedness denudes them of. 2. We are to observe and respect the smallest good that is in any, although a Christian be never so base in his outward Condition, in Body, or Mind, of very mean Intellectuals, and natural endowments; yet they that know the worth of Spiritual things, will esteem the grace of God that is in him in the midst of all those disadvantages, as of a Pearl in a rough shell. Grace carries still its own worth, though under a deformed body, and ragged garments; yea, though they have but a small measure of that neither, the very lowest degree of Grace, as a Pearl of the least size or a small piece of Gold, yet Men will not throw't away: But as they say [Page 392] the least shavings of Gold are worth the keep­ing. The Jews would not willingly tread upon the smallest piece of paper in their way, but took it up, for possibly (said they) the name of God may be on it, though there was a litle Superstion in that, yet truely there is nothing but good Religion in it, if we apply it to Men, trample not on any. There may be some work of grace there, that thou knowest not of. The name of God may be written upon that Soul thou treadest on, it may be a Soul that Christ thought so much of, as to give his pre­cious blood for it, therefore dispise it not, much more, I say, if thou canst perceive any appearance that it is such a one, oughtest thou to esteem wheresoever thou findest the least trait of Christ's image: If thou lovest him, thou wilt honour it; or if there be no­thing of this to be found in him thou look'st on, yet observe what common gift of any kind God hath bestowed on him, judgement, or memory, or faculty in his calling, or any such thing, and these in their degree are to be esteem'd, and the person for them. And as there is no Man so compleat as to have the advantage in every thing; so there is no Man so low, and unworthy, but he hath some thing wherein he is preferable even to these that in other respects are much more excellent; or imagine, thou canst find nothing else in some Men, yet honour thy own na­ture, esteem humanity in them, especialy since huma­nity is exalted in Christ to be one with the deity, ac­count of him as a Man, and with this esteem 3dly goes that generall good will and affection due to Men. Whereas there be that doe not only outwardly express, but inwardly bear more regard to some [Page 393] Dog or Horse that they love then to poor distres­sed Men, and in so doing doe reflect dishonour up­on themselves and upon Mankind.

The outward behaviour wherein we owe Honour to all, is nothing but a conformity to this inward temper of mind, for he that inwardly despiseth none, but esteemeth the good that is in the Lowest, at least that they are men, and loves them as such, will accordingly use no outward sign of disdain of any, will not have a scornful Eye, nor a reproachful tongue to move at any, not the meanest of his ser­vants, nor the worst of his Enemies; but on the con­trary will acknowledge the good of every Man, and give unto all that outward respect that is conveni­ent for them, and that they are capable of, and be ready to do them good as he hath opportunity and ability.

But in stead of walking by this rule of ho­nouring all Men. What is there almost to be found amongst Men, but a perverse proneness to dis­honour one another, and every Man ready to dis­honour all Men, that he may honour himself, rec­koning that what he gives to others abates of him­self, and taking what he detracts from others as good booty to make up himselfe. Set Mens own interest aside, and that common Civility that for their own Credit they use one with another, and truly there will be found very little of this real respect to others out of their obedience to God, and love to Men, tendring their esteem, and good Name, and their wellfare as our own: For so the rule is, but mutual disesteem and Defaming filling almost all Societies.

[Page 395]And the bitter root of this Iniquity is, that wick­ed accursed self love that dwells in us, every Man is naturally his own grand Idol, would be esteem'd and honoured by any means, and to magnifie that Idol selfe, kills the good Name and esteem of others in sacrifice to it. Hence is the narrow observing Eye, and broad speaking tongue upon any thing that tends to the dishonour of others, and where o­ther things fail, the disdainful upbraiding of their Birth or Calling, or any thing that comes next to hand, that serves for a reproach. And hence arises a great part of the jarrs and strifes amongst Men, the most being drunk with an over weening opinion of themselves, and the Worthlessest most. A fool (sayes Solomon) is wiser in his own conceit then ten Men that can render a reason, and not finding others of their mind, this frets and troubles them, they take the ready course to deceive themselves; for they look with both Eyes on the failings and de­fects of others, and scarce give their good, half an Eye, on the contrary in themselves, they study to the full their own advantages, and their weaknesses and defects (as he sayes) they skip over, as Chil­dren do the hard words in their lesson, that are troublesome to read, and making this uneven paral­lel, what wonder the result be a gross mistake of themselves. Men miscount themselves at home, they reckoning that they ought to be regarded, and their mind should carry it, and when they come abroad, and are cross'd in this, this puts them all out of frame.

But the humble man as he is more conform to this Divine Rule, so he hath more Peace by it, for [Page 394] he sets so low a rate upon himself in his own thoughts, that 'tis scarce possible for any to go low­er in judging of him, and therefore as he payes due respect to others to the full, and so gives no ground of quarrel that way, so he challenges no such debt to himself, and thus avoids the usual contests that arise in this. Only by Pride comes contention, sayes Solomon, a Man that will walk abroad in a crowded Street cannot chuse but be often justled, but he that contracts himself, passes through more easily.

Study therefore this excellent Grace of Humility, not the Personated acting of it in appearance, which may be a chief agent for Pride; but true lowliness of mind, to be nothing in your own Eyes, and con­tent to be so in the Eyes of others: Then will you obey this Word, you will esteem as is meet of all Men, and not to be troubled though all Men dis­esteem you. As this Humility is a precious Grace, it is the preserver of all other graces, and without it (if they could be with out it) they were but as a Box of precious Powder carried in the wind without a cover, in danger to be scatter'd and blown away. If you would have Honour, there's an ambiti­on both allow'd you, and worthy of you, whosoever you are Rom. 2.7. 2 Cor. 4. other honour, though it have the Hebrew Name from weight, is all too Light, and weighs onely with cares and troubles.

Love the Brotherhood] There is a love as we said due to all included under that word of honouring all, but a peculiar love to our Christian Brethen, which the Apostle Paul calls by a like word the Houshold of Faith.

Christian Brethren are united by a threefold cord [Page 396] two of them common to other Men, but the third, the strongest, and theirs peculiarly, their Bodies descended of the same Man, and their souls of the same God, but their new life by which they are most entirely Brethren, is deriv'd from the same God-Man Jesus Christ; yea in him they are all one body, receiving life from him their glorious head, who is called the first born among many Brethren and as his unspeakable love was the source of this New being, and Fraternity, so out of question it cannot but produce indissolluble love amongst them that are partakers of it. The Spirit of Love and concord is that Precious Oyntment that runs down from the Head our great High Priest to the skirts of his Garment. The life of Christ, and this Law of Love is combin'd and cannot be sever'd. Can there be enmity betwixt those hearts that meet in him? Why do you pretend your selves Christians, and yet remain not only Strangers to this Love, but most contrary to it, Biters and Devourers one of another, and will not be convinced of the great guiltiness and uncomliness of Strifes and Envyings amongst you, is this the badge that Christ hath left his Brethren, to wrangle and maligne one another? Doe you not know on the contrary that they are to be known by mutual Love? By this shall all Men know that you are my Disciples, if you love one another. How often doth that Beloved Disciple press this, he drank deep of that wellspring of Love that was in the Breast on which he leaned, and (if they relate right) he died exhorting this, Love one another. Oh that there were more of this Love of Christ in our hearts, arising from the sense of his Love to us, and [Page 397] that would teach this Mutual Love more effectually, which the Preaching of it may set before us, but without that, the other cannot work it within us. Why do we still hear these things in vain? Do we believe what the Love of Christ did to us, and suf­fer'd for us? And will we do nothing for him, not forgive a shadow, a fancy of Injurie much less a real one, for his sake? And love him that wrong'd us who ever it is, but especially being one of our Bre­thren in this Spiritual sense.

Many are the Duties of this peculiar fraternal love, that mutual Converse and admonition, and re­proof, and comforting, and other Duties which are in neglect, not only amongst formal, but even a­mongst real Christians. Let us intreat more of his Spirit, who is Love, and that will mend this.

Fear God] All the Rules of equity and Charity amongst Men, flow from a higher Principle and de­pend upon it, and there is no right observing of them without due regard to that, therefore this word that expresses that Principle of Obedience is fitly inserted amongst these. The first obligemen [...] of Man being to the Soveraign Majesty of God that made him, and all their mutual Duties one to another deriv'd from that. A Man may indeed from Moral Principles be of a mild inoffensive Carriage, and do Civil right to all Men: But this answers not the Divine Rule even in these same things after the way that it requires them. The Spiritual and Religious observance of these Duties towards Men, springs from a respect to God, and terminates there too, begins and ends in him, [Page 398] and generally all obedience to his Commands, both such as regulate our behaviour towards himselfe im­mediately, and such as relate to Men, doth arise from a holy fear of his Name. Therefore this fear of God upon which followes necessarily the keeping of his Commandements is given us by Solomon as the total Sum of Mans business and Duty, and so this way to solid happiness, 'tis totum hominis after he had made his discoveries of all things besides under the Sun, gone the whole circuit, and made an exact va­luation, and found all to amount to nothing but va­nity and vexation of Spirit. The account he gives of it, it was all for this purpose, to illustrate and establish this truth the more, and to make it the more acceptable, to be a repose after so much wea­riness, and such a tedious Journey, and so as he speaks there, Verse. 10. A word of delight as well as a word of truth, that the mind might sit down and quiet it self in this from the turmoyl and pursuit of vanity that keeps it busy to no purpose in all other things, but whereas there was emptiness, and vanity that's just nothing in all other things, there was not only something to be found, but all in this one this fear of God, and that's keeping of his Command­ments, which is the proper fruit of that fear. All the repeated declaring of Vanity in other things, both severally, and altogether in that Book, are but so many stroakes to drive and fasten this nail as 'tis there Verse 11. This word of Wisdom which is the Summe of all, and contains all the rest. So Iob after a large inquest for Wisdom searching for its Vein, as Men do for Mines of Silver and Gold, hath the return of a Non inventium est, from all the Crea­tures, [Page 399] The Sea sayes it is not in me, &c. But in the close finds it in this. The fear of the Lord that is Wisdom, and to depart from evil that is un­derstanding.

Under this fear is comprehended all Religion, the inward, and outward of it, all his worship, and Service, and all the observance of His Comman­dements which is there Eccles. 12. and elsewhere expresly joyned with it, and therefore is included in it, when 'tis not express'd, so Iob. 28. to depart from evil that is understanding, repeating the former words by that. So Psal. 111. Verse 10. It hath in it all holiness, and Obedience, they grow all out of it. It is the beginning, and it is the top or consummation of wisdom, for the word signi­fies both.

Think it not then a trivial common matter to speak or hear of this Subject; but take it as our great lesson, and business here on earth, that the best proficients in it have yet need to learn it better, and that it requires our uncessant dilligence and study all our dayes.

This fear hath chiefly these things. 1. A rever­ent esteem of the Majesty of God, which is a main fundamental thing in Religion, and that moulds the heart most powerfully to the obedience of his will. 2. A firm belief of the Purity of God, and of his power, and justice, that he loves holiness and hates all sin, and can and will punish it. 3. A right appre­hension of the bitterness of his wrath and the sweet- of his Love, that His incensed Anger is the most ter­rible and intollerable thing in the World, absolutely the fearfullest of all evils, and on the other side His [Page 400] Love, of all good things the best, the most blessed and delightful, yea only blessedness. Life is the Name of the sweetest good we know, and yet this loving kindness is better then life, sayes David. 4. It supposes likewise Soveraign love to God for his own infinite Excellency, and goodness. 5. From all these things springs a most earnest desire to please him, and in all things, and unwillingness to offend Him in the least, and because of our danger through the multitude and strength of tentations, and our own weakness a continual selfe-suspition, a holy fear least we should sin, and a care and watchful­ness that we sin not, and deep sorrow and speedy returning, and humbling before him, when we have sinned.

There is indeed a base kind of fear that in the usual distinction they call servile fear: But to ac­count all fear of the Judgements and Wrath of God a Servile fear (or not to stand upon words) to ac­count such a fear improper to the Children of God I conceive is a wide mistake. Indeed to fear the pu­nishment of sin, without regard ro God and his Justice as the inflicter of them, or to forbear to sin only because of those punishments, so as if a Man can be secur'd from those he hath no other respect to God that would make him fear to offend, this is the character of a slavish and base mind.

Again, for a Man so to apprehend wrath in re­lation to himself as to be still under the horrour of it in that notion, and not to apprehend Redemp­tion and deliverance by Jesus Christ is to be un­der that Spirit of bondage, which the Apostle speaks of Rom. 8. And such fear though a Child of God [Page 401] may for a time be under it, yet the lively actings of faith, and persuasion of Gods love, and the feeling of reflexe love to him in the Soul doth cast it out, according to that of the Apostle 1 Ioh. 4.18. true love casteth out fear. But to apprehend the punishments the Lord threatens against sin as certain and true, and to consider the greatness and fearfulness of them, but especially the terrour of the Lords anger, and hot displeasure above all punishments, and (though not only, no nor chiefly for these) yet in contemplation of those, as very great and weighty, to be affraid to offend that God who hath threatned such things as the just reward of sin, this I say is not incongruous with the estate of the Sons of God, yea 'tis their duty, and their property even thus to fear,

1. This is the very end for which God hath pu­blish'd these intimations of his justice, and hath threat­ned to punish Men if they transgress, to the end they may fear and not transgress, So that not to look upon them thus, and to be affected with them an­swerably to their intendment were a very grievous sin, a slight and disregard put upon the words of the great God.

2. Of all others the Children of God have the right­est, and clearest knowledge of God, and the deepest belief of his word, and therefore they cannot chuse, but be affraid, and more afraid then all others to fall under the stroak of his hand. They know more of the greatness, and truth, and justice of God then others, and therefore they fear when he threatens. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee (sayes David) and I am affraid of thy judgements, yea, they tremble [Page 402] when they hear the Sentence against others, or sees the execution on them, it minds them when they see publick executions, and knowing the terrour of the Lord we persuade Men sayes S. Paul they cry out with Moses Psa. 90. Who knowes the power of thine anger even according to thy fear so is thy wrath. 'Tis not an imagination nor invention that makes Men fear more then they need, his wrath is as terrible as any that fears it most can apprehend, and beyond. So that this doth not only consist with the estate of the Saints, but is their very character to tremble at the word of their Lord, the rest neglect what he sayes till death, and judgement sieze on them: But the Godly know and believe that it is a fearfull thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And though they have firme promises, and a King­dome that cannot be shaken, yet they have still this grace by which they serve God acceptably with re­verence and godly fear, even in this consideration, that our God, even he that is ours by peculiar co­venant, is a confirming fire. Heb. 12.28, 29.

But indeed together with this, yea more then with these, they are perswaded to fear the Lord by the sense of his great love to them, and the power of that love that works in them towards him, and is wrought in them by his. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter dayes. Hos. 3.5. In those dayes his goodness shall manifest it self more then before, the beams of his love shall break forth more abundantly in the dayes of the Gospel, and shall bear more direct and hotter on the hearts of Men, and then they shall fear him more, because they shall love him more.

[Page 403]This fear agrees well both with faith, and love, yea, they work it, compare Psa. 31.23. with Psa. 34.9. and that same Psa. 34. Ver. 8. with 9. and Psa. 112. Ver. 1. with 7. The heart touch'd with the load-stone of divine love trembles still with this godly fear, and yet looks fixedly by faith to that star of Iacob, Jesus Christ, who guids it to the Haven of happiness.

The looking upon God in the face of Jesus Christ takes off that terrour of his countenance that drives Men from him, and in the smiles of his love that appear through Christ, there is such a power as uni­tes▪ their hearts to him, but unites them so, as to fear his name, as the Psalmist's prayer is. He puts such a fear in their hearts as will not cause them depart from, yea, causes that they shall not depart from him.

And this is the purest and highest kind of godly fear that springs from love, and though it excludes not the consideration of wrath, as terrible in it self, and some fear of it, yet it may surmount it, and doubt­less where much of that love possesses the heart, it will sometimes drown the other consideration, that it shall scarcely be sensible at all, and will constantly set it aside, and persuade a Man purely for the good­ness and loveliness of God to fear to offend him, though there were no interest at all in it of a Mans own personal misery or happiness.

But do we thus fear the Lord our God▪ What mean then our oaths, and excesses, and unclean­ness? our covetousness, and generally our unholy and unchristian conversation? This fear would make Men tremble so as to shake them out of their [Page 404] profane customes, and to shake their beloved sins out of their bosomes, the knowledge of the holy one, causes fear of him Prov. 9.18.

But alas! We know him not, and therefore we fear him not, knew we but a little of the great Majesty of God, how holy he is, and how powerful a punisher of unholiness, we would not dare to provoke him thus, he that can kill both body and soul, and cast them into hell (as our Saviour tells us) and he will do so with both, if we will not fear him, because he can do so and 'tis told us that we may fear, and so not feel this heavy wrath. A little lively spiritual knowledge would go far, and work much, that a great deal, such as ours is, doth not. Some such word as that of Ioseph would do much, being engra­ven on the heart, shall I do this evil and sin against God? it would make a man be at no more liberty to sin, in secret then in publick, no not to dispense with the sin of his thoughts more then of openest words or actions. If some grave wiseman did see our secret behaviour, and our thoughts, would we not look more narrowly to them? And not suffer such rovings and follies in our selves, sure therefore we forget Gods eye, which we could not, if we thought right on't, but respect more, then if all men did see within us.

Nor is this only the main point to be press'd upon the ungodly, but the Children of God themselves have much need to be put in mind of it, and to in­crease in it, how often do they abuse the in­dulgence of so loving a father, and have not their thoughts so constantly full of him, are not in his fear (as Solomon advises) all the day long, but many [Page 405] times slip out of his directing hand, and wander from him, and do not so deeply fear his displeasure, and so watch over all their wayes as becomes them, and keep close by him, and wait on his voyce, and obey it constantly, and are not so humbled and afflicted in their repentings for sin as this fear requires, but slight and superficial. They offer much lip labour which is but dead service to the living God. These are things, My beloved, that concernes us much, and that we ought seriously to lay to heart, for even they that are freed from condemnation, yet if they will walk fearlesly and carelesly at any time, he hath ways enough to make them smart for't, and if there were no more, should it not wound them deeply, to think how they requite so great, so un­speakable love.

Honour the King,] This was the particular that the Apostle press'd, and insisted on before, and here repeats, as a special duty of the Second Table, and a vindication of Religion wrongfully blamed in this point, but of this before.

This is out of question in the generall, only in the measure and rule of it, is the difference, and sure they cannot possibly be satisfied that are so drunk with power, as to admit of none at all, no measure nor rate for it, no banks nor channel for those rivers the hearts and wills of Kings to run in, but if they like to run over all, they may.

This is such a wilde conceit as destroyes both all law of reason in humane societies, and all religious obligement to the Laws of God. For the qualifi­cation and measure, I shall mention no other, but that in the Text, that it be always regulated by this, that [Page 406] here goes before it, the fear of God, that we never think of any such obedience, and honour due to Kings as crosseth that fear that is due to God, Let Kings, and Subjects, and all know, that they are absoutely bound to this, 'tis spoke to Kings Psa. 2. serve the Lord in fear. and Psa. 9.6. to all men fear before him all the earth, for he is great and greatly to be praised, He is to be feared above all Gods. What is Man in respect of him? Shall a worm whose breath is in his nostrils stand in competition with the everliving God? Shall an Earthen potsheard strive with his maker? Let the potsheard [...] strive with the potsheards of the earth, Let them work one against another and try which is hardest, and so they shall often break each other, but woe to him that striveth with his maker. There's nothing there, but certain perishing. As we conlude in the question with Rome of the honour due to Saints, and Angels, honour let them have good reason, but not Divine Honour, not Gods pe­culiar, so in this, give to Caesar the things that are Caesars but withal still give to God the things that are Gods.

But 'tis a miserable estate of a Kingdom when de­bates arises, and increases in this, and their happi­ness is, when Kings, and People concurre to honour God: For those that honour him, he will honour. And whosoever despises him shall be despised.

Verse. 18.

‘Servants be Subject to your Masters with all fear not only to the good and gentle: But also to the froward.’

THy word (sayes the Psalmist) is a light to my feet, and a L [...]nterne to my paths, not only a light to please his eyes, by the excellent truths and comforts that are in it, but withall a light to direct his feet in the precepts and rules of life that it gives, to inform and delight his mind to order his course. That Phylosopher was deservedly com­mended, that drew knowledge most this way, and therefore was said to have brought Phylosophy from the clouds to dwell amongst Men, calling it from empty Speculations to a practicall stram. Thus we are taught in Spiritual knowledge by the word of God. The Son, the etenal word, when he came to dwel with Men, and so brought life, and wisdom, and all blessings from the Heavens down unto them, he taught them both by his doctrine, and perfect example how to walk, and his Apostles do conformably aim at this in their holy writings, joyning with the mysteries of faith, those rules of life, that show men the straight way to happiness.

And as it is spoken of the largness of Solomons wisdom, that He spoke of all Trees, from the Cedar in Lebanon, to the Hysope that growes out of the wall: [Page 408] So in this, we may see the perfection of the Holy Scriptures, that they give those directions that are needful to all ranks and sorts of Men, they speak not only of the duties of Kings, how they ought to be­have themselves on their thrones, and the duty of their subjects to them in that dignity, and how Mi­nisters, and others ought to carry in the House of God; but they come in to private houses, and give aeconomick rules for them, teaching Parents, and Children, and Masters, yea and Servants how to ac­quit themselves one to another, Thus here Servants be subject to your Masters.

As this is a just plea for all the people of God, that they have right to the use of this book, being so usefull for all sorts, and that they ought not to be barr'd it, so it is a just plea against a great part of those that barre themselves the use of it, through sloathfulness and earthly-mindedness, seeing it is so contemper'd, that there be many things, yea, all the main things in it profitable for all: Fitted to the use of the lowest estate, and lowest capacities of Men, yea, it takes (as we see) particular notice of their condition, stoops down to take the meanest Servant by the hand, to lead them the way to Heaven; and not only that part of it which is the general way of Christians, but even those steps of it, that lye within the walk of their particular calling, as here, teach­ing not only the duties of a Christian but of a Chri­stian Servant.

Obs. 1. The Scriptures are a deep that few can wade far into, and none can wade through (as those Ezek. 47. But yet all may come to the brook and refresh themselves with drinking of the streams of [Page 409] its living Water, and go in a litle way according to their strength and stature; now this (I say) may be spoken to our shame, and I wish it might shame you to amendment, that so many of you, either use not the Scriptues at all, or in using, do not use them, turn over the leaves, and it may be run through the lines, and consider not what they advise you, Masters learn your part, and Servants too hearken what they say to you, for they pass not you by, they vouchsafe to speak to you too: But you vouchsafe not to hear them, and observe their voyce. How can you think that the reading of this Book con­cerns you not? When you may hear it address such particular directions unto you. Wisdom goes not only to the gates of Pallaces, but to the common gates of the Cities, and to the publick highwayes, and calls to the simplest that she may make them wise. Besides that you dishonour God, you prejudge your selves; for does not that neglect of God and his Words justly procure the disorder and disobedience of your Servants towards you, as a fit punishment from his righteous hand; although they are unrighteous, and are procuring further judgment to themselves in so doing; and not only thus, is your neglect of the Word a cause of your trouble by the justice of God, but in regard of the Nature of the Word, that if you would respect it, and make use of it in your Houses, it would teach your Servants to respect and obey you as here, you see it speaks for you, and therefore you wrong both it, and your selves when you silence it in your Families

Obs. 2. The Apostle having spoken of subjecti­on [Page 410] to publick Authority, addes this of subjection to private Domestick Authority, 'tis a thing much of concernment, the right ordering of Families, for all other Societies Civil, and Religious, are made up of these. Villages, and Cities, and Churches, and Commonwealths, and Kingdomes are but a Collecti­on of Families, and therefore such as these are, for the most part, such must the whole Societies pre­dominantly be, one particular House is but a very small part of a Kingdom, yet the wickedness and lewdness of that House, be it but of the meanest in it, of Servants one or more, though it seem but a small thing, yet goes in to make up that heap of sin that provokes the wrath of God, and drawes on publick Calamity.

And this particularly when it declines into disor­der proves a publick evil, when Servants grow generally corrupt and disobedient, and unfaith­ful; though they be the lowest part; yet the whole Body of a Commonwealth cannot but feel very much the evil of it, as a Man does when his Legs and feet grow diseas'd, and begin to fail him.

We have here, 1. Their Duty. 2. The due extent of it. 3. The right Principle of it.

Be subject] 1. Keep your Order and Station un­der your Masters, and that with fear, and inward reve­rence of mind and respect to them, that is the very Life of all Obedience. Then their Obedience hath in it diligent doing, and patient suffering. Both these are in that word, be subject, do faithfully to your utmost that which is concredited to you, and obey all their just Commands, for Action indeed goes no further, but suffer patiently even their unjust Rigours and [Page 411] severities. And this being the harder part of the two, and yet a part that the Servants of those times bore, many of them being more hardly and slavishly us'd than any with us, especially those that were Christian Servants under unchristian Masters; there­fore the Apostle insists most on this, and this is the extent of the Obedience here requir'd, that it be to all kind of Masters, not to the good only, but the evil, not only to obey, but to suffer, and suffer pa­tiently, and not only deserv'd, but even wrongful and unjust punishment.

Now because this particular concerns Servants, Let them reflect upon their own carriage, and exa­mine it by this Rule, and truly the greatest part of them will be found very unconform to it, being ei­ther closely fraudulent, and deceitful; or grosly stubborn, and disobedient, abusing the lenity and mildness of their Masters, or murmuring at their just severity, so far are they from the patient endurance of the least undue word of reproof, much less of shar­per punishment, either truly, or in their opinion un­deserv'd. And truly if any that profess Religion dis­pence themselves in this, thy mistake the matter very much; for it tyes them more, whether Children or Servants to be most submissive and obedient even to the worst kind of Parents and Masters, alwayes in the Lord, not obeying any unjust Command, though they may and ought to suffer patiently (as it is here) their unjust reproofes or punishments.

But on the other side, this does not justify, nor at all excuse the unmerciful Austerities, and unbridled Passion of Masters, 'tis still a perversness and croo­kedness in them, as the word is here, and must [Page 412] have its own Name, and shall have its proper re­ward from the Soveraign Master and Lord of all the World.

2. There is here also the due extent of this Duty. Namely, to the Froward. 'Tis a more deformed thing to have a distorted crooked mind, or a froward spirit, than any crookedness of the Body. How can he that hath Servants under him expect their Obedi­ence, when he cannot command his own Passion, but is a slave to it? And unless much Conscience of Duty possess Servants (more than is readily to be found with them) it cannot but work a Master into much disaffection and disesteem with them, when he is of a turbulent Spirit, a troubler of his own House, em­bittering his affairs, and Commands, with rigidness and Passions, and taking things readily by that side that may offend, and trouble him, thinking his Ser­vant slights his call, when he may as well think he heard him not, and upon every light occasion, real or imagin'd, flying out into reproachful speeches, or proud threats, contrary to the Apostle St. Pauls rule; which he sets over against the Duty of Servants, Eph. 6. Forbearing threatning, knowing that your Master also is in Heaven, and that there is no respect of Persons with him: think therefore, when you shall appear before the Judgment Seat of God that your carriage shall be examin'd, and judg'd as theirs, and think that we regard those differences much of Masters and Servants, but they are nothing with God, they evanish.

Consider who made thee to differ, might he not have made your Stations just contrary with a turn of his hand, and made thee the Servant, and thy [Page 413] Servant the Master: But we willingly forget those things that should compose our minds to humility, and meekness, and blow them up with such fancies as please, and feed our natural vanity, and make us some body in our own account.

However that Christian Servant that falls into the hands of a froward Master, will not be beaten out of his Station, and Duty of Obedience by all the hard and wrongful usage he meets withal; but will take that as an opportunity of exercising the more Obedience, and Patience, and will be the more cheerfully Patient, because of his Innocency, as the Apostle here exhorts.

Men do indeed look sometimes upon this, as a just plea for impatience, that they suffer unjustly, which yet is very ill Logick: for (as he said) would any Man that frets because he suffers unjusty, wish to deserve it, that he might be patient. Now to hear them, they seem to speak so, when they ex­claim, that the thing which vexeth them most, is, that they have not deserv'd any such thing as is in­flicted on them: truly desert of punishment may make a Man more silent upon it, but innocency right considered makes him more Patient, guiltiness stops a Mans mouth indeed in suffering: But sure it doth not quiet his mind, on the contrary, it is that which mainly disturbs and grieves him, 'tis the sting of suffering, as sin is said to be of Death; and therefore when that is not, the pain of the sufferings cannot but be much abated by it; Yea the Apostle here declares, that to suffer undeservedly, and with­al patiently, is glorious to a Man, and acceptable to God. It is commendable indeed to be truly patient [Page 414] even in deserved sufferings, but the deserving them tarnishes the lustre of that Patience, and makes it look more constrain'd-like, which is the Apostles meaning, preferring it much before spotless suffering, and that is indeed the true glory of it, that it pleas­eth God, so that it is render'd in the close of the 20. Verse for the other word of glory in the beginning of it 'tis a pleasing thing in Gods eyes, and therefore he will thank a Man for it, as the word is, though we owe all our Patience under all kind of afflictions as a Duty to him, and though that Grace is his own gift; yet he hath oblig'd himself by his Royal Word, not only to accept of it, but to praise it, and re­ward it in his Children; though they lose their thanks at the World's hands, and be rather scoff'd and taunted in all their doings, and sufferings, 'tis no matter, they can expect no other there, but their reward is on high, in the sure and faithful hand of their Lord.

How often do Men work earnestly, and do and suf­fer much for the uncertain wages of glory, and thanks, amongst Men, and how many of them fall short of their reckoning, either dying before they come through to that State where they think to find it, or find it not where they look'd for't, and so do but live to feel the pain of their dissappointment; Or if they do attain their end, such glory and thanks as Men have to give them, what amounts it to? Is it any o­ther but a handful of nothing, the breath of their mouths, and themselves much like it, a vapour dying out in the air, and the reallest thanks they give, their solidest rewards, are but such as a Man cannot take home with him; if they go so far with him, [Page 415] yet at furthest he must leave them at the door, when he is to enter his Everlasting home. All the Riches and Pallaces, and Monuments of honour that he had, and that are erected to him after death, as if he had then some interest in them, reach him not at all, enjoy them who will, he does not, he hath no Portion of all that is done under the Sun, his own end is to him the end of the World.

But he that would have abiding glory, and thanks, must turn his eye another way for them. All Men desire Glory, but they know neither what it is, nor how 'tis to be sought, he is upon the only right bargain of this kind, whose Praise (accord­ing to St. Pauls word) is not of Men but of God. If Men commend him not, he accounts it no loss, nor no gain if they do, for he minds for a Country where that coyn goes not, and whither he cannot carry it; and therefore he gathers it not. That which he seeks in all, is, that he may be ap­prov'd, and accepted of God, whose thanks is no less to the least of those he accepts, than a crown of unfading Glory; not a poor Servant that fears his Name and is Obedient, and Patient for his sake, but shall be so rewarded.

There be some kind of Graces, and good actions that Men (such as regard any grace) take spe­cial notice of, and commend highly, such as are of a magnifick and remarkable nature, such as Martyrdome, or doing, or suffering for Religi­on in some Publick way: There be again other obscure Graces, that if Men despise not, yet they esteem not much, as Meekness, and Gentleness, and Patience under private crosses known to few or [Page 416] none, and yet these are of great account with God, and therefore should be so with us, they are of more universal use: whereas the other, are but for high times, as we say, for rare occasions, these are every ones work, but few are call'd to the acting of the other. And the least of them shall not lose their re­ward, in whose Person soever, as St. Paul tells us, speaking of this same subject, Eph. 6.8. Knowing that whatsoever good thing any Man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whither he be bound or free.

This is the bounty of that great Master we serve: For what are we, and all we can do, that there should be a Name of a reward to it, yet he keeps all in reckoning, not a poor lame Prayer, not a Tear, nor a sigh poured forth before him shall go to loss. Not any cross from his own hand immediatly, or comming through Mens hands, that is taken (what way soever it come) as out of his hand and carried patiently, yea and wellcom'd, and embrac'd for his sake, But he observes our so entertaining of it, not an injury that the meanest Servant bears Christianly, but goes all upon account with him, and he sets them so, as that they bear much value through his esteem, and way of reckoning them, though in themselves they are all less than nothing, as a worthless Coun­ter, stands for hundreds or thousands according to the Place you set it in. Happy they that have to deal with such a Lord, and be they Servant or Master, are vow'd Servants to him, When he comes his reward shall be with him.

The 3d. thing is the Principle of this Obedience and Patience, for Conscience towards God.

[Page 417]It imports 1. The knowledge of God, and of his will in some due measure. 2. A conscientious respect unto him and his will so known, taking it for their only rule in doing and suffering.

1. This declares to us the freeness of the grace of God in regard of Mens outward quality, that he doth often bestow the riches of his grace upon Per­sons of mean condition. 'Tis suppos'd here, that this conscience of God, the saving knowledge and fear of his name, is to be found in Servants: Therfore the Apostle takes them within the address of his Let­ter amongst those that are elect, according to the foreknowledge of God. Chap. 1. Ver. 2. And sharers of those dignities he mentions Ver. 9. of this Chap. A chosen generation. The honour of a Spiritual Ro­yalty, under the meanness of a Servant, and this grace possibly conferr'd upon the Servant, and denied to the Master, as here suppos'd: It may fall out that a perverse crooked-minded Master may have a Ser­vant uprightly minded, being endowed with a tender respective conscience towards God, and thus the Lord does to counteract the pride of Man, and set off the lustre of his own free grace, he hath all to chuse on, and yet chuses there, where Men would least imagine. Mat. 11.25. 1 Cor. 1.27.

2. Grace finds a way to act it self in every estate where it is, and regulates the Soul to the parti­cular duties of that estate, if it find a Man high or low, a Master, or a Servant, it requires not a change of his station, but works a change on his heart, and teaches him how to live in it, the same Spirit that makes a Christian Master pious, and gentle, and pru­dent in commanding, makes a Christian Servant faith­full [Page 418] and obsequious, and diligent in obeying. A skillful engraver makes you a Statue indifferently of Wood, or Stone, or Marble, as they are put into his hand, and grace formes a Man to a Christian way of walking in any estate, there is a way for him in the meanest condition to glorifie God, and to adorn the profession of Religion, no estate so low, as to be shut out from that, and a right inform'd, and right affected conscience towards God shews a Man that way, and causes him to walk in it. As the Astrolo­gers say, that the same Stars that made Cyrus to be chosen King amongst the Armies of Men when he came to be a Man, made him to be chosen King a­mongst the Shepherds Children when he was a Child: Thus grace will have its proper operation in every, estate.

In this Men readily deceive themselves, they can do any thing well in imagination, better than the real task that is in their hands. They presume that they could do God good service in some place of command, that serve him not as becomes in that which is by far the easier, the place of obeying, wherein he hath set them, They think if they had the ability and opportunities that some Men have, they would do much more for Religion, and for God than they do, and yet do nothing but spoile a far lower part than that, which is their own, and is gi­ven them to study and act aright in; but our folly, and self ignorance abuses us, 'tis not our part to chuse what we should be, but to be what we are to to his glory, that gives us to be such: Be thy conditi­on never so mean, yet thy conscience towards God, if it be within thee, will find it self work in that. If [Page 419] it be litle that is concredited to thee in regard of thy outward condition, or any other way, be thou faithfull in that litle, as our Saviour speaks, and thy reward shall not be litle, he shall make the ruler over much.

3. As a corrupt mind debaseth the best and ex­cellentest Callings, and Actions, so the lowest are rais'd above themselves, and ennobl'd by a Spiritual mind. A Magistrate or Minister though their call­ing and employments be high, may have low inten­tions, and draw down their high calling to these low intentions; they may seek themselves, and self ends, and neglect God. And a sincere Christian may e­levate his low Calling by this Conscience of God observing his will, and intending his Glory in it. An Eagle may fly high, and yet have its eye down upon some carrion on the earth, and a Man may be stand­ing on the earth, and that on some low part of it, and yet have his eye upon Heaven and be contem­plating it. That which one Man cannot at all see in another, is the very thing most considerable in their actions, namely, the principle whence they flow, and the end to which they tend. This is the form and life of actions, that by which they are earth­ly, or Heavenly. Whatsoever be the matter of them, the Spiritual mind hath that Alchimy in­deed of turning base Mettals into Gold, Earthly employments into Heavenly. The handy work of an Artisan or Servant that regards God, and eyes him, even in that work, is much holier than the prayer of an Hypocrite, and a Servants en­during the private wrongs and harshness of a fro­word Master, bearing it patiently for the Consci­ence [Page 420] of God, is more acceptable to God, than the sufferings of some such, as may endure much for a publick good cause without a good and upright heart.

This habitude and posture of the heart towards God, the Apostle S. Paul pr [...]sses much in this very Subject Eph. 6. as being very needful to allay the hard labour, and harsh usage of many of them, this is the way to make them easy, to undergo them for God. no pill so bitter, but respect and love to God will sweeten it. And this is a very great refreshment and comfort to a Christian in the mean estate of a Ser­vant, or other labouring Men, that they may offer up their hardship and bodily labour as a sacrifice to God, and say, Lord, this is the station wherein thou hast set me in the world, and I desire to serve thee in it, what I do is for thee, and what I suffer I de­sire to bear patiently and cheerfully for thy sake, in submission and obedience to thy will.

For Conscience] In this there is 1. A reverent complyance with Gods disposal, both in allotting to them that condition of Life, and particularly chusing their Master for them, though possibly not the mild­est and pleasantest, yet the fittest for their good, there is much in the firm believing of this, and hearty sub­mitting to it: For we would naturally rather carve for our selves, and shape our own estate to our mind, which is a most foolish, yea, an impious presump­tion, as if we were wiser that he that hath done it, and as if there were not as much, and it may be more possibility of true contentment in a mean than in a far higher condition, the Masters mind is often more toyl'd than the Servants body. And if [Page 421] our condition be appointed us, at least we would have a voyce in some qualifications and circum­stances of it, as in this, if a Man must serve, he would wish willingly, that God would allot him a meek gentle Master, and so we in other things, if we must be sick, we would be well accommodate, and not want helps, but to have sickness, and want means, and friends for our help, this we can­not think of without horror. But this submission to God is never right till all be given up into his hand that concernes us, to do with it and every Ar­ticle and circumstance of it as seems good, in his eyes. 2. In this Conscience is a Religious and observant respect to the rule God hath set men to walk by in that condition, so that their obedience depends not upon any external inducement, and so falls when that fails: But flows from an inward impression of the Law of God upon the heart, thus a Servant's obedience, and patience will not be pin­n'd to the goodness and equity of his Master, but when that failes, will subsist upon its own inward ground, and generally in all estates. This is the thing that makes sure, and constant walking, makes a Man step even in the ways of God. When a Man's o­bedience Springs from that unfailing, unchanging reason, the command of God, 'tis a natural mo­tion, and therefore keeps on, and rather growes, than abates; but they that are moved by things outward, must often fail; because these things are not constant in their moving; as a People that are much acted by the Spirit of their rulers, as the Jews when they had good Kings. 3. In this is a tender care of the glory of God, and the adornment of [Page 422] Religion, which the Apostle premis'd before these particular duties, as a thing to be specially regarded in them; the honour of our Lords name is that we should set up, as the mark, and to aim all our actions at, either we think not on it, or our hearts slip out, and start from their aim, like bowes of deceit as the Word is. 4. There is the comfortable per­swasion of Gods approbation and acceptance, as is express'd in the following Verse (of which some­what before) and the hope of that reward he hath promis'd, as it is Col. 3.24. No less than the in­heritance, so then such Servants as these, are Sons and Heirs of God, Co-heirs with Christ, thus he that is a Servant, may be in a far more excellent estate than his Master: The Servant may hope for, and aim at a Kingdome, while the Master is embracing a dunghill, and he that is thus, thinks highly of Gods free grace: And the looking ever to that in­heritance, make them go cheerfully through all paines and troubles here as light and momentany, and not worth the naming in comparison of that glory that shall be revealed. In the mean time the best and most easy condi [...]ion of the Sons of God cannot satisfy them, nor stay their sighs and groanes, wait­ing, and longing for that day of their full redem­ption.

Now this is the great rule, not only for Servants. But for all the Servants of God in what estate so­ever, to set the Lord alwayes before them, and to study (with St. Paul) to have a conscience void of offence towards God and Man, to eye and apply con­stantly to their actions, and their inward thoughts the command of God, to walk by that rule abroad, [Page 423] and at home, in their houses, and in the several ways of their calling: As an exact workman is ever, and anon laying to his rule to his work, and squar­ing it, and for the Conscience they have towards God, to do and suffer his will cheerfully, in every thing, being content, that he chuse their condition, and their trialls for them. Only desirous to be a­ssur'd, that he hath chosen them for his own, and given them right to the glorious Liberty of the Sons of God, still endeavouring to walk in that way that leads to it, overlooking this moment, and all things in it, accounring it a very indifferent matter what is their outward estate here in this moment, providing they may be happy in Eternity; high or low here, bond or free, it imports little; seeing all these dif­ferences will be so quickly at an end, and thene shall not be so much as any tract or footstep of them left with particular Men: 'Tis so in their graves, you may distinguish the greater from the less by their Tombs, but by their dust you cannot, and with the whole world it shall be so in end. All Monuments, and Palaces, with cottages made fire, as our Apostle tells us, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all the works therein shall be burnt up.

Verse. 21.22, 23.

For even hereunto were ye called: Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.

22. Who did no sinne, neither was guile found in his mouth.

23. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatned not: But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.

THe rules that God hath set Men to live by are universally just, and there is an universall obligation upon all Men to obey them, but as they are particulary address'd to his own people in his word, they are out of question particularly bound to yeild obedience, and have many peculiar per­swasives to it, that extend not to others, which are therefore usually represented to them, and press'd upon them in the Holy Scriptures. Thus the pre­face of the Law runs to Israel, besides that, I am Iehovah and have Supreme power to give Men Laws, is added I am thy God especially thy deliverer from slavery, and bondage, and so have a peculiar right to thy obedience, so Deut. 7.6. Thus the [Page 425] Apostle here urgeth this point in hand of inoffen­siveness, and patience, particularly in Christian Ser­vants: But so as it fits every Christian in his station, for hereunto, sayes he, ye are called. Whatsoever o­thers do, though they think this too strait a rule, yet you are tyed to it by your own calling, and pro­fession as you are Christians; and this is evidently the highest and clearest reason that can be, and of greatest power with a Christian, Namely, the exam­ple of Jesus Christ himself. For Christ also suffered for us. &c.

So 'tis all but one entire Argument, that they ought thus to behave themselves, because 'tis the very thing they are called to, as their conformity to Jesus Christ, whose they profess to be, yea, with whom as Christians they profess themselves to be one.

Hereunto were ye called] This in the general is a thing that ought to be ever before our eye, to con­sider the nature, and end of our calling, and to en­deavour in all things to suit it, to think in every oc­currence, what doth the calling of a Christian require of me in this; but the truth is, the most do not mind this, we profess our selves to be Christians, and never think what kind of behaviour this obliges us to, and what manner of persons it becomes us to be in all holy Conversation; but walk disorderly out of our rank inordinately, you that are Prophane, were you called by the Gospel to serve the World, and your Lusts, to Swearing and Rioting, and Voluptuous­ness? Heare you not the Apostle testifying the con­trary, in express termes? That God hath not cal­led us to uncleanness, but unto holiness. You that are of proud contentious Spirits, are you suitable to [Page 426] this holy Calling? No, for we are called to Peace, sayes the same Apostle, but we study not this Holy Calling, and therefore we walk so incongruously, so unlike the Gospel, we lie and do not the truth, as St. Iohn speaks, our Actions belie us.

The particular that here Christians are said to be called to, is to suffering, as their Lot; and Patience, as their Duty, even under the most unjust and un­deserved sufferings·

And both these are as large as the Sphere of this Calling, not only Servants and others of a mean con­dition, that lying low, are the more subject to ri­gours and Injuries, but generally, all that are cal­led to Godliness are likewise called to Sufferings. 2 Tim. 3.12. All that will follow Christ, must do it in his Livery, they must take up their Cross. This is a very harsh and unpleasing Article of the Gospel to a carnal mind, but it conceales it not, Men are not led blindfold upon sufferings, and drawn into a hidden snare by the Gospels invitations, they are told very often, that they pretend not a surprisal, nor have any just plea for starting back again, as our Saviour tells his Disciples, why he was so ex­press and plain with them in this. These things sayes he, have I told you that you be not offended. I have shew'd you the ruggedness of your way, that you stumble not at it, takeing it to be a smooth plain one, but withal where this is spoke of, 'tis usually allay'd with the mention of those comforts, that ac­company these sufferings, or that glory that followes them. The Doctrine of the Apostles which was so verified in their own Persons, Acts 14. That through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of [Page 427] God, an unpleasant way indeed, if you look no fur­ther, but a Kingdom at the end of it, and the King­dom of God will transfuse pleasure into the painful­lest step in it all, so Psal. 34.19. It seems a sad con­dition that falls to the share of Godly men in the World, to be eminent in sorrowes and troubles. Many are the afflictions of the Righteous, but that which followes weighs it abundantly down in conso­lation, that the Lord himselfe is engaged in their afflictions, both for their deliverance out of them in due time, and in the mean time, their support and preservation under them. The Lord delivers them out of them all. And till he does that, he keepeth all their bones, &c. Which was literally verified in the Natural body of Christ, as St. Iohn observes, and holds Spiritually true in his mystical body. The Lord supports the Spirits of Believers in their trou­bles with such solid consolations, as are the Pillars and strength of their Souls, as the bones are of their Body, as the Hebrew word for them imports, so he keepeth all his bones; and the desperate condition of wicked men is oppos'd to illustrate this Verse 21. But evil shall slay the Wicked.

Thus Ioh. 16.33. In the closure they are fore­warned what to expect at the Worlds hands, as they were divers times before in that same Sermon: but it is a sweet Testament, take it alltogether, Ye shall have tribulation in the World, but Peace in me, and seeing he hath joyntly bequeathed these two to his follow­ers, were it not great folly to cast such a bargain? And to let go that Peace for fear of this trouble, the trouble is but in the World, but the Peace is in him who weighs down thousands of Worlds.

[Page 428]So then they do exceedingly mistake, and misrec­kon themselves, that would agree Christ, and the World: that would have the Church of Christ, or at least, themselves for their own shares, enjoy both kinds of peace together, would willingly have Peace in Christ, but are very loath to part with the Worlds Peace, they would be Christians, but they are very ill satisfied when they hear of any other but ease and Prosperity in that estate, and willingly forget the tenor of the Gospel in this; and so when times of trouble and sufferings come, their minds are as new and uncouth to it, as if they had not been told on't before hand. They like better of St. Peters carnal advice to Christ to avoid suffering. Mat. 16. than of of his Apostles Doctrine to Christians, teaching them that as he suffered, so they likewise are called to suf­fering. Men readily think as he did there, that Christ should favour himself more in his own body, his Church, than to expose it to so much suffering; and most would be of Rome's mind in this, at least in affection, that the badge of the Church should be Pomp and Prosperity, and not the Cross, the true cross of Afflictions and sufferings is too heavy and painful.

But Gods thoughts are not ours, those he calls to a Kingdome, he calls to sufferings, as the way to it: He will have the heirs of Heaven know they are not at home on earth, and that this is not their rest, he will not have them with the abus'd World fancy a happiness here, and seek life, as St. Augustin sayes beatam vitam quaerere in regione mortis. The reproaches and wrongs that encounter them shall ele­vate their minds often to that Land of Peace and [Page 429] rest, where righteousness dwells. The hard Task­masters shall make them weary of Egypt, which o­therwise possibly they would comply too well with. and dispose them for deliverance, and make it wel­come, which it may be they might but coldly de­sire if they were better us'd.

He knowes what he does, that secretly serves his good ends of Mens evil, and by the Plowers that make long furrowes on the back of his Church makes it a fruitful Field to himself. Therefore 'tis great folly and unadvisedness, to take up prejudice against his way, and think it might be better as we would model it, and to complain of the order of things; whereas we should complain of disordered minds, but we had rather have all alter'd, and chang'd for us, the very course of Providence, than seek the change of our own perverse hearts, but the right temper of a Christian is, to run alwayes cross to the corrupt stream of the World, and humane iniquity, and to be willingly carried along with the stream of divine Providence, and not at all to stir a hand, no nor a thought, to row against that mighty current; and not only is he carryed with it upon necessity, be­cause there is no steering against it, but chearfully and voluntarily, not because he must, but because he would.

And this is the other thing to which they are joyntly called, as to suffering so to calmness of mind, and patience in suffering; although their suffering be most unjust, yea, this is truly a part of that Duty they are called to, to that integrity and innofensive­ness of Life, that may ma [...]e their sufferings at Mens hands alwayes unjust to the entire Duty here, is In­nocency, [Page 430] and Patience, doing willingly no wrong and yet cheerfully suffering it done to them; if ei­ther of the two be wanting, their suffering doth not credit their Profession, but dishonours it, if they be patient under deserved suffering, their guiltiness dar­kens their Patience; and if their suffering be unde­serv'd, yea, and the cause of them honourable, yet impatience under them staines both their sufferings, and their cause, and seems in part to justify the very injustice that is us'd against them: But where inno­cency and Patience meet together in suffering, there sufferings are in their perfect lustre. These are they that honour Religion, and shame the enemies of it. It was the concurrence of these two that was the very triumph of the Martyrs in times of Persecution that tormented their Tormentors and made them more then Conquerors even in sufferings.

Now that we are called both to suffering, and to this manner of suffering, the Apostle puts out of question, by the Supream example of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the Sum of our Calling is, to follow him. Now in both these, in suffering, and in suffer­ing Innocently and Patiently, the whole History of the Gospel testifies how compleat a Pattern he is. And the Apostle gives us here a Summary, yet a very clear account of it.

The Words have in them these two things. 1. The perfection of this Example. 2. Our obliga­tion to follow it.

I. The example he sets off to the full. 1. In re­gard of the greatness of his sufferings. 2. Of his spot­lesness and Patience in suffering.

The first we have in that word he suffered, and [Page 431] after Verse 24. We have his crucifying, and his stripes expresly specified.

Now this is reason enough and carries it beyond all other reason, why Christians are call'd to a suf­fering Life, seeing the Lord and Author of that Cal­ling suffer'd himself so much. The Captain or Lead­er of our salvation, as the Aposte speaks, was conse­crate by suffering, that was the way by which he en­tred into the holy place where he is now our ever­lasting High Priest, making intercession for us, if he be our Leader to Salvation, must we not follow him in the way he leads whatsoever it is, if it be (as we see 'tis) by the way of sufferings, we must either follow on in that way, or fall short of salvation, for there is no other Leader nor other way, but that which he open'd up, so that there is not only a Con­gruity in it, that his followers be conform to him in suffering, but a necessity, if they will follow him on, till they attain to Glory, and the considerati­on, of both these cannot but argue a Christian into a Resolution for this via regia this Royal way of suf­fering that leads to Glory, through which their King, and Lord himself went to his Glory. It could hardly be believ'd at first, that this was his way, and we can as hardly yet believe that it must be ours. Luk. 24. O fools and slow of heart to be­lieve, ought not Christ to have suffer'd these things, and so to enter into his glory.

Would you be at glory, and will you not follow your Leader in the only way to it? Must there ano­ther way be cut out for you by your selfe? O ab­sur'd! shall the servant (sayes he) be greater than his Master. Are you not fairly dealt with if you [Page 432] have a mind to Christ? You shall have full as much of the Worlds good will as he had, if it hate you he bids you remember, how it hated him.

But though there were a way to do otherwayes▪ would you not rather chuse (if the love of Christ possess'd your hearts) to take a share with him in his Lot, and find delight in the very trouble of it, is not this conformity to Jesus, the great ambition of all his true hearted followers. We carry about in the body the dying of the Lord Iesus, sayes the great Apostle, besides the unspeakable advantage to come, that goes link'd with this, that if we suffer with him, we shall reign with him; there is a glory, even in this present resemblance that we are conformed to the Image of the Son of God in sufferings. Why should we desire to leave him? Are you not one with him? Can you chuse but have the same com­mon friends and enemies? Would you willingly, if it might be, could you find in your heart to be friends with that World, that hated your Lord and Master? Would you have nothing but kindness and ease? where he had nothing but enmity and trouble, or would you not rather, when you think right on't, disdain and refuse to be so unlike him? As that good Duke said, when they would have Crown'd him King of Ierusalem. No, said he, by no means, I will not wear a Crown of Gold, where Iesus was Crown'd with thornes.

2. This Spotlesness and Patience in suffering are both of them set here before us, the one Verse 22. the other 23.

Whosoever 'tis that makes such a noise of the in­justice of what he suffers, and thinks to justify his [Page 433] Impatience by his Innocency, let me ask thee, art thou more just and innocent then he that is here set before thee? Or art thou able to come near Him in this Point? Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. This is to signify perfect holiness, according to that Iames. 3.2. Man a litle world, a world of wickedness, and that litle part of him a litle world of Iniquity. all Christs words, and actions, and all his thoughts flow'd from a pure Spring that had not any thing de­filed in it, and therefore no tentation either from Men, or Satan could seize on him, other Men may seem clear unstirr'd, but move and trouble them, and the mudd arises, but he was nothing but holiness, a pure foun­tain, all purity to the bottom, and therefore stirr and trouble him as they would he was still alike clear. The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

This is the main ground of our confidence in him, that he is a Holy Harmeless undefil'd high Priest, and such an one became us, sayes that Apostle, that are so sinfull, the more sinfull we, the more need that our High Priest should be sinlesse, and being so, we may build upon his perfection, standing in our stead, yea, we are invested with him and his righte­ousness.

Again there was no guile found in his mouth, this serves us concerning all the promises that he hath made us, that they are nothing but truth, hath he said? Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out, then you need not fear, how unworthy and vile soever, do you but come to him, and you have his word that he will not shut the door against you, and as he hath promis'd access, so hath he further pro­mis'd [Page 434] ease, and Souls rest to those that come; then be confident to find that in him too, for there was never a false nor guilefull word found in his mouth.

But to consider it only in the present action, this speaks him the most innocent sufferer that ever was, not only judicially just in his cause, but entirly just in his Person, altogether righteous, and yet condemn'd to death, and an opprobrious death of Malefactours, and set betwixt two, as chief of the three, I am (sayes he) the rose Sharon and the Lillie of the valley. And the Spouse saith of him My wel beloved is White and ruddy, thus indeed in his death, ruddy in his blood­shed, and white in his innocency, and withal in his meekness and patience, the other thing wherein he is here so exemplary.

Verse, 23. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again] This spotless Lamb of God was a Lamb both in guiltlesness, and silence, and the Prophet Esay expresses the resemblance in that, he was brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, he suffer'd, not only an un­just Sentence of death but withall, unjust revilings, the contradictions of sinners, none ever did so litle deserve revilings, none ever could have said so much in his own just defence, and to the just reproach of his enemies, and yet in both, he preferr'd silence: None could ever threaten so heavy things as he could against his enemies, and have made good all he threatned, and yet no such thing was heard from him. The heaven and earth as it were spoke their resentment of his death that made them: But he was silent, or what he spoke makes this still good, how far he was from revilings, and threatnings, As [Page 435] spices pounded, or precious ointment poured out give their smell most, thus his name was an oint­ment then poured forth, together with his blood, and fill'd Heaven and Earth with its sweet perfume, was a favour of rest and peace in both, appeasing the wrath of God, and so quieting the Consciences of Men, and even in this particular was it then most fragrant, in that all the Torments of the cross and revilings of the multitude, that as it were rack't him for some answer, yet could draw no other from him but this, father forgive them for they know not what they do.

But for those to whom this mercy belong'd not, the Apostle tells us what he did in stead of Revil­ings and Threatnings, he committed all to him that judgeth righteously. And this is the true method of Christian patience, that which quiets the mind, and keeps it from the boyling Tumultuous thoughts of revenge, to turne the whole matter into Gods hand, to resign it over to him, to prosecute when, and as he thinks good. Not as the most, that had rather, if they had power, do for themselves, and be their own avengers, and because they have not power do offer up such bitter curses, and prayers for re­venge unto God, as are most hateful to him, and are far from this calm and holy way of committing matters to his judgment. The common way of re­ferring things to God is indeed impious, and disho­nourable to him, being really no other, but a call­ing of him to be a Servant, and executioner to our passion, We ordinarily mistake his justice, and judge of it according to our own precipitant distemper'd minds. If wicked Men be not cross'd in their de­signes, [Page 436] and their wickedness evidently crush'd just when we would have it, we are ready to give up the matter as desperate, or at least abate of those confi­dent, and reverent thoughts of divine justice that we owe him: Howsoever things go, this ought to be fixed in our hearts, that he that sits in Heaven judgeth righteously, and executes that his righteous judge­ment in the fittest season, We poor wormes whose whole life is, but an hand-breadth in it self, and is as nothing unto God, we think a few months, or years, a great matter, but to him that inhabites E­ternity, a thousand years are but as one day, as our Apostle teaches us.

Our Saviour in that time of his Humiliation and Suffering, committed himself and his cause, for that is best express'd, in that nothing is express'd but he committed, and the issue shall be that all his enemies shall become his footstool, and he himself shall judge them: But that which is given us here to learn from his carriage toward them in his Suffering, is that quietness and moderation of mind even under unjust Sufferings make us like him. Not to reply reproach with reproach as our custom is, to give an ill word for another, or two for one, to be sure not to be behind. Men take a pride in this, and think it ridiculous simpli­city to suffer, and this make strifes and contention so abound, but 'tis a great mistake, you think it greatness of spirit to bear nothing, to put up no wrong: Where­as it is indeed great weakness, and baseness, 'tis true greatness of Spirit to despise the most of those things that set you usually on fire one against another, e­specially being done after a Christian manner, 'twere a part of the Spirit of Christ in you, and is there [Page 437] any Spirit greater than that think you? Oh! that there were less of the Spirit of the Dragon, and more of that Spirit of the Dove amongst us.

Our obligement to the example of Christ, besides its own excellency, is in these two things in the words 1. The intendment of his behaviour for this use, to be as an example to us. 2. Our Interest in him, and those his Sufferings, wherein he so carried himself.

Leaving us an Example &c. He left his foot­steps as a Copy (as the word is) to follow, every step of his, a letter of this Copy, and particularly in this point of Suffering, he writ us a pure and per­fect Copy of obedience in clear and great letters in his own blood.

His whole life is our Rule, not his Miraculous works, his footsteps walking on the Sea, and such like, are not for our following: But his obedience and Holiness, and Meekenss, and Humility are our Copy, which we should continualy study. The shorter and more effectual way (they say) of teaching, is by example, but above all, this matchless example is the happiest way of teaching, He that followes me sayes he, shall not walk in darkness.

He that aimes high, shoot's the higher for't, though he shoot not so high, as he aimes. This is that which ennobles the Spirit of a Christian the propounding of this our high Patterne, the example of Jesus Christ.

The Imitation of Men in worthless things is low and servile, the Imitation of their vertues is com­mendable, but if we seek no higher, 'tis both im­perfect and unsafe. The Apostle St. Paul will have no Imitation, but with regard to this Supreme [Page 438] Patterne, be ye follewers of me, as I am of Christ, One Christian may take the example of Christ in many things in another, but still examining all by the Original primitive Copy, the footsteps of Christ himself, following nothing, but as it conformes with that, and looking most on him, as both the perfectest and most effectual example. Heb. 12.2. there is a cloud of wittnesses and examples, but look above them all to him, that is as high above them, as the Sun is above the clouds. As the way is better, a lively one indeed, so there is this advantage in the Covenant of grace, that we are not left to our own skill for following of it, but taught by the Spirit: In the delivery of the Law, God shewed his glory and greatness by the manner of it, but the Law was written only in dead Tables, but Christ, the living Law, teaches by obeying it, how to obey it, and this is the advantage of the Gospel, that the Law is Twice written over unto believers, first in the example of Christ, and then inwardly in their hearts by his Spirit. There is together with that Copy of all grace in him, a Spirit deriv'd from him, enabling believers to follow him in their measure, they may not only see him as the only begotten Son of God full of grace and truth, as it is Io. 6. But as there it followes, they receive of his fulness grace for grace. The love of Christ makes the Soul delight to converse with him, and converse, and Love together, makes it learn his behaviour, as Men that live much together, especi­ally if they do much affect one another, will insen­sibly contract anothers habitudes and customes.

The other thing obliging us, is our interest in him, and his Sufferings, he suffer'd for us, and this the [Page 439] Apostle returnes to Ver. 24. Observe only from the Tye of these two, that if we neglect his exam­ple set before us, we cannot enjoy any right assu­rance of his suff [...]ring for us, but if we do seriously endeavour to follow him, then we may be perswad­ed of life through his death, and those steps of his wherein we walk will bring us ere long to be where he is.

Verse. 24.

‘Who his own self bare our sins in his own Body on the Tree, that we being dead to sin, should live unto Righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.’

THat which is deepest in the heart, is readily most in the mouth. That which abounds within, runs over most by the Tongue or Pen, when Men light upon the speaking of that Subject, that possesses the affection, they can hardly be taken off, or drawn from it again. Thus the Apostles in their writings, when they make mention any way of Christ suffering for us, they love to dwell on it, as that which they take most delight to speak of: Such delicacy and sweetness is in it to a Spiritual taste, that they like to keep it in their mouth, and are never out of their theam when they insist on Jesus Christ, though they have but nam'd him by occa­sion [Page 440] of some other Doctrine, for he is the great sub­ject of all they have to say.

Thus here, the Apostle had spoke of Christ in the foregoing words very fitly to this present Subject, setting him before Christian Servants and all suffer­ing Christians, as their compleat example, both in point of much suffering, and of perfect Innocency, and Patience in suffering. And express'd their en­gagement to study and follow that example; yet he cannot leave it so, but having said, that all those his sufferings wherein he was so exemplary, were for us, as a chief consideration, for which we should study to be like him, he returns to that again, and enlarges himself in it in words partly the same, part­ly very near those of that Evangelist among the Pro­phets Esay Chap. 53.

And it suits very well with his main scope, to press this point; as giving both very much strength and sweetness to the Exhortation, as being most reasona­ble, that we willingly conform to him in suffering that had never been an Example of suffering, nor sub­ject at all to sufferings nor capable of them but for us; and most comfortable in the light sufferings of this Moment, to consider, that he hath freed us from the sufferings of Eternity, by suffering himself in our stead, in the fulness of time.

That Jesus Christ is in doing and suffering, our Supream and Matchless Example, and that he came to be so, is a truth, but that he is nothing further and came for no other end, is (you see) a high point of falshood; for how should Man be enabled to learn, and follow that example of obedience unless there were more in Christ, and what would become of that [Page 441] great reckoning of disobedience that Man stands guil­ty of. No, these are too narrow, he came to bear our sins on his own Body on the tree, and for this pur­pose had a Body fitted for him, and given him to bear this burden, to do this, as the will of his Fa­ther, to stand for us in stead of all Offerings, and Sacrifices; and by that will, sayes the Apostle, we are Sanctified through the offering of the body of Iesus Christ once for all.

This was his business, not only to rectifie sinful Man­kind by his example; but to redeem him by his Blood, he was a teacher come from God. As a Pro­phet he teaches us the way of Life, and as the best and greatest of Prophets is perfectly like his Doctrine, and his actions (that in all Teachers is the livelyest part of Doctrine) his carriage in Life and death, is our great Pattern and instruction: But what is said of his forerunner, is more eminently true of Christ, he is a Prophet and more then a Prophet, a Priest satisfy­ing justice for us, and a King conquering sin and death for us, an Example in deed, but more than an Example, our Sacrifice, and our Life, and all in all, 'tis our Du­ty to walk as he walked, to make him the pattern of our steps 1 Ioh. 2.6. But our comfort and salvation ly­eth in this, that he is the propitiation for our sins, Verse 2. So in the first Chapter of that Epistle Verse 7. We are to walk in the Light, as he is in the Light: For all our walking we have need of that which followes, that bears the great weight, the Blood of Iesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, and so still that glory which he possesseth in his own Person, is the pledge of ours, he is there for Vs. he lives to make inter­cession [Page 442] for us, sayes the Apostle, and I go to prepare a place for you, sayes he himself.

We have in the words these two great points, and in the same order as the words ly. 1. The nature, and quality of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, And 2. The end of them.

In the expression of his suffering, we are to consider. 1. The commutation of the Persons, he himself, for us. 2. The work undertaken and per­formed, he bare our sins in his own body on the tree.

1. The Act, or sentence of the Law against the breach of it standing in force, and Divine justice ex­pecting satisfaction, death was the necessary and in­seperable consequent of sin. If you say the Supream Majesty of God being accountable to none, might have forgiven all without satisfaction. We are not to contest that, nor foolishly to offer to sound the bottomless deep of his absolute prerogative, Christ implies in his Prayer, that it was impossi­ble that he could escape that cup: But the impossi­bility is resolv'd into his Fathers will, as the cause of it. But this we may clearly see following the tract of the holy Scriptures (our only safe way) that this way wherein our salvation is contriv'd is most excellent, and suitable to the greatness, and goodness of God, so full of wonders of wisdom, and love, that the Angels, as our Apostle tells us be­fore, cannot forbear looking on it, and admiring it; for all their exact knowledge, yet they still find it in­finitly beyond their knowledge, still in astonishment and admiration of what they see, and still in search [Page 443] looking in to see more. Those Cherubims still have­ing their eyes fixed on this Mercy Seat.

Justice might indeed have siez'd on rebellious Man, and laid the pronounc'd punishment on him, mercy might have freely acquit him, and pardon'd all: But can we name any place where mercy and justice as relating to condemned Man could have met and shined joyntly in full aspect, save only in Jesus Christ, in whom indeed Mercy and truth met, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. Yea, in whose Person the Parties concern'd, that were at so great a distance met so near, as nearer, can not be imagin'd.

And not only was this the only way, for the con­sistence of these two, Justice and Mercy, but take each of them severally, and they could not have been in so full lustre, as in this. Gods just hatred of sin did out of doubt appear more in punishing his own only begotten Son for it, than if the whole race of Mankind had suffer'd for it Eternally. Again it raises the notion of Mercy to the highest, that sin is not only forgiven us, but for this end God's own coe [...]er­nal Son, is given to us, and for us. Consider what he is, and what we are, he the Son of his love, and we Enemies. Therefore it is emphatical­ly express'd in the words, he himself bare our sins. God so loved the World, but love amounts to this much, that it was so great, as to give his Son: But how great that is, cannot be utter'd. In this sayes the Apostle, God commendeth his love to us, sets it up to the highest, gives us the richest and strongest e­vidence of it.

[Page 444]The foundation of this frame, this appearing of Christ for us, and undergoing and Answering all in our stead, lyes in the Decree of God, where it was plotted, and contriv'd in the whole way of it from Eternity, and the Father and the Son being one, and their thoughts and will one, they were perfect­ly agreed on't, and those likewise for whom it should hold, were agreed upon, and their Names written up, according to which they are said to be given unto Christ to redeem. And just according to that Model did all the work proceed, and was ac­complished in all points, perfectly answering to the pattern of it in the Mind of God. As it was precon­cluded there, that the Son should undertake the bu­siness, this matchless piece of Service, for his Father, and that by his interposing Men should be reconciled and saved, so that he might be altogether a fit Per­son for the Work, it was resolv'd, that as he was al­ready fit for it by the Almightiness of his Deity, and Godhead, and the acceptableness of his Person to the Father, as the Son of God, so he should be fur­ther fitted by uniting wonderfully, weakness to Al­mightiness, the frailty of Man to the Power of God, because that suffering for Man was a main point of the work, so as his being the Son of God made him acceptable to God, his being the son of Man made him suitable to Man, in whose business he had engaged himself, and to the business it self to be perform'd; and not only was there in him, by his humane nature a conformity with Man (for that might have been by a new created Body) but a consanguinity with Man, by a Body framed of the same piece, a Re­deemer, a Kinsman as the Hebrew word is▪ only pu­rified [Page 445] for his use, as was needful, and fram'd after a peculiar manner in the womb of a Virgin, as 'tis Heb 10. Thou hast fitted a body for me, having no sin it self, because ordained to have so much of our sins as 'tis here, he bare them on his own body.

And this looks back to the Primitive transaction and purpose, Lo I come to do thy will, sayes the Son, and behold my servant whom I have chosen, sayes the Father, this Master-piece of my works, none in Heaven or Earth fit to serve me in it, but mine own Son, and as he came into the World according to that decree, and will; so he goes out of it again, in that way, the Son of Man goeth as is determined, it was wickedly and malitiously done by Men against him, but determined (which is that he there speaks of) wisely and graciously by his Father, with his own consent: As in those two faced pictures, Look upon the Crucifying of Christ one way, as complotted by a treacherous Disciple, and Malicious Priests, and Rulers, and nothing more deform'd and hateful than the Authors of it; but view it again, as determin'd in Gods Counsel, for the restoring of lost Mankind, and so 'tis full of unspeakable beauty and sweetness, infinite wisdom and Love, in every tract of it.

Thus to the persons for whom, as their coming unto him reflects upon that first donation, as flowing from that, all that the Father hath given me shall come unto me. Ioh. 6.

Now this being Gods great design; that he would have Men eye and consider more than all the rest of his works, (and yet is least of all considered by the most) the other Covenant made with the first Adam [Page 446] was but to make way, and so to speak, to make work for this; for he knew that it would not hold, therefore as this New Coven [...]nt became needful by the breach of the other, so the failing of that other sets off and commends the firmness of this, the for­mer was with a Man in his best condition, and yet he kept it not, even then he prov'd vanity, as 'tis Psal. [...]9 So that the second to be stronger, is made with a Man indeed, to supply the former; but he is God-man to be surer than the former, and therefore it holds; and this is the difference as the Apostle ex­presses it, that the first Adam, in that first Covenant, was laid as a foundation, and though we say not that the Church in its true notion was built on him, yet the estate of the whole race of Mankind, the Materials that the Church is built of, lay on him for that time, and it failed: But upon this Rock the second Adam, is the Church so firmly built, that the gates of Hell cann [...]t pre [...]ail against [...]. The first Adam was made a quickening, or life giving Spirit. The first had light but he transfer'd it not, yea, he kept it not, for himself drew in, and transfer'd Death, but the second by Death, convey life to all that are reckon'd his seed. he bare their [...]

He bare them on the tree in that outside of his suffering, the visible kind of death inflicted on him that it was hanging on the tree of the Cross; there was an Analogy with the end, and main work, and was order'd by the Lord with regard unto that, being a Death declar'd accursed by the Law, as the Apo­stle St. Paul observes, and so declaring him that was God blessed for ever to have been made a curse, that is accounted as accursed for us, that we might [Page 447] be blessed in him, in whom according to the Promise, all the Nations of the Earth are blessed.

But that wherein lay the strength, and main stress of his sufferings, was this invisible weight that none could see that gaz'd on him, but he felt more then all. In this there are three things. 1. The weight of sin. 2. The transferring of it upon Christ. 3. His bearing of it.

1. He bare as a heavy burden; so the word of bearing in general, and those two words particularly us'd by the Prophet whither these allude, are the bearing of some great mass or load, and thus sin is, for it hath the wrath of an offended God hanging at it, indissollubly tyed to it, which who can bear the least of it, and therefore the least sin, being the pro­curing cause of it, will press a man down for ever, that he shall not be able to rise, Who can stand before thee when once thou art angry, sayes the Psalmist, and the Prophet Ier. 3. Return backsliding Israel and I will not cause my wrath to fall upon thee▪ fall as a great weight, or as a Milstone, crushes the soul.

But sensless we, go light under the burden of sin, and feel it not, complain not of it, therefore truly said to be dead in it, otherwayes it could not but press us, and press out complaints. O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me? A Prophane secure sinner thinks it nothing to break the holy Law of God, to please his flesh, or the World, counts sin a light matter, makes a mock of it as Salomon sayes, but a stirring Conscience is of another mind, Mine iniquities is gone over my head, &c. Psal. 38.4.

[Page 448]Sin is such a burden as makes the very frame of Hea­ven and Earth that is not guilty of it, yea, the whole Creation to crack and groan ('tis the Apostles Doc­trine Rom. 8.) and yet the impenitent heart whose guiltiness it is, not moved, groaneth not; for your accustomed groaning is no such matter.

Yea, to consider in the present subject where we may best read what it is, it was a heavy load to Jesus Christ, Ps. 40. Where the Psalmist speaks in the Per­son of Christ he complains heavily, innumerable evils have compassed me about, Mine iniquities, not his, as done by him, but yet his, by reckoning to pay for them, they have taken hold of me, so that I am not able to look up, they are more then the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me. And sure that which press'd him so sore, that upholds Heaven and Earth, no other in Heaven or in Earth could have sustained and surmounted, but would have sunk and and perish'd under it. Was it (think you) the pain of that common outside of his Death, though very painful, that drew such a word from him My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Or was it the fear of it before hand that press'd a sweat of Blood from him? No, it was this burden of sin, the first of which was committed in the Garden, that then be­gun to be laid upon him and fasten'd on his shoul­ders in the Garden, ten thousand times heavier than the Cross, which he was caus'd to bear, that might be a while turn'd over to another; but this could not. This was the cup he so trembled at, that Gall and Vinegar after to be offer'd him by his Crucifiers, or any other part of his External sufferings. 'Twas the bitter Cup of wrath due to sin that his Father [Page 449] put into his hand, and caus'd him drink, the very same thing that is here called the bearing our sins on his body.

And consider, that the very smallest sins, went in to make up this load, and made it so much the hea­vier, and therefore though sins be comparatively lesser, and greater, yet learn thence to account no sin in it sell small, that offends the great God, and lay heavy upon your great Redeemer in the day of his Sufferings.

At his apprehending, besides the Souldiers, that invis [...]ble crowd of the sins he was to suffer for came about him, for it was they that laid strongest hold on him, he could easily have shak'd of all the rest, as appears: But our sins laid the arrest on him, be­ing accounted his, as 'tis in that forcited place Psa. 40. Now amongst these, were even those sins we call small, they were of the number that took him, and they were amongst those instruments of his blood­shed: If the greater were as the spear that pierc'd his side, the less were as the nails that pierc'd his Hands and his Feet, and the very least, as the Thornes that were set on his precious Head. And the multitude of them made up what was wanting in their magnitude, though they were small they were many.

2. They were transferr'd upon him by vertue of that Covenant we spoke of, They became his debt, and he responsable for all they c [...]me to. Seeing you have accepted of this business according to my will (may we conceive the Father saying to his Son) you must go through with it, you are engaged in it; but it is no other, than what you understood per­fectly [Page 450] before, you knew what it would cost you, and yet out of joynt love with me to those I nam'd to be saved by you, you were as willing as I, to the whole undertaking, now therefore the time is come, that I must lay upon you the sins of all those per­sons, and you must bear them, the sins of all those Believers that lived before, and all that are to come after to the end of the world. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, sayes, the Prophet, took it off from us, and chargd it on him, made it to meet on him, or to fall in together as the word is, the sins of all, in all ages before, and after, that were to be saved, all their guiltiness reencount­ered, and met together on his back, upon the Crosse, and whosoever of all that Number had least sin, yet had [...]o small Burden to cast on him; and to give accession to the whole Weight. Every man hath had his own way of wandering; as the Prophet there ex­presseth it, and he pay'd for all; all fell on him: And as in Testimony of his meekness and patience, so in this regard likewise, was he so silent in his Sufferings; in regard that though his Enemies dealt most unjustly with him: yet, he stood as convicted before the Justice Seat of his Father, under the impu­ted guilt of all our Sins, and so eyeing him, and ac­counting his business chiefly with him▪ he did patient­ly bear the due punishment of all our sins at his Fathers hand, and suited that of the Psalmist. I was as dumb and opened not my mouth, because thou didst i [...]. Therefore the Prophet immediately subjoynes, that of his silent carriage, Isay▪ 53. To that which he had spoken off, the confluence of our iniquities upon him.

[Page 451]And if this our Sins were accounted his, then in the same way, and for that very reason of necessity, his sufferings, and satisfaction must be accounted ours, as he said for his disciples to the Men that came to take him, if it be me ye seek, then let these go free: So he said for all Believers to his father, his wrath then siezing on him, if on me you will lay hold, then let these go free. And thus the agreement was. 2. Cor. 5. ult.

So then, there is an union betwixt Believers and Jesus Christ, by which this interchange is made, he charg'd with their sins, and they cloath'd with his satisfaction, and righteousness, and that union is first in Gods decree of election running this way, that they should live in Christ, and so chuse the head, and the whole mystical body as one, and reckoning their debt as his in his purpose, that he might re­ceive satisfaction, and they salvation in their he [...]d Christ: The execution of that purpose and union begun in Christ's incarnation, being for them, though the nature be more common, he is said not to take on the Angels, but the seed of Abraham, the company of Believers, he became Man for their sakes, because they are Men: that he is of the same nature with unbelieving Men that perish, is but by accident, [...]s [...]t were, there is no good to them in that, but the great evil of deeper condemnation if they hear of him, and believe not, but he was made Man to be like, yea, to be one with the Elect, and he is not ashamed to call them Brethren, as the Apostle there sayes, 2. Then in the actual intention of the Son so made Man; he presenting himself to the Father in all he did, and suffer'd as for them, having them, [Page 452] and th [...]m only in his eye and thoughts in all: For their sakes do I sanctify my selfe, Io. The union is applyed and perform'd in them, when they are converted and ingrafted into Jesus Christ by faith and this doth actually discharge them of their own sins, and Entitle, them to his Righteousness, and so justifies them in the sight of God. 4. The consum­mation of this union is in glory, which is the result and fruit of all the former, as it began in Heaven 'tis compleated there; but betwixt these Two in Heaven, the intervention of those other two degrees of it on earth were necessary, being intended in the first, as tending▪ to the attainment of the last, these steps we have distinctly in his own prayer Ioh. 17. First Ver. 2. Gods purpose that the Son should give eternal life to those he hath given him. 2. Ver. 4. I have finish'd the work. 3. Ver. 6, 8. And often after, their faith, their believing and keeping the word, and then the last Ver. 24. I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am. There meets the first donation and the last.

Now to obtain this life for them he dyed in their stead, appeared as the high Priest, being perfectly, and truely what the name was on their plate of gold holiness to the Lord. Exod. 28▪ 36. And so bear­ing▪ their iniquity, as it is added there▪ of the Priest Ver. 38. But because he was not the Redeemer, but a perfect figure of him, he did not himself suffer for the peoples sin, but turn'd it over upon the beasts, that [...]he sacrific [...]d▪ signifying that translation of sin, by laying his hand upon the head of the Beast: But Jesus Christ is both the great High Priest, and the great Sacrifice in one, and this seem's to be here [Page 453] imply'd in these words, himself &c. On his own body he bare &c. Which the Legal Priests did not, so Heb. 9.12. He made his soul an offering for sin Isa. 53. and Heb. 9. He offered up himself, his whole self, and in the History of the Gospel▪ his soul was heavy, and chiefly suffered; but the bearing on his body, and offering it that is oftenest mention'd as the visible part of the Sacrifice, and in his way of offer­ing it▪ not excluding the other. Thus Rom. 12.1. We are exhorted to give our bodies in opposition to the bodies of beasts, and called a living Sacrifice, which they are not without the Soul, so his bearing on his body imports the bearing it on his Soul too.

3. His bearing that hintes that he was active, and willing in his suffering for us; not a constrain'd Offer­ing: He layed down his Life, as he tells us, and this here, He bare, is, he took willingly off, lifted from us that burden to bear it himself. It was counted an ill sign amongst the Heathens, when the Beasts went unwill­ingly to be Sacrific'd, and drew back; and goo [...], when they went willingly: But never Sacrifice so willing, as our great Sacrifice was, and we may be assured, he hath appeased his Fathers wrath, and wrought Atone­ment for Us. Isaac in this, his Type▪ we heare of no Reluctance, but quietly bound, when he was to be Offered up. There be two words in Esay, the one bearing, the other t [...]ki [...]g away, this is also that takeing away the Sins of the World in St. Iohn, 1.29. Which Answers to both, and so he, to both the Goats, Levit. 16 He did bear our Sins on his Crosse, and from then [...] to his Grave, and there they are Buried; and they whose Sins he did so bear, and take away, and Bury, they shall hear no more of them as theirs to bear. Is [Page] [Page 452] [...] [Page 453] [...] [Page 454] he not then worthy to behold, in that notion that Iohn took him and design'd him by: Behold the Lamb of God that beareth and takes away the sins of the World.

You then that are Gazing on vanity, be perswad­ed to turne your Eyes this way, and behold this last­ing wonder, this Lord of Life dying; but the most alas! Want a due Eye for this Object; 'tis the eye of Faith alone, that looks aright on him, and is daily dis­covering new worlds of excellency and delight in this crucified Saviour, that can view him daily, as hang­ing on the Crosse without the Childish gaudy help of a Crucifix, and grow in the knowledge of that Love, that passeth knowledge, and rejoyce it self in frequent thinking and speaking of him, in stead of these idle and vain thoughts at the best, and emp­ty discourses, wherein the most delight, and wear out the day. What is all knowledge but painted folly in comparison of this? though thou hadst Solo­mon's faculty to discourse of all plants, and have not the right knowledge of this root of I [...]sse: If thou wert singular in the knowledge of the Stars, and course of the Heavens, and could'st walk through the Spheres with a Iacob's Staff; but ignorant of this▪ Star of Ia­cob: If thou knewest the Historye [...] of all Time, and the Life and Death, of all the famousest Princes, and could rehearse them all; but dost not Spiritually know and apply to thy self the death of Iesus, as thy Life, thou art still a wretched Fool for them, and all thy knowledge with thee shall quickly perish. On the other side, if thy capacity or breeding hath denyed thee the knowledge of all these things, where­in Men glory so much; Yet do but learn Christ [Page 455] Crucified, and what wouldest thou have more? That shall make thee happy for ever, for this is life e­ternal to know thee, &c.

Here St. Paul sets up his rest, I determined to know nothing but Iesus Christ and him Crucified. Whatsoever I knew besides, I resolv'd to be, as if I knew nothing besides this, the only knowledge wherein I will rejoyce my self, and which I will la­bour to impart to others.

I have try'd and compar'd the rest, and find them all unworthy of their Room beside this, and my whole Soul too little for this, and have past this judge­ment and sentence on all. I have adjudg'd my self to deny all other knowledge, and confin'd my self within this Circle, and I am not straitn'd, so there's room enough in't, 'tis larger than Heaven and Earth, and him crucified, the most despis'd and ignomini­ous part, yet the sweetest and most comfortable part of all, the Root, whence all our hopes of life and Spiritual joyes do spring.

But the most part hear this Subject as a Story, some a little mov'd with the present found of it, but draw it not home into their hearts, to make it theirs, and find salvation in it, but still cleave to sin, and love sin better than him that suffered for it.

But you whose hearts the Lord hath deeply hum­bled in the sense of sin, come to this depth of consolation, and try it, that you may have experi­ence of the sweetness and [...]iches of it, study this point throughly, and you will find it answer all, and quiet your consciences. Apply this bearing of sin by the Lord Jesus for you, for it is publish'd, and made known to you for this purpose, this is the [Page 456] genuine and true use of it, as of the Brazen Serpent, not [...]emptily to gaze on the Fabrick of it, but to cure those that look'd on it: when all that can be said, is said against you, 'its true may you say, but it is satisfied for, he on whom I rest made it his, and did bear it for me. The person of Christ of more worth than all Men, yea than all the crea­tures, and therefore his life a full ransome for the greatest offender.

And for outward troubles, and sufferings which were the occasion of this Doctrine in this place, they are all made exceeding light by the removal of this great pressure. Let the Lord lay on me what he will, seeing he hath taken off my sin, and laid that on his own Son in my stead, I may suffer many things, but he hath b [...]rn that for me, which alone was able to make me miserable.

And you that have this perswasion, how will your hearts be taken up with his love? Who thus lov'd you, as to give himself for you, and by interposing himself to bear off from you the stroke of everlast­ing death, and that encountered all the wrath due to us, and went through: with that great work by reason of his unspeakable love, Let him never go forth from my heart who for my sake refus'd to go down from the cross. That we being dead to sin, should live unto Righteousnesse.

The Lord doth nothing in vain hath not made the least of his work to no purpose, in wisdom hath he made them all, sayes the Psalmist, and that is not only in regard of their excellent frame and Order, but of their end, which is a chief Point of Wisdom; [Page 457] so then to the right knowledge of this great work put into the hands of Jesus Christ, it is of special con­cern to understand, what is this end.

This is the thing th [...]t his wisdom and love aim'd at in that great undertaking, and therefore will be our truest wisdom, and the truest evidence of our reflex Love to intend the same thing, that in this the same mind may be in us that was in Christ Iesus in his suffering for us, and for this very end is it express'd.

In this there are 3. Things 1st. What this death and life is. 2. The intendment of it in the suffer­ings and death of Jesus Christ. 3. The effecting of it by them.

Whatsoever this is, sure 'tis no small change, that bears the Name of the great and last natural change that we are subject to, a death, and then another kind of life succeeding to it, and in this the greatest part are mistaken, that they take any light alterati­on in themselves for true conversion.

There be a World deluded with superficial Mo­ral changes in their Life, some rectifying of their out­ward actions, and course of Life, and somewhat too in the temper and habitude of their mind, far from reaching the bottom of Natures wickedness, and lay­ing the axe to the root of the Tree, 'tis such a work as Men can make a shift withal by themselves, but the Renovation that the Spirit of God worketh is like himself, so deep, and through a work, that it is justly called by the Name of the most substantial works, and productions a new birth, and more than that, a new Creation, and here a Death and a kind of life following it.

[Page 458]This death to sin, supposes a former living in it, and to it, and while a Man is so, he is said indeed, to be dead in sin, and yet withal this is true, that he lives in sin, as the Apostle joynes the expressions, speaking of Widowes, she that lives in pleasures, is dead while she liveth. So Eph. 2. dead in trespasses and sins, and he addes, wherein ye walked, which imports a life, such an one as it is, and more expresly Verse 3. We had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh. Now thus to live in sin, is call'd to be dead in it, because in that condition Man is indeed dead in re­spect of that Divine Life of the Soul, that happy being which it should have in Union with God, for which it was made, and without which it had better not be at all: For that Life as it is different from its natural being, and a kind of Life above it, so it is contrary to that corrupt being, and life it hath in sin; and therefore, to live in sin, is to be dead in it, being a deprivement of that Divine be­ing, that Life of the Soul in God, in comparison whereof, not only the base life it hath in sin, but the very natural life it hath in the Body, and the Body by it, is not worthy the Name of Life. You see the Body when the threed of its union with the Soul is cut, becomes not only straightway a motionless lump; but within a little time a putrified noysome Carcase, and thus the Soul by sin, is cut off from God, who is its life, as is the Soul of the Body, it hath not only no moving faculty in good, but fills full of rotteness and vileness as the word is. Psal. 14. they are gone aside and become filthy. The Soul by turning away from God turns filthy, yet as a Man thus Spiritually dead lives naturally, so [Page 459] because he acts and spends that Natural life in the wayes of sin, he is said to live in sin; yea, there is somewhat more in that expression, than the mere passing of his life in that way, for in stead of that happy life his Soul should have in God, he pleases himself in the miserable life of sin, that which is his death, as if it were the proper life, of his Soul that natural propension he hath to sin, and the continual delight he takes in it, as in his Element, and living to it, as if that were the very end of his being. In that estate his Body nor his mind stirreth not without sin, setting aside his manifest breaches of the Law, those actions that are evidently and totally sinful, his natural actions, his eating, and drinking; his reli­gious actions, his Praying, and hearing, and Preach­ing are sin at the bottom and generally his heart is no other, but a forge of sin, every imagination, e­very fiction of things framed there, is only evil conti­nually, or every day, and all the day long, 'tis his very trade and Life.

Now in opposition to this life of Sin, living in it, and to it, a Christian is said to dy to sin, to be cut off or separated from it. In our miserable na­tural estate there is as close an union betwixt us, and sin, as betwixt our Souls and Bodies, it lives in us, and we in it, and the longer we live in that condi­tion the more the union growes, and the harder it is to dissolve it, and it is as old as the union of Soul and Body begun with it; so that nothing but that death here spoke of can part them: And this death, in this relative sense is mutual, in the work of con­version sin dyes, and the soul dyes to sin, and these two are really one and the same, the spirit of God [Page 460] kills both at one blow, Sin in the Soul, and the soul to sin, as the Apostle sayes of the World, both are kill'd the one to the other.

And there are in it chiefly these two things that make the difference. 1. The Solidness. And 2. The universallity of this change under this notion of Death.

Many things may ly in a Man's way betwixt him and the acting of divers sins, which possibly he af­fects most, some restraints outward, or inward may be upon him, the authority of others, or the fear of shame, or punishment, or the check of an enlight­ned conscience, and though by reason of these, he commit not the sin he would, yet he lives in it, because he loves it, because he would commit it, as we say, the soul lives not so much where it animats, as where it Loves. And generally that kind of Metaphorical life, by which a Man is said to live in any thing, hath its principal Seat in the affection that's the immediate link of the union in such a life, and the untying and death consists chiefly in the dis­engagement of the heart, breaking off the affection from it. Ye that love the Lord hate evil. An un­renewed mind may have some temporary dislikes e­ven of its beloved sins in cold blood, but it returnes to like them within a while. A Man may not only have times of cessation from his wonted way of sin­ning, but by reason of the Society wherein he is, and withdrawing of occasions to sin, and divers other causes, his very desire after it may seem to him to be abated, and yet he not dead to sin, but only asleep to it, and therefore when a temptation back'd with opportunity, and other inducing circumstances comes [Page 461] and joggs him, he awakes, and arises and followes it.

A Man may for a while distaste some meat that he loves (possibly upon a surfet) but he regains quick­ly his likeing of it: Every quarrel with sin, and fit of dislike of it, is not this hatred. Upon the lively representing the deformity of his sin to his mind, Cer­tainly a Natural Man may fall out with it, but these are but as the litle jarres of Husband and Wife, that are far from dissolving the Marriage, 'tis not a fixed hatred, such as amongst the Jews inferr'd a divorce, if thou hate her put her away, and that is to die to it, as by a Legal Divorce the Husband and Wife are civilly dead one to another in regard of the ty and use of Marriage.

Again, some Mens Education and Custome, and morall principles may free them from the grossest kind of Sins, yea, a Man's temper may be averse from them, but they are alive to their own kind of sins; such as possibly are not so deform'd in the com­mon account, Coveteousness, or Pride, or hardness of heart, and either a hatred or disdain of the wayes of Holiness that are too strict for them, and exceed their size. Beside for the good of humane Society, and for the Interest of his own Church, and People, God restrains many Natural Men from the height of wickedness, and gives them moral Vertues. There be very many, and very common sins that more re­fined Natures, it may be, are scarce tempted to, but as in their Diet and Apparel, and other things in their Natural Life, they have the same kind of be­ing with other Persons, though more neat and plea­sant, so in this living to sin▪ They live the same life [Page 462] with other ungodly Men, though in a litle more de­icate way.

They consider not, that the Devils are not in themselves subject to, nor capable of many of those sins, that are accounted grossest amonst Men, and yet are greater Rebels and Enemies to God than Men are.

But to be dead to sin goes deeper, and extends fur­ther than all these, Namely, a most inward alienation of heart from sin, and most universal from all sin, an antipathy to the most beloved sin. Not only he must forbear sin, but hate it, I hate vain thoughts, and not only hate some, but all, I hate every false way. A stroke at the heart does it, which is the certainest and quick­est Death of any wound. For in this dying to sin, all the whole Man of necessity dyes to it, the mind dyes to the Device, and study of Sin, that vein and invention becomes dead; the hand dies to the acting of it; the ear to the delightful hearing of things profane, and sinful; the Tongue to the Worlds dialect of Oaths, and rotten-speak­ing, and calumny and evil speaking, this is the com­monest piece of the Tongues life in sin, the very na­tural heat of sin that acts and vents most that way; the Eye dead to that intemperate look that Solomon speaks of, eyeing the Wine when it is red, and well colour'd in the cup. Prov. 23. That is, is taken with looking on the glittering skin of that Serpent, till it bite, and sting, as there he addes. Dead to that unchaste look that sets fire in the heart, to which Iob blind folded and deaded his eyes, by an express compact, and agreement with them, I have made a Covenant with mine eyes.

[Page 463]The Eye of a Godly Man is not on the false spark­ling of the Worlds Pomp and Honour and Wealth, 'tis dead to them, quite dazled with a greater beau­ty, the grass look's fine in the morning, when 'tis set with those liquid Pearles, the drops of dew that shine upon it, but if you can look but a little while on the body of the Sun, and then look down again, the Eye is as it were dead, sees not that faint shining on the earth that it thought so gay before, and as the Eye is blinded, and dies to it, so within a few hours it quite evanishes and dyes it self.

Men think it strange that the Godly are not of their Dyet, that their Appetite is not stirr'd with the delights of dainties, they know not that such as be Christians indeed, are dead to those things, and the best dishes that are set before a dead Man, give him not a stomach. The Godly Mans throat is cut to those meats, as Solomon advises in another subject. But why may not you be a litle more sociable to follow the fashion of the World, and and take a share with your Neighbours, may some say, without so precise and narrow examining every thing? 'Tis true, sayes the Christian, that the time was I advis'd as litle with Conscience as others, but sought my selfe, and pleasd my self, as they do, and look't no further, but that was when I was alive to those wayes, but now truly I am dead to them, and can you look for activity and conversation from a dead Man; the pleasures of sin wherein I liv'd is still the same, but I am not the same. Are you such a Snake, and a Fool sayes the Natural Man as to bear affronts, and swallow them, and say nothing? Can you suffer to be abus'd so by such, and such a wrong? [Page 464] Indeed sayes the Christian again, I could once have resented an injury as you, or another, and had some­what of that you call high-heartedness, when I was alive after your fashion, but now that humour is not only something cool'd, but 'tis kill'd in me, 'tis cold dead as ye say, and a greater Spirit (I think) than my own, hath taught me another Lesson, hath made me both deaf, and dumb that way, and hath given me a new vent, and another language, and another Party to speak to in such occasions, see for this, Psal. 38.12, 13, 14, 15. They that seek my hurt, speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long. What doth he in this cafe? But I as a deaf man heard not, and I was as a dumb Man that open­eth not his mouth, And why? for in thee O Lord do I hope. And for this deadness that you despise, I have seen him that dyed for me, who when he was reviled, reviled not again.

This is the true Character of a Christian dead to sin, but alas! Where is this Christian to be found, and yet thus is every one, that truly partakes of Christ; he is dead to sin really, Hypocrites have a Historical kind of Death, like this, as Players in Tragedies. Those Players have loose bags of Blood, that receive the wound, so the Hypocrite in some externals, and it may be, in that which is as near him as any outward thing, his Purse, he may suffer some Bloodshed of that for Christ, but this death to sin is not a sounding fit that one may recover out of again, the Apostle Rom. 6. addes, that he is buried.

But this is an unpleasant Subject, to talk thus of Death and Burial, the very Name of Death, in the softest sense it can have, makes a sowr melancholly [Page 465] discourse. It is so indeed, if you take it alone, if there were not for the life that's lost, a far better immediately following, but so 'tis here, Living unto righteousness succeeds dying to sin.

That which makes natural death so affrightful, the King of terrours, as Iob calls it, is mainly this faint belief, and assurance of the Resurrection, and glory to come, And without this, all mens moral resolves and discourses are too weak Cordialls against this fear, they may set a good face on't, and speak big, and so cover the fear they cannot cure, but certainly they are a litle ridiculous, that would perswade Men to be content to dy, by reasoning from the necessi­ty and unavoydableness of it, which taken alone rather may beget a desperate discontent, than a quiet com­pliance, the very weakness of that Argument is, that it is too strong, Durum telum. That of Company is phantastick, it may please the imagination but satisfies not the judgement; Nor are the miseries of life, though somewhat Properer a full perswasive for Death, the oldest decrepitest, most diseased persons, yet naturally fall not out with life, but could have a mind to it still, and the very truth is this, the worst cottage any dwells in they are loath to go out, till they know of a better. And the reason why that which is so hideous to others was so sweet to Mar­tyrs, Heb. 11.35. And other godly Men, that have heartily embrac'd death, and welcom'd it though in very Terrible shapes, was, because they had firm assurance of Immortality beyond it, the ugly Deaths head when the light of glory shines through the holes of it, is comely, and lovely. To look upon death as Eter­nitie's birth day, is that which makes it, not only tol­erable [Page 466] but aimiable. Hic dies postremus aeterni na­tolis est. Is the word I admire most of any Hea­then?

Thus here, the strongest inducement to this Death, is the true notice and contemplation of this Life, unto which it sets us over, 'tis most necessary to repre­sent this, for a natural Man hath as great an aver­sion every whit from this figurative Death, this dying to sin, as from natural Death, and there is the more necessity of perswading him to this, because his consent is necessary to't, no Man dies this Death to sin unwillingly, although no Man is naturally wil­ing to it, much of this death consists in a Man's con­senting thus to dye: And this is not only a lawful, but a laudible, yea a necessary self murder, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the Earth. Sayes the Apostle Col. 3.5. Now no sinner will be content to dy to sin, if that were all, but if it be passing to a more excellent Life, then he gaineth, and it were a folly not to seek this Death. It was a strange power of Plato's discourse of the Souls Immortality that moved a young Man upon reading it, to throw himself into the Sea, that he might leap through it, to that Immortality: But truely, were this Life of God, this Life to righteousness, and the excellency and delight of it known, it would gain many minds to this death that steps into't.

1 There is a necessity of a new being to be the principle of new acting, and motion; as the Apostle sayes while ye served sin ye were free from righteous­ness, so 'tis, while ye were alive to sin ye were dead to righteousness: But there is a new breath of life from Heaven, breathed on the Soul: Then lives the [Page 467] Soul indeed, when it is one with God, and sees Light in his Light, hath a Spiritual knowledge of him, and therefore Soveraignely loves him, and delights in his will, and that is indeed, to live unto righeous­ness, which in a comprehensive sense takes in all the frame of a Christian life, and all the duties of it, to­wards God and towards Men.

By this new Nature the very Natural motion of the soul so taken, is obedience to God, and walking in the paths of righteousness, it can no more live in the habitude, and wayes of sin, than a Man can live under water. Sin is not the Christians Element, 'tis too gross for his renew'd Soul, as the water is for his body: He may fall into't, but he cannot breath in it, cannot take delight, and continue to live in it, but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, that's the walk that his Soul refreshes it self in, he loves it entire­ly, and loves it most, where it most crosses the re­mainders of corruption that are in him, he bends the strength of his Soul to please God, aimes all at that, it takes up his thoughts early, and late, hath no ot­her purpose in his being, and living: but only to honour his Lord, that's to live to righteousness, he doth not make a by-work of it, a study for his spare houres, no, 'tis his main busines, his all. In this law doth he meditate day and night. This life, as the other, is in the heart, and from thence diffuses to the whole Man; he loves righteousness, and receiveth the truth (as the Apostle speaks) in the love of it. A natural Man may do many things that for their shell, and outside are righteous: But he lives not to righteousness, because his heart is not possess'd and rul'd with the love of it, but this life makes the [Page 468] godly Man delight to walk uprightly and to speak of righteousness, his Language and wayes carry the resemblance of his heart Psa. 37. Ver. 30.31. I know 'tis easiest to act that part of Religion that is in the Tongue; but the Christian ought not for that, to be Spiritually dumb: Because some Birds are taught to speak, Men do not for that give it over, and leave off to speak, the mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his Tongue talketh of judgement, and his feet strive to keep pace with his Tongue, which gives evidence of its unfainedness. None of his steps shall slide, or he shall not stagger in his steps, but that which is betwixt these, is the common Spring the Law of God is in his heart, of both, and from thence, as Salomon sayes are the issues of his life, that Law in his heart, is the principle of this living to righteousness.

2 The Second thing here is the design or Intend­ment of this death, and life, in the sufferings and death of Christ, he bare sin, and died for it, that we might dye to it.

Out of some conviction of the consequence of Sin, many have a confus'd desire to be justified, to have sin pardon'd, and look no further, think not on the importance and necessity of sanctification, the nature whereof is express'd by this dying to sin and living to righteousness.

But here we see, that sanctification is necessary as inseparably connexed with justification, not only, as its companion, but as its end, which in some kind raises it above the other, that it was the thing which God ey'd, and intended in taking away the guilti­ness of sin, that we might be renew'd, and sanctified: [Page 469] If we compare them in point of time, either back­ward, holiness was alwayes necessary unto happiness: But satisfying for sin and the pardon of it, was made necessary by sin, or if we look forward, the estate we are appointed to, and for which we are delivered from wrath, is an estate of perfect holiness. When we reflect upon that great work of Redem­ption, we see it aim'd at there Redeem'd to be holy Eph. 5.25, 26. Tit. 2.14. And go yet higher to the very Spring, the decree of Election. And then its said Chosen before, that we should be Ho­ly, and in end it shall Suit the designe, Nothing shall enter into the new Ierusalem, that is defiled, or unholy: Nothing but all purity there, not a spot of sinfull pollution, not a wrinkle of the Old Man, for this end was that great work underta­ken by the Son of God, that he might frame, out of polluted Mankind a new holy generation to his Father, that might compasse his throne in the Life of glory, and give him pure praises, and behold his face in that eternity. Now for this end, it was needfull according to the all-wise purpose of the Father that the guiltiness of sin, and sentence of Death should be once removed, and thus the burden of that lay upon Christs shoulders on the Crosse, and that done, it is further necessary, that Souls so deliver'd, be likewise purg'd, and renew'd, for they are design'd to perfection of holiness in end, and it must begin here.

Yet is it not possible to perswade Men of this, that Christ had this in his eye, and purpose, when he was lift up upon the crosse and look'd upon the whole company of those his Father had given him [Page 270] to save, that he would redeem them to be a number of holy Persons. We would be redeem'd (who is there would not) but he would have his re­deemed ones holy, and they that are not true to this his end, but crosse and oppose him in it, may hear of redemption long, and often, But litle to their comfort. Are you resolv'd still to abuse and de­lude your selves? Well, whither you will believe it or no, this is once more told you, there is unspeak­able comfort in the death of Chirst, but it belongs only to those that are dead to sin, and alive to righ­teousness. This Circle shu [...]s out the impenitent world, there it closes and cannot be broke through, but all that are penitent are by their effectual cal­ing lifted in to it, translated from that accurs'd con­dition wherein they were: So then if you will live in your sins, you may, but then resolve withal to bear them your selves, for Christ in his bearing of sin, meant of none but such as in due time are thus dead, and thus alive with him.

3. But then in the Third place, Christs Suffer­ings and death effects all this. 1. As the exempl­ary cause, the lively contemplation of Christ cruci­fied, is the most powerful of all thoughts to separate the heart and sin. But 2. besides this working as a Moral cause, as that example; Christ is the effec­tive natural cause of this death, and life: For he is one with the Believer, and there is a real influence of his death, and life into their Souls. This My­sterious Union of Christ, and the believer is that whereon both their Justification and Sanctification and the whole frame of their Salvation and Happi­ness depends; and in this particular the Apostle still [Page 471] insists on it, speaking of Christ and Believers as one in his Death and Resurrection, crucified with him, dead with him, buried with him, and risen with him. Rom. 6.

Being arisen, he applies his death to those he dyed for, and by it kills the life of sin in them, and so is aveng'd on it, for its being the cause of his death according to that of the Psalm, raise me up that I may requite them He infuses, and then actuates and stirres up that faith and love in them, by which they are united to him and these work powerfuly in this.

3. Faith look's so stedfastly on its suffering Savi­our, that as they say intellectus fit illud quod intel­ligit, it makes the Soul like him, assimilates and con­formes it to his Death as the Apostle speaks. That which some fable of some of their Saints of recei­ving the impression of the wounds of Christ in their body, is true in a Spiritual sense of the Soul of every one that is indeed a Saint, and a believer, it takes the very print of his Death, by beholding him, and dyes to sin, and then takes that of his rising a­gain, and lives to righteousness, as it applies it to justify, so to Mortify, drawes vertue from it. Thus sayd one, Christ aim'd at this in all those Sufferings that with so much love he went through, and shall I disappoint him, and not serve his end?

4. That other powerfull grace of Love is joynt in this work with faith, for Love desires nothing more than likeness, and conformity, though it be a painfull resemblance, so much the better, and fitter to testify love, therefore 'twill have the Soul dye with him that dy'd for it, and the very same kind of death, I am crucified with Christ, sayes the great [Page 472] Apostle. The Love of Christ in the Soul takes the very Nails that fastned him to the Crosse, and cru­cifies the Soul to the World, and to Sin, Love is strong as Death, particularly in this, the strongest and liveliest Body, when Death siezes it, must yield, and so becomes motionless that was so vigorous be­fore; And the Soul that is most active, and unweari­ed in Sin, when this Love siezes it, it is kill'd to Sin, and as Death seperates a Man from his dearest Friends, and Society, this Love breaks all the tyes and friend­ship with Sin. Generally, as Plato hath it, Love takes away ones living in them selves, and transfers into the party loved, but the divine Love of Christ doth it in the truest and highest manner.

By whose stripes ye were healed] The misery of fallen Man, and the mercy of his deliverance, are both of them such a deep, as no one expression, yea, no variety added one to another can reach their bot­tom. Here we have divers very significative ones. 1. The guiltiness of sin as an intollerable burden pressing the Soul and sinking it, and that transfer'd and layed on a stronger Back. He bare: Then 2. The same wretchedness under the same notion of a strange disease by all other means incurable, healed by his stripe's. And (3.) again represented by the forlorn condition of a Sheep wandring, and our Sal­vation to be found only in the love and wisdom of our great Shepherd. And all these are borrow'd from that sweet and clear prophecy Isa. 53.

The polluted nature of Man is no other but a bun­dle of desperate diseases, he is spiritually dead, as the Scriptures often teach, Now this contradicts not, [Page 473] nor at all Lessen's the matter: But only, because this misery justly called death, is in a Subject anima­ted with a natural life, therefore so it may bear the Name and sense of sickness, or wound, and therefore 'tis gross misprision, they are as much out in their Argu­ment, as in their conclusion, that would extract out of these expressions any evidence of remains of Spiri­tual life or good, in our corrupted Nature: But they are not worthy the contest, tho vain heads think to argue themselves into life, and are seeking that life by Logick in Miserable Nature, that they should seek by faith in Jesus Christ, Namely, in these his stripes by which we are healed.

It were a large task to name our Spiritual Ma­ladies, how much more, severally to unfold their Natures, such a multitude of corrupt false Principles in the mind, that as Gangrens do spread themselves through the Soul, and defile the whole Man, and total gross blindness and unbelief in Spiritual things, and that stone of the heart, hardness and impeni­tency, Lethargies of senslesness and security, and then (for there be such complications of Spiritu­al diseases in us, as in Naturals are altogether impossi­ble) such burning fevers of inordinate affections, de­sires of lust, and Malice, and envy, such racking, and tormenting cares of Covetousness, and feeding on Earth and Ashes, as the Prophet speaks in ano­ther case, according to the deprav'd appetite, that ac­companies some Diseases: Such tumours of Pride, and self-conceit that break forth, as filthy botches in Mens words, and carriage one with another. And in a word, what a wonderful disorder must needs be in the Natural Soul by the frequent interchanges, [Page 474] and fight of contrary passions within it, and to these from without, how many deadly wounds we receive from the tentations of Satan and the World? We receive them, and by the weapons they furnish us, we willingly wound our selves, as the Apo­stle sayes of them, who will be rich, they fall in­to divers snares, and noysome lusts, and pierce them selves through with many sorrowes.

Did we see it, no Infirmery nor Hospital ever so full of loathsome and miserable Spectacles as Spiritually our wretched Nature is in any one of us apart: How much more when multitudes of us are met together? But our evils are hid from us, and we perish miserably in a Dream of happiness. That makes up and compleats our wretchedness, that we feel it not, with our other diseases. And this makes it worse still. This was the Churches disease. Rev. 3. Thou sayest I am rich, and knowest not that thou art Poor. &c. We are usually full of complaints of triffling griefs that are of small moment, and think not on, nor feel not our Dangerous Maladies, as he who shewed a Physician his fore finger, but the Physician told him, he had more need to think on the cure of a dangerous Impostume within him, which he perceiv'd by looking to him, though himself did not feel it.

In dangerous Maladies, or wounds, there be these evils, a tendency to death, and with that the appre­hension of the terrour, and fear of it, and the pre­sent distemper of the Body by them, and this is in sin. 1. There is the guiltiness of sin binding over the Soul to death, the most frightful eternal Death. 2. The [Page 475] terrour of conscience in the apprehension of that death, or wrath that is the consequent and end of sin. 3. The raging and prevailing power of sin, which is the ill habitude and distemper of the soul: But these stripes, and that blood that issued from them are a sound cure, applied unto the soul, they take away the guiltiness of sin, and death deserved, and free us from our engagement to those ever­lasting scourgings, and lashes of the wrath of God, and likewise they are the only cure of those present terrours, and pangs of Conscience arising from the sense of that wrath, and sentence of death upon the Soul. Our Iniquities that met on his back, laid open to the rod, which in it self was free, those hands that never wrought iniquity, and those feet that never declined from the way of righteousness, yet for our workes and wandrings were pierced, and that Tongue dropping with Vinegar and Gall on the Cross, that never spoke a guileful nor sinful word. The Blood of those stripes are that Balm issuing from that tree of Life so pierced, that can only give ease to the Conscience, and heal the wounds of it, and they deliver from the power of sin working by their influence, and loathing of sin, that was the cause of them; they cleanse out the vitious humours of our corrupt nature, by opening up that issue of Repen­tance they shall look on him, and mourn over him whom they have pierced.

Now to the end it may thus cure, it must be apply­ed 'tis the only receit, but it must be received, if for healing. The most Soveraign Medicines cure not in another manner, and therefore still their first letler is R, recipe, take such a thing.

[Page 476]This is amongst those wonders of that great work, that the Soveraign Lord of all, that binds and looses at his pleasure the influences of Heaven, and the Power and workings of all the Creatures, would himself in our flesh be thus bound, the only Son bound as a Slave, and scourged as a Malefactor, and his willing obedience, made this an acceptable and expiateing Sacrifice, amongst the rest of his suf­ferings, he gave his back to the smiters.

Now it cannot be, that any that is thus healed, re­flecting upon this cure, can again take any constant de­light in sin, 'tis impossible so far to forget both the grief it bred themselves, and their Lord; as to make a new agreement with it, to live in the pleasure of it.

His stripes] Turn your thoughts all to consider this, you that are not healed, that you may be healed, and you that are, apply it still to perfect the cure in that part wherein it is gradual, and not com­plete, and for the ease you have found to bless and love him who endur'd so much unease to that end. There is a sweet mixture of sorrow, and joy in contempla­ting these stripes, sorrow sure by sympathy, that they were his stripes, and joy that they were our healing. Christians are too litle mindful and sensible of this, and it may be somewhat guilty of that Hos. 11.3. They knew not that I healed them.

Verse. 25.

‘For ye were as Sheep going astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your Souls.’

IN these few words we have a brief, and yet clear representation of the wretchedness of our Na­tural condition, and our happiness in Christ. The resemblance is borrow'd from the same place in the Prophet Isai. 53.6.

Not to press the comparison, and as it is usual in a postilling way, to strain it beyond the purpose, in our lost estate. This is all or the main wherein the resemblance with Sheep holds, our wandring, as forlorn, and exposed to destruction, as a Sheep that is strayed and wandred from the fold. So it imports indeed the loss of a better condition, the safety and happiness of the Soul, that good which is proper to it, as the sutable good of the bruite creature here nam'd is safe and good Pasture.

That we may know there is none exempt in Na­ture from the guiltiness, and misery of this wandring, the Prophet is express in the universallity of it. All we have gone astray. And the Apostle here is par­ticular to his Brethren, so as it falls not amiss to any other. Ye were as Sheep going astray. Ye, the [Page 478] Prophet there to the collective universal addes a distributive, every Man to his own way. Or a Man to his way. They agree in this, that they all wan­der, though they differ in their several wayes. There is an imbred Propension to stray in them all, more than Sheep that are Creatures naturally wandring, but each one hath his own way of it.

And this is our folly that we flatter our selves by comparison, and every one is pleased with himself, because he is free from some wandrings of others, not considering that he is a wanderer too, though in another way, he hath his way as those he look's on have theirs. And as Men agree in wandring, though different in their way; so those wayes agree in this, that they lead unto misery, and shall end in that. Think you there is no way to Hell but the way of open Profaness? Yes sure, many a way that seems smooth, and clean in a Mans own eyes, and yet will end in Condemnation. Truth is but one, Errour endless and interminable; as of Natural Life and Death, so of Spiritual, the way to Life is one: But many out of it, Lethi mille aditus. Each one hath not opportunity nor ability for every sin, or every degree, but each after his own Mode and Power. Isa. 40.20.

Thy Tongue it may be wanders not in the com­mon Path road of Oathes and Curses, yet it wanders in secret Calumnies, in Detraction and Defaming of others, though so conveyed as it scarce appears: Or if thou speak them not, yet thou art pleas'd to hear them: It wanders in trifling away the precious hours of irrecoverable time, with vain unprofitable bablings in thy Converse, or if thou art much alone, [Page 479] or in Company much silent, yet, is not thy foolish mind still hunting Vanity▪ Following this selfe-plea­sing design, or t'other, and seldom and very slightly, if at all, conversant with God, and the things of Heaven. Which although they alone have the truest, and the highest Pleasure in them, yet to thy Carnal Mind are tasteless and unsavory. There is scarce any thing so light and Childish that thou wilt not more willingly and liberally bestow thy re­tired thoughts on, than upon those excellent incom­parable delights. Oh! the foolish heart of Man, when it may seem deep, and serious, how often is it at Domitian's Exercise in his Study, catching Flies.

Men account litle of the wandring of their hearts, and yet truly, that is most of all to be consider'd: For from thence are the Issues of life. 'Tis the heart that hath forgotten God, and is roving after Vanity this causes all the Errours of Mens Words, and Actions, a wandring Heart, makes wandring Eyes and Feet, and Tongue. 'Tis the leading Wanderer that misleads all the rest, and as we are here call'd straying Sheep, so within the heart in it self of each of us, there is as it were a whole wandring Flock, such a Multitude of Fictions Gen. 8. Ungodly de­vices, the Word that signifies a thought in Hebrew, is from that which is feeding of a Flock, and it like­wise signifies wandring, and so these meet in our thoughts, they are a great Flock, and a wandring Flock. This is the Natural freedem of our thoughts, they are free to wander from God, and Heaven, and carry us to perdition: And we are guilty of many Pollutions this way, that we never acted. Men are less sensible of heart wickedness, if it break not [Page 480] forth: But it is far more active in sin than any of the senses, or the whole body. The motion of Spirits is far swifter than of bodies, it can go more way in any of these wandrings in one hour, than the body is able to follow in many dayes.

When the Body is tyed to attendance in the exer­cises where we are, yet know you not 'tis so much the more, if you do not know and feel it, and bewail it, know you that the heart can take its liberty and leave you nothing but a Carcase. This the unre­newed heart doth continually: They come and sit before me, &c. But their heart is after their Cove­tousness, it hath another way to go, another God to wait on.

But are now returned, &c.] Whatsoever are the several wayes of our straying, all our wandring is the aversion of the heart from God, whence of necessity followes a continual unsetledness and disquiet, the Mind as a wave of the Sea tossed too and fro with the Wind, it tumbles from one sin and vanity to another, and finds no rest, as a sick Person tosses from one side to another, and from one part of their Bed to another, and change their Bed it may be, in hope of ease, and still 'tis further off, thus is the Soul in all its wandrings: But shift and change as it will no rest until it come to this returning. Jer. 2.36. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? Thou shalt be ashamed of Egypt as thou wast of As­syria. Nothing but sorrow and shame till you change all those wayes, for this one. Return O Isra­el sayes the Lord, if thou wilt return, return unto me. 'Tis not changing one of your own wayes for [Page 481] another will profit you: But in returning to me is your salvation.

Seeing we find in our own experience, besides the wofull end of our wandrings, the present per­plexity and disquiet of them. Why are we not per­swaded to this? To give up with them all. Re­turn unto thy rest O my Soul sayes David, this were our wisdom.

But is not that God in whom we expect rest, in­cens'd against us for our wandering, and is he not being offended a consuming fire? True, but this is the way to find acceptance, and peace, and satisfying comforts in returning. Come first to this Shepherd of Souls Jesus Christ, and by him come unto the Father, No Man comes unto the Father sayes he, but by me, this is via Regia, the high and right way of returning unto God Io. 10, 11. I am the good She­pherd, and Ver. 9. I am the door, by me if any Man enter in, he shall be saved: But if he misse this door, he shall miss salvation too. Ye are returned sayes the Apostle. Vnto the Shepherd, And Bishop of your Souls.

There be Three things necessary to restore us to our happiness, whence we have departed in our wandrings. 1. To take away the guilti­ness of those former wandrings. 2. To reducees into the way again. 3. To keep and lead us in it.

Now all these are alone performable by this great Shepherd 1. He did satisfy for the offence of our wanderings, and so remove our guiltiness, he him­self, the Shepherd became a Sacrifice for his flock, a Sheep or spotless Lamb as Isa. 53. Resembled [Page 474] in the 6th. Ver. We like sheep have gone astray, and immediately after our straying mention'd. The Lord laid, or Made meet on him, the iniquity of us all. Of all our strayings and Ver. 7. He that is our Shepherd, the same is the Lamb for Sacrifice, so our Apostle Chap. 1. We are redeem'd not by Silver and Gold, &c. But by the precious blood of Christ: As of a Lamb without blemish, and without spot so Io. 10. He the good Shepherd that layes down his life for his Sheep. Men think not on this, many of them that have some thoughts of returning and amendment, think not that there is a satisfaction due for by-pass'd wan­derings, and therefore they passe by Christ, and consider not the necessity of returning to him, and by him to the Father.

2. He brings them back into the way of life, Ye are returned, but think not this is by their own knowledge, and skill that they discover their errour, and find out the right path, and by their own strength return into it, No; if we would contest Grammati­cisms, the word here is passive, ye are returned, reduc'd, or caused to return: But this truth hangs not on so weak notions, as are often us'd, either for, or against it. In that Prophecy Ezek. 34.16. I will seek, and bring again &c. and Psa. 23. Ver. 3. He restoreth, or returneth My Soul. And that this is the work of this Shepherd the Lord Jesus God-man, is clear and frequent in the Gospel. He came for this very end, 'twas his errand and busi­ness in the world, to seek and to save that which was lost, And in that parable, he goes after that which is lost untill he find it, and then having found it doth not only show it the way, and say to it re­turn, [Page 475] and leaves it to come after, but he layes it on his shoulder, and brings it home, and notwithstand­ing all his pains in stead of complaining against it for wandering, he rejoyces in that he hath found and recovered it, he layes it on his shoulder rejoycing, and in this there is as much of the resemblance as in any other thing. Lost Man can no more return unsought, than a Sheep that wandereth, which is observ'd of all Creatures to have least of that skill. Men may have some confus'd thoughts of returning: But to know the way, and to come home, unless they be sought out, they cannot, this is David's suite, though acquaited with the fold. Lord seek thy Servant. This did our great and good Shepherd through those difficult wayes he was to passe, for our finding, wherein he not only hazarded, but realy laid down his life, and those shoulders that did bear the ini­quity of our wandring by expiation, upon the same doth he bear, and bring us back from it, by effect­ual conversion.

3. He keeps and leads us on in that way, into which he hath reduc'd us, he Leaves us not again to try our own skill, if we can walk to Heaven alone, being set into the path of it: But he still conducts us in it by his own hand, and that's the cause of our persistance in it, and attaining the blessed end of it. He returneth my Soul sayes the Psalmist, and that's not all, he addes he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake, by those paths are the green pastures meant, and the still waters that he speaks of, And thus we may be resolv'd, if we are of his flock, are we led in the paths of righte­ousness? Do we delight our selves in him, and his [Page 484] ways? Are they the proper refreshment of our Souls? Do we find his word sweet unto our Taste? Are we taken with the green pastures in it, and the Cristall Streams of Consolations that glide through it. Can we discern his voyce, and does it draw our hearts, so that we follow it? Ioh. 10. &c.

The Shepherd, and Bishop] It was the stile of Kings to be called Shepherds, and it is the dignity of the Ministers of the Gospel to have both these names▪ But this great Shepherd, and Bishop, is peculiarly worthy of these Names, as supeme he alone Uni­versall Shepherd and Bishop and none but an An­tichrist, that makes himself as Christ, that kills and destroys the flock, will assume this Title that belongs only to the Lord, the great owner of his Flock, he him­self is their great Shepherd and Bishop, All Shepherds and Bishops that are truely such have their function and place from him, hold of him, and follow his Rules, and example in their inspection of the flock; it were the happiness of Kingdomes if Magistrates and Kings would set him, his love, and meekness, and equity before their eyes in their government. And all those that are properly his Bishops, are e­specially oblig'd to study this pattern, to warm their affections to the flock, and tender care of their sal­vation by looking on this Arch-bishop and Arch-shepherd, as our Apostle calls him, and in their measure, to follow his foot-steps, spending their life, and strength in seeking the good of his sheep, consi­dering that they are subordinately Shepherds of Souls, that is in Spiri [...]ual things so communicable.

The Lord Jesus is supremely and singularly such, they under him Shepherds of Souls: Because their [Page 485] diligence concernes the Soul, which excludes not the body in Spiritual respects, as it is capable of things Spiritual, and Eternal, by its Union with the Soul; But Christ is Soveraign Shepherd of Souls above all, and singular, in that he not only teaches them the Doctrine of Salvation, but purchas'd Sal­vation for them, and reaches the Soul powerfully, which Ministers by their own power cannot do, he layes hold on it, and reduces, and leads it, and causes it to walk in his wayes. In this sense it a­grees to him alone as Supreme in the incommu­nicable sense.

And from his Conduct, and Power, and Love, flowes all the comfort of his flock, considering their own folly, and weakness. This alone gives them con­fidence, that his hand guides them, and they believe his strength far surpassing that of the roaring Lyon. Ioh. 10, 28, 29, 30. His wisdom in knowing their particular estate, and their weakness, and his tender love pitying them, and applying himself to it. O­ther Shepherds, even faithfull ones, may mistake them, and not know the way of leading them in some particulars, and may be sometimes wanting in that, tender affection that they ow, and if they have that, yet are not able to bear them up, and support them powerfully: But this Shepherd, is perfect in all these. Isa. 40.11. The young and weak Christi­an, or the Elder at weak times, when they are big and heavy with some inward exercise of mind, which shall bring forth advantage and peace afterwards to them: Them he leads gently, and uses them with Tenderness that their weakness requires.

[Page 478]And generally he provides for his Flock, and heals them when they are any way hurt, and washes and makes them fruitful; So that they are as that Flock used in the comparison Cant. 4.2. They are comely, but their shepherd much more. Formosi pecoris Custos formosior. They are given him in the Fathers pur­pose and choice, and so they that return, even while they wander, are Sheep in some other sense than the rest that perish. They are in the secret love of election of Christs Sheep fold, tho' not actually, yet brought into it, but when his time comes wheresoever they wander, and how farr off so­ever, even those that have strayed most, yet he reduces them, and rejoyces Heaven with their re­turn, and leads them till he bring them to par­take of the joy that is there. That's the end of their way wherein he guides them. Ioh. 10.27, 28. They hear my voice and follow me, and it shall not repent them to do so; to follow him is to follow life, he is the life, And he is in that Glory which we desire. And where would we be, if not there where he is. Who at his parting from the world said, where I am there they shall be also, To this happy Meeting and Heavenly abode God of his Infinite mercy bring us Through Iesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Page 3 line ult Apostl read Apostle p. 10 l. 6. vainglory r. vain glory p. 16 l. 12 oded r. obedience p. 19 l. 8 eternal r. external p. 20 l. 17 commaud r. command p. 34 l. 23 blessiings r. blessings l. 24 valluable r. valuable p. 35 l. 25 ou r. ou [...] p. 38 l. 4. natucal r. natural p. [...] l. abli [...] r. ability p. 41 l. last Thefore r. Therefore p. 42 l. 29 they have r. they livy p. 43 l. 26 sl [...]gard r sluggard p. 44 l. 15 assurence r. assurance l. 23 woldley r. worldly. p. 114 l. 13 intelligeable r. intelligible p. 116 l. 7 waiing r. waiting l. 8 darkei r. darkness 121 l. 10 soretold r. foretold p. 114 l. 4 underdand r. un­derstand p. 132 l. 11 no stop after them p. 135 l. 4 wtih r. with p. 145 l. 2 porsperity r. prosperity p. 147 l. 11. Christain r. Christian p. 149 l. 17 impossiable r. impossible p. 150 l. 16 doctine r. doctrine p. 152 l. 27. per­fane r. profane l. antependt paculiar r. peculiar p. 174 l. 25 temperal r. temporal p. 185 l. 11. his r. all p. 181 l. 10 appearnce r. appearance l. last tiemes r. times p. 191 l. 24 aud r. and 192 ult made delend p. 194 antepe­nult cecevied r. received p. 196 l. 6 brethen r. brethren p. 198 l. 18 Evan­gelist r. Evangelists p. 209 l. 10 is r. it p. 239 l. last Covenants r. Cove­nant p. 246. l. 30 Ehp. r. Eph. p. [...]46 l. 14 way r. may p. 258 l. 1 this esteem precious r. this esteem. Precious p. 261 actrive r. active p. 264 l. 19 Priestood r. Priesthood accept. to God: as here fei r. text r. acc: to God, as h. f. [...]. t. text p. 276 l. 22 speak; of r. speak of; p. 280 l. 29 speaks, of hard &c. r. speaks of, hard &c. p. 282 l. 25 shalln or r. shall not l. 31 caul­ling r. calling p. 303 l. last ceremoany r. ceremony p. 307 l. 14 poriton r. portion p. 315 l. 39 is r. it p 336 l. 12 their r. there p. 372 l. 13 partacular r. particular p. 377 l. 23 thlng r. thing p. 432 l. ult wha the r. what he p. 481 l. 27 es r. us.

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