The Moral Law not Injured by the Everlasting Gospel.
A SERMON, PREACHED IN SUBSTANCE AT PROVIDENCE CHAPEL; AND HUMBLY ADDRESSED TO THE REV. ROWLAND HILL, M.A.
TO MR. HUNTINGTON,
CHURCH STREET, PADDINGTON.
THE vile reproaches unjustly cast upon you and your doctrine, by the Rev. Rowland Hill, have long grieved the minds of many simple and godly souls, and served as a stumblingblock to many of Zion's feeble travellers.
The unchristian-like disposition he manifested against you, when he refused to preach in the same place with you at Greenwich; but more especially, his offering to preach in opposition, whenever you should be given out for the new place at Deptford; has further evidenced his rooted malignity, and not a little added to the astonishment of those who wish for the peace and prosperity of Zion.
Hearing he was to preach on Tuesday last, in opposition to you, at Deptford, I, with some friends, attended, for the purpose of taking the sermon in shorthand, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word might be established, or overthrown.
As the occasion of Mr. Hill's preaching was so generally known, I presume, notwithstanding your name is not literally mentioned in it, that you will need no apology, either to the church or to the world, for considering it as addressed to yourself, and, consequently, giving it a full answer, so far as truth is concerned. For that purpose, sir, we herewith commit it to your perusal and custody; sincerely wishing and praying the Lord may direct your heart and hand for the good of his chosen, and his own glory.
TO THE REV. ROWLAND HILL, MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL AT SURRY CHAPEL.
HAVING been repeatedly informed of the many public cautions and warnings that you have given to various congregations against me and my doctrine, which have all been drawn from the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel; I have therefore presumed to shew mine opinion of every text in that chapter which you have either opened, brought forth, or mentioned: and, having published them, I send the first copy for your perusal, and the rest to the church at large, that our brethren may judge betwixt us, Gen. xxxi. 37.
The sermon that you delivered against me at Deptford, I have got in my hand, and have deliberately considered it. I did not treat it with that contempt with which you treated a book of mine, which you took up with a pair of tongs, and ordered your servant to take it down stairs, and do what she would with it. A testimony of divine truth is not fit fuel for fire.
No small degree of anger has burnt in your heart against me, for the space of almost seven years, ever since I published my Tidings from Wallingford; which so exasperated you in the company of Mr. Carnal at Woburn, that you said, you cared not what I might have said or written against you, but the great offence was writing against your friend. They are the best friends, sir, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth. The gentleman whom I opposed, either does preach the doctrines of the Church of England, which he subscribed, or he does not. If he does, why do you not vindicate his doctrine? But, if he does not, and my Tidings are true, why am I become your enemy for telling you the truth? Gal. iv. 16. Are we not commanded by God himself to stop the mouths of subverters? Certainly we are.
Your warning your society almost three years, I will not say day and night with tears, Acts xx. 31; not to read my books, or even to hear me preach, was needless; for I have no desire to take one sheep out of your fold, or he-goat out of your stall.
Your digging into all the follies of my youth, and bringing them forth at your church-meeting before an hundred people, concerning my name, child, &c. &c. which I had published to the world at large, can never be called fulfilling the royal law, James ii. 8. Yea, yourself had some doubts whether this would bear the light, because you enforced a Roman edict, and enjoined secrecy; but, alas! as it was in the beginning, it is now; the more you charged them, the more they spread it abroad. If God sends his ministers to plead against his own children their reproach, much might have been said against Moses's killing the Egyptian; against Paul, for persecution and bloodshed; and against Peter, for excess of wine, reveling, banqueting, and abominable idolatries. But they left this branch of the work to the accuser of the brethren, and preached the gospel; and it would be no grief of heart to you, sir, in a dying hour if you were to go and do likewise.
Furthermore, if you were kept entirely free and pure from every vice throughout your childhood and youth, all the better: glory in this. I neither envy nor covet either your purity or happiness, any more than the prodigal son, in his ring and robe, envied his elder brother, who had never at any time transgressed the commandment.
But you would never preach in Greenwich Tabernacle while I was permitted to speak there. Be it so. I took no offence at that; nor will I say that you are without a precedent in so doing: other pious souls as well as you, have said "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou." And far be it from me to make you less holy than you are. When your absence, sir, and other holy brethren's dislike, had procured my dismission from Greenwich, I took it patiently without gainsaying; and I thought that, when I had opened a place for myself in another parish, the offence would have ceased, but no: for although you would never appear in Greenwich pulpit while I was admitted there, yet you have never appeared there once since, and left me out of it. I must not go in, yet you carry me in; and, though I may not speak for myself, you are sure always to speak of me.
Your charge to the people to read the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel before they came to hear me, I have considered; and, lest they should not be obedient to you in all things, and to let you know that I am not afraid to read that chapter, I have published an explanation of those texts that you referred them to, and beg of you to refute me, if you think I am wrong.
At Mr. T ...... d's meeting, you informed them that, if you should say the law is not a rule of life, you should expect horns to grow out of your head, and your feet to be cloven. Then, sir, what must Paul be, who tells us that the believer is not under the law, but under grace; and that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them that believe; and that the grace of God teaches men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world?
You quoted a passage out of my Arminian Skeleton in B ..... fields; and said, Before a man got into the pulpit, and advanced such things, he should put on a fool's cap. Does asserting that God is our Father, and the church our mother, entitle a man to such an ornament? Can you prove the saying to be either false or foolish? If you can, it lies upon you to do it, and upon me to defend it. If you can disprove any doctrine that I hold, you know they are published to the world, do it; and if you cannot, or will not, then leave off calling me antinomian, bad spirit, that fellow, and spiritual blackguard. That first word is sadly matched; for the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel gives no license for such hard speeches, especially against a servant of Christ, whose doctrines you cannot overthrow, whose, usefullness you cannot deny, and whose life you cannot censure. But I am informed, by one of your own people, that you have long wished that I would take up my pen against you, that you might prosecute me for a libel. If every minister of the gospel, who vindicates his life and doctrine against scandal, who preaches against errors, and who writes against false doctrines, or false evidences, is to be sued at law for libels, we should soon cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Peter might have prosecuted Paul for this, for he withstood him to the face: and, indeed, the scriptures are full of such libels; and who can escape them, and be faithful? "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law?" 1 Cor. vi. 1. Indeed, Moses says, an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth: but I have not injured you at all. Sure I am, that the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel gives no license for such a practice. It tells me to give my cloak to him that sues for my coat; but you shall most surely have both my cloak and coat, without suing at law, if you send for them.
But I trust, reverend sir, that your weapons are not carnal, and that the sword of the Spirit is sufficient for you in all matters of controversy. Flying to the temporal sword, in such cases, is making the law the only rule of life with a witness. But I am persuaded better things of you, sir, though you may have thus spoken; for I cannot believe that a man of such holiness, who refuses even to occupy a pulpit defiled by me, would ever act like the Jewish Pharisees, who provoked the Saviour to speak many things, that they might catch something out of his mouth, in order to betray him into the hands of the governor. That be far from my brother Rowland, and from every other fellow-labourer in the kingdom and patience of Christ.
We are to do as we would be done by. If I have deviated from this rule in my conduct towards you, reverend sir, convince me of it; and if you have acted agreeably to this rule yourself, you will be no more offended at my addressing my sermon to you for your perusal, than I was at your leveling your sermon against me, to represent me as giving license to sin. For my part, I am willing to come up to my brother Rowland's standard in every good work: if we differ, it shall only be about words, or about which shall be the greatest; and, if we must strive for mastery, I hope that he, and only he, will be crowned, who strives lawfully. I have this comfort, however, that if all the courts of law in Great Britain were to be moved against me, they would never drive a worse trade with me than Moses did: he took both body and goods; he stripped me, not only of my coat, but of every other covering that I had; he took my cloak of hypocrisy, and my bed from under me; and, at last, took my life also. For, as Paul says, "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;" and at length he left me poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked; and, though I gained my point in the end, yet this was all that I got by law.
I shall now beg leave to make a few remarks on the discourse that you levelled at my doctrine, and shew you wherein we differ, and submit them to your judgment. This, I trust, can give no offence: for the Spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets; and those that are instructed in the Word, are to communicate to him that teacheth in all good things. Your text is; "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. v. 20. What you have said upon the text, may be put into a very small compass, and be answered with a very ? few words.
Quot. Now I dare venture to say, that some of you expect, from this text, that I should give you the following interpretation of it: That since the Scribes and Pharisees made a great bustle about righteousness, that the righteousness here meant is the righteousness of Christ. But that is not the meaning of this text. Are you alarmed at it? No; the text don't relate to justification, but-to sanctification.
Answ. I think my brother Rowland is entirely wrong here; and that he does contradict the Saviour himself, who, in this text, shews the need of what he had said before. The Lord had, in a preceding verse, blessed them that did hunger and thirst after righteousness, and said they should be filled: and then goes on to tell them, that he came to fulfil the law. Which fulfilling obedience of his was to fill them that hungered and thirsted after righteousness. And without this excellent obedience of his being imputed to them, which exceeds all the obedience of the Scribes and Pharisees, they could in no sense be filled, nor in any case enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is righteousness, sir, that gives us a right and title to the kingdom; and it is sanctification that gives us a meetness for it. Righteousness, and not sanctification, is what the text means.
Quot. There is a meaning in these words, and it must be a solemn one: "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." And now I will be bold to say, that the righteousness of Christ, here mentioned, is this: that when the Pharisees thought they should be justified by an external righteousness of their own performance, our Lord gives them to understand, that a man will never enter into the kingdom of heaven, that does not talk of being justified by it. But he will never go to heaven, he will never be in a kingdom of grace in time, he will never be in glory to eternity; unless in his personal state, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, he is made more righteous than a Scribe or a Pharisee, inwardly, and experimentally, and internally. That is the meaning of my text.
Answ. I must confess, reverend and dear sir, that I do not understand this. You here call it the righteousness of Christ mentioned. Before, you said, that it was not Christ's righteousness meant in the text, &c. It is justification that brings a man into a state of grace, and it is the same that gives a man a title to heaven: The righteous nation, that keepeth the truth, shall enter in. "Whom God justifies, them he glorifies." This act of justifying includes sanctification, both by the blood of Christ and by the Spirit of God, for it is always accompanied with it. It is the Spirit that works faith in the heart to believe; it is the Spirit that applies the atonement; it is the Spirit that takes the righteousness of Christ, and shews it to us, and reveals it in us, and bears his soul-satisfying witness to the glorious work: "We are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." The righteousness of faith, and the testimony of the Spirit, always go together: "He that believes hath the witness in himself."
Quot. I am speaking of Mr. Hart's Hymns: and, was he to rise out of the grave, and his dear elect soul again to be embodied, I am sure, at this present day, those things that many people of lax and wanton dispositions are likely to fall into, he would draw forth such a sword, and brandish it in such a manner, as would give you to understand there is no sword so well calculated to cut down sin to the very ground, as the glorious sword of a free grace gospel, through Jesus Christ. So that I simply ask you to look at the meaning of my text, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Answ. I do not rightly comprehend this, sir. You say, at one place, that the text means sanctification. Secondly, You say your text hath a meaning, and it must be a solemn one. Thirdly, To be made righteous by the Spirit internally, is the meaning of the text. And, Fourthly, The sword of a flee grace gospel is the meaning of it, which you go on to confirm.
Quot. I preached from this text not long ago before: and I was saying to one, a worthy, good minister, I often wondered why people are so unobserving, not to know the meaning of that text. 'Why,' says he, 'I confess, to my shame, when reading it so a little while ago, I was so grieved to think I should fancy that word could mean anything but regeneration:' Except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes, &c. &c.
Answ. This, sir, is all the explanation that you have given of the text; and it hath left me full as dark as the good minister himself. However, I will be bold to say, that the law is by no means, nor in any sense, established by this discourse; not one truth made plain, nor one doctrine that I hold either disproved or touched. And you may call me antinomian, devil, an encourager of sin, a fellow, a blackguard, or what you please; your tongue is your own, and you may depend upon it that I shall never sue you for damages; but I declare before God, that I would not be found standing up in God's name, and thus darkening counsel by words without knowledge, for a million worlds.
Quote. Why does it not strike you as being horrid, that a man should make out a licence to commit sin?
Answ. Yes, sir; this is enough to strike any good man with horror. And was I to stand up in a congregation, as you did, and throw out such reproachful hints as these against a servant of God, who I knew in my conscience exceeded me in experience, power, knowledge, usefullness, and conversation, I should have thought that I had made out a license to commit sin, with a witness. For in the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel, this is called breaking the commandments, and teaching men so. It is hating a brother without a cause, which is murder. And Christ says, the man that thus reprobates the just is in danger of hell fire. And I will leave you to judge who the man is that does these things. I have been in the ministry almost nineteen years, and you can prove no charge of evil against my life or doctrine; nor could you overthrow, by the scriptures of truth, one doctrine that I hold, if you was to preach or write a thousand years. Nor was I ever once so left of God in the whole course of my ministry, as to deliver so inconsistent a discourse as this. If you will lay aside your prejudice and controvert the point, I will undertake to prove to your face, that there is not one page consistent with the oracles of God in it.
Quot. Don't you think that man preaches like a devil-sent minister, that teaches men that they may break God's commandments, that breaks God's commandments himself, and teaches men the same?
Answ. These are the charges, but I defy him to bring one proof. This is the good man that keepeth the law, that threatens men with prosecution for a libel! Who shall vindicate their character and doctrine, and prove a false accuser to be what he really is? This is an heavier charge than was brought against Paul; whose accusers said, "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes; who also hath gone about to profane the Temple: whom we would have judged [or prosecuted for a libel] according to our law; but Captain Lysias took him out of our hands," Acts xxiv. 5, 6. But you go on;
Quot. We have no ground for repentance, but under a sense of our sins, and a feeling that our sins are detestable, damnable, and abominable. Then a man will repent.
Answ. Repentance is not of the will of man, sir; nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. Judas felt his sins detestable and damnable, and he repented himself, and hanged himself. Repentance is the grant of the Father, and the gift of the Son; and is produced, under the operations of pardoning love, by the Spirit; and it is reflecting with inward contrition on the long forbearance of God, that leads to it. Pardon must be sealed, love felt, God must appear pacified, and the sinner raised to hope, before any evangelical repentance, such as needs not to be repented of, can take place. When God appeared to Job, in order to turn his captivity, he abhorred himself, and repented. When God turned Ephraim, and called him his dear son, Ephraim repented: and when the prodigal got the kiss, the ring, and the robe, then he repented. Man is not driven to repentance by a sense of sin, but drawn to it by a sense of pardon. When man's misery and God's mercy meet together on the soul; when the self-despairing child and the loving parent meet; there is repentance indeed.
Quot. If God has cleansed our hearts by his Holy Spirit, we shall feel an abhorrence of those sins that are near to us: nay, the nearer they are to us, the more we abhor them.
Answ. What proof do you give, sir, of this doctrine being practised by you? Is going to Greenwich, Uxbridge, Bristol, &c. &c. telling the people that, if ever they admitted me into their pulpit, you would never appear there any more, doing the work of a peacemaker? or is this abhorring evil? Doth not envy, hatred, and malice, against me, lie near to you, and that without cause? And can casting the vilest names, such as you have cast upon me, be any proof of an inward abhorrence of evil? or can such a discourse as this be called the produce of divine inspiration?
Quot. Our Lord talks: It does not signify, he preached the gospel. I do believe he preached a great deal about holiness; "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets." Nobody will come to do that but the devil.
Answ. I cannot think that the devil would wish to destroy the law which God has given to men, if he had it in his power; for, had there been no law in Paradise, Satan could not have tempted our parents to a transgression of it; for where there is no law, there can be no transgression. He took an advantage of the law, and tempted to a breach of it; at which breach sin and Satan came in, and took possession of the disobedient; and they have worked in the children of disobedience ever since. It is the law, sir, that delivers the sinner to the judge, and the judge delivers him to the officer, to be cast into prison. The officer could have no prisoners to wreak his rage upon, if there were no law to curse the sinner. Satan is not divided against himself. Those preachers who opposed Paul's gospel with circumcision and the law of Moses, are expressly called Satan's own ministers transformed. The Galatians, who turned their backs upon Christ, and went to the law to be made perfect by the flesh, are declared to be bewitched; and we know that all witchcraft comes from Satan. All the sinners that ever this trading Justice has got into his dismal cave, have died under the law; and all the slaves that Satan ever has lost, have been delivered from the law, and saved from sin and hell, by the grace of God revealed in the everlasting gospel. The Saviour did preach up holiness. He pronounced the blessing of justification upon his elect followers, which absolved and acquitted them from all penal evil: "Now ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you." He gave them notice that he would cleanse them from all future defilement by his blood and Spirit, which he signified by washing their feet; and he promised to send the Holy Ghost to abide with them for ever, and bid them abide in him as the branch does in the vine; and that such souls should bring forth much fruit: but without him they could do nothing. But the holiness preached up in this sermon has little or no resemblance of this. Let us now see how you preach it up.
Quot. If you cannot stand behind your counter under the influences of the Holy Spirit, stand there no more; if you cannot eat your food with a single eye to glorify God, rather starve than feed; if you cannot lie down upon your beds to rest with a desire that, by your rest, you may be recruited to serve God, rest no more.
Answ. If none but such persons as are here described were to stand behind a counter, there would not be shopkeepers enough in all the world to serve the inhabitants of London, so as for every one to get one article in a week; and were none but such persons to eat, as you describe, the world would be thin enough of inhabitants in six weeks. From all self-murder, and from sudden death, good Lord, deliver us!
Quot. Though a man, in his carnal, unconverted state, will hardly keep himself from anger; yet he can easily keep himself from murder.
Answ. That a man can easily keep himself from murder, appears plain by Hazael. Elisha told him, that he should slay the young men of Israel, dash their children, and rip up their women with child: who answered; Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And the next day he killed his own sovereign; and soon after acted all the rest of the bloody tragedy, 2 Kings, Chap. viii. To make men their own keepers is a poor doctrine: they are better kept that God keepeth.
Quot. People, if they are ever so vile, can keep themselves from outward actions; and generally do, for fear of the consequences that attend them. The thievish man may keep himself from thievish actions through fear of punishment. Man may restrain himself from many outward acts of violence.
Answ. This doctrine of self-keeping, sir, has a tendency to keep men from looking to Him who is called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins. The scriptures say, that the strong man, armed, keeps possession of the palace; and that the devil takes the sinner captive at his will. If so, where is the sinner's power to keep himself, if God leaves him? And surely we have few empty gaols, maiden-assizes, or barren hanging-days, to prove the truth of this doctrine. "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain:" and if God takes off his restraint, the sinner runs to mischief; the fear of hell fire is not enough to deter him, much less the fear of a gallows.
Quot. A man may subscribe to his meeting, and come to his meeting; he may pay his tithes, and go to his church; he may go to a shop, and pay his debts, &c.
Answ. I do not agree with my friend Rowland in these assertions. Providence must have a hand in all this. If a man subscribes to a meeting, God must give him money and inclination. The gold and silver is the Lord's, and so is a heart to do good therewith. A man cannot pay tithes unless God enable him to keep a farm, give him crops, and a good market. And, if he pays his debts, God's providence must favour him; for Moses says, it is God that gives him power to get wealth. Read Deut. Chap. viii.
Quot. Where I preach one sermon upon justification, I hope I shall preach half a dozen upon sanctification.
Answ. If you were to preach twelve dozen, sir, upon the subject, unless you are more explicit than you are in this, there is not a soul living that would understand your meaning. Without a distinction in the sounds, we cannot tell what is piped or harped. A man may as well preach upon multiplication as mortification, unless he gives us the explication or signification.
What I have here quoted is pretty nearly all the matter that is drawn from the text. The other parts will hardly bear transcribing. Smiting the empty sugar-tub, which makes a famous fine sound; sending the cleanly person into the pigs pound; the card-player's dexterity at the sight of friend Rowland; and the man in a comfortable frame tumbling over the threshold, drunk, into the meeting, which I take to be an oblique throw at the comforts of the gospel, are things that will not bear public inspection: and therefore, to let friend Rowland know that I bear lighter upon his folly than he does on my character, I only touch them. But, if he proceeds with his false charges and unjust slander, I may in time send the whole of them forth, and my dissection of them; for he that sins openly, is to be rebuked before all, that others may fear. And I ask further, whether the above-mentioned stories can be called sound speech, that cannot be condemned, or speaking as the oracles of God, or doing the work of an evangelist? By no means. And I think friend Rowland himself was aware of this; otherwise, why should he threaten me with a prosecution for a libel, but from a consciousness that what he has said in secret would not bear the house-top?
To conclude, friend Rowland. Should you, at any future period, happen to come out of any street or lane, and unexpectedly clap your eyes upon me, as you once did by St. Paul's church, do not leap up and run from me at that distracted rate you then did. Never fly, sir; unless you are pursued. As yet I do not understand the way in which you go; and, till I do, you may depend upon it that I never shall become a follower of you: "The wisdom of the wise is to understand his way." That you may discover less pepper, and more purity; less heat, and more holiness; that you may perform more good works, and say less about them; that you may part with your tea-table stories for heavenly tidings, and your old wives fables for gospel doctrines; that you may sound the gospel trumpet more, and your own trumpet less ? is the desire and prayer of him who frankly forgives you all that is past, and hopes to take patiently all that's to come.
W. H. S. S.
WORD TO THE READER.
THOU art here presented with another discourse on the old subject; which I believe will ever be the controversy of Zion, as long as freeborn sons and bond children are together. It began between Cain and Abel; it appeared in Noah's family; in Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac; between Esau and Jacob; between the Apostles and the Jewish Scribes; and it will be ended when the lamp of the law affords no oil to the foolish virgins, and when the lamp of salvation will burn to eternity in the hearts of the wise.
If my reader be one of Paul's living epistles, known and read of all men; on the fleshly tables of whose heart the Spirit of the living God has written the laws of faith, truth, love, and liberty, he will know by happy experience what Paul means by the law's being abolished, 2 Cor. iii. 13. He will feel and enjoy the blessed effects of it in his own experience; by finding revealed wrath, and his carnal enmity; legal bondage, and servile fear; the dread of damnation, and a train of torments; the galling yoke of precept, and the terrifying sentence, abolished from his heart, blotted out in the Saviour's atonement, and banished from his soul by the wonderful operations of the Spirit of love, which casteth out all fear, and which is the fulfilling of the law. Such a soul, once shut up in unbelief, and now enlarged by the Spirit of liberty, will prize the Saviour's yoke, and understand the Apostle's meaning, and none else. Such a soul is delivered from the destroying power of the law of sin, and from the penal power of the law of death: "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace." Nevertheless, we being born under the law, and shut up under it, and being habituated to a legal way of working for life, we are prone to lean this way, when we lose sight of our interest in Christ. This Satan is aware of. Hence it is that he has furnished the world and pestered the church from age to age with ministers to revile the gospel, and cry up the law; traducing the former as a licentious doctrine, and extolling the works of the latter as consummate holiness: whose work is to beguile the unstable, entangle the unwary, deceive the simple, and call passengers back to the law, who go right on their way. For my own part, I never knew a child of God yet, who stood so fast in his liberty, as never to take a second trip to Horeb. Let any one simple soul, in his first love, or in the sweetest liberty, attend a legal orator, a man of much scripture, parts, abilities, and fiery zeal, but one month, he shall find himself zealously affected; and soon after, a false confidence shall spring up, and stand in the wisdom of man; a fiery zeal shall influence him; to work in his own strength he goes; pride and self-sufficiency follow upon it; the Spirit is grieved, and ceases to operate as a Comforter; narrowness of heart ensues, and sensible bondage follows; although, all this time, the poor soul may be ignorant, and never once suspect the person that communicated his legal fetters to him. The law genders to bondage, and we are prone to lean that way; and the effects of it are a straitened spirit, and a gloomy countenance, flaming jealousy, and inward anger and hatred at the happiness of those who abide in the simplicity of Christ, humble at his feet, and in comfortable union with him. A young Christian, just crawled out of the shell, will not credit this; for sometimes such are wiser than the ancient. The foolish Galatians were wiser in this point than Paul the aged. But, before he has been twenty years in the school of Christ, it is ten to one but he agrees with me.
Furthermore, that my reader may not be blindfolded, confused, and misled, by every person who in a pulpit pronounces the word, sanctification, I will endeavour to drop a few hints upon it.
When God appointed the seventh day to be a day of rest for his creatures, and appropriated it to his service, it was called sanctifying of it: "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it."
God's taking of the first-born of Israel to himself, both of man and beast, when he slew the first-born of Egypt; and afterwards taking the Levites into his service, instead of all the first-born of Israel; is called sanctifying them: "For all the first-born of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast. On the day that I smote every first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for myself; and I have taken the Levites for all the first-born of the children of Israel," Numb. viii. 17, 18.
The day of rest above-mentioned prefigured the gospel day, in which the believer rests from impious rebellion and war with his Maker, from legal labour for life, and from the intolerable burden of sin; as well as an eternal rest from the indwelling of sin in heaven: as it is written, "Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "We that believe do enter into rest." And, with respect to the heavenly glory, Paul says, "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."
The first-born of beast being sanctified, was intended to point out the grand sacrifice of Christ, who is the first-born of every creature, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. The first-born of Israel typified God's elect, called the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. These being exchanged for the Levites, was to shew that, in the days of Christ, every believer, Jew or Gentile, should be a priest, or a Levite, Isa. lxvi. 21; yea, the whole church a royal priesthood, made kings and priests to God, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.
Again, sanctifying, under the law, consisted in abstaining from wives, washing the flesh, washing the clothes, and having a sacrifice offered for sins: which sacrifice pointed to the sacrifice of Christ; and the washing pointed out regeneration, that believers in Christ's days should be saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Washing the clothes typified the clean linen garments of praise, of humility, and of imputed righteousness, in which the believer should approach a mercy-seat, and minister to God in private, in his family, and at the house of God. Abstaining from wives, was to shew, that the lawful embraces of a wife would be kept in their proper place; and that she should be loved with a moderate, and not with an inordinate affection, when the soul is espoused to Christ; and this to be given up, wife and all, when the worship, service, or cause of God, required it: "He that loveth wife, or children, better than me, is not worthy of me;" and he that said, I have married a wife, and therefore cannot come, was excluded the supper.
Sanctification, as it respects us, is, in the highest sense, God's act of predestinating us to the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ, his choosing us in him, appointing our redemption by him, and our meetness for glory by the Spirit through him: all which was complete in God's secret purpose, and as sure to be done as he willed it to be done; on which account we are said to be sanctified by God the Father, in his purpose; preserved in Jesus Christ, in whom we were chosen; and called, by God, to the fellowship of Christ, as our covenant head; as it is written, "To them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called," Jude 1.
Such were the fowls, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, in Peter's sheet; which he refused to kill and eat, calling them things common and unclean; till the voice told him, "What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common."
Again, sanctification is by the death of Christ, who by his death blotted out the penal sum of our sins, magnified the law, and appeased the offended Majesty of heaven: in whose death God viewed the whole mystical body of Christ redeemed and cleansed in their head; who is one with the elect; who, by his one offering, hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified, Heb. x. 14. This was according to the pre determinate counsel, purpose, and will, of God; "By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Once more. Sanctification is by the Holy Ghost; who subdues the will, renews the mind, enlightens the understanding, and sheds abroad the love of God in the heart: "That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost," Rom. xv. 16. All this is willed and determined by the secret counsel of God; as it is written, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification."
Lastly, That such an highly-favoured soul should live, walk, and act, becoming an object of God's choice, the purchase of a Saviour's blood, and as a living temple of the Holy Ghost, redeemed from among men, set apart by the Spirit, and ordained for heaven, is called walking in sanctification: "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour," 1 Thess. iv. 4.
This appears to me to be, in short, a scriptural account of sanctification, and so far I understand it. But as to the sanctification that most men preach up in our days, I know no more what they mean by it, than they do who preach it.
Lastly, Thou wilt find, reader, the introduction to this sermon to be new, not mentioned when it was preached; but I was rather obligated to this by some few texts that have been handled against me. The method likewise differs from the discourse when delivered, but the substance is nearly the same. That thou mayest read without prejudice, and profit by reading, is the desire of,Thine to command,
In the Lord Jesus Christ,
THE MORAL LAW NOT INJURED BY THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL. .
THIS text has been no less than three times handled, or rather mangled, to knock your humble servant about the head, by a certain minister of the gospel.
When I was dismissed from Greenwich Tabernacle, which was accomplished through the instrumentality of the above gentleman, and other holy men, who refused to occupy a pulpit defiled by an elect sinner, I went and opened a place at Deptford The good man, previous to this, gave the people a timely warning; telling them to go, and read the fifth chapter, of Matthew's gospel, before they came to hear me. 'What had nobody any brains till he came!' &c. Soon after my opening the place at Deptford, I went to give them a lecture on a Wednesday evening: and some of my friends were informed that the same person intended to oppose me and my doctrine in an adjacent meeting-house the same night; which was accordingly done, and the opposition to my doctrine was drawn from the last verse of my text. And since that, the same text has been handled at Hammersmith; so that, upon the whole, Antinomianism, as the gospel is called, has received a deadly blow: therefore, it is needful that we examine the text, and see what it says against us and our doctrine, and so let my Antinomianism appear in public print.
In the beginning of this chapter, the Saviour ascends a certain mountain, and his disciples follow him; and, when he was seated, he opened his mouth and taught them. This was done in allusion to the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim. Six tribes of Israel were to stand on Mount Ebal, to curse; and six on Mount Gerizim, to bless, Deut. xxvii. 12. And when they had so done, the blessing was to be put on Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal, Deut. xi. 29. These two mountains were to represent Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. For Ebal, signifying a collection of old age, or a mass that disperses, fitly represents the bond children, who are in the flesh, collected together, and standing fast in the old Adam, under the yoke of Moses; which, at last, will be all dispersed, and carried away as with a flood. While Gerizim signifies piercers, or cutters and fitly represents the elect in union with the Saviour, in whose strength they speak like the piercings of a sword, and who are the Lord's wood-cutters, his battle-axe, and weapons of war, Jer. Li. 20. And so, in the spiritual signification, here are the first Adam and his family; and the second Adam and his family; or the children of the flesh, and the children of God; or, in other words, the bondwoman, and the free woman. Hagar is, in the figure, Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem, which is, and is in bondage with her children: but the heavenly Jerusalem is free, and is the mother of us all. Paul fixes the curse upon Mount Sinai; "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." And David fixes the blessing on Mount Zion; Upon Mount Zion hath God commanded the blessing; even life for evermore, Psal. cxxxiii.3. In allusion to Gerizim, the Saviour ascends this mount; and, having got his little church with him, which he had just founded, and which church is to stand to the world's end, he opens his mouth, and pronounces the blessings of the everlasting gospel upon them: and, to let us know that his little church was Mount Zion, he calls it a city set on a hill that cannot be hid; which city is Zion, the city of the great King; and which hill is God's holy hill of Zion. The city, the hill, and the church, are one and the same thing; and upon that mount Christ executes his Father's command: he pronounces the blessing.; and so he was commanded to do. For upon Mount Zion God commanded the blessing, and set his King upon that holy hill, to bestow it. Mount Calvary was to communicate all the blessings of dying love to Mount Zion, and pregnant Zion was to spread her little hills on every side; while the mountains should bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness. "There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains: the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon." Here is the first fulfilment of that prophecy; here is Christ, the first handful of corn, the firstfruits; and here is his little church, the firstfruits of his creatures. And as the cedars of Lebanon, when shaken with the wind, scatter their cones, and spread their seed; by which means thousands of young plants spring up, under the blessing of Providence, without human labour; so this handful of corn, and the fruits of it, being shaken from the Mosaic dispensation, and scattered by persecution, have, under the strong gales of the Holy Ghost, spread the word of eternal life throughout the world, while numerous young plants of righteousness have sprung up, the right-hand planting of God, that he may be glorified. But,
The Saviour carefully describes the case and inward state of those gracious souls upon whom his blessings are pronounced; no random arrows are discharged from his bow, nor is any uncertain artillery taken from his quiver, nor discharged by his valiant men of Israel; for though they fight, they never beat the air. He first discovers the case, and then pours in the oil.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." True spiritual poverty stands in a person's being made sensible, under the convincing and convicting operations of the Holy Spirit of power, that he is destitute of all true riches: he has no righteousness to appear in before God; but is miserable and entirely naked, exposed to wrath, to shame, and everlasting contempt, unless divine clemency interfere.
He owes five hundred pence, and has nothing to pay with. He owes obedience to the law; but has neither a heart to it, nor ability for it. He feels the arrow of spiritual famine; he is in want, husks he cannot now fill his belly with, and the bread of life is not as yet broken to him; he feels his need of it, and hears of it, which sharpens his appetite after it. "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" Nor has he got the hand of faith to feed himself with, therefore he cannot receive Christ, he cannot mix faith with the word, he cannot apply a promise, and faith not being strong enough to attend his prayers, he can bring no comfort home; he faints, because he cannot believe.
Such a poor soul has no certain dwelling-place; he eau place no confidence in the flesh, because of the plague of his heart; nor find any rest in his bones, because of his sin; nor can he see his soul sheltered in the cleft of the rock; he is exposed to the tempest, without a covert; and to the storm, without a hiding-place.
No beggar ever so ragged, so miserable, so destitute, so deplorable at the brass knocker, as such a soul at mercy's door; he is poor and wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, and he knows it; and what is still worse, he feels himself liable to eternal imprisonment. This is the poor and needy man who waits at Wisdom's gate, and watches every motion at the posts of her door: he hears that Wisdom hath killed her beasts and mingled her wine; and he pays all possible attention to her maidens, to see if his case is touched, his character described, or his name included when they bid the guests.
This is the poor man that useth entreaties; he is not too proud to beg, though he is unable to dig; nor is he above prayer; many a heavy sigh, many a silent groan, many a longing wish, many a bitter cry, many a humble confession, is poured forth in the midst of all unutterable shame and blushing. These are the poor in spirit; and as it is with poor beggars, so it is with such, they are despised, kicked and cuffed by all; devils, sinners, and hypocrites, are always sure to smite such. Nevertheless, these are the elect that cry day and night, and put their mouth in the dust, when they sue for a hope in God's mercy, and
Blessed are such. To be blessed, in the first place, is to have one's neck delivered from the legal yoke of precept, and one's soul redeemed and delivered from the terrible sentence of the law. The blessing and the curse never were put upon one and the same mountain, nor upon one and the same soul, at one and the same time. The sinner must come from Sinai, before he can get the blessing at Zion.
2. It is by faith that he comes from the ministration of death to the promise of life, or passes, as Christ saith, from death to life, so as to come no more into condemnation; such a believing soul is blessed with faithful Abraham, who obtained his blessing by faith, when he saw the Saviour's day on Mount Moriah. Such an one receives the promise of the Spirit through faith; the Spirit of life, and word of life, come both together; the word comes with power, in the Holy Ghost, and much assurance, and immediately union with the living vine and fellowship with the living God take place; and such have got the blessing in the best sense, and in every sense, which is life for evermore.
3. The whole cluster of blessings that attend the blessing of life now follow and flow in, in all their sweetness; a divine power sensibly guards and keeps the soul, the light of a propitious Father shines in the face of Jesus without a cloud and without a frown, which draws us nigh, and encourages to an holy freedom and familiarity; while pardoning, humbling, and comforting grace, heals the wounds, closes the breaches, and polishes out all the scars and wrinkles made by the fiery law, sin, and Satan; while the countenance of God shines upon the heart, and the way, when reconciliation, friendship and peace, flow like a river, and drive infidelity, devil and misery, all before them. This, says Jehovah, is my blessing. "The Lord bless thee and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." "Blessed are the poor in spirit,"
"For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Poverty of Spirit goes before, to empty us of self; to sap the empire of sin and Satan; to prepare the way, and make room. The kingdom follows after, and is set up and established on the ruins of the former. The poor soul comes out of the strong hold of Satan before he is crowned with grace: for, as the wise man saith, "Out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor," Eccles. iv. 14. Even the crowned head must become poor in spirit, if he be saved; or poor and wretched to all eternity, if he be lost. Spiritual poverty humbles the sinner's proud spirit, dissolves his stubbornness, and reduces him to a lowly mind and child-like disposition: which is needful; for Christ declares that, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."
The kingdom of heaven, first, signifies the gospel, with all its blessings, promises, and power. Hence it is called the gospel of the kingdom; and preaching it is called preaching the kingdom of God. Hence a person who is blessed with a savoury unctuous experience of the power of the gospel, and who is enlightened into the mysteries of it, is called a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven.
2. The kingdom of heaven signifies the empire of grace in the saints of God; where Satan is dethroned and cast out, and a superior power put forth and displayed; which, Christ says, is the kingdom of heaven within us; that as sin has reigned unto death by Adam's fall, so grace should reign unto life through the righteousness of Christ.
This kingdom within us stands not in word, which a fool may prate; nor in particular meats and drink, which the Pharisee may use; nor in meat and drink, which a Papist may refuse; but in a divine power which none but God's elect know. It stands, First, in justification; Secondly, in reconciliation and friendship; Thirdly, in regeneration; Fourthly, in the unutterable happiness and holy triumphs of, the soul under the Saviour's sceptre; and, Fifthly, in the habitual and perpetual indwelling and abiding of the Holy Ghost. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
But sometimes the kingdom of heaven means ultimate glory, which was prepared for the elect from the foundation of the world, and which it is God's good pleasure to give us, and into which the Saviour will one day introduce us. Whether, therefore, the kingdom of heaven means the gospel, the mysteries of the kingdom; or whether it means grace, or whether it means glory; the poor in spirit are heirs of it; to them it is given to know the mysteries, and to them God will give grace and glory. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed are they that mourn," under a sight and sense of their own sin and sinful state; sensible of their rebellion against a good and gracious God; who look at the Saviour whom they have pierced, and mourn with inward regret and contrition, with self-despair, self-abhorrence, and self-loathing; and who mourn at the abominations of a sinful world, and at the dreadful insults that are hourly offered to the majesty of heaven. "They shall be comforted;" their mourning shall be turned into rejoicing; their sackcloth shall be put off, and they shall be girded with gladness: Beauty shall be given for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
The tenderness, the affection, the loyalty, of such a pious mourner, shall be made manifest; and a sense of everlasting love shed abroad in the heart by the spirit, shall satisfy such a soul of the approbation of heaven. Enlargement of heart and unutterable love, faith in exercise and hope in vigour, heavenly smiles and pregnant promises, immortal sensations and glorious prospects, inward feelings and distant views, the operations of the Spirit and the coming of Titus, shall all conspire together to make such a soul drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. "Thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me." "His anger endureth but a moment: in his favour is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." That blessed Spirit that convinces them of sin, shall be their everlasting Comforter.
"Blessed are the meek." Not such as are naturally so, or those whose passions are soon touched, and easily moved, and upon which the empty orator plays his accursed game: for fleshly meekness, or native compassion and pity, has nothing but flesh and blood in view, and is often attended with hatred to God; it savours not the things of God, but those that be of men. The Arminian may have this, while the worst of war against God is carried on in the heart. This is not what is meant in my text. "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh." "Corruption cannot inherit incorruption." Natural affections are corrupt, and so is all meekness that flows from them. Nor does this meekness consist in a few crocodile tears, such as Esau might pour forth, or such as those shed who howled upon their beds, and yet assembled by troops in harlots houses. The meekness here meant is a fruit of the Spirit; and is produced under his operation, when he has convinced the sinner, convicted him, brought him in guilty by the word of God, stopped his mouth, and made him tremble. It is felt when the sinner ceases to kick, to murmur, to complain, to resist, and to rebel; when the heart is broken, and all human efforts are found to be useless; when the sinner's strength is all gone, and he is still, and knows that the Lord he is God; when the soul is resigned, submissive, and lies passive, viewing the justice of God, and confessing the justice of the sentence; sensible it can urge no plea in its own behalf, nor make any reply against the expected execution. This is real meekness and quietude. Come life, come death, come heaven, or come hell, such a soul appears as if he should no more resist. The Saviour, who was meek and lowly, and of whom we are all to learn, exercised this grace in the highest, when he said, "Not my will, but thine, be done." This is the last stage at which the awakened sinner arrives before the blessing comes. This brings him sensibly into the way of life. "The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way." With meekness the ingrafted word is received; and a meek and quiet spirit, in the sight of God, is of great price. But this meekness is of the Spirit of God; The fruit of the Spirit is meekness, temperance, Gal. v. 23. This grace comes with the Spirit from the fullness of the Saviour, and is called his. "I beseech you by the meekness of Christ." It is a grace exercised toward him, under his hand, and in his cause; and is always attended with self-dislike, with lowliness of mind, and with quietude of heart. "Blessed are the meek,"
"For they shall inherit the earth." Not the present earth, as it now stands, for this is given into the hand of the wicked; but rather the new heaven, and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, and no wickedness; or righteous men, and no sinners. This is the heavenly country that Abraham sought, the land which is very far off, where the King is to be seen in all his beauty.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." The sinner that hungers after righteousness, is sensible that he has none of his own: he is condemned on every hand for the want of righteousness; if he reads the law, it condemns him for his transgressions; if he reads the gospel, he is condemned because he cannot believe; if he looks to conscience, it accuses him of unrighteousness. He condemns himself in every thing he does; if he hears the word, he is condemned in the congregation of the righteous, and he knows and feels, that the unrighteous cannot enter the kingdom. The sentence of condemnation awakens a whole troop of terrors against him; and servile fear, with a train of torments, attend him; Moses, Satan, and conscience, accuse him, and he has no righteousness to answer for him. His nakedness, guilt, and shame, confound him; and the thoughts and terrible apprehensions of appearing before God, angels, and saints, in such a predicament, in the great and terrible day, distract him. These dreadful views, sensations, and expectations, make him hunger, thirst, and pant, for righteousness, as the chased hart for the water-brook; for he knows he must perish without it, and he cannot rest till he has it. And blessed are such hungry souls, "For they shall" most surely
"Be filled." Not with their own righteousness; for human performances can never satisfy the capacious desires of an immortal soul, which are kindled by the Spirit of judgment, and by the Spirit of burning, for he cannot stand before a divine law, without a divine righteousness. Man's iniquities are infinite, Job xxii. 5; committed against an infinite Being; and he that redeems and justifies, must be an infinite person. The Saviour's obedience to the law, and not the sinner's own, is that in which he must be found, if ever he appears righteous. The dignity of the person that obeyed in the sinner's room, makes his obedience of infinite value. "He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet took on him the form of a servant, and became obedient;" and by the obedience of this Holy One shall many be made righteous: with this righteousness God is well pleased; this he accepted on our account; the gospel reveals it as the righteousness of God; God brings it near, and imputes it; faith puts it on; and the Spirit lets us know it is done, and bears his witness to the glorious work. We are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. This righteousness, and only this, can fill the soul, as the text says. When this change of raiment is put on, Satan skulks off, filled with the furious rebukes of God, like a betrayed; malicious villain, as he is; Moses, with his accusations, vanishes, and is lost in the glorious vision, and we know not what is become of him; and being so taken up with the King in his beauty, we neither ask, nor wish to know where he died, nor where he was buried; Jesus is all in all, and at such times he leaves no room for another. This righteousness enables the sinner to lift up his head to God, and to look conscience out of countenance; yea, to look to the day of judgment with celestial triumph, mercy rejoicing against judgment. The fiery law appears quenched in a Saviour's blood, and the everlasting gospel shines like a million suns. "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." What poor, patched-up, pitiful linsey-woolsey garments of righteousness, do those preachers bring forth, who are strangers to the King's wardrobe! A bed too short for a weary soul to rest on, and a covering too narrow for a soul convinced of its nakedness to wrap itself in, Isai. xxviii. 20. Souls once enrobed with the royal raiment of needle-work, will never fetch their apparel from Ragfair; for the nakedness and beggary of such preachers appear conspicuous enough, to souls thus enlightened, in all they say, in all they do, in all they preach, and in all they write; none covet their state, or envy their happiness, but fools and blind.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Not the mercy of carnal men is meant, for the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel; and though sinners love sinners, and give to sinners, yet they have not the reward of eternal inheritance for that; it is not done to the least of Christ's brethren, and so it is not done to him. Natural men, by their liberal acts, may procure a sort of ceremonial consecration on what they have; as the Saviour said to the Pharisees, "Give alms of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you." But though this righteousness may profit the sons of men, what does such a person give to God? Job xxxv. 7, 8. These things can neither merit, nor procure the sure mercies of David, they come without any procuring cause in man; besides, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; and without faith it is impossible to please God, much less merit at his hands. Moreover, these blessings are pronounced on the disciples of Christ, who believed in him, and followed him, and who themselves had obtained mercy so to do. Merciful men, in the language of scripture, are righteous persons and heirs of heaven. "The righteous perish, and no may layeth it to heart; merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken from the evil to come: he shall enter into peace," Isai. lvii. 1, 2. These disciples were chosen in Christ, and given to him; God had blessed them in him, and sent him to bless them, and he was now about it. As they had obtained mercy, to make them merciful, he blessed the merciful, and promised that they should obtain more mercy, which they would want to help them in every time of need: As Paul says, "Having obtained mercy, I continue to this day." A merciful man is merciful to the souls of men, which he shews in praying for them, warning them, holding forth the word of life clearly and unadulterated to them, anti declaring faithfully the whole counsel of God; which is sowing to ourselves in righteousness, and reaping in mercy. Such a subject of divine mercy feels for troubled souls, sympathizes with them, succours them, and bears a part of their burdens, gives them wholesome advice and counsel, and anoints them with fresh oil in the name of the Lord; whereas a graceless sinner, an empty professor, or a legal preacher, is nothing but a barren wilderness, or a physician of no value.
God's sovereign mercy is the sure mercies of David, which God gave to Jesus the son of David, that be might communicate the same to the whole household of David, which is his own church; and when this mercy is bestowed on men, it makes them merciful men. This mercy appears in God's revealing his Son in us, and uniting us to him: "But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." It appears in the gift of the Spirit: "Of his own mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Such souls having obtained mercy, they faint not, either in preaching mercy, or in shewing mercy, either to the bodies or souls of men, though they meet with much opposition in it, and cruel treatment for it. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;" not only to help them in every time of need, while in a militant state, but such shall find mercy of the Lord in that great day, Tim. i. 18.
"Blessed are the pure in heart." This purity of heart is, not the external varnish of a Pharisee, nor the boasted perfection of an hypocrite, nor the empty dream of the carnally secure; for though they are pure, yet it is only in their own eyes, not being washed from their filthiness, Prov. xxx. 12. Nor is it the double portion of sanctity that those claim, "Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou." These pious souls are a smoke in God's nose, and a fire that burneth all the day, Isa. lxv. 5. Nor does it consist in the final destruction or entire removal of the inbeing of sin, for "who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" Nor is it to be found in those who by a little decent carriage, and conformity to the letter of the law, aim at purity. For they that sanctify themselves, and they that purify themselves, shall both be consumed together, Isai. lxvi. 17. This purity of heart stands in having the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and that by the blood of sprinkling, which speaks pardon, peace, and reconciliation, which are better things than that of Abel. Such an one, and only such, can serve God with a pure conscience. It is the faith of God's elect that first applies the atonement; and ever after has recourse to that fountain in every time of need, not only to wash the feet, but also the hands and the head, from all the imperfections, failings, infirmities, short-comings, &c. that cleave to our best performances; "For in many things we offend all." Thus God purifies our hearts by faith, Acts xv. 9. Men who are destitute of this faith, and who never received this atonement, are as destitute of internal purity as the prince of devils. "Unto the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled." The man whose sins are forgiven him, and whose conscience is purged from guilt and dead works, who is renewed by the Spirit, who is a believer in Jesus, and holds fast the truth of the gospel as it is in Christ, is the man that holds the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. These are the people to whom the Lard turns a pure language, and such bring to the Lord a pure offering.
Purity of heart stands in soundness, integrity, constancy, and sincerity; being purged by the Spirit, and in the furnace, from the dross and tin of self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, deceit, guile, craftiness, hypocrisy, and dissimulation. "I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried;" I will take away all their dross and tin, and make a man more precious than the golden wedge of Ophir, Isai. xiii. 12. Such a soul hates deceit, and loves sincerity; and, "He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the King shall be his friend." And so it seems; for thus saith the King, "Blessed are the pure in heart,"
"For they shall see God." "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This is no less than seeing him who is invisible; it is seeing him in his own rays, by faith, who is invisible to mortal sight. But the text means that such souls shall not be separated or banished from God and his presence; but they shall see him with acceptance, and with approbation, as their dear and everlasting Father. "In that day, I shall shew you plainly of the Father;" you shall see his face without a cloud, and hear his voice without a proverb. The text means an eternal abiding with him, in whose favour is life, in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore. It means further, a perfect deliverance from the remains of the old veil, the napkin, and the weeds that are at present wrapped about our heart and head, which too often blindfold and hoodwink us; and, when we creep out of the dark regions, we go blinking and nodding like an owl in the sun, being not able to bear the light: For we know but in part, and prophesy in part; we look through a glass darkly; but in that day the glass will give way to the face; we shall not wrap our face in a mantle, nor will God dwell in thick darkness: the vail will be rent from the top to the bottom; and, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," for ever and ever; we shall then see as we are seen, and know as we are known. The winding-sheet and the napkin shall both be left in the tomb; and mortality, with all her rags and tatters, be swallowed up of life, and immortality be all in all. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
"Blessed are the peacemakers." Peacemakers must have peace in possession; they must be sons of peace before they can make peace. An unbeliever is a very improper person to stand in the gap, or make up a breach, either between Christ and his children, or between saint and saint; for he is an enemy to both parties, and can never wish well to either. We may say of such peacemakers, as Jehu said of the son of witchcraft, "What hast thou to do with peace? Get thee behind me." Peace flows from the counsel of heaven: For mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other, in the person of Christ, when he undertook to satisfy righteousness, fulfil and honour truth, open a way for mercy, and make peace by the blood of his cross.
Peace presupposes a war subsisting between two parties, and is brought about by the interposition of a middle person, who appears in the character of a mediator; and this mediator is Christ, who suffered the sword of Justice to be sheathed in his own heart, that peace between God and elect sinners might be proclaimed upon honour able and everlasting terms.
To this peace we were predestinated and ordained from eternity; on which account we are called sons of peace, before peace is revealed to us. "Into whatsoever house ye enter, say, peace be to this house; and if the son of peace be there, your peace shall come upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again."
Peace, in the revelation of it to the sinner's father loves and provides for his offspring, sees to their education, and endeavours to lay up some. thing for them. So Christ is the everlasting Father; the elect are his seed; he gives them eternal life, and the promise of the life that now is. All his children are taught of him; they are trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and it is not yet known what that goodness is that he has laid up for them that trust in him before the sons of men. I come now to treat of the blessed effects of this mystical union.
And, first, persons in real union are divested of all prejudice to, and have a mutual affection for, each other. And so the sinner is sweetly reconciled to his reconciling Lord, and loves him above every object in heaven above or in the earth beneath. "Whom have I in heaven but thee, nor is there any upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee." Christ and his church, in union, deal with each other as real friends; they are well-wishers to each other's state, to their welfare, their family, and all that they have. And so souls in union with Christ wish well to Zion, to her watchmen, and desire the universal spread of the gospel, the salvation of the elect, and that Christ may be glorified in and by them all.
Christ deals not with those who are in union with him as he does with bond servants and hypocrites. "The servant knoweth not what his Lord doth," nor does Christ take into his privy council the treacherous heart. "But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man." But to his own elect he reveals all his heart. "Henceforth I call you not servants, but, friends, for all things that I have heard of the Father I have made known unto you." Yea, "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant." But these things are hid from the wise and prudent, for none of the wicked shall understand.
None but the elect, in friendship with the Lord, are admitted to his banquets of wine, or to the feast of fat things on Zion's holy mountain. The marriage feasts, the feast of tabernacles, the feast of harvest, and the feast of the passover, are all for Israelites. The enemy, the sophist, the bond slave, and the hypocrite, are no more than lookers-on at these entertainments; who envy every smiling countenance, are provoked at every contrite heart, and filled with infernal jealousy at every quiet spirit, at every penitential tear, at every rapture of joy, at every expression of thankfullness; and inwardly grudge every token for good, every savoury morsel, every drop of honey, and every sweet word, that savours of truth, peace, and righteousness; but, notwithstanding all their grudging and dissatisfaction, the kind invitation and hearty welcome reaches to all the friends of the bridegroom, and none else. "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."
Persons who are in union with the Saviour find help in every time of trouble; while the worlding, when his earthly god is gone, and the hypocrite, when Iris sandy foundation and vain confidence give way, are obliged to fly, like Judas, to a dumb dog, or go, like Saul, to the witch of Endor, or, like Demas, to the world, or, like Ahithophel, to the halter, or, like Alexander, to the blasphemers of Christ, or, like the sons of Sceva the Jew, into the madness or distraction of Satan, or else, like the foolish virgins, to buy oil of the wise when fearfullness surprises the hypocrites; but Zion comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved, whose strength is made perfect in her weakness. "Zion shall never be moved; God is in the midst of her; God shall help her, and that right early."
The hypocrite may walk with the righteous, as Ahithophel walked with David, to the house of God in company; and such may go to and fro to the place of the holy, and be forgotten in the city where they had so done. But Zion, like Enoch and Noah, walks with God; she shall never be forgotten, "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance."
The believer knows that the government of both the church and the world is laid upon Christ's shoulders, who lends his friendly aid to those that trust in him in every time of need; and, when they are pressed beyond measure, insomuch that they despair even of life, they have the sentence of death in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves, but in God who raiseth the dead. Such souls cast their burdens on the Lord, and pour out their soul before him, who gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Thus, when two walk together, if one fall, the other will lift up his fellow; but wo to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to lift him up.
Furthermore, the soul that is in union with the Saviour is often alarmed, warned, and previously cautioned, of approaching dangers, while the judgments of God are far above out of the sight of the wicked. A wise man discerns both time and judgment, he foresees the evil, and hides himself; when the wicked pass on, and are punished. "When he, the Comforter, is come, he will guide you into all truth, and he shall shew you things to come;" but the wicked cry, Peace and safety, when sudden destruction cometh.
Souls in union with Christ daily correspond with each other. They talk to him in confession, in prayer, in praises, in meditation, and in thanksgiving; and he talks to them in his word upon their hearts, in providences, by the cross, by internal changes of heart, or by some evident token for good. But the bond child and the hypocrite have no familiarity with Christ, no access to him, nor intercourse with him. All their talk is not to God, but to be heard of men; to seek honour from them, and to set themselves up in the affections of the simple, as rivals to God; which is a prelude to their ruin; for they that exalt themselves shall be abased, but those that humble themselves shall be exalted.
The soul that is in union and friendship with Christ cannot bear any distance, coldness, frown, shyness, or controversy, with him. This is worse to them than death itself, esteeming his favour better than life, anti the words of his month more than their necessary food; hence the following complaints; "Why hidest thou thy face from me?" "Shew me the reason wherefore thou contendest with me." "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me." The Comforter, that should relieve my soul, is far from me. O Lord, why shouldest thou be as a man astonished, why shouldest thou be as a wayfaring man that turneth aside and tarrieth but for a night; O when wilt thou come and comfort me? Jer. xiv. 8, 9.
But the mystical courtship and love visits that pass between Christ and his spouse; the little fits of jealousy, and provocations to it; the trial of each other's affections, and the sifting of each other's sincere intentions to the bottom; the restlessness, While one doubt or suspicion remains; and the racking anxiety, till every thing be settled upon a sure, honourable, and lasting foundation, to the satisfaction of each party; is all a riddle to the formalist and to the hypocrite. The whole work of such lies in their head; thinking passes for believing, presumption for the assurance of faith, an external reformation is called conversion to God, legal bondage goes for the workings of the old man, the checks of an honest conscience is called the temptations of Satan, and being buffeted for their faults is being persecuted for righteousness sake; the preacher, who preaches to sap such a sandy foundation, is one that makes the hearts of the righteous sad; while he that heals them slightly, and prophesies smooth things, is a builder up; and he that cries, Peace, peace, where God has not spoken peace, is a man of candour, a man of a sweet and excellent spirit. This is the rest and security of an hypocrite, and hard work he has to keep things together; scripture, con, science, and every experimental and discerning child of God, are against him, and are continually making breaches in this supposed rest and refuge. The soul and Christ, who are in sweet union together, have a tender feeling for each other, and a tender regard for each other's honour. The sufferings of Christ often fill such a soul with cutting grief and contrition; and all that touch such a believer, saith the Lord, shall offend. Such souls cannot endure to see or hear the Lord slightly or evil spoken off "I hate them that hate thee," saith the Psalmist; and they that hate Zion shall be desolate, saith the Saviour. They care not how lightly themselves are esteemed, so as their Lord is glorified; and the Lord is as much concerned for the honour of them. "They that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
But not so the hypocrite; he pays no regard to the honour of God, so as he can but exalt himself in the eyes of men. They that cleave to him, admire him, and listen with astonishment to the uncertain sound of his trumpet, however evil in life and empty in heart, are his best friends; but all that are enlightened to see his deception are the worst enemies he has; nor will he go to the wise, nor to him that reproves him; he hates the light, and that is his condemnation.
Furthermore, Christ and his church are not only united in the bond of the covenant, and in mutual affections, but they are of one judgment. What he reveals, they consent to; what he says, they credit; what he applies, they embrace; what he speaks to them, the Spirit seals on them; and they set their hand, and bear their testimony, to his seal that God is true. The seal is a confirming assurance, and their setting to their seal is their ? honest confession of what they feel and enjoy. This faith gives glory to the Lord; and thus to believe is the saint's glory and wisdom. To be ;vise above what is written is devilish or infernal wisdom; to disbelieve or contradict truth, is to make God a liar, and charge infinite wisdom with ignorance, and to debase him to a level with Satan, than which nothing can be more vile and damnable. From this perilous path the fear of God keeps the saints. What they have seen in the Lord's light they testify; what they have heard from him they proclaim upon the house top; what they have felt they declare; and what is undiscovered they pray and wait for; but what is not revealed they dare not enter into; and what is not discovered to them they will not decide upon, lest Satan should get an advantage of them, and their dear Lord be dishonoured. All that an heretic draws out of the mouth of a child of God is sure to be pondered over in secret, and his lips are kissed when a right answer has been given.
O happy soul that is thus united to, and humbly walks with, his Saviour! The Lord guides him by his blessed Spirit, his eye, and his unerring counsel; while faith observes his motions and directions, and treads in his steps.
He plants his fear in his heart; and the believer walks, as in his immediate presence, before him in love; and considers himself under the eye of his everlasting friend, who ponders all his goings.
He feels a bar of equity erected in his own heart; to which, upon every recollection of misdoing, he cites himself; and will hold himself guilty, and culpable, till acquitted by the Spirit of God and his own conscience, and enlarged by a manifestation of pardoning love and the soul-humbling smile of his Saviour and his Judge.
The Lord daily proclaims his name to him, and causes all his goodness to pass before him; while the believer follows after and observes his wondrous ways, the work of his hands, the leadings of his providence, the communications of his grace, and the inward motions of his Spirit. "He that will observe these things, even he shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord."
The eye of faith discerns the narrow path; and by the inward guidance of the Spirit, he shuns the rocks of error, the stumblingblocks and stumbling stones, where thousands dash and fall: he sees a harmony in the scriptures of truth, and a sweet harmony in the attributes of God, and in the glorious work of each person in the Godhead. A heavenly ray discovers the ancient footsteps of the flock, and his path shines more and more unto perfect day.
While he walks humbly by faith, he finds himself sensibly upheld by a free spirit; the omnipresence of his blessed Lord encompasses him about as with a shield, which lifts his soul above the shackles of legal bondage, and rescues his mind from the gloomy regions of the shadow of death, and from the melancholy meditations of terror. "He dwells on high, his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks, bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure; thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty, they shall behold the land that is very far off."
The dear Lord often condescends to pay such humble souls his love visits: he sometimes meets them in their thoughts, and speaks upon their hearts; sometimes he meets them in his word, and makes them feel all that he says; meets them in their lawful calling, and puts his blessing on the work of their hands; meets them in their difficulties, and makes crooked things straight; meets them in his house of prayer, and gives them sometimes a reproof, and sometimes a promise. Thus the Almighty is with them, and his visitations preserve their spirits. I will bear thee, saith the Lord, from the belly, and from the womb, and to your old age I am he, and to hoary hairs will I carry you.
Christian reader, cleave thou to thy God, and shun the path of the destroyer; stand not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor meddle with them that are given to Change. Novelty suits an itching ear; but a circumcised ear will not give heed to a naughty tongue, nor will the unctuous heart be carried about with divers and strange doctrines. "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causes thee to err from the words [and ways] of wisdom." "Stolen waters are sweet" to a proud stomach, and "bread of deceit is pleasant" to the palate of those who carry the poison of asps under their lips; but in the day of temptation his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
I charged Mr. Loud, when with me, with having written some books, and of his intention to publish them, and with his having endeavoured to circulate his heresies to the injury of some of the weaklings in faith. All which he denied. But I am informed that he is now determined to publish them, if he pawns his clothes to do it. This shews that he will not stick at a lie. However, I must leave him where God has left him, to the perverseness of his own will, and the hardness of his own heart. He may serve as a fan, to blow away a little chaff from the floor, which we shall not be sorry for; and he may leave a testimony against his own soul; and the Judge of all the earth, who takes the wise in their own craftiness, may judge him out of his own mouth; but he shall never finally deceive one of God's elect. False doctrines, which are called the deceivableness of unrighteousness, never work effectually, only in them that perish. No soul shall embrace, hold fast, and go down to the grave with his lies in their hand, but those that were of old ordained to this condemnation. And I would advise him to send out his system as compact, and as closely put together, as possible; or else it is ten to one but the King of Zion, who teaches Judah the use of the bow, will furnish me with some arrows from his quiver that will make a way through all the joints of his harness. He that loveth and maketh lies should have a strong memory; and every lie must be well swaddled, and well varnished, or else truth will discover it. And let Mr. Loud take care never to mention the words, Son of man, as applicable to Christ, for the Godhead of Christ is the Father of all men by creation. "All things were made by him." But the father of all creatures can be the offspring of no creature. Neither divinity abstractedly considered, nor divinity incarnate, is the son of man, or son of David, but David's Lord. No nor even divinity transubstantiated into flesh and blood, according to Lord's notion, can ever be the fruit of David's loins; because, according to his tenet, the Godhead was changed into flesh in the virgin's womb, and took no more of her nature than his handkerchief. According to this, it never was in David's loins; consequently could never be a fruit that sprung from his body; for there was nothing of his body, or from his loins, in it. And by this doctrine what becomes of the oath of God? Psalm cxxxii. 11. But the human nature of Christ was once in the loins of Adam, and once in the womb of eve, and in the loins of forty-two ancients from Abraham to Mary; for all these, touching his human nature, were his ancestors and his fathers; of whom, as concerning the flesh, he came. But these fathers, who obtained such favour as to be the ancestors of such a wonderful and mysterious offspring, must now, in point of conversation, give way to the numerous offspring of their Son; whose children are much more talked of in the New Testament than the fathers are in the Old; as it is written, "Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations, therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever."
Reader, fare thee well. Peace and truth be with thee. May God the Holy Ghost, our teacher, guide, and comforter, in our pilgrimage, bless this testimony to thy soul's profit; which I believe to be a true testimony, and a testimony that will not be easily contradicted; and which will never be overthrown by arguments drawn from the word of God. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good will towards men." Amen and amen.
To MR. HUNTINGTON.
Sunday, Jan. 5, 1794.
BROTHER IN THE LORD,
I THANK my God for the grace given unto you, in that you are enabled in a measure to make a bold defence in behalf of the truth; also to divide the same according to the proportion of faith contained in the word of truth.
This morning I was comforted in beholding your steadfastness and order in your discourse. I looked pretty close at your steps. I saw that they were toward the highway. I do not remember of any dangerous turning you took in that sermon. You gave a good description of the countries I have passed through, corresponding with my own records thereof.
I heard you on Tuesday evening last at Monk-well street. You seemed to be favoured with great enlargement of heart, and fervour of spirit; but there was one thing you advanced that I cannot agree with; that rod and sceptre in scripture have the same meaning, is a thing which no man can solder together, let him blow the coals and smite the anvil as long as he will. For I have passed under the rod before I was brought into the bond of the covenant. The rod is for the fool's back; and those, that are not favoured with a touch of the sceptre, the rod will break in pieces, because they were not made wise and teachable; and because they kissed not the Son, in his wrath they perish from the way of touching the sceptre of his kingdom for ever; and those his enemies, his rod is heavy upon them. Blessed be the King for his mercy, that endureth ever.
Yours for the truth's sake,
Great Arthur street.