William Guthrie

Guthrie, The Christian's Great Interest. part 8

Although all these are dreadful sins, each of them deserving wrath everlasting, and, not being repented of, bringing endless vengeance; especially the last, cuts off hope of relief, for anything that can be expected in an ordinary way; yet none of these is the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost: and so under any of these there is hope to him that has an ear to hear the joyful sound of the covenant. All manner of such sin and blasphemy may be forgiven, as is clear in the Scripture, where these things are mentioned.
II.--What the sin against the Holy Ghost is
As for the second thing: Let us see what the sin against the Holy Ghost is. It is not a simple act of transgression, but a combination of many mischievous things, involving soul and body ordinarily in guilt. We thus describe it-'It is a rejecting and opposing of the chief gospel truth, and way of salvation, made out particularly to a man by the Spirit of God, in the truth and good thereof; and that avowedly, freely, wilfully, maliciously, and despitefully, working hopeless fear.' There be three places of Scripture which do speak most of this sin, and thence we will prove every part of this description, in so far as may be useful to our present purpose; by which it will appear, that none who have a mind for Christ need stumble at what is spoken of this sin in Scripture-- 'Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.' 'For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.' 'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?' (Matt. 12: 23-32; Heb. 6: 4-6; 10: 25-29.)
1. Then let us consider the object about which this sin, or sinful acting of the man guilty thereof, is conversant, and that is the chief gospel-truth and way of salvation; both which come to one thing. It is the way which God has contrived for saving of sinners by Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and Saviour, by whose death and righteousness men are to be saved, as He has held Him forth in the ordinances, confirming the same by many mighty works in Scripture tending thereto. This way of salvation is the object. The Pharisees oppose this that Christ was the Messiah-'And all the people said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils' (Matt. 12: 23, 24.) The wrong is done against the Son of God-'It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame' (Heb. 6: 6); and against the blood of the covenant, and the Spirit graciously offering to apply these things-'Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?' (Heb. 10: 29.) 2. In the description, consider the qualifications of this object. It is singularly made out to the party by the Spirit of God, both in the truth and good thereof. This faith,
1. That there must be knowledge of the truth and way of salvation. The Pharisees knew that Christ was the heir-'But when they saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill Him.' (Matt. 21: 38.) The party hath knowledge- 'But if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins' (Heb. 10: 26.)
2. That knowledge of the thing must not swim only in the head, but there must be some half-heart persuasion of it: Christ knew the Pharisees' thoughts (Matt. 12: 25); and so did judge them, and that the contrary of what they spoke was made out upon their heart. There is a tasting, which is beyond simple enlightening--'For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come,' etc. (Heb. 6: 4, 5.) Yea, there is such a persuasion ordinarily as leadeth to a deal of outward sanctification-'Who has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing.' (Heb. 10: 29.)
3. This persuasion must not only be of the verity of the thing, but of the good of it: the party 'tasteth the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come' (Heb. 6: 5); and he apprehendeth the thing as eligible.
4. This persuasion is not made out only by strength of argument, but also by an enlightening work of God's Spirit, shining on the truth, and making it conspicuous; therefore is that sin called, 'The sin against the Holy Ghost.' (Matt. 12: 31; Mark 3: 29.) The persons are said 'to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost' (Heb. 6: 4); and 'to do despite unto the Spirit of grace,' who was in the nearest step of a gracious operation with them. (Heb. 10: 29.)
5. In this description, consider the acting of the party against the object so qualified. It is a rejecting and opposing of it; which importeth,
1.) That men have once, some way at least, been in hands with it, or had the offer of it, as is true of the Pharisees.
2.) That they do reject, even with contempt, what they had of it, or in their offer. The Pharisees deny it, and speak disdainfully of Christ-'This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.' (Matt. 12: 24.) They fall away, intending to put Christ to 'an open shame.' (Heb. 6: 6.)
3.) The men set themselves against it by the spirit of persecution, as the Pharisees did still. They rail against it; therefore it is called 'blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.' (Matt. 12: 24, 31.) They would 'crucify Christ again' if they could. (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries. (Heb. 10: 17.)
4.) Consider the properties of this acting.
1. It is avowed, that is, not seeking to shelter or to hide itself. The Pharisees speak against Christ publicly-'But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.' (Matt. 12: 24.) They would have 'Christ brought to an open shame.' (Heb. 6: 6.) They forsake the ordinances which savour that way-'Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is'-and despise the danger; for, looking for indignation, they trample that blood still. (Heb. 10: 25, 27, 29.)
2. The party acteth freely. It is not from unadvisedness, nor from force or constraint, but an acting of free choice; nothing does force the Pharisees to speak against and persecute Christ. They 'crucify to themselves,' they redact the murder of their own free accord, and in their own bosom, none constraining them. They sin of free choice, or, as the word may be rendered, spontaneously--'For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.' (Heb. 6: 6; 10: 26.)
3. It is acted wilfully. They are so resolute, they will not be dissuaded by any offer, or take most precious means, as is clear in the aforesaid scriptures.
4. It is done maliciously, so that it proceeds not so much, if at all, from a temptation to pleasure, profit, or honour. It proceedeth not from fear, or force, or from any good end proposed, but out of heart-malice against God and Christ, and the advancement of His glory and kingdom: so that it is of the very nature of Satan's sin, who has an irreconcilable hatred against God, and the remedy of sin, because His glory is thereby advanced. This is a special ingredient in this sin. The Pharisees are found guilty of heart-malice against Christ, since they spake so against Him, and not against their own children's casting out devils: and this is the force of Christ's argument-'If I, by Beelzebub, cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?' (Matt. 12: 27.) They do their utmost 'to crucify Christ again, and to bring Him to an open shame.' (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries, like the devil.
5. It is done despitefully: the malice must betray itself. The Pharisees must proclaim that Christ has correspondence with devils: He must 'be put to open shame, and crucified again:' they must 'tread under foot that blood, and do despite to the Spirit:' so that the party had rather perish a thousand times than be in Christ's debt for salvation.
6. The last thing in the description is, the ordinary attendant or consequence of this sin; it induceth desperate and hopeless fear. They fear Him, whom they hate with a slavish, hopeless fear, such as devils have-'A certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.' (Heb. 10: 27.) They know that God will put out His power against them; they tremble in the remembrance of it; and if they could be above Him, and destroy Him, they would: and since they cannot reach that, they hate with the utmost of heart-malice, and do persecute Him, and all that is His, with despite.
III.-Conclusions bearing on the objections
As for the third thing proposed, viz., the conclusions to be drawn from what is said, whereby we will speak directly to the objection.
1. As I hinted before, since the sin against the Holy Ghost is so remarkable, and may be well known where it is, none should charge themselves with it, unless they can prove and establish the charge; for it is a great wrong done unto God to labour to persuade my soul that He will never pardon me: it is the very way to make me desperate, and to lead me into the unpardonable sin; therefore, unless thou can't and dare say that thou dost hate the way which God has devised for the saving of sinners, and dost resolve to oppose the thriving of His kingdom, both with Himself and others, out of malice and despite against God, thou oughtest not to suspect thyself guilty of this sin.
2. Whatsoever thou hast done against God, if thou dost repent of it, and wish it were undone, thou can't not be guilty of this sin; for in it heart-malice and despite against God do still prevail.
3. If thou art content to be His debtor for pardon, and world be infinitely obliged unto Him for it, then thou can't not, in this case, be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; for, as we showed before, they who are guilty of it do so despite God that they would not be His debtors for salvation.
4. Whatsoever thou hast done, if thou hast a desire after Jesus Christ, and dost look with a sore heart after Him, and cannot think of parting with His blessed company forever, or, if they must part with Him, yet dost wish well to Him, and all His, thou needs not suspect thyself to be guilty of this unpardonable sin; for there can be no such hatred of Him in thy bosom as is necessarily required to make up that sin.
5. If thou would be above the reach of that sin, and secure against it forever, then go work up thy heart to approve of salvation by Christ Jesus, and so close with God in Him, acquiescing in Him as the sufficient ransom and rest, as we have been pressing before, and yield to Him to be saved in His way. Do this in good earnest, and thou shalt for ever be put out of the reach of that awful thing wherewith Satan does affright so many poor seekers of God.
VI.--Objections from the want of power to believe answered
Object. Although I be not excluded from the benefit of the new covenant, yet it is not in my power to believe on Christ; for faith is the gift of God, and above the strength of flesh and blood.
Ans. It is true that saving faith, by which alone a man can heartily close with God in Christ, is above our power and is the gift of God, as we said before in the premises; yet remember,
1. The Lord has left it as a duty upon all who hear this gospel cordially by faith to close with His offer of salvation through Christ, as is clear from Scripture. And you must know, that although it be not in our power to perform that duty of ourselves, yet the Lord may justly condemn us for not performing it, and we are inexcusable; because at first he made man perfectly able to do whatsoever He should command.
2. The Lord commanding this thing, which is above our power, willeth us to be sensible of our inability to do the thing, and would have us to put it on Him to work it in us. He has promised to give the new heart, and He has not excluded any from the benefit of that promise.
3. The Lord uses, by these commands and invitations, and men's meditation on the same, and their supplication about the thing, to convey power unto the soul to perform the duty. Therefore, for answer to the objection, I do entreat thee, in the Lord 's name, to lay to heart these His commandments and promises, and meditate on them, and upon that blessed business of the new covenant, and pray unto God, as you can, over them, 'for He will be inquired of to do these things ' (Ezek. 36: 37); and lay thy cold heart to that device of God expressed in the Scripture, and unto Christ Jesus, who is given for a covenant to the people, and look to Him for life and quickening. Go and endeavour to approve of that salvation in the way God does offer it, and so close with, and rest on Christ for it, as if all were in thy power; yet, looking to Him for the thing, as knowing that it must come from Him; and if thou do so, He who meets those who remember Him in His ways (Isa. 64: 5), will not be wanting on His part; and thou shalt not have ground to say, that thou movedst toward the thing until thou couldst do no more for want of strength, and so left it at God's door. It shall not fail on His part, if thou have a mind for the business; yea, I may say, if by all thou hast ever heard of that matter, thy heart loveth it, and desireth to be engaged with it, thou hast it already performed within thee; so that difficulty is past before thou wast aware of it.
VII.--Objection arising from the complaints of believers as to unfruitfulness
Object. Many who have closed with Christ Jesus, as aforesaid, are still complaining of their leanness and fruitlessness, which makes my heart lay the less weight on that duty of believing.
Ans. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, you may not neglect it under any pretence. As for the complaints of some who have looked after Him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say-
1. Many, by their jealousies of God's love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them -'And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.' (Matt. 13: 58.) 2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ 'have found Him a wilderness.' (Jer. 2: 31.) Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in whose two great things, namely, how to be found in Him in that day--'Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith' (Phil. 3: 8, 9); - and how to show forth His praise in the land of the living, 'Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep Thy word.' (Psa. 119: 17.) 'Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living.' (Psa. 56: 13.) They find these two things existing in the soul, and that is much. Moreover, they shall, on due inquiry, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that the utmost abundance of the creature cannot satisfy their souls - all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when He breathes but a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This shows that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart--'Who is God but the Lord? Worship Him all ye gods.' (Psa. 97:
7.) Yea, further, those whose hearts have closed with God in Christ as aforesaid, will not deny that there has been seasonable preventing and quickening now and then when the soul was like to fail - 'For Thou preventest me with the blessings of Thy goodness.' (Psa. 21: 3.) 'When I said, my foot slippeth, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul.' (Psa. 94: 18, 19.) Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.
VIII.--Objection from ignorance regarding covenanting with God,-The nature of that duty unfolded
Object. Although I judge it my duty to close with God's device in the covenant, I am in the dark how to manage that duty; for sometimes God offers to be our God without any mention of Christ, and sometimes saith, that He will betroth us unto Him: and in other places of Scripture we are called to come to Christ, and He is the bridegroom. Again, God sometimes speaketh of Himself as a Father to men, sometimes as a Husband; Christ is sometimes called the Husband, and sometimes a Brother; which relations seem inconsistent, and do much put me in the dark how to apprehend God, when my heart would agree with Him and close with Him.
Ans. It may be very well said, that men do come to God, or close with Him, and yet they come to Christ, and close with Him. They may be said to come under a marriage-relation unto God, and unto Christ also, who is husband, father, brother, etc., to them; and there is no such mystery here as some do conceive. For the better understanding of it, consider these few things-
1. Although God made man perfect at the beginning, and put him in some capacity of transacting with Him immediately - 'God has made man upright' (Eccl. 7: 29); 'And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,' etc. (Gen. 2: 16, 17); yet man by his fall did put himself at such a distance from God, as to be in an utter incapacity to bargain or deal any more with him immediately.
2. The Lord did, after Adam's fall, make manifest the new covenant, in which he did signify he was content to transact with man again, in and through a mediator; and so did appoint men to come to Him through Christ -'He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him' (Heb. 7: 25); and to look for acceptance only in Him -'To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved' (Eph. 1: 6); ordaining men to hear Christ, He being the only party in whom God was well pleased--'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.' (Matt. 16: 5.) 3. This matter is so clear, and supposed to be so evident in the Scripture, and so manifest to all who are under the ordinances, that the Lord often speaks of transacting with Himself, not making mention of the mediator, because it is supposed that every one in the church knows that now there is no dealing with God, except by and through Christ Jesus the mediator.
4. Consider that Christ Jesus, God-man, is not only a fit place of meeting for God and men to meet in, and a fit spokesman to treat between the parties now at variance -'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself' (2 Cor. 5: 19); but we may say also, He is an immediate bridegroom; and so our closing or transacting with God may be justly called the marriage of the King's son, and the elect may be called the Lamb's wife; Christ Jesus being, as it were, the hand which God holdeth out to men, and on which they lay hold when they deal with God. And so through and by Christ we close with God, as our God, on whom our soul does terminate lastly and ultimately through Christ 'Who by Him do believe in God that raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.' (1 Peter 1: 21.)
5. Consider that the various relations mentioned in Scripture are set down to signify the sure and indissoluble union and communion between God and His people. Whatsoever connexion is between head and members, root and branches, king and subjects, shepherd and flock, father and children, brother and brother, husband and wife, etc., all is here -'And they all shall be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfect in one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.' (John 17: 21-26.)
So that whatsoever is spoken in Scripture, people may be sure, that God calleth them to be reconciled unto Him through Christ, and does offer Himself to be their God and husband in Him alone: and men are to accept God to be their God in Christ, approving of that way of relief for poor man, and to give up themselves unto God in Christ, in whom alone they can be accepted. And they who close with Christ, they do close with God and Him, who is in Christ, 'reconciling the world to Himself.' (2 Cor. 5: 19; John 14: 8-11.) And we are not to dip further into the different relations mentioned in Scripture between God or Christ and men, than as they may point out union and communion, or nearness with God through Christ Jesus, and our advantage thereby. These things being clear, we will not multiply words: but since to believe on Christ is the great duty required of all that hear this gospel, we entreat every one, in the Lord's name, to whom the report of this shall come, that without delay they take to heart their lost condition in themselves, and that they lay to heart the remedy which God has provided by Jesus Christ, whereof He has made a free offer unto all who will be content with the same, and to be saved that way; and that they lay to heart, that there is no other way of escape from the wrath that is to come, because of which men would be glad, at the last day, to run into a lake of melted lead, to be hid from the face of the Lamb, whom they do here despise; -we say, we entreat all, in the consideration of these things, to work up their hearts to this business, and to lay themselves open for God, and to receive Him through Christ in the offers of the gospel, acquiescing in Him as the only desirable and satisfying good, that so they may secure themselves. Go speedily and search for His offers of peace and salvation in the Scripture, and work up your heart and soul to close with them, and with Christ in them, and with God in Christ; and do it so, as you may have this to say, that you were serious, and in earnest, and cordial here, as ever you were in any thing to your apprehension; and, for aught you know, Christ is the choice of your heart, at least you neither know nor allow anything to the contrary; whereupon your heart does appeal unto God, to search and try if there be aught amiss, to rectify it, and lead you into the right way. Now, this cleaving of the heart unto Him, and casting itself upon Him to be saved in His way, is believing; which does, indeed, secure a man from the wrath that is to come, because now he has received Christ, and believeth on Him, and so shall not enter into condemnation, as saith the Scripture.
IX.--Doubts as to the inquirer's being savingly in covenant with God answered
When I hear what it is to believe on Christ Jesus, I think sometimes I have faith; for I dare say, to my apprehension, I approve of the plan of saving sinners by Christ Jesus; my heart goes out after Him, and does terminate upon Him as a satisfying treasure; and I am glad to accept God to be my God in Him: but I often question if ever I have done so, and so am, for the most part, kept hesitating and doubting if I do believe, or am savingly in covenant with God.
Ans. It is not unusual for many, whose hearts are gone out after Christ in the gospel, and have received Him, to bring the same in question again: therefore I shall advise one thing, as a notable help to fix the soul in the maintaining of faith and an interest in God, and that is, that men not only close heartily with God in Christ, as aforesaid, but also that they 'expressly, explicitly, by word of mouth, and viva voce, and formally close with Christ Jesus, and accept God's offer of salvation through Him, and so make a covenant with God.' And this, by God's blessing, may contribute not a little for establishing them concerning their save interest in God. Certain things premised concerning personal covenanting Before I speak directly to this express covenanting with God, I premise these few things:-
1. I do not here intend a covenanting with God essentially differing from the covenant between God and the visible church, as the Lord does hold it out in His revealed will; neither do I intend a covenant differing essentially from the transacting of the heart with God in Christ, formerly spoken unto: it is that same covenant; only it differeth by a singular circumstance, namely, the formal expression of the thing which the heart did before practice.
2. I grant this express covenanting and transacting with God is not absolutely necessary for a man's salvation; for if any person close heartily and sincerely with God, offering Himself in Christ in the gospel, his soul and state are thereby secured, according to the Scripture, although he utter not words with his mouth; but this express verbal with God is very expedient, for the better well-being of a man's state, and for his more comfortable maintaining of an interest in Christ Jesus.
3. This express covenanting with God by word of mouth is of no worth without sincere heart closing with God in Christ joined with it; for, without that, it is but a profaning of the Lord's name, and a mocking of Him to His face, so 'to draw near unto Him with the lips, whilst the heart is far from Him.'
4. I grant both cordial and verbal transacting with God will not make out a man's gracious state unto him, so as to put and keep it above controversy, without the joint witness of the Spirit, by which we know what is freely given to us of God; yet this explicit way of transacting with God, joined with that heart-closing with Him in Christ, contributes much for clearing up to a man that there is a fixed bargain between God and him, and will do much to ward off from him many groundless jealousies and objections of an unstable mind and heart, which uses with shame to deny this hour what it did really act and perform the former hour. This explicit covenanting is as an instrument taken of what passed between God and the soul, and so has its own advantage for strengthening of faith. As for this express covenanting, we shall
1. Show that it is a very warrantable practice.
2. We shall show shortly what is previously required of those who do so transact with God.
3. How men should go about that duty.
4. What should follow thereupon.
I.--The thing itself is warrantable As to the first, I say, it is a warrantable practice and an incumbent duty, expressly and by word to covenant with God; which appeareth thus:
1. In many places of Scripture, if we look to what they may bear, according to their scope and the analogy of faith, God has commanded it, and left it on people as a duty--'One shall say, I am the Lord's.' 'Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.' (Isa. 44: 5; 45: 24.) 'Wilt thou not from this time cry unto Me, My Father, Thou are the guide of my youth.' (Jer. 3: 4.) 'They shall say, the Lord is my God' (Zech. 13: 9); 'Thou shalt call Me Ishi' (Hos. 2: 16); and in many places elsewhere. Now, since God has so clearly left it on men in the letter of the word, they may be persuaded that it is a practice warranted and allowed by Him, and well pleasing unto Him.
2. It is the approved practice of the saints in Scripture thus expressly to covenant with God, and they have found much comfort in that duty afterwards. David did often expressly say unto God, that He was his God, his portion, and that himself was His servant. Thomas will put his interest out of question with it -'And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord, and my God.' (John 20: 28.) Yea, I say, the saints are much quieted in remembrance of what has passed that way between God and them -'Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.' 'I cried unto Thee, O Lord, I said, Thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living.' (Psa. 73: 25; 142: 5.) We find it often so in the book of the Canticles. Now, shall the chief worthies of God abound so much in a duty, which produces so much peace and satisfaction to them in many cases, and shall we, under the New Testament, unto whom access is ministered abundantly, and who partake of the sap of the olive; shall we, I say, fall behind in this approved method of communion with God? Since we study to imitate that cloud of witnesses in other things, as faith, zeal, patience, etc., let us also imitate them in this.
3. The thing about which we here speak is a matter of the greatest concernment in all the world. 'It is the life of our soul' (Deut. 32: 47.) Oh! shall men study to be express, explicit, plain, and peremptory, in all their other great businesses, because they are such: and shall they not much more be peremptory and express in this, which does most concern them? I wonder that many not only do not speak it with their mouth, but that they do not swear and subscribe it with their hand, and do not everything for securing of God to themselves in Christ, and themselves unto God, which the Scriptures does warrant -'One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.' (Isa. 44: 5.) This also may have its own weight, as an argument to press this way of covenanting with God, that the business of an interest in Christ, and of real and honest transacting with Him, is a thing which, in the experience of saint, is most frequently brought into debate and in question; therefore, men had need all the ways they can, even by thought, word, and deed, to put it to a point. This also may be urged here for pressing this as a duty, that God is so formal, express, distinct, and legal, to say so, in all the business of man's salvation, namely, Christ must be a near kinsman to whom the right of redemption does belong; He must be chosen, called authorized, and sent; covenants formally drawn between the Father and Him, the Father accepting payment and satisfaction, giving formal discharges, all done clearly and expressly. Shall the Lord be so express, plain, and peremptory in every part of the business, and shall our part of it rest in a confused thought, and we be as dumb beasts before Him? If it were a marriage between man and wife, it would not be judged enough, although there were consent in heart given by the woman, and known to the man, if she did never express so much by word, being in a capacity to do so. Now, this covenant between God and man is held out in Scripture as a marriage between man and wife -'And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.' (Hos. 2: 19, 20.) 'For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.' (2 Cor. 11: 2.) The whole song of Solomon speaketh it. The Lord uses similitudes, to signify unto us what He intends; and surely this is a special requisite in marriage, that the wife give an express and explicit consent unto the business: the man saith -'So I take thee to be my lawful wife and do oblige myself to be a dutiful husband.' The woman is obliged, on the other part, to express her consent, and to say -'Even so I take thee to be my lawful husband, and do promise duty and subjection.' It is so here; the Lord saith, 'I do betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt call me Ishi,' that is, my husband. (Hos. 2: 16.) I will be for thee as a head and husband, if 'thou wilt not be for another.' (Hos. 3: 3.) The man ought to answer, and say, Amen, so be it; Thou shalt be my God, my Head, and Lord, and I shall and will be Thine, and not for another -'I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine.' (Cant. 6: 3.) And so this making of the covenant with God is called 'a giving of the hand to Him,' as the word is -'Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into His sanctuary, which He has sanctified for ever; and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you' (2 Chron. 30: 8); which does intimate a very express, formal, explicit, and positive bargaining with God. So then, we conclude it to be an incumbent duty, and an approved practice necessary for the quieting of a man's mind, and his more comfortable being in covenant with God, and more fully answering God's condescension and offer in that great and primary promise -'I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.' Not only may and should people thus expressly close with God in Christ for fixing their heart; but they may upon some occasions renew this verbal transaction with God, especially when, through temptations, they are made to question if they have really and sincerely closed covenant with God. As they are then to put out new acts of faith, embracing Christ as the desirable portion and treasure, and also upon other occasions, so it were expedient, especially if there remain any doubt as to the thing, that by viva voce and express words they determine that controversy, and say of the Lord, and to Him, that He is their refuge and portion (Psa. 91: 2; 142: 5.) We find the saints doing so, and we may imitate them. Especially,
1. In the time of great backsliding, people were wont to renew the covenant with God, and we should do so also. Our heart should go out after Christ in the promises of reconciliation with God: for He is our peace upon all occasions, and our Advocate; and we are bound to apprehend Him so, when we transgress -'If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous' (1 John 2: 1); and to express so much by word, as the saints did in their formal renewing of the covenant.

(continued in part 9...)

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