GOD AND MAN.
(Continued - from "Man's Enmity"))
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in
your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his
flesh, through death", Co1. 1. 21, 22.
We have, from the former words of this text, shewn the fearful, horrid state of unconverted sinners; that as such they are alienated and enemies in their mind, by wicked works, and come now to shew, from the words that follow, the blessed state of the converted. You now hath he reconciled, &c. Here is instance given of the happiest change that ever was made in the case of sinful wretched creatures; and far above all our expectations, if we had not been told, that as far as the heavens are above the earth, so far, in acts of mercy, are Gods ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts, Isa. iv. 9. Otherwise, when we hear of a sort of creatures that were fallen from God, and gone into rebellion against him, that were alienated and enemies to him in their minds by wicked works; one would be in suspense, and say, Well, and what became of the business? how did it issue? what was the event? and would expect to hear, why fire came down from heaven upon them, and consumed them in a moment; or the earth opened, and swallowed them up quick. Yea, and if the matter were so reported to us, if we did hear fire and brimstone, flames and thunderbolts, immediately came down upon them, and destroyed them in a moment; who would not say, So I thought, who could expect otherwise? But that it should be said, such as were alienated from God, and his very enemies in their mind, by wicked works, those hath his own Son reconciled ! into what a transport of wonder and praise would this cast any considering mind and with what amazement would it make us cry out, O what hath God wrought, what wonders can the power of divine grace bring about! How unexpected, how surprising a thing is this? Especially when we also consider how this was brought to pass, the Son of God effected it in the body of his own flesh, through death, He died for it, rather than such impure venomous worms, and that were as weak and defenceless as they were vile and wicked, should at last suffer the dreadful consequences of so desperate aud unequal a war against the Almighty ; which could not be other than their own ruin and eternal death, he chose himself to die for them. This is the strange amazing subject we have to consider; and we cannot but confess and consider it as a strange thing, if we were on]y told it as that which had fallen out, in some other country, in any remote part of the world, or in some other world. But when we understand, as for the former part, this is the common case of men on earth, and therefore that it was our own case, to have been alienated from God and enemies to him in our minds by wicked works ; and as to the latter part, that to us the proposal and offer is made of being reconciled, in this strange way! in what agonies, in what consternation of spirit should we be, when we can with greatest certainty say the former, if we cannot say the latter ! And if we can, in what a transport ! in what raptures of admiration, joy, and praise, should we say it Any of us who hath heard, or now reads these words, even me who was alienated, and an enemy in my mind, by wicked works, yet me now hath he reconciled ! Can we say so ? how should your heart leap, and spring within you, at tlse reciting of these words! And if you cannot as yet say this, with particular application, and it does not therefore raise a present joy, yet it may beget hope in you for think within yourself, if with one the matters have been brought to this blessed issue, why may it not with me? and upon the one account, or the other, now set yourself seriously to consider these latter words. And that you may do so with the more advantage, take distinct notice of these two things, that are to be severally treated of, -
1. Of this blessed work itself, brought about by your merciful and glorious Redeemer : reconciliation with God. "You hath he reconciled." -
2. The wonderful way wherein he hath effected it "In the body of his flesh, through death." 1. Consider this reconciliation itself. Which that we may do with just advantage, both to the truth and ourselves, we must take heed of too much narrowing so important a subject ; but take it in its due extent and compass, as comprehending all that truly belougs to it ; And so it must be understood to be mutual between God and us ; and to include both our reconciliation to him, and his reconciliation to us. Thus the proper import of the word, the scope of the apostles present discourse, aud the nature of the thing, lead us to understand it. The word being used when two parties have been at variance, not only signifies the laying down of enmity ou the one side, hut to be received into grace and favour on the other as might be shewn of the original words, that are wont to be thus rendered, if it were needful, or at this time fit. But it sufficiently appears, in the common use of this way of speaking among ourselves. And if we consider the scope of the apostles discourse, notlnng can be more agreeable to it ; which is manifestly to exalt and magnify Christ, first, as Creator, affirming that all things visible and invisible were made by him, and for him, as ver. 16. And then afterwards, there having been a rupture and breach in the creation, by the apostasy and revolt of some creatures ; others, also, being in an uncertain and mutable state, liable to a like failure and defection, He is further magnified, as the Reconciler of such as were thought fit to be restored, and tle Establisher of such as stood, vr 17. How the representationx of his performance, as a Reconciler, had been very imperfect, if he had desired therein to signify a reconcilation, effected by him on one leaving the other unreconciled. And though it be true, that taking this reconciliation, in reference to the immediately foregoing words of this verse, "you that were enemies," might seem to limit it to that one sense, as if meant only reconciliation on our part, consisting in the laying down of our enmity; yet the following words, that shew how this reconciliation is brought about "in the body of his flesh through death," signify as much for the extending of it to the other reconciliation also; viz, on Gods part towards us. For they plainly mean that this reconcilition is brought about by sacrifice, viz, by our Lord Jesuss offering himself upon the cross for us (as hereafter we shall have occasion more largely to show.)
Now a sacrifice is offered to God only, not to men, and being for reconciliation, must principally, and in the first place, intend the reconciling of God to us ; though it secondarily hath its great use, for the reconciling us to God also ; as hereafter we shall shew. And it is in the nature of the thing very evident; reconciliation supposing a difference and displeasure between two parties, as what hath been, it must include the agreement of battle, as that which now is. A willingness to be reconciled there may be on one side; when there is none on the other, as it is often and long between God and men; but if there be actual reconciliation, it is always mutual; unless the one party deceive, or impose upon the other, pretending to be reconciled when he is not; which, in the case between God and us, can never be; for neither can we deceive God, nor will he deceive us. Therefore we shall treat of both the parts of this reconciliation, of men to God, and of God to them.
1. Our reconciliation to God. And though that be proposed to be first insisted on, let none think it is therefore looked upon as deserving, or as being any way at cause of his reconciliation to us. For as our enmity as rebellion against him cannot do him real hurt, though it does him infinite wrong; so our love and obedience, though they are most due to him, can profit him nothing. "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise maybe is profitable to himself; is it a gain to him, if we be righteous" Job, xxii. 2,3. "What givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?" Thy wickedness may hurt a man, as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit a son of man," ch. xxxv. 7, 8. But yet neither can we do the one or other to him. It should therefore be far from us to imagine we can procure His favour or reconciliation, by any thing we can do. And know, sinner, he is before-hand with thee, in the offer of reconciliation and in real willingness to be reconciled; for his offer is most sincere. When, therefore out of a state of enmity, thou art brought to love him, it is because he loved thee first., 1 John, iv. 19. But take this aright, that thou mayst not deceive thyself; nor wrong him. Before our reconciliation to him, his gospel truly speaks him reconcilable, and offering us reconciliation;. when his offer is accepted and complied with, then his gospel speaks him actually reconciled. His offer of reconciliation shows his compassion, which is love to the miserable; herein he is before-hand with them whom he finally saves, he loves them with this love while they yet hate him and are full of enmity against him. From this love it is that he is reconcilable to them, willing to forgive all their former enmity and rebellions; if yet they will be reconciled, and turn to him with their whole souls. And this he testifies to them in his gospel; and hereby his Spirit, working in and by this gospel of his grace, he overcomes them, conquers their enmity, and causes them to love him, whom before they hated. But this actual reconciliation is always accompanied with delight, which is love to the amiable, such as he hath now made lovely, by tranforming them into his own image, who is love, I John, iv. 16. His is friendly, complacential love, that freely converses and holds communion with the beloved, so that they dwell in him, and he in them, as in the same place.
It is profane, therefore, and an insolent presumption, for you to say, God is reconciled to me, he delights and takes a pleasure in me, while you are unreconciled to him, and, have a heart full of wicked enmity against him. They even weary him with their words, when they say, "every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them," Mal. ii. 17. Tis an affront to his excellent Majesty, a reproach to his glorious holiness and the purity of his nature, a defiance to the justice of his government, to think him well pleased, when they persist in their rebellions against him; or that he will be reconciled to them, when this is still the temper and posture of their souls towards him. "He is not a God that takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with him; he hates the workers of iniquity," Pm. v. 4, 6. Any such thought he will severely and terribly avenge. If any man bless himself in his heart, and say, "I shall have peace when he walks in the imagination of his heart, God will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man," Deut. xxix. 19, 20.
And it is, on the other hand, a wicked, provoking unbelief; a high affront to him, a giving him the lie, if one, really willing to be reconciled, do apprehend him irreconcilable, or say in his heart, God will never shew me mercy. It is as much as to say, that the word of his grace is nothing hut deceit, and his whole gospel is made up of falsehood. Therefore, though our reconciliation to him is no cause of his reconciliation to us, yet (according to the method which he hath settled, as most agreeable to his glorious majesty, to his pure holiness, his hatred of sin, the justice of his government, and the truth of his word) we cannot say he is actually reconciled to us, till we are reconciled to him It may be said he pities us before, and is upon gospel terms reconcilable to us, not that he delights in us, or is reconciled. And we may the better understand this, that, our reconciliation is no cause of His reconciliation to us, though it go before it, inasmuch as he works both reconciliations, in and by his Christ; so the text speaks of both "You hath he reconciled" - not we ourselves. And 2 Cor. v: 18. "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us himself, by Jesus Christ ;" but in this way, order, and method, that first he overcomes our enmity, changes our hearts, and turns them to him; then is reconciled to us, as believing in his Son, and accepts us in him, as the believing one. Hereupon therefore we are first to consider, and open to you, our reconciliation to God; which we shall consider and speak of; not merely by shewing the very point wherein it lies; but more largely, by letting you see what it comprehends in the compass of it, or what belongs to it, and in what way it is brought about. We are indeed to consider that this, in the text, "you hath he reconciled," is an historical passage, signifying somewhat past, a res gester, a great thing effected and done. Whereas therefore some have taken much pains (and not to ill purpose) to write histories of nature, and give account of natural productions; we may call this a history of grace, giving some account how this gracious production is effected, and wrought on the souls of men. And for you that are reconciled, it is but to repeat to you your own story, and shew you what God hath done for your soul, in this blessed work.
We might have carried the same notion backward, and in the former part have considered your case, as the history of a mans unregenerate state; but those days, I believe, you would rather would not be numbered amongst the months. We therefore go on, to consider what will be of a more grateful, as well as most useful remembrance to you; viz, how God hath dealt with you, in bringing about this happy change. And doing it, in some sort, in the way of a history, it will be the more suitable to put you in mind, in divers particulars, of the manner how it was wrought; it being useful, in historical relations, not only in short to say that such a thing was done, but more at large to relate how, and in what way it was done. Though yet we cannot certainly say, that the several things we shall mention, were all done in that order wherein wt shall set them down; for Gods method may vary, or not in every respect be the same, with every one he savingly works upon. But because there are several things to be spoken which cannot all be mentioned at once, or in one breath, and some order or other must be used in reciting them; we shall repeat them, not merely as they occur to our thoughts, but as "they more apply in order to one another; not doubting but if you have been reconciled to God, you will say, when you hear them, these things have been wrought in you. Or if you have not, I must say, these are things you are to look after; and must at one time find in yourselves, if ever you shall be reconciled. And so this reconciliation hath begun with you, or must begin in, I. A thorough conviction, with deep and inward sense, wrought into your hearts, of your former enmity. There must have been a charging oneself; particularly, with this matter of fact, I have been, alienated from God, and an enemy to him in my mind; I see it, I confess it, thus it hath been with me, this hath been the temper of my soul, towards the blessed God! Here lies the great difficulty of reconciliation, on our part, that men are so hardly brought to see and own this; because they feel not an enmity boiling in their hearts against God, therefore they will not yield there is any such thing. But they might take notice, they as little feel love burning in their breasts toward him. And they the less apprehend the truth of their case in this respect, because by the same external shew and appearance, by which they may deceive other men, they endeavour to cheat themselves too; that is, because they sometimes bear a part in the solemnities of Gods worship, and sit in an assembly as his people, hear his word, and with their mouth ( in outward appearance) shew much love, they therefore think all is well, though their heart run after their covetousness, Ezek. xxxiii. 31.
But what can be said to that convictive query; How canst thou say thou lovest me, when thy heart is not with me when in reference to creatures it is required that love be without dissimulation, and that we love not in word or tongue, but in deed and truth: Will an outward appearance and show of love, be sufficient towards the most amiable and most excellent One, the everblessed, heart-searching God? Let this be laid as a ground most firm and stable, that if the subject, thy soul, be capable, and the object, the ever-blessed God, be made known and set in view to the eye of the mind; if then there is not love towards him, there is hatred. What can a reasonble soul be indifferent towards God, the all-comprehending Being! and with whom all have to do! the first and the continual Author of our life and being, whose invisible and eternal power are manifest in the visible things which He hath made; so that heaven and earth are full of his glory? Towards some remote foreign prince, multitudes may be void of love and hatred alike, of whom they have no notice, with whom they have no business. Can it be so with us towards God, who is God alone, besides whom there is no other, in whom all live, and move, and have their being, who is, therefore, not far from any one of us; and whom all are obliged to take for their God, and must, if they accept him not, be taken for refusers? A thing that carries with it most horrid guilt! and carries in it downright enmity; and the more heinous, when, with any, it is covered with lying lips, with the cloak of a profession, viz, that they have taken him for their God, when such as say that he is their God yet have not known him, as John, viii. 54, 65. For that ignorance must proceed from enmity, a not liking to retain God in their knowledge, as Rom. i. 28. Of which ignorance from disaffection, if heathens might be guilty, as they were, the apostle there speaks; much more deeply guilty are they, who being his professing people, yet know him not; as they were, whom our Lord so charges in the fore-cited passage, John, viii. 54, 55. For these hide their hatred with lying lips, which is much more an abomination to the Lord, Prov. x. 18. If you never so confidently pretend love to God, and he that knows all things says, "I know you that you have not the love of God in you," as our Saviour tells the Jews; who is more likely to be mistaken? John, v. 42. And can you be more confident or more highly boast your relation to God, or your love to him, than they who were so peculiarly his people, chosen out from all nations? If you say you are lovers of God: and the Son of God, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and who searches hearts and reins (Rev. ii. 18, 43), and says, "I know you that you have not the love of God in you ;" how must it appal and dismay your heart, to have his certain unerring judgment of you, thus to control your partial, self-flattering judgment; and if this be indeed the state of the case, with any of us, and he know it to be so, it is enough for our condemnation; but for our saving conviction it is necessary that we know it too: therefore let us search our own hearts, and try them impartially, by all the several evidences, and aggravations of enmity against God, in the foregoing discourse, from p 218, to p. 234.And to all these, I add here some enlargement, upon what was more lightly touched (as within the narrow limits of of time, wherein that discourse was delivered, it could not be otherwise), viz, disobedience to that plain, express command of our Lord: to lay up our treasure, not on earth but in heaven, so as to have our hearts also there, Matt. vi. 19, 21. This I choose to insist upon, in reference to our present purpose, that where there is a remaining and a reigning enmity against God, there may be a thorough conviction of it, in order to reconciliation; both because as to this thing, the rule we are to judge by is so very plain in the word of God; and because the temper and bent of our own hearts, in this respect, is so easily discernible, to them that will diligently and faithfully observe them for themselves. Scripture is most express herein, as in the place last mentioned, that they whose hearts are on earth, and not in heaven, have no treasure in heaven. And what can be a greater evidence of enmity to God, than to have the bent and tendency of your heart and spirit directly contrary to the mind of God concerning you, or to what he would have it be, and it must necessarily be, that you may not be lost, and miserable for ever? The enmity to him, which He so much resents, is not your designing any hurt or prejudice to him; but the contrariety of your temper to his kind and merciful design tovards you. Therefore they that mind earthly things, that is, that savour them most (as the word signifies), and it must be understood as excluding the savour of better things, that is, who only savour them, and take no pleasure or delight in spiritual or heavenly things; such are said to be enemies to the cross of Christ, i.e. to the design of his dying uposs the cross, which was procure for his redeemed a blessed state in heaven, and to bring them thither, not to plant and settle them here on earth. They are enemies therefore, because his design and theirs lie contrary, and oppose one another. He is all for having them to heaven, and was so intent upon that design, as not to shun dying upon a cross to effect it; they are all for an earthly felicity, and for a continual abode upon earth to enjoy it. This is an opposition full of spite and enmity, to oppose him in a design of love, and upon which his heart was set with so much earnestness! Therefore is the carnal mind said to be at enmity against God, Rom. viii. 7, even as it is death, v. 6. But to whom? not to the blessed God himself, which you know is impossible, but to us. It is not subject to his law, nor indeed can be; for that is spiritual, ch. vii. 14, and the best on earth find themselves, in too great degree, carnal; and here lies the contriety, much more when this carnality is total. And this law is the Law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, which directly tends to make us free from the law of sin and death (chap. viii, 2); which it doth when the Spirit of God prevails, and gets the victory over this carnality of mind, so that we come to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit In the mean time, they that are after the flesh do only savour the things of the flesh; as they are that after the Spirit do the things of the Spirit, v. 5. And they that are after the flesh shall die, but they that by the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh shall live, V. 13. Therefore we see the reason why it is above said, they that are in, the flesh, or under a prevailing carnality, cannot please God; for be takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner that he should turn and live, Ezek. xxxiii. 11. You cannot please him, because the bent of your carnal mind lies cross to his saving design, you are enemies in your mind to him, for your mind is most opposite to his mind; he is for saving you, you are for self-destruction, you hate him, as you love death, Prov. viii. 36. Therefore also they that love this world, the love of the Father is last in them, 1 John, ii. 15. He would have them do his will, and abide in a blessed state for ever ; but while they are this world, their hearts are set upon a vanishing thing; for the world and the lust thereof must pass away and gone, v. 17. They cannot love him, while in mind, a will, and design, they so little agree with him. And hereupon is the friendship of this world said to be enmity against God, and he that will be a friend of this world makes himself an enemy to God, James, iv. 4. The design of his amity with you is disappointed and lost, therefore he can look upon you no otherwise than as enemies to him.
And now, if this be the temper of your mind and spirit, how easily, by looking into your own hearts, might you discern it? Know you not your ownselves? 2 Cor. xiii. 5 As if it were said, it is a reproach to be ignorant or without this knowledge! What is so near you as yourselves? Do you not know your own minds? whether you have rather your portion for ever on earth, or in heaven; whether you more value a heavenly treasure or the treasures of this earth? If you chiefly mind earthly things how can you but know it? Do but take an account yourselves, where are your hearts all the day from morn till night, from day to day, from week to week, from year to year! what thoughts, designs, cares, delights are there that usually fill your souls? are they not worldly, carna earthly? Trace your own hearts: how canst thou say, I am not polluted? see thy way (Jer. ii. 23), mark thy own footsteps, see what course thou hast held, years together even under the gospel ; and when thou hast been so of warned, even by him who bought thee by his blood, to seek first the kingdom of heaven - to strive to enter in at strait gate - and be told how precious a thing thy soul is, more worth than all the world; and how fearful a bargain thou wouldst have of it, if thou shouldst gain the whole world, and lose thy soul! And if all the neglects of his warnings and counsels have proceeded from the worldlinness, and carnality of thy heart and mind, and all this is declared to be enmity against God; then cast thyself down at his foot, and say to him, Now, Lord, I yield to conviction; I now perceive I have been alienated, and an enemy in my mind by wicked works, though I never suspected any such thing by myself before. And know that till then the gospel of reconciliation will do thee no good, thou wilt never be the better for it, though thou liveeth under it all thy days; all exhortations to be reconciled to God, and to get this dreadful disease of enmity against God cured, will avail no more than physic, to one that counts he is well, and feels himself not at all sick. All thy Redeemers calls will sound in thine ears, as if he called the righteous, and not a sinner, to repentance. But that such calls might, or may yet signify the more, know that reconciliation not only comprehends a conviction of the fact, that thou hast been an enemy; but will also contain, in thy case, if ever thou be reconciled, a clear and lively apprehension, with dread and horror, of the monstrous iniquity and wickedness thereof. This hath been or must be wrought in thee. And when thou art convicted in thy conscience of thy being an enemy to the ever-blessed God, how canst thou but see thyself to be a vile and wicked creature, upon thjs account?
2. This is thy case, and thou must apprehend it accordingly, that thou art an enemy in thy mind, and by wicked works. For what can be more wicked, than to hate the God of thy life! even him who is love and goodness itself in highest perfection! What to hate the God of all grace, he that is the Lord, the Lord gracious and merciful, abounding in lovingkindness, goodness, and truth! Bethink thyself, make thy reflections, view the face of thy soul in the mirror of that most righteous law, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and soul, and might, and mind. And doth it not astonish thee to behold enmity filling up, in thy soul, the room and place of love! that thou findest thou hast, in thy soul, a power of thinking thoughts, but canst take no pleasure to think of God! Thou hast in thy nature a principle of love, and thou canst love thy friend, thy child, yea thy money, and (what is worse) thy lust; but canst not love thy God! How fearful an ease! that when thou hast a mind and spirit in thee, made up of reason and love, it should against all reason love things less lovely, as earth and vanity; yea even most hateful, as sin and iniquity; but cannot love our Father, even him whose offspring it is, and to whom alone the title belongs of Father of spirits.
How monstrous a deformity is this! How fearful a transformation of a reasonable, immortal mind and spirit! If thy body were wrested into never so horrid and hideous shapes, there were nothing, in point of horror, comparable to this deformedness of thy soul. Nor canst thou ever be reconciled to God, till there be unreconcilableness to thyself, as thou art in this state; and till thou be the most frightful, hateful spectacle to thyself on this account. Thou wilt never look upon thy own carnal mind, or thy friendliness towards this world, which is declared to be enmity against God (Rom. viii. 7; Jam. iv. 4, with a kind, self-indulgent eye any more; but as having in them the most amazing wickedness, such whereby a reasonable soul, an understanding mind and spirit, is brought to love a clod of clay, a lump of earth, yea even sin itself, rather than the ever-blessed and most holy God of heaven! Let no man ever think himself in a way of reconciliation to God, till he find in his soul a very deep sense of so hateful an evil as this; and have expressly charged himself with it, before the throne of the Most High. If you find there is a difficulty in it, and that your hearts are hardly brought to it that they fly back and recoil, and will not yield that an thing so bad is to be charged upon them; take so in the more pains, labour and strive with them the more bring them to it because the whole business of your peace and reconciliation with God depends upon it. You can never be reconciled, till you see your not being so, or yonr continuing enmity is a thing not to be endured: that, if thou couldst be truly charged with hating thy own father or mother, or wife or child, or thy prince or country; none of these, though monstrously bad, are by many degrees so ill things as the hating of thy God.
Therefore since this charge cannot be denied, it must be aggravated upon thy own soul, till thou feel the weight and burden ofit; and that now at length thou art brought to say, I cannot endure to dwell with myself, I cannot keep myself company, nor eat, or drink, or sleep, or converse with myself in peace, till my heart be changed, and the case be altered with me in this respect. If thou canst truly say, Christ hath reconciled thee, thus thou hast felt and found it, or thus thou wilt find it, if ever thy reconciliation be brought about.
3. You that are reconciled, may reflect and take notice of this as a. further very remarkable thing in your own story, that you have been made deeply sensible of your great sinfulness, in other respects. And for others, that are yet to be reconciled, know that this belongs to the reconciliation, which you are to endeavour and seek after, a deep sense of sin, in the full extent of it. As love is the fulfilling of the law, and is therefore to be considered, not in one single duty only, but as the spring and source of all other duty; so enmity is to be looked upon not as one single sin only, but as the spring and fountain of all other sin. Therefore when you are convinced, and made sensible of your enmity against God, you have been, or must be, led on, from this fountain to the several impure streams and rivulets issuing from it; and have a like conviction and sense of your sinfulness, in the larger extent and compass of it; and that in such respects, whereof slighter penitents take little notice, As for instance,
I. You have had or must have a sight and sense of sin as sin. Many apprehend little of it besides the sound of the word, and make a light matter of it. I am a sinner is soon said, when it is little understood what sin is, or what it is to be a sinner. But you have, or must conceive of sin, as a violation of the holy law of God; an affront to the authority of your Maker and sovereign Lord, a setting of your own will above and against the supreme will of the Most High. Whereupon you must consider, if yet you have not, what a fearful thing it is to be a sinner, and say with yourself "0 what a monstrous vile wretch am I! that was nothing but the other day, and now being raised up into being a reasonable creature, capable of subjection to a Law, to rise up in rebellion against him that gave me breath !" What to contend against him who is thy life, and the length of thy days, how horrid must this be in thy eyes!
2. You must have a thorough conviction and sense of the sinfulness of your nature, as having been sinful from the womb, born in sin, conceived and brought forth in iniquity, Psal. lviii. 3. Psal. li. 5. Hence you are to bethink yourself, "What a loathsome creature have I been from my original! to have come into the world with a nature poisoned and envenomed with sin! What a wonder was it that the holy God would suffer me to breathe in the world so long, and feed and sustain me so many days!" Many may have some sense of wicked acts, that have no sense of the impurity of their natures. This should fill thee with confusion and self-abhorrence.
3. Of such sinful inclinations and actions, as were most directly against God. Many can be convinced of wrong done to a neighbour, that have no sense of their having wronged the God of their lives, by continual neglects of him, casting him out of their thoughts and hearts, and living as without God in the world; and as if they had been made to please and serve themselves, and not him.
4. But there must also be a deep sense too of sin against thy neighbour. For on the other hand, there are too many that are so taken up about the commands of the first table, as to overlook those of the second; that if they cannot be accused of gross idolatry, or of the neglect of God's external worship, think themselves very innocent, when in the meantime they live, as to their neighbours, in envy, hatred, malice, hateful, and hating one another; make no scruple of cozening or defrauding a neighbour for their own advantage, or of bearing him a grudge, of harbouring thoughts of revenge against him. Whereas we are plainly told, that if we forgive not our offending brother, neither will God forgive us; and are taught to pray for forgiveness to ourselves, but as we forgive others. And that be that hates his brother, abides in death, 1 John, iii. 14. Yea; and that when the law of God requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves, we are obliged not only not to harm him, but to do him all the good we can, as we have opportunity, and as we are able, when we see him in distress, to relieve and help him. Especially if we see him go on in a sinful course, to admonish and reprove him,, with prudent friendliness, and not suffer sin upon him ; otherwise thy righteous Judge will reckon that thou hatest him in thy heart, Lev. xix. 17.
5. And thou oughtest to be sensible too of sins against thyself. For when Gods law requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves, it implies there is a love which we owe to ourselves; not that inordinate self-love, which excludes both love to God and our neighbour; but such as is subordinate to the one, and co-ordinate with the other. Consider, therefore, whether thou hast not been guilty of sinning against thyself: against thy body, in gluttony, drunkenness, fulfilling the lusts of it: against thy soul, in neglecting it, in famishing it, letting it pine and waste, away in thy iniquities; in ignorance, worldliness, carnality, estrangedness from God, never looking after a Saviour for it, not using the appointed means of thy salvation. What multitudes live all their days in sin of this kind, and never accuse or blame themselves for it?
6.. And you must labour to be sensible of all such sins against your neighbour, and yourselves, as sins, though not immediately or directly, yet principally against God himself; because he is the supreme Lawgiver, and tis He, who by his law hath settled that order in the world, which by such sins you have violated and broken. Therefore doth that great penitent thus accuse himself in his humble confession to the great God: Against thee, thee only have I sinned (Psal. ii. 4), reflecting upon the transgressions by which he had highly wronged Uriah, Bathsheba, and his own soul; because there is but one sovereign Lawgiver (James, iv. 12), by whose authority only, either put forth immediately by himself, or derived to his vicegerents, all just laws are made, by which there comes to be any such thing as sin or duty in the world. Therefore you must charge yourself as having offended him by all the sins that ever you were guilty of; though man was the object, Gods law was the rule, sinned against.
7. You ought therefore to be sensible of secret sins, which he only knows; as well as open, and such as tend to bring reproach upon you amongst men.
8. And (amongst them) of the sins of your heart, and inward man, evil thoughts, designs, affections, inclinations; as well as of such as have broken forth into outward actions.
9. Of sinful omissions, as well as commissions; you must be sensible, not only of the evil which you have done, but the good that you might and ought to have done, which you have not done. The judgment of the great day; as it is represented, Matt. xxv. from ver. 31 to the end of the chapter, runs, you see, chiefly upon the omissions of the condemned, in opposition to the performances of them that are absolved, and adjudged to life everlasting. And before, in the same chapter, he that made no use of his on talent, is doomed unto utter darkness, where is weeping. and gnashing of teeth, under the name of an unprofitable servant, ver. 30, that is, a wicked and slothful servant, he is called, ver. 26. For though, when we have done all we can, we are to count ourselves unprofitable servants, and to God we are so; yet we ought, and are capable, to be profitable to ourselves, and to other men; and to we ought to be faithful servants, though we cannot be profitable. But will you count him a faithful servant who dares only plead for himself to his master; " I have not embezzled your goods, destroyed your cattle, or burnt your house;" when yet he never did him real service! If ever therefore you be reconciled to God, you will be or have been in bitter agonies of spirit before him, in the review of your former fruitless life, and that you have lived so long in the world to so little purpose.
10. You must have been, or will yet be, deeply affected with the sense of sins, not only against the holy, righteous law of God, but against the gospel of his Son; not only that you have swerved from the rules which were given you, and neglected the ends you were made for, as you are Gods creatures, and the work of his hands, thereby exposing yourselves to his wrath and justice; but that you have slighted the only remedy tendered you in the gospel, neglected the great salvation that was wrought out, and began to be spoken by the Lord himself Heb. ii. 3, 4. Consider, were you never in dread, did you never cry outaffrighted, "How can I escape, who have neglected such a salvation, such a Saviour?" It must at one time or other cut and wound your souls, to think how many serious warnings, earnest invitations, affectionate entreaties, heart-melting allurements have I withstood! How often have I been besought, in the name of a crucified, dying Redeemer, to resign and surrender myself to him, to submit to his authority, to accept His mercy, and have refused! The heavy yoke and burden of sin and guilt have been more tolerable to me, than his easy yoke and light burden. I have more busied myself to increase my interest and share in this present world, than to gain a part in that fulness of grace, righteousness, spirit, and life which is treasured up in him. Your reconciliation can never be brought about, but upon a heart-wounding sense of your being so long unreconciled, and your having disregarded the great and merciful Reconciler.
4. If Christ hath brought about in you, a thorough reconciliation to God, this further belongs to the history of his dealings with you, as that which he hath given you to experience; or if he have not yet reconciled you, tis that which, if ever you be reconciled, you are yet to expect; viz, a deep inward apprehension and sense both of the dreadfulness and dueness of divine displeasure towards you, for your former enmity against him, and for all the other wickedness that hath accompanied it.
1. Of the dreadfulness of his displeasure. You could no longer make light of it, or eat and drink and sleep in quiet, and give yourself the liberty of mirth and jollity, while you still lay under it. God is said to be angry with the wicked every day, Ps. vii. 11, and to hate all the workers of iniquity, Ps. v. 5. You will count it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, when he saith, vengeance belongs to him, and he will repay it, Heb v. 30, 31. And when you have reason to apprehend him, as lifting up his hand to heaven, and saying "I live for ever"; as whetting the glittering sword, and his hand taking hold of vengeance, Deut. xxxii. 40, 41. You must have thought, or will yet think with yourself; who knows the power of his anger! Ps. xc. 11. And by how much the less you can know it, so much the more you must have dreaded it?or all the while you have been abusing his patience, longsuffering, and forbearance, not considering that the goodness of God did lead you to repentance; so long as you were despising the riches of his goodness, you were treasuring up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of his righteous judgment, Rom. ii. 4, . And to have treasures of unknown wrath, far beyond what you could conceive, laying up in store against you, how amazing must this be to you! Destruction from the Almighty! What a terror must that be to you! Job, xxxi. 23. To eat and drink under wrath! to buy and sell, to plough and sow, and all under wrath! and with a curse from God, covering you as a garment, cleaving to you as a girdle, flowing as oil into your bones, mingling with all your affairs, and all your comforts, with whatsoever you or do, and whatsoever you enjoy! And to be, all the while, upon the brink of eternity, and not, for ought you know, to have .a hand-breadth, not more than a breath, between you and eternal woes and flames, and none to deliver you from the wrath to come! This cannot have been an easy condition, and the less when you considered,
2. The dueness of Gods wrath and displeasure unto you; that how terrible soever it is, tis all most justly deserved. You must have been made to see and say, "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, did most righteously belong to me as my most proper portion; to me an enemy to the God of my life, who gave me breath and being, upon the treasures of whose bounty I have lived all my days; to whom, when he filled my house with good things, yet I often in my heart said, "Depart from me, I desire not the knowledge of thy ways," Job, xxi. 14, 15. And as the law of love to God, the great original law, had engaged me to keep all his other commandments, so my enmity against him hath made me break them all; so that I have lived a life of disobedience and rebellion all my time thus far. And though he hath offered me terms of peace, and I have been often earnestly besought, by those that have spoken to me in Christs stead (my bleeding, dying Redeemer and Lord), to be reconciled to God; yet I have hitherto borne toward him an impenitent, implacable heart. If there were ten thousand hells, they were all due to me, I have deserved them all
5. Such as have been reconciled, have been brought, by believing, to apprehend Gods reconcilableness to them, in and by his own Son. This also belongs to the history of Gods dispensation towards them, and may instruct others, by letting them know what must be wrought in them, that they may be reconciled. It is their special advantage that live under the gospel, that therein they behold God reconciling the world to himself; by Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. v. 8, 19. This is the sum of the gospel, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever bolieveth in him should not perish, but have life everlasting..(John 3:16)
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