John, iii. 16. Hereby they may know and believe the love
God hath to them, 1 John, iv. 16. And that, though they have been alienated,
and enemies in their minds by wicked works, yet he is not irreconcilable. This
is the gospel of the grace of God, which he testifies, and they are to believe,
unless they will make him a liar, 1 John, v. 10. And therefore notwithstanding
the sense they ought to have of their having been enemies, and of the horrid
wickedness hereof, and of their sinful temper and course in all other respects,
together with the terrors of Gods wrath, and their desert of it to the
uttermost; they are yet to conjoin therewith, the belief of his willingness to
be reconciled. And hereby he melts and breaks their hearts, viz, by this
discovery of his good-will, believed ; for disbelieved, it can signify nothing,
nor have any effect upon them; the gospel is his power to salvation, to every
one that believes (Rom. i. 16), and works effectually in them that believe, 1
Thess. ii. 13. So it is the immediate instrument of their regeneration, after
that the love and kindness of God to men appears, i. e. so as that they believe
it, he saves them by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy
Ghost, Tit. iii. 4, 5.
And then he makes them know it is not by works of righteousness, which they have done, but by his mercy, as it is there expressed. They are not (as was formerly said) the objects of his delightful love, before their regeneration; but they may be of his pity or mercy, his compassionate love; and this they are to believe, as the general proposal of his gospel declares it: and by the belief hereof, he conquers their enmity, and subdues them into compliance with his good and acceptable will. These glad tidings, that he is truly willing to receive any returning soul, vanquishes their disaffection, and overcomes their hearts; makes them say with themselves, why should I still continue alienated from the God who is so gracious and merciful, abundant in loving-kindness, goodness, and truth, as his name signifies (Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7), though he will by no means clear the guilty, i.e. the obstinate, impenitent, and implacable. But if this discovery of the grace of God can find no entrance, sinner, into thy soul, if it remain shut up in unbelief; or if, when he tells thee over and over, that be takes no pleasure in the death of sinners, but that they turn and live, thou wilt not believe him, but still think him implacable, and, Cain-like, say thy sin is greater than can be forgiven ; this hardens thy heart in enmity against him, and makes thee say, as Jer. ii. 25, There is no hope, I have loved strangers, and after them I will go. Therefore if ever thou hast been or shalt be reconciled to God, as thou hast not been left in a stupid insensibleness of thy former wickedness, so thou hast been kept from sinking into an utter despair of Gods mercy; thy reconciliation is brought about by thy believing his reconcilableness.
6. Hereupon thou wast brought to entreat his favour with thy whole heart, and that he would be merciful to thee according to his word, Psalm Cxix. 58. When thou sawest, though thy case was very horrid and dismal, yet it was not hopeless, and that there was a ground for prayer in the hope of mercy; then didst thou, or yet wilt, set thyself in good earnest to supplicate, and cry mightily for pardoning and heart-renewing grace. Where is no hope, there can be no prayer; this posture of soul thou hast been wrought up to, or wilt be, if ever thou be reconciled. Hope gives life and breath to prayer, and prayer to peace and friendship with God. When God promises to take away the stony heart, and give the new one, the heart of flesh ; he declares that even for this he will be inquired of, and sought unto, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 37. Nor doth the soul, when hope of mercy, according to Gods word and promise, gives it vent, breathe faint breath in prayer; but the whole heart is engaged, all the powers of the soul are put into a fervent motion. Despair stupifies, hope fills the soul with vigour; the favour of God is sought, not with cold indifferency, but as that wherein stands thy life (Ps. xxx. 5), and which is better than life (Ps. lxiii. 3), without it, can be. But then, whereas the gospel under which thou livest informs thee that God Cannot be approached by a sinful creature, as men are, and as thou must own thyself to be, but through Christ, the only Mediator between God and men; and that thou canst not approach him in and by Christ, if thou be not in him.
7. Thou art hereupon led to Christ, and brought to receive him with all thy heart and soul (John, i. 12, Rom. x. 10), and to resign and give thyself up wholly to him (2 Cor. viii. 5), not knowing in thy distress, what to do with thyself, and he compassionately inviting thee, 0 thou weary, heavy laden soul, come unto me, and I will give thee rest (Matt. xi. 28), and assuring thee, that whosoever cometh unto him, he will in nowise cast out, John, vi. 37. Thou thereupon with a humble, thankful, willing heart, art brought to comply with his merciful offer, acceptest him and yieldest up thyself, no more to be thy own, but his; and thus believing in his name, thou ownest him in his office, as the great peace-maker between God and thee.
8. Whereupon thou hast been brought to apply thyself, through Christ, to the blessed God, and humbly to take hold of his Covenant, Isa. lvi. 2. Thou art come to God the Judge of all, having come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, Heb. xii. 23, 24. And been enabled to covenant with him, according to what he himself hath declared to be the purport and sum and substance of his covenant; that is, if thou art reconciled, thou hast taken him to be thy only God, thy supreme and sovereign good, thy chief and only satisfying portion (Ps. xvi. 5, 6), whom thou art most pleasantly to enjoy, and in whom thou art to take highest delight, above all things in heaven or earth (Ps. lxxiii. 25), and whom thou art to believe willing, according to this covenant, to do for thee, in outward and temporal respects, what he judges fittest and best; and for thy soul, in his own way and method, all that is requisite for thy present support, and future blessedness. And to be thy supreme and sovereign Ruler and Lord, whom thou art to thy uttermost to please, serve, fear, obey, and glorify above all other. And to whom thou must reckon it belongs, according to this covenant, to forgive thy iniquities; and by it as well as by natural right, to govern and dispose of thee in all thy thoughts, actions, inclinations, and affairs, according to his own holy will. And thou givest up thyself absolutely and entirely to him, to be of his people, to be taught and ruled by him. This is the covenant which by thy baptism thy parents, who had nearest natural relation to thee, entered into for thee (as children do, in their parents, stand obliged to the government under which they live); but which, when thou art come to use an understanding of thy own, thou art to enter into with the great God, for thyself (as persons come to a certain age of maturity, are called to avow their allegiance to their secular rulers.) And because it is made with sinners, such as had been in rebellion against the Majesty of heaven, and therefore by a mediator, and by sacrifice; it is therefore a covenant of reconciliation, and the sacrifice by which it is made, is a propitiation or a reconciling sacrifice. If therefore Christ hath reconciled thee to God, or if ever thou shalt be reconciled, this covenant must pass between him and thee; this is to come into the history of his dealings with thy soul. And it ought to be with thee a great solemnity, and to fill thy soul with a wondering joy, that the great God, whom thou hadst so highly offended, should ever vouchsafe to covenant with thee a sinful worm! But because the manner of this covenanting is so fully set down, by Mr Joseph Allen, in a little treatise called Self-dedication, and in another of Yielding Ourselves to God, I shall not further enlarge upon it here.
9. If thou be reconciled, the frame and bent of thy soul is so far altered and changed, that thy carnal mind is become, in a prevailing degree, spiritual; and thy worldly heart is taken off, in a like measure, from this present world, and set upon God and heaven. For the carnal mind is enmity against God, and they that love this world, the love of the Father is not in them; and he that will be a friend of this world, is the enemy of God, Rom. viii. 7; John, ii. 15; Jam. iv. 4. But canst thou be reconciled, and still be an enemy? And how canst thou not be an enemy, when not in this or that single act only, but in the main bent and frame of thy soul, thou resistest his will, and in thy whole course walkest contrary to him?
10. If thy reconciliation to God have been brought about, there must be suitable walking afterwards, which includes two things - i. Amity must be continued, that is, there must be a very great care that there may be no new breach. 2. There must be much uneasiness of spirit, if there have been a new breach, till it be composed and made up again.
1. Where there is a thorough reconciliation, amity must be continued, care taken of giving any new offence, or the making any new breach, by not doing what will displease, and by a friendly intercourse continued and kept up. For there may be a new breach, or a new offence may be given again, either of these ways; either by breaking out into any fresh quarrel or coptentions, or by breaking off friendly intercourse. As if there have been a war between two nations, when a firm peace is made, there ensues both a ceasing from hostilities, and free commerce; so if thou hast made peace with God, and hast entered into a league and covenant of reconciliation with him, thou must take great care, to thy uttermost, to sin no more ; not deliberately to do any thing, that thou knowest will displease him. Thou must say, as is said in Job, xxxiv. 32. "If I have done iniquity, I will do so no more". And again, thou must take great heed of growing strange to him, of giving over, or of becoming slack or cold in thy converse with him; for when he inquires, Can two walk together if they be not agreed he thereby intimates, that if they be agreed, it is that they may walk together. And it is to be considered, that in the text the unreconciled state consists, not only in the enmity of the mind by wicked works, but also in being alienated from him, or strange to him; by either whereof thou givest him also cause of just offence, even after reconciliation.
2. But if thou findest thou hast made a new breach, either of these ways, by doing any thing that thou didst apprehend to be displeasing to him, or by estranging thyself from him, there must be an uneasiness in thy spirit, and thou must be restless, till it be composed and made up again. This is walking suitably to a reconciled state, to resolve with thyself, upon any new offence, not to give sleep to thy eyes, nor slumber to thy eyelids, till thou hast humbled thyself before thy God, and sought his pardon, by faith in the blood of his Son; with a resolution, in dependence on his grace and Spirit, to walk more carefully and more closely with him in thy future course, accounting always that in his favour is life. Such things as these ( if thou be reconciled to God), will compose and make up thy story of it. Such a narrative thou couldst give of it thyself; upon recollection, or at least, when thou readest it thus put down to thy hand, thou cantst say these things thou hast found God hath wrought and done in thee. Though perhaps they may not have come into thy mind in the same order wherby they are here set down, which is less material, if thou canst truly say such wokings as these thou hast really felt in thine own heart while God was dealing with thee, for the bringing about this reconciliation. But if this work he not yet done, if it is yet to be done, then know such stages as these thou must pass through. And thou art to be restless in thy spirt while thou canst yet say, such and such of these things are still wanting in me; I have not yet found them, my heart agrees not in such and such points with this narrative; I can give no such account of myself. But wait and strive in hope that thou shalt yet find them, if thou persist, and do not grow negligent and indifferent, whether any such reconciliation to God be effected in thee or no. And when thou hast found it, then art thou led to consider, in the next place,
2. Gods reconciliation to thee; and inquire what that includes and carries in it. But here now, because his part lies in himself; and may for some time have no discernible effects upon thy soul; therefore the account hereof is not to be: carried on in the way of the history, as the other might. It is doctrinally written in his own word, and so is the matter of thy faith, not of thy present sense, as the other is. But as it is indefinitely propounded in his word, so it ought to be firmly believed, and without wavering, as a sure part of the true and faithful sayings of God, who is truth itself; and cannot deceive nor be deceived. And it ought to be believed, with particular application to thyself, that thus and thus he bears himself towards thee, as thy reconciled God; according as thou findest thy own soul thus truly reconciled to him. For though thy reconciliation to him be no cause of his reconciliation to thee, yet it is a most certain evidence of it. Otherwise,
1. You would be beforehand with him in love, when as his word expressly says, he loves us first, 1 John, iv. 19.
2. It would be true, that he made us love him, having himself no love to us; when as the same word says, we love him, because he first loved us.; viz, with that cornpassionate love whereof you formerly heard.
3. You would hereupon outdo him in point of love, and be better affected towards him than he is towards you.
4. If any could be reconciled to God, and yet God not be reconciled to them, and they die in that state, it would be possible there might be lovers of God in hell. And what can be more absurd in itself? or more contrary to the plain word of God, that hath said, the things which eye hath not seen are prepared for them that love God (1 Cor. ii. 9), and that he hath promised the crown of life to them that love him, Jam. i. 12. All which you cannot but apprehend to be intolerable absurdities, and they would all follow, if upon such grounds as have been mentioned you should apprehend yourself to be reconciled to him, Lnd yet disbelieve his being reconciled to you. Therefore having so sure a ground, upon which to apprehend he is reconciled to you, when you find you are reconciled to him; let it now be considered what his reconciliation to you imports. Wherein, as in all that follows, I shall very brief; that this part be not too unproportionable in bulk to the former gone out before it.
And here two things in the general must be understood to be included inGods being reconciled to us - i. His forgiving to us all the sins of our former state of enmity against him; 2. His -receiving us into a state of amity and friendship with him. How great things are both these! And if you cannot as yet with certainty conclude that you are reconciled to God, as thereupon to have a present assurance of his having thus forgiven, and accepted you; yet you are however to apprehend both these as most certainly belonging to their state, who are reconciled to him, so as to make you most earnestly to covets and endeavour to get into that state; as perceiving how desirable a thing it is to have the eternal God no longer an enemy to you, but your friend.
1. Therefore you must apprehend Gods being reconciled to you, includes his forgiving you all the sins of your former state, wherein you lived in enmity against him. And of how vast compass and extent is his mercy towards you herein! when you consider what you were doing, and what manner of life you led all that time; always sinning from morning to night, either by acting against him, or by not living with him, and to him! not minding him, not fearing him, standing in no awe of him, never aiming to please, or serve, or glorify him in any thing you did, as if you were made for yourself; and not for him! And that your disobedience to him, your neglects of him, were all summed up in enmity! And how monstrous a thing it was to be an enemy, a hater of the ever blessed God! And to have all this forgiven! So his own word plainly speaks: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon, Isa. lv. 7.
And here you must understand aright what sort of pardon and forgiveness that is, when God is said to forgive; which you must conceive of, by considering what sort of enmity yours was against him. The case is not as between equals, falling out and forgiving one another; but your enmity was that of an offending inferior and subject, rebelling against your sovereign, rightful Lord, who hath both right and power to punish you. And then think how terrible punishment you deserved, and were liable to! even an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, 2 Thess. i. 9. Whereupon consider what it signifies for him to forgive you: and see now whether you do not savour those words, Blessed is the man; or whether the sense of your case do not make you cry out, as those words may be read, 0 the blessednesses of him, whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! 0 the blessednesses of him, to wlom the Lord doth not impute iniquity! Of how mighty a load must it ease and disburden thy soul, to have thy offended Lord say to thee, Thou hast been sinning against me hitherto all thy days, when I have been all thy days doing thee good; thou hast done evilly against me as thou couldst, slighted my authority and despised my mercy; I could plead my rebukes against thee, with flames of fire; if I should whet my glittering sword, and my hand take hold of vengeance, how soon could I ease myself of so feeble an adversary, and avenge myself of so contemptible an enemy! But I forgive thee: now upon thy repenting and turning to me with thy whole soul, I forgive thy ungodly prayerless life, thy having been alienated and an enemy in thy mind by wicked works. I forgive it to thee all! Thy iniquity is all pardoned, thy sin covered, I no more impute any thing of it to thee. What rock would not this melt ! what stony heart wonld it not dissolve, and break in pieces! And what! canst thou now be any longer an unreconciled enemy, to such a sin-pardoning God?? Consider here more particularly, - the properties and consequences of this forgiveness.
I. The properties of it, as that, 1. It is most compassionate, an act of tender mercy and pity; so says his own word: I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, Heb. viii. 12. In his love and pity he redeemed, and he bare them, Isa. lxiii. 9. And being full of compassion, he forgave their iniquity, Ps. lxxviii. 38. For he remembered they were but flesh, ver. 39.
2. It is perfectly free, and of mere grace. We are justified freely by his grace, Rom. iii. 24. He invites sinners to come to him, even without money and without price, Isa. lv. 1. A great price indeed hath been paid, but.by another hand, as we shall shew when we come to the second head, the way wherein our Lord effects this reconciliation, in the body of his flesh through death. But no price is expected from us, he doth it for his own sake, as Isa. xliii. 25. 3. It is full and entire. And that both in respect of the object, the sin forgiven: All manner of sin (that can be repented of) shall be forgiven unto men, Matt. xii. 31. .1 will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned against me, Jer. xxxiii. 8. And in respect of the act of forgiving, it shall be so full as to leave no displeasure behind : for (as he speaks) I, even I am he that blotteth out thy iniquities, and there is not so much as a remembrance left; I will not remember thy sin; Isa. xliii. 25. Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more, Heb. viii. 12. 4. Tis often repeated. He being full of compassion forgave their iniquity - yea many a thne turned he his anger away, Es. lxxviii. 38. 2. The consequences of this forgiveness.
1. Cessation of all acts, that have either destruction for their end, or enmity for their principle. In the very covenant of reconciliation, God reserves to himself a liberty of chastening his reconciled ones; yea the case requiring it, he not only reserves the liberty, but takes upon him an obligation hereunto. For he expressly declare; that if his children forsake his law, and walk not in his judgments ; then he will visit their transgression with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes; but that, nevertheless, he will, not utterly take away his loving-kindness, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail, nor break his covenant, Ex. lxxxix. 3 1 - 34, implying that otherwise his faithfulness would fail, and his covenant were broken on his part. And therefore when he deals not with a people upon covenant terms, but as cast-aways, and as people given up, he declares: I will not punish your daughters, Hos. iv. 14, And why should they be smitten any more? Isa. i. 5. And they themselves own; It was good for them to have beeu afflicted, Psal. cxix. 71, and that he had done it in very faithfulness, ver. 75. And hi correcting them is signified not only to consist with love, but to proceed from it; for tis said, whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, Heb. xii. And those afflictions are properly punitive, as they import warning to others; but not vindictive, as tending to the destruction of themselves; but corrective, as intending their own amendment; besides warning to others, which also those that are destructive might do. But these afflictive strokes upon his own, as they intend warning to others, have the general nature of punishment in them. But they differ in their special kind, as being to themselves corrective only, not destructive or vindictive. But upon the whole, when once he is reconciled to you, he no longer treats you as enemies ; if sometimes he see cause to afflict his own, he smites them not as he smites those that smote them, Isa. xxvii. 7. Your carriage doth not always please him, therefiwe tis not. strange, if his dealings do not always please you; but after forgiveness he intends your real and final hurt no more.
2. A second consequent of Gods forgiving you all your sin; is his seasonable manifestation hereof to you. He may have forgiven you, and not judge it seasonable suddenly to make it known to you: he may judge it fit to hold you, some time, in suspense. And when by his grace he hath enabled you to exercise repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, whereupon you are in a pardoned state; you may yet sometime remain in doubt, whether you were sincere herein or no. And may not on a sudden put you out of doubt, but keep you a while in a waiting posture; as that which is more suitable to his own majesty and greatness, and to your own infirm and less established condition. He waits to be gracious, and is exalted even in shewing mercy, for he is a God of judgment, and doth show mercy judiciously, when he judges it the fittest season; therefore are they blessed that wait for him, Isa. xxx. 18. Assurance is the privilege not of all his children, but of them that are come to a more grown stature; but in the mean time he sustains you, by hope in his mercy, and lets not your heart sink within you. And when he sees it fit, lets you know he hath accepted the atonement for you, which he hath enabled you to receive; and speaks that peace to you, which is the fruit of his lips, and which, he only, by speaking it inwardly to your heart, can create; that peace which passes all understanding, Isa. lvii. 18; Phil. iv. 7, and which belongs to his kingdom in you; with joy in the Holy Ghost, when once the foundation is laid in righteousness, Rom xiv. 17. 2. This reconciliation, on Gods part, not only includes the forgiveness of your former enmity, with all the sins of that fearful state wherein you then were; but also his receiving you into a state of amity and friendship with himself. And this you are to take for a great addition to the former. A prince may pardon to a malefactor a capital crime, spare his forfeited life and estate ; and yet not take him for a favourite and a friend. But when the blessed God forgives his enemies, he also takes them for his friends; though those are distinct things, yet they are most closely conjunct; he always adds this latter to the former. Abraham was called the friend of God, Isa. xli. 8, not only in the active sense, as now bearing a friendly mind towards God; but in the passive sense also, as now God hath a friendly mind towards him. And upon what account? Some may think Abraham being a person of eminent sanctity, this may be said of him only upon that peculiar account. But see how the matter must be understood, from what we find, Jam. ii. 23. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God ; this is spoken of him, not as an eminent saint only, but under the common notion of a believer ; so that the same thing is truly to be said of every one that believes, with a justifying faith. So saith our Saviour to his disciples in common: "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," John, xv. 14. "And I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you"(ver. lii), which signifies his own friendly mind to them. And now! consider what this friendliness towards them includes. It must include, -
1. Love, which is the very soul of friendship. So our Saviour expresses his own friendliness towards them that are his-: As my Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love, ver. 9. And the height of that love, ver 13, Greater love than that hath no man, that a man should lay down his life for his friends; though tis elsewhere further heightened, from our having been sinners and enemies, . v. 8, 10; though it was then in view to him what he designed to make of them, viz, friends to him too. And so his friendship must signify further, not love merely, but also after reconciliation, there mentioned, ver. 10.-12. A delightful, complacential love. For such is the love of friends, a love of delight, which they take in one another; as if he had said, Now I have overcome you, and won your hearts, I love you with that pleasantness, that delightful love, which is proper to the state of friendship. So such friends are spoken to, Cant. ii. 14. 0 my dove, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance comely : and that book abounds with expressions of that import : Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse. How fair is my love! chap. iv. 7, 9, 10, &c. But besides what this friendship, as such, or as it hath in it the general notion of friendship, includes; consider further some particularities belonging to this friendship, as,
I. How infinitely condescending it is on Gods parts That the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, who hath infinite fulness in himself, and could with delight live alone to all eternity, as he did from all eternity, that he should vouchsafe to take from among his own creatures, such as he would make friends of; how admirable! much more of such creatures, apostate revolted creatures, impure and vile creatures such as he hath so much to do upon, to make them kind and holy, that they might be capable of his friendship According to the usual measures of friendship, tis with those that are like, yea with equals. How transporting should it he to thy soul, that the great God should entertain and strike such a friendship with thee, so vile, so rebellions and abject as thou wast! Solomon speaks of it as a wonderful thing, and even exceeding all belief, that God should dwell (which dwelling signifies friendly society), saith he, In very deed will God dwell with men! such creatures as men are now become and with men on earth! in this their low and mean state, and on this narrow, little, base spot; when even the bright and spacious heavens, yea the heaven of heavens, cannot contain him, 2 Chron. vi 18. How wonderful a thing is this! and even surpassing all wonders, Is it after the manner of men? how far, herein, are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts! even as the heavens are above the earth, Isa. lv. 8. Consider,
2. How beneficial this his friendship to us is! Many friends can only wish well to one another, have neither wisdom nor power really to befriend them; but his friendship is most beneficial to them on whom tis placed, having all sufficient fulness in himself to counsel, to support, to relieve, to supply them as the matter shall require.
3. How conversable he is with these his friends, being,
1. Always present. One may have a wise and potent friend, but perhaps he is far off when there is greatest need of him.
2. Being intimately present, with our minds and spirits. The Lord Jesus he with thy spirit, 2 Tim. iv. 22. He can be always so. The most inward friends, among men, can have no immediate access to one anothers spirits; but this is the peculiar advantage of this friend, that he can enter into our very souls; nothing is shut up from him.
4. How constant is Gods friendship! He loves with an everlasting love, and to the end (Jer. xxxi. 3; Isa. liv. 8; John, xiii. 1),when other friendships are upon slight grounds, easily, and often broken off.
Thus far we have seen what this mutual recollection imports, on our part, towards God; and on Gods part towards us. We now come to consider,
2. The way wherein our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and us, brings about this reconciliation; viz. In the body of his flesh through death. The same thing is expressed in the 20th verse, by his making peace by the blood of his cross, or his shedding his blood on the cross. The meaning of both expressions is, that he brought about this reconciliation, by suffering death for us upon the cross. Now because this reconciliation, as you have heard, includes both Gods reconciliation to us, and our reconciliation to God; and that both are effected by his dying upon the cross for us; we are to shew how each of these are brought about this way. How Gods reconciliation to us is wrought, by Christ dying for us? You may say, why was this the means of reconciling God to us? for you may think with yourselves, if God had a mind to be reconciled to sinners, could he not have been so, without letting his Son die for it? There are, indeed, difficulties in this matter, which are not fit to be brought into such a discourse as this; but I shall here say nothing about it but what is plain, and easy to be understood.
1. You can easily apprehend, that God saw it was necessary his Son should die, in order to the saving of sinners; for who can think he would ever have consented to the death of his most beloved Son, if he had not seen it necessary? Therefore you must conclude it was necessary, whether you discern the reasons upon which it was so or no. -
2. You can easily apprehend that the sins of men deserved eternal death, and that God threatened them with eternal death accordingly; for what death but eternal death can that be, which is opposed to eternal or everlasting life? (Rom. v. 21; vi. 23), and which is executed upon all that are not reconciled, according to the sentence of the last judgment, Matt.- xxv. ult. 3. You cannot but know that there were sacrifices under the law of Moses, appointed to make atonement for sin, and that without shedding of blood there could be no remission, Heb. ix. 22.
4. Tis easy to be understood, that the blood of those sacrifices could not take away sin, as is expressly said (Heb. x. 4), and therefore that they could not otherwise signify any thing, to the taking it away, than as they were types and shadows of that great sacrifice, that once for all was to be offered up for that purpose. Once in, or towards the end of; the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; Heb. ix. 26.
5. You can understand that as this could never have been, without the consent of the Father and the Son; so by their consent it might be, that the innocent might suffer for the guilty: as one may be bound, body for body, for another.
6. And it is plain they did consent; God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have life everlasting, John, iii. 16. And our Lord Jesus Christ himself says, no man could take his life from him, i e. against his will, for he could have twelve legions of angels to defend it; but he did lay it down (John, x. 18), and gave his life a ransom for many, Matt. xx. 28.
7. So it came to pass that our Lord Jesus suffered once, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God, 1 Pet iii. 18. And he was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in him.
8. And hereupon when God is reconciled to sinners, he doth not only forgive them, but he justifies them, there being an equal recompense made to both; but of his own providing, and therefore to us it is most free, though it was very costly to Christ. So both these expressions, of the same thing, are put together: We are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins - that God might be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus, Rom. iii. 24, 26. -
9. Thus God becomes reconciled to sinful men (not to every one, but to them that sincerely repent and believe), in a just, regular, and orderly way, most becoming his excellent Majesty. For though he forgive sinners, that had affronted him, and rebelled against him; yet it is not without a sacrifice, and that of his own Son, a sacrifice of infinite value; most becoming his grace and mercy, for that sacrifice was of his own providing. Most becoming his justice, for though sin be forgiven, it is punished too; forgiven to us, but punished in his own Son, who consented to bear our sins in his own body on the tree, 1 Pet. ii. 24. Most becoming the truth of his word, for, as that said, without shedding of blood there could be no remission; the most precious blood was shed that ever was, in order to our remission. Most becoming his infinite wisdom, that found out this way of answering all purposes; that both he might be glorified in the highest degree, and yet sinners be saved. Grace hath herein abounded in all wisdom and prudence, Eph. i. 6 - 8. -
2. We come now (having thus far seen how Christ dying on the cross works Gods reconciliation to us) to shew also how it brings about our reconciliation to God. And here you may observe, we changed the method of speaking to this two-fold reconciliation, considered in itelf, and as the effect of Christs death. For though God is not actually reconciled to us before he hath disposed our hearts to a reconciliation unto him ; yet the foundation of his being reconciled to us, is first laid in the death of his Son, or in the prospect and foresight of it; before there can be an disposition on our parts to such a reconciliation.
And that being done, and it being thereby seen what this great sacrifice signifies to his being reconciled, whensoever that shall be; it comes, in the proper order, next to be considered which way it works, to bring about our reconciliation also. And it works, in order hereto, these two ways
1. By preparing the ground of preaching the gospel of reconciliation, or of Christ crucified; which must first be, or have been resolved on, before there could be any gospel to reveal it. In this gospel Christ is set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom. iii. 25. And this is the proper and most apt means to work upon thy heart, Sinner, to persuade thee to be reconciled to God. Looking upon him whom thou hast pierced, is that thou mayest mourn over him, Zech. xii. 10. What should so melt and overcome thy heart and make thee yield to the terms of reconciliation? But he must be represented, that he may be looked upon; and therefore is the preaching of Christ crucified, unto them that are called, the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. i. 23, 24), the most powerful and the wisest method; and which God hath thought fittest to win souls, and reconcile them to himself. Therefore it is reckoned no less than a witchery, if they obey not the gospel, who have Christ set forth before their eyes, as crucified among them (Gal. iii. 1), which setting forth could not be otherwise, than in the gospel representation. For you know Christ was not actually crucified in Galatia, but at Jerusalem; therefore, saith our Lord himself; But I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me, John, xii. 32. This was said (as it follows), signifying what death he should die, i.e. by being crucified. And this, supposing a due representation of him in the gospel, was in point of means to draw all men. But it could only be sufficient, as a means; when yet it could not be a means sufficient, if there were not an agent able to use-it to that purpose. Therefore,
2. Our Redeemers dying upon the cross did work towards our reconciliation, by procuring the Spirit to be given, in order to the making this most apt means effectual to this end. And if this sacrifice of Christ on the cross was necessary to the obtaining forgiveness of sins, it was, at least, equally necessary to obtain the giving of the Spirit, without which all the rest were in vain. When Christ had died to reconcile both (i.e. Jew and Gentile) in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and thereupon preached peace to them that were afar off, and to them that were nigh; yet it was still necessary that by one Spirit both should have access to the Father; otherwise they would never come at him, they would still, with implacable hearts, have kept at a distance. Therefore looking upon a crucified Christ would never have had this effect, to make them mourn over him, whom they had pierced if the Spirit of grace and supplication were not poured forth, Zech. xii. 10. They would with hard hearts have gazed long enough on this doleful spectacle, far enough from mourning; if the Spirit of Christ were not poured forth, as well as his blood. And do we think that holy and pure Spirit would ever have been poured forth, on so impure and unholy souls, if the precious blood of that invaluable sacrifice had not been poured forth to procure it! Those words of the apostle make this plain (Gal. iii. 13, 14), Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (for cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree), that the blessing of Abraham might reach further, come upon the Gentiles; that they might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Or in their being made to believe the everblessed One was so far made a curse, that you. might be capable of this blessing; and by it have your own enmity overcome, and your reconciliation brought about. Therefore doth our Lord direct us to pray.for the Spirit, assuring us our heavenly Father will give that Holy Spirit to them that ask him (Luke, xi. 13), as well knowing, his pouring forth his blood had deserved it should not any longer be an enclosed blessing; but which might be communicated to Jew and Gentile, and in his way and season be poured out on all flesh. Thus doth our Lord, in the body of his flesh through death, work out this two-fold reconciliation, both of God to you, and of you to God.
And now the use follows, which must have reference both, -
1. To the mutual reconciliation itself; You hath he now reconciled; and -
2. To the way wherein our Lord Jesus brings it about, In the body of his flesh through death. The use we shall make of the former will be two-fold (according as this reconciliation itself is two-fold, viz. Gods reconciliation to us, and our reconciliation to God), viz, to persuade us from sundry considerations,
1. To believe Gods reconcilableness to us. -
2. To be willing, hereupon, to be actually and speedily reconciled to him.
And the use which is only now intended to be made of the latter, is to draw from it divers additional considerations, by which to enforce and give further strength to both those mentioned exhortations.
1. For the use of the former, the doctrine of the reconciliation itself, inasmuch as we leave shewn that it contains reconciliation, on Gods part towards us, and on our part towards God, we must understand,
I. That Gods reconciliation is asserted here, to the persons whom the apostle now mentions; and whom he had before described as converts, saints faithful in Christ , that Christ had reconciled them, i.e. restored them into a state of grace, favour, and acceptance, though they had been alienated, and enemies in their minds. Therefore, if when they become saints, faithful, &c. God was reconciled to them; while they were yet in their state of enmity, he was reconcilable. The plain use to be made of this is, that we be persuaded to believe Gods reconcilableness to sinners, offending creatures, such as had been strangers to him, and enemies; whatsoever, bar was in the way, is so far removed (as we shall shew from the - second head) that he can be reconciled to such enemies, and will actually be so, whensoever they turn to him. This, sinner, is the sum of the gospel, which thou art to believe upon sundry consideratloas, which have their ground here; as,
I. This gospel could never be intended for these only, to whom the apostle now writes. Can we think there was one gospel meant for Colossians, and another, or none at all, for Englishmen? Yea, when the apostle himself was converted and obtained mercy, it was for a pattern to them that should hereafter believe, 1 Tim. i. 16. You have the same warrant to believe, that turning to God and believing on his Son, God will be reconciled to them as he was to them.
2. This is the gospel which God hath ever declared to the world, without accepting any person, wheresoever his written word hath come (Isa. iv.), Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters, even he that hath no money, come without money, and without price, ver. 1. Incline your ear, and come to me, hear, and your souls shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, ver. 3. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy; to our God, and he will abundantly pardon. For my ways are not as your ways, ver. 7, 8. So the tenor of his word hath always run, Turn to me, and I will turn to you, 2 Chron. xxx. 6; Jer. iii. 12; Zech. i. 3; Mal. iii. 7. And is it not to be believed?
3. It is the gospel which he hath confirmed, by his own solemn oath (as I live, saith the Lord), having plainly propounded it (Ezek. xviii. 21, 22, 23, 31, 32.) He swears to it (chap. xxxiii.ll), and wilt thou not yet believe him?
4. When after the fulness of time, it was more expressly revealed, that there could be no turning to God, but through Christ; this was the gospel which he himself preached (Mark, i. 14, 15), and which, when he was leaving the world, he required should be preached to all the world, Mark, xvi. 15, 16. 5. It is given as the sum of all the counsel of God, Act xx. 21. -
6. It is. the everlasting gospel, which is to continue through all ages, as the stated means of regenerating and renewing souls, 1 Pet. i. 23, 24, 25. -
7. It is this gospel which God blesses, and makes effectual to this purpose. When, herein, the love and kindness of God to men appear, then (not by works of righteousness which they have done) but of his mercy he saves them by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit. iii. 4, 5. His mercy revealed,, softens and changes their hearts; so that by the exceeding great and precious promises, contained in this gospel, they are made iartakers of a divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4.
8. But it is by believing it becomes effectual to any blessed purpose. It is the power of God to salvation, to every one that believes (Rom. i. 16), but to them that believe it not, it is without power, and effects nothing. It works effectually on every one that believes (1 These, ii. 13), but hath no efficacy when it is not believed. Much people, believing, were turned to the Lord (Acts, xi. 23), but where there is no believing there is no turning.
9. Where it is not believed it hardens. We are therefore warned to take heed of the evil heart of unbelief, lest we be hardened (Heb. iii. 12. 13), and are told those hardened ones that fell in the wilderness, were such as believed not, and that could not enter into Canaan (the type of heaven) because of unbelief (ver. 18, 19), and that the gospel could not profit them because it was not mixed with faith, chap. iv. 2. -
10. It is in the same context mentioned,. as a most provoking wickedness, to disbelieve this gospel of his. That; sin was therefore said to be the provocation (Heb. iii. I ), and referring to the same time, the great God says.; How long will this people provoke? how long ere they believe me? (Numb. xiv. 11), when their not believing his. willingness to do better for them, than only to bestow upon them an earthly Canaan, was their most provoking wickedness.
11. The not believing of this gospel of his,- is understood to be giving God the lie (1 John,v. 10), as believing it is setting to our seal that he is true, - John, iii. 3& But what inducement is it possible he can have to lie to his own creatures, who is himself all-sufficient, and who hath them absolutely in his power? Or what man would lie for lying sake, having no inducement? It is therefore impossible for God to lie, as being inconsistent with the universal perfections of his nature; and therefore to impute falsehood to him, is highest blasphemy. And after all this, sinner, darest thou disbelieve Gods reconcilableness to thee, upon his own declared terms; when here the whole business sticks, of reconciliation between him and thee?
But there are yet other considerations to this purpose; to persuade thy belief of Gods reconcilableness to thee, from the 2. Head of discourse, the way of our Lords bringing about this reconciliation viz. in the body of his flesh through death. And here his reconcilableness must be understood to signify two things ; the possibility of Gods being reconciled to sinners, - his willingness to be reconciled. And the death of his Son upon the cross, in order hereto, affords considerations to evince both.
1. The possibility of the thing, which this sacrifice proves to be possible, because it makes it so. When the apostle asserts, that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Heb. ix. 22), and that it was impossible the blood of bulls and goats should take it away (ch. x. 4), and that, therefore, our Lord came to take it away, in that body prepared for him (ver. 5, 6), he therein implies it to be impossible to be otherwise taken away, than by this blood shed upon the cross; noticing, indeed, being possible to God, which becomes him not. And it became him not otherwise to effect this design, and bring many sons to glory, but by the sufferings of this his Son. It was, therefore, not possible upon other terms (Heb. ii. 10), but in this way it was possible, upon the account of these several things concurring; -
1. The rich and infinite value and fulness of this sacrifice. The blood that was herein shed, and the life that was laid down, though of a man, yet were the blood and life of such a man as was also God (Acts, xx. 28; 1 John, iii, 16), a man that was Gods own fellow, Zech. xiii. 7. As it was God that was offended, so it was God that did satisfy for the offence. He was nearly allied to us, as a Redeemer ought to be. Because we were partakers of flesh and blood, he took part with us of the same (Heb. ii. 14, lb); therefore, as man did offend, man suffered for it.
3. He freely consented hereto, both to become man, and to suffer for man, Phil. ii. 6 - 8; John, x. 18.
4. He had no sin of his own to suffer for, 2 Cor. v. 21, and as many other Scriptures speak.
5. He was, by a special, divine law, commissioned hereunto. Therefore his laying down his life, was in itself no illegal act. He had power to lay down his life, having received a commandment for it from the Father, John, x. i3. He came, having Gods law, to this purpose, in his heart, Psal. xl. 6 - 8.
6. He was fully accepted herein above, his sacrifice having a sweet-smelling odour with it, unto God; because satisfying his justice, it made way for the free exercise of hisgrace and: love, Eph. v 2. Therefore, sinner, canst thou disbelieve or doubt the very possibility of Gods being reconciled to thee, upon his own declared terms; when an extraordinary a course was taken that he might be reconciled ? And thou hast as great reason to believe his willingness to be reconciled, considering that this was consented to on purpose. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, might. not perish, John, iii. 16. Now consider, was his own Son given for what he was not willing of? his only-begotten Son! his very image! (Heb. i. 2) the Son f his delights, always dear to him! (Prov. viii. 30) and who was especially dear to him for this very reason! John, x. 17. Yea, and that it was the very cry of his blood from the cross, 0 forgive, forgive this repenting, believing sinner, be reconciled to him, 0 Father, for the sake of thy dying Son! And yet was he unwilling What could induce him who is love itself to give up such a Son, to so bitter, bloody, and ignominious sufferings, but his willingness to be reconciled to sinners? It were a blasphemy against the ever-blessed nature and being of God, to imagine He would have his most beloved Son suffer for sufferings sake! And for what other end could it be? And there is as little reason to doubt the issue, but that, being an enemy, thou wast reconciled by the death of his Son ; being reconciled, thou shalt be saved by his life, Rom v. 10. It therefore remains to press the
2. Exhortation, which you may take in the apostles words (2 Cor. v. 20), We, the ambassadors of Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, do pray you in Christs stead, be ye reconciled to God. Now that is out of doubt, that God justly and honourably can be reconciled to you (without which it had been impossible), and that he is most unquestionably willing; are you yet unwilling to be reconciled to him? Consider both this reconciliation itself, brought about with some, You hath he reconciled; and the way of it, In the body of his flesh, through death.
1. Some have been reconciled, that have been alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works. Whereupon bethink yourselves,
1. Have you any greater reason to be implacable towards the blessed God, than those Colossians? why should you be more wicked enemies?
2. Can you better maintain your cause against God? are you more able to stand against all the power of his wrath, which you so little know ? Psa xc. 11.
3. Can you better bear the loss and want of the comfortsof his love, while you live? to have the great God for your friend? to whom you have free recourse, and may pour out your souls daily? upon whom you may cast all your cares? with whom you may walk in friendly love, and may converse with him every day?
4. Can you less need his supports in a dying hour? Will it be easy to you to die unreconciled? and afterwards to appear convicted, unreconcilable enemies before the tribunal of your Judge? and then to have no advocate, no intercessor to plead for you? When he himself must be your condemning Judge, and shall only say, 0 that thou hadst known, in the day of thy visitation, the things that did belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thy eyes, Luke, xix. 42, 44. -
2. But we are further to persuade this reconciliation to God, from the way wherein our Lord effects it: In the body of his flesh, through death, or by dying a sacrifice upon the cross. And now you know this will you not yet be reconciled to him? Consider, 1. You will herein frustrate and make insignificant to yourself:, the highest demonstration that could be given of Gods good-will towards you. God so loved the world, &c. (John, iii. 16), and what could our Lord himself have done more to testify his own love? For greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends, John, xv. 13. Yea, for those that were not so before, but wicked enemies; only that thereby they might be made friends, Rom. v. 8. And what could it signify to you, to represent the divine love to you by so costly a demonstration, if it do not gain your love?
2. Aud what could be so apt a means, sinner, to break thy heart, and conquer all thy former enmity, as to behold thy Redeemer dying upon the cross for thee? They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn, Zech. xii. 10. And I, if I be lift up, will draw all men to me; which our Lord said, signifying what death he should die, by being lift up on the cross, John, xii. 32, 33. Now what dost thou think of thyself, if such a sight will not move thee? An earthly, carnal, worldly mind, is declared over and over to be enmity against God, Rom. viii. 7; James, iv. 4. But how remarkable is it, that such a temper of mind should be so peculiarly signified to import enmity to the cross of Christ! Phil. iii. 18, I tell you of such, weeping, saith the apostle, that do even continue their enmity even in the face of the cross? and who even by that itself are not overcome
3. If thou wilt not be reconciled, Christ did, as to thee, die in vain, thou canst be nothing the better. Think what it must come to, that so precious blood (infinitely exceeding the value of all corruptible things; silver and gold, etc. 1 Pet. i. 18, 19), should be shed, to redeem and save such as thou, and, yet do thee no good!
4. If thou continue to the last unreconciled, it not only doth thee no good, but it must cry and plead most terribly against thee. Blood-guiltiness is a fearful thing ! What must it be to be guilty of such blood! If thou wert guilty of the blood of thy father, thy child, or of the wife of thy bosom, how would it astonish thee! But to be guilty of the blood of the Son of God! How canst thou live under it? If thou wert guilty of all the innocent blood that ever was shed, since the creation of the world, it were not comparable to the guilt of this blood!
5. But if thou come to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than the blood of Abel, as a reconciled believing penitetit; thou wilt also come and be adjoined to the general assembly, to the church of the first-born written in heaven, to the innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb. xii. 22 - 24. 0 the joy in heaven that will be concerning thee! And, 0 the fulness of thy own joy, into which thou shalt enter at last: - for consider,
6. And in the last place, what follows in the latter part of this verse, that is, that thou wilt be presented by thy Redeemer, holy, and unblamable, and unreprovable in the sight of God, as if thou hadst never offended, and never been an enemy. All thy former transgressions, that have overwhelmed thee with just sorrow, shall all be overwhelmed in that kind, paternal joy, as for the returning prodigal; This my son was lost and is found. And thy having been so long alienated, and an enemy in thy mind by wicked works, will all be forgotten and swallowed up in the embraces of infinite, everlasting love?
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