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Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.—2 Thes. i. 11.
I COME now to the second expression in the apostle’s prayer, ‘And fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness;’ that is, all those things which according to his good pleasure he hath determined to do for you. Now all the pleasure of his goodness respects both the kind and degree of the several graces to be wrought in them.
First, The several kinds of grace. Man is apt to divide; some will have one sort of mercy, and not another; whereas the whole mercy of God in Christ is necessary to our salvation, and none of us shall be saved without entire mercy. Thence note—
Doct. 1. That we must not sever God’s benefits, and desire one with the exclusion of the rest.
Secondly, It respects the degree. Many, who imagine they have obtained some measure of grace and holiness, rest in those beginnings, and are asleep as to all desires and endeavours after growth and increase. Therefore—
Doct. 2. That a christian should not be contented with a little of God’s grace, but seek to have all fulfilled in him.
For the first point, these reasons may enforce it—(1.) The causes of salvation must not be confounded; (2.) Christ must not be divided; (3.) The covenant must not be disordered; (4.) Our cure must not be disturbed.
First, The causes of salvation must not be confounded one with another, nor separated one from another.
What are the causes and means of salvation?
1. There are five things which do concur to this work, and all of them, in one place or another, are said to save—the love of God, the merit and satisfaction of Christ Jesus, the almighty operation of the Spirit, the conversion of a sinner, the word and sacraments, which in their place are said to save also. You shall find it is ascribed to all these things. To God the Father: 2 Tim. i. 9, ‘Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling;’ because of his elective love in Jesus Christ. Mat. i. 21, To Christ: ‘He shall save his people from their sins;’ because of his merit and satisfaction. To the Holy Ghost, because of his almighty efficiency, and powerful operation and influence: Titus iii. 5, ‘He hath saved us, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ To conversion, by which repentance and faith is wrought in us. So we are said to be saved by faith: Eph. ii. 8, ‘By grace ye are saved, through faith.’ And by repentance and turning to God, to save ourselves from this untoward generation, Acts ii. 40. To the word and sacraments: the word discovereth and exhibiteth the grace whereby we are saved: James i. 21, ‘The engrafted word, which is able to save our souls.’ Yea, it is said of ministers as instruments, because of their subserviency to God’s work: 1 Tim. iv. 16, ‘Thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee.’ So of the sacraments, as they represent and seal this grace to our hearts: 1 Peter iii. 21, ‘Baptism saveth,’ &c. Well, now, all these things must be regarded in their place.
[1.] The love and wisdom of God, in finding out a way how, with safety to the honour of his holiness and justice, sinners might be brought to life; this is the bosom and bottom cause, and the first mover of all, that stirreth all the rest of the causes that conduce to our salvation: John iii. 16, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,’ &c.
[2.] The next is the merit and satisfaction of Christ, which is the result of that eternal wisdom and love, and without which the purpose of God could not take effect: Acts iv. 12, ‘There is salvation in no other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’
[3.] The omnipotent operation of the Spirit of God, who worketh in us those things which are necessary on our part to the participation and application of the benefits intended to us by the love of God, and purchased for us by the satisfaction and merits of Christ. These things are indeed required of us, but because of our weakness and corruption cannot be performed by us, unless we be renewed and assisted by the Holy Spirit; so that as Christ is necessary to set all at rights between us and God, so the Spirit is necessary to qualify us, and fit us for the reception of the grace of Christ: ‘He shall take of mine, and glorify me,’ John xvi. 14. As it is not consistent with the holiness and justice of God to pardon sinners without a satisfaction, so not with his wisdom, and holiness, and justice, to dispense this grace to the unsanctified, who yet live in their sins.
[4.] Then cometh in the conversion of a sinner, as the fruit of the Spirit’s work, which manifesteth itself in ‘repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Acts xx. 21. By repentance we return to God, and by faith we are united to Christ, and live in him, and to him, that we may afterwards live with him.
[5.] The word and sacraments, by which the Holy Ghost doth first work, and then confirm faith and repentance in us; for faith cometh by hearing. And that grace which is offered in the word is sealed in the sacraments, which bind us more closely to God, and excite us with the greater confidence to wait for the grace offered by him, to bring us to life and salvation. Now these are the causes and means.
2. They must not be confounded one with another; we must not ascribe that to the sacraments which belongeth to the word. The word is appointed for conversion, as the sacraments for confirmation. A charter or indenture is first offered, and then sealed when parties are agreed: Acts ii. 41, ‘They that gladly received the word, were baptized.’ They received the word, then baptism is added; as in a treaty of marriage, consent to the proposals, solemnisation, and then cohabitation followeth. Neither must that be ascribed to one sacrament which is proper to the other. Initiation or implantation belongs to baptism: 1 Cor. xii. 13, ‘By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.’ Some things are proper to the holy supper which do not belong to baptism. We must live before we are fed. We must not ascribe that either to word or sacraments which belongeth to conversion, as the privileges of christianity. Many depend upon the out ward participation for their title to pardon and life: Luke xiii. 26, ‘We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.’ So James i. 22, ‘Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,’ παραλογιζόμενοι. Frequenting the means is not our qualification, but sound and thorough conversion to God. Faith giveth the title, not the use of ordinances. Again, we must not ascribe that to our conversion which belongeth to the Spirit; our faith and repentance is necessary, but yet it is not of ourselves, but of God, Eph. ii. 8. Nor that to the Spirit which belongeth to Christ, as if our conversion were meritorious, or did deserve the benefits we are possessed of. No; that honour is reserved for Christ. Neither must we ascribe to Christ that which belongeth to God; for the mediator came not to draw us off from God, but to bring us to him: Rev. v. 9, ‘Thou hast redeemed us to God.’ Therefore all things must be ranged in their proper place, and we must distinctly consider what is proper to the love of God, what to the merit of Christ, what to the operation of the Spirit, what to the conversion of the creature; and so what to faith, what to works, what is proper to the word, what to sacraments, what is proper to baptism, what to the Lord’s supper; otherwise we shall fall into dangerous errors and mistakes, and hinder both our spiritual profit and comfort. As, for instance, if we so ascribe all to the mercy of God as to shut out the merit of Christ, we quit a great part of God’s design, which is to represent his goodness to fallen man, without any derogation to his justice: Rom. iii. 24, 25, ‘To declare, I say, his righteousness,’ &c. On the other side, if we cry up the satisfaction of Christ so as to lessen our esteem of the love of God, we draw an ill picture of God in our minds, as if he were all wrath, and needed blood to appease him; whereas Christ came to demonstrate the amiableness of God, and his goodness and love, to allure and draw our hearts to him; for he was first in this design: 2 Cor. v. 19, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.’ If we conceive otherwise, we set Christ against God, and so urge his merit against the eternal love, which was the bottom and original cause of our salvation. Again, if we ascribe that to the merit of Christ which is proper to the operation of the Holy Spirit, we confound things that are to be distinguished, and beget an ill persuasion in the minds of men; as if his blood would do us good without his Spirit, and there were nothing required of us but the believing of his righteousness and sufferings, and he were the best christian that did only credit the history of the gospel. No; the Spirit of Christ is necessary to apply and enforce all upon us. And besides the elective love of God and the mediation of Christ, the Spirit’s sanctification is necessary, 1 Peter i. 2, lest it beget looseness and licentiousness in us. Again, if a man should apply the conversion of the creature to his own power and strength, it is a wrong to the Spirit, by whose divine power this is accomplished, 2 Peter i. 3; or if he should apply the benefits of which we are possessed to the merit of our faith and repentance or new obedience, it is a wrong to Christ; or if upon pretence of conversion we should neglect the means, or ascribe to the means what is proper to Christ and the Spirit, as if the work wrought did all, we should fall into dangerous errors; for the means are but means, and the cause of all is God’s mercy, which floweth freely to us by the merit of Christ, and procureth the Spirit for us, who worketh in us true conversion to God, evidencing and showing forth itself by faith and repentance, which are wrought by the word, and confirmed by the sacraments.
3. They must not be separated one from another. We cannot rest upon the grace of God without the satisfaction of Christ, for God will not exercise his mercy to the prejudice of his justice; nor can we take comfort in the satisfaction of Christ without regeneration or true conversion wrought in us by the Spirit; nor can we conclude that we are regenerated by the Spirit without faith and repentance, nor expect the operation of the Holy Ghost without the use of the word, neither must the word be used with the neglect of the sacraments: Eph. v. 26, ‘That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.’ Though the Spirit be not bound to these things, yet we are bound. Nor must one sacrament be separated from the other, as that we should content ourselves with baptism without a religious use of the Lord’s supper. No; we make a dislocation of the method wherein God hath disposed his grace. Suppose, for instance, a poor creature troubled with the sense of his sin and misery, what shall he do? Keep away from God, or go to him? Not keep away, that is to shut the door upon himself. Go to him by all means, you will say. Well, to God he goeth. But he is a sinner, obnoxious to his wrath; how shall the poor man hope to speed? God heareth not sinners; true, but he hath declared his willingness to be reconciled in Christ; and so God doth in effect say, as the prophet Elisha said to Joram, 2 Kings iii. 14, ‘Were it not that I regarded the presence of Jehosaphat the king of Judah, I would not look towards thee nor see thee.’ So God saith, Were it not for Christ, I would have no respect to you. Suppose the distressed sinner addresseth himself to Christ, to help him and pity him, that he may come to God by him. Christ remitteth him to the Spirit: ‘He shall take of mine, and glorify me.’ Well, then, he waiteth for the Spirit, whose office it is to convert the creature to God; but the Spirit referreth him to the ordinances: ‘Tarry at Jerusalem till ye be endowed with power from on high.’ In the word and sacraments ye shall hear of me. What then becometh the distressed creature but to submit to this method, and improve it to the best of his power till he be brought home to God? Thus the causes and means of salvation must not be confounded.
Secondly, Because Christ must not be divided. Surely men over look or depress one office whilst they magnify the other, and so set those things against each other which God hath joined together, or at least we wholly spend our thoughts upon one thing, that we forget the other. As. for instance, in Christ, his natures and offices are considerable.
1. His natures, divine and human.
For his divine nature, there are ordinarily fewest practical mistakes about that, because it is a matter of faith, and we cannot sufficiently possess you with this truth, that Christ is the Son of God, yea, God, equal with him in glory. Yet there are found a sort of men who will be called christians that deny his godhead. But yet there may be an abuse of the orthodox assertion of the divinity of his person; for if we altogether reflect upon that, and neglect or overlook his great condescension in taking flesh, we miss the great intent of his design, the nearness of God to us in our nature, that he might be within the reach of our commerce. On the other side, if we altogether consider his human nature, and do not remember his godhead, we shall be in danger to deny his super-eminent power, virtue, and merit; as the Socinians do, who account him to be mere man, and deny him to be God. Man is always disturbing the harmony of the gospel, and setting one part against another. The Socinians on the one hand deny him to be God, and so impeach his merit and satisfaction, and press only his example and doctrine; but the carnal professor, on the other hand, only reflects upon his redemption as a means of our atonement with God, and so overlooks the necessary doctrine of his example, and Christ’s coming to be a pattern of obedience in our nature, so often pressed in scripture: John xiii. 5, ‘I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done;’ and 1 Peter ii. 21, ‘Christ hath suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.’ So 1 John ii. 6, ‘He that saith, he abideth in him, ought also to walk as he hath walked.’ So 1 John iv. 17, ‘As he is, so we are in the world.’ As the others make light of his merit, so these of his example. Now both together will do well. Our duty is not prejudiced when we consider we live by the same laws God lived by when he was in flesh; and our comfort is the stronger when we consider that the merit of his obedience and satisfaction, by reason of his godhead, expiates our defects.
2. His offices. His general office is but one, to be mediator or redeemer; but the functions which belong to it are three—to be king, priest, and prophet; for all these belong to the anointed Saviour. Note, one of these concerns his mediation with God, the other his dealing with us. We are to consider him in both parts: Heb. iii. 1, ‘Consider the Lord Jesus, the great high priest and apostle of our profession.’ The work of a high priest lieth with God, the work of an apostle with man. Now some look so to his mediation with God that they scarce observe his dealing with man; others so look to his mediation with man that they overlook his mediation with God. Nay, in his very priesthood, or dealing with God, some so observe his sacrifice that they make light of his continual intercession, and do not apprehend what a comfort it is to present our suits by such a worthy hand to God; yet both are acts of the same office.
[1.] Let us deal with these first, these that cry up his sacrifice and intercession, so that they make light of his doctrine and government. They look so much to the saviour that they forget the teacher and lord. You may observe that their whole religion runneth upon depending on Christ’s merit, without any care of his laws or holy doctrine, by believing and obeying of which they are interested in the fruits of his merit and righteousness. The scriptures direct us to another sort of religion, and do not make one office destructive of the rest; but represent Christ under such terms as do not only intimate privilege to us, but bespeak duty and obedience; as Acts ii. 36, ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ He is lord and supreme governor, as well as Christ an anointed saviour; not only a saviour to bless, but a lord to rule and command. So again, Acts v. 31, ‘Him hath God anointed to be a prince and saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel.’ Still the compounded terms occur, because of his double work, to require and give. Christ is such a saviour that he is also a prince, such a prince that he is also a saviour; and in this compounded notion must we represent him to our souls. So Eph. v. 23, ‘Christ is the head of the church, and the saviour of the body.’ On the one side, as Christ saveth his people from sin and misery, so he doth also govern and rule them; and on the other side, Christ’s dominion over the church doth tend unto, and is exercised in, procuring and bringing about the church’s salvation. The usual carnal part of the world catch at comforts, but neglect Christ as a teacher and lord. A libertine yokeless spirit is very natural to us: Ps. ii. 3, ‘Let us break his bonds asunder, and cast his cords from us.’ They stick at his reign: Luke xix. 19, Nolumus hunc regnare, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ If he will come as a saviour, he shall be welcome. He may have customers enough for his benefits, for pardon and glory, hut we cannot endure to hear of his laws and strict doctrine, that he will be sovereign and chief. Men would not willingly obey him.
[2.] Some so cry up his mediation with man that they forget his mediation with God. They are of two sorts—
(1.) Some that cry up his doctrine, that they forget his giving of the Spirit, as if objective grace did all. No; they must be taught and drawn, John vi. 44, 45. But men are apt to run into extremes; they cannot magnify one thing but they depress, depreciate, and extenuate another; as if the Spirit’s work and all-conquering force did signify little, and his business did only lie in inditing scriptures, not in opening hearts, Acts xvi. 14.
(2.) Others urge him as a lawgiver, that they forget him as a fountain of grace. It is said, Acts viii. 35, that ‘Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch.’ The Greek word is, εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ τὸν Ιησοῦν, he evangelised Jesus, not legalised Jesus; as the Samaritans had a temple at Mount Gerizim, but they had no ark or mercy-seat. They turn christianity into mere legislation; they cry up the rule of the gospel and the example of Christ, but they depreciate his merit and satisfaction, do not represent Christ as a fountain of grace who worketh all in us.
Thirdly, The covenant must not be disordered, which, as David telleth us, is in all things ordered and sure, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. There God hath so ordered all things that they may not hinder one another. None shall have any part in the covenant unless he take the whole bargain. The order of the covenant chiefly appeareth in the right stating of privileges and conditions, means and ends, duties and comforts.
1. Of privileges and conditions. He offereth pardon and life, but to the penitent and obedient believer: John iii. 36, ‘He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ Is not this a condition which excludeth the infidel and includeth the penitent believer? Without it we cannot, by it we may, obtain life. So John xiii. 8, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.’ Unless cleansed from the guilt and filth of sin by Christ, we can have no part in him or with him, that is, in his benefits. So Heb. v. 8, ‘He is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him.’ Christ would contradict his own method, not act according to the covenant stated and agreed between him and us, if he should dispense his grace upon other terms. Now there are two extremes in the world; some trust in their own external superficial righteousness, as if that were the only plea to be brought before God: Luke xviii. 9, ‘He spake this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.’ The other extreme is of those who teach men to look at nothing in themselves, neither as evidence, condition, nor means, and think the only plea is Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and merit, and no consideration is to be had of faith, repentance, and new obedience. Do you think these men deliver you the covenant of grace? No; it is a covenant of their own making and modelling, not the covenant of God, which is your charter and sure ground of hope. The blood of Christ doth what belongs to it, but faith and repentance must do what be longs to them also. They have not the least degree of that honour which belongs to the love of God, or blood of Christ, or operation of the Spirit; yet faith, repentance, and new obedience must be regarded in their place. Surely none of the privileges of the new covenant belong to the impenitent and unbelievers; these are the portion of the faithful only. It is the Father’s work to love us, of his own accord and self-inclination; Christ’s work to be a sacrifice for sin or propitiation for us; the Spirit’s work to convert us to God; but we must accept of the grace offered, that is, repent, believe, and live in obedience to God.
2. A right order of means and ends, that by the one we may come to the other. The great end of christianity is coming to God; the prime and general means is by Christ: 1 Peter iii. 18, ‘Christ hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;’ and John xiv. 6, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me;’ Heb. vii. 25, ‘He is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him.’ The subordinate means are the fruits of Christ’s grace, in sanctifying us, and enabling us to overcome temptations, more expressly by patient suffering and active obedience. Suffering: Rom. ii. 7, ‘To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life.’ Obedience: 1 Cor. xv. 58, ‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ The great difficulty of religion lieth not in a respect to the end, but the means. There is some difficulty about the end, to convince men of an unseen felicity; but there is more about the means, not only to convince their minds, but to gain and convert their hearts, and bring them to submit to this patient, holy, and self-denying course, whereby we obtain eternal life. Many wish the end, but overlook the means, as Balaam, Num. xxiii. 10. When the Israelites despised the pleasant land, it was because of the difficulty of getting to it, Ps. cvi. 24, 25. The land was a good land, flowing with milk and honey; what ailed them? There were giants, sons of Anak, to be overcome first, walled towns to be scaled, numerous inhabitants to be vanquished. Heaven is a good heaven, but the way to it is to deny themselves. Few come to the apostle’s resolution: Phil. iii. 11, ‘If by any means I might obtain the resurrection of the dead.’ To forsake what we see and love for a God and glory we never saw, there is the difficulty of religion. But the covenant bindeth this expressly upon us: Mat. xvi. 24, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;’ Luke xiv. 26, ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, &c., he cannot be my disciple.’
3. A right order of duties and comforts: Mat. xi. 28, 29, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ Commands and promises are interwoven; comfort is more vanishing than grace, enjoyed only by him that works closely. If we will not be at the pains of seeking after the blessings of the covenant, no wonder if we miss them. Comfort is possessed more inconstantly, and with more frequent interruption, if we be not thorough in obedience.
Fourthly, Our cure must not be disturbed, to which many sorts of grace are necessary.
1. General and particular grace. There are some common benefits, as the offer of a new covenant to all sinners: Mark xvi. 16, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;’ John iii. 16, ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish;’ 2 Cor. v. 19, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.’ This common grace must not be neglected. Then peculiar grace to the elect: John vi. 37, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ Special grace is built on general, as the application to us upon the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and ransom, and the offer of the covenant.
2. In the application we need Christ’s renewing and reconciling grace: Isa. liii. 5, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.’ Peace and healing, justification and sanctification; both a relative and real change, in converting us to God and changing our natures, as well as redeeming us from the curse, are necessary.
3. In renewing grace, we must consider both the moral and powerful work: John vi. 44, 45, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God; every man therefore that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.’ God worketh on us by his word and persuasion, and the secret influence of his grace: Acts xvi. 14, ‘Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, attended to the things spoken of Paul.’ The moral way is by counsel, winning the consent of the sinner; the physical work by inclining the heart: Fortiter per te, Domine, suaviter per me—Powerfully by thee, O Lord, sweetly by me. He doth allure and persuade: Hosea ii. 19, ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever,’ &c.; Gen. ix. 27, ‘God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem;’ and powerfully overcome the heart.
4. Besides renewing we need preserving grace, that God should continue and increase what he hath begun, till all be perfected in glory: Phil. i. 6, ‘He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.’ Some graces co-exist, others in due time follow one upon another; as after conversion, preservation in holiness, and then perfection in holiness, and final enjoyment of God in glory are to come.
Use. To persuade us to look after, both in our desires and practice, an entire christianity. We must not pick out what liketh us best, and pass by the rest, but desire God, and labour by all due means, that he may fulfil in us all the pleasure of his goodness: Hosea x. 11, ‘Ephraim is as a heifer that is taught, that loveth to tread out the corn, but will not break the clods.’ We affect privileges, but decline duties; desire one sort of grace, but neglect another; some graces serve our turn more than another.
1. In regard of God, his way of giving, Eph. i. 3, with all spiritual blessings: blessings which are absolutely necessary to salvation are linked together, and cannot be separated. Where God bestoweth one, he bestoweth all. The concatenation you find, Rom. viii. 30, ‘Whom he did predestinate, them also he called,’ &c.
2. Our first entry into the covenant bindeth us to it: 1 Peter iii. 21, ‘Baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience.’ It is an answer to the Lord’s offers and commands in the gospel, accepting the blessings offered, resolving upon the duties required.
3. The great hurt that redoundeth to us when we are partial, in with one thing and out with another; it holdeth good in sins, graces, duties.
[1.] Sins. Many escape sensuality, but not worldliness, or escape fleshly lusts, but fall into errors. There is carnal wickedness and also spiritual wickedness, Eph. vi. 12. Now the grace of sincerity is to escape all, especially those that are most incident to us; therefore the more hearty must our prayers be that God would ‘order our steps in his word,’ Ps. cxix. 133.
[2.] In graces. Men look so much to one that they forget the other. We are bidden to ‘take to ourselves the whole armour of God,’ Eph. vi. 11; not a piece, a breastplate without a helmet; and 2 Cor. vi. 7, ‘On the right hand and on the left.’ Then we are provided against all temptations. Every grace is a help to the rest, and the neglect of one is a hindrance to all. We must not mind faith so as to forget love, or both so as to neglect temperance: 2 Peter i. 5, 6. ‘Add to faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,’ &c. Not one must be left out, not cry up knowledge so as to neglect practice, nor fervours of devotion so as to betray men to ignorant and blind superstition.
[3.] Duties. Every duty must be observed in its place and season. Most use one grace or duty against another; as some set their whole hearts to mourn for sin, but little think to get a thankful sense of their Redeemer’s love; others prattle of free grace, but give over penitent confession, and care, and watchfulness against sin, and diligence in a holy fruitful life: Jude 4, ‘Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.’ Some cry up repentance without faith, Others faith without repentance and new obedience.
Doct. 2. That a christian should not be contented with a little of God’s grace, but seek to have all fulfilled in him.
These already were converted, and had attained to a good degree of eminency in faith and holiness, yet still the apostle prayeth for them, that ‘God would fulfil in them all the pleasure of his goodness.’
1. While God hath a hand to give, we should have a heart to receive. If the oil faileth not, the vessels should not fail: Ps. lxxxi. 10, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ There is no want in God, only we cannot take it in as fast as God freely giveth.
2. The latter grace doth not only increase, but secure the former. A weak measure of grace is often interrupted, and can hardly maintain itself in the midst of oppositions within and temptations without: Rev. iii. 2. ‘Strengthen the things which are ready to die.’ Sin maketh daily breaches upon us; Satan assaults us; our hopes disturb our comfort, and too often betray the honour of God, and expose religion to contempt.
3. Though we have grace enough for safety, yet we may not have enough for comfort. Some may make a hard shift to get to heaven with weak grace: ‘Scarcely saved,’ 1 Peter iv. 18, and ‘Saved as by fire,’ 1 Cor. iii. 13. Yet they are not capable of the rich consolations of the gospel, have no peace and joy in believing, do not taste of God’s feast, nor eat of that choice fruit which groweth upon the tree of life in the midst of paradise. The comfort of the gospel, it is called a strong comfort, Heb. vi. 18, because it overcometh the sense of all present infelicities; a full comfort answereth all necessities, John xv. 11. A ravishing comfort, Phil. iv. 7; it may be felt better than told. A glorious comfort, 1 Peter i. 8, because it is a taste of heaven, and it is the portion of the eminent fruitful christian.
4. Though we may have enough to save us and bring us to heaven, yet we have not enough to glorify God, by doing some eminent thing for him in the world. Surely it concerneth a christian to get his heart enlarged to such actions and services as may be most to the praise and glory of God, that we may carry his name up and down with honour. Now this is only done by some eminent degree of grace: John xv. 8, ‘Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;’ Phil. i. 11, ‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise and glory of God;’ and Mat. v. 16, ‘Let your works so shine before men, that ye may glorify your Father in heaven.’ When the grace is so plentiful, then it shineth forth.
Use. To press us to enlarge our desires, affections, and endeavours after grace. It is mere laziness to sit down with any measure of grace as enough, and not to care for an increase. The life of a christian must be a continual progress in holiness. We have not yet attained our full and perfect measure of spiritual growth. Our light must in crease: Prov. iv. 18, ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’ It is not high noon or perfect day with us yet; therefore we must propound to ourselves a higher pitch and further degree than yet we have attained unto: Phil, iii. 13, ‘I have not apprehended, but forgetting those things that are behind, I press forward.’
1. For the honour of Christ. We should seek to return to our first estate, that Christ may be found as able to save as Adam to destroy; Christ aimeth at this, to present us faultless.
2. It is for our comfort that we should go to heaven with full sails: 2 Peter i. 11, ‘So an entrance shall be administered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.’ Some are afar off, some not far, Mark xii. 34. Some enter with much ado, some with full sail.
3. Nothing engageth us to maintain communion with God so much as this, that we are filled with all his goodness. Narrow-mouthed vessels cannot take in all at once. Desire the word, 1 Peter ii. 2; prayer, 1 Thes. v. 23, ‘I pray God your whole spirit,’ &c.
4. Encouragement. Deus donando debet. Life, food, body, raiment. God giveth the former grace to make way for more, Zech. iii. 2.
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