Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life
John Brown (of Wamphray)
Part 5 out of 7
10. They should carefully distinguish betwixt the gift of knowledge and
the grace of knowledge: That ordinarily puffeth up, this humbleth; that
bringeth not the soul to Jesus, this doth; that is but a form, Rom. ii.
20, and doth not retain God, Rom. i. 28, this is a real thing, laying
hold on God and holding him fast, having the fear of the Lord for its
principle, for this "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Job.
xxviii. 28. Psalm cxi. 10. Prov. i. 7, and ix. 10.; that lieth most in
the head, and venteth most in discourses, words, yea, and sometimes
vanisheth into vain notions, but this goeth down to the heart, and
lodgeth there and appeareth in the man's walk and conversation; as these
two would be distinguished, so the one would not be measured by the
11. When they do not profit indeed, let them beware of quarrelling with
Christ, or of blaming him in any manner of way; but let them lay the
blame of their shortcoming on themselves, for not making more use of him
by faith and single dependence upon him. It is true, none will be so
bold as in words to quarrel with or blame him; yet the heart is
deceitful and tacitly may raise and foment such thoughts of him and his
dispensations, as can pass under no other notion than a quarrelling with
him. Now these would be guarded against.
12. Beware of urging for, or expecting immediate revelation, or
extraordinary manifestations. For we should not tempt the Lord, nor set
limits to him, neither should we prescribe means and ways to him,--we
must be satisfied with the ordinary means which he hath appointed, and
wait at wisdom's doors, with our ears nailed to his posts.
13. Whatever point of truth they learn, or whatever measure of knowledge
they get, they would do well to give that back again to Christ, to keep
for them against a time of need; and wait on him for grace to improve it
for his glory.
14. Let them beware of minding things too high, Psalm cxxxi. 1. It is
better to fear, and to stand in awe, and to seek to lay the foundations
well, to get the saving knowledge of things necessary to salvation. This
will yield most peace and satisfaction.
HOW TO MAKE USE OF CHRIST, AS TRUTH, FOR COMFORT, WHEN TRUTH IS
OPPRESSED AND BORN DOWN.
There is another difficulty, wherein believing souls will stand in need
of Christ, as the truth, to help them; and that is, when his work is
overturned, his cause borne down, truth condemned, and enemies, in their
opposition to his work, prospering in all their wicked attempts. This is
a very trying dispensation, as we see it was to the holy penman of Psalm
lxxiii. for it made him to stagger, so that his feet were almost gone,
and his steps had well nigh slipt; yea he was almost repenting of his
being a godly person, saying, ver. 13, "Verily I have cleansed my heart
in vain, and washed my hands in innocency." It was something like this,
which made Jeremiah say, chap. viii. 18, "When I would comfort myself
against sorrow, my heart is faint in me." The harvest was past, and the
summer was ended, and yet they were not saved, ver. 20; and they looked
for peace, but no good came, and for a time of health, but behold
trouble, ver. 15--and this was fainting and vexatious. And what made
Baruch, Jeremiah's faithful companion in tribulation, say, "Woe is me
now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my
sighing, and I find no rest," Jer. xlv. 3, but this, that all things
were turning upside down. God was breaking down that, which he had
built; and plucking up that which he had planted. Tribulation and
suffering for a good cause, is even fainting to some; as the Apostle
hinteth, Ephes. iii. 13, when he says, wherefore, "I desire that ye
faint not at my tribulation for you." And that which evinceth the danger
of this dispensation, is the fainting and backsliding of many, in such
a time of trial, as sad experience too often cleareth.
Now the believer's stay in this case, must be the Rock of Ages, Jesus
the Truth. It is he alone who can keep straight and honest in such a
reeling time. So that a sight of Christ as the Truth, in reference to
the carrying on of truth in the earth, and advancing his cause and work,
will be the only support of a soul shaken by such a piece of trial.
But the question is, how should believers make use of Christ, in such a
time, to the end they may be kept from fainting and succumbing in such a
storm? To which I answer, that the faith and consideration of those
particulars would help to establishment:
1. That Christ, in all this great work of redemption, and in every piece
of it, is the Father's servant. So is he frequently called, "his
servant," Isa. xlii. 1; xlix. 3, 5, 6; lii. 13; and liii. 11. Zech. iii.
8; and therefore this work is a work intrusted to him, and he standeth
engaged as a servant, to be faithful to his trust. Moreover add to this,
that he hath a commission to perfect that work; and we need not doubt,
but he who is the truth will be true to his trust. "Him hath God the
Father sealed," John vi. 27; and he often tells us himself, that he is
"sent of the Father," John iv. 34; v. 23, 24, 30, 36, 37; vi. 38, 39,
40, 44, 57; viii. 16, 18; xii. 44, 45, 49; vii. 16; ix. 4; x. 36; and
2. That while he was upon the earth, he finished that work that was
committed to him to finish here, having purchased all that was to be
bought by his blood, paying all the price that justice did ask, John
xvii. 4; xix. 30. By which price he hath purchased a people to himself,
Rev. v. 9. Luke i. 68. So that his work, cause, and interest, is a
purchased work bought with his blood.
3. That his resurrection and glorification is an undoubted proof of
this, that justice is satisfied, and that the price is fully paid; and
also that his exaltation at the Father's right hand is a sure evidence
and ground of hope, that he shall at last triumph over all his enemies,
and that his work of truth shall prosper. The Father said to him, Psalm
cx. 1, "Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy
footstool." Being highly exalted, he hath got "a name above every name:
that at his name every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things
in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should
confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,"
Phil. ii. 9, 10, 11.
4. That the Father standeth engaged to make good to him all that was
promised, and to give him all that he purchased, Isa. liii. 10, 11, 12.
Christ, having now fulfilled his undertaking, by making his soul an
offering for sin, and so satisfying justice, which is openly declared by
his resurrection, and admission to glory, as the head of his elect, is
to expect the accomplishment of what was conditioned unto him. His work,
therefore, on the earth must prosper; and the Father hath undertaken to
see it prosper. Surely the faith of this would much support a poor soul,
staggering at the thoughts of the prosperity of the wicked, and of their
5. That Christ himself is now thoroughly furnished and enabled for the
carrying on of his work, over the belly of all adversaries, for all
power in "Heaven and earth is given to him," Matt. xxviii. 18; "and
every knee must bow to him," Phil. ii. 10; "all judgment is committed
unto him," John v. 22, 27; "angels, powers, and authority are made
subject unto him," 1 Pet. iii. 22; "yea, all things are under him," Eph.
i. 22. How then can his work miscarry; or who can hinder, that truth
should flourish on the earth?
6. That Christ is actually at work, employing this power for the
carrying forward of his design, for the glory of the Father, and for his
own glory, and for the good of his poor people. The Father worked by
him, and he by the Spirit, which is his great Vicegerent, sent from the
Father, and from him, and his work is to glorify the Son, and he shall
receive of his, and show it unto us, John xvi. 14.
7. That Christ, upon many accounts, standeth engaged to perfect this
work which he hath begun and is about. His honour is engaged to go
through, seeing now he is fully furnished for it, and hath all the
creation at his command. He must then perfect his work, as to the
application, as well as he did perfect it as to the purchase. His love
to his Father's and his own glory, and to his own people's good and
salvation, may assure us, that he will not leave the work unperfected;
and his power and furniture may give us full security, that no stop
which his work meeteth with shall be able to hinder it.
8. That hence it is clear and manifest, that his wheel is in the midst
of the wheels of men, and that therefore he is ordering all their
motions and reelings to the best. His wheel keepeth an even pace, and
moveth equally and equitably in the midst of men's contrary motions.
9. And that, therefore, all the eccentric and irregular motions of
devils and wicked men being in his hand, and ordered by him, cannot
hinder, but further his end; so that even enemies, while opposing and
seeking to destroy the cause and interest of Christ, that his name and
truth should no more be mentioned, are promoving his work. His wheel is
the great wheel that ordereth all the lesser and subordinate wheels,
whatever contrary motions they may have the one to the other, and all or
many of them may seem to have to this great wheel; so that, do they what
they will, the work of our Lord goeth on. Their opposition is setting
his work forward, though they intend the contrary; however their faces
look, they row to the port he would be at. This is an undoubted truth,
and confirmed in all ages, and yet is not firmly believed; and a truth
it is, which, if believed, would do much to settle our staggering souls
in a stormy day.
10. That at last he shall come "to be glorified in his saints," 2 Thess.
i. 10; "when he shall be revealed from heaven with all his mighty
angels," verse 7. Then shall it be seen whose counsel shall stand, his
or men's; and whose work shall prosper, his or Satan's.
Yet, let me add a few words, for caution and direction here.
1. The consideration of these things mentioned should not make us
slacken our diligence in prayer and other duties; and when they are
aright considered, they will rather prove a spur and a goad in our side
to set us forward, than a bridle to hold us back.
2. We would not think that Christ's work and interest is going backward
always, when it seemeth so to us. Even when he is casting down what he
hath built up, and plucking up what he hath planted, his work is
prospering, for all that is in order to the laying of a better
foundation, and to the carrying on of a more glorious work, when he
shall lay all the stones with fair colours, and the foundations with
sapphires, and make the windows of crystal, &c. Isa. liv. 11,12.
3. Though his work be always going on, and his truth prospering, yet we
would not think that it will always prosper alike in our apprehensions;
many times we judge by rules of our own making, and not by the rule of
truth, and hence it is that we mistake oftentimes. We walk little by
faith, and too much by sense; and hence we judge too much by sense, and
so pass a wrong judgment, to his dishonour, and the saddening of our own
4. Nor would we think that his truth and interest is ruined and gone,
because it is sore oppressed in this or that particular place of the
world; as if his work were not of an universal extent, and in all the
churches. If his truth thrive and prosper in some other place of the
world, shall we not say, that his kingdom is coming? Or shall we limit
all his work and interest to one small part of the world?
5. We would not think the worse of his work because it is carried on
with so many stops, and doth meet with so many impediments in its way.
We are not acquainted with the depths of his infinite wisdom and
counsel; and so we see not what noble ends he hath before him, in
suffering those impediments to lie in the way of his chariot. We think
he should ride so triumphantly all along, that none should once dare to
cast the least block in his way. But we judge carnally, as unacquainted
with the many noble and glorious designs which he hath in ordering
matters. As himself was for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,
so will he have the way of the carrying on of his work prove, in his
holy and spotless justice, a stumbling-stone to many that shall stumble
thereat, and fall, and never rise any more.
6. We should beware to think that Christ hath forgotten his work,
because he seemeth to take no notice of our prayers, which we are
putting up now and then for his work. He may be doing that which we are
desiring in the general, and yet not let us know that he is answering
our prayers; and that for wise and holy ends, to keep us humble and
diligent. He may seem to disregard our suits, and yet be carrying on his
work, and granting us our desires upon the matter.
7. Hence we should beware of desponding, and growing heartless and
faint, when we see few owning truth, or standing upon Christ's side; for
he needeth not man's help to carry on this work, though he sometimes
thinketh good to condescend so far as to honour some to be instrumental
in setting of it forward, who yet have nothing but as he giveth; let us
not then think, that his work cannot prosper because great ones and mean
ones oppose it, and such as should stand for it and own it, are few and
fainting, without strength, courage, or zeal.
HOW TO MAKE USE OF CHRIST FOR STEADFASTNESS, IN A TIME WHEN TRUTH IS
OPPRESSED AND BORNE DOWN.
When enemies are prevailing, and the way of truth is evil spoken of,
many faint, and many turn aside, and do not plead for truth, nor stand
up for the interest of Christ, in their hour and power of darkness: many
are overcome with base fear, and either side with the workers of
iniquity, or are not valiant for the truth, but being faint-hearted,
turn back. Now the thoughts of this may put some who desire to stand
fast, and to own him and his cause in a day of trial, to enquire how
they shall make use of Christ, who is the truth, so as to be enabled to
stand in the day of temptation, and keep fast by truth when it is loaded
with reproaches, and buried under an heap of obloquy. For satisfaction
to this question, I shall shortly point out those directions which, if
followed, may prove helpful to keep the soul from fainting,
misbelieving, doubting, quarrelling at the Lord's dispensations, and
from yielding to the temptations in such a day.
1. The believer should live in the conviction of his hazard through the
sleight of Satan, the strength of temptation, the wickedness and
treachery of the heart, the evil example of others, and the want of
sanctified courage, zeal, and resolution; and this will keep the soul
humble, and far from boasting of its own strength, which was Peter's
2. They should live in the faith and persuasion of this, that it is
Christ alone who is the truth, who can help them to stand for truth in a
day of temptation; and that all their former purposes, vows,
resolutions, solemn professions, and the like, will prove but weak
cables to hold them fast in a day of a storm; and that only the rock of
ages must save them; and their being a leeward of him, and partaking of
his warm and safe protection, will do their business. That all their
stock of grace and knowledge, and that confirmed with resolutions and
sincere purposes, will help but little in that day; and that new
influences of grace and truth, from the fountain, that is full of grace
and truth, will only prove establishing to the soul, and confirm it in
the truth in that day.
3. Therefore they should eye Christ in his offices, particularly as the
great prophet who can teach as never man taught; so teach as to make the
soul receive the doctrine, and to hold it fast--to receive it in love,
and lay it up in the heart as a rich and enriching treasure.
4. They should eye him in his relations unto his people, as their head,
husband, brother, leader, commander, captain, &c.; for those give ground
of approaching unto him with confidence in the day of darkness and
mists, for light and direction, and for strength and courage in the day
of temptation; and give ground of hope of help in that day of trial and
5. They should eye and act faith upon the promises of assistance and
through-bearing, in the day of calamity; such as those--Isa. xliii. 2,
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through
the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the
fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon
thee." And Isaiah xli. 13, "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right
hand, saying unto thee, fear not, I will help thee." And particularly
they would eye the promises of light in the day of darkness, Isaiah
lviii. 8, 10; lx. 20. 2 Sam. xxii. 29.
6. They should look on Christ as an exalted conqueror, now risen and
glorified; as a victorious captain that hath fought and overcome, that
they, as his followers, may be made partakers of his victory and
conquest, and so reap the fruit of his resurrection and ascension, in
their establishment in the truth, when it is borne down and questioned,
yea, and condemned by men. He abode steadfast and immoveable in the
midst of all the storms that blew in his face; and as he came to bear
witness to the truth, so did he faithfully and zealously avow truth,
even to the death; and in death got the victory of the arch liar and
deceiver. Now the believer should eye this, for the strengthening of his
faith and hope of victory also, through him; and therefore would wait
patiently for his help, and not make haste; for they who believe make
not haste, Isaiah xxviii. 16, knowing that he is true and faithful, and
will not disappoint his followers that trust in him. And moreover it
would be of advantage to them in this case, to eye that gracious and
comfortable word, John xiv. 19, "because I live, ye shall live also;"
and so by faith conclude, that seeing Christ now liveth as a conqueror
over darkness, untruth, reproaches, calumnies, and opposition of liars,
yea, of the father of lies, they through him shall also live, and ride
out that storm; and this will give much courage to the soul to endure
temptation, and to wait in patience for an outgate.
7. They should study much, and suck at the grand promise of his coming
again, and of finally dispelling all clouds, and of fully clearing up
his glorious truths, that are now covered over with obloquy, and buried
under reproaches; and this will encourage the soul to stand to truth in
the midst of opposition, believing, that at length, truth, how much
soever opposed now, shall be victorious.
8. They should be single in their dependence on him, for strength and
through-bearing, in that day of trial--not leaning to their own
understanding, but acknowledging him in all their ways, Prov. iii. 8;
and when they see no hope of outgate in the world, nor appearance of the
clearing up of the day, they would comfort themselves, and encourage
themselves in the Lord, as David did in a great strait, 1 Sam. xx. 6.
9. Upon the forementioned grounds they would cast all the care of their
through-bearing on him, who careth for them, 1 Pet. v. 7--rolling all
their difficulties on him--consulting only with him and his word, and
not with flesh and blood; and so they would commit their ways to him,
who disposeth of all things as he seeth good; forbearing to limit the
Holy One of Israel, or to quarrel with him for any thing he doth; and
patiently wait for his outgate and delivery.
10. It were good, in this time of trial, to be remembering the worth of
truth, and entertaining high thoughts of the smallest piece of truth
that is questioned, for his sake, who is the truth; that a sight of the
glorious worth thereof, may make them account the less of all they can
lose in the defence and maintenance thereof.
11. So were it good at this time, when truths come to be questioned, to
be lying near to the truth, for light, and to be keeping fast, what he
by his Spirit cleareth up to be truth, though the light should not be so
full as to dispel all objections. This were to depend upon him for
light, with singleness of heart; and in godly simplicity and sincerity
to follow his direction and torch, though it should not shine so bright
as they could wish.
A few words of caution will be useful here also; as,
1. The believer, though taking this course, would not think to be
altogether free of fear of stepping aside, in less or in more. God may
think good to let much of this abide, to the end he may be kept
watchful, tender, and diligent; for fear maketh the soul circumspect and
watchful; and this is a good preservative from defection.
2. Nor would the believer think, that hereby he shall be kept altogether
free of fainting. The heart, now and then, through fear and misbelief,
may fall into a fit of fainting, and think all is gone; and yet he may
carry poor souls through, and make his strength perfect in their
wickedness, 2 Cor. xii. 9; that when they are supported and carried
through the temptation, they may sing praise to him, and not ascribe any
thing to themselves--remembering how often they were fainting, and
almost giving over the cause as desperate and hopeless.
3. They would not think it strange, if, in the time of their wrestling
with difficulties, the Lord hide his face from them, and give not them
that joyful access unto him in prayer, that sometimes they have met
with; for the Lord may see it fit to put them to this point of trial
among the rest, to see if the love of his glory and truth will keep them
standing, when they want the encouragement that might be expected in
that way; and if pure conscience to the command and authority of God,
will keep from siding with an evil way, when the soul is destitute of
all sensible encouragement, both from within and from without.
4. In all this business believers should carry singly with an eye to
God's glory; and should not be acted with self-ends, or drawn by carnal
and selfish motives. They should not desire stability and
through-bearing to be seen of men, or to gain applause and praise of
men; lest God be provoked to leave them to themselves, and they at
length come off with discredit, as did Peter. Therefore they should
strive against these carnal motions of the heart, and labour for
spirituality, singleness of heart, and truth in the inward parts, which
the Lord desireth, Psalm li. 6.
HOW TO MAKE USE OF CHRIST AS THE TRUTH, WHEN ERROR PREVAILETH, AND THE
SPIRIT OF ERROR CARRIETH MANY AWAY.
There is a time when the spirit of error is going abroad, and truth is
questioned, and many are led away with delusions. For Satan can change
himself into an angel of light, and make many great and fairlike
pretensions to holiness, and under that pretext usher in untruths, and
gain the consent of many unto them; so that in such a time of temptation
many are stolen off their feet, and made to depart from the right ways
of God, and to embrace error and delusions instead of truth. Now the
question is, how a poor believer shall make use of Christ, who is the
truth, for keeping him steadfast in the truth, in such a day of trial,
and from embracing of error, how plausible soever it may appear. For
satisfaction to this we shall propose these few things:
1. In such a time, when a spirit of error is let loose and rageth, and
carrieth several away, it were good for all who would be kept straight
and honest, to be walking in fear. It is not good to despise such a sly
and subtle enemy, especially in the hour and power of darkness. Then all
are called to be on their guard, and to stand upon their watch-tower,
and to be jealous of their corrupt hearts, that are ready enough of
their own accord to drink in error, and to receive the temptation at any
time; and much more then.
2. They should not think that their knowledge and ability to dispute for
truth, will keep them steadfast, if there be not more; for if the
temptation grow, they may come to reason and dispute themselves out of
all their former knowledge and skill. The father of lies is a cunning
sophister, and knoweth, how to shake their grounds and cast all loose.
3. They should renew their covenant grips of Christ, and make sure that
main business, viz. their peace and union with God in Christ, and their
accepting of Christ for their head and husband. They would labour to
have the foundation sure, and to be united unto the chief corner-stone,
that so blow the storm as it will, they may ride safely; and that hereby
they may have access to Christ with boldness, in their difficulty, and
may with confidence seek light from him in the hour of darkness.
4. To the end they may be kept more watchful and circumspect, they
should remember, that it is a dishonourable thing to Christ, for them to
step aside, in the least matter of truth; the denying of the least point
of truth is a consequential denying of him who is the truth; and to
loose a foot in the matters of truth is very dangerous; for who can tell
when they who once slip a foot shall recover it again? And who can tell
how many, and how dreadful errors they may drink in, who have once
opened the door to a small error? Therefore they should beware of
tampering in this matter, and to admit any error, upon the account that
it is a small and inconsiderable one. There may be an unseen
concatenation betwixt one error and another, and betwixt a small one and
a greater one, so as if the little one be admitted and received, the
greater shall follow; and it may be feared that if they once dally with
error, and make a gap in their consciences, that God will give them up
to judicial blindness, that, ere all be done, they shall embrace that
opinion which sometime they seemed to hate as death.
5. They should eye the promises suiting that cause; viz. the promises of
God's guiding "the blind by a way which they know not: of making
darkness light before them, and crooked things straight," Isa. xlii. 16;
and of "guiding continually," Isa. lviii. 11; see also Isa. xlix. 10.;
lvii. 18.; and they would act faith on these and the like promises, as
now made sure by Jesus.
6. Particularly, they should fix their eye upon that principal promise,
of the Spirit of truth, to guide into all truth, John xvi. 13.
7. With singleness of heart they should depend on Christ, and wait for
light from him, and beware of prejudice at the truth; with singleness of
heart they should lie open to his instructions, and to the influences of
his light and direction, and receive in the beams of his divine light;
and thus go about duties, viz. prayer, conference, preaching, reading,
&c. with an eye fixed on him, and with a soul open to him, and free of
all sinful pre-engagement and love to error.
8. With singleness of heart, they should give up their souls to Christ,
as the truth, that he would write the truth in their souls, and frame
their souls unto the truth, and unto that truth which is most
questioned, and by which they are most in hazard to be drawn away; and
urge and press him by prayer and supplication to do the duty of a head,
a husband, guide and commander, &c. unto them; and that he would be a
light unto them in that day of darkness, and not suffer them to
dishonour him or prove scandalous to others; by departing from the truth
and embracing error. A serious single-hearted dealing with him upon the
grounds of the covenant promises and his relations and engagements,
might prove steadable in this case, if accompanied with a lying open to
the influences of truth and to the light of information which he is
pleased to send by the Spirit of truth.
CAUTIONS AND DIRECTIONS.
For further clearing of this matter, we shall hint at some cautions and
further directions useful here: such as,
1. They should beware of thinking that God should come to them with
light and instruction in an extraordinary manner, and reveal the truth
of the question controverted somewhat immediately: for this were a
manifest tempting and limiting of the Holy One of Israel. We must be
satisfied with the means of instruction which he hath provided, and run
to the law and to the testimony. We have the Scriptures, which are able
to make the man of God perfect and "thoroughly furnished unto all good
works," 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17; and to "make wise unto salvation," ver. 15.
There must we see light; and there must we wait for the breathings of
his Spirit with life, and coming with light to clear up truth to us: for
they are the scriptures of truth, Dan. x. 21; and the law of the Lord,
which is "perfect, converting the soul;" and the commandment of the
Lord, that is pure, "enlightening the eyes," Psalm xix. 7, 8. We have
the ministry which God hath also appointed for this end, to make known
unto us his mind; there must we wait for him and his light. Thus must we
wait at the posts of wisdom's doors; and wait for the king of light in
his own way wherein he hath appointed us to wait for him. And if he
think good to come another way more immediate, let him always be
welcome; but let not us limit him nor prescribe ways to him, but follow
2. When any thing is borne in upon their spirit as a truth to be
received, or as an error to be rejected, more immediately, they should
beware of admitting of every such thing without trial and examination;
for we are expressly forbidden to believe every spirit, and commanded to
try them whether they are of God or not, 1 John iv. 1. The Lord will not
take it ill that even his own immediate motions and revelations be tried
and examined by the word; because the word is given us for this end, to
be our test and standard of truth. The way of immediate revelation is
not the ordinary way now of God's manifesting his mind to his people. He
hath now chosen another way, and given us a more sure word of prophesy
than was, "even a voice from heaven," as Peter saith, 2 Pet. i. 18, 19.
It is commended in the Bereans, Acts xvii. 11, who upon this account
were "more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the
word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily,
whether those things were so." Even Paul's words, though he was an
authorised and an infallible apostle of Christ's, are here put to the
touch-stone of the word. "Many false prophets may go out, and deceive
many, and speak great swelling words of vanity," 1 John iv. 1; 2 Pet.
ii. 18; and the devil can transchange himself into an angel of light, 2
Cor. xi. 14; and though an angel out of heaven should preach any other
thing than what is in the written word, we ought not to receive his
doctrine, but to reject it, and to account him accursed, Gal. i. 8. So
that the written word must be much studied by us; and by it must we try
all motions, all doctrines, all inspirations, all revelations, and all
3. Much more, they should beware of thinking that the dictates of their
conscience obligeth them, so as that always they must of necessity
follow the same. Conscience, being God's deputy in the soul, is to be
followed no further than it speaketh for God and according to truth. An
erring conscience, though it bind so far as that he who doth contrary to
the dictates thereof sinneth against God, in that, knowing no other than
that the dictates of conscience are right and consonant to the mind of
God, yet dare counteract the same, and thus formally rebel against God's
authority; yet it doth not oblige us to believe and to do what it
asserteth to be truth and duty. It will not then be enough for them to
say, my conscience and the light within me speaketh so, and instructeth
me so; for that light may be darkness, and error, and delusion, and so
no rule for them to walk by. "To the law and to the testimony," and if
their conscience, mind, and light within them "speak not according to
this word, it is because there is no light in them," Isa. viii. 20. I
grant, as I said, they cannot without sin counteract the dictates even
of an erring conscience, because they know no better but that these
dictates are according to truth; and thus an erring conscience is a most
dangerous thing, and bringeth people under a great dilemma, that whether
they follow it or not, they sin; and there is no other remedy here, but
to lay by the erring conscience, and get a conscience rightly informed
by the word; putting it in Christ's hand to be better formed and
informed, that so it may do its office better. This then should be
especially guarded against, for if once they lay down this for a
principle, that whatever their conscience and mind, or inward light (as
some call it) dictate, must be followed, there is no delusion, how
false, how abominable soever it be, but they may be at length in hazard
to be drawn away with; and so the rule that they will walk by be nothing
in effect but the spirit of lies and of delusion, and the motions and
dictates of him who is the father of lies, that is, the devil.
4. Such as pretend to walk so much by conscience, should take heed that
they take not that for the dictate of conscience, which really is but
the dictates of their own humours, inclinations, pre-occupied minds, and
biassed wills. When conscience speaketh, it groundeth on the authority
of God, whether truly or falsely, and proposeth such a thing to be done,
or to be refrained from, merely because God commandeth that, and
forbiddeth this, though sometimes it mistaketh. But though the dictates
of men's humours, inclinations, pre-occupied judgments, and wills, may
pretend God's authority for what they say, yet really some carnal
respect, selfish end, and the like, lieth at the bottom, and is the
chief spring of that motion. And also the dictates of humour and biassed
wills are usually more violent and fierce than the dictates of
conscience; for wanting the authority of God to back their assertions
and prescriptions, they must make up that with an addition of
preternatural force and strength. Hence, such as are purely led by
conscience, are pliable, humble, and ready to hear and receive
information; whereas, others are headstrong and pertinacious, unwilling
to receive instruction, or to hear any thing contrary to their minds,
lest their conscience, receiving more light, speak with a higher voice
against their inclinations and former ways, and so create more trouble
to them; while, as now they enjoy more quiet within, so long as the cry
of their self-will and biassed judgments is so loud, that they cannot
well hear the still and low voice of conscience.
5. They should labour for much self-denial and sincerity; and to be free
from the snares and power of selfish ends, as credit, a name, and
applause, or what of that kind, that may be like "the fear of man that
bringeth a snare," Prov. xxix. 25; for that will be like a gift that
blindeth the eyes of the wise, Exod. xxiii. 8. Love to carry on a party,
or a design to be seen or accounted somebody, to maintain their credit
and reputation, lest they be accounted changelings and the like, will
prove very dangerous in this case; for these may forcibly carry the soul
away, to embrace one error after another, and one error to strengthen
and confirm another, that it is hard to know where or when they shall
stand. And these, by respects, may so forcibly drive the soul forward,
that he shall neither hear the voice of conscience within, nor any
instruction from without.
6. They should study the word of truth without prejudice and any sinful
pre-engagement, lest they be made thereby to wire-draw and wrest the
word to their own destruction, as some of whom Peter speaketh, 2 Pet.
iii. 16. It is a dangerous thing to study the word with a prejudicate
opinion; and to bow or wire-draw the word and make it speak what we
would have it speak, for the confirmation of our opinions and
sentiments. For this is but to mock God and his law, and to say, let his
law speak what it will, I will maintain this opinion, and so make the
word speak as we would have it, or else lay it by. This is to walk by
some other rule than the word, and to make the word serve our lusts and
confirm our errors, than which a greater indignity cannot be done to the
Spirit of truth speaking in the word.
7. In reading and studying of the word there should be much single
dependence on the Spirit for light; waiting for clearness from him whom
Christ hath promised to lead us into all truth. An earnest wrestling
with him for his assistance, enlightening the mind with divine light to
understand the truth, and inclining the soul to a ready embracing and
receiving of the truth declared in the word.
8. Though one place of scripture be enough to confirm any point of
truth, and ground sufficient for us to believe what is there said, there
being nothing in scripture but what is truth; yet, in such a time of
abounding errors, and when many are going abroad speaking perverse
things to lead the simple away, it were spiritual wisdom to be comparing
scripture with scripture, and not be lightly embracing whatever may seem
probable, and fairly deducible from some one passage or other of
scripture, but to be comparing that with other passages and see what
concord there is; for this is certain, whatever point contradicteth
other clear and manifest testimonies of scripture cannot be true;
however a cunning sophister may make it seem very probably to flow out
of such or such a passage of scripture. The testimony of the Spirit is
uniform, and free from all contradictions; and therefore we must see, if
such an assertion, that some would draw from such a passage, agree with
other plain passages, and if not, be sure that is not the meaning of the
place. When the devil did wrest and abuse that passage of truth, Ps.
xci. 11. "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee," &c, and from
thence would infer, that Christ might cast himself down, Matt. iv. 6,
Christ shews that this inference was bad, because it did not agree with
other divine testimonies, particularly not with that, Deut. vi. 16,
"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." And thereby he teacheth us to
take this course in times of temptation, and so compare spiritual things
with spiritual, as Paul speaketh, 1 Cor. ii. 13. Especially they should
beware of expounding clear scriptures by such as are more dark and
mysterious; see 2 Pet. iii. 16. It is always safer to explain darker
passages by such as are more clear.
9. Let them guard against an humour of new-fangledness, nauseating old
and solid truths, and seeking after something new, having ears itching
after new doctrines, yea, or new modes and dresses of old truths. For
this is provoking to God, and proveth dangerous; for such turn away
their ears from the truth, and are turned into fables, as Paul telleth
us, 2 Tim. iv. 3, 4. "For the time will come," saith he, "when they will
not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to
themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their
ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." This savoureth of
a spirit of levity and inconstancy, which is dangerous.
10. They should labour to have no prejudice at the truth, but receive it
in the love of it; lest, for that cause, God give them up to strong
delusions, to believe lies, and to be led with the deceivableness of
unrighteousness, as we see, 2 Thess. ii. 10-12, "And. with all
deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they
received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; and for
this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe
a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had
pleasure in unrighteousness."
11. So should they beware of stifling the truth, of making it a
prisoner, and detaining it in unrighteousness, like those spoken of,
Rom. i. 18. "For which cause God them up to uncleanness and vile
affections, and they became vain in their imaginations, and their
foolish heart was darkened, yea, professing themselves to be wise, they
became fools," ver. 21, &c. They should let truth have free liberty and
power in the soul; and should yield up themselves to be ruled and guided
by it; and not torture with it, lay chains upon it, or fetter it, and
keep it as a prisoner that can do nothing.
12. For this cause, they should hold fast the truth which they have
learned, and have been taught by the Spirit out of the word. When Paul
would guard and fortify Timothy against seducers, that crept into
houses, leading captive silly women, &c., among other directions gave
him this, 2 Tim. iii. 14, 15, "But continue thou in the things which
thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast
learned; and that from a child thou hast known the Scriptures, which are
able to make thee wise unto salvation," &c. So he would have the
Colossians walking in Christ, rooted and built up in him, and stablished
in the faith as they had been taught, Col. ii. 6, 7.
13. Especially they would be holding the groundwork fast,--faith in
Christ. It were good in such a time of erring from the way of truth, to
be gripping Christ faster, and cleaving to him by faith, and living by
faith in him. This is to hold the foundation fast; and then let the
tempest of error blow as it will, they will ride at a sure anchor, and
be safe, because fixed upon the Rock of Ages; and further, living near
Christ in such a dangerous day, would be a noble preservative from the
infection of error. The soul that is dwelling in Christ and gripping to
him daily by faith, and acting love on him, dwelleth in light, will
discover error sooner than another, because living under the rays of the
Sun of Righteousness, which discovereth error.
14. They should labour to learn the truth, as it is in Jesus; and the
truths which they have heard of him, and have been taught by him, as the
truth is in him, will abide, when other truths that have been learned
but of men, and heard of men, and as it was in the preaching of men, and
in books, shall soon evanish in a day of trial. This is to learn Christ,
as the apostle speaketh, Eph. iv. 20, 21, "But ye have not so learned
Christ, if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as
the truth is in Jesus." When we learn the truth, as it is in Jesus, it
bringeth us always to him, and hath a tendency to fix our hearts on him,
and is a piece of the bond that bindeth us to him and his way: we
receive it then as a piece of his doctrine, which we must own, and stand
unto. O if we learned all our divinity thus, we would be more constant
and steadfast in it than we are!
15. When controversies arise, and they know not which side to
choose--both seemeth to them to be alike well founded on the word--they
should exercise their spiritual sagacity, and set their gift of
discerning a work, to see which of the two tendeth most to promote piety
and godliness, and the kingdom of Christ, and so see which of the two is
the truth, "which is after godliness," as the apostle speaketh, Tit. i.
1; they must look which of the two is the doctrine which is according to
godliness, I Tim. vi. 3. That is the truth which is Christ's, and which
should be owned and embraced, viz. which floweth from a spirit of
godliness, and tendeth to promove godliness, and suiteth with the true
principles of godliness, even gospel godliness, wrought according to the
tenor of the covenant of grace; that is, by the strength of the Spirit
of Jesus, dwelling and working in us, and not according to the tenor of
the covenant of works, that is, wrought by our own strength, &c.
16. Yet withal they should take heed that they mistake not here; for
they may look upon some ways and doctrines as having a greater tendency
to promove godliness than others; which indeed have not, but only seem
so. They should therefore consider well what is the way of godliness
laid down in the noble device of the gospel, which is the way that only
glorifieth God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and see what suiteth most
with that, according to the word, and not what seemeth most suitable to
godliness in their apprehension. The word is the best judge and test of
true godliness; and in the word we have the only safest mean of true
godliness held forth: therefore we should see what doctrine tendeth most
to promote godliness according to the way held forth in the word, and
17. They should guard against pride and self-conceit, as thinking they
are wise enough, and understanding enough in those matters, and so need
not take a lesson of any. This may be of great prejudice; for "it is the
meek that God guideth in judgment; and to the meek will he teach his
way," Psalm xxv. 9. Therefore it were good for his people in such a day,
to be meek and humble, willing and ready to learn of any person, how
mean soever, that can teach the ways of God. The Lord may bless a word
spoken by a private person, when he will not bless the word spoken by a
minister; for his blessings are free. And it is not good to despise any
mean. Apollos, though instructed in the way of the Lord, mighty in the
Scriptures, fervent in spirit, and teaching diligently the things of the
Lord, Acts xviii. 24, 25, yet was content to learn of Aquila, and of his
wife Priscilla, when they expounded unto him the way of God more
perfectly, ver. 26.
18. In such a time, it is not unsafe to look to such as have been
eminent in the ways of God, and lie near to him; for it is probable they
may know much of the mind of God in those questioned matters. Hence we
find the apostle putting Timothy and others to this duty in a time when
false teachers were going abroad, saying, 2 Tim. iii. 10, "but thou hast
fully known my doctrine, manner of life;" and 1 Cor. iv. 16, "wherefore
I beseech you to be followers of me;" and 1 Cor. xi. 1; and again, Phil.
iii. 17, "brethren, be followers together of me." All which say, that
though we should call no man Rabbi, as hanging our faith absolutely on
him, yet in such a time of prevailing error and of false teachers going
abroad, some respect should be had to such as have found grace of the
Lord to be faithful in times of trial, and have maintained truth, and
stood for it, in times of persecution, and have with singleness of heart
followed the Lord; it not being ordinary with God to leave such as in
sincerity seek him, and desire to follow his way in truth and
uprightness, and to give the revelation of his mind and the
manifestation of his Spirit to others, who have not gone through such
19. They should also at such a time be much in the sincere practice of
uncontroverted duties, and in putting uncontroverted and unquestionable
and unquestioned truths into practice; and this may prove a notable mean
to keep them right: for then are they in God's way, and so the devil
hath not that advantage of them that he hath of others who are out of
the way of duty. David understood more than the ancients, because he
kept God's precepts, Psal. cxix. 100.
20. It were good and suitable at such a time, to be much in the fear of
God, remembering what an one he is, and how hazardous it is to sin
against him, by drinking in the least point of error. The promise is
made to such, Psalm xxv. 12, "What man is he that feareth the Lord, him
shall he teach in the way that he shall choose."
21. Finally, at such a time they should be much in communion with Jesus,
lying near him; much in prayer to him, studying his relations, offices,
furniture, readiness to help with light and counsel; and they should
draw near to him with humility, boldness, faith, confidence, love,
tenderness, and sincerity; and then they shall not find that he shall
fail them, or disappoint them.
Enough of this. I proceed therefore to another case, which is:
HOW TO MAKE USE OF CHRIST AS THE TRUTH, THAT WE MAY GET OUR CASE AND
CONDITION CLEARED UP TO US.
The believer is oft complaining of darkness concerning his case and
condition, so as he cannot tell what to say of himself, or what judgment
to pass on himself, and he knoweth not how to win to a distinct and
clear discovery of his state and condition. Now, it is truth alone, and
the Truth, that can satisfy them as to this. The question then is, how
they shall make use of, and apply themselves to this truth, to the end
they may get the truth of their condition discovered to them. But first
let us see what this case may be. Consider, then,
1. That grace may be in the soul, and yet not be seen nor observed. This
is manifest by daily experience.
2. Not only so, but a gracious soul that is reconciled With God in
Christ, and hath the spirit of grace dwelling in it, may suppose itself
a stranger yet unto this reconciliation, and void of the grace of God,
and so be still in the state of nature.
3. Yea, a soul may not only suppose and conclude itself in nature, while
it is in a state of grace, but further, may be filled with terror and
apprehensions of God's wrath and indignation; and that in such a
measure, as that thereby it may be as a distracted person, as we see it
was with Heman, Psalm lxxxviii. 15, who said, "while I suffer thy
terror, I am distracted." The wrath of God lay hard upon him, and he
said, that he was afflicted with all God's waves, ver. 7. Hence he cried
out, vers. 16. 17, "thy fierce wrath goeth over me, thy terrors have cut
me off, they came round about me daily," or all the day, "like water
they compassed me about together." And yet for all this, the first word
of his complaint was faith, ver. 1. Many such complaints hear we out of
Job's mouth, to whom God, notwithstanding, was that gracious, that he
never came to question his state before God, or to conclude his
hypocrisy, or his being still in the state of nature. But it is not so
with every one that is so exercised.
4. Yea, further, with those inward strokes upon the soul, they may have
sin and guilt charged upon their consciences; and this will make their
life yet more bitter, and put a sharper edge upon the rods. Thus was Job
made to possess the sins of his youth, Job. xiii. 26, and made to say,
"My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine
iniquity," Job. xiv. 17.
5. Moreover, they may be in such a condition a long time, and all the
while have no light of comfort, as we may see in Job and Heman. They may
even walk in darkness, and have no light of comfort, Isa. 1. 10.
6. Yea, and also be without the hope of a delivery or outgate. Hence
crieth Heman, Psalm lxxxviii. 4-5, "I am counted with them that go down
into the pit, free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave,
whom thou rememberest no more, and they are cut off from thine hand."
Yea, they may be driven to the very border of despair, and conclude that
there is no hope, as the church did, Ezek. xxxvii. 11, "Our bones are
dried, and our hope is lost, and we are cut off for our parts;" and as
Job, chap. vii. 6, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are
spent without hope;" and chap. xix. 10, "He hath destroyed me on every
side, and I am gone: mine hope hath been removed like a tree."
Now, though sometimes, as we see in Job, and in Heman too, a soul may be
under such a sad and sharp dispensation, and yet not brought to question
their state, or to conclude themselves children of wrath, lying still in
black nature, yet it is not so with all who are so exercised; but many
under such a dispensation, may at least be in the dark as to their state
before God; and if they do not positively assert their state to be bad,
yet they do much question if they be in the state of grace, and would be
comforted under all their pressures and afflictions, if they could win
to the least well-grounded apprehension of their interest in Christ.
In such a case as this is, there is ground for a poor soul to make use
of Christ for outgate; and an outgate may be had in God's time, and as
he seeth fit, by a right use-making of and going out to him, who is the
Truth. So, then, the soul that would have its state and condition
cleared up, and a discovery of its being reconciled to God through
Jesus, and in a state of grace, and would make use of Christ as the
Truth, for this end, would,
(1.) Look out to Christ, as a feeling High Priest, faithful and
merciful, who, being like us in all things, except sin, doth sympathise
with, and succour such as are tempted, Heb. ii. 17, 18. And as a Priest,
"that is touched with the feeling of our infirmities," Heb. iv. 15.
Albeit Christ, in the deepest of his darkness, was never made to
question his Sonship, but avouched God to be his God even when he was
forsaken, Psalm xxii. 1. Matt, xxvii. 46. Mark xv. 34. Yet he knew what
it was to be tempted, to question his Sonship, when the devil said unto
him, Matt. iv. 3, "If thou be the Son of God;" and he knows what such a
distress as he himself was into, wrestling with an angry God, hiding
himself and forsaking, will work in a poor sinner; and being a merciful
and sympathising High Priest, he cannot but pity such as are under such
a distemper, and, as a gracious Head, sympathise with them. Now, the
believer would look out to him as such an one, and upon this ground go
to him with confidence and boldness, and lay out their case before him,
that he may help and send relief:
(2.) They would also eye Christ as able to save out of that condition,
and to command light to shine out of darkness; and so, as one "able to
save to the uttermost all that come to God through him," Heb. vii. 25.
(3.) And not only so, but eye him also as given, sent, and commissioned
of the Father, to be a light to such as sit in darkness; even to the
Gentile. Isa. xlii. 6, and xlix. 6. Luke ii. 32. Acts xiii. 47; xxvi.
23. John viii. 12; and this will encourage the poor souls to go out to
him with their darkness, when they see that he is sent as a Light and as
the Truth, to clear up poor souls that walk in darkness and have no
light. When they see that it is his place and office to help them, and
consider that he is true to his trust, and true and faithful in all that
was committed to him, it not only will embolden them to come forward to
him, but it will strengthen their hope, and encourage them to wait on.
(4.) They would stay themselves on him as an all-sufficient helper,
renouncing all other, crying out, that they will have no light but his
light, and that they will seek no where else for light, but wait at his
door, till he, who is the Sun of Righteousness, shall arise in their
soul, and come with healing light in his wings.
(5.) They would by faith roll and cast their darkened souls, their
confused case, their overwhelmed hearts on him, and leave them there;
for he is the only physician; and the blind soul must be put in his
hand, who can take away the film, and cause the scales fall off, and
make light break into the soul and discover unto it its condition.
(6.) It would be useful and very steadable, in such a time of darkness,
for the believer to be frequent in acting direct acts of faith on
Christ; that is, be frequent in going to him as an all-sufficient
Mediator, as the only refuge and shadow for a poor, weary, scorched
soul, Isa. iv. 6. "And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind,
and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the
shadow of a great rock in a weary land," Isa. xxxii. 2; "as one who is a
strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow
from the heat," &c. Isa. xxv, 4. When the soul is thus overwhelmed with
clouds, and doubteth of its interest in Christ, it would then put it out
of doubt, by flying to him for refuge from the storm of God's
indignation, and lay hold on him as he is freely offered in the gospel,
and thus renew its grips of him as the offered all-sufficient Mediator,
and frequent direct acts of faith will help at length to a reflex act.
The soul that is daily running to Christ, according to the covenant,
with all its necessities, and laying hold on him as only able to help,
will at length come to see that it hath believed on him, and is made
welcome by him, and accepted through him. So that reiterated acts of
faith on an offered cautioner and salvation, will dispel at length those
clouds of darkness that trouble the soul.
7. Such souls would beware of making their bands stronger, and their
darkness greater, by their folly and unwise carriage; for this cause
they would beware,
(1.) To cry out in despondency of spirit as if there were no hope, and
to conclude peremptorily, that they are cut off, and it is vain to wait
any longer; for this course will but darken them the more, and multiply
the clouds over their head.
(2.) To run away from Christ through unbelief and despair, for that will
make their case yet worse.
(3.) To walk untenderly and not circumspectly; for the more sins appear,
the less light will be had. O but souls would be tender in all their
conversation at that time, and guard against the least sin or appearance
(4.) To fret and repine against God, because of that dispensation; for
that will but entangle the soul more, and wreathe the yoke straiter
about its neck, and put itself further out of case to be relieved and to
8. Such would do well not to limit the Holy One of Israel, but to wait
with patience till his time come to speak in light to the soul, knowing
that such as wait upon him shall never be ashamed, Isa. xlix. 23,
because he waiteth to be gracious; and therefore blessed are all they
that wait upon him, Isa. xxx. 18.
_Quest._ But what if for all this I get no outgate, but my distress and
darkness rather grow upon my hand? _Ans._ That such a thing may be, I
grant, the Lord thinking it fit. (1.) To exercise their faith,
dependence, patience, hope, and desire more. (2.) And to discover more
unto them their own weakness, faintings, faithfulness. (3.) To shew his
absolute power and sovereignty. (4.) To make his grace and mercy more
conspicuous and remarkable at length. And, (5.) to train them up in a
way of dependence on him in the dark, and of leaning to him when walking
in darkness, yea, and in a way of believing when they think they have no
faith at all, and for other holy ends. Yet the soul would not despond,
for there are several things that may serve to support and bear up the
heart even in that case, as,
1. This is not their case alone, others have been in the like before,
and many have had the like complaints in all ages, as is known to such
as have been acquainted with exercised souls.
2. It may yield peace and comfort to know that they are about duty when
looking to him, and depending upon him, and waiting for his light.
3. The promises made to such as wait for him may support the soul and
4. The distinct knowledge and uptaking of their condition, though it be
comfortable and refreshing, yet it is not absolutely necessary. A soul
may be a saved soul, though those clouds should continue to its dying
day; and though, as long as they lived, they should never get a clear
discovery of their gracious state, but spend their days in mourning,
complaining, and crying out of darkness.
5. Such a soul should think that it is much that he is kept out of hell
so long; and sure, the thoughts of what he is, and of what he deserveth,
may make him sober, and not to think much, though he reach not so high
as to see his name written in the book of life.
6. They should know that full assurance of hope and of faith is but
rare: and even such as have it do not ordinarily keep it long; so that
it should not much trouble them, if, after all their pains, they cannot
win at it.
7. If they win to any real ground of hope, how small soever, they should
think much of that; for many dear to Christ live long, and never know
what so much is.
8. It is no small matter that they are not sinking in the gulf of
inconsideration, and plagued with an indifferency in these matters, but
are made to value Christ and an interest in him at such a rate.
9. Their going to Christ with all their wants, laying all on him, and
their making that their daily exercise, may keep up their hearts from
fainting, yea, and fill their souls with joy; for that is really the
exercise of faith. And the great and gracious promises are made to such
as believe, and not to such only as know they do believe. I grant such
as know not that they do believe, cannot draw comfort from these
promises; yet it is true that one may, by reflecting on the actings of
his own soul, see and know that really he is going out to Christ,
forsaking himself, casting his burden on him, waiting and depending upon
him; when yet he will not say that he doth believe. And when he seeth
this working of soul towards Christ, he is obliged to believe that he
believeth, and thereupon rejoice in hope of the great promises. And
however the very sight and knowledge of this acting and motion of soul
may give them some comfort, though they shall not take it for faith,
because it is the way of duty, and it is the thing the gospel calleth
for, and because they cannot show an instance of anyone soul that did
so, and perished. But the truth is, the right understanding of the
nature of faith would clear many doubts, and prevent many questions.
I come to speak a little to the last case which I shall handle, which
HOW WE SHALL MAKE USE OF CHRIST AS THE TRUTH, THAT WE MAY WIN TO RIGHT
AND SUITABLE THOUGHTS OF GOD.
This is a case that much troubleth the people of God,--they cannot get
right and suitable thoughts of God, which they earnestly desire to have,
nor know not how to win at them; and certain it is, he only who is the
Truth, and came out of the bosom of the Father, can help here. Therefore
for our use-making of him for this end, it would be remembered,
1. That the mind of man, through the fall, is nothing but a mass of
ignorance and blindness; that "the understanding is darkened," Eph. iv.
17, 18; "and naturally we are in darkness," 1 John ii. 9, 11; "yea,
under the power of darkness," Col. i. 13; and, which is more, our minds
are naturally filled with prejudice against God, and enmity, through
wickedness naturally residing there, and which the prince of the power
of the air, the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience,
increaseth and stirreth up.
2. That this evil is not totally taken away, even in the godly, but
helped only in part; for they see and know but in part, 1 Cor. xiii. 13.
3. That hence it cometh to pass, that through the working of corruption,
the soul of a believer can sometimes win to no right thought of God at
all; or at best to some very narrow and unsuitable conceptions of him
and his ways; yea, sometimes, all the thoughts they can get of God are
vain and idle, if not misshapen and blasphemous.
4. That as we are, we cannot see God; "for no man hath seen him," Matt.
xi. 27. John iv. 46; for he is an invisible God, 1 Tim. i. 17. Heb. xi.
27. "He dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto. Him no man
hath seen, nor can see," 1 Tim. vi. 16. 1 John iv. 12.
5. That all that knowledge of God which is saving, is to be found in
Christ, who is the "brightness of his glory, and the express image of
his person," Heb. i. 2; "and the image of the invisible God," Col. i.
15; and is for this end come out from the bosom of the Father, that he
might acquaint us with him, and with all his secrets, John i. 18. Matt.
xi. 27, so far as is needful for us to know. He is God incarnate, that
in him we may see the invisible. Thus "God is manifest in the flesh," 1
Tim. iii. 16; "and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us," John i.
6. That therefore if we would see and know God, we must go to Christ,
who is the temple in which God dwelleth and manifesteth his glory; and
in and through him, must we see and conceive of God. The light that we
get of the knowledge of the glory of God, must be in the face of Jesus
Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 6; that is, in the manifestations that Christ hath
made of himself, in his natures, offices, ordinances, works,
dispensations of grace, mediate and immediate, &c. And thus doth God,
who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, "cause this light of
the knowledge of his glory shine into our hearts," viz. in the face of
Jesus Christ, that is, in the dispensations of grace in the gospel,
which is the glorious gospel of Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 4, and, as it were,
the face of Jesus Christ; for as by the face a man is best known and
distinguished from others, so Christ is visibly, and discernibly, and
manifestly, seen and known, in and by the gospel dispensations; there
are all the lineaments and draughts of the glory of God which we would
know, lively and clearly to be seen.
So then, if we would make use of Christ for this end, that we may win to
a right sight of God, and suitable conceptions of his glory, we would
consider those things:
1. We would live under the sense and thorough conviction of the
greatness and incomprehensibleness of God, as being every way past
finding out; and also under the conviction of our own darkness and
incapacity to conceive aright of him, even as to what he hath revealed
2. We would know, that what the works of creation and providence declare
and preach forth of God, though it be sufficient to make heathens and
others that do not improve the same to a right acknowledging of him,
inexcusable, as Paul teacheth us, Rom. i. 20; yet all that is short of
giving to us that saving knowledge of him, which must be had, and which
is life eternal, John xvii. 2.
3. We would know, that what of God is to be found out by the works of
creation and providence, is more distinctly seen in Christ and in the
gospel. Here is a greater and more glorious discovery of God, and of his
glorious attributes, his justice, power, wisdom, goodness, holiness,
truth, &c. than can be found by the deepest diving naturalist, and most
wise moral observer of Providence, that is not taught out of the gospel.
4. Yea, there is something of God to be seen in Christ, in the gospel,
which can be observed in none of his works of, creation or common
providence; there is the grace of God that bringeth salvation, that is
made to appear only by the gospel, Titus ii. 11; and there is a peculiar
kindness and love of God towards man, which is only discovered by
Christ in the gospel, Titus iii. 4. There is that manifold wisdom of
God, that mystery which was hid from the beginning of the world in God;
that principalities and powers in heavenly places, the greatest and
wisest of naturalists must learn by the church, wherein that is preached
and proclaimed, by the dispensations of the gospel, Eph. iii. 9, 10. His
mercy pardoning poor sinners, justice being satisfied, cannot be cleared
by nature. Nature cannot unfold that mystery of justice and mercy,
concurring to the salvation of a sinner--only the gospel can clear that
5. We would remember, that all the beams of that glory which are
necessary and useful for us to know, are, to speak so, contracted in
Christ, and there vailed, to the end that we may more steadily look upon
them. We may go to our Brother, who is flesh of our flesh, and there,
through the vail of his flesh, see and behold what otherwise was
invisible. As we can look to the sun better shining in a pail of water,
than by looking up immediately; so can we behold God and his glory
better in Christ, where there is a thin vail (to speak so) drawn over
that otherwise blinding, yea, killing glory, than by looking to God
without Christ; for, alas! we could not endure one glance of an
immediate ray of divine glory: it would kill us outright.
6. We must then go to Christ, and there see God; for he who seeth him
seeth the Father also, John xiv. 9. Particularly, we must go the face of
Jesus Christ, that is, that whereby he hath made himself known, the
noble contrivance of the glorious gospel, wherein all things are so
carried on, as that God is glorified in his Son, in the salvation of
poor sinners. The whole work of salvation is laid on Christ, and the
Father is glorified in him, who is his Servant and his Chosen, whom he
upholdeth and furnisheth for the work, Isa. xlii. 1,2. He is called the
covenant itself. He is the undertaker in the covenant of redemption and
in the covenant of grace; all is founded on him; all the good things of
it are given out by him; all the grace by which we close with it, and
accept of him according to it, is given by him. Now, in this gospel
contrivance are all the lines of the glorious face of Christ to be
seen; and in that face must we see and discern the glory of God, all the
rays of which are centered in Christ, and there will we get a noble
prospect of that glorious object. So that all such as would make use of
Christ for this end, that they might come to have right and suitable
thoughts and apprehensions of God, must be well acquainted with the
whole draught and frame of the gospel; and so acquainted therewith, as
to see Christ the substance, ground and all of it, and to see him in
every part of it.
7. Whatever we know or learn of God by his works of creation and
providence, in the world or about ourselves, we would bring it in here
that it may receive a new tincture and a deeper impression. That is
done, when we find and learn something of Christ there, and are brought
nearer Christ thereby, and made thereby to discover something more of
the glory of God in the face of Christ; or are made to understand better
something of the revelation that is made of God in the gospel, or moved
thereby to improve it better.
8. In all this matter, we must not go without our guide, lest we wander
in this wilderness, and it prove a labyrinth to us. We must take Christ
with us all along; he must teach us to understand his own face, and to
read the glorious characters of that excellent glory which is to be seen
in his face. He must be our interpreter, and teach us how to read this
book, and how to understand what is written therein; he must give the
discerning eye, and the understanding heart; even the spirit of wisdom
and understanding, to take up the mysteries of God.
9. And for this cause, we should by faith lay hold upon the promises of
the Spirit, whereby we may be made spiritual, and have our
understandings enlightened more and more, to understand the mysterious
characters of divine majesty and glory.
10. In all this exercise we should walk with fear, and carry with us
impressions of the dreadful majesty and glory of God, that we may
tremble and fear, and stand in awe, and read what we read of this glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ, this glorious Bible, with reverence
and godly fear. And thus we may be helped to win to right and suitable
thoughts of God; yet withal we should, for
Consider a few things further; as,
1. That we must not think to "search out the Almighty unto perfection,"
Job xi. 7.
2. Nor must we think to get any one point of God known and understood
perfectly; corruption will mix in itself, do our best; and our
shortcomings will not easily be reckoned up.
3. We must beware of carnal curiosity, and of unlawful diving into this
depth, lest we drown.
4. We should not dream of a state here, wherein we will not need Christ
for this end. Yea, I suppose, in glory, he will be of use to us, as to
the seeing of God; for even there, as he is to-day, so shall he for ever
abide, God and man in two distinct natures and one person, and that
cannot be for nought; and as God will be still God invisible and
unsearchable, so we, though glorified, will remain finite creatures, and
therefore will stand in need of Christ, that in his glorious face we may
see the invisible. He must be our _lumen gloriae_.
5. We should think it no small matter to have the impressions of this
sight upon our hearts, that we cannot see him; and that we, in this
state of sin, cannot get right and suitable apprehensions of him. I say,
the impression of this on our spirits, that is, such a sight of
impossibility to get him seen aright, as will keep the heart in awe, and
cause us walk before him in fear and reverence, and to humble ourselves
in the dust, and to tremble whenever we make mention of his name, or
begin to meditate on him, knowing how great an one he is, and how
dangerous it is to think amiss of him, and how difficult to get a right
thought of him.
"AND THE LIFE." HOW CHRIST IS THE LIFE.
This, as the former, being spoken indefinitely, may be universally
taken, as relating both to such as are yet in the state of nature, and
to such as are in the state of grace, and so may be considered in
reference to both, and ground three points of truth, both in reference
to the one, and in reference to the other; to wit, 1. That our case is
such as we stand in need of his help, as being the Life. 2. That no
other way but by him, can we get that supply of life, which we stand in
need of, for he only is the Life, excluding all other. 3. That this help
is to be had in him fully and completely, for not only is he able to
quicken, but he is called the Life; so that the help which he giveth is
full, excellent, and complete.
Looking upon the words in reference to such as are in nature, they point
out those three truths to us:
I. That all of us by nature are dead, standing in need of quickening and
of life; for this is presupposed, while he is said to be the Life, and
that both legally and really: Legally, being under the sentence of
death, for Adam's transgression, Rom. v. 15, and for that original
corruption of heart we have; and really, the sentence of the law being
in part executed, and that both as to the body and as to the soul. As to
the body, it is now subject to death, and all the forerunners thereof,
such as weakness, pains, sickness, fears, torment, trouble, weariness,
yea, and in hazard of hell-fire, and the torments of the second death
for ever. As to the soul, it also is many ways dead; but first in a way
that is purely penal, and next in a way that is also sinful; and both
ways, as to what is present, and as to what is future. For as to that
which is penal and present, it is, (1.) separated from God and his
favour, Gen. iii. 8, 10, 24; (2.) is under his curse and wrath, whence
it cometh to pass, that by nature we are children of wrath, Eph. ii. 2,
5; servants of Satan, 2 Tim. ii. 26; the consequence of which is sad
and heavy, for hence it is that we cannot please God, do what we will.
Till we be brought out of that state, our ordinary and civil actions,
even ploughing the ground, is sin, Prov. xxi. 4; yea, our religious
actions, whether natural or instituted, are abomination; even our
sacrifices, Prov. xv. 8; xxi. 27; and prayers, Prov. xxviii. 9. Psalm x.
7; yea, and all our thoughts and purposes, Prov. xv. 26; and likewise
all our ways, Prov. xv. 9. As to what is penal and future, it is
obnoxious to that everlasting excommunication from the presence of the
Lord, and from the glory of his power, 2 Thess. i. 8, 9; and to the
torments of hell for ever, Mark ix. 44, 46, 48. Luke xvi. As to what is
not only penal but also sinful, the soul here is under the stroke of
darkness in the understanding, perverseness and rebelliousness in the
will, irregularity and disorder in the affections, whereby the soul is
unfit for any thing that is good, Rom. iii. 10-20. Eph. ii. 1, 2, 3.
Rom. v. 6; viii. 7, 8; whence proceedeth all our actual transgressions,
James i. 14, 15. And moreover sometimes the soul is given up to a
reprobate mind, Rom. i. 28; to strong delusion, 2 Thess. ii. 2; to
hardness of heart, Rom. ii. 5; horror of conscience, Isa. xxxiii. 14; to
vile affections, Rom. i. 26, and the like spiritual plagues, which,
though the Lord inflict on some only, yet all are obnoxious to the same
by nature, and can expect no less, if the Lord should enter with them
into judgment. And finally, as to what is future of this kind, they are,
being fuel for Tophet, obnoxious to that malignant, sinful, blasphemous,
and desperate rebellion against God, in hell for evermore!
O how lamentable, upon this consideration, must the condition of such
be, as are yet in the state of nature! Oh, if it were but seen and felt!
But, alas! there is this addition to all, that people know not this;
they consider it not, they believe it not, they feel it not, they see it
not; and hence it cometh to pass, that,
_First_. They cannot bewail and lament their condition, nor be humbled
_Secondly_. They cannot, and will not seek after a remedy; for the whole
will not trouble themselves to seek after a physician.
And sure upon this account, their case calleth for pity and compassion
from all that know what a dreadful thing it is to be in such a
condition, and should stir up all to pray for them, and to do all they
can to help them out of that state of sin and misery, which is dreadful
to think upon.
Should not the thoughts and consideration of this put us all to try and
search, if we be yet translated from death to life, and delivered out of
that dreadful and terrible state, and made partakers of the first
resurrection. It not being my purpose to handle this point at large, I
shall not here insist in giving marks, whereby this may be known, and
which are obvious in Paul's Epistles, and to be found handled at large
in several practical pieces, chiefly in Mr. Guthrie's Great Interest. I
shall only desire every one to consider and examine,
1. Whether or not the voice of Christ, which quickeneth the dead, hath
been heard and welcomed in their soul. This is effectual calling.
2. Whether or not there be a thorough change wrought in their soul, a
change in the whole man, so as all things are become new. 2 Cor. v. 17.
3. Whether or not there be a principle of life within? and they be led
by the Spirit.
4. Whether or not there be a living to the glory of the Lord Redeemer.
And when by an impartial trial, a discovery is made of the badness of
our condition, should we not be alarmed to look about us, and to labour
by all means for an outgate? Considering, (1.) How doleful and
lamentable this condition is. (2.) How sad and dreadful the consequences
of it are. (3.) How happy a thing it is to be delivered from this
miserable and sinful condition. And, (4.) How there is a possibility of
_Finally_. It may break a heart of stone to think, how people that are
in such a condition are so unwilling to come out of it: For,
1. How unwilling are they once to suspect their condition, or to suppose
that it may be bad, and that they may be yet unconverted?
2. How unwilling are they, to sit down seriously to try and examine the
matter, and to lay their case to the touch-stone of the word?
3. Yea, how unwilling are they to hear any thing that may tend to awaken
them, or to discover unto them the deadness of their condition?
4. How ready to stifle challenges of conscience, or any common motion of
the Spirit, which tendeth to alarm their soul?
5. How great enemies are they to such ordinances as serve to awaken
6. And how do they hate such ministers as preach such doctrine as may
serve to rouse them up, and set them a-work about their own salvation?
II. We learn hence, that without Christ there is no imaginary way of
delivery out of this natural state of death. "No other name is given
under heaven whereby we can be saved," Acts iv. 12; and angels can make
no help here, nor can one of us deliver another; the redemption of the
soul is more precious than so, Psalm xlix. 7, 8. Nor is there any thing
we can do for ourselves that will avail here; all our prayers, tears,
whippings, fastings, vows, alms-deeds, purposes, promises, resolutions,
abstinence from some evils, outward amendments, good morality and
civility, outward religiousness, yea, and if it were possible, our
keeping of the whole law, will not help us out of this pit. And we may
weary ourselves in such exercises in vain; for they will prove but
bodily exercises that profit little. And when in this way we have spent
all our time, parts, spirits, and labour, we shall at length see and
say, that we have spent our money for that which is not bread.
This should put all of us to try what it is which we lean to for life;
and what it is, the consideration whereof giveth us peace and quietness
when the thoughts of death, judgment, hell, and the wrath of God come
upon us and trouble us: For if it be any thing beside Christ that our
soul leaneth to, and that we are comforted by, and found all our hopes
upon, we will meet with a lamentable (oh! for ever lamentable!)
disappointment. Be sure then, that our hearts renounce all other ways
and means of outgate out of this death, besides Jesus, the resurrection
and the life, else it will not be well with us.
III. We see here, that delivery out of this natural state of death is
only had by Christ: For he alone is the life, and the life that is in
him is suitable and excellent. Hence he is called "the bread of life,"
John vi. 35, 48. "The resurrection and the life," John xi. 25. "The
water of life," Rev. xxi. 6, and xxii. 17. "The tree of life," Rev.
xxii. 2, 14. "The prince of life," Acts iii. 15. "Our life," Col. iii.
4. "The word of life, and life itself," 1 John i. 1, 2.
And as he is a suitable and excellent life, so is he an all-sufficient
and perfect life, able every way to help us and to deliver us from all
the parts of our death. For,
1. He delivereth from the sentence of the law, Rom. v. 17, 18,
undergoing the curse of the law, and becoming a curse for us, 2 Cor. v.
2. He taketh away the curse and sting of all temporal plagues, yea, and
of death itself, causing all to work together for good to such as love
him, Rom. viii. 28. He hath killed him that had the power of death, that
is, the devil, Heb. ii. 14; and through him the sting of death, which is
sin, is taken away, 1 Cor. xv. 56, 57.
3. He reconcileth to God, taking away that distance and enmity, 2 Cor.
v. 20; and so he is our peace and peacemaker, purchasing access to us to
the Father, Eph. ii. 14, 16; iii. 12.
4. He also delivereth from the power of sin and corruption, Rom. vii.
5. And from all those spiritual strokes; such as blindness, hardness of
heart, &c. For he is our light; and hath procured a new heart for us,
even a heart of flesh.
6. So delivereth he from hell fire, having satisfied justice, and having
brought life and immortality to light; and he giveth life eternal, as we
see, Rev. ii. 3.
Oh! it is sad, that Christ is so little made use of, and that so many
will forsake the fountain of living waters, and dig to themselves broken
cisterns that can hold no water; and slight, despise, and undervalue the
gospel of Christ, which bringeth life and immortality to light.
Oh! if the consideration of this could move such as never found any
change in themselves, to run to, and make use of Jesus Christ for life;
and would for this end,
(1.) Cry to him, that he would make them sensible of their deadness, and
waken them out of their deep sleep.
(2.) Cry to him, to set them a-work to renounce all other help beside
his, as being utterly unable to quicken and put life in them.
(3.) Cry to him, that he would draw and determine their souls to a
closing with him by faith alone, to a hearing of his voice, to an
obeying of his call, to a following of his direction, to a giving up of
themselves to him, leaning to him, and waiting for all from him alone:
in a word, to take him for their life in all points, and to lean to him
for life, and to expect it from him, through faith in the promises of
_Next._ This being spoken to the disciples, whom we suppose to have been
believers, it will give us ground to speak of it, in reference to
believers, and so yield three points of truth, which we shall briefly
touch, and then come to speak of use-making of Christ as the Life, in
some particular cases.
_First._ It is here clearly presupposed, that even believers have need
of Christ to be life unto them; and so have their fits of deadness. If
it were not so, why would Christ have said to believers, that he was
life? And daily experience doth abundantly confirm it. For,
1. They are oft so weak and unable to resist temptation, or to go about
any commanded duty, as if they were quite dead.
2. They are oft so borne down with discouragement, because of the
strength of opposition which they meet with on all hands; and because of
the manifold disappointments which they meet with, that they have
neither heart nor hand; and they faint and set up in the ways of the
Lord; and cannot go through difficulties, but oftentimes lie by.
3. Through daily fighting, and seeing no victory, they become weary and
faint-hearted; so that they lie by as dead, Isa. xl. 29.
4. They oft fall sick and decay, and have need of restoration and
5. The want of the sense of God's favour, and of the comforts of the
Holy Ghost, maketh them to dwine and droop, and look out as dead.
6. While under soul desertions upon one account or other, they look upon
themselves as free among the dead, that is, as dead men, of the society
of the dead, with Heman, Psalm lxxxviii.
7. Yea, many times they are as dead men, led captive in chains of
unbelief and corruptions, as we see David was, when his heart panted,
and his strength failed him, and the light of his eyes were gone from
him, Psalm xxxviii. 10.
8. Many times the frequent changes, and ups and downs they meet with,
take all courage and heart from them, that they become like men tossed
at sea, so as they have no more strength.
And many such things befall them, which make them look as dead, and to
stand in need of quickening, reviving and strengthening cordials from
him who is the life. And thus the Lord thinketh good to dispense with
his own people,
(1.) That they may be kept humble, and know themselves to be indigent
creatures, needing influences of life daily.
(2.) That they may have many errands to him who is the life, and have
much to do with him, and depend upon him continually.
(3.) That he may show himself wonderful, in and about them, giving proof
of his skill in quickening the dead, and in bringing such through unto
everlasting life, who were daily, as it were, giving up the ghost, and
at the point of death.
(4.) That heaven may be heaven; that is, a place "where the weary are at
rest," Job iii. 17; and the troubled rest, 2 Thes. i. 7; and where the
inhabitants shall not say they are sick, Isa. xxxiii. 24.
(5.) That they may be taught more the life of faith and of dependence on
him, and trained up in that way.
(6.) That he may be owned, acknowledged, and submitted unto as a
sovereign God, doing what he will in heaven and in earth.
For all this, there is no cause that any should take up any prejudice
at Christianity: for, for all this their life is sure, and the outgate
is sure and safe. Nor would they think it strange, to see believers oft
mourning and drooping, seeing their case will oft fall for new supplies
of life. Their fits are not known to every one; nor doth every one know
what lieth sometimes at their heart; nor would they think it such an
easy matter to win to heaven as they imagine; and so deceive themselves.
The righteous are saved through many deaths.
And as for believers, they would not think it strange to meet with such
fits of deadness; nor thence conclude, that all their former work was
but delusion, and that they are still in the state of nature. But rather
observe the wisdom, faithfulness, and power of God in bringing their
broken ship through so much broken water, yea, and shipwrecks; and his
goodness in ordering matters so as they shall be kept humble, watchful,
diligent and constant in dependence upon him who is and must be their
life, first and last. And hence learn a necessity of living always near
to Christ, and depending constantly upon him by faith; for he being
their life, they cannot be without him, but they must die and decay.
_Second._ We hence learn, that under all these fits of deadness to which
his people are subject, nothing without Christ will help: Not,
1. All their pains in and about ordinary means, prayer, reading,
hearing, meditation, conference, &c. They will all cry out, that help is
not in them: for he is the life.
2. Nor extraordinary duties, such as fasting and prayer, and
vows,--these will never revive and quicken a drooping or fainting sickly
soul: for they are not Christ, nor the life.
3. Nor will a stout courageous spirit and resolution of heart avail. If
he who is the Life, breathe not, all that will melt away and evanish.
4. Nor will the stock of habitual grace which remaineth in the soul, be
sufficient to quicken and revive the sick soul, if the Life breathe not
on these habits; and if new influences of life and strength flow not in
upon the soul, and new rays come not down from this Sun of
Righteousness to warm the frozen soul, the habits will lie by as dead.
5. Far less will their great gifts and endowments help them out of that
dead condition; all their light and knowledge, without the influences of
this Life, will prove weak and insufficient for this end and purpose.
6. Nor will sound, pure and lively-like ordinances work out this effect;
for till he look down, all these ordinances may prove dead and deadening
It were good if believers were living under the conviction of this
daily, and by their practice and carriage declaring if they believe,
that Christ only is the Life, and that they must live in him, and be
quickened and revived through him alone.
_Third_. We see hence, that Christ is the Life, that is, one that
sufficiently, yea, and abundantly can help the believer while under
those fits of deadness which have been mentioned, and the like. There is
in him a rich supply of things that tend to revive, encourage,
strengthen and enliven a soul under spiritual deadness and fainting.
Therefore is he called the Life; as having in him all that which is
necessary for and answerable to souls under spiritual sicknesses,
distempers, desertions, fainting and swooning fits, &c., for with him
"is the fountain of life," Psalm xxxvi. 9; "and he it is that upholdeth
the soul in life," Psalm lxvi. 9; "and can command the blessing, even
life for ever more," Psalm cxxxiii. 3.
For further clearing of this, we would consider those things,
1. That he is God, equal with the Father in power and glory, and thereby
"hath life in himself," John v. 26; and can "quicken whom he will," ver.
21. By this he proveth his own Godhead and equality with the Father; so,
John i. 4, it is said, "that in him was life," and that life was the
light of men, whereby also his Godhead is confirmed. This should be
firmly believed, and rooted in our hearts, as being the ground of all
our hope, comfort, and life: For, were it not so, that our Mediator were
the true God, all our hopes were gone, our comforts could not be long
lived, and our life were extinct.
2. As Mediator God-man, he is fully and thoroughly furnished to quicken
and enliven his members and followers, first and last; and all along
their life must be hid with Christ in God; "for in him dwelleth the
Fulness of the Godhead bodily," Col. ii. 9; as Mediator, he is called "a
tree of life," Prov. iii. 18; quickening and enlivening all that feed
upon him; and "the bread of life," John vi. 35, 48. Yea, because of
power and authority to command life to the dead soul, he is called "the
Prince of life," Acts iii. 15; and as a living, quickening stone, he
giveth life to all that are built upon him, 1 Pet. ii. 4. Yea, as being
fully fitted and furnished for this work, he calleth himself "the
resurrection and the life," John xi. 25. This should be riveted in our
hearts, as a comfortable and encouraging truth.
3. Of this stock of life and quickening and reviving grace which he hath
got, and is furnished withal as Mediator and Redeemer of his people, he
is communicative,--"of his fulness do we receive, and grace for grace,"
John i. 16. He got it that he might give it out, and that from him as a
head it might flow unto his members, and therefore he is the bread that
came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world, John vi. 35. Yea,
he giveth eternal life to all his sheep, John x. 28; and he is come for
this end, that his sheep might have life, John x. 10. Therefore hath he
taken on such relations, as may give ground of confirmation of this, as
of a head, of a stock or root, and the like. This consideration is
strengthening and reviving.
4. He communicateth of this stock of life, and of reviving strength,
which he hath most sweetly and on most easy terms. So that,
(1.) Such as seek him shall find life by him, Psalm lxix. 32.
(2.) Yea, such as know him shall not miss life, John xvii. 3. 1 John v.
(3.) If we will believe on him and rest upon him, we have life first and
last, John iii. 15, 16, 36; vi. 40, 47. 1 Tim. i. 16.
(4.) If we will come to him, John v. 40, and cast our dead soul upon
him, we shall live.
(5.) If we will hear his voice, Isa. lv. 3, and receive his
instructions, we shall live; for they are the instructions of life.
(6.) Nay, if the soul be so dead, that it can neither walk nor hear, if
it can but look to him, he will give life, Isa. xlv. 22.
(7.) And if the soul be so weak, that it cannot look, nor lift up its
eyes; yet if it be willing, he will come with life. Rev. xxii. 17.
Oh, if this were believed!
5. As he is communicative of that life which he hath gotten as head, and
that upon easy terms; so he giveth out of that life liberally, largely,
abundantly, yea, more abundantly, John x. 10. The water of life which he
giveth, is "a well of water springing up to everlasting life," John iv.
14. Therefore he alloweth his friends to drink abundantly, Cant. v. 1.
6. Yet it would be remembered, that he is Lord and master thereof, and
Prince of this life, and so may dispense it and give it out, in what
measure he seeth fit; and he is wise to measure out best for his own
glory, and to their advantage.
7. All this life is sure in him,--none of his shall be disappointed
thereof. His offices, which he hath taken on; and his commission, which
he hath of the Father, abundantly clear this; and love to his, will not
suffer him to keep up any thing that is for their advantage. He is
faithful in his house as a son, and will do all that was committed unto
him to do. The whole transaction of the covenant of redemption, and
suretyship, and all the promises of the new covenant of grace, confirm
this to be a sure truth; so that they that have him have life, 1 John v.
12. Prov. viii. 35.
8. Yea, all that is in Christ contributeth to this life and quickening.
His words and doctrine are the words of eternal life, John vi. 63, 68.
Phil. ii. 16. His works and ways are the ways of life, Acts ii. 28. His
natures, offices, sufferings, actings, all he did as Mediator, concur to
the quickening and enlivening of a poor dead soul.
9. This fulness of life which he hath, is fully suited to the believer's
condition, in all points, as we shall hear.
10. This life is eminently and transcendently in him, and exclusively
of all others. It is in him, and in him alone; and it is in him in a
most excellent manner: So that he is the life, in the abstract; not only
a living head, and an enlivening head; but life itself, the life, the
"resurrection and the life."
SOME GENERAL USES.
Before we come to speak of some particular cases of deadness, wherein
believers are to make use of Christ as the Life, we shall first propose
some useful consequences and deductions from what hath been spoken of
this life; and,
I. The faith of those things, which have been mentioned, would be of
great use and advantage to believers; and therefore they should study to
have the faith of this truth fixed on their hearts, and a deep
impression thereof on their spirits, to the end, that,
1. Be their case and condition what it will, they might be kept from
despair, and despondency of spirit, from giving over their case as
hopeless; and from looking upon themselves as irremediably gone. The
faith of Christ being life, and the life, would keep up the soul in
hope, and cause it say,--how dead soever my case be, yet life can help
me, and he who is the resurrection and the life, can recover me.
2. Yea, be their case and condition what it will, they would have here
some ground of encouragement, to go to him with their dead soul, and to
look to him for help, seeing he is the Life, as Mediator, to the end he
might enliven and quicken his dead, fainting, swooning members, and to
recover them from their deadness.
3. They might be freed from many scruples and objections that scar and
discourage them. This one truth believed would clear up the way so, as
that such things, as would have been impediments and objections before,
shall evanish, and be rolled out of the way now: Such as, the objections
taken from their own worthlessness, their long continuance in that dead
condition, and the like.
4. They might hereby likewise be freed from that dreadful plague and
evil of jealousy, whereby the soul is oft kept back from coming to
Christ: For they fear he will not make them welcome; they doubt of his
love and tenderness, and question his pity and compassion; yea, their
jealousy maketh them to doubt of his faithfulness; so that the faith of
this truth would cure this jealousy, and deliver the soul therefrom, and
open a way for the soul to come forward with boldness and confidence.
5. They might also be hereby helped to wait with patience, and to be
still and quiet under the Lord's various dispensations; so as they would
not fret nor repine against him, knowing that he would prove himself to
be Life, even the Life, in his own good time; so that the soul would
patiently wait at his door, till he were pleased to look out, and with
his look convey life into their dead soul.
6. They might be preserved hereby from looking out to or expecting any
help from any other quarter: knowing that he alone is the Life; and so
that help can no where else be had. The faith of this truth would guard
from any sinistrous ways which the soul, in a time of strait, is ready
to run to for relief: for hereby would it see that neither instruments
nor means, nor outward administrations, nor any thing of that kind, can
quicken their dead soul; and that he, and he alone must breathe in life
into them, as at first, so now again.
II. May we not see and observe here great matter of admiration at the
goodness and rich bounty of God towards his people, who hath found out
and condescended upon such a sure, safe, and satisfying way, whereby he
becometh all things to his people which they stand in need of; and that
1. That we are most unworthy of any such dispensation of grace at his
2. That we too oft are too desirous of other guests in our hearts
beside him: O how much corruption, sin and death lodge within our souls!
and how more desirous are we ofttimes of death than of life!
3. That we little improve the noble advantages for life which we have
granted unto us; yea, many a time we abuse them; and this he did
foresee, and yet notwithstanding would condescend unto us.
4. That we do little express our thankfulness for such mercies.
But not for our sakes hath he done this, but for his own name's sake:
For noble and holy ends hath he resolved on this course; as,
(1.) That he might be "all in all," Col. iii. 11, and they nothing; that
he alone might fill all in all, Eph. i. ult., and they be empty and
nothing without him.
(2.) That he might wear the glory of all; "for of him, and through him,
and to him are all things," Rom. xi. 36, and that no man might share
(3.) That man might be his everlasting debtor, and cast down, in
testimony thereof, his crown at his feet, "who sitteth on the throne,"
as those did, Rev. iv. 10, and might cry out with these same elders,
ver. 11, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and
power," &c.; and with those, chap. v. 12, "Worthy is the Lamb that was
slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and
honour, and blessing."
(4.) That man's mouth might be stopped for ever, and all boasting
excluded; for man is a proud creature, and ready to boast of that which
is nothing and vanity. Now God hath chosen this noble way of the
covenant of grace, that no man might boast any more. Where is boasting
then? It is excluded. By what law? By the law of works? no, but by the
law of faith, saith the apostle, Rom. iii. 24.
(5.) That all might be sure to the poor chosen believer. The Lord will
not have the stock of life, any longer to be in a man's own hand: for
even Adam, in the state of innocency, could not use it well, but made
shipwreck thereof, and turned a bankrupt; much more would man now do so,
in this state of sin, in which he lieth at present, therefore hath God,
out of love and tenderness to his chosen ones, put all their stock in
the hand of Christ, who is better able to manage it, to God's glory and
man's advantage, being faithful in all things, and a trusty servant,
"having the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily." "Therefore,"
saith the apostle, Rom. iv. 16. "it is of faith, that it might be by
grace; to the end, the promises might be sure to all the seed."
(6.) That believers might have strong consolation, notwithstanding of
all the opposition of enemies without and within, when they see that now
their "life is hid with Christ in God," Col. iii. 3, and that their life
is in their head, they will not fear so much devils and men without, nor
their own dead and corrupt hearts within.
III. How inexcusable must all such be,
1. Who will not lay hold on this life, on Jesus who is the Life, sure
life, yea, everlasting life.
2. Who seek life any other way, than by and through him who is the Life.
3. Who oppose this way of life, and not only reject the offers of it,
but prove enemies to it, and to all that carry it or preach it.
IV. Here is strong encouragement to all that would be at heaven, to
enter into this gospel, which is a way of life; such need not fear that
their salvation shall not be advanced; let Satan and all their
adversaries do what they can, all that enter into this way shall live.
For the way itself is life, and nothing but life. So that here all
objections are obviated; life can answer all. If the believer fear, that
he shall never win through difficulties, he shall die by the way; or by
fainting, succumbing and swooning, dishonour the profession, and at
length fall off and apostatize, or despair and give over all hope; here
is that which may answer and obviate all, "I am the life;" and who can
perish in the way which is the way of life, an enlivening way, yea, the
way which is life itself; yea, the life in a singular and eminent
V. Here is ground of reproof even of believers, who, though they have
come to Christ, yet do not live in him as they ought, do not walk in
him with that liveliness and activity which is called for; but,
1. Lean too much to their own understanding, gifts or graces; and think
thereby to ride out storms, and to wide through all difficulties, while
as, if he who is the Life do not breathe upon us, all that will fail us
in the day of trial. Our understanding and parts or gifts may dry up,
and our graces may wither and decay, and go backward.
2. Rest too much on duties; when they should in them go to him who is
the Life. For only in him is life to be had; and him should they seek to
in the ordinances, that they might have life from him in those outward
duties; and this appeareth in their way of going about duties, without
that dependence on him, and single eyeing of him, which is called for.
As also by their freting and repining, when duties do not their
business, as if life lay all in duties; and concluding all will be
right, because they get duties somewhat tolerably performed; and, on the
contrary, desponding, when duties fall heavy on them, and they find
themselves indisposed for duty. All which clearly evinceth, that they
lay too much weight on duties; while as it would be otherwise with them,
if they were purely depending on Christ, and looking for all from him.
3. Despond too soon, because they get not help and relief instantly; or
because they are not preserved from every degree of fainting.
4. Neglect to make use of him, and to come to him with all their wants,
failings and necessities, as they ought; or come not with that freedom
and boldness which the gospel grounds allow.
VI. This preacheth out the woful misery of such as are strangers to
Christ. For being strangers to the Life, they have no life, they are
dead, and death is engraven on all they do; even though,
1. They should be very diligent in external duties, yea, and outstrip
many true believers; as the Pharisees had their fasts twice a-week, Luke
2. They should be eminently gifted, able to instruct others, and to
speak of the mysteries of the gospel, to purpose and to edification.
For such gifts of knowledge and utterance may be, where the lively
operations of the grace of Christ are not, and consequently where Christ
is not, as the Life.
3. They should seem eminent in all their outward carriage, and seem to
carry most christianly in all their walk, and appear most devout in the
matter of worship.
4. And they should have something more than ordinary; even taste of the
heavenly gift, and be made partakers of extraordinary gifts of the Holy
Ghost; yea, and taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world
to come, Heb. vi. 4, 5.
VII. This discovereth the noble advantage of such as have accepted of
Christ for their life. Their condition is happy, sure, desirable, and
thriving; for Christ is theirs, and life is theirs; because Christ, who
is the Life, is theirs.
_Obj._ 1. But some wicked persons may say, We see not that happy and
advantageous condition of such as go for believers; for we observe them
to be as little lively ofttimes as others, and as unfit for duties; yea,
and sometimes as much subject to sin and corruption as others.
_Ans._ 1. However it be with them, either in thine eyes, or possibly in
their own sometimes, yet thou mayest hold thy peace; for in their worst
condition, they would not exchange with thee for a world; in their
deadest-like condition, they are not void of all life, as thou art,
notwithstanding all thy motions, and seeming activeness in duty; because
all thy motion in and about duty is but like the moving of children's
puppets, caused by external motives, such as a name, applause, peace
from a natural conscience, or the like; and not from any inward
principle of grace and life.
2. Howbeit they sometimes seem to be dead, yet they are not always so;
life doth really work sometimes in them; whereas there was never any
true or kindly motion of life in thee.
3. There may be more life in them, yea, life in motion, when they seem
to be overcome with some lusts or corruption, yea, when really they are
overcome, than beholders that are strangers to the heart can observe.
For when temptation is violent, as having the advantage of the time and
place, of the constitution of the body, and the like, it argueth no
small degree of life, and of life in motion, to make some resistance and
opposition thereunto, though at length he should be overcome thereby.
And this opposition and resistance, flowing from a principle of grace,
speaketh out life, though corruption, having the advantage, should at
that time overpower the motion of life, and carry the man away.
4. If it be not otherwise with believers than is objected, they may
blame themselves, for not improving Christ better for life.
_Object._ But some who are true believers will object the same, and cry
out of themselves as dead; and say, They find not that liveliness and
activity in their souls, that will evidence Christ, the Life, dwelling
and working in them.
_Ans._ It may be they prejudge themselves of that lively frame they
might enjoy, and so wrong themselves:
1. In not exercising faith on Christ, and drawing life from him and
through him. The life which they live should be by faith, Gal. ii. 20.
How then can such as do not eat become fat? by faith we feed on Christ.
2. In not watching, but giving way to security, and thereby encouraging
and strengthening the adversary, as we see in David; when they stand not
on their watch-tower, they invite Satan to set on; and he is vigilant
enough, and knoweth how to take his advantage, and to improve his
3. In giving way to laziness and not stirring up themselves, as we see
in the bride, Cant. iii. 1; v. 3; when they stir not up the grace of God
which is in them, how can they be lively? If grace be laid by, it will
contract rust. The best way to keep grace lively, is to keep it in
exercise, how little soever it be.
4. By their rashness, walking without fear, as is to be observed in
Peter, when he slipped so foully. When through their want of
circumspection, they precipitate themselves into danger, and cast
themselves among their enemies' hands, is it any wonder, that it go not
with them as they would; and that they provoke God to leave them to
themselves; that they may know what they are, and learn afterwards not
to tempt the Lord, and to walk more circumspectly?
5. By leaning too much to their attainments, and not looking out for new
influences of grace and life. Hereby they provoke God to let them know
to their expense, that for as great a length as they are come, they must
live by faith, and be quickened by new influences from the Spirit of
6. So they may wrong themselves through their ignorance of Christ, and
of the way of making use of him; and if they, through unacquaintedness
with Christ and the right way of improving the fulness that is in him,
miss the fruit and advantage which otherwise they might have, they can
only blame themselves.
7. They may also prejudge themselves by their self-love, self-esteem,
self-seeking, self-pleasing, &c., which piece and piece will draw them
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