fully to many a soul, and none of the Lord's people can live without it.

III. I shall now shew, what makes any ordinance a mean of grace, a well of salvation, out of which one may in faith look to draw water for his soul, or get spiritual good by. The Papists and church of England think human institution sufficient, else they had never made so many significant ceremonies and actions in religion, for which there is no divine warrant, as crossing in baptism, kissing of the book in swearing, &c. In the use of which they think one has ground to expect good to one's soul; but all these, being but human ordinances and inventions of men, are not means of grace, but of sinning; not wells of salvation, but broken cisterns, that can gold no water; nay, they are rather puddles, that defile the soul, instead of nourishing it. For,

1. No ordinance whatsoever can avail without a particular blessing; for the efficacy of ordinances is not natural, or from themselves. Now, men cannot annex a blessing to their ordinances and institutions, to make them effectual for the good of souls, though both church and state join for it. And we have no ground to expect the Spirit's working with tools that are not of his own making. Therefore their institution is vain, and their use too, Matth. xv. 9. 'In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.'

2. Men's institutions or ordinances, in respect of God, are forbidden and condemned by the Lord's word, namely, in the second commandment. The want of a divine warrant is sufficient to condemn any thing of this sort, if it be never so likely in the eyes of human wisdom, Matth. xv. 9. just quoted. See Jer. xxxii. 35. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass thro' the fire unto Molech, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.' And they must needs be blasted institutions, since the institution is an invading of Christ's royal prerogative, Matth. xxviii. 20; who has directed his servants to teach his people to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded.'


3. Men's use of them is not only useless, but worse, not

only to no good purpose, but to ill purpose; for the using of them is will-worship, which is sinning against the Lord, Col. ii. 20-23. Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not, taste not, handle not: which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.' It provokes God, and brings on wrath on the users of them, Hos. v. 11, 12. 'Ephraim is oppressed, and broken in judgment; because he willingly walked after the commandment. Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth: and to the house of Judah as rottenness.'

That which makes any ordinance a means of grace or salvation, what one may justly look for good of to his soul, is divine institution only, Matth. xxviii. 20. forecited: therefore the first question in all ordinances ought to be, Whose is this image and superscription?' That appointment is to be found in the Lord's word, Isa. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'. That is sufficient to make the man of God perfect,' 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17; and therefore contains the whole ordinances he is to meddle with for the salvation of himself or others. The institution of some ordinances is more clear in the word than others; but whatever ordinance has divine warrant, express or by good consequence, is a divine ordinance and means of grace. And to these his own ordinances the Lord has confined us, Deut. iv. 2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.'

[ocr errors]

IV. I proceed to consider, to whom the Lord's ordinances made effectual.

1. Not to all who partake of them, Is. liii. 1. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?' Many come to these wells who never taste of the water. I think it an unwarrantable expression, that all God's ordinances do attain their end, in the salvation or damnation of all that come under them; for damnation is not

the end of any of God's ordinances, but salvation. · And the scriptures adduced to prove it, viz. Isa. lv. 10, 11. För as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it; 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16. • For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish; to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life: and who is sufficient for these things?' will not prove it; for the former respects only God's end in sending his word, the other the event, but neither of them the end of the ordinance. Damnation is the effect or consequence of the contempt or misimprovement of ordinances, but by no means the end thereof.

2. But to all the elect they are effectual, unto whom they come Acts xiii. 48. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.' John x. 26. Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.' To the elect only they are effectual for their salvation, which is their end.


V. I am to shew, whence the efficacy of ordinances proceeds. It does not proceed from any virtue in themselves, or in him that administers them, but from the Spirit of the Lord working in them and by them, 1 Cor iii. 7. But this 1 shall speak to more largely in a posterior discourse.

I conclude with a few inferences.

Inf. 1. Sad is the case of those who are in such a wilderness, as there are no wells in, nor any of God's ordinances. 'Where no vision is, the people perish.' This is the dismal case of the Pagan world. Which should move us to pray that the Lord may send the light of the gospel to these dark places of the earth.

2. The filling up of the wells in a land, by removing ordi⚫ nances from a people, is a sad stroke. Where the word and sacraments are not, there is no church there; and consequently God has no people to save there. O let us cry to the Lord, that this may never be our unhappy case.

8. The defiling of the wells is a sad matter for those who drink of them, whether it be by error in doctrine, supersti tion in worship, or uninstituted government of the church; but worst of all, where they are poisoned with damnable he resies and idolatry, as in the apostate church of Rome. Let us pray for, and strive to maintain, purity of doctrine. worship, and government.

4. Heinous is the sin of the neglect or contempt of the wells of salvation, which God has opened unto them. Let despi, sers and neglecters of ordinances consider this, and what they will answer when God rises up to call them to an ac count. Alas! this is one of the great grounds of the Lord's controversy with the present generation, which loudly calls to deep humiliation before him.

5. Great is the sin and loss of those who come to the wells, but never draw of the water nor taste it: who are ne ver bettered by ordinances, but remain as dead and uncon cerned about their souls as if the means of salvation were not youchsafed to them.

6. Lastly, Prize the ordinances. Prepare for them, and duly improve them; remember they are the ordinary means of salvation: therefore seek to enjoy God, and to have com munion with him, in them, otherwise they will be in vain as

to you.


EPH. vi. 17.-The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


N these words we have, (1.) A particular piece of the Christian armour recommended, the word of God, the revelation of his mind communicated to us in the scriptures, with which every one who minds for heaven should be familiarly acquainted. (2.) A particular piece of its commen dation; it is the sword of the Spirit; i. e. it is that which the Spirit of the Lord uses in fighting the battles of the Lord, and conquering an elect world to Christ, and bringing them,


through all opposition from the devil, the world, and the flesh, into the heavenly Canaan. And therefore it cannot but be of singular use to a Christian in the spiritual warfare. It is but the sword, but the Spirit cuts with it.

The doctrine of the text is,


The word of God is the sword the Spirit makes use of for raising up a kingdom to Christ.' This more fully in the words of the Catechism, runs thus: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.'

In handling this subject, I shall shew,

1. In what respects the word is an ordinance of God, and mean of salvation.

II. What are the ends for which the Lord has appointed these means and ordinances of reading and preaching the word.

III. Consider the efficacy of the word.

IV. Improve the subject in some inferences.

I. I am to shew, in what respects the word is an ordinance of God and mean of salvation.

First, The reading of the word is an ordinance of God, and mean of salvation, of God's own appointment. The Bible is this word, and God has given it to us, and appoint. ed it to be read.

1. The public reading of it in the congregation is God's ordinance, and a mean of salvation. And we find it in scripture performed by the teachers of the people, Neh. viii. 8; So they read in the book, in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.' Ver. 2, 3. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the 7th month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water-gate, from the morning until mid-day, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the peopie were attentive unto the book of the law.' And so the reading of the word claims a

« VorigeDoorgaan »