times calm of itself, when the fury of the wind ceaseth. The wicked indeed are like the sea, but not at any time; but, "like a troubled sea, when it cannot rest." The sea, we know, is subject unto several motions. An inward boiling and unquietness from itself, its ordinary fluxes and refluxes from the influence of the moon,-many casual agitations from the violence of the winds, and from its own waves, one wave precipitating, impelling, and repelling another: so are the hearts of wicked men, by the foaming, estuations, and excesses of natural concupiscence,-by the provisions and materials of sinful pleasures,-by the courses of the world, by the solicitations and impulsions of Satan,-by a world of hourly casualties and provocations so tempestuous, that they always cast out, upon the words and actions of men, mire and dirt. Now, in the dispensation of the word by the ministry of a weak man, Christ stilleth the raging of this sea, quells the lusts, correcteth the distempers, scattereth the temptations, worketh a smoothness and tranquillity of spirit in the soul of a man. Surely, when this is done, the soul cannot but stand amazed at its own recovery, and admire that wonderful and invisible power which could so suddenly rebuke such raging affections, and reduce them unto calmness and beauty again. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest, and thou Jordan, that thou wert driven back? ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams,—and ye little hills, like lambs d?" It is an expression of God's power towards his people in their triumphal entrance into the land of Canaan. We may apply it to the conquest and possession, which the Word takes of the souls of men. What ailed a man that he was driven back from his own channel, and made suddenly to forget his wonted course? what ailed those strong and mountainous lusts, which were as immovably settled upon the soul, as a hill upon his base, to fly away at the voice of a man like a frighted sheep? what ailed those smaller corruptions and intemperances, which haply had before lost their names, and were rather customs and infirmities, than sins, to fly away, like lambs, from the word of Christ? A man went into the church with a full tide and stream of lusts; every thicket in his heart, every reasoning and imagination of his

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

soul, did before shelter whole flocks of evil affections: when he came out, the tide was driven back, the stream turned, the centre of his heart altered, his forest discovered, his lusts scattered and subdued. What ails this man? He hath but heard an hour's discourse, the same which others hear, and their tide riseth the higher by it. Certainly these devils were not cast out, these streams were not turned back, but by the finger of God himself. When the minister of Christ shall whisper in the ears of a dead man, whom no thunder could have awakened, and he shall immediately rise up and give glory to God; when Christ shall call men to deny themselves,' to get above themselves, to hate father, and mother, and wife, and children, and their own life,'-to 'sell all that they have,'-to 'crucify, and be cruel to their own members,'-to pull out their right eyes, to cut off their right hands,' to part from those sins which before they esteemed their choicest ornaments, and from those too, which, before, they made their chiefest support and subsistence; to stand at defiance with the allurements or discouragements of the world; to be set up for signs and wonders, for very proverbs of scorn, and objects of hatred to those of their own house; to receive persecutions as rewards, and entertain them not with patience only, but with thankfulness and with rejoicing; to be all their life long in the midst of enemies, put to tedious conflicts with the powers of the world and of darkness; to believe the things which they have not seen, and to hope for things which they do not know; and yet, maugre all this, to refuse to consult with flesh and blood, to stand still more in awe of God's word, than of any other thing ;-certainly that which, with the voice of a weak man, bringeth such great things to pass, must needs be 'virga virtutis,' a rod of strength. A rod like the rod of Moses, which can lead us through such seas as these, to one whom we have never seen nor known before f.

Secondly, The gospel of Christ is a rod of strength in the justification of men, as it is 'sceptrum justitiæ,' a sceptre of righteousness; a word of reconciliation "; a gospel of salvation; a law of the Spirit of life; a ministration of the Spirit of life, and of righteousness'; an opening of prisons,

f Isai. lv. 5.

• Acts xvii. 32, 34. g Heb. i. 8. i Eph. i. 13. Rom. viii. 2, 3. 1 2 Cor. iii. 6, 8, 9.

h 2 Cor. v. 19.


and a proclaiming of liberty unto captives ; in these respects likewise it is full of power. There was a mighty power in the law of God, typified in those thunderings and terrors, with which it was administered upon Mount Sinai. The apostle calleth it a schoolmaster "' to scourge and drive us unto Christ,-and the psalmist 'an iron rod,' able to break in pieces all the potsherds of the earth. And we know boys in a school do not apprehend so much terror in the king, as in their master. Yet in comparison of the power of the gospel, the law itself was very "weak and unprofitable "," able to make nothing perfect. The power of the law was only to destruction; the power of the gospel, for edification. The law could only hold under him that was down before; it could never raise him up again. Now the power is far greater to raise than to kill,-to forgive sins than to bind them. Herein is the mighty "strength of God's mercy seen, that it can pass by iniquities, transgressions, and sins." To preach the gospel of Christ in his name and authority', is an evident argument of that plenary power which is given unto him, both in heaven and earth. And the very dispensing of this word of reconciliation, which is committed unto the ministers of the gospel (how basely soever the ungrateful world may esteem of them), hath honoured them with a title of as great a power as a man is capable of, to be called 'Saviours,-to have the custody of the keys of Heaven, ministerially and instrumentally under Christ and his Spirit, to save the souls, and to cover the sins of men. Now then that word, which from the mouth of a weak man, is able to reconcile a child of wrath unto God, and, by the words of one hour, to cover and wipe out the sins of many years, which were scattered as thick in the souls of men as the stars in the firmament, must needs be virga virtutis,' a rod of strength.

[ocr errors]

Thirdly, The gospel of Christ is a rod of strength in the sanctification of men ", as it is 'sceptrum cum unctione,' a sceptre which hath ever an unction accompanying it; as it is a sanctifying truth, a heavenly teaching, a forming of

[graphic][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

Christ in the soul; a making of the heart", as it were, his epistle, by writing the law therein, and manifesting the power and image of Christ in the conscience. If a man should touch a marble or adamant stone with a seal, and taking it off, should see the print of it left behind, he could not but conceive some wonderful and secret virtue to have wrought so strange an effect. Now our hearts are, of themselves, as hard as the nether millstone: when then a holy word, so meekly and gently laid on upon them, shall leave there an impression of its own purity; when so small a thing as a grain of mustard-seed shall transform an earthy soul into its own nature; when the eyes, and hands, and mouth of Christ, being in the ministry of his word, spread upon the eyes, and hands, and mouth of a child, shall revive the same from death; when, by looking into a glass, we shall not only have a view of our own faces, but shall see them changed into the image of another face, which from thence shineth upon us, how can we but conclude, that certainly that word, by which such wonders as these are effected, is indeed 'virga virtutis,' a rod of strength.


Fourthly, The gospel of Christ is a rod of strength in the preservation and perseverance of the saints, as it is 'virga germinans,' a rod like Aarons rod, which blossomed ; and the blossoms perished not, but remained in the ark for a testimony of God's power. For as those buds, or the manna, in the ark did not perish, so neither doth the word of the gospel in the hearts of the faithful. The apostle saith, that we are "kept by the power of God unto salvation;" and St. Jude", that "God's power keepeth the saints from falling, and presenteth them faultless before the presence of his glory." And what is this power of God whereby he doth it, but the gospel of Christ? which St. Peter calleth 'semen incorruptibile,' uncorruptible seed; and the Spirit of Christ, which St. John calleth 'semen manens,' an abiding seed. If I should see a tree with perpetual fruit, without any variation from the difference of seasons,-a tree like that in St. John's paradise, which every month did bring forth fruit of twelve several kinds; I should conclude that it had an extraordi


y Gal. iv. 19. c 1 Pet. i. 24.

z 2 Cor. iii. 2. 1 John iii. 9.

a 1 Pet. i. 5.

b Jude v. 24.

nary vital power in it:-so when I find Christ in his word promising, and, by the planting and watering of his labourers in the vineyard, making good that promise unto his church, 'that every branch, bringing forth fruit' in him, shall not only be as Aaron's rod, have his fruit preserved upon him, but shall bring forth more fruit, and shall have ‘life more abuudantly;' how can I but conclude, that the word which is the instrument of so unperishable a condition, is indeed 'virga virtutis,' a rod of strength, a rod cut out of the tree of life itself?

Fifthly, The gospel of Christ is a rod of strength in comforting and supporting of the faithful, as it is 'virga pulchritudinis et colligationis,' a rod of beauty and of binding; as it is a word which doth bind that which was broken, and give unto them which mourn in Sion, beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the Spirit of heaviness: as it quencheth all the fiery darts, and answereth all the bloody reasonings of Satan against the soul, as it is a staff which giveth comfort and subsistence in the very valley of the shadow of death. The 'shadow of death' is a usual expression in the Scripture for all fears, terrors, affrightments, or any dreadful calamities, either of soul or body. The whole misery of our natural condition is thereby signified. Many ways doth the prophet David set forth the extremities he had been drawn unto: "My bones are vexed, and dried like a potsherd, and turned into the drought of summer; my couch swimmeth with tears, mine eye is consumed and waxen old with grief. I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax in the midst of my bowels. Thine arrows stick fast in me; thine hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh; my wounds stink and are corrupt. I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Innumerable evils compass me about, I am not able to look up. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. My soul is amongst lions; I lie amongst them that are set on fire. The waters are come in unto my soul, I sink in the deep mire; the floods overflow me, &c." These all, and the like, are com

• John xv. 2.

f Isai. lxi. 1, 3. g Psal. xxiii. 4.

h Luke i. 79.

« VorigeDoorgaan »