« VorigeDoorgaan »
his cause, and entereth into controversy with them, convincing them in the court of their own consciences, so that they are not able to stand out
---they have then no other refuge left, but either to submit (which they will in no wise endure) or to fly into the face of the Word, and withstand it with malice, when they cannot with reason. Till men can be persuaded to lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, they will never receive the engraffed word with meekness. For till then it is a binding word', which sealeth their guilt and condemnation upon them.
Lastly, The mighty power of the Word towards wicked men is seen in altering them : in their semipersuasions and semiconversions unto goodness, in restraining them from those lusts which they dearly love, and in forcing them to those external conformities, which have no inward principles to support them. The humiliation of Ahab, the observa. tion of Herod', the incomplete persuasion of Agrippa “, the forced obedience and flatteries of the dissembling Jews, the essays and offers of hypocrites towards religion, the velleities and hankerings of unresolved" wills after Christ, are notable evidences of the power and majesty which is in the gospel. If I should see a millstone in the air, not falling constantly and swiftly down, but swag and waver, and float about in a kind of unresolved motion, as if it were in a deliberation which way to go, one while yielding to its own weight, another while lingering, and by fits attempting to ascend,--how could I sufficiently wonder at that secret virtue, and those strange impressions which did retardate the natural descent of so weighty a body ? So when I see men, who still retain the principles of their own corrupt nature, which carry them with as strong an impulsion to sin and Hell, as a mill. stone is moved unto its centre, hanker notwithstanding after goodness-and, when they yield unto their lusts, do it not without much hesitancy and conflict of a natural conscience; I must needs acknowledge a mighty strength in that Word, which setteth bounds to the raging of so proud a sea.
From hence then the messengers of Christ, who are en. trusted with the dispensation of this rod of strength, may be instructed how to behave themselves in that ministry. Few men will lose any thing of that power which is given them; for every thing, in its kind, doth affect power. Now Christ, hath committed unto us the custody of his own power; and therefore we ought to manage it as “ a word of power," able alone by itself, without the contemperations of human fancies, or the superstruction of human opinions, to work mightily to the salvation of those that believe, and to the conviction of gainsayers. Our commission is to charge even the great men of the world. It is true, the ministers of the gospel are “servants P” to the church: in compassion, to pity the diseases, the infirmities, the temptations, of God's people ; in ministry, to assist them with all needful supplies of comfort, or instruction, or exhortation in righteousness ; in humility, to wait upon men of lowest degree, and to con descend unto men of weakest capacity. And thus the very angels in Heaven are servants to the church of Christ. But yet we are servants only for the church's good, -to serve their souls, not to serve their humours. And therefore we are such servants as may command too. “These things command 9 and teach; let no man despise thy youth."
h James i. 21. I Mark vi. 20.
i Mat. xviji, 18. Mark xvi. 16.- * I Kingo xxi, 27 m Acts xxvi. 28. * Psalm lxxviii, 34, 36. Luke ix. 57, 61.
And again, “ These things speak and rebuke with all authority, let no man despise thee?." No ministers are more despicable than those who, by ignorance, or flattery, or any base and ambitious affections, betray the power and majestical simplicity of the gospel of Christ. When we deliver God's message, we must not then be the servants of men.
If I yet please men, I were not then the servant of Christ," saith the apostle. To captivate the truth of God unto the humours of men, and to make the Spirit of Christ in his gospel to bend, comply, and compliment with human lusts, is, with Jonah, to play the runagates from our office, and to prostrate the sceptre of Christ unto the insultation of men. There is a wonderful majesty and authority in the Word, when it is set on with Christ's spirit. He taught men se ovo lavenweg as one who had power and authority, or privilege to speak; as one that cared not for the persons u of men. And, there. fore, wherever his Spirit is, there will this power* and liberty' of Christ appear: for he hath given it to his minish ters", that they may commend themselves in the consciences of those that hear them, that they may harden their faces ! against the pride and scorn of men,--that they may go out in armies against the enemies of his kingdon,ấthat they may speak boldlyd as they ought to speak,--that they may not suffer his Word to be bound, or his Spirit to be straitened, by the humours of men.
1 Tim. vi. 17.
P 2 Cor. iv. 5.
91 Tim. iv. 11, 12.
Tit. ii, 15. * 1 Cor. ii. 4. : 2 Cor. xiii. 10.
Again; We should all labour to receive the Word in the power thereof, and to expose our tender parts unto it. A cock is in comparison but a weak creature: and yet the crowing of a cock will cause the trembling of a lion. What is a bee to a bear, or a mouse to an elephant ? and yet if a bee fasten his sting in the nose of a bear, or a mouse creep up and gnaw the trunk of an elephant; how easily do so little creatures, upon such an advantage, torment the greatest! Certainly the proudest of men have some tender part, into which a sting may enter. : The conscience is as sensible of God's displeasure, as obnoxious to his wrath, as subject to his word in a prince, as in a beggar. If the Word, like David's stone, find that open, and get into it,—it is able to sink the greatest Goliah. Therefore, we should open our consciences unto that word, and expect his Spirit to come along with it, and receive it, as Josiah did, with humility and trembling. We should learn to fear the Lord in his word, and, when his voice crieth iņ the city, to see his name and his power therein. “ Will ye not fear me? saith the Lord;? will ye not tremble at my presence, who make the sand a bound to the sea ?" No creature so swelling, and of itself so strong and encroaching as the sea; nothing so small, weak, smooth, and passable as the sand ; and yet the sand, a creature so easily removed and swept away, decreed to hold in so raging an element. What, in appearance, weaker than words spoken by a despised man? and what, in the experience of all the world, stronger than the raging of an army of lusts? and yet that hath the Lord appointed to tame and subdue these, that men might learn to fear his power.
Again; It should teach us to rest upon God in all things, as being unto us all-sufficient, a sun, a shield, an exceeding great reward in the truth and promises of his gospel. The word of God is a sure thing, that which a man may cast 8 his whole weight upon, and lean confidently on in any extremity. All the creatures in the world are full of vanity, uncertainties, and disappointments; and then usually do deceive a man most, when he most of all relies upon
a 2 Cor. iv, 2. b Jer. i. 6, 7,8. Ezek, iii, 8, 9. e Psalm cx. 3. « Ephes. vi. 20. • Jer. v. 22.
them. And, therefore, the apostle chargeth us not to trust in them. But the word of the Lord is an abiding word,' as being founded upon the immutability of God's own truth. He that maketh it his refuge, relieth on God's omnipotency, and hath all the strength of the Almighty engaged to help him. Asa* was safe while he depended on the Lord, in his promises, against the hugest host of men that was ever read of: but when he turned aside to collateral aids, he purchased to himself nothing but perpetual wars. And this was that which established the throne of Jehoshaphat, and caused “the fear of the Lord to fall upon the kingdoms of the lands which were round about him," because he honoured the word of God, and caused it to be taught unto his -people. Whensoever Israel and Judah did forget to lean upon God's word, and betook themselves to human confederacies, to correspondence with idolatrous people, to facility in superstitious compliances, and the like fleshly counsels ; they found them always to be but very lies, like waxen and wooden feasts, made specious, of purpose to delude ignorant comers; things of so thin and unsolid a consistence, as were ever broken with the weight of those who did lean upon them Let us not, therefore, rest upon our own wisdom, nor build our hopes or securities upon human foundations; but let us, in all conditions, “take hold of God's covenant of this staff of his strength, which is able to stay us up
Again ; Since the gospel is a word of such sovereign power, as to strengthen us against all enemies and temptations, to uphold us in all our ways and callings, to make us strong in the grace of Christ (for ever a Christian man's knowledge of the Word, is the measure of his strength and comfort); we should therefore labour to acquaint ourselves with God in his word, to hide it in our hearts, and grow rich in the knowledge of it. In Heaven, our blessedness shall consist in
f Psalm xix. 7. k 2 Chron. xvi. 8, 9.
82 Pet. i. 19. h Acts xiii. 34. il Tini. vi. 17. 1 2 Chron. xvii. 9, 10. m Isai. lvi. 2, 4, 6.
the knowledge and communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. So that the gospel and the Spirit, are, to us upon earth, the preludes and supplies of Heaven ; for by them only, is this knowledge and communion begun. And that man doth but delude himself, and lie to the world, who professeth his desire to go to Heaven, and doth not here desire to know so much of God, as he is pleased to afford to men on the earth. The gospel is the patent and charter of a Christian; all that he hath to show for his salvation; the treasure of his wealth and privileges ; all that he hath to boast in, either for this life or another; the armoury of a Christian, all that he hath to hold up against the temptations and conflicts of his sorest enemies ; the only tool and instrument of a Christian, all that he hath to do any action of piety, charity, loyalty, or sobriety withal; the only glass of a Christian wherein he may see his own face, and so learn to deny himself, and wherein he may see the face of God in Christ, and so learn to desire and to follow him. So that upon the matter, for. any man to be ignorant of the gospel, is to unchristian himself again, and to degenerate into a heathen. “ Pour out thine indignation upon the heathen, that know thee not n.” Ignorance makes a man a very heathen. “ This I say and testify," saith the apostle o, “.that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind :-for you have not so learned Christ.” It is not the title, nor the profession which maketh a man a real Christian, and distinguisheth him from other heathen men; but the learning of Christ in his Spirit and gospel. For as he p who was only outwardly, and in the flesh a Jew, might be uncircumcised in his heart ; so he who is only in title and name a Christian, may be a heathen in his heart : and that more fearfully than Sodom and Gomorrah, or Tyre and Sidon, because he hath put from himself the salvation of the Lord, and judged himself unworthy of eternal life.
Lastly; If there be indeed such power in the gospel, we should labour to bear witness unto the testimony which God giveth of his Word, in a holy conversation. It is a reproach cast upon the ordinances of God, when men do, in their lives, deny that virtue, which God testifieth to be in them.
• Ephes. iv. 17, 20.
n Jer. x. 25. Philip. iii. 3.
p Rom. ii. 28, 29, Col. ii. 11.