« VorigeDoorgaan »
reason that the sheep of Christ will not follow strangers, nor know their voice, that is, will not acknowledge any force, nor subscribe in their hearts to the conviction or evidence of any temptation which would draw them from God, but only because they hear and know the voice of Christ in his gospel, and feel a spirit in their own hearts setting to its seal, and bearing witness to that truth, from whence those solicitations would seduce them? The apostle foretold the elders of Ephesus at his solemn departure from them, that "grievous wolves would enter in among them, and that some of themselves would arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." And the main remedy which the apostle gives them against this danger, was, "I commend you to God, and to the Word of his grace, which is able to build you up," &c. ;—noting, that it is the word of God which keepeth men from being drawn away with perverse disputes. And the same intimation he gives them in his epistles unto them, "He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.-That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." The more richly the word of God, in the love and evidence thereof, doth dwell in any man, and enable him to prove all things, -the more steadfastly will he hold that which is good, and stand immovable against the slights and solicitations of men.-Again; How easily would our own evil hearts gather a rust and unaptness for service over themselves, if they were not daily whet and brightened upon the word of God. That only it is, which scrapeth away that leprosy and mossiness, which our souls are apt to contract out of themselves. A man may lose all that he hath wrought, all the benefit of what he hath done already, and all the strength to do any more, only by not abiding in the doctrine of Christi. He is no doer of the Word, who only looketh in it, as a man on a glass, and presently forgetteth the image and state of his conscience again: it is only he that continueth therein, who is a doer of the work, and blessed in his deed.
b Eph. iv. 11, 14. 1 Thess. v. 21.
f John x. 4, 5. i 2 John viii. 9. VOL. II.
8 Acts xx. 29, 32. * Jam. i. 23, 25.
He that treasureth up the gospel in his heart, and laboureth to grow rich in the knowledge thereof, can never be turned quite out of his way, or become an apostate from the grace of Christ.
Lastly, It is a glorious gospel in regard of those noble and majestical endowments, with which it qualifieth the soul of a Christian: for there is no nobility to that of the gospel. It giveth men the highest privilege in the world; to be called the sons of God',' to be 'kings and priests m' before him, to be 'a royal priesthood",' a 'holy nation,' a 'peculiar people,' a 'nation of priests.' Nothing doth so honour a land, as to be the seat of the gospel. It was the honour of the Jews, that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Therefore the ark P is called 'the glory of Israel,' and Christ' the glory of Israel,' and 'the excellency of Jacob ':' neither is there any thing else allowed a man to glory in, save only this that he understandeth and knoweth the Lord in his Word. It putteth magnanimity into the breasts of men, high thoughts, regal affections, public desires and attempts, a kind of heavenly ambition'-to do, and to gain the greatest good. The main ends of a Christian are all high and noble: the favour of God, the fellowship of the Father and the Son, the grace of Christ, the peace of the church; his traffic and negotiation is for Heaven, his language the dialect of Heaven, his order a heavenly order, innumerable companies of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. A holy man, who hath the spirit of his mind raised and ennobled by the gospel, is an agent in the same affairs, and doth, in his thoughts, desires, prayers, emulations, pursue the same high and heavenly ends, for the advancement of the glory of Christ, and demolishing the kingdom of Satan, with the blessed angels of God. His desires look no lower than a kingdom, a weight of massy, and most superlative exceeding glory. That which other men make the utmost point, even of their impudent and immodest hopes, the secular favours and dignities of the world, they put lowest under their feet; but their wings, the higher and more aspiring affections of their soul, are directed only unto Heaven and heavenly
1 John i. 12. 1 John iii. 1.
m Revel. i. 6.
p1 Sam. iv. 22.
t Οὕτω φιλοτιμούμενον εὐαζγελίζεσθαι. Rom. xv. 20.
n 1 Pet. ii. 9.
• Rom. • Jer.
things. They no sooner are placed in the body of Christ, but they have public services, some to preach, some to defend, all to pray, to practise, to adorn the profession they have undertaken. For indeed every Christian hath his talent given him, his service enjoined him. The gospel is a' depositum,' a public treasure, committed to the keeping of every Christian; each man having, as it were, a several key of the church, a several trust for the honour of this kingdom delivered unto him. As, in the solemn coronation of the prince, every peer of the realm hath his station about the throne, and with the touch of his hand upon the royal crown, declareth the personal duty of that honour which he is called unto, namely, to hold on the crown on the head of his sovereign; to make it the main end of his greatness, to study, and by all means endeavour the establishment of his prince's throne;-so every Christian, as soon as he hath the honour to be called unto the kingdom, and presence of Christ, hath immediately no meaner a depositum' committed to his care, than the very throne and crown of his Saviour, than the public honour, peace, victory, and stability of his master's kingdom. The gospel is committed to the custody of the bishops ", and pastors of the church, to preach it. They are, as it were, the heralds, and forerunners of Christ, to prepare his way in the souls of men. To the custody of the princes and judges of the earth to defend it, to be a guard about the person and truth of Christ, to command the obedience, and to encourage the teaching of it. The gospel is the law of Christ's throne, and the princes of the world are the lions about his throne, set there to watch and guard it against the malice of enemies. And therefore it is recorded for the honour of David, that he set in order the courses of the priests, and appointed them their forms and vicissitudes of service :-of Solomon, that he built, adorned, and dedicated a temple for God's solemn worship:-of Josiah that he made the people to serve the Lord their God;-of Hezekiah, that he restored the service, and repaired the temple of God; that he spake comfortably to the Levites, who taught the good knowledge of the Lord;
that he proclaimed a solemn passover; that he ordered the courses of the priests and Levites; that he gave commandment concerning the portion of their due maintenance, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord (a pattern worthy the admiration and imitation of all Christian princes, in spite of the sacrilegious doctrine of those men, who would rob them of that power and office, which God hath given them for the establishment of his gospel, and it was imitated by the first Christian prince that ever the world had): Lastly, The gospel is committed to the keeping of every Christian to practise it, to adorn it, to pray for it, to be valiant and courageous in his place and station for the truth of it. And for a man to neglect these duties, is to betray and dishonour the kingdom of Christ, and to degenerate from that high and public condition in which God hath placed him.
Again: It putteth a spirit of fortitude and boldness into the hearts of men. Boldness to withstand the corruptions of the times; to walk contrary to the courses of the world; to outface the sins and the scorns of men; to be valiant for a despised truth, or power of religion; not to be ashamed of a persecuted profession; to spread out' contra torrentem brachia;' to stand alone against the power and credit of a prevailing faction, as Paul against the contradictions of the Jews, and Peterd and John against a Synod of Pharisees; and those invincible champions of Christ,-Athanasius against the power of Constantius, the frequent synodical conventions of countenanced heretics, and the general deluge of Arianism in the world; Ambrose against the wrath and terror of the emperor of the world, to whom, having imbrued his hands in much innocent blood, that holy Father durst not deliver the blood of Christ ;-Chrysostom against the pride and persecution of the Empress Eudoxa ;-Luther against the mistress of fornications, the princess of the earth, and, as himself professed, if it had been possible, against a whole city full of devils;-the Christians of all ages against the fire, fury, and arts of torment, executed by the bloody persecutors of the church. Nay farther, the gospel giveth boldness
a Euseb. de vit. Constant. lib. 2. cap. 37, 38, 39. b Acts xiii. 26. Jude ver. 3. 2 Thes. ii. 15. Acts xiii. 46. xxviii. 28. 1 Thes. ii. 2. d Acts ii. 14. xxiii. 36. iv. 8, 12. iii. 19. v. 29, 32.
against that universal fire, which shall melt the elements, and shrivel up the heavens like a roll of parchment. "Herein," saith the apostle, " is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement, because, as he is, so we are in this world;" that is, we have his image in us, and his love shed abroad in our hearts; and therefore we are able to assure our hearts before him, and to have confidence towards him. Now he who hath boldness to stand before God, to dwell with consuming fire, and with everlasting burnings; who can get the Lord on his right hand, and put on the Lord Jesus, though he be not out of the reach, or beyond the blow, yet is he above the injury of the malice of men: they may kill, but they can never overcome him. "I am he that comforteth you; who art thou" (saith the Lord') "that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord thy maker?" &c. What an invincible courage was that of Elijah, which retorted the slander of Ahab upon his own face: "I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house." And that of Micaiah" against the base request of a flattering courtier, who thought God to be such a one as himself, that would magnify and cry up the ends of a wicked king: "As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak." And that of Amosi against the unworthy instructions of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel: "Thou savest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy words against the house of Isaac ;-therefore thus saith the Lord, Thy wife shall be a harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line, and thou shalt die in a polluted land, and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land." And that of Jeremiah, who boldly gave the lie to Irijah, the captain of the ward; "It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans."-The time would fail if I should speak of the unbended constancy' (or as the gentiles styled it, obstinacy) of Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Cyprian, Pionius, Sabina, Maximus, as those infinite armies of holy martyrs, who posed the inventions, tired out the cruelties, withstood the flatteries, and with one word, "Christiani sumus "," overh1 Kings Tertul. Apolog. m Christiani
⚫1 John iv. 17. f Isai. li. 12, 13. 81 Kings xviii. 18. xxii. 14. i Amos vii. 16, 17. k Jer. xxxvii. 13, 14. cap. ult. Baron. A. 179. num. 27. Euseb. Hist. lib. 5. cap. 1.