« VorigeDoorgaan »
ward with the more unwearied affections towards so excellent a treasure. Surely, if men had the spirit of the apostle, of those blessed angels which desire to pry into the gospel of Christ, they would not mispend so much precious time in frothy and fruitless studies, nor waste away that lamp of reason in their bosoms, in empty and unnourishing blazes; but would set more hours apart to look into the patent of their salvation (which is the book of God), and to acquaint themselves with Christ beforehand, that when they come into his presence, they may have the entertainment of friends, and not of strangers. Men that intend to travel into foreign kingdoms with any advantage to their parts, or improvement of their experience, do, beforehand, season and prepare themselves with the language, with some topographical observations of the country, with some general notions of the ingeny, manners, forms, civilities, entertainments of the natives there; do delight to converse with those men, who are best learned in these, or the like particulars. Surely, we all profess a journey to Heaven, a pilgrimage in this present world, to have our conversation now, where we look to have our everlasting abode with the Lord hereafter. Now in the gospel of Christ we have, as it were, a map, a topographical delineation of those glorious mansions, which are there prepared for the church ; we have a taste and description of the manners of that people; we have some rudiments of the heavenly language ; in one word, we have abundantly enough, not only to prepare us for it, but to inflame all the desires of our soul unto it, even as exiles and captives desire to return to their native country. Now then, if we no way regard to study it, or acquaint ourselves with it ; if we seem to desire the sight of Christ in Heaven,—and when we may, every day, have a blessed view of his face in the glass of his gospel, we turn away our eyes, and regard it not; we do as good as proclaim to all the world, that either our hopes of Heaven are very slender, or our care thereof little or none at all. And this I take for a most undoubted truth, that there is so much of the knowledge, grace, and Spirit of Christ, and, through him, of the Father, in the holy Scriptures (and those only are the things, which make Heaven to be the home and the hope of men), as that whosoever neglecteth the study of them, and suffereth the Scriptures to lie by him as a sealed book, would
be every wbit as unwilling, if Heaven' gates were wide open unto him, to relinquish his portion in the earth, and to spend his time in the fruition or contemplation of that glorious country.
Lastly, We honour the gospel, when, in our greatest distresses, we make it our altar of refuge, our door of escape, the ground of all our hope and comfort, the only anchor to stay our souls in any spiritual tempest, the only staff to lean upon in our greatest darkness. Whatever other carnal comforts men may, for a time, rejoice in, they will all prove but as a fire of sparks, or as a blaze of thorns, which can yield no solid or abiding light unto the soul. When sinners in Sion begin once to be afraid, and to be surprised with the fearfulness of a guilty soul; when the affrighted conscience shall put that dreadful question, in the prophets, to itself,
How can I dwell with devouring fire ? how can I dwell with everlasting burning ?'--there will no other answer allay the scorching terror thereof, but that in the end of the same chapter, “ The people that dwell therein, shall be forgiven their iniquity.” A man may as soon drink up the water
of the sea with sponges, or remove mountains with one of his fingers, as be able to drain out these close and incorporated sorrows, which together with sin, do soak through the whole substance of the soul, with vain company, worldly employments, or youthful pleasures. All these do but respite them for a time, that they may return the stronger. But if thou wilt indeed be comforted, sue out thy pardon, flee to the court of mercy which is erected in the gospel. This was our Saviour's argument to the man that was sick of the palsy,— "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” There is no worldly affliction goeth closer to the life of a man than sickness: and yet, as in the midst of laughter, the heart of a wicked man is sorrowful, because it is still under the guilt of sin,--so, in the midst of pain and sorrow, the heart of a godly man may be cheerful, because his sins are forgiven.
To conclude this point, we may, for our better encouragement in so necessary a duty, lay together these considerations : First, In point of honour, we should learn to walk, as becometh the gospel; for the gospel is a Christian's glory,
1 Isai. xxxiii. 14, 24.
b Mattb. ix. 2.
and therefore ought to be preserved in his heart, as his chiefest privilege. The Spirit of God will not endure to have holy things profaned, as if they were common or unclean. Belshazzar converted the consecrated vessels of the temple into instruments of luxury and intemperance; but the Lord tempered his wine with dregs, and made them prove unto him as cups of trembling and astonishment. Herod i polluted the sepulchres of the saints with a sacrilegious search of treasures, presumed to have been there hidden, and God made fire rise there out of the earth, to devour the overbusy searchers. Antiochusk ransacked the temple of the Lord; Heliodorus emptied the treasuries of their consecrated monies; Pompey' defiled the sabbath and the sanctuary; Crassus robbed the house of God of ten thousand talents. But enquire into the event of these insolences; and we shall find that true then, of which later ages have given many examples, and are still likely to give more, that stolen bread hath gravel in it to choke those that devour it,-that ruin is ever the child of sacrilege,-that mischief setteth a period to the lives and designs of profane men. Now then, if the Lord were thus jealous for the types of his gospel, how think we, can he endure to see the gospel itself dishonoured by an unsuitable profession, or the blood of the covenant trampled under foot, as if it were a common or unclean thing ?
In the contempt of the gospel, there is more dishonour done unto every person of the blessed Trinity, than can be by any other sin. An undervaluing of the Father's wisdom, that great mystery and counsel of redemption, which was hidden from former agęs: and what an indignity is it unto him, for a man to shut out the light of the sun, that so he may enjoy that pitiful benefit of darkness, to gaze upon the false glistering of rotten wood, or of earthly slime, the deceit whereof would be by the true light discovered? An undervaluing of his wonderful love, as if he had put himself unto a needless compassion, and might have kept it still in his own bosom ;-a scorn unto the Son of God, when we suffer him to stand at our doors, with his locks wet with the dew of Heaven, to put his finger into the hole of the lock, as if he desired to steal an entrance upon the soul; to empty, to humble, to
i Joseph. Antiq. lib. 6. cap. 11. k 2 Mac. iii. 5.
m Joseph. Antiq. lib. 12. cap. 13.
1 Tacit. Hist. I. 5.
deny himself, to suffer the wrongs of men, and the wrath of God; and after all this, to have that precious blood, which was squeezed out with such woful agonies, counted no other than the blood of a common malefactor,—nor that sacred body which was thus broken, discerned from the bodies of the thieves which were crucified with him. An indignity beyond all apprehension to the Spirit of grace, when we suffer him to wait daily at our Bethesda, our houses of mercy, and all in vain ; to spend his sacred breath in the ministry of reconciliation, in doubling and redoubling his requests unto our souls, that we should be contented to be saved; and we shall harden our hearts, and stop our ears, and set up the pride and stoutness of our own reasonings, till we do even weary him, and chide him away from us.
. Now this is a certain rule, God will not lose any honour by men's sins: if they refuse to give him the glory of his mercy, he will show the glory of his power and justice, in treading down the proud enemies of Christ under his feet. As they that honour him, shall be honoured; so they who cast any disgrace upon his truth and covenant, shall be sure to meet with shame and dishonour at the last.
Secondly, To avoid scandal. The gospel is the light of a nation: and sins in the light, as they are committed with more impudence, so likewise with more offence :-an offence or scandal tending unto sin in misguiding the weak, in heartening and confirming the obdurate, in opening the mouths of adversaries to revile our holy profession; and a scandal tending unto sorrow, in wounding the hearts of the gedly, and vexing their righteous spirits with a filthy conversation.
Thirdly, We should learn to walk as becometh the gospel, even in respect to the state ; for the gospel is the foundation of true peace and tranquillity in a common weal: and those who show forth the power thereof, are, as it were, lions about the throne of their king. “By righteousness the throne is established, but sin is a reproach unto any people"." One Joseph in Egypt, is a storehouse to all the kingdom: One Elisha, an army of chariots and of horsemen unto Israel : One Moses, a fence to keep out an inundation of
Prov. xvi. 12. xx. 28. xxv. 5.
wrath which was breaking in upon the people: One Paul, a haven, an anchor, a deliverance to all that were in the ship with him. And now," si stellæ cadunt, venti sequenturo;" If the stars fall, we must needs look for tempests to ensue: if the salt be infatuated, we cannot look that any thing should be long preserved. If Christians live as if they had no gospel, or as if they had another gospel ; what can we expect, but that God should either plague us, or forsake us, either send his judgements, or curse his blessings?
Lastly, The gospel makes sin more filthy, if it do not purge it; as a taper in the hand of a ghost makes him. seem more ghastly than he was before. Sweet ointment causeth rank and strong bodies to smell worse than they did before P. So the sweet savour of the gospel maketh the sins of men more noisome and odious in the nostrils of the Almighty. And therefore we see what a fearful doom the apostle 9 pronounceth against those, who having “tasted of the good Spirit of God, and been illightened,” and in some sort affected with his grace, do yet afterwards “fall away;"_even an impossibility of repentance or renovation. From which place, perversely wrested, though the Novatians' of old, did gather a desperate and uncomfortable conclusion, that “ sin, committed after regeneration, was absolutely unpardonable," (to avoid the danger of which damnable and damning doctrine, some have boldly questioned both the author and authenticalness of that epistle,) yet, all these inferences being denied, we learn from thence this plain observation, that
precedent illumination from the gospel of Christ, doth tend much to the aggravation of those sins which are committed against it." And therefore in all these considerations, we should labour to walk worthy of so glorious a gospel, and of so great a salvation.
Thus have we at large spoken of the rod of Christ's strength, as it is insigne regium,' or 'sceptrum majestatis,' an ensign and rod of majesty :-we are now to speak a little of it as it is ‘ pedum pastorale,' an episcopal rod, which denoteth much heedfulness and tender care.
This is the pre
o Arist. Prob. sect. 26. q. 27. P Qui hircos redolent, fædiùs olent cum se unguentaverint. Arist. Prob. 9 Heb. vi. 4, 7. x. 26. r Vid. Sixt. Senens. Bibliot. 1. 7.-Melch. Can. loc. Theolog. 1. 2. cap. 10.–Greg. Tholos. de Rep. lib. 12. cap. 7.