and which concurreth with us in actu secundo' to all those works, which we set ourselves about. As an instrument, even when it hath an edge, cutteth nothing, till it be assisted and moved by the hand of the artificer; so a Christian when he hath a will, and an habitual fitness to work, yet is able to do nothing without the constant supply, assistance, and concomitancy of the Grace of Christ, exciting, moving, and applying that habitual power unto particular actions. He it is that giveth us not only to will but to do; that goeth through with us, and worketh all our works for us by his grace. Without him, we can do nothing; all our sufficiency is from him. But it may be objected, If we can do nothing without a second grace, to what end is a former grace given? Or what use is there of our exciting that grace and gift of God in us, which can do nothing without a farther concourse of Christ's Spirit ?- To this I answer, First, That as light is necessary and requisite unto seeing, and yet there is no seeing without an eye; so without the assisting grace of Christ's Spirit concurring with us unto every holy duty, we can do nothing; and yet that grace doth ever presuppose an implanted, seminal, and habitual grace, fore-disposing the soul unto the said duties. Secondly, As, in the course of natural effects, though God be a most voluntary agent, yet, in the ordinary concurrence of a first cause, he worketh ad modum naturæ,' measuring forth his assistance proportionably to the condition and preparation of the second causes : so in supernatural and holy operations (albeit not with a like certain and unaltered constancy) though Christ be a most voluntary head of his church, yet usually he proportioneth his assisting and second grace, unto the growth, progress, and radication of those spiritual habits which are in the soul before. From whence cometh the difference of holiness, and profitableness amongst the saints, that some are more active, and unwearied in all holy conversation than other; as, in the natural body, some members are larger, and more full of life and motion than others, according to the different distribution of spirits from the heart, and influences from the head. This then affords matter enough both to humble us, and to comfort us : to humble us, that we can do nothing of ourselves, that we have nothing in ourselves, but sin. All the fulness of grace is in him: and therefore, whosoever hath any, must have it from him; as in the Egyptian famine, whosoever had any corn, had it from Joseph, to whom the granaries and treasures of Egypt were, for that purpose, committed. And this lowliness of heart, and sense of our own emptiness, is that which makes us always have recourse to our fountain, and keep in favour with our head, from whom we must receive fresh supply of strength for doing any good,-for bearing any evil,-for resisting any temptation,—for overcoming any enemy; for beginning, for continuing, and for perfecting, any duty. For though it be man's heart that doth these things, yet it is by a foreign and impressed strength ; as it is iron that burns, but not by its own nature, which is cold, but by the heat which it hath received from the fire. “It was not I,” saith the apostle, “but the grace of God which was with me.”

To comfort us likewise, when we consider, that all fulness and strength is in him, as in an officer, an Adam, a treasurer, and dispenser of all needful supplies to his people, according to the place they bear in his body, and to the exigence and measure of their condition, in themselves, or service in his church. Sure we are, that what measure soever he gives unto any, he hath still a residue of spirit; nay he still retaineth his own fulness; hath still enough to carry us through: any condition; and, according to the difficulties of the service he puts us upon, hath still wisdom to understand, compassion to pity, strength to supply, all our needs. And that all this he hath as a merciful and faithful depositary, as a guardian, and husband, and elder brother, to employ for the good of his church ; that he is unto this office appointed by the will of him that sent him, to lose nothing of all that which is given him, but to keep and perfect it unto the resurrection at the last day; that God hath planted in him a spirit of faithfulness, and pity for the cheerful discharge of. this great office, given him a propriety unto us, made us as near and dear unto him, as the members of his sacred body are to one another. And, therefore, whosoever cometh to him, with emptiness, and hunger, and faith, he will in no wise cast out: it is as possible for him to hew off, and to throw away the members of his natural body, to have any of his bones broken,--as to reject the humble and faithful desires of those, that duly wait upon him.

Again, from this exaltation of Christ in his human nature, we should learn to keep our vessels in holiness and in honour,

as those who expect to be fashioned at the last like unto him. For how, can that man truly hope to be like Christ hereafter, that labours to be as unlike him here as he can ? “Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot ?" saith the apostle. So may I say, "Shall I take the nature of Christ, that nature which he in his person hath so highly glorified, and make it in my person the nature of a devil ?' If a prince should marry a mean woman, would he endure to see those of her nearest kindred, her brethren and sisters, live like scullions or strumpets, under his own eye? Now Christ hath taken our nature into a nearer union with himself than marriage; for man and wife are still two persons, but God and man is but one Christ. Death itself was not able to dissolve this union: for when the soul was separated from the body, yet the Deity was separated from neither. It was the Lord that lay in the grave; and he that ascended, was the same that descended into the lower part of the earth. And shall we then defile this nature by wantonness, intemperance, and vile affections, which is taken into so indissoluble an unity with the Son of God? Christ took it to advance it; and it is still by his Spirit in us so much the more advanced, by how much the nearer it comes to that holiness which it hath in him. We should therefore labour to walk as becometh those that have so glorious a head,- to walk worthy of such a Lord unto all well pleasing, in fruitfulness and knowledge; to walk as those that have received Christ, and expect his appearing again.

Secondly, The sitting of Christ on the right hand of God, notes unto us the consummation of all those offices, which he was to perform here on the earth for our redemption. For till they were all finished, he was not to return to his glory again : “He that bath. entered into his rest, hath ceased from his own works,” saith the apostlei. First he was to execute his office, before he was to enter into his rest: though he were a son, and so, ' jure naturali,' the inheritance were his own before; yet he was to learn obedience by the things which he was to suffer, before he was made perfect againk. “ After he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever," that is, after he had made such a complete expiation as should never need be repeated, but was able for ever to perfect those that are sanctified, -he then “sate down on the right hand of God,” expecting “till his enemies be made his footstoolk." This is the argument our Saviour useth, when he prayeth to be glorified again with his Father; “I have glorified thee on earth,” or revealed the glory of thy truth and mercy to thy church ; "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self,” &c. “He humbled himself," saith the apostle, “and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross ; wherefore God hath highly exalted him," * &c.; noting unto us the order of the dispensation of Christ's offices; some were works of ministry and service, in the office of obedience and suffering for his church; others were works of power and majesty, in the protection and exaltation of his church; and those necessarily to precede these. “He ought to suffer, and to enter into his glory".' Necessarily I say, First, by a necessity of God's decree, who had so fore-appointed ito. Secondly, by the necessity of God's justice, which must first be satisfied by obedience, before it could be appeased with man, or in the person of their head and advocate, exalt them to his glory again P. Thirdly, by the necessity of God's word and will, signified in the predictions of the prophets 9. Fourthly, by the necessity of Christ's infinite person ; which, being equal with God, could not possibly be exalted without some preceding descent and humiliation. " That he ascended," saith the apostle, “what is it but that he descended first into the lower parts of the earth ?" Therefore it is that our Saviour saith, “ The Spirit should convince the world of righteousness, because he was to go to the Father, and should be seen here no more s." The meaning of it is, That the Spirit shall, in the ministry of the word, reveal unto those who are fully convinced of their sinful condition, and humbled in the sense thereof, à treasure of full and sufficient righteousness, by my obedience wrought for sinners. And the reason which is given of it, stands thus : Our righteousness consists in

& Matth. xxviii. 6. Eph. iv. 10. h Phil. i. 27. Colos. i. 10, and ii. 6, and

iii. 4, 5. i Heb. iv. 10. k Heb. v. 8, 9.

k Heb. x. 12, 13, 14, 1John xvii. 4, 5. m Phil. ii. 8, 9. n Luke xxiv. 26, 46. o Acts ii. 23, 24. P Rom. iii. 25, and v. 10, vi. 6, 11. Ephes. ii. 5, 6, 9 Luke xxiv. 46. 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. r Ephes, iv. 9. s John xvi. 10.

our being able to stand in God's presence.' Now Christ, having done all as our surety here, went up unto glory as our head and advocate, as the first-fruits, the captain, the prince of life, the author of salvation, and the forerunner of his people; so that his going thither, is an argument of our justification by him :-First, because it is a sign that he hath finished the work of our redemption on earth; a sign that he overcame death, and was justified by the Spirit, from the wrongs of men, and from the curse of the law. Therefore he said to Mary after his resurrection, “Go tell my disciples, I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your Godt:” That is, by my death, and victory over it, you are made my brethren, and reconciled unto God again. Secondly, because he hath offices in Heaven to fulfil at the right hand of his father in our behalf, to intercede, and to prepare a place for us, to apply unto us the virtue of his death and merits. If he had ascended, without fulfilling all righteousness for the church, he should have been sent down, and seen again : “But now," saith he, "you see me no more;" for by once dying, and by once appearing in the end of the world, I have put away sin by the sacrifice of myselfu. “ He was taken,” saith the prophet, “ from prison and judgment;" to note, that the whole debt was paid, and now "who shall declare his generation ?" That is, he now liveth unto numberless generations, he prolongeth his days, and hath already fulfilled righteousness enough to justify all those that know him, or believe in him". Thus we see, that Christ's deliverance out of prison, and exaltation at the right hand of God, is an evident argument, that he is fully exonerated of the guilt of sin, and curse of the law, and hath accomplished all those works, which he hath undertaken for our righteousness.

And this likewise affords abundant matter both to humble, and to comfort the church of Christ : to humble us in the evidence of our disabilities; for if we could have finished the works which were given us to do, there would have been no need of Christ. It was weakness which made way for Christ : our weakness to fulfil obedience, and that weakness

t John xx. 17.

u Heb. ix. 26. vii. 27. Rom. vi, 9, 10.

* Isa. liii. 8, 10.

« VorigeDoorgaan »