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the mystery of iniquity, like a weed, grew apace, and overspread the corn,-first abusing, and after that subjecting the power of princes, and bewitching the kings of the earth with its fornications,
· Hence, likewise, we may learn to acknowledge God's mercy in the worst times. In those ages, wherein the church was most oppressed, yet many have yielded themselves unto Christ. “The woman was with child, and was delivered, even when the dragon did persecute herk;" and even then God found out in the wilderness a place of refuge, defence, and feeding for his church. As in those cruel times of Arianism when heresy had invaded the world, and in those blind and miserable ages wherein Satan was loosed, God still stirred up some notable instruments by whom he did defend his truth, and amongst whom he did preserve his church, though they were driven into solitary places, and forced to avoid the assemblies of heretical and antichristian teachers
We learn, likewise, not to censure persons, places, or times. God had seven thousand in Israel, when Elias thought none but himself had been left. All are not alike venturous or confident of their strength. Nicodemus came to Christ by night; and yet even then Christ did not reject him. Therefore we must not presently censure our neighbours as cold or dead, if they discover not immediately the same measure of courage and public stoutness in the profession of Christ with ourselves. Some men are, by nature, more retired, silent, unsociable, unactive men; some by the engagement of their places, persons, and callings wherein they are of more public and necessary use in the church, are put upon more abundant caution and circumspection in the moderate carriage of themselves than other men. Paul was of himself very zealous and earnest in that great confusion, when Gaius and Aristarchus were haled into the theatre, to have gone in unto the people, in that their outrage and distemper: but the wisdom of the disciples and some of his chief friends is herein commended, that they sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure into the theatre, and that they suffered him not'. It is a grave observation which Gregory Nazianzen m makes of that great champion, and universal agent for composing the differences and distractions of the church, St. Basil, that, “pro temporis ratione et hæreticorum principatu,” by reason of the prevalency of adversaries and condition of the times, he did, in the controversies concerning the Deity of the Holy Ghost, abstain from some words, which others of an inferior rank did with liberty and boldness use: and that this he did in much wisdom, and upon necessary reasons ; because it was not fit for so eminent a person, and one who had such general influence by the quality of his place and greatness of his parts in the welfare of the church, by the envy of words or phrases, to exasperate a countenanced enemy, and to draw upon himself, and, in him, upon the church of God, any inevitable and unnecessary danger. And surely, if the wisdom and moderation of that holy man were, with the same pious affection, generally observed,that men, when they do earnestly contend for the truth once delivered (which is the duty of every Christian) did not, in heat of argument, load the truth they maintain, with such hard and severe, though it may be) true expressions,as beget more obstinacy in the adversary, and (it may be) suspicion in the weak or unresolved looker on ; differences amongst men might be more soberly composed, and the truth with more assurance entertained.
la Rev. xii. I, 4. in Commonitorio.
1 Hieronymus, Contr. Luciferianos.-Vincentius Lyrinensis
Again, We have from hence an encouragement to go on in the ways of Christ, because we go in great and in good company: many we have to suffer with us, many we have to comfort and encourage us. As the people of Israel when they went solemnly up to meet the Lord in Sion, went on from troop to troop",—the further they went, the more company they were mixed withal, going to the same purpose ; so when the saints go towards Heaven to meet the Lord there, they do not only go unto “an innumerable company of angels, and just meno,” but they meet with troops in their way, to encourage one another.
All the discouragement that Elias P had, was, that he was alone: but we have no such plea for our unwillingness to profess the truth and power of religion now. We are not like a lamb in a wide place, without comfort or company; but we are sure to have an excellent guard or convoy unto Christ's kingdom. And this use the apostle makes of the multitudes of believers, that we should, by so great “a cloud of witnesses,” be the more encouraged in our patient running of that race, which is set before us 4.
a Psalm lxxxiv. 7.
I Acts xix. 30, 31. . Heb. xii. 22, 23.
m Gregor. Nazian. Orat. 20. pl Kings xix. 14.
Lastly, It should teach us, to love the multitudes, the assemblies, and the communion of the saints; to speak often to one another, to encourage and strengthen one another, nor to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; to concur in mutual desires, to conspire in the same holy thoughts and affections; to be of one heart, of one soul, of one judgement; to walk by one and the same rule, to besiege Heaven with armies of united prayers; to be mutually serviceable to the city of God, and to one another as fellow-members. Therefore hath the Lord given unto men several gifts, and to no one man all; that thereby we might be enabled to, and induced to work together unto one end, and by love to unite our several graces, for the edification of the body of Christ".
Now, for the manner of producing or procuring these multitudes, it is set forth unto us in two metaphors. A womb, and dew of the morning. Now the birth or dew is, first, generatio cælestis.' That which is exhaled, is an earthly vapour, but the heavenly operation changeth it into dew: no art of man is able to do it. It is also updiscerned and secret: when it is fallen, you may see it, but how it is made, you cannot see. Lastly, it is a sudden birth; in a night or morning, it is both begotten, conceived, and brought forth. Here then we have four notes ;
First, That all Christ's subjects are withal his children. They are ' born unto him.' Christianity is a birth ;—“ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Gods." There is a father: Christ our father by generation ; “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me":"as we are his brethren by adoption ; “ He is not ashamed to call us brethren 4.”—There is a mother; “Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all.” And there are subordinate instruments, both of one and other, the holy apostles, evangelists, doctors, and pastors, who therefore are sometimes called “fathers begetting us;"_" In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel :"—and sometimes mothers bearing, and bringing forth ; " Of whom I travel in birth again, until Christ be formed in you." There is a boly seed,' out of which these children of Christ are formed ; namely, the word of God b,' which liveth and abideth for
r Eph. iv. II, 13.
John iii. 3.
t Isai. viii. 18.
a Heb. xii. 1. u Heb. ii. 12, 13.
For the heart of a man, new born unto Christ, cometh from the Word, as a paper from the press, or as a garment from a perfume, transformed into that quality of spiritualness and holiness which is in the Word. There is a vis WAATTIX, or · formative virtue,' which is the energy and concurrence of the Spirit of grace with the Word. For the truth is not obeyed but by the Spirit”; “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit,”—water as the seed, and the Spirit as the formative virtue, quickening and actuating that seed," he cannot enter into the kingdom of God 4. There are throes and pains, both in the mother and in the child; much trouble and care, in the ministry of the Word, ous wány dlvw; “with whom I travel in pain again :- I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears f.” As a woman with child, by reason of the fear and danger of miscarriages, doth abridge herself of many liberties, in meats, physic, violent exercise, and the like ; so those who travel in birth with the children of Christ, are put to deny themselves many things, and to suffer many things, for the success of their service. “I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, rather than make my brother to offend 8.-I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles; for the which cause I also suffer these things 6.-I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus i.” And there is pain in the child too: a sinner doth not leave the warmth and pleasure of his former condition without pain ; Christ comes not, without shaking, unto the soul. There is a new being
» Gal. iv. 26. y Isai. li. 18. 2 1 Cor. iv. 15. Philem. v. 10. a Gal. iv. 19. b1 Pet. i. 1, 22. el Pet. i. 22. d John iii. 5. • Gal. iv. 19. fActs xx, 31. 81 Cor. viji. 13. h 2 Tim. i. 11, 12. 12 Tim. ii. 10.
or naturek; a corruption of our old man, and a formation of
“Old things are done away, behold all things are become new!;" the same holy nature, the same mind, judgement, will, affection, motions, desires, dispositions, spirit wrought in us which was in him.
“ He that hath this hope, purifieth himself, even as he is pure"; as he is, so are we in this world"," patient, as he is patiento; holy, as he is holy p; humble, as he is humble 9; compassionate, as he is compassionate"; loving, as he is lovings; in all things, labouring to show Christ fashioned in our nature, and in our affections. There is a new conversation answerable to our new nature; that as God is good in himself, and doth good in his works ', --so we both are as Christ was ", and walk as he walketh. There is new food and appetites thereunto suitable: a desire of the sincere, immediate, untempered, uncorrupted milks of the word, as it comes with all the spirits and life in it, that we may grow thereby. New privileges and relations ;-the Son of God, the brethren of Christ, the citizens of Heaven, the household of the saints.New communion and society; the fellowship of the Father and the Son by the Spirit; fellowship with the holy angels, we have their love, their ministry, their protection ; fellowship with the spirits of just men made perfect, by the seeds and beginnings of the same perfection, by the participation of the same spirit of holiness, by expectance of the same glory, and final redemption.
In the mean time, then, we should walk as children of the light?—as it is here, as "children of the morning.” The day is given us to work in; and therefore in the morning, as soon as we have our day before us, we should endeavour oto walk honestly a' Night-works are commonly works of uncleanness, violence, dishonour; and therefore want a cover of darkness to hide them. Thieves use to come in the night.b The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me,-and disguiseth himself. In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night, he
k Tit. iii. 5. 12 Cor. v. 17. Eph. iv. 22, 23. Rom. xii. 2. ml John iii. 3. Al John iv. 17. o Heb. xii. 2. P1 Pet. i. 15. 9 John xiii, 14. Col. iii. 13. Ephes. v. 2. t Psalm cxix. 68. ul John iv. 17. Il John ii. 6. y 1 Pet. ii. 2. 2 Eph. v. 8. a Rom. xiii. 12. 1 Thess, v. 2. c Job xxiv. 15.