all, a mother. But all this it doth, non mentiendo, sed compatiendo,' not by belying the truth, but by pitying the sinner. It is not the wisdom of the flesh, nor to be learned of men. The scripture alone is able to make the man of God, wise unto the work of salvation.'


Thirdly, With meekness; for that is the child of wisdom. "Who is a wise man ?" saith St. James ; " let him show out of a good conversation his works, èv @päútytı oopías, with meekness of wisdom;" and again, "The wisdom which is from above, is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy." The gospel is Christ's gospel, and it must be preached with Christ's Spirit, which was very meek and lowly. When the disciples would have called for fire from Heaven upon the Samaritans, for their indignity done unto Christ, he rebuketh them in a mild and compassionate manner, "Ye know not, what spirit ye are of1." A right evangelical spirit is ever a meek and a merciful spirit. "If a man" (saith the apostle ") "be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; and again, "In meekness," saith the apostle", "instruct those that oppose themselves," if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

Lastly, With faithfulness; inasmuch as the gospel is none of ours, but Christ's, whose servants and stewards we are P. Christ was faithful, though he were a son over his own house; and therefore, might, in reason, have assumed the more liberty to do his own will: Much more doth it become us, who are but his officers, to be faithful too, not to dissemble any thing, which the estate and exigence of those souls committed to our charge, shall require us to speak : not to add, diminish, or deviate from our commission, preaching one gospel in one place, and another in another'; but to deliver only the counsel of God, and to watch over the souls of men, as they that must give an account'.

Again, Since the gospel is Christ's own power, we must all learn from thence two duties: First, to receive it as from him, with the affections of subjects which have been bought by him, that is, first in hearing of the Word, to expect prin

i James iii. 13, 17. k Matth. xi. 29, xxi. 5.

n 2 Tim. ii. 25. * Gal. i. 6.

• Heb. iii. 2. Acts xx. 27.

p 1 Cor. iv. 2. t Heb. xiii. 17.

1 Luke ix. 55.
2 Tim. ii. 2.

m Gal. vi. 1. ? Deut. iv. 2.

cipally his voice, and to seek him speaking from Heaven. This is the nature of Christ's sheep ", to turn away their ears from the voice of strangers, and to hear him.' Two things principally there are, which discover the voice of Christ in the ministry of the Word: First, It is a spiritual and heavenly doctrine, full of purity, righteousness, and peace, touching the soul with a kind of secret and magnetical virtue, whereby the thoughts, affections, conscience, and conversation are turned from their earthly centre, and drawn up unto him, as eagles to a carcase. Secondly, It is a powerful, an edged, a piercing' doctrine. If the Word thou hearest, speak unto thy conscience; if it search thy heart; if it discover thy lusts; if it make thy spirit burn within thee; if it cast thee upon thy face, and convince and judge thee for thy transgressions; if it bind up thy sores, and cleanse away thy corruptions; then it is certainly Christ's Word,and then it must be received with such affections, as becometh the Word of Christ.


[ocr errors]

First, With faith: If we confer with flesh and blood, we shall be apt to cavil against the truth: for he that rejecteth Christ, doth never receive his Word. A fleshly heart cannot submit unto a heavenly doctrine. Christ and his apostles did every where endure the contradiction of sinners. But yet he claimeth this honour over the consciences of men, to overrule their assents against all the mists and sophistical reasonings of the flesh. The apostles themselves preached nothing, but either by immediate commission from him, or out of the law and the prophets. But his usual form was, Verily, I say unto youf;"-noting, that he only was, unto the church, the author and fountain of all heavenly doctrine; that unto him only belongeth that authoritative and infallible Spirit, which can command the subscription and assent of the conscience; that he only can say with boldness to the soul, as he did to the Samaritan woman, "believe me "." And that therefore no authority, either of men, or churches, either episcopal, papal, or synodical, can, without open sacrilege, usurp power to overrule the faith of men, or impose any immediate and doctrinal necessity upon the conscience


a John xii. 48.

u John x. 4, 5, 27. * John iii. 12. y James iii. 17. z Heb. iv. 12. b Rom. viii. 7. c Heb. xii. 3. d Acts xiii. 45. xxviii. 23. Gal. i. 12. f Matth. v. 22. g John iv. 21.

• 1 John i. 1, 2.




in any points, which are not, ultimately and distinctly, resolved into the evident authority of Christ in his Word. St. Paul himself durst not assume dominion over the faith of men; nor St. Peter neither suffer any elders (amongst whom he reckoneth himself as an elder) also xalaxupieÚV, to overrule,' or prescribe unto the heritage of God. It is only Christ's Word which the hearts of men must stoop and attend unto, and which they must mingle with faith, that it may be profitable unto them; that is, they must let it into their hearts with this assurance, that it is not the breath of a man, but the message of Christ', who is true in all his threatenings, and faithful in all his promises, and pure in all his precepts; that he sendeth this ministry abroad for the perfection of the saints, and the edification of his church,-and therefore if they be not hereby cleansed, and built up in his body, they do, as much as in them lieth, make void the holy ordinance of God, which yet must never return in vain". The word of God doth effectually work' only in those that believe. It worketh in hypocrites, and wicked hearers,-according to the measure of that imperfect faith which they have; it worketh not effectually; that is, it doth not consummate nor accomplish any perfect work, but only in those that believe; in the rest, it proves but an abortion, and withers in the blade.

Secondly, With love and readiness of mind, without despising or rejecting it. No man can be saved, who doth not receive the truth in love; who doth not receive it (as the primitive saints did) with gladness and readiness of mind; as Eli P, though from the hand of Samuel, a child; as David, though from the hand of Abigail, a woman; as the Galatians though from the hand of Paul, an infirm and persecuted apostle. For herein is our homage to Christ the more apparent, when we suffer a little child to lead us ".

Thirdly, With meekness and submission of heart', reve rencing and yielding unto it in all things. Wresting, shifting, evading, perverting the Word, is as great an indignit unto Christ, as altering, interlining, or rasing a patent whic

h2 Cor. i. 24. m Ephes. iv. 12. p 1 Sam. iii. 18.

↑ James i. 21. Levit. xxvi. 2. Acts x. 33.

k Heb. iv. 2.

il Peter v. 3.
n Isa. Iv. 11.
q 1 Sam. xxv. 32.
• 2 Thes. ii. 10. Acts ii. 41.
r Gal. iv. 14.

xvii. 11. xxi. 1
11 Thes. ii. 1

s Isa. xì

[ocr errors]

the king hath drawn with his own royal hand, is an offence against him. Patience and effectual obedience even in affliction, is an argument that a man esteems the Word to be indeed God's own Word ", and so receives it. He only who putteth off the old man, the corrupt, deceitful lusts of his former conversation, and is renewed in the spirit of his mind, is the man that hath heard, and been taught by Christ, that hath received the truth in him.

Again, Inasmuch as the gospel is the rod of Christ's own strength, or the instrument of his arm, (Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?") and the instrument is no farther operative or effectual, than according to the measure of that impressed virtue which it receiveth from the superior cause; therefore we should learn always to repair unto Christ for the success of his Word. For he only is the teacher of men's hearts, and the author of their faith. To him only it belongeth to call men out of their graves, and to quicken whom he will. We have nothing but the ministry: he keepeth the power in his own hands, that men might learn to wait upon him, and to have to do with him, who only can send a blessing with his Word, and teach his people to profit thereby.

Another ground of the power of the Word is, that it is sent from God. "The Lord shall send forth the rod of thy strength:" From which particular likewise, we may note some useful observations; as,


First, That God's appointment and ordination is that which gives being, life, majesty, and success to his own Word; authority, boldness, and protection to his servants. When he sendeth his word, he will make it prosper'. When Moses disputed against his going down into Egypt to deliver his brethren, sometime alleging his own unfitness and infirmity, sometimes the unbelief of the people; this was still the warrant with which God encouraged him; "I will be with thee, I have sent thee; do not I make man's mouth? I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say."-"I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son,' (saith Amos) "but I was a herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the


u 1 Thes. ii. 13, 14. * Ephes. iv. 20, 22. y Isai. liii. 1. a Exod. iii. 4. b Amos vii. 14, 15.

z Isai. Iv. 11.

flock, and said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." And this made him peremptory in his office to prophesy against the idolatry of the king's court, and against the flattery of the priest of Bethel. And this made the apostles bold, though otherwise unlearned and ignorant men, to stand against the learned council of priests and doctors of the law, "We ought to obey God rather than men." Upon which, grave was the advice of Gamaliel : " If this counsel or work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest, haply, ye be found even to fight against God." For to withstand the power or progress of the gospel, is to set a man's face against God himself.


Secondly, Inasmuch as the gospel is sent forth by God, that is, revealed and published out of Sion,-we may observe, that evangelical learning came not into the world by human discovery or observation, but it is utterly above the compass of all reason or natural disquisition; neither men nor angels ever knew it but by divine revelation. And therefore the apostle everywhere calleth it a mystery d,' a 'great and hidden mystery,' which was kept secret since the world began.' There is a natural theology, without the Word, gathered out of the works of God, out of the resolution of causes and effects into their first originals, and out of the law of nature written in the heart. But there is no natural Christianity. Nature is so far from finding it out by her own enquiries, that she cannot yield unto it, when it is revealed, without a spirit of faith to assist it. The Jews stumbled at it, as dishonourable to their law; and the Gentiles derided it, as absurd in their philosophy. It was a hidden and secret wisdom, the execution and publication whereof was committed only to Christ. In God, it was an eternal gospelf; for Christ was a lamb slain from before the foundations of the world, namely, in the predeterminate counsel and decree of his Father: but revealed it was not till the dispensation of the fulness of time; wherein he gathered together, in one, all things in Christ. The purpose and ordination of it was eternal; but the preaching and manifesta

e Acts iv. 13, v. 29, 35, 36 ii. 14, 15. iii. 9, 11.

f Revel. xiv. 6.

d Rom. xvi. 25. 1 Cor. ii. 7, 9.
s 1 Peter i. 20. I Cor. ii. 7. 10.

• Rom. i. 20. Ephes. i. 9, 10.

« VorigeDoorgaan »