A Second Volume OF SERMONS PREACHED by the Late REVEREND and LEARNED Thomas Manton, D. D. In Two PARTS. The FIRST Containing XXVII. SERMONS ON The Twenty Fifth CHAPTER of St. MATTHEW, XLV. ON The Seventeenth CHAPTER of St. IOHN, AND XXIV. ON The Sixth CHAPTER of the Epistle to the ROMANS. PART II. Containing XLV. SERMONS ON The Eighth Chapter of the Epistle to the ROMANS, AND XL. ON The Fifth Chapter of the Second Epistle to the CORINTHIANS. WITH ALPHABETICAL TABLES To each Chapter, of the PRINCIPAL MATTERS therein Contained.

LONDON, Printed by J. Astwood for Jonathan Robinson at the Golden Lion in St. Paul's Church-yard, MDC.LXXXIV.

TO THE RIGHT HONOURA …

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE, WILLIAM, Earl of Bedford, BARON of THORNAVGH: AND KNIGHT of the Most Noble Order of the GARTER.

My LORD,

IF the Soveraign Disposer of all things had continued the Life of the Author of the following SERMONS, he had express'd his Thankfulness for your Real and No­ble Favours, by the Dedication of the best Fruits of his Studies to your Lordship: But since it hath pleased God to remove him from the Church on Earth to the Church in Heaven, I am desired by his most near surviving Relation, to comply with his Intention, by Inscribing your highly Honourable Name in the Frontispiece of this Work.

Your Lordships Esteem of the Author, and most free Kind­ness, plac'd him in an Eminent Station; and how faithfully he discharged his Publick Ministry for those great and most wor­thy Ends, the Glory of God, and the Salvation of Souls, as there is a full Testimony given by many sincere and under­standing Persons of all Ranks, that were the happy Partakers of it, so it is evident to others, by the several Volumes of most useful SERMONS Printed since his Decease. These had [Page] been more Exact, and worthy of your Lordships perusal, if they had been publisht by himself: But such as they are, I doubt not but they will be very Acceptable, for the hea­venly Matter contained in them.

I shall not Record here the many excellent Vertues that are Conspicuous in your Lordship, and truely adorn your Honour; but I cannot forbear to mention the Foundation of them, Sincere and Solid Piety, so clearly discovered in a most Christian Deportment under your heavy Afflictions. Surely, that Reverence and meek Submission to the high and Holy Providence of God, that humble Trust in his Mercy, which so admirably appeared in your deep Distress, was from the Divine Spirit, whose glorious Attribute is, The Comforter. I shall Earnestly pray, That God, who turneth the shadow of Death into the Morning, will be pleased alwayes to Support you with his Reviving Presence, that he will guide you by his Counsel through this Afflicting World, and bring you to his Glory. I am,

My LORD,
Your Lordships very Humble and Obedient Servant, WILLIAM BATES.

To the READER.

Christian Reader,

OVR blessed Lord calling the Multitude to some account of their so free, and frequent motions in going to hear the first Gospel Preacher, John the Baptist, doth it in these terms; Matth. 11.7, 8. What went you out into the Wilderness to see? A Reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man cloathed in soft Rayment? They that wear soft Cloathing are in Kings houses. But what went ye out for to see? A Prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a Prophet. V. 11. Verily I say unto you, that amongst them that are born of Women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Bap­tist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the Kingdom of God, is greater than he. Teaching us seve­ral things by that speech, relating to the Religious action of hearing the Word, and to a true Gospel Minister. With reference to the former, (1.) That he that goeth out to hear, ought in the first place to propound to himself a due End. (2.) That men may propose to themselves in such motions very false and undue Ends, such as going to see Reeds shaken with the wind, men cloathed with soft Rayment, &c. (3.) That the true End men should propose to themselves, should be, not to hear a Philosopher, or an Orator, but a Prophet, which term sig­nifieth a Person revealing the Will of God; (for the signification of that term is not to be restrained to one onely from God revealing things to come, but publishing the Divine Will, whether relating to future things, or things before revealed; which is evident not only from the application of it to the Baptist, but to any that will consider, that Predictions of future Contingencies was the least part of any of the ancient Prophets work.) This is that true and more special End which every good man ought to propound to himself, when he goeth to hear as a Religious action, whose Object is not a meer sound, which is the Object of hearing considered as a natural Act, but of the joyful Sound. Nor can there lye any Obligation upon any, religiously to hear any thing but the will of God, which a Discourse doth not cease to be, by the addition of mans words for the Explanation or Application of any part of the divine Will, by such as God hath betrusted with that Employment, more than an Embassadors message ceaseth to be his Masters will, because delivered in his own words, thô to the Sense of his Instructions. Which thing well digested, would not only teach Ministers what, and how to preach, but the People also what, and how to hear, according to the direction of their Lord. If our End in hearing, were to tickle our Ears with a Sound, our Reason would guide us to hear such whose Language is as the voice of one that hath a Lovely Song, and can play well on an Instrument. If our end were to promove our selves in Critical Learning, or improve our Reason, the same Reason would guide us to choose to hear the best Philosophizers or Grammarians, such as best under­stood the Niceties of words, and varietyes of Syntax. But if our end be to hear a Prophet, one that should re­veal Gods mind unto us, and to make it more intelligible, that by it we may be more improved in Knowledge, Faith, Love, Obedience, and other Habits fitting us for the Kingdom of God, and Eternal Salvation; the same reason will teach us to hear the most substantial, scriptural, and practical Sermons, that we can, as being most accommodate to the true end of our action, to which every wise man proportioneth mediate actions. And indeed all other Discourses are abusively called Preaching, and Athens were a more proper place for them, than a Preachers Pulpit.

God hath seemed to have reserved it for a great Blessing to the last age of the World, that (for ought appears to us from any Books) it hath been more fertile of such Preaching, than any since that of the Apostles. The an­cient Church had Persons that did famously in their Generations, such were Chrysostom in the Greek, and Augustine in the Latine Church; but besides that they were but very few, whose reads the one and the other, must complement Antiquity at a great rate, if himself hath any judgment, and doth not say that Multitudes in the last Age have been as to Preaching greater than they. In the former are to be found many judicious Explications of Scripture, many honest and spiritual Discourses: In the latter, not these things only, but a pleasantness of Wit, and Fancy; but for plenty of Matter, clearness of Iudgment, Orderliness of Method, and many other things, they have not been a little exceeded by men of this last age. Nor is it any disparagement to them, more than it was to John the Baptist, that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven was to be greater than he; or to Christ, that the Apostles, Joh. 14.12. were to do greater things than he had done. In the middle Ages of the Church, Preaching generally was turn'd into trifling about Scholastick nicetyes; and to the very dawning of the Reformation, the Priests Texts were out of Scotus, or Aquinas; and we remember, they were not ashamed, when Luther, Melancton, &c. restored in some degree the true kind of Preaching, to petition Magistrates for the suppression of it, and a liberty to trifle still in that great work of God, with discourses upon Scotus and Aqui­nas. Thô Luther, Zuinglius, and others in Germany; and Mr. Calvin, Farellus, and Viret, and Beza, in France, about a hundred and fifty years since, mended this matter in a great degree; yet we all know how ill their Examples were followed: So as Mr. Perkins, who began to flourish about the year 1580. is generally judged to have been the first who amongst us restored Preaching to its true use, and taught us the true manner of it, whose Piety was followed by many; but as their Number hath vastly increased since that time (especially in the fifty or sixty years last past) so God hath seemed to pour out his Spirit upon Ministers, as to spiritual Gifts, in a more plentiful measure: Yet in very different proportions, that he might have some to feed his Lambs, as well as others to feed his Sheep. The Generality of good Preachers have made it their business to preach Christ, and the exceeding Riches of his Grace, and to study matter rather than words, upon Mr. Perkins his old Principle, Verba sequentur res. But all have not had alike fer [...]ile Invention, or solid Judgment, or alike Skill and Learning in Languages and Arts, &c. Some particular Persons have been blessed with them all, by which they have made Stars of the first Magnitude in the Church of God. Such, Reader, we take the Re­verend Author of these Sermons to have been; in all whose Writings thou shalt find a quick and fertile Inven­tion, [Page] governed with a grave and solid Iudgment, and the Issue of both expressed in a grave and decent Style, so as it is not easie to say, what one would desire in a Divine, that was wanting in him. He had an Heart full of Love and Zeal for God and his Glory, and out of the abundance of his Heart, his Mouth continually spake. So frequent, yet so learned and solid Preaching by the same person, was little less than miraculous. But he was a Scribe fully instructed in the things of the Kingdom of God, and like a good Housholder, was continually fetching out of the Store-house of his knowing and judicious Soul, things both old and new. He was no studyer of Words and Phrases, he abhorred such a Pedantry, and debasing the Authority of Gospel Propositions; but a grave and serious Soul, fitted with his skill in Arts, and Languages, neither ever did, nor could want Expressions, above the scorn of the most wanton Word-dressers, thó beneath the expectations of such as can be pleased with the time­ableness of Paranomasiaes, or the rollings of six-footed words. He was a good, and learned, a grave and judi­cious person, and his Auditory never failed (thô he laboured more than the most Preachers, his constant course of Preaching being for many years Five times, and till near his End, three times a Week) to hear from him a pious, learned and most judicious Discourse. This, those who never heard him may easily believe, by his printed Com­mentaries and Sermons, in which we never met with any that complained for want of any thing fit for a Divine. So that he is one of those Authors, upon the credit of whose Name, not only the plainer and less intelligent sort of people, but even Scholars, may adventure to buy any Book that was his, and be assured they will see no cause to re­pent of the expence of their Money. His late large Folio upon the 119th Psalm is a plentiful Evidence of this; and a great part of our English World hath given their suffrage to this, by making it so scarce in so short a time, as the Price of it is inhanced above a fifth part.

We here offer a 2d Volume, of a greater Bulk (thô no greater price) which contains his Discourses upon the 25th of Matth. the 17th Chapt. of John, the 6th and 8th Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and the 5th Chapt. of his 2d Epistle to the Corinthians, five Chapters, than which possibly in the whole New Testament there will not be found five others, more full of Gospel Doctrine, in the Knowledge of which Gods People are more concerned.

In the first, under the Parable of the Ten Virgins (five of which were wise, five foolish) our Lord repre­sents to us the state of the Members of the Church waiting for Christs Second coming to Iudgment: Amongst whom some are sincere, some are Hypocrites, the different actions and issues of whom are excellently represented to us, and most worthy to be learned and considered. 2. Vnder the Parable of the Talents, we are instructed in Gods different dispensation of his Gifts to men, their different use of them, and the Account they are like to be called to about them. To which is subjoyned an Hypotuposis of the day of Judgment, fit to be continually in our Eyes and Ears.

In the second, we have our Saviours last Prayer for his Elect, as well those that to the end of the World should believe, as those who at that time did believe. It was our Lords Legacy, what good Christian desireth not a full understanding of it, that he may know what to hope, and pray in Faith for, at being first secured to him [...] Prayer of him whom the Father heareth alwayes?

In the 6th and 8th of the Romans are contained great Treasuries of Gospel Truth. Vpon both (the [...]) many learned men have spent their labours to great advantage: But the Scripture is such a Book [...] never know when we fully comprehend it, and (if he may judge to whose share it fell to peruse some of those [...] the Reader will find some things here discovered, which he will hardly meet with elsewhere. His way of [...] it, is rather Dogmatical and Practical, than Polemical; yet he now and then judiciously resolveth a [...] But all along in the handling of it, he discovereth both an excellent Notion, and a most prefound and solid [...]

The last Discourses on 2 Cor. 5. look like a Cygnea-cantio: Whether they were some of his last [...] we cannot tell, nor can we judge it from the Subject, he being a person who was dying daily, and never so [...] with his Earthly Tabernacle, nor possess'd of so weak a Faith as to the House in the Heavens, as either [...] the former should stand longer than should be for the glory of God, or himself kept from the latter [...] It pleased God not to surprize him with death, but to let him see it at some distance, making its [...] him, before it gave him the fatal word of Arrest.

Thou will, Reader, find some things once and again spoken to, as the Text led him, but in such a [...] Phrase, that they have much new in them. Had this eminent Person lived to have supravised his own Note [...] might possibly have added or altered something: We have seen no reason to do it, but given thee his Not [...] they were under his hand, onely when (not able to read some words in his Notes) we were forced to add a [...] or two for clearing the sense.

Now, Reader, what shall we say to thee, but onely to quicken thee to bless God, for this Milk from the [...] when thou canst not have it from the Breasts, [...]. Thus Dr. Manton (thô dead) yet [...] God give thee, and us, an hearing Ear, and an understanding Heart. We have thus line upon line, and span [...] upon Precept: Let us not be barren and unfruitful. We commend these Labours and thy Soul to [...] Blessing, Subscribing our selves,

Thine Affectionate Servants in the Work of the Gospel,
  • William Bates.
  • Iohn Collinges.
  • Iohn Howe.

ADVERTISEMENT.

A Practical Exposition of the Lords Prayer. Octavo. By Tho. Manton, D. D. Sold by Jona­than Robinson at the Golden-Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1684.

SEVERAL SERMONS UPON The Twenty Fifth CHAPTER OF St. MATTHEW.

SERMON I.

MATTH. XXV.1, 2.

Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be likened unto ten Virgins, which took their Lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom.

And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

'TWAS Christs manner to Instruct by Parables, partly for the greater evidence and force, while heavenly things are represented to us in such Notions as we do best understand; and partly to teach us the Art of holy Chymistry, or extracting spiritual advantages out of obvious Occurrences and Occasions. Now Parables are of two sorts; Argumentative and Representative:

First, The Argumentative Parables are such wherein some notable Reason is couched, or Ground is layd for some excellent encourage­ment in our Converse with God, by shewing what falleth out among men. In these Argumentative Parables, the parts of the Parable are not to be strained, but the scope and Parable it self is to be regarded: As in the Parable Luke 18. of the unjust Judge, the scope is to be regarded, but not the parts strained, as if God were to be compared to an unjust Judge. And that famous Parable Luke 11.8. concerning success in Pray­er, where there is Argumentum à minori ad majus, an Argument from the less to the greater, though he will not rise and give him as he is his friend, yet because of his Im­portunity he will rise and give him. And those passages of giving good things to our Children, If ye being evil know how to give good things to your Children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him.

Secondly, The other sort of Parables which I call Representative, yields us a no­table delineation of some Heavenly matter, by laying the Scene of it among Earth­ly affairs; for God is faign to lisp to us in our own dialect, and speak as we can understand. This and the next Parable are of this sort. The Occasion of it was thus: Our Lord had been discoursing of the dangerous state of the latter times, and therefore presseth to Watchfulness, and timely preparation. This he doth by three Parables: First, By the good Man of the House watching against the coming of the Thief, Matth. 24.42, 43. By the Parable of the Servant, misbehaving him­self [Page 2] in the absence of his Lord, Matth. 24.45. to the end: And now the third time by this Parable of the Virgins. Still in the close of all he repeateth his Charge of Watchfulness, not so much because of the difficulty of the matter, as because of our dulness. We cannot often enough be put in mind of Vigilancy and diligence in pre­paring for the coming of the Lord; so great is our sloath and drowsiness, and non-attention to the great affairs of our Souls. Now these three Parables, though they come to one effect, yet have their special use. The first of these concern all; the second the Officers of the Church; the third the Members. First, The good man of the House watching against the coming of the Thief, speaketh thus much: If men watch to avoid a temporal inconvenience, much more should we watch to eschew eternal Destruction. The diligence of the men of the world in worldly things, upbraydeth and condemneth our negligence in heavenly things. The Para­ble of the unfaithful Servant, that put off the thoughts of his Masters coming, and therefore eateth▪ and drinketh with the drunken, and beats his Fellow-servants, is a notable warning to the Officers of the Church, that they do not abuse the Pow­er of the Keyes, and inhaunt with the wicked, and discourage the godly, and blast them with Censures, and stirre up the displeasure of the Magistrate against their faithfull and painfull Brethren in the Ministry. A Drunkard shall find more favour with them than one that is mindful of his Lords coming, and would keep punctual to the Orders and Institutions he hath left before he went. Now least the Mem­bers of the Church should want their admonition, besides a warning to the Officers in the Second Parable, here is a warning to the Members in this third Parable, to watch and be ready, that they be not surprized: In the wise Virgins is represented the comfortable fruit of Watchfulness, in the foolish the sad effects of Security. Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be likened, &c.

In the words we have,

  • First, The thing compared, The Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Secondly, The Comparison it self, shall be likened to ten Virgins. Who are
    • 1. Described by their Quality or state, Virgins.
    • 2. By their Number, Ten.
    • 3. By their Rank or distribution, five wise, and five foolish.
    • 4. By their work or Employment, they went forth to meet the Bridegroom.
    • 5. Their Preparation for that Work, they took their Hand-Lamps.

Before I explain these Circumstances, I must a little acquaint you with the Custom of the Jews, to which allusion is here made. The Weddings of those times were kept by Night, in which the Bridegroom and his Company were by certain Virgins fetched in, and conducted to the Bride, with Lamps in their hands, and Songs in their mouths. As for this Custom, I shall give you some passages in Scripture. That the Weddings were in the Night-time, we read Gen. 29.23. It came to pass in the evening that Laban took Leah his Daughter, and brought her to Jacob. That the Bridegroom had his Companions, we read Judg. 13.11. Sampson had thirty Com­panions brought to him. That both had their Companions; we read of the Chil­dren of the Bride-Chamber, Matth. 9.15. the special guests invited to the Marri­age-feast, who were by Custom to fetch the Bridegroom, and wait upon him: These are called [...], the Friends of the Bridegroom, Joh. 3.29. That the Bride had her Companions, 'tis said, in Psal. 45.14. the Spouse shall be brought to the King in a Rayment of Needle-work; the Virgins her Companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee: And their fashion was, to take Hand-lamps then in use, and fit to carry abroad for Night-lights. The Scripture frequently alludes to that; Rev. 18.23. And the light of the Candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the Bridegroom, and of the Bride, no more at all shall be heard in thee. And thus the Bridegroom was met by Virgins with Lamps; as he grew near the Brides house, he was met by Servants with Candles returning to the Marriage: Therefore 'tis said, Luke 12.35, 36. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye your selves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the Wedding. This was the custom, which I the rather observe, that you may see how fitly our Lord layeth down things. Now those that accompanyed the Bridegroom and the Bride, were Children of the Bride-chamber, and admitted into the Mar­riage Room and Supper; and those that came after that, when once the door was [Page 3] shut, were surely kept out. Now here is a fit representation of the spiritual Myste­ry laid down by Christ, and therefore let us

1. See the thing compared, The Kingdom of Heaven; that is, the state of the Church wherein God reigneth in the person of the Messiah; of the Kingdom of Glo­ry it cannot be meant, for there are no foolish Virgins; and in the internal King­dom of Grace none: But in the external Kingdom of Christ in this World. And this is not considered simply and restrainedly to that point of time when Christ is coming to Judgment, but respects and should affect us all, for such as we de­part out of the world now, such shall we be found to be at the day of Judgment. It concerneth all Ages, not only those that shall be found alive at that time, but every one in successive Ages.

2. The Comparison must be explained; the Bridegroom is Christ; and the Bride is the Church, the whole Church is the Spouse of Christ, and each particular Be­liever a Virgin attending upon this Spouse, the Marriage is mutually promised, the Espousals are in this Life: Hos. 2.19.20. I will betroth thee to me for ever; and to be solemnized and compleated at the coming of our Lord, Rev. 19.7. Let us be glad and rejoyce, and give honour to him, for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and his Wife hath made her self ready: Here is the betrothing in the Covenant of Grace: A nobis accepit arrhabonem carnis, &c. saith Tertullian; he took the token of our flesh and carried it to Heaven, to prepare Heaven for us, and left with us the token of his Spirit, to prepare us for Heaven: he is not gone from us in discontent, but will come again with all the Angels of Heaven with him, to receive the Bride unto himself.

(1.) The Companions of the Bride are here represented under the Name of Virgins, for so Christians are called for the Purity of their Faith, and Worship, and also for their blameless Conversations.

[1.] Virgins for the purity of their Faith, that keep themselves free and untaint­ed from the corrupt and rotten Opinions of the World, 2 Cor. 11.2. I have espou­sed you to one Husband, that I may present you as Chast Virgins to Christ; he meaneth it here in respect of the purity of their Faith, that they might not be corrupted by false Teachers.

[2.] Virgins for the purity of Worship. Idolatry and Corruption of Worship is often expressed by Harlotry, and therefore the Prophet to figure out Israels Apo­stacy and Corruption in Worship, is bidden to take a Wife of Whoredomes, Hos. 3. And those that followed the Lamb, are said to be Virgins, not defiled, Rev. 14.4. not polluted with Idolatry, which is spiritual Fornication.

[3.] Virgins for purity and blamelesness of Conversation. The Apostle speaketh of some that had escaped the pollutions of the world, through the Knowledge of Jesus Christ, who might be again intangled and overcome therein, 2 Pet. 2.20. Well then, these were all Virgins, even the foolish as well as the wise, not tainted with Errour, nor de­filed with false Worship, nor prophane, corrupt or scandalous in their Conversa­tions; they were such as had escaped the Corruptions of the World, and had as glorious a form of Godliness as any others.

(2.) They are described by their Number, Ten; this is mentioned either be­cause Ten is a number of perfection, or because usually the number of those Com­panions of the Bride never exceeded Ten.

(3.) They are set forth by their Distribution into two ranks, some Wise, some Fool­ish, five of the one sort, and five of the other; the number is not exactly to be stood upon, as if the number of the saved and damned were equal; as in the Pa­rable of the Marriage-feast, one had not a Wedding-garment, 'tis not to be under­stood as if only one were damned of all that are invited to the Profession of the Gospel; it only signifyeth that all the Virgins are not alike careful to prepare for the coming of the Lord: By the wise are meant provident and diligent Christians, by the foolish the Improvident and negligent; among those that bear the name and keep up the reputation of Christians, some will be found not to fill up their Profession with answerable Duty, not to make serious Provision for the coming of Christ.

(4.) They are set forth by their Work and Imployment, they went forth to meet the Bridegroom, that is, they expected the coming of Christ, and Happiness by him: The foolish and the wise did both agree in this, indeed this is the whole business of a Christian.

[Page 4](5.) They are set forth by their preparation for this work, they took their Lamps, that is, made open profession of their hope, Matth. 5.16. Let your light so shine among men: for external shining profession they were both alike. All are called Chri­stians, all are Baptized, and all profess faith in Christ, and an expectation of his se­cond coming with eternal Life to ensue upon it; all are Virgins, all have Lamps, all are devoted to the Bridegroom, goe forth to meet him, and yet some were wise, and some foolish; some made preparation that whenever the Bridegroom should come, they might be ready to go in with him, others contented themselves with an outward Profession, or loose waiting for his coming, but did not with that se­rious diligence prepare themselves for it, and so came short of the blessedness ex­pected by them: There wanted a deep radication, and a constant perseverance, without which the blaze of Profession which lasted for a while, will soon be extinguisht.

Doctrine, That in the visible Church, among those that give up their Names to Christ some will be found foolish, when others are wise, and come short of the blessedness expected by them.

Or, In the visible Church all are not wise Christians, but some are wise, and really such as they profess themselves to be, others negligent, foolish and improvident.

The State of the visible Church is here represented: And Observe,

1. This Parable is not spoken of the Corrupted Members of degenerate Church­es, but speaketh what shall fall out in the Churches not defiled with the Whore­domes of the World: There are some Churches that have turned the Government of Christ into a temporal Domination, and their Worship into a mass of Paganish or Heathenish Rites and Superstitions, and place all their Glory, not in excellency of Gifts and Graces, but pomp of Living and external splendor, and make Chri­stianity look like a Temporal worldly thing, calculated only for this Life; of those Christ speaketh not here, something may be intimated of them in the former Pa­rable, but here he speaks of a reformed Chruch; not the Church in her polluti­on and defection, but a Church in her right Constitution. Papists will be count­ed Christians, who may be rejected by Christ at his coming; they have so cor­rupted his Worship, Discipline and Doctrine. Nay, but Christ speaketh here of those that live under the dispensations of purer Christianity, some will be found true Believers, others common Professors: even among the Members of a reform­ed Church, that make Profession of the Purity of the Gospel, all will not be found such as may abide the day of Christs appearing in Judgment: In Abrahams Fami­ly there was an Ishmael as well as an Isaac, in Christ's a Judas, and in the Apo­stles time some were Enemies to the Cross of Christ, that yet took the Professi­on of Christ upon them, Phil. 3.18.

2. Mark again: 'Tis not meant the scandalous and faulty Members of a pure Church, there are many Christians in name only, but indeed deny it, Titus 1.16. but 'tis not meant of the scandalous, that live as if their hopes were altogether in this World, that ingulph themselves in all manner of sensuality, as if there were no Heaven or Hell, nor no future account to be given of their Actions; but it is meant of such as profess themselves to be devoted unto Jesus Christ the Bride­groom, such as are desirous to be admitted into the Nuptial Feast, to have Com­munion with him in Heaven, and possibly may attain to a blameless Conversati­on, and appear Virgin-like, all waiting for the coming of the Lord, in their own and others estimation: Some that Prophesied in Christs name, and eat and drank in his presence, are yet rejected by Christ as workers of Iniquity.

3. 'Tis not meant only of those that have a shew or a false and counterfeit Profession, that are taught to act over their part in Religion as a Play, as in the best and purest Churches there will be Hypocrites: No, these had some real work, though not a saving but a common work, as a man may have a light tincture of religion whose heart is not yet sound with God, Psa. 119.80. therefore David Prayeth, Let my heart be sound in thy Statutes. There was not an universal renoun­cing of all corruptions, not that thorough care to please God, nor a rooted affecti­on to Christ, though they have some good motions, hopeful inclinations that way, as these Virgins seemed to be well affected to Christ; for the present they had their Lamps, made some slender preparation, they went forth to meet the Bride­groom [Page 5] as others did: Therefore it will be necessary to shew that a common work may go far, and yet come short of blessedness: I shall prove it by three reasons.

  • 1. Because a common work may go far.
  • 2. Though a common work may go far, yet 'tis not likely to hold out.
  • 3. If it should hold out a constant Profession, yet it will not be enough to qua­lifie us for the Kingdom of Glory, or heavenly bliss and happiness.

1. A common work will go far: I take it for granted that there is a real com­mon work of Grace, as well as a real special work; if you doubt it, I will inform you from Scripture, Heb. 6.4. compared with the 9th verse, we read of some that were enlightned, some that tasted of the good Word, and of the heavenly gift; and elsewhere of some That had escaped the pollutions of the World through the Know­ledge of Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. 2.20. All this is real, the tasting the good word real, the enlightening real, the partaking of the heavenly gift real, the escaping the pollutions of the World real; but the Apostle saith in the 9th verse, We expect better things of you, and things that do accompany Salvation; or things that have necessarily salvation in them, things that whosoever hath them shall certainly be saved: The graces of Temporaries are for substance true, but slightly rooted; there are the purlues of Grace, or the borders of the Kingdom of Heaven, some flash­es of light or dawnings of Grace, but the Day-star doth not arise in their hearts; many are enlightened, taste the good word, have some delight in the Promises, tasted of the heavenly Gift, apprehend it sweet to have Communion with God in Christ, and tast the powers of the World to come, feel some transports of Soul when they hear of the hopes of eternal Life, and may be brought to some partial Reformation, but that which is wanting is a deep radication, or a more firm inherency of these Graces in the Soul, and an habitual predominancy of these motions and affections over all other inclinations: for 'till it be so, we cannot do any great service for God, or endure any tryal for his sake. Sometimes true grace is described by its deep radication, Jam. 1.21. 'tis called an ingrafted word, 'tis not something tyed on, but ingrafted, the root of the mattter is within; and some­times 'tis described by its efficacy, Rom. 6.17. Ye have obeyed from the Heart the form of Doctrine delivered to you.

But more especially I shall shew you, that a common work may goe far with respect to the three Theological Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity, mentioned by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 13.13. Now abideth Faith, Hope and Love: And again, 1 Thes. 5, 8. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the Breast-plate of Faith and Love, and for an Helmet the hope of Salvation: Now a common work may go ve­ry far in all these Graces of Faith, Hope and Love, as here the Virgins seemed to believe the coming of Christ, and went forth to meet him.

1. Therefore I shall shew you what they may do as to Faith; I shall shew what the Grace is, and how far they may go along with it: The Scripture speaketh so much of Faith, that we need to know what it is. Faith in its peculiar respect works towards Christ and Heaven: But take it in its general latitude, 'tis a firm and cordial assent to all such things that are revealed by God, as revealed by him. Let us explain this, here is the Object, things revealed by God as revealed by him; then the Act, 'tis an assent; the Adjuncts, 'tis a firm and cordial assent. For the Object in this description I consider it materially and formally, all things revealed by God whatsoever. All things necessary to Salvation, Faith apprehends them distinctly, other things implicitely, that is, knows them in their general princi­ple. Few Christians know all the Doctrines contained in the Christian Religion, but they believe them in the general; But now things necessary to Salvation, I must distinctly know them, as those that are called Articles of the Creed, the Lords Prayer, the ten Commandments. Faith is an Assent to, and built upon a di­vine testimony, without any other reason, whether as to things past, present, or to come; things past, as the Creation of the World, Heb. 11.3. By Faith we un­derstand the Worlds were created by the Word of God: If a man should hold the Creation of the World upon some other reason that seemeth cogent unto him, and not upon the discovery of it in the Word, certainly 'tis not Faith whatever it be, for Faith assents to whatsoever is revealed by God. So for things present, that God sitteth in Heaven, and Christ at his right hand; Stephen saw it by Visi­on and Extasie, but every Believer seeth it by Faith, which is the evidence of [Page 6] things not seen as if with bodily eyes. So for things to come, as Christs coming to Judgment, John saw it in the light of Prophesie, Rev. 20.12. I saw the dead, both small and great stand before God; and they see it in the light of Scripture and the Pro­mise; so that you see the Objects of Faith are things revealed by God, because reveal­ed by him: If a man should believe the Christian Religion upon Tradition, or the current opinion where he liveth, 'tis not Faith but humane Credulity; now the act of Faith 'tis an assent, not knowledge but acknowledgment: the under­standing hath a double act, apprehension or dijudication, it judgeth of the truth of things apprehended, or apprehendeth the tenor of things, and then judgeth of the truth of them; they are not enlightned in a way of Faith that are only able to talk of Heavenly things, but such as are perswaded of the truth of them: And then mark the Adjuncts, 'tis a firm and Cordial assent.

(1.) 'Tis a firm assent, and that excludeth many things from Faith, as light Cre­dulity: Prov. 14.15. The simple believeth every word. He that believeth every thing without search and serious advertency, believeth nothing. And it excludeth bare non-contradiction. Many are thought to believe the Religion they live under, because they do not question it: These can no more be said to believe, than Children are said to believe the Questions and Answers of the Catechism they have learned by rote. True Faith knoweth the certainty of those things wherein they have been in­structed; Luk. 1.4. And then it excludeth Conjecture to be Faith, which is a lighter inclination of the mind to a thing as probable; it may be so, yet there is a suspition to the contrary. Nay, it excludeth Opinion, which goeth higher than Con­jecture, but cometh short of Faith.

Well now, thus far many goe; there may be an owning of the true Orthodox Re­ligion, only out of Custom, Chance, of Birth, Education, tradition of Ancestours; they may talk much, as Parrots repeat mens words by rote only. There may be Convictions and Opinions about them, they may be perswaded those things are true that are in the Word of God, and yet no firm assent.

(2.) But to come nearer yet, the next Adjunct, 'tis a cordial and hearty assent, such as engageth the Heart to Christ. We read in Scripture of believing with the Heart, Rom. 10.9. and believing with all the Heart, Acts 8.37. Truths are propounded to us in the Scripture not only as true, but good things, of great weight and moment, as well as certain. Believing is an hearty business; now this cordial and hearty Assent excludeth Historical Faith, and Temporary Faith.

First, Historical Faith, which rests in a naked speculation, or a simple and naked assent to such things as are propounded in the Word of God: This consisteth in a meer Speculation of the Mind, without any change of the bent of the Will and Affections. True Faith ever overcomes all contrary inclinations and motions, so that Gods Interest may prevail above them: Heb. 11.13. Being perswaded of them, they embraced them. Those who have a meer historical Faith, are not excited to holy Living; are rendred more knowing, not better: this is a real Faith in its kind. Si­mon Magus did really believe by the preaching of Philip, Acts 8.13. 'twas not coun­terfeit, for 'tis said he wondred. And those in John 2.24. that believed in the Name of Christ, but Christ would not commit himself to them, for he knew all men. And no question the Devils do really believe, James 2. not only natural Truths, but Gospel Truths. I know thou art the holy one of God. What a Confession is this out of the Devils mouth! Therefore 'tis a wrong to say that unregenerate men do not believe. Because this being the main business in hand, I will tell you why 'tis called Historical Faith: Not from the Object of it, as if they only believed the Histo­ries of the Scripture: No, they believe Promises, Threatnings, Doctrines, Precepts, Mysteries. But 'tis called Historical Faith, from the manner wherewith 'tis conver­sant about its Object: As we read Histories in which we are no way concerned, only for contemplation and Knowledge sake, not to make a Party in their Broils, or interpose in their quarrels; so they rest in idle Speculations, which betters not the Practice. Well now, this speculative assent they may have; this Faith doth not only believe those things that are true, but doth heartily and truely believe them.

Secondly, There is besides this, temporary Faith; that is, such an assent as is accom­panyed with a sleight and insufficient touch upon the Heart, called a taste, Heb. 6.4. so that they do not only believe the Truths of the Gospel, but are tickled with some delight, and do in some measure find their Hearts drawn off from wordly lusts and practices; but the Impression is not deep enough, nor the Joy rooted enough to [Page 7] counterballance all temptations to the contrary. They seem to have their hearts loosened from the World, and to preferre Christ before the Creature, as long as no Temptations do assault, or sensual Objects stand up in any considerable strength to intice them, but then they bewray their weakness. But that Faith that is serious and hearty, doth so believe the Promises of the Gospel, as to seek Happiness in them, to make it his business so to believe the mysteries of our Redemption, as to build all his Comfort and Peace upon them; so believe the Commands of God as to frame his heart to observe them: in short, to improve every thing to the use of Holy Living.

II. The next Theological [...]race is Hope: Here was an expectation of the Bride­grooms coming as well as a belief of it: all Christians profess that they expect Christ to come to Judgment, and many desire and hope to be entertained at the Nuptial feast as well as others, and hope to goe in with him into coelestial Joyes: Now there may be much of this in temporaries, not only a bare Profession, but some real motions this way; Oh how often are they pressed to keep on this joy and comfort; Heb. 3.6. Whose house are we if we hold fast the Confidence and rejoy­cing of the hope firm to the end: And Heb. 3.14. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our Confidence stedfast to the end: And to maintain it with all serious diligence, Heb. 6.11. that it may grow into more certainty: But to evidence this to you, let us see what Christian Hope is: It seems to be described by the Apostle, Rom. 2.7. Those that seek for Life and Immortality by patient continuing in well doing; or a Looking for the Mercy of God unto Eter­nal Life, Jude 21. Or more formally, a certain earnest or desirous expectation of blessedness promised, in that way wherein 'tis promised. We believe there is such a blessedness, therefore wait with earnestness and patience 'till it come to pass, and exercise our selves with all diligence for the obtaining it. True hope ever quickeneth our diligence, Act. 24.16. And herein do I exercise my self, to have al­wayes a Conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men: Most Interpreters say, Hereupon do I exercise my self; he had spoken of the hope of Israel, so that 'twas upon the account of his hope he did use that diligence: But more plain­ly, Acts 26.6, 7. Vnto which hope our twelve Tribes serving God diligently, hope to come: A man that hopeth for any thing, will earnestly pursue it in the way where­in 'tis to be obtained, and follow his work close day and night: There is an Hope that is but a devout sloth, but the true Christian is lively and active, 1 Joh. 3.3. He that hath this hope in him, purifyeth himself as Christ is pure: Ignorant Peo­ple say they hope well, that he that made them shall save them, but live as if they fled from Heaven and Salvation; but the true hope encourageth us to hold on our course with diligence and chearfulness, notwithstanding the troubles and difficulties, and temptations we meet with in the way to it: They make it their constant work and business; now they that are unrenewed may go far in hope, especially when they are under the Initial work of the Spirit; they may have not only the careless mans hope, which is a sleight and superficial hope, which groweth upon them they know not how, without any warrant or ground; nor a dead and cold hope, which is the fruit of Opinion, a loose and fond conjecture rather than a certain expectation; but an Hope that hath some Life in it; nor the Presumers hope, which is a lazy loytering Hope, that severeth the end from the means, but may have some lively tasts, which for a while sets them a work in the spiritual life; but the fault is, 'tis not so fixed as it should be, neither doth it beget in us that constant assiduous labour, seriousness and Self-denyal, but enough to keep up a blazing Profession, but doth not make them so earnest for the Possession of what they hope for.

III. The third Theological Grace is Love or Charity, Love to God, and love to our Neighbour: there is somewhat of both here; they were well affected to the Bridegroom, they went forth to meet and carry Lamps before him, for his Ho­nour as well as Light; and they went in consort and company with their fellow-Virgins: So some are so well affected to the wayes of God, as to make Profes­sion of them to the People of God, so as to walk with them. But let me speak of Love to God; Love to God is not a fellow-like familiarity, but ready sub­jection to his Laws: If ye love me, keep my Commandements, John 14.15. and 1 Joh. 5.3. For this is Love, that we keep his Commandments: Now they may so far do this, as to make Profession of the wayes of God, and walk blameless in them as [Page 8] to men, yet strangers to Heart-mortification, and a true preference of God in the Soul. The knowledge of Christ may make men cleanse their external Conversati­ons, but live in secret love with some lusts which they serve in a more cleanly man­ner. They love Happiness more than Holiness, they love God but do little for him. Labour and Love are often spoken of; they have not that active and serious dili­gence that is commanded in doing the things that please God. Then for Love to the Brethren, they may magnifie the People of God, Acts 5.13. joyn with them, and do many offices of Love for them; but the Heart needs to be purified, before there can be that unfeigned love to the Brethren, 1 Pet. 1.22. And 'tis not easie to hold on in the wayes of God in all Conditions. There are many sins contrary to the grace of Love, pride, envy, self-seeking, self-love, wrath: it must be such a Love as floweth from holy Principles, and breaketh out in real performances: And this to be carryed out in a Christian manner, will be found very hard to doe.

2. Second Reason, Though a common work may go far, 'tis not likely to hold out: Their Lamps went out, and they had no Vessels to supply them. Notwithstanding the sudden pangs and fervours, and forward Profession of Temporaries, yet usually they fail in the issue: they believe for a while, Luke 8.13. and hope for a while: Col. 1.23. If ye continue stedfast, and be not moved from the Hope of the Gospel: Love for a while, Matth. 24.12. The Love of many shall wax cold; and good reason, part­ly, because they have not the grace to which the Promise of Perseverance is made: There is Donum perseverantiae, there is such a thing as the gift of Perseverance, and 'tis assured by Promise to special saving Grace. Now they that have not this radi­cated state of Grace, have not this Promise; for Christ saith, John 4.14. The wa­ter that I shall give him, shall be a well of water springing up to eternal Life: A Cruse may fail, a Bucket emptied, a Pond dryed up, but a Fountain is ever flowing, and never dryed up: Therefore David prayeth, Let my Heart be sound in thy Statutes, that I be not ashamed. When the Heart is not sound before God, disorders break out before men, and many that make a fair shew for a while, afterward shipwrack themselves, and all their Credit for Godliness. And partly, Because where the Heart is not thoroughly converted to God, evermore some temporal good thing lyeth too close to the heart, and hath a deeper rooting there than Grace can have. And these base and carnal delights will in time prevail over the Interest God hath in the Heart. Heb. 12.13. That which is lame, is soon turned out of the way. De­mas hath forsaken us, and embraced the present World. Men of an unsound Heart have some temptation or other that carryeth them quite off from God; as old Eli fell and brake his Neck, so they break the neck of their Profession.

3. Third Reason, Why many that are Virgins come short of the Nuptial Feast, because if they should hold out a constant Profession, it will not be enough to qualifie them for Heaven and everlasting Happiness. 'Tis possible an unrenewed man may never fall from his Profession, yet he can bring nothing to perfection. Luke 8.13. The Stony ground fell from their profession, but the Thorny ground brought nothing to perfection. All are not exposed to great Tryals; Oh! nothing but a real Conver­sion will qualifie us for the Kingdom of Heaven. The foolish Virgins case was as fair and as good as the other, till the Bridegroom came. Matth. 18.3. Except ye be converted, and become as little Children, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: The Sentence is absolute and peremptory. So Joh. 3.3. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Nothing less than renewing Grace will serve the turn: Be a man in appearance better or worse, a gross Sinner, or a painted Phari­see, a hopefull beginner, or one of long standing, except ye be born again, ye can­not see the Kingdom of God.

1. Vse, Is to shew, how far from Salvation some are, if those that have some kind of Faith, and Hope, and Love, may come short: As for instance, First, All practical Atheists, and Infidels, that scoff at Christs coming: 2 Pet. 3.3, 4. In the last dayes there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts, saying, Where is the pro­mise of his coming? Some that they may sin the more securely, question the second coming of Christ, or banish out of their Hearts the thoughts of the day of Judge­ment. Many that went out to meet the Bridegroom, yet were foolish Virgins, and were shut out. Secondly, Flagitious persons, or scandalous Sinners, that neither respect Christ nor his people, that make no shew nor preparation, are neither Virgins, [Page 9] nor do they take their Lamps; if they have an Historical certainty, not a tem­porary Faith. How much then of the Christian World would be cut off before we come to an accurate and exquisite Tryal? 2 Pet. 3.11. What manner of per­sons ought we to be? and Gal. 5.24. They that are Christs have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof. If this be a sure rule to try by, what a multitude of Christians are there that do not belong to Christ, that by a real Profession have given up their Names to him?

2. Vse, Is Caution to us all: let us take heed we do not deceive our selves, or rest satisfyed with the picture of Godliness. An Army would be very cautious if they knew before-hand that one half of them should be destroyed; now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Among the Virgin Professors that hold out an honourable Profession, many will be found foolish. Yea, when Christ had said, One of you shall Betray me; Lord, is it I, is it I? said the Disciples: Now you are here told not one but many; now goe home, and say, Lord, is it I? In the purest Churches many may lye hid and not discerned: Oh, therefore take not up with weak and groundless hopes.

(1.) Do not please your selves by being of such a Sect, or such a Profession. Men think the safest place to lie asleep in, is Christs own lap: If they are of such a party, they think they are safe: but consider, Lead may be cast into all forms, an Angel or Devil, but 'tis Lead still. Consider, God is an exact and impartial Judge, 1 Pet 3.17. If you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth all men; his People as well as others, if they build upon their Profession. Do not content your selves with a Form of Godliness, though never so strict, nor a Name of Godliness though never so renowned. These were Virgins, not defiled with Errour or Idolatry, or the scandalous customs or fashions of the world; yet some of them were foolish Virgins.

(2.) Do not content your selves that you do not take up a Profession and an Intention of Religion meerly to serve the times, and your selves of it, not know­ing your selves intentionally and industriously to counterfeit; as Judas that follow­ed Christ for the Bag, being in his Heart a Traytor, and a Thief from the be­ginning, John 13.6. or as Simon Magus at first hoped to make as good Market of his new Faith as his old Sorcery, professed to believe in Christ out of design. Nay, a man that for any thing he knoweth or perceiveth, may think that he is in good earnest, yet he may be a Temporary, though he is no Temporizer. Christ knew them that knew not themselves, Joh. 2.24. To speak in a word, though you may know nothing of Guile, yet do not content your selves with that meerly.

(3.) Do not rest in this, that you find some real work, and go no farther. A mans Heart may be softened, but not opened to the purpose: he may have a love and liking of Religion, and yet not come under the power of it; some flash­es of Comfort, yet seek his Happiness in worldly things; some desires and good inclinations, and yet be slothful and negligent in the main, in mortifying Lusts, or not perfecting Holiness; and fain would have some part in Christ, but yet make but slender preparation; get Oyl in his Lamp, but not in his Vessel; fain he would have the Blessings of Grace and Glory, if bare wishes and desires would do it; fain would goe to Heaven, but would do nothing for it, unless it be in a lazy, cold and dull preparation; doth not make it the chief business of his Life to know the Will of God and do it.

3. Vse, Is to Exhort us to be very serious in our Preparation for the coming of the Lord; or as the Apostle cautions the Ephesians, Eph. 5.15, 16. See that ye walk circumspectly, not as Fools but as wise. To this end consider,

First, That our whole Life is nothing else but a preparation for Christs com­ing. The common Duty of all Christians, is to go forth and meet the Bridegroom; or to make sure of Life Eternal, is the necessary business we have to do in the world: Our whole Life was appointed for this end, and all the time we spend here is worse than lost, if it be not imployed and used for this end. 'Tis now Pre­paration time; these are the Months of our Purification for our Immortal Souls, therefore our continual care should be to make ready.

Secondly, We may deferr this work too long, we cannot begin it too soon. The foolish Virgins would get Oyl in their Vessels, but it was too late. Never [Page 10] any complained of beginning with God too soon: many could have wished they had known the wayes of Righteousness sooner, Rom. 13.11. Many have judged the time past more than enough, 1 Pet. 4.3.

Thirdly, 'Tis not so sleight and easie a thing to get to Heaven as the World imagineth, Mat. 7.14. Strive to enter in at the streight gate, for many shall seek to enter and shall not be able. Many deceive themselves; 'tis not so broad as the Opi­nions of some, as the practices of more would make it, and the carnal hearts of all would have it. Broader or narrower it cannot be than Christ hath left it. In the General, a man may come much too short, none go over. Oh! when you do but consider that many are afar off, Eph. 2.13. and some are near, as Christ told the young man, Thou art not far from the Kingdom of Heaven; and others are scarcely saved, and some enter abundantly, it concerns us therefore to take heed to our selves.

Fourthly, This is your Wisdom. There is a great deal of doe in the World about Wisdom. Job 11.12. Vain man would be accounted wise: A man cannot endure to be counted a Fool, will sooner own a Vice in Morals, than a weakness in In­tellectuals. Now Wisdom lyeth in Providence, and folly in Negligence, especially in weighty matters: These wise Virgins provided Oyl in their Vessels, and the wise Builder built upon a Rock. They are wise in Gods account, whatever the World thinketh of them, that are wise for Heavenly things, and govern their hearts and ways exactly, Eph. 5.14, 15. and they are fools that never mind the good of their Souls.

What would you have us do? I will only press you to three things.

  • 1. Let your Belief be sound and firm to the great Articles of Christianity; 'tis Faith enlivens all our notions of God, John 6.69. We believe and are sure that thou art Jesus the Son of God.
  • 2. Let your Resolutions for God be unbounded, Psa. 119.112. You never knew a man fall off from God, but he loved some secret Lust, some corruption was left unmortifyed, though for the present it did not appear to the party himself; this in time will break out, and cause some scandalous fall.
  • 3. I would have you put it out of all question by the lively Exercise of your Grace, and by your diligence in the spiritual Life, Phil. 2.12. and in time 'twill grow up into an evidence, 2 Pet. 1.5. Luke 13.3. Nothing will yield you com­fort, but the exercising and increasing Grace.

SERMON II.

MATTH. XXV. v. 3, 4.

They that were foolish, took their Lamps, and took no Oyl with them;

But the wise took Oyl in their Vessels, with their Lamps.

NOT only the openly wicked, those that eat and drink with the Drun­ken, are rejected, but those that have some shew of Godliness; yea, hopefull beginnings, but not improved, is the drift of this Parable. We have considered wherein the ten Virgins agree; now, wherein they differ: They had so much Wisdom to take their Lamps with them, but so much Folly as to take no Oyl in their Vessels. These Vessels were annexed to their Lamps, or that part of the Lamp which was kind­led and lighted. By the Lamps are meant outward Profession, Matth. 5.16. by the [Page 11] Oyl, the Spirit, called the Anointing, which abideth in us, 1 Joh. 2.27. Now the foolish Virgins, are such inconsiderate Christians as content themselves with the Name and blaze of outward Profession, neglecting the great work within; name­ly, an inward principle of Grace, which should maintain their Profession before men, and their Uprightness before God; they had only some transient motions of the Spirit, or inclinations to that which is good, enough to keep up their pre­sent Profession, but not to hold out and suffice at Christs coming. But the wise Virgins, that had Oyl in their Vessels, with their Lamps, are sound and solid Christians, who with the Lamps of external Profession, are careful to be furnish­ed inwardly with the Graces of the Holy Spirit.

  • 1. Doctrine: 'Tis not enough to have Oyle in our Lamps, but we must have Oyle in our Vessels also.
  • 2. Doctrine: This will be found to be our true Wisdom, and the other to be the great­est folly.

For the first point, That 'tis not enough to have Oyl in our Lamps, but we must have Oyl in our Vessels also.

Let me explain this point in these Propositions:

1. Profession must not be neglected: both the wise and the foolish took their Lamps with them: burning Profession is twofold, Vocal and Real; Vocal, Rom. 10.9. If thou shalt Confess with thy Mouth, and believe with thy Heart: Christ will be owned by those that are his, Christs followers need not be ashamed of avow­ing their Master: Faith should not, and Love cannot be smothered and hidden; therefore Profession is as necessary as Believing, in its kind. Again, there is a Real Profession, not so much by word of Mouth as by constant Practice and Con­versation; so Christians are bidden to shine as Lights, Phil. 2.15. This is for the glory of God, Mat. 5.10. and the Honour of Christ that it should be so; there­fore the Apostle prayeth, 2 Thes. 1.11, 12. Wherefore we Pray alwayes for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fullfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of Faith with Power, that the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you: 'Tis not meant of the illicite acts, but the Fruit that it produceth; and 'tis for the honour of the Truth: Suitable Practice joyned with Profession, puts a Majesty and splendor on the Truth, and recommendeth it to the Consciences of Beholders; Titus 2.10. Adorn the Doctrine of God our Saviour: 'Tis not so much by good words and expressions that Christians do put a loveli­ness and beauty upon the wayes of God, as by ordering their wayes with all strictness and gravity: So that this fair Profession is of great use, especially the real part; it is an evidence that all is right within, for the breaking out of sin and folly in the Life, clearly evidenceth the power and prevalency of unmortified Lusts in the Heart: Therefore we must keep our Lamps burning; the foolish and the wise did both well in that.

2. A Profession of Godliness, though never so glorious, should not be rested in, without a saving work of Grace upon the the Heart to maintain it; there was the folly of one sort of Virgins, that they were contented with having Oyl in their Lamps for their present use, without looking further; and the Wisdom of the other, that their Vessels were furnished as well as their Lamps; Grace must flow forth, but withall it must have a bottom within: As a Fountain or Spring send­eth forth streams to water the ground about it, or the heart sendeth forth Life and Spirits to every faculty and member, so the Graces of the Spirit in Believers flow forth in their Carriage and Behaviour, to make their Tongue drop that which is savoury, their Actions orderly and even, their Carriage in all relations and affairs grave and serious. 'Tis well when all this hath a bottom, that there is a prin­ciple of Life within, to diffuse this vertue into every part of their Conversations, and to keep them mindful and respective to all the Commands of God: Now this is required, (1.) Partly, because this glorious Profession and Practice will not serve the turn for the present: For, God looks not to outward appearance, but regards the frame of the heart; 'tis internal Holiness that is lovely in his eyes, Psa. 51.6. and without which the external is loathsome to him, Math. 23.17. A Christian hath more in the Vessel than in the Lamp [...]; Psa. 45.13. The Kings Daughter is all glorious within. That which is outwardly professed, is inwardly rooted and che­rished [Page 12] by them who worship and serve God in Spirit and Truth. Knowledge, Faith, Love, Hope, Zeal, Courage, Patience; these adorn the Heart, as well as the Fruits of them appear in the Life, and this maketh us beautiful in the eyes of him that seeth in secret. It would help us to discover our mistakes, if we did make God our Witness, Approver and Judge; for the present studying to approve him in the frame of our hearts, which is hidden from all others. And (2.) Partly, because the Lamp will not long hold burning, unless there be a stock of Oyl to feed it; so that if it could suffice for the present, yet without Grace in the Heart, for the future, we shall miscarry when the slender Provision and store is spent. A Christian is to provide for the time to come, such Grace as my endure and hold out in all tryals, and bear weight in the day of Judgment. We are often pressed, to set our selves in such a state, and put our selves into such a frame, as will endure the glory of Christs presence; and to think of that time, and what we shall doe, or how we shall be found when he appeareth. He only believeth aright in Christ, that will not be ashamed at his appearance. Luk. 21.36. That ye may stand before the Son of Man: And 1 Joh. 4.17. That we may have boldness at the day of Judgment. And 1 John 2.29. When he shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed of him at his coming.

3. A saving work of Grace, is an inward Principle of Life, and that in such a de­gree and measure, which the unsound, though the most glorious Professors of the Gospel, do not attain unto. Some sleight and insufficient touches upon their hearts, many Professors may attain unto; that yet never had this rooted Principle of Grace, which may properly be called Oyl in the Vessel: It differeth in Radication and Effi­cacy, as I shewed before. They are inlightened, but the day-star doth not arise in their hearts, 2 Pet. 1.19. And Eph. 5.8. A flash of light they may have, but are not light in the Lord. Are affected with the Truths of the Gospel, but not changed or transformed by it, 2 Cor. 3.18. Sin may be restrained, or benummed, but 'tis not subdued, and mortified, Gal. 5.24. we cannot say 'tis crucified: They are half loosed, but are still in bonds; make some shew of escape from Sathan, but are sur­prized by him again; worse hampered than before, Matth. 12.45. urged, excited to some good, but not enabled and inclined to love God with all the heart; and seriously and constantly to set about the things that please him, and to avoyd the contrary: They have not the Grace the Apostle prayeth for, Heb. 13.12. That Grace, that may make you perfect in every good work, to do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ. Have you this Grace, to be alwayes working that which is pleasing in his sight? Their Fire is like a straw-sire, soon in, and soon out; so that there is a difference: The common Grace that they have, is real, but not of an abiding and everlasting nature; not secured by Gods Covenant and promise; there is not that solid, rooted Piety. Therefore, 'tis not enough for Christians, to see that the Lamp burneth, but to look what there is in the Ves­sel, to feed the Flame: 'Tis not suddain affections on our part, nor the transient motions of the Spirit on Gods part, that will amount to a constant principle of Life.

4. This constant, abiding state of Grace, or Principle of Life, may be known; part­ly, by the Terms by which it is set forth in Scripture; and partly by the Effects of it.

First, By the Terms by which 'tis expressed in Scripture.

(1.) 'Tis expressed sometimes with respect to the Original Author, Pattern, and Fountain of it, which is God. And so, it is called the divine Nature, 2 Pet. 1.4. whereby is not meant the Infinite Essence of God, which can neither be divided, or communicated to any Creature; but of those holy and heavenly qualities, and dispo­sitions whereby we resemble God. The heart of this Christian is so stamped with Gods own Image and Character, that he beginneth to look like God, for wisdom, holiness, purity, pity. So sometimes 'tis called the life of God, Eph. 4.18. that spi­ritual Life that is begun in Regeneration, is so called; not as God is the first original Author of Life natural, but the Pattern of it. From both these places it appeareth, we must first be partakers of such a Nature as God hath, before we can live such a Life as God doth.

(2.) 'Tis sometimes expressed with respect to the meritorious and procuring Cause, or the immediate Head and Fountain of it; and so Christ is said to live in us, Gal. 2.20. to dwell in us, Eph. 3.17. to remain in us as the hope of Glory, Col. 1.27. [Page 13] That Christians may live the Life of Grace, they must first be united to Christ; for he liveth in us as the Head in the Members, or the Root in the Branches: We must be united to Christ, and receive influence from him as Branches from the Root. Through Faith Christ is perpetually present in Vertue, Grace and Spirit. We must first partake of Christ himself, being most strictly united to him, as Members to the Head, from whence they receive sense and motion: He taketh up a fixed and unmoveable habitation in our hearts, Joh. 14.23. not for a Visit and away; but keepeth a perpetual residence in the heart.

(3.) With respect to the immediate Authour, and Fountain, which is the Spirit given to us, to dwell in us, by some special way of operation, Rom. 5.5. And 1 Cor. 2.12. Now we have not received the spirit of the World, but the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given us of God. And Rom. 8.11. If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you: A believers Body and Soul is the Spirits Mansion-house, and those that have the Spirit to dwell in them, not to come upon them at times, are in an abiding state of Grace. The Spirit came upon Ba­laam at times, Num. 24.34. but in his People he makes his abode: He doth act in others as a Spirit assisting, but not as a Spirit inhabiting: He dwelleth in his people. The Spirit is often promised to dwell in our Hearts, not only for a season, but for ever, John 4.14. The water that I shall give him, shall be a Well of water springing up to everlasting Life: Mark, the Spirit doth not give a Draught, but the Spring, not a Dash of rain that is soon dryed up, but a Well; not a Pond that may be dryed up at length, but a Fountain that ever keepeth flowing, so that we shall never thirst more; it shall quench his thirst after worldly Vanities and Delights: These things grow tastless, the more of the Spirit we have. The Spirit of Christ as the Fountain, doth make this Grace enduring in its self, and in its effects; a Well of inexhaustable fulness and refreshment. So John 7.38. He that believeth in me, out of his belly shall flow Rivers of living water: Not a petty refreshment for a sea­son, but his Spirit to dwell in us as a full Fountain, to flow forth for the refresh­ment of himself and others: Though the Ocean be in God, yet there is a River in the Saints: in Christ there is plentitudo fontis, in us plentitudo vasis; if we find any remission of the Comforts of this Spring, it's through our own Pride, and Un­belief, and Idleness. John 14.16, 17. I will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: The Spirit will not change his dwelling place. This is such a degree of Grace, as the unregenerate World cannot receive.

(4.) This inward Principle is expressed with respect to the Instrument, which is the Word of God: so 'tis called [...], Jam. 1.21. the ingrafted Word: The root of the matter is within; 'tis not the word heard only, or the word obeyed only will save us; but it must be an ingrafted Word; 'tis not bound on, but in­grafted; 'tis not enough to yield some present Obedience to it, but it must be rooted in us: So in that notable Promise, Heb. 8.10. I will put my Laws in their minds, and write them upon their hearts: The Writing is the Law of God, the Tables are the Minds and Hearts of men, that is the understanding, and will, and rational Ape­tite, and this is written by the Finger of God; there where is the Source and Ori­ginal of all moral operations, of all thoughts and affections, and inward motions, there is the Law of God written; in those parts of the Soul where the directive Councel, and the imperial commanding power of all humane actions resideth; there will God write his Laws in lively and legible Characters; and what is the effect? A man becometh a Law to himself, he carryeth his Rule about with him, and hath a ready and willing mind to obey it, Psa. 37.31. The Law of God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide: The truth is rooted in him, and his heart is suited and inclined to it; he unfeignedly loveth what is commanded of God, and hateth what is forbidden by him.

(5.) The work its self is sometimes generally expressed by these Notions: 'tis call­ed [...], the New Creature, 2 Cor. 5.17. when a man is thoroughly framed anew in all his Faculties: And 1 Joh. 3.9. 'tis called [...]the abiding Seed; not a vanishing affection, but a remaining seed; and 'tis called a good Treasure, Math. 12.35. There is a stock that supplyeth holy Thoughts, Words and Actions: As a man that hath a bad Treasure of Corruption, the more he spends, the more 'tis encreased; so a man that hath a good stock, he bringeth forth holy Thoughts, Words and Actions: And 'tis called a new Heart, and a right Spirit, Psal. 51.10. Ezek. 36.26, 27. and 'tis called a sound heart, Psa. 119.80. There is a slight heart, [Page 14] and a sound heart, which is not only opposed to the shows of Hypocrites, but to the suddain pangs and half dispositions of Temporaries; when Grace beareth an universal soveraignty over us, inclining the heart to love, and please, and serve God.

(6.) Sometimes the work is particularly expressed by the several Graces of the Spirit, all which are comprized in Faith and Repentance: Acts 20.21. Teaching them Repentance towards God, and Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ: Repentance to­wards God, because by it we return to the Duty we owe to our Creator; and Faith in the Gospel notion, doth principally respect our Redeemer, and his medi­ation for us. By Repentance we return to the Duty injoyned by the Law, from whence we are fallen; and by Faith we apprehend the Love of Christ, and what he hath done for us: By Repentance we are set in joynt again, as to our Obedi­ence to the Law-giver; and by Faith we close with, and are united to our Re­deemer, without which we cannot be accepted with God. Both are the Prin­ciples of all sincere Obedience and subjection to the Gospel-law or Covenant.

If you ask me, What is this Oyl in the Vessel, that we must have to qualifie us to meet the Bridegroom at his coming?

Answ. 'Tis Repentance, mortifying our inward Lusts; and Faith working by Love.

[1.] Repentance, mortifying our inward Lusts, that in newness of Life we may glorifie God; therefore called Repentance from dead works, Heb. 6.1. By common Grace men may cast off all outward evils, escape the pollutions of the World, but are never really and inwardly changed in their natures, 'till the Spirit of Christ worketh this Grace in the Heart; they are but as a Sow washed, 2 Pet. 2.22. there is an inclination to wallow in the Mire of carnal delights again. 'Tis possible a man may see such an excellency in Christ, and be so affected at the hopes of his Mercy, and melted at the thoughts of his Love, as to cast off outward gross evils which the World liveth in; but this is but the Sow washed, the heart is not changed. Lust for a while may be benummed, seem quenched, but 'tis not dead­ned, 'tis not weakned; If ye through the Spirit mortifie the deeds of the Body, Rom. 8.13. as appeareth by its breaking out again with the more violence.

[2.] Faith working by Love; that is the great principle of Gospel-obedience. True Grace doth not lye hid in the Soul in lazy habits, but sets the Soul awork for God, upon the apprehension of his Love in Christ; this constraineth us intire­ly to give up our selves to God, 2 Cor. 5.14. Minding his Interest, studying his Will, seeking to please him in all things. A man is not to be judged by present pangs, but by the constant bent and bias of his Soul; 'tis set Godward, to please him, and enjoy him, notwithstanding the back bias of Corruption.

Secondly, We now come to the Effects: The Effects are Two.

  • 1. A constant fitness, readiness and propension, to doe and suffer what God call­eth us unto; or an habitual Inclination of Heart towards that which is good.
  • 2. An habitual Aversation to that which is evil.

First, An habitual Inclination of Heart towards that which is good; this is call­ed in Scripture, the having the heart at the right hand, Eccles. 10.2. He speaketh not of the natural posture, but the leaning of the heart towards Duty, he is rea­dy fitted and prepared for Duty: And sometimes this is called, having our Loins girt, 1 Pet. 1.13. as ready to travel; or it noteth the ready disposition that should be in us for Duties or Conflicts: so we are his workmanship Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Eph. 2.10. that is, put into a fitness and aptitude for them: As every thing that is created, hath a fitness and aptitude for that use for which it serveth; the Water to flow, the Air to be carryed too and fro: so a Christian hath a fitness for his work: The opposite to this, is that, Titus 1.16. To every good work reprobate; unfit to be imployed for this holy business. Briefly, as every habit serveth for this use, Vt quis facile, jucunde & constanter agat; to perfect the Operation of that faculty in which it is seated, so that a man may act easily, pleasantly, constantly; so doth habitual Grace serve for this use, to incline us, and fit us for the Service of God. There are three things that are found in those that have this work wrought in them.

1. There is an Inclination and Propensity to a Godly Life: For as God crea­ted all Creatures with an inclination to their proper operations, so the new Crea­ture hath a tendency to those actions which are proper to its state; as the sparks [Page 15] flye upward, and the stone falleth downward, from an inclination of Nature; so are their hearts bent to please God and serve him, and what they do therein, they do with a kind of naturalness, because of this bent and inclination; The Law is in their Hearts, Psa. 40.8. There is a purpose there, Acts 11.23. An inclination there, Psa. 119.112. We read in Exod. 35.29. That they gave to the Sanctuary Every one whose Heart made him willing. I bring this expression to explain what I am speaking of; so their Hearts being thus prepared and renewed by the Ho­ly Ghost, make them willing; there is some weight and poise within their Hearts to carry them unto God, and the Duties that concern his Glory and Service. A man may act from a violent Impression contrary to nature, as a Stone moveth upward, or a Bowl thrown with great strength where the bias is over-ruled; so a wicked man may do a good action or two, as Saul forced himself, but the bent and natural inclination is another thing. 'Tis good to attend to the principle of our motions, whether it be natural or violent; whether our spirits make us willing, or some accidental reason constrain us: As when men are acted by something forreign, as the force of holy example, whereby many a man is drawn to do otherwise than he would, as Joash while Jehoiada lived, 2 Chron. 24. A man may be acted by his company, follow good examples, and may be provoked thereby. Heb. 10.24. Let us consider one another, to provoke to love and good works. It were well if one Christian would more provoke another. Man is an imitating Crea­ture, loath to be outdone; but if this be all, we shall soon bewray our unsound­ness: He may be forced by Envy, Vain-glory and by-ends, (Phil. 1.5.) to Preach or Pray, forced by natural Conscience, Rom. 2.14, 15. or set a work by a cor­rupt Principle. The urgings of a natural Conscience are quite another thing than the bent of a renewed Heart; there is a principle of life which breedeth an in­clination. He may be forced by a sense of his misery; Self sets him awork to seek after God, because he would use him for a turn, to help him out of his Di­stress; as those in Psal. 78. verse 34, to the 37th. When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and enquired early after God; and they remembred that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer: Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lyed to him with their tongues: For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his Covenant. Their affections were not sincerely set for God, or towards God, or bent against sin; the sense of a present Wrath, or the terrour of an angry God, did drive them into a Fit of religious­ness for the present, which can produce no stedfast purpose. They that make Self their utmost end, can never endeavour constantly to please and glorifie God, but where true Grace is, there is a propensity and disposition to every good work, which we should alwayes cherish in our selves; for as it abateth or increaseth, so we are diligent or sluggish in Gods Service.

2. There is not only an Inclination, but a Readiness or Preparedness, which is a further effect of this solid and substantial Grace; and often spoken of in Scrip­ture, as Titus 3.1. Ready to every good work: Ready to distribute, 1 Tim. 6.18. Rea­dy to Communicate, Heb. 13.16. So Paul, Acts 21.13. [...], I am ready not on­ly to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem. Or take a general place, 2 Tim. 2.4. Pre­pared to every good work: And Luk. 12.47. That Servant that knew his Lords Will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his Will▪ So Eph. 2.10. and many other places. This goeth beyond Inclination, as fire hath an inclination to ascend upward, but something may violently keep it down that it cannot ascend actually. A Christian may have a Will to good, a strong and not a remiss Will, yet there are some Impediments, Rom. 7.18. For to Will is present with me, but how to per­form that which is good I find not. Inclination implyeth a remote power; but Rea­diness the next or immediate power. Gods People that have the seed of Grace in them, yet how unready are they to that which they desire to do! therefore a Christian ought alwayes to keep himself in all readiness and fitness of dispositi­on for his Duty, whether it concern God, or our selves, or others. This is oppo­site to dulness, sleepiness, listlesness or wearisomness in our Service, opposite to [...], which the Schoolmen make to be one of the seven deadly sins, a remiss, cold Will, hanging off from God.

3. An earnest Impulsion, which quickeneth us to all holy endeavours of Obe­dience; this is sometimes called the activity or working of Grace, Faith worketh by love, Gal. 5.6. Sometimes Zeal, or an earnest burning of affection towards God, [Page 16] or that holy Ardor whereby we repress those affections; unruly motions and de­sires which are contrary to his Will, and do excite and stir up our selves more and more to honour him, and please him; Titus 2.14. Zealous of good works: Some­times Alacrity and Chearfulness, as we prevail in striving against sin, and our Love to God increaseth, 1 John 5.3, 4. All these are as so many degrees. First, We make Conscience of doing our Duty, but that's not enough; a Convinced man may have his Conscience stirring and pleading for God; but a Converted man, or a renewed Heart, hath an inclination, and not only an inclination but some fitness, and not only some fitness but there is an impulsion, which discover­eth its self either by stirring or exciting to that which is good, (though with difficulty) which is the lowest degree. All Grace is stirring, and would fain break out into action; for 'tis not a dead and sleepy habit, but seeketh to break forth, and is called by the Apostle, The Lustings of the Spirit, Gal. 5.17. Ano­ther Degree is Zeal and Love to the glory of God, whom they honour and de­sire to exalt continually; which maketh them complain of Corruption, and to strive against it, and to shake off sloathfulness, and the weights of sin that hang upon us, when the Spirit gets the upper hand, but the flesh is not easily subdu­ed. Then we are more at liberty to serve God, and so Alacrity followeth, when a man hath Pleasure in good actions, and the Flesh is so overcome and subdued that it can make little or no opposition, and so we perform our Duty with more ease and delight, which is the highest degree.

SERMON III.

MATTH. XXV. v. 3, 4.

They that were foolish, took their Lamps, and took no Oyl with them.

But the wise took Oyl in their Vessels with their Lamps.

I Come now to the Second Effect.

Secondly, An habitual Aversation to that which is evil, Psal. 97.10. Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: 'Tis as natural to Grace to hate evil, as to love good. As Love was made for God, and the things which he hath Commanded, and tends to the enjoyment of him; so Hatred was made for sin, and what is contrary to God. Man hath an eschewing faculty as well as an embracing and choosing faculty, and Grace falleth upon both, and sanctifyeth the one as well as the other, Amos 5.15. Hate the evil, and love the good. Love was given us for good, and Hatred for evil; Love was made for the chiefest good, and all things that tend to it; and Hatred for that which is truely and properly evil. Now concerning this Effect of Grace, I shall observe these things.

1. Grace produceth an Hatred of sin, not a bare abstinence from it: Sin may be restrained by forreign reasons not proper to Grace, as a Dogg that hath a mind to the Bait, may abstain for fear of the Cudgel. So Men may abstain because of the Penalty of Laws, Infamy, shame in the World, or other rea­sons; as Haman refrained himself, that he might the better take Revenge upon the whole race of the Jews. Men may refrain from sin, when there is not a root­ed Enmity against it; whereas in the Saints there is a constant Principle of re­sistance [Page 17] against it, 1 John 3.9. [...], The Seed of God abideth in him. The Grace of Sanctification doth change the nature of a man, and his Heart is set against that he loved before. Look, as the Lord will not respect mens external practice of Good, when it may be their Hearts abhor and loath it, and are bent on other courses, he requireth chiefly that they be rooted in the Love of good, and delight in it; so he will not accept a simple not-doing or forbearing evil, while it may be their Hearts are going a Whoring after it, but will have them really hate and detest it; that there should be an abiding Enmity in their Hearts against it; and where 'tis so, that there is an habitual Love of good, and hatred of evil, Christ will pass by many failings in practice, as you may see Rom. 7.22, 23, 24, 25. that is the Case there, The evil that I hate, that do I, and I de­light in the Law of God in the inward man. Clear these two once, and the re­mainders of sin will not be your ruine.

2. Grace produceth an hatred of sin as sin, out of a principle of Love to God, and as it is contrary to his Law, and the new nature planted in us. Ye that love the Lord, hate evil; and he that is born of God, sinneth not; that is the principle, because the Seed of God abideth in you. The School-men distinguish of two sorts and kinds of Hatred, Odium abominationis, and Odium inimicitiae; the first is defined by Aquinas to be Dissonantia quaedam appetitus ad id quod apprehenditur ut repugnans & noxium; an aversation of the Appetite to what is apprehended repugnant and con­trary to us.’ Such an hatred there is in the regenerate, for they apprehend sin as repugnant, and contrary to their renewed Will; to the unregenerate 'tis agreeable and suitable, as Draffe to the appetite of a Swine, or Grass and Hay to a Bullock and Horse. The other is an Hatred of Enmity, so called both for the ground of it, and the effect of it; the ground as an evil, that which is an Enemy and hurtful to us, as sin is to our Peace and Happiness Temporal, Spiritual and Eternal; but chiefly as to the effect of it, Hatred is a willing of evil and mischief to the thing or person hated. Both these Hatreds are in the Children of God: They hate sin, not only as it may bring Loss and Detriment, horrour of Conscience and Damna­tion; but out of the pure Love of God, as 'tis contrary to his Image and Will, and they hate it with an hostile Hatred, so as to seek the destruction of it; Non cessat in laesione Peccati, sed in exterminio; it doth not scratch at the Face of sin, but is seeking to mortifie and subdue it: and therefore are alwayes Mourning, Praying, Watching, Striving, Famishing it by cutting off its Provisions, and denying its Sa­tisfactions, and still following the work close, 'till we get the Mastery of it.

3. I Observe, That renewing Grace doth so far obtain and produce this effect in the Hearts of those that are under it, that their Hatred to sin is greater than their Love to it; and sin is thereby more and more weakened and subdued in the Soul. We flatter our selves with notions of Love and Hatred, unless there be some an­swerable Success and Prevalency. It cannot be Imagined that sin should Live in its full strength, where there is a fixed, settled frame of Heart against it; that there should be in the Soul a working, warring principle that shall rouse up a man dayly to take heed of it, as the greatest evil; and yet sin should be as pow­erful, and as frequently and freely break out as it doth in others; no, where there is such an enmity, hostility and irreconcileableness, or to say in a word, such an habitual aversation, it cannot be, 1 Joh. 3.9. He that is born of God doth not commit sin, his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. He that hath such a blessed change wrought in him, by the operation of Gods Spirit, as to be transformed in the Spirit of his mind, it cannot be suppo­sed but that Grace will have such Energy and efficacy upon him as to prevent the life and growth of sin, and restrain the practice of it; that the habits of Grace being cherished, this must needs be famished and starved by degrees. A man that hath a fixed root of ungodliness in him, he is at sins beck, the Devils Slave; but a permanent habit of Grace doth produce a constant carefulness, that God be not dishonoured or displeased. The Apostle telleth us, That Christ bore our sins in his Body upon the tree, that we being dead unto sin, may be alive unto righte­ousness, 1 Pet. 2.24. Now certainly this effect is obtained in those that have be­nefit by his Death, or have assured it by Faith; before they were alive to sin, be­ing active, and delighting in the Commission of it, but dead to Righteousness, im­potent and indisposed for any spiritual act; but afterwards their love to sin is weakened, and their Hearts quicken'd to spiritual Life. Once more, That there [Page 18] is a decay of the evil Principle, appeareth by that of Gal. 5.16, 17. This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh▪ for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. This place sheweth, that the lusts of the flesh, though they be not wholly abandoned, yet they shall not be fulfilled. We take it otherwise, but the meaning is, The unrenewed part shall be kept under; we can­not fully effectuate the evil we would. The Spirit alwayes opposeth what we would do according to the direction of the Flesh. There are two Active principles never wholly dead. The flesh doth not advance with a full gale, but meeteth with a con­trary tyde of resistance from the Spirit.

1. Vse, Is to Reprove those, that can afford a little Religion, but cannot afford enough. It may be good words, without practice; or practice, without principle. Good words without practice; many talk well, their notions are high and strict; but observe them narrowly, and you will find them cold and careless: like the Car­buncle, at a distance it seemeth all on fire, but touch it, and it is Key-cold. Be warmed▪ be cloathed, will not pass for Charity, nor Opinions for Faith, nor Notions and elevated Strains for Godliness. You would laugh at him that would think to pay his Debts with the Noise of Money; and instead of opening his Purse, shake it: 'Tis as ridiculous, to think to satisfie God, or discharge our Duty, by fine words, or heavenly Language, without an heavenly Heart or Life; or afford practice without a Principle, or an inward disposition or inclination of heart to holy things. 'Tis not enough to do good, but we must get the Habit of doing good; to believe, but we must get the Habit of Faith; to do a vertuous action, but we must have the Habit of Vertue; to perform an Act of Obedience, but we must get the Root of Obedience. The Soul must be divested of evil Habits, and decked and adorned with habits of Grace, and endowed with new and spiritual Qualities; before it can have a Prin­ciple of Life in its self. But most men content themselves with a little good Af­fection, that is soon spent: Hosea 6.4. Ephraim's goodness is like the morning dew, that wets the surface, but is soon dryed up. Many have some good things in them, but they want a firm Root; which is, an habitual Inclination towards God. Oh, the difference that is between a man that forceth himself to do good, and one whose Heart is inclined to do good! He doth not go to it like a Bear to the Stake, but with a native willingness: he is inclined to think of good, inclined to talk of good and holy discourse; inclined to pray, to exercise himself to Godliness: The Lord hath put a new Nature in him, and he feeleth an internal Mover, or an inward Im­pression, that moveth him: This is Life, but 'tis little regarded. Many have a shew, but Life cannot be painted; otherwise, an handsome Picture of Godliness men may keep up.

But what are the Reasons of this?

(1.) Negligence: They are loath to be at the pains to get Grace, to be at the ex­pence of brokenness of Heart, and that humble waiting, and earnest praying that it will cost us. A Form is easily gotten, and maintained; painted Fire needs no fuel to keep it in; vanishing Affections are soon stirred. A little remorse in a Prayer, or delight in a Sermon they may have; but it will cost us labour and diligence, to have the Heart strongly bent towards God: Prov. 13.4. The Soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the Soul of the diligent shall be made fat. All excellent things have their incident difficulties, and nothing is gotten without diligence, la­bour, and serious mindfulness. That which is opposed to common Grace, is, casting off sloathfulness, and a diligence to keep some full assurance of hope to the end, Heb. 6.11, 12.

(2.) Inconsideration. They do not consider, how they shall appear before Christ at the day of Judgment. Therefore are they called foolish Virgins, because they did not foresee all Events, to provide against them: As, if the Spouse should come later they thought this Oyl they had might suffice, or they should have opportunity to get more. Christianity is a business of Consideration: When Christ had laid down the Terms, he biddeth them sit down, and count the Charges, Luke 14.28. A Builder doth but lay the foundation of his shame in his Cost, if he be not able to carry on the Building; a War were better never be begun, if we have not means to maintain it. If you mean to build for Heaven, to bid defiance against the Devil, [Page 19] World and Flesh, you must not rashly engage, but deliberately resolve. We must consider the Quality of Christs Laws, what visible Oppositions there are, that we may knowingly, all difficulties considered, put our selves into his hands. There is an anxious and serious deliberation necessary; otherwise, to leap into Profession sleightly, maketh way for Apostasie, or else for such a cheap Religion which costs nothing, and therefore is worth nothing.

(3.) Some unmortified corruption, or indulged Lust, which hindereth both the Ra­dication and Prevalency of Grace. The Heart divided, touched partly with God, and partly with the Creature; neither loosed nor unloosed, but between both, can never be sound and upright. Jam. 1.8. A double-minded man is unstable in all his wayes. A man must purge himself from Lusts, before he be a Vessel fit for Gods use, 2 Tim. 2.20. There is some delight in lawful or unlawful things, that lyeth between us and Christ; and is so near and dear to us, as to draw away the Heart, at least in part, that the heavenly Plantation cannot thrive and prosper in our Souls, Luke 8.14. There is some unmortified root of bitterness. Jer. 4.3, 4. Sow not among thorns, plow up the fallow ground. Till God be our scope, Religion can never be our work. If the pleasing, enjoying, or glorifying him, were more sincerely intended, other things would come on with more ease and success; as the Water floweth of its own accord, if the Pipe be not leaky. If the Honour of Christ, his Glory, Will, and Command, lye nearest and closest the Heart, then sin would be more loathed than any other thing, more feared, more avoided, and we would follow our work more heartily. We are enlivened in the Means, by an unfeigned regarding of the End; our carelesness cometh from this, that God is only minded as a matter by the by. The End and Means alwayes go together. If any thing be prized more than God, or equal with him, or apart from him, a little Grace and Godliness will serve the turn: If God were intirely our End, we would be mainly for him, and most in­dustrious to approve our selves to him; if it be not so, something there is, that causeth that neglect, that must be found out; something that cloggeth thy heart, and detaineth thee from this effectual pursuit; some lust, the gratifying of which is the delight and pleasure which contents us, and therefore are we cold and sleight in Religion.

(4.) Vnbelief. For, faith doth enliven all our Notions of God, and Christ, and Hea­ven, and the day of Judgement, and maketh them effectual, and powerful: The Apostle telleth us, Heb. 11.1. That Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It puts a presence into things, and so affects us, as if the things believed were before our eyes: Otherwise, a man cannot see things at a di­stance, 2 Pet. 1.9. Christ and Eternity are afar off. Hence to an Unbeliever they seem little; and therefore, 'tis not made a business of the greatest weight or Impor­tance to seek after them. At the day of Judgment how will wicked men stamp, and tear their hair, when matters of Faith become matters of Sense, that they mind­ed them no more! Oh! if I had known this, I should never have dreamed out my time as I have done, (saith the convinced Wretch) but made a more serious bu­siness of my preparation. If the day of Judgment be too far off, let us lay the Scene a little nearer: Suppose one of the damned Souls now in torments, that feeleth that which he would never believe, thus crying out; Oh! had I thought my Lazy desires and good meanings would have done me no more good, that my sloathful­ness would have ended so sadly; I would rather have wept out my Eyes, and have filled the World with sorrowful Complaints; I would have bereaved my self of sleep by Night, and refused my Bread by Day, rather than to have wanted time to have thought of God, and the great Affairs of my Soul. If our Faith be so short-sighted, that we cannot look as far as the Region of darkness, time may come in this World, that we shall wish we had done more for God, and our precious and immortal Souls. First or last we bear witness to this Truth; when the neglected Soul cometh to be separated from the pampered Flesh, or over-prized body: If we would learn to shut the Eye of Sense, and open the Eye of Faith, we might see it now.

2 Vse, Is to press you, to get Oyl in your Vessels; to be rooted and grounded in Faith, settled in Love, Hope, Zeal, Temperance, and perfect what is lacking to every grace. That you may be sensible what I exhort you to, I shall give you the summe of it by degrees.

1. Do not meerly affect the reputation of Good People, and rest there. As the [Page 20] Lord saith of the Church of Sardis, Rev. 3.1. Thou hast a Name that thou livest, and art dead. Do not rest in this, that you have a Name to live; God judgeth not as man judgeth: Man judgeth according to outward appearance; but God judgeth ac­cording to the reality of the thing. Many have the Name without the Thing. Isa. 48.2. For they call themselves of the holy City, and stay themselves upon the God of Is­rael: That is, they get themselves a Name, to be his People; but they have not the Thing its self. On the other side, we read of some, that are Israelites indeed, John 1.47. Some are only so in the shew and outside, and some are Disciples in­deed, Joh. 8.31. so in reality; others are so in pretence only. There is no true ground of solid Comfort but in this, in being real Disciples: so Joh. 8.37. we read of some that were free indeed. The Jews had the Name of free men, but were not free indeed; stood upon their Liberty, they were in bondage to no man. Some are Religious indeed, humble indeed, fear God indeed: when a man hath gotten the Thing, he may referre himself to God for the Name.

2. Do not rest in a common work of Grace. Look, as in the Beasts there is some little tincture of Reason; so in Temporaries there is something that looks like saving Grace, but is not; something that resembles it, and looketh most like it; yet 'tis but the shadow of Grace, not true Grace it self. Historical Faith is the shadow of true saving Faith. There are some outward Lineaments of Repentance, in Ahabs Humiliation, and Judas his Compunction; of spiritual Affection in Herod's delight in John; and the stony ground received the Word with joy: And some shew of Refor­mation there was in those that escaped the pollutions of the world. Therefore if you rest here, without a powerfull and inward affecting of the whole Heart, you may come short of glory. The Grace of Temporaries is good in its kind, but must not be rested in: 'Tis good in its kind, 'tis like priming the Post, to make it recep­tive of other colours; 'tis an inchoate, imperfect thing. They are affected almost with the same feeling the Godly are, come very near. How nice a point is that wherein the Temporary and the real Christian differ! Both pray with sorrow, hear with joy, perform duties with some enlargement and sweetness: Simili fere sensu afficiuntur: Yet as two Hills may seem very near at the top, when their bottoms are far distant one from another; so these Operations may seem near together, when in the bottom and root they much differ. These motions argue Gods Spirit working on them, not dwelling in them; actuated they are with the Spirit of Christ assisting, but not reforming; as an Angel sometimes appears in an assumed Body. But 'tis dangerous to rest in this, it maketh our sin and Judgement the greater, if after a taste we rest in a common work. Historical Faith, if not growing into a saving sound Faith, 'tis a kind of mocking of God, and an Hypocrites portion. As for in­stance: We profess to believe him Omniscient, yet fear not to sin in his presence; Omnipotent, yet cannot depend upon his Alsufficiency; to believe a day of Judge­ment, yet make no preparation for our Account. Tit. 1.16. Mens sins and Judge­ments are aggravated according to the sense they have had of Religion, and so their latter end may be worse than their beginning, 2 Pet. 2.20. And sad it will be for those that from hopefull beginnings fall off from God. I will tell you, a man may live and die with a temporary Faith and Affections to God and Holiness, without making any visible Apostasie, and yet have no sound Faith of the right Constitution: Yea, if you regard what little rooting Grace hath in mens hearts, how weak their Pulse beateth this way, how strong their Affections are to the World and the things there­of, how little they can vanquish the cares and fears of this world, and the tempta­tions that arise from voluptuous living; 'tis to be feared the far greatest part of Christians are but Temporaries.

3. Oh then! be sure to get this truth of Grace into your Hearts; let your Hearts be effectually subdued to God, let there be a Principle of Life set up in them: Re­ligion respects our Principles as well as our Performances. 2 Tim. 1.5. The end of the Commandment is Charity, out of a pure Heart, and a good Conscience, and Faith un­feigned. There must be a renewed Heart as the fountain, a well informed Consci­ence as our guide, and Faith unfeigned as our great encouragement: And so all acts of Charity to God and men, are accepted with God as a piece of Obedience done to him. If we will not regard the Manner, God will not regard the Matter. Oh then get this renewed Heart, and a lively Faith, and an awakened Conscience: This is to get Oyl into your Vessels, and if once you get this, it will never fail, but increase exceedingly, like the Sareptan's Oyl.

[Page 21]But how shall we get it?

I answer, (1.) You have this Oyl from Christ. The Unction is from the Ho­ly One, 2 Joh. 2.20. As the Precious Oyl was first poured on Aaron's Head, and then came down to the Skirts of his Garment; so Christ is first possessed of the Spirit, and then we have it by our Union with him. Joh. 1▪ 16. Of his fulness we receive Grace for Grace. We must go to the Fountain every day to seek new supplies. Christ was anointed with the Oyl of gladness above his fellows, Zech▪ 4. Christ is represented by the Bowl and the two Olive Trees, that alwayes poured forth Golden Oyl. Christ as Mediator, is the Store-house of the Church; who is intrusted with all Gifts and Graces for our benefit. Oh bring your empty Vessels to this golden Olive-tree. The Widdow only brought Casks, the Oyl fail­ed not till the Vessels failed.

(2.) If you would have it from Christ, you must use the Means of Grace; the Word, Prayer, Sacraments, Meditation. We need continual supplies, must use continual Prayers, seek the Grace of the Spirit to keep in our Lamps, Luk. 11.13. So the Word; God droppeth in something to the Soul that waiteth on him. Mark. 4.24. Take heed how you hear; for with what measure ye mete it shall be mea­sured to you again. If we be earnest and diligent in waiting upon God, God will abound to us in blessing his Word to us. So for Meditation; Mat. 13.19. The High-way Ground did not bring the Word to their minds again; doth not re­volve it, mindeth it not, heedeth it not. So for the Lords Supper; 'tis a means to root us in the Love of God when we so often renew our Oath of Allegiance to him, to excite our Faith in Christ. All these are a price put into our hands, to get Oyl in our Lamps, and prepare for his Coming.

(3.) Keep your Vessels clean. The Spirit dwelleth not but in a clean Heart: Doves build not their Habitations on Dung-hills. He cometh as an efficient Cause, as a Spirit assisting, before he comes as a Spirit inhabiting, and purifi­eth our Hearts by Faith.

(4.) After you have gotten this Oyl, cherish it, that it may not decay. Of its own nature it would do so; witness that stock of Original Righteousness which Adam had. Gods Promise by which it is secured, supposeth our endeavours to waste it. Luk. 8.18. Whosoever hath, to him shall be given; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

(5.) Do not only cherish, and keep it from decay, but see that you encrease it. 2 Pet. 1.5. Add to your faith vertue, and to vertue knowledge. 1 Thes. 3.10. Per­fect what is lacking. 1 Thes. 4.1. That as you have received of us how you ought to walk, and please God, so you should abound therein. A little Faith will be as no Faith; not honourable to God, nor comfortable to you, nor useful to others. All our doubts, perplexities, uncertainties, come from the smallness of our Graces: 'Twill not make an Evidence, therefore give diligence. No endeavour, labour, pursuit after God, but hath its recompense; not an earnest thought, an earnest Prayer, or time spent: What shall I say? They whose Hearts are upon the wayes there­of, go on from strength to strength: You are almost at home; nearer than when you first believed: Then you thought all your pains too much, now all too little.

Let me apply all to the Sacrament.

1. There we come to meet the Bridegroom in a way of Grace: The Marriage Covenant between God Incarnate, and his espoused Ones, is here celebrated and solemnized. The Sacrament is a Transfiguration of the last Marriage Supper; to ascertain us what entertainment we shall have at the Day of Judgment, when the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, shall be made ready, and cloathed with fine Linnen, Rev. 19.23. and then be received in to the Nuptial Feast. Blessed are they that are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. All is now prepared in this Duty.

2. In some respect there should be a Serious Preparation for the one, as for the other; as we would prepare to dye, or prepare to meet Christ the Judge. Christ did not wash his Disciples feet when he took them with him to Tabor, to his Transfigu­ration, but when he took them with him at his last Supper, Joh. 13.7. Surely, to rush upon the presence of the Bridegroom with a perfunctory, careless, common frame of spirit, is a dangerous thing. When a People come hand over head, prepare themselves slightly, pray slightly before they come, and live carelesly and negli­gently; they slight the Bridegroom, and wrong themselves; strengthen themselves [Page 22] in sin, rather than against it. Methinks it looks like going to the Day of Judg­ment: Here we receive the Pledges of our Salvation or Damnation.

3. We should come with Oyl in our Vessels as well as in our Lamps.

(1.) Our Lamps should be kept burning bright. If you are sluggish now, 'tis a sign you are slight in the whole. Surely, now the King sitteth at his Table, Cant. 1.2. our Spicknard should send forth the smell thereof; a lively exercise of Grace. Now we come for meat which perisheth not; now is our familiar converse with Christ, and near Communion with him; now we come to our Legal Investiture; Christ and all his benefits are delivered by these signs which he hath instituted. As if a man should say, Here is my House, when a Deed is delivered, and you give up the Key, or give possession of Land by a Turf: This is our solemn taking possession of him and all his benefits. We receive Christ in the Promises of the Covenant, but here is a particular close Application. In the Word Christ is offered, and exposed to all, as the Brazen Serpent; that whoever looked upon him might be healed: But this Supper is like the Blood sprinkled upon the Door-posts. In the Word, Christ and Immortality are brought to light; now Christ is slain before our eyes: The Bread is put into our hands and mouths.

(2.) We should come with Oyl in our Vessels. Would we have the Spirit blow upon a dead Cole? He findeth nothing in us to work upon. We are bidden to examine; and what must we examine? 1 Cor. 11.28. The Apostle will tell you: Whether you be in the faith or no? 2 Cor. 13.5. But to speak to this case: I con­fess, that in Foro Ecclesiae, in the Court of the Church, all are Virgins that take their Lamps, that do profess to believe; all these must be admitted: But in Fo­ro Coeli, in the Court of Heaven, none but Converted ones are admitted: But in Foro Conscientiae, in the Court of Conscience, I dare not discourage those that have the grace of the second or third ground: 'Tis a means to strengthen them in Faith, Hope, and Love, and make them more firm in the Covenant of God. And the difference is too nice between temporary Grace and saving Grace, for any to exclude themselves. I am bound to come with Grace, but I am not bound to come with Assurance. Besides, in the Kingdom of Grace Christ will not shut them out. They that have good affections should come, but with this caution; I would press them to mind the renouncing and engaging part of the Covenant, and earnestly to break the League between themselves and their own wayes, and engage themselves more firmly to God for time to come; that you may not think as you have done, or speak as you have done, nor behave your selves in your Relations as you have done; but throw sin out of doors. I would press you in the Apostles words, Heb. 10 22. Let us draw near with a true heart, having our Hearts sprinkled from an evil Conscience, and our Bodies washed with clean water. The one relateth to the Duty-part, Let us draw nigh with a true heart; the other relateth to the Promissory part. Though your Grace be common Grace, 'tis this way moulded into special.

2 Doct. That this will be found to be true Wisdom, and the other Folly.

For Wisdom, (to begin with that.) Wisdom is Index sui & obliqui. Wisdom lyeth,

1. In proposing a right End.

2. In the Choice of fit Means. And,

3. In an earnest Prosecution of the End by these Means. This is the property of Wisdom in the General, and it holdeth true in Godly Wisdom. The wise Virgins did so: Their End was right; to be admitted in to the Nuptial Feast, or everlasting enjoyment of God: And then they use right Means, such as will bring them to the end. We do not use to draw Ships in the Sea with Horses, nor draw Wagons with the Wind. We must not use contrary means, nor insufficient means. We cannot go to to the bottom of a Well that is thirty foot deep, with a line that is but ten foot: We must use such as will certainly do. The Wis­dom of God hath fixed Means for us, and we are doubly Fools if we will not use them opportunely, carefully and constantly: Else 'tis a Prize put into a fools hand, Prov. 16.17. The Wise Virgins did all this; sought Oyl in time both for their Lamps and Vessels, Luk. 13.24. On the contrary, he that contents himself with a profession of Christ, without a work of Grace upon his Heart, is a Fool; he is [Page 23] not a Profane Fool, that doth the contrary, but a Professing Fool; that sort of Profession is better than Prophaneness, so far 'tis a degree of Wisdom, but rest­ed in 'tis Folly, it faileth in all the points of Wisdom in the end; they do not esteem the Lord as the chief good: for they think a little ease of the Flesh, or a little sensual Liberty, or a satisfaction of a Lust to be better, or Honour, or Pleasure, or Gain, this quiets them in the neglect or want of God; they see some good in Christ, offer fair for him, but take him not as the chiefest good; they are willing to part with something, but not with all for his sake.

SERMON IV.

MATTH. XXV. v. 5.

While the Bridegroom tarryed, they all Slumbred and Slept.

WE have seen wherein they differed, now we shall see again wherein they agree: In the words observe,

  • (1.) What happened to the Virgins, They all slumbred and slept.
  • (2.) The Occasion of it, (I do not say the Cause) While the Bride­groom tarryed. The Cause of sleeping was, Infirmitas humana; the Occasion of it, Mora Sponsi: In the first of these,
    • 1. Who, They all.
    • 2. What, slumbred and slept.

First, Who: They all. 'Tis no wonder to hear it of the foolish Virgins, but that the wise should do it, there is the difficulty: Therefore some of the Ancients understand it of Death, which is called sleep in Scripture; but that is improba­ble, and suiteth not with the frame and drift of this Parable. Some would un­derstand it distributively, not conjunctively; that the wise slumbred, and the fool­ish slept; but 'tis not said slumbred or slept, but slumbred and slept. The mean­ing is, all of them were not so diligent in their Duty as they should have been: even the good are in part negligent as well as the foolish, though they alwayes keep a good Conscience, and an heart in some measure alwayes prepared to meet Christ.

Secondly, What: Slumbred and slept. Wherein the degree of their security is set forth, they did not only slumber, which is a less failing, but Slept.

Thirdly, The Order: First slumbred, and then slept.

Doctrine, That the Foolish and Wise both Slumber and Sleep.

I shall First enquire, What this Slumbering and sleeping is?

Secondly, How far it may befall the Children of God, or the Wise Virgins.

Thirdly, The Causes and Reasons of it.

First, What this Slumbring and Sleeping is? 'Tis twofold, that of the Body, and that of the Mind: That of the Body, when the Senses cease for a time to do their Office: That of the Mind is a secure State of Soul, and that is twofold, Moral and Spiritual.

(1.) Moral. When Reason and natural Knowledge is as it were asleep and useless to us, a man doth not act as a reasonable Creature: Psal. 94.8. Oh ye bruitish among the People, when will ye be wise? and Psa. 22.27. All the ends of the Earth shall remember and turn to the Lord: Psa. 119.59. I thought on my wayes, and turned my feet unto thy Testimonies: If men did improve common principles, shew [Page 24] themselves men, they could not continue in that course of Life wherein they allow themselves. In part this Sleep of Reason may befall the Children of God: they do not consider nor turn their minds to their Affairs, nor act as men whose Eyes are open.

(2.) Spiritual Sleeping. Here I shall shew the Nature and Effects of it.

First, The Nature of it; when Graces are not lively and kept in exercise. I shall instance in those three Theological Graces, Faith, Hope and Love; a weak dead Faith, a feeble Sleepy Love, a cold and careless Hope.

1. A weak and dead Faith, that consists more in a Form of Knowledge than a lively assent to the Truths of Godliness. A dead oppinionative belief may stand with a carnal Life, Jam. 2.20. Faith without works is dead. The Word of God is come to them in Word only, not in power; it puts no Life into what we do believe, 1 Thes. 2.13. Doth not work effectually: This will fit the slumbring and Sleeping of the foolish Virgins, but alas the Wise have their drowsie fits, the Truths of the Word concerning God, Christ, Heaven and Hell, have not such a lively influence upon them, by the blandishments of worldly Prosperity. Faith is fallen asleep, ready to give place to the Flesh, and they are governed more by Fancy and Appetite than by the Heavenly mind; there is no consideration of the Va­nity of earthly things, the Heart is kept strange to God and Heaven, and the Soul is taken up with carnal projects more than it should be.

2. A feeble sleepy Love, which doth not level and direct our actions to the great end of them, which is the pleasing and glorifying of God, so that they live too much to themselves. Love in vigour doth over-rule us to live unto God, 2 Cor. 5.14, 15. For the Love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one dyed for all, then were all dead; and that he dyed for all, that they should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who dyed for them and rose again: And this keepeth us more sincere and uniform in our course, alwayes tending to the great end.

3. A cold and careless Hope; When there is not that earnest and desirous ex­pectation of Blessedness to come, which doth fortifie us against the allurements of sense: Math. 6.19, 20, 21. Lay not up for your selves Treasure upon Earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where Thieves break thorough and steal; but lay up for your selves Treasure in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where Thieves do not break thorough and steal; for where your Treasure is, there will your Hearts be also; They do not mind their true Treasure.

Secondly, The Effects of this Sleepiness are seen in these things.

(1.) In some Intermission of their care and caution. Watching is a diligent ta­king heed to our selves and wayes, so as we keep our selves from sin. We are in constant danger of sins that come on us by insensible Degrees, Psa. 39.1. I said, I would take heed to my wayes, that I sin not with my tongue. The best are surpri­zed, and Corruption often breaketh out; we may say of them, as Christ of the Damsel, they are not dead but sleep. The Children of God are sometimes overta­ken by their inadvertency, Gal. 6.1. or overborn by the violence of Temptations, Jam. 1.14. Inconsiderately and suddenly surprized with some sin: So subtle and assiduous is Sathan in Tempting, and so ready is Corruption to close with the Temptation as soon as it is represented, that if a Child of God doth but abate any thing of his Circumspection and diligence, he will be surprized by some one sin or other, and thereby be brought to dishonour God, and to lay a stumbling block before others. Besides those sins of daily incursion and suddain surreption, Sathan lieth in wait to draw us to greater Offences, that may dishonour God, and wound our Peace, and scandalize the World against our Profession.

(2.) Some abatement of our Zeal and fervency. We are not alwayes fervent in Spirit, and do not keep up our Life and Seriousness in the Duties of Holiness; our Graces are not actuated and kept in exercise, but suffer some decay, though they be not quite dead. Faith is weak, Love is cold, Math. 24.12. There is not that lively Hope, 1 Pet. 1.3. Christians should not only be living, but lively, 1 Pet. 2.5. Ye as living Stones —: Nay, There may be so great a damp and quenching upon us, that there is no outward visible difference between a dead man and a dying Christian: All things in us may be ready to dye: Revel. 3.2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to dye. Life is even quite gone in some cases, when sin hath made fearful havock in the Conscience.

(3.) In Forgetfulness of non-attendency to the Lords coming: When we live [Page 25] merrily, quietly, in a careless and unprepared Estate; this is necessarily to be ta­ken in as the cause of the two former. In the slumbring and sleeping of the fool­ish Virgins the Case is clear; Christ's absence or tarrying long is the occasion the World takes to grow secure and wicked; the Scoffers walked after their own Lusts, because they said, Where is the Promise of his coming, 2 Pet. 3.3, 4. And in the degenerate Church, the reason why they were given to Sensuality, carnal Pomp and Persecution, is set down, Math. 24.48, 49. My Lord delayeth his coming: There­fore the Officers of the Church smite their fellow Servants, and eat and drink with the Drunken; encourage the wicked, and smite the Godly with Censures: As it was with the Israelites, there was no speech of making a Calf when Moses first went up to the Mount, but when he tarryed long; Exod. 32. And as for this Moses we wot not what is become of him; then nothing would content them but making a Calf. The Ordinances and Institutions of Christ had never been so per­verted in the Christian World, but that they forgat Christs coming to see how they have been observed, 1 Tim. 6.14. That thou keep this Commandment without spot, un­rebukeable until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. But now for the wise Virgins, alas! there is not such a constant waiting for the coming of the Lord; for if we did not leave off to think of it, surely we would walk more cautiously, and serve God with greater ardency and alacrity of Spirit; but when we forget it, we let loose the Reins, and slacken our diligence, and yield to the importunity of the flesh, and suffer our selves to be distracted with worldly cares, or benummed with flesh­ly delights, that we do not mind our Duty of preparing for the Lords com­ing.

Secondly, How far may this seize upon Christians? The Question may be sta­ted Negatively and Affirmatively; how far it may, and how far it may not.

First, Affirmatively.

1. It may seize upon them not only when they are young, but when they are of long standing. When they are young; many a man newly Converted, ha­ving had as yet no thorough experience of the strength of Sin, the danger of Temptations, and his own Weakness, may bear a little too high upon the Confidence of his own resolutions, which because they are sincere, he think­eth they will easily obtain their effect. In this rank I put Peter, whilest as yet the Spirit was not poured out, and was only under his Masters wing, I count him but a Novice then, in comparison of what he was afterwards. He was so confi­dent of his affection to Christ and resolution, that he had not a due sense of his danger, Matth. 26.33. But alas, how soon were his unpractised Wings clipp'd, and he taken in the Snare of the Fowler! Honest Peter would not believe such Weakness in himself; and so unexperienced Christians can hardly believe them­selves to be so weak as a Temptation sheweth them to be; the more sincere their purpose is, the more confident they are in their own Strength, even when near a fearfull fall: So a man of long standing being assured of Salvation, may grow negligent, and supposing he hath Grace, and is possessed of the Love of God, presumes that he needeth not such diligence as when he was doubtful of his State; and if he go round in a course of Duty, and avoid grosser sins, he may think 'tis enough, as if he were now past all danger, and so insensibly falleth asleep or into decay: Rev. 3.18. Because thou sayest that I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me Gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white Rayment that thou mayest be cloathed, that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and Eye-salve that thou mayest see. 'Tis not spoken to the gross Carnal, or to beginners, or persons unacquainted with Christ; but to lukewarm Professors, after the first labours of Regeneration, and the difficul­ties of Reconciliation with God are past over, and the terrours of the Law well vanquished, and some peace and confidence gotten; then we are in danger of security, by which means all may run to wast in the Soul, and sins break out and make our blindness and nakedness appear. The wise Virgins slept not 'till their main work was in some measure over: and therefore a strange security and sleepiness is incident to us, and may befall not only the wicked, who scarce ever think of the world to come, being blinded with present things; but those that are good, have their drowsie fits, by which they remit of their Zeal, and grow more dead, and are not so diligent in seeking occasions to do good.

[Page 26]2. When we are in greatest danger, and matters most concerning us are in hand, and God calleth most for our Service, and so have most need to watch, then are we usually most secure; witness the Disciples upon Mount Olivet, after many war­nings given them by Christ, Matth. 26.41, 42, 43, 44, 45. 'Till Christ telleth them, Sleep on now; that is, sleep if you can, it will not be long ere you are through­ly awakened: so often are the Saints slumbering and sleeping, when most need to be awake; and mispend the time in sluggishness and carnal rest, which is grant­ed them to prepare themselves for tryal: So Jonah 1.5. when a Storm arises for his sake, though the Winds blow, and the Sea roar, and the Mariners at their wits end, yet Jonah was fast asleep. Those most guilty, and those whom the cor­rection pointed at, are most secure under it. And Sampson is asleep when the Phi­listines are ready to come upon him. Now, if ever, should men be awake. Now we are awak'ned by Gods providence, and the estate of the Christian World round about us; now we should exercise all the grace and skill we can.

3. They may shew their sleepiness in their publick Relations; as while the envi­ous man sowed Tares, the Husbandmen were asleep, Mat. 13.25. Many times Ma­gistrates are asleep, when abuses creep in, and eat out the bowels of the Com­mon-wealth; and Ministers are asleep while the Kingdom of Christ is undermi­ned, Masters of Families asleep while disorders creep into their houses. Magi­strates are watchers as well as private Christians, Rom. 13.6. who sleep, and neg­lect the care of souls. But especially Ministers are to watch over their peoples souls; and should put forth their utmost care and diligence, Heb. 13.17.

4. It may befall them after some solemn service, 2 Chron. 35.20. After this, when Josiah had prepared the Temple, then he falleth into that rash engagement against Pharaoh Necho, which cost him his life. Hezekiah after his Reformation, fell into pride and provocation of God, 2 Chron. 32. Many times when we have performed some good service to God, we take occasion to be more careless and secure: We think we are priviledged by our former diligence. If the Righteous trust in his righteousness, and commit Iniquity, Ezek. 33.13. that is, upon the pre­sumption that he laid in a Fore-merit. Our hearts will be seeking some unlaw­ful liberty, and we intermit our watch upon such occasions.

Secondly, Negatively. We must make the exceptions that are necessary.

(1.) Though the wise Virgins may slumber and sleep, and there be an inter­mission of the acts of Grace, yet no intercision of the habits of Grace, or radical In­clination to God. Gradus remittitur, actus intermittitur, habitus non amittitur. Some degrees may be remitted, acts intermitted, but the habit not extinguisht: still the seed of God remaineth in them. Love is the predominant habit. Sin doth not possess the heart instead of God, 1 Joh. 2.15. The habitual bent of the Soul is more for God, than for the flesh, or the world: however he fail in some indivi­dual actions, the scope and tenour of his life is for God, and sincere obedience. There is life and sap at the root, though in the Winter the trees be without leaves and blossoms. Cant. 5.2. I sleep, but my heart waketh. There is Faith, and Hope, and Love in their Hearts all this while. The Spirit of God abideth in them, and keepeth alive his work. 2 Tim. 1.14. That good thing which was com­mitted unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. The Spirit remaineth in the Saints, to maintain the habits of Grace: Their choice of God for their portion remaineth unshaken. They have chosen the better part, adhere to it, and have a general purpose to please God in all things.

(2.) An universal slumber is not usually incident to the Saints. 'Tis not the sleep of the whole man as to all goodness; 'tis not in all parts of the soul. If there be a remiss will, and dead affections, yet not a sleepy Conscience; something that taketh Gods part, as appeareth, because they are unsatisfied with this dull and drowsie estate.

(3.) They are more easily alarmed and rouzed up out of it, than others that sleep the sleep of death. Their Faith and Love is soon awake again, and easily set a work for God; there is somewhat to work upon. A true Christian riseth by unfeigned repentance, when his Conscience hath but leizure, and helps to delibe­rate, and bethinks what he hath done; and so much the better resolveth and be­thinketh himself against his sin for the time to come.

(4.) When they rise again, and repent, and do their first works, they are more earnest and fervent than they were before: As it were to make amends for their [Page 27] former languishing, and to redeem the time they have lost, they double their di­ligence.

Thirdly, I come to the Reasons of this Sleepiness.

1. There are two Principles in the Children of God; the Flesh inclining to sleep, and the Spirit to wake, Mat. 26.41. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak; and therefore the degree of Grace which the best attain unto in this life, is mixed with imperfection. The guiding and commanding faculties do but imperfectly direct, and the inferiour faculties imperfectly obey. 'Tis the Office of the Understanding and the Will to command, of the inferiour faculties to obey. There is weakness in all of them; therefore 'tis said, Jam. 3.2. In many things we offend all. The Understanding in many things is but a blind guide; the Will is but in part rectified, and so cannot exercise such a powerful command over our thoughts, passions and senses.

2. Variety of outward Occurrences, working upon the diversity of Principles in us: As sometimes we are in a prosperous estate, sometimes in deep troubles; both may cause this deadness and drowsiness in us. Sometimes deep troubles make us weary of well-doing, 2 Thes. 3.13. so Heb. 12.3. Consider him that endured such con­tradiction of sinners, lest you be weary, and faint in your minds. Now as this weari­ness and heaviness causeth sleep in the body, so it doth in the soul. We are tyred in Gods service, and then our Wheels are clogged. A man may be secure in trouble, but usually he is so in time of peace. Peace, Wealth and Honour are often abused to spiritual drowsiness, and secure neglect of God: Ease slayeth the fool, Prov. 1.32. We had need watch when Delilah spreads her lap for us, and the Delights of the world open their bosom to us. Surfeiting with the abundance of worrldly prosperity, we neglect the Power of Religion, and please our selves with the Form. David enjoying peace and plenty slew Vriah his Friend, who in his adversity spared Saul his Enemy; yea his heart smote him but for the cutting off the Lap of his Garment. In the abundance of outward comforts we sit loose from God; therefore we have those cautions, Deut. 8. from ver. 7 to ver. 14.

3. Conversing with Spiritual Sluggards, that count it an high piece of wisdom not to be too forward. Irreligious Company and Example is a great matter; and hath a mighty force upon us: And though it doth not begin sin in the Soul, it doth increase it, Isa. 6.6. Sin is by propagation, not by Imitation; but yet the contagion of Example is a great advantage to Corruption. To be among warm, heavenly, mortifyed, self-denying Christians, is a great advantage in the spiritual life: There is a notable provocation and excitement in their example. Saul among the Prophets had his Raptures, 1 Sam. 10.10. Heb. 10.24. Let us provoke one another to Love and good Works. This begets a holy Emulation who shall excell; but carnal Company is a deadning thing. We are more sus­ceptible of evil than good; we catch a disease from one another, but we do not get health one from another. By touching the unclean, they became unclean; but he that was unclean, was not purified by touching the clean. The Conver­sations of the wicked have more power to corrupt, than the good to provoke and excite to vertue. A man that would keep himself awake unto God, and mind the saving of his Soul, must shake off evil Company, Psal. 119.115. Depart from me ye evil doers, for I will keep the Commandments of my God. And by evil Com­pany I mean not only the Prophane, who bespeak their own hatred and detesta­tion by their apparent odiousness; but the loose and careless. As we are to take heed that we be not allured to that which is evil, so that we be not deadned to that which is good. Neglect of God will keep us out of Heaven as well as Prophaneness. We easily leven one another with deadness and formality; fre­quent Society with dead hearted persons breedeth it; such whose conference is empty and unsavoury, and altogether of worldly things. Certainly our dulness and backwardness is such, that we need the most powerful helps.

4. Another cause is a dead Worship: Missa non Mordet. Christ compareth spiri­tual Duties to new Wine, Mat. 9. but the Pharisaical Feasts to Taplash, or old unsavoury stuff that hath no Spirits: Old Bottles will endure that well enough. Nothing lulleth the Soul asleep so much as a perfunctory Worship, or sleepy Devo­tions. Christs Ordinances are simple, but full of vertue; his Institutions consci­entiously observed, will keep us awake: Psal. 119.93. I will never forget thy Pre­cepts, for with them thou hast quickned me. Use them much in Faith and Obedience, [Page 28] and Graces will be preserved in us in a lively manner, and constant exercise. 1 Thes. 5.19, 20. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not Prophesying. If you would not quench the Spirit, you must not carelesly use the means of Grace. The words of the wise are as Goads to prick us forward (Eccl. 12.10.) in Heavens way To stir us up to our Duty the Spirit of God sharpeneth and pointeth the Word, that it may be as Goads in our sides. When we are negligent, here is quickning. A dull Mini­stry as well as a dull Minister maketh us fall asleep.

5. Slumber is the cause of Sleeping. Mark the order in the Text: They first slumbred, and afterwards slept. One degree of carelesness makes way for another; and usually there is a lesser degree at first. Take heed of the beginnings of de­clinations. If we would avoid sleep, we must avoid slumber. No man becom­eth stark naught at the first step. One careless Prayer maketh way for another. Give way to it now, and it will settle into an utter deadness at last. Men fear not the danger of little sins, and so are hardened under them, till they fall into greater. Small sins harden as well as great sins; 'tis hard to say which more. Indeed at first little sins seem to awaken Compunction. The prick of a Pin ma­keth a man start, but a heavy blow stunneth him. David when he cut off the Lap of Sauls Garment, his heart smote him; but when he fell into Adultery and Blood, he was like one in a swoon. This is true, but then on the other side, great Sins are more apparent and liable to the notice of Conscience, but we neglect small sins; and so inveterate Custom groweth upon us, and we are insensibly hardened by a carelesness and constant neglect of those kind of sins; yea, some­times more than by gross falls. A surfeit or violent distemper maketh us run to a Physitian; but when a disease groweth upon us by degrees, we have death in our bowels e're we know it. We take care to mend a great breach, but a leak unespyed drowneth the Ship. We have need alwayes to stand upon our watch. Many great mischiefs would not ensue, if we took notice of the beginnings of those distempers which afterwards settle upon us.

6. The Omission of holy Duties, and the want of a constant serious Exercise, induces a secure careless temper of Spirit. Solomon telleth us, Prov. 19.15. Sloath­fulness casteth into a deep sleep, and the idle Soul shall suffer hunger. Labour dispel­leth the vapours, and scattereth them; but sloath and idleness maketh way for sleep. 'Tis true in the Soul: The renewed part hath need of a great deal of spiritual Exercise to keep it awake; much Prayer, much hearing, much fasting. The Apostle saith, Rom. 12 11. Not sloathful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The way to be fervent in Duties, is to be frequent in them. Be much in action, and in the exercise of Grace, that you may be kept fresh and lively. Wells are the sweeter for draining; so is the Soul the more fresh and ready for every good work. In Gifts, we see, if they be not traded with, they rust and decay, and fail; so in Graces, to him that hath shall be given. He that uses his gifts well, shall find them encreased. The right arm is bigger, and stronger, and fuller of spirits than the left, because more in use.

7. Grieving the Spirit, causeth him to suspend his quickning influence; and then the Soul is in a dead and drowsie estate. Though the Children of God dare not quench the Spirit, yet they may grieve the Spirit, Eph. 4.30. The Conscience of a renewed man, after 'tis wounded by gross sins, may be a dead and stupifi­ed Conscience for a long time: Witness David and Jonah.

8. Immoderate Liberty in worldly things: as worldly cares, and fleshly delights. Sobriety is necessary, or a sparing medling with those worldly Comforts that do mightily indispose us for the Christian Warfare, 1 Pet. 2.7. Luk. 21.34. Take heed your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness. Look, as the multi­tude of gross vapours cast us into a sleep, so do these delights and cares stupifie the Soul. Psal. 119.37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way. You will need quickning if you give way to vanity.

VSE, Oh take heed of this Evil. Mark 13.26. Watch, lest the Lord cometh suddenly, and he finde you sleeping. Would you have Christ come and find you in this case?

(1.) Some are wholly in a state of spiritual Sleep. To them the Lord speak­eth, Eph. 5.14. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give thee light. And of such the Apostle speaks, 1 Cor. 15.3, 4. Awake to righteous­ness, [Page 29] and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 'Tis all reason, and more than time, that you should thorowly rouze up your selves from the condition of sin wherein you have gone. 'Tis a shame such should be among Christians; such as snort still upon the bed of Security, when the light of the Gospel shineth round about them. Oh! when God calleth, Awake, and rise from the dead; if not, God may punish you by your own sin. One of his heavi­est judgments is a Spirit of slumber, and deep sleep, Rom. 11.8. And then what will the end of it be? you may sleep, but your damnation sleepeth not, 2 Pet. 2.3. Cer­tainly we should commiserate the case of such, especially if they be related to us; and seek to awaken them from the sleep of sin, that they may be brought home to Christ. Oh poor careless Creatures! they fear not God, nor think of his wrath, nor make preparation to stand before the Son of Man at his Coming.

(2.) There are others apt to slumber now and then, though for the main they have chosen the better part. To these the Apostle speaks, 1 Thes. 5.6. There [...]ore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober. There is great need; Our Adversary watcheth: The Devil is observing all our motions and Postures; if we fall asleep, we are exposed as a Prey to him. There are many that mind our spi­ritual harm. If we had no Enemy without, there is Hostis domesticus, a bosom Enemy; and we are prone as others to be hardned through the deceitfulness of sin. Therefore you may not sleep as do others. You have another Spirit in you, and if you are Gods Children you have other obligations: Rom. 13.11. 'Tis high time to awake out of sleep; for your Salvation is nearer than when you first believed. When you first gave your names to Christ, you thought no labour too much, no pains too great: How vigilant and diligent then; and will you sleep now? Your course beginneth to draw to an end, and you are almost ready to set sail for the other World, that you may meet with Christ. Oh! now you have shaken off the sleep of sin, shake off the sleep of sloath too; shall we be drowsie and cold at last?

  • 1. I shall give you the Signs of this Sin.
  • 2. Motives against it.
  • 3. Directions to avoid it.

First, The Signs.

1. Senslesness, in not discerning and weighing the things that befall us, good or evil. An Instance of the one we have, Hos. 7.8. For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oyl. The Lord is very liberal to us; yet little notice is taken of it. An Instance of the other we have, Isa. 42.25. Yet he laid it not to heart. In Mercies we neither consider their Author, nor their End, nor their Cause. Their Author; we are like Swine, that eat the Acorns, but never look up to the Oak from whence they fall. 'Tis said of the Church, she hath doves eyes; they peck and look upward. VVe should see God in every Mercy. A drowsie unattentive Soul heedeth it not, but is swallowed up in present delights and en­joyments, and looketh no further. 'Tis our Priviledge above the Beasts to know the first Cause. Other creatures live upon God, but are not capable of knowing God. Idolatry and Prophaneness had never crept into the world, if men had kept up the sense of Gods bounty. Some never regard the End of Mercies, which is to draw in our hearts to God; therefore called the Cords of a man, Hos. 6.4. being so many bonds and ties upon us. What honour hath been done to God for this and that mercy? I allude to that in Hest. 6.3. See how David reasoneth, 2 Sam. 7.2. I dwell in an house of Cedar, but the Ark of God within Curtains. When the Heart is urging to Duty upon this score, God hath been good to me, given me food and rayment, and plentiful provision for the comfort of this life, what have I done for God? Not only the Impenitent abuse mercy, Rom. 2.4. but Da­vid lost his awe of God, because he had not a thankful sense of the mercies of God, 2 Sam. 12.7, 8. So for corrective Providences: The Body is a tender part with most men, though they are sensible of the smart of the lash, yet they do not consider the hand that striketh, nor the deserving procuring Cause; they do not look upward nor inward; they do not see the hand of God in it, Isa. 26.11. When his hand is lifted up they will not see: look▪ upon it as a chance, 1 Sam. 6.4. Job had explicite thoughts of God, Job. 1.23. The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken. Nor the Cause, Lam. 3.39. Wherefore doth a living man complain? a man for the punishment of his sins? If Sickness cometh, if a Relation be taken away, if an [Page 30] Estate blasted, a waking Conscience looketh to the Cause. For this cause many are sick, and many are fallen asleep, 1 Cor. 11. We should see the mind of God in his Rod. When the Israelites fled before the men of Ai, Joshua looketh out for the Troubler: So the Children of God search for the sin that is the cause of their trouble.

2. Stupid Dulness, and cold Indifferency in heavenly things: Their want of Zeal and chearfulness in holy Duties; they go about them heavily: Dull of hearing, Mat. 13.5. Cold in Prayer, when they should be fervent and effectual, Jam. 5.6. In all things we shew forth an heartless formality. Grace is asleep in the Soul; and thence cometh a sleepy profession, a sleepy hearing, a sleepy praying, a sleepy receiving. The Word that was wont to be as burning Coals, leaveth no Impression, Luk. 24.32. Your whole Converse with the living God is cold and dead-hearted: In such a condition a man heareth as if he heard not, and prayeth as if he pray'd not, receiveth as if he received not, and mourns for sin as if he mourned not, and re­joyceth in God as if he rejoyced not, looks after Heaven and heavenly things as if he sought them not; and so brings little honour to God, and little profit and comfort to his own soul.

3. Tedious irksomeness in Gods service: They grow weary of the wayes of God. Mal. 1.13. Behold what a weariness is it? Amos 8.5. When will the new Moons be over, and the Sabbath past? Shall God do so great things for us in Christ, and shall any thing which God hath commanded be grievous to us? How unkind is this? neither have we an hard Master, nor hath he enjoyned us tedious work; but all our duties have a sweetness in them: Micah 6.3. Do not my words do good? You carry it so as if God did not deal well with his people, or were not easie to be served. His Commands are not grievous, and his Yoke is easie; Tryals sent by him not above measure, his Corrections not above our deserving; therefore why should we snuff at his service? Weariness and repining at Gods service is an ill sign. God loveth and requireth a willing people. This weariness, though it doth not make us wholly abandon Gods service, yet it makes us slight it, and mind it no more than how to get it over any way. Oh take heed then of grow­ing weary of Religion, and attending on the duties thereof; to look upon these as distractions, or matters by the By, or interruptions of the work we would be upon. They are lead much by sense and carnality, that esteem nothing but what yieldeth a pleasure to sense, or gratifyeth the outward Man.

4. Forgetfulness of Changes, and vain dreams of worldly happiness. When we have a carnal Pillow to rest upon, we fall asleep, Psal. 30.6, 7. A Christian should sit loose from all earthly things. There was Leven in the Thank-offering. We should be contented to dwell in Booths as the Israelites. Psal. 39.5. Surely every man in his best estate is vanity.

5. Carnal Complacency. The peace and pleasure which you live upon, is fetched more from the world than from God, and Heaven; and you live in quietness of mind, not so much from the belief of the love of God in Christ, and the hope of Hea­ven, as because you feel your selves well in your bodily estate, and live at ease and in prosperity in the world, and have something grateful to the flesh, Luk. 12.19, 20, 21. Oh! that soul is in a dangerous condition, when the World is so pleasing and lovely to it, that it can take contentment and delight in it with­out God, or apart from God. To many worldly prosperity is so sweet, that it can keep them quiet under the guilt of wilfull sins. When you have your hearts desire for a while, you can forget Eternity, or bear those thoughts with security, which otherwise would amaze your Souls.

Secondly, Motives.

(1.) Your Enemy watcheth; The Devil is never asleep, 1 Pet. 5.8. he observeth you in all postures, and watcheth all possible advantages against the Children of God; and will not you stand upon your Guard, and look about you?

(2.) If you sleep, you hazard your selves to the Whip, or Gods severe Correction. Hos. 5.15. God findeth out many times a very smart Rod to whip lazy drowsie Saints to their duty. He will not suffer Grace to rust in his Children. Your awakening will be sad: God sent a Tempest after Jonah. Some sharp cross or other will fall upon us.

(3.) The eyes of many are upon us, and shall we be slumbring and sleeping? [Page 31] 1 Cor. 4.9. W [...] are made a spectacle to the World, Angels, and Men. Miscarriages will tend to Gods dishonour.

(4.) When Grace is asleep, sin breaketh loose. There is no sin but a man is exposed to in a secure Estate: therefore the Devil laboureth as much as he can, to cast us into this temper. When David walked at ease on the top of his House, little did he know the evil of his own Heart, and the danger of the Tempta­tion.

(5.) Every lesser indisposition that hindreth any degree of Communion with God, should be grievous to the Children of God. If we do not take heed to the begin­nings of sins, further Mischief will ensue when Temptations are near, importu­nate and constant. Little sticks set green ones on fire; when the thatch once ta­keth fire, 'tis hard to quench it, therefore we should not rest in such a temper.

(6.) Consider, Gods Eye is ever upon us, and beholdeth all our wayes, Job 31.4. Doth not he see my wayes, and count all my steps? shall we sleep when the great God looketh on us? How dreadful is his displeasure! there is no dallying with him.

Thirdly, Means.

1. Pray to God, for his quickening Spirit, that he would stir us up to watchful­ness: David is ever and anon crying out for quickening Grace.

2. We should stir up our selves: Much of this temper cometh upon us, because of our own laziness, and ordinary indisposition, 2 Tim. 1.6. Stir up the gift of God that is in thee: Isa. 64.6. There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee.

3. We should maintain a lively sense of Christs appearing: Luk. 12.35. This look­ing, and longing, and waiting keepeth the Soul alive and awake, Heb. 9. ult. To them that look for him: Phil. 3.20. Whence we look for a Saviour: Many may talk of that day, but do not look for it.

4. Keep these four fundamental radical Graces lively and active in the Soul; Faith, Fear, Hope and Love. Faith presents things to us as they are, and puts them in being: Love constraineth us, 2 Cor. 5.14. Fear maketh God every where present: And Hope worketh in us a desirous expectation of Blessedness to come, and this keeps the Soul awake.

5. Keep a sense of the Love of God upon your hearts; when your drowsie fits are coming on you, say as they in Jer. 35.6. I dare not, my Father hath command­ed me the contrary: Hath not God forbidden this? how can I rest in such a tem­per of Soul?

6. Improve the Death of Christ for the destroying this sleepy temper. The great design of Sathan is to lull us asleep; now Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil, 1 Joh. 3.8. Now shall we tye those knots the faster that Christ came to unloose? and tear open those wounds that Christ came to bind up and heal? Therefore let this evil frame of Soul be far from you.

SERMON V.

MATTH. XXV. v. 5, 6.

While the Bridegroom tarryed, &c.

And at Midnight there was a Cry made, Behold the Bridegrom cometh, go ye out to meet him.

THere is one Clause in the former Verse, that remaineth undiscussed, The Bridegroom tarryed, which I shall speak to in this Verse.

Where Observe,

  • 1. The Time, at Midnight.
  • 2. The Means of awakening the sleepy Virgins, There was a cry made.
  • 3. The Matter of the Cry, the unexpected coming of the Bridegroom, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.
  • 4. An Excitement to their Duty, Goe ye out to meet him: Still, the allusion is carryed on to the matter from whence this Parable is taken: There were Virgins with the Bridegroom, and Virgins with the Bride; and that the Bridegroom might be received with esteem, and attended with all respect, some of them were to goe before and raise the Cry in season, to bring the Virgins forth to meet him. So here, Christ sends a cry before him to admonish and exhort the Church to prepare and meet him.

(1.) With respect to every particular Soul; this cry is to be referr'd to the Voice and Importunity of them that are the Children of the Bride-Chamber, or Friends of the Bridegroom, John 3.29. Who all tell us, that, The Lord is at hand, 1 Pet. 4.7. That he will shortly come, Heb. 10.37. And still the faithful Ministers of the Church do cry aloud, and call upon us to meet the Bridegroom.

(2.) With respect to the general meeting of the Church in one great Ren­dezvouze or Congregation, 'tis meant of the Trump of the Arch-Angel, spoken of in many places, which I shall quote by and by, calling us to come to Judg­ment.

Doctrine, The Bridegroom will certainly come, but at his own time; and then all shall be called upon to go forth to meet him.

I shall handle this point with respect to the circumstances of this Parable.

1. I shall prove the certainty of his coming.

2. Speak of the tarrying of the Bridegroom, or the delay of his coming.

3. His coming at Midnight, or the uncertainty of the Time when he will come.

4. The Cry that is raised before his coming. Then I shall give every circum­stance mentioned its due weight.

First, Of the certainty of his coming: 'Tis needful to premise that, because the effi­cacy of the whole Discourse dependeth upon it. Reason saith he may come, but Faith saith he will come.

First, Reason saith he may come: It argueth,

1. From the Nature of God. There is a God, and this God is just: 'Tis agree­able to his general Justice, that it should be well with them that do well, and ill with them that do evil; these Principles are out of dispute, and supposed as [Page 33] the Foundations of all Religion: Now supposing these Principles, there must be a day or reckoning, for in the World the best go to the walls many times, and are exercised with Poverty, Disgrace and Scorn, when the wicked are full of Plenty, and live at ease, Luk. 16.25. 1 Cor. 15.19. Sure it is that there is a God, and sure it is that he taketh care of humane affairs, and will judge accordingly; what is the reason then of this disproportion? the wicked are reserved to future punishment, and the godly to future reward: Now the distinction that is put between men at death doth not suffice, for that is private, and doth not vindicate the Justice of God in the eyes of the world, and that is but upon a part: We read of the Spirits of just men made perfect, and the Spirits that are now in Prison, but nothing of a reward for the Body, or punishment for the Body; the bodies of men being Servants of Righteousness, or instruments of sin, surely ought to partake of weal or woe, of the curse or blessing that is due to the person: for the Body is (as Tertullian saith) the Souls sister and coheir, and is to share with it in its Estate; but at Death the Body is senseless, and mouldereth into dust, and 'till it be raised up again and joyned to the Soul, it can neither partake of weal or woe; therefore there is a day when God will deal with the whole man: Otherwise how shall the Goodness of God (who is a liberal rewarder of Vertue) appear, unless he render to the Body a full recompense of the Service it hath done the Soul, in yielding up all its natural Appetites, Pleasures, Interests and Satisfactions to the conduct of Reason and Grace, for the practice of that which is good: Or the Justice of God, which is the avenger of sin, which would be too narrow and defective, unless it punish the Body with the Soul. Usually the affe­ctions of the Body debauch the Soul, and the pleasures of the senses blind and misguide our reason: Certainly the love of sin being rooted in bodily pleasures, 'tis fit it should be punished with pain, and such pain as is proportionable to the dignity of him against whom the offence is committed. Now God being of an infinite and unlimited Dignity and Authority, how could the punishment of the Body by Death, be proportionable to the offence committed against an infinite God? An outrage done to the supream Majesty of Princes, is punished more than an Offence against an inferiour person; therefore there must be a time when the Bo­dy shall be raised, to be capable of such a Punishment. Besides, how could the Soul be compleatly happy, since 'twas made for a Body, if it should alwayes re­main a Widow, and never meet with its old mate again?

2. It argueth from the Providence of God: There are many Judgments that are Pledges, that God will at length judge the World for sin; as the Drowning of the old World, the Burning of Sodom, the Destruction of Jerusalem, these are a document and proof what God will do to the rest of ungodly ones, for they are set forth as an ensample, Jude v. 7. The force of the Argument lyeth in this, that God is the same, still in one mind, who can turn him? he hateth the sin of one as well as the other; in all his dispensations he is alwayes consonant, and like himself, Gal. 3.20. If he would not put up the sins of the old World, he will not put off the Iniquities of the new; if he punished Sodom, he will punish others that sin in like manner; for he is not grown more indulgent to sin than he was before: Therefore if it be not now, there will be a time when he will call them to an account and reckoning. When Man first sinned, God did not immediately execute the Sentence against him, but gave him time of Repentance 'till he dyed; and since he giveth every man time and space; he would not have all the World be born at once, and die at once, but to live in several successions of Ages, from Father to Son in divers Generations, 'till he cometh to the period which Provi­dence hath fixed: Now as he reckoneth with every man particularly at Death, so with all the world at the end of time. Particular Judgments shew that God is not asleep nor unmindful of humane affairs, but the general Judgment is refer­red 'till then.

3. From the feelings of Conscience: After sin committed men tremble, though there be none to call them to an account, as when the sin is secret, and the per­son powerfull: Conscience is under a dread of divine Justice, and the solemn Pro­cess and Triumph which one day it must have; hence Conscience is sensible, Rom. 2.8. Felix trembled when Paul reasoned of Judgment to come, Acts 24.25. There are hidden fears in the Conscience, which is soon revived and awakened by the thought of this day: Every guilty person is a Prisoner to Divine Justice, and be­ing [Page 34] held in the invisible chains of Conscience, standeth in dread of a great and general Assize.

4. The Conveniency of such a day.

(1.) To vindicate Truth and Honesty from the false Judgment of the World: The best Cause is often oppressed; there needeth a review of things by an high­er Court, that that which is good may be restored to its publick Honour, and evil may receive its proper Shame; Christ will convince the World of his Love to the Saints, when he cometh to be admired in them, 2 Thes. 1.10. and when their Faith is found to Praise and Glory, 1 Pet. 1.7. Thus shall it be done to the men whom Christ will honour, proclaim their Pardon, adorn them with Grace, introduce them into their everlasting Habitations, and this in the eyes of the scorn­ing wicked; as that Noble man, Thine eyes shall see it, but not taste of it; then for their everlasting Confusion, their Crimes shall be repeated in the ears of all the World, and their false appearances shall be refuted.

(2.) That the Counsels and Courses of Gods manifold Wisdom and Justice may be solemnly applauded. We now view Providence by pieces; but then the whole Context and coherence of it shall be set together, and the full History of all the world produced before the Saints.

(3.) Such a coming is necessary, that God may fit us with all kind of Argu­ments against sin, and so a restraint will be put upon the heart against it: ma­ny times sin and wickedness is acted in secret, Eccles. 12.14. God will bring every work into the Judgment, with every secret thought, whether it be good or evil: And 1 Cor. 4.5. Christ will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the Coun­sels of the Heart. Many make no Conscience of secret sins, and if they make Con­science of Acts, yet not of thoughts; yet according to Christs Theology, Malice is Heart-murther, lustful inclinations Heart-adultery, Mind-imaginations are Heart-Idolatry: There may be a great deal of evil in a discontented thought against Pro­vidence, Psa. 73.22. He that sinneth secretly, is conscious to himself that he doth evil, and therefore seeketh a vail and covering: Men are unjust in secret, unclean in secret, envious in secret, declaim against Gods Children in secret, neglect Du­ty in secret, sensual in secret, afraid that men should know it, yet not afraid of the great God: Man cannot damn us, man cannot fill our Consciences with ever­lasting burnings. Now that we may be ashamed to commit those sins before God, the day of Judgment is appointed to set these sins in order before us, Psa. 50.22. I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order before thee.

Secondly, If it be doubtful to Reason, 'tis sure to Faith. Faith sheweth he will come. The light of Faith is more certain, and more distinct. More certain, because it buildeth upon a divine testimony, which is more infallible than the ghesses of Reason; and yields us a more compendious way to confute Atheism, than our arguings, by which we are often entangled. 'Tis so, for God hath said it. And 'tis more distinct. Nature could never find out the circumstances of that day: It only apprehendeth the coming of a Judge; but by whom this Judgment shall be managed, in what quality he shall come, as a Bridegroom, and Lord, and Husband of the Church, it knoweth nothing. In what manner he shall proceed, and with what Company and Attendance; all this we have from special Reve­lation. Faith argueth,

[1.] From Christs merit and purchase. Would he buy us at so dear a rate, and cast us off so lightly, as to come no more at us? surely he that came to Redeem us, will come to save us; if he came to suffer, he will come to triumph; Faith seeing Christ upon the Cross, determineth, I shall see him in the Clouds: Would he be at all this cost and preparation for nothing; and purchase what he never meant to possess? It cannot be, if he came from Heaven upon the one errand, will he not come upon the other. Surely Christ will not lose all this pains he hath taken to purchase to himself a People.

[2.] Faith argueth from Christs Affection to us, which is very great; Christ is not gone in anger, but about business, to set all things at rights for the great Espousals. He that wooeth a Virgin, if he went away from her in anger, she might well suspect he would never see her again. As Bridegrooms use to fetch their Brides, so will Christ; we should never come at him otherwise; his Love will not let him rest satisfied 'till we and he meet again to enjoy one anothers Com­pany: certainly he who delighted among the Sons of men, before the World [Page 35] was, Prov. 8.31. who delighted to converse with his people in humane shape before his Incarnation, who took pleasure to spend his time busily amongst them, and to dwell with them in the days of his flesh, Joh. 9.45. In short, he that had a mind of returning before he went away, certainly he will once more leave Hea­ven for their sakes. When he hath done his work there, he will return, and bring his people along with him to Glory, and the full fruition of the Promises. He will stay no longer than our affairs do require, Joh. 14.3.

[3.] The Affections of his Saints to him, which Christ will satisfie. There are many that never saw him, and yet believed in him, and loved him heartily: 1 Pet. 1.8. In whom believing ye rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of Glory: And John 20.29. Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen me, and yet have believed. Their Faith is not misplaced, they shall find him such a one as was to be believed, loved and obeyed. Now to grati­fy their desires, Christ will appear and shew himself. With these eyes shall I see my Redeemer! The Children of God cannot look to Heaven, but they remember they have a Saviour to come from thence: Phil. 3.20. For our Conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul speak­eth in his own name, and in the name of all those like himself. And Rev. 22.17. The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. The Holy Ghost breedeth the desire, and the Church answereth the motion. Nature saith not, Come, but Stay still. If it might go by voices, whether Christ should come or no, would carnal men give their votes this way? The voice of corrupt nature is, Depart, Job 22.14. Carnal men are of the mind of the Devil; Art thou come to torment us before our time? Mat. 8. But the Spirit in the Bride raiseth these desires. Now would Christ dis­appoint these desires which he hath raised in the Hearts of his Children, and set them a longing, and a looking, and a groaning for that which shall never be? It cannot be imagined.

[4.] From the Constitution of the Church. He hath dispensed gifts and graces there, and left Ordinances there; and he will come, and require an account of things during his absence, how we have improved our Talents, Mat. 25.31. how things have been managed in his house, 1 Tim. 6.14. Keep my Commandments with­out rebuke, till the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is now removed from us, retired within the Curtains of the Heavens; but he will come again. 1 Cor 16.22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha; that is, cursed till the Lord come.

[5.] From his Promise. We have his Word in pawn. 'Tis an ancient Promise made long ago, Jude 15. Behold the Lord cometh; and hath been received in all ages by the Lords Messengers; Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Daniel, and Job, and Zechariah, and Malachi; and revived by Christ at his departure, Joh. 14.3. by the Angel, Act. 1.11. And the Apostles every where put us in mind of Christs coming. Now we may reason thus; Fidelis Deus in omnibus, in ultimo non defici­et; God hath ever stood to his word, many intervenient Providences, yet Pro­mises still accomplished: not one word of God hath failed. Every one that hath had experience of God, may make that acknowledgment that Joshua did, Jos. 23.14. Behold, this day I am going the way of all the Earth, and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you: As unlikely things have come to pass, that have been foretold in the Word. Were the old Believers deceived, that expect­ed his coming in the flesh? Surely God never meant to deceive us. He will come again. If it were not so, I would have told you, Joh. 14.3. Christs-deed and per­formance never gave his word the lye.

[6.] His Promise is solemnly confirmed.

1. By an outward sign and memorial. 2 Cor. 11.26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lords death until he come. God knew he had to do with distrustful Creatures, therefore left a Monument to keep the promise a-foot in the Church, and to revive our hopes. Would Christ institute an Ordinance for the solemn remembrance of his appearing, if he meant no more to come at us?

2. By a Real Pledge, his Spirit dwelling in us. He is gone to Heaven, to pre­pare Heaven for us, and hath left his Spirit with us to prepare us for Heaven. He hath left his Spirit in the Church, and doth give out frequent Tokens of [Page 36] Love, to shew that he doth not forget us. Christ and a Believer are not strange. There is a constant intercourse between them. We are absent from him in the body, but there are frequent messages of love. We hear from him in the Word, Prayer, Supper, and will he not come again that is so mindful of us at every turn? He did not forget us in his exaltation, as the Butler forgat Joseph; when preferred at Court, he did not remember Joseph in Prison. Now, in his Fathers house, he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; and will not alwayes leave us liable to sinning and suffering. Surely he that quickeneth us by the influ­ences of his Grace, and refresheth us with the tasts of his Love, he will come again. In short, What would our Faith be worth if Christ would not come again? Here we have but a slender enjoyment of Christ; our full Communion is, when he taketh us to himself.

Secondly, I shall now speak of the Tarrying of the Bridegroom. While the Bride­groom tarryed. What! Is Christ more backward than the Church that goeth forth to meet him? They are ready with their Lamps, but he delayeth his come­ing.

Answ. 1. Some understand it of our opinion, not the reality of the thing. Though Christ come alwayes with the soonest, yet to us he seemeth to tarry. Why? Because earnest desires crave a present satisfaction, and hope deferred maketh the heart sick, Prov. 13.12. and Prov. 10.26. As vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the Sluggard to them that send him. Expectation is in it self tedious, especially when accompanied with difficulties. Certainly being accompanyed with present troubles, 'tis more tedious. The flesh groweth impatient after its own ease; and in this sense, the Bridegroom is not slack, but we are hasty. I do ob­serve it the rather, because the same happeneth when we expect Christ to help us in our particular distresses. Because of the impatiency of the flesh, and the levity of our minds, and the weariness of expectation, the time seemeth long. There is our time, and Christs time. Our time is always with us, but his time is not come. Jer. 14.19. We looked for peace, and there is no good; for the time of healing, and behold trouble. In this sense Christ only seemeth to delay his coming. We are eager upon enjoyment, we would have it now.

2. Really. He doth tarry, and suspends his coming. There is a great efflux of time between his Ascension and second Coming; and that for wise Reasons.

(1.) That all this while there may be space for the World to repent. Mora Sponsi poenitentiae tempus est; saith Jerom. Rom. 2.4. Despisest thou the riches of his good­ness, and forbearance, and long suffering: not knowing that the goodness of God lead­eth▪ thee to repentance? There is finis operis & operantis. Whatever Gods intentions be, his dealings, his forbearance and long suffering should lead us to repentance. God useth great patience to the wicked: Rom. 9 22. Endureth with much long suf­fering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. So Rev. 2.21. I gave her space to re­pent, and she repented not. God giveth leave to repent, visible means to repent, and space to repent, even there where he giveth not effectual grace. Wicked men abuse his patience, take encouragement from thence to run into all extravagancy; but Gods aim is to leave them without excuse.

(2.) That all the Elect may be gathered. 2 Pet. 3.9. The Lord is not slack con­cerning his promise as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us ward; not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God would have the World filled with Man-kind, and endure for many Generations; till it come to that period which his Providence hath appointed. And what is that period? 'Till all that belong to the Election of his Grace be brought in to him: For all things are for the Elects sake. Now when his number is full, he will come. These were not to be born all at once; and it requireth time and pains to work upon each Elect Soul after they are come into the World: Therefore he is not slack as men are slack. Mens slowness in performing their Promises cometh from their unwillingness, or backwardness to do the thing; or from impotency and weak­ness, or want of foresight of all possible difficulties; or else from their forgetful­ness. None of these are in God: Not forgetfulness; for he is mindful of his peo­ple, Psal. 41.5. He will not stay longer than the appointed time. Not backward­ness; for he waiteth, as well as you wait, for the fittest time, Isa. 30.18. Not from weariness; for he can do whatever he will.

(3.) To exercise our Patience to the full. Col. 1.24. Who now rejoyce in my suf­ferings [Page 37] for you; that fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in the flesh, for his bodies sake, which is his Church. Not as if Christs personal Sufferings for the Redemption of Sinners were imperfect, and so to be supplyed by the sufferings of others: No; 'tis meant of Christ mystical. So the sufferings are not perfect, or filled up, till every Member of his Body endure their allotted portion and share. This Cup goeth by course, and round: Christ first, we next. It goeth from hand to hand, while the World continueth. Jam. 1.4. Let patience have its perfect work. That cannot be, but under great and long troubles. And as it is for the exer­cise of our patience, so to awaken our desires. 2 Pet. 3.12. Looking for, and hasten­ing to the coming of the day of God. Hasten it by your Prayers; and further the great works that are to be done before. God will not bestow Heaven upon us as we lay on gilding and fair colours on wood or stone, that have no sense of it, nor desire of it; but we must first groan, Rom. 8.23.

Thirdly, His coming at Midnight. He tarryed somewhat beyond the season, to shew that he would come unlooked for. Jerom saith, It was an ancient Traditi­on, that Christ should come at midnight; and therefore in the Vigil, or watch be­fore Easter, anciently they were not wont to be sent away till midnight. But of that day and hour knoweth no man. 'Tis put for an unexpected time: as Zech. 13.9. At evening it shall be light. Christ cometh when he is least expected, when the World groweth secure, and his own people weary with looking: His coming is often compa­red in Scripture to the coming of a Thief in the night. 1 Thes. 5.2. For ye your selves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night: by way of surprize. The Thief doth not make appointment, nor forewarn the good man of the House. Luk. 12.46. The Lord of those servants shall come in a day that he looketh not for him. Now God hideth this day from us,

1. To shew his Sovereignty. Prov. 25.2. The glory of God is to conceal a thing: There are Arcana Imperii; and the time and season of his coming to Judgment is one of Gods secrets.

2. That we might alwayes keep ready. Rev. 3.3. Remember therefore how thou hast received, and heard; and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a Thief; and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. And Rev. 16.15. Behold I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth. Caesar would never let his Souldiers know his resolution for Battle onset, or the removal of his Camp, Vt paratum & intentum momentis omnibus quo vellet statim educeret; That they might be always in a ready posture. So Christ's coming at the last day will be by way of surprizal, that he may have us always ready. Had it been expedient for us to know, he would have told us of it. Men will say, if they knew just the hour, and the day, they would be found praying. But you should always watch and be ready, because you know not the hour. Would our prepara­tion be hastened think you? No; we should say as they, Isa. 22.13. And behold joy and gladness, slaying of Oxen, and killing of Sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine. Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die. And 1 Cor. 15.32. Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die. Therefore Christ will chuse his own time.

Fourthly, I come to speak of the Cry made. The Cry is the means whereby God rouzeth them up out of this slumber. Christ sendeth his cry to awaken Souls before his coming. This Cry is twofold.

(1.) The more remote Cry; which is for the rouzing of particular persons in all Ages: And that is the voice of the Ministry of the Word. Thus Christ at his first coming had a Cryer went before him to alarm the World, and prepare them for his reception; and that was John the Baptist; The voice of one crying in the wilderness. So still before his second coming he hath some to raise a cry. The cry of the Word is often spoken of in Scripture: Prov. 1.24. I cryed to them, and they would not hear. So Isa. 58.1. Cry aloud, lift up thy voice like a trumpet. And 'tis the great means to awaken us out of our security. All Gods faithful Ser­vants in all ages, have been crying, The Lord is at hand. Our work is to rouze up the hearts of men, that they may be prepared more and more for the joyful receiving of Christ at his coming. We should not keep silence, nor deal sleepily. 'Tis a convincing powerful word that is a cry: and it is your duty to be awakened by the cry. If this word be not entertained, he hath his Rod: Psal. 2.5. Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. So Mic. 6.9. The voice of the Lord cryeth unto the City; and the man of wisdome shall see thy name. [Page 38] Hear ye the Rod, and him that hath appointed it. We shall hear the voice of the rough teacher. The Word cryeth: and if the Word be not heard, the Rod cry­eth. We need all kind of excitations to rouze us out of our careless walking, and heartless praying, and negligent and sleepy thoughts; that we may think more seriously of the coming of the Bridegroom.

(2.) There is a more immediate and general Cry, for rouzing and raising up all at once; and that is the Trump of the Arch-angel, spoken of in many places. Joh. 5.28, 29. The dead in their graves shall hear his voice, and come [...]orth, some to the resur­rection of life, and some to the resurrection of damnation. The means employed in the Resurrection is the voice of Christ Jesus, who shall descend with a shout, 1 Thes. 4.16. and with the sound of a Trumpet sounded by Angels. Mat. 24.31. He shall send his Angels with a great sound of a Trumpet. So 1 Cor. 15.52. The Trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised. Christ that had a Fore-runner at his first come­ing, hath also at his second. This Trumpet soundeth to summon all to appear before Christs Tribunal, to be judged. There was an audible Trumpet at the giving of the Law, Exod. 19.20. This sound shall be heard all the World over.

VSE 1. Let us improve this to the particular use of Christs Coming, either in a way of Mercy to his People, or in a way of Judgment.

First, In a way of Mercy. The Lord tarryeth sometimes when men think he should come sooner. Joh. 11.6. Jesus loved Lazarus; and he abode still two dayes in the same place that he was when he heard that he was sick. Let there be no misconstruction. 'Tis not want of love, nor want of power: He could raise him up when he was ready to stink. He may delay our help till a fit time come, wherein his glory may shine forth, and the mercy be more conspicuous. To come late is many times the best time. God keepeth back his best blessings for a while; and detaineth them long in his own hands before they come unto us. Therefore wait his lei­sure. Expectation is tedious, and reckoneth every minute. Strong desires are importunate; and usually we go by an ill count: not by Eternity, but time. The timing of all things is in Gods hand; not left to our foolish fancies, but his wise ordering. The Dyal sometimes goeth before the Sun; so doth our time before Gods time. We would make short work for Faith and Patience; and so our Graces would not be found to praise and honour. In all such cases let us remember,

1. The Lord hath chosen the fittest time; Eccl. 3.11. 'twill not come one jot too soon, or too late: But the fittest time for him to give, and us to re­ceive.

2. God is very precise in keeping his time. Exod. 12.41, 42. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the Host of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord, for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the Children of Israel in their Genera­tions.

3. God stayeth for us, rather than we for him. Christ will come before we are ready. The great let of mercy was, the peoples Hearts were not prepared.

4. Every delay will bring some advantage. There is somewhat more of our selves, and somewhat more of God to be discovered: some intervening experience that is worth the having, before full and final deliverance cometh. Isa. 40. ult. Psal. 138.39.

Secondly, In a way of Judgment. Sometimes Christ raiseth the Cry, and giveth notice of great Changes. It concerneth us to take notice of this voice, that we may not be taken unprovided: Amos 4.12. Thus will I do unto thee; Prepare to meet thy God O Israel. When God threateneth, we had need make serious prepa­ration how we shall prevent or bear the stroke of an angry God. 'Tis good counsel, Luk. 14.31, 32. When a King goeth to war against another King, he sit­teth down and considereth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that come­eth against him with twenty thousand. Or else while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an Ambassadour, and desireth terms of peace. There needs in such cases serious preparation. The work will be the more difficult when the Storm is bro­ken out upon you.

II. We may improve this as to his coming to us by Death, or rather our coming [Page 39] to him. The end of time and all things in it, are near to every particular per­son; Christ and we are to meet shortly; it should be our care to meet him by true and serious Repentance, that we may meet him with Joy. We are frail Creatures, and within a very little while Death will summon us to appear be, fore the Lord, and when you dye, you are speedily to come to your Tryal: Now are all things ready?

(1.) Is Christ your Bridegroom? was there ever a solemn Covenant struck be­tween you and him, as Hosea 3.3. by renouncing all other Husbands, and giving up your selves to do his will?

(2.) Are your Lamps burning, your Graces kept in exercise, and shining forth to the Lords glory? Are you in a constant and continual readiness to have imme­diate Communion with Christ, or to set Sail into the World to come. It should be a chearful thing to you to depart hence, Phil. 1.23.

(3.) Have you Oyl in your Vessels; such a deep and powerful work as will keep up this affection? Are these things in you, and abound in you, 2 Pet. 1.8, 9, 10, 11? What hast thou that others have not, that shall never see Gods face? Can you say as Christ, Joh. 17.4. I have glorified thee upon Earth, I have finished the work thou hast given me to do? Have you been adding one Grace to another, so that now you have nothing to do, but to wait for the Crowning of all.

III. We should Improve it as to Christs general Coming. If it be so, that the Bridegroom will certainly come, but at his own time,

1. Then be not of the Number of those Scoffers and Mockers that either deny or doubt of his coming. The most part of men expect no such matter; the Pro­phane scoff at it, and would fain shake off this bridle and restraint upon their Lusts, 2 Pet. 3.3. Therefore take heed of the whispers of Atheism, which would tempt us to turn unto the World and present things, and give over our hopes. Most mens Faith about the eternal Recompenses is but pretended, at best but too cold and speculative; an Opinion rather than a sound Belief, as appeareth by the little fruit and effect it hath upon them; for if we had such a belief of them as we have of other things, we should be other manner of Persons, in all Holy Con­versation and Godliness. Two things are to be wondred at, viz. That any man should doubt of the Christian Faith, that is acquainted with it; and that having embra­ced it, should live sinfully and carelesly. Therefore believe it as if you saw it, Rev. 20.12. I saw the dead, &c.

2. Take heed of apprehending it as a thing afar off; look upon it as sure and near, to hasten your Preparation. It cannot be long to the end of Time: If we compare the remainder with what is past, and the whole with Eternity, Psa. 90.4. A thousand years in thy sight, are but as yesterday when 'tis past; alas, 'tis nothing to the true measure of things. He that shall come will come, and will not tarry: There­fore we should have more quick and lively thoughts and apprehensions about it, such as will awaken us out of our security.

3. Take heed of a cold and ineffectual thinking of it. There is a certain time appointed, and when that appointed time is come, he will certainly appear, there­fore look for it and long for it. The Saints are described by their looking for it, Titus 2.13. Looking for the blessed hope: Phil. 3.20. From whence we look for a Sa­viour: and Heb. 9.28. Actual expectation enliveneth all our actions. Rebecka espi­ed Isaac a great way off. Faith and Hope standeth ready to embrace him. And also by their longing for it, 2 Tim. 4.8. Revel. 22.17. Come Lord Jesus, come quick­ly. Long for it for Christs sake, and your own sakes: For Christs sake, his Inte­rest is concerned in it, that the glory of his Person may be cleared. His first coming was obscure; but now he will come in great splendor, accompanied with his holy Hosts, ten thousands of Saints and Angels, 1 Pet. 4.13. That when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy. His Justice will then be demonstrated, Acts 17.31. He hath appointed a day in which he will Judge the World in Righteousness: And 2 Thes. 1.6, 7. 'Tis a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you that are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed with his mighty Angels. And long for it for your own sake; 'tis a day of the manifestation of the Sons of God, Rom. 8.19. Then you shall receive your reward to the full, 1 Pet. 1.13. Hope to the end, for the Grace that is to be brought to you at the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Then is the fullest manifestation of the Love of God: Now we are pressed with the remain­ders [Page 40] of Corruption within, and Temptations and Persecutions without: wait for his coming. The People tarryed without for the High Priest, 'till he came forth to bless them: so must we look for his return, when he will come to bless us.

SERMON VI.

MATTH. XXV. v. 7, 8.

Then all those Virgins arose and trimmed their Lamps.

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your Oyl, for our Lamps are gone out.

THe meaning of this part of the Parable, is, that the Virgins being roused by the Cry made, went to trim their Lamps, and fit them­selves for their March; while they were so doing, some of them had Oyl left; but others had spent all their store, and their Lamps were going, or gone out. Three things are remarkable in these Pa­rabolical Expressions.

1. That which is common to them all: All those Virgins arose and trimmed their Lamps, which must be differently interpreted of the wise and the foolish: The arising and trimming their Lamps, noteth in the wise their actual preparation for the Lords coming; in the foolish it noteth the strength of their Confidence and Self-conceit: The foolish think they are as prepared and ready for Christs com­ing as the wise; they arise and Address themselves to meet the Bridegroom.

2. On the part of the foolish, they found their Oyl spent.

3. That they go to the wise for a supply; give us of your Oyl.

First, The Effect of the Cry that is common to them all, They arose and trim­med their Lamps: Which is first to be considered on the wise Virgins part, and so it will teach us this Note:

Doct: That the Faithful as often as they think of the coming of the Lord, should more rouze up themselves, and prepare themselves to meet him with Ioy and Com­fort.

For the trimming of the Lamps, on their part it noteth the rousing up of them­selves out of their negligence and security, and a serious preparation for his com­ing. To evidence this to you, we shall consider,

1. How the Scripture presseth this upon us.

2. What reasons there are in the thing it self, to awaken us to this serious Pre­paration.

First, How the Scripture presseth this upon us: In the Word of God we have not only the Doctrine of Christs coming to Judgment, but the Uses and Inferences built thereupon; I shall instance in two places in one Chapter, 2 Pet. 3.11, and 14. v. 11. What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy Conversation and Godliness! Where Observe,

1. That 'tis not enough to believe the Doctrine of Christs coming, but we must im­prove it to the use of holy Living. The Improvement is pressed in Scripture, as well as the Doctrine is revealed. In Gods account no Faith will go for Faith, but the working Faith; all else is but Opinion and cold Speculation; whatever Truths we [Page 41] believe, we must bring forth to practice. Therefore if we believe stedfastly, we must live accordingly; live as men that look for such things. A bare apprehen­sion or assent to the truth is nothing worth, unless it be accompanied with that care and diligence which belongeth to the truth so apprehended. The Christian Religion consisteth not in word, but in deed: And our belief of it is not tried by a speculative assent, especially in the absence of temptations; but by a constant and diligent practice of those duties whereunto this belief bindeth us. So that they do not truly and savingly believe such things, who are not seriously and constant­ly diligent in the spiritual life. I cannot say that an assent separate from practice is no Faith, but 'tis no saving Faith; 'tis such a Faith as the Devils may have, who know there is a God, and a Christ, and a World to come; they believe it and fear it; So may carnal men believe it so far as to stir up bondage and le­gal fears in their Hearts; but while they improve it not, and prepare not for their everlasting Estate, their Faith is ineffectual to Salvation. True Faith is try­ed rather by Living than by Talking: 1 John 2.4. He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his Commandments, is a Lyar, and the truth is not in him: There is a difference between an Untruth and a Lye; now where the Actions do not corre­spond to the Profession, that Profession is not only an Untruth but a Lye: There is a denying in word as well as works, Titus 1.16. Many Profess and be­lieve as Christians, but live as Atheists. Tis not notions but affections, living ra­ther than talking, that will demonstrate true Faith: Now the paucity of serious walkers, sheweth the paucity of true Believers.

2. In this Improvement there is an Appeal to Conscience; for here is a question put to our own Hearts, let Reason and Conscience speak: After the serious considera­tion of the glory and terrour of Christs second coming, what holiness and prepa­ration is necessary on our part? Surely the holiest upon Earth, if they would put this question to their own hearts, they would not be satisfied with that holiness which they had, but would seek after more; their desires would be strengthned, their endeavours quickened, their diligence doubled: 'Tis for want of self-commu­ning that we are so dull and sluggish: If men did oftner ask of themselves, Rea­son would tell them, that no slight thing will serve the turn. But Truths are not improved, First, For want of a sound Belief: Secondly, For want of a serious Con­sideration. Therefore, in Scripture when any notable Truth is propounded and improved, there are these Appeals to Conscience; Heb. 2.3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? and Rom. 8.31. What shall we say to these things?

3. In this Appeal the qualification of our persons is first regarded and looked after. For pray mark the question: 'tis not How holy ought our Conversations to be? but What manner of persons? The state of the person must be first regarded, and then the course of our actions and conversations. There are some persons at whose hands God will not accept a gift. God had respect first to Abel, and then to his Offer­ing. The state of the person is to be judged of according to the two great pri­viledges of Christianity, Justification and Sanctification.

[1.] That we be justified, and reconciled to God through Christ; that we daily renew friendship by the exercise of a godly sorrow for sin, and a lively faith in Christ. 1 John 5.1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And 1 John 2.1. Little Children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. Others are not accepted with God.

[2.] That we be sanctified, or renewed by the Spirit, Tit. 3.5. and so fitted and framed by this general Holiness for the particular duties we are called to. A Bowl must be made round before it can run round: The Instrument must be framed, and strung, and put in tune, before it can make any melody: the Tree must first be made good, before we can expect any good fruit from it, Mat. 12.33. Actions are holy by their rule; a person is holy by his principle. Therefore till there be a principle of Grace wrought in our hearts, we are not such manner of persons as God will accept: Nor are we fitted to perform him any service, or to meet him at his coming.

4. When our Persons are in frame, we must look to the course of our Actions or walk­ing: For the tree is known by its fruit, and a man by the course of his actions. We do but imagine we have holiness within, unless we manifest it in our outward conversation; and will strive to shew our selves mindful and respectful of Gods [Page 42] commands at every turn, Psal. 119.1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord: not only undefiled in the rule, but undefiled in the way. A sincere, constant, uniform obedience to Gods Law, or a careful endeavour to approve our selves to God in all our wayes, is the mark of true blessedness. A man is judged by the tenour of his life, not by one action.

5. This holiness must be in all the parts of our Conversation: In all holy conversation. In our outward carriage, and secret practice; common affairs, and religious du­ties; In the duties of Gods immediate Worship, and the duties of Relations, to­wards Superiors, Inferiors, and Equals, 1 Pet. 1.5. in every creek and turning of our lives; there is no part of a Christian conversation, but should savour of Holiness and Godliness: His common and civil actions, in adversity, prosperity, at home and abroad. So Tit. 2.12, 13. The grace of God which bringeth Salvation, hath appeared to all men; teaching us, that denying all ungodliness, we should live soberly, righ­teously, and godly in this present world. Soberly, as to our selves: Righteously, as to our Neighbour: Godly, as to God. To rest in a partial practice of holiness, will not become the expectation of Christs coming, who will examine us upon every point of duty.

6. Godliness is added to Holiness, to increase the sense and signification. There is some formal difference between these two. Holiness signifieth the purity of our actions; and Godliness the respect they have to God; that He be eyed and aim­ed at in all that we do: That all things should be done in and to the Lord, or for his glory. This should be the supream end of all our wayes and actions. If we consider Grace as it provideth for the rectitude of our actions, positively it is called Holiness. If relatively, with respect to our dedication to God, 'tis called God­liness: Well then, we should be such manner of persons, not only in all holy con­versation, but Godliness. We should stir up our selves to do more for God in the World, and love him, and fear him, and honour him in all that we do.

7. In both we should endeavour the highest pitch that possibly we can attain unto: For 'tis in the Original, all holy conversations and godlinesses: which doth not only imply the extention, (as we render it) in all holy conversation and godliness; but the intention and degree, as well as all the parts and points of Godliness. Those that have made most progress in Godliness, should still aspire after higher degrees: the more will our comfort be now, and the more our glory when Christ cometh. We cannot be over, 'tis easie to be short. The most serious, and the most pain­ful do exceedingly lament their negligence when they come to die; but none ever begrudged their pains, or bewailed their diligence. There should be Holinesses and Godlinesses. Therefore we should not only keep what we have, but seek to get more. This is the Apostles use of the Resurrection of the dead, and so by consequence of Christs second coming, 1 Cor. 15.18, 19. So Phil. 3.11.

Secondly, The next place is ver. 14. Wherefore Beloved, seeing ye look for such things, be diligent, that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. In which words observe,

First, The Exhortation is generally propounded: Be diligent.

Secondly, Particularly; In what this diligence is to be exercised, and laid out.

(1.) With respect to the Means. That ye may be without spot, and blameless.

(2.) With respect to the End. That ye may be found of him in peace. In the Original the posture of the words is thus: That ye being without spot, and blameless, may be found of him in peace. All these circumstances deserve to be considered by us.

First, The General Exhortation: Be diligent. Rouze up your selves, set speedily and earnestly about it. We are apt to delay, therefore make haste: we are too slight and sluggish; therefore be earnest, and zealous, and hard at work: Every slight endeavour will not serve the turn. The Wife that looketh for her Hus­bands coming home, will put all things in readiness: the Servant that expects his Masters coming will ply his work. Therefore let us not be remiss and negligent, but make serious preparation. A loytering Profession will fail us in our greatest need; and when the Bridegroom cometh, our Lamps will be gone out. The De­vils Bondslaves spare no cost to serve their lusts; their faulty self-denial may put Christians to shame. Isa. 5.17. They draw on iniquity with Cart-ropes. The men of the World use all possible Diligence to obtain the good things of this life, Psal. 127.2. [Page 43] Rise early, and go to bed late; and shall we put our hand in our bosome, and think all will do well, though we mind our business only by the By? No. If your scope be to meet Christ with joy, Religion must be your work, and main employment.

Secondly, Particularly, wherein you are to shew your diligence. For we flatter our selves with general notions.

[1.] With respect to the Means. That ye be without spot; and blameless. The one word relateth to the Heart; That we may be without spot: And the other to our Conversation; blameless.

(1.) The first thing wherein diligence is to be improved is, the washing away of our sinful spots; or the washing away of sin in the guilt and filth of it, or in a way of Justification and Sanctification, 1 Cor. 6.11. suing out our Pardon in the name of Christ; and by his Spirit using all holy means for the cleansing of our polluted natures. This is a work to be done not once, but often: For we are all washed but in part, Prov. 20.7. Who can say his heart is clean? And when we have once washed, we are inclined to defile our selves again, Joh. 11.13. He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet. Every day we contract defilement by living in the World. Our final consummation is in Christs day, when we shall be presented to God not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, Eph. 5.27. For the present, still we are cleansing, and making use of the Blood and Spirit of Christ for that end and purpose.

(2.) Blameless: That relateth to our Carriage and Conversation, as 'tis said Luk. 1.6. that Zachary and Elizabeth walked in all the Commandments of God, blameless: So should we take care that we incurr no just blame for all those things which Christ hath left in trust with us, as to the improvement of our Talents, keep­ing his Laws, observing his Ordinances, or carriage to his Servants and all men.

[2.] As to the End: That we may be found of him in peace. The word found is often used with respect to Christs second coming, 2 Cor. 5.3. If so be we shall not be found naked: Phil. 3.9. That I may be found in him. 'Tis used, because the last day is a day of exact search and tryal; and because that day cometh upon the greatest part of the World by way of surprizal: we do not look for it, nor prepare for it, but it cometh unthought of, unexpected by the most: But the word found noteth either a state of Reconciliation with God, Rom. 5.1. or it no­teth Comfort and Joy, 1 John 4.17. The wicked are then at their wits end, Rev. 19.18. call for the Rocks and Mountains to fall upon them: But when you have made diligent preparation, You may have boldness in that day, and lift up your Heads, because your Redemption draweth near. A Peace that will hold out when Christ cometh, is a Peace indeed; otherwise what a terrour will unpardoned guilt; and an unrenewed nature, a fruitless life, and a blemished Conversation breed in us? Thus you see how the Scripture presses this.

Secondly, What Reasons there are in the thing it self, to awaken us to this seri­ous Preparation.

1. Because of the person coming, our Redeemer, the Bridegroom, the Lord himself; who is so great and holy: If we mean to do him honour, we must prepare to meet him in the best manner we can, as the Bride would provide her Orna­ments against the Nuptial day. Oh what cleansing of Soul, what fruitfulness and exercise of Grace should there be, that we may not put our Redeemer to shame, when he cometh to be glorified in his Saints, and to shew forth the fruits of his Death in us! I say, this preparation should be not only for our own ho­nour, that the Bridegroom may not refuse us his Company and Approbation, 1 Pet. 1.7. but for the honour of Christ, that he may be glorified in the faith­fulness and obedience of his Servants, when it shall be produced to the view of all the World, as the fruits of his Purchase and Spirit, Eph. 5.27. That he might pre­sent it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish: 'Tis begun here, and consummated there, Col. 1.22. and Jude 25.

2. Because of the manner of his coming; In power and great Glory▪ Every coming of Christ should be entertained with great reverence. When our first Parents heard but the Voice of God walking in the Garden, in the cool of the day, they hid themselves from his presence among the Trees of the Garden: When he came to give the Law, Heb. 12. it was terrible, and made them quake and tremble; much more, now [Page 44] he cometh to Judge according to the Law; when Articles of Faith are to be made objects of Sense, and God is no longer in a way of tryal with the World. Christ in the dayes of his Flesh, when he came not to Judge but to save, yet sometimes beamed out his Majesty, as in the miracle of the great draught of Fishes, Luk. 5.3. but especially when his Enemies fell backward with a look or word from his Mouth, John 18.6. His whipping the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple, Math. 21.12. And at his Transfiguration, his Disciples were afraid, Mat. 17.6. If his Voice was so terrible in the dayes of his flesh, what will it be then? He came at first in the form of a Servant, Phil. 2.6, 7. Now he cometh as Lord and Heir of all things, Heb. 1.2. Then he came in the Similitude of sinful Flesh, Rom. 8.3. Now without sin, Heb. 9.28. Then he had a fore-runner, John the Baptist, The voice of one crying in the Wilderness, Mat. 3.3. Now the Arch-Angel, 1 Thes. 4.16. Then he had twelve Companions poor Fisher-men; now with Saints and Angels his holy ten thousands, Jude 7. Then he raised some few to Life; now All shall hear the voice of the Son of God and live, John 5.28. Then he came ri­ding upon an Ass; now he shall come in the Clouds of Heaven, and the Judge shall sit in the Throne of Majesty, summoning the World to appear before him: As this will be comfortable to the Godly, so terrible to the unprepared.

3. Because of his work when he cometh; which is to Judge the World, and to make a strict enquiry into the wayes of men; Revel. 20.12. And I saw the dead, small and great stand before God, and the books were opened, and another book was open­ed which is the book of Life, and the dead were judged out of the things that were writ­ten in the books, according to their works. All actions are set in order, Psa. 50.21. with such impartiality and strictness, that we should all tremble at the thought of it. Surely if we did believe these things, we would prepare our selves accor­dingly; Acts 17.31. He hath appointed a day wherein he will Judge the world in righ­teousness. God governeth the world now in Righteousness, but the Justice of God hath not its full scope and measure; God useth patience to the wicked, and doth not give the godly their full reward. God is arbitrary in his Gifts, but not in his Judgments; all are under a Rule, either the law of Works, or the Gospel-law, Jam. 2.12, 13. So speak and so do, as those that are to be judged by the law of li­berty.

4. After Judgment, Sentence is pass'd never to be reversed again. Here there is a possibility of retrieving it by Repentance, for here 'tis Sententia legis, but there 'tis Sententia Judicis, there is no appeal from this Sentence: here sentence may be repealed, Ezek. 18.12. If the wicked shall turn from his sins that he hath committed, and keep my Statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die: Therefore we have need to provide for this day.

5. Prepared or unprepared, we must all go forth to meet the Bridegroom: Therefore we had need to consider with our selves whether we are in case to meet him or no. Others think we make too much ado about it, but this is the great thing that should take up our care and thoughts, whether we are upon a sure bottom for Eternity, Luk. 10.42. This is the one thing necessary: Alas! that we should make no greater matter of it, and set our selves about it with no more care and seri­ousness, Psa. 27.4. 'Tis necessity, and our own necessity, and a necessity for so great an end; not to live honourably and comfortably in the world, but for ever with God. In reason necessary things should be preferred before superfluous: that which cannot be spared, should be first regarded.

USE 1. Is to quicken you to rouse up your selves: And, 2. To trim your Lamps. Gods messengers in all Ages have raised the cry: Enoch long ago, Jude 14, 15. Be­hold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his Saints: He speaks of it as a thing in being, and actually in view; so do we call upon men: If we had a deeper sense and more lively apprehensions of that day, surely we would more bestir our selves.

1. To rouse up our selves: Shake off sloath and security, 2 Tim. 1.6. Stir up the gift that is in thee: Isa. 64.7. There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee. There is need of awakening our selves yet more and more. Conscience is too sleepy, the Will too remiss, the Affections are dead and earthly, and are not so active and powerful upon our Hearts as they were wont to be: Oh do not rest in a lukewarm drowsie Profession, but seriously bestir your selves.

[Page 45]2. Trim up your Lamps: That is, let your Practice and Profession of Godliness be more lively and powerful, and Grace kept in constant exercise: Having your loins girt, and your lamps burning, Luk. 12.35. Oh 'tis a blessed thing to be found so doing. You will never do so,

  • (1.) While you content your selves with a little Religiousness by the By, and do not make Godliness your main work and business: Work out your Salvation with fear and trembling.
  • (2.) While you content your selves with doubtful questionable Grace, and do not put it out of all doubt, 1 Pet. 1.10, 11. Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure, that so an abundant entrance may be ministred unto you.
  • (3.) You will never do so while you content your selves with a little gene­ral Religion, without looking into every part and point of Duty; 1 Pet. 1.15. Be ye holy in all manner of Conversation: Wherein you are to exercise your Obedi­ence to God, Acts 26.7, 8. Vnto which promise our twelve Tribes instantly serving God night and day hope to come.
  • (4.) You will never do so, 'till your minds be taken off from the present World, and more deeply fixed upon the World to come, Matth. 6.21. 'Till that be your treasure, Col. 3.1. Set your affections upon things above. Our Affections often cool, being scattered too much upon present things; we have little or no thoughts of our spiritual Journey, 1 Pet. 1.13. Gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope to the end, for the Grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 'Tis meant of the Affections. 'Tis the lively expectation of blessedness to come, that keepeth us in life and exercise.

Secondly, We now come to the consideration of it as to the foolish Virgins, they all arose and trimmed their Lamps: The foolish Virgins made a fair flourish; on their part it noteth their vain Confidence, as if they were as ready to meet the Bridegroom as the wise, though the event sheweth the contrary: So that on their part it doth not note so much their serious Preparation, as their foolish Presumption.

Doct. 2. Many think they have Grace enough to meet Christ at his coming, when the event sheweth no such matter. Or,

Many have great Confidence of the goodness of their Condition, that will be found foolish Virgins at last: As in the Text, the foolish Virgins; and in the 7th. of Matth. The foolish Builder.

There are four Reasons of this.

1. Self-love: Which blindeth a man in Judging of his State and actions, Pro. 16.2. All the wayes of a man are right in his own eyes: 'Tis natural to a man to have a good conceit of his own wayes; so Pro. 30.12. There is a Generation of men pure in their own eyes, yet not washed from their filthiness: A man will favour himself, be a Parasite to himself. A self-suspecting Heart is very rare, John. 13.23, 24. and 2 Sam. 12.7.

2. An Overly sense of their Duty, and belief of the World to come. Temporaries have but a taste of heavenly Doctrine, Heb. 6.4. a light tincture; the act of their Faith is not so intense and serious as to set them a work with all life and diligence, or to enable them to Judge impartially, whether they are able to bear the coming of Christ yea or no. Presumption is the Child of Ignorance and In­cogitancy: they do not consider of the strictness of the Gospel-law, or the Impar­tiality of the last dayes Account; there is but a notional, sleight, superficial, un­effectual apprehension of these things. An Ignorant person is fool-hardy, he doth not weigh the danger: 'Tis not the greatness of our Confidence, but the acute­ness of our Sense.

3. Want of searching, or taking the course whereby we may be undeceived: Jer. 8.6. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Yea when search­ed, and their natural face shewed them, Jam. 1.23, 24; they will not search and try their wayes. A Temporary is seldom discovered to himself, 'till it be too late; but you may find him by these notes, usually he is sloathful, he is not a laborious Christian; sound exercise maketh us feel our Condition; he is not self-searching, he doth not look into himself, he smothereth those misgivings of Heart which he hath, and will not consider the Case, or return upon himself. If they do not search, they cannot know themselves, if they should search, they do not like them­selves; they chuse the latter.

[Page 46]4. Building upon false Evidences, or upon sandy foundations. A formal Professor may go very far towards Salvation. Temporaries may have awakening Grace, much trouble about their Condition; as Ahab and Judas: So many are full of doubts and stinging fears, and make their case known, would fain be eased of their smart: They may have enlightning Grace, Heb. 6.7. more than many true Christians have; Rom. 2.18. have an approbation of the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the Law; 2 Tim. 3.5. having a form of Godliness: Grammatically and Logically have a clearer understanding of the sence of words, the contexture and dependance of Truths; be able to defend any sacred Verity, and express their minds about it; yea some sense of Christ, and Heaven, and Glory: yea, they may have affecting grace, be wonderfully taken with the glad tydings of the Gospel; may have some taste of the Grapes of the good Land, may desire to die the death of the Righteous, Numb. 23.10. desire the bread of life, Joh. 6.34. they may delight in holy things, Isa. 58.2. as Herod heard the Word which John preached gladly: and Mark 6.20. the stony ground heard the Word with joy. But, they have not renewing Grace, heart-transforming Grace, sin-mortifying Grace, nor world-conquering Grace; yet something like these they may have, something like transforming grace; a Change wrought in them, though not such as puts Grace in Sovereignty and Dominion: As to Sin-mortifying grace, there are some Conflicts with sin, and they may sacri­fice some of their weaker Lusts, yet the Flesh is not crucifyed: As to World con­quering grace, they may profess long, hold out against a Persecution: 1 Cor. 13.1. If I should give my body to be burnt, and have not Charity, it profiteth not. Compare Acts 19.33. with 2 Tim. 2.10. and 2 Tim. 4.14. Yea they may keep some Pro­fession till death, have a good esteem among the People of God; and yet the Heart never be throughly subdued to God.

1 VSE. Oh then, let us not be high-minded, but fear, Rom. 11.20. And let all this that hath been spoken, tend to weaken the security of the Flesh, but not the Joy of Faith: Let it batter down all your false confidence, and carnal security, by which you are apt to deceive your own Souls, and make you build more surely for Heaven. Consider,

  • (1.) God may see that which your selves or men do not: For he seeth not as man seeth. Others look upon appearance, you your selves may be blinded with your own self-love, but God knoweth all things, seeth all things; therefore, though thou hast a Name, yet perhaps art dead, Rev. 3.1. And though we know nothing by our selves, yet we are not thereby justified, 2 Cor. 4.4.
  • (2.) How dreadful it is to know our Errour by the Event, rather than by a Search! The foolish Virgins said to the wise, Give us of your Oyl, for our Lamps are gone out. They began to see their defect, when it was too late. The foolish Builder, that built his House upon the sand, his Building made as fair a shew as any; but it fell, and great was the fall of it. So is the Hope of the Hypocrite when God cometh to take away his Soul: then they will see and bewail their deceits of Heart, but have no time to remedy them. Many think they have Godliness enough while they live, but when they come to die, they will find it little enough, and all their false hopes will leave them ashamed.
  • (3.) We have need, again and again to bring the grounds of our Confidence into the sight and view of Conscience, that we may be sure they will hold weight: Psal. 44.18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined thy way. 2 Cor. 1.12. This is our rejoycing, the testimony of our Conscience. At least, when you suspect your selves, how do you make a shift to quiet your Consciences? Is it upon solid grounds, and such as will bear weight in the day of Christ? Many are strongly conceited of themselves, when there is little ground for it. Luke 13.24. Many shall seek to enter, but shall not be able. Rev. 3.17. Thou thoughtest that thou wert rich, and increased with goods, when thou art poor, and wretched, and blind, and naked: In a poor case to meet the Bridegroom, but they thought themselves in a happy Con­dition.

2 VSE, To excite you to this Duty: Take these Considerations.

First, Your Cure is not fully wrought, you are not yet brought home to God. 1 Pet. 3.18. Christ also suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.

[Page 47]Secondly, To keep to your first beginnings, after a long time of growth, is to be Babes still, Heb. 5.12, 13, 14. When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need to be taught the first Principles of the Oracles of God, and are become such as have need of Milk, and not of strong Meat; for every one that useth Milk, is un­skilful in the word of Righteousness, for he is a Babe; but strong Meat belongeth un­to them that are of full Age, even those who by reason of use, have their senses exer­cised to discern good and evil. A Child, if he should continue a Child and an In­fant still, is a Monster.

Thirdly, The same reasons that invited you to begin with Christ, should invite you to go on with his Service. If a little Grace is desirable, surely more is desirable, because 'tis the adorning of the Soul; excellency in Grace is a great means to convince and Convert the World, Mat. 5.16. Let your light so shine before men, that others seeing your good works, may glorifie your Father which is in Heaven: and Joh. 15.6. Hereby is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Deprive not God of the Honour you owe him, nor the World of such a powerful help; we put forth our utmost endeavours to get excellent things here on Earth, and shall Eternal Glory be only coldly thought of, and carelesly sought after?

Fourthly, The more serviceable you are for Christ here, the more Glory you shall re­ceive in Heaven: We believe there are degrees of Glory, we read of being Ru­ler of many Cities, and sitting at Christs right hand and left, Mat. 20.13. The Mother of Zebedee's Children, when she asked Christ that her Sons might sit one at his right hand and the other at his left; Christ doth not deny the thing, that there were degrees of Glory, but it was to be given them for whom it was prepared of his Father.

The next thing observable in the Parable, is the going out of their Lamps; Our Lamps are going, or gone out; what is the meaning of that? sometimes the Phrase is used in Scripture, for the failing and ceasing of the wickeds happiness, or the Splendour and Glory wherein they lived in the World, as Job 19.6. The light shall be dark in his Tabernakle, and his lamp shall be put out with him: and Job 21.17. How often is the Candle of the wicked put out: But here it must be interpre­ted with respect to the scope of this Parable, and so by the Lamps two things are intended.

  • 1. The glorious Profession that they make of Religion.
  • 2. The Hope and Comfort that is built thereupon.

Doct. 3. Their Lamps will go out, who have not a stock of Grace to feed and main­tain them.

Let us explain this:

First, What is this going out of their Lamps?

Secondly, When is this verified?

(1.) What is this going out of their Lamps?

1. It may note an extinction of their Profession, and so Profession where it hath not a bottom of Grace, will fail, Pro. 26.26. His wickedness shall be shewed before all the Congregation. God loveth to uncase Hypocrites: in the course of his Providence one occasion or other falleth out to make them stumble and break the neck of all their respects to the wayes of God, John 15.6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch that is withered: Christ dryeth up their Gifts and seeming Graces, their Duties; they are given up headlong to their own Apo­state courses.

2. It may be meant of the extinction of their vain Hopes and foolish Confidence, and false Peace, which is grounded upon their outward Profession and formal Pra­ctice of external Duties; thus we read that the hope of the wicked shall be as the spiders web, Job 8.14. curiously woven, but gone with the turn of the Be­some: so Job 11.20. The hope of the wicked shall be as the giving up of the Ghost: No more hope of them than of a mans Life that is giving up the Ghost; or with pains and gripes; which is not only to be meant of the hope, or the conti­nuance of their prosperous Condition in the World, but of heavenly happiness; there is a groundless expectation of that, the Apostles expression intimateth it, Rom. 5.5. And hope that maketh not ashamed: The Hope of Temporaries will at length deceive them in their greatest need, and leave them ashamed. As Absaloms [Page 48] Mule left his Master hanging on an Oak; so will their Hopes fail them, and their pretences vanish.

(2.) When is this verified, and upon what occasions?

First, Sometimes in Life: They took Offence at Christ, his Doctrine, or some­thing that did accompany it, John 6.66. At that time many of his Disciples went back, and walked no more with him; some one prejudice or other took them off.

Secondly, Sometimes at Death: If their Profession and Hope thereupon tarry so long, Job 27.8. What Hope hath the Hypocrite, when God cometh to take away his Soul. A man may live by a form, but he cannot die by a form with Comfort; men are more serious in the confines of Eternity, when present Enjoyments cease, and we have nothing left to Comfort us, but the expectation of the World to come: then we shall repent that we have been no more provident for Eternity; if God would spare them a little longer, they would get Oyl then: when they come to dye, Oh that they could live over their Life again; men that have neglected their time of present profiting, then see their folly, then how serious, anxious and so­licitous are they!

Thirdly, 'Tis possible men may go down with a careless Profession, and a blind Confidence to the Grave, but in Gods Judgment it will not hold out: For the day of Revelati­on and Manifestation is hereafter, and every one is not in a safe Condition that dyeth in Peace, or without actual horrour and trouble. Usually indeed, 1 Cor. 15.56. The Sting of Death is sin: But 'tis possible Hypocrites may dye with stupid and benummed Consciences, and therefore Christ maketh their vain Conceits to be blown away in the day of accounts, Matth. 7.22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord! That is, 'till the day of Doom may think their Plea sufficient.

Reasons why this Profession is apt to fail; for there is a distinct consideration of these things.

1. Because they have a Principle of Apostasie in their Hearts still: The Love of some Created thing is Predominant, as it is in all Temporaries; either Honour, Riches, or Pleasure, which when it cometh to be touched or intrenched upon, Re­ligion must give way: Christs first Lesson is Self-denyal. 'Till there be an univer­sal Soveraignty of Grace over all our desires and inclinations, so as they shall all give way to the Love of God, something is left that will tempt us to leave our Profession of Godliness, though unwillingly; as the young man went away sad, Mark. 10.22. And that which is lame, is soon turned out of the way, Heb. 12. and therefore we can have no satisfaction and security while any one Lust remain­eth unmortified, if you are not fallen, you are falling.

2. Because they do not improve what they have received. The great want of Tem­poraries is the want of a constant, serious, lively diligence; now when men have made a good Progress in Religion, and stop there, they lose what they have, Luk. 8.18. From him that hath not, shall be taken what he seemeth to have; to him that imployeth his stock, more shall be given; but the other is on the losing hand.

Secondly, As to the Hope and Comfort that followeth this Profession: An Inclinati­on to that which is good: I suppose without that, there can be no true Comfort, 'till we should submit to the Conditions of the Gospel-law, Matth. 5.28, 29, 30. There Temporaries are defective, all therefore see it and know it when they are serious and considerative, and their mistakes and misconceits are blown away by Death and Judgment; now the conditions are Believing, Repenting and Gospel-walking: Now their Faith will not yield Comfort, Gal. 5.6. Neither Circumcision nor Vncircumcision availeth any thing, but Faith that worketh by love: Not their Re­penting, not a little sorrow for sin past, 'till carnal Distempers are mortified, 2 Cor. 7.10. So for Gospel-walking, not a loose owning of Christ, Mat. 7.21. 'till there be a full Obedience to his Law, putting it in practice with an upright Heart, which is not consistent with allowed failings: A man may profess himself a Chri­stian, yet if he do not his Fathers Will, he may come short.

USE, Oh then let us take heed we be not of the number of those whose Lamps are gone out: The Lamps of the Sanctuary were never to go out, but to burn al­wayes, Exod. 17.20. To this end,

1. Apply your selves to Christ in the use of his appointed means, for the renewing your Natures: That his Spirit may give you a new Understanding and a new [Page 49] Heart: God hath made the offer, Ezek. 36.26. and it is only made good to those that diligently attend upon the appointed Means.

2. Improve what you receive in that way: 1 Thess. 5.14. Quench not the Spirit. Fire may be quenched by powring on water, or withdrawing the Fuel: Quench not the Spirit, by fleshly delights, nor by a careless Conversation.

3. They ask the wise: Give us of your Oyl. First, This demand was unseasonable; to be getting Oyl when they should use it; to have their Oyl to buy when their Lamps should have been burning: There is a time of getting, if we lose that, our opportunity is gone, Luke 14.32. Isa. 55.2. John 9.4. While you have the day work, for the night cometh in which no man can work. Secondly, It was extorted by meer necessity: In a time of straits and distresses men will call upon the People of God to help them, as Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, when Gods Judgements were upon him.

SERMON VII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 9.

But the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for your selves.

IN the words we have, 1. A Denyal. 2. The Reason of the Denyal. 3. Their advice and Counsel to the foolish.

First, The Denyal [not so]; 'tis not a churlish and envious Denyal, but such an Answer as the nature of the thing would bear: If they should be so kind, they would deprive themselves, and not leave suffi­cient for them both; therefore they were better take the usual way of supply. Three points are in this Verse.

1 Doct. Every one must get Oyl into his own Lamp, or get Grace of his own, or else in the day of his Accounts, the Grace of others will do him no good.

Secondly, From the Reason, lest there be not enough for us and you,

2 Doct. They that have most grace, have none to spare.

3 Doct. If we would get Grace, we must have recourse to the Ordinances.

For the first Point, That every man must get Grace of his own.

(1.) I do not hereby exclude the Righteousness of Christ, or his communicating his Spirit to us. There is a great deal of difference between Christ and the Saints in point of Sufficiency, Power and Authority.

First, They have not a Sufficiency for themselves and us too: Christ hath a fulness out of which you may receive enough, John 1.16. Of his fulness we receive grace for grace. There is plenitudo Fontis, & plenitudo Vasis; The Fulness of a Fountain, and the Fulness of a Vessel: The fulness of a Vessel is lessened and abated the more you take out of it: the Creature is wasted by giving, but a fountain is ever flowing, and overflowing, it keepeth its fulness still, though it affordeth to others. God saith to Moses, Numb. 11.12. I will take of the Spirit that is upon thee, and put it [Page 50] upon them. The words seem principally to intend as if his own Gifts and Abilities were given to them, to help bear a part in the burden of the Government.

Secondly, In point of Power; they have no power to transfuse and put over their Righteousness to another: As a man cannot divide and part his Life between him and another. But Christ who liveth in us, and is spiritually united to us, he can impart his Grace and Righteousness. 2 Cor. 5.21. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Gal. 2.20. The life that I live in the flesh, I live by the Faith of the Son of God.

Thirdly, If they could do so, they have no Authority and Commission to do it, as God hath given to Christ; Joh. 3.34, 35. For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. And Joh. 17.2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give Eternal Life to as many as thou hast given him. Such a difference there is between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Saints: He can give us of his Oyl, and will do it, will not deny those that seek it humbly and seasonably, and have enough himself; as the precious Oyntment upon Aarons head and beard, ran down to the skirts of his Garments, Psal. 133.2. so doth Christ the Head communicate his Gifts and Graces to all his Members.

(2.) I do not hereby exclude the Benefit which we have by the Communion of the Saints in the Mystical Body of Christ here in this World. The Members are mutually usefull to one another; as 'tis said Col. 2.19. —From which all the Body by joynts and hands, having nourishment ministred, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 'Tis from the Head, but knit together by Nerves, Veins and Ar­teries: The Apostle saith, that every joynt supplyeth something, Eph. 4.16. we com­municate to one another that strength and nourishment which all receive by the Head. There is no Member but is of use, we have benefit from one anothers Gifts and Graces, or else we could not be serviceable in the Body: But the Case in the Text is different, these foolish Virgins had their former advantages, which they should have improved▪ to have supplyed them in the day of their Account. Now the wise could not help the foolish, nor the foolish the wise: But every man shall be judged according to what is within him.

(3.) As to the keeping off of temporal Judgments, the very Society and Neighbour­hood of the Godly may be a Means to respit the wicked. Jer. 5.1. Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places there­of, if you can find a man that executeth judgement, that seeketh the truth, and I will par­don it. If they are not pardoned, they may be respited for a time: So the sentence against Sodom, we read that if ten righteous persons had been found therein, Gen. 18.32. God would have spared it. And God gave Paul the Lives of all them that sailed in the Ship with him, for his sake: As to temporal things, God may stay the Judgment upon others for the Godlies sake, though not alwayes; for 'tis said Ezek. 14.14. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job stood before me, they should deliver but their own Souls by their own righteousness. When the Decree was irrevocably past, and their provocations grown to an insufferable height: So 'tis said in the Jewish Proverb, That two dry sticks may set a green one on fire: To which Christ is sup­posed to allude, when he saith, If this be done to the green Tree, what shall be done to the dry? Well, but bating these Cases, we shall not be the better for others Righteousness, and this is often pressed in Scripture: Hab. 2.4. The just shall live by his Faith; by his own, not by another mans. Ezek. 18.20. The Soul that sinneth it shall die; the Son shall not bear the iniquity of the Father, nor shall the Father bear the iniquity of the Son: The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. That is, as to eternal Rewards and Pu­nishments, every one is to be considered according to their own personal Estate: Every Tub shall stand upon its own bottom, and every Soul shall be dealt with according to its own capacity. So Rom. 14.12. Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. We shall give an account of our own thoughts, words and acti­ons; not shuffled together by the lump, and in gross, but every one severally: One shall not appear for another, as here we may appear by Proctor or Atturney; nor the whole Party and Profession for single persons: But every one is to give an account of himself apart, man by man. So Gal. 6.4, 5. Let every man approve his own work, and then shall he have rejoycing in himself alone, and not in another, for every man shall bear his own burden: We should every one look to his own actions, and [Page 51] our own spiritual Estate, and frame of Heart: To fetch the grounds of our rejoycing from abroad, will not be so comfortable and safe to us. We are to look to our own selves.

1. VSE, Is to disprove the Conceit of works of Supererogation, or doing more than is required of us, to increase the Stock of good Works, to be put into the Treasury of the Church, as if others should fare the better for their Over-godly­ing it.

2. To disprove the vain and foolish Confidence by which men please themselves in the Goodness of others about them, their Relations, and Societies in which they live. They have friendship with such good People, are in relation to such eminent and pious Persons; a godly Wife, or Husband, or Father: Matth. 3.9. And think not to say within your selves, we have Abraham to our Father. No, they cannot give us of their Oyl: Men will catch at any thing rather than a right Ground of Con­fidence.

2. VSE, Is to Exhort us to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. 2.12. or to be more carefull of our own personal Qualification, if we would be sa­ved in the day of the Lord.

1. 'Tis not enough that Christ engaged for us as the publick Surety of the Church; Heb. 7.22. He did some things for us, and in our Names, that we might take a Bond upon our selves, that we may enter our selves Heirs to the Benefits of his Un­dertaking. You must give up your selves to the Lord: 2 Cor. 8.5. All that are brought home to God, do personally Covenant for themselves. Ezek. 20.37. I will cause you to passe under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the Covenant one by one. God would not trust the Jewes with their own choice, but would take the tenth that came out of the Fold by course. God will not covenant with us in the Lump and mass, but man by man.

2. 'Tis not enough that the Church as a visible political Body, professing Faith in Christ, doth engage for us, Ezek. 16.7. I entred into Covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine. There is a visible Church-covenanting, which is made between God and whole Societies, as they do profess submission to Christs Gospel. Alas! in these Societies, there may be many persons, whose Souls have not particularly and personally each one for himself, entred into Covenant with God; therefore we can­not satisfie our selves with this, but every one of us must engage himself to the Lord.

3. 'Tis not enough that our Parents did engage for us, and dedicate us to God in Baptism, as they did in their own names, and in the names of their little ones, Deut. 29.10, 11, 12. as we devote, and dedicate, and engage our Children to God in Baptism; but this is a work and business that no man can savingly transact for another. The engaging of a Soul to Christ, is a thing that a man cannot doe by Proxy or Assignee, we must personally enter into Covenant with God for our selves, or else our Parents Dedication will not profit us; we shall be Children of Ethiopians to God, though Children of the Covenant, Amos 9.7.

4. 'Tis not enough that we belong to strict and reformed Societies, unless we come visibly to ratifie the Covenant in our own Persons, by that which the Apostle calleth a professed Subjection to the Gospel of Christ, 2 Cor. 13.9. Unless there be an hearty and real subjection, as well as a publick professed subjection, our company will not save us, nor our Church save us. Many fall asleep in Christs own Lap, that shall awake in flames. He looketh to single Persons, knoweth his Sheep by Name, and whether they obey and follow him, yea or no. He considereth the frame of their Hearts, and how they stand affected to him: My Son give me thy heart, Prov. 23.26. 'Tis the Heart he seeketh for. Jer. 30.21. Who is he that hath engaged his Heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord.

Lastly, Consider the distinction Christ will make at the last day, between Persons of the same Vicinity, Family, Religion: The one is taken, the other left.

Now to excite you to get Grace into your own hearts, consider,

(1.) None is more near to you than your selves: God hath made you Guardians of your own Souls. We read Eph. 5.20. that no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Oh that we could say so in this case! that no man ever hated his own Soul. 'Tis no less monstrous and unnatural not to take care of our [Page 52] Souls, than not to take care of our Bodies. The Soul is the man, the nobler and better part, that should be first cared for; therefore if you love your selves, you should look after your personal Interest in Christ.

(2.) Your Happiness is left meerly as on your own Consent: God offereth his Grace to you as well as to others, Isa. 55.1. Ho every one that thirsteth! come to the waters and drink: Revel. 20.22. Whosoever will, &c. If you refuse it, you wrong your own Souls, Pro. 8.36. forsake your own Mercies, Jonah 2.8. And if you miss of Christ, and be shut out of Heaven, 'tis by your own default. You have none to blame but your selves, if you do not enter into Covenant with God, and so qualifie your selves for the great blessings and favours thereof.

(3.) Consider how much others have done for you in a way of Means, though they can do nothing in a way of merit. You have received as much benefit by others, as can rationally be expected; you were born of Christian Parents, by them de­dicated to God, and trained up in his fear; and now, after all this, when you come to stand upon your own bottom, you wrest your selves out of the arms of Grace: your obstinate refusing seriously and heartily to enter into personal Co­venant with God, will exclude you out out of Heaven: You are not moved by the examples of the word, and self-denying Christians. If you never try to bring your Heart to consent to the Lords terms, you will find your Oyl to seek when you should use it, at the Bridegrooms coming.

Secondly, I now come to the Reason alleadged, lest there be not enough for us and you.

2 Doct. They that have most Grace, have none to spare.

1. With respect to our great hopes, all our endeavours are little enough for Hea­ven; we cannot be at more cost and pains than our blessed hope is worth, Phil. 2.12. Work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling. Work, because 'tis for Salvation, 2 Thes. 2.12. Walk worthy of God, who hath called us to his Kingdom and Glory: That is the worthiness of Condecency; walk suitable to your high and ho­ly Calling; walk as those that expect such a Kingdom and Glory, walk as those that are contented with a little here, Heb. 13.5. A little here should serve our turn, but in heavenly things 'tis otherwise; there should be an holy covetousness, and an insatiableness of desiring more, and a suitableness in our walking to that State of Life which we expect: But alas 'tis otherwise with most, for the Com­forts of this Life, which are but as a vapour, they are insatiable as the Grave; but in Grace, every little, yea a bare nothing is thought sufficient; surely these men have not a true sense of Gods Punishments and Rewards, nor what prepara­tion is necessary for that heavenly Happiness they expect.

2. With respect to our great Temptations, not a jot of Grace can be spared. We are told that the righteous are scarcely saved, 1 Pet. 4.18. There are so ma­ny tryals by the way, and our folly and weakness is so great, that 'tis no easie matter to get safe to Heaven. If we have strength to carry us through our pre­sent Condition, yet we know not what we may meet with before our service be over; a day may come when all the Grace we have may be thought little enough, and too little for the Tryals we may be put upon: Little Grace is as no Grace when a Temptation cometh, Luk. 8.25. Where is your Faith? But Mark 4.4. How is it that ye have no Faith? And Matth. 8.26. 'tis said, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little Faith? Little Faith in some cases, is as if they had no Faith: Faith in the Habit they had, but they could not put it into Act, in that suddain and great Try­al: Eph. 6.10. Be ye strong in the Lord, and the power of his might.

3. With respect to our Comfort, a large Measure of Grace is necessary: we are bidden to give all diligence, that we may enter abundantly, 2 Pet. 1.11. Not only make a hard shift to get to Heaven, but to get thither with full Sails of Com­fort; now this will never be, unless we have much Grace, and that kept in live­ly action; for otherwise it will not come into the view and notice of Conscience, to make up an Evidence there.

(1.) I do suppose that Conscience hath a Vote in the matters of our Peace, Rom. 8.16. In the matters of our sense, Rom. 9.1. The bosom witness is Consci­ence: the knowledge of our Estate is not intuitive, but discursive.

(2.) That small things are inconspicuous, and not easily to be discerned, especi­ally [Page 53] by weak eyes; therefore 'tis an hard matter for Conscience to discern a little Grace in a great heap of Corruption. Mans Heart is not watchful, nor so tender, nor are things in such order there, as that every lesser thing should be taken no­tice of; though Conscience be a secret spy, yet small things escape its view and notice, both in a way of Sin and Grace; in a drowsie and unattentive Soul, it cannot be imagined: therefore there must be a great deal of Grace before it can be seen, and distinguished from a common work; for the Heart of man is deceit­ful: The Woman was forc't to light a Candle, and search diligently, before she could find her lost groat: so hard will it be to discover that in the Soul which is small and little.

(3.) The Testimony of the Spirit is usually given in upon the greatest exercise and abounding of Grace: for the Oyl of Gladness followeth the Oyl of Grace, and Comfort is dispensed according to the rate of Obedience, Joh. 15.10. If ye keep my Commandments, ye shall abide in my love: and Joh. 14.21. He that hath my Commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, and is loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest my self unto him. Therefore out of all this it fol­loweth, that if we would maintain any comfortable and delightful sense of our Interest in Christ, and the glory of the World to come, we should not be con­tented with a little Grace.

4. With respect to the nature of Grace: 'Tis a sign we have no Grace, when we think we have enough and to spare; surely they that have tasted that the Lord is gracious, 1 Pet. 3.2. they are not cloyed, but will long for more; that man that doth not desire to be better, was never good. As the little seed works through the hard and dry Clods, that it may grow up to stalk and flower; so is Grace, it is working and increasing to perfection: therefore 'tis an ill sign, to be satisfied with small measures of Grace, to say I have enough; every degree of Grace is as desirable as that we have attained to; and those whose Hearts God hath touched, they earnestly desire more.

5. All is too little to stand before the Lord, and therefore none have any surplus­age of Grace, or more than will serve their own turn: As in the gathering of Manna, he that had much, had nothing over: If we consider the glorious and holy Presence of Christ, we have all little enough, Psa. 143.2. Enter not into Judg­ment with thy Servant; Non dicit cum hostibus tuis, sed cum servo tuo: He doth not say, O Lord enter not into Judgment with thine Enemies, but enter not into Judg­ment with thy Servant.

6. Every one is to be considered according to his advantages, and opportunities of growth and improvement; less may be sufficient to Salvation, but not to them to whom more is given: as they distinguish of a fundamental in se and quo ad nos; God may accept of an implicit Faith in some, but not in others; so 'tis true of Grace, that rule Luk. 12.48. He that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. God may accept that from others, which he will not from us, and we are to be answerable for our means of growth; we expect he should come sooner that rideth on horse-back, than he that travelleth on foot; and therefore we must not be contented with a bare competency, but labour for abundance.

7. The greatest Graces have many times the greatest Corruptions and Temptations to wrestle with. God doth not call every one to such a tryal as he called Abra­ham; but as Jacob drove as the little ones were able to bear, so doth God pro­portion Temptations according to the measure of Grace and strength that every one hath; and therefore he that hath most Grace, hath but enough for that condition of life wherein God will exercise and try him.

8. You may easily have too little, you cannot have too much: There are many come short, none over; you never read of any that had too much Faith, too much of the Love of God, and the fear of God. In the Internals and Essentials of Religion, there is no nimium: a man may spend too much time in Praying and Hearing, when it incroacheth upon other Duties; but he cannot fear God too much with a filial fear, or love God too much; many love him too little, and therefore are kept so doubtful all their dayes, that they cannot tell whether they love God at all or no.

9. Because of that Conformity that should be between us and Christ, who is our glorious Head; and all the Heirs of Glory are destinated to be conformed to the [Page 54] First-born, Rom. 8.24. chiefly in Grace, Purity and Holiness: indeed this cannot so full and exactly be, 'till we see him as he is, but the present sight that we have of him by Grace, should make some change in us, 2 Cor. 3.18. In Heaven we shall be holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, as he, Heb. 7.26. above the reach of Temptations, as he, Joh. 10.30. Our vile Bodies shall be changed, Phil. 3.21. and both Soul and Body conformed to that glorious Estate, as he, Rom. 6.9. but it must be begun here; the very hopes of it should put us upon puri­fying our selves, 1 Joh. 3.3. He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself as Christ is pure: You are to do so, that there may be some proportion between Head and Members.

10. Because a little Grace is not so honourable to God, John 15.8. Herein is my Father glorified, in that ye bring forth much fruit: and Phil. 1.11. Being filled with the fruits of Righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God: 2 Pet. 1.8. If these things be in you and abound, you shall not be barren or unfruit­ful in the Knowledge of Christ. 'Tis not a naked and empty Profession, 'tis not sleepy habits, or a little Grace, but when Grace hath a deep power and sove­raignty over our Hearts and Lives, that bringeth God into request, and commend­eth him to the Consciences of men. The Knowledge of Christ is reproached as a low Institution by carnal men; but to the truly wise, no such excellent and noble Spirits, as they that are bred up under him.

1 VSE, Of Reproof, to those that think we make more ado than needeth. When we press men to a constant watchfulness, and serious diligence in the spiritual Life, no wonder that every sleight thing seemeth enough: so the foolish Virgins, Give us of your Oyl; the wise Virgins are more cautious, their saying is, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you. What thoughts have you of Christ, when you think every sleight Preparation enough for him? what sense of the world to come, when you do so little in order to it? what is it that you call Grace, that you do so easily come by it, and maintain it upon such cheap terms? Surely men have no sense of the End, or else mistake the Way, that think so little will serve the turn. Indeed a little in the world will serve the turn, if men had sober and moderate desires, and did not increase their necessities by the largeness of their affections. A man may have Estate enough for ten men, yea twenty men, and yet not be satisfied, but the best hath scarce Grace enough for one; but alas, how soon are men satisfied (such is their indifferency) about spiritual things! instead of hun­gering and thirsting after Righteousness, a little or none contents them; here only they are for Sobriety and Moderation, all is too much, and too easily passed over that seemeth to awaken them to a lively sense of that Religion they do pro­fess. Christ saith, Except your Righteousness exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, Matth. 5.20. What do ye more than they? And Luk. 11.24. Strive to enter in at the streight gate: They cannot endure that Christs Authority should be urged upon the Conscience; can you hope to be saved upon easier terms without all this ado? a little time will determine whose word shall stand, Gods or yours; you cannot do too much as long as you do but what God bids you: Certainly if you judge by that Rule which God hath given to try by, no man on earth is as good as he should be, and he that is best is too bad, and he that doth most, cometh unspeakably short of what he should do. All the holy ones of God complain of their naugh­ty Hearts, that they cannot do the things that they would; they groan under the Body of Death, and cry out, Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this Body of Death? And will they then obtrude this sorry perfunctory Obe­dience upon God, as a full satisfaction of his Gospel-law?

2. It is to Reprove those that think they have Grace enough to bring them to Hea­ven: Now they may go rest, and trouble themselves no further. Alas they know not what belongeth to the spiritual Life; for if they had true Grace, they would see a need to keep it lively and growing; they would find they could not keep what they had, unless they did increase it; the daily lapses make breaches upon it, and Conscience would tell them how easily they lose many degrees, and a sense of it, and that every day they need serious humiliation; and 'tis a naugh­ty Heart that can satisfie it self with the minimum quod sit, a bare Competency, without seeking after greater measures. When men do things against their will, [Page 55] they do not more than needs; but Love hath an amplitude and largeness in it, it thinks it can never do enough.

2 VSE, Is to excite us; Phil. 2.13, 14. Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching to the things that are before: I press towards the mark of the high prize of God, in Christ Jesus: You have not answered your holy rule, nor done things worthy of your blessed hope, nor answerable to the great obligations laid upon you, nor becoming the glorious Salvation which you expect: if these things were well thought of, you would see a need of making a speedy addition to your stock every day: Oh then as to the internal habits of Grace, we beseech you let your Love abound more and more, Phil. 1.9. and as to the external acts of Obe­dience, 1 Thes. 4.1. As ye have received of us how to walk, and how to please God, so you would abound more and more: Let your Vessel be fuller, and your Lamps burn brighter; you owe God a thousand times more than ever yet you have pay­ed him, he hath both deserved and required more at your hand; you cannot make out your Gospel qualification of sincerity, unless there be a lamenting of defects, and a striving after perfection.

Thirdly, We come to the Advice and Counsel, But go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for your selves: Go to them that sell, that is, goe where it may be had; for selling and buying are put improperly for getting into our hand: Emptum ce­dit in jus emptoris; things are said to be bought when they are made ours, as if we had paid a just price for them, as Prov. 23.23. Buy the Truth, and sell it not: That is, keep it, and do not part with it: so Isa. 55.1. Buy Wine and Milk: and Revel. 3.18. I Counsel thee to buy of me Gold: Calvin is of Opinion, Non admoni­tio est, sed exprobratio; and Austin before, Non consulentium, sed irridentium est ista Responsio; 'tis a Check and Rebuke to their negligence; as if it were said, Goe buy now if you can, heretofore you had a time of buying, which you neglected, the Shops were open, but now the opportunity is lost; and so think it not a Coun­sel but a Rebuke, You should have bought for your selves: I rather think 'tis an Advice, directing them to the Remedy, or the true Course that must be taken if we would get Oyl, as appeareth by the practice of the foolish Virgins in the next Verse; and if they used this Remedy too late, it was their own folly.

3 Doct. Those that would have Grace, must have recourse to the Ordinances.

(1.) Mark 4.24. Take heed how you hear, for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again: And you that attend upon hearing, more shall be given to you; with what measure ye mete, that is a proper rule for Commerce between man and man, and our Saviour urgeth it, Math. 7.12. But 'tis true also in Com­merce between God and Man; if you take heed how you hear, and do what you hear, that is, seriously weigh that Divine and Heavenly Doctrine in your deep and ponderous thoughts; if they would use such conscionable care to profit as was fit, the Lord would recompense their diligence with an answerable blessing on the Soul. Another place is 1 Thes. 5.19, 20. Quench not the Spirit, despise not Prophesying: If you would not Quench the Spirit, his Convictions, Excitations, and Counsels, you must use the means, they are instituted to this end, and God instituteth nothing in vain; they have a tendency to that end, the formality of the Institution is a word of Command and a word of Promise.

(2.) Christ hath sanctified Ordinances to this end, Eph. 5.26, 27. and John 17.8. Sanctifie them by thy Truth, thy word is Truth.

3 VSE, If we would have the Graces of the Spirit begotten, strengthened and increased in us, let us use the Means, Acts 17.11. Let us use them more conscio­nably, and see that by every Converse with God we may get some new blessing from him.

SERMON VIII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 10.

And while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came, and they that were ready, went in with him to the Marriage, and the Door was shut.

THree things are here remarkable:

  • 1. The coming of the Bridegroom, while they went to buy.
  • 2. The Entering in, or admission of those that were ready, into the Marriage Chamber.
  • 3. The shutting of the Door, to exclude the rest.

For the First of these, their going to buy must be interpreted ac­cording to the scope of the Parable; and so it signifieth their unreadiness and un­preparedness for Christs coming; they were to seek of Grace, when they had most need to use it: In Parables things are said to be done in the day of Judg­ment, which are done in order to, or with respect unto that day; not that men do go and buy Oyl then, &c. I might observe from hence,

(1.) The certainty of Christs coming: We heard before of a great expectati­on of his tarrying, of the Cry raised, now of his coming, he really came at last; but of that point before.

(2.) Of the suddenness of His coming, by way of surprize on the carnal World: When the careless were little ready for him, he came; when they went to buy, but of that in Verse the 13th.

(3.) I shall choose to speak now of the Quality in which he cometh, he com­eth as a Bridegroom.

1 Doct. That the Lord Iesus Christ shall come to his People as a Bridegroom, at his second coming.

Revel. 19.7, 9. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him, for the Mar­riage of the Lamb is come, and his Wife hath made her self ready: And he saith un­to me, write, Blessed are they that are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

To evidence this unto you, consider these Propositions:

1. That between Christ and Believers there is a mutual Tye, consent and obli­gation each to other; which may be notably represented by the Marriage Cove­nant, Psa. 45. and Isa. 45.5. and elsewhere: There is a living Relation between Christ and them, beyond what is between him and others; a relation not only notional and imaginary, but is really transacted between them, as between two parties in the Marriage Covenant: so Cant. 2.16. My Beloved is mine, and I am his: Both the parties are mutually, explicitly, and formally engaged, and contract­ed to one another; Christ to us as Head, we to him as Members of his Mysti­cal Body; as 'tis real, so 'tis near, they twain shall be one flesh, we one Spirit, 1 Cor. 6.17. He that is joined to the Lord, is one Spirit: Whole Christ is ours, we are or should be altogether his, as full of Kindness and Love, Eph. 5.25, 26, 27. Zeph. 3.17. And 'tis indissoluble, the Marriage knot remaineth inviolable for ever. I will betroth thee to me for ever, Hos. 2.19.

2. This Marriage may be considered in four respects.

  • (1.) With respect to the ground and foundation of it.
  • [Page 57](2.) With respect to our first Entrance into this Relation.
  • (3.) With respect to the State of it in this world.
  • (4.) With respect to its perfect Consummation.

First, With respect to the Ground and Foundation that was laid for it in Christs Incarnation, or at his first coming. Marriage is between parties of the same kind, as in the first Marriage Adam called Eve, Bone of his Bone, and Flesh of his Flesh, Gen. 2.20. So Christ came to fit himself for that relation of Husband to his Church, by taking our nature upon him, and therefore the Apostle when he speaketh of the Marriage between Christ and his Church, useth the same name which Adam had used, Eph. 5.30. For we are members of his Body, of his Flesh, and of his Bone. When Christ was in the world, he made a way for the Marriage: He parted from us 'tis true, but there was an interchange of tokens, he took our Flesh, and left with us his Spirit.

Secondly, With respect to our first Entrance into this relation, when first converted to God, or upon our thankful, broken-hearted, willing acceptance of Christ for Lord and Husband. All Marriage is utered into by a consent; Christ giveth his Con­sent in the Promises, and we by Faith, which is a broken-hearted, willing and thankful acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the ends for which God offer­eth him. Where note, that Faith is an Acceptance of Christ, John 1.12. To as many as received him: Next for the mode and manner of this Acceptance, 'tis Broken-hearted, because we are undeserving and ill deserving Creatures, altogether unworthy to be taken into such a near relation to Christ; as Abigail when David sent to her to make her his Wife, debased her self, 1 Sam. 25.40, 41. Let thine hand-maid wash the feet of thy Servants. Alas, who are we? A poor trembling Soul is afraid of be­ing too bold, but Gods offer encourageth it. And as 'tis a broken-hearted, so 'tis a Willing acceptance of Christ; for Christ will not draw us into this Relation by force, or bestow the Priviledges of it without or against our consent, Rev. 22.17. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of Life freely: If the will be to Christ, the great difficulty is over. Christianity is but an hearty consent to accept of Christ and his Benefits; but the Creatures Will is not soon gained, Math. 23.37. I would, but ye would not; he inviteth and clucketh by the renewed messages of his Grace, but we will not be gathered; Isa. 65.2. I have spread out my hands all the day long to a rebellious People. The ungodly careless world knoweth not the worth of Gods greatest Mercies, and therefore despise them, yea take them for intolerable Injuries and Troubles, because they are against their fleshly Ap­petites; but when the will is once thoroughly gained to God, the great work of Conversion is drawing to a happy Period; the consent of the Will is the closing act: When we yield our selves to the Lord, resolving to become his, and to be disposed, ordered and governed by him at his own pleasure; I entered into Covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine, Ezek. 16.8. And as 'tis a willing acceptance, so 'tis a thankful acceptance of Christ; because 'tis a great favour and honour done to us, considering the infinite distance between the parties to be joyned in the Marriage-covenant, God over all blessed for ever, and we poor wretched Crea­tures. There may be among us great distance between the persons that enter in­to the Marriage-covenant, but all that distance is but finite, for it is but such as can be between Creature and Creature, which are equal in their being, notwith­standing the inequality of many extrinsical respects; but in this distance between Christ and his People, the distance is between the Creator and the Creature, the Potter and the Clay; the thing formed, and him that formed it; betwixt the most lovely person, and the most loathsome; between the Heir of all things, and the Children of Wrath; the King immortal, and a poor Vassal to Sin and Sathan: And consider also the many benefits we enjoy by it, we have the Communion of his Righteousness, Spirit and Graces, 2 Cor. 5.21. He was made sin for us, that we might be made the Righteousness of God in him. There are two Maxims in the Ci­vil Law, Vxor fulget radiis mariti, the Wife participateth in the Honour of the Husband; so we have the Communion of Christs Righteousness; and Vxori lis non intenditur, the Husband is answerable for the Wife, the Pleas must be brought against him: So Jesus Christ hath paid our Debts, and repre­senteth the merit of his Sacrifice; he is responsible for the Debts we owe to Divine Justice. Participation is another Benefit, Eph. 5.26. Husbands love your [Page 58] Wives, as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctifie and cleanse it by the washing of Water. Christ upon the Cross had merit enough to purchase, and love enough to intend, and Wisdom enough to choose the greatest benefit for us; and what did he purchase, intend, and choose, but to sanctifie and cleanse us by the washing of water through the Word? And lastly, we must re­ceive him to the Ends for which God offereth him; that is, to be Lord and Hus­band; which importeth a forsaking all others, and a devoting and giving up our selves to Christ, to live in his Love and Obedience.

1. Before there can be a Receiving, there must be a Renouncing of all other Loves. Christ will be entertained alone. The Husband cannot endure a Corri­val and Competitor. And the Marriage consent implyeth an Election and Choice, which is a renouncing all others, and a preferring him alone. So the Marriage Covenant runneth, Hos. 3.3. Thou shalt not be for another, but shalt be for me. So Psal. 45.10, 11. Hearken, O Daughter, and consider; incline thine ear: Forget al­so thine own people, and thy Fathers House. So shall the King greatly desire thy Beau­ty: for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him. All that do consider what is offer­ed in Christs name, and consent to the motion, they must forsake all their old wayes, their old Corruptions, and old Passions, and old Affections; and seriously think of leaving all their worldly Pleasures and Vanities; they must not stick at their choicest Interests, most pleasing Lusts, and dearest Sins, though it be a right Hand, and a right Eye, Mat. 5.29. If we consent to take Christ, and retain our old Loves still, we shall be little the better for being Christians.

2. You must give your selves up to him, to live in his Love and Obedi­ence. There are two Grand Duties we must resolve upon, if we enter into this Relation: Conjugal Love, and Conjugal Obedience.

(1.) Conjugal Love. There is no want of love on Christs part, Isa. 62.5. As a Bridegroom rejoyceth over the Bride, so shall thy God rejoyce over thee. Now this Love must be mutual; as he in us, so we in him. Now Conjugal Love is such a Love as is greater to the Yoke-fellow than to any other. So our Love to Christ is a Superlative Love. We must not only love him, not less than other things, nor equal with other things, but above them; cleaving to him alone. Some love Christ less than other things; they love him a little, but love the World better; Honour and Greatness better, Joh. 12.42. How can you believe that seek honour one of another? Pleasure, 2 Tim. 3.4. Lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God. Profit, 2 Tim. 4.10. Demas hath forsaken us, and embraced the present World. Some love Christ, but love other things equal with him. They are divided: 'tis a nice case; hard to say which hath the Mastery: they make a pother with Religion, but never feel the true force of it. But the true Conjugal Affection is superlative, Psal. 73.25. Whom have I in Heaven but thee? and there is none on Earth that I desire besides thee. Phil. 3.8, 9, 10. I count all things but dung and dross, for the ex­cellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. They preferre Jesus Christ be­fore all things in the World. Besides, as an Husband, he must have this Love.

(2.) This is a Lord that must have Conjugal Obedience, Eph. 3.23, 24. The Husband is the head of the Wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church, and the Savi­our of the Body. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so let Wives be to their own Husbands in every thing. I urge it, as Wives are subject to their Husbands in every thing, so let the Church and each believing Soul be to Christ. Surely if you consent to marry to Christ, you must reckon upon it, that you are no long­er your own to dispose of, and therefore henceforth you must no more live to your selves. Christ is accepted and received for Lord, Col. 2.6. and as such you must consent to serve and obey him. Psal. 45.12. He is thy Lord, worship thou him. You must take him so as never to be ashamed to own him; take him for better, for worse, take him and his Cross, Mat. 16.24. take him and his yoke, Mat. 11.29. take him and his Spiritual Laws, Joh. 14.21. You are to be obedient to Christ in all things. You are no more to do what you will, but what will please the Lord, 1 Cor. 7.30. In short, you must obey him, if you will have benefit by him, Heb. 5.9.

Thirdly, 'Tis spoken of with respect to its Present State in this World. The Re­lation is begun, but 'tis not publickly Solemnized. 2 Cor. 11.2. I have Espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chast Virgin to Christ: The Church is Sponsa, [Page 59] not Vxo [...]: here by the offers of the Gospel, we are Espoused, and by Faith en­gaged to him: 'Tis called a betrothing to him, Hosea 2.19, 20. I will betroth thee to me for ever: Yea, I will betroth thee to me in Righteousness, and in Judgment, and in Loving-kindness, and Mercy: I will betroth thee to me in Faithfulness: The word is not taken generally for Marriage, but strictly, and hath a special Emphasis in that place; and so noteth either the goodness of God, he would not receive Israel as an unchast Prostitute, that had broken Covenant with him, but as a Virgin, as if never any breach of Contract before; or rather noteth the present state of the Church, she is betrothed to Christ, but the Marriage is not consummate. The day of Espousals and publick Solemnities are deferred till the Resurrection, when Christ will come as a Bridegroom, to conduct his Spouse into his Fathers House, for ever to remain with him.

Fourthly, With respect to its Consummation; 'tis perfected at his second coming: and 'tis properly called a Marriage, 'twas but a wooing or betrothing before then, when the Queen is brought to the King, and abides with him for ever: Psal. 45.15. With Joy and Gladness shall she be brought, they shall enter into the Kings Palace.

Now there are many Reasons why this second coming of Christ is called a Con­summation of the Marriage; and Christ may then be said to come as a Bridegroom.

1. Because there is a Personal Meeting and interview between his Spouse and himself: Now he employeth Spokes-men; 2 Cor. 5.19, 20. Now we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: We pray you in Christs stead to be recon­ciled to God: As Eliezer Abraham's Servant went to get a match for his Masters Son, so the Ministers of the Gospel: 2 Cor. 11.2. I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you a chaste Virgin to Christ. He sends Tokens, and Spiritual Refreshings; John 14.21. He that hath my Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest my self to him. Then he cometh himself, we meet him in Person: here we meet him in Ordinances, Isa. 64.5. Present in Spirit, 2 Cor. 5. At Death our Souls meet him: Eccles. 12.7. But then our whole man shall meet him, Job. 14.26. with these Arms embrace him: We are indeed brought near to him by Faith, and have some fellowship and Communion with him; but we do not see him as he is, nor see him face to face, as afterwards.

2. For the Publick Solemnization of the Marriage, the Bridegroom and the Bride do both deck and adorn themselves: The Bridegroom cometh in the glory of his Father, with great abundance of the Holy Angels; Revel. 19.7. Let us be glad, and give Ho­nour to him; for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and his Wife hath made her self ready. Common Garments are not for that Wedding: we must be active in the Purifying our selves, but the Grace is given by God, Verse 8. And to her was granted, that she might be cloathed in white linnen; the fine linnen is the Righteousness of the Saints. As Esther was supplyed out of the Kings Wardrobe, these Ornaments, and Garments of Salvation, are purchased and bestowed freely upon us; by Jesus Christ all is given: we are here but renewed in part, and cleansed in part; all our filthy Garments are not yet put off: but then we shall not have the least Remainder of Sin and Misery; if we should meet Christ with our Deformities, we should meet him with shame, and Discomfort; it would be a Dishonour to our Bridegroom, to come into his pre­sence with our filthy Rags: therefore we come to present his Bride with Glory.

3. Then there is an open Manifestation of his Dearest Love; before the last day the Match is concluded between the Parties, there is love expressed, but 'tis secret and hidden; Our Life is hid with Christ in God: But then he will own Believers man by man, Luk. 12.8. invite them into his bosom in the sight of the World, Mat. 25.34. pronounce their Pardon on the Throne, Acts 3.19. set them at his Right-hand, as Judging the World together with himself: 2 Cor. 6.2. Alas! now all is under a Vail, the World sees us not: 1 John 3.1. Now we our selves question whether he loves us or no; question it often: If the Lord be with us, why are these things befallen us? But then, all is open and clear, when the Clouds vanish about Christs Person, so about us also: 'Tis called, the day of the manifestation of the Sons of God, Rom. 8.19.

4. Then we are brought home to his House, conducted in State to Heaven; John 14.3. Then the day is come when you shall have all that you have hoped, desired, look­ed for; Oh what an happy day will that be! When the great Shepherd of the Sheep shall lead his Flock into their everlasting Fold, and the Husband of the Church carry her with him into his Fathers House: John 17.24. Father, I will that those whom thou [Page 60] hast given me, may be where I am, and behold my Glory. And his Will and Testament is made good, now we are in the outer Court; if one day in the House of God, be bet­ter than a Thousand elsewhere, Oh what is it to be brought home to God! In these blessed Mansions there we shall abide for ever, and never to part more.

5. Everlasting Cohabitation, and living with him: We shall be ever with the Lord, 1 Thes. 4.17. not get a Glimpse and away, but for ever to enjoy his presence. Christs Presence for a time upon Earth, was very sweet to his Disciples; 'twas bitter to them to think of his going from them, though it were Expedient for them; but now remain in an everlasting State of Intimacy, and Familiarity with him. Now we have a taste of Christ, but then our Communion shall be without Intermission, or Interruption; we shall be out of the Croud and press of Troubles, and Tempta­tions, and Sins, and study Divinity in the Lambs Face, and he will communicate himself to us according to the vastest Extent of our Capacity.

VSE, Oh then be Espoused to Christ! Otherwise he will not come as a Bride­groom, but as a Judge. For Motives,

1. Consider your Necessity; there is a deep necessity lyeth upon you, you are un­done for ever if you are not married to Christ: The Apostle saith, 1 Cor. 7. if a Wo­man can live without an Husband, she doth well, if she marryeth not; But now you are undone for ever, if you have him not; you are liable to the Wrath of the Eternal God. The Apostle saith, Rom. 7.4. That all those are dead to the Law, who are marryed to Christ: that must be done necessarily.

First now, What is it to be dead to the Law, but to see our selves miserable, and undone for ever, and Impotent, and no way able to help our selves? The Law which is written upon every mans Conscience, is there represented as an hard and cruel Husband, that requireth an hard task to do, but affordeth no strength at all to do it: Therefore it bindeth us over to Death and the Curse. The Sense of the Law being in-bred in the Conscience, and Natural to us, cannot be extinguished; but will return with the more Violence: Well then the Law suggesteth what we should do, threatneth us if we do it not; and Conscience telling us we have not done it, this is a continual Grief and Vexation to us, and a man is kept under fear of Death and Hell all his days.

2. Consider the Excellency of Christ, who is altogether Lovely, as to his Person and Offices, and every way suited to your necessities: As to his Person, he is God-man, able and willing to do you good; for what cannot God do? and surely he will not be strange to his own flesh: You are condemned by the Law, he is a Priest to make Atonement for you: You are ignorant of the way to true Happiness, he is a Prophet to teach and guide you; you have many Enemies and Difficulties to over­come in that way, he points it out to you; and your own flesh is weak, but he is a King to vanquish your Enemies, and to assist you with the Powerful Succours of his Spirit; he will help you to perform your Duty, in the midst of all Temptations to the contrary; For we are to serve him in Newness of Spirit, Rom. 7.5, 6.

3. Consider the Vtility, and Profit of it. 1 Cor. 3.22, 23. All things are yours, and you are Christs, and Christ is Gods. If you could as heartily devote your selves to the Service of Christ, as Christ as Mediatour did to the work of Redemption, nothing would be wanting to you, to promote your present Holiness and future Happi­ness.

4. 'Tis no Presumption to aspire to this Marriage, for God maketh the first Mo­tion; God hath made Love to you, and Wooed you by all manner of ingaging Ex­pressions, that he may win your Hearts, and ingage your consent: Oh do not re­fuse the Lords kindness, or neglect to bestow your Hearts upon him, or to give up your selves to him. Christ hath imployed Spokes-men, sends his tokens, as presents of Love; Mat. 23.37. I would, but you would not. All Marriages are brought about by earnest Suit on the one side, and Consent on the other: so it is here. Oh there­fore consider, and say as Rebecka, I can say no more, nor no less, the thing is the Lords.

5. Consider how ill Christ will take it, to be refused; Prov. 1.29, 30. They would none of my Counsel, and despised all my Reproofs: And Psal. 81.11. But my People would not hearken to my Voice; Israel would none of me: Despising of kindness is very provoking. Oh then give Christ a free, and a full, and firm consent, and all is ended.

First, A free Consent, not Extorted. When men are a little frighted into a good [Page 61] Conscience, Christ seemeth to be welcome to them; but as their Trouble weareth off, so doth their Resolution to take Christ for their Lord and Saviour; Psal. 78.34, 35. When he slew them, then they sought him; and returned and enquired early after God, and they remembred that God was their Rock, and the most High their Redeemer. In such cases men put a force upon themselves, and their Heart is not inclined, but com­pelled, as those that marry against their wills. 'Tis only in a pang, and fit of Conscience, that they like Christ; when some great distress forceth them to re­solve for him, and their fears drive them to Christ, rather than his excellencies draw them to him. That which is forced is not sincere. Many own Christ in their sickness and distress, that never care for him when they are well at ease: then they forget all, live as they did before, when their turn is served. There is a difference between a Womans coming to a Physician for cure, and her coming to a Husband to dwell with him. True Conversion doth begin in fear, but it doth not end there: it endeth in a change of Heart, and a settled love to God and Holiness, and an hatred of Sin. This is not only seen in men when the fear of Death affrights them; but in their whole lives. Others under some Convi­ction they would have Christ for their Consciences, and the World for their Hearts.

Secondly, It must be a full and unbounded Consent to all the terms and demands of the Gospel; to be what he would have you to be, and to do what he would have you to do: Mat. 13.44. The man sold all to buy the Pearl of great price. You must not stick at any thing: Though you are unwilling to let the match go, yet it is no full consent: Christ will be taken for better for worse; you must renounce your dearest Lusts, devote and resign your choicest Interests, or else you are un­worthy of him. The bargain is not made, till all your Interests be laid at his feet, Luk. 14.26.33. So for Lusts; Mat. 5.29.30. Here men usually stick, and had rather undergo any cost and pains, than undergo the mortification of Sin, as you may see in Mica. 6.6, 7. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow my self before the most high God? shall I come before him with Burnt Offerings, and Calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of Rams, or with ten thou­sands of Rivers of Oyl? Shall I give my First-born for my Transgression, and the Fruit of my Body for the Sin of my Soul? Now before it comes to this, man hath many debates of Soul: They are convinced that Sin is evil, contrary to God, and hurt­ful to themselves; and have some mind to let it go: But in fine, their Hearts are more for it than against it, and so do not come up to a saving consent to take Christ for their Lord and Husband. The pleasures of sin are so bewitching, that they cannot come up roundly to Christs terms, or to the whole business of Christi­anity.

Thirdly, It must be a firm and habitual Consent, and such as is not retracted in our after Conversation. Weak and wavering purposes soon come to nothing; but when this is your ordinary frame, and the new Nature, and the inclination of your Souls is this way; when there is a new bent put upon your Spirits; then it will hold out: Psal. 119.112. I have inclined my heart to perform thy Statutes al­wayes to the end.

The Second thing remarkable in the Text is the Entrance of those that were ready in to the Nuptial Feast: And, (1.) Who are the Persons? They that are inwardly renewed, and endowed with the saving Graces of the Spirit.

(2.) What's their Priviledge? They went in to the Marriage, to the Festivities of the Marriage Chamber, or place of Nuptial Entertainment. Marriage Feasts are of­ten spoken of in Scripture, Judg. 14.10. And Sampson made a feast, for so used the young men to do. And Gen. 29.22. And Laban gathered all the young men of the place, and made a feast. This figureth the joys of Eternal Life, and that full and sweet Communion we shall have with Christ in Heaven.

Doct. Those only who are ready and prepared for Christ, shall enter into eternal joys, when others are excluded.

Luk. 12.37. Blessed are those Servants, whom when the Lord cometh, he shall find watching. So Mat. 24.44. Therefore be ye also ready.

1. I shall enquire, What it is to be ready?

[Page 62]2. Shew you, why they only shall have eternal and immediate Communion with Christ.

1. What it is to be ready. There is a Twofold Readiness.

  • (1.) An Habitual and Constant Readiness.
  • (2.) An Actual Readiness; when you specially compose your selves to meet with Christ.

(1.) Of the Habitual and Constant Readiness, that concerneth the state of the Person, the frame of the Heart, and the course of our Conversations; as repre­sented by Oyl in the Vessel, and the Lamps kept burning.

[1.] The State of the Person. He must be one reconciled, and one at peace with God. There are two Expressions in Scripture that speak of the state that we must be found in when Christ cometh; 2 Pet. 3.14. That we may be found of him in peace: The other is, 2 Cor. 5.3. That we may not be found naked. And both do princi­pally relate to Justification. Our Peace depends upon our Reconciliation with God, Rom. 5.1. And till your Pardon be sued out in an humble and broken-hearted manner, how will you be able to stand before the Lord? till you be rectus in Cu­ria, and have a discharge of Sin and the Curse, and be not found in a natural and unconverted Estate? The other Expression is, That we may not be found naked: 'Tis sad to appear before God with no other covering but our own Skins; No; there is no getting the Blessing but in the Garment of our Elder Brother. There­fore we are so often bidden to put on the Lord Jesus, Rom. 13.14. and Gal. 3.27. and that you buy of Him white Raiment to cover your nakedness, Rev. 3.17, 18. These places are principally to be interpreted of Justification, though it will not exclude Sanctification: For that is a Garment of Salvation to cover our loathsome naked­ness from the sight of the Lord.

[2.] As to the frame of the Heart; that it be renewed, and Sanctified. Habi­tual Grace is Oyl in the Vessel, that there may be a Spring or Fountain of Grace in the Heart, Joh. 7.38. but that I spake of before. The Graces of the Spirit are the Brides Jewels, and Ornaments are the things which the Bridegroom delights in, Isa. 61.10. I will greatly rejoyce in the Lord, my Soul shall be joyful in my God. For he hath cloathed me with the Garments of Salvation, he hath covered me with the Robes of his Righteousness,: As a Bridegroom decketh himself with Garments, and as a Bride adorneth herself with Jewels, &c. The more these things are in us, and abound in us, the more lovely in Christs eyes.

[3.] Something as to the course of our Conversation. 'Tis not enough to have Oyl in the Vessel, but the Lamp must be kept burning, our Graces in actual and continual exercise; and we must alwayes make it our study to please the Lord. This is part of our Preparation: For men are judged according to their works; therefore what manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation and Godliness? 2 Pet. 3.10. The life of Grace is seen in the fruits of it; for that end was it given us; not to lie idle in the Heart, but to discover its influence and efficacy in every part of our Conversation; 2 Pet. 1.8. If these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: That will make a Christian busie and active in Gods Service. Well then, by this you know who are prepared and who unprepared.

(2.) There is an Actual Preparation, which is like the trimming the Lamps, when they heard the Cry; and that noteth our actual fitting our selves for Death and Judgment. Besides our general habitual Preparation, there needeth actual Preparation. When Pharaoh sent for Joseph, he washed himself. 'Tis no slight thing to appear before Christ. Our general work should often be reviewed, that we may get Promises ready, Evidences ready, Experiences ready; that we may have nothing to do but to wait the good hour, and give welcome to the Lord Jesus Christ, as old Simeon, Luk. 2.29. Lord, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen thy Salvation. You should be so settled in Con­science, weaned in Heart, purified in Spirit, that you do with comfort wait for the Salvation of God; and not only wait for it, but long for it, love his appearing, especially after a long Profession of the Name of Christ so it should be.

Now this actual Preparation should be made, either,

1. Daily, and when you are in the greatest health and strength: We should think of our great change, Job 14.14. for Death doth not alwayes give warning; and to [Page 63] be provided doth no hurt. It enliveneth our General Preparation, and maketh us the more serious: 'Tis like poysing our confidence, and weighing the strength and temper of it, to see if it can encounter the thoughts of Death and Judgment to come. A run-away cowardly Faith, that cannot endure the serious thoughts and supposition of these things, will do us no good: Presumption is a Coward. Besides, it riddeth off the present work with more success, when we live every day as if it were our last; and do all things as if presently to give an account to Christ of the doing of them. Once more, to familiarize the thoughts of Christs coming to us, it allayeth so much of the dread and terrour of it as belongeth to bondage, and keepeth up so much as belongs to Reverence, and serious and awful walking with God.

2. When God summons us by his Providence to make up our Account. Luk. 16.2. Give an account of thy Stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer Steward. Many are about to go into the other World, but they do not think of making ready for it. The Wrath of God is even at the door, and they are stupid and care­less: Surely such a frame of Heart should be far from the Children of God. They have a tender Conscience, and a deep sense of the World to come; therefore in probality, when they have but a short time wherein to prepare, their preparati­on should be the more serious. So when we are to partake of the Lords Supper, a man would go aside, and renew his Evidences for Heaven, and awaken his spi­ritual desire. So for hearing the Word, a man would compose his Heart to re­ceive the Word with Meekness: And should we not set our Hearts in frame when we are to meet with Christ, not only in the Ordinances, but in Person.

Secondly, Why those only that are Ready and Prepared, are to enter into the Nuptial Chamber.

[1.] Those are only meet for heavenly Happiness. 'Tis most suitable to them, as ha­ving that life begun in their Hearts, which shall be perfected there, Col. 1.12. What should poor sensual sinful Creatures do with Heaven? Heaven is prepared for us, and we for Heaven, Rom. 6.23. When we are put into an Heavenly frame and temper, Heaven Gates stand open for us. 'Tis the wisdom of God to put all things in their proper place; heavy and light Bodies in their proper places: So here the Apostle saith, 2 Cor. 5.5. He that wrought us for this very thing, is God. Excellent Vessels are not thrown about the House, but put into a place suit­able. The purging and purifying of our Souls, is a kind of spiritualizing of our Bodies: And so we are fitted both in Body and Soul.

[2.] These only have a lively sense of the Coming of the Lord. Temporaries are a sort of Hypocrites; their work is real, though but a common work; not because they purposely and intendedly dissemble, but because they have not answer­able impressions to the things which they profess to believe; and their Affections and Preparations are not answerable to what they know; and so 'tis a kind of mock­ing of God. They profess and believe God Omniscient, yet fear not to sin in his presence; to believe Eternity, yet Temporal things have the greatest power and influence upon them: They look for the coming of Christ in great Majesty and Glory, but do not make suitable Provision. If we had high thoughts of Christ, and a great respect to him, we would prepare accordingly: But surely we have lessen­ing thoughts of Christ, and his glorious Coming, if we do not make ready for him, how high soever our notions be about it.

VSE, Are we ready? I must direct the edge of this Use to four sorts of People.

1. Some care not whether they be ready or no: They do but dally with Eter­nity and things of Religion: Their Hearts are not moved with joy, or grief, or hope, or fear at the Remembrance of this day. Surely they have no Faith, at least not a lively, but dead Faith; and therefore are so dead-hearted; and be­sides they care for none of these things, they mind Earthly things. If they can live comfortably here, be well at ease here, they never take care to live eternally. Now to these I shall only say, Live in no state or frame of Heart, but what you would die in. Alas, in your serious moods you cannot but say, I would not die for all the World: But what if God should arrest thee before thou thinkest of it? What would become of thee? On the other side consider, when our work is done, and our Ornaments put on, then it will be pleasant to us to think of the coming of Christ. Now Lord lettest thou thy Servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy Salvation, Luk. 2.29.

[Page 64]2. Some think themselves ready when they are not. Rev. 3.17. Thou thoughtest thou wast rich, and encreased with goods; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I trust in Gods mercy, and hope I shall go to Christ: 'Tis easie to say this, but do you know what 'tis to meet with Christ, what honour he expecteth from you at the last day, and how little a naked trust, and a dead and empty Faith will do to your acceptance with him? I confess we have all from Christ, and all the honour we can do him results from his own Grace: But yet 'tis said, Rev. 19.5. The Bride hath made her self ready. There is work required of us, and such as may be answerable to the dig­nity of so great a Lord and Husband.

3. Others think an habitual Readiness will serve the turn. They mind present duties, but do not enliven them by the remembrance of the coming of the Lord; or they have not done their main work, and therefore take more liberty about the World than others, and a greater liberty in the delights of sense; and there­fore we have that caution, Luk. 21.24. Take heed to your selves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life; and so that day come upon you unawares. That will make you wither, and contract deadness and drowsiness hinder your comfort and peace, and that chearful testi­mony you may give for God to others; as Peter's question, Lord, speakest thou to us, or to all? Luk. 12.41.

4. Many are ready, but think themselves unready: It concerneth them to study Gospel Grounds of Comfort and Peace; if they can endure the Touch-stone, though not the Balance. Where there is a sincere bent of heart to please him, there is a Law of Liberty, Jam. 2.12. a Law of Liberty, not for the carnal, but the sin­cere; not a Law of Tryal, but of Gospel liberty.

We now come to the Third thing in the Text: And the Door was shut. The shutting the door noteth the Impossibility of getting our Condition altered, when the day of Grace and Tryal is once over. There is a twofold Door.

1. Janua Misericordiae ad Ignoscendum, the door of Christs Pity and Mercy to re­turning sinners, Mat. 7.7. Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. And Joh. 6.37. Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast off. But then this Door is shut.

2. Janua Gratiae ad Convertendum; there is the Door of Repentance and Conver­sion; but there is no Repentance when we are in termino. They may have a sense of their misery, but their habitual hatred to God remaineth; they that have wittingly and wilfully rejected his Counsel, remain so still. The fire of Hell doth not soften but harden them; their Self-love may make them sensible of their pain.

Reasons.

First, His Love to his People: Though Christ waiteth long for the Preparati­on of the Wicked, yet he will not alwaies delay the desire of the Godly.

Secondly, His Justice. 'Tis fit that they that live so long in their Unbelief, and disobedience of the Counsels and Precepts of the Gospel, should at length find this dispensation continued, who grow unteachable and hardened in their negli­gences, Psal. 95.7, 8. To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

VSE, Is to press us to begin with God betimes. You that are young, take warn­ing this day; do not think there is time enough hereafter. You that are old, do not think it is too late; nor be ashamed to begin now. (1.) The present time is the only opportunity of Salvation, or embracing the offer of Gods Grace, Heb. 3.7. Psal. 95.7. Oh do not reject his Counsel. (2.) Love is impatient of delay; if we could Hope to prevail with you that way. (3.) When the Angels sinned, the Lord immediately shut the door against them; to us he hath given leave, Acts 11.13, 14. and space to Repent, Rev. 2.21. Let us not receive the Grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6.1.

SERMON IX.

MATTH. XXV. v. 11, 12.

Afterwards came also the other Virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

But he answered, and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

IN these Words we have two Branches.

  • (1.) The Supplication of the Foolish Virgins, vers. 11.
  • (2.) The Answer of the Bridegroom, vers. 12.

In the First consider, the time when it was: These Foolish Vir­gins came [afterwards,] when the Door was shut.

Secondly, The Blandishment and Compellation here used, Lord, Lord.

First, For the Time when it was. These Virgins came [afterwards,] when it was too late: They should have knocked, and cryed for mercy before the door was shut: Isa. 55.6. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Otherwise our Cries are but howlings; the fruit of our discontent, rather than our own choice. Heb. 11.5. 'Tis said of Enoch, that he pleased God. If we would live with God in a blessed Estate hereafter, we must please God ere we depart hence. This is the time of Grace, or Gods Patience, Luk. 2.14. Peace upon Earth, good will to men ▪ and 2 Cor. 6.1, 2. This is the time of labour and service, Eccl. 9.10. Judgment findeth us as Death leaveth us, Eccl. 11.3. Then we are in termino. When this life is ended, all opportunities of doing good end with it. Corn doth not grow in the Barn, but in the Field: therefore we had need to work now, seek Grace now, be instant with God now; Joh. 9.4. I must work the work of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh wherein no man can work. And now, that is, not only while life lasteth, but instantly.

Secondly, Here is the Blandishment and Compellation used, Lord, Lord! So Mat. 7.21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Hea­ven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in Heaven. And ver. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord.

(1.) Here is a Title of honour given to Christ by Hypocrites; and 'tis ingemina­ted. The Title of honour given to Christ, is due to him, Joh. 13.13. Ye call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. But the Title must be verified by suitable practice. Men may delight to be flattered with the Title of Lord, Lord, by those that inwardly bear them no reverence; but Christ who knoweth the Heart, will not be pleased with those glorious Titles, when your Hearts give your Tongues the lie. Luk. 6.46. Why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say? As they cryed, Hail King of the Jews, when the Soldiers mocked him. Many often entitle Christ to their party, take upon them to be his Disciples in words; but the Kingdom of God standeth not in word, but in power. But these ser­ved their Master more with Mouth than with Heart; therefore Christ doth not ac­cept of them, nor approve of them for his Servants. They call Christ Lord, but obey the Devil, are lead and governed by the flesh, disobedient to Christs Coun­sels and Precepts. I hear Lord, Lord, but what means the bleating of the Sheep, [Page 66] and the lowing of the Oxen? Therefore 'tis in vain to use this honourable Title to move pity in the Judge.

(2.) They ingemminate it, to shew the Ardency of their desires, and earnestness to have Christ for their Lord. Now first or last every knee shall bow to Christ; they are forced to fly to him now in their extremity and pressures of misery. Though men will not come to Christ for Grace, yet they will come to him for Glory. Now they cannot come because busied about something else, Luk. 14.18, 19, 20. indeed will not come, Joh. 5.40. And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life: But then 'tis all Lord, Lord. Oh how fain would they own Christ, and be owned by him: But alas their Repentance cometh too late, their desires too late, their tears too late; 'tis all forced by their extremity, Job 27.9. Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? An Hypocrite would not much care if he were heard in the times of peace, and the affluence of outward enjoyments; but then when he would fain flatter God into an hearing, God rejecteth him. In extremity they prize mercy above a thousand Worlds; but all will not do, the Door is shut.

(3.) The Matter of the Petition: Open to us. That is, the Door of the Nupti­al Chamber. None but desire Happiness. This Petition as set here, noteth two things.

1. The innate desire of Happiness that is in Man. All desire to enter, and to be saved at length, however they neglect the Means for the present, to get Oyl in their Vessels, or to keep in their Lamps.

2. How deeply leavened with self-confidence and self-conceit the Hearts of men are, so that they are not easily dispossessed of it. When the door is shut, the foolish Virgins make full account to enter. The most sottish think they shall do well enough, Deut. 29.19. I shall have peace, though I walk in the Imagination of my own heart, and add drunkenness to thirst; Especially the Temporary, who is the refined Hypocrite. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name, &c. make full account to go to Heaven, that shall never come there. They trust to false Evidences, use negligent endeavours, please themselves with uncer­tain and deceitful hopes: But all vain and false pretences shall then be confuted, and those that have an high and false opinion of their interest in Christ, shall then be disproved by him.

Secondly, I now come to the Bridegrooms Reply. Where note,

1. The Vehemency and Asseveration: Verily I say unto you. To cut off all fur­ther hope, his Answer is peremptory and decisive.

2. The Reply it self: I know you not. There is a twofold knowledge; Intui­tive, and Approbative. (1.) By an Intuitive Knowledge, known unto the Lord from the beginning are all his Works, Act. 15.18. God had an Idea of all things in himself before he gave them actual Being: He knoweth all whom he conserves by his Providence. Every wise man knoweth what he hath. Christ knew that virtue went from him in the throng. (2.) But this Knowledge is here meant of the know­ledge of Approbation, as we find it often in Scripture. Now Christs knowledge of his own people is threefold.

First, As they fall under the purposes of his Grace. So 'tis said, 2 Tim. 2.12. The Lord knoweth them that are his. This is also in Scripture called his Fore-knowledge, Rom. 8.29. Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the Image of his Son. 1 Pet. 1.2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. God the Father having all persons that ever should be in the World under his all-seeing eye, he did out of his free love single and choose out some to be the Objects of his Grace, designing them by the Redemption of Christ, and the San­ctification of the Spirit to come unto Glory. He particularly treated with Christ about them, Joh. 17.6. put them into his hands, to be justified, sanctified, and finally saved. This is the foundation of the Lord that standeth sure.

Secondly, As they are under the care of his Special Providence, when they are in actual being, to supply them with all things necessary and good for them: So tis said, Psal. 1.6. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wick­ed shall perish. Joh. 10.14. I am the good Shepherd, and know my Sheep, and am known of mine. Christ knoweth them man by man, person by person; and all their safe­ty cometh from his particular care over them; Gal. 4.9. But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God. He assigneth the work of Conversion to Gods [Page 67] preventing Grace. Sinners in an unconverted Estate, are such of whom God ta­keth no notice and knowledge, so as to be familiar with them, and to commu­nicate his special and saving blessings to them.

Thirdly, 'Tis put for his Rewarding Grace; and so he is said to know, or not to know. To know his People, 1 Cor. 8.3. If any man love God, the same is known of him. Those that choose God for their portion, and cleave to him, and serve him faithfully, Christ will own them or confess them before his Father in Heaven, Luk. 12.8. but others he will not own. See Mat. 7.21. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: He will not own them in judgment that will not own and obey him now. So Luk. 13.25.26.27. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door; and ye begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not, whence you are: Then shall ye begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell ye, I know you not. Here is no entertainment for such as you, who have by your sloth, negligence and improvidence forfeited the advantages offered you; I never approved you for my Disciples and Servants. [...], &c. saith Chrisostome; These words are more cutting and grievous than Hell it self, I know you not. Well, these three sorts of knowing must be distinguished.

The first is this: That Christ hath a particular and exact knowledge of all the Elect, and who they are that shall be saved; wherein he will not be disappointed, Joh. 13.18. I know whom I have chosen.

The second is the ground of our present comfort and support: He hath a special affection to them, taketh special notice and care of them, and will bring them to know, love, and acknowledge him, as he doth also them: He beareth a suitable Im­pression thereto.

The third is matter of our hope, and will be our honour at the last day, that Christ will come to us, and own us, and reward us for all that we have done or suffered for him here. When others have the entertainment of Strangers, and are rejected as no true Believers and Professors of the Gospel, then shall we be owned and admitted into Heaven by him.

Here is a large Field of Matter. I shall single out those things that are most obvious, and worthy of our remark and Observation.

First, That they came afterwards; I shall take occasion to shew the Necessity of hastening our Preparation for the day of our Accounts.

Secondly, From their passionate desire to have the door opened to them; here is a strong insinuation, and vehement desire, Lord, Lord! that even in Reprobates and Cast-aways there may be a desire of entring into the joyes of everlasting Life.

Thirdly, From Christs Reply, I shall shew you the dreadful Misery, and direful effect of being disowned by Christ at his Coming.

For the First, Since the Foolish Virgins came too late, We should all take care to begin with God betimes; the sooner the better.

1. Because you make a necessary work sure, and put it out of doubt and hazard. The time of life is the time of Grace, Luk. 2.14. 2 Cor. 6.2. Now the time of life is uncertain, Jam. 4.14. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is but a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanish­eth away. And a work of necessity should not be left on peradventures: Therefore we ought to bestir our selves without delay or foreslowing. We know not how soon opportunity will be over. It cannot be done too soon, it may be done too late: and therefore 'tis good to be on the surest side. Ludovicus Capellus telleth us, out of Rabbi Jonah's Book of the Mystery of Repentance, that when a Disciple came to his Teacher to know what was the fittest time to repent in, he answered, One day before his death, meaning presently; for we have not assurance of another day: Prov. 27.1. Thou knowest not what to morrow may bring forth. Our greatest works and of most absolute necessity should be done first, and have the quickest dispatch, lest it be too late before we go about them. Oh wo to us if God should call us off before we have minded coming to him, and walking with him.

2. In point of Obedience; God presseth to Now. God doth not only command us to please him, but to do it presently, Heb. 3.7, 8. Now, while it is called to day, har­den not your hearts. Pompilius the Roman Ambassador, when he made delayes and excuses, the Emperour drew a Circle on the ground, saying, Intra hunc, Answer me [Page 68] before thou stirrest from this place. God standeth upon his Authority, and will have a present answer: if he say to day, 'tis flat disobedience for you to say to mor­row. Now is the time of Salvation, at this instant, 2 Cor. 6.2. You are charged in his name, as you will answer the contrary: You say, No, I will please the flesh a little longer: It may be just with God, if you refuse him, never to call you more.

3. In point of Ingenuity: We receive a plenteous recompence for a small service. When a man thinketh what God hath provided for them that love him, and serve him, he should be ashamed that he receives so much, and does so little; and there­fore he should redeem all the time that he can, that he may answer his expectati­ons from God. Shall we adjourn and put off God to our decrepid time, when he hath provided for us eternal happiness? Can a man that hath any ingenuity in his breast, be content to dishonour God longer, grieve his Spirit longer, provided that at length he may be saved? Those that have any due sense of Gods kindness, or their own duty, will think God hath too long been kept out of his right, and that all the time that remaineth is too little to express our love and thankfulness to him, 1 Pet. 4.3. Men that do delay, do in effect say, Let me despise thy Commands, and abuse thy Mercy a little longer; but then when my Lusts are satisfied, and youth­ful heats are spent, I will see what I can do to be saved. What baseness of Spi­rit is this!

4. 'Tis our advantage to begin betimes, both here and hereafter.

(1.) Here. The sooner you begin to please God, the sooner you have an evidence of your interest in his favour, more experience of his Love, more hopes of living with him in Heaven. Oh these things are not slight things! When once you come to taste the comfort of them, you will be sorry that you had begun no sooner; as Paul complaineth that he was born out of due time, 1 Cor. 15.8. because he lost the advantage of seeing Christ in the flesh, and so of many sweet conferences, and many sweet visits of Love, and experiences of Grace, that otherwise might fail to his share, Rom. 16.7. They were in Christ before me. An early Acquaintance with Christ bringeth many benefits with it, as peace, and comfort, and joy, and hope, which others that set forth later want. The Consolations of God should not be vile and cheap with us: If you were acquainted with them, you would leave your husks for bread in your Fathers house.

(2.) The sooner you begin with God, the greater will your glory be Hereafter. For the more we improve our Talents here, the greater will our reward be in Heaven, Luk. 19.16, 17, 18, 19. And he said unto him, VVell, thou good Ser­vant; because thou hast been faithful, in a little, have thou authority over ten Ci­ties. And the second came, and said, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds: And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five Cities. And when the Mother of Ze­bedee's Children came to Christ, and desired that her two Sons might sit one at his right hand, and the other at his left, Mat. 20.23. Christ doth not deny the thing, that there are degrees of Glory, set forth by sitting on the right hand, and on the left; but telleth her, that it shall be given to them for whom it is pre­pared of his Father: As in Hell there is an hotter and cooler judgment. Cer­tainly then they that have long pleased God, and made it the whole business of their lives, shall have larger measures of happiness.

VSE, Is to reprove those that adjourn and put off the work of Religion from time to time, till they have lost all time. 'Tis Sathan's Artifice to cheat men of the present opportunity, by promises of a future Obedience. Oh consider the work is much, and life is short: If we did live as many years as days, all would be lit­tle enough; therefore let us begin betimes. There are three Arguments to press this. If this work must be once done, why not Now? your Hearts will not be better, nor the Terms less.

1. Your Hearts are not like to be better: For the longer we continue in sin, the heart is the more hardened: as the High-way by continual treading groweth the harder, and the Anvil by continual smiting is hardned the more; so long use in sin obdureth the Heart, and long resistance grieveth the Spirit, and carnal affections grow upon us, Jer. 13.23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his Spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil. 'Tis hard to transplant an old Tree. The Affections are now more settled in a course of sin.

[Page 69]2. The Terms of the Gospel will not be more easie, and we better able to obey them hereafter than now we are. The Laws of Christianity are alwayes the same. The pleasures of sin must one day be renounced, or we are for ever miserable; and why not now? Sin will be as sweet hereafter as now it is; and Salvation dispensed upon the same terms. You cannot be saved hereafter with less adoe, or bring down Christ or Heaven to a lower rate. If this be a reason, it will ever be as a reason against Christ and Religion, because you are loath to part with this or that pleasing lust; and so it will never be.

3. The Suspicion that is upon a late Repentance: 'Tis seldome sound, and there­fore alwayes questionable. That is no true Repentance which ariseth meerly from horrour, and the sense of Hell. This sensible work that men have upon them, may be but the beginning of everlasting despair. All men seek the Lord at length, but the wise seek him in time. This was the great difference between the wise and foolish Virgins; one sought him in time, the other out of time: They would covet his favour at last. Upon a Death-bed the most prophane would have God for their portion: When they can sin no more, and enjoy the World no longer, then they cry and howl for mercy and comfort, and a little well grounded hope of Heaven or eternal life: But who can tell whether this sensible work that is upon them, be not meerly an act of self-love, and the fruit of those natural de­sires which all the Creatures have after their own happiness; or a meer retreat others have when they can hold the World no longer. We cannot say this Re­pentance is true, nor affirm the contrary, that 'tis false; but 'tis doubtful. There is but that one instance of the Thief on the Cross, that truly repented when he came to die. The Scriptures contain an History of four thousand years, or there­abouts; and yet all that while we have but this one instance of a true Repen­tance just at death; and in that Instance there is an extraordinary Conjunction of Circumstances, which cannot reasonably be expected again. Christ was now at his right hand, in the height of his love drawing sinners to God: Never such a season as then, and 'tis more than probable, he had never a call before then. Well then, let us put this necessary work of Preparation for God out of doubt betimes; yea let the Children of God, if they have not yet prevailed against such a Lust, or lived in the neglect of such a Duty, could not bring their hearts to it hither­to, make speed, left they be surprized, and this defect in their preparation make their death uncomfortable. A good Christian is alwayes converting, yet not ful­ly converted: The first work is often gone over, and he is still getting nearer to God by a more affectionate compliance with his whole will.

Doct. 2. That those that are finally refused by the Lord, may yet have a desire of the Ioyes of Heaven.

(1.) Consider them in this VVorld, and in the VVorld to come. These two respects are different: For though Self-love be the common cause of their desiring Heaven both now, and then; yet there is a difference: 'Tis more commendable to desire it now, than to desire it then; though neither be an argument of any gracious Constitution of Soul. 'Tis more commendable to desire it now, when 'tis a mat­ter of Faith to believe the World to come, than when 'tis a matter of Sense; as when all Shadows are chased away, then 'tis no hard matter to convince men of things that lye within the Veil; that is, of the truth and worth of Heavenly things: And yet if they should be convinced of this, we cannot say they are gra­cious, however they are better than meer Infidels; for carnal men may desire a share in the state of the Blessed, as Numb. 23.10. Oh that I might die the death of the Righteous! Balaam had his wishes. And those that did not like Christs Doctrine, but departed from him, said, Joh. 6.34. Lord, evermore give us of this bread of life. They would fain be happy: When this happiness was represented unto them, it may and doth stir up strange motions in the Hearts of those that are unrenewed and unchanged.

(2.) There is a difference in the End and Vse of this desire of Happiness. Now and then God leaveth these Velleities and Inclinations as a Stock upon which to graft Grace; as a Spinster leaveth a lock of Wooll to fasten the next thread; as Nebuchadnezzar's shape remained when he was turned a grazing among the Beasts; and as Job's Messengers, I alone am escaped to tell thee. There are these Inclinati­ons [Page 70] to happiness, that are escaped out of the ruines of the Fall. God by our self-love, would draw us to love himself: Man will not be dealt with else. It leaveth men capable of Heaven the Doctrine of Life represented to them, they are without excuse, if they refuse it. This is the use of it now; but then when we are in termino, it hath another use. This love of their own happiness, and desire to be saved, serveth for this very use, to make them sensible of their loss, the grief of their Condemnation and lost estate is encreased thereby. Now this is little thought of by carnal men, because they have Oblectamenta sensus, the enter­tainments of sense to divert their minds; but when separate and set apart from all these, then, if they have no other punishment, this is enough. Surely their understanding remaineth, having nothing to comfort them, and allay the bitter sense of their loss. But now let us see,

  • 1. How far carnal and unregenerate men desire Happiness.
  • 2. Why this is so little improved, and they make so little use of it.

First, How far a carnal and unregenerate man may desire Happiness.

(1.) They may desire good confuse, non indefinitè; Happiness in the General; but this desire cometh under no deliberation and choice: The happiness that is offered by Christ, or that Life and Immortality that he bringeth to light, cometh under another consideration. Good, Good, is the cry of the World: Certainly no man would be miserable, but all would be happy, and live at ease. Christians, Pagans, all good men, bad men, they that seldome agree in any thing, do all agree in this, they would have good. To ask men whether they would be happy or no, is to ask men whether they love themselves yea or no.

(2.) They would not only have good in the General, but some eternal good: And because this is not so evident by nature, they grope and feel about for it, Act. 17.26. There is an unsatisfiedness in present things, and therefore they are scramb­ling, and feeling about for some better thing. As Solomon tryed all experiments, so do men go about seeking for good, Eccl. 7.29. Since we lost the streight line of Gods direction, we seek it sometimes in one thing, sometimes in another; and Christ saith, Mat. 13.45, 46. That the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a Merchant man seeking goodly pearls. And when he had found one pearl of good price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Man would have something contentful, that may be an everlasting ground of rejoycing to him.

(3.) As to true happiness and eternal good, when it is discovered to us, our Incli­nations to it are but weak and ineffectual: Without grace we discern it but weak­ly; for there is a great mist upon Eternity, and the light of Nature being dim, cannot pierce through it, 2 Pet. 1.9. As a Spire at a distance, men see it so that they cannot know whether they see it yea or no; or as the blind man when his eyes were first touched by Christ, he saw men walking like Trees. Again we consider it but weakly, the mind being diverted by other objects: As when we see a man in a crowd, we can hardly take notice of him; so men seldome re­tire to consider what God offereth them in Christ. When God promised Abra­ham the Land of Canaan, he biddeth him go and view the length and the breadth of it, Gen. 13.14, 15, 16, 17. So when he promiseth the Kingdom of Heaven, he doth in effect speak the same to us: For certain no man shall enter into that land of promise, but he that hath considered it, and well viewed it, and can lay aside his earthly distractions sometimes, to take a turn in the land of Promise: But few do this; few send their thoughts before them as Spies into that blessed Land, and therefore it worketh so little upon them. And we desire it but weakly, the Af­fections being prepossessed and preingaged by things that come next to hand, we conceive only a wish or a velleity for this happy Estate, not a serious volition, or a firm bent of heart; and therefore we pursue it but weakly, as Children de­sire a thing passionately, but are soon put out of the humour: They do not pur­sue it with that earnestness, exactness, and uniformity, which is requisite. The Soul of the Sluggard desireth, and hath nothing, Prov. 13.4. because his hands refuse to labour, Prov. 21.25. So that this inclination to happiness is neither serious, nor con­stant, nor labourious: These desires are but desires.

(4.) If they like the End, they dislike the Means. Our Souls are more averse from the Means than from the End. All agree in opinions and wishes about a supream and immortal Happiness; yet there is a great discord in the way that leadeth to it, not so much in opinion as practice. Men like not Gods terms: Esau [Page 71] would have the Blessing, yet sold the Birthright, Heb. 12.16, 17. Indeed in things natural we do not expect the End without the Means; but in things supernatu­ral we do, and so by refusing the Means, we do separate the End, Psal. 106.24. Heaven is a good place, but 'tis an hard matter to get thither; so loath are we to be at the cost and pains: We desire happiness, not holiness. God doth pro­mote those things we naturally desire; but still that we submit to those things we are naturally against. Whatsoever maketh for our selves we are naturally more willing of, than what maketh for the Honour of God: Now if we will not sub­mit to the one, we shall not have the other. We would all be pardoned, and freed from the Curse of the Law, and the Damnation of Hell; but we are unwil­ling to let go the profit and pleasure that we fancy in Sin.

Secondly, Why this is no more improved, and why we make no better use of it? There are four Causes of it. (1.) Ignorance. To many the Object is not represented; as to Heathens, and to sottish Christians. (2.) Inconsideration. Spiritual Objects must not only be represented, but inforced upon the Will by the efficacy and weight of Me­ditation, Psal. 1.3. (3.) Vnbelief. They have not a sound perswasion of these Truths, Heb. 11.13. They were perswaded of them, and embraced them: They had not a Ghess, but a sound Belief. (4.) Vnsubjection of will, Rom. 8.7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 'Tis easier to cure their Errours, than to mortifie their Affections.

VSE, Oh do not rest in desiring to be happy; there is no great matter in that; the Damned would have the Door opened to them: But desire Grace, Psal. 119.5. Rom. 7.23. desire it prevalently, so as not to be put out of the humour; as Chil­dren would fain have something when they are in pain, but are pleased with Rat­tles or any Toy. If your vain Delights abate not, this desire will do you no good. Desire it so as to labour for it, yea, so as to make it your main business, Psal. 27.4. yea, to part with all for it, Mat. 13.46. This is the way to be happy indeed.

Doct. 3. That 'tis a dreadful misery to be disowned by Christ at his Coming. I know you not.

1. Consider who may be disowned. Many that profess respect to Christ, and may be well esteemed of in the Visible Church; many that cry Lord, Lord; ma­ny that have eat and drunk in his presence. There is a great deal of difference be­tween the Esteem of God, and the Judgment of the World. Many whom we take to be forward Professors, yea, many that have great gifts and imployments in the Ministry, and with great success, Mat. 7.22. If only Pagans, or only prophane Persons were damned, or the opposite party to Christ, it were another matter; there were not such cause of fear: But those of Christs Faction, many that profess to know him, but were never subdued by the power of his Grace, Joh. 11.2, 3, 4. Christ doth not know, because he doth not love them.

2. The misery of being disowned. (1.) This disowning is the Act and Sentence of a Judge. If it were the frown of a bare Friend in our misery, it even cuts the Heart in sunder; but when a neglected Saviour shall become an angry Judge, when his favour hath been slighted long, then he will stir up all his wrath: When 'tis kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him, Psal. 2.12. (2.) 'Tis the disappointment of an Hope. They supposed he meant to own them, and therefore put in their Plea. There is an hope that will leave ashamed, Rom. 5.5. (3.) 'Tis the Cause of all other Misery: Poena damni maketh way for poena sensus. Here we care not for him, so long as we can be well without him. It may be now you esteem it nothing to have a frown from Christ in the day of his pati­ence; but then, Depart ye cursed.

VSE, Oh let this make your more serious for the time to come. Do not grieve the Spirit any longer, Eph. 4.30. Do you receive and own Christ when others re­fuse him, and you will be owned by Christ, Luk. 12.8, 9. And I say unto you, who­soever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the An­gels of God. But he that denyeth me before men, shall be denyed before the Angels of God.

SERMON X.

MATTH. XXV. v. 13.

Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour where­in the Son of Man cometh.

HEre is the Conclusion of the whole Parable, as the illative Particle [Therefore] sheweth. Every passage in it will inferr this Conclu­sion.

First, The Suddenness and unexpectedness of his Coming. Watch therefore.

Secondly, Only those that are ready shall enter into the Marriage-Chamber. Watch therefore, that ye may be alwayes ready.

Thirdly, The Shutting the Door, and Exclusion of the Unprepared. Watch there­fore..

Fourthly, The Door is shut, as never to be opened again. When they beg En­trance they are refused and disowned by Christ, as having not his mark upon them. Watch therefore; for ye know not the day, neither the hour, &c.

In the Words we have, (1.) A Duty. (2.) The Reason of it. The one will explain the other.

(1.) For the Duty: What is meant by Watching? Because we are pressed to it upon the account of the uncertain time of Christs Coming, here it meaneth, a care to get and keep our selves alwayes ready, and in a posture to receive him for our Lord, as himself explaineth it, Mat. 24.42. Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

(2.) The Reason. For ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh. Mat. 24.42. For in such an hour you think not of, the Son of Man cometh.

Doct. The great Duty that lyeth upon them that believe, and look for Christs come­ing, is Watching.

My business will be to shew you what Watching is in the general notion of it. As 'tis taken Spiritually and Metaphorically, it implyeth a diligent care and heed to the great affairs of our Souls: For 'tis a mixt thing, made up of Prudence and Diligence. It [...]mplyeth a prudent foresight of the Souls danger, with a diligent care to avoid it. It is pressed in Scripture to a double end; Partly, that we may maintain the present state, and partly that we may prepare for the future: The one quickeneth the other. And though the latter be of chief consideration in this place, yet it will not be amiss to consider both: For there is no hope to stand before Christ at his Coming, unless we be careful to get and keep Grace for the present. And on the other side, the Argument to quicken us to present care and diligence, is the blessedness we shall have at Christs Coming, and the danger of being disallowed at last.

1. Watching with respect to our present Preservation is pressed, Mat. 26.41. VVatch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. And 1 Cor. 16.13. VVatch ye, stand fast in the faith.

2 Watching with respect to future Acceptation. That is pressed in other pla­ces, Mat. 24.42. VVatch ye, for ye know not in what hour the Lord cometh. The [Page 73] particular time of Christs coming is kept secret, that we may be moved at all times to prepare for it. The Lord foresaw that we would be prone to negligence and carnal security, and that the knowledge of the express time of his coming would be hurtful to us; therefore 'tis inter Arcana Imperii, among the Secrets kept in the Fathers bosom, that we might be alwayes ready: So Luk. 21.36. VVatch ye there­fore, and pray alwayes, that ye may be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man: The meaning is, that we may escape the Judgments then to be poured out upon the wicked and the careless; that we may not causa cadere, that we may have a Sentence of Approbation pass'd in our favour. These are the two sorts of Watch­ing pressed upon us in Scripture, the one to avoid the Snares of the Devil; the other that we may be ready for the coming of the Lord.

First, Watching with respect to our present State and Safety. This again is two­fold: A watching to avoid evil, and a watching for the careful performance of that which is good: The Scripture speaketh of both, and both are enforced by their own proper Reasons.

(1.) For the avoiding of Evil: There is in us all a sinfull proneness to evil, which we must seek to cure and prevent. Prov. 4.23. Keep thy Heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. The Heart is terminus actionum ad intra, & fons actionum ad extra; 'tis the Heart that God aimeth at in all that he doth upon us, and 'tis the Heart that is the Ground of all our Actions. The Fountain must be kept pure from pollutions, that the streams may be the more limpid and clear. Every man hath a little Garrison to keep, and he himself is the Watchman of it; his Conscience is to sit Porter at the Door, and to examine whatever cometh out and entreth in, as a Watchman doth at the Gates of a City: All the thoughts, affecti­ons, words, actions, are to be examined, what they are, whither they go, whence they come, whither they tend, lest a Temptation be let in, or a Corruption be let out; otherwise the Heart cannot be kept pure and loyal to God. Solomon tell­eth us, Prov. 25.28. He that hath no Rule over his own Spirit, is like a City that is without walls. A Town without walls lieth open to every comer: Sin and danger, and all kind of evil motions go to and fro, without any kind of check and controul: Things will past out which should be suppressed and kept in; and Temptations will enter which should be kept out. Now this Caution is no more than needeth, if we consider the Enemies of our Salvation, the Devil, the World, and the Flesh.

First, The Malice of Sathan. Our Adversary is very watchfull, and getteth ad­vantage by nothing so much, as our security. Vigilat hostis, & dormis? 'Twas an old word; The Devil is neither dead nor asleep, and shall not we stand upon our guard? 1 Pet. 5.8. Be sober and watchful, for your adversary the Devil goeth about like a roaring Lyon, seeking whom he may devour. Sathan is a restless Adver­sary, full of Malice and Craft, his end is to destroy and devour Souls, and his diligence is answerable to his malice. Night and day we are in danger every one of us. There were but two Adams, and they were both tempted, though the one was made after Gods Image, and the other had the fulness of the Godhead dwell­ing in him bodily. Adam in Innocency, and Christ in humane nature were tempt­ed, and can we hope to escape? Neglect your Watch, and you become a ready prey to the Devil: When the Servants slept, the Enemy sowed Tares, Math. 13.25. He observeth all our drowsie fits, and is waiting for some Advantage, or at least some Occasion. Sometimes we give him an Advantage by our folly and indiscretion: 2 Cor. 2.11. —lest Sathan should get an advantage against us: Or if not, he taketh Occasion, as he tempted Christ when he was an hungry, Matth. 4.2. and 2 Cor. 7.5. —that Sathan tempt you not. He can interpret the silent language of a blush, a smile, a frown, a look, the glance of a lustfull eye, the most secret discovery of wrath, and discontent, and suiteth his Temptations to all the postures of spirit we are in.

Secondly, There is besides this, Hostis domesticus, the bosom Enemy, the Flesh, or the inbred Corruption of our Nature, that is ready to betray us to the basest Tem­ptations, and to open the Gates to the Enemy without. Man needeth no Devil to tempt him, we have enough in our own bosoms to prompt and urge us to sin. Jam. 1.5. The Spirit in us lusteth to envy. Gen. 6.5. The thoughts and imaginations of our hearts are evil continually: 'Tis easie to set Tinder, Gunpowder, or Flax on fire, and therefore they had need to be kept asunder: We cannot be too careful, the best of us have a good self and a bad self; the one must watch over the other, or all will come to ruine, and Grace will be ready to die. Rev. 2.2. Be watchful and [Page 74] strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die. From whence cometh the va­nity of our Minds, our proneness to break the bounds of due liberty in all our Comforts; our readiness to erre in Speech, our frequent Miscarriages in Conversa­tion, our frequent unfitness for holy Duties, our unfruitfulness in our Conversing with others, our unsettledness in our Consciences, our immoderate cares and fears; whence I say, cometh all this, but from our want of Watching against this inward Enemy our Flesh? Especially when temptations are near, importunate and constant. We proceed every step to Heaven by Conflict, and Contest, because Sin is alwayes at hand, ready to assault us, and taint us: So that a serious Christian cannot but take himself to be still in danger.

Thirdly, The World: "We walk in the midst of Snares and Temptations, saith Austin; and Bernard saith, "That our Life is a continual Temptation. We are in the midst of tempting Objects, that are comfortable to our Senses, necessary to our Uses, and present to our Embraces; that we can hardly distinguish between what Necessity craveth, and Lust desireth; and so we are strangely gained upon. 1 Joh. 2.16. For all that is in the VVorld, is the lust of the Flesh, the lust of the Eye, and pride of Life. He doth not say, Whatsoever is in our corrupt Hearts, but he descri­beth the Objects by the Lusts, because they are readily excited by them: All that is in the World; there are Baits for every Temper; Honour for the ambitious, Wealth for the covetous, Pleasure for the sensual: Now every distemper loveth the Diet that feedeth it; Lust in the Soul, or unmortified corruption maketh our abode in the World dangerous. 2 Pet. 1.4. That having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Here, one plungeth himself over head and ears in the World, another is intemperate in the delights of the Flesh, and the Entertainments of Sense; another is aspiring after Honour, great Places, and Pomp of living, or Esteem in the World; or at least we give our selves too great a liberty and free­dom in these things: Therefore you see what need there is of watching, when al­luring Objects lay such close siege to the Appetite and Senses.

(2.) There is a VVatching unto Good, or for the Performance of our Duties; that we go about them in an holy, serious, conscionable Manner, observing the best Op­portunities, and taking heed there be no secret Leaven of Hypocrisie in them. Of all holy Duties the Scripture applieth it to Prayer, which of all other holy Services is the commonest, and the chiefest; and Watching therein is a great help, though by Analogy it holdeth good in other duties, as we shall see in a few places. Col. 4.2. Continue in Prayer, and watch in the same, with thanksgiving: So 1 Pet. 4.7. Be sober, and watch unto Prayer. So Eph. 6.18. —watching therein with all perse­verance. Sathan is a great Enemy to this duty, and our Hearts are averse, and hardly brought and kept to it: Unless it be well performed, our Communion with God is interrupted, and at a stand. Out of all these places we may well collect, That there is, First, A watching unto Prayer, or before Prayer: Secondly, A watch­ing in Prayer, or in the Duty: Thirdly, A watching after Prayer, or when the Duty is over.

1. The VVatching unto Prayer, or before the Duty, is mainly to keep up a Pray­ing frame, that we may be ready upon all occasions to call upon God. The pray­ing frame lyeth partly in Brokenness of heart, or a due sense of our Necessities; and partly in an earnest Bent of heart towards God, and holy and heavenly things; and partly in an holy Liberty, and Child-like confidence: If either of these be lost, how slack and backward shall we be in Gods Worship, or slight in the perform­ance of it, whether in Closet, or Family, or publick Assemblies, and slubber it over in any fashion! But when this frame of spirit is kept up, the Soul is mighti­ly actuated and enlarged in the Duty. As when there is brokenness of heart, or a due sense of our Necessities, which is the occasion of Prayer; or an earnest desire of Grace, which is the Soul of Prayer; or our Liberty and Confidence is not broken, which is the great Encouragement of Prayer; then we are like light and airy Bodies, whose natural motion is upwards; so are we carried out towards God, and Prayer is our Element, in which we live and breathe. Indeed the whole spiritual Life is but a watching unto Prayer, that we may have alwayes a readiness for Communion with God, 1 Pet. 3.7.

2. There is a VVatching in Prayer, that the Duty be performed with that seri­ousness, attention and affection that the Nature of it doth require. This Watch­ing is necessary, because of the slipperiness of our Hearts, which easily go off from [Page 75] the work in hand: We often mingle Sulphur with our Incense, interline our Pray­ers with carnal distractions, suffer our Hearts to be stollen away from under Christs own arm; therefore we had need to watch, Eccl. 5.1, 2,

3. There is a Watching after Prayer: Partly, that we may observe Gods deal­ing with us; whether our Souls have been streightened, or whether he hath given liberty; hidden his face, or shewed himself gracious. Here we may gather some matter of Comfort to our selves, and Thanksgiving to God, Col. 6.2. We must not throw away our Prayers, as Children shoot away their Arrows, and never look after them, Hab. 2.1. I will pray and look up, to spy the Blessing a coming. We should have many an Argument against Atheism, great helps to Faith, and encouragements to love God, and many a sure ground of comfort in our selves, if we did look after the answer of our Prayers. And partly, that we lose not that affection which we have professed and expressed before God. We seemed to ex­press a great desire of glorifying his Name, and doing his Will, and being san­ctified, pardoned, and strengthened against Temptations. Now 'tis but the per­sonating and acting a part before God, if we be not such in some measure, as we professed our selves to be in Prayer; if we be not careful to glorifie his Name, zealous to promote his Kingdom, ready to do his Will, earnest for pardoning Grace, watchful against Temptations. A Christians life is a Comment upon his Prayers; and his Prayers do interpret his life; We understand the one by the other. Our endeavours, and diligent use of means do shew what we really desire: For, what we pray to God for, we bind our selves to seek after.

Secondly, There is a Watching with respect to our future Estate, that we may be ready to meet Christ at his Coming. Now this consisteth,

(1.) In a deep and lively sense of Christs Appearing, and the whole state of the World to come. We look for nothing but what we believe. Faith is a reali­zing sight of things not yet in being; and maketh them in some measure to work as if they were at hand, and ready to be enjoyed. Now the more lively sense we have of the concernments of the other World, the more diligent and serious shall we be in our preparation; when we have a deep sense of these things, as if presently to be Arraigned; and walk as before the Judge to whom we are to give an account of all our actions. Most men live as if there were no day of reckon­ing, no God to see and punish, no Books to be opened; the careless spending their time sheweth they have no deep sense of these things, no sound belief of them: But Faith looketh upon these things as great, sure, and near; and so keep­eth the Soul awake, and alive. It greateneth our Apprehensions of these things: For 'tis no slight matter for the Creature to meet with his Creator, the Sinner with his Judge, from whom he must now receive his final doom. Faith doth speak aloud to a sluggish Soul, Thou must be judged, Rom. 14.12, So then eve­ry one of us must give an account of himself to God. And as 'tis sure, so 'tis near, The Judge is at the door, Phil. 4.5. You must hear of what you now speak and do, another day, Mat. 12.36. For, every idle word that a man shall speak, he shall give an account of at the day of Judgment. It suppresseth sin, and quickeneth and awa­keneth to Duty, 2 Pet. 3.11, 12. Without Faith we have no sensible, awaken­ing, practical knowledge of these things. The sight of Faith differeth from the sight of Sense. Sense can discern little more than we see, taste, smell, hear, and feel. We are affected with these things; so are the Beasts, who only see things before their eyes by the eye of sense. We see nothing but what Dogs may see, and Beasts may see; that 'tis comfortable to eat well, and drink well, and sleep well, and be well cloathed, and walk up and down at pleasure, and pursue the advantages of the Animal life. There is a mist upon Eternity: How acute soever men be in worldly things, they are blind here, 2 Pet. 1.9. He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off. Sharp-sighted in things that concern the back and belly, and this present World; but know nothing of the hazard of pe­rishing for ever, or the worth of Salvation, their need of Christ, and making se­rious preparation for their great account. Faith is a Perspective, by which we look into the other World. None have such a sharp sight as Believers have; for they can see beyond the limits of time, the corruption and changes of all things that are in the World, even to that blessedness which God hath reserved for them that love him. And the light of Faith differeth from Reason: That can only see things by ghess, or see things in their Causes, and that as probable; but Faith can look [Page 76] thorough the mists and Clouds of intervening Ages; Heb. 11.13. Having seen them afar off, embraced them; and with certainty, and such a sure perswasion, as if the things we are perswaded of were in hand, and actually enjoyed. Reason corrects Sense. A Star to the eye of Sense looks to be no bigger than a Spangle, but Reason sheweth it must be of a vast bigness, because of its distance from us. But Faith is an higher light; and compare it with the light of Prophesie, Rev. 20.12. they agree in the common Object, divine Revelation: They agree in their com­mon Nature, that they are both for things future, and things future to us; but they differ, that Faith depends upon the common Revelation which God hath made to all the [...]aints; whereas Prophesy hath more of Extasie and Rapture in it; and the light is like the lumen Gloriae, the beatifical Vision in some measure and degree. We do not see him face to face, but are desirous of this blessed Estate, and perswa­ded of it, and are affected with it as if we saw it. The sight of Faith is not a full enjoyment, but as sure; and so proportionably affects the Heart. Nay this lumen Fide [...] is somewhat like the sight God hath of things: God seeth all things in his own design; and Faith seeth them so far as they are manifested in the Promises of the Gospel. There is no hope to get rid of our dead-heartedness and security, till we have this reallizing light of Faith.

(2.) This Watching consisteth in Preparation. If we expect a thing to come, and do not prepare accordingly, we do not watch for it, but neglect it. Now this Preparation must be speedy, thorough, and constant.

1. Watching implyeth a speedy Preparation. That we may be in a fit capacity to receive Christ at his Coming, we must take the next advantage, lest we be sur­prized and called home before we are ready. This is not a work to be put off to Age or Sickness: Why should we provide a burden for that time when we are weakest, and least able to bear it? And therefore now we should begin it. Every day brings burden enough for it self. He is an unthrifty Tenant that suffers the Rent of one year to run into another: How shall that Crop discharge two years Rent, that cannot pay one? If it be tedious now to turn to God, it will be more tedious when thou art hardened in sin; and thy neglects of God and Christ will provoke him to deny his Grace: And what assurance have we of another year? we have this by the favour of Providence. Our life was for­feited and lost in Law the first moment; and therefore we have but a Reprieve during pleasure. What warrant have I to expect another day, but my own hope and fancy? He that is Security for himself to himself, is no whit the better secu­red; he doth but take the word of a Spend-thrift. If we had a Lease of our Lives, yet what hope of Grace? when we have resisted the Spirit of God all our lives, what hope that he should assist us at death? we do but provide matter of Despair to our selves: Every day will prove worse and worse. A Traveller may easily pass over the Head of a Brook, but when he goeth down, thinking to find it narrower, 'tis so broad that he cannot pass at all. Every delay brings on a new degree of hardness of Heart on our part, and a new desertion on Gods part: Now how wilt thou untwist the former Web which thou hast been so long a weav­ing? That Soul must needs be in perplexity at the hour of Death, that seeth the day spent, and the business appointed to him not yet begun, and a Disease disabling him for any serious reflections. As if a Traveller seeth the Sun setting when he is entring upon his Journey, the Evening of the day, and the Morning of the task do not well agree together. All the time that remaineth is too short to lament the lost time already past: Therefore if Watching inferreth Preparation, it infer­reth speedy Preparation; and a man is not in a good condition to live, that is not fit to die.

2. It must be a serious and thorough Preparation, such as will serve the turn, and be accepted by Christ at his Coming. The whole design of this Parable is to caution us against the shallowness and slightness of the work of Grace upon our Hearts. Heathens have a Conscience, (as Felix trembled) much more Christi­ans. Men may see and have a taste of sins bitterness, and have a longing mind after Christ, but the life of Grace is not begun in them; they do not awake to righteousness, 1 Cor. 15.34. We should often think what is required in order to that day, and what the Scripture maketh our readiness to consist in. Repentance and actual conversion to God, this is pressed upon us, Act. 3.19. Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the [Page 77] Lord. Repentance is the Souls Return to God in Love: And, Act. 17.30, 31. Now he commandeth all men to repent, because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the World in righteousness. That day is kept off that we might have time to re­pent, 2 Pet. 3.9. So Faith in Christ, that will unite us to him, or an hearty ta­king him for our Lord and Saviour, Rom. 8.1. There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ. Phil. 3.9. —found in him. 1 John 2.28. And now little Children, abide in him; that when he shall appear, you may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. We must be in Christ, and abide in Christ. To abide in Christ, is to persevere in our adhering to him as our Lord and Saviour, in the profession of his Name, observation of his Precepts, recumbency on his Merits, imitation of his Graces, Communion with his Person. Certainly he will not cast off those who are Members of his Mystical Body, and abide in him by Faith; nor condemn those whom he hath redeemed, and washed in his Blood, and sanctified by his Spirit. This is our Preparation; yea, the Scripture doth not only look to our Hearts, but to our Lives, Jam. 2.1, 2.

3. It must be a constant and daily Preparation. You must not only get ready, but keep ready. Besides Habitual Preparation, there must be Actual Preparation. We must every day be more in a readiness. The Centinel is to watch all hours; 'tis death to be taken sleeping, though he hath watched all the night before. We know neither the day nor the hour; 'Tis in the Text, implying, there must be no intermission of our care. What if my Master should come and find me idle, said Calvin to his Friends, that demanded of him why he wasted his body in such constant labours. Few are like-minded, that put this question to their Souls, Am I as I would meet with Christ? We should alwayes stand with our Lamps burning, and our Loyns girt, Luk. 12.35. A Christian should be always as a Ship that hath taken in its Lading, and is prepared and furnished with all manner of Tackling, ready to set Sail, only expecting the good wind to carry him out of the Haven. So should we be ready to set Sail for Eternity, stand at Heaven Gates, be in a perpetual exercise of Faith and Love, and be fittingly prepared to meet our Savi­our. O what a happiness is it to live so, that we care not when death cometh upon us; and so live every day, as if we were presently to be summoned before the Tribunal of Christ. The World thinketh this a foolish strictness, beca [...]se ma­ny dayes go over our heads, and it proveth not so: But let them mock on; when they come to Hell they will find this to be the greatest wisdom. A Christian will count every day his last: Not only his own necessity, but his love, and ear­nest desire of Christs Coming, maketh him look out.

(3.) The last thing in this Watching is, Earnest expectation of Christs last Ap­pearance, and the Grace he will bring along with him; 1 Pet. 1.15. Gird up the loyns of your minds, and be sober, and hope to the end, for the Grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our Hearts and Minds should be more taken up with the thoughts of his Coming, and the Priviledges we shall have by him: 'Tis expressed by looking, longing, waiting; and Christians are often described by these acts, Tit. 3.13. Looking for the blessed hope. Phil. 3.20, 21. From whence we look for a Saviour, Heb. 10.27. We should stir up our minds to look for his Coming; and not only stir up our hopes, but our desires, 2 Tim. 4.8. To them that love his appearing; 'tis a sign and Token that he cometh with a Bles­sing to us: To them he cometh with a Crown of Righteousness. So for waiting, 1 Cor. 1.7. Ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were converted for this end, to wait for his coming from Heaven, 1 Thes. 1.10.

Now I come to shew you the Reasons why this Watching is required of us, or to move us to it.

First, Consider who it is that biddeth you watch. Christ himself, whom you call Lord and Master, who knows the worth and danger of Souls, and hath a tender esteem and value for them. If we did impose so strict a Duty upon you, you might take or leave it as it shall be for your conveniency. In the first of Proverbs, So­lomon bringeth in Wisdom lifting up her voice, and crying, Prov. 1.20. What to do? to accept of the Grace offered. The most then will miss the season; they shall never receive advantage by the cry if they neglect it, vers. 26. and vers. 28. They shall call upon me, but I will not answer. Many Clauses in these Verses do fit­ly agree with the passages of the Parable: It agreeth with the foolish Virgins, who [Page 78] lost their opportunity of getting Oyl; and with the wise, who in a time of plen­ty provided against a Famine; as Joseph advised the Aegyptians: A greater than Joseph is here. Now in the times of Grace watch.

Secondly, Consider whom it is he inviteth. Do not put it off to others, Mar. 13.37. What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch. Some Persons are especially deputed to watch over others, as Magistrates, Rom. 13.6. Ministers, Heb. 13.12. But eve­ry man is made a Guardian over his own Soul; rich and poor, they are both to watch: The meanest people are then taken notice of, and that exactly, Mat. 24.40, 41. Two Women grinding at the mill; one shall be taken, and the other left: Two in the field, one taken, and the other left. Those of the meanest degree. All that live in all Ages, in all times, to them he said, Watch: Do not put it off to them that live in the Age on which the Ends of the World are come. You will be found at that day as Death leaveth you. None of all degrees of Grace are past this care: If there be any difference between Christian and Christian, one is more watchful than ano­ther; if of never so long standing and experience, yet if not watchful, soon sur­prized. Gods best Servants have been surprized for want of watching: Noah was overtaken in Drunkenness, Lot that was chast in Sodom, committed Incest in the Mountains, where were none but his own Family. And do but compare David and Joseph; you find David tempting, Joseph tempted; David was a King, Jo­seph a Slave; David an Old Man of much experience, Joseph a Young Man; David a married Man, and Joseph a single Man; David was fain to plot and contrive to make way for his sin, but Joseph had the advantage of secresie; but the one stood, and the other fell: David left his Senses at randome, but Joseph kept himself in an awful watchful posture, Gen. 39.9. How shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

Thirdly, Consider when, and how long we are to watch. The time is kept from our knowledge for this very end, that we may alwayes be watching, Mat. 21.36. Watch and pray alwayes. 2 Tim. 4.5. But watch thou in all things. There must be a constant and continual watch. When we are secure, we lose our actual fitness, and our common Enemy breaks in upon us. There is a working, warring Prin­ciple in our Hearts.

Fourthly, There is a Blessing promised to those that watch, Rev. 16.15. Blessed is he that watcheth. And Luk. 12.37. Blessed are those Servants whom their Lord when he cometh shall find watching. What do we lose by watching, but a few tri­fling Pleasures, which are abundantly recompensed here and hereafter by solid rejoycing in Christ? 'Tis irksome to the flesh, but the Reward sweeteneth it.

Fifthly, The Hazard and Danger of not watching. 'Tis notably represented in this Parable: Only the Ready enter. Take heed therefore the like do not hap­pen to you as to the foolish Virgins: They are excluded, and that irrevocably; If they would never so fain enter, Christ will not hearken unto them, Rev. 3.3. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee like a Thief in the night. 1 Thes. 5.3. Woful is their condition that are secure and unprovided.

Sixthly, Consider what men would do to avoid temporal Inconveniency: Mat. 24.43. If the good man of the house had known when the Thief would come, he would have watched; much more should Christs Disciples to avoid eternal destruction. 'Tis an advantage to put the case in outward things, Mal. 1.8. it sheweth the dispropor­tion of our respects to Temporals and Spirituals. If we are so careful in looking to our Bodies and Goods, we are or should be more careful in watching over our Souls, where the danger is greater. The Worlds diligence and double-dili­gence in earthly things will condemn our neglect in spiritual things.

1. VSE, I may from hence take occasion to bewail the neglect of this Duty: Oh how much is watching laid aside! thence cometh our decay of Grace. The Church of Sardis was even dead for want of it, Rev. 3.2. Thence comes our want of Comfort, and of assurance of Gods love. Our peace of Conscience is gotten by di­ligence, and kept with watchfulness. Thence comes our loathness to die, and our coldness to everlasting Life. We do not gird up the loyns of our minds, and watch: Thence come all our afflictions. God is fain to use dreadful means to awaken his Servants out of their drowsiness. We are apt to be drowsie and sleepy; God useth sharp discipline to awaken us; some smart Cross or Sickness to bring us to our selves again. We should bewail the neglect of watching in two things.

[Page 79](1.) Our not watching for the Coming of the Lord. Some can live merrily and quietly in a careless unprepared estate; but do these men consider what it is to meet with their Redeemer, before they have gotten any benefit by his Blood? VVe cannot draw nigh to him with any Comfort, till we feel the Benefit of his Death, Heb. 10.22. His business is to present his People faultless to God, Jude 24. These men do not consider what 'tis to meet with the Judge, 1 Pet. 4.5. There is no Plea but Innocency and Pardon in Christ, Rom. 8.1. 1 Joh. 3.8. These do not consider how they shall look Christ in the face, when so unlike him, 1 Joh. 3.1, 2. and 1 Joh. 4.17. These do not consider what it is to meet the Bridegroom when their filthy Garments are yet on.

(2.) Bewail the neglect of VVatching against present evils, with care and Circum­spection. What is the matter? is Sathan less busie to tempt, or is the Heart of Man and humane Nature grown better, and Sin less dangerous? Is our weak­ness and inability so far strengthened and cured, that we are out of danger of falling? Were the Servants of God such weaklings, that prayed, as David, Psal. 39.1. Put a watch upon the door of my lips; and Job, that made a Covenant with his eyes? Job 31.1. But rather are not we more fool hardy, and negligent, do not mind our business, and consider not the inconveniency of not watching.

2 VSE, To press us to this Duty, there is a God that watcheth, and Enemies that watch, and Conscience watcheth, and will do its Office first or last; a Day of Judgment, when you are to answer for all that you have done; and will not you watch? When you consider how much you are in danger of Sin, and in dan­ger by Sin, can you be negligent and secure? Oh watch your Hearts, Prov. 4.23. watch your Tongue, Psal. 39.1. watch your Senses, Job 31.1. gratifie them and you wound your Hearts: Watch your wayes, Prov. 4.24. But above all watch your State; let us examine well our Case, that we may be found in Christ, and have the Seal of his Spirit, Eph. 1.13. that is your warrant.

For Means to help us in this Duty of Watchfulness:

1. Sobriety, or Moderation in the use of all outward things: 1 Thess. 5.6. There­fore let us not sleep, as do others, but watch and be sober, 1 Pet. 1.13. Chap. 4.7.

2. Go to God in Prayer. Watching and Prayer are often joyned together. We are best kept, when recommended into Gods hand. Psal. 141.3. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips. I do observe there, First, That unadvised and passionate Speeches do easily drop from us in our Troubles, especially in our Persecution. Secondly, That a godly conscientious Man is very tender of these, as of all evil. He that would live in Communion with God for the present, and hope to appear with comfort before him hereafter, is sensible of the least thing that tends to Gods displeasure, and Gods dishonour: This is the true spirit of one that will be owned by Christ at the last day. Thirdly, There is no way to prevent being provoked to Impatience and rashness of Speech, or any evil, but by keeping a VVatch, and renewing our Obligations to God. Fourthly, VVhoever would keep a VVatch, must call in the aid and assistance of Gods Grace: Lord, set a VVatch upon the door of my lips.

SERMON XI.

MATTH. XXV. v. 14, 15.

For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a Man travelling into a far Countrey, who called his own Servants, and delivered to them his Goods.

And unto one he gave five Talents, to another two, to another one; to every one according to his several ability.

THE particle [for] sheweth that this Parable hath some connection with the former. We have but two great Affairs in the World; the one to promote Gods glory, the other to save our own Souls: Or in other words, To be faithfull to God and wise for our selves. This latter was taught us in the former Parable; the wise and provident Virgins made sufficient preparation for their reception into the Nuptial Feast: The other, faithfulness to God, in employing our Gifts, Talents and Oppor­tunities for his glory, is taught in this Parable. Therefore the drift of it is, to set us all a-work in our Places and Callings for the Glory of God, that we may look Christ in the Face at his Coming. For the Kingdom of Heaven, &c.

In which words we have,

First, The Person trusting, A Man: Who is here represented,

  • (1.) As a great Lord and Master, that hath Servants of his own, and several Gifts to bestow upon them at his pleasure. In Luke 'tis, A certain Nobleman, who went into a far Countrey, to receive for himself a Kingdom, Luk. 19.12. In Mark, Chap. 13.34. A great Master of an house, who entrusts his Servants with his goods till his return.
  • (2.) He is here considered as travelling into a far Countrey. Christs ascending into Heaven is thereby intended; for Gifts are the fruits of his Ascension.

Secondly, The Persons intrusted; He called his own Servants, and delivered to them: Not only Ministers and Officers of the Church are meant, though they especially; but all Christians, who are Christs Servants, employed by him in one state of life or other.

Thirdly, The things intrusted, his Goods; they are bona, things good in their nature; and they are dona, gifts freely given, and delivered to us; and not meerly given; They are Talenta, Talents, not things meerly given, as we give Money to a Beggar; but as we give an Estate to a Factour. As they are bona, they must not be despi­sed; as dona, Gifts, they call for Thankfulness; as Talents for Faithfulness. The Jewish Talent was an hundred Eighty one pound ten shillings. Now these Ta­lents are Ordinances, Opportunities, Estates, Gifts, Graces, all that we have re­ceived from God: Either dona Administrantia, or Sanctificantia: Helps, and Means, and Opportunities to glorifie him, which are the Occasions; or the Graces of the Spirit, which are the Dispositions to make us so to doe.

Fourthly, The Variety observed in the Distribution: To one five, to another two, to another one. Which difference expresseth the divers kinds of Gifts, and the mea­sure and the degree in which they are bestowed. Though all have not equal measure, yet every one hath some Gift, and some measure, something that is peculiar to him­self, whereby he may be usefull.

[Page 81] Fifthly, The Rule which is observed in the Distribution, to every one according to his ability. As in the Parable the wise Master knoweth every Servant, according to his prudence and skill, so in the Explication of the Parable every man is gifted and employed by Christ according to his natural Receptivity. The Eye hath its office as an Eye, and the Hand as an Hand, and the Foot as a Foot.

I shall not pursue every minute Circumstance, but only touch upon those things which are most remarkable.

First, Observe then,

Doct. 1. That Christ Iesus is the great Lord and Owner.

He is so represented here with respect to Persons and Things. Persons: Those that received the Talents, are called his own Servants; and the several Gifts and good things bestowed upon them are called his Goods; and these dispensed accord­ing to his sovereign will and pleasure; to one more, to another less.

Concerning Christs being a Lord and Owner, let me give you these Observati­ons.

First, The Power of Christ as an Owner and free Lord, is to be distinguished from his power as a Governour and Ruler. As a free Lord, he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy: As a Governour and Ruler, so he judgeth the World in righteousness, or according to the Law or stated Rule which he hath given of his Will. With re­spect to the one, 'tis not in him that willeth, or in him that runneth, but in God that sheweth mercy. But with respect to the other, so run that you may obtain. Compare Rom. 9.16. with 1 Cor. 9.24. for God that is arbitrary in his Gifts, is not arbi­trary in his Judgments. His Law and the Precepts of it is the Rule of our Du­ty; but in the Sanction of it 'tis the Rule of Gods Process. But as an Owner he discovereth his Sovereignty and Dominion; as a Ruler or Judge, his Justice or Righ­teousness: All acts and matters of free favour are dispensed by him as a Lord, but matters of right and wrong come before him as a Judge. The Good man of the House pleaded ill, I may do with my own as it pleaseth me, Mat. 20.15. that belongeth to a Supream Owner. Besides, his being an Owner goeth before his being a Ruler, and is the foundation of it: For his absolute Propriety in us, giveth him a legisla­tive power over us, to dispose of us or command us according to his own will. He may give his Creatures what Rules he pleaseth, and order them to what ends he thinketh good, and bind them to observe his Order upon what terms he will. I am the Lord, Lev. 18.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Therefore before the course of Government established between him and the World, he is first considered as an Owner.

Secondly, This Power and Ownership accrueth to Christ by a double Title; jure Creationis, & Redemptionis.

(1.) By right of Creation; Ezek. 18.4. Behold, all Souls are mine: He hath a right to dispose of Man, and all the rest of his Creatures, as being all of them the works of his hands. He that gave them their Beings when they were not, and still sup­porteth them now they are, hath an undoubted just right to order them according to his own will. We have nothing but what we had from him; and we have nothing that we our selves can keep a moment; and we have it upon these terms, to use it for his glory.

(2.) By right of Redemption. Rom. 14.9. For to this end Christ both dyed and rose again, that he might be Lord of dead and living. And 1 Cor. 6.20. Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorifie God in your Bodies and Souls which are his. This giveth him a new Title to us, though the former ceased not, but will continue. Whilst Man receiveth his Being from God by Creation, and the continuance of his Be­ing by Preservation; 'tis a power commutative, not destructive; 'tis superadded to the former, and is more comfortable and beneficial to us, as well as it bindeth us more firmly to God, wholly to be disposed, guided and ordered by him at his will.

Thirdly, This power as Owner is intire and absolute, Rom. 11.36. For of him, and through him, and to him are all things. We receiving our whole Being from God, 'tis all at his dispose: All humane propriety is derived, limited, and respective, because we in being and operation depend upon another; and therefore Man can­not be sui juris, at his own dispose, and Lord of his own actions. He hath Prin­cipium & Finem, a Principle upon which he dependeth, and an End to which he [Page 82] is appointed: Now 'tis no more lawful to abstain from respecting and seeking his End, than 'tis possible not to depend upon his Principle. He hath a Superiour, to whom he must give an account, seeing he wholly dependeth upon him, and is wholly subject to him. But this property is originally and primarily in God as a Fountain, not subordinate, or dependant upon any higher. If this be not so in­telligible, let me speak more plainly: There is Dominium Jurisdictionis, & Dominium Proprietatis; such as a Prince hath over his Goods and Lands: His Dominion is more absolute over his Goods and Lands, than over his Subjects; that's bounded by Laws. God hath the most absolute Title over us, and all that we possess; 'tis so great that it cannot be greater.

Fourthly, God cannot be divested of this Power and interest in us.

(1.) 'Tis so absolutely inherent in him, that it cannot be communicated to ano­ther; that is, we cannot alienate and make void this right by our sins: Though we sold our selves for nought, Isa. 52.3. it was to our loss, not to Gods: He hath a full right to command us to keep his Law, whether men be faulty or innocent. A drunken Servant is a Servant, though he be disabled to do his Masters work. No mans right can be vacated without his consent. Creatures are Creatures still, obnoxious to the Law of the Creator, or his punishment for the breach of it. In that interest we have in things, the default of another doth not make void our right, especially if it be Inferiours; as the Rebellion of the Subject doth not ex­empt him from the power of his Prince.

(2.) Neither doth God give it away by bestowing Gifts upon the Creature: For he hath given us only Dispensationem, the employment of these things, not Dominium, the Sovereign power over them. Man hath nothing that is his own. As to Life, it is clear Man is not Dominus vitae, but Custos; which is true, not only of our Life, but of our Time, Wealth, Strength Parts, yea of all that we have: Still we are subject to an higher Lord, who hath an absolute uncontroulable right. All our owning is but a Stewardship, Luk. 16.2. We have a right to pre­vent the incroachment of our fellow Creatures: We have a right by way of charge and trust, as a Steward to things committed to him, or as a Work-man hath a right to his Tools or Instruments to do his work, or a Factour in the Estates committed to him; but an absolute independent Right we have not: They are not ours to use as we think meet. They were Rebels that said, Our tongues are our own, Psal. 12.4. Well then, when God dispersed his Gifts, he did not dis­possess himself: As the Husbandman doth not intend to throw away his seed, when he scattereth it in the Furrows, but soweth it to receive it again with increase; so God.

(3.) I will add this, That God cannot give this absolute right to another that is not God, no more than he can cut off the Creature from depending upon him­self. In our way of owning our petty Interests it may be permitted, as a Lord may make his Vassal and Slave free, or a Prince his Subjects; as Saul proclaimed, that whosoever should overcome Goliah, he would make his house free in Israel; that is, free from Taxes, Imposts, Service in War, 1 Sam. 17.25. But now no Creature can be exempted from duty to God; for dependance upon God, and subjection to him are so twisted together, that the one cannot be without the other: We wholly depend upon him for Being, and all things else, and therefore must be wholly subject to him. We still continue in our Being; now the continuance of our very Duty and Being doth still depend upon God.

Fifthly, Gods Sovereign Dominion over us, and interest in us, may be set forth by these three things, at least to our present purpose.

1. A Right of making or framing any thing as he willeth, in any manner as it pleaseth him. As the Potter hath power over his own clay to form what vessel he pleaseth, either of honour or dishonour, Rom. 9.21. and Jer. 8.16. As clay in the hand of the Potter, so are ye in my hand, saith the Lord of Hosts. Nothing before it had a Being had a right to dispose of it self, neither did God make it what is was by necessity of nature, nor by the command, counsel, or will of any Superiour, or the direction of any Coadjutor; neither is there any to whom he should ren­der an account of his work; but meerly produced all things by the act of his own Will, as an absolute Owner, and sovereign Lord of all his actions: Eph. 1.11. He worketh all things according to the counsel of his will. And Rev. 4.11. Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created: Such was Gods ab­solute [Page 83] power. This should be thought of by us, because whatever was given us in Creation is not a matter of right, but the meer effect of Gods good will and good pleasure. He might have made us Stocks and Stones, and not living Crea­tures, or among living Creatures Plants only, with a life of vegetation and growth; or if a sensitive life, in the lowest rank, Toads and Vipers, or at best, but as Horse or Mule, without understanding, and not Men. Among men all the Blessings and Priviledges we were born to, might have been withheld without any injustice: The various Constitutions and Complexions of men, all their gifts and natural ca­pacities are the fruits of his Sovereign Will.

2. A Right of having and possessing all things so made and framed by him. A­mongst men, whosoever maketh any thing by his own proper Art and labour, and of his own stuff, must needs have a full right to it, and a full power to dispose of it; yet no Workman ever made any thing without some matter; but God made all things without matter praeexisting; and therefore surely his right is greater: Wherefore God is called not only the Maker of Heaven and Earth, but the Possessor, Gen. 14.19. God is the great Proprietor, and in a sense the only Proprietor that hath dominium propriè dictum: Gold and Silver are mine, Hag. 2.8. And Hos. 2.9. I will return, and take away my Corn, and my Wine in the season thereof. Psal. 50.10. His are the Cattle upon a thousand Hills: yea, The whole Earth is the Lords, and the fulness thereof, Psal▪ 29.1.16. All is Gods, in whatsoever hands it be; the Lord hath need of him, is Argument enough. Now this doth mightily increase our confidence, check our usurpations, quicken us to faithfulness, that the great Owner may not be deprived of his right.

3. He hath a Right of using and disposing all things thus in his possession, accor­ding to his own pleasure. Reason will tell us, that the use, benefit and utility of any thing belongeth to him whose it is; so God is the sole disposer of all things: As he made them for himself, so he governeth them ultimately and terminative­ly for himself; some things immediately, all things ultimately; By whom and for whom all things were made, Prov. 16.4. All the conditions of men, Riches, Poverty, Health, Sickness, Ease, Pain, Life, Death: Now this Right of disposing of us, is of great use to keep us in a quiet subjection to Gods Laws and Providence, with­out murmuring or repining: We cannot say to him, What makest thou? or Why do­est thou thus? Isa. 45.9. 'Tis enough God did it. But to apply the whole.

1 VSE, It serveth to check many sins. All mischief and disorder cometh from looking upon our selves as Proprietaries and Owners, and not considering who hath the great Interest in us: Surely were these Truths well digested and thought of by us, 'twould work a great cure upon Mankind.

(1.) That nothing we have is our own.

(2.) That whatsoever is given us by God, is given us for his service, to be done to him.

(3.) That to this Lord of ours we must be answerable, who will one day call us to an account. Or will you take one of them, if all be too many to be remem­bred by you; and that one implyeth all the rest: Ye are not your own, but are bought with a price. If a man did think of this, My heart is not my own, 'tis Gods, and he must have it; he would not fill it with the dross of evil thoughts: My time is not my own, my Tongue, my Wit, my Language; 'tis not my own. Would the Prodigal waste his Estate so vainly? reprove him, and he will tell you, I spend but my own. The Covetous man saith, Shall I take my bread, and my water, and my flesh, and give it to men that I know not? 1 Sam. 25.11. How easily might you perswade him to Charity, could you convince him 'tis anothers Goods, and to be laid out when the Lord hath need of it. It would check our pride to consider who made us to differ, 1 Cor. 4.7. Alas Master, 'twas borrowed, as Eli­sha's Servant told his Master. A Groom is proud of his Masters Horse: They are proud of that which is none of theirs, that are proud of their Parts, and proud of their Estates. Yea, it would check our spirtual pride, when we have done any thing for God, or suffered any thing for God, or given any thing for Gods sake, 1 Chron. 29.12, 13, 14. Of thine own have we given thee, for all is thine.

2 VSE, Is to press us to more faithfulness in Gods service; to serve him more with our Parts, Time, Strength, Wit, Wealth, Power and Interest. All the good [Page 84] things that God hath given us, are God's still: Now you should give unto God the things that are Gods. You are Robbers if you lay not out all that you have according to his will, and for his Glory: But, First, Give your selves to the Lord, 2 Cor. 8.5. and then other things will come in the more easily. You are his already; you cannot add to Gods Right; yet it may add to the Obligation, bind you more strongly to subjection and obedience. Oh then in the first place become his Servants and Vas­sals, avouch God to be your God, Deut. 26.17. Thou hast avouched this day the Lord to be thy God. Wicked men give up themselves to the Lord, but 'tis by constraint; All that the Lord hath spoken we will do: But, Oh that they had an Heart, Deut. 5.28, 29. Secondly, Having given your selves to the Lord, give other things to him. A Christian layes himself, and all his Interests and Capacities at Jesus Christs feet, that he may make an advantage of every thing for God: Zech. 14.20. In that day there shall be upon the b [...]lls of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord. Yea every Pot in Jerusalem and [...] shall be Holiness unto the Lord. We have received nothing from our selves, and herefore we should improve all we are and have for God. Thirdly, The [...] of our dedication will be known by our use, if hard at work for God, and [...] be the business of our lives: Phil. 1.21. To me to live is Christ. 'Tis not enough negatively that our Gifts be not employed against Christ, as wea­pons of unrighteousness, but positively for God, that he gets something by every Relation and Acquaintance; Neh. 1.11. Prosper I praey thee thy Servant this day, and give him mercy in th [...] sight of this man; for I was the Kings Cup-bearer. He impro­ved his place for God when he was in it. God hath made many great and rich, but what doth the Lord get by them? are they more useful? Some have wit, but do not consecrate it to Jesus Christ; have power, interest, and great place, but they do not honour God thereby: Though they profess to give up themselves to God, yet in the use of themselves there appeareth no such matter: They use their Tongues as their own, Hearts as their own, VVealth, Strength, and Interests as their own. Therefore you should keep a constant reckoning how you lay out your selves selves for God: Undertake nothing but what will bear this Inscription upon it, Ho­liness to the Lord. Put this Question to your selves, Can I dedicate this to the Lord? Eccl. 2.2. —What doth it?

Secondly, In the Parable, this man, the Owner, is represented as travelling into a far Countrey, and undertakes there to receive a Kingdom, and disposing of all his Interests till his return. This noteth Christs Ascension into Heaven; and the Point will be,

Doct. II. That Christ at his departure appointed every man his Work; and at his As­cension gave Gifts unto men, to be employed for his Glory till he come again.

There are two Things offered in the Parable, and in the Point.

1. His Appointing every man his Work; as the man disposed of all his matters till his return. Christ hath given order how every man according to his Ability and Calling should employ himself till he come again. We read, Act. 1.3. how Christ before his Ascension instructed his Disciples in all things pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven; that is, in all the Duties of Rulers and Ruled, Teachers and Taught; the Ordinances, Laws, and Institutions of his Kingdom, the Duties and Priviled­ges of the Subjects thereof; what Immunities they enjoy, what Obedience they must perform: This was his last charge before his departure; now we are to keep his Charge as we will answer it to him at his Coming: 1 Tim. 6.13, 14. I charge thee in the sight of God who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who be­fore Pontius Pilate witnessed a good Confession; that thou keep this Commandment with­out spot, unrebukeable, until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'Twas needful that Christ should go from us for a while; for he would not govern the World by Sense, but by Faith: Now he will make tryal of our faithfulness and diligence during his absence; and therefore having appointed us our work, he withdraweth: He will come again to take notice not only of the malice of his Enemies against his People and Interest, but also of the coldness and negligence of his own Servants and Domesticks; 2 Thes. 1.8. He shall come in flaming fire, rendring vengeance upon them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel; nay if not flatly disobedient, yet if evil sloathful Servants.

2. His giving Gifts. Gifts were given at Christs Ascension; when he took his [Page 85] Journey, then he bestowed his Goods to his Servants. As Elijah let fall his Man­tle, when he was translated; so did Christ bestow his Gifts and the Graces of his Spirit. Eph. 4.8. He ascended up on high, and gave gifts to men. There is a three-fold reason of this:

First, The bestowing of the Spirit was necessary, to supply the want of his bodi­ly presence. John 16.7. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. While Christ was with them, the Spirit was not given; but when his bodily presence was removed, then cometh the Comforter: God will not with-hold what is useful. If he take away outward Comforts, he will give us the Spirit.

Secondly, 'Twas fit he should Enter upon his Kingdom, before his Members par­ticipate so largely of his Fulness: John 7.38. Before his Incarnation Grace was given upon trust, therefore more sparingly; afterwards coming in the flesh, the Disciples were dull in comparison of what they were when the price was paid: He was entered into possession of his Dignity, had taken actual possession of his Kingdom; then he powreth out the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit, that the Glo­rious Estate of his Church and Subjects, might not go before, but come after the Glorious Estate of their King and Head.

Thirdly, To shew that in his Exaltation, he is still mindful of his Servants. As soon as warm in the Mediatorial Throne, he sendeth down Gifts and Graces. Act. 2.33. Being at the right hand of the Father exalted, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. Presently he beginneth to shew for what reason he is gone to Heaven, powerfully to apply the work of Redemption.

1 VSE. Hath Christ appointed to men their Work? it should quicken us to keep the Charge of the Lord. Gen. 50.16. Thy Father did command before he dyed. If we have any respect to the memory of our Lord departed from us, any Ex­pectation of his coming again, so let us be faithful in the work appointed us to do: He instructed his Apostles in all the Duties and Priviledges of the Kingdom of God; and they have instructed us, and you must answer it to Christ at his coming, therefore be diligent in glorifying God in your places.

2. As he gave Gifts: Look upon Christ as Exalted at the right hand of God to dispense the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit, for the bringing about the Salva­tion of all that come to God by him. It's said 2 Kings 2.9, 10. That if Elisha should see his Master ascending, he should have his Spirit doubled upon him: 'Tis true here, if by Faith we look to Christ ascended, his Spirit in some mea­sure will come upon us, we have free Liberty and Access to him, to enjoy him for ever.

3. The Master in the Parable giveth not the same Measure of Talents to each Servant: Christ giveth not a like measure of Grace to every one; but to some more, to some less; as he thinketh Expedient: here are five Talents, and two Talents, and one Talent, given to each Servant, as there was a different mea­sure given to Timothy and Demas.

Doct. III. That it pleaseth the Lord to dispense his Gifts variously among his Peo­ple; to some more, to some fewer Talents.

See this is often inculcated in the Scripture. Rom. 12.6. Having then Gifts, differing according to the Grace given to us; 1 Cor. 7.7. Every man hath his proper Gift, one after this manner, another after that. God giveth to every one in the Church a measure, and Portion of Gifts as it pleaseth him. So 1 Cor. 12.11. All these things worketh one and the same Spirit, which is the proper Seat of this Doctrine. So Eph. 4.7. To every one of us is given Grace, according to the Measure of the Gift of Christ. So 1 Pet. 4.10. As every one hath received the Gift, so mi­nister the same one to another, as good Stewards of the Grace of God. I have brought all these Scriptures to shew you that this is a thing worthy to be taken Notice of, and seriously improved by us.

I shall give you some Observations concerning this Diversity and Variety.

1. That every one hath some Talent or other to improve for God. He that had least, had one; and the least gift is compared to a Talent: there is none of Gods Peo­ple [Page 86] but they have received some Gift from him, which being rightly employed, may make them useful for the Glory of God, and the good of others, if not in the higher and more publick Office, yet as Wives, Children, Servants. Titus 2.10. Every one hath his Service and Opportunity to do something for God; all offered to the Tabernacle, Gold, or Silver, or Brass, or Chittim-wood, or Goats-hair, or Badgers-skins. So, as Christ went to Jerusalem, some strowed the way with gar­ments, others cut down branches, some cryed Hosanna, that was all they could do.

2. That there is a great Diversity in the Talents which we have. The Lord doth not give all to one, nor to all alike.

(1) There is a diversity of Employments and Offices. The Apostle telleth us Rom. 12.4. All Members have not the same Office; some an Eye, some a Hand, some a Head, some a Foot. Magistracy, Ministry, are distinct offices in the Church, which ought not to be confounded or invaded, Eph. 4.11, 12. And he gave some Apo­stles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers: For the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the Ministry, for the edifying the Body of Christ: And Isa. 54.11. I will lay thy Foundations with Saphires, and thy Windows of Agates, and thy Gates of Carbuncles, and all thy Borders of pleasant Stones. Here are variety of Employments, Foundations, Windows, Gates, Borders, to hold forth the variety of the gifts and graces of the Members of the Church.

(2.) There is a Diversity in the Kind of gifts: in the general, some are common, some saving, Heb. 6.5.9. Carnal men have great Abilities for the good of others, the stamp may be Iron and Brass, though the Impress be on Gold and Silver; some bodily, some spiritual: some are called to glorify God with their Honour and Estates; so Luk. 9.11. Others with the gifts of the mind. The gifts of the Mind are common, or saving: Among the common gifts, One hath the word of Wisdom, another the word of Knowledge, 1 Cor. 12.8, 9, 10. Some are able to lay down the Truth soundly; others able to apply it forceably▪ Some have the gift of Prayer and Utterance, others are able to inform the Judgment or convince Gainsayers; some to clear up Doctrines, others to stir Affections: As the three Mini­sters of Geneva, Vireto nemo docuit dulcius, Farello nemo tonuit fortius, nemo doctius locutus est Calvino: Among hearers, some have more wisdom, some more know­ledge, some more affection: amongst the Pen-men of Scripture, there is a great variety; John is sublime and Seraphical; Paul spiritual and argumentative; Pe­ter in an easie, fluent and mild way; Isaiah more Court like and lofty; Jeremiah more Priest-like and grave. Among the saving gifts, there is a diversity of Graces, though all have all in some measure: The new Creature is not maimed, yet some are more eminent, some for one Grace, some for another; Abraham, for Faith; Job, for Patience; Moses, for Meekness; Timothy, for Temperance; Every Grace working according to the Diversity of tempers; some are modest and mild, others bold and Zealous; some are Mourning for Sin, others raised in the Admi­ration of the Grace of God in Christ; others exemplary for Strictness, and wea­nedness from the delights of the Animal Life.

(3.) There is a Diversity as to the Measure and Degrees. Every Bark that saileth to Heaven, doth not draw a like depth: There is the Measure of the gift of Christ, Eph. 4.7. and the Measure of every part, verse 16. to some it may be said, Great is thy Faith; to others, Oh ye of little Faith! Some are Fathers, some Young men, some Babes in Christ, 1 John 2.13, 14. and in Heaven there are degrees of Glo­ry suitable.

(4.) That this Diversity cometh from the same free Love of God, and there­fore not to be used contrary to the mind of the giver. This is the free gift of God, flowing from his undeserved Grace, there being nothing foreseen in any, that can merit the least good at Gods hand: 1 Cor. 4.7. Who made thee to differ? Rom. 12.35. For of him, and through him, and to him are all things. The Sun oweth no­thing to the Stars, nor the Fountain to the Streams.

(5.) Our Account must be answerable to our Receipts; there is a proportion of return expected: Hezekiah rendered not according to what he received. They that have received much, shall account for much; and they that have received little, shall account for little; he that received five Talents, must look to reckon for five: As he comforted his Friend that had but one Eye, that he should account but for the Sins of one Eye.

[Page 87]Now for the Reasons of this Diversity.

1. To shew the Liberty of his Councels: Christ may do with his own as he pleaseth; he will be known to be the Sovereign Lord in the distribution of his Gifts, and giving out his Grace to his Creatures as he shall see good: Matth. 11.26. Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy Sight. 1 Cor. 12.11. For all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, distributing to every man severally as he will. Not as you will, but as he will: The Spirit is compared to wind, not only for its force, but its liberty: John 3.8. when, and how he pleaseth: to some he giveth Riches, to some Gifts, common Knowledge and Utterance, some have this Gift, some that; some in a lower Measure, some in a higher; some have a peculiar Excellency in Gifts, and Graces, others only the common Sin­cerity.

2. That all may know, that all Fulness is only in Himself, Col. 1.19. The greatest degree of Gifts and Graces that God bestoweth upon any, is far below that fulness that is in Christ; they have a measure, but Christ without measure, John 3.34. He giveth to none so much, but there is always something wanting; and they that have received most, are capable of receiving more.

3. God will have this Difference for the Beauty and Order of the whole: Va­riety is more grateful. Hills and Valleys make the World Beautiful; so do di­stinct Orders, Ranks and Degrees of men; all Eye, or all Belly, is monstrous: difference with Proportion, maketh Beauty: therefore one excelleth another, and several gifts and ranks there are for the service of the whole.

4. That every one in the Sight of his own Wants may be kept Humble. When we are singular for any Excellency, we are apt to grow proud, and unsociable; the Eye is apt to say to the Hand or Foot, I have no need of thee, 1 Cor. 12.21. Every man hath something to commend him to the respects of others; therefore God hath so scattered his gifts, that every one should need another, that we may have the use of that Gift which we have not the possession of.

(1.) To maintain Love and mutual respect, and that there might be no Schism in the Body: The Apostle saith, Eph. 4.16. The whole Body compacted and joined to­gether, by that which every part supplyeth.

(2.) Diversity of Gifts was most intended, not to dissolve the bonds of Vnion, but to Strengthen them rather; and therefore the Apostle when he had reckon­ed up the bonds of Union, he presently addeth, But unto every one of us is given Grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ: Eph. 4.7. First he speaketh of what is one in all, and then of those things which are not one in all, but divers in every one: Every one hath his distinct Excellency, to endear him to the respects of others: Diversity of Gifts are an ordinary occasion of Division and Strife; Con­tempt, Envy, Pride, Discouragement ariseth from hence, but in its self one of the strongest bonds of Union: Whilst all in their way contribute to the good of the whole, and make use of that Excellency in another which themselves want; and we mutually communicate to one another our benefits: As divers Countries have divers Commodities, and one needeth another; one aboundeth with Wines, some have Spices, others have Skins, and Commodities in other kinds, that by Com­merce and Traffick there might be Society maintained among Mankind: So God in his Church hath given to one Gifts, to another Grace, to maintain an holy Socie­ty and spiritual Commerce among themselves.

1. VSE, Is to perswade us to imploy our several Talents for God, be they more or less, none are to be idle; 2 Tim. 2.6. Stir up the Gift that is in thee.

First, If we have but one Talent, God expects the improvement of it: Adam in Inno­cency had his work appointed him by God.

Secondly, Those that have the greatest Gifts, should not contemn those that have few or less; and those that have few, not envy others that have more; but be mutual­ly helpful one to another, acknowledging the Wisdom and Goodness of God in all that we have. 'Tis a base Spirit that would shine alone, or set up one Gift to the pre­judice of another; Let no man glory, for all things are yours, 1 Cor. 3.21. He that laid the World in Hills and Valleys, would not have all Champion and smooth ground, Prov. 17.15.

[Page 88]2. VSE, Give your selves, and all that is yours to God. Nothing is more rea­sonable than that every one should have his own; therefore let us consent to Gods propriety, and absolutely resign our selves to the will, dispose and use of our Crea­tour: but first our selves, and then what is ours.

SERMON XII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 16, 17, 18.

Then he that had received the five Talents, went and traded with the same, and made them other five Talents.

Likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

But he that had received one, went and digged in the Earth, and hid his Lords Money.

THis is the second part of the Parable. We have heard of the Masters Di­stribution, now we shall hear of the Servants Negotiation; how they em­ployed the Talents received. There was a disparity and inequality in the Distribution, so in the Negotiation: Two of the Servants used their Talents well, the third traded not at all, but went and digged in the Earth, and hid his Lords Money. Among them that used their Talents well, there was a difference, but still with proportion to what they had received. He that had received five Talents, made them other five: And he also that had received two, gained other two.

Doct. I. That those that have received Talents, must trade with them for Gods Glo­ry, and the Salvation of their own Souls, and the good of others.

Doct. II. In Trading, our Returns must carry proportion with our Receipts.

Doct. III. Among those that have received Talents, all are not faithful; for one hid his Lords Money.

For the first Point,

Doct. I. That those that have received Talents must trade with them for Gods glo­ry, and the Salvation of their own Souls, and the good of others.

I shall first explain the Point, and then prove it.

First, For the Explication or Illustration, I will enquire,

  • 1. What things are to be be accounted Talents?
  • 2. What it is to trade with them?
  • 3. To whom the gain and Increase redoundeth?

First, What are these Talents? In the general, all the things God hath instrusted us with, or any thing that may help to promote the glory of God; Reason, Health, Strength, Time, Parts, Interests, Power, Authority, Wealth, the Mercies of his Pro­vidence, Afflictions, Ordinances, Means of Grace; yea Grace it self. All these are vouchsafed to us freely by God, and may be improved for his glory. There is none of us but have had many advantages and opportunities put into our hands, of glorifying God, and promoting our own and others Salvation. Of all it may [Page 89] be said, Prov. 17.16. Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to use it. Reason and Parts are a Price put into your hands, so is Time and Strength, so are Riches and Power, so are Ordinances and Provi­dences, and indeed all the Blessings of this life. God must be gainer, and also your selves. In a spiritual sense he must have a share in your Time, Strength, Wealth and Power; and you must gain by every Ordinance and every Providence some­thing whereby you may be more fitted to glorifie his name, and to do good in your generation. But more particularly, Talents may be referred to two Heads, dona sanctificantia, and administrantia; Graces, helps, and saving Gifts.

(1.) Dona sanctificantia, Sanctifying Gifts, or the Graces of the Spirit; these are highest, and are called the true Riches, Luk. 16.11. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous Mammon, who shall commit to your trust the true riches? To be trusted with an Estate is not so great a trust as to be trusted with Grace: This is a Gift more precious, and should not lye idle. God trusts ordina­ry men with common Gifts, before he trusts them with Grace. When we sus­pect that a Vessel is leaky, we try it first with Water, before we fill it with Wine. God expecteth more honour from New Creatures, than he doth from all the World besides; that they should do more good in their places: Partly, because they have new obligations by Redemption, 1 Cor. 6.20. You are bought with a price, therefore glorifie God in your Bodies and Souls which are Gods. You are twice bound, and a double Obligation will inferr a double Condemnation, if we answer it not. And Partly, because by Regeneration they have new dispositions, they are more fitted to glo­rifie God, and do good to others, Eph. 1.12. That we should be to the praise of his Glory. Their [...], their New-being fitteth them to honour God. They serve mainly for this very use, and therefore this Duty of trading for God, lyeth first and most upon them: Wherefore hath God created them a-new in Christ Jesus, but to glorifie his name, and admire his Grace, and live answerable to his Love, and to bring him into request among all about them? Mat. 5.16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorifie your Father which is in Heaven. They that are emi­nent for the profession of Godliness, and are set as lights in the World, or a City upon an Hill, these should bring much Honour to God, and provoke others to do so; as the Stars which are the shining part of Heaven, draw eyes after them, if they should be eclipsed, they set the World a wondring: so should they shine as lights in the midst of a crooked, Generation, Phil. 2.15. or as the Star that shined at Christs Birth conducted the Wise men to him; so should they by their Pro­fession and practice lead others to Christ.

(2.) Dona Administrantia, Subservient Helps: Now these are of several sorts.

First, Either Gifts of Nature, both of the Mind, and of the Body. Of the Mind, as promptness of Wit, clearness of the Understanding, soundness of Judgment, or solid Wisdom; all these were given you of God, and he expects an Improvement of these for his Glory; that every man should be what he is for his Creatour. 'Twas a good saying of Epictetus in Arrian; Si essem Lucinia, &c. If I were a Night­ingale, I would sing as a Nightingale: Si essem Alauda, &c. If I were a Lark, I would piere as a Lark; but now I am a Man I will glorifie God as a Man: But alas how often do men of the best endowments miscarry? Isa. 47.10. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdome and thy knowledge it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine Heart, I am, and none besides me. Sathan made use of the Serpent, who was the subtilest of Beasts of the Field, Gen. 3.1. The Devil loveth to go to work with the sharpest Tools. God hath given great Abilities to some above others, to enable them for his Service: Now the Devil to despight God the more, turneth his own Weapons against himself. But it should not be so: We should remember that we have nothing but what we have received, and who maketh us to differ? 1 Cor. 4.7. So of the Body, as Health and Strength. Surely these Bona Corporis are Talents. God fitteth every man for the work wherein he will be honoured by him, Gal. 1.15. Separated from his Mo­thers Womb, with a Body fit to endure travel and hardship. Strength 'tis not to be wasted in sin and vanity, but employed for God: It is better it should be worn out with labours, than eaten out with rust.

Secondly, Outward Interests, such as Wealth, Honour and Power; these are com­fortable to the Animal life, and lay an Obligation upon us, and also they give us many advantages of doing good, which should alwayes be taken hold of, and [Page 90] used by us; as the greater Veins abound with blood to supply the less. Prov. 3.9. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and the first-fruits of all thy increase. Though many never forget God more than when he hath blessed them; it is their duty to make some improvement of this Talent also, Eccl. 7.11. Wisdom with an Inheritance is good: 'Tis good of it self alone, but 'tis better, more useful and be­neficial to our selves and others, when God giveth us with the blessings of this life, Wisdome. Wealth is an excellent instrument whereby a man is enabled to do much good, and is an help to Piety and Charity: Poor men are not heeded and regard­ed. So Honour and great Place is an opportunity whereby Grace may put forth it self with greater advantage, Neh. 1.11. The Lord shew me favour in the sight of this man: For I was the Kings Cup-bearer. He mentions his Relation, as having made an advantage of it.

Thirdly, The Providences we are exercised withall, whether Mercies or Afflictions, we are to give an account of them. Mercies and Comforts vouchsafed to us by God. 'Tis a naughty heart that would enjoy any thing apart from God, and looketh to his own personal contentment more than Gods Glory, Joel 2.14. In a great famine they desire plenty, that there may be a Meat-offering and a Drink-offering for the Lord. So for Afflictions; God expecteth some improvement of them. There is mercy in it, that God will put us under his Discipline, Job 7.18. What is man that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment? and we must account for our afflictions: Amos 4.2, 3. God reckoneth up our Cha­stisements.

Fourthly, Ordinances and instituted helps; they come under a fourfold Notion: Duties, Priviledges, Means, Talents. As Duties injoyned. so they are part of our homage due to God: 'Tis not a matter arbitrary; there is a tie upon our Consciences to keep us to the due observance of them: As Priviledges, Hos. 8.12. I have written to them the great things of my Law. This keepeth us from weariness, that we may not consider them as a burthensome task: They are a great Priviledge, dearly bought: 'Tis by the blood of Jesus that we draw near to God. As Means, for our growth and improvement; that notion is necessary, that we may not rest in the work wrought, but look after the Grace dispensed thereby. There is much difference in doing things as a Task, and using them as a Means; Means are for some end. As Talents, for which we must give an account, which will quicken us to more earnest diligence in the improvement of them. Some do not look upon them as Duties, and so neglect them; others not as Priviledges, and so are not so chearful in the use of them; others not as Means, and so rest in the work wrought; others not as Ta­lents, and so are indifferent whether they get good by them yea or no.

Secondly, What is it to trade with them? It implyeth,

  • 1. A Conscionable use of all our Gifts.
  • 2. A Diligent Improvement of them to the ends for which they were intended.

(1.) That we should use them well and holily; our Graces well, our Parts well, our Estates well: Our Gifts and Graces are not for Pride and Ostentation. Open my lips that my mouth may shew forth thy praise, not my own, saith holy David. The Service of Hell must not be maintained with the Contributions of Heaven; nei­ther must we seek Gods approbation to the setting up of our own glory, Phil. 1.15. Some preached the Gospel out of strife and envy. Unmortified Corruption will make a mans most excellent Gifts subservient to his basest Lusts, though exercised in the choicest Duties of Prayer and Preaching. Applause, Vain-glory, and such like carnal motions and ends, may set some men on work, and make them prostitute the service of Christ to their own Lusts. This is not to trade as Factours for God, but to set up for our selves. So for Estate; to spend it in pomp and vanity. 'tis sow­ing to the flesh, Gal. 6.8. To spend our Wit, Time and Strength upon the service of our fleshly Lusts, or to make our Body a Strainer for meat and drink, or a Chanel for Lust to run thorough; to be all for present profit, pleasure and Pre­ferment; this is instead of trading with Talents, to use them to Gods dishonour.

(2.) That we should be laborious according to our Gifts and opportunities. As a Servant is sent abroad to spy all advantages of gain for his Master, so we are sent into the World to take all occasions of doing good, 1 Cor. 15.58. Alwayes abound­ing in the work of the Lord. Ministers are to watch for Souls, and Magistrates are to watch for good, and private Christians to be careful to maintain good Works. To do a little good by the bye, will not be accepted; we must be hard at work for God.

[Page 91]Thirdly, To whom the Gain and Increase redoundeth? In a Moral consideration there are three Beings, God, Neighbour, and Self: Accordingly we are appointed to work for three Ends, the Glory of God, the Salvation of our own Souls, and the good of others: And as we promote either of these Ends, we are said to gain and increase our Talents.

1. The glory of God must be regarded in the first place, or, which is alwayes con­cerned with it, the Advancement of the Kingdom of Christ, and his Interest in the world. For all the Gifts that we have received, are for the Masters use: Though God cannot be enriched by any thing that we can doe, yet he counteth it an In­crease, if we study to bring him into request, or to advance the Kingdom of his Son. Therefore this must be our supream End in all things; 1 Cor. 10.31. Whe­ther ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye doe, do all to the glory of God: If in eating and drinking, and the use of our ordinary Comforts, much more in the supream and Important Actions of our Lives, such as we would make a Business of: God must be specially eyed there. God only is independent, and self-sufficient, of himself and from himself: but self-seeking is monstrous and unnatural in the Creature; they are of him, and by him, and for him. Rom. 11.36. Of him, and through him, and to him are all things. The motion of the Creatures is circular, they end where they begun, Man especially. Other Creatures glorifie God necessarily, we voluntarily and by choice; they passively, as they minister matter to the Beholders to glorifie God; we actively, as we are to intend and seek his glory in all things: They are made for God ultimately, but mediately for man; but we are made for his im­mediate service, and should glorifie him in all.

2. The saving of our own Souls, that must be regarded next to the glory of God. For next to the love of God, man is to love himself, and in himself first his better part: The great Errours of the World come from mistaking self, and misplacing self: They misplace self, when they set it above God, and preferre their Interests before the Conscience of their duty to him; then they mistake self, thinking them­selves more concerned as a Body than a Soul; and preferre the Satisfactions of the carnal Life, before the Happiness of the spiritual. We never truely love our selves, but when we love our Souls, and seek their good. God ordereth all his Providences for his own glory, and the good of his People. Rom. 8.28. All things shall work together for good to them that love God. So should we order all our acti­ons: All things are sanctified to them that are sanctified to God. As Helps and Means, and something to bring us to him, so should we use all Gifts, Ordinances and Providences. We distinguished before of dona sanctificantia, & administrantia; this is the difference between them: The graces of Sanctification, though profitable for others, yet are chiefly intended for the good of him that hath them: Gifts of Edification, though profitable for the Owner, yet are principally intended for the good of others. A man that hath sanctifying Grace, he doth good to others with it, that is but utilitas emergens, not finis proprius; 'tis not the proper and chief end for which those Graces were chiefly given: But other subservient gifts are for the good of the Body, not for the worth of the Person that hath them: 1 Cor. 12.7. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withall: That was the main and proper End.

3. For the good of others, their Edification and Benefit; as the Sun doth not shine for himself, nor the Fountains flow for themselves. We drive a joynt-trade for Heaven, and God hath scattered his gifts, that every part may supply somewhat for the good of the whole; as every Member in the Body hath its proper station, and several use, by which the whole Body receiveth Benefit. Rom. 12.4. For as we have many Members in one body, and all Members have not the same Office. 1 Cor. 12.14. For the Body is not one Member, but many. A man hath not Wealth for him­self, nor Parts for himself; not Ministerial gifts for himself, to promote his own ends, but to bring in Souls to God; not for pomp but for use: All have their pro­per and distinct Offices, some to serve, others to rule; some to counsel, others to execute: Every one hath their proper and distinct use, for God maketh nothing in vain; nor was the world appointed to be an Hive for Drones and idle ones: Therefore we should all in our places be doing good to others, helping them by our counsel, or by our Estate, and Interest, or by our Service; but especially should we do good to their Souls: for we are to love our Neighbour as our selves, that is, by a regular Love. Therefore first seek their spiritual good, as we would do [Page 92] our own, gaining upon them by assiduous Counsels, provoking them by our ex­ample: Otherwise we hide what we have in a Napkin; and what profit hath the World by hidden Wisdom, more than by hidden Treasure?

Secondly, The Reasons, or the Confirmation of this Point.

(1.) They that have received Talents, must trade with them, because they are not only a Gift, but a Trust, given us to employ. As a Gift they call for our Thank­fulness; as a Trust, for our Faithfulness. He▪ that hath an Estate made over to him in trust, and for certain uses expressed in the Conveyance, hath indeed no Estate therein at all, but only with respect to those uses. The right of a Feoffee in trust, is Fidei Commissarius, is quite distinct from that of an Owner and Possessor: Just so 'tis here; and Oh that we could make you sensible, that all that you have is for such uses, whereby you may bring some glory to God, and some good to others; and so save your own Souls by the discharge of your trust. Surely then men would use their Gifts more industriously, spend their Estates better, their Time better; and be more profitable in all their Relations.

(2.) This Trust is committed to Servants, not to Strangers or Freemen who are at their own dispose; so that from the quality of the Persons receiving, there is an Argument and obligation upon them. I may desire another to take a trust, who may refuse me; but those under command must do as their Lord would have them. Now thus are we to Christ, who hath an absolute right in us, and both made us, and bought us.

(3.) The Argument is still more binding, if there be a formal Covenant and Pro­mise on their part, that they will faithfully perform this trust. Now there is a Co­venant between God and us: I will be your God, and you shall be my people. In that Covenant we bind our selves to seek his glory, and to do his people good. As we take God, whole God to be ours, so we give up our selves, and all that is ours to him, to be for his use and Service. In this Covenant the altera pars pa­ciscens is an inferiour. Though there be a mutual interest, yet there cannot be such an Interest in God, as God hath in us: God hath not only an interest in us, but a dominion over us, which an Inferiour cannot have over a Superiour; so that we are Gods more fully than he can be ours. Now a trust accepted and broken afterwards, involveth us in the greater Crime. I am Gods, and will be Gods, and would I could do more for his glory; as a Christian in general, as a Husband, or Wife, or Father, or Child, or Servant, I will more honour God in my place.

(4.) The Fruit, Comfort, and Excellency of the thing trusted is most seen in the use. 'Tis true of all sorts of Talents; take the lowest outward subservient helps, Wealth, Power and Honour. A man doth not see the comfort and use of Wealth so much in any thing, as when he doth imploy it for God. If he hoard it up he hath it only for shew, if he layeth it out to cloath his back, or to feed his belly, he doth but make himself a more honourable sort of bruit Beast, all the while he is sowing to the flesh, or Sacrificing to his God, the Belly, or offering up a Meat-offering or a Drink-offering to Appetite: But how sweet is it when we have opportunities of doing more for God! then he seeth the use of Wealth indeed; it giveth him advantages of service, and a more diffusive Charity. Ordinances, the worth of them is most known in the use and improvement; not when we resort to them out of custom and fashions sake, but use them as means to do our Souls good. So for Gifts; as Wells are the sweeter for draining, so gifts are improved by using: So Graces of the Spirit; Gods most precious gifts should not lye idle, 2 Cor. 6.1. We beseech you receive not the Grace of God in vain. In short, you do not taste the true sweetness of Wealth, when gorgeously attired, your Tables plentiful­ly furnished, and you glut your selves with all manner of fleshly delights; but in feeding the hungry, cloathing the naked, that satisfieth the Mind and Conscience of them that do it; as you do not reap the increase of Corn by scattering it in the Sand, but casting it into a fruitful Soil.

VSE 1. To press us to this Negotiation: For if these things be so, we should all rouze up our selves, and say, What honour hath God by my Wealth, my Parts, my Honour and greatness, my Place and Office? what protection to his cause, what Relief and Comfort to his People?

[Page 93](1.) Consider, 'Tis our business in the World: Now every one should ask for what end he was born, and continued in the World so long. Our Lord Jesus, Joh. 18.37. saith, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the World, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one is sent into the world for some end; for surely God would not make a Creature in vain: We did not come in­to the VVorld meerly to fill up the number of things, as Stones and Rubbish, nor to grow in bulk and stature as the Plants, nor to enjoy pleasure without remorse as the Beasts: God would never then have given us those higher faculties of Reason and Conscience. For what end did I come into the VVorld, but to glorifie God in my place? to act that part in the VVorld which the great master of the Scenes appointed to me: Why do I live here? What have I done in pursuance of my great end? Most men live as Beasts, eat, and drink, and sleep, and die; and there's an end of them; they never asked in good earnest, for what purpose they came hither.

(2.) Every one is trading for some body, the Devil or the Flesh, regarding his Ma­kers glory, or his own Satisfaction. There is no medium: now which are you do­ing; trading for Heaven or Hell?

(3.) Consider how much you are intrusted with. Look within you, without you, round about you, and see how much you have to account for; the faculties of the Mind, the Members of the Body, your Time, Health, Honour, Estate, lifted up to Heaven in Ordinances, Mat. 11.23. Much given, Mat. 12.48. and Neh. 1.11. Now improve all for God.

(4.) Talents are encreased the more employed: We double our gifts by the faith­ful use of them. He that had five Talents, gained other five; and he that had two, other two: The more Grace here, the more Glory hereafter. If they be not employ­ed they are lost. How many poor, blasted, withered Christians may we find, by slacking their Zeal, and for want of diligent exercise? But on the contrary, as the Widows Oyl encreased in the spending, and the Loaves multiplyed in the break­ing, in Christs Miracle, and the right Arm is bigger and fuller of Spirits than the left; So Grace that decayeth by difuse, groweth by exercise. The Corn sown bringeth in the increase.

(5.) We must give an account at last to God: Luk. 19.23. He will demand his own with usury. VVhat honour hath God had by us as Ministers; Magistrates, Masters of Families, Husbands and VVives, Parents and Children, Masters and Servants? Beasts are not called to an account, for they have no Reason and Conscience as Man hath. VVhat will you say when God shall reckon with you, what you have done with your Time, Strength, and Estates? If an Ambassador that is sent abroad to serve his King and Countrey, should return no other account of his negotiati­on, than, I was busie at Cards and Dice, and could not mind the Imployment I was sent about; or a Factour, I spent roiotously that which I should have spent in the Mart or Fair; will this pass for an excuse?

(6.) VVhat a sad thing is it to have Gifts for this end, to leave us without ex­cuse, as the Gentiles have the light of Nature, Rom. 1.20. and Christians the light of the Gospel: Joh. 15.22. If I had not come, and spoken to them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin. Others have the VVord preached to them, Mat. 24.14. And the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the World for a witness to all Nations: compared with Mat. 13.9. — know that a Prophet hath been among them; have advantages and opportunities, but no heart to use them; only that God may be clear when he judgeth.

(7.) VVe improve the Stock of Corruption left us by Adam, why not the Gifts given us by Jesus Christ? This fire needeth no blowing; of it self it breaketh out into a flame, and shall not we stir up our selves, that we may be more useful? In im­ploying our Gifts, three things are necessary, Prudence, Fidelity, and Industry.

1. Prudence. This is necessary for a Steward or Factour, Luk. 12.42. Who then is a wise and faithful Steward, whom the Lord shall make Steward over his houshold? Now there is a twofold Wisdom, a Wisdom that is not from above, and a Wis­dom that is from above, Jam. 3.16, 17. The first is earthly, sensual, devilish; it ei­ther serveth for earthly profits, or to give content to the flesh, or to affect domi­nion and greatness: He that hath this wisdom, sets up for himself, and will never be a Steward and Factour for God. And this is to be wise for the present. But the wis­dome we speak of, is, to be wise for the future, that it may be well with us to all [Page 94] eternity; and that is the Wisdom that is pure and peaceable, and full of good fruits; for that is the truest wisdom, it serveth all turns, and provideth for God and self too: That's an holy self-seeking, to seek self in God: It hath what the other affecteth in a more sincere way of enjoyment, Honour with God, Rom. 2.7. Plea­sures with God, Psal. 16.11. Rich towards God, Luk, 12.20. 1 Tim. 6.18. Rich in good works, that they may lay hold of eternal life. This Prudence would serve the turn, and make a man take all advantages of doing good.

2. Faithful. 1 Cor. 4.2. Moreover it is required of a Steward, that a man be found faithful: That he sincerely seek the Glory of God, and watch all advantages to promote his Lords Interest, and carry himself well in his trust.

3. Industry, that he stir up himself, 2 Tim. 1.6. 2 Tim. 4.14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee. Oh let us not be idle, but hunt out occasions of doing good.

Doct. II. In trading, our Returns must carry proportion with our Receipts.

He that had five Talents, gained other five, and he that had two, gained other two. God will not accept of every mans rendring, for the mercies of common Providence, De­liverances; 2. Chron. 32.25. Hezekiah rendered something, but not according to the benefit received: Nor for the mercies of his Covenant, Justification, or pardoning mercy, Luk. 7.47. Her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. All Love requireth Love, and an answerable degree. So for Sanctification: He expecteth more from them to whom he hath given more Grace, 1 Cor. 15.10. But by the Grace of God I am what I am, and his Grace which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain: But I laboured more abun­dantly than they all: Yet not I, but the Grace of God that was with me. And in gene­ral, of all Talents, Ordinances, he expecteth improvement suitable, clear Knowledge, strong Faith, more ready obedience, Luk. 12.47, 48. And the Servant that knew his Lords will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes: For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required. Other­wise his Judgments will make it evident; Amos 3.2. The Valley of Visions had the heaviest burthen. So for Gifts of the Mind, God expecteth Service according to their measure, Eph. 4.16. That which every joynt supplyeth, according to the effectu­al working in the measure of every part; according to that place they hold in the body. No Member is either dead, or idle, or living, and working only to it self; but every one is to contribute for the good of others according to its measure. So for Estate: God looks for more from them whose superfluities are larger than others enjoy, that they should be rich in good works, 1 Tim. 6.18. God accepteth the Widows two Mites, that was more than the abundance of the Rich; for she cast in all that she had, Luk. 21. Still the Rule holdeth.

The Account riseth with the Gifts: And God will accept that at one mans hands, that he will not accept of another, whose capacities and opportunities are greater, who have more time to spend in his immediate service, more wealth to bestow, more advantages of acquainting themselves with God. Only let me give you two Cautions in judging of our Returns.

First, That in Gifts either of Mind, or of the Body, our Faithfulness is measured by our endeavour, and not by our success: Dominus non considerat (saith Jerome,) lucri magnitudinem, sed studii voluntatem. The Crown of Faithfulness, and the Crown of Fruitfulness, do both adorn the person that wears them: Though they be not gathered, yet our work is with God: Isa. 49.4. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: Yet surely my judg­ment is with the Lord, and my work is with God. Though little fruit and effect on men, yet not the less regarded and rewarded by God.

Secondly, That in the laying out of our Gifts, God doth not measure them by the Quantity and Value of what is given, but by the Affection and Heart of the Giver. Affectus pretium rebus imponit, saith Ambrose; which is a Comfort to the poorer sort, who have but little to give and contribute to good uses: 1 Cor. 8.11. If there be first a willing mind, a man is accepted according to what he hath, not according to what he hath not. So in other things, the smallness and meanness of the Benefit, doth not diminish Gods estimation of mans love and affection: On the other side, 'tis [...] to the great and Rich: All those pompous Services, if not a real mind, [Page 95] are not accepted, 1 Cor. 13.1. God loveth non copiosum, sed hi [...]arem Datorem, not a large, but a chearful Giver.

Thirdly, Where the matter will afford it, a Liberal and open Heart will not be defective in Quantity; they think nothing too much for God, and therefore will do all that they can, all seemeth too little; 1 Chron. 22.14. And now behold, in my Trouble, (Heb or Poverty,) I have prepared for the House of the Lord, an hundred thousand Talents of Gold, and a thousand thousand Talents of Silver, and Brass and Iron without weight. Look, as there may be a Winters day in Summer, and a Summers day in Winter, for the Proportion; so much may be little, and little much, according to the Mind and Love of the Giver; the Widow gave [...]. Some do twice as much good with a little, as others with a great deal. Love will not be backward.

Reasons of the Point.

Because Righteousness doth consist in a Proportion; and so it holdeth good both for our Duty, and Gods Judgement.

First, For our Duty; that we should be fruitful according to our Means, Op­portunities, and Helps, for every one of these encrease our Obligation.

Secondly, For Gods Judgement. God is not a Pharaoh, to require the full tale of Brick, where he doth not afford stubble: In all his Proceedings there is great Equity; he considereth men according to their Advantages. Rom. 2.9. Tribulation and anguish upon every Soul of man that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.

1 VSE, Let this asswage the Envy and Trouble of the Meanest: If thy Gifts be mean, thy Account will be so much the easier: Merchants that have the greatest Dealing, are not ever the safest men. Eccles. 1.18. He that encreaseth Knowledge, encreaseth Sorrow. None so miserable as they that have received much, and return­ed little; which should prevail with us to an Acqu [...]efcency in Gods Providence, though our Talents be not so large.

2. Let it quicken those that have received greater Gifts than others, to do so much the more good with them: you are more bound, and that which God will ac­cept from others, he will not from you. If you have many Ordinances and means of Improvement, you should get the more Grace. Heb. 6.6, 7. and Mat. 11.22, 23, 24. You are deeper in the State of Condemnation, if you do not bring forth Fruit proportionable to the means of Salvation: if greater Abilities; you must give God the more Glory; if a greater Estate, you must be richer in good Works. 1 Tim. 6.7, 8. For you to shut up your Bowels, 1 John 3.17. How dwelleth the Love of God in you? Potentes potenter cruciabuntur: Mighty shall be the Destruction of the Mighty: if we have greater Mercies, there is greater Duties; and greater Duties, greater Sins; and greater Sins, greater Judgments: Surely if men had any Sense of their Accounts, those that have much to answer for, would have more Trouble.

Doct. III. Among those that have received Talents, all are not alike Fruitful.

I shall handle the Point with respect to the Context we have in hand.

1. Though but one be mentioned, yet the Number of Vnfaithful ones is very great: In Parables the Scope must be regarded. Now the general Scope is to shew, that as the Virgins are not all admitted, so all the Servants of the House not accepted in the Parable. Indeed two of the Servants are Faithful, one unfaithful: We cannot conclude thence, that the Number of those that used their Talents well, should be greater than of those that hid them, or neglected the Improve­ment of them; as in the former Parable, that the Number of the Foolish shall be just equal with the Number of the Wise; or in the Parable of the Wedding Gar­ment, that but one shall come to the Gospel-feast unprepared: No, the Ornament of that Scheme and Figure which Christ would make use of, to signify his mind, required it should be so expressed. For since our Lord, to avoid Perplexity and Confusion, would mention but three Servants, 'twas fit that one should be an instance of eminent Faithfulness and Service, another of Service in a lower de­gree, that the meanest may not be discouraged; and the other should represent the unfruitful ones. Now Experience sheweth they are more than one to two; yea more than ten to one, much the far greater Number. Oh how few are [Page 96] there even of those that hold much from God, that return him ought of Love and Service! The Idle and Unprofitable ones are found every where, in all Ranks and Conditions of men.

2. Observe, He that had but one Talent, is represented as the Vnfaithful One, and that with good Advice: If the Example of Reprobation and Punishment had been put in the Servant that had five Talents, or two Talents, we might have thought that men of eminent Gifts, Rank, Quality and Employment in the Church, shall be called to an Account, and punished for their Neglect: No, but as our Lord hath laid it, it reacheth his full Scope and Purpose. For in the instance of the Ser­vant that had but one Talent, those that had five and two, may easily know how much sorer Punishment shall light upon them, if he that had least be called to such a strict Reckoning for his Non-improvement. However, this we may observe, That he that had the least Gift, was Unfaithful: to be sure, those that have most Spiritual gifts, do usually improve them, and the rest are left without Excuse.

3. Observe, His Crime is, he went and digged in the Earth, and hid his Lords Money. Men dig in the Earth to find Metals and Talents, not to hide them there. Mark, 'tis not said he did imbezzle his Talent, as many waste their Sub­stance in riotous Living, quench brave parts in excess, sin away many precious Advantages of Ordinances and Education, and powerful Convictions: No, he did not imbezzle his Talent, but hid it. Mark again, he did not Misimploy his Talent, as some do their Wealth, others their Wit, to scoff at Religion, or to put a Varnish on the Devils Cause; their Power, to Oppress and crush the good: The precious Gifts that many have, are like a Sword in a mad-mans hand, they use them to hurt and mischief: No, no such thing is charged upon this evil and naughty Servant. 'Tis Fault enough to hide our Talents, though we do not abuse them. That you may conceive of this, I shall shew you,

  • 1. His Sin, in hiding his Lords Money.
  • 2. What may be the Cause of it, in those that imitate him.

First, 'Twas a Sin; Partly because 'twas against the command of his Master. In Luke 19.13. He gave them a Charge, Occupy till I come: Partly, because 'twas against the end of the Distribution of the Talents: to keep Money unprofitably by us, is a loss; 'twas made for Commerce, so were Gifts given us to profit with­all; scattered into several hands, to bring in some encrease to the Lord and Own­er: Partly because 'twas against the Example of his Fellow-Servants, who were industrious and careful to comply with their Charge. 2 Cor. 9.2. Your Zeal hath provoked very many: And partly, as his Obedience and Account would have been easier; as 'tis more easie to give an Account of a small Sum, than a greater; as there is less Trouble, less Danger, so his Refusal is less excusable: And partly, as 'twas an Abuse of his Masters Patience, 'twas long e'er he called him to a Rec­koning. God will bear long with us in Infancy, Childhood, and Youth, but he will not bear alwayes; if we do not bethink our selves at last, our Account is hastened, and God will suffer idle Servants no longer to have an Opportunity of Promoting his Glory, the good of others, and their own Salvation.

Secondly, What may be the Causes of such like Unfaithfulness? Men are taken off from Improving their Talents,

First, Sometimes by a sloathful Laziness, and should that hinder us, especially us that are Servants to God? what man can endure an idle Servant? though he should not whore and steal, yet if he do not his work, you put him away. Every thing in the World costs Diligence, and shall not we be diligent in our Masters Work? How will men labour for a small Reward in the World, and is not Heaven worth our most industrious Care? shall not we be hard at work? 1 Cor. 15.58. The Reward is still propounded to the diligent. 1 Cor. 3.8. Every man shall receive his Reward according to his own Labour: 2 Cor. 9.6. He that soweth sparing­ly, shall reap sparingly. Idleness is its own Punishment. An idle man is a Bur­den to himself, like a man buryed alive: When 'tis Morning, would God it were Evening. He Contracts Distempers; a Key seldom turned, rusts in the Lock; standing Pools are apt to putrify. David when he was idle, fell into those foul Faults: An idle man can think of nothing but the Delights of the Flesh, and so becometh a ready Prey to Sathan.

[Page 97]Oh then shake off Laziness, and the ease of the Flesh! God is at work, John 5.17. the Creatures are at work, the Sun is alwayes going up and down.

Secondly, Another Cause is a Foolish Modesty and Pusillanimity. Oh this should not be; We should not, like Saul, hide among the Stuff when God calleth us forth to some Employment for his Glory, 1 Sam. 10.22. or with Moses draw back, when Opportunity is offered us to be useful in our Generation, Exod. 4.20. God can help the stammering Tongue, and will bless mean Gifts, when you sincerely obey his Call.

Thirdly, Self-love. Phil. 2.21. All men seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. Many care not how it goeth with Chrsts Matters, if their parti­cular go right; they serve their own worldly Ease, Profit, Credit, Pleasure.

Fourthly, Distracting Businesses, or love to the World; this is digging in the Earth, and hiding our Talent indeed. 2 Tim. 4.10. Demas hath forsaken me, and embraced the present World.

Fifthly, Fear of Danger, if publickly Active for God: some are so Cowardly, that they are Brow-beaten with a frown; cannot venture a lesser Interest, cannot bear a Scoff or a disgraceful Word; therefore sneak, loath to own what they are, or to do for Christ and his despised Cause; this is not a Christian Frame: Phil. 1.28. In nothing terrifyed by your Adversaries, which to them is a Token of Perdition, but to you of Salvation, and that of God. It looketh like Christs Business, he speaketh of Endeavours to propagate the Faith of Christ, and to gain men to embrace the Gospel.

VSE, Let us see if we be found in the Number of the Faithful or Vnfaith­ful. A negligent Ministry, a Gallio, a careless Magistrate, an idle Master of a Family, a sloathful Christian is like the Servant in the Text: You have your use whether you be in a publick or private Station, let us be faithful; if but one Talent, the smallest gifts must not lye idle, but be seriously exercised for Gods glory; if but one, your Temptations are the less. Private men are not exposed to such Dangers as publick Persons. It will Aggravate your Negligence if when less is required you are found idle: Oh therefore shake off the ease of the Flesh, that loathness to be troubled with the faithful Discharge of your Duty.

SERMON XIII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.

After a long time the Lord of those Servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

And so he that had received five Talents, came and brought other five Talents; saying, Lord, thou delivered'st me five Talents, behold, I have gained besides them five Talents more.

His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful Servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee Ruler over many things: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

He also that had received two Talents, came and said, Lord, thou delivered [...]st unto me two Talents; behold, I have gained other two besides them.

His Lord said unto them, Well done, thou good and faithful Servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee Ru­ler over many things: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

WE now come to the Third part of the Parable.

The

  • 1. We called the Distribution.
  • 2. The Negotiation.
  • 3. The Account.

This Account is, First, Spoken in the General, vers. 19.

Secondly, More Particularly described and set forth. There we shall take notice,

First, Of the Reckoning with the good Servants.

Secondly, With the bad one. In the Passages that concern the good Servants, you may take notice of the Servants Account, and the Masters Approbation. The account of the first Servant is in vers. 20. of the second in vers. 22. the Masters Approbation in vers. 21, & 23. He entertaineth both the Servants with the same countenance, and the same words.

(1.) I begin with the general intimation of the Account, ver. 19. Where the Time,

  • 1. When he cometh; After a long time.
  • 2. His Work; what he will do when he cometh: He reckoneth with his Servants. First, For the Time.

I. Doct. There is a good space of time between Christs Ascension and second coming.

Q. But why is this last reckoning so long delayed?

A. Not from any unreadiness in Christ; he is ready to judge, if we be ready to be judged, 1 Pet. 4.5.

But, (1.) There is a Reason on the part of the good; and that is, that the Number of the Elect may be gathered, who live in several Ages and [Page 99] places; and it requireth some time and pains to work upon each Soul of them; for not one of those must perish, 2 Pet. 3.9. And after they are converted, there must be some time allowed to exercise their diligence: They must have a day to work in, John 9.4. and to try their Faith and Patience in: Rev. 6.11. They should rest yet for a little season, untill their fellow-servants and their Brethren that should be kil­led as they were, should be fulfilled. A certain number are enrolled for Sufferings, as well as for Heaven; many of which had not obtained their Crown; as the High-priest tarryed within the Vail till his Ministration ended. As long as there is need of Christs Intercession, he deferrs his second coming.

(2.) On the wickeds part; 'tis necessary they should have a time of Improve­ment, that they may be left without excuse; Rom. 9.22. What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the ves­sels of wrath fitted to destruction. 'Tis for the glory of God, that he should take them when ripe: Then the Angel thrusts in his sickle, Rev. 14.15. Therefore they have longer time of prospering in their sinful wayes.

1. Let us not make an ill use of this, either to deny, or doubt of his Coming, as those, 2 Pet. 3.3. or of slackening, or putting off your Preparation, as the naugh­ty Servant, Mat. 24.48, 49. But let us wait with patience, and hold out to the very last. Saul held out till Samuel was even ready to come, and so forced himself to offer Sacrifice, whereby he lost his Kingdom; 1 Sam. 13.8, 9. If he had stayed a little longer, Samuel had come: So many grow weary of doing and suffering, and miscarry in the very Haven. We wait in ordinary things, Jam. 5.7, 8. Be pa­tient therefore, Brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the Husband-man wait­eth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh: His hastiness cannot alter the seasons; so we in improving our Interests, and employing our Talents, should not faint: Gal. 6.4. And be not weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.

2. Let us shame our selves, that having so much time, we have done so little work. Our Master hath tarryed long, and given us a large space of time wherein to employ our selves; but what have we done for his glory? Alas! either we do nihil agere, or male agere, or aliud agere; either we do nothing, or nothing to the pur­pose, or that which is worse than nothing; which will undo us for ever. Oh what thoughts will we have of a careless and mispent life, when we come to die! Many do not think of the end of their Lives, till their lives be ended; and then they moan and bewail themselves when they lye a dying. Oh rather think of your last end, and great account betimes: 'Tis lamentable to begin to live when we must die: Quidam tunc incipiat vivere cum desinendum est; they end their lives be­fore they begin to live. Therefore if hitherto you have been pleasing the flesh, idling and wantoning away your precious time, say, 1 Pet. 4.3. Let the time past suffice. I have been long enough dishonouring God, and destroying my own soul; hath my Master tarryed so long, and shall I still abuse his patience? This is an holy and right use of this delay.

Secondly, His Work, what he will do when he cometh: He reckoneth with his Servants.

Doct. II. Those that have Talents, must look to reckon for them.

For though he be long first, yet at length the Lord cometh.

(1.) Consider the certainty of this Account; his Wisdom, Justice, Goodness and Truth require it. His Wisdome requireth it: for no wise man would put hi [...] Goods to trust, and never look after them more; and shall we imagine that the wise God would send reasonable Creatures into the World, and furnish them with excel­lent Gifts and Endowments, and never consider how they imploy themselves? Is man Gods Servant? then certainly he is liable to an account: You had never come into the World, but for this business, to serve and please God. For God maketh nothing in vain, but all things for himself, Prov. 16.4. And do you think that af­ter you are made for this end, you may live as you lift, and never be called to a reckoning? So absurd a thought cannot enter into the heart of a reasonable man. Eccl. 11.9. Rejoyce O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the wayes of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: But [Page 102] know thou, for all these things God will bring thee to judgment. Man would be but a sort of Beast, if he had no other end of his Actions, but to eat, and drink, and sleep; and no other account to give; surely the most wise God would not have given us such excellent faculties in vain. He fitteth all Creatures for their use: Every Workman fitteth his work for the end for which it serveth; so God hath made Man for some end and use. And Gods Justice requireth it, that it should be well with them that do well, and ill with them that do ill. In the World it is not so: his Servants are very often abused while doing their work most faithfully; the World thinks them mad, hateth them. They that neglect their own work, beat their Fellow-servants, therefore the honour of his Justice requireth they should be called to an account; 1 Pet. 4.5. Who must give an account to him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead. There is not a thought in wicked mens Hearts, nor a word in their Mouths contrary to God, and his People, but he ta­keth notice of it, and will exact an account thereof; a strict and impartial ac­count of all their hard speeches. And the Goodness of God requireth it. His good­ness to the World in general: the World would be a Wilderness, and Men like ravenous Beasts, if there were not some Bridle and awe of a World to come up­on them; but every one that had power, would prey upon others, but that there is an higher Judge. God hath appointed a supream Tribunal, where Causes are judged over again; otherwise those that have power enough to do mischief, would be under no restraint. But 'tis goodness to his people whom he hath set a work, and therefore hath appointed a day when he will give them their wages; his goodness will not permit that they should be any losers by God, their love and obedience to him, that deny themselves, their own affections and interest for his sake: Therefore certainly the great God of Recompences will come, and call the VVorld to an account, that the faithfulness of his Servants may appear with praise and honour. This is a supream Truth, Heb. 11.6. That he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. And his Truth requireth it, 'tis laid at pledge in the VVord; that's the pro­per ground for Faith to build upon: Now there we have not only Gods VVord, but Gods Oath, Rom. 14.10, 11. For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. There we have plentiful evidence.

(2.) 'Tis a personal Account: Rom. 14.12. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. VVe should not look to others, what they be, and do: As to our selves, we must give an account of our selves, our life, our heart, our own thoughts, words and actions. 'Tis personal, partly, because every one must give his Account apart; not every one shuffled together, and in gross; but every Servant apart and severally; first he that had five Talents, then two, then one: And partly, because every one unavoidably must answer for himself. Here we may have our Attorney or Advocate to appear for us in Court; but there every one for him­self, every man must in person give an Account of his own fidelity.

(3.) 'Tis an Impartial Account, every one without exception, Revel. 20.12. I saw the Dead, both small and great stand before God: Small and great, King and Peasant; they shall all one day be called to an Account whether Faithful or no. None so high as to be exempted from this Account; none so mean as to be neglected in it: he that received five Talents, and he that received one, both gave an Account. The poor Beggar is not left out, nor the King excused.

(4.) 'Tis a particular Account. God will not take our Accounts by the heap, and lump, but there is a narrow search into all our Hearts and Ways; the the great thing is, What we have done in that place and Relation where God hath set us our Stewardship? Luke 16.2. But that's not all, we are to give an Account of every Action, Eccles. 12.14. For God shall bring every work into Judge­ment. Every idle Word must be Accounted for: Mat. 12.36. All the time we have spent, degrees of Grace we received, what we have done, proportionable to our Trust, five for five, two for two.

(5.) 'Tis an exact Account, that nothing is lost; Rev. 20.12. The Books were produced, the Book of Conscience, and the Book of Gods Remembrance: one of these is in the Sinners keeping, and yet it cannot be blotted out nor defaced: but at the day of Judgment, Conscience shall be extended to the Recognition of all our Wayes. Now these Books of Account that are kept between God and the Crea­ture, [Page 103] are somewhat like the Books of Merchants, of Debtor and Creditor, what returned, and what received. Gods Mercies to us are Booked, so are our Re­turns: That Gods Mercies are put upon the Book and Register, appeareth by the Expostulations used in Scripture, when God proceedeth to any particular Judg­ment: As for instance, Opportunities of Grace, and instructions of the Word; the Word Preached, [...], Mat. 24.14. And the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the World, for a Witness unto all Nations, and then shall the End come. God keepeth exact Account: Behold these three years came I seeking Fruit, Luke 13.7. This second Epistle write I unto you, 2 Pet. 3.1. He taketh notice of a former. God remembreth the Prophets words, when the Prophets are dead and gone: Every pressing Sermon, every Notable Help. This second Miracle did Jesus [...] Cana of Galilee, Joh. 4.54. Christs special Works and Manifestations of him­self ought to be marked, and kept in memory: God doth so for Deliverances from Danger: Isa. 11.11. The Lord shall arise the second time for the Deliverance of his People: He taketh notice that he has been once at it, and would be again. So what Talents and Gifts we have had, whether five, two or one. Se­condly, On the other side, all the good that we do; therefore the Apostle speak­eth of Fruit abounding to his Account, Phil. 4.17. The Lord taketh notice of our Faithfulness in evil times. Mal. 3.15, 16. And now we call the Proud happy, yea they that work Wickedness are set up, yea they that tempt God are even dilivered. Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and a Book of Remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his Name. 1 Kings 19.18. Acts 17. ult. Kindness to his Servants, Mat. 10.42. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a Cup of cold Water only, in the Name of a Disciple, he shall not lose his Reward. Eccles. 11.1. Cast thy bread upon the Waters, and thou shalt find it after many days; 'tis not lost. On the other side, Injuries done to his People; he hath a bottle for their Tears, and a Book for their Sorrows, Psal. 56.8. All the Snares contrived. Deut. 32.34. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my Treasures? Job 13.27. Thou lookest narrowly to all my Paths, thou settest a Print upon the Heels of my Feet. Every Action leaveth a Track, every Word, Mat. 12.36. every Thought, 1 Cor. 4.5.

VSE, Is our Account ready against that great day of Audit. Most neglect it, put off the thoughts of it. Take occasion hence to reckon with your selves afore­hand, and see what an Account you can give to Conscience; we should prepare more for this Solemn day of Reckoning, and therefore should take notice of what we do, and what we receive; we had need keep a Register of every days Work, and every days Mercies. There are three Questions in Scripture, often put them to your Hearts. Deut. 32.6. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish Peo­ple and unwise? is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee and established thee? Heb. 2.3. How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation? Isa. 5.4. What could I have done more for my Vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked for Grapes, behold it brought forth wild Grapes? The Profit of daily arraigning Conscience is great.

1. It keepeth us sensible of our Duty, maketh us often have recourse to Grace, when we continually observe our Sins, Duties, Afflictions, Mercies, Comforts, Opportunities of receiving Grace, and do but intermingle this thought, that one day for all these I must give an Account.

2. It presseth us to be more earnest for pardoning Mercy, and every day to make even. This is the great Folly of men, that they put off Sin when God doth not put it away: There is an Expression often used in Scripture, Their Iniquities shall find them out; this Notion of Accounts will help us to understand it. 'Twas committed many years ago, never heard of it since, but at length they shall hear of it: God reckoneth with them. If men escape and prosper a Month, or a Year, or two, they think all is forgotten, but at length it findeth them out. Sins are called Debts, and all Debts lie upon Account against us, till they be cancelled. Augustus bought his Quilt of one who slept securely, when he Owed an hundred Thousand Sesterces. We may wonder at the Security of Sinners, who sleep when their Damnation sleepeth not: They run upon the score, and never think of a Reckoning. Solomon adviseth a man in debt, not to sleep till he be delivered like a Roe from the Hunter. Prov. 6.4, 5. 'Tis good Advice to us, to get our spiritual debts [Page 102] discharged. Psal. 51.1. Blot out my Transgressions. Christ hath taught us to pray for daily Pardon, as well as daily Bread. The thought of these Records that are kept, and the Account we must make, should quicken us to it: Oh what a Clamour will our Sins make, when God sets them all in Order before us. Psal. 50.21. Thousands of vain Thoughts, light Words, and Sinful Actions, much mispense of time, Abuse of Mercies; we know not how soon God will put the Bond in Suit: other Debts have a day of Payment fixed, but this God hath re­served in his own Breast, when he will call us to an Account.

3. It Presseth us to live always as those that are to give an Account. Paul quick­ned himself to diligence upon this Consideration, 2 Cor. 5.9, 10. If we were ne­ver to be called to an Account, we should do God all the Service that possibly we can, we are so much Obliged to him; but he hath set a day, wherein he will reckon with us: Oh what Watchfulness, what Diligence and Faithfulness should this produce in us! Jam. 2.12. So speak, and so do, as those that shall be judged by the Law of Liberty. We read in the Story of Albigenses, when the Pre­sident of St. Juliers coming to Angrogne would have forced a man to Re-baptize his Child in the Popish way, he prayed the President that he would give it in Writing, and sign it with his own hand, that he would discharge him before God, and take the Peril upon himself: This made him relent and Profess his Trouble. Conscience is startled at Gods Records: if a man should do nothing, and speak nothing but what is to be registred and proclaimed at the Market-Cross, how watchful would he be! All is Recorded, the Books will be open­ed, therefore when we are about to do any thing unworthy, say as he, Acts 19.40. We are in danger to be called to an Account for this day uproar, there be­ing no Cause whereby we may give an Account of this Concourse; so should you. We that are to give an Account, how careful should we be how we use our Time, Health, Strength, Understanding, Authority, Wealth and other Blessings of God: The commonness of these Notions maketh them to lose their Life and Influence. Therefore we should especially act Faith in Believing, and urging the Soul with this Account.

Secondly, 'Tis particularly described; and there

  • 1. Of the Servants Allegation.
  • 2. The Masters Approbation.

(1.) The Servants Allegation, vers. 20, and 22. The two first Servants came chearfully to their Account, as having discharged their Duty faithfully, and with all diligence improved the Talents received: Not that in the day of Judgment good men shall make any Narrations of what they have done; they need not, for Christ shall do it for them; they rather wonder that any thing that they have done is taken notice of, as in the 37th verse of this Chapter, but all this is spoken after the manner of men, and to keep up the Decorum of the Parable: if it signifieth any thing, it signifieth the Confidence of a good Conscience, and what Comfort and boldness it breedeth in the day of our Accounts.

Doct. That a faithful Discharge of our Duty, will give us Comfort and Boldness when our Lord cometh to reckon with us.

1. There is a Confidence and Comfort that ariseth from a good. Conscience, or from Sanctification as well as Justification: In the inward Court, Conscience is one of the Witnesses, as well as the Spirit of God, Rom. 8.16. and much Com­fort ariseth from its Testimony. 2 Cor. 1.12. This is our rejoycing, the Testimony of our Conscience. A Carnal man is ashamed of the Grounds of his rejoycing, and what it is that keepeth his Heart merry; but a Godly man can own the Causes of his joy, which are in the first place, the Blood of Christ, Rom. 5.11. We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the Atonement: next, the Testimony of his Conscience concerning his sincere walking: But if a man can live with these Comforts, can he dye with them?

2. The Review of a well-spent life is a great Comfort in Death: Our Lord Jesus at the end of his days, when he was to go out of the World, John 17.4. saith, I have glorified thee upon Earth, and finished the Work thou gavest me to do. He­zekiah, when that sad Message was brought to him, that he must die, and not live, Isa. 38.4 that comforted him upon his Death-bed; Remember now, O [Page 103] Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done what is good in thy sight. So the Apostle Paul, when he drew nigh his end, 2 Tim. 4.7, 8. saith, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my Course, I have kept the Faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a Crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day. Oh 'tis a blessed thing if we can have this Comfort, when Conscience puts off all Disguises, and the everlasting Estate is at hand, and we are immediately to appear before the Lord, to remember then that we have been careful to please and honour God, and done his work, how sweet is it!

3. In the Day of Judgment; their works follow them into the other World: Rev. 14.13. Their Wealth doth not follow them, but the Conscience of having done well abideth with them: Conscience is Heaven or Hell to us; in Hell it ma­keth up a part of the Worm that never dyeth; so in Heaven, it giveth us Con­fidence; 1 John 2.28. and 1 John 4.17. That we may have boldness in the day of Judgment. Works are not Meritorious, and have no causal influence upon our Salvation, yet they have the full place of an Evidence, and so may wonderfully Comfort and embolden our Hearts.

VSE, Let us labour to get this Evidence. The time of Death, is a time that will rifle all our false Hopes. You are in your Health and Strength now, but how soon you may shoot the Gulph, you know not; we are hastening into the other World apace. When you are immediately to appear before God, you will have other thoughts of the World to come, and the necessity of Preparation for it than you have now; that which will comfort you now, will not com­fort you then; you must look that the Devil will then be most busie to tempt and trouble you, and as now he prejudiceth you against the Precepts of the Go­spel, so then against the Promises of it: all your worldly Comfort then will fail, and have spent their Allowance, and become to you as unsavoury as the white of an Egg. Will this Comfort you, that you have sported and gamed away your precious time? that you have fared of the best, and lived in Pomp and Honour? Oh no; But this will comfort you, I have made it my business to glorifie God, I have been Faithful in my place, have gotten some Evidence of the Love of God: It is not Riches or Greatness, or any Earthly Advantage will do you good.

Oh 'tis a Cutting Thought to the Careless and Negligent; Now I must give an Account of every day and hour I have spent in this World: The Improvement of every Opportunity will be called for. Then all your Vanities and carnal Plea­sures will be smart upon you, and vex your Souls with the grievous Remem­brance of them. Well then, can you in any measure look back upon the Dis­charge of your Duty? There are two Extreams:

First, Some are Presumptuous and Confident, because they are not gross Sinners; but what have they done for God? The sluggish and unprofitable Servant was cast into utter Darkness; he did not mispend his Talent, but yet he did not im­prove it. The Tree that bringeth forth no Fruit is hewen down, though it did not bring forth bad Fruit. 'Tis not a Negative Religion will comfort thee, but a Positive and a Fruitful one: You are no Drunkard, no Adulterer, no Pro­phane Person; but have you been at work for God?

Secondly, Others are Pusillanimous and Diffident, because they do not arrive at the Eminency and Perfection of the highest. David had other Worthies besides the first three. There were two faithfull Servants, one brought five Talents, the other two. Now the middle is of those that can see in themselves more Zeal than Formality, more Grace than Corruption; that for the main, have made it their business to Honour God, though conscious to many Weaknesses and Defects, yet throughout Grace gets the upper hand; according to the degrees of Grace, re­ceived they are faithful with God.

(2.) The Masters Approbation; Well done thou good and faithful Servant. The Faithful Servants are well accepted by Christ. First, He entertaineth them with Praise, Verse 21.23. Secondly, With Preferment and Advancement, Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee Ruler over many. Thirdly, With Joy, Enter into the Joy of thy Lord.

[Page 104] Doct. That at Christs appearing, faithful Servants shall not only be commended, but gloriously Rewarded.

1 Pet. 1.7. That your Faith may be found unto Praise, Honour and Glory, at the appearing of Christ.

1. There is not only verbal Commendation, but real Remuneration: Glory and Honour put upon them, as well as Praise ascribed to them; (1.) Praise, because he shall then commend their Faith before men and Angels. Revel. 3.5. I will confess his Name before my Father and his Angels. (2.) There will be a solemn Own­ing and honouring of them, when all the Holy Angels shall be present. Oh what a Favour is it to be commended of God! 2 Cor. 10.18. For not he that commendeth himself is approved; but whom the Lord commendeth. When they had finished the Tabernacle, all was viewed and approved by Moses, Moses blessed them. Oh what is it to be blessed and commended by the Son of God, in that great Assembly of the whole world.

2. Here is Preferment and Advancement to a higher place in the Family. Christ will preferr them as men do their Servants, Mat. 24.47. Make him Ruler over all his Goods: These Expressions are taken from the greatest Honours a man can do his faithful Servants in the world; 1 Kings 12.20. As Jereboam was made Ruler over all the charge of the House of Joseph, so will Christ advance his Servants to high Dignity, sometimes expressed by setting them upon Thrones, Revel. 3.21. giving them Crowns, 1 Pet. 4.13. 2 Tim. 4.8. That Antithesis is to be regarded, few things, and many things. All things are few in comparison of Heaven, our works, our Gifts, our Sufferings; the Reward is far above all these: Rom. 8.18. For I reckon that the Sufferings of the present time, are not worthy to be compared with the Glory that shall be revealed in us. 2 Cor. 4. [...]7. For our light Afflictions that are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory. 'Tis all little that we do or suffer; 'tis little that God hath done for us in this world, in com­parison of what he will do for us there. Here is the Earnest, that is but a small part of the whole summ.

3. The next Expression is, Enter into the Joy of thy Lord. Here Christ slideth into the thing signified by the Parable, as afterward in assigning Punishment un­to the unfaithful Servant: Verse 30. Cast him into outer Darkness, where shall be Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth. Here is Joy, and the Joy of the Lord, and faithful Servants are said to enter into it.

First, The Estate of the blessed, is a State of Joy; which ariseth, partly, from the Beatifical Vision; partly, from their own Blessedness; and also the blessed Compa­ny.

(1.) The Beatifical Vision, or the Vision of God. Psal. 16.11. In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right-hand Pleasures for evermore: There is a mighty com­placency that we take now, in seeing, knowing, loving, and being beloved of God. What can be found in the Creature, is but a drop to the Ocean, in com­parison of that a Believer findeth in God himself: God is to them an overflow­ing Fountain of all Felicity. But there is Gaudium Viae, and Gaudium Patriae: Here it admits of increase and decrease; but there the Soul is so filled, that it cannot receive any more; Psal. 17.15. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. God maketh out himself in the utmost latitude. As to the wicked, he stirreth up all his wrath: Here he pu­nisheth by the Creature, and so doth not put forth all his power; as a Gy­ant striking with a straw, cannot put forth his strength. In Heaven the Soul shall be filled with unspeakable joy and delight: What Delight is to the Sense, that Joy is to the Mind. Three things are necessary to Delight. A Faculty, or Power of the Soul capable of pleasure, and then the thing it self; which being brought to the Mind, doth stir up delight. As in bodily things, Colours, Fruits, Tasts, plea­sure consists in the near Union, and Conjunction of these things. The more no­ble the Faculty, the more excellent the Object; the nearer the Conjunction, the greater the Delight and Pleasure. Now in Heaven our Faculties are perfected; God is the Subject, and there is a near Conjunction: Oh what embraces between him and the Soul!

(2.) In their own glorified Estate, 1 Pet. 4.13. Rejoyce, in as much as ye are parta­kers [Page 105] of Christs Sufferings; that when his Glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. So Jude: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.— The fulness of our joy is suspended till then, that we may long much for that day: 'Twill be a glad day to all Faithful ones. Joy, 'tis quies animi in bono adepto; there is an aggregation of all good for Soul and Body: If the hope of this blessed Estate breedeth joy, what will enjoyment, what will Fruition do? if a glimpse or taste be so sweet, what will the full enjoyment be? Rom. 5.2. In deep troubles, yet we rejoyce in hope of the glory of God. 1 Pet. 1.8. Whom having not seen ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoyce with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Their Hearts are now and then filled with such a joy as they can hardly contain and keep within doors, when they have but a well-grounded hope, or assurance of the full possession of it.

(3.) In the Company of the Blessed. 'Tis comfortable to meet with the Saints of God now, though it be but in a Mourning Duty; but the Communion of Saints there, is quite another thing; they are our everlasting Companions; they are free from all sin and weakness, Heb. 12.23. Especially 'twill be a delight to them whom we have been a means to bring home to God; 1 Thes. 2.19, 20. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoycing? are not even ye, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? for ye are our glory and joy. And Phil. 2.16. That I may rejoyce in the day of Christ, that I have not laboured in vain, nor run in vain. The Glory that shall be put upon gracious Souls at the day of Judgement, will add to the Glory and joy of those faithful Ministers, by whose labours they have been gained to God.

Secondly, 'Tis called the joy of the Lord: That is, either provided by him, called my joy, by Christ, Joh. 15.11. This by way of Purchase, Allowance and Gift, digni­fied as one of those whom the Lord delighteth to honour, Esth. 6.6. or such as he himself possesseth. Jesus Christ himself had his joy set before him, Heb. 2.2. that happy and glorious Estate that happened upon his Sufferings; to this he inviteth us, into his own joy: Men are not wont to treat their Servants so, as to let them enter into their joy: Luk. 17.7. Which of you having a Servant plowing, or feeding Cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the Field, Go, and sit down to meat? No, but Make ready: But Christ, Luk. 12.37. will make them sit down to meat, and he will come forth and serve them. In the Civil Law, Accubitus Servi à Domino invitati; 'twas a Token of Manumission: Now Christ will bring us into his joy, Luk. 22.30. That ye may eat and drink at my Table, in my Kingdom, and sit on Thrones judging the twelve Tribes of Israel. Joh. 17.24. Father, I will, that those whom thou hast given me, may be where I am, and behold my Glory. Rom. 8.17. If we suf­fer with him, we may also be glorified together. 2 Tim. 2.12. If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him. VVe are sharers in all the happiness that he enjoyeth, and are partakers of the same Glory, and the same Kingdom, and the same Joy.

Thirdly, VVe enter into it. 'Tis an Hebraism, such as that, Psal. 69.27. Let them not come into thy Righteousness: that is, be partakers of it. So Psal. 59.11. —not enter into my rest; that is, partake of it: So the Servant entereth into his Lords joy; ut Possessor sit gaudii, non tantum Spectator. However, it noteth the highest and fullest participation; they enter into the blessed state of eternal joy, and it abideth for ever with them, in a full, constant, uninterrupted joy. VVe shall have as much as we can hold, and we shall hold more than now we do.

1. VSE, It informeth us, that 'tis good to be Christs Servants, and to be faithful in his work. See how ready the Lord is to reward our little sorry service: Come and receive the fruit of my bounty, and the reward of your fidelity. VVho would not serve such a Master?

2. Consider it: This doth make up all the shame and disgrace that can be in our Trials: VVe have enough in hand for all the pains and shame that we suf­fer for his service; the inward peace that we have, and the sense of his Approbati­on: But our great Reward when we and he meet together, should strike all dis­couragements dead, and be enough to allay all the sorrows of this life, and the censures of men.

3. To quicken us to Diligence, let us often think of this. VVhen God in­tended [Page 106] to give Canaan to Abraham, he biddeth him walk through the Land, and view it, Gen. 13.17. He hath promised to give the joys of Heaven to us; we should often consider it: Then encouragement is no encouragement if it be not regard­ed.

Lastly, The same words are used to both alike; the second Servant is approved, his Faithfulness commended and rewarded as well as the first Servant.

Doct. Whether our Talents be few or many, yet if we be but sincere, we shall be put into everlasting Happiness.

The Essential Happiness of the Saints is the same, though the Degrees differ; ten Cities, and five Cities, in Luke.

(1.) They may be alike in Fidelity, though a difference in opportunity. Their Industry will be alike: Though their Gifts and opportunities be not alike, their Zeal to God, and Love to Souls will be alike.

(2.) The Grounds of Essential Happiness are the same to all.

1. They have the same Redeemer and Mediator, Exod. 30.15. If they had a better Christ, another Mediator to ransome their Souls, they might expect ano­ther Happiness; but all is brought about by the same Redeemer, Jesus Christ, theirs and ours, 1 Cor. 1.2. by his Mediation, Sacrifice, and meritorious Righteousness.

2. The same Covenant, which is the Common Charter of the Saints: Act. 2.39. The Promise is to you, and to your Chilaren, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. A Covenant which offereth the same Benefits, and requireth the same Du­ties: The same Benefits; Pardon and Life. Pardon; Rom. 4.23, 24. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed; if we believe on him that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead. Life is the common portion of all the Saints; 1 Tim. 4.8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a Crown of Righteousness; and not for me only, but for all those that love his appearing. It requireth the same Duties of all the Saints, and they have the same Rule to walk by: Gal. 6.16. This same Gospel is the power of God unto the Salvation of eve­ry one that believeth, Rom. 1.16. Well then, if all have no other Charter from God, to shew for Pardon and Life, and all are bound to the same Duties, surely all shall have the same Happiness.

3. The same Spirit to be Christs Agent, to sanctifie, and to prepare them for this Glory: He is at work in all the Saints; 1 Cor. 12.4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 2 Cor. 4.13. We having the same Spirit of faith. This is considerable, because the Spirit doth form us for this very thing; that is, pre­pare us for this very Estate: If all have the same Heavenly Principle, all shall have the same Heavenly Happiness. We have the same almighty power within to de­stroy sin, to raise our dead and earthly Hearts to God, to keep in us the same love to him, and prepare us for this blessed Estate.

4. The same Mercy of the same God, distributeth the Reward. The main grounds of the expectation of the best, are the Mercy of God, and the Merits of Christ; and we have the same mercy to trust unto; Rom. 10.12. For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him: As rich in mercy to you, as to others; to pardon your failings, to wash off your stains, and finally, to receive you into his blessed presence: They look for Mercy, and we look for the same Mercy: Jude. 21. All that keep themselves in the love of God, may do so.

(3.) The things which are absolutely requisite to this Essential Happiness, are the same. As, the Vision and fruition of the same God, 1 Cor. 13.12. with Joh. 17.24. All that believe in me through their word; they have the same Place, Heaven; the same State, the same Company, they all make one Family, Eph. 3.15. Now some are in Heaven, and some on Earth, but then they shall all make one heavenly So­ciety, called the City of God: Heb. 12.22, 23. They shall all sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: They have the same work, which is, to love and laud God for evermore.

1. VSE, To perswade us to be contented with the meanest Estate, till Gods Pro­vidence call us to an higher. Every one must glorifie God in the place where he hath set him: As in a Quire of Voices, 'tis not who sings the Base, or who the Treble; but who well discharges his own part, Base or Treble: So in our account, [Page 107] 'tis not what part we have acted, so much as how we have acted it; whether glori­fied God in the work which he hath given us to do, Joh. 17.4. If thou hast doubled thy Talents, though but two, Christ will welcome thee into the joy of thy Lord. 'Tis not who hath undergone the greatest bodily labour in Religion, or pass'd the severest Sufferings, or gone through the eminentest Offices, and Employments, but who hath most honoured God in his place, got most holiness in his Heart, been most humble and contented with his Condition.

VSE 2. Is for the Encouragement of poor weak Christians, who have the Es­sentials of Godliness, tho' they be weak, and have not attained to the Eminency of many others: These should not be dismayed; there are persons of all sizes, and several degrees in Heaven, and they are all possessed with the same common hap­piness; 2 Pet. 1.2. To them that have obtained like precious faith with us. Mean Be­lievers in some sense have like precious faith with an Apostle, as to the great ends of the Covenant; the same Jewel: complectitur & Puerulus, complectitur & Gigas; one holds with a strong, the other with a trembling hand; the Jewel is of the same value: The same Sacrifice for sin, we all depend upon the infinite mercies of the same God; the same Phisician of Souls hath us in cure, who hath cured all others; the same Captain that hath saved others who are more eminent, is conducting us to Salvation, and is preparing us for the same Estate which they hope to en­joy. They have no greater, nor better High-priest and Mediatour with God, than we have, they are going to the same place that we are, and we that they are; only they have gotten the start a great way before us: But whilest we strive to overtake them, and make as much haste as we can, though we bewail our im­perfections, yet we should not lose the comfort of our sincerity.

Doct. II. Though the essential Happiness of the Saints be the same, yet there are de­grees in Glory.

Luk. 19.16, 17, 18, 19. We read there of having authority over ten Cities, and five Cities: More is required of the first Servant, and more is given him; and more is required of the first Servant than the second; as we expect an Horse-man should come sooner than a Foot-man. But more particularly to prove that there are degrees of Glory: First, From Scripture. 2 Cor. 9.6. He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully. As there is a difference in the kind of the Crop, according to the kind of the seed, Gal. 6.6, 7. so according to the degree; some do well, others do better; so some fare well, others fare better, are more bountifully rewarded: For God will deal more liberally with them who shall accordingly with greater fidelity acquit themselves in well-doing. There is a Proportion observed. Again, the common happiness of the Saints, is, To shine as the Stars, Mat. 13. and Dan. 12.3. yet the Apostle telleth us, that one star differeth from another in glory; so shall it be in the resurrection from the dead, 1 Cor. 15.41. namely, that their Glory shall be according to their inequality in Zeal, Service, and Faithfulness to God. Another place shall be that, 1 Cor. 3.8. Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour; that is, according to the degree; for he speaketh there of degrees of serviceableness in the Church. Every man hath a labour of his own, that is, such a measure and degree of ser­vice appropriately his; and so by consequence, hath his own reward, somewhat which doth exactly answer his labour. Some have thought no: That the Saints in Heaven, their Reward is exactly equal: It's true, all shall have enough, but some more than others: So Eph. 6.8. Whatsoever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free; that is, shall be punctually and particularly considered by God for it; he shall receive the same, not for kind, but quantity and proportion: They shall have in their Reward a particular and appropriate consideration; a Bondman a Bondmans Reward, a Freeman a Freemans Reward; every degree of goodness shall be considered by God: so there seemeth to be a distincti­on between a Prophets Reward, and a righteous mans Reward, and a Disciples Re­ward, Mat. 10.41, 42. Add that concerning Zebedee's Children, Mat. 20.21, 22. she cometh to Christ, and prayeth, that her two Sons might sit one at his right hand and the other at his left, in his Kingdom. Christ doth not deny but that something there is which may be signified by his right hand and his left, yea rather asserts it; for he saith, It shall be given to those for whom it is prepared of my Father. There [Page 108] are some chiefest and highest places of Glory and Preferment in his Kingdom, and he hath prepared these places for persons of the greatest worth and eminency in his service; for these the greatest Honours of the World to come are reserved.

Reasons of the Point.

(1.) From the Nature of that Glory and Blessedness we expect. It standeth in Com­munion with God, and Conformity to him, or the Vision and full fruition of God, Psal. 17.15. 1 Joh. 3.2. Now the more holy, the more suited to this happiness, and therefore have larger measures of it; Mat. 5.8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Heb. 12.14. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. We behold his face in righteousness. Now we are more capacitated, Vessels of a larger bore: 'Tis unreasonable to imagine that clarified Souls have no more fruition of God than those that only have Grace enough to make an hard shift to get to Heaven: Sicut se habet simpliciter ad simpliciter, ita magis ad magis. Holiness singly fits to see God, and without it we cannot see him: So a little Holiness fits us to take in a little of God; the more Holiness, the more of God.

(2.) From the pleasure God taketh in his own Image: So much of the Image of God as his Creature hath, so far more amiable in the sight of God: The Lord de­lighteth in the Vpright, Prov. 11.20. If God delighteth in them, he delighteth more in one that is more holy and upright. Thus from God Holiness we may ar­gue, he doth not delight in the impure, Psal. 5.4. Thou art not a God that hast plea­sure in wickedness. He cannot so fully delight in the less pure; Psal. 18.25, 26. With the upright man thou wilt shew thy self upright, with the pure thou wilt shew thy self pure.

(3.) From the Justice of God, and the Quality of that Happiness which we ex­pect: Though it be an act of free Grace and bounty in God to bestow it on us, yet 'tis a Reward; and Reward is considerable with respect to the work: The Re­ward is not of Merit, but Grace; but yet Gods merciful Justice respecteth the de­gree of our Service; Heb. 6.10. God is not unrighteous to forget your work of Faith, and labour of Love. 'Tis an act of remunerative Justice, according to the New-Covenant: The higher Service hath an ordinability to the greatest Reward.

(4.) God doth in this world give the greatest Blessings to those that do most emi­nently glorifie him; therefore signal Faithfulness is eminently rewarded in the World to come; as God promiseth to make a Covenant with Phineas, because he was zealous for God, to make an atonement for the People, Numb. 25.13. This the ra­ther holdeth good, because the Rewards of the Old Testament were a kind of Fi­gure of Eternity.

(5.) In the Punishment the [...]e are degrees, therefore in the Reward God will pu­nish men differently, more or less according to the rate of their sins: we read of [...], more tolerable: So he will reward men more or less according to the dif­ferent degrees of their faithfulness: So Mat. 11.21, 22. It shall be more tolerable for Tire and Sidon in the day of Judgment, than for you. So Luk. 12.47, 48. we read of many Stripes, and few Stripes. 'Tis true, the Reward is not of debt; yet there is an Equity observed in his Bounty.

(6.) The Glorified State of the Saints in all probability suiteth with all the rest of the Creation. There is a difference and disparity in every thing else: Among men in the World, in Wisdom, and Rank, and Quality, and Riches; In the Church, some have meaner, some larger Gifts. There are degrees among the Devils; we read of Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils: Among Angels, there are Arch-An­gels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, Dominions. So 'tis likely among the Saints.

(7.) The Profit: It encourageth to Godliness: This inequality of Rewards, giving greater things to those that do more, and be more faithful, than to imagine that they who sow more sparingly, shall reap as plentifully as those that sow liberally. It is a great damp to all worthy dealing, and signal excellency, that all shall fare alike; but it quickneth us to our utmost activity, to remember that as our work is, our Reward will be.

VSE, Is to quicken us to be more faithful to God, for these Considerations.

1. Heaven being the perfection of Holiness, if you do not desire more degrees of Holiness, you do not desire Heaven it self; 1 Joh. 3.2, 3. Behold now ye are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be: But we know, that when he shall ap­pear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath [Page 109] this hope in him, purifieth himself as he is pure.

2. 'Tis gross Self-love, to go as near the brink of Hell and Destruction without falling into it, and to beat down the price of Salvation as low as we can; and he that will do nothing more than what is simply necessary to Salvation, will ne­ver be faithful with God. To save the stake of their Souls, they will serve God as little as they can.

SERMON XIV.

MATTH. XXV. v. 24, 25.

Then he which had received the one Talent, came and said, Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed; and gathering where thou hast not strawed.

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy Talent in the Earth: Lo, there thou hast that is thine.

WE have seen the Account and reception of the faithful Servants. We now come to the Masters Reckoning with the unfaithful one. The Order is observable: First, He rewardeth the faithful Servants, and then punisheth the careless and negligent. His own Nature inclines him to Reward, he doth good, and sheweth Mercy out of his own Self-inclination; but our Sins force him to punish. And mark, he that had received one Talent, is called to an account as well he that had received more; That no man may think to be excused for the meanness of his Gifts and place: 'Tis true, he giveth an account for no more than he hath, but for so much as he hath he must give Account. Christians that have five or two Talents, must give an Account for five or two: But Heathens that have but one Talent, the light of Nature, give an account for one. The Apostle telleth us, That as many as have sinned without the Law, shall perish without the Law, but as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law, Rom. 2.12. Every one according to the Dispensation they have lived under. The Apostle intimateth a distinction of two sorts that are to be judged: 2 Thes. 1.8. In flaming fire, taking Vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those that have great parts, and great opportunities, will not be accepted with the same Im­provement that others are that have fewer; neither from the same person will God accept a like Service when sick, as when well; but according to their abilities and opportunities he doth expect. Well, but let us see what Account he bring­eth that had but one Talent. The Parable offereth,

  • First, The Servants Allegation or Excuse.
  • Secondly, The Masters Answer or Reply.

We are now upon the former, and there,

  • 1. The remote Cause of his neglect; his prejudice against his Master. Lord, I knew thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed; and gathering where thou hast not strawed.
  • 2. The Effect of this Prejudice, and so the next and immediate cause of this neglect, I was afraid.
  • 3. His Negligence and unfaithfulness it self, in bringing his Talent without Im­provement; I went and hid thy Talent in the Earth: and lo, there thou hast what is thine.

[Page 110](1.) In the Prejudice: Christ impersonateth our natural thoughts and the secret workings of our minds; we dare not say so, but many think so: as if God were an hard and morose Master, whom 'tis impossible to please. The Servant in the Parable had as little cause for his pretence, as we have for our hard thoughts of God: He knew the contrary; if he would consult his own experience, he might have found his Master to be good and kind, who had taken him into his Fami­ly, intrusted him with a Talent, waited long for his Improvement: But this is the nature of man, Self-love will rather blame God, than acknowledge our own Fault, and Sin; tax his Severity, than confess its own Negligence.

(2.) In the Servants being afraid, Christ would teach us, that ill Opinions of God beget Pusillanimity and slavish fear. And

Lastly, In his Non-improvement, but rendring the Talent as he received it, That Pusillanimity or slavish fear and sloath, go together; or those that are afraid of God will never do him Hearty service.

I cannot handle all the Points that will arise from this Paragraph, yet I shall discuss one, that will take in the Substance and Effect of all. And that is,

Doct. That slavish Fear is a great hinderance to the faithful discharge of our Duty to God.

First, Let me observe to you, that there is a twofold fear; Filial and Servile: Child-like and Slavish. The one is a lawful and necessary fear, such as quickneth us to Duty; Phil. 2.12. And is either the fear of Reverence, or the fear of Cau­tion. The fear of Reverence is nothing else but that awe we are to have of the divine Majesty as Creatures, or our humble sense of the condition, place and duty of a Creature towards its Creator. The fear of Caution, is a due sense of the Importance, and Validity of the business we are engaged in, in order to Sal­vation: certainly, none can consider the danger we are to escape, and the bles­sedness we aim at, but will see a need to be serious. And therefore this fear is good and holy.

(1.) But there is besides this, a slavish fear, which doth not further, but extreamly hinder our work. For though we are to fear God, yet we are not to be afraid of God; This is that which the Apostle calleth, [...], oppo­site to the Spirit of Adoption, Rom. 8.15. and a cowardly fearful Spirit, opposite to that Spirit of Power and Love, and of a sound Mind, which is the principle of all faithful Service to God. They that are under the Spirit of bondage, serve not God as Children serve a Father, but as Slaves serve an hard and cruel Ma­ster. Fear is the inseperable Companion of this Spirit, which must needs be a great hinderance to our Duty; because it begets hatred to God, and the torment it bringeth to our selves: As it breedeth Hatred to God; Oderunt quem metuunt, quem odimus periisse cupimus; when we only dread God for his Vengeance, we keep off from him, as a dissolute servant hateth that Master who would scourge him for his Debaucheries: The Nature of this fear is to drive us from God. Gen. 3.7, 10. I was afraid. So because of the Torment it bringeth to us. Eph. 4.18. For the legal Spirit, 'tis called a Spirit of bondage, Rom. 8.15. It hath fear and torment in it, and is an Enemy to us, for it banisheth all those sweet Princi­ples which should enliven our Service; as Love to God, and Delight in our work; which doth enliven and inspire every thing that we do with an earnest Spirit; But where Love is wanting, and all the Comfort that should accompany our du­ties, 'tis lost; either a man doth nothing, or all that he doth, is in a compulsory manner, by meer force; and so our hands must needs be weakned in Gods Service, if we be not totally discouraged: For often it endeth in a Despair of pleasing, or being accepted with God. There is a lazy sottish Despair, as well as a raging tormenting Despair: Jer. 18.12. There is no hope, we will walk in the Imagination of our own Hearts; Cast off all care of the Souls Welfare. This was the fear of the sloathful Servant in the Text, and such a fear have many others in the bosom of their hearts, by which they can never do any thing effectually in the business of Religion, by reason of their-strong Prejudices, occasioned by their own tormenting fear.

(2.) That this fear is begotten in us by a false opinion of God, that rendereth him dreadful, rigorous, and terrible to the Soul. The Servant in the Text doth [Page 111] not only say, I was afraid, but giveth a reason of it: I knew that thou wert an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed, and gathering where thou hast not strawed. A pa­rabolical speech, to set forth a cruel Tyrant, that doth exact upon those that are under him without Mercy and Reason. Our Affections follow our Apprehensions, and we either love or fear according to the inward notions that we have of God in our minds. They that know thy name will trust in thee, Psal. 9.10. If we had righter notions of God, we would love him more, and trust him more: But when we conceive amiss of him, accordingly we are affected to him: And there­fore we should take heed what Picture we draw of God in our minds; for if we have only such apprehensions as render him grievous and burdensome to us, these thoughts will leven our Hearts, and make us either neglect his Service, or do it by constraint, in a very awkward and uncomfortable manner. If the Devil can bring you to have a base opinion of God, as cruel and tyrannical, and once possess you with sowre thoughts, and fretful Jealousies, or harsh surmises of his Government, it will turn all your love and obedience into hatred and sla­vish fear. Therefore those that consider, that Love is the great principle of Obe­dience, should also consider that there is nothing so necessary to breed love, as good thoughts of God, and a due sense of his goodness in Christ; come to this once, and then all that he requireth and doth, will be acceptable to us: His Laws will not be grievous, nor his Providences seem burdensom to you, nor his Judgments intolerable. How can you love him, till you represent him as an Object of Love; one upon whom you may chearfully depend for Life and De­fence; and from whom you may comfortably expect the Rewards of Obedience? Therefore take heed of painting out God in your thoughts as an hard Master. The Apostle telleth us, Heb. 11.6. He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him. As soon as we appre­hend his Being, we should also pitch upon his Bounty and Goodness. First, That he is, and then, That he is a Rewarder. There is in all men some Impression of a Godhead, which is clearly understood and seen by the things that are made, Rom. 1.20. This Apprehension of God calleth for Worship: for next that God is, we must believe he must be Worshipped, Joh. 4.24. These two notions live and dye together; they are clear and blotted out together. As the apprehen­sion of God is clear, and more deeply engraven upon the Soul, so is this noti­on of mans Duty of Worshipping God clear, and imprinted upon the Soul also. The one Impression cannot be worn out without the other. But now, want of a true Knowledge of God breedeth slavish fear, fearing God in excess, rather than loving him in any tolerable measure; because a man naturally looketh upon God with the same eye, that a Malefactor doth upon his Judge. Fear is more natural to carnal men, because a bad Conscience is very suspicious, and our sense of Gods Benefits is not so great, as the sense of our bad deservings is quick and lively. Therefore naturally we have no other notions of God, than as a rigid Law-giver and severe Avenger. The Heathens, who in all their Worship discover­ed the natural Sentiments of Religion that are in the Hearts of men, observed this in the Straits, Vt prius placarent iratos Deos, &c. Wrath and Anger were the first thoughts they had of a Divine Power; and 'tis as true among Christi­ans. Guilty Nature is more presagious of evil than of good, when it is serious. 'Tis true, wicked men cry out, God is merciful, and that is generally the cause of their Laziness and sleightness in Religion; but it is when they do not mind what they say; these are but sugared words in their Tongues, when they are serious they have other thoughts. Bondage is more natural than Liberty, Fear than Hope; because of the Covenant we are under, which is a Covenant of works, a Ministry of Death and Condemnation, and so begetteth fear, and representeth God as terrible: yea, 'tis found in those that are more serious, and have some beginnings of a good work upon their Hearts; they are too apt to entertain ill thoughts of God, and looking upon him in the glass of their guilty fears, repre­sent him as harsh and inexorable. All their terrours and troubles are raised by false Apprehensions of God; and therefore the course of their Obedience groweth the more uncomfortable: This is a truth, that the Law and Grace contendeth for the mastery in every Heart, that entertains thoughts of Religion; not only Cor­ruption and Grace, but the Law and Grace: And as their Law-notions prevail, so their slavish fear increaseth; but as the Gospel Apprehensions prevail, so their [Page 112] Love of God increaseth, and their comfortableness in Religion. Therefore still the Caution is bound upon us, to take heed what Notions we have of God, and that we have not any diminishing, extenuating thoughts of his goodness and mercifulness; that we do not look upon him as one that lyeth upon the catch, to spy out Advantages against us; for that thought will mightily weaken our hands in the Lords work. Do not think of him as one that delights in the Creatures misery: No, rather in shewing Mercy and Goodness, and as ready to give out Grace to the humble that lye at his Feet, however he dealeth with the stubborn and obstinate Refusers of his Grace. And therefore, if I may di­gress into Application, while I am yet in some doctrinal Considerations; I would advise,

First, That to preserve the Sense of Religion in the general, men would consi­der how much God standeth upon the Credit of his Goodness, and that he giveth them no cause of discouragement, as from him; Mich. 6.3. O my People, what have I done unto you, wherein have I wearied you? That his Commands are not grievous, Mat. 11.29. 1 John 3.5. That the Tryals sent by him are not above measure, 1 Cor. 10.13. nor his Punishments above deservings, Neh. 11.9, 13. That he is not hard to be pleased, nor inexorable upon our infirmities, Mal. 3.17. These things should be constantly in our minds, for the Vindication and Justification of God from our natural Jealousies and evil Surmises, that we have of his Con­duct and Government.

Secondly, I would advise poor trembling Souls, that are alarmed by their own fears, which represent God as an Enemy, and standing at a distance from them; that they would study the Name of God: For surely things are known by their Names, and poor disconsolate Souls are bidden, Isa. 50.10. To trust in the Name of the Lord, &c. Now what is the Name of God? Even that which he proclaimed, Exod. 34.5, 6, 7. I am the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abun­dant in Goodness and Truth; keeping Mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, trans­gression and sin. Therefore take all his Name, and meditate upon it. Satan la­boureth to represent God by halfs, only as a consuming Fire, as cloathed with Justice and Vengeance. Oh no! 'tis true, he will not suffer his Mercy to be abused by contemptuous Sinners, he will not clear the guilty, though he waiteth long on them before he destroyeth them; but the main of his Name, is his Mer­cy and Goodness. Take it as God proclaimeth it, and see if you have any reason to have hard thoughts of God; you will find, that though he be an high and holy one, yet he is willing to be treated with: That he is great, but yet good, ready to receive returning Sinners: if thou hast sin and misery, Christ hath Com­passion and Pity, he is the Father of Mercies, 2 Cor. 1.3. Misericors est, cui alte­rius miseria cordi est: Mercy hath its name from Misery, and is no other thing than laying anothers misery to heart, not to despise it, nor to add to it, but to help it: And therefore if thou be miserable, and knowest it indeed, his Nature giveth a strong inclination to succour the miserable. I, but saith the convinced Soul, there is nothing in me to be regarded; the Lord telleth, I am gracious; and Grace doth all freely, and from a self-inclination; it giveth all the Qualifi­cations he requireth; but I have been long a presumptuous Sinner. Why, God telleth you, his Name is long-suffering: He that gave not the Angels one hours space for Repentance, hath long delayed the Execution of our Sentence, and call­eth us to himself, that we may escape the Condemnation of Angels. But I am exceeding perverse and wicked: The Lord telleth you, He is abundant in Goodness. I am full of fears and doubtings: Still he is abundant in goodness and Truth. I have abused much Mercy, and can Mercy pity me? The Lord telleth you, He keepeth Mercy for thousands, and can forgive Iniquity, Transgression and Sin. His Treasure of Mercy is not soon spent and exhausted: no sin can exclude a willing Soul; Mercy will pardon thy abuse of Mercy, if thou repentest of it.

Thirdly, To the People of God, who having a clearer sense of their Duty, and a larger Heart towards God than others have, and so are the more troubled for the Poverty of their Graces, and weakness and Imperfection of their Services than others are, which may breed Bondage and uncomfortableness; I would have them consider, that Humility and Meekness doth still become them, but not De­jection and Despondency of mind, that they should ever be complaining, fearful, and disconsolate. We have not an hard Master, he hath made Joy a part of our [Page 113] work: Phil. 4.4. He gave his Son, Luk. 1.74, 75. That being delivered from our Enemies, we might serve him without fear, in Holiness and Righteousness. We should consider, that he is ready to bear with failings where there is an upright heart: That God accepteth what we can through Grace well and comfortably perform. 'Tis a general Maxim of the Gospel, though spoken upon a particular occasion, 2 Cor. 8.12. That if there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, not according to that he hath not. That the God whom they serve in the Spirit, can put a finger on the scar. Ye have heard of the Patience of Job, Jam. 5.11. Ay, and we have heard of his Impatience too, his cursing the day of his Birth, and his bold Expostulations with God. But this is pass'd over in silence, and his Patience commended. Nothing should be a discouragement from serving chearfully so good and Gracious a God, who is so ready to accept and assist us, 1 Pet. 3.6. compared with Gen. 18.12. He will own a Pearl on a Dunghil, the least Act of sincere Obedience though there be many failings. But I must re­turn.

(3.) The usual ill thoughts of God, are these three.

1. That He is rigorous in his Commands: 2. Niggardly and tenacious in his Gifts and helps of Grace: 3. And as to Acceptance, that he is hard to please, and easie to of­fend. All these may be gathered out of the words of the unfaithful Servant, and all these lye deep in the Hearts of men against Gods Sovereignty.

(1.) Hyppocrites accuse God of Tyranny in his Laws, as if he dealt hardly with his Creatures, to leave them with such affections in the midst of the Snares and Temptations of the present Life, and requiring such Duty from them. Certainly, all that God hath required of us, is holy, just, and good, conducing not only to his Glory, but to the Rectitude and Perfection of our Natures; man would not be man, if such things were not required of him; so that if we were in our right wits, and were left to our own Option and Choice, we would preferre Subjection to such Laws, before Exemption and freedom. Micah. 6.8. Are Justice, Temperance, Chastity, Piety, Patience, Gives and Fetters to Humane Nature? We cannot be without these, and preserve the Nobleness of our being, and the good of humane Societies. 'Tis true, this lower World furnisheth us with ma­ny Temptations to the contrary, but these Temptations work not by constrain­ing Efficacy, but only by inticing Perswasion, and have we not more earnest Perswasions to love God, and please God? Are not God, and Christ, and Heaven, more lovely Objects, than all the Pleasures and Profits and Honours of the World? These things do not force the will, but draw your consent; and surely God hath propounded more lovely things in his Covenant, to draw this consent from them: The great fault is in our Lust, 2 Pet. 1.4. As the Poyson is not in the Flower, but in the Spider.

(2.) He accuseth God as backward to give Grace, and help our Impotency; and as if he did require more than he giveth. This is obvious and express in the words of the naughty Servant; Reaping where thou hast not sowen, and gathering where thou hast not strawed. But this also is an unjust charge; for God requireth no­thing but according to the Talents received. Now he needeth not take any thing from the Creatures, for he giveth all; he had one Talent, and God expected the Improvement but of one: Let men try to the utmost and see if they have cause to make this Complaint; they will find, that the way of the Lord is strength to the upright, Prov. 10.29. and that all these jealousies are but a slander against Gods Government: Why do you complain that he would reap where he hath not sowen? Is it because you would have God force you to be good whether you would or no, and by an absolute constraining Power drive you out of your flesh-pleasing course? Consider how unbeseeming it is the Wisdom of God, that men should be holy and good by Necessity, and not by Choice: Vertue would then be no vertue, not a moral but a natural Property; as burning is to Fire: And it were no more praise-worthy to mind Heavenly things, than it is for a Stone to move downward. 'Tis true, God must make make us willing, but wil­ling we must be: now there is no such thing on your parts, when you wilfully refuse the hopes God offereth, Acts 13.46. Since ye put away the Word of God from you, and judge your selves unworthy of eternal life; lo, we turn to the Gentiles. At least you do not apply your hearts to work with God, or frame your do­ings to turn to him, as 'tis in the Prophet; you do not improve Means; and Mer­cies, [Page 114] and Providences, and Helps vouchsafed: And will you after all this think God a Pharaoh, that requireth Brick, and giveth no Straw. Here 'tis verified, Prov. 17.3. The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord. We usually ruine our selves, and then complain that God giveth no more Grace. But do not we justifie this conceit of wicked men, when we say, God requireth Duty of the fallen Creatures, who have no power to perform it?

I answer, 1. We must so maintain God's Goodness, as still to keep up his Sove­reignty, and right of Dominion. Man had power, which was lost by his own de­fault; but God doth not lose his Right, though Man hath lost his Power: Their Impotency doth not dissolve their Obligation. A Drunken Servant is bound to the Duty of a Servant still: 'Tis against all reason, the Master should lose his right to command, by the Servants default. A prodigal Debtor that hath nothing to pay, yet is liable to be sued for the debt without injustice. God contracted with us in Adam, and his obedience was not only due by Covenant, but by Law, and immutable right; not by positive Law only, or Contract. And therefore he hath a right to demand Obedience, as the fruit of Original Righteousness.

2. 'Tis harsh, men think, to answer for Adam's fault, to which they were not con­scious and consenting▪ But every man will find an Adam in his own heart; the Old Man is there wasting away the relicks of natural light and strength; and shall not God challenge the debt of Obedience from a proud, prodigal Debtor? We are found naked, yet we think our selves cloathed; poor, yet we think our serlves rich, and to have need of nothing: Therefore God may admonish us of our Duty, de­mand his right to convince us of our Impotency, and that we may not pretend we were not called upon for what we owe him. Man is prodigal; we spend what is left, lose those relicks of Conscience and moral Inclinations which escaped out of the ruines of the fall.

3. God requireth it, that we may acknowledge the Debt, and confess our Im­potency, being practically convinced thereof, and so humbly implore his Grace.

4. God is still offering recovering Mercy, and never forsaketh any, but those that forsake him first; 1 Chron. 18.9. If thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever. 2 Chron. 5.2. If you forsake him, he will forsake you: Did you improve your selves, and beg Gods Grace, and carry on the Common work as far as you can, then 'twere another matter. He that useth Gods means as well as he can, he lyeth nearer to the blessing of them, than the wilful despiser and Neglecter of them. Unsanctified men may do less evil, and more good than they do: There­fore if they neglect the means, they are left inexcusable; not only as originally disabled, but as wilfully graceless: So that no such prejudice can lye against God; he offereth grace, and power, and men will not have it.

(3.) The third Prejudice is, That he is hard to please, and easily offended: As if he did watch advantages to ruine and destroy the Creature. Oh! No, This cannot be thought of God: He that rewarded the Picture and shadow of duty, as in Ahab, 1 Kings 21.29. the first offers of it in his Servants, Isa. 32.5. that regarded the returning Prodigal, Luke 15.20. Isa. 65.24. whose Bowels re­lent presently; who hath promised to reward a Cup of cold Water given for Christs sake, Mat. 10.42. and that our slender Services should receive so great a Reward, that beareth with his peoples weakness, that spareth them as a man spareth his only Son; by their failing, surely he is not harsh and severe.

(4.) These Prejudices are very Natural to us; and therefore should be regard­ed by all. This appeareth partly by the first Fall of Man. Prejudice against God was the fiery dart that wounded our first Parents to death: The first Battery that Sathan made, was against the perswasion of Gods goodness and kindness to man; he endeavoured to make them doubt of it, by casting jealousies into their minds, as if God were harsh, severe, and envious in restraining them from the Tree of Know­ledge, and the fruit that was so fair to see to, Gen. 3. If once he could bring them to question Gods goodness, he knew other things would succeed more easily; for the sense of the Creators goodness was the strongest bond, by which the Heart was kept to God. And partly, because still the Devil seeketh to possess us with this conceit, that God is harsh and severe, and delighteth in our ruine, and cast­eth jealousies into our heads; as if God did infringe our just Liberties by the re­straints of his Law: And we have the same impatiency of restraints, which they had; and the Flesh being importunate to be pleased, we are apt to find out ex­cuses: [Page 115] And as the naughty Servant condemneth his Master, when he should beg pardon; so such is the perverse disposition of Man, when we should confess our fault, we will abuse God himself; as Adam, Gen. 3.12. The Woman thou gavest me, gave me, and I did eat. This monstrous conceit of God we further by observing his injuries, (as we count them) rather than his benefits: We take notice of Af­flictions, but not of daily Mercies. David had much adoe to hold his Principle; Psal. 73.1, 2. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean Heart: But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipt. These thoughts are very incident to us.

VSE. Oh then! when we set our Hearts to Religion, let us take heed of slavish fear: And if so, take heed with what thoughts of God you are leavened; and that you do not draw a monstrous and horrid Picture of him in your minds: Oh look upon him as full of Grace and Mercy; ten thousand tim [...] more inclined to do good, than any Friend you have in the World. The Devil governeth the dark parts of the World by slavish Fear; but God governeth by Love. To this end con­sider,

(1.) That in his Word God representeth himself by Mercy and Goodness, rather than any other Attribute: Mercy is natural to him; he is the Father of Mercies, 2 Cor. 1.3. God is not merciful by accident, but by Nature: The Sun doth not more naturally shine, nor the Fire more naturally burn, or Water more naturally flow, than God doth naturally shew mercy: 'Tis pleasing to him, Micah. 7.18. Jam. 2.13. Mercy rejoyceth over Judgment. Punitive acts are forced from him, but gra­cious acts drop from him of their own accord, like Life-honey. Nay God is Mer­cy it self: 1 Joh. 4.8. God is Love. It cannot be said of a man, that he is Learn­ing and Wisdom, though learned and wise. But God is not only loving, but Love; and infinite Sea of Love without Banks and Bounds. It was well observed of Oecolampadius, That men were taught amiss to know the Nature of God by vul­gar Pictures and Representations: (For their fashion was then to picture God in some fair and beautiful form, and the Devil in some foul ugly shape.) Puerorum major pars nescit quid sit Deus, quid sit Sathan. But he adviseth Parents, if they would teach their Children to know what God is, they would first teach them to know what Goodness is, and Justice is, what Mercy is, what Bounty and Lo­ving-kindness is; per illas enim propriè quid Deus sit discimus. Again, If they would know what kind of Creature the Devil is, they should first know what Malice is, and Filthiness, and what Villany and Treachery is; for Sathan is a Compound of all these. The best Picture that could be taken of the Devil, would be by the Characters of Malice, Falshood and Envy: But God is Justice it self, Goodness it self, Mercy it self, as it is expressed in Scripture.

(2.) In Christ, who is the express Image of his Person, Heb. 1.3. Now Christ disdained not the Company of Sinners, went about healing Sicknesses and Disea­ses, and doing good. His Miracles were acts of Relief, not done for Pomp and Ostentation.

(3.) In his Providence. Act. 14.17. He left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us Rain from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

SERMON XV.

MATTH. XXV. v. 26, 27.

His Lord said unto him, Thou wicked and sloathful Servant! thou knewest that I reaped where I sowed not, and gathered where I have not strawed;

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my Money to the Exchan­gers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with Vsury.

HEre is the Masters Reply to the Servants Allegation: In the words we have two things.

  • 1. An Exprobration of his Naughtiness and Sloth.
  • 2. A Retortion of his vain Excuse upon his own head, If thou knewest, &c. Not as if the Lord did grant it to be true, that the sloathful Servant had alleadged, but his own Opinions and Conceits were enough to convince him.

(1.) Here is a [...], a Concession; For Dispute sake, be it as thou hast said.

(2.) The Inference, Thou oughtest therefore to have put my Money to the Exchan­gers, that at my coming I might have received my own with Vsury. The Argument is returned upon himself; The Bankers and Usury here mentioned are only by way of comparison, and can no more be urged to justifie the putting Money to use, than, Behold I come as a Thief, can justifie Theft; or that Parable Luke 16. should justifie Fraud and Injustice; the unjust Steward did wisely, Non servi frau­dem, sed prudentiam, &c. Parables are not taken from those things that de jure ought to be done, but de facto are done: Therefore I shall not interpose any Judg­ment of mine upon this occasion, as to that case, whether any putting Money to use by lawful, yea or no: only observe, That Christ will have his own with Usury, some improvement he expects when he cometh.

First, I begin with the Exprobration: 'Twas a sharp but well deserved Reproof; if the bad Servant had feared this aforehand, it might have been better with him; shame is the fear of a just Reproof. Mark the different entertainment of the good and bad Servant: there 'tis, Good and faithful Servant; here, Thou wicked and slothful Servant: Christ will upbraid the unfaithful at the day of Judgment. He is called a wicked, evil Servant, because unfaithful; Sloathful, because negligent.

1 Doct. A Sloathful Servant is a wicked Servant.

These two Terms are here coupled: There is a twofold Sloath.

First, Common: In the ordinary affairs of this Life, 2 Thes. 3.10. We commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should they eat: 1 Tim. 5.8, 13. He that pro­videth not for his own, is worse than an Infidel: v. 13. And withall, they learn to be idle.

Secondly, Spiritual, called [...], and Torpor spiritualis, one of the seven deadly sins among the Papists, a remiss will in divine and heavenly matters, or a negli­gence in the duties of Holiness, because of the labour and trouble that accompani­eth them: Rom. 12.11. Not sloathful in Business, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord. [Page 117] Heb. 6.12. That ye be not sloathful; but Followers of them, who through Faith and Pa­tience have inherited the Promises. There are in these Scriptures two words, [...] and [...]; Dull, Stupid, Backward. They are both bad; but this latter is worst, be­cause of the Matter about which 'tis conversant. The one in our Particular, the other in our General Calling. To be negligent in our ordinary Callings is bad; but much more in the great Affairs of our Souls: 'Tis not only an evil Thing, but an evil Sin. Of this principally.

(1.) Because total Omissions, against Knowledge and Conscience, especially of ne­cessary Duties, are very great Sins. That Omissions are Sins as well as Sins of Com­mission, appeareth from the Nature of the Law; which consists of a Precept, and Pro­hibition: It enforceth Good, as well as forbiddeth what is Evil. Psal. 34.14. De­part from Evil, and do Good. In the Government of Man, the Law useth both these; the Bridle, and the Spur; inciting him to that which is Good, and restraining him from that which is Evil. You deny God his due, when you with-hold from Him that Service, Love and Worship which He requireth: Which is a great Evil in his Creatures, which are made by Him, and fed and maintained by Him. You wrong Him, when you deprive Him of your Service, for whose Use you were made. There­fore, Sins of Omission are Sins. Now, of all Omissions, Omissions of the most ne­cessary Duties are most culpable; want of Love to God, Fear of God, Faith in God, are greater Evils, than not Praying at such a time, Hearing of the Word, or Labouring in our Callings at such a time. The Life of Religion lieth in the one, more than in the other; and they are more indispensibly required. The Scripture pronounceth an heavy Doom upon these kind of Defects: 1 Cor. 16.22. If any Man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. Among these, Sins contra Remedium, are more baneful than Peccata contra Officium. Heb. 2.3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great Salvation? Especially, when Total. To omit an Act of Love to God, or to fail in Point of Faith, in a particular Case or Exigence, is a great Evil; but to be wholly careless and mindless of the Favour of God, or to seek after it in a very over­ly sleight manner, is worst of all. Rom. 3.11. There is none that understandeth, that seeketh after God. They do not make it their Business to remember God, or their Du­ty to Him; or their Study to please Him: They think of Him seldom, or very neglectfully worship Him, or make mention of Him very coldly, serve Him care­lesly, or by the bye. This sheweth, that Men are naughty, wicked, and in a cursed Estate: Especially, when they are convinced of better; that God deserveth more serious Regard at their hands, and Christ to be more dear and precious to them, and their Converses with Him more delightful: The Religion they profess, doth plainly call for more at their hands; and their Consciences are clamorous, and the Spirit of God importunate with them. To omit a Duty against Knowledge, is as great a Sin, as to commit Evil against Knowledge. Jam. 4.17. Therefore, to him that knoweth to do Good, and doth it not; to him it is Sin. The closer the Application by serious Convictions, strong Motions and Impulses to do better, the greater their Sin: For this argueth a flat Disobedience and Contempt of God, and a Grieving of his Spirit, Ephes. 4.30. To give Him the Repulse, when He would fain enter, and take Possession of our Hearts!

Now, put all these things together, and you will soon find, that a Sloathful Ser­vant is a very wicked, naughty Servant. Satis est Mali ipsum nihil fecisse Boni.

They are not only evil Servants, that teach Falsities; but they also, that do not pro­mote the Kingdom of Christ to their Power: Not only they that do no Hurt, but they that do no Good. Matth. 3.20. Every Tree that bringeth not forth good Fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the Fire. Not only the Poysonous, but the Barren Tree.

(2.) The Motives that draw us to this Idleness and Sloath, are paltry, base, and such as offer great Wrong to God. Alas! what have we to hinder us in God's Service, but a little worldly Profit, Pleasure, or Honour? Now, what a gross Sin is it, to love the World above God; or to neglect Christ, that died for thee, meerly to please the Flesh, and to seek its Ease and Contentment! Probatio unius sine contumelia alterius procedere non potest. Heb. 12.15. Lest any Root of Bitterness springing up, trouble you; and thereby many be defiled. If there were some better or more considerable thing in the Case, the Fault were the less, and our Negligence might the more be excused: But this is a gross Sin, to despise God for poor contemptible Vanities. The World counts Prophaneness by another Measure than the Scripture: You count Adulterers, and Drunk­ards, and Swearers prophane; but the Scripture counteth them prophane, that have [Page 118] not an esteem of spiritual Priviledges. There are peccata majoris infamiae, and pecca­ta majoris reatus: Some sins in the eye of the world, have more filthiness and turpi­tude in them; and some sins in the eye of God have more guilt; as when we despise the favour of God, and do not think it worthy our most serious and lively diligence; the smallness of the temptation aggravateth the negligence. The Ser­vice of God is of everlasting consequence, but the things of the World are of short continuance; all this dust is gone with the spurn of a foot, one turn of the hand of God separateth thy neglected Soul from thy pampered Body, and then whose are all these things? 2 Cor. 4. ult.

(3.) Negligent Unfruitfulness is a breach of Trust, to which we are bound by Covenant, and so a disappointment of Gods expectation. To fortifie this Consi­deration, I need not repeat, that all Gods Gifts to us imply a Trust; the very scope of this Parable sheweth it, and it may be further confirmed by Isa. 43.21, 22, 23, 24. This People I have formed for my self, they shall shew forth my praise. But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel: Thou hast not brought me the small Cattel of thy Burnt-Offerings, neither hast thou honoured me with thy Sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an Offering, nor wearied thee with Incense: Thou hast bought me no Sweet-cane with Money, neither hast thou filled me with the Fat of thy Sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thy iniquities. That where God hath given a People ad­vantages, he expecteth answerable service and Improvement; and that we are bound to this by the Covenant of Grace, wherein we give up our selves to the Lord, for his use and service: and that God reckoneth upon this. Gen. 18.19. I know my servant Abraham, that he will command his Children and his Houshold after him, — And Luke 13.7. Then said he to the dresser of the Vineyard; Behold, these three years have I come, seeking fruit on this Fig-tree: and Isa. 63.8. For he said, Surely they are my People, Children that will not lie. Only now I pres [...] that Un­fruitfulness and breach of Trust is a great Crime, and a disappointing the righte­ous expectation of God, a very provoking thing; and therefore the sloathful Ser­vant that doth not answer the Ends of his trust, nor fulfill his Covenant Vow, must needs be highly culpable, though he should not break out into acts of gross excess, and apparent enmity against God.

(4.) He that ceaseth to do Good, Evil must needs ensue; and the unprofitable Ser­vant hath his blots and blemishes, which render him odious unto God. Homines nihil agendo, malè agere discunt, saith Cato. Standing Pools are apt to putrifie; and the Psalmist saith, Psal. 14.2. They are all become filthy and abominable, for there is none that seeketh God. When the Gardiner holdeth his hand, the ground is soon overgrown with Weeds: Sins of Omission will make way for Sins of Com­mission; and those that neglect Improvement, lose all reverence and awe of God every day more and more, and so are given up to an hatred of his People, and many brutish Lusts: As a Carkase not embalmed is more noysome every day. Job 15.4. Thou castest off Fear, and restrainest Prayer before God.

1 VSE, Let us all be ashamed of our Sloath. There is more evil in it than we are aware of.

1. Consider the Necessity of Diligence. There is nothing in Religion can be gotten, kept, increased or maintained, without great Diligence: No Comfort without it. 2 Pet. 1.10. Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure. 2 Pet. 3.14. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace. No Grace without it. 2 Pet. 1.5. And besides this, give all diligence io adde to your faith vertue, and to vertue knowledge. No hope of coming to Heaven without it. Heb. 6.11. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end. Illi falsi sunt (saith Salust) qui diversissimas res expectant, ignaviae voluptatem, & proemia virtutis. 'Tis in vain to think that a loytering Profession will ever bring any glory to God, Comfort or increase of Grace to our selves, or breed in us any comfortable Hope and expectation of Blessedness to come. All excellent things are hard to come by; 'tis true in Earthly matters, 'tis much more true in Spiritual.

2. Consider the evil of Sloath. A sloathful man and a prophane man differ very little. Prov. 18.9. He that is sloathful in work, is brother to him that is a great waster: the one getteth nothing, and the other spendeth all. Thou wilt say, thou art no [Page 119] Drunkard, no Whoremonger: But thou art idle and negligent, so that you and they are Brothers; all the difference is, as between a Consumption and an Apo­plexy; the one destroyeth in an instant, the other consumeth by degrees; the one is like splitting a Ship, that goes down to the bottom presently, the other like a leaky Ship that sinketh by degrees. Though you do not run into the same excess of riot with others, yet you are idle in the Lords work; it cometh much to the same effect, the Heart groweth poorer and poorer till at length it ends in final hardness. Nay in some sense Negligence is worse than gross Prophaneness: Many from great Sinners have turned great Saints, but few from a lukewarm careless Profession have come to any thing. Therefore these are spued out of Gods mouth, Rev. 3.16. There is more hope of a Sinner, than of a lukewarm careless person; for he doth not think himself evil, and so is more liable to Security. God may give Grace to the one, but taketh away the Talent from the other.

3. Consider the Rewards of Diligence. This labour will turn to a good effect. 1 Cor. 15.58. Your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. If there were nothing in chase, or not so great a Reward, we had more Excuse, but when the Reward is so full, and so sure, shall not we labour for it? We labour and toyl, and use all diligence to obtain the things of this world; and shall we think to go to Hea­ven with our hands in our bosom, or lying upon a Bed of ease? To see men un­der the power of a Lust, may shame us; Psal. 127.2. Men rise early and go to Bed late to gain the world; men labour, sweat, and travel, and spare not cost to go to Hell: The Devil gets more Servants than God with all his Promises, Threat­nings and Mercies; shall they be so diligent that have such bad work, worse wa­ges, and the worst Master? and shall not we bestir our selves?

4. The whole course of Nature inviteth us to Labour and Diligence, in order to our future Estate. The Sun is unwearied in his motion, that he may go up and down, Preaching God to the world: Prov. 6.6. Go to the Aunt thou sluggard, consider her wayes and be wise: There is a great deal of morality hidden in the bosom of Na­ture, if we had the skill to find it out; What can the Aunt do? She provideth her meat in Summer, and gathereth her food in the Harvest: These little Creatures are not able to endure the cold of Winter, therefore work themselves deep into the earth, but they carry their food along with them; and should not we have as great a sense of futurity? We cannot endure the day of the Lord unless we make provision, Pro. 10.5. He that gathereth in Summer is a wise Son, but he that sleepeth in Harvest, is a Son that causeth shame: Now is our season to work, that in the day of our Accounts we may not be unprovided.

The Means against Sloath are Faith, Patience and Love: Faith and Patience we have in one place, Heb. 6.12. That ye be not sloathful, but followers of them who through Faith and Patience inherit the Promises: They inherited the Promises, that is, the things Promised. If we propound to our selves such a divine and noble end as those great and glorious things that are offered in the Promises, we must use the means; they had Faith, so must we have; they had Patience, and we must be Patient.

First, By Faith we are not to understand, Confidence and relyance upon Gods Promises, a probable humane Faith and Hope will not be sufficient, but a firm adherence to Gods Word; whatever falleth out we are sure to have enough in the Promise: We must have Faith, because the things Promised are invisible, rare and excellent, far above the power of the Creature to give: The Promise is a firm and immutable foundation of our Hope, we should rejoyce in it, as much as if the thing Promised were in hand; In God I will rejoyce, in the Lord I will praise his Word; or praise his Word 'till the thing Promised cometh to be enjoyed; Faith, 'tis the substance of things hoped for.

Secondly, For Patience, Heb. 10.36. For ye have need of Patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the Promise: And we must have Pati­ence, because the things hoped for are to come, and at a great distance, Rom. 8.25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it: Besides, we shall meet with many Difficulties, Oppositions and Tryals, all which must be overcome; many things must be done, many things must be suffered, and we must make our way through the midst of dreadful Enemies, before we can attain our End. Further, our Desires are vehement, and we long for enjoyment, which is yet to come, therefore we must be patient, that we may quietly wait Gods leisure, [Page 120] Rom. 2.7. To them who by patient continuing in well doing, seek for glory, honour and immortality, eternal life.

Thirdly, The next Grace is Love: Where there is Love, there will be Labour, Heb. 6.10. For God is not Unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of Love: 1 Thes. 1.3. Remembring without ceasing your work of Faith, and labour of Love, and patience of Hope: Revel. 2.3, 4. And hast born, and hast patience, and for my names sake hast laboured and hast not fainted: Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first Love: And Love is said to endure all things, 1 Cor. 13.7. 'Twas Love made Christ to suffer Hunger and Weariness, and to forbear to refresh himself for the good of Souls; 'twas Love made him endure the bitter Agonies of the Cross: Love puts strength and life into the Soul, addeth wings and feet to the Body, spareth no pains nor cost. Keep up this Grace, and you have an over-ruling bent upon your hearts.

2. VSE, If spiritual Sloath be so great an evil, let the Children of God take heed of it, when first it beginneth to creep upon their Spirits: As when they begin to Pray without Affection or fervour of Spirit, to Meditate of divine things without any sense, affection or fruit; when they find it difficult to withdraw from carnal Company, or vain Discourse, and are hardly perswaded to return unto themselves, and to consider their wayes, and can freely let loose their thoughts and words to all manner of vanity, and their Comfort is rather sought in the Creature than in God; they can rarely speak of others, but 'tis in reflecting upon them rather than themselves; when Reproofs grow burthensom, and are not entertained as an help, but as an injury; when they give up themselves to carnal Sports, and take a li­cense for vain Recreations, and so fly from the labours that are profitable and ne­cessary for their Souls health; their Zeal languisheth, their Duties are not so fre­quent, nor the means of Grace used with life, vigour and affection, but they are more coldly affected towards them; a satiety and fulness creepeth upon them; they do not so solicitously avoid the causes of sin, begin to indulge the Body, or the bodily life, to have more admiring thoughts of the Honours, and Pleasures, and Profits of the World, either neglect or quench the motions of the Spirit: All these are the effects of a remiss Will, or a fainting Heart, that beginneth to tire in the wayes of God.

3. VSE, It serves to justifie God in his Judgments upon the careless and negli­gent, though they be not grossely Dissolute and Prophane: There is more Contempt of God in neglecters than you can at first be sensible of. Hypocrites complain of the severity of God, the rigour of his Law, the grievousness of his Judgments, they should rather complain of the naughtiness of their own Hearts; they are con­vinced of more Duty than they are willing to perform, and they are not willing, because they follow after a few paltry Vanities, which is a great dishonour to God. 'Twas not the austerity and rigidness of the Master in requiring Improve­ment, that hindred the increase of his Talent, but his own baseness, being wed­ded to sensual delights: They say, The wayes of the Lord are not equal; but their hearts are not right with God.

Secondly, I come now to the Retortion of his vain Excuse upon himself: The damned can have no just Complaint against God, they are apt to murmur, and lay their defects upon the rigidness of Gods Government, or Gods Providence; but in the issue the blame will light upon themselves, even the things they alledge make against them: He was convinced the Master expected Increase, therefore he should have done what he could, Luk. 19.22. Out of thy own Mouth I will condemn thee: So 'tis here, mens Consciences convince them they ought not to live in Idle­ness, and if they have a Master, the thought of their Account should inforce them, if not their own Inclination, especially if a severe Master: Grand the Sinners sup­position, it bindeth the Duty upon him, and so he cuts his Throat with his own Sword; as they said of Job, Chap. 15.6. Thine own Mouth condemneth thee, thine own lips testifie against thee.

Doct. No excuse shall serve the unfaithful and sloathful Servant at the day of Iudg­ment.

[Page 121]Let a Man deceive himself now, and please himself with these Pretences, as he will; all his Excuses shall be retorted upon him, and made matter of his Condemnation. For the Judge is Impartial, and Omniscient; his Eyes cannot be blinded: nay, he can open your own Consciences; and so overwhelm you with the Evidence and Con­viction of your Sins, that you shall have nothing to say. As in the 22th. of Matthew, The Man was speechless when arraigned. But because the excusing Humour is very rife, and many things serve the turn now, which will not bear weight then; I shall a little handle this Matter of Excusing. In the general, an Excuse is an Apology, or vain Defence; whereby the Sinner seeketh to palliate his Negligence in God's Service. To undeceive you,

First, Take these general Considerations.

(1.) That Carnal Men are ill versed in the Art of excusing Evil, when they have a right Principle to go upon; and that which they think maketh for them, usually maketh against them. Solomon telleth us, Prov. 26.9. That a Parable in a Fool's Mouth is like a Thorn in the Hand of a Drunkard. The Thorn was their Instrument of Sewing, as the Needle with us: Now, a Drunkard woundeth and goreth him­self, because of his uneven Touch, when his Spirits are disturbed with excess of Drink. Do but observe, how contrarily and perversely wicked Men will reason, and what Inferences and Conclusions they will draw from those very Principles the Godly make a good use of? As in 1 Cor. 15.32. Let us eat and drink; for to Morrow we shall die: Now, compare this with 1 Cor. 7.29, 30. But this I say, Brethren, the Time is short; it remaineth, that both they that have Wives, be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoyce, as though they re­joyced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use the World, as not abusing it: For the Fashion of this World passeth away. 2 Kings 6.33. And while he yet talked with them, behold the Messenger came down unto him; and he said, Behold, this Evil is of the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer? Compare this with 1 Sam. 3.18. And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him; and he said, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. So Haggai 1.2. Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts; The People say, the Time is not come, the Time that the Lord's House should be built. Compare this Scripture with 2 Sam. 7.2. And the King said unto Na­than the Prophet, See now, I dwell in an House of Cedar; but the Ark of God dwelleth within Curtains. When David dwelt in a stately House, his Heart was set upon building an House for the Lord. So Rom. 2.4. Or despisest thou the Riches of his Good­ness, and Forbearance, and Long-suffering; not knowing that the Goodness of God leadeth thee to Repentance; with Titus 2.11, 12. For the Grace of God, that bringeth Salvati­on, hath appeared to all Men; teaching us, that denying Vngodliness, and worldly Lusts, we should live Soberly, Righteously and Godly in this present World. Jude 4. Vngodly Men, turning the Grace of God into Lasciviousness.

(2.) Sometimes Carnal Men pretend certain Causes and Excuses, when their Con­science knoweth 'tis otherwise; and then the things alledged, are not the real Opi­nions, and inward Sentiments of their own Minds; but something said, or taken up to justifie their Sloath. 1 Cor. 6.9. Know ye not, that the Vnrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither Fornicators, nor Idolators, nor Adulterers, nor Esseminate, nor Abusers of themselves with Mankind, &c. As Hopes of Impunity, though they live a Godless and sinful Course of Life; If they were serious Consci­ence would tell them, Men may be deceived with these things, but God cannot: Ye may stifle Conscience for a while, with these Allegations; but it will speak, and then these sorry Fig-leaves will not serve the turn to hide your Nakedness.

(3.) Sometimes these Excuses are the Fruit of Blindness, Sottishness, Ignorance, and Infatuation; and the Sluggard hath an high Conceit of his own Allegations. Prov. 26.16. The Sluggard is wiser in his own Conceit, than seven Men that can render a Rea­son. He thinketh others are mopish, giddy, and crack-brain'd People, that make more ado with Religion than needeth, are too nice and scrupulous; take it to be good Prudence, to keep out of harms way: His very foolish Thoughts he thinketh are wise Reasons; that Religion is a merry thing. Prov. 15.19. The way of a sloath­ful Man is a Hedge of Thorns, but the way of the righteous Man is made plain. He ima­gineth Difficulties, and intolerable Hardships in a course of Goodliness. 'Tis our Cow­ardise and Pusillanimous Ignorance maketh the Ways of God seem hard. All things are comfortable, plain and easie to the pure and upright Heart. Thus he bloweth hot and cold; speaketh contrary things, according as he looketh upon them with a sleight or pusillanimous Heart.

[Page 122](4.) Excuses argue an ill Spirit, and an unwilling Heart. When they should do something for God, there is something still in the way, some Danger, or some Dif­ficulty, which they are loath to encounter withal. Prov. 26.13. The sloathful Man saith, There is a Lyon in the way. They are fruits of the Quarrel between Convicti­on and Corruption; and are usually found in us when we first begin to understand the way of the Lord, but are loath to come up to the Terms. Certainly, 'tis better be doing, than excusing: Doing is safe, but Excuses are but a Patch upon a sore Place. If we have done a Fault, 'tis better confess, and seek a Pardon, than to excuse and extenuate.

(5.) Consider the Invalidity of all things, that are usually alledged by Sinners: And to help you, consider,

1. Nothing can be pleaded as Reason, which God's Word disproveth. The Scriptures were purposely penned, to refute the vain Sophisms that are in the Hearts of Men. H [...]b. 4.12. To divide between Soul and Spirit, Joynts and Marrow; and to discern the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart: To discover the Affections of a sensual Heart, how ever pailiated with the Pretences of a crafty Understanding, to hide the Evil from them­selves and others. You must not lift up your private Conceits against the Wisdom of God.

2. Nothing can be pleaded as Reason, which your Consciences are not satisfied with as Reason. That is the Reason there are so many Appeals to Conscience in Scripture: Do not your Consciences tell you, you ought to be better, to mind God more? That if these things be true, 2 Pet. 3.11. That all these things shall be dissolved, what man­ner of Persons ought we to be in all holy Conversation and Godliness?

3. Nothing can be pleaded by way of Excuse, which reflects upon God, as if he had made an hard Law. We are apt to plead so: The way of the Lord is not equal. The Woman thou gavest me, she gave me, and I did eat. Will you excuse your Idle­ness, and sin, by the Severity of your Master, and cast your Brat at his Doors?

4. There can be no Excuse for a total Omission of necessary Duties. In a partial Omission, the Law it self alloweth a Dispensation; as in case of Sickness, we are taken off from some Work, which God requireth at other times. But some things are indispensibly required. John 3.5. Except a Man be born of Water, and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Heb. 12.14. Without Holiness no Man shall see the Lord. Here is Necessitas precepti & medii.

5. You should harden your selves with no Excuse, or Reason, but what you dare plead, when you stand before the Bar of Christ: For then will the weight of all Pleas be consider'd. Now, God hath left all Creatures without Excuse, Rom. 1.20. There is some Witness of God to them, that convinceth them of more Duty than they are willing to perform.

Secondly, And more particularly, The usual Excuses are these:

1. Object. I have no time to mind Soul-Affairs; my Distractions in the World are so great, and my course of Life is such, I have no leisure.

Answ. 1. Whatever your Business be, you have a time to eat, and drink, and sleep; and have you no time to be saved? Better encroach upon other things, than that Religion should be cast to the Walls, or justled out of your Thoughts. David was a King, and he had more distracting Affairs than most of us have, or can have; yet, Psal. 119.147, 148. he saith, I prevented the Dawning of the Morning, and cryed: And, Mine Eyes prevent the Night-Watches, that I might meditate on thy Word.

2. Do you spend no time in Idleness, vain Talking, or carnal Sports? And might not this be better imployed about Heavenly things? Ephes. 5.16. Redeeming the Time, because the Days are evil.

3. Much of Religion is transacted in the Mind. A Christian is always serving God; his Second Table Duties are First Table Duties. As carnal Men go about Heavenly things with a carnal Mind; so the Christian goeth about Carnal things with an Heavenly Mind.

4. God would be sure to have a Portion of time; therefore the Lord's Day was appointed. Isa. 58.13. If thou turn away thy Foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy Pleasure on my Holy Day, and call the Sabbath a Delight, the Holy of the Lord, Honoura­ble; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own Ways, nor finding thine own Pleasure, nor speaking thine own Words, &c. That it may be dear to us in the Flesh, and in the Lord, when we have God's Command, and the Laws of the Land too.

[Page 123]5. All your Time is lost, that is not spent in God's Service.

2. Object. But I have no Power, nor Strength to do Good; and what will you have us do?

Answ. You can do more than you do, but you will not make tryal. God may be more ready with the Assistances of his Grace, than you can imagine. The Tired may complain of the Length of the Way, but not the Lazy, that will not stir a Foot. If you did make tryal, you would not complain of God, but your selves; and beg Grace more feelingly. You are not able, because you are not willing. Your Impotency is contracted by evil Habits, and long Custom in Sin; that's an Aggravation of your Sin.

3. Object. 'Tis dangerous and troublesom to own God, and Religion heartily.

Answ. Did not you resolve to serve God, whatever it cost you? And is God harsh and severe, because he tryeth whether you will be as good as your word; and will not let you go to Heaven with a vain Complaint in your Mouths? Will this comfort you in Hell, and for the Loss of Everlasting Happiness? In Hell will you say, I came hither to save my self a Labour, and to be exempt from the diligence of the Holy Life, and Sufferings incident to it? Will you stop a Journey for your Lives, because the Wind bloweth on you, and there is Dirt in the way? Nothing can take off a Minister from seeking the Conversion and Salvation of Souls. Act. 20.23, 24. And can any thing be an Excuse to you? Should your Souls be dearer to us, than you? 'Tis necessary for our Tryal, that we should meet with Scorns and Oppositions: Should a weak Blast drive us from God? Rev. 2.13, 14. I know thy Works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's Seat is; and thou holdest fast my Name, and h [...]st not denyed my Faith; even in those Dayes wherein Antipas was my faithful Mar­tyr, who was slain among you, where Sathan dwelleth. 'Tis exceeding commendable, to be zealous in such a Place, or in such a Time, when Religion is hazardous and dan­gerous. Christ suffered more for you, than you can for him; and God hath greater Terrours, than Man can present.

4. Object. I am of a slow Wit, have a weak Understanding, know not to which Party I should cleave, and joyn my self.

Answ. Certainly, not to that which is most pleasing to corrupt Affections: But Di­visions in the Church are to try the Approved; who is Chaff, and who is good Grain. 1 Cor. 11.19. For there must be also Heresies among you; that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. The Scripture is not dark; but we want Eyes. You may know the Mind of God: Psal. 119.18. Open thou mine Eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law. And Joh. 17.17. Sanctify them by thy Truth; thy Word is Truth.

5. Object. I have so many Temptations and Enticements, I hope, God will consider my Weakness.

Answ. You are as earnestly perswaded upon better Motives, if Perswasion will do it: What is a little wordly Glory to Eternal Glory, brutish Pleasures to pure Delights?

1. VSE. Since Sloath is so great an Evil, let the Children of God take heed of it. And so,

First, Of Sloath and Idleness in their particular Calling. This was one of Sodom's Sins: Ezek. 16.49. Pride, and fulness of Bread, and abundance of Idleness. This is Sensuality, as well other Sins, that are more noted in the World; as being an In­dulgence to the Flesh, as well as other things; which are commonly decryed, be­cause they betray us to more Shame in the World.

1. Every Creature is God's Servant, and hath his Work to do, wherein to glo­rifie God; some in one Calling, some in another; Neither Rich nor Poor are ex­empted; for a lawful Calling is not a matter of Necessity, but Duty, enforced by a Commandment. What our Callings should be, is determined by Providence, giv­ing Gifts, and Education, and obtruding us upon such a course of Life: But 'tis a mistake to think, that bare Necessity maketh a Calling; no, 'tis Obedience: And if we be without such Necessity, we may live idly, without any Calling: No; eve­ry Man and Woman hath their Labour and Service; for God made no Man or Wo­man in vain. Would the Wise and Almighty God make so noble a thing, as a Ratio­nal Humane Creature, only to eat, and drink, and sleep, and rise and dress themselves, that they may shew themselves to Company, and impertinently chat away their [Page 124] Hours, and precious Time? No; he hath ordained them for some Service, which at length they are to give an Account of; as the Mediatour did of his Work: Joh. 17.4. I have glorified thee on Earth, and have finished the Work thou gavest me to do.

2. This Work is not of one sort. Some are called to an higher, some to a lower Imployment, some Noble, some Citizens, some Fathers of Families, others Matrons or Mothers of Families, some are Magistrates, some Ministers; but every one must do their Duty in their Place. Christianity falleth in with Natural Relations. 1 Cor. 7.20. Let every Man abide in the same Calling, wherein he was called. God gives every Man his Work: Mark 13.34. The Son of Man is like a Man taking a far Journey, who left his House, and gave Authority to his Servants, and to every Man his Work.

3. The Work of our Callings must be constantly and diligently attended upon. A Rich Man cannot say, I have no need; therefore, I will attend upon my Calling at my Pleasure: You must not consider your present Need, but your future Account. The Baseness of a Man's Calling must not be a Discouragement to a poor Man; see­ing God counteth himself honoured in the lowest Service, as well as in the highest; and hath promised the Reward of the Inheritance to Servants, as well as Nobles, Luk. 3.23. Knowing that ye shall receive the Reward of the Inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.

4. Every one that feeleth any Tediousness growing upon him in his Work, should of­ten rowse up himself, by considering,

  • (1.) The active Nature of Man was never made to be idle; and shall we cross the Law of our Creation? When the Beasts lie down in their Dens, Man goeth forth to his Labour and Work till the Evening, Psal. 104.23.
  • (2.) The Preciousness of Time, which is too good to be loytered away upon meer nothing: We should buy it at any Price, not waste it. Ephes. 5.16. Redeem the Time. We shall wish we had done so, when 'tis too late.
  • (3.) The Eye of God, who observeth every Man in his Station, how he acquit­teth himself with good Fidelity. Eye Service, with respect to Man, maketh us un­faithful, Ephes. 6.6. but Eye Service, with respect to God, is the great ground of Di­ligence; Col. 3.22, 23.
  • (4.) The near Approach of Death. Would we be found eating, drinking, playing, sporting away our precious Time; or diligently employing our selves in our Callings, at that Day? Luk. 12.43. Blessed is that Servant, whom when his Lord cometh, he shall find so doing.
  • (5.) Our Accounts, which mainly concerneth, 1. Our particular Calling, and that course of Living wherein we were set to glorifie God. The unprofitable Servant will be cast into utter Darkness, Matth. 25.30. God will judge all according to what they have done in their Places; and then what will become of the Idle, and the Sloath­full? 2. In our general Calling, as Christians. Take heed of being naughty and sloath­ful Servants.

First, Let us enquire who may be characterized with this Brand?

1. Who? Those who complain for want of Strength; yet do not diligently use the Means, whereby they may be quickned and strengthned: they are idle, and lie up­on the Bed of Ease, and complain that God doth not give Grace: Languish for Com­fort, rather than set about the Work of Obedience. Christ telleth his Disciples, Joh. 14.21. He that hath my Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and manifest my self to him.

2. That content themselves with a loytering Profession, when their Hearts swarm with noysom Lusts; and are unfurnished of Faith, and Love, and other necessary Graces; and yet think a lazy Profession will serve the turn. Matth. 7.22. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy Name, and in thy Name cast out Devils, and in thy Name done many wonderful Works: And then will I profess, I ne­ver knew them. Because they pray, and hear, and Receive Sacraments, they think all is well, and they have no more to care for. Is this Working out our Salvation with Fear and Trembling? Phil. 2.12. Serving God instantly, Day and Night? Act. 26.7. Labouring for the Meat that perisheth not? Joh. 6.27. Denying our selves? Luk. 14.26.

3. That snuff at a little Mock-service, as if an intolerable Burden. Mal. 1.13. What a weariness is it?

[Page 125]4. The Children of God may feel this Temper coming upon them, when though they do not cast off Prayer altogether; yet they cut off, or abate and diminish their Prayers, either in Fervour, or Frequency, or Continuance and Perseverance in Pray­er; pray without Sense, Affection or Life; or do not pray so often, or do not conti­nue instant in Prayer.

This cutting short of Duties, in time tendeth to a quitting of them altogether. Man is ready to cast off what he thinketh to be a Burden: So when they are back­ward to Meditation, or to with-draw from the Delights of the Flesh, and the Di­straction of ordinary Imployments. In all such Cases we should rouse up our selves. Time is short; our Account sure and near; we are labouring for Heaven and Salva­tion: Shall we tire and faint? Be not weary of well-doing; 'tis spoken with respect to the Duties of Piety, Heb. 12.12. Duties of Mercy, Gal. 6.9. Duties of our Calling, 2 Thess. 3.13. Oh then, let us rouse up our selves!

SERMON XVI.

MATTH. XXV. v. 28, 29.

Take therefore the Talent from him, and give it to him which hath ten Talents.

For unto every one that hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath.

WE have seen the Arraignment of the evil Servant; now followeth the Sentence, which intimateth a double Punishment; Privative, and Po­sitive; Loss and Pain. The former is in these two Verses; wherein you may observe three things:

  • 1. The taking the Talent from the evil Servant.
  • 2. The Disposition of the Talent so taken from him.
  • 3. The Reason of both.

Let me explain these Branches, and then draw one Point from the whole.

First, The taking the Talent from the evil Servant; Take therefore the Talent from him. Naughty Servants either lose the Gifts themselves, or the Benefit, Comfort and Reward of them: Here, in time, they lose their Gifts; when Time is no more (which is the Case in our Parable) they lose their Reward.

Secondly, The Disposition of the Talent so taken from him; And give it to him that hath ten Talents; that is, five by Trust, and five more by Gain and Improvement. The giving of the Talent to the first Servant, was thought unequal by some, because he had such Plenty already; as appeareth, Luk. 19.25. They say unto him, Lord, he hath ten Pounds: But the Lord adhereth to his Sentence: For I say unto you, Vnto every one that hath shall be given, &c. He giveth most to those that have done him most diligent and faithful Service, and delighteth to enrich them more and more with the Rewards of Grace.

Object. But how can we receive other Mens Talents? Shall the Elect receive Bene­fit from the Reprobate; and their Loss be our Gain?

Answ. 1. 'Tis spoken after the manner of Men: Nothing more usual among Men, than to take that from the Unfaithful, which was committed to them, and to give it to the Faithful. 'Tis such another Expression as Apoc. 3.11. Hold fast that thou [Page 126] hast, that no Man take thy Crown; as if that Crown which we had lost, were taken and worn by others. So Numb. 11.17, 25. God took of the Spirit that was upon Mo­ses, and gave it to the Seventy Elders: As if what were given to his Assistance, were taken from him, and his Abilities were lessened with his Work; whereas 'tis only meant of the Communication of the same Graces.

2. The Meaning is, He that useth his Gifts well, shall be amply rewarded; so amply, as if the Happiness which others expect, should accrue to them, and be put on their Account.

Thirdly, The Reason of both in the 29th. Verse; For unto every one that hath, shall be given. That these Expressions are proverbial, is out of question with the Learn­ed: Habenti dabitur, is an Expression verified in all Ages, and in all Countries: The Rich have many Friends; and he that hath much shall have more; every one will be presenting them: and they have great Advantages of laying out themselves, and improving themselves more than others have: So on the contrary side, by the neglect of others, and their own incapacity to improve themselves, poor Men com­monly grow poorer. Upon this occasion were the words first used, which our Savi­our is pleased to translate, and apply to his own purpose. The Sense of the Words, as they lie here, will be known by taking this copulate Axiome and Proposition apart: The first Branch speaketh of Gain, the second of Loss.

1. Branch. Vnto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. The word [...] doth not only signifie the Possession of a thing, but the Use, which is the end of Possession: and so, he that hath, is he that hath to purpose, that occupieth and trafficketh with his Grace or Gift received, with that care and diligence that belongeth to so great a Treasure and Trust: To him shall be given; he shall increase his Stock, and accordingly the Comfort, Benefit and Reward that belongeth to it: Yea, it follows, He shall have abundance, [...], not a single Abundance, but a continual Increase, even unto Perfection; an Increase of Gifts, Graces and Rewards. The summ is, To him that useth and improveth God's Grace, shall by degrees be given so much, as that at last he shall have all abundance.

2. Branch of this copulate Axiome, is, From him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath. As he that had one Talent, but had it not for his Master's Use, is counted and reckoned as though he had none. We have not what we have, if we use it not well; as we say of a covetous Man, Avaro tam deest quod habet, quàm quod non habet. 'Tis as if we had it not: idle Gifts and Habits lie dead and useless. In Luke 'tis, Chap. 8.18. And from whomsoever hath not, shall be taken that which he seemeth to have. He maketh no use of his Gifts, but lets them lie idle, as if he had not had them. Of Grace and Righteousness the Proposition holdeth most true; of Re­probates their Grace and Righteousness is but a Pretension: of other Gifts which they have, they have them not for use, for the Lord's Service; and so, in effect, they have them not: Therefore, they shall be taken from them; that is, they lose their Reward. Ezek. 33.13. If he trust in his Righteousness, and commit Iniquity, all his Righteousness shall not be remembred. 2 John 8. Look to your selves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we receive a full Reward. Gal. 3.4. Have you suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. Men may suffer ma­ny things for the Truth, who afterward make foul Defection from it; but all is vain, lost, and to no purpose, as to any thing that can be expected from God. The Nazarite was to begin again, if he had defiled himself in the dayes of his Separati­on, Numb. 6.12. Thus for their putative Righteousness, for other common Gifts which they really have, they shall be deprived of all the real Benefit, which other­wise they might have had, if they had laid them out for the Glory of God, their own Salvation, and the good of their Neighbours.

Doct. That all the good Gifts which God hath bestowed upon men, increase by good use, but wither and are lost by Negligence.

For this is the summe of Christs Sentence and Reason.

Now that I may speak distinctly of the point, I must say something as to the Increase, and something as to the Loss.

(1.) For the Increase, To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more a­bundantly: I shall deliver my sense of it in these Propositions.

[Page 127] First, That diligence is the means, and Gods Blessing is the cause of all increase, and both must be regarded, or else we profit nothing; we cannot expect Gods Blessing, while we sit idle; and 'tis a wrong to Grace to trust meerly to endea­vours, or without looking up to God. 'Tis said in Pro. 10.4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the diligent hand maketh rich: That is, that's the Means; for Verse 22. 'tis said, The Blessing of the Lord maketh rich: That is, the Blessing of the Lord upon the use of Means. God hath ordered it so in his Pro­vidence, that diligence should be alwayes fruitful and profitable, both in a way of Nature and Grace: That the Joy of the Harvest should recompense the Pains and Patience of the diligent Husbandman; and that the Field of the Sluggard should be overgrown with Thorns. Iron by handling weareth brighter and bright­er, but by standing still, or being let alone, it contracteth rust, by which 'tis dar­kened and eaten out. Take away Use and Exercise, and Wisdom turneth into Fol­ly, and Learning into Ignorance, Health into Sickness, Riches into Poverty: Strength of Body and Mind are both gotten by Use; he that useth his Talent with fidelity and sedulity, shall increase in it, but such as are idle and negligent shall grow worse and worse; God doth plentifully recompenese the diligence and fidelity of his Servants, he that maketh use of any degree of Grace and Knowledge, shall have more given him; by exercising what he hath, he doth still increase it: Where­as on the contrary, remiss acts weaken habits, as well as contrary acts; this is a common truth, evident by daily Experience, but then Gods Blessing must not be excluded: God would have us labour, rather to keep us doing, than that he need­eth our help. He that made the world without us, can preserve it without us, as he that planted the Garden of Eden could have preserved it without mans dres­sing, yet we read that when he had furnished the Garden of Eden with all delights, God took the man and put him into it, to dress it and to keep it, Gen. 2.15. that is, to use Husbandry about it, that by sowing, setting, pruning and watering, he might preserve those Fruits wherewith God had furnished that pleasant Garden, and to bestow his pains upon that whereof he was to receive the benefit; and that by busying himself about the Creatures, he might the better observe God in his various works in and by them. And indeed nothing was such a means to convince him of his dependance upon God, as this labour of dressing and keeping the Garden which God put him into; for he could produce no new Plant, but only manure and cherish those which God had planted there already, and all his keeping and planting was nothing without Dews, and Showers, and Influence from Heaven, and the continual interposing of Gods Providence: And still in eve­ry Calling he that is sedulous in it, seeth more need of Gods concurrence, than those that are idle; for those that have done their utmost, by experience find, that the success of all their endeavours dependeth upon His Power and Goodness, or the effect followeth not. I am sure it holdeth good in the work of Grace, none are so practically convinced of the necessity of Divine Assistance, as they that do their utmost; for they see plainly all will not do if God with-hold his Blessing, and their often disappointments when they lean upon their own strength, teacheth them this lesson, that all is of God.

Secondly, That this Increase must be understood of the same Talent, not in ano­ther kind: It holdeth not, that he that useth the Talent in one kind, shall thrive in another, for what a man soweth that shall he reap: No, the meaning is, the thing used is still increased: 'Tis not intended, that by imploying his Talent in Riches he should increase in Learning, that by improving his Learning he should grow in strength and beauty of Body; no, it holdeth good in eodem genere, in the same kind: Use common helps well, and you increase as far as common helps will carry you; use Moral Vertue well, and you increase in moral vertue; use that measure of saving Grace you have well, and you shall have a great measure given you by God; set a-work thy Knowledge, Faith, Zeal and Love, and all these graces will increase in you; Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart, Psal. 46.14. and Psal. 31.24. and Isa. 58.13, 14. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not do­ing thine own wayes, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shalt thou delight thy self in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high pla­ces of the Earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy Fathers, for the mouth [Page 128] of the Lord hath spoken it: So Psal. 91.1. He that dwelleth in the secret places of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty: God that Punisheth sin with sin, doth reward Grace with Grace; they that abuse the light of Nature, are given up to a reprobate sense; they that improve the Grace they have, shall have more, every act maketh an increase of the habit, and whosoever imployeth that spiritual Wealth that he hath, shall have an addition from God; be more strong in Faith and Love, and more rich in Knowledge.

Object. But may not we enlarge this a little further? Arminius gathereth from hence, that the works of the unregenerate, done by the meer strength of nature, are so accepted with God, that by them he is moved and induced to give them supernatural Grace: And many others that will not speak so grosly, think that if we improve the gifts of Nature, we shall have common Grace, and if we improve common Grace, we shall have special and saving Grace: And ought we not, and can we not use these common Gifts and Graces to this end and purpose, that we may obtain Conversion and Faith in Christ; such as the use of Reason, the free­ing of the mind from bruitish Passions and Affections, good Education, the Ex­amples of others, the powerful Preaching of the Gospel, and common Illumination, and the Knowledge of the Truth gained thereby?

Answ. 1. Those that have Common Grace ought and are bound to use it for the obtaining of more Grace; there is no doubt of that, for therefore they are accu­sed, that They have ears and hear not, eyes and see not; and God findeth fault with his People, That they will not frame their doings to turn to the Lord, Hosea 5.4. So much as put themselves in a posture; they are threatned, That it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them: And that the Ninevites shall rise in Judgment against them, and Condemn them: They are reproved for Being idle and sloathful Servants, and hiding their Talents in a Napkin: Certainly they that are lift­ed up to Heaven in Ordinances, that receive so much Grace from God, and yet turn it into Wantonness, and do not Know, nor Worship, nor Seek after God, they aggravate their own Condemnation; their destruction is of themselves, they shut themselves out of the Kingdom of God, reject the Counsels of God against themselves: In short, they put away the Word of God from them, and judge them­selves unworthy of Eternal Life: The Scripture every where speaketh at this rate, concerning the Folly and Negligence of men.

2. But if it be asked, Whether they that have received Common Grace, not only ought, but also can use it for the acquiring and getting the special Grace of Conversion? This Question concerneth the manner how the Will of God and the will of man meet together in the work of Conversion. And here we must use great care in Answer­ing, to avoid Inconveniencies on all hands; certainly merit they cannot, neither de congruo, nor de condigno, nor by any Covenant oblige God to give them the Grace of Regeneration, neither can Christ be said to have acquired and purcha­sed this Grace for them, to whom he is not given as a Mediator; nor by any Promise is God bound to give us Grace for the good use of our natural abilities: No, the distribution of Converting Grace is not Promised or bound to any works of Righteousness that we have or can do, but is reserved and referred to the free disposition, good will and Pleasure of God, Rom. 9.16. Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy: So Tit. 3.5. Not by works of Righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us: The first Grace is given by God as a soveraign Lord, according to the Counsel of his own Will. But since the Question is propounded, Whether a man can by common Grace obtain special? The Answer must be prudent and cautelous, that of the one side we may not prejudice the Truth, nor of the other side give Scandal and Of­fence to the weak. For,

(1.) If you answer, That an unregenerate man may by the use of common Grace acquire and obtain the special Grace of Regeneration, and that the whole business lies in the good use of his Will, you seem to dash upon the eternal Purpose and Decrees of God, by which he hath determined, not to give all men, but on­ly the Elect this special Grace; and upon the intention of Christs dying, which was not to sanctifie himself for all, but for those whom the Father had given to him; and you seem to put the whole business upon Man, as if he did make him­self to differ, and that the good use of common Grace doth all; and then the Pelagian Axiome will be true, facienti quod in se est, That he that doth what he [Page 129] can, God is bound to give him what he cannot; which will run little lower than the Merit of Congruity. Then we cannot say, God hath made himself a Debtor; some would seem to have given him first. All which are against the Scripture; and therefore we are justly afraid to enlarge and extend the Liberty and Power of Man in this Business.

2. If you answer, That a Man cannot use that Common Grace which he hath re­ceived, so as to obtain the Grace of Regeneration, and that the thing dependeth no way upon his Will and Choice; or that there is no hope or possibility of doing otherwise than they do; or that do their Duty, or do it not, still Condemnation rests upon them; then no less Difficulties will offer themselves: Flesh and Blood will then complain, that God is harsh and austere, Reaping where he hath not sowed, and gathering where he hath not strewed; and that he requireth what we cannot do; and when we do it not, doth severely punish us. What shall we answer to the Question, Whether it be in the Power of the Creature, to acquire the special Grace of Re­generation by the good use of common Grace? The best Answer that we can give, is, That the Question is curious, and needeth no Answer: The business is not, Whether God will or not? but, What I am bound to do? The great Rule in all such Cases is, God may do what he pleaseth; but I must do what he commandeth. He that is deadly sick doth not refuse Physick, till he be made certain, that it will recover him; but useth it, and committteth the Event to God. He that is to Plow, and commit his precious Seed to the Ground, doth not stand to have Assurance, that the next Year will prove fruitful, and the Seasons kindly; but ventures, because usu­ally God's Blessing concurreth with Man's Industry: So in the business of Salvation, we should not dispute of our Power, nor the Event of our Endeavours: 'Tis enough to acknowledge the Debt of Obedience, to try our Power, to endeavour to do what we ought to do; and then leave the Event to God. There is no need to dispute of our Power; 'tis much safer to confess our Impotency, to humble our selves before God, and to seeke his Blessing and Grace in the Means he hath instituted to that end; but not at all to doubt the Counsel and Will of God: And the Intention of Christ, whatever it be, will be no Impediment to us in doing our Duty. And 'tis as certain, that no Man doth all that he can, but by divers Offences, and abuse of the Gifts received, giveth God just cause to be angry, and withdraw his help. And 'tis also out of doubt, that 'tis not for want of God's help, but for their own folly and negligence that they perish: Therefore let us do what we are commanded to do, and leave the Event to God; confessing, when we have done all that we can, that God is not our Debtor; but that we remain Debtors to God, guilty of eternal Condemnation, as long as we are not Partakers of Regeneration, and Justification by Christ. If we could learn to suppress our Cavils and Curiosity by this humble Submission, the business of our Salvation would soon come to an Issue; and we should find God better to us than we could imagine.

3. The next Consideration is, That this Increase is given in by Degrees: We have not all at first, nor all at once; but as our Capacities are enlarged, so is God's Hand. Psal. 81.10. Open thy Mouth wide, and I will fill it. The more we improve the Grace received, the more are we strengthned of God's Service; and our Desires and Ex­pectations, which are as the Mouth of the Soul, are more raised. It is Exercise maketh us see the necessity and worth of Grace; and so desire more as necessary to bear our Burdens, perform our Duties, and resist Temptations: And the more Grace we have, and the more we are acquainted with God, the more Hopes have we to­wards him. By Hope and Desire the Soul is more widened, and fitted to receive: As Moses, Tell me thy Name; and then, Shew me thy Glory. None see the want of Learning so much, as they that have most of it: So for Grace, the Desire and Sense of Want increaseth with Enjoyment; so doth God's Bounty to us. The Desires and Endeavours of Believers after Grace, are not easily satisfied.

4. This gradual Increase is continued, till at length all be full and perfect. The Apostle prayeth for the Saints, Ephes. 4.19. That they might be filled with all the Fulness of God. God keepeth filling still, till Grace, begun here, be fully compleated in Glory hereafter: and in Heaven they are filled up with God, as far as finite Creatures are capable of enjoying that which is Infinite. The reason is, Because the Riches of God's Goodness are inexhaustible: God is never weary of well-doing; where he hath given, he will give; and delighteth to crown his own Gifts. Some Gifts of God leave some Obligation upon him to give more. Deus donando debet. Christ's Rea­soning [Page 130] implieth so much, Matth. 6.25. Is not Life more than Mea [...], and the Body than Rayment? That is an Argument, as long as God will use us for his Glory, he will pro­vide for us. Zech. 3.2. Is not this a Brand plucked out of the Fire? The Argument is from a Brand almost consumed. Would God so eminently appear for them, not to destroy them? Certainly, he will still take care of them. This holdeth universally true in point of Grace; for 'tis given as an Earnest, not as Donum, a Gift, as Men give a Shilling to a Beggar; nor as Pignus, a Pledge, to be taken away; but as Arrha, an Earnest of a greater summ, of which that is a part. So that he that hath, shall have more, and so abundance in all Perfection in Heaven.

(2.) Now I must speak to the Loss. Talents may be said to be lost, or taken away, two wayes; in this World, or in the next. These proverbial Speeches are made use of by Christ, upon a two-fold occasion; after the Parable of the Sower, Matth. 13.12. and here after the Parable of the Talents; the one relateth to losing in this World, and the other in the World to come. They that rejected the Gospel, and would not hear, or heard it carelesly, or would not come under the Power and Obedience of it; all their external Priviledges, glittering Profession, common Gifts of Illumination, Fasts, partial Practice, all will be lost: Only the good and honest Heart, that receiveth the good Seed, so as to keep it, so as to be a Principle of Life to them; to these shall be given. And then here is the other occasion, when Christ speaks this: The taking away of the Talents, is after the Lord had been reckoning with his Servants, after he had been a long time absent, and in a far Country: Therefore, this taking away the Talent is not meant of the Gift its self, as of the Comfort, Benefit and Reward of it: For all trading then is at an end; that's the time of Recompense, and the Talent is lost. it will do us no good to have had Estates, and to have lived in Pomp and Splendour in the World, if we have not made use of it for God. Our Fall will be the greater, because of our heighth. 'Twill do us no good to have born Office in the Church, if we have not been faithful; Matth. 7.22. Many shall say un­to me in that day, Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy Name. Such as have taken up Office and Imployment in the Church, and made no Conscience of doing the Duty that belongeth thereto; these will not have, but lose their Reward: These are idle Shepherds, Zech. 11.17. Their Unfaithfulness and Idleness in their Trust, will cost them dear: So for the Orninances, and Means of Grace; Luk. 13.26. Then shall they begin to say, We have eat and drank in thy Presence. 'Twill be no Plea, That you have been at God's Board; nay, you will have the greater Judgment: Matth. 11.23. And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted to Heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell. A Place that enjoyeth the Gospel, is near Heaven; 'tis the Suburbs of Heaven: but where not improved, these Priviledges plunge a Man deeper in the State of Con­demnation. Sins against the Law, do not weigh so deep in his Ballance, as sleight­ing and neglecting the Gospel, that brings on heavy Wrath: So for common Gifts, good Affections, partial Reformation; 'tis all lost, as to any Reward; Ezek. 33.13. Yea, 'tis worse: 2 Pet. 2.20, 21. For if after they have escaped the Pollutions of the World, through the Knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again en­tangled therein, and overcome; the latter End is worse with them, than the Beginning: For it had been better for them not to have known the way of Righteousness, than af­ter they have known it, to turn from the Holy Commandment. The Wrath against them that return back to their Sins, is much greater than if they had never been so en­lightned, and reformed. Those that have had more Light, and some taste of the Sweetness of Heavens way; If they fall away, 'tis hard to renew them to Repentance. This is the principal Sense intended in this Place; yet because the Words are so con­trived, that they comprehend also the Loss we may sustain in this World, while we are trading for God; I shall shew you, how God punisheth naughty and sloathful Servants in this World, with the Loss of their Talents:

1. Sometimes God taketh from them Opportunities, and Liberty of doing Good. No­thing is so soon lost, as this. Gal. 6.10. As we have therefore Opportunity, let us do Good to all Men. There are some fit Opportunities offered us by the Providence of God, for doing our Duty in this kind, as are soon gone; and being past and gone, 'tis hard to say, whether ever we may enjoy the like. As when we are specially fitted, and there is a concurring Harmony of all Circumstances: Therefore, we should take hold of them, without Delay or Foreslowing. Opportunities are not al­wayes as long as Life: Eccles. 11.1, 2. Cast thy Bread upon the Waters; and give a [Page 131] Portion to seven, and to eight; for thou knowest not what Evil there may be upon Earth. Embrace the present Opportunity; thou canst not foresee how soon thou may'st be deprived of it: Thou may'st die, and leave thy Wealth to those that will shut up their Bowels. Thou may'st be in want; God may disable thee: therefore, make use of the Season for Liberality, for doing Good, while you have it. So Office, Au­thority, Respect in the Church, is an Opportunity. God may cast us out of the Vine­yard by the Malice of Men, or as unsavoury Salt, Matth. 13. Mal. 2.9. Therefore, I have made you contemptible and base before the People: Though all that are cast out are not so; Matth. 21.35. the Husbandman took his Servants, and beat one, and killed ano­ther. However, it will be a discomfort if we have been negligent.

2. Ordinances, Means of Improvement may be lost. Gen. 6.3. My Spirit shall not al­wayes strive with Man; that is, by the Ministry of Noah. And God threatneth to take away the Hedge of his Vineyard, when all his Cost is lost. Isa. 5.5, 6. What could I have done more for my Vineyard? So Luk. 13.7. And he said to the Dresser of the Vine­yard, Lo, these three Years came I, seeking Fruit on his Fig-tree, and I find none; Cut it down, why cumbreth it the Ground?

3. Common Gifts; God justly taketh them away from those that abuse, or make no good use of them. Many that excelled in Gifts, that seemed to have great Parts, are pitifully blasted afterwards. 'Tis no hard matter to discern a Maim and De­cay of Gifts in them that use them not, as if the Spirit were departed from them. Zech. 11.17. The Idol-shepherd's Arm shall be dryed up, and his Eye darkned: That is, his Gifts shall be taken away, at least, the Power and Life of them. Many lose the Freshness of their Gifts of Prayer, the Liveliness of their Knowledge.

4. Initial Grace, Heb. 6. Saving Gifts and Graces are [...], without Repentance, Rom. 11.29. Where there is Life begun, 'tis not quenched: But where there are some hopeful Inclinations, they begin to draw off their Hearts from the World to God; though they had escaped the Pollutions of the World, their latter End may be worse than their Beginning, 2 Pet. 2.20.

5. Dona Sanctificantia ought still to be improved, that the Grace of God be not re­ceived in vain, 1 Cor. 15.10. Grace in some measure may suffer Loss by our Negli­gence: 1 Thess. 5.19. Quench not the Spirit, despise not Prophesying. Fire is quenched by pouring on Water, or with-drawing Fuel: So the Spirit is quenched, by living in Sin, which is like pouring on Water; or not improving our Gifts and Grace, which is like with-drawing the Fuel: Gradus remitritur, actus intermittitur, habitus non amit­titur; Though the Habit be secured by God's Covenant; yet such Portions and De­grees of Grace may be lost, as may not easily be recovered again.

VSE, Is to commend to us Diligence and Industry, especially in the Work of our Heavenly Calling. A Man's Life is divided between Waking and Sleeping; so is his Waking time divided between Labour and Rest: For Humane Nature cannot endure continual Exercise, without Intermission. Therefore, a spiritual wise Man should so govern his Life, that his Labour may answer his great Work and Trust, and his Rest may not infringe his Labour, but help it. Our first Care should be of La­bour; for Man in this World is born to labour: Here is not the Place of his Rest and Recompence, but of his Exercise and Tryal. Rest is but for Labour; therefore doth he rest, that he may be refreshed for his Labour. Six dayes are given in the Law to labour; but One to rest; and that Rest is not Carnal, but Holy, and to be improved for our main Duties. Adam in Innocency was not made for Idleness: Mo­ses telleth us, That God put him into the Garden, to dress it: That Happiness we partook of then, was consistent enough with our Work. He that looketh upon the Beauty of the Sun, may easily collect, that God lighted not such a bright Torch for Man to sleep by, or to pass over his dayes in Ease and Idleness. The Law that was given Man to labour, remained after Sin; yea, Sin brought Grievousness and Bur­then to it: So what was a Law before, is turned into a Punishment now: For God told Adam, That in the Sweat of his Brow he should eat his Bread. In the whole course of Nature, nothing is idle; the Sun and Stars do perpetually move and roll up and down; the Earth bringeth forth Fruit; the Seas have their Ebbings and Flowings; and the Rivers their Courses; the Angels are described with Wings, as ready to ful­fill God's Commandment, and run to do his Pleasure. 'Twere an unworthy thing, among so many Examples, and Patterns of Diligence, for Man alone to be idle. In the least Creatures, God hath taught us; as by the Ant or Pismire: Prov. 6.6. Go [Page 132] to the Ant, thou Sluggard. Now, as all Men must labour, so chiefly a Christian. The Scripture compareth our Life to a Journey; which is a constant Motion, till it be ac­complished; to Threshing, which is the painfullest Part of Husbandry; yea, to a Warfare, when the Enemy is at Hand, ready to fight. We are alwayes to Watch and Pray: If our Enemy did not alarum us, yet our Master will call us to an Ac­count for what we have done.

And consider the danger of Negligence. It befalleth to the Idle and Negligent, as those that came after the Camp in the Wilderness. Amaleck smote the Weak, and the Feeble in the Rear: Yea, God himself will be angry with us. The idle and sloathful Servant is cast into utter Darkness; the Foolish Virgins are shut out. If God, by his Prophets, curseth them whom he imployeth to execute his Judgments; Cur­sed is he that doth the Work of the Lord negligently; what will become of them that are negligent in working out their own Salvation? Horses grow resty if they be not used, and impatient of a Burden: So all goes to wrack in the Soul, if we are idle. We should profit, when we look on the Field of the Sluggard, Prov. 23.30, 31, 34. So will my Soul be, if I let it alone. Oh then, shake off your Sloath; be not alwayes resolving, never beginning the Heavenly Course. Nothing can be gotten, nothing kept, nothing to be enjoyed, without Industry. The Saints in Hea­ven are not idle; but are alwayes lauding, and praising, and glorifying of God for evermore.

SERMON XVII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 30.

And cast ye the unprofitable Servant into utter Darkness; there shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth.

IN these words is the positive Part of the Sentence; the Master doth not only take away the Talent, but condemneth him to Eternal Torments. In them take notice, 1. Of the Reason of the Punishment; and then, 2. The Punishment it self.

(1.) The Reason of the Punishment is represented in the Notion and Character by which the Party sentenced is expressed, The unpro­fitable Servant. The word Vnprofitable is sometimes used in a larger, and sometimes in a stricter Sense: In a larger Sense 'tis used for him that deserveth no Reward; so 'tis said, Luk. 17.10. We are unprofitable Servants. Sometimes more strictly and pro­perly, for the Idle, and the Negligent; for them that do not their Duty, and make no Improvement of their Gifts: So 'tis taken here, and in many other Places; [...], Cast ye the unprofitable Servant.

(2.) The Punishment its self is represented by two Notions:

  • First, 'Tis dismal; Cast him into utter Darkness.
  • Secondly, 'Tis doleful; There shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth.

1. Dismal; [...]. 2. 'Tis Doleful; [...]. Sometimes Hell is expressed by one of these Notions, as Matth. 13.42. He will cast the Tares into a Furnace of Fire; there shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth: So Matth. 24.51. He shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his Portion with Hypocrites; where [Page 133] shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth. 'Tis notable, that is the Punishment of the Luxurious Servant, that did eat and drink with the Drunken, and beat his Fellow-Ser­vants; and here the Vnprofitable Servant is threatned with the same, though he was not riotous, but negligent. Sometimes by both together, as Matth. 8.11, 12. The Children of the Kingdom shall be cast into utter Darkness; there shall be weeping, and gnash­ing of Teeth: And Matth. 22.13. Take him away, and cast him into utter Darkness; there shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth.

Now, let us First consider the Punishment, as 'tis dismal; Cast him into utter Darkness. There are two Terms to be explained; Darkness, and Vtter Darkness.

1. Darkness. Heaven is set forth by Light, and Hell by Darkness. The Inheritance of the Saints is called an Inheritance in Light, Col. 1.12. because that is an Estate full of Knowledge; for there we see God face to face, 1 Cor. 13.12. an Estate full of Joy and Comfort, Psal. 16.11. an Estate full of Brightness and Glory: Dan. 12.3. They shall shine as the Brightness of the Firmament, and as the Stars for ever and ever. Matth. 13.43. The Righteous shall shine as the Sun in the Kingdom of Heaven. How base soever the Children of God appear in this World, in the World to come they shall be wonderful Glorious. Now the opposite State of this, is set forth by Dark­ness; as the fallen Angels are said to be held in Chains of Darkness, 2 Pet. 2.4. or as Jude hath it, in Chains under Darkness, Jude 6. Hell is compared to a Prison, or Dungeon, 1 Pet. 3.19. So Christ speaketh of Hell, as the Prison wherein damned Spirits are held, in a wretched and comfortless Estate, in a State most remote from Joy and Blessedness.

2. 'Tis called utter Darkness; either because their Prisons or Dungeons were out of the City, as appeareth, Act. 12.10. or because they shall be shut from the Feast, or Rooms of Entertainment: Their Feasts were usually kept by Night, Suppers, and not Dinners; and then celebrated with a great many Lamps, and Candles or Torches. Now, those that were not only shut out from those Rooms of Entertainment, but cast into Dungeons, were left in a comfortless Condition. That 'tis opposite to the Feast, these two Places (Matth. 8.12. and Matth. 22.13.) shew. And here, when the good Servants enter into the Masters Joy, or sit down and feast with him, then is the naughty Servant cast into utter Darkness; that is, shut out of the Communion of the blessed Spirits, (who in the Place of Happiness have Eternal Joy) and cast into the Dungeon of Hell.

Secondly, Let us consider it as 'tis doleful; Where shall be weeping, and gnashing of Teeth: Their Estate shall be sad, and they shall have a bitter Apprehension of it. Their Apprehension is expressed by two things; their Sorow, and Indignation.

(1.) Their desperate tormenting Sorrow, [...], Weeping. This Dolour shall arise from the inexplicable Torments of Body and Soul.

(2.) Their Indignation or Vexation, Gnashing of Teeth: 'Tis a Token of Indig­nation and Impatience; as Act. 7.54. When they heard these things, they were cut at the Heart, and gnashed on him with their Teeth. I shall explain it more by and by. Two Points will arise hence:

1. Doct. That Hell is a Place and State of unexpressible Torments.

2. Doct. That Vnprofitableness is a damning Sin.

The Vnprofitable Servant is condemned, though he did not waste his Master's Goods, yet because he did not increase them. There is no Treachery laid to his Charge, no Riot and wasteful Profusion, no Opposition to his Fellow Servants, to vex or hinder them in their Work: We hear nothing of this laid to his Charge; but he neglected to do that which is good.

For the first Point;

That Hell is a Place and State of unexpressible Torment.

The Argument may seem harsh and ingrate; but this is part of the Doctrine that we must unfold. See the Commission of the Ministers of the Gospel; Mark 16.16. He that believeth, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned. 'Tis [Page 134] Gospel-Preaching to warn Men of Damnation; we must curse, as well as bless: And this Part of Doctrine hath its Profit, as well as the more comfortable.

(1.) To those that are Carnal, to rouse them out of their Security. If Men did believe the Torments of Hell, they would not sin as they do. Sermons of Hell may keep many out of Hell. Ne fugiamus Sermones de Gehenna, ut Gehennam fugiamus. John startled many by pressing them to flee from Wrath to come: And 'tis God's usual course, to bring to Heaven by the Gates of Hell.

(2.) To God's Children; Partly that they may know what they have escaped, to be the more thankful to their Redeemer. We were all involved in this Condemna­tion; and 'tis the Lord's Mercy, that we are as Brands plucked out of the burning, Zech. 3.2. A Child of God is a Fire-brand of Hell quenched, Ephes. 2.3. 'Twas the Pity of our Lord Jesus to rescue us, 1 Thess. 1.10. 'Tis a Part of a Christians Heaven to think of Hell: The Miseries of this Life commend Heaven to us; much more the Torments of Hell. We know Good the better by the opposite Evil: As the Israelites, when they looked back, and saw the Egyptians tumbling in the Waters, it heightned the Deliverance, and made them the more sensible of their own Safety. And partly to warn them, and quicken them to their Duty: This Motive alone would be­get slavish Fear, and compulsory Obedience; but mixed with others, it doth Good. We need this Discipline, as long as we are in the World: We are Flesh as well as Spirit. Adam in Innocency needed to be threatned, and told of Death. Paul saith, 1 Cor. 9.27. I keep under my Body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I my self should be a Cast-away. If so sanctified a Man as Paul, much more we: And, Rom. 8.13. If ye live after the Flesh, ye shall die; but ye through the Spirit do mortifie the Deeds of the Body, ye shall live. 'Tis one of the Saints Motives. And partly because they that cannot endure to hear of such Dis­courses, discover much of the Guilt and Security of their own Hearts: As Ahab said of Michaiah, He prophesieth nothing but Evil: So Men say of many of the Preach­ers of the Gospel, (that yet speak with Tenderness and Compassion) He preacheth nothing but Hell and Damnation. Presumption is a Coward, and a Run-away; but Faith meeteth its Enemy in open Field: Psal. 13.4. Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, yet I will fear no Evil. It supposeth the worst; it can encoun­ter the greatest Terrors: but a false unsound Peace is a tender thing; loath to be touched, cannot endure a few sad and sober Thoughts of the World to come; as sore Eyes cannot endure the Light. I shall only speak of this dreadful Place and Estate, as it cometh under the View of this Text, leaving a more full Discussion of this Point to the 41. Verse of this Chapter.

First, That there is an Hell, or Everlasting Torments prepared for the Wicked: 'Tis good to prove an hated Truth strongly. Now, 'tis so, that there is an Hell, if God, or Man, or Devils be competent Witnesses in the Case. God hath ever told the World of it, and his Witness is true: In the Old Testament but sparingly; because the State of the World to come was reserved as a Discovery fit for the Times of the Gospel, 2 Tim. 1.10. yet there God speaketh, Deut. 32.22. of a Fire kindled in his Ange [...], that shall burn to the lowest Hell. God's Wrath is represented by Fire, which is an active Instrument of Destruction; and the Seat and Residence of it is in the low­est Hell: So Psal. 11.6. Vpon the Wicked shall he rain Snares, Fire and Brimstone: See more, Verse 41.

Secondly, Let us see it described here.

I. As a dismal State, Cast them out into utter Darkness: That is, (1.) Shut them out of the Feast: And, (2.) Cast them into the Dungeon of Hell: There they shall be de­prived of all Consolation, and Joy, and Happiness. As,

(1.) Of the Sight of God, the Company of the good Angels, and Blessed Spirits: To which Loss there is added the most inexplicable Torments of Body and Soul; which is exceeding great. And 'tis a dreadful thing to be deprived of the Light of God's Countenance, to be banished out of his Presence. The Disciples wept when Paul said, Ye shall see my Face no more, Act. 20.38. What will the Damned do, when he shall say, Depart ye cursed; as 'tis in the 41. Verse? Here in the Loss all are equal, but not in the Pain; all alike depart from God; they all lose Heavens Joyes, the fa­vourable Presence of God, and the Sight of Christ, the Company of the Blessed, and their Abode in those happy Mansions in Christ's Fathers House. Hell is a deep Dun­geon, where the Sun shine of God's Presence never cometh. God is summum Bonum, the chiefest Good; and in the other World, omne Bonum, All in All: All things there [Page 135] are immediately from God; Rewards and Punishments: Better lose all things than God: Exod. 33.15. If thy Presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.

Object. But is it any grief to the Wicked to want God, from whom they have such an extream Aversness and Hatred?

Answ. They are sensible of the Loss of Happiness; their Judgment is changed, though not renewed: Fogs of Errour, Atheism and Unbelief, then vanish; they are confuted by Experience. There are no Atheists in Hell; they know there is a God, and that all Happiness consists in the full Enjoyment of him; which Happiness they have lost by their own Folly, as by their bitter Experience they can find, be­ing in a Place most remote from him: Therefore, as rational Creatures, they cannot but be sensible of their Loss; and that Sense must needs breed Sadness and Dejection of Spirit; being they look not upon God as lovely in himself, but as one that might be profitable to them: Oculos quos occlusit culpa, apertat poena. It would lessen their Torments, if their Understandings might be taken away: They know what it is to want God, though their Hatred of him still remaineth.

(2.) The Sight of Christ: They had a Glimpse before they went into Hell, by the Glory of his Presence. 2 Thess. 1.9. They shall be punished with everlasting Destruction from the Presence of the Lord. That short Experience of Christ's Appearing, will re­main in their Minds to all Eternity; 'twill stick by them. How are they thrust out! Christ himself, who hath the Keyes of Death and Hell, shall bid them go; as if he had said, I cannot endure your Presence!

(3.) From the Company of the Blessed. Luk. 13.28. There shall be weeping, and gnash­ing of Teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Prophets in the King­dom of God, and you your selves thrust out. Envy is a great part of their Punishment, as well as Horror: Luk. 16.27. And being in Torments, he lift up his Eyes, and saw Abra­ham afar off, and Lazarus in his Bosom. 'Tis a torment to think, that others of the same Nature, Interests, Instruction, do enjoy what they have forfeited.

(4.) From an Abode in the Palace of Heaven. Revel. 22.15. Without shall be Dogs and Sorcerers, and Whoremongers, and Murtherers, and Idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a Lie. If the Pavement of Heaven is glorious, what will the Place it self be? And from this glorious Place they are banished.

Secondly, This utter Darkness implyeth positively a State of Woe and Misery, most remote from this Blessedness: For as they are shut out of the Palace of Heaven, so they are cast into the Prison of Hell, where all is dark, without hope of ever com­in out more. 2 Pet. 2.17. To whom the Mist of Darkness is reserved for ever. Hell is a Region upon which the Sun shall never shine: They know they shall never be reconciled to God, nor their Punishment ended, or lessened: Their Worm shall never die, their Fire shall never be quenched, Mark 9.44. They can never hope to be admit­ted into God's Presence more. There are many Ups and Downs in a Christians Ex­perience: God hideth his Face sometimes, that he may shew it afterwards the more gloriously. The Church prayeth, Psal. 80.19. Turn again, and cause the Light of thy Countenance to shine upon us, and we shall be saved. But this is an everlasting Darkness. God doth, as it were, by Chains hold them under everlasting Torments. 'Tis a Curse that shall never be reversed; a comfortless Life that shall never have an end. Men might lose the Face of God, if they were annihilated; but the Souls of Men and Women do not go to nothing, or die as their Bodies; but subsist in a dolesom miserable State of Darkness, and in the Place of everlasting Imprisonment; where the Devils, and damned Spirits torment one another. All here are kept safe, without any possibility of escaping; here God holdeth them in everlasting Chains.

Now, this is just, they that rejected the Light, are thrust into utter Darkness; they reject the Light of the Gospel: Joh. 3.19. Men love Darkness more than Light. They despise the Light of Glory, in comparison of worldly Things, and present Satisfacti­ons: Psal. 106.24. They despised the good Land. They forsake God and their own Happiness: That which is now their Sin, is then their Misery: They first Excom­municated God, Job 22.17. and that for a trifle: They think his Presence a Torment; Matth. 8.20. What have we to do with thee? Art thou come to torment us before the time? Rom. 1.28. They did not like to retain God in their Knowledge. They could not endure to think of God, and abhorred their own Thoughts of God, that they were their Burden.

[Page 136]II. 'Tis a doleful Place and State. Here are two Notions; the one expressing their Grief and Sorrow, The other their Vexation and Indignation.

(1.) Their Grief and Sorrow. In Hell there is nothing but Sorrow and Fear; over­whelming Sorrow, and despairing Fear; 'tis an helpless and hopeless Grief. Car­nal Men are prejudiced against Godly Sorrow; but that is useful and profitable, 2 Cor. 7.10. These Sorrows would prevent those that the damned suffer in Hell. The Sor­rows of Repentance are Joyes in comparison of these Sorrows; the Sorrows of Re­pentance are full of Hope; God will afford Comforts to his Mourners: but the Sor­rows of the Damned are heightned by their own Desparations; 'tis for ever and ever: These are small, those swallow us up; these are curing, those torment­ing: Here 'tis like pricking a Vein for Health, hereafter wounds to the Heart. These are mixed with Love; Luk. 7. She that loved much, wept much. The Cup of Wrath is unmixed, confounding and overwelming us with continual Amazement: These are short, those endless.

(2.) Their Vexation and Indignation. The grinding, and the gnashing of the Teeth, is usually in Pain or Rage; in pain of Body and Soul. But of that afterwards, when I come to speak of Hell under the Notion of Everlasting Fire. Now, as 'tis a Token and Effect of Rage: Now the Damned are represented as full of Rage, Blasphemy and Indignation against God, against the Saints, and against Themselves.

First, Against God; they have despised his Favour, and now feel the Power of his Justice, and Displeasure against them; and have still an implacable Hatred against him. We see in Revel. Chap. 16.9. when they were scorched with great Heat, they blasphemed the Name of God, which had power over these Plagues; and repented not, to give Glory to God: They blasphemed the God of Heaven, because of their Pains and Sores, and repented not of their Deeds. I know that this Prophesie doth not concern the State of the Wicked in Hell; but their Plagues and Disappointments in this World. However the Fashion and Guise of the Reprobate is to be observed here, when they will not repent, so there when they cannot repent. Like Men distracted and mad, they gnaw their Tongues, and gnash their Teeth; like mad Dogs, that bite their Chains, or Wild Bulls in a Net or Toyl, that roar and foam. They will curse God that created, and sentenced them to this Death; his Power, by which they are continu­ally tormented; his Wisdom, by which he governeth the World; his Goodness, that to them is turned into Fury; his Sons Death and Blood, which hath profited so many, and they have no Benefit by it.

Secondly, Against the Saints. They hated them, and have an Envy at all the Feli­city that betideth them in this World: Psal. 37.12. The Wicked plotteth against the Just, and gnasheth at him with his Teeth: So Psal. 112.10. The Horn of the Righte­ous shall be exalted with Honour: The Wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his Teeth, and melt away. The Godly are their opposite Party; then their Bles­sedness shall be so great, that they shall envy their Happiness, when they see the Godly in good Case, and themselves miserable. At the great Day the Wicked shall see the Believers Joy, to the Increase of their own Sorrow.

Thirdly, Against Themselves: Their own Hearts shall reproach them. Hos. 13.9. Thou hast destroyed thy self. They shall rave and vex at their own past Folly, past Neglects, and past abuse of Grace, and past refusal of that Happiness which others enjoy, when they find their own Delights salted with the present Curse: Little Com­fort and Satisfaction shall they have, when they remember they came thither to avoid the Tediousness of a few blessed Duties.

VSE, Is to shame us, that we make no more Preparation to escape this dreadful Estate; or, in the Language of the Holy Ghost, that we do not Flee from Wrath to come: No Motion can be earnest and speedy enough. There are two things that are very great Wonders.

(1.) That any Man should reject the Christian Faith, so clearly promised in the Pre­dictions of the Prophets, before it was revealed, and confirm'd with such a number of Miracles, when it was first set a foot, received among the Nations by so uni­versal a Consent, in the learned Part of the World, notwithstanding the Meanness of the Instruments imployed in it; and perpetuated to us throughout so many Succes­sions of Ages, who have had experience of the Truth of it: And yet still we have cause to complain; Isa. 53.1. Lord, who hath believed our Report? Some cannot out­see Time, and look beyond the Grave: 1 Pet. 1.9. He that lacketh these things is [Page 137] blind, and cannot see afar off: And 2 Pet. 3.3. There shall come in the latter times Scoffers, and Mockers, walking after their own Lusts: Many dare not question the Precepts of Christianity, because of their usefulness to humane Society and reaso­nable Nature; they doubt of the Recompences, and yet have a secret fear of them, and seek to smother it by their Incredulity and unbelief: But alas! 'twill not do: They scoff at others as simple and credulous; none so credulous as the Atheist, there is a thousand to one against him: At least, if it prove true, in what a case are they? 'Twill do them no hurt to venture upon probabilities, 'till further assu­rance: What assurance would you have? Luk. 16.30, 31. You have Moses and the Prophets, if you believe not them, neither will you be perswaded if one came from the dead. Will you give Laws to Heaven? God is not bound to make a Sun for them to see, that wilfully shut their eyes: Yet that way, what assurance would you have, to prove this is no Phantasm? Doth God need a Lye to perswade you to your Duty? But,

(2.) The greater Miracle is, that any should embrace the Christian Faith, and yet live sinfully and carelesly; that they should believe as Christians, and yet live as Atheists: You cannot drive a dull Ass into the fire that is kindled before him, Prov. 1.17. Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any Bird: How can men believe eternal Torments, and yet with so much boldness and easiness run into the sins that do deserve them? Many times not compelled by any terrour, nor ask­ed or invited by any Temptation, but of their own accord tempt themselves, and seek out occasions of sinning. On the other side, can a man believe Heaven, and do nothing for it? if we know that it will not be lost labour, there is all the reason we should not grudge at it: 1 Cor. 15.58. Be stedfast and unmoveable, alwayes abounding in the work of the Lord, for asmuch as ye know that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord: Now there are three Causes of this.

  • 1. Vnbelief.
  • 2. Inconsideration.
  • 3. Want of close Application.

(1.) Want of a sound Belief: Most mens Faith is but pretended, as appeareth by the Effects.

1. By our proneness to Sin: If God did govern the world by Sense, and not by Faith, we should be other manner of persons than we are, in all Holiness and God­liness of Conversation. If we were sure and certain that for every Law we break, or for every one whom we deceive and slander, we should hold our hands in scalding Lead for half an hour, how afraid would men be to commit any Offence? Who would tast meat, if he knew there were present Death in it? yea, that it would cost him bitter gripes and torments? How cautious are men of their Diet, that are prone to the Stone, or Gout, or Chollick, where 'tis but probable the things we take will do us any hurt? We know certainly that The wages of sin is Death, yet how little are we concerned at sin?

2. By our backwardness to good Works: Sins of Omission will damn as well as sins of Commission, small as well as great: It is not said, Ye have robbed, but Ye have not fed, Ye have not cloathed; not, Ye have Blasphemed, but Ye have not invoked the Name of God; not done hurt, but done no good: And cast the unprofitable Servant, &c.

3. By our weakness in Temptations and Conflicts: We cannot deny a carnal Pleasure, yet we are told, Rom. 8.13. If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: Nor withstand a carnal Fear, yet we are told, Matth. 10.28. Fear not him that can kill the Body, but fear him that can cast both Body and Soul into Hell. But shrink at the least pains of Duty, when we are told on the one hand, 1 Cor. 15.58. That our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord: On the other side, Rev. 21.8. That the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the Lake which burneth with Fire and Brimstone, which is the second death: On the other side, that 'tis the most irrational thing to go to Hell, to save our selves the labour of Obedience: The whole world promised for a reward, cannot induce us to enter into a fiery Fur­nace for half an hour. If one much desiring sleep, (which is Chrysostome's sup­position) should be told that if he once nodded, he should endure ten years tor­ment, would he venture?

4. By our carelesness in the matters of our Peace: If we were in danger of Death every moment, we would not be quiet 'till we got a Pardon. All men [Page 138] by nature are Children of Wrath, liable to this horrible Estate that hath been de­scribed to you; but yet few run for Refuge, Heb. 6.18, 19. Nor flee from wrath to come, Math. 3.7. Seek Peace upon earth, Luk. 2.14. Labour to be found of him in Peace, 2 Pet. 2.14. How can a man be at rest, 'till he be secured, and can bless God for an escape?

(2.) Want of serious Consideration: The Scripture calleth for it every where, Psal. 50.22. Consider this, ye that forget God: And Isa. 1.3. My people will not consider: Many that have Faith, do not act it, and set it a work by lively thoughts: When Faith and Knowledge are asleep, it differeth little from Ignorance or Oblivion, 'till Consideration awaken it; carnal Sensualists put off that they cannot put away, Amos 6.3. Many that know themselves wretched Creatures, are not troubled at it, because they cast these things out of their thoughts, and so they sleep; but their Damnation sleepeth not, it lyeth watching to take hold of them, they are not at leisure to think of Eternity.

(3.) Want of Close Application: Rom. 8.31. What shall we then say to these things? Job 5.27. Know this for thy good: Whether Promise or Threatning, we must urge and prick our hearts with it: Self-love maketh us fancy an unreasonable Indul­gence in God, and that we shall do well enough, how sleightly and carelesly soever we mind Religion; we do not lay the point and edge of truths to our own hearts, and say, Heb. 2.3. How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation? These are the Causes; now there is no way to remedy this, but to get a sound Belief of the World to come, and often to Meditate on it, and urge our own hearts with it.

2 Doct. That Vnprofitableness is a damning sin.

If there were no more, this were enough to ruine us: By Unprofitableness I do not mean want of success; to the best, Gifts may be unprofitable, Isa. 49.4. I have laboured in vain, saith the Prophet Isaiah; but want of endeavour, omitting to do our Duty. The scope of the Parable is to awaken us from our negligence and sloath, that we may not prefer a soft, and easie, lazie Life, before the Service of God, and doing good in our Generation. Now because we think Omissions are no sins, or light sins, I shall take this occasion to shew the hainousness of them: And here I shall shew two things.

First, That there are sins of Omission: Sins are usually distinguished into sins of Omission and Commission; a sin of Commission is, when we do that which we ought not; a sin of Omission, when we leave that undone which we ought to do: But when we look more narrowly into these things, we shall find both in every actual sin: for in that we commit any thing against the Law, we Omit our Duty, and the omitting our Duty can hardly or never fall out, but that something is preferred before the Love of God, and that is a Commission. But yet there is ground for the distinction, because when any thing is formally and directly committed against the negative Precept and Prohibition, that is a sin of Commission, but when we directly sin against an affirmative Precept, that is an Omission. We have an instance of both in Eli and his Sons; Eli's Sons defiled themselves with the Women that assembled at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congre­gation, 1 Sam. 2.22. Eli sinned in that he restrained them not, 1 Sam. 3.13. His was an Omission, theirs a Commission.

Secondly, That sins of Omission may be great sins, appeareth,

1. Partly by the nature of them: There is in them the general nature of all evil, that is, [...], a transgression of a Law, 1 Joh. 3.4. a disobedience and breach of a Precept, and so by consequence a contempt of Gods Authority: We cry out up­on Pharaoh, when we hear him speaking, Exod. 5.2. Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? By Interpretation we all say so; this language is couched in every Sin that we commit, and every Duty we omit. Our negligence is not simple negligence, but down-right disobedience; because 'tis a breach of a Precept, and the offence is the more, because our nature doth more easily close with Precepts than Prohibitions. Duties injoyned are perfective, but Prohibitions are as so many yoaks upon us; we take it more grievously for God to say, Thou shalt not Covet, than for God to say, Thou shalt love me, fear me, and serve me: We are contented to do much which the Law requireth, but to be limited and barred of our delights, [Page 139] this is distastfull: To meet with mans Corruptions indeed, the Decalogue consists more of Prohibitions than Precepts; eight Negatives, the fourth and fifth Com­mandments only positive. To be restrained, is as distastful to us, as for men in a Feaver to be forbidden drink; Nature is more prone to sin. But to return, there is much Disobedience in a sin of Omission: when Saul had not done what God bid him to do, he telleth him, Rebellion is as the sin of Witchcraft, and Stubborness as Iniquity and Idolatry, 1 Sam. 15.11. Implying that Omission is Rebellion, and Stubbornness paralel to Idolatry and Witchcraft.

2. Partly by the Causes of them: The general cause is corrupt nature. They are all become unprofitable, Rom. 3.12. compared with Psal. 14.3. They are altogether be­come filthy: There is in all by nature a proneness to evil, and a backwardness to good: Onesimus before Conversion was unprofitable, good for nothing, Philem. v. 11. But Grace made a change, made him useful in all his Relations: the particular causes are, (1.) Idleness and Security: They are loath to be held at work, Isa. 64.7. None stirreth up himself to lay hold on thee: They forget his Commandments, Jer. 2.31, 32. (2.) Want of Love to God: Isa. 43.22. Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel: and Rev. 2.4. Nevertheless I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first Love. And, (3.) Want of Zeal for Gods glory: Not sloathful in bu­siness, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord, Rom. 12.11. Where there is a fervour, we cannot be idle and neglectful of our Duty. There is an Aversion from God, before there is an express Disobedience to him.

3. Partly by the Effects, Internal, External, Eternal.

(1.) Internal; Gifts and Graces languish for want of Imployment, 1 Thes. 5.19. Quench not the Spirit: Thomas his Omission made way for his Unbelief, Joh. 20.24.

(2.) External; it bringeth on many Temporal Judgments: God put by Saul from being King for an Omission, 1 Sam. 15.11. It repenteth me for setting up Saul to be King, for he hath not done the thing that I commanded him: forbearing to de­stroy all of Amalek: For this he put by Eli's house from the Priesthood, 1 Sam. 3.13. I will Judge his house for ever, because his Sons made themselves vile, and he re­strained them not: Eli's Omission is punished as well as his Sons Commission, yet 'twas not a total Omission: compare 1 Sam. 2.23, 24, 25. And he said unto them, why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this People; nay my Sons, for it is no good report that I hear of you, ye make the Lords People to transgress: If one man sin against another, the Judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? notwithstanding they hearkened not to the voice of their Father: His Admonition was grave and serious, yet 'twas not enough. All Israel knew their sin before; Eli took upon him to reprove them secretly, whereas the fact was open, and he should have put them to open shame; and then his Rebukes were mild and soft, he should have frowned upon them, punished them, but his fondness would not permit that.

(3.) Eternal, here in the Text: Cast the unprofitable Servant, &c. These sins Christ will mainly inquire after at the day of Judgment; and vers. 42.43. of this Chap­ter, and Math. 7.19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewen down and cast into the fire; though not bad or poysonous fruit: By all these Arguments it ap­peareth that sins of Omission may be great sins.

Thirdly, That some sins of Omission are greater than others: All are not alike, as the more necessary the Duties, the more faulty the Omission, Heb. 2.3. How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation? 1 Cor. 16.22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha: not if a man hate, but if he love not, &c. These are peccata contra remedium, as others contra officium: By other sins we make the Wound, by these we refuse the Plaister. Again, If the Omission be total, [...]er. 10.25. —Call not on the Name of the Lord: Psal. 14.3. None seeketh af­ter God. Again, When seasonable Duties are neglected, Math. 25.44. When I was an hungred ye fed me not: 1 Joh. 3.17. He that hath this worlds goods, and seeth his Brother in need: Prov. 17.16. Why is there a price put into the hand of a Fool? And then when 'tis easie, this is to stand with God for a trifle, Luk. 16.24. Desi­deravit guttam, qui non dedit micam: Amos. 2.6. They sold the poor for a pair of shoes: And when convinced of the duty, James 4.17. To him that knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin.

Fourthly, In many cases sins of Omission may be more hainous and more damning than sins of Commission. (1.) They are the ruine of most part of the carnal world: [Page 140] Carnal men are often described by their Omissions, to be without God, Eph. 3.12. Psal. 10.3, 4. The wicked through the pride of their heart will not seek after God; God is not in all their thoughts: Jer. 2.32. None stirreth up himself to seek after God: And, (2.) Partly because these are most apt to harden us more: Foul sins scourge the Conscience with remorse and shame, but these bring on insensibly sleightness and hardness of heart; and therefore Christ saith, Publicans and Harlots shall enter into the Kingdom of God before Pharisees that rested in a superficial Righteousness, but neglected Faith, Love and Judgment, Math. 21.31. And, (3.) Partly because Omissions make way for Commission of evil, Psal. 14.4. They that called not upon God, eat up his People like Bread: They lye open to gross sins, that do not keep the heart tender by a daily attendance upon God. If a man do not that which is good, he will soon do that which is evil, Joh. 2.13. Oh then let us bewail our unprofitableness, that we do no more good, that we do so much neglect God, and no more edifie our neighbour, so that Gods best gifts lie idle upon our hands.

Fifthly, The first and main evil of sin was in the Omission: Jer. 2.13. My people have forsaken me the Fountain of living waters: Jam. 1.14. Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and inticed. First inticed from God, and then drawn away to sin, therefore the work of Grace is to teach us to deny ungod­liness and worldly lusts, Tit. 2.12. By Ungodliness is meant, not denying God, but neglecting God; there our chief mischief began: for when we do not look upon God as our chief good, then we seek Happiness in the Creature.

1 VSE. To shew that if the unprofitable Servant be cast into Hell, what will become of them that live in open sins, that bid defiance to God?

2. To condemn the unprofitable lives of many; they live as if they had only their Souls for Salt to keep their Bodies from stinking; Cumber the ground, Luk. 13.7. Do not good in their Relations, are neither comfortable to the Bodies nor Souls of others: Certainly how mean and low soever you be in the world, you may be useful; Dorcas made Coats for the poor: Servants may adorn the Gospel, Tit. 2.10.

3. If sins of Omission be so dangerous, we may cry out with David, Psal. 19. Who can understand his Errours? The Children of God offend in these kind of sins, oftener than in the other kind; they are not guilty of Drunkenness, or Unclean­ness, but of Omission of good Duties, or sleight performance of them: Paul complaineth, Rom. 7.18, 19. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh there dwell­eth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not; for the good that I would, I do not: And should not you com­plain likewise? A Child is not counted dutiful because he doth not wrong and beat his Father, he must also give him that Reverence that is due to him. Alas, how many Duties are required of us to God and Men, the neglect of which we should humble our selves before God for?

SERMON XVIII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 31, 32, 33.

When the Son of Man shall come in his Glory, and all the Holy Angels with him, then shall he sit upon the Throne of his Glory.

And before him shall be gathered all Nations; and he shall se­parate them one from another, as a Shepherd divideth his Sheep from the Goats.

And he shall set the Sheep on his Right Hand, but the Goats on the Left.

THIS latter Paragraph I cannot call a Parable, but a Scheme, and Draught, or a Delineation of the last Judgment, intermingled with many Passages that are plainly Parabolical: as, That Christ setteth forth himself as a King, sitting upon the Throne of his Glory; and as a Shepherd, dividing his Flock: That he compareth the Godly to Sheep, and the Wicked to Goats. Those Allegations and Dialogues between Christ, and the Righteous; Christ, and the Wicked; When saw we thee an hungry, &c. have much of the Nature of a Parable in them. In these Three Verses we have described,

1. The Appearance, or sitting down of the Judge.

2. The Presenting the Parties to be judged. The former is in Vers. 31. the latter in Vers. 32, 33. In Vers. 31. we have,

(1.) The Person who shall be the Judge; The Son of Man.

(2.) The Manner of his Coming: It shall be August and Glorious. Where note,

1. His Personal Glory: He shall come in his Glory.

2. His Royal Attendance: And all the Holy Angels with him.

3. His Seat and Throne: Then shall he sit upon the Throne of his Glory.

First, the Person is designed by this Character and Appellation, The Son of Man. He is called so, to shew that he is True Man, and descended of the present Race of Men: He might have been True Man, if God had framed his Substance out of no­thing; as he did Adam out of the Dust of the Ground. And this Title is given him here, (as in many other Places) when the last Judgment is spoken of, (as I shall shew you by and by;)

(1.) Partly to Recompense his foregoing Humiliation, or despicable Appearance at his First Coming.

(2.) Partly because of his Second Coming: He shall appear visibly in that Nature, as he went from us; Act. 1.11. In like manner, &c. Christ shall come in the Form of a Man, but not in the same humble and mean Appearance, as now when he spake these things to them: For 'tis added for the manner:

1. For his Personal Glory: He shall come in his Glory: Not in the Form of a Ser­vant, but becoming his present State. All Infirmities shall be removed from his Soul and Body. 'Tis not a borrowed Glory; but he shall come in his own Glory. 'Tis said, Matth. 16.27. The Son of Man shall come in the Glory of his Father: Here, in his [Page 142] own Glory. The Son of Man, and the Son of God, is only one Person; and his Glo­ry as God, and his Father's Glory, is the same. So that, He shall come in his Glory, noteth either,

(1.) His Divine Power and Majesty, which shall then conspicuously shine forth: Or,

(2.) The Glory put upon the Humane Nature; and so it will note his plenary Ab­solution, as our Surety. The Father sendeth him from Heaven, in Power and great Glory: He appeareth without Sin, Heb. 9.28. He doth not say, They that look for him shall be without Sin; but, He shall appear the second time without Sin unto Salvati­on: That is, fully discharged of our Debt. First, He came in carnem; He shewed himself in the Nature of Man, to be judged: Then, in carne; He shall shew himself in the Nature of Man to judge the World. At his First Coming he was holy, yet in the Garb of a Sinner; we judged him as one forsaken of God: His Second Com­ing shall make it evident, that he is discharged of the Debt he took upon him­self.

2. His Royal Attendance. The Angels shall attend him both to honour him, and to be employed by him.

3. His Royal Posture. He shall sit upon the Throne of his Glory. A glorious Throne, beseeming the Son of God, and the Judge of the Quick and the Dead, shall be erected for him in the Clouds: Such as none can imagine how glorious it shall be, till they see it.

Secondly, The next thing that is offered in these words, is, The presenting the Parties to be judged: And there you may take notice,

(1.) Of their Congregation. And before him shall be gathered all Nations.

(2.) Their Segregation. And he shall separate them one from another, as a Shepherd di­videth his Sheep from the Goats. In the Segregation we have,

1. The ordering them into two several Ranks and Companies; Sheep, and Goats, Vers. 32.

2. As to Posture and Place; Vers. 33. And he shall set his Sheep on the Right Hand, and the Goats on his Left. Not only a Separation as to Crhist's Knowledge, and dis­cerning them, but a Separation in Place.

I begin with the first Branch, The Appearance and sitting down of the Judge.

Two Points I shall observe:

1. Doct. That the Iudge of this World is Iesus Christ.

2. Doct. That Christ's Appearance for the Iudgment of the World, shall be Glorious, and full of Majesty.

For the first Point;

That Iesus Christ is the Worlds Iudge.

(1.) Here I shall enquire, why he is Judge?

(2.) In what nature he doct act, or exercise this Judgement; whether as God, or Man, or both.

First, Let us enquire, how Christ cometh to be the Worlds Judge? and with what Conveniency and Agreeableness to Reason this Honour is put upon him. To a Judge there belongeth these four things:

  • 1. Wisdom,
  • 2. Justice,
  • 3. Power, and
  • 4. Authority.

(1.) Wisdom and Vnderstanding, by which he is able to judge all Persons and Causes that come before him, according to the Rules and Laws by which that Judgment is to proceed: For no Man can give Sentence in a Cause wherein he hath not Skill, both as to matter of Right and Wrong; and sufficient Evidence and Knowledge as to matter of Fact. Therefore, in ordinary Judicatures, a prudent and discerning Per­son is chosen.

[Page 143](2.)Justice is required, or a constant and unbiassed Will to determine and pass Sentence, ex aequo, & bono; as Right and Truth shall require. He that giveth wrong Judgment, because he doth not accurately understand a thing, is imprudent, which in this business is a great Fault: But he that doth rightly understand a Matter, and yet is byass'd by perverse Affections and Aims, and giveth wrong Judgment in the Cause brought before him; that is highly impious and flagitious: Therefore, the Judge must be Just and incorrupt.

(3.) Power is necessary, that he may compell the Parties judged to stand to his Judgment, and the Offenders may receive their due Punishment: For otherwise, all is but precarious and arbitrary; and the Judgment given will be but a vain and so­lemn Pageantry.

(4.) There is required Authority: For otherwise, if a Man should obtrude himself of his own accord, they may say to him, Who made thee a Judge over us? Or if he by meer force should assume this Power to himself, the Parties impleaded have a pretence of Right to decline his Tribunal, and appeal from him. Certainly, he that rewards must be Superiour; and much more he that punisheth: For he that punish­eth another, bringeth some notable Evil and Dammage upon him; but for one to bring Evil upon another, unless he hath right to do it, is unjust. Therefore, good Authority is required in him that acts the Part of a Judge. These things, as they stand upon evident Reason, and are necessary in all Judicial Proceedings between Man and Man, so much more in this great and solemn Transaction of the Last Judg­ment. For this will be the greatest Court that ever was kept; both in respect of the Persons to be judged, which shall be all Men, and evil Angels; high and low, small and great, rich and poor, Princes and Subjects; and in respect of the Causes that shall be produced, the whole Business of the World for six thousand Years, or there­abouts; or the Retributions made, which shall be Punishments and Rewards of the highest Nature and Degree, because Everlasting. And therefore, there must be a Judge sought out, that is exactly knowing not only of Laws, but of all Persons and Causes: That all things shall be naked, and open to him with whom we have to do, Heb. 4.12, 13. and 1 Joh. 3.20. Again, exceeding Just, without the least spot and blemish of wrong Dealing: Gen. 18.25. Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right? And, Rom. 3.5, 6. Is God unrighteous, that taketh Vengeance? God forbid: For then how shall God judge the World? It cannot be, that the universal and final Judg­ment of all the World should be committed to him, that hath or can do any thing wrongful and amiss. And then, that Power is necessary both to summon Offenders, and make them appear, and stand to the Judgment which he shall award, without any hope of escaping or resisting; will as easily appear: Because the Offenders are many, and they would fain hide their guilty Heads, and shun this Tribunal, if it were possible. Rev. 6.16. Say to the Mountains and Rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the Face of him that sitteth upon the Throne, and from the Wrath of the Lamb: But that must not, cannot be: Psal. 90.11. Who knoweth the Power of thine Anger? According to thy Fear, so is thy Wrath. Authority is necessary also, or a Right to Go­vern, and to dispose of the Persons judged into their Everlasting Estate; which being all the World, belongeth only to the Universal King, who hath made all things, and preserveth all things, and governeth and disposeth all things for his own Glory. Legislation and Execution both belong to the same Power: Judgment is a part of Government: Laws are but Shadows, if no Execution follow. Now let us par­ticularly see how all this belongeth to Christ.

(1.) For Wisdom and Vnderstanding. 'Tis in Christ two-fold, Divine and Humane; for each Nature hath its particular and proper Wisdom belonging to it. As God, 'tis Infinite: Psal. 147.15. His Vnderstanding is Infinite. And so by one Infinite View, or by one Act of Understanding, he knoweth all things that are, have been, or shall be, yea or may be, by his Divine Power and All-sufficiency. They are all before his Eyes, as if naked and cut down by the Chine-bone. We know things successive­ly; as a Man readeth a Book, line after line, and Page after Page; but God at one View. Now his Humane Wisdom cannot be equal to this: A Finite Nature can­not be capable of an Infinite Understanding; but yet it is such as it doth far exceed the Knowledge of all Men, and all Angels. When Christ was upon Earth, though the Forms of things could not but successively come into his Mind or Understand­ing, because of the limited Nature of that Mind and Understanding; yet then he could know whatever he would; and to whatsoever thing he would apply his Mind, [Page 144] he did presently understand it; and in a moment, by the Light of the Divinity, all things were presented to him; so that he accurately knew the Nature of whatever he had a mind to know. And therefore, then he was not ignorant of those things that were in the Hearts of Men, and were done so secretly, as they were thought on­ly to be known to God himself. Thus he knew the secret Touch of the Woman, when the Multitude thronged upon him, Luk. 8.45, 46. So Matth. 9.3, 4. When certain of the Scribes said within themselves, This Man blasphemeth: Jesus knowing their Thoughts, said, Why think ye evil in your Hearts. He discerneth the inward Thoughts, and turneth out the Inside of the Scribes minds: So Matth. 12.24, 25. Jesus knew their Thoughts, when they imagined that by Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils he cast out Devils. But most fully, see Joh. 2.24, 25. He committed not himself to them, because he knew all Men, and needed not that any should testifie of Man; for he knew what was in Man: It may be, they knew not themselves; but he knew what kind of Belief it was, such as would not hold out in time of Temptation. We cannot infallibly discern Professors, before they discover themselves: Yet all Hypocrites are seen and known of him even long before they shew their Hypocrisie, not by a conjectural, but a cer­tain Knowledge, as being from, and by himself, as God. He doth infallibly know what is most secret and hidden in Man. Now, if he were endowed with such an admirable Understanding even in the Dayes of his Flesh, while he grew in Wisdom and Stature, Luk. 2. and his Humane Capacity enlarged by Degrees; what shall we think of him in that State in which he is now Glorious in Heaven? Therefore, to exercise this Judgment, he shall bring incomparable Knowledge, so far exceeding the manner and measure of all Creatures, even as he is Man; but his Infinite Knowledge as God, shall chiefly shine forth in this Work. Therefore, he is a fit Judge, able to bring forth the secret things of Darkness, and Counsels of the Heart, into open and manifest Light, 1 Cor. 4.5. and disprove Sinners in their Pretences and Excuses, and pluck off their Disguises from them.

(2.) For Justice and Righteousness. An incorrupt Judge, that neither doth nor can erre in Judgment, must be our Judge. As there is a double Knowledge in Christ, so there is a double Righteousness; one that belongeth to him as God, the other as Man; and both are exact, and immutably perfect: His Divine Nature is Holiness its self. In him is Light, and no Darkness at all. The least Shadow of Injustice can­not be imagined there. All Vertues in God are his Being, not superadded Quali­ties. God's Holiness may be resembled to a Vessel of pure Gold, where the Sub­stance and Lustre is the same: But ours is like a Vessel of Wood or Earth gilded, where the Substance and Gilding is not the same. Our Holiness is superadded Quality: We cannot call a wise Man, Wisdom; or a righteous Man, Righteousness. We use the Concrete of Man, but the Abstract of God. He is Love, He is Light, He is Holiness its self; which noteth the Inseparability of the Attribute from God. 'Tis Himself; God cannot deny Himself: His Act is his Rule. Take Peter Martyr's Si­militude: A Carpenter chopping a piece of Wood by a Line or Square, may sometimes chop right, and sometimes wrong; he cannot carry his Hand so evenly: But if we could suppose that a Carpenter's Hand were his Rule, he could not chop amiss. Christ's Humane Na­ture was so sanctified, that upon Earth he could not sin, much more now Glorified in Heaven. And there will be use of both Righteousnesses in the last Judgment; but chiefly of the Righteousness that belongeth to the Divine Nature: For all the Ope­rations of Christ are Theandrical; neither Nature ceaseth to work in them. As in all the Works of Men, the Body and the Soul do both conspire and concur in that way which is proper to either: Only, as in the Works of his Humiliation his Hu­mane Nature did more appear; so in the Works that belong to his Exaltation, and glorified Estate, his Divine Nature appeareth most; especially in this solemn Acti­on, wherein Christ is to discover himself to the World with the greatest Majesty and Glory!

(3.) For Power. A Divine Power is plainly necessary, that none may with-draw themselves from this Judgment, or resist or hinder the Execution of this Sentence; for otherwise it would be past in vain: Titus 2.13. Looking for the blessed Hope, and glorious Appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Christ is then to shew himself the Great and Powerful God: His Power is seen in Raising the Dead, in bringing them together in one Place, in opening their Consciences, in casting them into Hell! Matth. 24.30. The Son of Man shall come from Heaven with Power, and great Glory.

[Page 145](4.) For Authority. I shall the longer insist on This, because the main Hinge of all lieth here; and this doth bring the Ma [...]ter home: That Jesus Christ, and none but Jesus Christ, shall be the Worlds Judge. By the Law of Nature, the wronged Par­ty, and the Supream Power hath Right to require Satisfaction for the Wrong done. Where no Power is publickly constituted, possibly the wronged Party hath Power to require it; but where things are better constituted, lest the wronged Party should in­indulge his Revenge and Passion too far, it rests in the Supream Power, and those appointed by it, to judge the Matter; and to make amends to those that are wronged in their Body, Goods, or Good Name. Now, to God both these things concur.

1. He is the wronged Party, and offended with the Sins of Men: Not that we can lessen his Happiness by any thing that we can do; for our Good and Evil reacheth not unto him; his Essential Glory is still the same, whether we obey or disobey, please or displease, honour or dishonour him: That which is Eternal and Immu­table, neither is lessened nor increased by any thing that we can do. He is out of the reach of all the Darts that we can cast at him: Hurt us they may, but reach him they cannot. But Sin; 'tis a wrong to his Declarative Glory, as Soveraign Lord and Law-giver; as 'tis a Breach of his Law. There was Hurt done to Bathsheba and Vriah, Psa. 51.4. but the Sin and Obliquity of the Action was against God, and his So­vereign Authority. If the Injury done to the Creature could be severed from the Offence done to God, it were not so great. God is the Author of the Light of Nature; and that Order which begetteth a Sense of Good and Evil in our Hearts. God is the Author of the Law given by Moses, and the Gospel revealed by his Son. Therefore, what­ever things are committed against the Law of Nature, or the Law of Moses, or the Gospel, certainly 'tis a wrong to the Justice of God, as being a Breach of that Or­der which he hath Established. 1 Joh. 3.4. He that committeth Sin, transgresseth al­so the Law; for Sin is a Transgression of the Law. Laws cannot be despised, but the Majesty of the Law-giver is contemned, disparaged and sleighted. Therefore, up­on this Right God might come in as a very proper Judge: But indeed God doth not punish meerly as offended, or as a private Man revengeth himself, where there is no Power publickly constituted to do him right; but he properly Judgeth.

2. A Supream and Sovereign Lord, and Governour of the World, to whom it be­longeth for the common Good; to see that it be well with them that do well, and ill with them that do evil; and that no Compassion be shewed, but where the Case is Compassionable, according to that Declaration he hath made of himself to the Creatures. To declare this more plainly, we shall see how this Right accrueth to God: It may be supposed to accrue to him two wayes; either because of the Excel­lency of his Being, or because of his Benefits which he hath bestowed upon Man­kind.

(1.) The Excellency of his Being. This is according to the Light of Nature, that those that excell should be above others: As 'tis clear in Man, who is above the Brute Creatures, he is made to have Dominion over them, because he hath a more excel­lent Nature than they. And when God said, Let us make Man after our own Image, he presently upon that Account gave him Dominion over the Beasts of the Field, and Fowls of the Air, and Fishes of the Sea: So God being Infinite, and far above all Finite things, hath a Power over the Creatures, Angels or Men, who are as no­thing to him; and therefore to be governed by him. But chiefly,

(2.) By vertue of the Benefits bestowed by him. For great Benefits received from another, do necessarily beget a Power over him that receiveth them. As Parents have a Power and Authority over their Children, who are a means under God to give them Life and Education; the most barbarous People would acknowledge this: How much greater then is the Right of God, who hath given us Life, and Breath, and Being, and Well-being, and all things? He created us out of nothing; and being created, he preserveth us, and giveth us all the good things which we enjoy. And therefore, we are obliged to be subject to him, and to obey his Holy Laws, and to be accountable to him for the Breach of them. Therefore, let us slate it thus: As the Excellency of his Nature giveth him a Fitness, and a Suffici­ency for the Government of Mankind; his Creation, Preservation, and other Bene­fits give him a full Right to make what Laws he pleaseth, and to call Man to an Account whether he hath kept them, yea or no. His Right is greater than Parents can have over their Children; for in Natural Generation they are but Instruments of his Providence, acting only the Power which God giveth them; and the Parents [Page 146] propagate nothing to the Children, but the Body, and those things that belong to the Body; called therefore, The Fathers of our Flesh, Heb. 12.9. Yea, in framing the Body God hath a greater Hand than they; for they cannot tell whether the Child will be Male or Female, Beautiful or Deformed: They know not the number and posture of the Bones, and Veins, and Arteries, and Sinews: But God doth not only concur to all these things, but form the Spirit of Man in him, Zech. 12.1. And all the Care and Providence of our Parents cometh to nothing, unless the Lord directeth it, and secondeth it with his Blessing. Therefore, God naturally is the Go­vernour and Judge of all Creatures, visible and invisible: So that, from his Em­pire and Jurisdiction, they neither can nor ought to exempt themselves. So that, to be God, and Judge of the World, is one and the same thing expressed in divers terms.

Well then, you will ask, Why is Christ the Judge of the World, rather than the Father, and the Spirit, who made us, and gave the Law to us?

1. I Answer, That we have gone a good Step to prove, that it is the peculiar Right of God, common to the Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; for these Three are One, 1 Joh. 5.7. They have one common Nature, and the Operations that are with the Divine Essence, are common to them All: So that, as the Creation of all things is equally attributed to All, so also the Right of this Act of Judging the World, doth alike agree to All. So that, as yet the thing is not explained enough, unless we should grant, that it shall be exercised by All; or can prove out of the Scriptures, that One Person of these Three is ordained, and by mutual Consent cho­sen out by the rest, to exercise it for himself, and for the other. Indeed, at the first, when the Doctrine of the Trinity was not as yet openly revealed, 'twas not need­ful to enquire more diligently after it: But this general Truth sufficed, That God is the Judge of the World. As when Enoch said, Jude 14. Behold, the Lord com­eth with ten thousands of his Saints; and as David, Psal. 64.2. Lift up thy self, thou Judge of the Earth; and Psal. 50.6. God is Judge himself; and in many other Pla­ces. 'Twas enough to understand it of one only, and true God, without Distincti­on of the Persons: But when that Mystery was clearly manifested, then the Question was necessary, which of the Persons should be Judge of the World?

2. As there is an Order among the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, in the manner of Subsisting; so there is also a certain Order and Oeconomy, according to which all their Operations are produced, and brought forth to the Creature; according to which Order, their Power of Judging fell partly to the Father, and partly to the Son.

(1.) In the Business of Redemption: The Act of Judging, which was to be exer­cised upon our Surety, who was substituted in our Room and Place, and offered himself not only for our Good, in bono nostrum, but loco, & vice nostri, to bear our Punishment, and to procure Favour to us; there the Act of Judging belongeth to the Father, to whom the Satisfaction is tendred. 1 Joh. 2.1. the Advocate is to plead be­fore the Judge. But,

(2.) As to the Judgment to be exercised upon us, who either partake of that Sal­vation which was purchased by that Surety, or have lost it by our Negligence, and Unbelief; there the Son, or Second Person, is our Judge: In the former, the Son could not be Judge, because in a Sense he made himself a Party for our Good, and in our Room and Place; and the same Person cannot be both Judge, and Party too: Give, and take the Satisfaction both, that cannot be. Well then, in this other Judg­ment the Holy Ghost cannot be conveniently the Judge; for in this Mystery he hath another Part, Function, and Office prepared; and being the Third Person in the order of Subsisting, the Son was not to be passed over, but it fell to him.

(3.) In the Son there is a double Relation, or Consideration; one as he is God, the other as he is Mediator; the one Natural and Eternal, and shall endure for ever; the other of Mediator, which as he took upon himself in Time, so in the Consum­mation of Time he shall at length lay aside. In this latter respect, as Mediator, he is Judge by Deputation. The Primitive Sovereign and Judge is God; and the King and Judge by derivation, is Jesus Christ the Mediator, in his Manhood, united to the Second Person in the Godhead; and so the Judgment of the World is put upon him: In regard of the Creatures, his Authority is absolute and supream; for there can be no Appeal from his Judgment: but in regard of God, 'tis deputed. He is ordained; so 'tis said, Joh. 5.27. The Father hath given him Authority also, to exercise [Page 147] Judgment, because he is the Son of Man. He hath the Power of Life and Death, to Condemn, and to Absolve: So Act. 10.42. He is ordained of God to be the Judge of the Quick and the Dead; and Act. 17.31. He hath appointed a Day, in which he will judge the World in Righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained: In all which he acts as the Father's Vicegerent; and after he hath judged, He shall deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, 1 Cor. 15.24. So that the Right of Christ as Mediator, is not that which befalleth him immediately from the Right of Creation; but is derivative, and subordinate to that Kingdom which is Essential to him, com­mon to the Father, Son, and Spirit.

(4.) This Power which belongeth to Christ as Mediator, is given to him, partly as a Recompense of his Humiliation; of which I shall speak in the second Point. But chiefly,

1. Because it belongeth to the Fulness of his Mediatory Office: And therefore, be­ing appointed King by the Father, his last Function as a King, was to Judge the World. The Mediator was not only to pay a Price to Divine Justice, and to sepa­rate the Redeemed from the World, by his Spirit converting them to God; but al­so to Judge the Devil, and all those Enemies out of whose Hands he had freed the Church. He was to fight against the blind World, and Triumph over them; and when the World is ended, to Judge them, and cast them into Eternal Tor­ments.

2. His Office is not full, till this be done: 'Tis a part of his Administration, as Mediator. The last Act of Conquest, is overcoming his Enemies, and Glorifying, and redressing Injuries and Wrongs of his Saints.

Secondly, In what Nature he doth act and exercise the Judgment, as God, or Man, or both.

I Answer, In both: Christ is the Person, as God-Man; yet the Judgment is acted visibly by him in the Humane Nature, sitting upon a visible Throne, that he may be seen of all, and heard. Therefore, Christ is so often designed by this Expressi­on, Son of Man; as in the Text, and Matth. 16.27. and Act. 17.31. and Matth. 26.64. Ye shall see the Son of Man coming in the Clouds, with Power and great Glory, Joh. 5.27. The Son of Man is the visible Actor and Judge; because the Judgment must be visible, therefore the Judge must be such as may be seen with Bodily Eyes. The Godhead puts forth its self by the Humane Nature, in which all these great Works are acted.

VSE. You see what need there is to get in with Christ: Rom. 8.1. There is there­fore now no Condemnation to them that are in Christ. 1 Joh. 2.28. And now little Chil­dren, abide in him; that when he shall appear we may have Confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his Coming. Oh, what a Comfort will it be, to have our Redeemer in our Nature, to be our Judge! Then we shall see our Goel, our Kinsman whom we have heard so much of, whom we have loved, and longed for: But the Contemners of his Mercy will find the Lamb's Face terrible. Revel. 6.16. And said to the Mountains and Rocks, Fall upon us, and hide us from the Face of him that sitteth upon the Throne, and from the Wrath of the Lamb. But Believers will find their Advocate their Judge, to reward those that trust in him, Psal. 2.12. He that hath so often plead­ed with God for us, he is to pass Sentence upon us. Would a Man be afraid to be Judged by his dearest Friend? or think his Sentence would be terrible? If the Devil were our Judge, or wicked Men, we might be sad: But 'tis your dear Lord Jesus! Therefore, let us comfort our selves with the Thoughts of it. David's Fol­lowers were afraid; but when he came to be Crowned at Hebron, then he dignified and rewarded them. Christ's Followers are now despised; but when he shall come in his Glory, they shall be invited into his Kingdom; Come ye Blessed of my Fa­ther.

SERMON XIX.

MATTH. XXV. v. 31.

When the Son of Man shall come in his Glory, and all the Holy Angels with him, then shall he sit upon the Throne of his Glory.

I Come now to the Second Point:

Doct. 2. That Christ's Appearance for the Iudgment of the World, shall be Glorious, and full of Majesty.

I shall prove it by opening the Circumstances of the Text. Three things are offered here:

  • 1. His Personal Glory.
  • 2. His Royal Attendance.
  • 3. His Glorious Seat and Throne.

First, His Personal Glory: Let us see what it is, and why he will come in such an Appearance.

First, What it will be, we cannot fully know till we see it; but certain we are, this Glory must be exceeding great: If we consider,

(1.) The Dignity of his Person; he is God-Man: And now that Mystery is to be discovered to the utmost; therefore he must needs have such a Glory, as never Creature was capable of, nor can be; but at that Day the Creatures are capable of great Glory: For 'tis said, Matth. 13.43. The Righteous shall shine as the Sun in the Kingdom of the Father. And if it be thus with the Saints, how shall it be with Christ? The Saints are but Creatures; they are not Deified, when they are Glorified: But He is God-Man in one Person. The Saints are but Members of the Mystical Body; but Christ is the Head: and therefore, he must needs far excell the Glory of all the Creatures. Ours is but a derived Ray; the Body of Light is in himself. We read, 2 Thess. 1.10. that he will be admired in the Saints: That is, in the Glory he puts up­on them. All the Spectators shall stand admiring at the Honour he puts upon them, that are but newly crept out of Dust and Rottenness: But how much more may He be admired for his own Personal Glory!

(2.) The Quality of his Office: He is the Judge of the World, who now cometh to appear upon the Throne, to be seen of all: Therefore, there must be a Glory suit­able. We read, Acts 25.23. that Agrippa and Bernice came to the Judgment-Seat, [...], with a great deal of Pomp and State. And we see in Earthly Ju­dicatures, when great Malefactors are to be tryed, the whole Majesty, and Glory of a Nation is brought forth: The Judge in gorgeous Apparel, accompanied with Nobles, and Gentry, and Officers, and a great Conflux of People, to make it more Magnifi­cent and Terrible. So here is a Conflux of the whole World, Angels, Devils, Men, from all Corners of the Earth; all the Men that ever were, and ever shall be: And Christ cometh forth in his greatest Glory.

[Page 149](3.) Consider the Greatness of his Work, and that will shew that his Glory must needs be discovered. His Work is, on the one side, to gather together, to convince, to Judge, and punish Creatures opposite and Rebellious; and to honour, and reward his Servants, on the other. There is not such an Union and Confederation of Mi­racles in any one Point, and Article of Faith, so much as there is in this of the ge­neral Judgment. The mighty Power and Dominion of God is seen in dissolving the Elements, in raising the dead Bodies, and giving every Dust its own Flesh, and bring­ing them together that they may be Arraigned, and Judged: And then in separating them into their several Ranks, in which his Omnisciency and Wisdom is seen, that not one of the Reprobate shall lie hid among the Elect. In Judging them his Ju­stice cannot be eluded; he that seeth all things in the Light of the Godhead, can­not want Evidence. Then one of the Books that is opened, is in the Parties Custo­dy; and yet they cannot deface it, or blot it out. And then for Execution, the Majesty of his Person and Presence will be enough to confound a wicked Man. How will the Wolves tremble at the sight of the pure and unspotted Lamb! Revel. 6.16. Oh! 'twill be a piercing Sight to them, to see him whom they have despised, up­on the Throne! That Jesus whose Word they have scorned, whose Ordinances they have neglected or corrupted, whose Servants they have molested! When Joseph, who was so great and high in Egypt, discovered himself to his Brethren, I am Joseph, they were abashed, and confounded, because of the Injury they had done him: Much more shall Sinners be confounded, when he shall tell them, I am Jesus; and that he is come on purpose to be Revenged on all the Abusers, and Despisers of his Grace, and the Troublers of his People. How can they then look him in the Face? We read, that when they came to attacque Christ, Joh. 18.6. as soon as he had told them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. He would convince his Enemies in the midst of his greatest Abasement, how full of Majesty and Terror his Presence is, if he should let out the Glory of it upon them. If the Lamb's Voice be so ter­rible, how dreadful will he be when he roareth as a Lyon? And if then, when he was taken and led to be Judged, you may guess how glorious his Presence will be, when he cometh in all his Glory to Judge others: And by this you may un­derstand the Apostles Expression, 2 Thess. 1.9. That the Wicked shall be punished with everlasting Destruction from the Presence of the Lord, and from the Glory of his Power. From there is as much as By; it doth not signifie there, the kind of the Punishment, the poeni damni, but the Cause. The Majesty of Christ is the Cause of their Tor­ments; and his Look and Face will be Terror enough to Sinners. And as he com­eth in Glory, to shame and punish those that despised him; so to comfort and re­ward his People, who have trusted in him, and served him, and suffered for him: He shall come from Heaven in State, to lead them into those blessed Mansions with Honour. 1 Pet. 4.13. Rejoyce, in as much as ye are Partakers of Christ's Sufferings; that when his Glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding Joy. They have seen him in his worst, and now in his best also. The Glory of Christ's Appearing is sometimes expressed by Fire, and sometimes by Light: To the Saints 'tis as Light, and as a comfortable Sun-shine; but to the Wicked 'tis a dreadful Fire, [...]. 2 Thess. 2.8. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his Mouth, and shall destroy them with the Brightness of his Coming.

(4.) If you consider some foregoing Appearances of Christ. As for instance: At the giving of the Law, 'twas the Second Person that managed that Appearance: For 'tis said, Acts 7.38. that it was an Angel that appeared in Mount Sinai, and spoke to our Fathers. That is, the Angel of the Covenant, Jesus Christ: For 'tis clearly said▪ Heb. 12.26. That the Voice of Christ then shook the Earth. Now, what a dreadful Appearance was that! The Earth shook, the Mountain trembled; and out of the midst of the Thunderings, and Lightnings, and a thick Cloud, was the Sound of the Trumpet heard; so that the People trembled; yea, Moses himself, a meek Man, that had done great Service in the Church, did exceedingly quake and tremble; Heb. 12. from 18. to 21. When he gave the Law, he is represented as a terrible Judge, ready to overcome his Adversaries with the Tempest of his Wrath; much more when he cometh to execute the Sentence of the Law; as Execution is alwayes more terrible than Promulgation: Or you may guess at it by Prophet Isaiah's Terror, when he saw God in Vision, Isa. 6.5. Into what an Agony it drove that Ho­ly Prophet? Wo is me, for I am undone; because I am a Man of unclean Lips, and I dwell in the midst of a People of unclean Lips: For mine Eyes have seen the King, the Lord [Page 150] of Hosts. Adam fled from the Presence of God walking in the Garden, though God came to him in no terrible Appearance; and though he had sinned, yet was not cut off from all Hope of Reconciliation. How will wicked Men abide the Presence of Christ, when he cometh to shew forth his Glory, and they are excluded by his final Sentence from all Hope of Pardon? Or you may set it forth by the Glory of Christ's Transfiguration; the Glory that was seen then: For that was a Glimpse of this Glory of the Father, in which he shall appear at that Day. Matth. 17.2. And he was Transfigured before them, and his Face did shine as the Sun, and his Rayment was white as the Light. And then arose a bright Cloud, and a Voice out of the bright Cloud: And when the Disciples heard it, they were sore afraid. There was a glorious shining Brightness, breaking through Skin and Garment; overwhelming the Disciples, that they were not able to stand before his Majesty, though it were in Mercy revealed to them. Or by that Appearance of the Angel, described Matth. 28.3, 4. His Coun­tenance was like Lightning, and his Rayment as white as Snow; and for fear of him the Keepers did shake, and became as dead Men. Or by the Appearance of Christ to Paul, Act. 9. when he was blind for seven Dayes, when the Lord Jesus shewed himself to him from Heaven. These Instances will give us a Ghess, a Taste of it. But,

Secondly, Why he will come in this great Glory?

I Answer,

1. To take off the Scandal and Ignominy of the Cross, and to recompense him for his Humiliation; He that was once despised in the World for his outward and despi­cable Estate, will then be Glorious; when he shall declare his Power, in Raising the Dead by his Voice, and all the Elements burning about him, and all the Saints and Angels attending him, every one as bright as the Sun! A glorious high Throne set in the Air for him; and all the Creatures presented before him, and bowing to him! Ransacking the Consciences of Sinners, and bringing forth the Story of all his Admi­nistrations in the World! Then there will be a full Recompence for all his Suffer­ings. To make this eviden [...], let us compare the Two Comings of Christ: Christ's First Coming was so obscure, that it was scarce observed and understood by the World. The Second will be so conspicuous and glorious, as to be seen of All. In the former he came in the Form of a Servant, and the contemptible Appearance of a mean Man: In the second he cometh as the Lord, and Heir of all things, cloath­ed with Splendour, and Glory, as with a Garment. At his First Coming he had a Forerunner, The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness: In the Second he hath a Fore­runner also. There the Baptist: Here an Arch-angel with his Trumpet, 1 Thess. 4. 10. In his First Coming he was accompanied with a few poor Fisher-men, Twelve Disciples, Persons of mean Condition and Rank in the World: Now with Legions of Angels, and with his Holy ten thousands of his Saints, Jude 14. Heretofore he Raised Three to Life: Now all the Dead. Then he was scorned, buffeted, spit up­on: Now crowned with Glory and Honour. In the former he was to act the Part of a Minister of the Circumcision, to Preach the Gospel to the People of Israel: In the latter he shall act as the Judge of all the World. In the former he invited Men to Repentance, and offered Remission to Sins to those that received him as a Redeem­er: But in the latter he shall cut off all Hope of Pardon for evermore, from them that Received him not, and neglected their Day of Grace. At first he came to bear the Sins of many: But now He shall come without Sin, Heb. 9.28. not bearing a Bur­den, but bringing a Discharge; not as a Surety, but as a Pay master; not as a Suf­ferer, but as a Conqueror; triumphing over Death, and Hell, and the Devil: He cometh no more to go from us, but to take us from all Misery unto himself. In the former State he was God-Man; but he did as it were hide his Godhead under the Infirmities of his Flesh: Sometimes it peeped out through the Veil in a Miracle, but yet mostly obscuring himself: But in the latter he shall discover himself with an unspeakable Brightness and Majesty; and there will be no need of Miracles to prove the Divinity of his Person and Office: For then it shall be a matter of Sense; all shall see it, and feel it; some with Joy, others with Trembling. In the former State he presented himself to suffer Death: But then he shall tread Death under his Feet. In the former he was Judged, and Condemned by Men to an Ignominious Death, the Death of the Cross: But in the latter he will Judge, and with his own Mouth pronounce Sentence upon all Men; on all Kings, Emperours and Judges, as well as poor Peasants; sitting upon a Glorious Throne and Tribunal. Then he Judged no [Page 151] man, John 3.17. For God sent not his Son to Condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved: His work then was to hold out the way of life, or to open the way of Salvation to lost man, as a meek Saviour and Mediatour: So John 12.47. If any man hear my words, and believe them not, I Judge him not, for I came not to Judge the world, but to save the world; I Judge not, that is as yet: He laid aside the person of a Judge then, and took on him the Office of a Sa­viour, to offer and purchase Mercy; that was his proper Errand when he came first into the world: So Luk. 9.56. The Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save them: And to comply with that end, he cast a veil upon his Glory, and endured the enmity and contradiction of the world; but now 'tis otherwise; so that the scandal of his first estate is fully taken off.

2. He appeareth in this great Glory to beget a greater Reverence and Fear in the hearts of all those that shall be Judged by him: He telleth them aforehand, That the Son of man will come in great Glory and Majesty: To daunt and quell the haughty minds and proud conceits of the Potentates, Oppressors, and great ones of the Earth, who often abuse their Power to wrong and violence, Eccles. 5.8. If thou seest the Oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of Judgement and Justice in a Province, marvel not at the matter, for he that is higher than the highest regard­eth, and there be higher than they: Here is swaying and swaggering, and bearing high upon the thought of their Title and greatness; but there they and all their greatness and power shall meet with a Judge that is able by the breath of his mouth to consume them. What meaneth the Insolency of the Mighty, the Pride of the great Heroes of the Earth, that swell and grow haughty with their great­ness, to look and speak so big? Nothing is so profitable to allay the excesses of Power, or to fortifie us against the fears of it, as the consideration of this migh­ty Judge, who will review all matters, and cause the great men of the Earth to tremble. Power is an unwieldy thing, apt to degenerate, and to put men up­on unwarrantable practices; therefore, it needeth to be allayed and ballanced with the consideration of a greater power: Alas! all the Power and Glory of the world is but a Fancy, a vain Pageantry, if compared to Christs Power and Glory; what is their Authority to his? their Splendour to his? their Guard to his? Nothing can excuse them, this Judgment must and shall pass upon them.

3. For the Comfort of his People, for Christ is a pledge and pattern of what shall be done in them; in all things he must first it; Rom. 8.29. And we are made conformable to his Image and likeness: All Priviledges come to us, not only from Christ, but through Christ; He as Mediator is the first Possessor: Are we Elected? he was Elected first, My Elect Servant, Isa. 42.1. Are we Justified? so was he as our Surety, 1 Tim. 3.16. Justified in the Spirit: Are we Sanctified? First he received the Spirit of Holiness; are we Glorified? so was he, Col. 3.4. When Christ who is our life shall appear, we shall appear with him in Glory: 1 Joh. 3.2. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. There will be a manifestation of the Sons of God, Rom. 8.19. First, the first-born, then all the rest of the Brethren; yea, we participate of his Judicial Power: The Saints shall not only be judged, but be Judges, 1 Cor. 6.2, 3. The evil Spirits a long time ago had their Punish­ment, but then their solemn Doom: The Saints shall sit down with him as Justi­ces upon the Bench; here the Saints judge the World by their Doctrine and Con­versation, there by their Vote and Suffrage: There is the Relation between Christ and the Church of Wife and Husband; Vxor fulget Radiis Mariti; as the Hus­band riseth in honour, so doth the Wife: Of Head and Members, when the Head is Crowned, all the Members are cloathed with Honour: His Mystical Body shares with him, that there may be a proportion in the Body; He is the Captain of our Salvation, and he will dignifie and reward his Souldiers, Heb. 2.10. David when he was Crowned at Hebron, his followers were made Captains of thou­sands, Captains of hundreds, and Captains of fifties: Masters and Servants, my Servant shall be where I am, he will put marks of Honour and Favour upon all his Servants: here they were disgraced with him, suffered with him, sleighted with him; then they shall be glorified with him, for still there is a likeness; we must be contented to lye hid, 'till he be publickly manifested to the world, for we have all our Blessings at second hand. So much for the first thing, His Per­sonal Glory.

[Page 152] Secondly, His Royal Attendance: And all the holy Angels with him: Chrysostom saith, The whole Court of Heaven removeth with him; surely there are many of them, Jude 14. The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his Saints to execute Judgment on all, to convince all that are ungodly: 'Tis likely these Angels will put on some visible shape, for the greater Glory and Majesty of Christs appearing: For as he will appear in a Body upon his glorious Throne, so will his Legions round about him; whose Order, Power and formidable Hosts, must some way or other be seen of the wic­ked, for their greater terrour: Their attendance upon Christ, seemeth to be for these Reasons.

(1.) Partly for a Train, to make his Appearance the more full of Majesty: We find Angels waiting upon Christ at his Ascension, and so at his return to Judg­ment: Publick Ministers of Justice are made formidable by their attendance, and Christ will come as a Royal King in the midst of his Nobles. And,

(2.) Partly that by their Ministry, the work of the day may be the more speedi­ly and powerfully dispatched: They are to gather the Elect from the four winds, Math. 24.31. The Angels that carried their Souls to Heaven, shall be imployed in bringing their bodies out of the Graves, Luk. 16.22. Carried by Angels into Abrahams bosom: They are still serviceable about the Saints, this is the last Office they perform to them; they are as it were under Christ, Guardians of their Bones and Dust: Now to the wicked, they are to bind the Tares in bundles, Math. 13.41. that they may be burnt in the fire: They force and present wicked men be­fore the Judge, be they never so obstinate; they are witnesses, they attend upon Congregations, 1 Cor. 11.10. In Assemblies there is more Company meets than is visible, Devils and Angels meet there; the Devils to divert your minds as soon as they begin to be serious, to catch the good word out of your Heart: and An­gels observing you; here should be no indecency; so in your ordinary Conver­sations, they are conversant about you: and then for Execution, no sooner is Sen­tence pronounced but executed: As Haman's face was covered, and he led away to Execution as soon as the King had but said the word. Thus the Scripture in a condescention to our Capacity, representeth to us the Ministry of Angels in that great and terrible day: We can better understand the Operations of An­gels than of God himself, they being nearer to us in Being, and of an Essence finite and limited, their acts are more comprehensible.

(3.) There may be a third Reason imagined why the Angels should come to this Judgment, which will give us an occasion for handling A Question, Whether they shall be judged yea or no?

I answer: For the good Angels, I think not. For the bad, the Scripture is ex­press and plain.

1. For the good Angels, 'tis clear by what hath been said already, that they shall be present at this action, not to be judged, but to bring others to Judgment; as Officers, not as Parties. I suppose this, if men had continued in their Inno­cency, and Integrity of their Creation, such a day of universal Judgment had been needless, for then there had been none to be Condemned, because none had sinned; the Covenant of God would have been enough to have secured their Happiness: so the good Angels continuing in that state wherein they were Created, there is nothing doubtful about them, that needeth any judiciary Debate and discussion: and being already confirmed in the full fruition of God and Happiness, as to their whole nature, their estate is not to be put to any tryal: whereas good men, though their Souls be in Heaven, yet their Bodies are not admitted there, some part of them as yet lyeth under the effects of sin, and their glorification is private, and Gods goodness as yet hath not been manifested to them in the eyes of all the world, nor their uprightness sufficiently vindicated; therefore a Judgment need­eth for them, but not for the Angels, who were never as yet censured and tradu­ced in the world; and they in their whole nature and person enjoy most absolute felicity in Gods heavenly Sanctuary: No such great change will happen to them after the Judgment, as happeneth to the Saints when their whole persons are ta­ken into glory. 'Tis true, they have a Charge and Ministry about the Saints, Heb. 1.14. But of that Ministry and Charge they give an account daily in the sight of God, to whom they do approve themselves in it: So that there is no cause for further inquisition concerning that thing, there being no necessity of Judgment concerning them; I think they shall not be Judged.

[Page 153]2. For the evil Angels, the Scripture is express, 1 Cor. 6.3. Know ye not that we shall Judge Angels: That is, as evil Men, so evil Angels: So 2 Pet. 2.4. Go [...] spared not the Angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell, and delivered them into Chains of Darkness, to be reserved to the Judgment of the great Day. Though they are im­prisoned in the Pit of Hell, yet reserved for further Judgments. God's irresistible Power, and terrible Justice over-ruleth, tormenteth and restraineth them for the present: These are the Chains of Darkness; yet there is a more high measure of Wrath, that shall light upon them at the Day of Judgment. Where any Acces­sion, or considerable Increase shall be made, either to the Happiness or Punishment of any Creature, there that Creature shall be judged. Now, there is no such con­siderable Alteration, or increase of Happiness to good Angels, as to Men: And, on the other side, there is a considerable Alteration as to wicked Angels; Matth. 8.20. Art thou come to torment us before the time? They know there is a Time coming, when they shall be tormented more than they are yet: And besides, God's Justice was never publickly manifested, and by any solemn Act glorified, as to the Punish­ment of the evil Angels for their Rebellion against him; but was reserved for this Time. Besides, as God would now receive into Glory the Good and Holy among Men, and therefore would first begin with their Head, which is Christ, sending him in Power and great Glory; so on the other side, when God would punish the Dis­obedient, he would begin with condemning their Head, who is the Devil; and is first cast into Hell, as a Pledge of what should light upon all those that follow him, and are seduced by him. I could say more, but I forbear.

Thirdly, There remaineth one Circumstance in the Text; and that is, Christs Throne of Glory; which because it is wholly to come, and not elsewhere explained in Scripture, we must rest in the general Expression. The Cloud in which he com­eth, possibly shall be his Throne: Or, if you will have it further explained, you may take that of the Prophesie of Daniel, Chap. 7.9, 10. I beheld all the Thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Dayes did sit; whose Rayment was white as Snow, and the Hair of his Head like the pure Wooll: His Throne was like the fiery Flame, and his Wheels as burning Fire. A [...]iery Stream issued, and came forth from him: Thousands ministred unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: The Judgment was set, and the Books were opened. I cannot say, this Prophesie is intended of the Day of Judgment; but as they said of the Blind Man, Joh. 9.9. Either 'tis he, or it is very like him; so this is it, or very like it. And in the General you see, it describeth that which is very Glorious: Or you may conceive of it by the Description of So­lomon's Throne: 1 King. 10.18, 19, 20. Moreover, the King made a great Throne of Ivory, and over-laid it with the best Gold: The Throne had six Steps, and the Top of the Throne was round behind; and there were Stayes on either side of the Place of the Seat, and two Lyons stood behind the Sta [...]es: And twelve Lyons stood on the one side, and on the other, upon the six Steps: There was not the like made in any Kingdom. It was high and dreadful; but not worthy to be a Foot-stool to this Tribunal.

The VSE of all is Exhortation: To press you to propound this Truth,

  • 1. To your Faith,
  • 2. To your Fear and Caution,
  • 3. To your Love,
  • 4. To your Patience,
  • 5. To your Hope;

That all these Graces may be the more exercised upon this occasion, that you may believe it, and consider it.

(1.) Propound it to your Faith; be perswaded of it. We are so occupied in present things, that we forget, or do not mind the future: And Men that are in love with their Lusts and Errors, love to be ignorant of those Truths, the Know­ledge whereof might disquiet them in following those Lusts: 2 Pet. 3.5. This they are willingly Ignorant of. But we had need to call upon you again and again, to believe these things; that the Lord Jesus shall come in his Glory, with his Angels. They that are Slaves to their Lusts, strongly desire an Eternal Enjoyment of the pre­sent World, and labour to banish out of their Hearts the Thoughts of the Day of Judgment: The sound Belief of it is not so much encountred with Doubts of the [Page 154] Understanding, as the Lusts and Inclinations of their carnal and perverse Hearts. But Beloved, I hope it will not be tedious to you to tell you again and again of these things; and to press you to rest your Hearts upon them: To you that have set your Hearts to love Christ, and to wait for his Coming: To you that know there is no such powerful Help to the Mortification of your Lusts, as to consid [...] the Day of Judgment; no such special Encouragement in your Difficulties, as the Comfort, Glory and Sweetness of it. Oh therefore! press your Hearts with this Truth: Hath not the Month of Truth averred it? Would Jesus Christ assure us of that which shall never be? He that hath been so punctual on his Word in lesser Truths, would he deceive us in this main Article? Sure it should be no hard thing to perswade you that are assured of his Fidelity and Love, that what he hath spoken will come to pass. If it were not so, he would never have told you so. You will find no less than he hath promised. If we did deceive you with sugar'd and golden Words, it were another matter. Expect not that I should bring Arguments from Nature, to prove it to you: God's Word is sufficient. Faith is built upon God's Testimo­ny, and nothing else. Though other Arguments have their Use, and at other times I have produced them; now I shall forbear: Only, because there are Godless Mock­ers, who suspect all, and do not so much reason against this Article of our Christi­an Faith, as scoff at it, and you may meet with some of those; I think it not amiss to answer their Cavils. A Carnal and Devilish Wit will find out so many Reasons, plausible to themselves, and others like themselves; otherwise it were enough to re­ject them as Blasphemies, with detestation: But because they please themselves in their Atheistical Conceits, you shall see they make rather against them, that for them.

1. If they should urge that Reason in the Apostles Dayes, when Blasphemy was not grown so bold and witty; 2 Pet. 3.3, 4. All things continue as they were from the Beginning of the Creation; we might answer as the Apostle did, That 'tis fit that things should keep one constant Course, in the Day of the Lord's Patience and Mer­cy: But the Day of the Lord will come as a Thief. Shall there never be a Change, because the Preparations are not presently visible? This is a manifest Lie. Parti­cular Judgments on some wicked Men, do prove that there shall be a general Judg­ment on All; for seeing some are justly punished, and others deserving no less, are spared, he who is immutably Good, and impartially Just, must have a Day for pu­nishing these afterwards: And God hath Fire in store, as well as Water, to burn up, as well as to drown the Object of their Lusts and Pleasure.

2. Their great Argument is the blemish of Providence in their Eyes: The seeming Neglect of the Good, and Evil done amongst Men. I Answer, That will prove it, which they bring to disprove it: For the Apostle telleth us, This is a manifest To­ken of the Righteous Judgment of God, 2 Thess. 1.5. What? Even the Calamity of good Men. Solomon made another, the quite contrary Use of it; Eccles. 3.16, 17. Moreover, I saw the Place of Judgment, that Wickedness was there; and the Place of Righteousness, that Iniquity was there: I said in my Heart, God shall judge the Righ­teous, and the Wicked; for there is a Time for every Purpose, and for every Work. The Wicked prosper, and destroy the Just. You make it an Argument for your Infi­delity: But 'tis an Argument against it. Stay till the Assizes come. It followeth not there is no Government, because the Thief and Murtherer is not hanged as soon as he hath done the Fact. God's Day will come, and then they go to Prison. When you see Malefactors drinking, dancing, frollicking in Prison, will you say, I see there is no Government in this Kingdom?

3. Many think this is a State-Engine, to keep the World in better Order and Govern­ment. But I—

Answer, Needeth there a Lie to establish so great a Benefit to Mankind? It cannot be. Doth Interest or Virtue govern the World? If meer interest, what a Confu­sion would there be of all things? Then Men might commit all Villany, take away Mens Lives and Goods at pleasure, when 'tis their Interest, when they could do it safely and secretly: Then Servants might poyson their Masters, if they could do it without discovery: And we might prey one upon another, if it were in the pow­er of our Hands; and so live like wild and ravenous Beasts: And by this Rule, catch he that catch can here, would be the best, and Vice and Impiety would be the greatest Wisdom. But if Virtue govern the World, 'tis a clear case, Virtue cannot be supported without Thoughts of the World to come: And can we imagine, that [Page 155] God, would make a World that cannot be governed but by Falshood and Deceit, as you suppose the Opinion of Judgment of come is?

(2.) Propound it to your Fear and Caution. Great Ones, that are most power­ful and unruly▪ there is a Power above them: Jer. 5.5. I went to the great Ones, that had altogether broken the Yoke. They should tremble now at this Glorious Com­ing, to prevent trembling then, Psal. 2.10, 11, 12. 'Tis your Wisdom to observe the Son; not to oppress his Truth, Interest and People. Take heed of living in opposition to Christ: He will come in great Power and great Glory. If you neglect, if you stumble upon the Rock you should build upon, and reject your own Mercies, perish for want of a little Care; you shall see the Excellency of Christ, but have no Benefit by it: See the Happiness of the Saints with your Eyes, but shall not taste thereof, 2 King. 7.19. As Haman was forced to be Mordecai's Lacquy, and cry before him, Thus shall it be done to the Man whom the King will honour.

(3.) Propound it to your Love; that you may long for it. The Saints are de­scribed to be those that love his Appearing, 2 Tim. 4.8. And the Apostle biddeth them hasten to the Coming of the Day of the Lord, 2 Pet. 3.12. These will be Dayes of refreshing to the Saints: Send forth your Wishes after it. The Spirit in the Bride saith, Come, Revel. 22.17. Nature saith not, Come, but, Tarry still. If it might go by Voices, whether Christ should come, yea or no, would carnal Men give their Voice this way? No: The Voice of corrupt Nature is, Depart, Job 22.14. They are of the Devils Mind; cannot endure to hear of it, Matth. 8.24. If Malefactors were to chuse whether there should be Assizes, yea or no; there would never be none. But you, my Beloved, should desire to see Him whom you have heard so much of. When Christ took his Leave of us, his Heart was upon Meeting and Fellowship again, Joh. 14.2. So should we be affected towards his Appearing.

(4.) Propound it to your Patience, Fortitude and Self-denyal. Have no cause to think shame of Christ's Service, though you suffer Disgrace for it; he will appear worthy of all the Respect you shew to his Person and Wayes. He is disgraced in­deed, that is refused by Christ when he cometh in great Glory. The Judgment of the blind World is not to be regarded: The Lord will shew who are his Condemned in the World, on purpose to try you: Though now you are accounted the Scurff and Off-scouring of all things. I know 'tis a great Temptation to Persons of Honour and Quality; but Christ suffered greater Indignities: Therefore, let us resolve to be more vile for the Lord. Chiefly, consider the Glory reserved for us in the Life to come, 1 Joh. 3.2. Then is the Day of the Manifestation of the Sons of God. Christ is contented for a while to lie hid, and will not shew himself in his full Glory, till the End of the World. In the Dayes of his Flesh his Person was trampled upon by wicked Men; and now he is in Heaven he is despised in his Cause, and Servants: His Person is above Abuse and Contempt, but not his Members. Christ came in disguise to try the World. Sathan would not have had the boldness to encounter him, the Jews to reject him, carnal Christians to neglect him, nor the Faith of the Elect found to such Praise and Honour, if all were honourable, glorious, and safe here in the World. But the Day of Manifestation is hereafter: Let us be patient there­fore, and bear all the harsh Usage we meet with. There will be Honour: When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, we shall meet with him in Glory.

(5.) Propound it to your Hope, and stand ready to meet with him, and wait for him; and comfort your selves with the hopeful Expectation this will be when all things are ready: And you should look every Day, and long every Day for his Ap­pearing. I have a Saviour in Heaven, that will come again, with all his Saints with him: Even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

SERMON XX.

MATTH. XXV. v. 32, 33.

And before him shall be gathered all Nations; and he shall se­parate them one from another, as a Shepherd divideth his Sheep from the Goats.

And he shall set the Sheep on his Right Hand, but the Goats on the Left.

WE now come to the second General, the presenting the parties to be Judged; and there we have,

  • 1. The Congregation, And all Nations shall be gathered before him.
  • 2. A Segregation:
    • (1.) As to Company; He shall seperate them one from another, as a Shepherd divideth his Sheep from the Goats.
    • (2.) As to place and posture; And he shall set the Sheep on the right hand, and the Goats on the left.

First, The Congregation: All the Dead shall rise, and being risen, shall be ga­thered together into one place, or great rendezvous. According to the Analogy of Faith, we may gather this point:

Doctrine, That in the general Iudgment, all that have lived from the beginning of the world, unto that day, shall without exception from the least to the great­est, appear before the Tribunal of Christ.

This Point will be best Illustrated and set forth to you, by considering the se­veral distinctions of Mankind.

(1.) The most obvious distinction of Mankind, is of grown Persons and Infants: And if all these are presented to the Judgment, it will go far in the decision of the point that we have in hand; grown Persons are those whose Life is continu­ed to that Age wherein they come to the full use of reason; Infants are those that die before they are in an ordinary way capable of the Doctrine of Life: Now for grown Persons, the Scripture is written purposely for them; and shew­eth that they shall be Judged according to the dispensation they are under: as to Infants or lesser Children, the Case is more difficult and obscure. 'Tis likely that all shall rise in the Stature and Condition of grown persons, that is to say, in such a State of Body and Mind, as they may see, and hear, and understand the Judge: When they were born, they were born with a rational Soul, which though according to ordinary course lyeth Idle for a while, and doth not discover its self in any humane and rational actions, 'till the Organs be fitted and matured; yet that it should be still buryed in the Body, and perpetually sleep, as being hindred by its Organs, or Instruments of operation, Reason will not permit us to conceive; because, 'tis contrary to its natural aptness and disposition, as also the end of its Creation. We cannot conceive that God should form the Spirit in Man which is Immortal, in a Body, in vain, and to no purpose; therefore Children shall rise [Page 157] again: we know God hath made a difference between Infants: The Scripture seem­eth to extend the merit of Christs death to his Church, Eph. 5.26, 27. And that Infants of Believers, are born Members of the Church, is out of question: To be sure, the Covenant taketh in our Children together with us. Gen. 22.7. I am thy God, and the God of thy seed. And those that never lived to disinherit themselves of that blessing, we have no Reason to trouble our selves about them: God is their God, and knoweth how to instate them in the Priviledges of the Covenant. Look, as we judge of the Slip, according to the Stock upon which it groweth, till it live to bring forth Fruit of its own; so we judge of Children, according to the Pa­rents Covenant, till they come to Years of Discretion to chuse their own way, and declare what have been God's Counsels concerning them. The Parents sprinkling the Blood on the Door-posts, saved the whole Family. 'Tis very reasonable therefore to think, that Infants, born in the Church, dying Infants, obtain Remission of ori­ginal Sin by Christ, what-ever become of others: For what Reason have we to judge them that are without? 1 Cor. 5.12. And if God vouchsafe some the Remis­sion of that Sin which they have, out of his Mercy and Grace in Christ, they must in the Resurrection be in that State, that they may enjoy Eternal Felicity. The Sum of the whole Matter is, That in this great Congregation Children shall appear as well as Parents: But Children, dying Children, are reckoned to their Parents as a Part of them, or as an Appendage and Accession to them, whose Condition is likely to be the same with theirs, as to Glorification, and Acceptance to Life: And with the Condition of others we meddle not, but leave them to God. The Scripture is spa­ring of speaking of them, to whom it speaketh not. God speaketh more fully to grown Persons, as those with whom he dealeth and treateth in the Gospel: He is not bound to give us an Account, how he will proceed with others; yet for God­ly Parents Comfort, he hath more fully revealed his Mind concerning their Chil­dren, than the Children of Infidels, or wicked and open Enemies to his Truth. What he may do to them as to their Original Sin, we cannot easily pronounce as to ther Condemnation or Absolution. Many alledge indeed, that they have an evil Heart, and a Nature that they would despise the Gospel, if they had lived to re­ceive the Offer of it. I Answer, 'Tis true, they are by Nature Children of Wrath, as all are, Ephes. 2.3. and the Gospel telleth us, who are the Serpentine Brood of a transgressing Stock; but how far God may shew Grace to them, we know not: But for what they would do afterwards, that can make no Argument in this Case. For God being a most just, and most equal Judge, doth not judge his Creature for what is possible, and future; but only for things that are past, and actually committed. He punisheth nothing but Sins; but things that are not, cannot be Sins. We crush Serpents for their venomous Nature, before they have actually done us any Harm: So may God destroy Children; but that he doth not alwayes do it, plain Experience manifesteth.

(2.) The next Distinction is of those, whom Christ shall find dead or alive at his Coming. Those that are dead, shall be raised out of their Graves, and have the Spi­rit of Life restored to them, that they may come to Judgment: Those that are alive, shall undergo a Change like Death: 1 Cor. 15.51. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. These Bodies, as thus qualified, cannot brook the State of the other World. Now, there will be found both Good and Bad alive, at Christ's Coming: If all the Faithful were dead before, there would be some Time when God would have no Church upon Earth. Now, 'tis foretold in the Scriptures, that the Kingdom of Christ, which consists in the Church, shall endure for ever; and that of his Go­vernment there shall be no end: As no Intermission, so no Interruption. That therefore it may not be interrupted, some Believers there must be, even in the very last Times, by whom the Kingdom of Christ may be continued in this World; and come to joyn with the other Part of Christ's Kingdom, that is in the other World. Therefore, the Apostle telleth us, Thess. 4.16, 17. The Dead in Christ shall rise first, and then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the Clouds, and meet the Lord in the Air; and so for ever be with the Lord. On the other side, all the Wicked shall not die; for the Man of Sin is to be consumed with the Brightness of his Coming: Now, how shall the Brightness of his Coming comsume him, if he were already abolished, with all his Adherents and Fol­lowers?

[Page 158](3.) The third Distinction is of Good and Bad: Both sorts shall come to receive their Sentence; onely the one come to the judgement of Condemnation, the other to the judgement of Absolution. Joh. 5.28, 29. They which are in the Grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the Resurrection of Life, and they that have done evil to the Resurrection of Condemnation. The Word is clear in this Point, That both the Godly and Wicked shall live again, that they may re­ceive a full Recompense according to their wayes. None of the Godly will be lost, but shall all meet in that general Assembly; nor shall any of the Wicked shift or shun this day of appearance, but both shall at the Call of Christ be brought before his Judgment Seat: The godly rejoycing to meet their Redeemer, and the wicked forced into the presence of their Judge! who could otherwise wish, that Hills and Mountains might cover them. So Acts 24.15. I believe the Resurrection of the just and unjust; not aequabiliter boni: For Matth. 5.45. For he maketh his Sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain upon the just and unjust. Let us answer some places for the good. Joh. 3.18. He that believeth in him, [...] —is not judged: That is, with the Judgment of Condemnation, so we render it; and [...]. Joh. 5.24. He that believeth on him shall not come into condemnation: Yet for Absolu­tion they come. On the other side, some of the Ancients denyed the wicked's en­tering into Judgement, Psal. 1.5. The ungodly shall not stand in judgement, (the latter clause expounds it) nor Sinners in the Congregation of the righteous. This is the great Birdle upon the wicked, when they are serious: They fear more the Resur­rection from the Dead, than Death it self.

(4.) The next Distinction of men whom Christ shall judge, are Believers and Vn­believers. To Believers we reckon all those that lived not only in the clear Sun­shine of the Gospel, but those also to whom the Object of Faith was but more ob­scurely propounded: To those that lived before the Flood and after the Flood, as well as those that lived in Christs time, and after the pouring out of the Spirit. Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, are mentioned in the Chronicle and History of Faith, Heb. 11. as well as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Believers of a latter Stamp and Edition. And among Unbelievers are reckoned, all those that through their own obstinate In­credulity rejected the divine Revelation made to them; as well those that neglected the great Salvation spoken by the Lord himself, as the World of Vngodly in Noah's time. 1 Pet. 3.20. who were disobedient when Noah preached Righteousness to them, or laid open the way of Life and Salvation to them. Indeed it concerneth most those that have the Gospel clearly preached to them, but others are not excused. In short, this Distinction will bring in several ranks of men.

1. Some that have heard of Christ, and of the Grace of God dispensed by him: These shall be judged by the Gospel tenour and Dispensation, which clearly sets forth all men to be Sinners, and therefore to have deserved Eternal death; and that there is no Name under Heaven whereby men can be saved, but by the Name of Jesus, Acts 4.12. And the great Question propounded to them, is, Whether they have believ­ed in Christ, yea or no: Mark 16.16. They that believe not, shall be damned. They are condemned upon a double account; partly by the Law, and partly by the Gospel. Partly by the Law, because they being under the Wrath and Curse of God, would not embrace the Remedy: Besides, the Sentence of the Law standeth in full force against a man, if he cometh not to Christ to get it repealed. Joh. 3.18. He that believeth not, is condemned already; and the Sentence is ratified in the Gospel: Joh. 3.36. He that believeth not the Son, shall not see Life, but the Wrath of God abideth on him. To their other Sins they added Unbelief, which is an hainous Crime; yea, the great damning Sin, 1 Joh. 5.10. Those that say they Believe, are to prove the truth of their Faith, by the Power it hath upon their Hearts and Practice: Jam. 2.6, 7, 8. Rev. 20.21. If that hath drawn off their Hearts from worldly Vanities, and fleshly Lusts, and en­gaged them to live unto God, in the new and heavenly Life.

2. All that have heard of Christ, have not the Gospel alike clearly made known unto them: To some he is preached clearly, and purely, and without any mixture of Er­rors, that have any considerable Influence upon the main of Religion: Others are in that Communion in which those Doctrines are as yet taught, that are indeed ne­cessary to Salvation; but many things are added, which are indeed pernicious and dangerous in their own nature: So that if a Man should possibly be saved in that Profession, he is saved as by Fire, 1 Cor. 3.13. And 'tis a strange escape; as if one had Poyson mingled among his Meat, the goodness of his Digestion, and strength [Page 159] of Nature might work it out, but the Man runneth a great hazard. As the Papists acknowledge Christ for the Redeemer, and Mediatour between God and Men: They own his two Natures and Satisfaction; though they mingle Doctrines, that strange­ly weaken these Foundations. The Turks deny not Christ to be a great Prophet; but they deny him to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the World, and the Redeemer of Mankind; and wickedly prefer their false Prophet before him. The Jews confess there was a I [...]sus, the Son of Mary; that gave out himself in their Coun­try of Judea, to be the Messiah, and gathered Disciples; who from him, are cal­led Christians: But they call him an Impostor, question all the Miracles done by him, as done by the Power of the Devil. Now, all these shall be judged by the Gos­pel, which is so proudly and obstinately rejected by them. The Spirit shall convince the World of Sin, because they believe not in me, Joh. 16.9. he hath so proved himself to be the Christ, the Son of God, the great Prophet, and true Messiah; that their rejecting, and not believing in him, and his Testimony, will be found to be a great and damning Sin, both in its self, and as it bindeth their other Sins upon them; however their Judgment shall be lighter or heavier, according to the diversity of their Offence, and the invincible Prejudices they lie under. The Corrupters of the Chri­stian Religion, because they have perverted the Truth of the Gospel to serve their Interests, (Ambition, Avarice, or any Humane Passion) their Doom will be exceed­ing great. 2 Thess. 2.10, 11, 12. And with all Deceivableness of Vnrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the Love of the Truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong Delusions, that they should believe a Lie: That thy all might be damned, who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in Vnrighteousness. To poyson Fountains was the highest way of Murther, to royle the Waters of the Sanctuary, to mangle Christ's Ordinances, is a Crime of a high Na­ture. The Jews that rejected Christ in so clear Light of Miracles, Joh. 8.24. Christ saith, If you believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your Sins; it maketh the Judg­ment the more heavy upon them. Others to whom Christ is less perspicuously re­vealed, shall have a more tolerable Judgment: For the clearer the Revelation of the Truth is, the more culpable is the Rejection or Contempt of it. For there is no Man that heareth of Christ's Coming into the World, suffering for Sinners, and Ri­sing again from the Dead, and Ascending into Heaven; but is bound more diligent­ly to enquire into it, and to receive and embrace this Truth. Carnal Christians, their Profession condemneth them: They are inexcusable; they deny in Works, what in Word they seem to acknowledge.

3. Some lived under the Legal Administration of the Covenant of Grace: To whom two things are propounded;

  • 1. The Duty of the Law.
  • 2. Some Scriptures and obscure Beginnings of the Gospel.

They shall be judged according to that Administration they are under; either for vio­lating the Law, or neglecting the Gospel, or those first Dawnings of Grace which God offered to their View and Study. Indeed the Law was more manifest; but the Gospel was not so obscure, but they might have understood it. Therefore, God will call them to an Account about keeping his Law; by which who can be Justi­fied? Or whether by true Repentance they have fled to the Mercy of God, which by divers wayes was then revealed to them; and have owned the Messiah in his Types? Psal. 145.2. Enter not into Judgment with thy Servant; for in thy Sight shall no Man living be Justified. Psal. 130.3, 4. If thou shouldst mark Iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is Forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Which if not clear; they shall be condemned not only for not keeping the Law, but also for neglect of Grace. Though their Unbelief and Impenitency be not so odious as theirs is that lived under a clearer Revelation; yet a grievous Sin it was, which will bring Judgment upon them.

4. There are some that have no other Discovery of God, but what they could make from the Courses of Nature, and some Instincts of Conscience; as meer Pagans. The Apostle having told us of the Righteous Judgment of God, Rom. 2.5. and how managed, Vers. 6, 7, 8. and how aggravated, the Jew first, and then the Gentile; he then concludeth, Vers. 12. For as many as have sinned without the Law, shall perish without the Law; but as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law: That is, the Jews; as the other is to be understood of the Gentiles: To whose no­tice no Fame of Christ, or the Law of Moses could possibly come. To perish with­out [Page 160] the Law, is to be punished; and Punishment followeth upon Condemnation, and Condemnation is in this Judgment. Therefore, Pagans and Heathens, that li­ved most remote from the Tydings of the Gospel, and Divine Revelation, must ap­pear before Christ's Tribunal, to be judged. But by what Rule? He telleth us, Vers. 14, 15. For wh [...]n the Gentiles, which have not the Law, do by Nature the things contain­ed in the Law; these having not a Law, are a Law to themselves: Which shew the Work of the Law written upon their Hearts; their Conscience also bearing Witness, and their Thoughts th [...]m an while accusing or excusing one another. They knew themselves to have sinned by that Rule; by the natural Knowledge of God, and some sense of their Duty impressed upon their Hearts: Nature it self told them what was well or ill done. The Law of Nature taught them their Duty, and had some Affinity with the Law of M [...]ses: And the Course of God's Providence taught, that God was placable; which hath some Affinity with these Gospel Rudiments, and first Stri­ctures. Therefore, the Goodness and Long-suffering of God should lead them to Repentance, Rom. 2.4. Surely then, the Impenitency of the Jews will meet with an heavy Condemnation, according to the Proportion of Clearness in their Revela­tion.

5. Men of all Conditions; high and low, rich and poor, mighty and powerful, or weak and oppressed, Kings, Subjects; Revel. 20.12. I saw the Dead, both small and great, stand before God. No Rank or Degree in the World, can exempt us. These Distinctions do not ou [...]-live Time; they cease at the Graves Mouth: there all stand upon the same Level, and are of the same Mould. To bridle the Excesses of Power, the Scripture often telleth us of the Day of Judgment; how the great Men of the Earth shall tremble, and the Hearts of the Powerful then be appalled! Revel. 6.15, 16, 17. They shall then understand the distance between God, and the Crea­ture, when his Wrath and Terrour is in its Perfection: Who can stand, when he is angry? Psal. 76.7. 'Tis a wonder, Men will live in a way Controversie with him, and are so little moved at it! No Wrath so considerable, as the Wrath of the Lamb! When their Mediator is their Enemy, none in Heaven or Earth can be­friend them: Those that, in the Thoughts of Men, are most secure, Ring-leaders to others in Sin, that swear and swagger, and bear down all before them, and persist in their Opposition to Christ with the greatest Confidence; will be found the grea­test and most desperate Cowards then! Now these Gallants ruffle it, as if they would bid defiance to Christ, and his Wayes: Oh! how pusillanimous and fear­ful then? Appear they must, though they cannot abide it: What Torture do they endure between these two, The necessity of Appearing, and The impossibility of Endu­ring! Oh! the Great Ones then would gladly change Power with the meanest Saint. Then they know what an excellent thing it is to have the Favour of God, and of what worth and value Godliness is; and how much a good Conscience exceedeth all the Glory of the World; and what an Advantage it is to have Peace made with God.

6. Not only some of all sorts, or of all Nations, but every individual Person. In one Place the Apostle saith, All of us, collectivè, 2 Cor. 5.10. in another Place, di­stributivè, Every one of us, Rom. 14.12. Not only all, but every one: Not all, shuffled together in gross; but every one, severally and apart, is to give an Account of his Wayes and Actions to God.

VSE. If these things be so, That all Places shall give up their Dead, and all those Nations that differ so much one from another in Tongues, Rights, and Customs of Living, and distance of Habitation, shall be gathered together into one Place, and not left scattered up and down the World; there are many wayes to shift Mens Courts and Tribunals, (they may fly the Country, or bribe the Judge) but there is no shunning the Bar of Christ: Oh then! let the Thought of this make us more watchful and serious!

  • 1. In this Judgment there is no Exemption: For all summoned, small and great; and whether they will or no, they shall be gathered together: The Faithful shall willingly come, as to Absolution; the Wicked shall be violently halled, as to Con­demnation.
  • 2. There is no Appearing by a Proctor, or Attorney; but every one, in his own Person, must give an account of himself to God.
  • 3. No Denying: For the Books shall be opened, Revel. 20.12.
  • [Page 161]4. No excusing or extenuating: For Christ will judge the World in Righteousness, Act. 17.31. according to terms of strict Justice.
  • 5. No Appealing: For this is the last Judgment. No suing out of Pardon, or no Time of shewing Favour: For this is too late; the Day of Grace is past; Sinners are in termino: Their Work is over, and now come to receive their Wages. Oh then! Now let us take care, that this day may be comfortable to us: God's Children have more cause to look, and long for it, than to dread it.

Secondly, We now come to the Segregation; and there, First, As to Company: He shall separate them one from another, as the Shepherd divideth between the Sheep and the Goats. In these Words there is,

  • (1.) A Point intimated and implyed: That Christ is represented as a Shepherd, and the Godly as Sheep; but the Wicked as Goats.
  • (2.) There is a second Point expressed: That though there be a Confusion of the Godly and Wicked now; yet at the Day of Judg­ment, there will be a perfect Separation.

For the First of these: That Christ is represented to us under the Notion of a Shepherd.

So he is called, Zech. 13.7. Awake, O Sword, against my Shepherd: I will smite the Shepherd, and the Sheep shall be scattered. And 1 Pet. 2.25. But are now returned to the Shepherd, and Bishop of your Souls.

First, A Shepherd among Men is one that is not Lord of the Flock, but a Servant to take care of them, and charge of them. This holdeth good of Christ, as Mediator; for he is God's Elect Servant, the Servant of his Decrees: The Flock are his, not in point of Dominion, Right, and original Interest; but in point of Trust and Charge: So Christ is Lord of the Faithful as God; but as Mediator he hath an Office and Service about them, and is to give an Account of them to God, when he bringeth them home, and leadeth them into their Everlasting Fold. Joh. 6.37. to 40. with 1 Cor. 15.24, 25. Heb. 2.13. Behold I, and the Children, which God hath given me. Jude 24. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the Presence of his Glory. And Col. 1.22. To present you holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight.

Secondly, The Work of the Shepherd is to keep the Flock from straying, to choose fit Pasture, and good Laire for them; yea, not only to fodder the Sheep, but to drive away the Wolf. To defend the Flock, is a part of his Office; as David fought with the Lyon, and the Bear, and slew them for the Flock's sake. All these concur in Christ, as you may see, Psal. 23.1, 2, 3, 4. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green Pastures; He leadeth me besides the still Waters. Thy Rod and thy Staff they comfort me. There is guarding, and feeding, and defending: So Joh. 10. there is Leading, Vers. 3, 4. then there is Feeding them, Vers. 9. and De­fending them, Vers. 12, 27, 28, 29.

Thirdly, Christ is not an ordinary Shepherd: He is, [...], The good Shepherd, Joh. 10.11. And, Heb. 13.20. [...], The great Shepherd of the Sheep. And, 1 Pet. 5.4. [...], The chief Shepherd: When the chief Shepherd shall appear, &c.

(1.) He is the good Shepherd: Other Shepherds are said to be good, when they perform their Office well, or quit themselves faithfully in the discharge of their Trust. But besides the resemblance in these Qualities, there are certain Singularities in Christ's Office, that denominate him the good Shepherd.

1. A good Shepherd is known by his Care and Vigilancy: If he know the State of his Flock, Prov. 27.23. This Resemblance holdeth good in Christ: He hath a particular Care and Inspection of every Soul that belongeth to his Flock; Calleth his Sheep by Name, Joh. 10.3. He hath a particular exact Knowledge of every one of [Page 162] them, their Persons, their State, their Condition, their Place, their Countrey, their Conflicts, Temptations and Diseases: 2 Tim. 2.19. The Lord knoweth who are his. Joh. 13.18. I know whom I have chosen. Though there be so many thousands of them scattered up and down in the World; yet he is acquainted with every indi­vidual Person, every single Believer, and all their Necessities; John, James, Thomas. As the High-Priest carried the Name of the Tribes upon his Bosom; so hath Christ the Names of every one that belongeth to God's Flock, engraven upon his Heart; though they may be despicable in the World, mean Servants, employed in the lower Offices of the Family: Psal. 34.6. This poor Man cryed unto the Lord. Poor Soul! he lieth under such Temptations, encumbred with such Troubles, employed in such an hard Task and Service; my Father gave me a charge of him; I must look to him. Luk. 15. we read, that when one was missing, he left all to look after the stray Lamb. His Knowledge is Infinite.

2. The goodness of a Shepherd lieth in his Pity and Wisdom, to deal tenderly with the Flock, as their State doth require: so is Christ a good Shepherd by reason of his tender respect, and gentle Conduct. Isa. 40.11. He shall feed his Flock like a Shep­herd; he shall gather the Lambs with his Arm, and carry them in his Bosom; and shall gently lead those that are with young. He guideth his People with Dispensations suit­able to them: In his Life-time he taught them, [...], He spake the Word unto them, as they were able to hear it, Mark 4.33. As Jacob drove as the little ones and Cattel were able to bear, Gen. 33.14. He calleth to work and suffering, accord­ing as he giveth Grace and Strength, 1 Cor. 10.13. Proportioneth their Temptati­ons according to their Growth and Experience. He sendeth great Tryals after large Assurances, Heb. 10.32. As Castles are victualled before they are suffered to be Be­sieged: There is a sweet Condescention in all his Dispensations, to every ones State and Condition.

3. The goodness of a Shepherd lieth in a constant performing all Parts of a Shep­herd to them: Ezek. 34, 15, 16. I will seek that which was lost, bring back that which was driven away, bind up that which was broken, strengthen that which was sick: But I will destroy the Fat, and the Strong, and feed them with Judgment. There is all necessary Attendance and Accommadation conducing to the Safety and Welfare of the Flock; to protect them from Violence from without, to prevent Diseases within, to keep them from straying by the Inspirations of his Spirit, and the Fence of his Providence; (Blessed be God, that sent thee to meet me this Day, saith holy David,) and to reclaim and reduce them when strayed. It were endless to instance in all.

4. There is this Particularity in this good Shepherd, of which there is no resemblance found in others: Joh. 10.11. I am the good Shepherd, that giveth my Life for the Sheep. He doth not only give Life to them, but his own Life for them, by way of Ransom. This is a Flock purchased by the Blood of God, Act. 20 28. He came from Heaven to find out lost Sheep; left a Palace for the Wilderness, and the Throne for the Fold. Da­vid was called from the Sheep-hook to the Scepter; but Christ from the Scepter to the Sheep-hook! Lost Man had never been found, if Christ had not come from Hea­ven to seek him: We were forfeited, and therefore to be ransomed; and no Price would serve, but Christ's own Blood.

5. There is this peculiar in this good Shepherd, that he maketh us become the Flock of his Pasture, and Sheep of his Fold, Psal. 100.3. When other Shepherds have the Sheep delivered into their Hands, he searcheth up and down for them in the Woods and Desarts: Where-ever they are scatterd abroad, a Lamb here, and a Lamb there; Free Grace findeth them out. Ezek. 34.4. I will search out my Sheep, and seek them out. Z [...]ph. 3.10. I will look after my Dispersed from beyond the River of Aethiopia. In the farthermost and unknown Countries in every Land, Christ knoweth where his Work lieth, though it may be but One in a Village, in the midst of Wolves and Swine. He maketh them to be what they are not by Nature; turneth and chang­eth Swine into Sheep, and Wolves into Lambs.

(2.) He is the Great Shepherd. 1. Great in his Person, the Son of God; Domi­nu [...] exercitum, fit Pastor Ovium, saith Bernard; The Lord of Hosts is become the Shepherd of the Flock: He needed us not, if he had delighted in multitudes of Flocks and Heards, there are ten thousand times ten thousand Angels that stand about the Throne; He needed not leave his Throne and die for Angels, as for us: And, 2. He is Great in regard of the excellency of his Gifts and Qualifications: He is King, Priest and Prophet; in the Pastoral relation he manifesteth all his [Page 163] Offices; he feedeth them as a Prophet, dyeth for them as a Priest, defendeth them as a King; never Sheep had better Shepherd; Redimet preciosè, Pascit cau­tè, Ducit solicitè, Collegat securè: Jacob was very careful, yet some of his Flock were lost, or torn, or stollen, or driven away; but it cannot be so with Christs Flock, we are safe as long as he is upon the Throne. 3. Great, in regard of his Flock; He is the Shepherd of Souls, millions of them are committed to his charge, and one Soul is more worth than all the world.

(3.) He is the Chief Shepherd: Though he doth imploy the Ministry of men to feed his Flock under him, yet doth he keep the place and state of Arch-shepherd, and Prince of Pastours, as the chief Ruler and feeder of his Flock, from whom all the under Shepherds have their Charge and Commission, Math. 28.19, 20. their Furniture and Gifts, Eph. 4.8, 11. Upon whose concurrence dependeth the Efficacy and Blessing of the Ordinances dispensed by them, 1 Cor. 3.6, 7. And to Him they give an Account, Heb. 13.17. as he doth to God. Now, this is a great Comfort, that Christ taketh the prime Charge of the Flock. Some thrust in them­selves, but he will require his Flock at their Hands.

VSE. Let all this encourage you, to look for your Supplies by Christ: He pro­fesseth, by special Office, to take charge of you; and you may be confident of his Care and Fidelity. Besides his Love to the Flock, he is bound as God's Shepherd: B [...] Distrust you carry it so, as if Christ were unfaithful in his Charge and Office. When you come to the Ordinances, you do directly cast your selves upon Christ's Pa­storal Care, to feed you to Everlasting Life; and he will give you Strength and Refreshing: Only be not lean in Christ's Pasture; nor faint, as Hagar near a Foun­tain.

Secondly, The Godly are as Sheep.

(1.) Sheep are Animalia gregalia; such kind of Creatures, as naturally gather them­selves together, and unite themselves in a Flock. Other Creatures we know, especi­ally Beasts of Prey, lively singly and apart; but Sheep are never well, but when they come together, and live in a Flock. Such are Christians, and such as are Partakers of an Heavenly Calling. 'Tis unnatural for them to live alone: They feed in Flocks, Heb. 10.25. Man by Nature is [...]; he hath a Nature, that is apt to make him gather into a Community and Society. We are social, not only upon Interest, as weak without others; but upon natural Inclination: We have a desire to dwell and live together, Eccles. 4.10. The Voice of Nature saith, 'Tis not good to be alone: So 'tis true of the new Nature; there is a Spirit of Communion, that incli­neth them to some other, and to joyn with them.

(2.) Sheep, they are innocent and harmless Creatures: They that belong to Christ, are not Bears, and Tygers, and Wolves, but Sheep; that often receive Harm, but do none. Christ was holy and harmless, Phil. 2.9. and so are they.

(3.) Sheep and obedient to the Shepherd: The meek and obedient Followers of Christ, are like Sheep in this, who are docile and sequacious. Joh. 10.4. He goeth before them, and they know his Voice. And, Vers. 16. Other Sheep must I bring in also; and they shall hear my Voice. And, Vers. 27. My Sheep hear my Voice; I know them, and they follow me. All Christ's Comforts, in all Places, and all Ages, have the same Pro­perties, and the same Impression.

(4.) They are poor dependant Creatures: They are ever attendant on the Shepherd, or the Shepherd on them.

1. Because of their erring Property. They are Creatures plient to stray; but be­ing straved, do not easily return. Swine will run about all Day, and find their way home at Night. Domine, errare per me potui, redire non potuissem, saith Austin. Christ bringeth home the stray Lamb upon his own Shoulders, Luk. 15. And Psal. 119.176. All we, like Sheep, have gone astray. If God leave us to our selves, we still shall do so.

2. Because of their Weakness: They are weak, and shiftless Creatures; unable to make Resistance. Other Creatures are armed with Policy, Skill, or Courage, to safeguard themselves; but Sheep are able to do little for themselves: They are wholly kept in dependance upon their Shepherd, for Protection and Provision. All their Happiness lieth in the good Wisdom, Care and Power of the Shepherd. [Page 164] Wolves, Lyons and Leopards need none to watch over them. Briars and Thorns grow alone: But the noble Vine is a tender thing, and must be supported, pruned and dressed. The higher the Being, the more necessitous, and the more kept in dependance. There needs more care to preserve a Plant, than a Stone; a Stone can easily aggregate, and gather Moss to its self. There needeth more Supplies for a Beast, than a Plant; and more Supplies to a Man, than to a Beast.

Thirdly, The Wicked are as Goats.

They are as Goats both for their Vnruliness and Vncleanness: Unruliness; th [...] have not the Meekness of Sheep, are ready to break through all Fence and [...] So a wicked Man is yokeless. They are also wanton and loathsom; 'tis a [...] sort of Animal, than the Sheep: Therefore chosen to set forth a wicked and ung [...] ­ly Man.

The Second Point expressed, is this: That though now there is a Confusion of Godly, and Wicked, as of Goats and [...] in the same Field; yet then there shall be a perfect Separation.

There will not then be one of one sort, in company with the other: Psal. 50 5. He will gather his Saints together. And Ezek. 34.17. I will judge between [...] and Cattel, the Sheep, and the Goats. Psal. 1.5. The Vngodly shall not stand in the Judg­ment, nor Sinners in the Congregation of the Righteous. When the Saints meet in a general Assembly, not one bad shall be found among them. [...] together in the same Kingdom, in the same Village, in the same visible Church, in [...] same Family; yet then a perfect Separation.

The Reasons are briefly these two:

  • (1.) The Judges Wisdom and Perspecuity.
  • (2.) His Justice.

They that will not endure them now, shall not then abide with them in the same Fellowship.

1. VSE. Here is Comfort to them that mourn under the degenerate and corrupted State of Christianity. The Good and the Bad are mixed together; many times they live in the same Herd and Flock: 'Tis a trouble to the Godly, that all are not as they are: And we feel the Inconveniency; for the Carnal Seed will malign the Spiritu­al, Gal. 4.29. But God will distinguish between Cattel and Cattel. Discipline in­deed is required in the Church, to keep the Sound from being infected; and the Neglect of it, is matter of Grief. But the Work is never perfectly done, till then: Then there is a perfect Separation, and a perpetual Separation, never to mix more.

2. VSE. This may serve to alarum Hypocrites. Many hide the Matter from the World, and themselves; but Christ shall perfectly discover them, and bring them to Light, and shew themselves to themselves, and all the World. All their shifts will not serve the turn. Here are mixed together the Sheep and the Goats, the Chaff and the solid Grain, Tares and Wheat, Thorns and Roses, Vessels of Ho­nour and Dishonour. Many do halt between God and Baal. A Man cannot say, They are Sheep or Goats; neither do they themselves know it. Therefore, it calleth up­on us to make our Estate more explicite: Yea, many that seemed Sheep, shall be found Goats. Then 'twill appear, whether they are Regenerated to the Image of Christ, or destitute of the Spirit of Sanctification, yea or no: Whether they loved God above all, or continued serving the Flesh, making it their End and Scope.

3. VSE. Are we Sheep or Goats? There is no neutral or middle Estate. Is there a sensible Distinction between us, and others? then we shall have the Fruit and Comfort of it at that Day. 1 Pet. 2.25. Ye were as Sheep going astray; but now are returned to the Bishop and Shepherd of your Souls. We all should look back upon our former Courses, betaking our selves to Jesus Christ, seeking to enjoy his Favour and [Page 165] Fellowship; submitting to him as our Ruler and Guide; resigning up ourselves to be at his Disposal, both for condition of Life, and choice of Way and Course. I say, when by his powerful Grace we are thus brought back from our sinful Way and Course, and made to follow him as our Lord, we are his Flock, and he will mind us. Time was, when you did run wild, according to your former Fancies, and the bent of your unruly Hearts; and were wholly Strangers to God; and could spend Dayes, Nights, and Weeks, and Months, and yet never mind Communion with him: But now the Business of your Souls, is to give up your selves to him, to take the Way which he hath prescribed to Everlasting Glory. Resolve no longer to live to your selves, but to be under his Discipline.

Secondly, As to Place: He shall set the Sheep upon the Right Hand, and the Goats up­on the Left.

In the Right Hand there is greater Strength, and Ability, and fitness for all kind of Operations; therefore that Place is counted more honourable. So Christ himself is said to sit down at the Right Hand of God the Father: That is to say, hath obtain­ed the highest Place of Dignity and Power, above all Angels and Men, in Bliss, Ho­nour and Dominion.

Doctrine, The Godly shall be placed honourably at the Day of Iudgment, when the Wicked shall have the Place of least respect.

A Type and Figure of this we have in Moses his Division of the Tribes; some were to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the People, some on Mount Ebal to curse: Those born of Jacob's Wives put upon Mount Gerizim, those of his Servants on Mount Ebal; Reuben excepted, who went into his Father's Bed. The Saints, in their Measure, enjoy all the Priviledges that Christ doth. Now the Father saith to the Son, Psal. 110.1. Sit thou at my Right Hand: So they have chosen the best Blessings: 'tis said, Psal. 16.11. At thy Right Hand are Pleasures for evermore. And Prov. 3.16. Length of Dayes is in her Right Hand. They love God, and are beloved of Him: They ho­nour God in the World. 1 Sam. 2.30. They that honour me, I will honour.

VSE. Let us then encourage our selves, when we are counted the Scurff, and Off­scouring of all things: We shall not alwayes be in this Condition, but Christ will put Honour upon us in sight of all the World.

SERMON XXI.

MATTH. XXV. v. 34.

Then shall the King say unto them on his Right Hand, Come ye Blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the Foundation of the World.

WE have considered in the former Verses, (1.) The Sitting down of the Judge. (2.) The Presenting the Parties to be judged. Now, (3.) The Sentence.

First, Of Absolution, in these blessed Words which I have now read to you. Observe in them,

  • 1. The Preface.
  • 2. The Sentence it self.

(1.) The Preface sheweth the Person by whom the Sentence is pronounced: Then shall the King say.

(2.) The Parties whom it concerneth: To them on the Right Hand.

Secondly, The Form and Tenour of the Sentence it self; 'tis very comfortable and ra­vishing. Take notice,

  • 1. Of a Compellation used: Ye Blessed of my Father.
  • 2. An Invitation, expressed in two Words, [...], Come, and Inherit.

    The First giveth Warrant for Entring: The Second, for possessing of this Blessed Estate; and that by a sure Tenure.

  • 3. The Happiness unto which we are invited; and there the Notion by which 'tis expressed: The Kingdom. The Adjunct: A Kingdom prepared. The Application of it to the Parties concerned: For You. The Ancientness of it: From the Foundation of the World. An Estate excellent in its self, and made sure for us.

Doctrine, That Iesus Christ, at his Coming, will adjudge his People unto a State of Everlasting Happiness, by a favourable and comfortable Sentence passed in their behalf.

First, Observe the Order, [Then.] The Godly are first Absolved, before the Wicked are Condemned: Why? Because,

  • (1.) 'Tis more natural to God to reward, than to punish; to save, than to condemn. The one is called, Al [...]enum opus, His strange Work, Isa. 28.21. His Self-Inclination bendeth him to the one, more than to the other. The Absolution of the Good, maketh for the Manifestation of his Mercy; the Attribute wherein God delighteth, Mica 7.18. But his Justice, as to the Punitive Part of it, 'tis last: God doth Good of his own Accord; but Punishment is extorted, and forced from him.
  • (2.) 'Tis suitable to Christ's Love, to begin with the Saints: He is so pronely inclined to them, that he taketh their Cause first in Hand. He parted from them, with Thoughts of returning to them again.
  • (3.) For the Godlies sake; that they be not for any while terrified with that dread­ful Doom, which shall pass on the Reprobate; and that afterwards become Judges of the Wicked, by their Vote and Suffrage, when absolved themselves, 1 Cor. 6.3.
  • [Page 167](4.) For the Wicked; that they may understand, and be affected with their Loss, and so be made more sensible of their own Folly. Christ will, in their sight, put Glo­ry and Honour upon his good Servants, that they may have a stinging and vexatious Sense of that Happiness which they have forsaken. Whether it be for this, or that Reason, let us the better bear it here. When Judgment beginneth at the House of God, as it often doth, 1 Pet. 4.17. there Absolution beginneth, at the House of God: And if upon us God first shew his displeasure against Sin, 'tis for the bettering of the Saints, and reforming the World. First Christ will take in hand our Absolu­tion and Coronation, before he passeth Sentence against the Wicked.

Secondly, The next thing observable, is, the Title given to Christ: [Then shall the King say.] Christ first calleth himself, The Son of Man, Vers. 31. because in Humane Nature he administreth this Judgment: Afterward sets forth himself by the Noti­on of a Shepherd, Vers. 32. because of his Office and Charge about the Flock; and then to shew it in the exact Discrimination he shall make between Cattel and Cat­tel. But now the Notion is varied; The King shall say: Partly because it belongeth to his Kingly Office, to pass Sentence, and prefer his faithful Subjects to Dignity and Honour; as also, to punish the Disobedient: Partly because in that Day he shall discover himself in all his Royal Magnificence, and call the Godly to him; and solemnly put them in possession of the promised Glory. The King shall Crown and Absolve us: It shall be a Tribunal Act; and therefore valid, and authentick. When the Redeemer of the World, as King, shall then sit in Judgment in all his Roy­alty, he shall then put this Honour upon the Saints.

Thirdly, The next thing is,

I. The Compellation used, [Come ye blessed of my Father.]

(1.) Observe in the general, 'tis a Friendly Compellation, used to such as were thought to be in savour with God: Witness Laban's Words to Abraham's Servant; Gen. 24.31. Come in thou Blessed of the Lord. And Judg. 17.2. Blessed be thou of the Lord. Those that were counted dear, and beloved of the Lord, were thus treated, and spoken to: And because of the high Favour vouchsafed to the Virgin Mary, in be­ing the Mother of the Son of God, 'tis said, All Generations shall call thee Blessed, Luk. 1.28.42.48. But what an Honour is this, when Christ shall pronounce us to be so with his own Mouth; Come ye Blessed of my Father!

(2.) More particularly, two Terms must be explained:

  • 1. Blessed.
  • 2. Of my Father.

First, Blessed. This Term is,

(1.) Opposed to the Worlds Judgment of them: The World despiseth them, and counteth them execrable, vile and cursed. Therefore, 'tis said, Matth. 5.44. Bless them that curse you; and Matth. 5.11. Blessed are ye, when Men shall say all manner of Evil of you for my Names sake. He is blessed, whom Christ blesseth: The World rails at us as cursed Miscreants, unfit to live in Humane Societies. The World saith, Abite Maledicti, Away ye Cursed; 'tis not fit for such an one to live: But Christ saith, Venite Benedicti, Come ye Blessed. We should set one against the other. The least thing intended in this Compellation, is an Absolution from the Reproaches of the World, and their Censures; whether rashly vented, or pronounced under a colour of Law, and Church-Power. They are not so ready to curse and fulminate dreadful Cen­sures on the true Worshippers of Christ, as he is to acquit and absolve them. Their Redeemer in Judgment will call them Blessed, and publish on the World, that all the Censures of wicked Men were preposterous, and perverse.

(2.) The Term is opposed to the Sentence of the Law. The Worlds Obloquy is the less to be stood upon, as being the Product of Wrath, Bitterness and Hatred. But the Law of God, that containeth in it the highest Reason in the World, pronounceth them accursed: Gal. 3.10. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all that is writ­ten in the Law, to do them. And to this Sentence we were once subject, and were so to look upon our selves, Ephes. 2.3. Whatever we were in the Purpose of God, our Duty is to look upon what we are in the Sentence of the Law of God; and so we were all of us condemned to a Curse: And the Wicked that never changed Co­py and Tenure, lie still under that Curse; as Christ himself sheweth in his Sentence on them, Vers. 41. Depart ye Cursed. The Curse of the Law taketh them by the [Page 168] Throat, and casteth them into eternal torments: The Devil would have that Sen­tence executed upon us now, according to our deserts; but the Judge on the Throne pronounceth us Blessed, as having taken hold of the Priviledge of the new Covenant, and so escaped the Curse of the Law. In this term our Justification is Implyed, Act. 3.19. Christ doth in effect say, These my Friends and Servants, deserved in themselves to be accursed and miserable for ever, but I have made satisfaction to God for them, and pronounce them blessed, and free from all sin and misery.

(3.) The term is opposed to their own fears: Not only doth the world condemn us, and Sathan urge the Curse of the Law against us, as having transgressed the bonds and Rules of our duty in many cases, but our own trembling hearts are ever and anon casting up many a fearful thought; What shall become of us to all eternity? This fear is so strong, and rooted in the hearts of the godly, that 'tis a long time e're the Promises of the Gospel can vanquish and quell it; though the Messengers of Christ come and tell them of the tender Mercies of God, that there is enough in the Merits of Christ; of the Priviledges and Immunities offer­ed by the new Covenant, and beseech them that they would not obstinately lift up their fears against the whole design of Christ in the Gospel, yet all will not do: if they can get a little peace and rest from accusations of Conscience, 'tis almost all they can attain unto in the world; Perfect love casteth out fear, 1 Joh. 4.10. But then the supream Judge before whom all must stand or fall, will assure them with his own Mouth, that they are Blessed; and therefore they shall [...]ully get rid of all disquieting and tormenting fears: He shall say, Tremble no more, Come ye blessed of my Father.

(4.) It noteth what God hath done for them, to bring them to this estate of Bles­sedness, Eph. 1.3. Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual Blessings in heavenly places in Christ: He hath loved them, and enriched them with Grace, heaped many spiritual favours upon them, which now they are to receive the consummation and accomplishment of; Dei benedi­cere est benefacere, when we bless God, we declare him blessed; when God blesseth us, he maketh us blessed, his saying is doing: Since ye are Elected, Called, Justi­fied, Sanctified, at the will of my Father, come and freely possess your selves of all that you have hoped, longed and waited for.

Secondly, [Of my Father:]

1. In this expression he pointeth at the fountain cause of all our Happiness; the beginning of our Salvation was from an higher cause than our own holiness, yea than Christs Merit, from the Favour and Blessing of God the Father: He was the principal efficient cause and ultimate end of the work of our Redemp­tion, and the Saints Blessedness: Christ as Mediatour is but the way to the Fa­ther, John 14.6. It is the Father appointed Christ, gave him to us, Joh. 3.16. gave them to Christ, Joh. 17.6. and in time brought them to close with his Grace, Joh. 6.44. It is the Father that prepared this Kingdom for them, be­fore the Foundation of the world; they are the Fathers chosen ones, those whom the Father loveth.

2. This expression shews how the divine Persons glorifie one another: As the Spi­rit glorifieth the Son, Joh. 16.14. so here the Son glorifieth the Father, and re­ferreth all to him; he doth not say, My redeemed ones, but Ye blessed of my Fa­ther; they are not less beloved and blessed by the Father, than by the Son who redeemed them; Blessed in the Fathers love who elected them, gave them to Christ, sent Christ and accepted his Ransome, declared his will in willing their glorification.

II. The Invitation in two words, [...], both have their emphasis and proper signification; the one signifieth our Entrance upon the glorified estate, the other our everlasting Possession of it.

(1.) [...] Come; to the wicked he saith Depart, but to the Saints Come: As the quintessence of all Misery lyeth in the one, so the Consummation of all Bles­sedness in the other: He had said before, Math. 11.28. Come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest: But that was but an Acquaintance at a distance, and some remote service we were called unto; but now Come into [Page 169] my Heart, my Bosom, my Glory. Our nearest Communion with Christ, is not till we be translated into Heaven. Come, draw near to me, be not afraid of my Majesty; this was it the Saints longed for, and now they enjoy it: When shall I come, and appear before God! saith Holy David, Psal. 42.2. You that had an Heart upon my first Invitation to come to me, and seek after me in the Kingdom of Grace; come near to me now in the Kingdom of Glory. The Godly do not so much de­sire to come near to Christ, as Christ desireth to come near to them. Where have you been all this while? Come, come, I am ready to receive you; you are welcome Guests to me: We have been too long asunder. Oh! How ravishing will this be to every gracious Heart, that loved and longed for this Day!

(2.) [...] Inh [...]rit. Our happy and blessed Estate we have, and hold by In­heritance: 1 Pet. 3.9. Ye are called to Inherit a Blessing. That noteth a Tenure free, full, and sure. This Heritage,

1. Is Free. We do not possess it as Bond-men, or Servants only; we do not come to this Happiness by our own Earning, and Purchase; but as Heirs of Christ. Adam's Tenure was that of a Servant; the Blessings he expected from God were meer Wa­ges. We hold Promises in another manner: Our Title is by Adoption, which we have immediately upon closing with Christ, Joh. 1.12. by vertue of our Sonship, Rom. 8.17. Not by Merit, but free Gift, Rom. 6.23.

2. A full Tenure. As Children under Age differ but little from a Servant; but we come then as Heirs to our full Right. A Child, though he be an Heir, and owner of all his Father's Inheritance, in hope; yet as long as he is a Minor, or un­der Age, he differeth little or nothing from a Servant, in point of Subjection, and as to free Government, and Enjoyment of his Rights and Goods: But now, to this Inheritance we come as meet Heirs. They distinguish of Jus Hereditarium, and Jus Aptitudinale; an Hereditary Right, and an Aptitudinal Right. Now, when we have believed, suffered, and been exercised enough, we shall receive our full Inheri­tance; being made meet for it, Col. 1.12.

3. A sure Title: It was given us by the Father, and purchased by the Son; and we hold it by this Te [...]ure for ever. God the Father gave it: Luk. 12.32. Fear not, little Flock. 'tis your Father's Pleasure to give you a Kingdom. And Christ hath pur­chased it, Heb. 9.15. It is left us as a Legacy by him, Joh. 17.24. And he liveth for ever to be the Executor of his own Testament, Heb. 7.25. So that now we are past all Danger, when once admitted into Possession.

III. Here is the Description of that Happy Estate we are invited unto. Where observe,

First, The Notion by which 'tis expressed; 'tis [a Kingdom ▪] What can be thought of more Magnificent and Glorious, than a Kingdom? 'Tis called a King­dom,

(1.) Partly with respect to Christ, who is our Head and Chief; in whose Glory we shall all participate and share, in our Places and Capacities. Jesus Christ is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; and we shall Reign with him as Kings: For he hath made us a Royal Priesthood, 1 Pet. 2.9. And Revel. 1.6. He hath washed us in his own Blood, and made us Kings and Priests unto God: And Revel. 5.10. And hath made us unto our God Kings and Priests, and we shall Reign with him. 'Tis begun on Earth spiritually, but 'tis perfected in Heaven gloriously; where the Saints shall be as so ma­ny Crowned Kings.

(2.) And partly with respect to the very thing it self: Our Blessed Estate shall be an Estate of the highest Dignity and Dominion; of the fullest Joy and Content, that Heart can wish for. We have no higher Notions, whereby to express a Bles­sed, and happy Estate: And therefore, our Eternal Glory, whereof we are Parta­kers, is thus set forth; especially to counter-ballance our mean and low Estate in the World. Jam. 2.5. God hath chosen the Poor of the World to be rich in Faith, and Heirs of a Kingdom. The Saints shall have Dominion in the Morning, Psal. 43.14. They shall sit with Christ as Kings upon the Throne, to execute the Judgment written. Oh! How should this warm our Hearts with the Thoughts of these things!

(3.) Partly with respect to our Loss by the Fall. In the Creation God put Man in Dominion; but by subjecting our selves to the Creature, who was made to be under our Feet, we lost our Kingdom, and are become Slaves under the power of [Page 170] Brutish Lusts; and till our Blessed Estate, we never fully recover it again; but then we are absolutely free, and at liberty to love and serve God.

Well then, 'tis no mean thing Christ inviteth us unto; but unto a Kingdom, which we shall all joyntly and severally possess. There are two quarrellous Pro­nouns, Meum and Tuum, Mine and Thine, which are the occasion of all the Strifes in the World. These shall be excluded out of Heaven, as the common Barrettors and Make-bates: There is no Envy, no Uncharitableness: There one cannot say to another, This Part of this Glorious Kingdom is mine, That is yours: For every Heir of this Kingdom shall be as much an Heir, as if he were sole. Heir. Here we streighten others, as much as we are enlarged our selves: But there each one hath his full Proportion in that Blessed Estate; each hath the whole, and the rest ne­ver the less: As the same Speech may be heard entirely by me and all; as the Light of the Sun serveth all the World: Another hath not the less, because I enjoy the whole of it.

Secondly, The Adjunct of this Kingdom, is, [That it was prepared for us.] The word signifieth made ready: God made ready this State of Happiness, long e're we were ready for the Possession of it. Eternal Love laid the Foundation of it; Merit of infinite Value carried on the Building; and powerful and effectual Grace still pur­sueth the Work in our Hearts: For we must be prepared for the Kingdom, as well as this Kingdom prepared for us. So that, in short, this Kingdom was prepared for us,

1. By the Father's Love: 'Twas his own Love, and most free Goodness, that in­wardly moved him to do all this for us; Luk. 12.32. 'Tis your Father's good Plea­sure.

2. By the Son's Merit and Mediation; who died, that we should live together with him, 1 Thess. 5.10.

3. By the Sanctification of the Spirit, by which we are fitted for this Estate, 2 Cor. 5.5.

(1.) The Father's Love. The Preparation is abscribed unto God; 1 Cor. 2.9. The things which God hath prepared for them that love him. And Heb. 11.16. For God hath prepared for them a City. Particularly, by God the Father: So Matth. 20.23. It is not mine to give; but to them for whom it was prepared of my Father. The Fa­ther's Act may be thus conceived: God loved us so much, as he decreed to give Christ for us; that by his precious Blood he might purchase and acquire for us a Blessedness in Heaven: and in the Fulness of Time, accordingly sent him into the World for that end; and bound himself by Eternal Paction and Covenant, that all that believe in his Name, should have this Kingdom. This was the Preparation of his Decree.

(2.) Jesus Christ by way of Execution of this Decree, maketh a further Prepara­tion; when by his Death he purchased it, and by his Ascension went to seize up­on it in our Name: Joh. 14.2. I go to prepare a Place for you. As Christ by his Death did purchase a Right and Title to Heaven; so by his Ascension he prosecu­teth, and applieth that Right: He is gone, as our Harbinger, to take up Rooms for us. As the High-Priest entred into the most Holy Place, with the Names of the Children of Israel upon his Breast and Shoulders, and with the Blood of the Sacri­fices: So he hath entred Heaven with our Names, to present the Merit of his Blood continually, and to pour out the Spirit to fit us for Glory. This is his Errand and Business in Heaven, and he is not unmindful of it.

(3.) The Spirit prepareth us; without which, all the rest would come to no ef­fect: For it is the Wisdom of God, to dispose all things into their apt and proper Places. Therefore, the Persons are prepared, as well as the Place; Rom. 9.23. Ves­sels of Mercy, which he hath aforehand prepared unto Glory. He worketh Faith in their Hearts, giveth them a Title; and by sanctifying, prepareth them for the Possessi­on, and Enjoyment of it: He that worketh us for this self-same thing, is God, 2 Cor. 5.5.

Thirdly, The Application, or Appropriation of this Preparation to the Persons that shall now enjoy it; [For You:] Which respects not only the Qualification, but the Per­sons.

1. Not only for such as you, but for you particularly. In the general, Heaven [Page 171] was prepared for Believers; God never intended Unbelievers should have such a Glo­rious Estate: Such as love the world, do not prize nor long for this Happiness, and therefore 'tis fit they should never enjoy it; for though the preparation be a work of abundant Mercy, yet that mercy is so tempered and limited by his Wisdom and Justice, that it will not permit him to give such holy things to Dogs, or cast Pearl before Swine; No, 'twas prepared to be enjoyed only by Believers and holy ones.

2. For you personally and determinatively: This is most agreeable to Christs scope and sense, for all the Conditions were also prepared for them: God did elect us to Faith and Holiness, as well as to eternal Life: Faith is the fruit of Electi­on, not a cause; he did not choose us because we were holy, or because he did foresee that we would be holy, but that we might be holy, Eph. 1.4. That being sanctified and renewed by the Spirit, we might be placed in the new Jerusalem: For you in Person, that is Christs meaning.

Fourthly, The Antiquity or ancientness of this preparation, From the foundation of the world; that is, from all Eternity; for the Scripture goeth to the highest point of time unto which we can ascend in our thoughts; so that [...], signifieth as much as [...]: As 'tis expresly said, Eph. 1.4. Before the foundation of the world: The Phrase is ordinary in Scripture, and is as much as to say, From all Eternity, or before any time was; for Gods purposes are as he is, eternal, and without beginning; therefore if we speak of Gods intention and purpose, it was before all worlds. Those that understand this, [For you] that is, for persons so qualified, will deny the meaning of the Phrase to be, That the dignities of the Kingdom of Heaven were designed to be the reward of all the faithful Servants of Jesus Christ before all worlds; and they that know the Scriptures, cannot but con­clude that from all Eternity he made choice of us to be justified, sanctified and glo­rified. The Elective Love of God is of an ancient standing, even from all Eter­nity, and therefore most free, there being nothing in the Elect, before they had a being, to move his Love towards them, and this will be the glory of his Grace at that day, that we are invited into that Estate that was prepared for us long before; and who are we, that the thoughts of God should be taken up about us so long since? Tit. 3.2. Which God that cannot lie promised before the world began: So 2 Tim. 1.9. Who saved us, and called us with an holy Calling, according to his purpose and Grace which was given to us in Christ before the world began: He Indented then with Christ, to bring us to what we shall at last enjoy; but if any morosely in­sist upon the Phrase, because it doth not necessarily signifie Eternity, we must then understand, that though the Purpose of God were from everlasting, yet the things designed and acted by him, they take their beginning in time, or with time, and so the words must be understood, (1.) Of preparing the place, which shall be the state of the Blessed: The third Heaven is the dwelling place of the Saints, which was framed about the beginning of the Creation; so good and gracious was our God, that he did not make Man or Angel, 'till he prepared a place con­venient for them: Or, (2.) To the Promise presently made upon Adam's fall; but the former Exposition is more simple.

Well then, you have heard what Entertainment the faithful shall have from Christ at his Coming, so far as our dull Minds can conceive of it, and with weak and Imperfect words can express it to you: Now let us see what Use we may make of all this.

VSE 1. Let us be convinced that there is such an Estate, and will be such a Time, and that there is no true Blessedness, but this enjoyment of God in the King­dom of Heaven, that we shall then have. The World hath been much puzled about disputes of Happiness, and the way to it: The Philosophers, some placed it in Know­ledge, some in that Vertue which they knew, some in Pleasure; some in this, some in that. Austin out of Varro reckoneth up two hundred eighty six Opinions about the chief good: They erred thus, because they sought it in so many things, where­as it consists in one, The enjoyment of God; and because they sought it in this World, where all things are mortal and frail, and we can find not one thing that can make us compleatly happy: This discovery was left for the Scriptures, which teach us, that our Happiness lyeth in God alone, and that our perfect enjoyment of him, in Body and Soul, is reserved for Christs coming, when there is a perfect Conformity to God, and Communion with him. 1 Joh. 3.2. Beloved, we are now [Page 172] the Children of God, but it doth not appear what we shall be, but we know when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. The Lord revealeth his Truth to us in the Word, but before we can be convinced of it, we must be en­lightned by the Spirit; for spiritual things can only be spirtually discerned, 1 Cor. 2.14. We may talk of these things by rote one to another, and have an assent to them, which is call'd a Non-contradiction, though not a positive understanding and Conviction of the truth of them: Believest thou this? Joh. 11.26.

2. When we believe it, let us look for it, and long for it, and live in the hopefull expectation of this blessed time, when all these things shall be accomplished. There­fore, if we believe such a thing, we must long for it, and live in the hope of it. Ti­tus 2.13. Looking for the blessed hope: Hope sheweth its self,

(1.) Partly by frequent and serious thoughts and delightful Meditations of the thing hoped for. Thoughts are the Spies and Messengers of Hope, it sendeth them into the Land of Promise, to bring the Soul tydings thence: 'Tis impossible a man can hope for any thing, but he will be thinking of it; for 'tis the nature of this Affection to set the Mind a-work, and to preoccupy and forestall the Contentments we expect, before they come, by serious Contemplations; and feasts the Soul with Images and Suppo­sitions of things to come, as if they were already present. So should we demean our selves, as if the Judgment were set, and the Judge upon his white Throne, and we heard him Blessing, and Cursing, Absolving, and Condemning: The Heart will be where the Treasure is, Math. 6.18. As if we saw Christ with his faithful ones about him: If a Beggar were adopted to the Succession of a Crown, he would please him­self in thinking of the Happiness, Honour and Pleasure of the Kingly Estate. If you did hope to be Coheirs with Christ, or to inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, you would think of it more than you doe. Our musings discover the temper of our Hearts: A carnal Heart is alwayes thinking of building Barns, advancing the Fa­mily higher, our worldly Increase. Luke 12.18. I will pull down my Barns, and build bigger, and bestow my fruits. And those in James, ch. 4.13. To morrow we will go to such a City, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain. 'Tis usual with men to feed themselves with the pleasure of their Hope: As young Heirs spend upon their Estate before they possess it.

(2.) By hearty Groans, Sighs and Longings: Rom. 8.23. We groan in our selves. They have had a taste of the Clusters of Canaan in private Justification: They can never be soon enough with Christ; when shall it once be? They are still looking out, and the nearer to enjoyment, the more impatient of the want: The earnest expecta­tion of the Creature, Rom. 8.19. Stretching out the head to see if they can spy a thing a great way off: As Judg. 5. She looked through the Lettice, Why is his Chariot so long a coming? They would have a fuller draught of Consolation, more access to him, and Communion with him.

(3.) By lively Tastes and Feelings: 'Tis called a Lively hope, 1 Pet. 1.3. not a living hope only, but lively; because it quickens the Heart, and filleth it with a solid Joy, Rom. 5.2. 1 Pet. 1.8. Where we have such a fruition, the very looking and longing giveth us a taste.

3. This hope should put us upon serious diligence and earnest pursuit after this blessedness, 1 Pet. 1.13. Partly as it purgeth the heart from Lusts, 1 Joh. 3.3. He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself as Christ is pure: These are the Months of our Purification, wherein we are made meet to be partakers of the Saints in light; we are a preparing for Heaven, as that is prepared for us, and 'tis a live­ly expectation which produceth this: That puts us upon Mortification and dili­gence in cleansing the Soul, that we may be counted worthy to stand before the Son of God. Partly as it withdraweth our hearts from present things, and minding earthly things. But our Conversation is in Heaven, Phil. 3.18, 19, 20, 21. A man that is alwayes looking and longing for the world to come, the present world is nullified to him, and he hath a mean esteem of all secular Interests and contentments, in comparison of those other which his Soul looketh after: As a man looking upon the Sun, cannot see an object less glorious; on the contrary, our overprizing secular Contentments, necessarily breedeth an undervaluing of mat­ters heavenly; and those that have so great a relish for the world, and the de­lights of the flesh, they know not what Eternal life meaneth: The Israelites long­ed for the flesh-pots of Aegypt, before they tasted the clusters of Canaan; by Faith Moses refused the Honours and Pleasures of Pharaoh's Court: We cannot value [Page 173] real Happiness, 'till we are brought to contemn earthly Happiness. Partly as it ur­geth to care and diligence, and constancy in Obedience: This is the Spring that sets all the wheels a going, Phil. 3.13. I press towards the mark, because of the high prize of our calling: What is the reason Christians are so earnest and serious? there is an excellent Glory set before them, the Race is not for trifles; we want vi­gour, and find such a tediousness in the Lords work, because we do not think of the Kingdom of Heaven prepared for us, 2 Cor. 8.8, 9. 1 Cor. 15.53. We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord: Wherefore we labour that whether we are present or absent, we may be accepted of him: If it be tedious to us to be at work for God, this tediousness will not consist with the chearful remembrace of that great Blessedness which he hath prepared for us: How eminent should we be in the labours of Holiness, to whom this Estate was so peculiarly designed? Partly in Self-denyal; men venture all in this vessel of Hope: Self-denyal is seen in refusing and resisting temptations of honour and profit; sin maketh many Promises, and so prevaileth by a carnal Hope; Ba­laam was enticed by proffers of riches to Curse Gods People: Babylons Fornicati­ons are presented in a Golden Cup; now Faith and Hope sets Promise against Promise, Heaven against Earth, the Pleasures at Gods right hand against carnal delights; as the Kingdoms of the world are nothing to this glorious Kingdom. Partly in Charity; laying up treasure in Heaven, Luk. 12.33. Being rich in good works, 1 Tim. 6.18. I call this Self-denyal, because 'tis a loss for the present, Eccl. 2. So in hazarding Interests: Christians Blessings are future, their Crosses are present, Rom. 8.18. 2 Cor. 4.12.

Thus you see there are some who are carryed on by the hopes of Heaven, to make serious preparation; others are wholly wedded and addicted to present things. The World morally and spiritually considered, is divided into two ranks; the one of the Devil, the other of God: Some seek their rest and happiness on earth, others eternal Felicity in Heaven; by nature all are of this earthly Society, in the Kingdom of darkness, and strangers to the Common-wealth and City of God; but when Grace hath wrought in them the belief of this coming of Christ, and the hope of this blessed Estate is rooted in us, we are alwayes purging out of fleshly lusts, and weaning our hearts from the world, exercising our selves to God­liness, and denying our worldly Interests.

4. This Hope must moderate our Fears, Sorrows and Cares, so as no temporal thing should unreasonably affect us, Luk. 12.32. Fear not little flock: The Fear is allayed, the World cannot take away any thing from us so good as Christ will give unto us; if our earthly Estate be sequestred, or any way taken from us, we have a better Estate in Heaven, Heb. 10.34. If we be reproached and disgra­ced in this world, yet we shall be Kings and Priests, and for ever be honoured in Heaven; if banished and driven from place to place, so that we can find no rest nor safety, but are wearied out with our removals; let us consider we have a place of eternal abode in Heaven, a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, of which none can dispossess us; our Sufferings may be many, long and grievous, but then all will be at an end, when Christ shall place us at his right hand, Heb. 6.19. Which Hope have we as an Anchor of the Soul, both sure and steadfast, and which en­tereth into that within the veil: We have a sure Anchor in the stormy gusts of Temptations; 1 Thes. 5.8. Let us put on the Breast-plate of Faith and Love, and for an Helmet the hope of Salvation: and Eph. 6.17. And take the Helmet of Salvation: Hope is our Helmet in the dreadful day of Battel: As long as we can lift up our heads and look to Heaven, we should patiently bear all Calamities: We shall at last hear this Blessed Voice, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom pre­pared for you, from the Foundation of the World.

SERMON XXII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 35, 36.

For I was an Hungred, and ye gave me Meat; I was Thirsty, and ye gave me Drink; I was a Stranger, and ye took me in;

Naked, and ye Cloathed me; I was Sick, and ye visited me; I was in Prison, and ye came unto me.

WE have seen the Sentence, now the Reason of the Sentence: [For] The Illative Particle sheweth, that many like the Sentence, would be glad to be entertained with a Come ye blessed of my Father: But turn back upon the Reason, to Visit, Feed and Cloath they have no mind, or to any other serious Duties and Acts of Faith and Self-de­nyal, but we must regard both; and I hope in a business of such moment you will not be skittish and impatient of the word of Exhortation. I shall first Vindicate the words, and then give you some Observations from them.

First, Vindicate them, and assert their proper sense and intendment; for upon the Reading, four Doubts may arise in your minds.

  • 1. That good Works are the reason of this Sentence.
  • 2. That the good Works of the Faithful are only mentioned, and not the evil they have committed.
  • 3. That only works of Mercy, or the fruits of Love are specified.
  • 4. All cannot express their Love and Self-denyal this way.

Let me clear these things, and our way will be the more easie and smooth af­terward.

I. For the first Doubt, That works are assigned as the reason of the Sentence of Ab­solution: For the Papists thence inferr their Merit and causal influence upon Eter­nal Life.

I Answer.

(1.) 'Tis one thing to give a Reason of the Sentence, another to express the Cause of the Benefit received and adjudged to us by that Sentence. A Charter may be given to a sort of People out of meer grace, and Priviledges promised to all such as are under such a qualification, though that qualification no way m [...] ­riteth those Priviledges, and that Grace promised: As if a King should offer Par­don and Preferment to Rebels, that lay down their Arms, and return to their Duty and Allegiance, and live in such bounds; their returning to their Duty, doth not merit this Pardon: for it was a meer act of Grace in the Prince, much less doth their return to their Duty, and living peaceably within their ancient bounds, merit the Honours and Advancement promised; yet this is pleadable in Court, and the Judge that taketh knowledge of the Cause, taketh the Reason of his Sen­tence from their peaceable Living within their bounds, whereby he Judgeth them capable of the Honours promised and expected: So here, God of his meer Grace promiseth the Pardon of our Sins, and to bestow upon us Eternal life, if we Be­lieve, and Repent, and return to the Duty we owed him by our Creation: Our Obedi­ence is not the Cause of our Pardon, or of our right to Glory, but his free Pro­mise; [Page 175] but yet this qualification must be taken notice of by our Judge in the great day, as the Reason of his Sentence. The sprinkling of the Door-posts with Blood, was not a proper cause to move the destroying Angel to pass over, but according to that Rule he must proceed; the admitting all that have a Ticket to any Solemnity, is not the Cause why they are worthy to be received. This is clear, that a Person is justified, in some other way than a Sentence is justified: These works are produced, to justifie the Righteousness of his Sentence before the whole World. A Sinner is justified by Faith; Christ's Sentence by the Believers Obedience.

(2.) That Works merit not the Blessings promised, and adjudged to us, is evi­dent: For they are due, Luke 17.10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable Servants; ne have done that which was our Duty to doe. And they are imperfect, Phil. 3.12. Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect. And they are Gifts of God, for which we ought to give him thanks, 2 Cor. 8.1. A Grace of God bestowed on us; and Gifts have no Equality with the Reward, Rom. 8.18. And they are done by Servants redeemed by an Infinite Price, 1 Pet. 1.19. With the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish, and without spot; being already appointed Heirs of Eternal Life, Rom. 8.17. Deserving eternal Death, Rom. 6.17. and that need continually implore the Mercy of God for the Pardon of Sin: So much as you ascribe to mans Merit, so much you detract from the Grace of God: And the more sin is ac­knowledged, the more Illustrious is Grace, Rom. 5.20. Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound. You cross the Counsel of God, all glorying in himself; 1 Cor. 1.29. That no flesh should glory in his presence: And Deut. 9.4, 5, 6. Speak not thou in thy Heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my Righteousness the Lord, hath brought me in to possess this Land: but for the wickedness of these Nations, the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy Righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to pos­sess their Land: But for the wickedness of these Nations, the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware un­to thy Fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Vnderstand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it, for thy Righteousness, for thou art a stiff-necked People.

(3.) That Works are produced as the undoubted Evidences and Fruits of a true and sound Faith: Justification is opposed to Accusation before Gods Tribunal. A double Accusation may be brought against us: That we are Sinners, or guilty of the breach of the first Covenant: And that we are no sound Believers, having not fulfilled the Conditions of the Second: From the first Accusation we are justified by Faith: From the latter we are justified by Works; and that not only in this World, but in the day of Judgment. Christs Commission and Charge is to give Eternal Life to true Believers, and the Mark of true Believers is Holiness: There­fore if his Judgment be right, by producing this Fruit and Effect it must be justi­fied. A Judge is to proceed, Secundum regulas Juris, & allegata & probata, as to the partyes judged: And because in the day of Judgment, the Covenant of Grace hath the force of a Law, therefore it belongeth to Christ as a Judge, to see we have fulfilled the Condition of it, which is Faith: And that our Faith is true, is proved by Works. When we are first pressed with Sin, because the Promise of Justification, or Remission of Sin, requireth Faith; it must be embraced by Faith, and taken hold of by Faith; our Faith must pitch upon it, draw Comfort from it, even before good Works are done by us: But because the next Accusation will presently arise, as if our Faith were not true; we must be justified from this Ac­cusation by good Works: Not be contented with one or two good Works, but abounding in all; that thus we may be justified more and more, and approved by our Judge.

(4.) That Faith is implyed in all the Works mentioned, is evident, (1.) From Christ's scope: The Manner of judging those in the Visible Church, is intended: And, (2.) The Expression sheweth it; for 'tis Christ they respected in his Members: Now it requireth Faith to see Christ in a poor Beggar, or Prisoner; to love Christ in them, above our worldly Goods, and Actually to part with them for Christ's sake. Self-denyal is the Fruit of Faith: 'Tis not meerly the Relieving of the Poor, but the doing of it as in and to Christ. (3.) There is a near link between Faith [Page 176] and Works: Faith is not sound and perfect unless it produce these Works, and these Works are not acceptable, unless they were the VVorks of Faith, and done in Faith.

II. The Second Doubt is, Whether the good Works of the Faithful shall be only mentioned, and not the Evil? I Answer:

So some would collect from this Scheme and Draught set down by Christ: 'Tis a Probleme, disputed with Probabilities on both sides, by good Men. Some reason from the terms by which Pardon is expressed: As by the Blotting out of Sin: Remembring Transgressions no more: Cast into the depths of the Sea. 'Tis like God will cover them, because repented of, and forgiven in the World. On the other side, they urge; The exact Reckoning, Rev. 20.11. The general Particles, 2 Cor. 5.10. and [...]ccles. 12.13. And that for every Idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an Account thereof in the day of Judgment, Matth. 12.36. I would not interpose, I cannot say absolutely, that their Sins shall not be mentioned at all; for Acts 3.19. 'tis said, Repent [...]e therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of Refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. Certainly, not to their Trouble and Confusion: Possibly not particularly: These Scriptures are not cogent to prove they shall. For it may be meant distributively; All the Evil of the Wicked, and the Good of the Godly. Howevever, these Scrip­tures should breed an Awe in our Hearts.

III. A Third Doubt is, That only Works of Mercy and Charity, rather than Piety, are mentioned by our Lord and Saviour.

I Answer,

(1.) 'Tis clear, that the Special is put for the General, and an Act of Self-denying Obea [...]nce is put for all the rest. In other Places a more general Expression is put; as, Matth. 16.27. For the Son of Man shall come in the Glory of his Father, with his Angels; and th [...]n h [...] shall re [...]ard every Man according to his Works: And 2 Cor. 5.10. For we must all appear before the Judgment-Seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his Body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. And Rev. 20.12. And I say the Dead, small and great, stand before God; and the Books [...]ere op [...]ned: and another Book was opened, which is the Book of Life: And the Dead were judged out of those things which were written in the Books, according to their Works. And therefore, Acts of Mercy are not intended to be cryed up alone, as separate from all other Acts of Piety and Charity to God and Men; yea, all Acts of Charity▪ for which we are accountable unto God, are not mentioned: Comfort­ing the Afflicted, Reproving the Faulty, Instructing the Weak, Counselling the Er­ring, Praying for others. Therefore, under these Works of Charity, all the Fruits of Faith are understood, and the real gracious Constitution of the Heart that must produce them: 1 Cor. 13.3. And though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth me not; [...]. But Christ doth not express that so plainly, because he would shew, that this Judg­ment shall proceed according to what is visible, and sensible.

(2.) Christ singled out Works of Mercy for the Evidence; because the Jews had been more exact and diligent in the observing the Ceremonies of External Worship, but negligent of these things: Therefore, doth God so often, by the Prophets, tell them of Mercy above Sacrifices. Hosea 6.6. For I desired Mercy, and not Sacrifice; and the Knowledge of God, more than burnt Offerings: And Mercy above Fasting, Isa. 58, 6, 7. These are Duties never out of Season, and including a real Benefit to Man­kind: God preferreth them before External Rites of Worship.

(3.) These are most evident and sensible Discoveries, and so fitted to be produced as Fruits of Faith. There is a Demonstration of the Soundness of it: A signis no­tioribus. These are most conspicuous, and so fittest to justifie Believers before all the World; who reckon Good and Evil most by the Bodily Life. Therefore doth Christ instance in Acts of Bodily, rather than Spiritual Charity: Not in Reproving, Converting, Counselling; but in Feeding and Cloathing.

(4.) These are Acts, wherein we do exercise Faith and Self-denyal. In imparting Spiritual Gifts to others, we lose nothing our selves; as our Candle loseth nothing by communicating Light to another. Christ would have us venture something on our Heavenly Hopes; and not please our selves with a Religion that costs us no­thing, [Page 177] and puts us to no Charges. Alms is an expensive Duty; here is something parted with, and that upon Reasons of Faith: Eccles. 11.1. Cast thy Bread upon the Waters; for thou shalt find it after many Dayes. Prov. 19.17. He that hath pity up­on the Poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he giveth them, will he pay it again.

(5.) Christ would hereby represent the Excellency of Charity, and commend it to the Covetous, niggardly World. 'Tis the Duty, wherein we do very much resem­ble God and Christ: And all his Followers should be like him. These are all Works of God: To Feed the Hungry, Cloath the Naked, Visit the Sick; we imitate him in this; are Instruments of his Providence. Mercy is a very lovely thing, an imi­tation of the Divine Nature. Our Lord told us, Act. 20.35. 'tis a more blessed thing to give, than to receive. It cometh nearest the Nature of God: So Christ himself went about doing Good, and healing all that were oppressed. And by Helpfulness to others, we do very much resemble Christ. I cannot exclude this, since Mercy is mentioned only.

IV. A Fourth Doubt is this, That all cannot express their Love and Self-denyal this way; some are so very poor and miserable.

I Answer,

1. All must have that Faith, which will work by Love: Gal. 5.6. For in Jesus Christ neither Circumcision availeth any thing, nor Vncircumcision; but Faith, which work­eth by Love: And Self-denyal, which some way or other must be expressed; Matth. 16.24. Then said Jesus unto his Disciples, If any Man will come after me, let him de­ny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow me: By denying the Ease of the Flesh, if not the Interests of it; to be serviceable in their Place, whatsoever it be.

2. Though some be so needy themselves, that they cannot cloath the Naked, or feed the Hungry; yet they may visit the Sick, resort to such as are in Prison. Every one, in some kind or other, may be the Object of his Neighbours Charity; so may every one be either the Instrument, or Agent in the doing of it: The Rich may stand in need of the Help, or Prayers of the Poor; and the Poor of the Boun­ty of the Rich. If we have an Heart to part with all for Christ, we have that Faith which will carry away the Price of Gospel-Priviledges. All must have such a Value for Christ, see such an Excellency in the World to come, that they have an Heart and Disposition to part with all, rather than quit the Profession of the Gospel, or neglect the Duties thereof, Matth. 13.44, 45.

These things premised; I come now to observe these Points:

First, That at the General Iudgment all Men shall receive their Doom, or Iudgment shall be pronounced according to their Works.

For Christ produceth Works both in the Sentence of Absolution and Condem­nation.

Secondly, That Christ hath so ordered his Providence about his Members, that some of them are exposed to Necessities and Wants; others in a Capacity to relieve them.

Thirdly, That Works of Charity done out of Faith, and Love to Christ, are of greater weight and consequence, than the World usually taketh them to be.

Other Points may be raised, but to these Three all the rest may be reduced.

1. That at the general Iudgment, all Men shall receive their Doom, or Iudgment shall be pronounced according to their Works.

Of the Wicked there is no doubt, but that they shall receive according to their Works; they stand on their own Bottom; their Works deserve Punishment; their Doom and Sentence is justified by their Works. But for the Godly, 'tis also true, that Life Everlasting shall be awarded, Secundum opera, non propter Opera. Not that this Kingdom is by Right due to us for our Works; but the Righteousness of the [Page 178] Sentence is manifested by producing our Works. This will appear, if we consider,

  • 1. The Business, Scope, or End of the Day of Judgment.
  • 2. The Respect of Good Works, and how far they are considered.

First, The Business of that Day is not only to glorifie God's free Love and Mercy, but also his Holiness; rewarding Justice and Truth: Then God will not only glo­rifie the Riches of his Glorious Grace, in the Electing of his People out of his Love and Favour to them, without any thing considered in them; (Come ye Blessed of my Father! The first Cause of our Salvation, is made the Blessing of the Father:) But also his Remunerating Justice, Veracity or Truth. This maketh for our purpose now.

(1.) His Holiness. The Holy God delighteth in Holiness. He will now manifest it in the Sun, the Estimation he hath of the Holiness of his People. The Veil is taken away: Now 'tis made matter of Sense. 'Tis a Delight to him. Christ men­tions their Graces and Services, as things which are pleasing and acceptable to him: Psal. 5.4. Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in Wickedness. But he hath pleasure in the Holiness of his People. The Upright are his Delight; and, as such, will he speak of them, and commend them, and represent them to the World.

(2.) His Remunerating Justice. The Justice of God requireth that there should be different Proceeding with them that differ among themselves; that it should be well with them that do well, and ill with them that do evil: That every Man should reap according to what he hath sown, whether he hath sown according to the Flesh, or the Spirit; and the Fruit of his Doings be given into his Bosom. Therefore, those whom Christ will receive into Everlasting Life, must appear Faith­ful and Obedient: For then Christ will Judge the World in Righteousness, Act. 17.31.

(3.) That he may shew his Veracity and Faithfulness. The Faithful God will make good his Promises, and reward all the Labours, and Patience, and Faithfulness of his Servants, according to his Promises to them. If his Promises take notice of Works, his Justice will. God is not unfaithful, or unrighteous, to forget your Work, and Labour of Love, which you have shewed to his Name, Heb. 6.10.

Secondly, The respect of Good Works, and how far they are considered.

1. They are Perfectional Accomplishments: Those that have done them, are love­ly Objects in his Sight, as being conformed to his Nature and Pattern. Can we imagine, that God should bid the Saints love one another for their Holiness, and count them the Excellent Ones of the Earth, Psal. 16.3. how poor and despicable soever they be as to their outward Condition, and that he himself should not love them the more? We that have but a drop of the Divine Nature, hate impure Sinners; Lot's righteous Soul was vexed with the filthy Conversation of the Wicked, 2 Pet. 2.8. And we find a Complacency and Delight in the Good. And can we imagine, without a manifest Reproach to him, that God should be so indifferent to Good and Evil; and that the Saints should not be more lovely in his Sight for their Holiness? Therefore, the more lovely, the more endeared Objects to their Re­deemer.

2. They are Qualifications to make them capable of his Remunerating Justice. There is in God a threefold Justice:

  • First, His strict Justice,
  • Secondly, His Justice of Bounty, or free Benefic [...]nce; and,
  • Thirdly, As Judging according to his Gospel-Law of Promise.

(1.) He may be said to be strictly Just, when he rewardeth Man according to his perfect Obedience; yet no Obedience, though never so perfect, can bind him to reward Man or Angel.

(2.) He is Just by way of Bounty, when he rewardeth a Man capable of Re­ward; though not in respect of his perfect Righteousness in himself, yet because he is some way righteous in respect of others that are unrighteous: So 'tis said, 2 Thess. 1.6, 7. 'Tis a righteous thing with God to recompense Tribulation to them that trouble his Saints: And to them that are troubled, rest, &c. This with respect to Christ's Merit, and the Qualification of the Parties.

(3.) The Third Righteousness, is in Performance of his Promises: For though his Promise be free; yet if it be once made, Justice doth require it; and God is not free, but bound to perform it. Now, in these two latter Respects, are they capable.

[Page 179]3. They are Signs and Tokens of their being approved, and accepted with God, ac­cording to the Gospel-Covenant. Christ, as God's Steward, cometh to distribute the appointed Reward to the Heirs of Glory: This is the Evidence he is to proceed by. When the destroying Angel was sent to destroy the First-born of the Aegyp­tians, he was to take notice of the Sign of Sprinkling of Blood on the Door-Posts, Exod. 12. Not that that Blood deserved; but it signified, that there dwelt Is­raelites.

4. They are Measures; according to the Degrees of Grace, and our abounding in the Work of the Lord: 2 Cor. 9.6. He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. The Reward is more full or sparing, according to what we have done or suffered for God.

VSE. To set us right in the Doctrine of Grace and Works, we have to do with three Parties;

  • 1. The Pharisaical Legalist,
  • 2. The Carnal-Gospeller; and,
  • 3. The Broken-hearted and serious Christian.

(1.) The Legalist; that trusts in himself that he is Righteous, and hopeth to be accepted with God for his Works sake. Trusting in Works is very natural, and very dangerous: 'Tis very Natural, because of the Law written upon our Hearts; We all come into the World with a sense of a Duty-Covenant; and, because every one would be sufficient to his own Happiness, an unhumbled Soul is apt to give more to Duty, and Personal Righteousness, than to Christ, Rom. 10.3. For, they being ignorant of God's Righteousness, and going about to establish their own Righ­teousness, have not submitted themselves unto the Righteousness of God; [...]. A russet, ragged Coat of his own, pleaseth a Proud Man better than a silken Coat that is borrowed. 'Tis dangerous; for 'tis contrary to all the Declarations of God, Eph. 2.9. By Grace ye are saved; not of Works, lest any man should boast. The whole Progress of Salvation, from its first Step in Regeneration, till its final and last Pe­riod in Glorification, doth intirely flow from God's Grace, and not from our Works. The securing the Interest of free Grace in our Salvation, is a thing the Spirit of God is very careful of in the Scriptures, the Glory of Grace being that which God mainly aimeth at, Eph. 1.6. and a thing which we do naturally incline to intrench upon, and to rob him of, in whole, or in part: It crosseth the great End which God aimed at in contriving of Man's Salvation; which was, that all ground of glorying should be taken away from Man, as being in the meanest or least respect a Saviour to himself; and that all the Glory might be ascribed compleatly to God in Christ: 1 Cor. 1.29, 30, 31. Christ spake a Parable against those that trusted in themselves that they were righteous, Luk. 18.9. Two men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, the other a Publican: The one cometh Appealing to Justice; The Pharisee stood, and prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, Extortioners, Vnjust, &c.— I fast twice in the Week, I give Tythes of all that I possess. The other cometh crying out, Grace: The Publican standing a far off▪ [...]ould not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his Breast, saying, God be merciful to me a Sinner: The Sinner is justified, not the Worker. In short, to prevent all Mistakes,

First, Our Works, whatever they are, either Works of Love to God or Man, and the good use of External Means, or Common Grace, are not the moving Cause, or Inducement to incline God to give us Christ, or the Grace of Faith, or Work of Conversion before others; but this is the meer work of Grace, or the Mercy and good Pleasure of God: Tit. 3.5, 6. Not by works of Righteousness which we have done, but according to his Mercy he saved us, by the washing of Regeneration, and renew­ing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Sa­viour.

Secondly, Works, both before and after Conversion, are not that Righteousness, nor any part of that Righteousness by which Sin is expiated, or the Wrath of God ap­peased; or whereby we are reconciled to God, and do originally obtain a Right to Eternal Life: This is only ascribed to the Merit of Christ, Rom. 3.24, 25. Being justified freely by his Grace, through the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith in his Blood, to declare his Righteous­ness for the Remission of Sins that are past through the forbearance of God. The Merit [Page 180] is in Christ's Blood, Christ's Obedience, his Ransom and meritorious Price.

3. Our Works, or what we do to fulfill the Law of God, are not that Instrument by vertue of which we apply the Merits of Christ to our selves; or receive that Righteousness by vertue of which we are reconciled to God: Our Interest in the Me­rits of Christ, our Right to Pardon of Sin, and Grace, doth not arise from Works, but meerly Faith, Rom. 3.22. So that in the Plea of Justification, or our Suit for the Pardon of Sin, we must renounce all our good Works, and wholly rely on the Merits of Christ, giving up our selves to do the Will of God: 'Bate this, and then Works indeed come in as the fruits of Faith, as Evidences of Eternal Life, and the way to Glory.

(2.) The Carnal-Gospeller is the other person we have to do with: And to him we say,

1. That no man can maintain his Comfort, and faithfully relye upon Christs Merits, but he that is faithful in doing his Fathers will: No other Faith is allow­ed by the Scriptures for sound, in the Judgment of our Consciences, but such a Faith, Gal. 5.6. For in Christ Jesus neither Circumcision availeth any thing, nor Vn­circumcision, but Faith which worketh by love: No other Faith will be approved by Christ for sound at the last day, Mat. 7.21. Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doth the will of my Fa­ther which is in Heaven.

2. That the doing of some good Works, cannot excuse men for the Omission of others which be as necessary; we must not do one act of Charity only, but all: Many acts are reckoned up of one kind, to imply all the rest; not only fed, but cloathed; not only cloathed, but visited: Therefore, besides the goodness of the work which we are bound to do, there must be an Uniformity in them. There are good Works of divers kinds, many Works of the same kind: To Prophesie in Christ's Name is a good work, to cast out Devils would seem to us more excellent than these men­tioned; as the Workers of Iniquity, Mat. 7.22. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy Name, and in thy Name cast out Devils, and in thy Name done many wonderful works? Ver. 23. Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work Iniquity. Then there are many works of the same kind; we must not only visit, but cloath; not once, but often: The same Faith which inclineth our Hearts to works of one kind, will incline them to every kind; for they all stand by the same Authority, and 'tis not agreeable with Sincerity to balk any of them.

3. These Works must be done so heartily, as that it may appear we have de­nyed all for Christ, and love him above all; or that it may appear they are fruits of Faith and Love. The parting with worldly Goods implyeth, our Hearts must be loosened from the love of temporal things: And the Visiting of Christ in Pri­son, which may be for Righteousness sake, implyeth our Victory over our fear of Danger; otherwise it argueth our Faith is weak, and our Love is cold; and so not sincere, not prevailing over us in such a degree as will argue Sincerity. There is Faith unfeigned, 2 Tim. 1.5. and Loving in deed and truth, 1 Joh. 3.18. Faith Vnfeigned; as when Temporal things seem nothing to us, and are easily parted with; and Love in Deed, and in Truth, is to relieve our Brethren with our Goods, yea, to give our lives for them, if need be, as appeareth ver. 16, 17. But alas! Love in most Christians is cold; it will neither take pains, nor be at charge, much less lay down Life for them, as Christ did for us; do little to maintain, comfort or support Christ's Servants in distress.

(3.) The Broken-hearted, Serious Christian, that thinketh Works can never have enough of his care, or too little of his trust; that is alwayes hard at work for God, and yet seeth God must do all at last: He is perswaded that Grace doth not weaken his Duty, but enforce it; yet, when he hath done all, counteth himself but an Vnprofitable Servant, and is still approving himself unto God more and more; and yet the more he doth, the more daily need he seeth of Christ: No man liveth under a greater dread of the Holiness and Justice of God, yet flyeth oftener to his Mercy: We must comfort these.

1. Consider, God observeth all the Good that we do, and pondereth every Acti­on, of what kind soever it be; whether giving Food, or Cloathing, or Harbour, or Entertainment, or Visiting, or Comforting; 'twill all be fruit abounding to your account, Phil. 4.17. The more you abound in Acts of Communion with God, or [Page 181] Relief towards such as are in Misery, the greater will your Reward be in the last Day. There is Fruit for our Account, and Abounding for our Account.

2. The least Actions done for Christ's sake, shall be rewarded by Him; for some of the Actions are more inconsiderable than the other; yet, if done for Christ's sake, a Meals Meat, a little Harbour, yea a Visit is taken notice of by him: He doth not say, Ye feasted me, ye made me sumptuous Entertainment; But, Ye gave me food, ye cloathed me, ye visited, &c. The least Action done for Christ's sake, shall not go unrewarded, Mat. 10.42. Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a Cup of cold water only, in the name of a Disciple, Verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his Reward.

3. God will pardon all their Failings. Here is no mention of the evil, but the good they had done: An honest upright Heart is dispensed with as to many Weak­nesses, Mal. 3.17. I will spare them, as a man spareth his own Son that serveth him.

I come now to the Second Point:

II. Doct. That Christ ordereth his Dispensations so, that some of his People are expo­sed to necessity, others in a capacity to relieve them.

The Priviledges and Promises of the Gospel do not exempt the one from Di­stress, nor do the Duties and Rules of the Gospel make the possession of Riches to the other unlawful: In the one sort of good men Christ is hungry and a-thirst, in the other sort of good men he feedeth and cloatheth them: Christ is in the Giver and Receiver: These want, that they may have matter of Patience; those abound, that they may have matter of Bounty: Abraham was Rich, Lazarus that slept in his bosom was poor: 'Tis so,

  • 1. That he may shew himself to be the Governour and disposer of all things here in the world, and that he giveth Honour and Riches to whomsoever he will, Dan. 4.17. If these things were at the Devils disposal, Gods friends should never have them.
  • 2. To shew that the bare Possession is not unlawful; that 'tis not the having, but the ill use that bringeth so much mischief.
  • 3. That the world may know somewhat of his Favour to his People, and what Prosperity he can bestow upon all if it were expedient: some Diseases require Cordials, others sharp and bitter Potions.
  • 4. That in the time of our Exercise we may have a Pledge what he will do for us hereafter, and give us in Heaven.
  • 5. That they may be Instruments of his Providence, to supply others that want House and Harbour, and all necessaries; as the great veins receive blood to con­vey it to the lesser: some are kept under Affliction. We sail more safely to the Haven of Salvation, with an adverse wind than a prosperous.

VSE, If it fall to your lot to Give, rather than to Receive, bless God in that behalf, and neglect not your Duty: God could level all to an Equality, but he will not, that you may be Instruments of his Providence to cherish them: you should be a Fountain, not to keep the water to your selves, but to overflow for the necessity of others.

I come now to the Third Point.

III. Doct. That works of Charity, done out of Faith and Love to God, are of great­er weight and consequence, than the world taketh them to be.

1. There is a Command of God requireth it: Next to the great duties of the Gospel, nothing more enforced; to relieve the necessities of the poor, is not Arbi­trary, but a duty required of us according to our abilities; 'tis Charity to them, but a due Debt to God, and a part of our Righteousness: Stewards are to dispense the Estate by the Masters command.

2. 'Tis the tryal of our Love to Christ: He hath made the poor his Proxies and Deputies: we would cozen our selves with an empty Faith, and a cheap Love, [Page 182] if God had not devolved his right upon our Brethren; 1 Joh. 3.17. But whoso hath this worlds good, and seeth his Brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of Com­passion from him, how dwelleth the Love of God in him? If Christ were sick in a Bed, we would visit him, if in want, we would relieve him; Christ is so nearly con­joyned with his Servants, that in their Afflictions he is afflicted, in their Com­forts he is comforted, he looks upon it as done to him: The Godly of old time thought themselves much Honoured, if they could get a Prophet or an Apostle to their Houses: Heb. 13.1. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained Angels unawares: Here's Christ himself, will you refuse him who is Heir of all things?

3. 'Tis the great Question Interrogated by him at the great day of Accounts: 'Tis not, Have you Heard? have you Prophesyed? have you Eat and Drank in my Presence? But have you Fed? have you Cloathed? have you Visited? We are one day to come to this Account, and what sorry Accounts shall we make? So much for Pleasure, for Riot, for Luxury, for Bravery in Apparel, and Pomp in Living, and little or nothing for God and his People: As if a Steward should bring in his Bill. So much spent in Feasts, in Rioting, in merry Company, when his Masters House lyeth to ruine, the Children starved, and the Servants neglected: We are very liberal to our Lusts, but sparing to God: A man that expecteth to be po­sed, is preparing himself, and would fain know the Questions aforehand; Christ hath told us our Question.

SERMON XXIII.

MATTH. XXV. v. 37, 38, 39, 40.

Then shall the Righteous answer, and say, Lord, When saw we thee an Hungred, and fed thee? and Thirsty, and gave thee Drink?

When saw we thee a Stranger, and took thee in? and Naked, and Cloathed thee?

Or when saw we thee Sick and in Prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, In so much as you have done it unto one of the least of these my Brethren, ye have done it unto me.

WE have handled the Sentence and the Reason: The Reason is ampli­fied in some Parabolical passages, which contain a Dialogue or in­terchangeable Discourse between Christ the King, and his Elect Servants.

In which you may observe,

  • First, Their Question, verses 37, 38, 39.
  • Secondly, Christ's Reply and Answer, verse 40.

Not that such formal words shall pass too and fro at the day of Judgment, be­tween the Judge and the Judged; but only to represent the matter more sensibly, and in a more lively and impressive way to our minds.

[Page 183] First, For their Question, certainly 'tis not moved, (1.) By way of Doubt or exception to the Reason alleadged by the Judge in his Sentence, there being a perfect Agree­ment and harmony of mind and will between them. Neither, (2.) Out of Ignorance, as if they knew not that Christ was so much concerned in their works of Love, done to his Children for his sake; for this they knew aforehand, that what was done to Christians, is done to Christ, and upon that account they do it, as to Christ; and such Ignorance cannot be supposed to be found in the glorifi­ed Saints. (3.) Some say, the Question is put to express an holy wonder at what they hear and see; and no question Christ will then be admired in his Saints, 2 Thes. 1.10. And three Causes there may be of this wonder.

  • (1.) Their humble sense of their own Nothingness, that their Services should be taken notice of, and rewarded; that he should have such a respect for their mean offices of Love, which they little esteemed of, and had no confidence in them.
  • (2.) The greatness of Christs Condescention, that he should have such a care of his mean Servants, who were so despicable in the world.
  • (3.) The greatness of the Reward: Christ shall so incomparably, above all that they could ask or think, reward his People, that they shall wonder at it. This sense is pious, taken up by most Interpreters; I should acquiesce in it, but that I find the same question put by the Reprobates afterwards, vers. 42, 43, 44. they use the same words; therefore I think the words are barely Parabolical, brought in by Christ, that he might have occasion further to declare himself, how they fed him, and cloathed him, and what esteem he will put upon works of Chari­ty, and to impress this truth the more upon our minds, that what is done to his People, is accepted by him, as if it were done to his Person: However, because the former sense is useful, I shall a little insist upon it in this note.

Doctrine, That when Christ shall come to Reward his People, they shall have great cause to wonder at all that they see, hear and enjoy.

(1.) They shall wonder at the Reason alleadged: They that are holy, ever think humbly of their own works, and therefore considering their no deservings, their ill-deservings, they cannot satisfie themselves in admiring and extolling the rich Grace of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; that he should take notice of any thing of theirs, and produce it into Judgment: see how they express themselves now, Psal. 143.2. Enter not into Judgment with thy Servant; Non dicit cum hosti­bus tuis: So Psal. 130.3. If thou shouldest mark Iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? So 1 Cor. 4.4. For I know nothing by my self, yet am not I thereby Justified: Isa. 64.6. But we are as an unclean thing, and all our Righteousnesses are as filthy rags: This thought they have of all they do, and their minds are not altered then, for this is the Judgment of Truth, as well as of Humility, Luk. 17.10. When we have done all, we are unprofitable Servants: Their Lord hath taught them to say so, and think so; they did not this out of Complement: And for their works of Mercy, they were not to let their left hand know what their right hand did, Math. 6.3. 'Tis a Pro­verb that teaches us, that we should not suffer our selves to take notice of what we give in Alms, nor esteem much of it, as if there were any worth therein; and therefore when Christ maketh such reckoning of these things, their wonder will be raised, they will say, Lord, when saw we thee an hungry or athirst? Their true and sincere Humility will make them cast their Crowns before the Throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour; Lord, 'tis thy Good­ness, what have we done? The Saints when they are highest, still shew the low­est signs of Humility to their Redeemer, and confess that all the glory they have, they have it from him, and are contented to lay it down at his feet, as holding it by his Acceptance, and not their own Merit; they have all, and hold all by his Grace, and therefore would have him receive the Glory of all.

(2.) They shall wonder at the greatness of Christs Condescention, and hearty Love to his Servants, though poor and despicable: for in the day of Judgment, he doth not commemorate the Benefits done to him in Person, in the dayes of his Flesh, but to his Members in the time of his Exaltation: he doth not mention the Alabaster box of precious Oyntment poured on his head, nor the Entertain­ments made him when he lived upon earth; but the feeding and cloathing of his hungry and naked Servants: The greatest part of Christians never saw Christ in [Page 184] the Flesh; But the Poor they have alwayes with them: Kindness to these, is Kindness to him. Again, Among these he doth not mention the most Eminent, the Pro­phets and Apostles, or the great Instruments of his Glory in the World; but the least of his Brethren; even those that are not only little and despicable in the esteem of the World, but those that are little and despicable in the Church, in respect of others that are of more eminent Use and Service. Again, The least Kindness shewn unto them; Mat. 10.42. Whosoever shall give to drink, to one of these little ones, a Cup of cold water in the name of a Disciple; verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. He had spoken before of kindness to Prophets, and righte­ous Men, Men of Eminent Gifts and Graces; then ordinary Disciples; among these, the least and most contemptible, either as to outward Condition, or State of Life, or to Use and Service; and, it may be, inward Grace. Now all this shew­eth what value Christ sets upon the meanest Christians, and the smallest and mean­est Respect that is shewed them: The smallness and meanness of the Benefit, shall not diminish his Esteem of your Affection: any thing done to his People, as his People, will be owned and noted. When the Saints, that newly came from the Neglects and Scorns of an unbelieving World, shall see and hear all this, what cause will they have to wonder, and say, Lord, who hath owned thee in these? Alas, in the World all is quite contrary: Let a Man profess Christ, and resemble Christ in a lively manner, and own Christ thoroughly; presently he is ( [...]) set up for a Sign of Contradiction; and that, not only among Pagans, but Profes­sing Christians; yea, by those that would seem to be of great note in the Church, as the Corner-stone was refused by the Builders, 1 Pet. 2.7. And therefore, when Christ taketh himself to be so concerned in their Benefits and Injuries, they have cause to wonder: Christ was in these, and the World knew it not.

(3.) At the Greatness of the Reward: That he should not only take notice of these Acts of Kindness, but so amply remunerate them. In the Rewards of Grace God worketh beyond humane Imagination and Apprehension: 1 Cor. 2.9. Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard, neither have entred into the Heart of Man, the things God hath prepared for them that love him. We cannot, by all that we see and hear in this World, which are the Senses of Learning, form a Conception large enough for the Blessedness of this Estate: Enjoyers and Beholders will wonder at the Grace, and Bounty, and power of their Redeemer: 'Tis transcendent, hyperbolical weight of Glory, 2 Cor. 4.17. Where is any thing that they can do or suffer, that is wor­thy to be mentioned, or compared with so great a Recompence? When these Bo­dies of Earth, and Bodies of Dust, shall shine like the Stars in Brightness; these sublime Souls of ours see God face to face; these wavering and inconstant Hearts of ours shall be immutably and indeclinably fastned, to love him, and serve him, and praise him; as without Defection, so without Intermission and Interruption; and our Ignominy turned into Honour, and our Misery into everlasting Happiness. Lord, what Work of ours can be produced, as to be rewarded with so great a Blessedness!

VSE. That which we learn from this Question of theirs, supposed to be con­ceived upon these Grounds, is,

(1.) An humble Sense of all that we do for God. The Righteous remember not any thing that they did, worthy of Christ's Notice; and we should be like-minded: Nehem. 13.22. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the Greatness of thy Mercy. When we have done our best, we had need to be spared and forgiven, rather than rewarded. On the contrary, Luk. 18.11. The Pha­risee stood and prayed thus to himself: God I thank thee, that I am not as other Men are, Extorioners, Vnjust, Adulterers, or even as this Publican. And those, Isa. 58.3. Where­fore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have have afflicted our Souls, and thou takest no Knowledge. They challenge God for their Work. None more apt to rest in their own Righteousness, than they that have the least Cause. Formal Duties do not discover Weakness; and so Men are apt to be puffed up: they search little, and so rest in some outward things. 'Tis no great Charge to maintain pain­ted Fire. The Substantial Duties of Christianity, such as Faith and Repentance, im­ply Self-humbling; but external things produce Self-exalting. They put the Soul to no stress. Loaden Boughs hang the Head most; so are holy Christians most humble: None labour so much as they do, in working out their Salvation; and [Page 185] none so sensible of their Weaknesses and Imperfections. Old Wine puts the Bottles in no danger; there is no Strength and Spirits left in it: So do formal Duties little put the Soul to it. On the other side, they are conscious to so many Weaknesses as serious Duties will bring into the View of Conscience, and have a deep Sense of their Obligations to the Love and Goodness of God, and a strong Perswasion of the Blessed Reward. None are so humble as they: They see so much Infirmity for the present, so much Obligation from what is past, and such sure Hope of what is to come, that they can scarce own a Duty as a Duty. None do Duties with more Care, and none are less mindful of what they have done; They discern little else in it, that they contribute any thing to a good Action, but the Sin of it. This is to do God's Work with an Evangelical Spirit; doing our utmost, and still ascribing all to our Mediator, and blessed Redeemer.

(2.) What Value and Esteem we should have for Christ's Servants, and Faithful Worshippers. Christ treateth his Mystical Body with greater Indulgence, Love and Respect, than he did his Natural Body; for he doth not dispense his Judgment with respect to that, but these: He would not have us know him after the Flesh, 2 Cor. 5.16. Please our selves with the Conceit of what we would do to him, if he were alive, and here upon Earth; but he will judge us according to the Respect or Dis­respect we shew to his Members, even to the meanest among them: To wrong them, is to wrong Christ; Zech. 2.8. He that toucheth you, toucheth the Apple of his Eye. The Churches Trouble goes near his Heart, which in due time will be mani­fested upon the Instruments thereof. To sleight them is to sleight Christ: He that despiseth you, despiseth me. To grieve and offend them, is to grieve and offend Christ. Matth. 18.10. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little Ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their Angels do alwayes behold the Face of my Father, which is in Hea­ven. Did we but consider the Value Christ puts upon the meanest Christian, we would be loath to offend them: What Comfort, Love, Kindness you shew to them, 'tis reckoned by Christ as done to himself. If we would look upon things now, as they shall be looked upon at the Day of Judgment, we would find our Hands and Tongues tyed and bridled from injuring Christ's faithful Servants; yea, we would shew more of a Christian Spirit, in relieving their Bodily and Spiritual Neces­sities, and doing Good upon all occasions.

(3.) It teacheth us to take off our Thoughts from things Temporal, to things Eter­nal; both in judging of our selves, and others. The great Miscarriage of the World, is because they measure all things by Sense, and visible Appearance: Now we are the Sons of God; but it doth not appear what we shall be, 1 Joh. 3.2. Heirs in the World are bred up suitable to their Birth and Hopes; but God's Sons and Heirs make no fair Shew in the Flesh.

1. Do not judge amiss of others: God's People are a poor, despised, hated, scorned Company in the World, as to visible Appearance; and what Proof of Christ is there in them? Who can see Christ in an hungry Beggar? or the glorious Son of God in an imprisoned and scorned Believer? Or one beloved of God, in him that is morti­fied with continual Sicknesses and Diseases? Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or sick, and in Prison! A Pearl, or a Jewel that is faln into the Dirt, you cannot dis­cern the worth of it, till you wash it, and see it sparkle. A Prince in disguise may be justled and affronted. To a common Eye things go better with the Wicked, than with the Children of God: They enjoy little of the Honour, and Pleasure, and Esteem of the World; and yet they are the Excellent Ones of the Earth, Psal. 16.3. If you can see any thing of Christ in them, of the Image of God in them, you will one day see them other manner of Persons, than now you see them, or they appear to be: These will be owned, when others are disclaimed; and glorified, when they are rejected, and banished out of Christ's Presence. And though your compa­nying with them be a Disgrace to you now, 'twill then be your greatest Joy and Com­fort.

2. Do not judge amiss of your selves. When the World doth not esteem of us, but is ready to put many Injuries upon us, and to follow us with Hatred, and sun­dry Persecutions, we are apt to judge our selves forsaken of God; that we have no Room, or Place in his Heart, or else these things would not befal us. Oh, no! Christ may be imprisoned in his Members, banished in his Members, reduced to great Streights, and Exigencies in his Members; yea by the Hand of God, you may be made poor, and hungry, and naked; but all this shall be recompensed to you. We [Page 186] must not walk by Sense, but by Faith, 2 Cor. 5.7. Time will come, when they that wonder at our Afflictions, shall wonder at us, for the Glory that Christ will put upon us; when you, and all the Saints about you, shall say, Little did I think, that a poor, base, laborious, miserable Life, should have such a glorious End and close. Christians, wait but a little time, and you will have more cause to wonder at the Glory that shall be revealed in you, than at the Afflictions you now en­dure.

Secondly, We now come to Christ's Answer and Reply to this Question: Where­in,

  • (1.) Take notice of the Note of Averment and Assurance; Verily, I say unto you. I do the rather observe it, because I find the like in a parallel Place; Matth. 10.42. Verily, I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his Reward. This sheweth, that 'tis hardly believed in the World; but yet 'tis a certain Truth.
  • (2.) The Answer its self; wherein the former Passages are explained, of Christ's being hungry, thirsty, naked, exiled, imprisoned; the Riddle is opened: What is done to the Afflicted, Christ taketh it as if it were done to him in Person.

In this Answer observe,

  • 1. The Title that is put upon Afflicted Christians; they are his Brethren.
  • 2. The Extent and Vniversality of this Title, the meanest are not excepted; The least of these my Brethren. The Meanest, as well as the most Excellent; the Poor, the Abject of the World, believing in Christ, are accounted his Brethren.
  • 3. The particular Application of this Title, to every one of them; To one of the least of my Brethren. We cannot do good to all; yet if we do good to one, or to as many as are within our reach, or the compass of our Ability, it shall not be unre­warded.
  • 4. The Interpretation of the Kindness shewed to these Brethren; What you have done to the least of these my Brethren, you have done it unto me.
    • (1.) I shall first consider the Force and Importance of these Expressions.
    • (2.) Their Scope and Intendment here, which is to bind us to Acts of Charity, and Relief to Christ's poorest Servants.

First, For the Force and Importance of these Expressions: And there, first, ob­serve, That whoever believeth in Christ, are accounted as his Brethren and Sisters; and he will not be ashamed to own them as such at the last Day.

Here I shall shew you,

  • 1. Who are Brethren.
  • 2. What a Priviledge this is.

First, Who are Brethren? Some by Brethren understand Mankind: And so, What you have done to the least of my Brethren, in their Sense, is to the meanest Man alive, Partaker of that Humane Nature which I have honoured by assuming it: But that is Brethren in the largest Sense. No, that's not his meaning here. Upon what grounds Charity is to be expressed to them, I shall shew you more fully by and by. To do good to a poor Man, as to a poor Man, is a Work of natural Mercy; but to do good to a poor Man, as he is one of Christ's Brethren, is a Work of Christian Charity; 2 Pet. 1.7. And to Brotherly kindness, Charity. [...] and [...], is distin­guished. There is a more kindly, and tender Affection, that we owe to those who are Children of the same Father, or are in Charity bound to judge so; by sympa­thizing with them in Trouble, supplying their Necessities, every way studying to promote their Spiritual and Temporal Welfare: But a general Love to all we must thirst after, and endeavour the true Good of all, to whom we may be profitable. But the Title of Brethren to Christ, groweth from Faith, by which we are made the Children of God: Joh. 1.12. But as many as received him, to them gave he pow­er to become the Sons of God: And therefore, Christ calleth them Brethren. And 'tis [Page 187] very notable to observe, Heb. 2.11. For both he that sanctifieth, and they that are san­ctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them Brethren. Mark: The Kindred is only reckoned to the Sanctified. Though all Mankind have the same Nature, come of the same Stock; yet, He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them Brethren. There the Relation holdeth of both sides. Christ is born of a Woman; and They are born of God, Joh. 1.13. and so he is a Kinsman doubly; Ratione Incarnationis suae, & Regenerationis nostrae, as Macarius. He taketh part of Flesh and Blood, partaketh of Humane Nature; and we are made Partakers of a Divine Nature, 2 Pet. 1.4. And Matth. 12.47, 48, 49, 50. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy Mother, and thy Brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee; but he answered, [...] said unto him that told him, Who is my Mother? and who are my Brethren? And he stretched forth his Hand towards his Disciples, and said, Behold, my Mother, and my Brethren: For whosoever shall do the Will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my Brother, and Sister, and Mother.

Secondly, Now I shall shew you, in the next place, what a Priviledge this is. I shall shew you,

(1.) What Condescension there is in Christs part, that he should count the least of his people, not only for his own, but for his Brethren. The Apostle saith, He is not ashamed, Heb. 2.11. We are said to be ashamed in two Cases.

1. When we do any thing that is filthy. As long as we have the Heart of a Man, we cannot do any thing that hath filthiness in it without shame. Or,

2. When we do any thing beneath that Dignity and Rank which we sustain in the World. The former Consideration is of no place here; the latter then must be considered. Those that bear any Rank and Port in the World, are ashamed to be too familiar with their Inferiours; yet, such is the love of Christ towards his People, that though he be infinitely greater and more worthy than us, yet he is not ashamed to call us Brethren. 'Tis said, Prov. 19.7. All the Brethren of the Poor do hate him. If a Man fall behind hand in the World, his Friends look askew up­on him; but Jesus Christ, though he be the Eternal Son of God, by whom he made the World, the Splendour of his Fathers Glory, and the Brightness of his Per­son, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; and we be poor, vile, and unworthy Creatures; yet he disdaineth not to call us Brethren, notwithstanding our Mean­ness and unworthiness, and his own Glory and Excellency. Divines observe, that Christ never gave his Disciples the Title of Brethren, but after his Resurrecti­on; before, Servants, little Children, Friends, were their usual Designations; but then he expresly calleth them Brethren. Joh. 13.13, 14. Ye call me Lord and Master, for so I am. And Joh. 12.26. If any Man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall my Servant be. Friends, Joh. 15.15. I have called you Friends. But after the Resurrection the Style of Brethren is very frequent, Mat. 28.10. Go tell my Bre­thren, I go into Galilee. And Joh. 20.17. Go to my Brethren, and tell them, I go to my Father, and your Father. And at the last day he giveth this Title to all the Elect, that are put at his right Hand.

Quest. But what is the Reason of this?

Answ. Though the Ground were laid in the Incarnation, when Christ naturalliz'd himself to us, and became one of our own Line; yet he doth expresly own it af­ter his Resurrection, and will own it at his coming to Judgment, to shew that his Glory and Exaltation doth nor diminish his Affections towards his People, but ra­ther the Expressions thereof are enlarged: He still continueth our Brother, and will do so, as long as our Nature remaineth in the Unity of his Person, which will be to all Eternity.

(2.) That it is a Real Priviledge to us; 'tis a Title of great Dearness and In­timacy; 'tis not an idle Complement, for there is cause and reason for it, [...]. All Mankind coming of one Father, and being made of one Blood, are Brethren; and Christ reckoneth himself among us, and assumeth the Relation proper to his Nature, especially when we get a new Kindred by Grace: 'Tis not an empty Title, but a great and Real Priviledge; not a Nominal, Titular Relation, to put Honour upon us, but to give us Benefit, Rom. 8.17. and for the present assureth us of his tender Respect.

[Page 188] VSE I. It comforts us against the sense of our own Unworthiness. Though our Nature be removed so many degrees of distance from God, and at that time polluted with Sin, when Christ glorified it, and assumed it into his own Person; yet all this hindred him not from taking our Nature, and the Title depending there­upon: Therefore the sense of our Unworthiness, when 'tis seriously laid to Heart, should not hinder us from looking after the Benefits we need, and which are in his power to bestow upon us. This Term should revive us; Whatever serves to to our Comfort and Glory, Christ will think it no disgrace to do it for us. This may be one Reason why Christ biddeth them tell his Brethren, I am risen, Mat. 28.10. The poor Disciples were greatly dejected and confounded in themselves; they had all forsaken him, and fled from him; Peter had denyed him, and forsworn him; what could they look for from him, but a sharp and harsh Exprobration of their Fear and Cowardise? But he comforts them with this Message; Go tell my Disciples, and Peter, that I am risen. The fal'n Man is not forgotten; Peter was weeping bitterly for his fault, but Christ sends him a comfortable Message; Go tell Peter I am risen.

Secondly, The next thing that I shall observe, is,

Doct. That what is done to his People, to the least of them, Christ will esteem it as done to himself.

1. It holdeth true in Injuries, Isa. 63.9. In all their Afflictions he was afflicted; and the Angel of his Presence saved them; in his Love and in his Pity he redeemed them. And Act. 9.4. And he fell to the Earth, and he heard a Voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Christ was wronged when the Saints were wrong­ed: He is above Passion, but not above Compassion. The Enemies of the Church have not Men for their Enemies, but Christ himself: When they are mocked and scorned, Christ is mocked and scorned.

2. It holdeth also true of Benefits: The least Courtesie or Act of Kindness shew­ed to them, is shewed to Christ; that which is done in Christ's Name, and for Christ's sake, is done unto Christ: You do not consider the Man so much as Christ in him. The Apostle saith, they received him even as Christ Jesus, Gal. 9.14. that is, in his Name, and as his Messenger, 2 Cor. 5.10. and Luk. 10.16. He that hear­eth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; as a King is resisted in a Constable armed with his Authority. As when we go to God in Christ's Name, whatever we obtain is put upon Christ's Account; ('tis not for our Merit, but Christ's,) so, whatsoever you do to any Person in Christ's Name, and for Christ's sake, is done to Christ: If you send another in your name, if he be denyed, you take your selves to be denyed; if granted for your sake, you think it granted to you.

I come now to consider,

Secondly, The Scope. These things are parabolically represented, to increase our Faith concerning the Reward of Charity.

The Doctrine is this:

Doct. That one special End and Vse unto which rich Men should employ their worldly Wealth, should be the help and relief of the Poor.

Consider,

(1.) In the General, 'tis not to the Rich, but to the Poor. Feasts and Enter­tainments are usually for the Rich, but Christ saith, Luk. 14.12, 13, 14. When thou makest a Dinner, or a Supper, call not thy Friends, thy Brethren, neither thy Kinsmen, nor thy Neighbour; lest they bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a Feast, call the Poor, the Maimed, the Blind, the Lame; and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the Resurrection of the Just. Many truck with their Kindness; they make Merchandize rather than im­part their Charity: This is not Charity, but Merchandize.

[Page 189](2.) Of the Poor there are three sorts.

1. Pauperes Diaboli, the Devils Poor; such as have riotously spent their Patri­monies, and reduced themselves to Raggs and Beggery by their own Mis-government: These are not wholly to be excluded when their necessity is extream; you give it to the Man, not to the Sin: It may work upon them, especially when you joyn spiritual Alms with temporal.

2. There are Pauperes Mundi, the World's Poor; such as come of poor Parents, and live in poor Estate, those are to be relieved: There is a common tye of Na­ture between us and them, Isa. 58.7. Thou shalt not hide thy self from thine own flesh.

3. There are Pauperes Christi, Christ's Poor; such as have suffered loss of Goods for Christ's sake, or being otherwise poor, profess the Gospel; these especially should be relieved, Rom. 12.13. Distributing to the necessities of the Saints. And Gal. 6.10. Let us do good to all, especially to the Houshold of Faith. There is an Order; First, our own Families, our Parents, our Children or Kindred, 1 Tim. 5.8. then Strangers; and among them, those that profess the same Faith with us; and then them who do most evidence the reality of Faith by an holy Life; and then to all, as occasion is offered.

Reasons of this Duty.

(1.) The near Vnion that is between Christ and his People. Christ and Believ­ers are one and the same Mystical Body with Christ their Head; 1 Cor. 12.12. For, as the Body is one, and hath many Members, and all the Members of that one Body be­ing many, are one Body; so is Christ: Now that Union comprizeth all. When one Member suffereth, all the Members suffer with it, ver. 26. There is a sympathy and fellow-feeling: When you tread upon the Toe, the Tongue will cry out, and say, You have hurt me. They cast themselves out of the Body, that have not common Joyes, and common Sorrows with the rest of the Members.

(2.) Christ hath commended them to us as his Proxies and Deputies: He himself receiveth nothing from us; he is above our kindness, being exalted into the Hea­vens; but in every Age he leaveth some, to try the Respects of the World: Oh, what men would do for Christ, if he were now in the flesh! 'Tis an usual deceit of Heart to betray our Duties by our wishes: Now Christ hath put some in his place; 1 Joh. 4.20. If any man say, I love God, and hateth his Brother, he is a Li­ar; for he that loveth not his Brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? We would be as much prejudiced against Christ, as we are against the godly Poor. That which your Servant receiveth by your order, you receive it: He receiveth your Respects by the hands of the Poor; he hath devolved this right on the Poor, as his Deputies, Mat. 26.11. For ye have the Poor alwayes with you, but Me ye have not alwayes. We pretend much Love to Christ; if he were sick in a Bed, we would visit him; if in Prison, or in want, we would relieve him: What is done to one of these, is done to him.

(3.) 'Tis a great Honour put upon us, to be Instruments of Divine Providence, and Preservation of others. You are God's Substitutes in giving, as the Poor in re­ceiving: As Gods to them, we relieve and comfort them: He could give to them without thee, but God will put the honour of the work upon thee: This is the greatest Resemblance of God, Act. 20.35. 'Tis more blessed to give, than to receive: that is, more God-like. 'Tis a great Mercy to be able and willing; Luk. 6.36. Be ye therefore merciful, as you