« PreviousContinue »
and pertinent to the purpose, as, beyond all dispute, it is amiable and ravishing to the eye to behold so orient and dazzling a sight as apples of gold, drawn to the life, in pictures of silver; so undoubtedly a word of counsel and comfort brought home to the conscience of a doubting wounded sinner, ravisheth and gladdeneth the broken heart: “ As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country,” Prov. xxv. 25. When the word, suited to a poor tempted soul's distress, is brought home in the nick of time, as we say, O how sweet is it then!
Thirdly, A third thing which bespeaks the word of Christ sweet to a real believer, is the Holy Ghost's efficiency and quickening power accompanying the same. What we say of corporeal bread, raiment, physic, drink, &c. what can they avail to comfort and nourish the body, unless the Spirit of God bless and sanctify their use to the end for which they are appointed?
The same may be truly said of the word and sacraments, &c. What can they avail for the soul's good, if the efficiency and quickening influence of the Spirit of God go not along with their use?
It is for want of this quickening virtue of the Spirit of God that so many sermons are preached, and so few sinners really converted. It is for want of this quickening efficacy of the Spirit, that so many ordinances of religion are attended and enjoyed by thousands of professors, without any sensible or visible growth in grace.
The word of God is like a well-made knife or razor: though never so keen and sharp, yet, without a living agent, it can neither cut nor shave. So the word of God; neither the law can awaken, convince, or wound, the conscience for sin; nor yet the gospel heal, or comfort a soul in distress, without the energy and quickening efficacy of the Spirit of God.
There are two sorts of people who hereby appear to be in a woful condition. First, Such as frequently hear and read the word, receive sacraments, and go the round in all external acts of religious duties, and yet without any motion of spiritual life from the Spirit of God in their 'souls. These are like blind horses in a mill, going round all day long, always treading in the same track, not seeing or considering where they are, or what they are doing. These keep to the form in a customary way, but heed not the inward power, which is that which renders all acts of religious worship both pleasing and acceptable to God, and which proves the soul to be in reality a living member of Christ's mystical body. Isa. xxix. 13. 2 Tim. iii. 5. Rev. iii. 17.
Secondly, There be others, under pretence of internal motion and power in the soul from the Spirit, who, to avoid the damning formality of the others now mentioned, will not only neglect, but even slight the word and ordinances, reflecting 'on the word as a dead letter; and the holy institutions of Christ, in his churches, as carnal, poor, mpty and beggarly elements. Some of these are Seekers, in plain English, Quakers, who are always learning, but never come to the knowledge of the truth, 2 Tim. iii. 6, 7. Others are super-ordinanced, who have got above all ordinary means. These, in their own conceits at least, are so near perfection, that they need not the use of outward ordinances. These are got, in outward shew and profession, above ordinances, but never yet were they acquainted with true piety. - Both these sorts are under the powerful working of an infernal spirit of delusion; which feeds their souls with chimerical whimsies and enthusiastical dreams, instead of the doctrine which is according to godliness. These wretched extremes are to be carefully shunned and avoided, as the paths which lead to hell and eternal ruin. The sure way hereto is to keep within sight and hearing of the shepherds' tents, Cant. i. 8. Beware of false teachers, and avoid the doctrine which hath not God's word for its foundation. Isa. viii. 20. In hearing and reading, and all other ordinances of religious worship, see that the outward form and the inward power be not separated. Those things which God hath joined together must not be put asunder, Isa. lix. 21. Matt. xix. 6. That great man, Augustin, used to call the word of God, creating words. ‘Verba divina,' saith he, “sunt verba creativa; and that on account of the quickening energy and power that
goes along with them. This is a truth which hath been acknowledged as well by enemies as by friends to the truth. “ The officers answered, Never man spake like this man,” John vii. 46. “ And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke xxiv. 32.
He that brags of the word of God, and is a stranger to the power thereof in his own soul, is an hypocritical formalist. He who boasts of the power of the Spirit within, and holds not the form of sound words, indited by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to be a rule of faith and holy life, is a deluded enthusiast. From both these extremes the care and faithfulness of the great Shepherd will keep all who are given him by the Father.
Thirdly, The works of Christ are all sweet to the true believer.
By works, here, I intend the works of his mediatorial undertaking.
“ Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works,” Psal. Ixxxvi. 8. Besides the works of creation and providence, which are common to the whole Trinity, there are works which are peculiar to Christ as mediator. I will reduce them to six heads.
First, His work of incarnation, or his assuming the human nature into unity with his sacred godhead. This is the mystery of all other mysteries,
and of this the temple and tabernacle of old were shadowy types. To this mystery that in Prov. viii. 31. had reference, even before Christ came in the flesh; yea, before the birth of time itself, if I may so speak, “ Rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth,” &c. The then intended union between the Godhead and our flesh is in that scripture pointed out: and this is chiefly intended by John, chap. i. 14: “ And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” &c. And by Paul, in 1 Tim. iii. 16; “ And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifested in the flesh,” &c.
There are three things especially which bespeak the incarnation of Christ to be sweet and delightful to the true believer.
1. The gracious condescension of Christ to lodge in the believer's nature. Thus to do, was a favour and privilege denied the angelic nature, which fell by apostacy; it being designed and intended only for the seed of Abraham: “ For verily he took not upon him the nature of angels, but he took the seed of Abraham,” Heb. ii. 16.
This is one principal reason why the devils are so implacably set against the Lord Jesus Christ, and all who bear his image; because Christ became a mediator between God and Abraham's seed, but not between God and themselves; “Let us alone;" cried those apostate spirits in the possessed; “ what have we to do with thee?” Mark i. 24.
These devils knew they had no interest or pro