« PreviousContinue »
to God as their master, when the religion they profess a; mounts to no more than serving two masters ? What reason to trust that they will be stable in their ways, when they do not pretend to be of a single heart, and all know that the double minded persons used to be unstable in all their ways ? Those who only profess moral sincerity or common grace, do not pretend to love God above the world. And such grace is what God and man know is liable to pass away as the ear. ly dew and the morning cloud. If what men profess amounts to nothing beyond lukewarmness, it is not to be expected, that they will be faithful to the death. If men do not pretend to have any oil in their vessels, what cause can there be to trust that their lamps will not go out? If they do not pretend to have any root in them, what cause is there for any disappointment when they wither away,
When God, in the forementioned place, Isa. Ixiii. represents bimself as trusting Israel's profession,and saying, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie ; it cannot be understood, as if he trusted that they were his people in that sense, in which the ten tribes were called God's people after they had given up themselves to idolatry for two or three hundred years together without once repenting : But, surely they are my sincere saints and children, as they profess to be, Israelites indeed without guile; for surely they would not do so evil a thing as to make a lying profession. This seems to be the plain import of the words : It therefore shews that the profession they made was of real, vital godliness.
V. The eight first verses of the fifty sixth chapter of Isaiah, I think, afford good evidence, that such qualifications are requisite in order to a due coming to the privileges of a visible church state, as I have insisted on. In the four preceding chapters we have a prophecy of gospel times, the blessed state of things which the Messiah should introduce. The prophecy of the same times is continued in the former part of this chapter. Here we have a prophecy of the abolishing of the ceremonial law, which was a wall of separation, that kept two sorts of persons, viz. Eunuchs and Gentiles, out from the ordinances of the church or congregation of the
Lord (for the words congregation and church are the same) the place of whose meeting was in God's house, within God's walls, verse 5, and on God's holy mountain, verse 7. That in the ceremonial law, which especially kept out the Gentiles, was the law of circumcision, and the law that the eunuch shall not enter into the congregation or church of the Lord, we have in Deut. xxiii. 1. Now here it is foretold that in the days when “ God's salvation shall be come, and his righteousness revealed, by the coming of the Messiah, this wall of separation should be broken down, this ceremonial law remov. ed out of the way (but still taking care to note, that the law of the Sabbath shall be continued, as not being one of those ceremonial observances which shall be abolished); and then it is declared, what is the great qualification which should be looked at in those blessed days, when these external, ceremo. nial qualifications of circumcision and soundness of body should no more be insisted on, viz. piety of heart and practice, joining themselves to the Lord, loving the name of the Lord, to be his servants, choosing the things that please him, &c. Ver. 3. &c. “ Neither let the son of the stranger that hath joined him. self to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people ; neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree ; for thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant, even unto them will I give in my house, and within my walls, a place, and a name better than of sons and of daughters ; I will give unto them an eve erlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant : Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer ; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar : For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him besides those that are gathered unto him.”
VI. The representations which CARIST makes of his visible church, from time to time, in his discourses and parables, make the thing manifest which I have laid down,
As particularly the representation which Christ makes in the latter end of Mathew vü. of the final issue of things with respect to the different sorts of members of his visible church : Those that only say, Lord, Lord, and those who do the will of his Father which is in heaven; those who build their house upon a rock, and those who build upon the sand. They are all (of both kinds) evidently such as have pretended to an high hon, or and regard to Christ, have claimed an interest in him, and accordingly hoped to be finally acknowledged and received as some of his. Those visible Christians who are not true Christians, for :he present, cry, Lord, Lord ; that is, are forward to profess respect, and claim relation to him ; and will be greatly disappointed hereafter in not being owned by him. They shall then come and cry, Lord, Lord. This compel. lalion Lord, is commonly given to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, as signifying the special relation which Christ stood in to his disciples, rather than his universal do. minion. They shall then come, and earnestly claim relation, as it is represented of Israel of old, in the day of their distress, and God's awful judgments upon them, Hos. viii. 2. « Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee."
To know does not here intend speculative knowledge, but knowing as one knows his own, has a peculiar respect to, and owns and has an interest in. These false disciples shall not only claim interest in Christ, but shall plead apd bring arguments to confirm their claim ; Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works ? It is evidently the language of those that are dreadfully disappointed. Then (says Christ) I will profess unto them, I never knew you ; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. q.d.“ Though they profess a relation to me, I will profess none to them; though they plead that they know me, and have an interest in me, I will declare to them that I never owned them as any of mine ; and will bid them depart from me as those that I will never own, nor
have any thing to do with, in such a relation as they claim."
Thus all the hopes they had lived in, of being hereafter receive ed and owned by Christ,as in the number of his friends and favorites, are dashed in pieces. This is further illustrated by what follows, in the comparison of the wise man who built his house on a rock; representing those professed disciples who build their hope of an interest in him on a sure foundation, whose house shall stand in the trying day, and the foolish mad who built his house on the sand; representing those professed disciples or hearers of his word, who build their opinion and hope of an interest in him on a false foundation, whose house in the great time of trial shall have a dreadful fall, their vain hope shall issue in dismal disappointment and confusion.
On the whole it is manifest that all visible Christians or saints, all Christ's professing disciples or hearers that profess him to be their Lord, according to the scripture notion of professing Christ, are such as profess a saving interest in him and relation to him, and live in the hope of being hereafter owned as those that are so interested and related. By those that hear Christ's sayings, in this place, are not meant merely auditors of the word preached ; for there are many such who make no pretence to an interest in Christ, and have no such hope or opinion built on any foundation at all : But those who profess to hearken to, believe, and yield submission to the word of Christ. This is confirmed by the manner in which the matter is expressed in Luke vi.“ Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like :" i. e. Whosoever visibly comes to me, and is one of my professed disciples, &c.
This matter is confirmed by that parallel representation that Christ gives us in Luke xiii. 25....29, of his final disposal of the two different sorts of persons that are in the kingdom or church of God; viz. those who shall be allowed in his church or kingdom when it comes to its state of glory, and those who, though they have visibly been in it, shall be thrust out of it. It is represented of the latter, that they shall then come and claim relation and interest, and cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and Christ shall answer and say, I know you not, whence
you are. As much as to say, “Why do you claim relation and acquaintance with me ? You are strangers to me, I do not own you.” Then (it is said) they shall begin to say, We have caten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. As much as to say, “ This is a strange thing that thou dost not own us! We are exceedingly surprised that thou shouldst account us as strangers that have no part in thee, when we have eaten and drunk in thy presence,' &c. And when he shall finally insist upon it, that he does not own them, and will have nothing to do with them as his, then there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ; then they shall be filled with dismal disappointment, confusion and despair, when they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, with whom they expected to dwell forever there, and they themselves thrust out. By this it is evi. dent, that those visible members of the kingdom of God, that hereafter shall be cast out of it, are such as look upon theme selves now interested in Christ and the eternal blessings of his kingdom, and make that profession.
The same is manifest by the parable of the ten virgins, Matth. xxv. In the first verse it is said, The kingdom of heav. on [i. e. the church of Christ] is likened unto ten virgins. The two sorts of virgins evidently represent the two sorts of members of the visible church of Christ ; the wise, those who are frue Christians ; and the foolish, those who are apparent, but not true Christians. The foolish virgins were to all appearance the children of the bride chamber; they were such as to appearance had accepted of the invitation to the wedding, which represents the invitations of the gospel, wherein the bridegroom and bride say, Come ; they herein had testified the same respect to the bridegroom and bride that the wise had : The parable naturally leads us to suppose, that they were to appearance every way of the same society with the wise, pretended to be the same sort of persons, in like manner interested in the bridegroom, and that they were received by the wise under such a notion ; they made a profession of the very same kind of honor and regard to the bridegroom, in going forth to meet him with their lamps, as his friends to