« PreviousContinue »
ROMANS v. 1-5.
SHEDDING ABROAD GOD'S LOVE ON THE HEART BY THE
EXPERIENCE of the want of this effusion of God's love, and some small taste of its sweetness, make me think the thoughts of this very suitable to one expecting death.
The words contain a golden chain of highest blessings on all true Christians.
I. They are supposed to have faith, that is, both a general trust in God's revelations and grace, and a special trust in Jesus Christ, as given by the Father's love to be the Redeemer, to justify, sanctify, and glorify his people. I have oft proved this justifying faith to be no less than our unfeigned taking Christ for our Savior, and becoming true Christians, according to the tenor of the baptismal covenant. As to the acts, it is formally trust—one in three; the understanding's assenting trust, the wills consenting trust, and the executive power's practical, venturing, obeying trust.
II. All true believers are justified; even all that consent to the baptismal covenant, and choose God to be their God, and Christ to be their Savior, and the Holy Ghost to be their Sanctifier, and give up themselves to him by true resolution, as their only ruler, hope, and happiness; though this be done with so great weakness, as endeth not all doubts, nor, quieteth the mind.
To be justified is not to be accounted such as have no sin, but, 1. To be made such by pardon through Christ's merits, and by true faith, as God will take by special love and favor unto lise. 2. To be accounted such by God. 3. To be virtually sentenced such by the
law of grace and faith, and to be just in law sense. 4. At last to be judged such by public sentence. 5. And to be used as such.
Not justified by the law of innocency, or of Moses, but by Christ's
law of grace.
Not justified perfectly till the time of perfection. Much punishment on soul and body is yet to be taken off, and more sins daily to be pardoned, and we, before the world, to be sentenced as just to life everlasting.
III. The justified have peace with God. They are reconciled, and in a state of love and friendship. It signifieth mutual peace, but with great inequality. God's love and savor to us is the stable, constant part. Our consent also, and acceptance of his terms of peace, is constant in its truth : but our sense of God's love, which is the peace possessed by the soul, is weak and inconstant, and too oft quite lost or obscured by ignorance, mistake and fear. But it must be known that this is a diseased state, unnatural to the believer as such; as it is unnatural for a woman married to a faithful husband, to lie in terror, thinking that he will kill her, or doth not love her; or for a child to think the same of a loving father. Faith, of its own nature, tendeth to the soul's peace and joy, in the sense of God's love. And how is Christ offered to us, but as a Savior, to bring us by grace to glory? And he that accepteth him as such, whereby he is justified, doth sure believe that he is offered as such ; for none can accept what he thinks not to be offered. And this implieth some hope, at least, that Christ will be such to us; and did faith work strongly and kindly, its effect would be a constant, joyful state of soul, as pleasant health and mirth is to our natures. All our distrustful fears and griefs, and disquietness of soul, are for want of more faith, as sickness and pain is for the want of vital causes of health.
IV. This peace with God is only " through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Though it be a vain dream to think by justifying faith is meant Christ only, and not faith : yet it is no other faith but the foresaid believing trust on Christ. Therefore, as faith is our part, so it supposeth Christ, and all the works of his office, and righteousness, on his part, as its object. Christ is the purchasing cause ; but our trust and acceptance is that which is pleasing to God, and chosen by him to be our part, without innocency, or keeping the Jewish law.
Since man once sinned, God's justice, and man's conscience, tell us that we are unfit for God's acceptance or communion immediately, but must have a suitable Mediator. Oh! blessed be God for this suitable Mediator. Without him I dare not pray, I cannot hope, I dare not die; God would else frown me away to misery. All the hope of pardon and salvation that I have; all the access to God, and the mercies and deliverances that I have received, have been by this Author and Finisher of our faith. Into his conducting hands I give my soul; and into his preserving hands both soul and body; and into his receiving hands I commend my departing soul.
V. Ver. 2. • By whom we have access by faith unto this grace wherein we stand;' that is, into this state of blessed Christianity, peace with God, and the following blessings. As it is by marriage that a woman hath right to her husband's estate and honors, and by inheritance that a child comes to his father's maintenance and land. This is no diminution to God's love. To say it is all by Christ, is not to take it as ever the less from God the Father. It is more to give us Christ, and life in him, than to have given us life without a Christ; (John iii. 16; 1 John v. 10–12,) as God is never the less, the giver of light to the earth, for giving it them by the sun. Second causes diminish not the honor of the first.
VI. “And rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” 1. The beatifical object—"The glory of God.” 2. The beatifical act—" rejoice.” 3. The mediate, causing act—"hope.” All presupposing faith and justification.
The “ glory of God” is that glorious appearance of God to man and angels, which maketh happy, (1.) the mind by beholding it, (2.) the will by loving it, and receiving the communications of love, (3.) the executive powers by joyful praise, &c.
Though some foretastes are here, it is yet said to be hoped for; and we hope for that which is not seen. When faith is said to be that which we are justified or saved by, it includeth hope, though, more precisely taken, they are distinct. “We are saved by hope."
" The same word is oft translated ' trust and hope ;' and faith is trust. To trust Christ for salvation, includeth hoping that he will save us. But hope is denominated from the good hoped for, and faith from the cause by which we hope to obtain it.
Hope doth not necessarily imply either certainty or uncertainty. It may stand with both in various degrees.
Rejoicing is made by God the very naturally desired state of the soul. It is when natural, the pleasant efflorescence of the spirits, or their state of health.
It is pleasure that is the spring or poise of all motion sensitive in the world. Trahit sua quemque voluptas. Appetite, or will is the active principle; and congruous good or delectable, is the object. The world is undone by the seduction of false, deceitful pleasure; and though we that made not ourselves are not so made for ourselves, as that our pleasure or felicity in God should be so high in our desire as God himself, who is the ultimate object of our love: yet, seeing such an object he is, and the love of him (and received from him) is our felicity, these are never to be separated.
What have I to rejoice in, if this hoped-for glory be not my joy? All things else are dying to me: and God himself is not my felicity, as he afflicts me, nor as he giveth me the transitory gifts of nature, but as he is to be seen in glory. If this be not my joy, it is all but vanity. What then should all my thoughts and labor aim at more, as to myself, than to hope for and foretaste this glory. No sin lieth heavier on me than that my hopes of glory raise me to no higher joy; and that the great weakness of my faith appeareth by such dull thoughts of glory, or by withdrawing fears. Sure there is enough in the glory of God, soundly believed and hoped for, to make a man rejoice in pain and weakness, and to make him long to be with Christ. I live not according to the nature of Christianity, if I live not as in peace with God, and in the joyful hopes of promised glory.
VII. “ Not only so, but we glory in tribulation." Glory is so transcendent, and tribulation so small and short, that an expectant of glory may well rejoice in bodily sufferings. It is tribulation for Christ and righteousness' sake that we are said to glory in the rest, for our sins, it is well if we can improve and patiently bear. Yet in them we may rejoice, in hope of glory, though we glory not of them. Oh! if all the painsul, languid days, and nights and years that I have had, as the fruit of my sin, had been sufferings for that which I am now hated and hunted for, even for preaching Christ when men forbid me,
how joyfully might I undergo it: but yet, even here, approaching glory should be my joy. Alas! my groans and moans are too great, and my joy too little.
VIII. “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” That which worketh patience is matter of joy : for patience doth us more good than tribulation can do hurt; why, then, do I groan so much under suffering, and so little study and exercise patience and no more rejoice in the exercise thereof?
IX. “ And patience, experience.” It is manifold and profitable experience, which patient suffering brings. It giveth us experience, as of nature's weakness, and the great need of faith; so of the truth of God's promises, the love and tenderness of Christ, the acceptance of our prayers; and the power of the Spirit's aid and grace. what abundance of experiences of God and ourselves, and the vanity of creatures, had we wanted, if we had not waited in a suffering state : alas ! how many experiences have I forgotten.
X. “And experience, hope.” A bare promise should give us hope: but we are still distrustful of ourselves, and of all the clearest evidences, till experience help us, and set all home. Oh, what an advantage hath a Christian of great and long experience for his hope and joy! And yet when notable experiences of God's providence are past and gone, an unbelieving heart is ready to question, whether the things came not by mere natural course; and, like the Israelites in the wilderness, dangers and fears bear down even long and great experiences. This is my sin.
XI. “And hope maketh not ashamed.” That is, true hope of what God hath promised, shall never be disappointed. They that trust on deceitful creatures are deceived, and ashamed of their hope: for all men are liars, that is, untrusty; but God is true, and ever faithsul: O what a comfort it is that God commandeth me to trust him! Sure such a command is a virtual promise, from him that cannot fail that trust which he commandeth. Lord, help me to trust thee in greatest dangers, and there to rest.
XII. “Because the love of God is shed abroad upon our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.” It is the love of God shed abroad on our hearts by the Holy Ghost which must make us rejoice in hope of the glory of God, even in tribulation.