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is to them an end for all strife," Heb. vi. 16; and thus God willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, or interposed himself by an oath.* It is very important to consider the form of the oath; God swears by himself, who is the living and true God, he could swear by no greater and it may be observed, that two considerations make a thing more credible-1. The quality of the person speaking; 2. The manner of the speech. Now, the form of the oath to Abraham is exceedingly emphatical; † partly because of the asseveration, "surely;" partly because of the reduplication, "in blessing I will bless thee," if I speak it, it shall be done. Moreover, the form of the expression in Genesis is strange, ‡ for it is thus—“ If I bless thee, thou shalt be blessed," or because I bless thee; or if I do not bless thee, (which is the form of an oath, Heb. iv. 3.) as if he should say, then let me not be true or just, yea, let me not be God. God pledges his faithfulness upon it, and may he not then be believed? But for what end is this? it is to confirm his promises, and assure the hearts of all the heirs of promise that he intends to do, and will accomplish what he hath spoken, that they may have strong consolation, and that he may take away all doubts and hesitation; and all this he doth for the heirs of promise; he would
'EμEGÍTEVIEV. Invitat præmio salutem; jurans etiam, vivo dicens: cupit credi sibi. O beatos nos quorum causâ Deus jurat! O miserrimos si nec juranti Domino credimus.-Tertul. de Pan.
↑ Gen. xxii. 16, 17. TANTA. est particula causalis et conditionalis.
Quid tibi prodest si Deus se juramento constringit, si tu hæc quasi communem audiens fabulam transeas?-Jurare dicitur Deus, ut tu audiens paveas et intremiscas et metu consternatus inquiras quid illud tantum est, pro quo Deus jurare dicitur.-Orig. Homil. 9. super Gen. xxii.
not have done thus for others, but he doth this and much more to satisfy his doubting children.
6. Yet further, men use to give an earnest or a pledge to assure others of their real purpose to make good the bargain, and this is part of the payment. This also doth our gracious God, Eph. i. 14; his Spirit is the "earnest of our inheritance,* until the redemption of the purchased possession." An earnest is used in purchasing land, in hiring of servants, and in contracting marriage, and whenever the Lord puts his Holy Spirit into the heart, it is as a pledge of all the mercies of the covenant and of our eternal inheritance. And though some men may be unfaithful, so far as rather to lose their earnest, than make good their bargain, yet we may be assured God will not do so, for it is as impossible that any saving grace of the Spirit should be cast into hell, as it is for any sin to enter into heaven. God will not lose his pledge, but fetch the soul to heaven when he hath fetcht the heart to himself; grace is the prologue and prelude to glory, the first resurrection leads the van to the second; a gracious change prepares for a glorious change. the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."-Rom. viii. 11. The Spirit confirms the promises, and we need not fear any danger of retractation; not but that the promises are firm enough of themselves, but he would establish our hearts in the faith thereof and acquiescence therein, lest there should be any question.
7. Another way whereby men testify their cordial resolution to make their promises good, is, by doing a great part of the work, which gives real evidence that * 2 Cor. i. 22. and v. 5.
they will do the rest; he that promiseth to give another a thousand pounds, and hath already given him nine hundred, may he not rationally trust him for the rest? or suppose there were but one pound, or a penny behind, there is great reason to confide in him for what is wanting. * Why, truly the Lord hath performed the greatest part of the promises of the covenant; the great promise of the covenant was, "that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;" that the Son of God should be incarnate, be in man's stead in life and death to satisfy justice, fulfil the law, and by his death bring in everlasting righteousness, and he hath already done it. Now, saith the apostle, Rom. viii. 32, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" God is beforehand with us; yea, if we be indeed heirs of promise, he hath made good another grand branch of the new covenant, in giving the conditions of the covenant, faith repentance, and new obedience; so that the main business is already done, the writings are made, sealed, signed, and delivered, there wants nothing but actual possession; nay, there is a seisin and delivery of part of the inheritance, and dare we not trust God for the remainder? certainly we have good reason so to do; the contrary is unreasonable.
8. God hath gone further, namely, to work many miracles for the confirmation of these sure mercies;
* Should a king promise to erect some college, and give liberal maintenance to students in it, we are certain by a human faith, that he will do such a thing though it be not begun; but if the foundations be in laying, we see its execution in part, and are assured it will be finished.-Bains on Eph. i. 17, p. 144.
+ See Rom. iv. 8-10. Qui misit unigenitum, immisit Spiritum, promisit vultum ; quid tandem tibi negaturus est ?—Bern.
this is a degree beyond what man can reach to make any thing sure. Hence, saith our dear Saviour, John v. 36, "I have greater witness than that of John, for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." This text shews the true and proper end and efficacy of Christ's miracles; they are not dumb shows, but have a voice, and cry aloud for faith in the intelligent observer; yea, and they were wont to beget faith in the spectators, as Nathaniel believed, upon Christ's telling him of his conference at a distance, John i. 48, 49. "The beginning of his miracles manifested his glory, and his disciples believed on him," John ii. 11; and others comparing the doctrine of John with Christ's miracles believed on him, John x. 41; and indeed the argument of miracles is a cogent, convincing argument, "for no man can do those real miracles except God be with him,”—John iii. 2. Certainly, the wonderful things wrought by Christ ought to assure our hearts of the truth of the gospel, and consequently of the sureness of these covenant mercies. But upon this subject you have evident and abundant demonstrations from the pen of the Rev. Mr. Baxter, in his Saints' Rest, Part 2, in the Preface, and in page 215-234, to which I refer you. The truth is, God hath graciously condescended to confirm the gospel by many infallible miracles which none can question, and all this to make sure to believers these covenant mercies, therefore they are inexcusable that slight this way of the gospel's confirmation. †
9. Another step that God hath taken is the adoption of various means to make known to us these
Igitur non sunt muta sed vocalissima; ideo non simpliciter intuenda, sed et intelligenter audienda.—Marl. in loc.
+ See Heb. ii. 3, 4.
sure mercies, and thereby to give us assurance of them, as,
(1.) An audible, intelligible voice from heaven, at Christ's baptism, and his transfiguration, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased," and this voice, the Apostle Peter saith, he heard in the holy mount, 2 Pet. i. 17, 18, so that these gospel mercies are not cunningly devised fables, but divine oracles of undoubted truth.
(2.) The constant preaching of honest and unbiassed men, that were eye-witnesses of his glory. They give clear evidence of their hatred of evil, love of truth and goodness, and they could not be perverted by any selfish ends of profit, pleasure, or honour, for these were not proposed, promised or attained; nay, affliction and persecution was their known portion, and, therefore, they certainly could not, would not cozen the world with lies to get what was not attainable in that way.
(3.) God hath qualified men with admirable gifts to enable them to demonstrate the certainty and excellency of these covenant mercies; in the apostles' days, extraordinary gifts, as extemporary prophecying, healing diseases, working miracles, discerning spirits, divers kinds of tongues, † so that all nations might hear these magnalia Dei, great things of God in their own dialects, and now they are translated into all laguages; and God hath continued to distribute ministerial gifts for the church's satisfaction and edification. ||
(4.) He sent even his own Son to be the preacher as well as purchaser of these sure mercies. "He spake at sundry times, and in divers manners in times past by the prophets, but in these last days he hath spoken to us by his Son," Heb. i. 1, 2, the more to conciliate in
* Mat. iii. 17. Mat. xvii. 5.
+ Acts ii. 11.
+ 1 Cor. xii. 8-10. Eph. iv. 8-12.