Page images
PDF
EPUB

Christ ; namely, to apply ourselves unto him by invocation or praise; and thereby will the refreshment and advantage of them abide upon our minds.

So is it also as unto his love. The love of Christ is always the same and equal unto the church. Howbeit there are peculiar seasons of the manifestation and application of a sense of it unto the souls of believers. So it is when it is witnessed unto them, or shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. Then is it accompanied with a constraining power to oblige us to live unto him who died for us, and rose again ; 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. And of our spiritual life unto Christ, invocation of him is no small portion. And this sense of his love we might enjoy more frequently than for the most part we do, were we not so much wanting unto ourselves and our own concerns. For although it be an act of sovereign grace in God, to grant it unto us, and affect us with it, as it seems good unto him; yet is our duty required to dispose our hearts unto its reception. Were we diligent in casting out all that ' filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness,' which corrupts our affections, and disposes the mind to abound in vain imaginations; were our hearts more taken off from the love of the world, which is exclusive of a sense of divine love; did we more meditate on Christ and his glory, we should more frequently enjoy these constraining visits of his love, than now we do. So himself expresseth it, Rev. iii. 20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' He makes intimation of his love and kindness unto us. But oft-times we neither hear his voice when he speaks, nor do open our hearts unto him. So do we lose that gracious refreshing sense of his love which he expresseth in that promise, 'I will sup with him, and he shall sup with me.' No tongue can express that heavenly communion and blessed intercourse which is intimated in this promise. The expression is metaphorical, but the grace expressed is real, and more valued than the whole world, by all that have experience of it. This sense of the love of Christ, and the effect of it in communion with him, by prayer and praises, is divinely set forth in the Book of Canticles. The church therein is represented as the spouse of Christ; and as a faithful spouse she is always either solicitous about his love, or rejoicing in it. And when she hath attained a sense of it, she aboundeth in invocation, admiration, and praise. So doth the church of the New Testament upon an apprehension of his love, and the unspeakable fruits of it. “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen;' Rev. i. 5, 6. This therefore is another season that calls for this duty.

(3dly.) Times of persecution for his name's sake, and for the profession of the gospel, are another season rendering this peculiar invocation of Christ both comely and necessary. Two things will befall the minds of believers in such a season. [Ist.] That their thoughts will be greatly exercised about him, and conversant with him. They cannot but continually think and meditate on him for whom they suffer. None ever suffered persecution on just grounds, with sincere ends, and in a due manner, but it was so with them. The invincible reasons they have to suffer for him, taken from his person, love, grace, and authority, from what he is in himself, what he hath done for them, and what account of all things is to be given unto him, do continually present themselves unto their minds. Wildernesses, prisons, and dungeons, have been filled with thoughts of Christ and his love. And many in former and latter ages have given an account of their communion and holy intercourse with the Lord Christ under their restraints and sufferings. And those who at any time have made an entrance into such a condition, will all of them give in the testimony of their own experience in this matter. [2dly.] Such persons have deep and fixed apprehensions of the especial concernment which the Lord Christ hath in them as unto their present condition; as also of his power to support them, or to work out their deliverance. They know and consider, “That in all their affictions, he is afficted,' suffers in all their sufferings, is persecuted in all their persecutions. That in them all he is full of love, pity, and unspeakable compassion towards them; that his grace is sufficient for them, that his power shall be perfected in their weakness, to carry them through all their sufferings unto his and their own glory. In these circumstances, it is impossible for them who are under the conduct of his spirit,

not to make especial applications continually unto him, for those aids of grace, for those pledges of love and mercy, for those supplies of consolation and spiritual refreshments, which their condition calls for. Wherefore in this state, the invocation of Christ, is the refuge and sheet-anchor of the souls of them who truly believe in him. So it was unto all the holy martyrs of old, and in latter ages.

This doctrine and duty is not for them who are at ease. The afflicted, the tempted, the persecuted, the spiritually disconsolate, will prize it, and be found in the practice of it. And all those holy souls, who in most ages, on the account of the profession of the gospel, have been reduced unto outwardly unrelievable distresses, have, as was said, left their testimony unto this duty, and the benefits of it. The refreshment which they found therein, was a sufficient balance against the weight of all outward calamities, enabling them to rejoice under them with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This is the church's reserve against all the trials it may be exercised withal, and all the dangers whereunto it is exposed. Whilst believers have liberty of access unto him in their supplications, who hath all power in his hand, who is full of ineffable love and compassion towards them, especially as suffering for his sake, they are more than conquerors in all their tribulations.

(4thly.) When we have a due apprehension of the eminent actings of any grace in Christ Jesus, and withal a deep and abiding sense of our own want of the same grace, it is a season of especial application unto him by prayer for the increase of it. All graces as unto their habit were equal in Christ; they were all in him in the highest degree of perfection. And every one of them did he exercise in its due manner and measure on all just occasions. But outward causes and circumstances, gave opportunity unto the exercise of some of them, in a way more eminent and conspicuous than others were exercised in. For instance; such were his unspeakable condescension, self-denial, and patience in sufferings, which the apostle unto this purpose insists upon, Phil. ii. 5–8. Now the great design of all believers is to be like Jesus Christ, in all grace, and all the exercise of it. He is in all things their pattern and example. Wherefore, when they have a view of the glory of any grace as it was

in

exercised in Christ, and withal a sense of their own defect and want therein (conformity unto him being their design); they cannot but apply themselves unto him in solemn invocation, for a farther communication of that grace unto them, from his stores and fulness. And these things mutually promote one another in us if duly attended unto. A due sense of our own defect in any grace, will farther us in the prospect of the glory of that grace in Christ. And a view, a due contemplation of the glorious exercise of any grace him, will give us light to discover our own great defect therein, and want thereof. Under a sense of both, an immediate application unto Christ by prayer, would be an unspeakable furtherance of our growth in grace, and conformity unto him. Nor can there be any more effectual way or means to draw supplies of grace from him, to draw water from the wells of salvation. When in a holy admiration of, and fervent love unto, any grace as eminently exercised in and by him, with a sense of our own want of the same grace, we ask it of him in faith, he will not deny it unto us. So the disciples upon the prescription of a difficult duty, unto whose due performance a good measure of faith was required; out of a sense of the all-fulness of him, and their own defect in that grace which was necessary unto the peculiar duty there prescribed, immediately pray unto him, saying, 'Lord increase our faith ;' Luke xvii. 5. The same is the case with respect unto any temptation that may befall us, wherewith he was exercised, and over which he prevailed.

(5thly.) The time of death whether natural, or violent for his sake, is a season of the same nature. So Stephen recommended his departing soul into his hands with solemn prayer. “Lord Jesus,' said he,' receive my spirit.' To the same purpose have been the prayers of many of his faithful martyrs in the flames, and under the sword. In the same manner doth the faith of innumerable holy souls work in the midst of their death-bed groans. And the more we have been in the exercise of faith on him in our lives, the more ready will it be in the approaches of death, to make its resort unto him in a peculiar manner.

And it may be other instances of an alike nature may be given unto the same purpose.

An answer unto an inquiry which may possibly arise from what we have insisted on, shall close this discourse. For whereas the Lord Jesus Christ as mediator doth intercede with the Father for us, it may be inquired, Whether we may pray unto him, that he would so intercede on our behalf; whether this be comprised in the duty of invocation, or prayer unto him?

Ans. 1. There is no precedent nor example of any such thing, of any such prayer in the Scripture. And it is not safe for us to venture on duties not exemplified therein. Nor can any instance of a necessary duty be given, of whose performance we have not an example in the Scripture.

2. In the invocation of Christ, we “honour the Son, even as we honour the Father.' Wherefore his divine person is therein the formal object of our faith. We consider him not therein as acting in his mediatory office towards God for us, but as he who hath the absolute power and disposal of all the good things we pray for. And in our invocation of him, our faith is fixed on, and terminated on his person. But as he is in the discharge of bis mediatory office, through him 'our faith and hope is in God;' 1 Pet. i. 21. He who is the mediator, or Jesus Christ the mediator, as God and man in one person, is the object of all divine honour and worship. His person, and both his natures in that person, is so the object of religious worship. This is that which we are in the proof and demonstration of. Howbeit it is his divine nature, and not his discharge of the office of mediation, that is the formal reason and object of divine worship. For it consists in an ascription of infinitely divine excellencies and properties unto him whom we so worship. And to do this on any account but of the divine nature, is in itself a contradiction, and in them that do it idolatry. Had the Son of God never been incarnate, he had been the object of all divine worship. And could there have been a mediator between God and us, who was not God also, he could never have been the object of any divine worship or invocation. Wherefore Christ the mediator, God and man in one person, is in all things to be honoured even as we honour the Father ; but it is as he is God equal with the Father, and not as mediator, in which respect he is inferior unto him. With

« PreviousContinue »