Page images

in the exercise of every grace, to grow in the root, and thrive in the fruit of them, is to be conformed unto the image of the Son of God.

2. The following the example of Christ in all duties towards God and men, in his whole conversation on the earth, is the second part of the instance now given concerning the use of the person of Christ in religion. The field is large which here lies before us, and filled with numberless blessed instances. I cannot here enter into it; and the mistakes that have been in a pretence unto it, requires that it should be handled distinctly and at large by itself, which, if God will, may be done in due time. One or two general instances wherein he was most eminently our example, shall close this discourse.

(1.) His meekness, lowliness of mind, condescension unto all sorts of persons; his love and kindness unto mankind, his readiness to do good unto all, with patience and forbearance, are continually set before us in his example. I place them all under one head, as proceeding all from the same spring of divine goodness, and having effects of the same nature. With respect unto them, it is required that 'the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus,' Phil. ii. 5. and that we walk in love, as he also loved us;' Eph. v. 2.

In these things was he the great representative of the divine goodness unto us. In the acting of these graces on

all occasions did he declare and manifest the nature of God from whom he came. And this was one end of his exhibition in the flesh. Sin had filled the world with a representation of the devil and his nature, in mutual hatred, strife, variance, envy, wrath, pride, fierceness, and rage, against one another, all which are of the old murderer. The instances of a cured, of a contrary frame were obscure and weak in the best of the saints of old. But in our Lord Jesus, the light of the glory of God herein first shone upon the world. In the exercise of these graces which he most abounded in, because the sins, weaknesses, and infirmities of men gave continual occasion thereunto, did he represent the divine nature, as love, as infinitely good, benign, merciful, and patient, as delighting in the exercise of these its holy properties. In them was the Lord Christ our example in

an especial manner. And they do in vain pretend to be his disciples, to be followers of him, who endeavour not to order the whole course of their lives in conformity unto him in these things.

One Christian who is meek, humble, kind, patient, and useful unto all, that condescends to the ignorance, weaknesses, and infirmities of others, that passeth by provocations, injuries, contempt, with patience, and with silence, unless where the glory and truth of God call for a just vindication; that pitieth all sorts of men in their failings and miscarriages, who is free from jealousies and evil surmises, that loveth what is good in all men, and all men even wherein they are not good, nor do good, doth more express the virtues and excellencies of Christ, than thousands can do with the most magnificent works of piety or charity, where this frame is wanting in them. For men to pretend to follow the example of Christ, and in the mean time to be proud, wrathful, envious, bitterly zealous, calling for fire from heaven to destroy men, or fetching it themselves from hell, is to cry, Hail unto him,' and to crucify him afresh unto their power.

[ocr errors]

(2.) Self-denial, readiness for the cross, with patience in sufferings, are the second sort of things which he calls all his disciples to follow his example in. It is the fundamental law of his gospel, that if any one will be his disciple, 'he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow him.' These things in him, as they are all of them summarily represented, Phil. ii. 5-8. by reason of the glory of his person, and the nature of his sufferings, are quite of another kind than that we are called unto. But his grace in them all is our only pattern, in what is required of us. 'Christ hath suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps, who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, he threatened not;' 1 Pet. ii. 21-23. Hence are we called to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame.' For we are to 'consider him, who endured such contradiction of sinners in himself, that we faint not; Heb. xii. 2, 3. Blessed be God for this example; for the glory of the condescension, patience, faith, and endurance of Jesus Christ in the extre

mity of all sorts of sufferings. This hath been the pole-star of the church in all its storms; the guide, the comfort, supportment and encouragement of all those holy souls, who in their several generations, have in various degrees undergone persecution for righteousness' sake, and yet continueth so to be unto them who are in the same condition.

And I must say, as I have done on some other occasions in the handling of this subject, that a discourse on this one instance of the use of Christ in religion, from the consideration of the person who suffered, and set us this example; of the principle from whence, and the end for which, he did it; of the variety of evils of all sorts he had to conflict withal; of his invincible patience under them all, and immoveableness of love and compassion unto mankind, even his persecutors; the dolorous afflictive circumstances of his sufferings from God and men; the blessed efficacious workings of his faith and trust in God unto the uttermost; with the glorious issue of the whole, and the influence of all these considerations unto the consolation and supportment of the church, would take up more room and time than what is allotted unto the whole of that, whereof it is here the least part. I shall leave the whole under the shade of that blessed promise, If so be that we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together; for I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us;' Rom. viii. 17, 18.

[ocr errors]

The last thing proposed concerning the person of Christ, was the use of it unto believers, in the whole of their relation unto God, and duty towards him. And the things belonging thereunto, may be reduced unto these general heads:

(1.) Their sanctification, which consisteth in these four things [1.] The mortification of sin. [2.] The gradual renovation of our natures. [3.] Assistances in actual obedience. [4.] The same in temptations and trials.

(2.) Their justification, with its concomitants and consequents; as, [1.] Adoption. [2.] Peace. [3.] Consolation and joy in life and death. [4.] Spiritual gifts unto the edification of themselves and others. [5.] A blessed resurrection. [6.] Eternal glory.

There are other things which also belong hereunto: as their guidance in the course of their conversation in this

[ocr errors]

world; direction unto usefulness in all states and conditions; patient waiting for the accomplishment of God's promises to the church; the communication of federal blessings unto their families; and the exercise of loving-kindness towards mankind in general; with sundry other concernments of the life of faith of the like importance; but they may be all reduced unto the general heads proposed.

What should have been spoken with reference unto these things, belongs unto these three heads:

1st. A declaration that all these things are wrought in, and communicated unto believers, according to their various natures, by an emanation of grace and power from the person of Jesus Christ, as the head of the church, as he who is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

2dly. A declaration of the way and manner how believers do live upon Christ in the exercise of faith, whereby, according to the promise and appointment of God, they derive from him the whole grace and mercy whereof in this world they are made partakers, and are established in the expectation of what they shall receive hereafter by his power. And that two things do hence ensue: (1st.) The necessity of universal evangelical obedience, seeing it is only in and by the duties of it, that faith is, or can be, kept in a due exercise unto the ends mentioned. (2dly.) That believers do hereby increase continually with the increase of God, and grow up into him who is the head, until they become the fulness of him who filleth all in all.

3dly. A conviction that a real interest in, and participation of, these things, cannot be obtained any other way, but by the actual exercise of faith on the person of Jesus Christ.

These things were necessary to be handled at large with reference unto the end proposed. But for sundry reasons, the whole of this labour is here declined. For some of the particulars mentioned, I have already insisted on in other discourses heretofore published, and that with respect unto the end here designed. And this argument cannot be handled as it doth deserve, unto full satisfaction, without an entire discourse concerning the life of faith, which my present design will not admit of.

[ocr errors]


An humble inquiry into, and prospect of, the infinite wisdom of God, in the constitution of the person of Christ, and the way of salvation thereby. FROM the consideration of the things before insisted on, we may endeavour, according unto our measure, to take a view of, and humbly adore, the infinite wisdom of God, in the holy contrivance of this great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.' As it is a spiritual evangelical mystery, it is an effect of divine wisdom, in the redemption and salvation of the church, unto the eternal glory of God. And as it is a great mystery,' so it is the mystery of the 'manifold wisdom of God,' Eph. iii. 9, 10. that is, of infinite wisdom working in great variety of actings and operations, suited unto, and expressive of, its own infinite fulness: for herein were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' laid up, and laid out; Col. ii. 3. An argument this is, in some parts whereof divers of the ancient writers of the church have laboured, some occasionally, and some with express design. I shall insist only on those things which Scripture light leads us directly unto. The depths of divine wisdom in this glorious work, are hid from the eyes of all living. God alone understandeth the way thereof; and he knoweth the place thereof;' as he speaks, Job xxviii. 21. 23. Yet is it so glorious in its effects, that destruction and death say, We have heard the fame of it with our ears;' ver. 22. The fame and report of this divine wisdom reach even unto hell. Those who eternally perish, shall hear a fame of this wisdom in the glorious effects of it, towards the blessed souls above, though some of them would not believe it here in the light of the gospel, and none of them can understand it there, in their everlasting darkness. Hence the report which they have of this wisdom is an aggravation of their misery.

[ocr errors]

These depths we may admire and adore, but we cannot comprehend: For who hath known the mind of the Lord herein, or with whom took he counsel ?' Concerning the original causes of his counsels in this great mystery, we can only say, 'O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments,

« PreviousContinue »