Page images
PDF
EPUB

this falls short! There is but one grace, and that is Faith, that can give us a right and title to that righteousness, that shall be a sufficient expiation and atonement for all our sins.

[2] All attainments and attempts, all endeavours and duties, without grace, can never mortify and subdue the Power and Dominion of any one lust or corruption.

Men may divert, and chain, and restrain their corruptions; and impale in their lusts, so that they shall not break forth into any outrageous wickedness: but, yet, without grace, they can never subdue them; because it is grace alone, that can lay the axe to the root of this evil tree.

Notwithstanding, then, all, that hath been said concerning the power of nature, what men may do thereby and how far they may go: yet here you see what impotency there is in nature, without grace; and what it cannot reach to perform.

But, this is not spoken, that, hereby, any should be discouraged from working; and, because some doubt of the truth of their graces, that therefore they should desist from a course of holiness and obedience: this were plainly to thwart the whole design of this subject. No: all, that hath been said, is, to persuade men not to rest satisfied in any work of obedience or religion, in which some grace is not breathed or exercised; nor to look upon them at all as inductive to salvation, as in themselves, but as in reference to true grace."

How many poor souls are there, who, because they run on in a round of duties, because they do something that they call good works, think that salvation is as surely their own, as if all the promises in the Scripture were sealed and delivered to them by God himself! and yet, poor creatures ! they never examine or regard from what principle this their obedience flows: whether from a principle of grace; or from the old corrupt principle of nature, new vamped from some new operations of the Common Spirit. Believe it, this is not that obedience, that God requires, nor that he will accept : an inward groan, if breathed by grace,

is of more account with God, and will be more available to the soul, than the most pompous and specious services of unregenerate men. What is it to God, when you offer not only the blind and the lame, but the dead also? Is it not rather an abomination, than obedience? The Apostle tells us, Without works, faith is dead: James ii, 20. and it is as true, on the other side also, that works, without faith and other graces of the Spirit, are not only dead, but rotten and noisome. Every duty, which men perform in a graceless state and condition, God must needs loath, and them for it: the prayer of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord : Prov. xxviii. 9. it is as hateful unto God, as vapours, that ascend up out of tombs from putrified bodies, are unto us.

What, then! must such persons give up themselves to sin therefore? God forbid ! no, rather let such think thus: “ If our duties and our righteousness be so loathsome, what are our sins and iniquities?” Though every sinner be dead in trespasses and sins, yet is it less offensive to have a dead carcase embalmed than to have it lie open. Still, therefore, continue working; but, in your working, first aim at the obtaining of grace, before you aim at the obtaining of heaven and salvation : let it, at no time, content you, that such and such duties you have performed; but look what grace you have acted in them; what is there of God breathing in this prayer, that I now put up? how am I in hearing, in meditation, in discoursing of the things of God? is my heart holy and spiritual? are my affections pure and fervent? are my graces active and vigorous ? and, are they vigorous in this work of obedience ? Else, to perform duties, and to neglect grace that alone can enable us to perform duties acceptably, is only to go to hell a little more cleanly;

DIRECTION ii. If you would work out your own salvation, as you must look to the Actings of Grace as well as to the Performance of Duties; so you must LABOUR TO GROW, AND INCREASE IN THOSE GRACES, THAT ARE MOST ACTIVE AND WORKING.

And they are two, the grace of Faith, and the

grace

of Love. To grow strong in these graces, is the most compendious way for a Christian to dispatch his great work. I may call them the two hands of a Christian: and he, that is most active in these, works out his salvation with both hands earnestly.

1. The Actings of Faith are of mighty advantage to the working out of our salvation.

Two senses there are, in which salvation may be said to be wrought out.

In Title:

In actual Possession and Enjoyment, Now faith is a working out of the one, and a compendious furtherance towards the working out of the other.

(1) Upon our believing, salvation is already wrought out for us, in Right and Title.

He, that believeth, shall be saved : here is the Title. The great work is then done and finished, when once faith is wrought. And, therefore, when the Jews came to enquire of our Saviour, how they should do to work the works of God: John vi. 28, 29. our Lord tells them, This is the work of God, That ye believe on him, whom he hath sent, Nay, further, as a faith of adherence or acceptance gives a right and title to salvation ; so a faith of full assurance is this salvation itself: for, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen : Heb. xi. 1: in its justifying act, it gives a title to salvation ; in its assuring act, it gives the substance of the thing itself: for it is much at one to a strong faith, to believe heaven, and to enjoy it,

(2) Faith doth compendiously further and promote the working out of our salvation, in Actual Possession.

And that, because faith is that grace, which fetcheth all that ability and strength from Christ, whereby a Christian is enabled to worķ. Faith is not only a grace of itself, but it is steward and purveyor for all other graces; and its office is to bring in provision for them, while they are working: and, therefore, as a man's faith grows either stronger or weaker, so his work goes on more or less vigorously. When other graces are in want, and cry Give, Give; then faith betakes itself to Christ, and saith, “Lord, such a grace stands in need of so much strength to support it; and such a grace stands in need of so much support to act it: and I have nothing to give it myself; and therefore I come to fetch supplies from thee.” And, certainly, this faith, that comes thus empty-handed unto Christ, never goes away empty-handed from Christ. What is it that you complain of ? is it, that the work stands at a stay, and you cannot make it go forward ? is it, that temptations are strong and violent; that duties are hard, irksome, and difficult? why set faith on work to go to Christ, and there you may be sure to have supply; because faith is an omnipotent grace: All things are possible to him, that believeth ; and that, because all things are possible to that God and to that Christ, on whom faith is acted. There is no grace, nor no supply, nor mercy laid up in the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is all in the hands of a believer's faith; and he may take from thence whatsoever he - needs, to supply the present wants and necessities of his soul.

2. Another working grace is the fervent Actings of Love.

Love is the great wheel of the soul, that sets all the rest a moving; and makes it like the chariots of Aminadab, to run swiftly towards its desired object. There is a mutual dependence between faith and love, in their working : love depends upon faith to strengthen it, and faith depends again upon love to act it. As we love not that, which we do not know; and our knowledge of God and of the things of eternity is by faith, not by vision: so those things, which we do know and which we do believe, yet if we love them not we shall never endeavour after them. The Apostle therefore tells us, that faith worketh

by love.

There is a Threefold spiritual love required to expedite our great work.

A transcendent love of God.
A regular love of Ourselves.
A complacential love unto and delight in our Work

itself. Now when the affections go out after these objects of love, this will much facilitate our great work.

(1) The Love of God is a great help to our duty.

Our Saviour therefore urgeth obedience, upon this very account: If ye lave me, keep my commandments : John xiv. 15. And, says the Apostle, This is the love of God, that is, this is certain sign, or it is the constant effect of our love to God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous: 1 John v. 3. they are not grievous, because they are His commandments, who is the love and joy of our souls.

Divine love always conforms itself to divine precepts: and that, for Two reasons :

[1] Because this grace, as it desires the beatifical union to God in glory, hereafter; for love is the desire of union : so, now, it causes an unspeakable union of will, and a supernatural sympathy of affection, betwixt God and the soul.

Which union cannot be a union of equality or entity, as is in the Persons of the Blessed Trinity : and, therefore, it is a union of subordination of a Christian's will to the will of God. Now what is this will of God? The Apostle tells us : This is the will of God, even your sanctificatum : i Thess. iv. 3. And the same Apostle tells us, in another place, We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk....in them: Eph. ii. 10. And is this God's will, and shall it not be our work ? Hath God ordained that we should walk therein, and shall we be averse from or slothful thereunto? How can we pretend that we love God, while we neglect the only thing which he requires from us, holiness and obedience? God wills our holiness, because there is no better thing that he can will, next unto himself: the image of God, next to himself, is the most excellent and chief good. Every thing, the nearer it approacheth unto God, the more desirable it becomes in itself: now that, which comes most near unto God, and advances the soul in some resemblance and similitude to him, is holiness and endeavours after obedience; whereby we become conformable unto God, and attain 'some faint shadows and essays of the divine perfections. The soul wills in order unto God's will. God wills holiness, because it is most desirable: and we must will our own holiness; because, if we love God as we pretend to do, our wills must be conformable to his holy will.

[2] Love to God is a help to duty, because it is in and by duty, that we enjoy the presence of God, and have communion and fellowship with him.

These are the lattices, through which God appears to the longing soul: and, though he many times vouchsafes but half smiles and little glances; yet, in these reserved communications, the soul finds so much sweetness, as engageth it to a constant performance of duties all its days. “Here,” says the soul, “God was wont to walk in his sanctuary: here, have I heard his voice: here, have I seen his face: his Spirit hath here breathed upon me: his. consolations have here refreshed me: and, therefore, here will I wait upon him as long as I live.” “I remember well,” says the soul, “ when, in prayer and meditation, my heart hath been filled by him, poured out to him, and accepted with him. I remember when he filled me first with sighs, and then with songs; and both alike unutterable: and, therefore, I will keep to the performance of these duties, waiting for the further discoveries and manifestations of my God unto me."

(2) As love to God, so a regular Self-Love will much help and further our obedience and duty.

And then is self-love truly regular, when men love their own souls, as God loves them. Now God's love to the souls of men is such, that, though he wills all men to be saved, yet he wills that none shall be saved, but through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth :: and, whilst we love ourselves, if we observe the same method and order, this self-love is always commendable and necessary. Desires after eternal happiness and salvation are natural to that soul, that is truly conscious of its own immortality; and of its eternal, unalterable state and condition : and, when these desires are directed to future happiness through

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »