« PreviousContinue »
ny special. Satan will tell you, that all your duties have been done in hypocrisy, and you are unsound at the heart, and have not a drop of saving grace. You are apt to entertain this, and conclude that all this is true: 'If I had any grace, I should have more life, and love, and delight in God; more tenderness of heart, more growth in grace. I should not carry about such a rock in my breast; such a stupid, dull, insensible soul,' &c.
At the present, let us suppose that all this be true : yet see what a world of comfort you may gather from universal or general mercy. I have before opened to you four parts of it, in the cause of your happiness, and three in the effect, which may each of them afford much relief to your troubled soul.
1. Suppose you are yet graceless, is it nothing to you that it is a God of infinite mercy that you have to do with, whose compassions are ten thousand times greater than your dearest friends, or your own husbands?
Object. • O but yet he will not save the graceless.?
Answ. True, but he is the more ready to give grace, that you may be saved. "If any of you (mark, any of you) do lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally (without desert) and upbraideth not (with our unworthiness or former faults), and it shall be given him ;" James i. 4. “ If you that are evil can give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it ?" Luke xi. 13. Suppose your life were in the hands of your own husband, or your children's life in your hands, would it not exceedingly comfort you or them, to consider whose hands they are in, though yet you had no further assurance how you should be used ? It may be you will say, ' But God is no Father to the graceless.' I answer, He is not their Father in so near and strict a sense as he is the Father of believers ; but
yet a Father he is, even to the wicked; and to convince men of his fatherly mercy to them, he often so stileth himself. He saith by Moses, Deut. xxxii. 6. to a wicked generation, whose spot was not the spot of his children, “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that bought thee? Hath he not made thee, and established thee?” And the prodigal could call him Father for his encouragement before he returned to him; Luke xv.
16–18. For my own part I must needs profess, that my soul hath more frequent support from the consideration of God's gracious and merciful nature, than from the promise itself.
2. Furthermore, Suppose you were graceless at the present; yet is it not an exceeding comfort, that there is one of such infinite compassions as the Lord Christ, who hath assumed our nature, and is come down to seek and save that which was lost; and is more tender-hearted to poor sinners than we can possibly conceive? Yea, who hath made it his office to heal, and relieve, and restore, and reconcile. Yea, that hath himself endured such temptations as many of ours ; “For we have not a High-priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, without sin. Let us therefore (saith the Holy Ghost) come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need ;" Heb. iv. 15, 16. “ Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part with them, that he might destroy, through death, him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted;" Heb. ii. 14-18. Have you discountenance from men ? Christ had much more. Doth God seem to forsake you? So he did by Christ. Are you fain to lie on your knees crying for mercy? Why Christ in the days of his flesh was fain to offer up "strong cries and tears, to him that was able to save him. And was heard in that he feared.” It seems that Christ had distressing fears as well as you, though not sinful fears. Have you horrid temptations? Why Christ was tempted to cast himself headlong, and to worship the devil, for worldly preferment; yea,
the devil had power to carry his body up and down to the pinacle of the temple, and the top of a mountain. If he had
of you, would you not think yourself certainly
his slave? I conclude therefore, as it is an exceeding ground of comfort to all the sick people in a city, to know that there is a most merciful and skilful physician, that is easily able to cure them, and hath undertaken to do it freely for all that will take him for their physician; so is it a ground of exceeding comfort to the worst of sinners, to all sinners that are yet alive, and have not blasphemed the Holy Ghost, to know what a merciful and efficient Saviour hath undertaken the work of man's redemption.
3. Also, Suppose yet that you are graceless, is it nothing that a sufficient sacrifice and ransom is given for you? This is the very foundation of all solid peace. I think this is a great comfort, to know that God looks now for no satisfaction at your hand; and that the number or greatness of your sins, as such, cannot now be your ruin. For certainly no man shall perish for want of the payment of his ransom, or of an expiatory sacrifice for sin, but only for want of a willing heart to accept him that hath freely ransomed them.
4. Also, Suppose you are graceless, is it nothing that God hath under his hand and seal made a full and free deed of gift, to you and all sinners, of Christ, and with him of pardon and salvation! And all this on condition of your acceptance or consent? I know the despisers of Christ shall be miserable for all this. But for you that would fain have Christ, is it no comfort to know that you shall have him if you will? And to find this to be the sum of the Gospel ? I know you have often read those free offers, Rev. xxii. 17. “ Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come and drink,” &c. Almost all that I have hitherto said to you is comprised in that one text, John iii. 16. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And as I have shewed it you in the causes, what comfort even general mercy may afford, so let me a little shew it you in the effects. I mean, not only in that God is now satisfied; but as to yourself and every sinner, these three things are produced hereby.
1. There is now a possibility of salvation to you. And certainly even that should be a very great comfort. I know you will meet with some divines, who will tell you that this is no effect of Christ's death; and that else Christ should
die for God, if he procured him a power to save which he had not before. But this is no better than a reproaching of our Redeemer. Suppose that a traitor had so'abused a king, that it will neither stand with his own honour, nor justice, nor laws to pardon him; if his compassion were so great, that his own son shall suffer for him, that so the king might be capable of pardoning him, without any diminution of his honour or justice; were it not a vile reproach, if this traitor should tell the prince that suffered for him, 'It was for your father that you suffered to procure him a power of pardoning, it was not for me? It is true, the king could not pardon him, without satisfaction to his honour and justice. But this was not through any impotency, but because the thing was not fit to be done, and so was morally impossible. For in law we say, dishonest things are impossible. And it had been no less to the king if the traitor had not been pardoned. So it is in our case. And therefore Christ's sufferings could not be more eminently for us, than by enabling the offended Majesty to forgive us; and so taking the greatest impediment out of the way. For when impediments are once removed, God's nature is so gracious and prone to mercy, that he would soon pardon us when once it is fit to be done, and so morally possible in the fullest sense ; only men's own unwillingness now stands in the way, and makes it to be not fully fit to be yet done. It is true, in a remote sense, the pardon of sin was always possible; but in the nearest sense it was impossible, till Christ made it possible by his satisfaction.
2. Nay, though you were yet graceless, you have now this comfort, that your salvation is probable as well as possible. You are very fair for it. The terms be not hard in themselves, on which it is tendered. For Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden is light, and his commands are not grievous. “The word is nigh you,” even the offer of grace. You need not say, “Who shall ascend to heaven, or go down to hell ?” Rom. x. But this will appear in the next.
. 3. Yea, this exceeding comfort there is, even for them that are graceless, that their salvation is conditionally certain, and the condition is but their own willingness. They may all have Christ and life if they will. Now I desire you in all your doubts, that you will well consider and improve this one truth and ground of comfort. Would you, in the
midst of your groans, and complaints and fears, take it for a small mercy, to be certain that you shall have Christ if you will ? When you are praying for Christ in fear and anguish of spirit, if an angel or voice from heaven should say to you • It shall be unto thee according to thy will, if thou wilt have Christ and live in him, thou shalt: Would this be no comfort to you? Would it not revive you and overcome
By this time I hope you see what abundance of comfort general mercy or grace may afford the soul, before it perceive (yea, or receive) any special grace ; though few of those that receive not special grace can make use of general, yet it is propounded to them as well as others.
1. All the terrifying temptations which are grounded on misrepresentations of God, as if he were a cruel destroyer to be fled from, are dispelled by the due consideration of his goodness, and the deep settled apprehensions of his gracious, merciful, lovely nature (which indeed is the first work of true religion, and the very master radical act of true grace, and the chief maintainer of spiritual life and motion).
2. All these temptations are yet more effectúally dispelled, by considering this merciful divine nature dwelling in flesh, becoming man, by condescending to the assumption of our human nature ; and so come near us, suming the office of being the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Saviour of the world.
3. All your doubts and fears that proceed from your former sins, whether of youth or of age, of ignorance or of knowledge, and those which proceed from your legal unworthiness, have all a present remedy in the fulness and suffici. ency of Christ's satisfaction, even for all the world; so that no sin (except the excepted sin) is so great, but it is fully satisfied for'; and though you are unworthy, yet Christ is worthy; and he came into the world to save only the unworthy (in the strict and legal sense).
4. All your doubts and fears that arise from an apprehension of God's unwillingness to shew you mercy, and to give you Christ and life in him, arise from the misapprehensions of Christ's unwillingness to be yours; or at least from the uncertainty of his willingness; these have all a sufficient remedy in the general extent, and tenor of the new covenant. Can you doubt whether God be willing to