|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by Thomas Goodwin
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Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations,
but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make
known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the
Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Col.
1. 26, 27.
We have done with the subject and author of it, let us come to the properties of it.
1. It is rich; 2. Glorious.
1. First, Rich; so chap. 2 ver. 3, he tells us that in it or him, that is, the gospel or Christ, of both which he speaketh, are 'hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' Now the riches of this knowledge appear in three things.
(l.) In abundance; (2.) Preciousness; (3.) Gainfulness. And such is the knowledge of Christ.
(l.) First, Abundant. For that place tells us that it is 'all knowledge,' via eminentiae; as metaphysics is said to be all knowledge, because of the fulness, largeness of the subject of it, all truths and axioms in other sciences being swallowed up in its principles. Such is this knowledge also, the subject of it being Christ; and therefore, as Christ contains in him, via eminentiae, all the treasures of perfection that are in any creature, and is 'full of grace and truth,' John 1:14, so doth the knowledge of Christ contain in it all the treasures of wisdom, and all that is worth knowing; treasures which can never be drawn dry or exhausted, which the mind of man can never waste; but bringing in new revenues of new notions daily, so as the more is spent, the more may be. Other knowledges being but of the creature, are but imperfect; for the things known are such, and cannot fill the mind with abundance of knowledge, for the things have not wherewithal to do it, though they be known to the utmost. 'But in him all fulness dwells,' verse 19: fulness of truth to fill the mind, as well as fulness of grace to fill the will, John 1:14. And indeed, for abundance, 'unsearchable riches,' Eph. 3:8.
(2.) Secondly, It is a rich mystery for the preciousness of it. The promises of it are 'exceeding precious,' 2 Pet. 1:4. Every truth in it is precious, so Paul tells us, 1 Cor. 3:12. All truths of the gospel built upon the foundation, Christ, he calls pearls, and gold, and silver; and all the enticing words of man's wisdom, hay and stubble. Yea, Prov. 3:15, 16, Solomon says, wisdom and understanding is better than gold and silver, which yet commands all in the world. And if rubies and precious stones be more worth than gold, 'she is more precious than rubies.' And what is it that makes things precious, that is not found in the saving truths and promises of the gospel?
[l.] Antiquity makes things precious; so small pieces of coin and medals, if ancient, are precious. And this was coined in heaven, and in God before all ages and generations, and bears the image of the great King. It is 'the everlasting gospel,' Rev. 14:6.
[2.] Things fetched from afar are precious. Not a word of this but fell from heaven. Christ came from heaven, where he heard and saw all the truths revealed in it, and so delivered them to us, John 3:31, 32. And this difference is put between the law and the gospel, Heb. 12:25. The law was spoken from the earth, the gospel from heaven.
[3.] Things dearly bought are precious. Every truth of the gospel cost Christ his blood to make it so; 'the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' As grace cost his blood, so truth also; for both cost the same price. 'All the promises are yea and amen in him.' They had all been blanks if he had not set his blood as a seal to them.
[4.] Things carefully laid up are precious. The gospel hath had the richest cabinet in the world, God's breast; there is the original of it, Eph. 3:9. The original copy lies there, the counterpart in the heart of God's elect, 2 Cor. 3:3. 'Ye are the epistle of Christ, written by the Spirit of the living God.' In whom therefore it is said to 'abide for ever,' 1 Pet. 1:25, locked up in the church, the pillar and ground of truth.
[5.] Things which perish not are precious, especially if still they preserve themselves from what attempts to corrupt them, 1 Pet. 1:7. Faith is therefore said to be precious, because it perisheth not, though 'tried in the fire.' Such are the truths of the gospel, which though men have endeavoured to corrupt it by a world of the dross of human errors and inventions, yet God hath still come with fire and tried it. And still the more men labour to mingle dross with God's truth, still it endures the fire, and comes out clearer and clearer in every age. Ps. 12:6, 'The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.' There is no truth of God but hath been tried in one age or other. Heresies have been brought in, yet it remains pure, maintains itself. The truth was as mingled with dross in Pelagius's time, and then purified. So in Bradwardine's time, and then also it came out purer; and so now with fine dross, but God will purify it.
(3.) A third thing in riches is profitableness; and in that respect the gospel to the saints is a rich gospel. It talks not only of riches as stories do, as that of Solomon's time, when silver was as stones of the streets; nor doth it open heaven's treasury gates, and show them the riches of it only, as Hezekiah did the ambassadors that came to visit hima man may thus hear and see the riches of another, and be a poor man stillbut riches is 'Christ in you,' saith the text. When he hears and receives the gospel aright, it fills his lap full, he carries Christ and all his riches home with him.
Well might Solomon say, as Prov. 3:14, 15, 'Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and that gets understanding; for her merchandise is better than silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.' And if anything in the world be better than these, which yet the world hath, as rubies and precious stones seem to be, 'She is more precious (saith he) than rubies.' And if still the heart of man should enlarge its vast desires and wide gapings to some more conceived precious things than these, though unknown; do, says Solomon, stretch the compass of your desires to as great a wideness as you can; desire what you can, 'and all you can desire is not to be compared to her.' It is not only exceeded, but there is no comparison. And this he speaks not of the preciousness, as in itself, but of the gain and profit it brings to the possessors. 'Their gain,' says he, &c.
But you will say, Wherein consists these riches of the gospel?
Answer, 'Which (riches) is Christ in you.' And can you make an inventory, and ever value and appraise his goods? Surely, No.
First, Christ is worth all God is worth, as he is the Son of God; for he is the only Son, the 'well-beloved Son, in whom God is so well pleased,' that he will not give a penny away from him; he is the heir, and shall have all. And the gospel makes him yours, with all his riches, which riches is 'Christ in you.' Thus the apostle argues and pleads the evidence of the right a Christian hath to all things, 1 Cor. 3:22, 23, 'All things are yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.'
God himself can be worth but all things, Christ is worth what God is, for all things that are God's are Christ's. And you have as much as Christ hath. What riches are here! All things are given to be inherited, Rev. 21:7, by the same. And as sure a title as Christ, Rom. 8:17, we are put into God's will, 'joint heirs with Christ,' though not joint purchasers, for he purchased all, and all these gives freely; no debts are to be paid, nor legacies or portions out of them. Rom. 8:32, 'If he hath given us Christ, shall not he with him give us all things freely?' Christ is not only worth all things as the heir, and we are worth so much because Christ is given to us, but he paid for all things dearly. And look what the revenues of Christ's blood come to; that and so much is a Christian worth.
For Christ paid ready down, at his death, an invaluable sum of merit into his Father's hands (as a deposit), as a common stock or bank, to be employed for the good and use of all his saints, who are to have the full worth of them out to eternity. 'You know,' says the apostle, 2 Cor. 8:9, 'the grace of Christ; how, when he was rich, he became poor' (mark it), for your sakes,' to enrich you. Now what must these riches come to, think you, which are laid up for you; whenas Christ was as rich as God himself, 'thought it no robbery to be equal with God,' Phil. 2:6, as good in estate every whit? Now of all these riches he emptied himself, ver. 8, left himself not worth one farthing, and 'became poor,' had not a hole left to hide himself in, 'made himself of no reputation,' of no account or reckoning, making overall for you. And what must this come to? The riches of God put out to use, to be received with advantage again, if possible, and put into sure hands, even God the Father's, who hath bid us 'owe no man anything but love.' And surely he loves his own too well to owe them anything.
If they should doubt, he hath entered into bond, and the gospel is that bond, which is therefore called a 'rich gospel,' because it is the promise of all these riches; Eph. 3:6, 'partakers of the promise of the gospel.' It is the gospel that makes us partakers of the promise, that is, the things promised; and they are, ver. 8, 'the unsearchable riches of Christ.' So as if you desire particularly to have the value of them, or in gross, the total sum, they are unsearchable riches which cannot be counted over to eternity, much less be spent. Riches in justification, to have all debts paid the first day, and that would enhance unsearchable riches. Set a price on all angels, all creatures, it would not pay one note, the least bill. All other things are not worth so much; it cost more to redeem souls than so. And besides, to have still left so rich righteousness as purchased 'riches of grace,' to have the Spirit poured out richly, as Tit. 3:6. The word in the original is 'riches of glory,' Eph. 1:18. In respect of which all riches in the world are but as crumbs of the rich man's table, or relics given to the poor. The kingdom of Turkey (as one called it), but a crust thrown to a dog. And is it not a rich knowledge then, that enriches the knowers of it, which should invite men to learn it? For if men think other knowledge in itself so rich, as to be content to spend their estates, to attain but notions to fill their brains, not purses; then how much more for this, which as it is precious, so it brings in all these riches as the gain of it?
Angels are invited to search it for the preciousness of it, and yet these riches are not 'Christ in them,' but 'Christ in you.' But then do but know and study your own riches and evidences for them; therefore in Eph. 3, where the end of revealing these riches is laid open, ver. 8, there are two sorts of creatures, says he, to whom God intended to reveal them, first, men, ver. 9; secondly, angels, ver. 10; but with this differing intent, that the angels might know the wisdom which was in the gospel, ver. 10. The harmony in the plot is what the angels are taken with; and this, though men may also see in the gospel, yet further the end was, that they 'might know the fellowship of the mystery,' that is, that they might be made partakers of it.
2. Secondly, glorious; as it is a rich mystery, so also glorious, 'What is the riches of the glory,' &c., which words, as other Hebraisms, are convertible; 'rich glory,' or 'glorious riches,' so as no man can say whether the riches or the glory of it be greater.
Now this glorious title the apostle gives often unto the gospel, as 1 Tim. 1:11. And 2 Cor. 4:4, 'lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine into them.' And in the third chapter of that epistle throughout, he fully displays the glory of it, which the apostle doth by comparing it with the law, or covenant of works, because there was no question of any other knowledge never so excellent, yet revealed, that could stand on terms of comparison with it.
The law indeed, says he, it was a glorious law, though written but in stones and dead letters; and therefore, when it was ministered. the 'glory of God appeared on the mount,' Exod. 24:16, 17, to note out, that that law was the glorious image of his will. And therefore also even the 'face of Moses,' 2 Cor. 3:7, by whose hands it was administered, 'shining, so as the people could not behold it for the glory of his countenance.' And 'so terrible was the sight,' saith the author to the Hebrews, that Moses said, 'I quake and tremble,' Heb. 12:21.
But yet says Paul, ver. 8, 9, The gospel, it 'exceeds in glory,' yea, and so far exceeds, as ver. 10, as the law which was thus made glorious, had no glory in respect of this glory which excelleth; but like as the sun, when it ariseth, puts out the lesser eyes of heaven, dims, yea clean obscures these otherwise glorious tapers, so as they have no glory in this respect, so the gospel exceeds the law. And if you ask wherein it exceeds in glory, the answer is, Because it is the ministration and revealer of far more glorious things to the saints than ever the law could do.
If you ask, What glorious things are communicated and revealed therein? I answer out of the 3d and 4th chapters, which explain the glorious work of the gospel on men's hearts, when they are brought to God. For when any man is converted at the preaching of the gospel, first, before the word works, the Holy Ghost falls on a man; as when Christ was baptized, heaven opened, and 'the Holy Ghost descended and rested on him:' so in Acts 10:44, when the gospel was preached by Peter, 'the Holy Ghost fell on them;' and of the Spirit the gospel is the ministration, and not the law. Gal. 3:2, 'I would ask of you, received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or of the hearing of faith?' that is, the gospel, for so faith is taken for the doctrine of faith. And this ministration of the Spirit is by virtue of a covenant made (Isa. 59:21) with Christ; that Spirit that was in him, and word that was in his mouth, to wit, the gospel, should not depart out of the mouth of his seed's seed for over, but it should accompany his elect.
And is not then the gospel a glorious gospel, that makes men partakers of the Holy Ghost, and that for ever? Which Spirit is a 'Spirit of glory,' 1 Pet. 4:14, which rests on his; the 'Spirit of glory,' because it fills the man it dwells in with glory. For look, as when God descended into the visible temple, it was filled with glory, 2 Chron. 7:1; and by reason of that presence the ark itself was called 'the glory,' Rom. 9:4: so when God fills the preaching of the gospel (whereof the ark was a type) with his glorious Spirit, and by it fills the heart of a man with that Spirit also, as Eph. 5:18, there is a new glory put upon that man.
But Secondly, This gospel is by the power of this Spirit the ministration of righteousness to the man God means to call, and therefore also glorious, as the apostle there argues; that is, this gospel, by the help of the Spirit working faith in his heart, reveals the righteousness of Christ to be made his, and that exceeds in glory; for it is this 'righteousness' which in the last verse of that third chapter is called 'the glory of the Lord,' viz., Christ; who being the 'Lord of glory,' the 'King of glory,' 1 Cor. 2:8, what a glorious righteousness must this be which the gospel thus reveals? And it reveals it not by engraving or dead colours, as the law did; but as in a glass. And as that glass is glorious wherein the sun shines, the very image there puts down all the stars, so this glass, the gospel, must needs be glorious, wherein the 'Sun of righteousness' shines, as he is called, Mal. 4:2. Neither doth it reveal it only, but dispenseth it, it is the ministration of righteousness; Christ's righteousness, which is the glory of the Sun, the King of glory, made ours to justify us. And therefore, Rev. 12:1, the church appears 'clothed with the sun,' even with Christ himself and his glory, who is therefore said to be 'our righteousness,' Jer. 23:6. Hereby, as Christ said of the lilies, Mat. 6:29, that 'Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these;' so may I say of all the angelswho yet are the bright morning-stars, that 'sang when the world was made,' Job 38:7that they are not clothed with such a glory as the gospel dispenseth to us; such a robe never came on their backs, nor never shall. And is not this a glorious gospel then?
Thirdly, In the sight and dispensation of the glorious righteousness of Christ, we come yet to see a further glory shining on us, and still in the gospel; so in the 4th and 6th verses of the next chapter, 2 Cor. 4. For the gospel gives 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;' that is, through the righteousness of Christ we come to see the glorious sunshine of the favour of God, the light of his countenance lift up upon us. For when Moses would see his glory, the Lord proclaimed only this, Exod. 34:6, 'The Lord merciful and gracious.' And as he is 'the Father of glory,' Eph. 1:17, so his mercy is 'the riches of his glory,' Rom. 9:23, and Ps. 90:14, 15, 16. The church, praying for mercy and favour, says, 'Let thy glory be on thy servants;' and therefore is not this a glorious gospel, that reveals this to a man also, that God graciously accepteth us in the beloved?
Fourthly, The beholding thus the glory of Christ, viz., his righteousness in the gospel, it changeth us into the same image, from glory to glory, verse the last of the third chapter; that is, makes grace in us, which is truly glorious, and therefore, Ps. 45, the church is said to be all glorious within, Eph. 5:26, 27, 'He sanctifies his church, that he might present it a glorious church.' Justification not only makes us glorious, but sanctification also, and this is dispensed by the gospel, for that sanctifies us to the end of the world, John 17:17, and is the glass we are changed by.
Nay, fifthly, The very light itself whereby we do behold these things in the gospel, and are thus changed, is glorious, 1 Pet. 2:9, 'We are called of darkness to a marvellous light.' And the joy that ariseth out of beholding Christ's righteousness as ours, and God's favour, it is 'joy unspeakable and glorious,' 1 Pet. 1:8.
And last of all, It gives us certain hope of a further glory yet to be revealed, as the text hath it, and verse 17 of the 4th chapter, 'an eternal weight of glory.' All the glory of this world it bears no weight, kenh doxa, empty, frothy glory, as the apostle calls it, but this is an exceeding weight of glory, which if all that glorious lustre men doat on so, were weighed, it would be but as a dust balanced against it; so weighty as flesh and blood, that is, the infirmity of man's nature, if not changed and made capable, could not subsist under it, 1 Cor. 15:50.
And all the glory here is a fading glory, but that is eternal,
1 Pet. 1:24, 'All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as
the flower of grass; the grass withers, and the flower falleth
away,' but the glory of this estate fades not, ver. 4, but is
a flower always green. And the reason is, because the glory of
things is one thing, and the things another, the grass one thing,
and the flower another, and therefore the glory fades and is clean
gone, when yet the things remain. But glory is de essentia
to the things above, the very essence of them is glory itself,
and so called; and therefore, whilst the things remain (as they
do for ever), their glory doth. And is not this a glorious gospel?
Use First, If the gospel and the riches of it be thus great, then buy it, Prov. 23:23, 'Buy the truth, and sell it not;' he names no price, for you are not like to lose by it, cost what it will. This place hath been the greatest mart of truth, and of the mystery of the gospel, that I know under heaven. Wisdom hath as it were cried all her wares at this great cross.
This truth has been purchased for you, and that dearly; it cost the blood of many martyrs to derive it to you, the sweat of many preachers, the prayers of many saints, and cost God the riches of his patience to see it contemned. Buy it therefore at any rate.
Especially you who are scholars, you come hither and live under those, read those who are wholesale men, and you should, whilst you are here, treasure up as much and as many precious truths as you can, and grace withal to dispense by retail in the country, when you are sent abroad.
First, Inquire and learn where these treasures are to be had, even in the Scriptures. The merchant who knew the pearl, was fain to buy the field; Timothy, from a child had known the Scriptures, and so should you do, 'they are able to make a man wise unto salvation, and make the man of God perfect.' As the books of nature, when thoroughly known, make a perfect physician for the body, so doth this a perfect divine. 'Search the Scriptures,' says Christ, 'for they speak of me.' As Christ is the treasury of all knowledge, so the Scriptures are of Christ. These treasures lie scattered in all the veins of the prophets and apostles; dig for them as for silver, take pains and travel to understand them, as Dan. 12:4, when he was bidden to seal up his prophecy in the letter, 'Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' That is, by doing as merchants do, travelling from place to place, comparing one with another, knowledge will be increased.
Secondly, Go to the markets and warehouses of those who have laid in or revealed much of this treasure; that is, use the help of godly men's writings and conferences. The angels do learn of the church, and why not we? Even Paul desires to see them at Rome, that he might be comforted by their mutual faith.
Therefore exchange, and truck one with another to that end. Christ hath given several gifts to perfect his body in knowledge, Eph. 4:12.
The knowledge of any one man is imperfect, some have more skill in one point, and some in another, and so in several ages several truths have been delivered and revealed, Heb. 1:1, poulumerwV, by fragments and by pieces, and therefore use the help of all. None of us are as Paul, to whom nothing can be added (Gal 2:6).
Thirdly, Go to him above all who hath the key of knowledge, Jesus Christ, Rev. 3:7, pray to him. In 1 Peter 1:10, 'they searched and inquired,' that is, they studied and prayed; use both. And so the apostles did spend the time in both, Acts 1.
Fourthly, Highly prize and esteem every truth. If a fool hath a price in his hand, he hath no heart to use it, Prov. 17:16, because he esteems it not. Count all dross and dung for the excellent knowledge of Christ, dote not on human learning too much, lest it spoil and rob you of this.
Fifthly, Exchange all for it, sell all for it, sell all that you have for it, your sins; no saving truths can be yours whilst sin is yours, John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:22, they 'purified their souls by obeying the truth;' for if you receive the truth as you ought, it will cast out all. Especially lay down pride of parts, Ps. 25:12, he will teach the humble his secrets, he will not teach proud scholars. God will not deal nor trade with a wicked man, 1 Tim. 6:4; men being corrupt of dispositions, are destitute therefore of the truth.
Sixthly, Carry all home, and make them your own. It is not your own whilst it is in your brains, as no more meat is your own but what you eat; Let it be 'the ingrafted word,' James 1:21. Be you evangelised.
Use Second, If the gospel be so precious, sell it not, for you can never get the full worth of it; 'Buy the truth,' saith Solomon, Prov. 23:23, 'and sell it not,' that is, part not with it at any hand. And this know for your encouragement, that God takes it not away from any man or nation, until they willingly part with it or put it away; for why else doth he bid them not sell it? His meaning is, if you do not, I will never deprive you of it.
To this purpose is the example of Esau brought, Heb. 12:16. For, speaking of this rich grace offered in the gospel, he bids them take heed that there be no profane person, as Esau was, that sold his birthright. That look, as God would not have deprived Esau of the blessing unless he had freely sold it, Jonah 2:8, Job 33:26, so nor them of the precious gospel.
And he adds this, to enforce this exhortation the more, that a man must not think to receive it when he will; afterwards he would have inherited the blessing, sought it with tears, but could not, ver. 17. And as he takes it not from a particular man, so neither from a nation.
In Acts 13:46, the church of the Jews had been the ancient pillar of truth, and market for the gospel; God had new precious wares to be offered for sale, which had lain hid from all eternity, as this text shews. See what Paul and Barnabas say, who were his sales representatives to trade for him. 'It is necessary they should first be spoken to you.' It is strange, 'it was necessary,' for God's custom is not to offer his precious wares to new customers till the old had refused them. But now, says he, you shew yourselves unworthy; 'Lo, now we turn to the Gentiles;' we will go seek customers all the world over, rather than you shall have the offer of them any more. And as in an estate of land wherein three have a right, until all give over, it is not sold, so in this kingdom there are three, there are magistrates, ministers, people. If either of these do what they can to keep it, it is not sold. Therefore to these three doth God look, Jer. 5:1; to the magistrates, to see if that there were a man that sought truth; secondly, to the common people, who know not the law; and last of all, to the prophets and priests; and when all conspired, then 'what shall you do in the end thereof?'
And if the truth be thus rich and precious, let me speak freely to you. Let the market stand open, take heed how you prohibit any truth to be sold in your markets; but let the word run and be glorified, and let wisdom cry all her wares. If every truth be thus precious, is it not an impoverishing of the kingdom to hinder the traffic of any? Nay, is it not a hindering the king's custom? Revenues of God's glory ariseth out of the custom of these wares. Those times are in a great danger of selling away these truths, that cannot endure (as Paul speaks, 2 Tim. 4:3, 4) wholesome doctrine.
Secondly, Take heed of suffering falsehood to be sold for truth. Rev. 2:20, one of the churches is blamed for suffering Jezebel to teach and to seduce Christ's servants. If we do so, we shall have popery bought for truth, Arminianism for truth, and so by degrees sell away that blessed inheritance which our forefathers left us; as heirs do sell away their lands, first one lordship and then another, piece by piece, till all be gone; and so our silver by little and little becomes dross, as Isaiah speaks, chap. 1:22. This will provoke God (if anything) to sell you into your enemies' hands for nought, Ps. 44:12.
But, thirdly, if it be thus precious, 'hold it fast,' as Paul speaks to Titus, chap. 1:9, 'hold fast the faithful word.' The word signifies to hold against contrary pulling it away, antecomenoi. If a man would not sell the inheritance left him, much less would he suffer it to be taken from him. Suppose it be but a trifle, yet men in a case of right will spend their estates to hold their own, though the suit will not bear its own charges. But when you contend for the truth once given, as the apostle Jude exhorts, you labour to preserve not your own only, but God's right. It is not about a trifle, but for that which Christ once spent his blood; and it is 'the faithful word,' as the apostle calls it, a cause that will stick to you, and maintain itself, be sure to overcome; and not bear its own charges only, but brings a crown with it, 2 Tim. 4:7, 8, 'I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, henceforth a crown is laid up for me.' Christ did witness so before Pontius Pilate, 1 Tim 6:13.
And, last of all, if it be thus rich as well as precious, let it 'dwell richly in you,' as the word is, Col. 3:16. Give it not poor but rich reception, as you would do a rich kinsman who means to make you his heir, and estate you in all his riches.
And to that end, labour to grow rich in the knowledge of it, and speech of it, as Paul speaks, 1 Cor. 1:5, 'that you may be enriched in all knowledge, and in all utterance,' or speech about it, as men labour to know what they are worth, and love to talk of it.
Bestow riches of assurance on it, as Col. 2:2, that you may have 'the riches of full assurance of understanding;' and James 2:5, to be rich in faith.' Trust in him, as men that are rich use to do in their riches, Prov. 10:15. And though their riches be uncertain, and not able to do what they expect, yet this is profitable for all things, having so many rich promises made for you to rely upon.
Bestow riches of obedience on it, endeavouring to grow 'rich in
good works,' as the apostle speaks, 1 Tim. 6:18. Spend the most
precious of your time and thoughts upon it.
Uses of that doctrine,the glory of the gospel.
First, For trial; whether a man hath savingly received it or no. For if it be thus glorious, then they, are still blinded to destruction that see it not in the glory of it. This is the direct consequence of the apostle himself in 2 Cor. 4:4. For he having discoursed of that rich and excellent glory which it reveals, then, says he, those that have lived so long under the preaching of it are 'lost,' into whose hearts the light of this glorious gospel hath not shined. And certainly, saith he, 'the god of this world hath blinded their eyes,' that is, the devil,by varnishing over the vain glittering scheme and gloss of the things of this world, as he did to Christ, Mat. 4:8,dazzles them so, that they see no more glory in the things which the gospel reveals, than blind men do. The fault must certainly be in men's eyes; for this glorious gospel, wherever it shines, is as the sun in itself, it is primum visibile (the original illuminator).
Blind men are never the better for the sun. Though they may have eyes to see the things the gospel propounds, yet not the glory, the worth, and excellency of them, so as to be intimately and deeply affected with them; as to be content to leave house, lands, father, and wife, for the gospel's sake, as Christ speaks, Mark 10:29, that is, to enjoy those things you hear spoken of in the gospel.
And this is that which Christ expressly, out of Isaiah, speaks of the blind Pharisees, to whom the glory of Christ was preached in the gospel, John 12:40, 41. For, says he, Isaiah seeing that his glory spoke this of them, 'that God had blinded their eyes, &c., that they should not see;' that is, not see that glory of Christ as preached to them, so as Isaiah saw it, and all saints, to be humbled and converted by it.
Examine yourselves therefore. You go up and down in the world here, and you view daily the riches of it, and the pleasures of it, the beauty, the credit, the glory of it. And from viewing these things, you often come here to the word, which as a glass that the sun shines in reveals Christ to you, the necessity, the worth of his Spirit, righteousness, and graces, which are laid open to your view daily. Now seriously tell me, or rather thy own heart, in which of these dost thou see most glory, by which art thou most intimately allured? Shall I tell thee? If ever thou hadst savingly seen the glory of the things of the gospel, all the excellencies of the world would seem no excellencies. When thou goest from the church again into the world, the devil's varnish would melt off, as women's makeup doth against the sun; and as candles burn dim and wan when set against the sun, so these.
The things thou didst account most glorious before thy eyes were opened, would seem to have no glory in comparison of this glory, as the apostle speaks of the law, 2 Cor. 3:10, of this glory that so excelleth, excellens sensibile destruit sensum (overpowering sensation to the destruction of the senses). It would put out the carnal eye quite and clean. This you may see, Isa. 40:5, 6, where the Holy Ghost speaks expressly of the preaching the gospel by John the Baptist, whom in the third verse he calls the 'voice of a crier;' and Peter applies the place to the preaching of the gospel, 1 Pet. 1:25. Now (says he, ver. 5) the glory of the Lord Christ should thereby be revealed, and so revealed, that all flesh should see it, that is, many believers both of Jews and Gentiles, for so 'all flesh' is taken also, Ps. 65:2. See it namely in this mirror and glass, 2 Cor. 3:18, and what is the effect of it? Why, 'all flesh is grass,' and the goodliness or glory thereof, as Peter calls it, 'as the flower of the field.' And in their eyes now, that have seen 'the superexcellent glory,' it withers and fades; all the glory of the world appears like withered flowers, for the Spirit of the Lord, which reveals this glory in the gospel, blasts, blows upon them all, so as they lose their gloss and esteem in men's hearts; they can never dote on them again as before.
What is learning, thinks the poor soul, in comparison of grace? What is all the world to the righteousness of Christ? And then all the glowworm righteousness of a man's self, which civil men glory in, so vanisheth, which once shined in the dark, so when this sun ariseth. So it did with Paul, Philip. 3. Then, however a man thought of himself before, as thinking he had many excellencies in him, yet having seen this glory, he falls down, as Isaiah did in like case, Isa. 6:5, 'I am undone,' I am unclean, a vile wretch, that deserves undoing and destruction.
Secondly, If it be thus glorious, see if thou art able to behold the glory of it, comfortably and joyfully, without winking. In 2 Cor. 3:18 the apostle brings all believers to the same trial that the eagle doth her young ones; for as she brings them to the sun, and if they be able to behold it without dazzling or winking, then she accounts them of a right breed; now, so doth the apostle bring all believers to 'the glory of the Lord,' shining in the mirror of the gospel ('and we all,' says he, 'with open face behold the glory of the Lord') to look full upon it. And so indeed unto eagles are they compared in Matthew; for why, their hearts are changed into the same image, so as there is a suitableness between them and it. The strictest preaching, that reveals the glory and beauty of grace in its strictest and most spiritual hue, a good heart can look full upon it and love it. That ministry that darts in the clearest and hottest beams is the most welcome, and hath the most comfortable influence into their hearts.
In the 4th of Malachi, where the prophet speaks of the preaching of the gospel by Jesus Christ, as appears by the 5th verse, where he speaks of John Baptist before the day of Christ's appearing, 'Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth as calves of the stall;' that is, Jesus Christ, who then ariseth in men's hearts, when by the gospel God gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus, as 2 Cor. 4:6, 2 Pet. 1:19. Now those precious truths, and the beams thereof, he compares to wings, because the beams of the sun are spread forth, even as the wings of the eagle, brooding over all the earth, and the things in it, and by them flying into all the corners of it.
So doth Jesus Christ spread forth beams of truth into believers' hearts, and by them comes into their hearts, as the sun is said to do; when the beams of it come into a house, you say the sun comes in. Now these beams, if they should not heal and change our hearts into the same image, they would dazzle and confound men's consciences; therefore it is added, they have healing with them, and therefore now, like calves, they can go forth, and rejoice and leap for joy in the light of it. Whereas sore eyes, that are not healed, are amazed and terrified at the sight of it; and therefore in the first verse he says, 'They shall be burnt up,' as they in Rev. 16:8, 9, that are scorched with the heat of the sun, and so blasphemed and opposed the word. And as in hot countries some have cursed the sun when it ariseth, so they the gospel and the light of it. They hate it, rejoice when any of the 'witnesses' are dead, as they, Rev. 11:10, because 'they tormented them that dwelt on the earth.' Like swine laid on their backs against the sun, they cease not crying till they be on their feet again; or if they cannot avoid it, yet they wink with their eyes, as they, Mat. 13:15. For if men be unholy and profane, whoremongers, liars, &c., then the glorious gospel is contrary unto them, as 1 Tim. 1:10, 11, compared.
But if thou beest not able to behold the glory of the gospel, how wilt thou behold Christ coming in his glory, to render vengeance with 'flaming fire' to them that obey not this gospel?
Thirdly, If it be thus glorious, then see if thou endeavourest to glorify and admire this gospel, and bring honour to it, which is a third consequence whereby you may know whether you receive it in the glory of it or no; for all things we apprehend glorious, we labour to glorify and set forth as much as we may; and this ground on 2 Thess. 3:1. 'Pray,' says the apostle, 'that the word may run and be glorified,' &c., that is, that it may have not only free progress in the world, run upon wheels, as the word signifies, but when it is entertained according to the glory and worth of it, as it was amongst these Thessalonians, who received it as the 'word of God, and not of man,' 1 Thess. 2:13. 'Turning from idols, to serve the living God,' chap. 1:9; parting with all their sins, and setting up God in their hearts; receiving it 'in much affliction,' ver. 6, yet rejoicing in it 9 with joy unspeakable and glorious;' being content to part with lands and all for the gospel's sake, as Mark 8:35; having a care of their conversation in all things, that it may be as becomes the gospel, as he exhorts, Phil. 1:27; when men contend for every truth of it, as Paul in the next words, ver. 28, 'striving together for the faith of the gospel,' continuing immovable, not removing from the 'hope of the gospel,' as Col. 1:2, 3; leaving all for the hopes of what it reveals, accounting this the greatest blessing and privilege they can enjoy in this life to enjoy it; rejoicing in it more than in wisdom, learning, strength, riches; glorying that a man knows God merciful and gracious, which is the message of the gospel, as Jer. 9:23, as the Galatians did, Gal. 4:14, 15, when they first received Paul, they received him as an angel: 'Where was then the blessedness you spoke of?' They so magnified this mercy, that they counted it the greatest blessing of all other, that though a people be blessed, when their garners are full, &c., yet, as if nothing were to be accounted of, he says, 'Happy is that people whose God is the Lord,' &c., Ps. 144:15.
Use 2. If the gospel be thus glorious, then see and acknowledge what is truly the glory of any people, and the lack whereof leaves them in the most miserable and inglorious condition; even the gospel. The law, which as this 2 Cor. chap. 3 tells us, had not any glory in this respect, yet made the people of the Jews a great nation in the eyes of all round about them, Deut. 4:6-9. The nation that should hear of all these statutes should say, 'This is a great nation, that hath God so nigh them; and what nation so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law?'
That which anciently made one commonwealth excel another, to flourish more and continue longer, was the excellency and righteousness of the laws and form of government among them. This made Lacedemonia great, kept the Venetian state standing these 1300 years, and hath made them accounted a great, and a wise, and an understanding people. But all the nations had not such a law as this in all parts; 'all this law,' so just, so holy, it being that law by which man in his holy state was governed, which the angels in heaven live by, which set not up men as their kings and rulers, but sets God up as their protector, makes him 'nigh them,' ver. 7. Therefore, Ps. 76:1-4, in that God was known in Judah, this made it 'more excellent than the mountains of prey.' He compares all the kingdoms of the world besides to wild waste places, where outlaws dwell, savage and cruel wild beasts, that prey upon one another, in the absence of the knowledge of this law to civilise and tame them.
And, therefore, though the Israelites were famous for deliverances above all the nations of the world, fuller of inhabitants than any nation, as the sands of the sea (which is the glory of a kingdom, Solomon says, Prov. 14:28), flowing more with outward blessings than any nation else; in a word, though their privileges were much every way above the Gentiles, Rom. 3:2, yet chiefly (says he) 'that to them were committed the oracles of God.' This you see is made the top and height of all.
Now, if the law made them thus glorious, and the obscure revealing of the gospel, and indeed but the 'shadow,' as Heb. 10:1, the shine and glimmering as it were of the glory of the gospel, how much more must that make a people glorious (whenas it comes to be fulfilled) which Habakkuk foretold, Hab. 2:14, that 'all the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' And if in any age or in any coast it is or hath been full tide, it is now in England.
In 1 Sam. 4:22, when the ark was taken, it was said, 'the glory of Israel is departed.' Now, the ark, which was covered with the mercy-seat and the cherubims, was the place where God appeared, sitting between the cherubims, and shining bright, as Ps. 80:1, and met the people, Exod. 25:22, whence he spake and gave oracles, Num. 7:89; and therefore is called the 'speaking-place,' debir, 1 Kings 6:23. And therefore the ark was called the 'glory,' Rom. 9:4; and 'cherubims of glory,' Heb. 9:5. Now, what was this ark a type of, which was thus the glory of Israel? Of the gospel. For, Heb. 9:23, they were all patterns of things in heaven.
Now, as the temple was the type of the church under the gospel, Rev. 11:1, so the ark was of Christ, revealed in the preaching of the gospel, in the last verse of that chapter. There was seen in his temple the 'ark of his testament,' wherein Jesus Christ comes and meets his people, and speaks from heaven, and wherein believers behold his glory, 2 Cor. 3:18; and therefore they are called the 'oracles of God,' 1 Pet. 4:11. So as when we prophesy, men fall down convinced and say, 'God is amongst you,' 1 Cor. 14:25. And the cherubims, between which God sits and speaks, are ministers of the gospel, as you shall hear anon.
So as indeed the manifestation of the gospel is called 'the glory,' as the ark was of old. So, I take it, that place is to be understood, 1 Pet. 1:10-12, where, speaking of our privilege who enjoy it, he says, 'the patriarchs did foretell the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that followed;' namely, that spreading of the gospel, shedding forth of the Spirit, and gifts, which made those times glorious times after Christ's ascension. Yea, in this respect, the congregations assembled to hear this gospel, God manifesting his presence, are called 'the glory;' I say the assemblies are, Isa. 4:5, which place is to be understood of the times of the gospel, and the calling of the Jews; 'God will create upon her assemblies a cloud by day, and a shining fire by night,' to guide them as in the wilderness, 'for upon all the glory shall be a defence;' that is, upon all those assemblies, which, for the presence of God thus gloriously amongst them, he calls 'the glory.'
And this gospel hath made this kingdom and this town as a 'crown of glory in the hand of the Lord;' and 'the glory of the whole earth,' as Jerusalem is called, Isa. 62:7; the glorious diamond in the ring of the world.
And this it is which did raise that great opinion in the hearts of other nations, that we were accounted a great people, as Deut. 4:6, 7, a wise and an understanding people, and full of humanity and amiableness of carriage; whereas others are accounted rude and barbarous, that lack it in the power that we have it. For when the earth, or any land, is filled with 'the knowledge of the Lord,' it takes fierceness and wildness away from the inhabitants of it. Not from these only whom it converts, but whom it convinceth, Isa. 11, from the wolves and the lions, so as not to hurt, verse 9.
'Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.'
(Morality softens those not allowed to be fierce.)
It makes men more noble and ingenuous, as those of Berea were, having received the gospel, Acts 17:11. That is it which hath struck much terror in former times into the hearts of our enemies, as in Jehoshaphat's days; when he was careful to send Levites to teach in every city, 'fear fell upon all the kingdoms round about, so as they made no war,' 2 Chron. 17:10. And God being 'known for a refuge in our palaces,' 'fear took hold of the kings of the earth,' Ps. 48:3 and 6 compared.
That is it which hath been our defence; for, Isa. 4:5, where the glory of God is, there is a defence upon all the glory; that when they combined together to make an attempt, as in Eighty-eight. As it is in the same Psalm, 48:4-7. Kings were assembled, a great many, as appears by the 7th verse, and they passed by all along our coasts, but they were troubled, and they wasted away; and God broke the ships of Tarshish with the east wind, God being known for a refuge, verse 3. And where the gospel runs without rub, and is glorified, there, when enemies come in like a mighty flood, thinking to bear all before them, Isa. 59:19, when 'they fear the name of Jehovah from the west' (which is thought to be meant of these western churches, as they have been always called), 'and his glory from the rising of the sun: when the enemy comes in as a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.' Ps. 76:1-3, 'In Judah is God known, and his dwelling-place is in Zion: there brake he the arrows, and the bow, and the shield, and the sword, and the battle.' And so, on the contrary, when we go against others, on just quarrels, if the gospel be glorified amongst us, the promise is, Isa. 58:8, 'the glory of God shall be thy rearguard;' shall make an army for us, to fight for us. This defended this town from the plague.
This is that which, when sought and embraced above all things, makes other blessings be cast into the bargain, as Christ promiseth, find to which also we owe all the peace, plenty, and abundance of all things, which since the day we had the gospel we have enjoyed, which, if we had not, yet it is blessing enough. Rom. 15:29, 'I shall come to you in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel,' which whoso enjoys they lack no blessing. It is full of blessing when it comes to a place, and it carries all away when itself removes. Look upon a town where once the king's court was kept, and then it flourished and abounded with blessings, which haply before was poor as Newmarket; but when that is once removed to come no more, look on it then again, and how poor, how desolate, doth such a town grow!
And Christ, where he comes in, enricheth the place he keeps court in. He did good to men's bodies, and souls also, when on earth, and so now in heaven, where his tabernacle is pitched. But when he removes, Mat. 23:38, 'Behold your houses are left unto you desolate.' Why? "For I say, Ye shall not henceforth see me, till ye say, 'Blessed is he,' &c." Judea, that once did flow with milk and honey, is now barren
'Insula dives opum Priami dum regna manebant.'
(Riches remained on the island during the reign of Priam.)
Great must the misery of that place be, then, from which the glory is departing, for then their defence is gone, and they are left naked, exposed to the fury of their enemies, as the people were in the sight of their enemies, Exod. 32:25, stripped of all their ornaments and armour, and therefore 'the people mourned,' chap. 33, and then destruction doth certainly and inevitably follow.
Ezek. 9:3. Before the executioners of vengeance came with their slaughterweapons, the glory of the Lord went away from the cherub, and then the wrath of God falls upon men to the utmost, as upon the Jews, 1 Thes. 2:16, that is, in greater extremities than upon any other. Neither is the tenure of us Gentiles so sure as was theirs; it was as their freehold, Rom. 9:4. 'To them appertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the promises.' Rom. 11:21, 'If God spared not the natural branches, take heed how he spare not thee: be not high-minded, but fear.' 'Towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shalt be cut off,' ver. 22. And yet they are cut of, and have been these sixteen hundred years, and that glory which belonged to them is departed from them, and not yet returned; and have we not cause to fear?
To that end, let us consider some signs of the departure of this glory from a people, and this in those degrees wherein usually it departs.
First, When those outward privileges, which I mentioned before, which have been pawns of its presence, are a-going, and a people is bereft of them; for when you see the train departing and the followers sent away, you expect the court removes shortly. When God 'turneth the glory' of a kingdom 'into shame,' as Hosea 4:7, he threateneth, makes it 'base in the eyes of its neighbours,' as, Ezek. 17:14, he did that of Judah before captivity, so as they are made a derision to those to whom they were a terror. When we see blessings ebb, attempts blasted, armies blown away and dissolved as dust-heaps in a nation that was once honourable, victorious, terrible, prosperous. Winter is nigh when leaves fall off.
And so God did with the Jews, before that final taking of the gospel from them, by taking first away their beauty, their honour and glory, and outward liberties and privileges of a nation, which once they had enjoyed, broke the 'staff of beauty,' and then 'of bands,' Zech. 11:10, 14, then disuniting and scattering them over the face of the earth.
The second thing that departs before the gospel departs is the inward, glorious presence of God's Spirit which once did shine in his ordinances, that though men enjoy the outward, visible signs of his presence, have the ark and preaching of the gospel and cherubims among them, yet the Spirit is gone. Ezek. 9:3, it is said that 'the glory went up from the cherubims' before the destruction that followed, that though the cherubims and temple and ark still remained, yet the glory was gone. Now, the cherubims signified the ministers of the gospel, as you shall hear anon.
Now, when God withdraws his Spirit from us, then the glory goes hence, for in this 2 Cor. 3. This is that which makes the gospel glorious, 'the ministration of the Spirit;' so that, as the glory of the body is gone when the soul is out, so the glory of the gospel is gone when the Spirit is departed, for without it it is but a dead letter. 'For the kingdom of God' (Paul speaks it of preaching of the gospel, 1 Cor. 4:20) 'consists not in word, but in power;' so that when that power is gone, the kingdom is gone. Now, whilst that power goes forth, so long God hath elect to call, 1 Thes. 1:4, 5, 'Knowing your election to be of God, because our gospel was not in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And when the elect is gone, God takes away the gospel.
But when you shall hear sermons, and lay open the excellent things of the law, and reveal the secrets of the gospel, which the angels pry into, and yet the Holy Ghost withdraw himself, that neither wicked are convinced to fall down and say, 'God is amongst them,' the high fortresses of carnal opinion, corrupt practices, are not cast down in the congregations that hear them, nor are they reformed at all, but they that were filthy are filthy still; when the best are dead, and dull, and cold under it, their hearts are not warmed as they were wont to burn with them, as the disciples' hearts were when they went to Emmaus; when God ceaseth to shew himself terrible to the wicked in his holy place, Ps. 68:35, but then when the sentence of damnation is clearly pronounced against men, yet they all hear it as the song of one can sing well; when God creates not a cloud and a pillar of fire upon our assemblies, as Isa. 4:5, to guide, enlighten, and clear our hearts in the ways of godliness; when few are added to the church and none to God, it is a sign God hath his elect out, and that the glory is going.
The second temple was more glorious than the former, Hag. 2:9, yet the former was outwardly more glorious. If Christ be present, he makes the glory with less learned teaching. And it is for your sakes God assists, 1 Thes. 1:5, 'What manner of men for your sakes.'
Thirdly, Then the Spirit is withdrawing, when wicked hearts grow weary of iteven the wicked a while rejoiced in John's light-and godly men are indifferent whether they enjoy it or, no, this is a further sign of its departure, and an effect of the former. Amos 8:5, men cried there, 'When will the Sabbath be gone,' and sermon over, that we may get back to work again, and not lose too much time?
And what follows on this? He upon this threateneth, ver. 9, that 'their sun shall go down at noon;' that glorious light God had set up amongst them, should set in the very noon and height, when it might have run a course many years after; an eclipse, a total one came on the sudden, even at noonday. And if the place should not be meant of the light of the word, as I think it is, yet verse 11 expressly threateneth upon this, 'a famine of the word,' &c. That word which before had rained down as manna, and they were weary of it and would scarce go out of doors to hear it, now they should run from sea to sea, and not find it.
Or suppose they be not weary of it, as the godly are not, yet if they be not earnest with God by prayers for it, and continuance of it, when they do not strive together, as Paul exhorts them, Rom. 15:30, but they sit still and let all go, and strive not; and if God will provide for them, and send forth labourers, so it is; whereas Christ tells them they must pray, Mat. 9:88. You are bidden pray for daily bread, and it must cost you sweat besides; and do you think to enjoy bread of heaven without praying daily for it, yea, and that sweating in prayer also? Jesus Christ looks to be constrained to stay with a people, as with those disciples, Luke 24:28, 29. Whereas otherwise he would have gone further, and certainly would. When the keys are laid aside that should unlock the cupboard, whence the children should have bread, they are likely to lose their suppers. Now these keys are prayers. If Paul be given them, it must be by prayer, Philem. 22.
A fourth sign of the departure of this glory is when men begin to let error and idolatry creep in, which is an effect of the former; for (2 Thes. 2:10) men having no pleasure in truth, but in unrighteousness, God gave them up to lies, and they provoke the Lord to departure, Gal. 2:6.
In case of circumcision, says Paul, 'I would not yield, or give way, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.' As if he had said, If I had given way to a small error, it had endangered the continuance of the gospel with you; how much more, when gross errors, contrary to our points of catechism, and principles of religion, are admitted in a church and suffered to be taught, and grow upon us; but much more must this glory depart when idolatry gets footing. Then God's glory departs amain. Ezek. ix., When did the glory go from the cherub to the threshold of the door? When, chap. 8, idolatry was committed in the secret chambers, yea and in the temple, in worshipping towards the east; then there was no room left for God, he withdrew himself to the threshold, shewing he would fain have had a room amongst them, but he was justled out, glad to stand at the threshold, one foot in, another out, for what fellowship hath God with idols? 2 Cor. 6:16. God will not walk among you where idols are.
And then, Fifthly and lastly, the glory wholly departs when the cherubims do ascend or are removed, Ezek. 11:22. When the cherubims lift up their wings, then the glory went from the city quite. Now cherubims are angels, both celestial, and these on earth, namely, ministers of the gospel. For if you would see what these cherubims were, see Ezek. 1:5, 6. They were four beasts, who had faces of a lion, a man, an ox, an eagle, and wings full of eyes. Now in the 10th chapter, verses 1, 14, and 20, these are called cherubims. Now, if you would see what these beasts are, see Rev. 4:6, where the same living creatures are in the same manner described with the same faces, wings, and eyes; Rev. 5:11. And there they are made distinct from the twenty-four elders, that is, the saints and angels; and therefore by them are meant the ministers and magistrates, especially ministers, whereof some are lions for zeal and courage, and terror in preaching; others oxen, for their pains, and diligence, and constancy, and plainness; others are men, preach more rationally to convince the gainsayers; others eagles, that have more deep insight into heavenly mysteries, and soar high and aloft.
Now, when error is let in, and idolatry is admitted, then look for the cherubim to ascend, to be removed. And in any state, or in the mean time, when a cherub ascends up to heaven, that had the face of 'a man and an eagle,' from a particular place, the glory of God sometimes goes with him; as when old Eli died, the wife of Phinehas said, 1 Sam. 4:20, 'The glory was gone,' not only because of the ark, but also because of her father-in-law.
And now let me exhort you, of this place and kingdom, seriously to consider the state and condition of the gospel, standing amongst you, and whether many of these signs are not fulfilled before your eyes. For the present, to let the kingdom go, look homeward to yourselves. Is not the glory of this place exceedingly vanished of late years in men's opinions abroad? Do they not suspect unsoundness in doctrine, and otherwise? Doth God fill his ordinances as sails with the wind he had wont to do. Your hearts know best, who have had experience of former times. Remember the breathings and warnings of former times. It may be our faults, yet sure I am, we are assisted 'for your sakes' especially, 1 Thes. 1:5. And accordingly do our tongues cleave to the roof of our mouths. Do not your hands, which should be lift up to God for supply, even then when your losses and fears are greatest, grow slack and flag, and your hearts faint? Do you seek God with mourning and weeping, and stir up one another to do so? Do not errors bordering on popery creep in upon us apace, and begin to overgrow us, and our silver to become dross? Is not one of the cherubs ascended, others removed, your sun set at noon, a total eclipse threatened?
Yet at length, brethren, bestir yourselves. Would you have the word dwell with you? 'Let the word dwell in you,' Col. 3:15. Get acquaintance with it, be familiar to it, keep it company in your thoughts, converse with it, meditate in it day and night, let it lie, sleep, wake, walk, sit, ride with you.
Also be valiant for truth, 'Hold fast the things you have been taught,' Rev. 2:24, 25. However other opinions may be thrust upon you under pretence of depths, as there are, 'yet hold fast till I come;' so you may enjoy it till Christ come.
Take heed of having pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thes. 2:10. It will give you up to lies to be damned. Turn from folly, and return to it no more, but fear the Lord, Ps. 85:8, 9, compared. 'Let them not return to folly.' Salvation is nigh to them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.'
Bless God for, and prize the meanest that bring the glad tidings of salvation in power and faithfulness, Mat. 23:39. 'I will go hence,' says Christ, 'till they say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord,' and then will I return again.
You young ones, get you grace into your hearts, and the word rooted there, that when it dies in old men, there may be a succession of it in you.
Above all, be earnest with God, pray that he thrust forth labourers into his harvest. 'God feeds the ravens that cry to him,' Job 38:41, that wander up and down, know not where to have a meal's meat next; and as Christ argues, 'Doth God take care for lilies and birds,' Matt. 6:26, 'and are not you better than they?' Are not you children? And is not the word children's bread? That is, it is theirs, appointed for them, Mat. 15:26. No prayers of children pierce their parents' ear more than when they cry for bread, for those that are born must be kept. Lam. vi- 3, 'Sea monsters give their breasts to their young ones,' much more God.
God is loath to remove from an ancient dwelling-place, as you may see by his lingering in Ezek. 9:3. To the threshold, thence to the midst of the city, &c.
His promise is to give them pastors according to his own heart, if there be but one or two in a city, Jer. 3:14, 15; and there are more in this town.
And Ps. 132:11, 'God swore to David, that if his children keep my covenant, &c., they should sit upon his throne,' and God would make it his rest, ver. 14. It is a trouble to him to remove, and therefore at the 17th verse he says, 'He will ordain a lamp,' that is, when one candle is out he will give another; so 1 Kings 15:4 it is interpreted.
Now, the same promises are to you all for the sure mercies of
David; I say, are promised to be established to all that are in
covenant. As one light is out, God will set up another; as of
magistrates, so of ministers, Jer. 33:17, 18. I say as Samuel,
1 Sam. 12:22-24, 'For the Lord will not forsake his people for
his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make
you his people. Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should
sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach
you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve
him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things
he hath done for you. But if you shall still do wickedly, you
shall be consumed,' &c.
Index to Thomas Goodwin
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