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that upholds their being, (though they consider it not,) would make them fall to nothing. Yet is He pleased not only to spare transgressors, but to give them many outward blessings, rain and fruitful seasons, as the Apostle speaks, Acts xiv. 17. And the earth which is so full of man's rebellion, is yet more full of God's goodness: The earth is full of Thy goodness, says the Psalmist. It is remarkable, that that same reason which is given, Gen. vi. 5, of the justice of God in drowning the world, is, in chap. viii. ver. 21, rendered as the reason of God's resolved patience ever since: And the Lord said, I will not curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.
Then consider His grace, in finding a way of reconcilement, and not sparing His own Son, His only begotten Son, to accomplish it. Nor did the Son spare himself. O matchless love! to lay down his life, not for friends, but for strangers; not only so, but enemies, for unrighteous and ungodly persons, such as be at enmity against Him. Rom. v. 7,8. And having done this, He sends his word, the message of reconciliation, to rebels, and sends His Spirit into the hearts of those whom He hath appointed to salvation, to change their spirits, that they perish not in disobedience: He brings them near who were far off, having slain this enmity by the death of His Son.
As many of you, then, as have hitherto heard this message of reconciliation in vain, be persuaded at last to give ear to it, This is all that God's ambassadors require, according to their instructions from Himself, that men would lay down their enmity against Him, and not be so foolish as wilfully to perish in it: We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
2 Cor. v. 20.
Consider that this enmity is, 1st, unjustly, 2dly, unhappy. (1.) Unjust it is, being against Him who is the chief object of love, who is altogether goodness, both in Himself and towards his creatures. It is too much not to love Him with most ardent and superlative affection; but to entertain enmity against Him is madness. As it was said to one who asked,
Why are the beautiful loved? It is a blind man's question; certainly we are blind if we see not cause enough, not only to desist from enmity, but to be inflamed with His love. One glance of His amiable countenance is sufficient to cause the most rebellious heart to yield, and lay down arms, and for ever devote itself to His services. No, we know Him not, and therefore it is we hold out against Him. Is He not the living spring of all our comforts? Have we not from Him, life, and breath, and all things? And is He not ready to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin? Let mercy melt our hearts to Him, those sweet rays of love. Let His loving-kindness overcome these stubborn hearts and spirits of ours. Among enemies, the weaker usually seeks first for peace, but here it is the Mighty; Almighty God comes to entreat agreement with sinful clay.
(2.) But if this prevail not, then think how unhappy this enmity is. You who are so afraid of men, and those weak men, of men like yourselves, whose breath is in their nostrils, will ye not tremble at His power, and be afraid to continue on terms of hostility against Him who is the Lord of Hosts, who hath power both over soul and body, to kill both and cast them into hell? What is the stoutest of men, but as stubble to the flame of His wrath? Our God is a consuming fire. Heb. xii. 29. The sinners in Zion are afraid, says the Prophet. Who shall dwell, say they, with devouring fire and everlasting burnings? Isa. xxxiii. 14. Then, if you would not perish, when His wrath is kindled, take that word of Eliphaz, Job xxii. 21. Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee.
And to you, so many as He hath taken into friendship with Himself, look backward to the gulf you have escaped, and forward to the happiness you are appointed to, and let the joint consideration of both awaken your hearts and tongues to praises. How can your hearts contain such a wonder of love as He hath manifested to you, and not run over in songs and praise?
And, as you owe Him praises, so study, being made His friends, to become more like Him. That same idem velle et idem nolle, to love and hate the same things with Him, will be a sure testimony of friendship. And because carnality, or fleshly and earthly mindedness, is here made the character of énmity, mortify those affections, nail them to that cross of Christ whereby the enmity was taken away. And further, being once admitted into friendship, labour for a further degree of intimacy with Him, and forbear every thing that may hinder that. Use frequent converse with Him; for that both entertains and increases friendship. If any thing fall out on your part, (as it too often does,) that may occasion any strangeness betwixt you and your God, rest not till it be removed. And if you walk in this way, it shall undoubtedly, at length, bring you where you shall abide in His presence for ever, and shall no more fear any breach or interruption of enjoying Him. To him be praise! Amen.
ROMANS xiii. 5, 6, 7, 8.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
THE wisdom and goodness of God, which shine in the natural order and dependence of things in the frame of the great world, appear likewise, and commend themselves to us, in the civil order He hath instituted in the societies of men, the lesser
world. As out of the same mass He made the heavens and the earth, and the other elements betwixt them, one higher than another, and gave them different stations and qualities, yet so different as to be linked and concatenated together, concordia discordia, and all for the concern and benefit of the whole; thus, for the good of men, hath the Lord assigned these different stations of rule and subjection, (though all are of one race, Acts xvii. 26.) raising from among men some above the rest, and clothing them with such authority as hath some representment of Himself, and accordingly communicating to them His own name: I have said, ye are gods. And the very power that is in magistracy to curb and punish those that despise it, the Apostle useth as a strong and hard cord to bind on the duty of obedience, a cord of necessity. But he adds another of a higher necessity, that binds more strongly, and yet more sweetly, that of conscience. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
Observe, 1. This is the main consideration which closes the discourse, the great cord that binds on and fastens all the rest; all the arguments fore-going, therefore, are mainly here to be pressed. Have a reverential and conscientious respect to the ordinance of God in the institution of Government, and to the providence of God in His choice of those particular persons whom He calls to it. Contain thyself in thy own station, and submit to those set higher by the Lord, in obedience to Him. This, indeed, is the only true spring of all obedience, both to God, and to men for Him, and according to His ordinance. To regulate the outward carriage, without the living principle of an enlightened and sanctified conscience within, is to build without a foundation. This is the thing God eyes most. He looks through the surface of men's actions to the bottom, follows them into their source, examines from what motives and reasons they flow. He sees not only the handle of the dial, but all the wheels and weights of the clock that are the cause of its motion, and accordingly judges
both men and their actions to be good or evil, as the inward frame and secret motions of the heart are. In His own worship, the outside of it may have the same visage and plausible appearance in a multitude convened to it and concurring in it, and no human eye can trace a difference; and yet, Oh, what vast difference doth God's eye discover amongst them! He sees the multitude of those who are driven to His house by the power of civil and church laws, or carried to it only with the stream of company and custom; (and these, I fancy, take up the most room in our churches ;) but He sees here and there, where such are in any corner, who worship Him in singleness of heart, out of conscience to His holy command, and under a sense of their many obligations, those who dare not let pass any opportunity they can reach, of doing service to their Lord, and who dare not slight His word, and thus coming for conscience' sake, they do present their souls to receive His word, give their hearts up to receive the impression of it, put themselves under it, to be stamped by it according to that, Rom. vi. 17: But ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. So, likewise, He sees those who bear His name to His people, the ministers of His word. If they preach constantly, and live blamelessly, and are diligent and irreprovable in all the external parts of their walking, this last satisfies men's questions in their inspection and visitings; but God's inquiry and visiting searches deeper. He asks from what heart all this comes, whether from a holy conscience of the weight and high importance of their holy calling, and a faithful respect to the interest of their Master's glory and His people's souls. And thus, He, as supreme judge, sits and considers the proceedings of judges and magistrates; not only whether they do that which is just, (for often they cannot, easily or safely, do otherwise,) but whether they do it with regard to Him or not; that is, whether they judge righteously, for conscience sake, or not; whether they do consider Him, as sitting above them, when they sit down upon the bench or seat of justice, and do indeed, truly speak righte