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all opposition. The term "adulterous," I conceive, may chiefly relate to the Jews, who, being nationally espoused to God by covenant, every sin of theirs was in a peculiar manner spiritual adultery.
4. What is here said, "I will deny him before my Father," ," is there expressed, "I will be ashamed of him before my Father and his holy angels;" that is, when he shall come to judgment, when revenging justice shall come in pomp, attended with the glorious retinue of all the host of heaven. In short, the sentence pronounced declares the judgment, the solemnity of it the terror.
From the words we may deduce these observations,
I. We shall find strong motives and temptations from men, to draw us to a denial of Christ.
II. No terrors or solicitations from men, though never so great, can warrant or excuse such a denial.
This premised, I come now to discuss the first thing, namely, how many ways Christ and his truths may be denied, &c. Here first in general I assert, that we may deny him in all those acts that are capable of being morally good or evil; those are the proper scene in which we act our confessions or denials of him. Accordingly, therefore, all ways of denying Christ I shall comprise under these three,
1. We may deny him and his truths by an erroneous, heretical judgment. I know it is doubted whether a bare error in judgment can condemn: but since truths absolutely necessary to salvation are so clearly revealed, that we cannot err in them, unless we be notoriously wanting to ourselves, herein the fault of the judgment is resolved into a precedent default in the will, and so the case is put out of doubt. But here it may be replied, Are not truths of absolute and fundamental necessity very disputable; as the deity of Christ, the trinity of persons? If they are not in themselves disputable, why are they so much disputed? much disputed? Indeed, I believe, if we trace these disputes to their original cause, we shall find, that they never sprung from a reluctancy in reason to embrace them. For this reason itself dictates as most rational, to assent to any thing, though seemingly contrary to reason, if it is revealed by God, and we are certain of the revelation. These two supposed, these disputes must needs arise only from curiosity and singularity; and these are faults of a diseased will. But some will farther demand in behalf of these men, whether such as assent to every word in Scripture, (for so will those that deny the natural deity of Christ and the Spirit,) can be yet said in doctrinals to deny Christ? To this I answer,- Since words abstracted from their proper sense and signification lose the nature of words, and are only equivocally so called; inasmuch as the persons we speak of take them thus, and derive the letter from Christ, but the signification from themselves, they cannot be said properly to assent so much as to the words of the Scripture. And so their case also is clear. But yet more fully to state the matter, how far a denial of Christ in belief and judgment is damnable; we will propose the question, whether those who hold the fundamentals of faith may deny Christ damnably, in respect of those superstructures and consequences that arise from them? I answer in brief,-By fundamental truths are understood, (1.) either such, without the belief of which we cannot be saved: or, (2.) such, the belief of which is sufficient to save. If the question be proposed of fundamentals in this latter sense, it contains its own answer; for where a man believes those truths, the belief of which is sufficient to save, there the disbelief or denial of their consequences cannot damn. But what and how many these
III. To deny Christ's words, is to deny Christ. But since these observations are rather implied than expressed in the words, I shall wave them, and instead of deducing a doctrine distinct from the words, prosecute the words themselves under this doctrinal paraphrase,—
"Whosoever shall deny, disown, or be ashamed of either the person or truths of Jesus Christ, for any fear or favour of man, shall with shame be disowned and eternally rejected by him at the dreadful judgment of the great day."
The discussion of this shall lie in these things,
I. To shew how many ways Christ and his truths may be denied; and what is the denial here chiefly intended.
II. To shew what are the causes that induce men to a denial of Christ and his truths. III. To shew how far a man may consult his safety in time of persecution without denying Christ.
IV. To shew what is imported in Christ's denying us before his Father in heaven.
V. To apply all to the present occasion. But before I enter upon these, I must briefly premise this, that though the text and the doctrine run peremptory and absolute, "Whosoever denies Christ, shall assuredly be denied by him," yet still there is a tacit condition in the words supposed, unless repentance intervene. For this and many other scriptures, though as to their formal terms they are absolute, yet as to their sense they are conditional. God in mercy has so framed and tempered his word, that we have, for the most part, a reserve of mercy wrapped up in a curse. And the very first judgment that was pronounced upon fallen man, was with the allay of a promise. Wheresoever we find a curse to the guilty expressed, in the same words mercy to the penitent is still understood.
fundamentals are, it will then be agreed upon, when all sects, opinions, and persuasions do unite and consent. 2dly, If we speak of fundamentals in the former sense, as they are only truths, without which we cannot be saved, it is manifest, that we may believe them, and yet be damned for denying their consequences: for that which is only a condition, without which we cannot be saved, is not therefore a cause sufficient to save: much more is required to the latter, than to the former. I conclude, therefore, that to deny Christ in our judgment will condemn, and this concerns the learned: Christ demands the homage of your understanding; he will have your reason bend to him; you must put your heads under his feet. And we know, that heretofore, he who had the leprosy in this part, was to be pronounced utterly unclean. A poisoned reason, an infected judgment, is Christ's greatest enemy; and an error in the judgment is like an imposthume in the head, which is always noisome, and frequently mortal.
2. We may deny Christ verbally, and by oral expressions. Now our words are the interpreters of our hearts, the transcripts of the judgment, with some farther addition of good or evil. He that interprets, usually enlarges. What our judgment whispers in secret, these proclaim upon the house top. To deny Christ in the former, imports enmity; but in these, open defiance. Christ's passion is renewed in both: he that misjudges of him, condemns him; but he that blasphemes him, spits in his face. Thus the Jews and the Pharisees denied Christ. "We know that this man is a sinner," (John, ix. 24 ;) "and a deceiver," (Matt. xxvii. 63;) "and he casts out devils by the prince of devils," (xii. 24.) And thus Christ is daily denied, in many blasphemies printed and divulged, and many horrid opinions vented against the truth. The schools dispute whether in morals the external action superadds any thing of good or evil to the internal elicit act of the will but certainly the enmity of our judgments is wrought up to an high pitch, before it rages in an open denial. And it is a sign that it is grown too big for the heart, when it seeks for vent in our words. Blasphemy uttered, is error heightened with impudence: it is sin scorning a concealment, not only committed, but defended. He that denies Christ in his judgment, sins; but he that speaks his denial, vouches and owns his sin; and so, by publishing it, does what in him lies to make it universal, and by writing it, to establish it eternal. There is another way of denying Christ with our mouths, which is negative; that is, when we do not acknowledge and confess him: but of this I shall have occasion to treat under the discussion of the third general head.
3. We may deny Christ in our actions and practice; and these speak much louder than our tongues. To have an orthodox belief, and a true profession, concurring with a bad life, is only to deny Christ with a greater solemnity. Belief and profession will speak thee a Christian but very faintly, when thy conversation proclaims thee an infidel. Many, while they have preached Christ in their sermons, have read a lecture of atheism in their practice. We have many here who speak of godliness, mortification, and selfdenial; but if these are so, what means the bleating of the sheep, and the lowing of the oxen, the noise of their ordinary sins, and the cry of their great ones? If godly, why do they wallow and steep in all the carnalities of the world, under pretence of Christian liberty? Why do they make religion ridiculous by pretending to prophecy; and when their prophecies prove delusions, why do they * blaspheme? If such are self-deniers, what means the griping, the prejudice, the covetousness, and the pluralities preached against, and retained, and the arbitrary government of many? When such men preach of self-denial and humility, I cannot but think of Seneca, who praised poverty, and that very safely, in the midst of his riches and gardens; and even exhorted the world to throw away their gold, perhaps (as one well conjectures) that he might gather it up: so these desire men to be humble, that they may domineer without opposition. But it is an easy matter to commend patience, when there is no danger of any trial, to extol humility in the midst of honours, to begin a fast after dinner. † But, oh, how Christ will deal with such persons, when he shall draw forth all their actions bare, and stript from this deceiving veil of their heavenly speeches! He will then say, It was not your sad countenance, nor your hypocritical groaning, by which you did either confess or honour me: but your worldliness, your luxury, your sinister partial dealing; these have denied me, these have wounded me, these have gone to my heart; these have caused the weak to stumble, and the profane to blaspheme; these have offended the one, and hardened the other. You have indeed spoke me fair, you have saluted me with your lips, but even then you betrayed me. Depart from me, therefore, you professors of holiness, but you workers of iniquity.
And thus having shewn the three ways by
* A noted independent divine, when Oliver Cromwell was sick, of which sickness he died, declared that God had revealed to him that he should recover, and live thirty years longer, for that God had raised him up for a work which could not be done in less time. But Oliver's death being published two days after, the said divine publicly in prayer expostulated with God the defeat of his prophecy, in these words; "Lord, thou hast lied unto us; yea, thou hast lied unto us."
Very credibly reported to have been done in an independent congregation at Oxon.
which Christ may be denied, it may now be demanded, which is the denial here intended in the words.
Answer. (1.) I conceive, if the words are taken as they were particularly and personally directed to the apostles, upon the occasion of their mission to preach the gospel, so the denial of him was the not acknowledgment of the deity or godhead of Christ; and the reason to prove that this was then principally intended is this because this was the truth in those days chiefly opposed, and most disbelieved; as appears, because Christ and the apostles did most earnestly inculcate the belief of this, and accepted men pon the bare acknowledgment of this, and baptism was administered to such as did but profess this, (Acts, viii. 37, 38.) And, indeed, as this one aphorism, "Jesus Christ is the Son of God," is virtually and eminently the whole gospel; so to confess or deny it, is virtually to embrace or reject the whole round and series of gospel truths. For he that acknowledges Christ to be the Son of God, by the same does consequentially acknowledge, that he is to be believed and obeyed, in whatsoever he does enjoin and deliver to the sons of men and therefore that we are to repent, and believe, and rest upon him for salvation, and to deny ourselves; and within the compass of this is included whatsoever is called gospel.
As for the manner of our denying the deity of Christ here prohibited, I conceive, it was by words and oral expressions verbally to deny and disacknowledge it. This I ground upon these reasons,
1. Because it was such a denial as was before men, and therefore consisted in open profession; for a denial in judgment and practice, as such, is not always before men.
2. Because it was such a denial or confession of him as would appear in preaching: but this is managed in words and verbal profession.
But now, (2.) if we take the words as they are a general precept, equally relating to all times and to all persons, though delivered only upon a particular occasion to the apostles, (as I suppose they are to be understood;) so think they comprehend all the three ways mentioned of confessing or denying Christ: but principally in respect of practice; and that, 1. Because by this he is most honoured or dishonoured; 2. Because without this the other two cannot save; 3. Because those who are ready enough to confess him both in judgment and profession, are for the most part very prone to deny him shamefully in their doings.
Pass we now to a second thing, namely, to shew,
II. What are the causes inducing men to deny Christ in his truths. I shall propose three,
1. The seeming supposed absurdity of many truths: upon this foundation heresy always builds. The heathens derided the Christians, that still they required and pressed belief: and well they might, say they, since the articles of their religion are so absurd, that upon principles of science they can never win assent. It is easy to draw it forth and demonstrate, how, upon this score, the chief heretics that now are said to trouble the church, do oppose and deny the most important truths in divinity. As, first, hear the denier of the deity and satisfaction of Christ. What! says he, can the same person be God and man? the creature and the Creator? Can we ascribe such attributes to the same thing, whereof one implies a negation and a contradiction of the other? Can he be also finite and infinite, when to be finite is not to be infinite, and to be infinite not to be finite? And when we distinguish between the person and the nature, Was not that distinction an invention of the schools, savouring rather of metaphysics than divinity? If we say, that he must have been God, because he was to mediate between us and God, by the same reason, they will reply, We should need a mediator between us and Christ, who is equally God, equally offended. Then for his satisfaction, they will demand to whom this satisfaction is paid? If to God, then God pays a price to himself: and what is it else to require and need no satisfaction, than for one to satisfy himself? Next comes in the denier of the decrees and free grace of God. What! says he, shall we exhort, admonish, and entreat the saints to beware of falling away finally, and at the same time assert, that it is impossible for them so to fall? What! shall we erect two contradictory wills in God, or place two contradictories in the same will? and make the will of his purpose and intention run counter to the will of his approbation? Hear another concerning the Scripture, and justification. What! says the Romanist, rely in matters of faith upon a private spirit? How do you know this is the sense of such a Scripture? Why, by the Spirit. But how will you try that Spirit to be of God? Why, by the Scripture. This he explodes as a circle, and so derides it. Then for justification. How are you justified by an imputed righteousness? Is it yours before it is imputed, or not? If not, as we must say, is this to be justified to have that accounted yours that is not yours? But again, did you ever hear of any man made rich or wise by imputation? Why, then, righteous or just? Now these seeming paradoxes, attending gospel truths, cause men of weak, prejudiced intellectuals to deny them, and in them, Christ; being ashamed to own faith so much, as they think, to the disparagement of their reason.
2. The second thing causing men to deny
the truths of Christ is their unprofitableness. And no wonder, if here men forsake the truth, and assert interest. To be pious is the way to be poor. Truth still gives its followers its own badge and livery, a despised nakedness. It is hard to maintain the truth, but much harder to be maintained by it. Could it ever yet feed, clothe, or defend its assertors? Did ever any man quench his thirst or satisfy his hunger with a notion? Did ever any one live upon propositions? The testimony of Brutus concerning virtue is the apprehension of most concerning truth: that it is a name, but lives and estates are things, and therefore not to be thrown away upon words. That we are neither to worship or cringe to any thing under the Deity, is a truth too strict for a Naaman he can be content to worship the true God, but then it must be in the house of Rimmon the reason was implied in his condition; he was captain of the host, and therefore he thought it reason good to bow to Rimmon, rather than endanger his place; better bow than break. Indeed, sometimes Providence cast things so, that truth and interest lie the same way: and, when it is wrapt up in this covering, men can be content to follow it, to press hard after it, but it is, as we pursue some beasts, only for their skins: take off the covering, and though men obtain the truth, they would lament the loss of that as Jacob wept and mourned over the torn coat, when Joseph was alive. It is incredible to consider how interest outweighs truth. If a thing in itself be doubtful, let it make for interest, and it shall be raised at least into probable; and if a truth be certain, and thwart interest, it will quickly fetch it down to but a probability; nay, if it does not carry with it an impregnable evidence, it will go near to debase it to a downright falsity. How much interest casts the balance in cases dubious, I could give sundry instances let one suffice, and that concerning the unlawfulness of usury. Most of the learned men in the world successively, both heathen and Christian, do assert the taking of use to be utterly unlawful; yet the divines of the reformed church beyond the seas, though most severe and rigid in other things, do generally affirm it to be lawful. That the case is doubtful, and may be disputed with plausible arguments on either side, we may well grant: but what then is the reason, that makes these divines so unanimously concur in this opinion? Indeed I shall not affirm this to be the reason, but it may seem so to many: that they receive their salaries by way of pension, in present ready money, and so have no other way to improve them; so that it may be suspected, that the change of their salary would be the strongest argument to change their opinion. The truth is, interest is the grand wheel and spring that moves the
whole universe. Let Christ and truth say what they will, if interest will have it, gain must be godliness; if enthusiasm is in request, learning must be inconsistent with grace. If pay grows short, the university. maintenance must be too great. Rather than Pilate will be counted Cæsar's enemy, he will pronounce Christ innocent one hour, and condemn him the next. How Christ is made to truckle under the world, and how his truths are denied and shuffled with for profit and pelf, the clearest proof would be by induction and example. But, as it is the most clear, so here it would be the most unpleasing: wherere, I shall pass this over, since the world is now so peccant upon this account, that I am afraid instances would be mistaken for invectives.
3. The third cause inducing men to deny Christ in his truths is their apparent danger. To confess Christ is the ready way to be cast out of the synagogue. The church is a place of graves, as well as of worship and profession. To be resolute in a good cause is to bring upon ourselves the punishments due to a bad. Truth, indeed, is a possession of the highest value, and therefore it must needs expose the owner to much danger. Christ is sometimes pleased to make the profession of himself costly, and a man cannot buy the truth, but he must pay down his life and his dearest blood for it. Christianity marks a man out for destruction; and Christ sometimes chalks out such a way to salvation as shall verify his own saying, "He that will save his life shall lose it." The first ages of the church had a more abundant experience of this: what Paul and the rest planted by their preaching, they watered with their blood. We know their usage was such as Christ foretold; he sent them to wolves, and the common course then was, Christianos ad leones. For a man to give his name to Christianity in those days was to list himself a martyr, and to bid farewell, not only to the pleasures, but also to the hopes of this life. Neither was it a single death only that then attended this profession, but the terror and sharpness of it was redoubled in the manner and circumstance. They had persecutors, whose invention was as great as their cruelty. Wit and malice conspired to find out such tortures, such deaths, and those of such incredible anguish, that only the manner of dying was the punishment, death itself the deliverance. To be a martyr signifies only to witness the truth of Christ, but the witnessing of the truth was then so generally attended with this event, that martyrdom now signifies, not only to witness, but to witness by death: the word, besides its own signification, importing their practice. And since Christians have been freed from heathens, Christians themselves have turned persecutors. Since Rome from heathen was
martyr? He that, uncalled for, uncompelled, comes and proclaims a persecuted truth, for which he is sure to die, only dies a confessor of his own folly, and a sacrifice to his own rashness. Martyrdom is stamped such only by God's command; and he that ventures upon it without a call, must endure it without a reward: Christ will say, "Who required this at your hands?" His Gospel does not dictate imprudence; no evangelical precept justles out that of a lawful self-preservation. He, therefore, that thus throws himself upon the sword, runs to heaven before he is sent for; where, though perhaps Christ may in mercy receive the man, yet he will be sure to disown the martyr.
turned Christian, it has improved its persecution into an inquisition. Now, when Christ and truth are upon these terms, that men cannot confess him but upon pain of death, the reason of their apostasy and denial is clear; men will be wise, and leave truth and misery to such as love it; they are resolved to be cunning, let others run the hazard of being sincere. If they must be good at so high a rate, they know they may be safe at a cheaper. Si negare sufficiat, quis erit nocens? If to deny Christ will save them, the truth shall never make them guilty. Let Christ and his flock lie open, and exposed to all weather of persecution, foxes will be sure to have holes. And if it comes to this, that they must either renounce their religion, deny and blaspheme Christ, or forfeit their lives to the fire or the sword, it is but inverting Job's wife's advice, "Curse God, and live."
III. We proceed now to the third thing, which is, to shew how far a man may consult his safety, &c.
This he may do two ways,
1. By withdrawing his person. Martyrdom is an heroic act of faith: an achievement beyond an ordinary pitch of it; "To you," says the Spirit, "it is given to suffer," (Phil. i. 29.) It is a peculiar additional gift: it is a distinguishing excellency of degree, not an essential consequent of its nature. "Be harmless as doves," says Christ; and it is as natural to them to take flight upon danger, as to be innocent. Let every man thoroughly consult the temper of his faith, and weigh his courage with his fears, his weakness and his resolution together, and take the measure of both, and see which preponderates; and if his spirit faints, if his heart misgives and melts at the very thoughts of the fire, let him fly, and secure his own soul, and Christ's honour. Non negat Christum fugiendo, qui ideo fugit ne neget: he does not deny Christ by flying, who therefore flies that he may not deny him. Nay, he does not so much decline, as rather change his martyrdom: he flies from the flame, but repairs to a desert; to poverty and hunger in a wilderness. Whereas, if he would dispense with his conscience, and deny his Lord, or swallow down two or three contradictory oaths, he should neither fear the one, nor be forced to the other.
2. By concealing his judgment. A man sometimes is no more bound to speak, than to destroy himself: and as nature abhors this, so religion does not command that. In the times of the primitive church, when the Christians dwelt amongst heathens, it is reported of a certain maid, how she came from her father's house to one of the tribunals of the Gentiles, and declared herself a Christian, spit in the judge's face, and so provoked him to cause her to be executed. But will any say, that this was to confess Christ, to die a
And thus much concerning those lawful ways of securing ourselves in time of persecution: not as if these were always lawful; for sometimes a man is bound to confess Christ openly, though he dies for it; and to conceal a truth is to deny it. But now, to shew when it is our duty, and when unlawful, to take these courses, by some general rule of a perpetual never-failing truth, none ever would yet presume; for, as Aristotle says, we are not to expect demonstrations in ethics or politics, nor to build certain rules upon the contingency of human actions; so, inasmuch as our flying from persecution, our confessing or concealing persecuted truths, vary and change their very nature, according to different circumstances of time, place, and persons, we cannot limit their directions within any one universal precept. You will say then, How shall we know when to confess, when to conceal a truth? when to wait for, when to decline persecution? Indeed, the only way that I think can be prescribed in this case, is to be earnest and importunate with God in prayer for special direction: and it is not to be imagined, that he, who is both faithful and merciful, will leave a sincere soul in the dark upon such an occasion. But this I shall add, that the ministers of God are not to evade, or take refuge in any of these two forementioned ways. They are public persons; and good shepherds must then chiefly stand close to the flock, when the wolf comes. For them to be silent in the cause of Christ, is to renounce it; and to fly, is to desert it. As for that place urged in favour of the contrary, (ver. 23,) "When they persecute you in this city, flee into another," it proves nothing; for the precept was particular, and concerned only the apostles; and that but for that time in which they were then sent to the Jews, at which time Christ kept them as a reserve for the future. For when after his death they were indifferently sent both to Jews and Gentiles, we find not this clause in their commission; but they were to sign the truths they preached with their blood, as we know they actually did. And moreover, when