« AnteriorContinuar »
any part or portion in them? Or, whether we have any hope of any such things! Oh! this is worthy our pains. Come then let us yet make a further progress, let us not only “ desire that it may be thus and so," but let us say, on some sure and certain grounds, “ We bope it is thus and so," we hope Christ will “come again, and receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be als)," John 14:3,
Indeed there is the Christian's stay and comfort, such an hope is a “ sure anchor,” Heb. 6:19. that will hold the ship in a storm; only because our souls lie upon it, we had need to look to it that our bopes be true; the worst can say, “ They hope to be saved as well as the best;" but I lear the hopes of many will be lamentably frustrated. Our Saviour brings in many pleading with confidence at the last day for life, who shall be rejected with miserable disappointinent, “ Many shall say to me at that day, Lord, Lord, &c. and I will confess unto them, I never knew them, depart from me.” Now, to clear this point, that our hopes are of the right stamp, and not counterfeit hopes, I shall lay down some signs, whereby we may know that Christ's corning is for us and for our good, and for the grace that is to be given us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1. If we are born again, then will bis glorious coming be to glorify us, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, io an inheritance incorruptible," 1 Pet. 1:3,4. Whosoever hath the true hope of heaven, he is one that is begotten again: so our Saviour, “ Excepi a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” Jobp 3:3. Many things may be done, as Herod heard John the Baptist," and did many things;" but except a man be born again, those many things are in God's account as nothing. When Peter had told Christ, that he and his fellow disciples had forsaken all, and followed bim, “ Then Jesus said, verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel," Matth. 19:28. q. d. Peter, You have forsaken all, and followed me, but know that bare forsaking is not enough, but you who have felt the work of God regenerating your souls, upon which ye have followed me, ye shall sit upon twelve thrones. In those who are alive at the last day there will be a change, and ihis change will be to them instead of death: “Behold I shew you a mys. tery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," 1 Cor. 15:51. Certainly, in those who at the last day shall sit on thrones with Chrisi, there must be a change likewise in this life, (i, e) a new spirit, and a new life must be put into them: oh! what a change is this! suppose a rational soul were put into a beast, what a change would be in that creature! suppose an angelical nature were put upon us, what a change would there be in us! oh! but what a change is this, when a man is born again of water and of the Spirit: I must tell you, that the highest degree of glory in heaven is not so different from the lowest degree of grace here, as the lowest degree of grace here is different from the highest excellency of nature here; because the difference betwixt the highest degree of the glory of heaven, and the lowest degree of grace is only gradual; but the difference that is betwixt the lowest degree of grace, and the highest excellency of nature, is a special difference. Oh! there is a mighty work of God in preparing souls for glory by grace, and this change must they have, that must sit on thrones. Come then, you that hope for glory, try yourselves by this. Is there a change in your hearts, words, and lives? is there a mighty work of grace upon your spirits? Are you experienced in
the great mystery of regeneration? Why, here is your evidence that your hopes are sound, and that you shall sit upon thrones to judge the world.
2. If we long for his coming, then will he come to satisfy our longings, “ Blessed are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be satisfied." How satisfied, but in being saved? “ Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation," Heb. 9:28. Unto them that look for him, or long for him, shall he appear the second time unto salvation: it is very observable, how this “ looking for Christ," is in scripture a frequent description of a true believer in Christ. Who are true, sincere, and sound Christians, but such as live in a perpetual desire and hope of Christ's blessed coming? They are ever “ looking for, and hastening unto the coming of the day of God," 2 Pet. 3:12. Here are two signs in one verse, “ Looking for, and hastening unto:” true believers are not only in a posture looking for the coming of Jesus Christ; but also, as it were going forth to meet Jesus Christ with burning lamps. Luther could say, That " he was no true Christian, neither could he truly recite the Lord's prayer, that with all his heart, desired not this day of the coming of Christ,” Matth. 6:10. It is true, that whether we will or no, that day will come; but in the Lord's prayer Christ has taught us to pray, that God would accelerate and hasten the day of his glorious coming, “ Thy kingdom come," (i. e.) the kingdom of glory at the judgment, as well as the kingdom of grace in the church. It is true also, that the day of the Lord is a terrible day, the heavens, and earth, and sea, and air, shall be all in a bonfire, and burn to nothing, “ Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new hea. vens, and a new earth:" we that have laid hold upon God, and laid hold on him by the right handle, “ according to his promises,” we look for this day of the Lord, “ we look for it, and hasten unto it;" we are glad it is so near, and we do what we can to have it nearer; with an holy kind of impa. tience we beg of the Lord, “ Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." This was Paul's character, “ we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travail. eth in pain together until now; and not only they, but ourselves also, wbich have the first-fruits of the spirit; even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies," Rom. 8: 22,23. God's children, such as have the first-fruits of the Spirit, the beginnings of true saving grace in them, they constantly look and long for the day of full deliverance, or of the coming of Christ. This the apostle instanceth in his Corinthians, “ Ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. 1:7. And in like manner he writes to his Philippians,“ our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Phil. 3:20. And to Titus himself, he writes the same things, “ We look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit. 2:13. Now Christians, lay this character to heart, do you long, pant, and look for this glorious and second coming of Christ? Have you any such wishes, and sayings of heart and mind, as these are? Oh! that Christ would appear! “ Oh! that Christ would now break the heavens, and come to judg. ment! Oh! that I could see him in the cloud, and on his throne? Oh! that his enemies were ruined, my sins subdued, my soul sa ved, that I might serve him without weariness, forever and ever!” Surely if these elongations of soul be in you, it is a comfortable evidence that your hopes are sound, and that Christ will come to receive you to himself, and to bring you to glory.
3. If we love Christ's appearing, then will he appear on our side; - Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteourness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto them also that love his appearing,” 2 Tim. 4:8. A true Christian loves Christ's appearing in ordinances, and in all the means of grace, How much more in his own person? But bow shall we love that we see not? yes! there is a kind of an idea of Christ, and of his glorious ap. pearing in every sanctified soul, and in that respect, we love himn though we cannot see him, “Whom having not seen, ye love," saith the apostle, 1 Pet. 1:8. And so your "love and faith, at the appearing of Jesus Christ, shall be found unto praise and honor, and glory,” verse 7. Those that have not seen Christ, and yet love the idea of his sight, even they shall appear, at the appearing of Christ in praise, and honor, and glory. Is not the crown laid up for them that love the appearing of Christ? Is it not a sign of a good cause, to love a day of hearing? Surely love of Christ's coming cannot consist without some assurance, that a soul shall stand upright in the judgment. He that hath not a confidence in bis cause, loves not the coming of the judge; no guilty prisoner loves the sessions, or loves the judge's presence; it is the cry of reprobates; “O ye mountains! and O ye rocks! Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the ihrone," Rev. 6:16. But as for Christ and his saints, O the mutual loves, and mutual longings in their breasts! The last words that Christ speaks in the Bible, (and amongst us, last words make deepest impressions) are, “Surely I come quickly;" and the last answer that is made in our behalf is, " Amen, Even so, Come Lord Jesus." I know this character is near the former, and therefore I shall pass it over.
4. If our work be good, then will he reward us according to our works. At that great day, this will be the trial, works, or no works, “ Then will he say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty; and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed mes I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me,” Matth. 25:33,34,35,36. Here were works, upon which followed the rewards of Heaven, for these “ went into eternal life," verge 46. I know works are not meritorious, and yet they are evi. dences; I know works without faith are but glistering sins; and yet works done in faith are signs and forerunners of eternal glory; I know, that if all the excellencies of all the moralities of all the men in the world were put together, these could never reach glory; and yet “a cup of cold water given to one of Christ's little ones, in the name of a disciple of Christ, shall not lose its reward,” Matth. 10:42. If a Christian doubt, how should I know that my works are of a right stamp? I answer, 1. Look at the prin. ciple, Is there not something above nature? Do I not find some new light let out by God, that shews a glory, and excellency, and beauty in good works? Is there not something in me that makes the same to be sweet, or pleasant, or agreeable to me? 2. Look at the end: natural works have no better end than self and creature-respects, but in my works, is there no aim at something higher than self? Whatsoever I do, is not this in mine eye, that all I do may tend to the honor and glory of God? I had need to take heed of vain-glory and self applause? the godly at the day of judgment, do not know the good works they did; if my aim be at God, I shall forget myself, as if all I did were swallowed up in God. 3. Look at the manner of my doing works: Uzzah had a good intention, but bis works were not good, because the manner was not good; Are my works according to the rule? Do they carry a conformity to the law of God! “ Let every man try his own work in this.” O my soul! bring thy works to the touch-stone, the scripture, the rule of goodness, is not all thy gold then discovered to be drose? The scripture doth not only tell of works, bit tells us the manner of performing them; as for instance, if rightly done, they must be done in zeal, in fervency, in activity; thus God's people are called " a peculiar people, zealous of good works;" a formal, customiry, superficial performance of holy works fails in the manner of perforining them: what, are my works performed in zeal? Is there not too much of coldne s, emptiness, formality in all I do? Why, thus I may know whether iny works are of a right stamp; certainly all works, duties, act. ing, which are not done by a gracious heart, through a gracious power, to a gracious end, in a gracious manner, are sing, and not such works as shall have the rewards of heaven. Some may object, this is an hard say. int, Who theo shall be saved! I answer, Firsi, by concession, very few, " What is the whole company of Christians, besides a very few, said Sal. vian, but a sink of vices?" Are they only good works which are thus and this qualified? It were enough to make us all fear all the works that ever we have done. But secondly, Here is all our hope, that in a gospel way, Christ looks at our good works in the truth of them, and not in the perfec. tion of them, no nian goes beyond Paul, who," when he would do good, found evil present with hion," Rom. 7:18,19. Alas! there is a perpetual opposition and conflict beiwixt the flesh and the spirit, so that the most spiritual man cannot do the good things he would do; and yet we must not conclude, that nothing is good in us, because not perfectly good. Sin. cerity and truth in the inward parts, may in this case, hold up our hearts from sinking, as he in the gospel cried; “I believe, Lord, help my un. belief;" so if we cannot but say, “I do good works, Lord, help me in the concurrence of all needful circumstances:" Here will be our evidence that our hopes are sound, and that Christ will sentence us to eternal life, “Come ve blessed,” &c. And why so? “ for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat,” &c.
5. If we believe in Christ, then shall we live in Christ; if we come to bim, and receive bim by faith, then will he " come again, and receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also.” Good works are good evidences, but of all works, those of the gospel are clearest evidence, and have clearest promises; come then, let us try our obedience to the commandinents of faith as well as life: let us try our subroission to the Lord, by believing as well as doing. Surely the greatest work of God, that ever any creature did, it is this gospel work, when it apprehends its Own worthiness, and ventures itself and its estate upon the righteous. ness of Jesus Christ: if we were able to perform a full, exact, and accurate obedience to every particular of the moral law, it were not so great a work, nor so acceptable to God, nor should be so gloriously rewarded in heaven, as this one work of believing in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the work to which in express terms, salvation, heaven and glory is promised, “He that believeth on the Son bath everlasting life," John 3:36. And he that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but he hath passed from death to lite;" John 5:24. And “this is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, Jolin 6:40. And these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name, John 20:31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, Acts 16:31. And if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved, Rom. 10:9. And we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul, Heb. 10:39. And these things have I written unto you, that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have everlasting life,” 1 John 5:13. Why, this, above all, is the gospel work, to which are annexed those gracious promises of eternal life; so that if we believe in Christ, how may we be assured that we shall live with Christ?
O my soul! gather up all these characters, and try by them. Every one can say, that they hope well, they hope to be saved, they hope to meet Christ with comfort, though they have no ground for it, but their own vain conceits; but hope on good ground is that hope "that maketh not ashamed," Rom. 5:5. Say then, art 1 hon born again? Dost thou look and long for the coming of Christ in the clouds? Dost thou love his appear. ing? Art thou rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to commu. nicate? Dost ihou obey the coinmandments of faith as well as life? Sure these are firm, and sound, and confortable grounds of an assured hope. Content not thyself with an hope of possibility or probability, but reach out to that plerophory, or full assurance of hope, Heb. 6:11. The hope of possibility is but a weak hope, the hope of probability is but a fluctua. ting hope; but the hope of certainty is a settled hopc, such an hope swer to ens all the thoughts of God and Christ, of death and judginent, of heaven, yea, and of hell too, whilst we hope that we are saved from it: And are not the scriptures written to this very purpose, that we might have this hope: Rom. 15:4. Are we not justified by his grace, “thal we might be heirs in hopc, heirs according to the hope of eternal life?" Tit. 3:7. And was not this David's confidence, “ Lord I have hoped for tby salvation? Psal. 119:166. Why then art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of iny countenance and my God," Psal. 42:11.
If I may here enter into a dialogue wiib my own poor trembling, wavering soul,-Person, Why art thou hopeless, O my soul! wouldst thou not hope, if an honest man had made thee a promise of any thing within his power? And wilt thou not hope, when thou hast the promise, the oath, and the cov: enant of God in Christ? Soul, Yes, metbiuks I feel some little hope; but, alas! it is but a little, a very little. Person, Ay, but go on my soul, true hope is called a lively hope, and a lively hope is an efficacious hope; lio sooner faith commands the promise unto hope, but hope takes it and hugs it, and reckons it as its treasure, and feeds on it as a manna, wbich God hath given to refresh the weary soul in the desert of sin; go on then, till thou comest up to the highest pitch, even to that triumphant joyful expecta. tion, and waiting for Christ in glory. Soul, Why, methinks I would hope; I would ascend ihe biggest step of hope; but alas! I cannot; oh! I am ex. posed 10 inany controversies, I ain prone to many unquiet agitations and though I have a present promise, yet I extend my cares and fears, even to eternity; alas! I cannot comprehend, and therefore I am hard.' ly satisfied; my sinful reason sees not its own way and end; and because it must take all on trust and credit, therefore it falls to wrangling; nay, Satan himself so snarls the question, and I am so apt to listen to his doubts, that in the conclusion I know not how to extricate myself. Person, Sayest thou so! Surely in this case there is no cure, no remedy, but only the testimony of God's Spirit: But, saith not the apostle, that “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God?” Rom. 8:16. If a man, or angel, or archangel should promise heaven, peradven.' ture thou mightest doubt; but if the supreme essence of the Spirit of God