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ends of God's holy, wise providence, and so to be out of their prison; yet they are still in their chains : for they were delivered unto chains of darkness to be kept unto the last judgment. And in these things they lie actually under the execution of the curse of God; so that there is indeed no patience exercised towards them. If a notorious malefactor, or murderer, be committed unto a dungeon, and kept bound with iron chains to prevent his escape, until the appointed day of his solemn judgment and execution, without the least intention to spare him; none will say, there is patience exercised towards him; things being disposed only só, as that his punishment may be secure and severe.
And such is the case, such is the condition of the angels that sinned, who are not therefore to be esteemed objects of God's patience.
3. The reason why the full and final punishment of these angels is reserved and respited unto the appointed season, is not for their own sakes, their good, benefit, or advantage at all; but merely that the end of God's patience towards mankind might be accomplished. When this is once brought about, they shall not be spared a day, an hour, a moment. So that God's dispensation towards them, is nothing but a mere withholding the infliction of the utmost of their punishment, until he hath accomplished the blessed ends of his patience towards mankind.
But you will say (secondly), Is it not said, that God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endures with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction ?' Rom. ix. 22. So that it seems that the end of God's endurance and long-suffering, to some at least, is only their fitting unto destruction.
Ans. 1. It is one thing to endure with much long-suffering, another thing to exercise and declare patience. The former only intimates God's withholding for a season of that destruction which he might justly inflict, which we speak not of; the other denotes an acting in a way of goodness and kindness for some especial end.
2. The next verse declares the great end of God's patience, and answers this objection : That he might make known the riches of his glory in the vessels of mercy which he had prepared for glory;' ver. 23. This is the great end
of God's patience, which, whilst he is in the pursuit of towards the vessels of mercy, he endureth others with much longsuffering, and forbearance. This then is fully evident, that there could be no sufficient reason assigned of the patience of God towards sinners, but that there is forgiveness prepared for them that come to him by Christ.
And this the Scripture clearly testifies unto, 2 Pet. iii. 9. The question is, What is the reason why God forbears the execution of his judgment upon wicked and ungodly men? Some would have it, that God is slack; that is, regardless of the sins of men ; and takes no notice of them. No, saith the apostle, God hath another design in his patience and long-suffering. What is this? It is to manifest, that he is not willing we should perish. That is it which we have proved. For our freedom from destruction is by repentance, which necessarily infers the forgiveness of sin. So Paul tells us that in the gospel is declared what is the end of God's patience and forbearance ; it is, saith he, 'the remission of sins ;' Rom. iii. 35.
Let us therefore also mind this evidence in the application of ourselves to God for pardon. It is certain that God might have taken us from the womb, and have cast us into utter darkness. And in the course of our lives we have been guilty of such provocations, as God might justly have taken the advantage of, to glorify his justice and severity in our ruin. But yet we have lived thus long in the patience and forbearance of God. And to what end hath he thus spared us, and let pass those advantages for our destruction, that we have put into his hand ? Is it not that he might by his patience, give us leave and space to get an interest in that forgiveness which he thus testifies to be in himself? let us then be encouraged by it, to use it unto the end and purpose for which it is exercised towards us. You that are yet in doubt of your condition, consider that the patience of God was extended unto you this day, this very day, that you might use it for the obtaining of the remission of your sins. Lose not this day, nor one day more, as you love your souls. For woful will be their condition, who shall perish for despising or abusing the patience of God.
Sixthly, The faith and experience of the saints in this world, give in testimony unto this truth; and we know that their record in this matter is true. Let us then ask of them what they believe, what they have found, what they have experience of, as to the forgiveness of sin. This God himself directs and leads us unto, by appealing unto our own experience, whence he shews us that we may take relief and supportment in our distresses ; Isa. xl. 28. Hast thou not heard ? hast thou not known ?' Hast not thou thyself, who now criest out that thou art lost and undone, because God hath forsaken thee, found and known by experience, the contrary from his former dealings with thee? And if our own experiences may confirm us against the workings of our unbelief, so may those of others also. And this is that which Eliphaz directs Job unto, chap. v. 1. ‘Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou look?" It is not a supplication to them for help, that is intended, but an inquiry after the experience in the case in hand, wherein he wrongfully thought they could not justify Job. Jon DV777 D 39 'to which of the saints,' on the right hand or left, wilt thou have regard in this matter? Some would foolishly hence seek to confirm the invocation of the saints departed; when indeed if they were intended, it is rather forbidden and discountenanced, than directed unto.
, . xvi. 2. • The saints that are in the earth,' whose experiences Job is directed to inquire into and after. David makes it a great encouragement unto waiting upon God, as a God hearing prayers, that others had done so, and found success; Psal. xxxiv. 6. *This poor man cried unto the Lord, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of his troubles.' If he did so, and had that blessed issue, why should not we do so. also ? The experiences of one, are often proposed for the confirmation and establishment of others. So the same David, •Come,' saith he,' and hear all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. He contents not himself to mind them of the word, promises, and providence of God, which he doth most frequently; but he will give them the encouragement and supportment also of his own experience. So Paul tells us, that he was comforted of God in all his tribulation, that he might be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith he himself was comforted of God;' 2 Cor. i. 4. That is, that he
.Psal קדשים אשר בארע here, are the קדשים But the
might be able to communicate unto them his own experience of God's dealing with him, and the satisfaction and assurance that he found therein. So also he proposeth the example of God's dealing with him in the pardon of his sins, as a great motive unto others to believe; 1 Tim. i. 13-16. And this mutual communication of satisfying experiences in the things of God, or of our spiritual sense and evidence of the power, efficacy, and reality of gospel truths, being rightly managed, is of singular use to all sorts of believers. So the same great apostle acquaints us in his own example, Rom. i. 11, 12. • I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.' He longed not only to be instructing of them in the pursuit of the work of the ministry committed unto him, but to confer also with them about their mutual faith, and what experiences of the peace of God in believing, they had attained.
We have in our case called in the testimony of the saints in heaven, with whom these on earth do make up one family, even that one family in heaven and earth which is called after the name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; Eph. i. 14, 15. And they all agree in their testimony, as becomes the family and children of God. But these below we inay deal personally with; whereas we gather the witness of the other, only from what is left upon record concerning them. And for the clearing of this evidence, sundry things are to be observed. As,
1. Men living under the profession of religion, and not experiencing the power, virtue, and efficacy of it in their hearts, are, whatever they profess, very near to Atheism, or at least exposed to great temptations thereunto. If they profess they know God, but in works deny him, they are abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate;' Tit. i. 16. Let such men lay aside tradition and custom, let them give up themselves to a free and a rational consideration of things, and they will quickly find that all their profession is but a miserable self-deceiving; and that indeed they believe not one word of the religion which they profess. For of what their religion affirms to be in themselves, they find not any thing true or real. And what rea
son have they then to believe that the things which it speaks of, that are without them, are one jot better? If they have no experience of what it affirms to be within them, what confidence can they have of the reality of what it reveals to be without them? John tells us, that he who saith he loves God whom he hath not seen, and doth not love his brother whom he hath seen, is a liar. Men who do not things of an equal concernment unto them wherein they may be tried, are not to be believed in what they profess about greater things, whereof no trial can be had. So he that believes not, who experienceth not, the power of that which the religion he professeth affirms to be in him, if he says that he doth believe other things which he can have no experience of, he is a liar. For instance, he that professeth the gospel, avows that the death of Christ doth crucify sin, that faith purifieth the heart, that the Holy Ghost quickens and enables the soul unto duty, that God is good and gracious unto all that come unto him, that there is precious communion to be obtained with him by Christ, that there is great joy in believing. These things are plainly, openly, frequently insisted on in the gospel. Hence the apostle presseth men unto obedience on the account of them; and, as it were, leaves them at liberty from it, if they were not so ; Phil. ii. 11. Now if men have lived long in the profession of these things, saying that they are so, but indeed find nothing of truth, reality, or power in them; have no experience of the effects of them in their own hearts or souls; what stable ground have they of believing any thing else in the gospel whereof they cannot have experience? A man professeth that the death of Christ will mortify sin, and subdue corruption; why doth he believe it? Because it is so affirmed in the gospel. How then, doth he find it to be so ? Hath it this effect
his soul, in his own heart? Not at all; he finds no such thing in him. How then can this man believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, because it is affirmed in the gospel ; seeing that he finds no real truth of that which it affirms to be in himself? So our Saviour argues, John iii. 12. 'If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how will ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things ? If you believe not the doctrine of regeneration, which you ought to have experience of, as a thing that is wrought in the hearts of