Part 2 out of 7
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3.
O sad! that we are not more taken up in this study, which would be a
compendious way for us to know all? Why spend we our money for that
which is not bread, and our labour for that which will not profit us?
Why waste we our time and spirits in learning this science, and that
art; when, alas! after we, with much labour and toil, have attained to
the yondmost pitch there, we are never one whit the nearer heaven and
happiness? yea, it were well, if we were not further off! Oh! if we were
wise at length, and could think more of this one thing necessary; and
could be stirred up to learn more of him, and to make this the subject
of all our study and labour.
OF THE WORDS THEMSELVES IN GENERAL.
We come now to the words themselves, wherein Christ asserts that he is,
1, "the way;" 2, "the truth;" 3, "the life;" and, 4, "that no man cometh
to the Father but by him."
In them we learn these two things in general.
_First,_ The misery of wretched man by nature. This cannot be in a few
These words will point out those particulars thereof, which we will but
1. That he is born an enemy to, and living at a distance from God, by
virtue of the curse of the broken covenant of life made with Adam.
2. That he neither can nor will return to God, of himself. His way is
not in himself; he hath need of another to be his way.
3. That he is a blind, wandering creature, ready to by-ways and to
wander; yea, he loveth to wander. He goeth astray as soon as he is born,
4. He cannot discern the true way, but is blinded with prejudice
thereat, and full of mistakes. He is nothing but a lump of error.
5. He is dead legally and really: how can he then come home? How can he
walk in the way, though it were pointed out to him?
6. He, even when he entereth into the way, is subject to so many
faintings, swoonings, upsittings, &c. that except he get new quickening,
he must lie by the way and perish.
In a word, his misery is such as cannot be expressed; for as little as
it is believed, and laid to heart; or seen and mourned for, and
Now, for a ground to our following discourse, I would press the solid,
thorough and sensible apprehension of this, without which there will be
no use-making or application of Christ; "for the whole need not the
physician, but the sick;" and Christ is "not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance," Matt. ix. 12. Mark ii. 17. Yea, believers
themselves would live within the sight of this, and not forget their
frailty; for though there be a change wrought in them, yet they are not
perfect, but will have need of Christ as the way, the truth, and the
life, till he bring them in, and set them down upon the throne, and
crown them with the crown of life. And, O happy they, who must not walk
on foot without this guide leading them by the hand, or rather carrying
them in his arms. Let all them who would make use of Christ remember
what they were, and what they are, and keep the sense of their frailty
and misery fresh; that seeing their need of him, they may be in better
case to look out to him for help and supply, and be more distinct in
their application of him.
The _second_ general is, that Christ is a complete mediator, thoroughly
furnished for all our necessities. Are we at a distance from the Father?
He is a way to bring us together. Are we wandered out of the way? He is
the way to us. Are we blind and ignorant? He is the truth. Are we dead?
He is the life. Concerning this fulness and completeness of his, we
would mark these things:
1. That he is thoroughly furnished with all things we stand in need of;
the way, the truth, and the life. He hath eye-salve, clothing, gold
tried in the fire, &c. "For the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, and hath
anointed him," Isa. lxi. 1.
2. He is suitably qualified, not only having a fulness, and an
all-fulness, so that whatever we need is to be had in him, but also a
suitable fulness answering our case to the life. Are we out of the way?
He is the way. Are we dead? He is life, &c.
3. He is richly qualified with this suitable good. He hath not only
"wisdom and knowledge," but "treasures of it," yea, "all the treasures"
thereof, Col. ii. 3. There is fulness in him; yea, "it hath pleased the
Father that in him should all fulness dwell," Col. i. 19. Yea, "the
fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in him bodily," Col. ii. 9.
4. Hence this is an up-making completeness and fulness; for we are said
to be "complete in him," Col. ii. 10. And he is said to "be all in all,"
Col. iv. 11. "He filleth all in all," Eph. i. 23.
5. It is also a satisfying completeness. The eye is not satisfied with
seeing, nor the ear with hearing. The avaricious man is not satisfied
with gold, nor the ambitious man with honour; but still they are crying
with the loch leech, give, give! But the man who getteth Christ is full;
he sitteth down and cryeth, enough, enough! And no wonder, for he hath
all; he can desire no more; he can seek no more; for what can the man
want that is complete in him?
6. There is here that which will answer all the objections of a soul;
and these sometimes are not few. If they say they cannot know the way to
the Father, then he is the truth to instruct and teach them that, and so
to enter them into it. And if they say they cannot walk in that way, nor
advance in it one step, but will faint and sit up, succumb and fall by;
he answereth that he is the life, to put life and keep life in them, and
to cause them to walk, by putting a new principle of life in them, and
breathing of new on that principle.
O thrice happy they who have fled to him for refuge! It is easy for them
to answer all objections and cavils of Satan, and of a false heart. It
is easy for them to put Christ to answer all. And, on the other hand,
who can tell the misery of such as are strangers to Jesus? How shall
their wants be made up? How shall they answer challenges, accusations,
temptations, doubts, fears, objections, and discouragements, cast up in
Oh! should not this endear the way of the gospel to us, and make Christ
precious unto us! Is it not a wonder that such an all-sufficient
mediator, who is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God
through him, should be so little regarded and sought unto; and that
there should be so few that embrace him, and take him as he is offered
in the gospel.
How can this be answered in the day of accounts? What excuse can
unbelievers now have? Is not all to be found in Christ that their case
calleth for? Is he not a complete mediator, thoroughly furnished with
all necessaries? Is not the riches of his fulness written on all his
dispensations? The mouths, then, of unbelievers, must be for ever
HOW CHRIST IS THE WAY IN GENERAL, "I AM THE WAY."
We come now to speak more particularly to the words; and, _first,_ Of
his being a way. Our design being to point at the way of use-making of
Christ in all our necessities, straits, and difficulties which are in
our way to heaven; and particularly to point out the way how believers
should make use of Christ in all their particular exigencies; and so
live by faith in him, walk in him, grow up in him, advance and march
forward toward glory in him. It will not be amiss to speak of this
fulness of Christ in reference to unbelievers, as occasion offereth,
because this will help to clear the other.
Before we can clear up how any can make use of Christ, we must speak
something of their necessity of him, and of his being furnished fitly,
fully, richly, and satisfyingly for their case; and this will make the
way of use-making of Christ more plain.
While Christ then says, "I am the Way," he points out those things to
1. That man is now estranged from the Lord, and in a wandering
condition: He hath departed from God, he is revolted and gone. "They are
all gone out of the way," Rom. iii. 12. "They go astray as soon as they
are born, speaking lies," Psal. lviii. 3.
2. Nay, not only so, but we love naturally to wander and to run away
from God, as Jeremiah complaineth of that wicked people, Jer. xiv. 10.
Naturally, with "the dromedary, we traverse our ways," Jer. ii. 23, and
run hither and thither, but never look towards him. Nay, we are like
those spoken of, Job xxi. 14. "We desire not the knowledge of his ways,
we will have none of him," Psalm lxxxi. 11; nor "of his reproofs," Prov.
Oh, how sad is this! And yet how is it more sad, that this is not
believed, nor once considered. And that it is not believed, is manifest;
1. How rare is it to meet with persons that are not very well pleased
and satisfied with themselves and their condition? They thank the Lord
it was aye well with them. They have no complaints. They see no wants
nor necessities. They wonder what makes folk complain of their
condition, of their evil heart, or of their hazard and danger. They
understand not these matters.
2. Do we not find people very quiet and at rest, though they remain in
the congregation of the dead, Prov. xxi. 16. They sleep in a sound skin,
because they see no hazard. The thoughts of their condition never
bereave them of one night's rest: No challenges have they; all is at
peace with them, for the strong man keeps the house.
3. How rare is it to find people exercised about this matter, and busied
with it in their thoughts, either while alone, or while in company with
others; or once seriously thinking and considering of it, yea, or so
much as suspecting the matter?
4. How rare is it to see any soul broken in heart, and humbled because
of this; who is walking under this as under a load; whose soul is
bleeding under the consideration of this! Is there any mourning for
5. Where is that to be heard, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be
saved?" How shall we enter into the right way? Where is that good old
way, that we may walk in it? Few such questions and cases troubling
consciences; and no wonder, for a deep sleep is upon them.
6. How cometh it then, that the pointing forth of the way is so little
hearkened unto? Sure were this natural condition perceived, a report of
the sure and safe way would be much more welcome than it is: Christ by
his messengers would not be put to cry so often in vain, "This is the
way, turn in hither."
Here is enough to convince of this ignorance and insensibleness; but it
is his Spirit, which "convinceth the world of sin," John xvi. that must
bear home this conviction.
_Secondly_, It pointeth out to us this, that "the way of man is not in
himself," Jer. x. 23, that is, that nothing, he can do can or will prove
a way to him to the Father: For Christ is the Way, as excluding all
other means and ways. And that man can do nothing to help himself into
the way, is clear; for,
1. "His way is darkness," Prov. iv. 14. He knoweth no better, he is
satisfied therewith; there he sleepeth and resteth.
2. He cannot nor doth not desire to return. He hateth to be reformed.
3. Yea, he thinketh himself safe; no man can convince him of the
contrary: The way he is in "seemeth right to him, though the end thereof
be death;" Prov. xiv. 12, and xvi. 25.
4. Every man hath his own particular way to which he turneth, Isaiah
liii, 6; some one thing or other that he is pleased with, and that he
thinks will abundantly carry him through, and there resteth he; and what
these ordinarily are, we shall hear presently.
5. In this his way, which yet is a false way, "he trusteth," Hosea x.
13, he leaneth upon it, little knowing that it will fail him at length,
and that he and his hope and confidence shall perish.
Is it not strange then to see men and women "gading about to seek their
way," as it is said, Jer. ii. 36. as if they could find it out; or as if
they could of themselves fall upon the way. What a lamentable sight is
it, to see people "wearying themselves with very lies," Ezek. xxiv. 12;
"and wearied in the multitude of their own counsels," Isaiah xlvii. 15.
But what are those false and lying ways which men weary themselves in,
and all in vain; and which they chuse and trust unto, and yet are not
the way which will prove safe and sure?
_Ans._ It will not be easy to reckon them all up, we shall name some
that are principal and most ordinary; such as,
1. Good purposes and resolutions, with which many deceive themselves,
supposing that to be all which is required: And, alas! all their
purposes are like to Ephraim's goodness,--like the early cloud and
morning dew that soon evanisheth; their purposes are soon broken off,
and soon disappointed, because made without counsel, Prov. xv. 22. Many
foolishly rest here, that they have a good mind to do better, and to
amend their ways, and they purpose after such a time or such time, they
shall begin a new manner of life; but their purposes never come to any
effect, and so at length they and their purposes both perish.
2. Some convictions and inward challenges. The word now and then
pierceth them so far, and sore and sharp dispensations from the Lord so
far affect their heart, that they see it is not well with them; and they
are made, with Saul, to cry out, "I have sinned," 1 Sam. xv. 24, and
they advance no further; those convictions either die out again, or work
no further change: And, poor souls, they think, because at such a
sermon, or such a communion, they had some such convictions and sharp
challenges, therefore they imagine all is well with them; when a Judas
may have convictions, sharper than ever they had, and a Felix, Acts
3. Convictions followed with some sort of amendment. Some may
dreadfully deceive themselves with this, and conclude that all is right
with them, and that the way they are in is safe and sure; because they
have had convictions, which have been so effectual as to cause them to
amend many things, and become, as to many things, changed men and women,
when, alas, their way is but a way of darkness still; it is not Christ;
they have never come to him. Herod hearing John Baptist, had his own
convictions and amendments; for "he did many things," Mark vi. 20.
4. Many rest upon their outward civility and morality, or negative
holiness. They cannot be challenged for gross faults, and that is all
the way they have to rest in: Alas! could not a wicked Pharisee say as
much as they, viz. "That he was no extortioner, unjust person, or an
adulterer, nor such as the publican was," Luke xviii. 11. How many
heathens, as to this, shall outstrip such as profess themselves
Christians? and yet they lived and died strangers to the right way to
happiness. See what that poor young man said, Luke xviii. 21.
5. Some may win to more than civility, and attain unto a kind of outward
holiness, and outward performance of the duties of religion, such as
hearing, reading, prayer, communicating, and rest there, and yet perish:
For that is but their own way, it is not the right way. Had not the
foolish virgins lamps? and did they not wait with the rest, Matth. xxv.;
and will not many say, in that day, "We have eaten and drunken in thy
presence, and thou hast taught in our streets:" to whom Christ shall
answer, "I know not whence you are, depart from me, all ye workers of
iniquity?" Luke xiii. 26, 27. Were not the Jews much in duties and
outward ordinances? and yet see how the Lord rejected them all, Isaiah
i. 11-15, and lxvi. 3.
6. Much knowledge doth deceive many. They think because they can talk of
religion, speak to cases of conscience, handle places of Scripture, and
the like, that therefore all is right with them; when alas, that is but
a slippery ground to stand upon. The Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, and
taught sometimes sound doctrine; and yet were heart-enemies to Jesus,
Matth. xxiii. And will not many think to plead themselves into heaven,
by saying, that they "have prophesied in his name," Matth. vii. 22.
There is "a knowledge that puffeth up," 1 Cor. xiii. 2. Some there are
whose knowledge seemeth to be operative and practical, and not merely
speculative. Some may "escape the pollutions of the world through the
knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and yet again become
entangled therein and overcome; so that "their latter end is worse than
the beginning;" see 2 Peter ii. 20, 21, 22. Knowledge, I grant, is good,
but it is not Christ, and so it is not the way to the Father; and many,
alas! lean to it, and are deceived at last.
7. A kind of seeming seriousness in the performance of duties, and in
seeking of God, deceiveth many. They think, because they are not
conscious to their own dissembling, but they look upon themselves as
earnest in what they do, that therefore all is well. Sayeth not Christ,
that not "every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of God?" Matth. vii. 21; that is, not every one that reneweth their
suits, and ingeminateth their desires, cry, and cry over again, and, as
it were, will not give it over; and yet they come short of their
expectation. Did not the foolish virgins seem earnest and serious, when
they continued waiting with the rest, and at length cried "Lord, Lord,
open unto us;" and yet they are kept at the door. Many consider not that
there is a secret and close hypocrisy, that some may be under and not
know it, as well as a gross hypocrisy and dissimulation, which may be
easily observed; "Will not many seek to enter in that shall not be
able?" Matth. vii. 13. Luke xiii. 24.
8. Many deceive themselves with this, that they are looked on by other
godly, discerning persons and ministers, as good serious Christians, and
that they carry so handsomely and so fair, that no man can judge
otherways of them, than that they are good serious seekers of God. But,
alas! the day is coming which will discover many things, and many one
will be deceived both of themselves and of others. "Not he who
commendeth himself is approved, but whom God approveth," 2 Cor. x. 18.
Therefore, Paul exhorts Timothy, "to study to show himself approved
unto God," 2 Tim. ii. 15. Men look only on the outside, and cannot see
into the heart; but God searcheth the heart; and it is an easy matter to
deceive men, but God will not be deceived.
9. Some may suppose themselves in a safe and sure way, if they outstrip
others in religious duties, and be much in extraordinary duties, when,
alas! for all that, the heart may be rotten. "The Pharisee fasted twice
a-week," Luke xviii. 12, and yet was but an enemy to Christ. O how
deceitful is the heart of man!
10. Inward peace and quietness of conscience may deceive some; and they
may suppose that all is right with them; because they do nothing over
the belly of their conscience. Their heart doth not accuse them of
falsehood and dissimulation in their way with God or man, but they do
all things according to their light. No doubt that young man (Luke
xviii. 21,) spoke according to his judgment and light, when he said,
"All these things have I kept from my youth." And Paul saith of himself
(Acts xxiii. 1,) "that he had lived in all good conscience before God
till that very day;" meaning, that even while he was a Pharisee
unconverted, he had not tortured his conscience, nor done anything
directly against it, but had always walked according to his light. See
Acts xxvi. 9.
11. A way of zeal may deceive many who may think their case
unquestionable, because they are zealous for their way, and, as they
think, their zeal is pure for God. Was not Paul, while a Pharisee, very
zealous, when, out of zeal to his way, he persecuted the church, Philip.
iii. 6. See my zeal for the Lord, could I thus say, 2 Kings x. 16; and
the Jews had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, Rom. x. 2;
and Christ tells us, that such as should persecute the Apostles unto
death, would think they did God good service, John xvi. 2.
12. Some also may put it beyond question, that they are in the right
way, because they are more strict in all their ways than others, and
will not so much as keep fellowship or company with them; saying, with
those, (Isaiah lxv. 5) "Stand by, I am holier than thou, come not near
to me," who yet are but a smoke in God's nose, and a fire that burneth
all the day.
13. Some may rest on, and deceive themselves with their great
attainments, and more than ordinary experiences, when, alas! we see to
what a height some may come, and yet prove nothing. Let such souls read
with trembling that word of Paul, Heb. vi 4, 5, where we see some may
come to be enlightened, to taste of the heavenly gift, to be made
partakers of the Holy Ghost, to taste the good word of God, and the
powers of the world to come, and yet prove cast-aways; taking these
expressions as pointing forth something distinct from real grace.
Many such false ways, wherein men please themselves, might be mentioned;
by these every one may see cause of searching and trying over and over
again. It is a dreadful thing to be deceived here, and it is best to put
it to a trial, when there is a possibility of getting the matter helped.
And many may fear and tremble when they see they are not yet come the
length of many such as sit down without Christ, and lose all their
labour. Oh, if this could put people to a serious examination and trial
of themselves, and of the nature of that way wherein they are, and rest
_Thirdly_, We might here observe, that this true and living way is but
one for all. There is but "one Mediator between God and man," 1 Tim. ii.
5. One Mediator for both Old and New Testament, the seed of the woman.
Howbeit the Lord's dispensations with his people, in that one way, may
be various, as his way with his people under the law is different from
his way with his people under the gospel; and his dispensations with
individual believers, whether under the law or under the gospel, is not
the same in all things.
And this should teach us to relinquish our own ways, and to enter into
this one only way; and it should move such as are in this way to study
unity and agreement among themselves; and yet not infer or suppose, that
God's way with them must be in all things alike. Yea, though the Lord's
way with them be different from his way with others, and more dark,
disconsolate, and bitter, yet let them be quiet and silent before the
Lord, and acknowledge his goodness that hath brought them into the one
only way, Jesus Christ, and keepeth them there.
But, _fourthly,_ The main thing here, and which is obvious, is this,
that Jesus Christ is the way to the Father, the one and only way, the
sovereign and excellent way, and he alone is the way. There is not
another. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none
other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts
For clearing of this, we shall speak a little to those four things, and
1. What is our case, and what need we have of a way.
2. How Christ answereth this our case and necessity, and is a fit way
3. How he alone is the way, and answereth this our case.
4. What are the rare advantages and specialities of this way.
And this will make way for our clearing up, how Christ is made use of as
a way by poor sinners.
For the first of these, our present case and necessity, something was
spoken to it before; we shall reduce all those to two heads. The first
is, our state of guilt, and separation from God because of sin and
guilt; the next is, our state of wickedness and enmity against God.
As to the first, we may take notice of those things:
1. That sin, original and actual, hath separated us from God, and cast
us out of his favour, and out of that station of favour and friendship
which once we were advanced to in Adam.
2. That we are under God's curse and wrath, and excommunicated from the
presence of the Lord, by a sad, yet just, sentence according to law, and
so are under death.
As to the next thing, we may take notice of those particulars:
1. That we are impure and polluted with sin and daily iniquity.
2. That we are ignorant of the right way of returning into favour with
God, seeking out to ourselves many inventions.
3. That we are impotent for any good work or commanded duty.
That not only so, but we are unwilling to do any thing that is good, or
to enter into the way when pointed out unto us; yea, we are enemies to
God by wicked works, and have an innate hatred to all his ways.
5. We desire not to be out of the condition whereinto we are; there we
love to lie and sleep, and desire not to be roused up or awakened.
6. We are under the power and command of Satan, who leadeth us out of
the way, yea, and driveth us forward in the wrong way, to our perdition.
These things are plain and undeniable, and need no further confirmation;
though, alas! it is little believed or laid to heart by many.
For the second, how Christ answereth this our case and necessity. He is
a way to us to help us out of both these, both out of our state of guilt
and separation, and out of our state of wickedness and enmity.
And, first, he helpeth us out of our state of guilt and separation:
1. By taking away our guilt and sin; "being made sin for us, who knew no
sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v.
21. He hath filled the great gap betwixt God and us, with his body, and
hath made of it, as it were, a bridge, by which they may go over to the
Father: "We enter now into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new
and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that
is to say, his flesh," Heb. x. 19, 20; "we are now brought near by his
blood," Eph. ii. 13, so that through him we are restored again to
friendship with God, and made one with him; for Christ the Mediator hath
"made both one, reconciling Jews and Gentiles both unto God, in one
body, by the cross, having slain the enmity," Eph. ii. 16.
2. By taking away the curse and wrath that was due to us, being "made a
curse for us," Gal iii. 13. So that he is become our peace, and "through
him we have access by one spirit unto the Father, and are no more
strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of
the household of God," Eph. ii. 14, 18, 19. "He is set forth to be a
propitiation through faith in his blood," Rom. iii. 25. 1 John ii. 2,
and iv. 10. "By him have we now received atonement," Rom. v. 11.
Next, he helpeth us out of our state of wickedness and enmity,
1. By taking away our impurity and uncleanness, "by washing us and
cleansing us in his blood," Ezek. xvi. 6-9. Col. i. 22, "having
purchased grace for us," Eph. v. 1, 3, "we are blessed with all
spiritual blessings in him." He applieth his merits, and layeth the
foundation of grace and holiness in the soul, and carrieth on the work
of mortification and vivification; and so killing the old man by his
Spirit, both meritoriously and efficiently, he cleanseth and washeth.
Hence, we are said to be baptised with him in his death, and buried with
him by baptism into death, that we should walk in newness of life. And
so our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be
destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin, Rom. vi. 3, 4, 6.
And for our daily infirmities and escapes, whereby we pollute ourselves,
his blood "is a fountain opened to the house of David and to the
inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness," Zech. xiii. 1;
and to this fountain he bringeth by the spirit of repentance, which he,
as an exalted prince, bestoweth, Acts. v. 31, and by faith. So 1 John
ii. 1, "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father," &c.
2. As for our ignorance and blindness, he taketh that away, being given
for a light to the Gentiles, Isa. xlii. 6, and xlix. 6. Luke ii. 32. He
is sent to open the blind eyes, Isa. xlii. 7; to bring out the prisoners
from their dark prisons, Isa. xlii. 7, and lxi. 1. Yea, he is anointed
for this end, so that such as walk in darkness see a great light, and
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light
hath shined, Isa. ix. 2. Matth. iv. 15; and he hath eye-salve to give,
Rev. iii. 18.
3. He is qualified for taking away our impotency, so that through him we
can do all things, Philip, iv. 13; "when we are weak, we are strong in
him who is our strength, and liveth in us," 2 Cor. xii. 10. Gal. ii.
20. Hence, "he worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good
pleasure," Philip. ii. 13.
4. He also taketh away our natural averseness, unwillingness,
wickedness, and hatred of his ways, making his people "willing in the
day of his power," Psal. cx. So he taketh away "the enmity that is in
us," Col. ii. 20, and reconcileth us to God and to his ways, that our
hearts do sweetly comply with them, and we become most willing and glad
to walk in them, yea, and "to run the way of his commandments through
his enlarging of our hearts," Psal. cxix. 22.
5. He likewise taketh away that desire and willingness, which we have,
to lie still in our natural condition, by convincing us of the dreadful
hazard thereof, through the spirit of conviction, whereby he convinceth
the world of it, John xvi. 8, and circumciseth their ears to hear, and
maketh them willing to hearken to the counsel of God.
6. As for the power and dominion of Satan, he breaketh that, by "leading
captivity captive," Eph. iv. 8; Psal. lxviii. 18; "and spoiling the
strongman's house; for he is come to destroy the works of the devil," 1
John iii. 8; "and he spoileth principalities and powers," Col. ii. 15.
Thus, as a captain of salvation, he leadeth them out as a conqueror;
having paid the price, he delivereth also by power and authority from
the hand of this jailor.
And thus we see how he answereth our case and necessity, and is a fit
way for us; and though this be not questioned, yet little is it believed
and considered, and less put in practice.
And as for the third particular, that he alone is this way, and
answereth our case herein, it needeth not be much spoken to, since it is
clear and manifest, confirmed by the experience of all generations, and
the disappointments of fools who have been seeking other ways. Angels in
heaven cannot do our business, they cannot satisfy justice for us, nor
have they any power over our heart to turn it as they will; nay, they
are not acquainted with our secret thoughts, that cabinet is kept close
from them, and reserved as the peculiar privilege of God alone. The
blood of bulls and of goats cannot do it; for the apostle tells us, that
it is impossible for that to take away sin, Heb. x. 4. That blood shed
according to the law did cleanse ceremonially, but it is only the blood
of Jesus, typified by that, which cleanseth really; so that we are
sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for
all, Heb. x. 10. No pains or labour of ours can avail here. The Lord
will not be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of
rivers of oil. "He will not take our first-born for our transgression,
nor the son of our body for the sin of our soul," Micah vi. 7. Ordinance
and means will not do it, nor any invention of our own: "no man can by
any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him; for the
redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever," Psal.
xlix. 7, 8. He alone hath laid down the price; all our sufferings,
prayers, tears, labours, penances, and the like, signify nothing here;
they cannot satisfy justice for one sin.
As to the fourth particular, viz., the singularity of this way, those
things make it manifest and apparent:
1. This is such a way as can discover itself, and make itself known unto
the erring traveller. Christ Jesus is such a way as can say to the
wandering soul, "this is the way, walk ye in it," Isa. xxx. 25. No way
can do this. This is comfortable.
2. This way can not only discover itself to the wandering traveller, but
also it can bring folk into it. Christ can bring souls unto himself,
when they are running on in their wandering condition. He can move their
hearts to turn into the right way, put grace in their soul for this end,
begin resolutions in them, and sow the seed of faith; and so stay their
course which they were violently pursuing, and make them look about and
consider what they are doing. As the former was good news to poor,
blind, and witless creatures that were wandering and knew not whither
they were going; so this is good news to poor souls that find their
heart inclining to wander, and loving to go astray.
3. This way can cause us walk in it. If we be rebellious and obstinate,
he can command with authority; for he is given for a leader and
commander, Isa. lv. 4. How sweet should this be to the soul that is
weighted with a stubborn, untractable, and unpersuadable heart, that he,
as a king, governor, and commander, can with authority draw or drive,
and cause us follow and run?
4. This way is truth, as well as the way; so that the soul that once
entereth in here is safe for ever; no wandering here. "The wayfaring
men, though fools, shall not err in this way," Isa. xxxv. 8. "He will
bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and lead them in paths that
they have not known; he will make darkness light before them, and
crooked things straight; those things will he do unto them, and not
forsake them," Isa. xlii. 16.
5. This way is also life, and so can revive the faint and weary
traveller. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might
he increaseth strength; yea, he renews their strength, and makes them
mount up with wings as eagles, and run and not be weary, and walk and
not be faint," Isa. xl. 29, 31; "and so he giveth legs to the traveller,
yea, he carrieth the lambs in his bosom," Isa. xl. 11. Oh! who would not
walk in this way? what can discourage the man that walketh here? what
can he fear? No way can quicken and refresh the weary man. This way can
do it; yea, it can quicken one that is as dead, and cause him march on
with fresh alacrity and vigour.
6. From all these it followeth, that this way is a most pleasant,
heartsome, desirable and comfortable way. The man is safe here, and he
may "sing in the ways of the Lord," Psalm cxxxviii. 5. "For wisdom's
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace," Prov. iii.
17. He is a way that is food, physic, cordials, and all that the poor
traveller standeth in need of till he come hence.
From all which, ere we come to particulars, we shall in general point
out those duties, which natively result thence, by way of use.
1. O what cause is there here for all of us to fall a wondering, both
that God should ever have condescended to have appointed a way how
sinners and rebels, that had wickedly departed from him, and deserved to
be cast out of his presence and favour for ever, might come back again,
and enjoy happiness and felicity in the friendship and favour of that
God that could have got the glory of his justice in our destruction, and
stood in no need of us, or of any thing we could do: as also, that he
appointed such a way, that Jesus Christ his only Son, should, to speak
so, lie as a bridge betwixt God and sinful rebels, and as a highway,
that they might return to the great God upon him. Let all the creation
of God wonder at this wonderful condescending love of God, that
appointed such a way; and of Christ, that was content to lout so low as
to become this way to us, this new and living way; and that for this end
he should have taken on flesh, and become Emmanuel, God with us, and
tabernacled with us, that through this vail of his flesh, he might
consecrate a way to us. Let angels wonder at this condescendency.
2. Hence we may see ground of being convinced of those things: (1.) That
naturally we are out of the way to peace and favour with God, and in a
way that leadeth to death, and so that our misery and wretchedness, so
long as it is so, cannot be expressed. (2.) That we can do nothing for
ourselves; set all our wits a-work, we cannot fall upon a way that will
bring us home. (3.) That it is madness for us to seek out another way,
and to vex ourselves in vain, to run to this and to that mean or
invention of our own, and be found fools in the end. (4.) That our
madness is so much the greater in this, that we will turn to our own
ways that will fail us, when there is such a noble and excellent, and
every way satisfying way prepared to our hand. (5.) That our wickedness
is so desperate, that the way which is pointed out to us doth not please
us, and that we will not enter into it, nor walk in it. (6.) That this
way, which is also the truth and the life, is only worth the embracing,
and is only safe and sure; we should be convinced and persuaded of the
worth, sufficiency, and desirableness of this way. Reason, with ordinary
light from the word, may teach these things; but grace can only carry
them into the heart, and make them take rooting there.
3. We may read here our obligation to those particulars: (1.) To turn
our back upon all other false and deceitful ways, and not rest there.
(2.) To enter into this way, though "the gate be narrow and strait,"
Matt vii. 13. Luke xiii. 24, yet "to strive to enter in." (3.) To
resolve to abide in that way as acquiescing in it, resting satisfied
with it, and thus to be "rooted in him," Col. ii. 7, and "to dwell in
him," 1 John iii. 24, and "to live in him," or "through him," 1 John iv.
9. (4.) To "walk in this way," Col. ii. 6. that is, to make constant use
of him, and to make progress in the way in and through him; to go from
strength to strength in him, drawing all our furniture from him, by
faith, according to the covenant; and that the soul should guard
against, 1. stepping aside out of this good and pleasant way; 2.
backsliding; 3. sitting up, and fainting by the way.
In a word, this pointeth out our duty, to make use of Christ as our way
to the Father, and only of Christ; and this leads us to the particulars
we shall speak a little to.
There are two main things which stand in our way, and hinder us from
approaching to the Father. 1. Unrighteousness and guilt, whereby we are
legally banished, because of the broken covenant, and the righteous
sentence of God according to that covenant. And, 2. Wickedness,
impurity, and unholiness, which is, as a physical bar, lying in our way;
because nothing that is unclean can dwell and abide with him, who is of
purer eyes than he can behold iniquity; and nothing that is unclean can
enter in there where he is. So then there must be an use-making of
Christ, as a way through both these impediments; we need justification
and pardon for the one, and sanctification and cleansing for the other.
Now Christ being the way to the Father, both as to justification, in
taking away the enmity, in changing our state, and removing our
unrighteousness and guilt, whereby we were lying under the sentence of
the law, adjudging such sinners as we are to hell; and as to
sanctification, in cleansing us from all our pollutions, renewing our
souls, washing away our spots and defilements, &c. He must be made use
of in reference to both.
In speaking to the _first_, we shall be the shorter, because through
God's great mercy, the gospel's pure way of justification by faith in
Christ is richly and abundantly cleared up by many worthy authors, of
late, both as concerning the theoretical and practical part.
HOW CHRIST IS MADE USE OF FOR JUSTIFICATION AS A WAY.
What Christ hath done to purchase, procure, and bring about our
justification before God, is mentioned already, viz. That he stood in
the room of sinners, engaging for them as their cautioner, undertaking,
and at length paying down the ransom; becoming sin, or a sacrifice for
sin, and a curse for them, and so laying down his life a ransom to
satisfy divine justice; and this he hath made known in the gospel,
calling sinners to an accepting of him as their only Mediator, and to a
resting upon him for life and salvation; and withal, working up such, as
belong to the election of grace, to an actual closing with him upon the
conditions of the covenant, and to an accepting of him, believing in
him, and resting upon him, as satisfied with, and acquiescing in that
sovereign way of salvation and justification through a crucified
Now, for such as would make use of Christ as the way to the Father in
the point of justification, those things are requisite; to which we
shall only premise this word of caution, That we judge not the want of
these requisites a ground to exempt any, that heareth the gospel, from
the obligation to believe and rest upon Christ as he is offered in the
1. There must be a conviction of sin and misery. A conviction of
original guilt, whereby we are banished out of God's presence and
favour, and are in a state of enmity and death, are come short of the
glory of God, Rom. iii. 23; becoming dead or under the sentence of
death, through the offence of one, Rom. v. 15; being made sinners by one
man's disobedience, verse 19, and therefore under the reigning power of
death, verse 17, and under that judgment that came upon all men to
condemnation, verse 18. And of original innate wickedness, whereby the
heart is filled with enmity against God, and is a hater of him and all
his ways, standing in full opposition to him and to his holy laws;
loving to contradict and resist him in all his actings; despising and
undervaluing all his condescensions of love; obstinately refusing his
goodness and offers of mercy; and peremptorily persisting in rebellion
and heart-opposition; not only not accepting his kindness and offers of
mercy, but contemning them, trampling them under foot as embittered
against him. As also, there must be a conviction of our actual
transgressions, whereby we have corrupted our ways yet more, run farther
away from God, brought on more wrath upon our souls, according to that
sentence of the law, "Cursed is everyone that abideth not in all things
that are written in the law to do them," Deut. xxvii. 26. Gal. iii. 10.
What way this conviction is begun and carried on in the soul, and to
what measure it must come, I cannot now stand to explain; only, in
short, know, That upon whatever occasion it be begun, whether by a word
carried home to the heart by the finger of God, or by some sharp and
crossing dispensation, fear of approaching death, some heinous
out-breaking, or the like, it is a real thing, a heart-reaching
conviction, not general and notional, but particular, plain, and
pinching, affecting the heart with fear and terror, making the soul
seriously and really to mind this matter, to be taken up with the
thoughts of it, and anxiously and earnestly to cry out, "What shall I do
to be saved?" and finally, will make the soul willing to hearken and
hear what hopes of mercy there is in the gospel, and to embrace the way
of salvation which is there laid down. And the reason of this is,
because Christ himself tells us, "The whole needeth not the physician,
but the sick," Matt. ix. 12. "He is not come to call the righteous,"
that is, such as are righteous in their own eyes, "but sinners," that
is, such as are now no more whole at the heart, as seeing no evil, no
hazard or danger, but pricked and pierced with the sense of their lost
condition, being under the heavy wrath and vengeance of the great God,
because of sin; and seeing their own vileness, cursedness, wickedness
and desperate madness. Because naturally we hate God and Christ, John
xv. 23-25, and have a strong and natural antipathy at the way of
salvation through Jesus, therefore nothing but strong and inevitable
necessity will drive us to a compliance with this gospel device of love.
2. There must be some measure of humiliation. Under this conviction the
man is bowed down, and made mute before God; no more boasting of his
goodness and of his happy condition; no high or great thoughts of his
righteousness; for all are looked on now as "filthy rags," Isa. lxv. 6.
"What things were as gain before to the soul, must now be counted loss,
yea, and as dung," Philip, iii. 7, 8. The man must be cast down in
himself, and far from high and conceity thoughts of himself, or of any
thing he ever did or can do. "For the Lord resisteth the proud, but
giveth grace to the humble," James iv. 6; 1 Pet. v. 5. "He reviveth the
spirit of the humble," Isa. lvii. 15. "He that humbleth himself shall be
exalted," Matt. xviii. 4, and xxiii. 12; Luke xiv. 11, and xviii. 14.
3. There must be a despairing of getting help or relief out of this
condition, by ourselves, or any thing we can do; a conviction of the
unprofitableness of all things under the sun for our relief. No
expectation of help from our supposed good heart, good purposes, good
deeds, works of charity, many prayers, commendations of others, sober
and harmless walking, or anything else within us or without us that is
not Christ. For, so long as we have the least hope or expectation of
doing our own business without Christ, we will not come to him. Our
heart hangeth so after the old way of salvation through works, that we
cannot endure to hear of any other, nor can we yield to any other. Could
we but have heaven by the way of works, we would spare no pains, no
cost, no labour, no expenses; nay, we would put ourselves to much pain
and torment by whippings, cuttings, fastings, watchings, and the like;
we would spare our first-born; nay, we would dig our graves in a rock
with our nails, and cut our own days, could we but get heaven by this
means; such is our antipathy at the way of salvation through a crucified
Christ, that we would choose any way but that, cost what it would;
therefore, before we can heartily close with Christ and accept of him,
we must be put from those refuges of lies, and see that there is nothing
but a disappointment written on them all, that all our prayers,
fastings, cries, duties, reformations, sufferings, good wishes, good
deeds, &c. are nothing in his eyes, but so many provocations to the eyes
of his jealousy, and so, further causes of our misery.
4. There must be a rational, deliberate, and resolute relinquishing of
all those things in ourselves, on which our heart is ready to dote. The
man being convinced of the vanity of all things by which he hath been
hoping for salvation, must now purpose to lose his grips of them, to
turn his back upon them, to quit them with purpose of heart, and to say
to them, get you hence, as Isa. xxx. 22. This is to deny ourselves,
which we must do ere we become his disciples, Matt. xvi. 24. This is to
forsake our father's house, Psalm xlv. 10, and to pluck out our right
eye, and to cut off our right arm, Matth. v. 29, 30. This abandoning of
all our false propes and subterfuges must be resolute, over the belly of
much opposition within, from the carnal and natural inclinations of the
heart; and of much opposition without, from Satan's ensnaring
suggestions and deceitful temptations: It must be a real, rational act
of the soul, upon solid and thorough conviction of their
unprofitableness, yea, of their dangerousness and destructiveness.
5. There must be some knowledge of the nature of the gospel covenant,
and of the way which now God hath chosen whereby to glorify his grace in
the salvation of poor sinners. That God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
thought good, for the glory of free grace and wisdom, in a way of
justice and mercy, to send Jesus Christ to assume man's nature, and so
become God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever;
and to become under the law, to undergo the curse thereof, and to die
the cursed death of the cross, to satisfy justice, and pay the ransom
for the redemption of the elect. In which undertaking our Lord was a
servant, Isa. xlii. 1, and xlix. 6, and lii. 13, and liii. 11. Zech.
iii. 8. Matt. xii. 18; and had furniture from God for all his
undertaking, Isa. xlii. 1, and lxi. 1, 2. Matt. xii. 18; and had a
promise of seeing his seed, and of prolonging his days, &c. Isa. xliii.
10, 11. Thus there was a covenant of redemption betwixt God and the
Mediator; and the Mediator undertaking, was obliged to perform all that
he undertook, and accordingly did so. For, as the Lord laid on him, or
caused to meet together on him, "the iniquity of us all," Isa. liii. 6,
so in due time "he bare our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was
wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, the
chastisement of our peace was upon him. He was cut off out of the land
of the living, and stricken for the transgression of his people; he made
his soul an offering for sin, and bare the iniquities of his people.
Pouring out his soul unto death he bare the sin of many, and made
intercession for the transgressors," Isa. liii. 4, 5, 10, 11, 12. So
"that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin (or by
a sacrifice for sin) condemned sin in the flesh," Rom. viii. 3, "that
the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," verse 4. Thus
"he made him sin (or a sacrifice for sin) that we might become
righteous," 2 Cor. v. 20; and "he was once offered to bear the sins of
many," Heb. ix. 28; and "he, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself
without spot to God," verse 14, and "his own self bare our sins in his
own body on the tree," 1 Pet. ii. 24. There must, I say, be some
knowledge of, and acquaintance with this great mystery of the gospel,
wherein is declared "the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 10, and with
the noble design of God, in sending his Son, after this manner, to die
the death, that condemned sinners might live, and return to the bosom of
God; as redeemed "not with gold or silver, or corruptible things but
with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and
without spot," 1 Pet. i. 18. And being "so redeemed by blood, to become
kings and priests unto God," 1 Pet. ii. 2. Rev. v. 9, 10. The man must
not be ignorant of this, else all will be in vain. I do not determine
how distinct and full this knowledge must be; but sure there must be so
much knowledge of it, as will give the soul ground of hope, and, in
expectation of salvation by this way, cause it turn its back upon all
other ways, and account itself happy if it could once win here.
6. There must be a persuasion of the sufficiency, completeness and
satisfactoriness of the way of salvation through this crucified
Mediator, else the soul will not be induced to leave its other courses,
and betake itself to this alone. He must be sure that salvation is only
to be had this way, and that undoubtedly it will be had this way, that
so with confidence he may cast himself over on this way, and sweetly
sing of a noble outgate. And therefore he must believe, that Christ is
really God as well as man, and a true man as well as God; that he is
fully furnished for the work of redemption, having the Spirit given to
him without measure; and endued fully and richly with all qualifications
fitting for all our necessities, and enabling him to "save to the
uttermost all that come unto God by him," Heb. vii. 25; that "he is made
of God to us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification," 1 Cor. i. 30;
that "all power in heaven and in earth is given unto him," Matt. xxviii.
18; that "all things are put under his feet;" and that "he is given to
be Head over all things to the church," Eph. i. 22; that "in him
dwelleth all fulness," Col. i. 19; that "in him are hid all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3; yea, "that in him
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;" so that we are
"complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power," verses
7. The soul must know that he is not only an able and all-sufficient
Mediator, but that also he is willing and ready to redeem and save all
that will come. For all the preceding particulars will but increase his
sorrow and torment him more, so long as he supposeth, through ignorance
and the suggestion of Satan, that he hath no part in that redemption, no
access to it, no ground of hope of salvation by it. Therefore it is
necessary that the soul conceive not only a possibility, but also a
probability of help this way, and that the dispensation of the gospel of
grace, and the promulgation and offer of these good news to him, speak
out so much, that the patience of God waiting long, and his goodness
renewing the offers, confirmeth this; that his serious pressing, his
strong motives, on the one hand, and his sharp threatenings on the
other; his reiterated commands, his ingeminated obtestations; his
expressed sorrow and grief over such as would not come to him; his
upbraiding and objurations of such as do obstinately refuse, and the
like, put his willingness to save such as will come to him out of all
question. Yea, his obviating of objections, and taking all excuses out
of their mouth, maketh the case plain and manifest, so that such as will
not come are left without excuse, and have no impediment lying in the
way but their own unwillingness.
8. The man must know upon what terms and conditions Christ offereth
himself in the gospel, viz. upon condition of accepting of him,
believing in him, and resting upon him; and that no other way we can be
made partakers of the good things purchased by Christ, but by accepting
of him as he is offered in the gospel, that is to say, freely, "without
price or money," Isa. lv. 1, absolutely without reservation, wholly, and
for all ends, &c. For, till this be known, there will be no closing with
Christ; and till there be a closing with Christ, there is no advantage
to be had by him. The soul must be married to him as an husband, fixed
to him as the branches to the tree, united to him as the members to the
head, become one with him, "one spirit," 1 Cor. vi. 17. See John xv. 5.
Eph. v. 30. The soul must close with him for all things, adhere to him
upon all hazards, take him and the sharpest cross that followeth him.
Now, I say, the soul must be acquainted with these conditions; for it
must act deliberately and rationally here. Covenanting with Christ is a
grave business, and requireth deliberation, posedness of soul, rational
resolution, full purpose of heart, and satisfaction of soul, and
therefore the man must be acquainted with the conditions of the new
9. There must be a satisfaction with the terms of the gospel, and the
heart must actually close with Christ as he is offered in the gospel.
The heart must open to him, and take him in, Rev. iii. 20. The soul must
embrace and receive him, John i. 12. The man must take him as his Lord
and Master, King, Priest, and Prophet; must give up himself to him as
his leader and commander, and resolve to follow him in all things, and
thus close a bargain with him; for, till this be done, there is no union
with Christ, and, till there be an union with Christ, there is no
partaking of the fruits of his redemption as to justification, no
pardon, no acceptance, no access to the favour of God, nor peace nor joy
in the Holy Ghost, no getting of the conscience sprinkled, nor no
intimation of love or favour from God, &c.
10. There must be a leaning to and resting upon him and on his perfect
sacrifice. The soul must sit down here as satisfied, and acquiesce in
this complete mediation of his. This is to believe on him, to rest on
him, John iii. 18. 1 Pet. ii. 6, as an all-sufficient help. This is to
cast the burden of a broken covenant, of a guilty conscience, of
deserved wrath, of the curse of the law, &c. upon him, that he may bear
away those evils from us. This is to put on the Lord Jesus (in part),
Rom. xiii. 14; to cover ourselves with his righteousness from the face
of justice, to stand in this armour of proof against the accusations of
law, Satan, and an evil conscience. This is to flee to him as our city
of refuge, that we may be safe from the avenger of blood. This is to
make him our refuge from the storm of God's anger, and a shadow from the
heat of his wrath, Isa. xxv. 4, and "our hiding-place from the wind, and
a covert from the tempest," and as the "shadow of a great rock in a
weary land," Isa. xxxii. 2. When we hide ourselves in him as the
complete cautioner that hath fully satisfied justice, and "desire to be
found in him alone, not having our own righteousness, which is of the
law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness
which is of God by faith," Phil. iii. 9. This is to lay our hand on the
head of the sacrifice, when we rest on this sacrifice, and expect
salvation through it alone. This is to cast ourselves in Christ's arms,
as peremptorily resolving to go no other way to the Father, and to plead
no other righteousness before God's bar but Christ's; that is faith,
yea, the lively acting of justifying faith.
Thus then is Christ made use of as the way to the Father, in the point
of justification, when the poor awakened sinner, convinced of his sin
and misery, of his own inability to help himself, of the insufficiency
of all means beside Christ, of Christ's all-sufficiency, readiness, and
willingness to help, of the equity and reasonableness of the conditions
on which he is offered, and life through him, is now content and fully
satisfied with this way, actually renouncing all other ways whatsoever,
and doth with heart and hand embrace Jesus Christ, and take him as he is
offered in the gospel, to make use of him for all things, to Jean to
him, and rest upon him in all hazards, and particularly, to refuge
itself under his wings, and to rest there with complacency,
satisfaction, and delight, and hide itself from the wrath of God and all
Yet it should be known, that this act of faith, whereby the soul goeth
out to Christ, and accepteth of and leaneth to him, is not alike in all.
1. In some it may be more lively, strong and active, like the
centurion's faith, that could argue syllogistically, Matt. viii. 8, &c,
which Christ looked upon as a great faith, a greater whereof he had not
found, no not in Israel, verse 10; and like the faith of the woman of
Canaan, Matt. xv. 21, &c, that would take no naysay, but of seeming
refusals did make arguments, which Christ commendeth as a great faith,
verse 28. But in others it may be more weak and fainting, not able to
reason aright for its own comfort and strength, as Matt, vi. 30, but is
mixed with much fear, as Matt. viii. 26, yea, and with much
faithfulness, so that the soul must cry, "Lord, help my unbelief!" Mark
2. In some the acts and actings of this faith may be more clear and
discernible, both by themselves, and by spiritual onlookers; in others,
so covered over with a heap of doubts, unbelief, jealousy, and other
corruption, that the actings of it can hardly, or not at all, be
perceived by themselves or others; so that nothing shall be heard but
complaints, fears, doubtings, and objections.
3. In some, this faith may have strong and perceptible actings,
wrestling through much discouragement and opposition, and many
difficulties; as in the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv.; running through with
peremptory resoluteness, saying, with Job, chap. xiii. 15, "Though he
slay me, yet will I trust in him;" and thus taking the kingdom of heaven
with violence. In others it may be so weak, that the least opposition or
discouragement may be sufficient to make the soul give over hope, and
almost despair of overcoming and winning through, and be as a bruised
reed or a smoking flax.
4. In some, though it appear not strong and violent or wilful (in a
manner) in its actings, yet it may be firm, fixed, and resolute in
staying upon him, Isa. xxvi. 3, 4, and trusting in him, Psalm cxxv. 1,
resolving to hing there, and if it perish, it perisheth; in others weak
5. In some it may be yet weaker, going out in strong and vehement
hungerings, Matt. v. 6. The man dare not say, that he doth believe or
that he doth adhere to Christ and stay upon him; yet he dare say, he
longeth for him, and panteth after him, as ever "the hart doth after the
water-brooks," Psalm xlii. 1, 2; he hungereth and thirsteth for him, and
cannot be satisfied with any thing without him.
6. In some, it may be so weak, that the soul can only perceive the heart
looking out after him; upon little more ground than a maybe it shall be
helped, Isa. xlv. 22. They look to him for salvation, being convinced
that there is no other way; and resolved to follow no other way, they
resolve to lie at his door, waiting and looking for a sight of the
king's face, and to lie waiting till they die, if no better may be.
7. In some, it may be so weak, that nothing more can be perceived but a
satisfaction with the terms of the covenant, a willingness to accept of
the bargain, and an heart consenting thereunto, though they dare not
say that they actually close therewith, yea, nor dare say that they
shall be welcome, Rev. xxii. 17.
8. In some, it may be so weak and low, that they cannot say that they
have any right hunger or desire after him, nor that their heart doth
rightly and really consent to the covenant of grace; yet they would fain
be at it, and cry out, O for a willing heart! O for ardent desires! O
for a right hunger! and they are dissatisfied, and cannot be reconciled
with their hearts for not desiring more, hungering more, consenting
more; so that, if they had this, they would think themselves happy and
up-made. And thus we see their faith is so low, that it appeareth in
nothing more manifestly, than in their complainings of the want of it.
So then, the poor weak believer needeth not to be so far discouraged as
to despair and give over the matter as hopeless and lost; let him hang
on, depend and wait. A weak faith to-day may become stronger within a
short time. He that laid the foundation can and will finish the
building, for all his works are perfect. And a weak faith, when true,
will prove saving, and lay hold on a saving strong Mediator.
Moreover, as to the acting of faith on Christ's death and sacrifice for
the stopping the mouth of conscience, law, Satan, and for the opposing
to the pursuing justice of God because of sin, it may sometimes be
strong, distinct, clear, and resolute; at other times again be weak,
mixed, or accompanied with much fear, perplexity, doubting, and
distrust, because of their own seen unworthiness, many failings,
doubtings of the sincerity of their repentance, and the like.
This is a main business, and of great concernment, yet many are not much
troubled about it, nor exercised at the heart hereabout, as they ought,
deceiving themselves with foolish imaginations: For,
1. They think they were believers all their days, they never doubted of
God's grace and good-will, they had always a good heart for God, though
they never knew what awakened conscience, or sense of the wrath of God
2. Or they think, because God is merciful, he will not be so severe as
to stand upon all those things that ministers require; forgetting that
he is a just God, and a God of truth, that will do according to what he
3. Or they suppose it is an easy matter to believe, and not such a
difficult thing as it is called; not considering or believing, that no
less power than that which raised Christ from the dead, will work up the
heart unto faith.
4. Or they resolve, that they will do it afterward, at some more
convenient season; not perceiving the cunning slight of Satan in this,
nor considering, that faith is not in their power, but the gift of God;
and that, if they lay not hold on the call of God, but harden their
heart in their day, God may judicially blind them, so that these things
shall be hid from their eyes; and so that occasion, they pretend to wait
for, never come.
Oh! if such whom this mainly concerneth, could be induced to enter into
this way; considering,
1. That except they enter into this way they cannot be safe, the wrath
of God will pursue them, the avenger of blood will overtake them; no
salvation but here.
2. That in this way is certain salvation; this way will infallibly lead
to the Father; for he keepeth in the way, and bringeth safe home, Exod.
3. 'Tis the old path and the good way, Jer. vi. 16; all the saints have
the experience of this, who are already come to glory. And,
4. It is a highway, and a way of righteousness, wherein, if very fools
walk, they shall not wander, Isa. xxxv. 8, 9, and if the weak walk in
it, they shall not faint, Isa. xl. 31.
5. That except this be done, there is no advantage to be had by him; his
death and all his sufferings, as to those persons that will not believe
and enter into him as the way to the Father, are in vain.
6. Yea, such as will not believe in him say, in effect, either that
Christ hath not died nor consecrated a way through the vail of his
flesh; or, that all that he hath done and suffered is not sufficient to
bring a soul home to God; or that they can do their own business without
him, and that it was a foolish and vain thing for Christ to die the
death for that end; or, lastly, that they care not for salvation; they
are indifferent whether they perish or be saved.
7. That, as to them, the whole gospel is in vain, all the ordinances,
all the administration of ordinances, all the pains of ministers, are in
8. That, as to them, all Christ's intreaties, motives, allurements,
patience and long-suffering, his standing at the door and knocking till
his locks be wet with the dew, &c. are in vain; yea, they are
contemptuously rejected, despised, slighted, and undervalued.
9. That all the great promises are by such rejected as untrue, or as not
worthy the seeking or having; and that all the threatenings, on the
other hand, are not to be regarded or feared.
10. In a word, that heaven and the fellowship of God is not worth the
seeking, and that hell and the fellowship of devils is not worth the
fearing; or, that there is neither a heaven nor a hell, and that all are
but fictions; and that there is no such thing as the wrath of God
against sinners, or that it is not much to be feared.
If it be asked, what warrant have poor sinners to lay hold on Christ,
and grip to him, as made of God righteousness?
I answer, 1. our absolute necessity of him is a ground to press us to go
and seek help and relief: we see we are gone in ourselves, and therefore
are we allowed to seek out for help elsewhere.
2. Christ's all-sufficient furniture, whereby he is a qualified
Mediator, fitted with all necessaries for our case and condition, having
laid down a price to the satisfaction of justice, is a sufficient
invitation for us to look toward him for help, and to wait at that door.
3. His being appointed of the Father to be Mediator of the covenant, and
particularly, to lay down his life a ransom for sin; and Christ's
undertaking all his offices, and performing all the duties thereof,
conform to the covenant of redemption, is a strong encouragement to poor
sinners to come to him, because he cannot deny himself, and he will be
true to his trust.
4. The Father's offering of him to us in the gospel, and Christ's
inviting us who are weary and heavy laden; yea, calling and commanding
such to come to him in his own and in his Father's name, under the pain
of his and his Father's wrath and everlasting displeasure; exhorting
further, and requesting upon terms of love, pressing earnestly by many
motives, sending out his ambassadors to beseech in his stead poor
sinners to be reconciled, and to turn in to him for life and salvation;
yea, upbraiding such as will not come to him. All these are a sufficient
warrant for a poor necessitous sinner to lay hold on his offer.
And, further, to encourage poor souls to come unto him, all things are
so well ordered in the gospel, as that nothing occurreth that can in the
least prove a stumbling-block or a just ground of excuse for their
forbearing to believe and to accept of his offers. All objections
possible are obviated to such as are but willing; the way is cast up,
and all stones of stumbling cast out of it; so that such as will not
come can pretend no excuse. They cannot object the greatness of their
sins: for the greater their sins be they have the greater need of one
who is sent to take away sin, and whose blood purgeth from all sin, 1
John i. 7. What great sinner did he ever refuse that came to him, and
was willing to be saved by him? Is there any clause in all the gospel
excluding great sinners? Nor need they object their great unworthiness;
for he doth all freely for the glory of his free grace. None ever got
any good of him for their worth; for no man ever had any worth. Nor need
they object their long refusing and resisting many calls; for he will
make such as are willing welcome at the eleventh hour; him that cometh
he will in no case put away, John vi. 37. Nor can they object their
changeableness, that they will not stand to the bargain, but break and
return with the dog to the vomit; for Christ hath engaged to bring all
through that come unto him; he will raise them up at the last day, John
vi. 40; he will present them to himself holy and without spot or
wrinkle, or any such thing, Eph. v. The covenant is fully provided with
promises to stop the mouth of that objection. Nor can they object the
difficulty or impossibility of believing; for that is Christ's work
also, he "is the author and finisher of faith," Heb. xii. 1. Can they
not with confidence cast themselves upon him; yet if they can hunger and
thirst for him, and look to him, he will accept of that; "look to me,"
says he, "and be saved," Isa. xlv. 22. If they cannot look to him, nor
hunger and thirst for him, yet if they be willing, all is well. Are they
willing that Christ save them in his way, and therefore willingly give
themselves over to him, and are willing and content that Christ, by his
Spirit, work more hunger in them, and a more lively faith, and work both
to will and to do according to his own good pleasure, it is well.
But it will be said, that the terms and conditions on which he offereth
himself are hard. Answer--I grant the terms are hard to flesh and blood,
and to proud unmortified nature; but to such as are willing to be saved,
so as God may be most glorified, the terms are easy, most rational and
1. We are required to take him only for our Mediator, and to join none
with him, and to mix nothing with him. Corrupt nature is averse from
this, and would at least mix something of self with him, and not rest on
Christ only: corrupt nature would not have the man wholly denying
himself, and following Christ only. And hence many lose themselves, and
lose all; because, with the Galatians, they would mix the law and the
gospel together; do something themselves for satisfaction of justice,
and take Christ for the rest that remains. Now, the Lord will have all
the glory, as good reason is, and will have none to share with him; he
will give of his glory to none. And is not this rational and easy? What
can be objected against this?
2. We are required to take him wholly, that he may be a complete
Mediator to us; as a prophet to teach, as a king to subdue our lusts, to
cause us to walk in his ways, as well as a priest to satisfy justice for
us, to die and intercede for us. Is it not reason that we take him as
God hath made him for us? Is there any thing in him to be refused? And
is there any thing in him which we have no need of? Is there not all the
reason then in the world for this, that we take him wholly? And what
stumbling-block is here?
3. We are required to take him freely, "without money and without
price," Isa. lv. 1, for he will not be bought any manner of way; that
free grace may be free grace, therefore he will give all freely. True
enough it is, corruption would be at buying, though it have nothing to
lay out. Pride will not stoop to a free gift. But can any say the terms
are hard, when all is offered freely?
4. We are required to take them absolutely, without any reversion of
mental reservation. Some would willingly quit all but one or two lusts
they cannot think to twin with; and they would deny themselves in many
things, but they would still most willingly keep a back-door open to
some beloved lust or other. And who seeth not what double dealing is
here? And what reason can plead for this double dealing? Corruption, it
is true, will think this hard, but no man can rationally say that this
is a just ground of discouragement to any, or a sufficient ground to
warrand them to stay away from Christ, seeing they cannot be supposed
sincerely to desire redemption from any sin, who would not desire
redemption from every sin. He who loveth any known lust, and would not
willingly be delivered therefrom, hath no real hatred at any lust, as
such, nor desire to be saved; for one such lust would be his death.
5. It is required, that we accept of him really and cordially, with our
heart and soul, and not by a mere external verbal profession, And is
there not all the reason in the world for this? He offereth himself
really to us, and shall we not be real in accepting of him? What, I
pray, can be justly excepted against this? or, what real discouragement
can any gather from this?
6. We are to take him for all necessaries, that is, with a resolution to
make use of him as our all-sufficient Mediator. And is not this most
reasonable? Ought we not to take him for all the ends and purposes for
which God hath appointed him, and set him forth, and offered him to us?
What then can any suppose to lie here which should scar a soul from
laying hold upon him? Nay, should not this be looked upon as a very
great encouragement? And should we not bless the Lord, that hath
provided such a complete and all-sufficient Mediator?
7. We are to take him and all the crosses that may attend our taking or
following of him; we must take up our cross, be it what it will that he
thinketh good to appoint to us, and follow him, Matt. xvi. 24. Mark
viii. 34. "For he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth not after
him, is not worthy of him," Matt. x. 38. I know flesh and blood will
take this for a hard saying; but they that consider, that Christ will
bear the heaviest end of the cross, yea, all of it, and so support them
by his Spirit while they are under it, that they shall have no just
cause to complain; and how he will suffer none to go his errand upon
their own charges, but will be with them when they go through the fire
and water, Isa. xliii. 2, so that they shall suffer no loss, neither
shall the waters overflow them, nor the fire kindle upon them; and that
he who loseth his life for Christ's sake and the gospel's, shall save
it, Mark viii. 35; yea, that they shall receive an hundred-fold for all
their losses, Matt. xix. 29, and that even with persecution, Mark x. 30,
and, in the world to come, eternal life. They, I say, who consider this,
will see no discouragement here, nor ground of complaint; nay, they will
account it their glory to suffer any loss for Christ's sake.
8. Hence it followeth, that we are to take him, so as to avouch him and
his cause and interest on all hazards, stand to his truth, and not be
ashamed of him in a day of trial. Confession of him must be made with
the mouth, as with the heart we must believe, Rom. x. 9. Let corruption
speak against this what it will, because it is always desirous to keep
the skin whole. Yet reason cannot but say that it is equitable,
especially seeing he hath said, that "whosoever confesseth him before
men, he will confess them before his Father which is in heaven," Matt.
x. 32. And that, "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him,"
2 Tim. ii. 12. Is he our Lord and master, and should we not own and
avouch him? Should we be ashamed of him for any thing, that can befall
us, upon that account? What master would not take that ill at his
Hence, then, we see, that there is nothing in all the conditions on
which he offereth himself to us, that can give the least ground, in
reason, why a poor soul should draw back, and be unwilling to accept of
this noble offer, or think that the conditions are hard.
But there is one main objection, which may trouble some, and that is,
they cannot believe; faith being the gift of God, it must be wrought in
them; how then can they go to God for this, and make use of Christ for
this end, that their souls may be wrought up to a believing and
consenting to the bargain, and hearty accepting of the offer?
To this I would say these things:
1. It is true, that "faith is the gift of God," Eph. ii. 8, and that it
is "he alone who worketh in us, both to will and to do," Phil. i. 29,
"and none cometh to the Son, but whom the Father draweth," John vi. 44;
and it is a great matter, and no small advancement, to win to the real
faith, and through conviction of this our impotency. For thereby the
soul will be brought to a greater measure of humiliation, and of
despairing of salvation in itself, which is no small advantage unto a
poor soul that would be saved.
2. Though faith be not in our power, yet it is our duty. Our impotency
to perform our duty, doth not loose our obligation to the duty; so that
our not believing is our sin; and for this God may justly condemn us.
His wrath abideth on all who believe not in his Son Jesus, and will not
accept of the offer of salvation through the crucified Mediator. And
though faith, as all other acts of grace, be efficiently the work of the
Spirit, yet it is formally our work: we do believe; but it is the Spirit
that worketh faith in us.
3. The ordinary way of the Spirit's working faith in us, is by pressing
home the duty upon us, whereby we are brought to a despairing in
ourselves, and to a looking out to him, whose grace alone it is that can
work it in the soul, for that necessary help and breathing, without
which the soul will not come.
4. Christ Jesus hath purchased this grace of faith to all the elect, as
other graces necessary to their salvation; and it is promised and
covenanted to him, "That he shall see his seed, and shall see of the
travail of his soul," Isa. liii. 10; and that by the knowledge of him,
that is, the rational and understanding act of the soul gripping to and
laying hold upon him, as he is offered in the gospel, "many shall be
justified," Isa. liii. 10. Hence he saith, "That all whom the Father
hath given to him, shall come unto him," John vi. 37; and the apostle
tells us, "that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in him,"
Eph. i. 3.
5. Not only hath Christ purchased this grace of faith, and all other
graces necessary for the salvation of the elect, but God hath committed
to him the administration and actual dispensation, and out-giving of all
those graces, which the redeemed stand in need of. Hence "he is a prince
exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of sins," Acts v. 31. "All
power in heaven and earth is committed unto him," Matt, xxviii. 18, 19.
Hence he is called, "the author and finisher of faith," Heb. xii. 2; and
he tells his disciples, John xiv. 13, 14, that whatever they shall ask
in his name, he will do it. He is made a Prince and a Saviour, "having
all judgment committed unto him," John v. 22; and "he is Lord of all,"
Acts x. 36. Rom. xiv. 9.
6. Hereupon the sinner, being convinced of his lost condition through
sin and misery, of an utter impossibility of helping himself out of that
state of death, of Christ's all-sufficiency and willingness to save all
that will come to him, and of its own inability to believe or come to
him for life and salvation, or to lay hold on, and lean to his merits
and satisfaction, and so despairing in himself, is to look out to Jesus,
the author of eternal salvation, the foundation and chief corner-stone,
the author and finisher of faith; I say, the sinner, being thus
convinced, is thus to look out to Jesus; not that that conviction is any
proper qualification prerequisite as necessary, either to prepare,
dispose, and fit for faith, or far less to merit any manner of way, or
bring on faith; but because this is Christ's method to bring a soul to
faith by this conviction, to the glory of his grace. The soul naturally
being averse from Christ, and utterly unwilling to accept of that way of
salvation, must be redacted to that strait, that it shall see, that it
must either accept of this offer or die. As the whole needeth not a
physician, so Christ is come to save only that which is lost; and his
method is to convince the world of sin, in the first place; and then of
righteousness, John xvi. 8, 9.
7. This looking out to Jesus for faith, comprehendeth those things: (1.)
The soul's acknowledgment of the necessity of faith, to the end it may
partake of Christ, and of his merits. (2.) The soul's satisfaction with
that way of partaking of Christ, by a closing with him, and a resting
upon him by faith. (3.) A sense and conviction of the unbelief and
stubbornness of the heart, or a seeing of its own impotency, yea, and
unwillingness to believe. (4.) A persuasion that Christ can over-master
the infidelity and wickedness of the heart, and work up the soul unto a
willing consent unto the bargain. (5.) A hope, or a half-hope (to speak
so) that Christ, who is willing to save all poor sinners that come to
him for salvation; and hath said, that he will put none away in any case
that cometh--will have pity upon him at length. (6.) A resolution to lie
at his door, till he come with life, till he quicken, till he unite the
soul to himself. (7.) A lying open to the breathings of his Spirit, by
guarding against every thing (so far as they can) that may grieve or
provoke him, and waiting on him in all the ordinances, he hath
appointed, for begetting faith; such as reading the Scriptures, hearing
the word, conference with godly persons, and prayer, &c. (8.) A waiting
with patience on him who never said to the house of Jacob, "seek me in
vain," Isa. xlv. 19; still crying and looking to him who hath commanded
the ends of the earth to look to him; and waiting for him who waiteth to
be gracious, Isa. xxx. 18, remembering that they are all blessed that
wait for him; and that "there is much good prepared for them that wait
for him," Isa. lxiv. 4.
8. The sinner would essay this believing, and closing with Christ, and
set about it, as he can, seriously, heartily, and willingly, yea, and
resolutely over the belly of much opposition, and many discouragements,
looking to him who must help, yea, and work the whole work; for God
worketh in and with man as a rational creature. The soul then would set
the willingness it findeth, on work, and wait for more; and as the Lord
is pleased to commend, by his Spirit, the way of grace more unto the
soul, and to warm the heart with love to it, and a desire after it,
strike the iron while it is hot; and, looking to him for help, grip to
Christ in the covenant; and so set to its seal, though with a trembling
hand; and subscribe its name, though with much fear and doubting,
remembering "that he who worketh to will, must work the deed also,"
Phil. ii. 13, "and he that beginneth a good work will perfect it," Phil.
9. The soul essaying thus to believe in Christ's strength, and to creep
when it cannot walk or run, would hold fast what it hath attained, and
resolve never to recall any consent, or half-consent, it hath given to
the bargain, but still look forward, hold on, wrestle against unbelief
and unwillingness, entertain every good motion of the Spirit for this
end, and never admit of any thing that may quench its lodgings, desires,
10. Nay, if the sinner be come this length, that, with the bit
willingness he hath, he consenteth to the bargain, and is not satisfied
with any thing in himself, that draweth back, or consenteth not, and
with the little skill or strength he hath is writing down his name, and
saying, even so I take him; and is holding at this, peremptorily
resolving never to go back, or unsay what he hath said; but, on the
contrary, is firmly purposed to adhere, and as he groweth in strength,
to grip more firmly, and adhere to him, he may conclude that the bargain
is closed already, and that he hath faith already; for here there is an
accepting of Christ on his own terms, a real consenting unto the
covenant of grace, though weak, and not so discernible as the soul would
wish. The soul dare not say but it loveth the bargain, and is satisfied
with it, and longeth for it, and desireth nothing more than that it
might partake thereof, and enjoy him whom it loveth, hungereth for,
panteth after, or breatheth, as it is able, that it may live in him, and
be saved through him.
But some will say, If I had any evidence of God's approbation of this
act of my soul, any testimony of his Spirit, I could then with
confidence say, that I had believed and accepted of the covenant and of
Christ offered therein; but so long as I perceive nothing of this, how
can I suppose, that any motion of this kind in my soul is real faith?
For _Answer_--1. We would know, that our believing, and God's sealing to
our sense, are two distinct acts and separable, and oft separated. Our
believing is one thing, and God's sealing with the Holy Spirit of
promise to our sense, is another thing; and this followeth, though not
inseparably, the other, Eph. i. 13, "In whom also, after that ye
believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise."
And so, 2. We would know, that many a man may believe, and yet not know
that he doth believe. He may set to his seal, that God is true in his
offer of life through Jesus, and accept of that offer as a truth, and
close with it; and yet live under darkness and doubtings of his faith,
long and many a day; partly through not discerning the true nature of
faith; partly through the great sense and feeling of his own corruption
and unbelief; partly through a mistake of the Spirit's operations
within, or the want of a clear and distinct uptaking of the motions of
his own soul; partly because he findeth so much doubting and fear, as if
there could be no faith where there was doubting or fear, contrary to
Mark ix. 24. Matth. viii. 26, and xiv. 31.; partly, because he hath not
that persuasion that others have had, as if there were not various
degrees of faith, as there is of other graces, and the like.
Therefore, 3. We would know, that many may really believe, and yet miss
this sensible sealing of the Spirit which they would be at. God may
think it not yet seasonable to grant them that, lest they forget
themselves and become too proud; and to train them up more to the life
of faith, whereby he may be glorified; and for other holy ends, he may
suspend the giving of this for a time.
4. Yet we would know, that all that believe, have the seal within them,
1 John v. 10, "He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in
himself," that is, he hath that which really is a seal, though he see it
not, nor perceive it not; even the work of God's Spirit in his soul,
inclining and determining him unto the accepting of this bargain, and
to a liking of and endeavouring after holiness; and the whole gospel
clearing up what faith is, is a seal and confirmation of the business.
So that the matter is sealed, and confirmed by the word, though the soul
want those sensible breathings of the Spirit, shedding abroad his love
in the heart, and filling the soul with a full assurance, by hushing all
doubts and fears to the door; yea, though they should be a stranger unto
the Spirit's witnessing thus with their spirits, that they are the
children of God, and clearing up distinctly the real work of grace
within their soul, and so saying in effect, that they have in truth
But enough of this; seeing all this, and much more is abundantly held
forth and explained, in that excellent and useful treatise of Mr.
Guthrie's, entitled, "The Christian's Great Interest."
HOW CHRIST IS TO BE MADE USE OF, AS THE WAY, FOR SANCTIFICATION IN
Having shown how a poor soul, lying under the burden of sin and wrath,
is to make use of Jesus Christ for righteousness and justification, and
so to make use of him, go out to him, and apply him, as "he is made of
God to us righteousness," 1 Cor. i. 30, and that but briefly. This whole
great business being more fully and satisfactorily handled, in that
forementioned great, though small treatise, viz. "The Christian's Great
Interest," we shall now come and show, how a believer or a justified
soul shall further make use of Christ for sanctification, this being a
particular about which they are oftentimes much exercised and perplexed.
That we may therefore, in some weak measure, through the help of this
light and grace, propose some things to clear up this great and
necessary truth, we shall first speak a little to it in the general, and
then come to clear up the matter more particularly.
Before we speak of the matter in general, it would be remembered, 1.
That the person who only is in case to make use of Christ for
sanctification, is one that hath made use of him already for
righteousness and justification. For one who is a stranger to Christ,
and is living in nature, hath no access to Christ for sanctification. He
must be a believer, and within the covenant, ere he can make use of the
grounds of sanctification laid down in the covenant. One must first be
united to Christ, and justified by faith in him, before he can draw any
virtue from him for perfecting holiness. He must first be in him, before
he can grow up in him, or bring forth fruit in him. And therefore the
first thing that souls would go about, should be to get an union made up
with Christ, and be clothed with his righteousness by faith; and then
they have a right to all his benefits. _First_, they should labour to
get their state changed from enmity to peace and reconciliation with
God, through faith in Jesus.
Yet, _next_, it would be observed, that when it is said, that one must
be a believer before he can go to Christ, and make use of him for
holiness and sanctification, it is not so understood and said, that one
must know, that indeed he is justified by faith, before he can make any
use of Christ for sanctification. One may be justified, and a believer,
yea, and growing in grace through Jesus Christ, and so actually
improving the grounds of sanctification, and making use of Christ for
this end, and allowed thereunto, and yet win to no certainty of his
union with Christ, of his justification through faith in him, nor of his
But, _thirdly_, if it be said, How can a soul with confidence approach
to Christ, for use-making of him, in reference to sanctification, that
is, still doubting of his state and regeneration?
I answer, It is true, a clear sight of our interest in Christ by faith,
would be a great encouragement to our confident approaching to, and
use-making of him, in all things; and this consideration should move all
to a more earnest search and study of the marks and evidences of their
interest; a good help whereunto they will find in the forementioned
book. I shall only say this here, That if the soul have an earnest
desire to be sanctified wholly, and to have on the image of God, that he
may glorify him, and panteth after holiness as for life, that he may
look like him that is holy, and maketh this his work and study;
sorrowing at nothing more than at his shortcoming; crying out and
longing for the day when he shall be delivered from a body of death, and
have the old man wholly crucified; he needeth not question his interest
in Christ, and warrant to make use of him for every part of
sanctification; for this longing desire after conformity to God's law,
and panting after this spiritual life, to the end God may be exalted,
Christ glorified, and others edified, will not be readily found in one
that is yet in nature. It is true, I grant, some who design to establish
their own righteousness, and to be justified by their own works and
inherent holiness, may wish that they may be more holy and less guilty;
and for some other corrupt ends, they may desire to be free of the power
of some lust, which they find noxious and troublesome; and yet retain
with love and desire, some other beloved lusts, and so have a heart
still cleaving to the heart of some detestable thing or other. But
gracious souls, as they have respect to all the commands of God, so they
have not that design of being justified before God by their works; nor
do they study mortification, and sanctification for any such end; nay,
they no sooner discover any bias of their false deceitful hearts unto
any such end, but as soon they disown it, and abhor it. So that hence
believers may get some discovery of the reality of their faith and
interest in Christ, and of their warrant, yea, and duty to make use of
Christ for sanctification.
This premised, we come to speak something, in the general, of believer's
use-making of Christ, as made of God to us sanctification. And for this
end, we shall only speak a little to two things. _First_, We shall show
upon what account it is that Christ is called our sanctification, or,
"made of God to us sanctification," as the apostle's phrase is, 1 Cor.
i. 30; or, what Christ hath done as Mediator, to begin, and carry on to
perfection the work of sanctification in the soul. And, _secondly,_ How
the soul is to demean itself in this matter, or how the soul is to make
use of, and improve what Christ hath done, for this end, that it may
grow in grace, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.
As to the _first,_ we would know, that though the work of sanctification
be formally ours, yet it is wrought by another hand, as the principal
efficient cause, even by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Father is
said to purge the branches, that they may bring forth more fruit, John
xv. 1. Hence we are said to be sanctified by God the Father, Jude 1. The
Son is also called the Sanctifier, Heb. ii. 21. He sanctifieth and
cleanseth the Church with the washing of water by the word, Eph. v. 26.
The Spirit is also said to sanctify, 2 Thes. ii. 13. 1 Pet. i. 2. Rom.
xv. 16. Hence we are said to be washed and sanctified by the Spirit of
God, 1 Cor. vi. 11.
But more particularly, we are said to be sanctified in Christ, 1 Cor. i.
2; and "he is made of God to us sanctification," 1 Cor. i. 30. Let us
then see in what sense this may be true. And,
1. He hath by his death and blood procured that this work of
sanctification shall be wrought and carried on. For "he suffered without
the gate, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood," Heb.
xiii. 12. "We are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of
the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our
Saviour," Titus iii. 5, 6. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem
us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous
of good works," Tit. ii. 14. Thus our sanctification is the fruit of his
death, and purchased by his blood. "He gave himself for his church, that
he might sanctify it," Eph. v. 25, 26.
2. He dying as a cautioner and public person, believers are accounted in
law to be dead to sin in him. Hence the apostle tells us, Rom. vi. 3-6,
that as many of us as are baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptized into
his death; and that therefore we are buried with him by baptism into
death; and are planted together in the likeness of his death; yea, and
that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be
destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Whence believers are
warranted and commanded, verse 11, to reckon themselves "to be dead
indeed unto sin;" and therefore sin should "not reign in their mortal
bodies to fulfil the lusts thereof," verse 12. This is a sure ground of
hope and comfort for believers, that Christ died thus as a public
person; and that by virtue thereof, being now united to Christ by faith,
they are dead to sin by law; and sin cannot challenge a dominion over
them, as before their conversion it might have done, and did; for the
law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth, but no longer.
Wherefore believing brethren "becoming dead to the law by the body of
Christ, are married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead,
that they should bring forth fruit unto God," Rom. vii. 1-4.
3. Hence it followeth, that our "old man is crucified with Christ, that
the body of sin might be destroyed," Rom. vi. 6. So that this old tyrant
that oppresseth the people of God, hath got his death wounds, in the
crucifixion of Christ, and shall never recover his former vigour and
activity, to oppress and bear down the people of God, as he did. He is
now virtually, through the death of Jesus, killed and crucified, being
in Christ nailed to the cross.
4. His resurrection is a pawn and pledge of this sanctification. For as
he died as a public person, so he rose again as a public person. "We are
buried with him by baptism, that like as Christ was raised up from the
dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness
of life," Rom. vi. 4; and believers are said to be "planted together
with him, in the likeness of his resurrection," verse 5; "and they shall
live with him," verse 8; "and therefore they are to reckon themselves
alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord," verse 11. "We are raised
up together," Eph. ii. 6.
5. This sanctification is an article of the covenant of redemption
betwixt the Father and the Son, Isa. lii. 15, "So shall he sprinkle many
nations." Chap. liii. 10, "He shall see his seed, and the pleasure of
the Lord shall prosper in his hand." Christ, then, having this promised
to him, must see to the accomplishment thereof, and will have it granted
to him; seeing he hath fulfilled all that was engaged to by him--having
made his soul an offering for sin.
6. This sanctification is promised in the covenant of grace, Jer.
xxxiii. 8. "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity." Ezek.
xxxvii. 23, "And I will cleanse them." So chap. xxxvi. 25, "Then will I
sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your
filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you." Now all the
promises of the covenant of grace are confirmed to us in the Mediator.
For, "in him all the promises of the covenant are yea and amen," 2 Cor.
7. He hath purchased and made sure to his own, the new nature, and the
heart of flesh, which is also promised, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, and xi. 19.
Jer. xxxii. 39. This is the new and lively principle of grace, the
spring of sanctification, which cannot be idle in the soul; but must be
emitting vital acts natively.
Yea, through him, are believers made partakers of the divine nature,
which is a growing thing,--young glory in the soul, 2 Pet. i. 3,4,
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that
pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath
called us to glory and virtue, whereby are given unto us exceeding great
and precious promises, that by these we might be made partakers of the
divine nature," &c.
8. The Spirit is promised, to cause us walk in his statutes, Ezek. xlvi.
27. Now all these promises are made good to us in Christ, who is the
cautioner of the covenant; yea, he hath gotten now the dispensing and
giving out of the rich promises of the covenant, committed unto him; so
as he is the great and glorious custodier of all purchased blessings.
9. There are new waterings, breathings, and gales of the Spirit, given
in Christ, Isa. xxvii. 3. He must water his garden or vineyard every
moment. This is the north wind and the south wind that bloweth upon the
garden, Cant. iv. 16. He must be as the dew unto Israel, Hos. xiv. 5.
10. Through Christ is the believer brought into such a covenant state,
as giveth great ground of hope of certain victory. He is not now under
the law, but under grace; and hence inferreth the apostle, Rom. vi. 14,
"That sin shall not have dominion over them." Being now under that
dispensation of grace, whereby all their stock is in the Mediator's
hand, and at his disposal; and not in their own hand and power, as under
the covenant of works, there is a sure ground laid down for constant
supply and furniture in all necessities.
11. Christ hath prayed for this, John xvii. 17, "Sanctify them through
thy truth;" where the Lord is praying, that his disciples might be more
and more sanctified, and so fitted and qualified for the work of the
ministry they were to be employed in. And what he prayed for them, was
not for them alone, but also for the elect, proportionably, who are
opposed to the world, for which he did not pray, verse 9.
12. He standeth to believers in relation of a vine, or a root, in which
they grow as branches, so that by abiding in him, living by faith in
him, and drawing sap from him, they bring forth fruit in him, John xv.
1, 2, 4, 5. Their stock of grace is in him, the root; and he
communicateth sap and life unto his branches, whereby they grow,
flourish, and bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
13. Christ hath taken on him the office of a prophet and teacher, to
instruct us in the way wherein we ought to go; for he is that great
prophet whom the Lord promised to raise up, and who was to be heard and
obeyed in all things, Deut. xviii. 15. Acts iii. 22, and vii. 37. "He is
given for a witness, and a leader," Isa. lv. 4; and we are commanded to
hear him, Matt, xvii. 5. Mark x. 7.
14. He hath also taken on him the office of a king, Psal. ii. 6. Matt,
xxviii. 5. Isa. ix. 7. Phil. ii. 8-11. and thereby standeth engaged to
subdue all their spiritual enemies, Satan and corruption, Psal. cx. He
is given for a leader and commander, Isa. lv. 5, and so can cause his
people walk in his ways.
15. When we defile ourselves with new transgressions and failings, he
hath provided a fountain for us to wash in; "a fountain opened to the
house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for
uncleanness," Zech. xiii. 1; and this fountain is his blood, which
cleanseth from all sin, Heb. ix. 14. 1 John i. 7. Rev. i. 5.
16. He is set before us as a copy and pattern, that we "should walk even
as he walked," 1 John ii. 6. "He left us an example that we should
follow his steps," 1 Pet. ii. 21. But we should beware to separate this
consideration from the preceding, as antichristian Socinians do, who
will have Christ only to be a copy.
17. He hath overcome Satan, our arch enemy, and hath destroyed his
works, 1 John iii. 8. He came to destroy the works of the devil; and in
particular, his works of wickedness in the soul. Thus he is a conqueror
and the captain of our salvation.
18. As he hath purchased, so hath he appointed ordinances, for the
laying of the foundation, and carrying on this work of sanctification;
both word and sacraments are appointed for that; the word to convert and
to confirm, John xvii. 17. "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is
truth," said Christ. The word is given as the rule; and also through the
means thereof is life and strength conveyed to the soul, "to perfect
holiness in the fear of God," 1 Pet. ii. 2. And the sacraments are given
to strengthen and confirm the soul in the ways of God.
19. As he hath laid down strong encouragements to his followers, to hold
on in the way of holiness, many great and precious promises, by which
they may be made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4; and by
which they are encouraged to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of
the flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 1; and many motives to hold on and
continue; so hath he rolled difficulties out of the way, whether they be
within us, or without us, and thereby made the way easy and pleasant to
such as walk in it; so as they may now run the way of his commandments,
and walk and not weary, and run and not be faint.
Nay, 20. We would remember for our encouragement and confidence, that in
carrying on of this work lieth the satisfaction of the soul, and the
pleasure of the Lord that must prosper in his hand, and thus he seeth
his seed, and hath of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.
These particulars, rightly considered, will discover unto us, what a
noble ground for sanctification is in Christ laid down for believers,
which they may, and must by faith grip to, that they may grow in grace,
and grow up in Christ, and perfect holiness; and what a wonderful
contrivance of grace this is, wherein all things are made so sure for
believers, Christ becoming all things to them, and paving a royal and
sure way for them; sure for them, and glorious to himself!
As to the second particular, that is, how believers are to carry in this
matter, or how they are to make use of Christ, and of those grounds of
sanctification in Christ, which we have mentioned:
_First,_ There are some things which they should beware of, and guard
1. They should beware of an heartless despondency, and giving way to
discouragement, and hearkening to the language of unbelief, or to the
suggestion of Satan, whereby he will labour to persuade them of the
impossibility of getting the work of sanctification throughed, or any
progress made therein to purpose. Satan and a deceitful heart can soon
muster up many difficulties, and allege that there are many lions, many
insuperable difficulties in the way, to discourage them from venturing
forward; and if Satan prevail here, he hath gained a great point.
Therefore the believer should keep up his head in hope, and beware of
multiplying discouragements to himself, or of concluding the matter
impossible; for then shall he neither have heart nor hand for the work,
but sit down and wring his hands as overcome with discouragement and
despondency of spirit.
2. They should beware of wilfully rejecting their own mercies, and
forbearing to make use of the grounds of hope, of strength and progress
in the matter of sanctification, which Christ hath allowed them to make
use of. There is such an evil among God's children, that they scar at
that which Christ out of great love hath provided for them, and dare not
with confidence make use of, nor apply to themselves the great and
comfortable promises, to the end they might be encouraged; they will
not take their allowance, as thinking themselves unworthy; and that it
would be presumption in them to challenge a right to such great things;
and they think it commendable humility in them, to stand a-back, and so
wilfully refuse the advantages and helps, that make so much for their
growth in grace.
3. They should beware of a careless neglect of the means appointed for
advancing in holiness; for, though the means do not work the effect, yet
it is by the means that God hath chosen to work the work of
sanctification. Here that is to be seen, "that the hand of the diligent
maketh rich; and the field of the slothful is soon grown over with
thorns and nettles; so that poverty cometh as one that travaileth, and
want as an armed man," Prov. xxiv. 30. It is a sinful tempting of God,
to think to be sanctified another way than God hath in his deep wisdom
4. Yet they should beware of laying too much weight on the means and
ordinances, as if they could effectuate the business. Though the Lord
hath thought fit to work in and by the means, yet he himself must do the
work. Means are but means, and not the principal cause; nor can they
work, but as the principal agent is pleased to make use of them, and to
work by them. When we lean to the means and to instruments, we prejudge
ourselves, by disobliging of God, and provoking him to leave us, that we
may wrestle with the ordinances alone, and find no advantage. Therefore
the soul should guard against this.
5. Albeit the means can do nothing unless he breathe, yet we should
beware not only of neglecting, as we said before, but also of a
slighting way of performing them, without that earnestness and diligence
that is required,--"cursed is he who doth the work of the Lord
negligently," Jer. xlviii. 10. Here then is the special art of
Christianity apparent, to be as diligent, earnest and serious in the use
of the means, as if they could effectuate the matter we were seeking;
and yet to be as much abstracted from them, in our hopes and
expectation, and to be as much leaning on the Lord alone, and depending
on him for the blessing, as if we were using no means at all.
6. They should beware of slighting and neglecting the motions of the
Spirit; for thereby they may lose the best opportunity. They should be
always on the wing, ready to embrace the least motion; and they should
stand always ready, waiting for the breathings of his Spirit, and open
at his call; lest afterward, they be put to call and seek, and not
attain what they would be at, as we see in the spouse, Cant. v. 2, 3, 4,
7. They should also guard against the quenching of the Spirit, 1 Thess.
v. 12; or grieving of the Spirit, Eph. iv. 30, by their unchristian and
unsuitable carriage; for this will much mar their sanctification. It is
by the Spirit that the work of sanctification is carried on in the soul;
and when this Spirit is disturbed, and put from his work, how can the
work go on? When the motions of this indwelling Spirit are extinguished,
his work is marred and retarded; and when he is grieved, he is hindered
in his work. Therefore souls must guard against unbelief, despondency,
unsuitable and unchristian carriage.
8. Especially they should beware of wasting sins, Psal. li. 10. Sins
against light and conscience, such as David called presumptuous sins,
Psal. xix. 13. They should beware also of savouring any unknown
corruption, or any thing of that kind, that may hinder the work of
_Secondly_, It were useful, and of great advantage for such as would
grow in grace, and advance in the way of holiness, to be living in the
1. Of the necessity of holiness, "without which no man shall see God,"
Heb. xii. 14. "Nothing entering into the New Jerusalem that defileth,"
Rev. xxi. 7.
2. Of their own inability to do any one act right; how they are not
sufficient of themselves to think any thing as of themselves, 2 Cor.
iii. 5; and that without Christ they can do nothing, John xv. 5.
3. Of the insufficiency of any human help, or means, or way which they
might think good to choose, to mortify aright one corruption, or to give
strength for the discharge of any one duty; for our sufficiency is of
God, 2 Cor. iii. and it is "through the Spirit that we must mortify the
deeds of the body," Rom. viii. 13.
4. And of the treachery and deceitfulness of the heart, which is bent to
follow by-ways, being not only "deceitful above all things, but also
desperately wicked," Jer. xvii. 9.
That by this means, the soul may be jealous of itself, and despair of
doing any thing in its own strength, and so be fortified against that
main evil, which is an enemy to all true sanctification, viz. confidence
in the flesh.
_Thirdly_, The soul will keep its eye fixed on those things:
1. On Christ's all-sufficiency to help; in all cases that "he is able to
save to the uttermost," Heb. vii. 25.
2. On his compassionateness to such as are out of the way; and readiness
to help poor sinners with his grace and strength; and this will keep up
the soul from fainting and despairing.
3. On the commands of holiness; such as those, "cleanse your hand, and
purify your hearts," James iv. 8, and, "be ye holy, for I am holy," 1
Pet. i. 15, 16, and the like; that the authority of God and conscience
to command may set the soul a-work.
4. On the great recompense of reward that is appointed for such as
wrestle on, and endure to the end; and on the great promises of great
things to such as are sanctified, whereof the scriptures are full; that
the soul may be encouraged to run through difficulties, to ride out
storms, to endure hardness, as a good soldier, and to persevere in duty.
5. On the other hand, on the many sad threatenings and denunciations of
wrath, against such as transgress his laws, and on all the sad things
that such as shake off the fear of God and the study of holiness have to
look for, of which the scripture is full; that by this means the soul
may be kept in awe, and spurred forward unto duty, and made the more
willing to shake off laziness.
6. On the rule, the word of God, by which alone we must regulate all our
actions; and this ought to be our meditation day and night, and all our
study, as we see it was David's, and other holy men of God, their daily
work, see Psal. i. and cxix.
_Fourthly_, In all this study of holiness, and aiming at an higher
measure of grace, the believer would level at a right end, and so would
not design holiness for this end, that he might be justified thereby, or
that he might thereby procure and purchase to himself heaven and God's
favour; for the weight of all that must lie on Jesus Christ, who is our
righteousness; and our holiness must not dethrone him, nor rob him of
his glory, which he will not give to another; but would study holiness,
to the end he might glorify God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and
please him who calleth to holiness, and thereby be "meet to be partakers
of the inheritance of the saints in light," Col. i. 10, 12; and be made
a meet bride for such a holy bridegroom, and a member to such an holy
head; that hereby others might be edified, Matt. v. 16. 1 Pet. ii. 12,
and iii. 1, 2; that the soul may look like a temple of the Holy Ghost,
and like a servant of Christ's bought with a price, 1 Cor. vi. 17-20;
and have a clear evidence of his regeneration and justification, and
also that he may express his thankfulness to God for all his favours and
_Fifthly_, The soul should by faith lay hold on, and grip fast to the
ground of sanctification; that is to say, (1.) To what Christ hath
purchased for his people. (2.) To what as a public person he hath done
for them; and so by faith,
1. Challenge a right to, and lay hold on the promises of grace,
strength, victory, and thorough bearing, in their combating with
corruption within, and Satan and a wicked world without.
2. "Reckon themselves dead unto sin, through the death of Christ; and
alive unto God through his resurrection," Rom. vi. 4, 11. "And that the
old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,"
verse 6. "And that they are now not under the law, but under grace,"