Part 2 out of 2
that to my thinking was longest in his disease, and most helpless as
to his cure, was first healed; yea, he only was healed; for we read
that Christ healed him, but we read not then that he healed one more
there! John v. 1-10.
Wherefore, if thou wouldst soonest be served, put in thy name among
the very worst of sinners. Say, when thou art upon thy knees, Lord,
here is a Jerusalem sinner! a sinner of the biggest size! one whose
burden is of the greatest bulk and heaviest weight! one that cannot
stand long without sinking into hell, without thy supporting hand!
"Be not thou far from me, O Lord! O my strength, haste thou to help
me I say, put in thy name with Magdalen, with Manasseh, that thou
mayst fare as the Magdalen and the Manasseh sinners do. The man in
the gospel made the desperate condition of his child an argument with
Christ to haste his cure: "Sir, come down," saith he, "ere my child
die;" John iv. 49, and Christ regarded his haste, saying, "Go thy
way; thy son liveth;" ver. 50. Haste requires haste. David was for
speed; "Deliver me speedily;" "Hear me speedily;" "Answer me
speedily;" Psalm xxxi. 2; lxix. 17; cii. 2. But why speedily? I am
in "the net;" "I am in trouble;" "My days are consumed like smoke;"
Psalm xxxi. 4; lxix. 17; cii. 3. Deep calleth unto deep, necessity
calls for help; great necessity for present help.
Wherefore, I say, be ruled by me in this matter; feign not thyself
another man, if thou hast been a filthy sinner, but go in thy colours
to Jesus Christ, and put thyself among the most vile, and let him
alone to put thee among the children; Jer. iii. 19. Confess all that
thou knowest of thyself; I know thou wilt find it hard work to do
thus; especially if thy mind be legal; but do it, lest thou stay and
be deferred with the little sinners, until the great ones have had
their alms. What do you think David intended when he said, his
wounds stunk and were corrupted, but to hasten God to have mercy upon
him, and not to defer his cure? "Lord," says he, "I am troubled; I
am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long." "I am feeble
and sore broken, by reason of the disquietness of my heart;" Psalm
David knew what he did by all this; he knew that his making the worst
of his case, was the way to speedy help, and that a feigning and
dissembling the matter with God, was the next way to a demur as to
I have one thing more to offer for thy encouragement, who deemest
thyself one of the biggest sinners; and that is, thou art as it were
called by thy name, in the first place, to come in for mercy. Thou
man of Jerusalem, hearken to thy call; men do so in courts of
judicature, and presently cry out, Here, Sir; and then they shoulder
and crowd, and say, Pray give way, I am called into the court. Why,
this thy case, thou great, thou Jerusalem sinner; be of good cheer,
he calleth thee; Mark x. 46-49. Why sitttest thou still? arise: why
standest thou still? come man, thy call should give thee authority to
come. "Begin at Jerusalem," is thy call and authority to come;
wherefore up and shoulder it, man; say, Stand away, devil, Christ
calls me; stand away unbelief, Christ calls me; stand away all ye my
discouraging apprehensions, for my Saviour calls me to him to receive
of his mercy. Men will do thus, as I said, in courts below; and why
shouldst not thou approach thus to the court above? The Jerusalem
sinner is first in thought, first in commission, first in the record
of names; and therefore should give attendance with expectation, that
he is first to receive mercy of God.
Is not this an encouragement to the biggest sinners to make their
application to Christ for mercy? "Come unto me all ye that labour and
are heavy laden," doth also confirm this thing; that is, that the
biggest sinner, and he that has the biggest burden, is he who is
first invited. Christ pointeth over the heads of thousands, as he
sits on the throne of grace, directly to such a man; and says, Bring
in hither the maimed, the halt, and the blind; let the Jerusalem
sinner that stands there behind come to me. Wherefore, since Christ
says,. Come, to thee, let thee angels make a lane, and let all men
give place, that the Jerusalem sinner may come to Jesus Christ for
Fourthly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place,
to the biggest sinners? Then come thou profane wretch, and let me a
little enter into an argument with thee. Why wilt thou not come to
Jesus Christ, since thou art a Jerusalem sinner? How canst thou find
in thy heart to set thyself against grace, against such grace as
offereth mercy to thee? What spirit possesseth thee, and holds thee
back from a sincere closure with thy Saviour? Behold God groaningly
complains of thee, saying, "But Israel would none of me." "When I
called, none did answer;" Psl. lxxxi. 11; Isa. lxvi. 4.
Shall God enter this complaint against thee? Why dost thou put him
off? Why dost thou stop thine ear? Canst thou defend thyself? When
thou art called to an account for thy neglects of so great salvation,
what canst thou answer? or doest thou think thou shalt escape the
judgment? Heb. ii. 3.
No more such Christs! There will be no more such Christs, sinner!
Oh, put not the day, the day of grace, away from thee! if it be once
gone, it will never come again, sinner.
But what is it that has got thy heart, and that keeps it from thy
Saviour? "Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among
the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?" Psl. lxxxix.
6. Hast thou, thinkest thou, found anything so good as Jesus Christ?
Is there any among thy sins, thy companions, and foolish delights,
that like Christ can help thee in the day of thy distress? Behold,
the greatness of thy sins cannot hinder; let not the stubbornness of
thy heart hinder thee, sinner.
Object. But I am ashamed.
Answ. Oh! Do not be ashamed to be saved, sinner.
Object. But my old companions will mock me.
Answ. Oh! Do not be mocked out of eternal life, sinner.
Thy stubbornness affects, afflicts the heart of thy Saviour. Carest
thou not for this? Of old he beheld the city, and wept over it.
Canst thou hear this, and not be concerned? Luke xix. 41, 42. Shall
Christ weep to see thy soul going on to destruction, and wilt thou
sport thyself in that way? Yea, shall Christ, that can be eternally
happy without thee, be more afflicted at the thoughts of the loss of
thy soul, than thyself, who art certainly eternally miserable if thou
neglectest to come to him.
Those things that keep thee and thy Saviour, on thy part asunder, are
but bubbles; the least prick of an affliction will let out, as to
thee, what now thou thinkest is worth the venture of heaven to enjoy.
Hast thou not reason? Canst thou not so much as once soberly think
of thy dying hour, or of whither thy sinful life will drive thee
then? Hast thou no conscience? or having one, is it rocked so fast
asleep by sin, or made so weary with an unsuccessful calling upon
thee, that it is laid down, and cares for thee no more? Poor man!
thy state is to be lamented. Hast no judgment? Art not able to
conclude, that to be saved is better than to burn in hell? and that
eternal life, with God's favour, is better than a temporal life in
God's displeasure? Hast no affection but what is brutish? what, none
at all? no affection for the God that made thee? what! none for his
loving Son that has shewed his love, and died for thee? Is not
heaven worth thy affection? O poor man! which is strongest thinkest
thou, God or thee? If thou art not able to overcome him, thou art a
fool for standing out against him; Matt. v. 25, 26. "It is a fearful
thing to fall into the hands of the living God." He will gripe hard;
his fist is stronger than a lion's paw; take heed of him, he will be
angry if you despise his Son; and will you stand guilty in your
trespasses, when he offereth you his grace and favour? Exod. xxxiv.
6, 7; Heb. x. 29-31.
Now we come to the text, "Beginning at Jerusalem." This text, though
it be now one of the brightest stars that shineth in the Bible,
because there is in it, as full, if not the fullest offer of grace
that can be imagined, to the sons of men; yet to them that shall
perish from under this word, even this text will be to such, one of
the hottest coals in hell.
This text, therefore, will save thee or sink thee: there is no
shifting of it: if it saves thee, it will set thee high; if it sinks
thee, it will set thee low.
But, I say, why so unconcerned? Hast no soul? or dost think thou
mayst lose thy soul, and save thyself? Is it not pity, had it
otherwise been the will of God, that ever thou wast made a man, for
that thou settest so little by thy soul?
Sinner, take the invitation; thou art called upon to come to Christ:
nor art thou called upon but by order from the Son of God though thou
shouldst happen to come of the biggest sinners; for he has bid us
offer mercy, as to all the world in general, so, in the first place,
to the sinners of Jerusalem, or to the biggest sinners.
Fifthly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in thee first place,
to the biggest sinners? then this shews how unreasonable a thing it
is for men to despair of mercy: for those that presume, I shall say
something to them afterward.
I now speak to them that despair.
There are four sorts of despair. There is the despair of devils;
there is the despair of souls in hell; there is the despair that is
grounded upon men's deficiency; and there is the despair that they
are perplexed with that are willing to be saved, but are too strongly
borne down with the burthen of their sins.
The despair of devils, the damned's despair, and that despair that a
man has of attaining of life because of his own deficiency, are all
unreasonable. Why should not devils and damned souls despair? yea,
why should not man despair of getting to heaven by his own abilities?
I therefore am concerned only with the fourth sort of despair, to
wit, with the despair of those that would be saved, but are too
strongly borne down with the burden of their sins.
I say, therefore, to thee that art thus, And why despair? Thy
despair, if it were reasonable, should flow from thee, because found
in the land that is beyond the grave, or because thou certainly
knowest that Christ will not, or cannot save thee.
But for the first, thou art yet in the land of the living; and for
the second, thou hast ground to believe the quite contrary; Christ is
able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him; and if he
were not willing, he would not have commanded that mercy, in the
first place, should be offered to the biggest sinners. Besides, he
hath said, "And let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let
him take the water of life freely;" that is, with all my heart. What
ground now is here for despair? If thou sayst, The number and burden
of my sins; I answer, Nay; that is rather a ground for faith:
because such an one, above all others, is invited by Christ to come
unto him, yea, promised rest and forgiveness if they come; Matt. xi.
28. What ground then to despair? Verily none at all. Thy despair
then is a thing unreasonable and without footing in the word.
But I have no experience of God's love; God hath given me no comfort,
or ground of hope, though I have waited upon him for it many a day.
Thou hast experience of God's love, for that he has opened thine eyes
to see thy sins: and for that he has given thee desires to be saved
by Jesus Christ. For by thy sense of sin thou art made to see thy
poverty of spirit, and that has laid thee under a sure ground to hope
that heaven shall be thine hereafter.
Also thy desires to be saved by Christ, has put thee under another
promise, so there is two to hold thee up in them, though thy present
burden be never so heavy, Matt. v. 3, 6. As for what thou sayst, as
to God's silence to thee, perhaps he has spoken to thee once or twice
already, but thou hast not perceived it; Job xxxiii. 14, 15.
However, thou hast Christ crucified, set forth before thine eyes in
the Bible, and an invitation to come unto him, though thou be a
Jerusalem sinner, though thou be the biggest sinner; and so no ground
to despair. What, if God will be silent to thee, is that ground of
despair? Not at all, so long as there is a promise in the Bible that
God will in no wise cast away the coming sinner, and so long as he
invites the Jerusalem sinner to come unto him John vi. 37.
Build not therefore despair upon these things; they are no sufficient
foundations for it, such plenty of promises being in the Bible, and
such a discovery of his mercy to great sinners of old; especially
since we have withal a clause in the commission given to ministers to
preach, that they should begin with the Jerusalem sinners in their
offering of mercy to the world.
Besides, God says, They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; but perhaps it
may be long first. "I waited long," saith David, "and did seek the
Lord;" and at length his cry was heard: wherefore he bids his soul
wait on God, and says, For it is good so to do before thy saints;
Psalm xl. 1; lxii. 5; lii. 9.
And what if thou waitest upon God all thy days? Is it below thee?
And what if God will cross his book, and blot out the hand-writing
that is against thee, and not let thee know it as yet? Is it fit to
say unto God, Thou art hard-hearted? Despair not; thou hast no
ground to despair, so long as thou livest in this world. It is a sin
to begin to despair before one sets his foot over the threshold of
hell-gates. For them that are there, let them despair and spare not;
but as for thee, thou hast no ground to do it. What! despair of
bread in a land that is full of corn! despair of mercy when our God
is full of mercy! despair of mercy, when God goes about by his
ministers, beseeching of sinners to be reconciled unto him! 2 Cor.
Thou scrupulous fool, where canst thou find that God was ever false
to his promise, or that he ever deceived the soul that ventured
itself upon him? He often calls upon sinners to trust him, though
they walk in darkness, and have no light; Isa. 1. 10.
They have his promise and oath for their salvation, that flee for
refuge to the hope set before them; Heb. vi. 17, 18.
Despair! when we have a God of mercy, and a redeeming Christ alive!
For shame, forbear: let them despair that dwell where there is no
God, and that are confined to those chambers of death which can be
reached by no redemption.
A living man despair when he is chid for murmuring and complaining!
Lam. iii. 39. Oh! so long as we are where promises swarm, where
mercy is proclaimed, where grace reigns, and where Jerusalem sinners
are privileged with the first offer of mercy, it is a base thing to
Despair undervalues the promise, undervalues the invitation,
undervalues the proffer of grace. Despair undervalues the ability of
God the Father, and the redeeming blood of Christ his Son. Oh
Despair makes man God's judge; it is a controller of the promise, a
contradicter of Christ in his large offers of mercy: and one that
undertakes to make unbelief the great manager of our reason and
judgment, in determining about what God can and will do for sinners.
Despair! It is the devil's fellow, the devil's master; yea, the
chains with which he is captivated and held under darkness for ever:
and to give way thereto in a land, in a state and time that flows
with milk and honey, is an uncomely thing.
I would say to my soul, O my soul! this is not the place of despair;
this is not the time to despair in: as long as mine eyes can find a
promise in the Bible, as long as there is the least mention of grace,
as long as there is a moment left me of breath or life in this world;
so long will I wait or look for mercy, so long will I fight against
unbelief and despair.
This is the way to honour God and Christ; this is the way to set the
crown on the promise; this is the way to welcome the invitation and
inviter; and this is the way to thrust thyself under the shelter and
protection of the word of grace. Never despair so long as our text
is alive, for that doth sound it out,--that mercy by Christ is
offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinner.
Despair is an unprofitable thing; it will make a man weary of waiting
upon God; 2 Kings vi. 33; it will make a man forsake God, and seek
his heaven in the good things of this world; Gen. iv. 13-18. It will
make a man his own tormentor, and flounce and fling like a wild bull
in a net; Isa. ii. 20.
Despair! it drives a man to the study of his own ruin, and brings him
at last to be his own executioner; 2 Sam. xvii. 23; Matt. xxvii. 3-5.
Besides, I am persuaded also, that despair is the cause that there
are so many that would fain be Atheists in the world: For because
they have entertained a conceit that God will never be merciful to
them; therefore they labour to persuade themselves that there is no
God at all, as if their misbelief would kill God, or cause him to
cease to be. A poor shift for an immortal soul, for a soul who
liketh not to retain God in its knowledge! If this be the best that
despair can do, let it go, man, and betake thyself to faith, to
prayer, to wait for God, and to hope, in despite of ten thousand
doubts. And for thy encouragement, take yet (as an addition to what
has already been said) the following scripture; "The Lord taketh
pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy;"
Psal. cxlvii. 11.
Whence note, They fear not God, that hope not in his mercy: also God
is angry with them that hope not in his mercy: for he only taketh
pleasure in them that hope. He that believeth, or hath received his
testimony, "hath set to his seal that God is true," John iii. 33; but
he that receiveth it not hath made him a liar, and that is a very
unworthy thing; 1 John v. 10, 11. "Let the wicked forsake his ways,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord,
and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly
multiply pardons." Perhaps thou art weary of thy ways, but art not
weary of thy thoughts, of thy unbelieving and despairing thoughts;
now, God also would have thee cast away these thoughts, as such which
he deserveth not at thy hands; for he will have mercy upon thee, and
he will abundantly pardon.
"O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken!" Luke xxiv. 25. Mark you here, slowness to believe is a
piece of folly. Ay! but sayst thou, I do believe some, and I believe
what can make against me. Ay, but sinner, Christ Jesus here calls
thee fool for not believing all. Believe all, and despair if thou
canst. He that believes all, believes that text that saith, Christ
would have mercy preached first to the Jerusalem sinners. He that
believeth all, believeth all the promises and consolations of the
word; and the promises and consolations of the word weigh heavier
than do all the curses and threatenings of the law; and mercy
rejoiceth against judgment. Wherefore believe all, and mercy will to
thy conscience weigh judgment down, and so minister comfort to thy
soul. The Lord take the yoke from off thy jaws, since he has set
meat before thee; Hos. xi. 4; and help thee to remember that he is
pleased in the first place to offer mercy to the biggest sinners.
Sixthly, Since Jesus Christ would have mercy offered in the first
place to the biggest sinners, let souls see that they lay right hold
thereof, lest they, notwithstanding, indeed come short thereof.
Faith only knows how to deal with mercy; wherefore put not in the
place thereof presumption. I have observed, that as there are herbs
and flowers in our gardens, so there are their counterfeits in the
field; only they are distinguished from the other by the name of wild
ones. Why, there is faith, and wild faith; and wild faith is this
presumption. I call it wild faith, because God never placed it in
his garden, his church; it is only to be found in the field, the
world. I also call it wild faith, because it only grows up and is
nourished where other wild notions abound. Wherefore take heed of
this, and all may be well; for this presumuptuousness is a very
heinous thing in the eyes of God: "The soul," saith he, "that doeth
ought presumptuously (whether he be born in the land, or a stranger),
the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from
among his people;" Numb. xv. 30.
The thoughts of this made David tremble, and pray that God would hold
him back from presumptuous sins, and not suffer them to have dominion
over him; Psal. xix. 13.
Now this presumption, then, puts itself in the place of faith, when
it tampereth with the promise for life, while the soul is a stranger
to repentance. Wherefore you have in the text, to prevent doing
thus, both repentance and remission of sins to be offered to
Jerusalem; not remission without repentance: for all that repent not
shall perish, let them presume on grace and the promise while they
will; Luke xiii. 1-3.
Presumption, then, is that which severeth faith and repentance,
concluding, that the soul shall be saved by grace, though the man was
never made sorry for his sins, nor the love of the heart turned
therefrom. This is to be self-willed, as Peter has it; and this is a
despising the word of the Lord, for that has put repentance and faith
together; Mark i. 15. And "because he hath despised the word of the
Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut
off: his iniquity shall be upon him." Numb. xv. 31.
Let such therefore look to it, who yet are, and abide in their sins;
for such, if they hope, as they are, to be saved, presume upon the
grace of God. Wherefore presumption and not hearkening to God's word
are put together; Deut. xvii. 12.
Again, Then men presume when they are resolved to abide in their
sins, and yet expect to be saved by God's grace through Christ. This
is as much as to say, God liketh sin as well as I do, and careth not
how men live, if so be they lean upon his Son. Of this sort are they
that build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity; that
judge for reward, and teach for hire, and divine for money, and lean
upon the Lord; Mic. iii. 10, 11. This is doing things with an high
hand against the Lord our God, and a taking him, as it were, at the
catch. This is, as we say among men, to seek to put a trick upon
God, as if he had not sufficiently fortified his proposals of grace
by his holy word, against all such kind of fools as these. But look
Such will be found at the day of God, not among that great company of
Jerusalem sinners that shall be saved by grace, but among those that
have been the great abusers of the grace of God in the world. Those
that say, Let us sin that grace may abound, and let us do evil that
good may come, their damnation is just. And if so, they are a great
way off of that salvation that is by Jesus Christ presented to the
I have therefore these things to propound to that Jerusalem sinner
that would know, if he may be so bold as to venture himself upon this
First, Dost thou see thy sins?
Secondly, Art thou weary of them?
Thirdly, Wouldst thou with all thy heart be saved by Jesus Christ? I
dare say no less, I dare say no more. But if it be truly thus with
thee, how great soever thy sins have been, how bad soever thou
feelest thy heart, how far soever thou art from thinking that God has
mercy for these: thou art the man, the Jerusalem sinner, that the
Word of God has conquered, and to whom it offereth free remission of
sins, by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
When the jailor cried out, "Sirs, What must I do to be saved?" The
answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be
saved." He that sees his sins aright, is brought to his wit's end by
them; and he that is so, is willing to part from them, and to be
saved by the grace of God.
If this be thy case, fear not, give no way to despair; thou presumest
not, if thou believest to life everlasting in Jesus Christ: yea,
Christ is prepared for such as thou art.
Therefore take good courage and believe. The design of Satan is to
tell the presumptuous, that their presuming on mercy is good; but to
persuade the believer, that his believing is impudent bold dealing
with God. I never heard a presumptuous man in my life say that he
was afraid that he presumed; but I have heard many an honest humble
soul say, that they have been afraid that their faith has been
presumption. Why should Satan molest those whose ways he knows will
bring them to him? And who can think that he should be quiet when
men take the right course to escape his hellish snares? This,
therefore, is the reason why the truly humbled is opposed, while the
presumptuous goes on by wind and tide. The truly humble Satan hates,
but he laughs to see the foolery of the other.
Does thy hand and heart tremble? Upon thee the promise smiles. "To
this man will I look," says God, "even to him that is poor, and of a
contrite spirit, and trembles at my word;" Isa. lxvi. 2.
What, therefore, I have said of presumption concerns not the humble
in spirit at all. I therefore am for gathering up the stones, and
for taking the stumblingblocks out of the way of God's people: and
forewarning of them that lay the stumblingblock of their iniquity
before their faces, and that are for presuming upon God's mercy; and
let them look to themselves; Ezek. xiv. 6-8.
Also our text stands firm as ever it did, and our observation is
still of force, that Jesus Christ would have mercy offered in the
first place to the biggest sinners. So then let none despair, let
none presume; let none despair that are sorry for their sins, and
would be saved by Jesus Christ; let none presume that abide in the
liking of their sins, though they seem to know the exceeding grace of
Christ; for though the door stands wide open for the reception of the
penitent, yet it is fast enough barred and bolted against the
presumptuous sinner. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever
a man sows, that he shall reap. It cannot be that God should be
wheedled out of his mercy, or prevailed upon by lips of
dissimulation; he knows them that trust in him, and that sincerely
come to him by Christ for mercy; Nahum i. 7.
It is then not the abundance of sins committed, but the not coming
heartily to God by Christ for mercy, that shuts men out of doors.
And though their not coming heartily may be said to be but a sin, yet
it is such a sin as causeth that all thy other sins abide upon thee
God complains of this. "They have not cried unto me with their
heart; they turned, but not to the most High. They turned
feignedly;" Jer. iii. 10; Hos. vii. 14, 16.
Thus doing, his soul hates; but the penitent, humble, brokenhearted
sinner, be his transgressions red as scarlet, red like crimson, in
number as the sand; though his transgressions cry to heaven against
him for vengeance, and seem there to cry louder than do his prayers,
or tears, or groans for mercy, yet he is safe. To this man God will
look; Isa. i. 18; chap lxvi. 2.
Seventhly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place
to the biggest sinners? Then here is ground for those that, as to
practice, have not been such, to come to him for mercy.
Although there is no sin little of itself; because it is a
contradiction of the nature and majesty of God; yet we must admit of
divers numbers, and also of aggravations. Two sins are not so many
as three; nor are three that are done in ignorance so big as one that
is done against light, against knowledge and conscience. Also there
is the child in sin, and a man in sin that has his hairs gray, and
his skin wrinkled for very age. And we must put a difference betwixt
these sinners also. For can it be that a child of seven, or ten, or
sixteen years old, should be such a sinner--a sinner so vile in the
eye of the law as he is who has walked according to the course of
this world, forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years? Now the youth,
this stripling, though he is a sinner, is but a little sinner, when
compared with such.
Now, I say, if there be room for the first sort, for those of the
biggest size, certainly there is room for the lesser size? If there
be a door wide enough for a giant to go in at, there is certainly
room for a dwarf. If Christ Jesus has grace enough to save great
sinners, he has surely grace enough to save little ones. If he can
forgive five hundred pence, for certain he can forgive fifty; Luke
vii. 41, 42.
But you said before, that the little sinners must stand by until the
great ones have received their grace, and that is discouraging!
I answer, there are two sorts of little sinners, such as are so, and
such as feign themselves so. They are those that feign themselves
so, that I intended there, and not those that are indeed
comparatively so. Such as feign themselves so may wait long enough
before they obtain forgiveness.
But again, a sinner may be comparatively a little sinner, and
sensibly a great one. There are then two sorts of greatness in sin;
greatness by reason of number; greatness by reason of thoroughness of
conviction of the horrible nature of sin. In this last sense, he
that has but one sin, if such a one could be found, may in his own
eyes find himself the biggest sinner in the world. Let this man or
this child therefore put himself among the great sinners, and plead
with God as great sinners do, and expect to be saved with the great
sinners, and as soon and as heartily as they.
Yea, a little sinner, that comparatively is truly so, if he shall
graciously give way to conviction, and shall in God's light
diligently weigh the horrible nature of his own sins, may yet sooner
obtain forgiveness for them at the hands of the heavenly Father, than
he that has ten times his sins, and so cause to cry ten times harder
to God for mercy.
For the grievousness of the cry is a great thing with God; for if he
will hear the widow, if she cries at all, how much more if she cries
most grievously? Exod. xxii. 22, 23.
It is not the number, but the true sense of the abominable nature of
sin, that makes the cry for pardon lamentable. He, as I said, that
has many sins, may not cry so loud in the ears of God as he that has
far fewer; he, in our present sense, that is in his own eyes the
biggest sinner, is he that soonest findeth mercy.
The offer then is to the biggest sinner; to the biggest sinner first,
and the mercy is first obtained by him that first confesseth himself
to be such an one.
There are men that strive at the throne of grace for mercy, by
pleading the greatness of their necessity. Now their plea, as to the
prevalency of it, lieth not in the counting up of the number, but in
the sense of the greatness of their sins, and in the vehemency of
their cry for pardon. And it is observable, that though the
birthright was Ruben's, and, for his foolishness, given to the sons
of Joseph, yet Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came
the Messias; 1 Chron. v. 1, 2.
There is a heavenly subtilty to be managed in this matter. "Thy
brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing." The
blessing belonged to Esau, but Jacob by his diligence made it his
own; Gen. xxvii. 33. The offer is to the biggest sinner, to the
biggest sinner first; but if he forbear to cry, the sinner that is a
sinner less by far than he, both as to number and the nature of
transgression, may get the blessing first, if he shall have grace to
bestir himself well; for the loudest cry is heard furthest, and the
most lamentable pierces soonest.
I therefore urge this head, not because I would have little sinners
go and tell God that they are little sinners, thereby to think to
obtain mercy; for, verily, so they are never like to have it: for
such words declare, that such a one hath no true sense at all of the
nature of his sins.
Sin, as I said, in the nature of it, is horrible, though it be but
one single sin as to act; yea, though it be but a sinful thought; and
so worthily calls for the damnation of the soul.
The comparison, then, of little and great sinners, is to go for good
sense among men. But to plead the fewness of thy sins, or the
comparative harmlessness of their quantity before God, argueth no
sound knowledge of the nature of thy sin, and so no true sense of the
nature or need of mercy.
Little sinner, when therefore thou goest to God, though thou knowest
in thy conscience that thou, as to acts, art no thief, no murderer,
no whore, no liar, no false swearer, or the like, and in reason must
needs understand that thus thou art not so profanely vile as others;
yet when thou goest to God for mercy, know no man's sins but thine
own, make mention of no man's sins but thine own. Also labour not to
lessen thy own, but magnify and greaten them by all just
circumstances, and be as if there was never a sinner in the world but
thyself. Also cry out, as if thou wast the only undone man; and that
is the way to obtain God's mercy.
It is one of the comeliest sights in the world to see a little sinner
commenting upon the greatness of his sins, multiplying and
multiplying them to himself, till he makes them in his own eyes
bigger and higher than he seeth any other man's sins to be in the
world; and as base a thing it is to see a man do otherwise, and as
basely will come on it; Luke xviii. 10-14.
As, therefore, I said to the great sinner before, let him take heed
lest he presume; I say now to the little sinner, let him take heed
that he do not dissemble: for there is as great an aptness in the
little sinner to dissemble, as there is in the great one. "He that
hideth his sins shall not prosper," be he a sinner little or great;
Prov. xxviii. 13.
Eighthly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place,
to the biggest sinners? Then this shews the true cause why Satan
makes such head as he doth against him.
The Father and the Holy Spirit are well spoken of by all deluders and
deceived persons; Christ only is the rock of offence. "Behold I lay
in Zion a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence;" Rom. ix. 33. Not
that Satan careth for the Father or the Spirit more than he careth
for the Son, but he can let men alone with their notions of the
Father and the Spirit, for he knows they shall never enjoy the Father
nor the Spirit, if indeed they receive not the merits of the Son.
"He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life," however they may boast themselves of the Father and
the Spirit; 1 John v. 12. Again, "Whosoever transgresseth, and
abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth
in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and the Son;" 2 John
Christ, and Christ only, is he that can make us capable to enjoy God
with life and joy to all eternity. Hence he calls himself the way to
the Father, the true and living way; John xiv. 6; Heb. x. 19, 20; for
we cannot come to the Father but by him. Satan knows this, therefore
he hates him. Deluded persons are ignorant of this, and, therefore,
they are so led up and down by Satan by the nose as they are.
There are many things by which Satan has taken occasion to greaten
his rage against Jesus Christ.
As, first, his love to man, and then the many expressions of that
love. He hath taken man's nature upon him; he hath in that nature
fulfilled the law to bring in righteousness for man; and hath spilt
his blood for the reconciling of men to God; he hath broke the neck
of death, put away sin, destroyed the works of the devil, and got
into his own hands the keys of death: and all these are heinous
things to Satan. He cannot abide Christ for this. Besides, he hath
eternal life in himself; and that to bestow upon us; and we in all
likelihood are to possess the very places from which the Satans by
transgression fell, if not places more glorious. Wherefore he must
needs be angry. And is it not a vexatious thing to him, that we
should be admitted to the throne of grace by Christ, while he stands
bound over in chains of darkness, to answer for his rebellions
against God and his Son, at the terrible day of judgment. Yea, we
poor dust and ashes must become his judges, and triumph over him for
ever: and all this long of Jesus Christ; for he is the meritorious
cause of all this.
Now though Satan seeks to be revenged for this, yet he knows it is in
vain to attack the person of Christ; he has overcome him: therefore
he tampers with a company of silly men, that he may vilify him by
them. And they, bold fools as they are, will not spare to spit in
his face. They will rail at his person, and deny the very being of
it; they will rail at his blood, and deny the merit and worth of it.
They will deny the very end why he accomplished the law, and by
jiggs, and tricks, and quirks, which he helpeth them to, they set up
fond names and images in his place, and give the glory of a Saviour
to them. Thus Satan worketh under the name of Christ; and his
ministers under the name of the ministers of righteousness.
And by his wiles and stratagems he undoes a world of men; but there
is a seed, and they shall serve him, and it shall be counted to the
Lord for a generation. These shall see their sins, and that Christ
is the way to happiness. These shall venture themselves, both body
and soul, upon his worthiness.
All this Satan knows, and therefore his rage is kindled the more.
Wherefore, according to his ability and allowance, he assaulteth,
tempteth, abuseth, and stirs up what he can to be hurtful to these
poor people, that he may, while his time shall last, make it as hard
and difficult for them to go to eternal glory as he can. Oftentimes
he abuses them with wrong apprehensions of God, and with wrong
apprehensions of Christ. He also casts them into the mire, to the
reproach of religion, the shame of their brethren, the derision of
the world, and dishonour of God.
He holds our hands while the world buffets us; he puts bear-skins
upon us, and then sets the dogs at us. He bedaubeth us with his own
foam, and then tempts us to believe that that bedaubing comes from
Oh! the rage and the roaring of this lion, and the hatred that he
manifests against the Lord Jesus, and against them that are purchased
with his blood! But yet, in the midst of all this, the Lord Jesus
sends forth his herald to proclaim in the nations his love to the
world, and to invite them to come in to him for life. Yea, his
invitation is so large, that it offereth his mercy in the first place
to the biggest sinners of every age, which augments the devil's rage
Wherefore, as I said before, fret he, fume he, the Lord Jesus will
divide the spoil with this great one; yea, he shall divide the spoil
with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and
he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors; Isa. liii. 12.
Ninthly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to
the biggest sinners? Let the tempted harp upon this string for their
help and consolation. The tempted wherever he dwells, always thinks
himself the biggest sinner, one most unworthy of eternal life.
This is Satan's master-argument: thou art a horrible sinner, a
hypocrite, one that has a profane heart, and one that is an utter
stranger to a work of grace. I say this is his maul, his club, his
master-piece; he doth with this as some do with their most enchanting
songs, sings them everywhere. I believe there are but few saints in
the world that have not had this temptation sounding in their ears.
But were they but aware, Satan by all this does but drive them to the
gap out at which they should go, and so escape his roaring.
Saith he, thou art a great sinner, a horrible sinner, a profane
hearted wretch, one that cannot be matched for a vile one in the
And all this while Christ says to his ministers, offer mercy, in the
first place, to the biggest sinners. So that this temptation drives
thee directly into the arms of Jesus Christ.
Were therefore the tempted but aware, he might say, Ay, Satan, so I
am, I am a sinner of the biggest size, and therefore have most need
of Jesus Christ; yea, because I am such a wretch, therefore Jesus
Christ calls me; yea, he calls me first: the first proffer of the
Gospel is to be made to the Jerusalem sinner: I am he, wherefore
stand back Satan; make a lane, my right is first to come to Jesus
This now will be like for like. This would foil the devil: this
would make him say, I must not deal with this man thus; for then I
put a sword into his hand to cut off my head.
And this is the meaning of Peter, when he saith, "Resist him stedfast
in the faith;" 1 Pet. v. 9. And of Paul, when he saith, "Take the
shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked;" Eph. vi. 16.
Wherefore is it said, "Begin at Jerusalem," if the Jerusalem sinner
is not to have the benefit of it? And if I am to have the benefit of
it, let me call it to mind when Satan haunts me with the continual
remembrance of my sins, of my Jerusalem sins. Satan and my
conscience say I am the biggest sinner,--Christ offereth mercy, in
the first place, to the biggest sinners. Nor is the manner of the
offer other but such as suiteth with my mind. I am sorry for my sin;
yea, sorry at my heart that ever sinful thought did enter, or find
the least entertainment in my wicked mind; and might I obtain my
wish, I would never more that my heart should be a place for ought
but the grace, and spirit, and faith of the Lord Jesus.
I speak not this to lessen my wickedness; I would not for all the
world but be placed by mine own conscience in the very front of the
biggest sinners, that I might be one of the first that are beckoned
by the gracious hand of Jesus the Saviour, to come to him for mercy.
Well, sinner, thou now speakest like a Christian, but say thus in a
strong spirit in the hour of temptation, and then thou wilt, to thy
commendation and comfort, quit thyself well.
This improving of Christ in dark hours, is the life, though the
hardest part of our Christianity. We should neither stop at
darkness, nor at the raging of our lusts, but go on in a way of
venturing and casting the whole of our affairs for the next world at
the foot of Jesus Christ. This is the way to make the darkness
light, and also to allay the raging of our corruption.
The first time the Passover was eaten, was in the night; and when
Israel took courage to go forward, though the sea stood in their way
like a devouring gulf, and the host of the Egyptians follow them at
the heels; yet the sea gives place, and their enemies were as still
as a stone till they were gone over; Exod. xii. 8; chap. xiv. 13, 14,
21, 22; chap. xv. 16.
There is nothing like faith to help at a pinch; faith dissolves
doubts as the sun drives away the mists. And that you may not be put
out, know your time, as I said, of believing it always. There are
times when some graces may be out of use, but there is no time
wherein faith can be said to be so. Wherefore faith must be always
Faith is the eye, is the mouth, is the hand, and one of these is of
use all day long. Faith is to see, to receive, to work, or to eat;
and a Christian should be seeing or receiving, or working, or feeding
all day long. Let it rain, let it blow, let it thunder, let it
lighten, a Christian must still believe: "At what time," said thee
good man, "I am afraid, I will trust in thee;" Psal. vi. 2, 3.
Nor can we have a better encouragement to do this, than is by the
text set before us, even an open heart for a Jerusalem sinner. And
if for a Jerusalem sinner to come, then for such an one when come.
If for such a one to be saved, then for such a one that is saved. If
for such a one to be pardoned his great transgressions, then for such
a one who is pardoned these, to come daily to Jesus Christ, too, to
be cleansed and set free from his common infirmities, and from the
iniquities of his holy things.
Therefore let the poor sinner that would be saved labour for skill to
make the best improvement of the grace of Christ to help him against
the temptations of the devil and his sins.
Tenthly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to
the biggest sinners? Let those men consider this, that (have, or)
may in a day of trial have spoken or done what their profession or
conscience told them they should not, and that have the guilt and
burden thereof upon their consciences.
Whether a thing be wrong or right, guilt may pursue him that doth
contrary to his conscience. But suppose a man should deny his God,
or his Christ, or relinquish a good profession, and be under the real
guilt thereof; shall he therefore conclude he is gone for ever? Let
him come again with Peter's tears, and no doubt he shall obtain
Peter's forgiveness. For the text includes the biggest sinners.
And it is observable, that before this clause was put into this
commission, Peter was pardoned his horrible revolt from his Master.
He that revolteth in the day of trial, if he is not shot quite dead
upon the place, but is sensible of his wound, and calls out for a
surgeon, shall find his Lord at hand to pour wine and oil into his
wounds, that he may again be healed, and to encourage him to think
that there may be mercy for him: besides what we find recorded of
Peter, you read in the Acts, some were, through the violence of their
trials, compelled to blaspheme, and yet are called saints; Acts xxvi.
Hence you have a promise or two that speak concerning such kind of
men, to encourage us to think that at least some of them shall come
back to the Lord their God. "Shall they fall," saith he, "and not
arise? Shall they turn away, and not return?" Jer. viii. 4. "And in
that day I will assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that
was driven out, and her that I have afflicted. And I will make her
that halteth a remnant, and her that was cast off a strong nation;
and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion for ever." What we
are to understand by her that halteth, is best expressed by the
Prophet Elijah; Mic. iv. 6, 7; Zeph. iii. 19; 1 Kings xviii. 21.
I will conclude, then, that for them that have halted. or may halt,
the Lord has mercy in the bank, and is willing to accept them if they
return to him again.
Perhaps they may never be after that of any great esteem in the house
of God, but if the Lord will admit them to favour and forgiveness: O
exceeding and undeserved mercy! See Ezekiel xliv. 10-14.
Thou, then, that mayst be the man, remember this, that there is mercy
also for thee. Return therefore to God, and to his Son, who hath yet
in store for thee, and who will do thee good.
But perhaps thou wilt say, he doth not save all revolters, and,
therefore, perhaps not me.
Answr. Art thou returning to God? If thou art returning, thou art
the man; "Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your
backslidings;" Jer. iii. 22.
Some, as I said, that revolt, are shot dead upon the place, and for
them, who can help them? But for them that cry out of their wounds,
it is a sign they are yet alive, and if they use the means in time,
doubtless they may be healed.
Christ Jesus has bags of mercy that were never yet broken up or
unsealed. Hence it is said, he has goodness laid up; things reserved
in heaven for his. And if he breaks up one of these bags, who can
tell what he can do!
Hence his love is said to be such as passeth knowledge, and that his
riches are unsearchable. He has, no body knows what; for no body
knows whom: he has by him in store for such as seem in the view of
all men to be gone beyond recovery. For this the text is plain.
What man or angel could have thought that the Jerusalem sinners had
been yet on this side of an impossibility of enjoying life and mercy?
Hadst thou seen their actions, and what horrible things they did to
the Son of God; yea, how stoutly they backed what they did with
resolves and endeavours to persevere, when they had killed his
person, against his name and doctrine; and that there was not found
among them all that while, as we read of, the least remorse or regret
for these their doings; couldst thou have imagined that mercy would
ever have took hold of them, at least so soon! Nay, that they
should, of all the world, be counted those only meet to have it
offered to them in the very first place! For so my text commands,
saying, "Preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem."
I tell you the thing is a wonder, and must for ever stand for a
wonder among the sons of men. It stands also for an everlasting
invitation and allurement to the biggest sinners to come to Christ
Now since, in the opinion of all men, the revolter is such a one; if
he has, as I said before, any life in him, let him take encouragement
to come again, that he may live by Christ.
Eleventhly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place
to the biggest sinners? Then let God's ministers tell them so.
There is an incidence in us, I know not how it doth come about, when
we are converted, to contemn them that are left behind. Poor fools
as we are, we forget that we ourselves were so; Tit. iii. 2, 3.
But would it not become us better, since we have tasted that the Lord
is gracious, to carry it towards them so, that we may give them
convincing ground to believe, that we have found that mercy which
also sets open the door for them to come and partake with us.
Ministers, I say, should do thus, both by their doctrine, and in all
Austerity doth not become us, neither in doctrine nor in
conversation. We ourselves live by grace; let us give as we receive,
and labour to persuade our fellow-sinners which God has left behind
us, to follow after, that they may partake with us of grace. We are
saved by grace, let us live like them that are gracious. Let all our
things (to the world) be done in charity towards them; pity them,
pray for them, be familiar with them for their good. Let us lay
aside our foolish, worldly, carnal grandeur; let us not walk the
streets, and have such behaviours as signify we are scarce for
touching of the poor ones that are left behind, no not with a pair of
tongs. It becomes us not thus to do.
Remember your Lord, he was familiar with publicans and sinners to a
proverb; "Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of
publicans and sinners;" Matt. xi. 19. The first part, concerning his
gluttonous eating and drinking, to be sure, was an horrible slander;
but for the other, nothing was ever spoke truer of him by the world.
Now, why should we lay hands cross on this text: that is, choose
good victuals, and love the sweet wine better than the salvation of
the poor publican? Why not familiar with sinners, provided we hate
their spots and blemishes, and seek that they may be healed of them?
Why not fellowly with our carnal neighbours? If we do take occasion
to do so, that we may drop, and be yet distilling some good doctrine
upon their souls? Why not go to the poor man's house, and give him a
penny, and a Scripture to think upon? Why not send for the poor to
fetch away at least the fragments of thy table, that the bowels of
thy fellow-sinner may be refreshed as well as thine?
Ministers should be exemplary; but I am an inferior man, and must
take heed of too much meddling. But might I, I would meddle with
them, with their wives, and with their children too. I mean not this
of all, but of them that deserve it, though I may not name them.
But, I say, let ministers follow the steps of their blessed Lord, who
by word and deed shewed his love to the salvation of the world, in
such a carriage as declared him to prefer their salvation before his
own private concern, For we are commanded to follow his steps, "who
did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
And as I have said concerning ministers, so I say to all the
brethren, carry it so, that all the world may see, that indeed you
are the sons of love.
Love your Saviour; yea, shew one to another that you love him, not
only by a seeming love of affection, but with the love of duty.
Practical love is best. Many love Christ with nothing but the lick
of the tongue. Alas! Christ Jesus the Lord must not be put off
thus: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them," saith he,
"he it is that loveth me;" John xiv. 21.
Practical love, which stands in self-denial, in charity to my
neighbour, and a patient enduring of affliction for his name; this is
Right love to Christ is that which carries in it a provoking argument
to others of the brethren; Heb. x. 24.
Should a man ask me how he should know that he loveth the children of
God? The best answer I could give him, would be in the words of the
Apostle John; "By this," saith he, "we know we love the children of
God, when we love God, and keep his commandments;" 1 John, v. 2.
Love to God and Christ is then shewn when we are tender of his name;
and then we shew ourselves tender of his name when we are afraid to
break any the least of his commandments. And when we are here, then
do we shew our love to our brother also.
Now, we have obligation sufficient thus to do, for that our Lord
loved us, and gave himself for us, to deliver us from death, that we
might live through him.
The world, when they hear the doctrine that I have asserted and
handled in this little book; to wit, that Jesus Christ would have
mercy offered in the first place to the biggest sinners, will be apt,
because themselves are unbelievers, to think that this is a doctrine
that leads to looseness, and that gives liberty to the flesh; but if
you that believe love your brethren and your neighbours truly, and as
you should, you will put to silence the ignorance of such foolish
men, and stop their mouths from speaking evil of you.
And, I say, let the love of Christ constrain us to this. Who
deserveth our heart, our mouth, our life, our goods, so much as Jesus
Christ, who has bought us to himself by his blood, to this very end,
that we should be a peculiar people, zealous of good works?
There is nothing more seemly in the world, than to see a Christian
walk as becomes the Gospel; nor any thing more unbecoming a
reasonable creature, than to hear a man say, I believe in Christ, and
yet see in his life debauchery and profaneness. Might I, such men
should be counted the basest of men; such men should be counted by
all unworthy of the name of a Christian, and should be shunned by
every good man, as such who are the very plague of profession.
For so it is written, we should carry it towards them. Whoso have a
form of godliness, and deny the power thereof, from such we must turn
It has ofttimes come into my mind to ask, by what means it is that
the gospel profession should be so tainted with loose and carnal
gospellers? and I could never arrive to better satisfaction in the
matter than this,--such men are made professors by the devil, and so
by him put among the rest of the godly. A certain man had a
fruitless fig-tree planted in his vineyard; but by whom was it
planted there? Even by him that sowed the tares, his own children,
among the wheat; Luke xiii. 6; Matt. xiii. 37-40. And that was the
devil. But why doth the devil do thus? Not of love to them, but to
make of them offences and stumblingblocks to others. For he knows
that a loose professor in the church does more mischief to religion
than ten can do to it that are in the world.
Was it not, think you, the devil that stirred up the damsel that you
read of in Acts xvi., to cry out, "These are the servants of the most
high God, that shew unto us the way of salvation!" Yes it was, as is
evident, for Paul was grieved to hear it. But why did the devil stir
up her to cry so? but because that was the way to blemish the Gospel,
and to make the world think that it came from the same hand as did
her soothsaying and witchery; verse l6-18; "Holiness, O Lord, becomes
thy house for ever."
Let, therefore, whoever they be that profess the name of Christ, take
heed that they scandal not that profession which they make of him,
since he has so graciously offered us, as we are sinners of the
biggest size, in the first place, his grace to save us.
Having thus far spoken of the riches of the grace of Christ, and of
the freeness of his heart to embrace the Jerusalem sinners, it may
not be amiss to give you yet, as a caution, an intimation of one
thing, namely, that this grace and freeness of his heart is limited
to time and day; the which, whoso overstandeth, shall perish
For as a king, who, of grace, sendeth out to his rebellious people an
offer of pardon, if they accept thereof by such a day, yet beheadeth
or hangeth those that come not in for mercy until the day or time be
past; so Christ Jesus has set the sinner a day, a day of salvation,
an acceptable time; but he who standeth out, or goeth on in rebellion
beyond that time, is like to come off with the loss of his soul; 2
Cor. vi. 2; Heb. iii. 13, 16, 17, 18, 19; chap. iv. 7; Luke xix. 41,
Since, therefore, things are thus, it may be convenient here to touch
a little upon these particulars.
First, That this day, or time thus limited, when it is considered
with reference to this or that man, is ofttimes undiscerned by the
person concerned therein, and always is kept secret as to the
shutting up thereof.
And this, in the wisdom of God, is thus to the end; no man, when
called upon, should put off turning to God to another time. Now, and
to-day, is that and only that which is revealed in holy writ; Psal.
1. 22; Eccles. xii. 1; Heb. iii. 13, 16.
And this shews us the desperate hazards which those men run, who when
invitation or conviction attends them, put off turning to God to be
saved till another, and, as they think, a more fit season and time.
For many, by so doing, defer this to do till the day of God's
patience and long-suffering is ended; and then, for their prayers and
cries after mercy, they receive nothing but mocks, and are laughed at
by the God of heaven; Prov. i. 20-30; Isaiah lxv. 12-16; chap. lxvi.
4; Zech. xii. 11-13.
Secondly, Another thing to be considered is this, viz. that the day
of God's grace with some men begins sooner, and also sooner ends than
it doth with others. Those at the first hour of the day, had their
call sooner than they who were called upon to turn to God at the
sixth hour of the day; yea, and they who were hired at the third
hour, had their call sooner than they who were called at the
eleventh; Matt. xx. 1-6.
1. The day of God's patience began with Ishmael, and also ended
before he was twenty years old. At thirteen years of age he was
circumcised; the next year after Isaac was born; and then Ishmael was
fourteen years old. Now that day that Isaac was weaned, that day was
Ishmael rejected; and suppose that Isaac was three years old before
he was weaned, that was but the seventeenth year of Ishmael;
wherefore the day of God's grace was ended with him betimes; Gen.
xvii. 24, 25; chap. xxi. 2-11; Gal. iv. 30.
2. Cain's day ended with him betimes; for after God had rejected
him, he lived to beget many children, and build a city, and to do
many other things. But alas! all that while he was a fugitive and a
vagabond. Nor carried he any thing with him after the day of his
rejection was come, but this doleful language in his conscience,
"From God's face shall I be hid;" Gen. iv. 10-15.
3. Esau, through his extravagancies would needs go to sell his
birth-right, not fearing (as other confident fools) but that yet the
blessing would still be his, after which he lived many years; but all
of them under the wrath of God, as was, when time came, made appear
to his destruction; for "When he would have inherited the blessing,
he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he
sought it carefully with tears;" Heb. xii. 14-16.
Many instances might be given as to such tokens of the displeasure of
God against such as fool away, as the wise man has it, the prize
which is put into their hand; Prov. xvii. 16.
Let these things, therefore, be a further caution to those that sit
under the glorious sound of the Gospel, and hear of the riches of the
grace of God in Christ to poor sinners.
To slight grace, to despise mercy, and to stop the ear when God
speaks, when he speaks such great things, so much to our profit, is a
He offereth, he calls, he woos, he invites, he prays, he beseeches us
in this day of his grace to be reconciled to him; yea, and has
provided for us the means of reconciliation himself. Now, this
despised must needs be provoking; and it is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God.
But some man may say unto me, Fain I would be saved, fain I would be
saved by Christ; but I fear this day of grace is past, and that I
shall perish, notwithstanding the exceeding riches of the grace of
Answer. To this doubt I would answer several things.
First, With respect to this day.
Secondly, With respect to thy desires.
Thirdly, With respect to thy fears.
First, With respect to the day; that is, whether it be ended with a
man or no.
1. Art thou jogged, and shaken and molested at the hearing of the
Word? Is thy conscience awakened and convinced then that thou art at
present in a perishing state, and that thou hast need to cry to God
for mercy? This is a hopeful sign that this day of grace is not past
with thee. For usually they that are past grace, are also, in their
conscience, past feeling, being "seared with an hot iron;" Eph. iv.
18, 19; 1 Tim. iv. 1, 2.
Consequently, those past grace must be such as are denied the
awakening fruits of the Word preached. "The dead that hear," says
Christ, "shall live;" at least while Christ has not quite done with
them; the day of God's patience is not at an end with them; John v.
2. Is there in thy more retired condition, arguings, strugglings,
and strivings with thy spirit to persuade thee of the vanity of what
vain things thou lovest, and to win thee in thy soul to a choice of
Christ Jesus and his heavenly things? Take heed and rebel not, for
the day of God's grace and patience will not be past with thee till
he saith his "Spirit shall strive no more" with thee; for then the
woe comes, when "he shall depart from them;" and when he says to the
means of grace, "Let them alone;" Hos. iv. 17; chap. ix. 12.
3. Art thou visited in the night-seasons with dreams about thy
state, and that thou art in danger of being lost? Hast thou heart-
shaken apprehensions when deep sleep is upon thee, of hell, death,
and judgment to come? These are signs that God has not wholly left
thee, or cast thee behind his back for ever. "For God speaketh once,
yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not; in a dream, in a vision of the
night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that
he may withdraw man from his purpose (his sinful purposes) and hide
pride from man;" Job xxxiii. 14-17.
All this while God has not left the sinner, nor is come to the end of
his patience towards him, but stands at least with the door of grace
a-jar in his hand, as being loth as yet to bolt it against him.
4. Art thou followed with affliction, and dost thou hear God's angry
voice in thy afflictions? Doth he send with thy affliction an
interpreter to shew thee thy vileness; and why, or wherefore, the
hand of God is upon thee, and upon what thou hast; to wit, that it is
for thy sinning against him, and that thou mightest be turned to him?
If so, thy summer is not quite ended; thy harvest is not quite over
and gone. Take heed, stand out no longer, lest he cause darkness,
and lest thy feet stumble upon the dark mountains; and lest, while
you look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it
gross darkness; Jer. viii. 20; chap. xiii. 15-17.
5. Art thou crossed, disappointed, and way-laid, and overthrown in
all thy foolish ways and doings? This is a sign God has not quite
left thee, but that he still waits upon thee to turn thee. Consider,
I say, has he made a hedge and a wall to stop thee? Has he crossed
thee in all thou puttest thy hand unto? Take it as a call to turn to
him, for, by his thus doing, he shews he has a mind to give thee a
better portion. For usually when God gives up men, and resolves to
let them alone in the broad way, he gives them rope, and lets them
have their desires in all hurtful things; Hos. ii. 6-15; Psalm
lxxiii. 3-13; Rom. xi. 9.
Therefore take heed to this also, that thou strive not against this
hand of God; but betake thyself to a serious inquiry into the causes
of this hand of God upon thee, and incline to think, it is because
the Lord would have thee look to that, which is better than what thou
wouldst satisfy thyself withal. When God had a mind to make the
prodigal go home to his father, he sent a famine upon him, and denied
him a bellyful of the husks which the swine did eat. And observe it,
now he was in a strait, he betook him to consideration of the good
that there was in his father's house; yea, he resolved to go home to
his father, and his father dealt well with him; he received him with
music and dancing, because he had received him safe and sound; Luke
6. Hast then any enticing thoughts of the word of God upon thy mind?
Doth, as it were, some holy word of God give a glance upon thee, cast
a smile upon thee, let fall, though it be but one drop of its savour
upon thy spirit; yea, though it stays but one moment with thee? O
then the day of grace is not past! The gate of heaven is not shut!
nor God's heart and bowels withdrawn from thee as yet. Take heed,
therefore, and beware that thou make much of the heavenly gift, and
of that good word of God of the which he has made thee taste.
Beware, I say, and take heed; there may be a falling away for all
this; but, I say, as yet God has not left thee, as yet he has not
cast thee off; Heb. vi. 1-9.
Secondly, With respect to thy desires, what are they? Wouldst thou
be saved! Wouldst thou be saved with a thorough salvation? Wouldst
thou be saved from guilt and filth too? Wouldst thou be the servant
of thy Saviour? Art thou indeed weary of the service of thy old
master the devil, sin, and the world? And have these desires put thy
soul to flight? Hast thou through desires betaken thyself to thy
heels? Dost fly to him that is a Saviour from the wrath to come, for
life? If these be thy desires, and if they be unfeigned, fear not.
Thou art one of those runaways which God has commanded our Lord to
receive, and not to send thee back to the devil thy master again, but
to give thee a place in his house, even the place which liketh thee
best. "Thou shalt not deliver to his master," says he, "the servant
which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with
thee, even among you in that place which he shall choose, in one of
thy gates where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him;"
Deut. xxiii. 15, 16.
This is a command to the church, consequently to the Head of the
church; for all commands from God come to her through her Head.
Whence I conclude, that as Israel of old was to receive the runaway
servant who escaped from a heathen master to them, and should not
dare to send him back to his master again, so Christ's church now,
and consequently Christ himself, may not, will not, refuse that soul
that has made his escape from sin, Satan, the world, and hell, unto
him, but will certainly let him dwell in his house, among his saints,
in that place which he shall choose, even where it liketh him best.
For he says in another place, "And him that cometh to me, I will in
no wise cast out." In no wise, let his crimes be what they will,
either for nature, multitude, or the attendance of aggravating
Wherefore, if thy desires be firm, sound, and unfeigned to become the
saved of Christ, and his servant, fear not, he will not, he will in
no wise put thee away, or turn thee over to thy old master again.
Thirdly, As to they fears, whatever they are, let that be supposed
which is supposed before, and they are groundless, and so of no
Object. But I am afraid I am not elected, or chosen to salvation,
though you called me fool a little before for so fearing.
Ans. Though election is, in order, before calling, as to God, yet
the knowledge of calling must go before the belief of my election as
to myself. Wherefore, souls that doubt of the truth of their
effectual calling, do but plunge themselves into a deeper labyrinth
of confusion that concern themselves with their election; I mean,
while they labour to know it before they prove their calling. "Make
your calling, and so your election, sure;" 2 Pet. i. 4-11.
Wherefore, at present, lay the thoughts of thy election by, and ask
thyself these questions: Do I see my lost condition? Do I see
salvation is nowhere but in Christ? Would I share in this salvation
by faith in him? And would I, as was said before, be thoroughly
saved, to wit, from the filth as from the guilt? Do I love Christ,
his Father, his saints, his words, and ways? This is the way to
prove we are elect. Wherefore, sinner, when Satan, or thine own
heart seeks to puzzle thee with election, say thou, I cannot attend
to talk of this point now, but stay till I know that I am called of
God to the fellowship of his Son, and then I will shew you that I am
elect, and that my name is written in the book of life.
If poor distressed souls would observe this order, they might save
themselves the trouble of an unprofitable labour under these
unreasonable and soul-sinking doubts.
Let us therefore, upon the sight of our wretchedness, fly and
venturously leap into the arms of Christ, which are now as open to
receive us into his bosom, as they were when nailed to the cross.
This is coming to Christ for life aright; this is right running away
from thy master to him, as was said before. And for this we have
multitudes of scriptures to support, encourage, and comfort us in our
But now, let him that doth thus be sure to look for it, for Satan
will be with him to-morrow, to see if he can get him again to his old
service; and if he cannot do that, then will he enter into dispute
with him, to wit, about whether he be elect to life, and called
indeed to partake of this Christ, to whom he is fled for succour, or
whether he comes to him of his own presumptuous mind. Therefore we
are bid, as to come, so to arm ourselves with that armour which God
has provided; that we may resist, quench, stand against, and
withstand all the fiery darts of the devil; Eph. vi. 11-18.
If, therefore, thou findest Satan in this order to march against
thee, remember then thou hadst this item about it; and betake thyself
to faith and good courage; and be sober, and hope to the end.
Object. But how if I should have sinned the sin unpardonable, or
that called the sin against the Holy Ghost?
Answer. If thou hast, thou art lost for ever; but yet before it is
concluded by thee that thou hast so sinned, know that they that would
be saved by Jesus Christ through faith in his blood, cannot be
counted for such.
1. Because of the promise, for that must not be frustrated: and
that says, "And him that cometh to Christ, he will in no wise cast
out." And again, "Whoso will, let him take of the water of life
freely;" John vi. 37; Rev. xxi. 6; chap. xxii. 17.
But I say, how can these scriptures be fulfilled, if he that would
indeed be saved, as before, has sinned the sin unpardonable? The
scriptures must not be made void, nor their truth be cast to the
ground. Here is a promise, and here is a sinner; a promise that says
he shall not be cast out that comes; and the sinner comes, wherefore
he must be received: consequently he that comes to Christ for life,
has not, cannot have sinned that sin for which there is no
And this might suffice for an answer to any coming soul, that fears,
though he comes, that he has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost.
2. But again, he that has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost
cannot come, has no heart to come, can by no means be made willing to
come to Jesus Christ for life; for that he has received such an
opinion of him, and of his things, as deters and holds him back.
1. He counteth this blessed person, the Son of God, a magician, a
conjuror, a witch, or one that did, when he was in the world, what he
did by the power and spirit of the devil; Matt. ix. 34; chap. xii.
24, 25, &c.; Mark iii. 22-30. Now he that has this opinion of this
Jesus, cannot be willing to cast himself at his feet for life, or to
come to him as the only way to God and to salvation. And hence it is
said again, that such an one puts him to open shame, and treadeth him
under foot, that is, by contemning, reproaching, vilifying, and
despising of him, as if he were the vilest one, or the greatest cheat
in the world: and has therefore, as to his esteem of him, called him
accursed, crucified him to himself, or counted him one hanged, as one
of the worst of malefactors; Heb. vi. 6; chap. x. 29; 1 Cor. xii. 3.
2. His blood, which is the meritorious cause of man's redemption,
even the blood of the everlasting covenant, he counteth an unholy
thing, or that which has no more virtue in it to save a soul from sin
than has the blood of a dog; Heb. x. 29. For when the Apostle says,
"he counts it an unholy thing," he means, he makes it of less value
than that of a sheep or cow, which were clean according to the law;
and therefore must mean, that his blood was of no more worth to him
in his account than was the blood of a dog, an ass, or a swine, which
always was, as to sacrifices, rejected by the God of heaven, as
unholy or unclean.
Now he who has no better esteem of Jesus Christ, and of his death and
blood, will not be persuaded to come to him for life, or to trust in
him for salvation.
3. But further, all this must be done against manifest tokens to
prove the contrary, or after the shining of gospel light upon the
soul, or some considerable profession of him as the Messiah, or that
he was the Saviour of the world.
1. It must be done against manifest tokens to prove the contrary;
and thus the reprobate Jews committed it when they saw the works of
God, which put forth themselves in him, and called them the works of
the devil and Beelzebub.
2. It must be done against some shining light of the gospel upon
them. And thus it was with Judas, and with those who, after they
were enlightened, and had tasted, and had felt something of the
powers of the world to come, fell away from the faith of him, and put
him to open shame and disgrace; Heb. vi. 5, 6.
3. It must also be done after, and in opposition to one's own open
profession of him. "For if after they have escaped the pollution of
the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter
end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better for
them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have
known it, to turn from the holy commandment (which is the word of
faith) delivered unto them."
4. All this must be done openly, before witnesses, in the face,
sight, and view of the world, by word and act. This is the sin that
is unpardonable; and he that hath thus done, can never, it is
impossible he ever should be renewed again to repentance, and that
for a double reason; for such an one doth say, he will not; and of
him God says, he shall not have the benefit of salvation by him.
Object. But if this be the sin unpardonable, why is it called the
sin against the Holy Ghost, and not rather the sin against the Son of
Answ. It is called "the sin against the Holy Ghost," because such
count the works he did, which were done by the Spirit of God, the
works of the spirit of the devil. Also because all such as so reject
Christ Jesus the Lord, they do it in despite of that testimony which
the Holy Ghost has given of him in the holy scriptures; for the
scriptures are the breathings of the Holy Ghost, as in all other
things, so in that testimony they bear of the person, of the works,
sufferings, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Sinner, this is the sin against the Holy Ghost. What sayst thou?
Hast thou committed it? Nay, I know thou hast not; if thou wouldst
be saved by Christ. Yea, it is impossible that thou shouldst have
done it, if indeed thou wouldst be saved by him.
No man can desire to be saved by him, whom he yet judgeth to be an
impostor, a magician, a witch. No man can hope for redemption by
that blood which he yet counteth an unholy thing. Nor will God ever
suffer such an one to repent, who has, after light and profession of
him, thus horribly and devil-like contemned and trampled upon him.
True, words and wars and blasphemies against this Son of man are
pardonable; but then they must be done ignorantly and in unbelief.
Also all blasphemous thoughts are likewise such as may be passed by,
if the soul afflicted with them indeed is sorry for them; 1 Tim. i.
13-15; Mar. iii. 28.
All but this, sinner, all but this! If God had said, he will forgive
one sin, it had been undeserved grace; but when he says he will
pardon all but one, this is grace to the height.
Nor is that one unpardonable otherwise, but because the Saviour that
should save them is rejected and put away.
We read of Jacob's ladder; Christ is Jacob's ladder that reacheth up
to heaven, and he that refuseth to go by this ladder thither, will
scarce by other means get up so high.
There is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must
be saved. There is none other sacrifice for sin than this; he also,
and he only, is the Mediator that reconcileth men to God. And,
sinner, if thou wouldst be saved by him, his benefits are thine; yea,
though thou art a great and Jerusalem transgressor.