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Title: The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, Vol. 3 (of 32)

Author: John Wesley

Release Date: November 28, 2020 [EBook #63909]

Language: English

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Book Cover

The Works of the Rev. JOHN WESLEY, M.A.
Volume III.

Transcriber’s Notes

The cover image was provided by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

Punctuation has been standardized.

Most abbreviations have been expanded in tool-tips for screen-readers and may be seen by hovering the mouse over the abbreviation.

The concluding Table of Contents, has been moved to the front of the book to make it more useable.

The Errata listed at the end of the Volume 3 has been incorporated into the text.

The author has used an asterisk (*) to indicate passages he considers most worthy of attention.

The text may show quotations within quotations, all set off by similar quote marks. The inner quotations have been changed to alternate quote marks for improved readability.

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This book was written in a period when many words had not become standardized in their spelling. Words may have multiple spelling variations or inconsistent hyphenation in the text. These have been left unchanged unless indicated with a Transcriber’s Note.

Footnotes are identified in the text with a superscript number and have been accumulated in a table at the end of the text.

Transcriber’s Notes are used when making corrections to the text or to provide additional information for the modern reader. These notes have been accumulated in a table at the end of the book and are identified in the text by a dotted underline and may be seen in a tool-tip by hovering the mouse over the underline.


Late Fellow of Lincoln-College, Oxford.

Volume III.


Printed by WILLIAM PINE, in Wine-Street


Of the Third Volume.

SERMONS on several Occasions.


Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

Discourse XI.

Matt. vii. 1314.


Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

Discourse XII.

Matt. vii. 1520.


Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

Discourse XIII.

Matt. vii. 2127.


The Origin, Nature, Property, and Use of the Law.

Rom. vii. 12. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good.


The Law established thro’ faith.

Discourse I.

Rom. iii. 31. Do we then make void the law thro’ faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law.


The Law established thro’ faith.

Discourse II.

Rom. iii. 31.


The Nature of Enthusiasm.

Acts xxvi. 24. And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, Thou art beside thyself.


A Caution against Bigotry.

Mark ix. 38, 39. And John answered him saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. And Jesus said, Forbid him not.


Catholic Spirit.

2 Kings x. 15. And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab, the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he said, Is thine heart right as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand.


Christian Perfection.

Phil. iii. 12. Not as tho’ I had already attained, either were already perfect.


Ezek. xxxvi. 25, &c.

By the Rev. Mr. Charles Wesley.


Wandering Thoughts.

2 Cor. x. 4. Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.


Satan’s Devices.

2 Cor. ii. 11. We are not ignorant of his devices.


The Scripture Way of Salvation.

Eph. ii. 8. Ye are saved thro’ faith.


Original Sin.

Gen. vi. 5. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.


The New Birth.

John iii. 7. Ye must be born again.


The Wilderness State.

John xvi. 22. Ye now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.


1 Pet. i. 6. Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

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Discourse XI.
Matt. vii. 13, 14.

Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way which leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

1.OUR Lord having warned us of the dangers, which easily beset us at our first entrance upon real religion, the hindrances which naturally arise from within, from the wickedness of our own hearts: now proceeds to apprize us of the hindrances from without, particularly ill example and ill advice. By one or the other of these, thousands who once ran well, have drawn back unto perdition: yea, many of those who were not novices in religion, who had made some progress in righteousness. His caution therefore against these, he presses upon us, with all possible earnestness, and repeats again and again, in variety of expressions, lest by any means we should let it slip. Thus, effectually to guard us against the former, Enter ye in, saith he, at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. To secure us from the latter, beware, saith he, of false prophets. We shall at present consider the former only.

2. Enter ye in, saith our blessed Lord, at the strait gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

3. In these words we may observe, first, The inseparable properties of the way to hell: Wide is the gate, broad the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: secondly, the inseparable properties of the way to heaven: Strait is that gate, and few there be that find it: thirdly, a serious exhortation grounded thereon, Enter ye in at the strait gate.

I. 1. We may observe, first, The inseparable properties of the way to hell: Wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.

Wide indeed is the gate, and broad the way that leadeth to destruction. For sin is the gate of hell, and wickedness the way to destruction. And how wide a gate is that of sin? How broad is the way of wickedness! The commandment of God is exceeding broad, as extending not only to all our actions, but to every word which goeth out of our lips, yea, every thought that rises in our heart. And sin is equally broad with the commandment, seeing any breach of the commandment is sin. Yea, rather it is a thousand times broader: since there is only one way of keeping the commandment: for we do not properly keep it, unless both the thing done, the manner of doing it, and all the other circumstances are right. But there are a thousand ways of breaking every commandment: so that this gate is wide indeed.

3. To consider this a little more particularly. How wide do those parent sins extend, from which all the rest derive their being? That carnal mind, which is enmity against God, pride of heart, self-will and love of the world? Can we fix any bounds to them? Do they not diffuse themselves thro’ all our thoughts, and mingle with all our tempers? Are they not the leaven which leavens, more or less, the whole mass of our affections? May we not, on a close and faithful examination of ourselves, perceive these roots of bitterness, continually springing up, infecting all our words, and tainting all our actions? And how innumerable an offspring do they bring forth, in every age and nation? Even enough to cover the whole earth with darkness and cruel habitations.

4. O! who is able to reckon up their accursed fruits? To count all the sins, whether against God or our neighbour, not which imagination might paint, but which may be matter of daily, melancholy experience? Nor need we range over all the earth to find them. Survey any one kingdom, any single country, or city or town, and how plenteous is this harvest? And let it not be one of those, which are still overspread with Mahometan or Pagan darkness: but of those which name the name of Christ, which profess to see the light of his glorious gospel. Go no farther than the kingdom to which we belong, the city wherein we are now. We call ourselves Christians: yea, and that of the purest sort; we are Protestants; reformed Christians! But alas! who shall carry on the reformation of our opinions into our hearts and lives? Is there not a cause? For how innumerable are our sins? And those of the deepest dye? Do not the grossest abominations of every kind, abound among us from day to day? Do not sins of every sort cover the land, as the waters cover the sea? Who can count them? Rather go and count the drops of rain, or the sands on the sea-shore. So wide is the gate, so broad is the way that leadeth to destruction.

5. And many there be who go in at that gate: many who walk in that way. Almost as many as go in at the gate of death, as sink into the chambers of the grave. For it cannot be denied, (tho’ neither can we acknowledge it but with shame and sorrow of heart) that even in this, which is called a Christian country, the generality of every age and sex, of every profession and employment, of every rank and degree, high and low, rich and poor, are walking in the way of destruction. The far greater part of the inhabitants of this city, to this day live in sin; in some palpable, habitual, known transgression of the law they profess to observe: yea, in some outward transgression, some gross, visible kind of ungodliness or unrighteousness; some open violation of their duty, either to God or man. These then, none can deny, are all in the way that leadeth to destruction. Add to these those who have a name indeed that they live, but were never yet alive to God: those that outwardly appear fair to men, but are inwardly full of all uncleanness: full of pride, or vanity; of anger, or revenge; of ambition, or covetousness: lovers of themselves, lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. These indeed may be highly esteemed of men; but they are an abomination to the Lord. And how greatly will these saints of the world, swell the number of the children of hell? Yea, add all, whatever they be in other respects, whether they have more or less of the form of godliness, who being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, as the ground of their reconciliation to God and acceptance with him, of consequence have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness which is of God by faith. Now all these things being joined together in one, how terribly true is our Lord’s assertion, Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat.

6. Nor does this only concern the vulgar herd, the poor, base, stupid part of mankind. Men of eminence in the world, men who have many fields and yoke of oxen, do not desire to be excused from this. On the contrary, many wise men after the flesh, according to the human methods of judging, many mighty, in power, in courage, in riches, many noble are called: called into the broad way, by the world, the flesh and the devil; and they are not disobedient to that calling. Yea, the higher they are raised in fortune and power, the deeper do they sink into wickedness. The more blessings they have received from God, the more sins do they commit: using their honour or riches, their learning or wisdom, not as means of working out their salvation, but rather of excelling in vice, and so insuring their own destruction.

II. 1. And the very reason why many of these go on so securely in the broad way, is because it is broad: not considering that this is the inseparable property of the way to destruction. Many there be, saith our Lord, who go in thereat: for the very reason why they should flee from it; Even because strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

2. This is an inseparable property of the way to heaven. So narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, unto life everlasting; so strait the gate, that nothing unclean, nothing unholy can enter. No sinner can pass thro’ that gate, until he is saved from all his sins, not only from his outward sins; from his evil conversation received by tradition from his Fathers. It will not suffice, that he hath ceased to do evil, and learned to do well. He must not only be saved from all sinful actions, and from all evil and useless discourse; but inwardly changed, throughly renewed in the spirit of his mind. Otherwise he cannot pass thro’ the gate of life, he cannot enter into glory.

3. For narrow is the way that leadeth unto life: the way of universal holiness. Narrow indeed is the way of poverty of spirit, the way of holy mourning: the way of meekness, and that of hungring and thirsting after righteousness. Narrow is the way of mercifulness, of love unfeigned; the way of purity of heart; of doing good unto all men, and of gladly suffering evil, all manner of evil for righteousness-sake.

4. And few there be that find it. Alas! how few find even the way of Heathen honesty? How few are there, that do nothing to another, which they would not another should do unto them? How few, that are clear before God, from acts either of injustice or unkindness? How few, that do not offend with their tongue; that speak nothing unkind, nothing untrue? What a small proportion of mankind, are innocent even of outward transgressions? And how much smaller a proportion have their hearts right before God? Clean and holy in his sight? Where are they, whom his all-searching eye, discerns to be truly humble? To abhor themselves in dust and ashes, in the presence of God their Saviour? To be deeply and steadily serious, feeling their wants, and passing the time of their sojourning with fear? Truly meek and gentle, never overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good? Throughly athirst for God, and continually panting after a renewal in his likeness? How thinly are they scattered over the earth, whose souls are inlarged in love to all mankind? And who love God with all their strength, who have given him their hearts, and desire nothing else in earth or heaven? How few are those lovers of God and man, that spend their whole strength in doing good unto all men? and are ready to suffer all things, yea, death itself, to save one soul from eternal death?

5. But while so few are found in the way of life, and so many in the way of destruction, there is great danger, lest the torrent of examples, should bear us away with them. Even a single example, if it be always in our sight, is apt to make much impression upon us: especially when it has nature on its side; when it falls in with our own inclinations. How great then must be the force of so numerous examples, continually before our eyes; and all conspiring together with our own hearts, to carry us down the stream of nature? How difficult must it be, to stem the tide, and to keep ourselves unspotted in the world?

6. What heightens the difficulty still more is, that they are not the rude and senseless part of mankind, at least not these alone, who set us the example, who throng the downward way: but the polite, the well-bred, the genteel, the wise, the men who understand the world: the men of knowledge, of deep and various learning, the rational, the eloquent! These are all, or nearly all, against us. And how shall we stand against these? Do not their tongues drop manna? And have they not learned all the arts of soft persuasion? And of reasoning too: for these are versed in all controversies and strife of words. It is therefore a small thing with them to prove, that the way is right, because it is broad: that he who follows a multitude, cannot do evil, but only he who will not follow them: that your way must be wrong, because it is narrow; and because there are so few that find it. These will make it clear to a demonstration, that evil is good, and good is evil: That the way of holiness is the way of destruction, and the way of the world, the only way to heaven.

7. O how can unlearned and ignorant men, maintain their cause against such opponents! And yet these are not all with whom they must contend, however unequal to the task. For there are many mighty, and noble, and powerful men, as well as wise, in the road that leadeth to destruction. And these have a shorter way of confuting, than that of reason and argument. They usually apply, not to the understanding, but to the fears of any that oppose them. A method that seldom fails of success, even where argument profits nothing: as lying level to the capacities of all men: for all can fear, whether they can reason or no. And all who have not a firm trust in God, a sure reliance both on his power and love, cannot but fear to give any disgust to those, who have the power of the world in their hands. What wonder therefore if the example of these is a law, to all who know not God?

8. Many rich are likewise in the broad way. And these apply to the hopes of men, and to all their foolish desires, as strongly and effectually, as the mighty and noble to their fears. So that hardly can you hold on in the way of the kingdom, unless you are dead to all below, unless you are crucified to the world and the world crucified to you, unless you desire nothing more but God.

9. For how dark, how uncomfortable, how forbidding is the prospect on the opposite side? A strait gate! A narrow way! And few finding that gate! Few walking in the way. Besides, even those few, are not wise men, not men of learning or eloquence. They are not able to reason either strongly or clearly; they cannot propose an argument to any advantage, they know not how to prove what they profess to believe; or to explain even what they say they experience. Surely such advocates as these, will never recommend, but rather discredit the cause they have espoused.

10. Add to this, that they are not noble, not honourable men: (if they were, you might bear with their folly.) They are men of no interest, no authority, of no account in the world. They are mean and base, low in life; and such as have no power, if they had the will to hurt you. Therefore there is nothing at all to be feared from them: and there is nothing at all to hope. For the greater part of them may say, silver and gold have I none: at least a very moderate share. Nay, some of them have scarce food to eat or raiment to put on. For this reason, as well as because their ways are not like those of other men, they are every where spoken against, are despised, have their names cast out as evil, are variously persecuted, and treated as the filth and offscouring of the world. So that both your fears, your hopes, and all your desires, (except those which you have immediately from God) yea, all your natural passions continually incline you to return into the broad way.

III. 1. Therefore it is, that our Lord so earnestly exhorts, Enter ye in at the strait gate. Or (as the same exhortation is elsewhere expressed) Strive to enter in. Ἀγωνίζεσθε εἰσελθεῖν. Strive as in an agony. For many, saith our Lord, shall seek to enter in, indolently strive, and shall not be able.

2. ’Tis true, he intimates what may seem another reason for this, for their not being able to enter in, in the words which immediately follow these. For after he had said, Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, he subjoins, When once the master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without (ἄρξησθε ἔχω ἐστάναι. Rather, Ye stand without; for ἄρξησθε seems to be only an elegant expletive) and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us: he shall answer, and say unto you, I know you not. Depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. Luke xiii. 26, &c.

3. It may appear, upon a transient view of these words, that their delaying to seek at all, rather than their manner of seeking, was the reason why they were not able to enter in. But it comes, in effect, to the same thing. They were therefore commanded to depart, because they had been workers of iniquity, because they had walked in the broad road: in other words, because they had not agonized to enter in at the strait gate. Probably they did seek, before the door was shut: but that did not suffice. And they did strive, after the door was shut. But then it was too late.

4. Therefore, strive ye now, in this your day, to enter in at the strait gate. And in order hereto, settle it in your heart, and let it be ever uppermost in your thoughts, that if you are in a broad way, you are in the way that leadeth to destruction. If many go with you, as sure as God is true, both they and you are going to hell. If you are walking as the generality of men walk, you are walking to the bottomless pit. Are many wise, many rich, many mighty or noble travelling with you in the same way? By this token, without going any farther, you know, it does not lead to life. Here is a short, a plain, an infallible rule, before you enter into particulars. In whatever profession you are engaged, you must be singular or be damned. The way to hell has nothing singular in it; but the way to heaven is singularity all over: if you move but one step towards God, you are not as other men are. But regard not this. ’Tis far better to stand alone, than to fall into the pit. Run then with patience the race which is set before thee, tho’ thy companions therein are but few. They will not always be so. Yet a little while and thou wilt come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

5. Now then, strive to enter in at the strait gate, being penetrated with the deepest sense, of the inexpressible danger your soul is in, so long as you are in a broad way: so long as you are void of poverty of spirit, and all that inward religion, which the many, the rich, the wise account madness. Strive to enter in, being pierced with sorrow and shame, for having so long run on with the unthinking crowd, utterly neglecting if not despising that holiness, without which no man can see the Lord. Strive as in an agony of holy fear, lest, a promise being made you of entering into his rest, even that rest which remaineth for the people of God, you should nevertheless come short of it. Strive in all the fervor of desire, with groanings which cannot be uttered. Strive by prayer without ceasing, at all times, in all places lifting up your heart to God, and giving him no rest, till you awake up after his likeness and are satisfied with it.

6. To conclude. Strive to enter in at the strait gate, not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer, but likewise by ordering thy conversation right, by walking with all thy strength, in all the ways of God, the way of innocence, of piety and of mercy. Abstain from all appearance of evil: do all possible good to all men: deny thyself, thy own will, in all things, and take up thy cross daily. Be ready to cut off thy right hand, to pluck out thy right eye and cast it from thee: to suffer the loss of goods, friends, health, all things on earth, so thou mayst enter into the kingdom of heaven.


Discourse XII.
Matt. vii. 1520.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps cloathing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

1.IT is scarce possible to express or conceive, what multitudes of souls run on to destruction, because they would not be persuaded to walk in a narrow way, even tho’ it were the way to everlasting salvation. And the same thing we may still observe daily. Such is the folly and madness of mankind, that thousands of men still rush on in the way to hell, only because it is a broad way. They walk in it themselves, because others do: because so many perish, they will add to the number. Such is the amazing influence of example, over the weak, miserable children of men! It continually peoples the regions of death, and drowns numberless souls in everlasting perdition.

2. To warn mankind of this, to guard as many as possible against this spreading contagion, God has commanded his watchmen to cry aloud, and shew the people the danger they are in. For this end he has sent his servants the prophets, in their succeeding generations, to point out the narrow path, and exhort all men, not to be conformed to this world. But what if the watchmen themselves fall into the snare, against which they should warn others? What if the prophets prophesy deceits? If they cause the people to err from the way? What shall be done, if they point out as the way to eternal life, what is in truth the way to eternal death? And exhort others to walk, as they do themselves, in the broad, not the narrow way?

3. Is this an unheard of, is it an uncommon thing? Nay, God knoweth it is not. The instances of it are almost innumerable. We may find them in every age and nation. But how terrible is this? When the ambassadors of God, turn agents for the devil? When they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven, do in fact teach them the way to hell? These are like the locusts of Egypt, which eat up the residue that had escaped, that had remained after the hail. They devour even the residue of men that had escaped, that were not destroyed by ill example. It is not therefore without cause that our wise and gracious Master, so solemnly cautions us against them: Beware, saith he, of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps cloathing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

4. A caution this of the utmost importance. That it may the more effectually sink into our hearts, let us inquire, first, who these false prophets are, secondly, what appearance they put on, and thirdly, how we may know what they really are, notwithstanding their fair appearance.

I. 1. We are, first, to inquire, who these false prophets are. And this it is needful to do the more diligently, because these very men have so laboured to wrest this scripture, to their own (tho’ not only their own) destruction. In order therefore to cut off all dispute, I shall raise no dust (as the manner of some is) neither use any loose, rhetorical exclamations, to deceive the hearts of the simple, but speak rough, plain truths, such as none can deny, who has either understanding or modesty left: and such truths, as have the closest connexion, with the whole tenor of the preceding discourse. Whereas too many have interpreted these words without any regard to all that went before: as if they bore no manner of relation to the sermon, in the close of which they stand.

2. By prophets here (as in many other passages of scripture, particularly in the New Testament) are meant, not those who foretel things to come, but those who speak in the name of God: those men, who profess to be sent of God, to teach others the way to heaven.

Those are false prophets, who teach a false way to heaven, a way which does not lead thither. Or (which comes in the end to the same point) who do not teach the true.

3. Every broad way is infallibly a false one. Therefore this is one plain, sure rule, “They who teach men to walk in a broad way, a way that many walk in, are false prophets.”

Again, the true way to heaven is a narrow way. Therefore this is another plain, sure rule. “They who do not teach men to walk in a narrow way, to be singular, are false prophets.”

4. To be more particular. The only true way to heaven, is that pointed out in the preceding sermon. Therefore they are false prophets who do not teach men to walk in this way.

Now the way to heaven pointed out in the preceding sermon, is the way of lowliness, mourning, meekness, and holy desire, love of God and of our neighbour, doing good, and suffering evil for Christ’s sake. They are therefore false prophets, who teach as the way to heaven, any other way than this.

5. It matters not, what they call that other way. They may call it faith, or good works: or faith and works: or repentance: or repentance, faith and new obedience. All these are good words. But if under these, or any other terms whatever, they teach men any way distinct from this, they are properly false prophets.

6. How much more do they fall under that condemnation, who speak evil of this good way? But above all, they who teach the directly opposite way? The way of pride, of levity, of passion, of worldly desires, of loving pleasure more than God, of unkindness to our neighbour, of unconcern for good works, and suffering no evil, no persecution for righteousness sake?

7. *If it be asked, why who ever did teach this? Or who does teach it, as the way to heaven? I answer, ten thousand wise and honourable men: even all those, of whatever denomination, who incourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creature, the man who suffers no reproach for righteousness-sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven. These are false prophets in the highest sense of the word. These are traitors both to God and man. These are no other than the first-born of Satan: the eldest sons of Apollyon, the destroyer. These are far above the rank of ordinary cut throats; for they murder the souls of men. They are continually peopling the realms of night: and whenever they follow the poor souls whom they have destroyed, Hell shall be moved from beneath, to meet them at their coming.

II. 1. But do they come now, in their own shape? By no means. If it were so, they could not destroy. You would take the alarm, and flee for your life. Therefore they put on a quite contrary appearance: (which was the second thing to be considered.) They come to you in sheeps cloathing, altho’ inwardly they are ravening wolves.

2. They come to you in sheeps cloathing; that is, with an appearance of harmlessness. They come in the most mild, inoffensive manner, without any mark or token of enmity. Who can imagine, that these quiet creatures, would do any hurt to any one? Perhaps they may not be so zealous and active in doing good, as one would wish they were. However, you see no reason to suspect, that they have even the desire to do any harm. But this is not all:

3. They come, secondly, with an appearance of usefulness. Indeed to this, to do good they are particularly called. They are set apart for this very thing. They are particularly commissioned, to watch over your soul and to train you up to eternal life. ’Tis their whole business, to go about doing good, and healing those that are oppressed of the devil. And you have been always accustomed to look upon them in this light, as messengers of God, sent to bring you a blessing.

4. They come, thirdly, with an appearance of religion. All they do, is for conscience sake! They assure you, it is out of mere zeal for God, that they are making God a liar. It is out of pure concern for religion, that they would destroy it, root and branch. All they speak, is only from a love of truth, and a fear lest it should suffer. And, it may be, from a regard for the church, and a desire to defend her from all her enemies.

5. Above all, they come with an appearance of love. They take all these pains, only for your good. They should not trouble themselves about you, but that they have a kindness for you. They will make large professions of their good-will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire, to preserve you from error, from being intangled in new and mischievous doctrines. They should be very sorry to see one who means so well, hurried into any extreme, perplext with strange and unintelligible notions, or deluded into enthusiasm. Therefore it is, that they advise you, to keep still, in the plain middle way: and to beware of being righteous overmuch, lest you should destroy yourself.

III. 1. But how may we know, what they really are, notwithstanding their fair appearance? This was the third thing into which it was proposed to inquire.

Our blessed Lord saw how needful it was for all men to know false prophets, however disguised. He saw likewise, how unable most men were, to deduce a truth thro’ a long train of consequences. He therefore gives us a short and plain rule, easy to be understood by men of the meanest capacities, and easy to be applied upon all occasions. Ye shall know them by their fruits.

2. Upon all occasions you may easily apply this rule. In order to know whether any who speak in the name of God, are false or true prophets, it is easy to observe, first, What are the fruits of their doctrine, as to themselves? What effect has it had upon their lives? Are they holy and unblamable in all things? What effect has it had upon their hearts? Does it appear by the general tenor of their conversation that their tempers are holy, heavenly, divine? That the mind is in them which was in Christ Jesus? That they are meek, lowly, patient lovers of God and man, and zealous of good works?

3. You may easily observe, secondly, What are the fruits of their doctrine, as to those that hear them? In many, at least, tho’ not in all: for the apostles themselves did not convert all that heard them. Have these the mind that was in Christ? And do they walk as he also walked? And was it by hearing these men, that they began so to do? Were they inwardly and outwardly wicked, till they heard them? If so, it is a manifest proof, that those are true prophets, teachers sent of God. But if it is not so, if they do not effectually teach either themselves or others to love and serve God; it is a manifest proof, that they are false prophets; that God hath not sent them.

4. An hard saying this! How few can bear it? This our Lord was sensible of, and therefore condescends to prove it at large, by several clear and convincing arguments. Do men, says he, gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? ver. 16. Do you expect that these evil men should bring forth good fruit? As well might you expect that thorns should bring forth grapes, or that figs should grow upon thistles! Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. ver. 17. Every true prophet, every teacher whom I have sent, bringeth forth the good fruit of holiness. But a false prophet, a teacher whom I have not sent, brings forth only sin and wickedness. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. A true prophet, a teacher sent from God, does not bring forth good fruit, sometimes only, but always; not accidentally, but by a kind of necessity. In like manner, a false prophet, one whom God hath not sent, does not bring forth evil fruit, accidentally or sometimes only, but always and of necessity. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. ver. 19. Such infallibly will be the lot of those prophets, who bring not forth good fruit, who do not save souls from sin, who do not bring sinners to repentance. Wherefore let this stand as an eternal rule, By their fruits ye shall know them. ver. 20. They who in fact bring the proud, passionate, unmerciful lovers of the world, to be lowly, gentle lovers of God and man: they are true prophets, they are sent from God, who therefore confirms their word. On the other hand, they whose hearers, if unrighteous before, remain unrighteous still, or at least, void of any righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees: they are false prophets; they are not sent of God; therefore their word falls to the ground. And without a miracle of grace they and their hearers together, will fall into the bottomless pit.

5. O beware of these false prophets! For though they come in sheeps cloathing, yet inwardly they are ravening wolves. They only destroy and devour the flock: they tear them in pieces, if there is none to help them. They will not, cannot lead you in the way to heaven. How should they? When they know it not themselves. O beware they do not turn you out of the way, and cause you to lose what you have wrought.

6. But perhaps you will ask, If there is such danger in hearing them, ought I to hear them at all? It is a weighty question, such as deserves the deepest consideration, and ought not to be answered, but upon the calmest thought, the most deliberate reflection. For many years, I have been almost afraid, to speak at all concerning it, being unable to determine one way or the other, or to give any judgment upon it. Many reasons there are which readily occur, and incline me to say, “Hear them not.” And yet what our Lord speaks concerning the false prophets of his own times, seems to imply the contrary. Then spake Jesus unto the multitude and to his disciples, saying, the Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, are the ordinary, stated teachers in your church: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. But do not ye after their works; for they say and do not. Now that these were false prophets in the highest sense, our Lord hath shewn during the whole course of his ministry: as indeed he does in those very words, they say and do not. Therefore by their fruits his disciples could not but know them, seeing they were open to the view of all men. Accordingly he warns them again and again, to beware of these false prophets. And yet he does not forbid them to hear even these. Nay, he in effect commands them so to do, in those words, All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. For unless they heard them, they could not know, much less observe whatsoever they bad them do. Here then our Lord himself gives a plain direction, both to his apostles and the whole multitude, in some circumstances, to hear even false prophets, known and acknowledged so to be.

7. But perhaps it will be said, he only directed to hear them, when they read the scripture to the congregation. I answer, at the same time that they thus read the scripture, they generally expounded it too. And here is no kind of intimation, that they were to hear the one, and not the other also. Nay the very terms, All things whatsoever they bid you observe, exclude any such limitation.

8. *Again, unto them, unto false prophets, undeniably such, is frequently committed (O grief to speak! For surely these things ought not so to be) the administration of the sacrament also. To direct men therefore, not to hear them, would be in effect to cut them off from the ordinances of God. But this we dare not do, considering the validity of the ordinance doth not depend on the goodness of him that administers, but on the faithfulness of him that ordained it, who will and doth meet us in his appointed ways. Therefore on this account likewise I scruple to say, hear not even the false prophets. Even by these who are under a curse themselves, God can, and doth give us his blessing. For the bread which they break we have experimentally known to be the communion of the body of Christ. And the cup which God blest even by their unhallowed lips, was to us the communion of the blood of Christ.

9. *All therefore which I can say is this: in any particular case, wait upon God by humble and earnest prayer, and then act according to the best light you have. Act according to what you are persuaded, upon the whole, will be most for your spiritual advantage. Take great care that you do not judge rashly; that you do not lightly think any to be false prophets. And when you have full proof, see that no anger or contempt have any place in your heart. After this, in the presence and in the fear of God, determine for yourself. I can only say, if by experience you find, that the hearing them hurts your soul, then hear them not: then quietly refrain, and hear those that profit you. If on the other hand, you find, it does not hurt your soul, you then may hear them still. Only take heed how you hear: beware of them and of their doctrine. Hear with fear and trembling, lest you should be deceived, and given up, like them, to a strong delusion. As they continually mingle truth and lies, how easily may you take in both together? Hear with fervent and continual prayer, to him who alone teacheth man wisdom. And see that you bring whatever you hear, to the law and to the testimony. Receive nothing untried, nothing till it is weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Believe nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by passages of holy writ. Wholly reject whatsoever differs therefrom, whatever is not confirmed thereby. And in particular, reject, with the utmost abhorrence, whatsoever is described as the way of salvation, that is either different from or short of the way, our Lord has marked out in the foregoing discourse.

10. I cannot conclude, without addressing a few plain words, to those of whom we have now been speaking. O ye false prophets, O ye dry bones, hear ye for once the word of the Lord. How long will ye lie in the name of God? Saying God hath spoken: and God hath not spoken by you. How long will ye pervert the right ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls, whom ye profess to bring unto God?

11. *Wo unto you, ye blind leaders of the blind! For ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men. Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Them that would strive to enter in at the strait gate, ye call back into the broad way. Them that have scarce gone one step in the ways of God, you devilishly caution against going too far. Them that just begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness, you warn, not to be righteous overmuch. Thus you cause them to stumble at the very threshold; yea, to fall and rise no more. O wherefore do ye this? What profit is there in their blood, when they go down to the pit? Miserable profit to you. They shall perish in their iniquity: but their blood will God require at your hands!

12. Where are your eyes? Where is your understanding? Have ye deceived others, till you have deceived yourselves also? Who hath required this at your hands, to teach a way which ye never knew? Are you given up to so strong a delusion, that ye not only teach but believe a lie? And can you possibly believe, that God hath sent you? That ye are his messengers? Nay; if the Lord had sent you, the work of the Lord would prosper in your hand. As the Lord liveth, if ye were messengers of God, he would confirm the word of his messengers. But the work of the Lord doth not prosper in your hand: you bring no sinners to repentance. The Lord doth not confirm your word: for you save no souls from death.

13. How can you possibly evade the force of our Lord’s words? So full, so strong, so express? How can ye evade knowing yourselves by your fruits? Evil fruits of evil trees! And how should it be otherwise! Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Take this to yourselves, ye to whom it belongs. *O ye barren trees, why cumber ye the ground? Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. See ye not, that here is no exception? Take knowledge then, ye are not good trees: for ye do not bring forth good fruit. But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. And so have ye done from the beginning. Your speaking as from God has only confirmed them that heard you, in the tempers, if not works, of the devil. O take warning of him in whose name ye speak, before the sentence he hath pronounced take place. Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.

14. My dear brethren, harden not your hearts. You have too long shut your eyes against the light. Open them now before it is too late; before you are cast into outer darkness. Let not any temporal consideration weigh with you: for eternity is at stake. Ye have run before ye were sent. O go no farther. Do not persist to damn yourselves and them that hear you! You have no fruit of your labours. And why is this? Even because the Lord is not with you. But can you go this warfare at your own cost? It cannot be. Then humble yourselves before him. Cry unto him out of the dust, that he may first quicken thy soul: give thee the faith that worketh by love: that is lowly and meek, pure and merciful, zealous of good works; rejoicing in tribulation, in reproach, in distress, in persecution for righteousness sake. So shall the Spirit of glory and of Christ rest upon thee, and it shall appear, that God hath sent thee. So shalt thou indeed do the work of an Evangelist, and make full proof of thy ministry. So shall the word of God in thy mouth be an hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces. It shall then be known by thy fruits, that thou art a prophet of the Lord, even by the children whom God hath given thee. And having turned many to righteousness, thou shalt shine as the stars for ever and ever!


Discourse XIII.
Matt. vii. 2127.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

1.OUR divine teacher having declared the whole counsel of God, with regard to the way of salvation, and observed the chief hindrances of those who desire to walk therein: now closes the whole with these weighty words; thereby as it were setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations.

2. For thus saith the Lord, that none may ever conceive, there is any other way than this, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord; have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity. Therefore every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

3. I design in the following discourse, first, to consider the case of him, who thus builds his house upon the sand: secondly, To shew the wisdom of him who builds upon a rock, and thirdly, To conclude with a practical application.

I. 1. And, first, I am to consider the case of him who builds his house upon the sand. It is concerning him our Lord saith, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. And this is a decree which cannot pass: which standeth fast for ever and ever. It therefore imports us in the highest degree, throughly to understand the force of these words. Now what are we to understand by that expression, That saith unto me, Lord, Lord? It undoubtedly means, “that thinks of going to heaven by any other way than that which I have now described.” It therefore implies, (to begin at the lowest point) all good words, all verbal religion. It includes whatever creeds we may rehearse, whatever professions of faith we make: whatever number of prayers we may repeat, whatever thanksgivings we read or say to God. We may speak good of his name; and declare his loving-kindness to the children of men. We may be talking of all his mighty acts, and telling of his salvation from day to day. By comparing spiritual things with spiritual, we may shew the meaning of the oracles of God. We may explain the mysteries of his kingdom, which have been hid from the beginning of the world. We may speak with the tongue of angels rather than men, concerning the deep things of God. We may proclaim to sinners, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. Yea, we may do this with such a measure of the power of God, and such demonstration of his Spirit, as to save many souls from death, and hide a multitude of sins. And yet ’tis very possible, all this may be no more than saying, Lord, Lord! After I have thus successfully preached to others, still I myself may be a cast away. I may in the hand of God, snatch many souls from hell, and yet drop into it, when I have done. I may bring many others to the kingdom of heaven, and yet myself never enter there. Reader, if God hath ever blest my word to thy soul, pray that he may be merciful to me a sinner!

2. The saying, Lord, Lord! may, secondly, imply, the doing no harm. We may abstain from every presumptuous sin, from every kind of outward wickedness. We may refrain from all those ways of acting or speaking, which are forbidden in holy writ. We may be able to say to all those among whom we live, Which of you convinceth me of sin? We may have a conscience void of any external offence, towards God and towards man. We may be clear of all uncleanness, ungodliness and unrighteousness, as to the outward act: or (as the apostle testifies concerning himself,) touching the righteousness of the law, i. e. outward righteousness, blameless. But yet we are not hereby justified. Still this is no more than saying, Lord, Lord! And if we go no farther than this, we shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven.

3. The saying, Lord, Lord! may imply, thirdly, many of what are usually stiled good works. A man may attend the supper of the Lord, may hear abundance of excellent sermons, and omit no opportunity of partaking all the other ordinances of God. I may do good to my neighbour, deal my bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with a garment. I may be so zealous of good works, as even to give all my goods to feed the poor. Yea, and I may do all this, with a desire to please God, and a real belief that I do please him thereby: (which is undeniably the case of those our Lord introduces, saying unto him, Lord, Lord!) and still I may have no part, in the glory which shall be revealed.

4. If any man marvels at this, let him acknowledge he is a stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ: and in particular, to that perfect portraiture thereof, which he has set before us in this discourse. For how far short is all this, of that righteousness and true holiness, which he has described therein! how widely distant from that inward kingdom of heaven, which is now opened in the believing soul? Which is first sown in the heart as a grain of mustard-seed, but afterwards putteth forth great branches, on which grow all the fruits of righteousness, every good temper and word and work.

5. Yet as clearly as he had declared this, as frequently as he had repeated, That none who have not this kingdom of God within them, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: our Lord well knew, that many would not receive this saying, and therefore confirms it yet again: Many, (saith he; not one; not a few only; it is not a rare or an uncommon case) shall say unto me in that day: not only, we have said many prayers; we have spoken thy praise; we have refrained from evil; we have exercised ourselves in doing good: but what is abundantly more than this, We have prophesied in thy name. In thy name have we cast out devils; in thy name done many wonderful works. We have prophesied: we have declared thy will to mankind; we have shewed sinners the way to peace and glory. And we have done this, in thy name, according to the truth of thy gospel. Yea, and by thy authority, who didst confirm the word, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. For in or by thy name, by the power of thy word and of thy Spirit, have we cast out devils; out of the souls which they had long claimed as their own, and whereof they had full and quiet possession. And in thy name, by thy power, not our own, have we done many wonderful works: insomuch that even the dead heard the voice of the Son of God speaking by us, and lived. And then will I profess even unto them, I never knew you: no, not then, when you were casting out devils in my name. Even then I did not know you as my own: for your heart was not right toward God. Ye were not yourselves meek and lowly, ye were not lovers of God and of all mankind: ye were not renewed in the image of God. Ye were not holy as I am holy. Depart from me, ye who notwithstanding all this, are workers of iniquity; ἀνομία. Ye are transgressors of my law, my law of holy and perfect love.

6. It is to put this beyond all possibility of contradiction, that our Lord confirms it by that apposite comparison. Every one, saith he, who heareth these sayings of mine and doth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: as they will surely do, sooner or later, upon every soul of man; even the floods of outward affliction, or inward temptation; the storms of pride, anger, fear or desire. And it fell and great was the fall of it: so that it perished for ever and ever. Such must be the portion of all, who rest in any thing short of that religion which is above described. And the greater will their fall be, because they heard those sayings, and yet did them not.

II. 1. I am, secondly, to shew the wisdom of him that doth them, that buildeth his house upon a rock. He indeed is wise, who doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. He is truly wise, whose righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. He is poor in spirit; knowing himself even as also he is known. He sees and feels all his sin, and all his guilt, till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself, till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. He is meek and gentle, patient toward all men, never returning evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing, till he overcomes evil with good. His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He has bowels of love for all mankind, and is ready to lay down his life for his enemies. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind and soul and strength. He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, who in this spirit doth good unto all men; and who being for this cause despised and rejected of men; being hated, reproached and persecuted, rejoices and is exceeding glad, knowing in whom he hath believed; and being assured, these light, momentary afflictions will work out for him an eternal weight and glory.

2. *How truly wise is this man! He knows himself: an everlasting spirit, which came forth from God, and was sent down into an house of clay, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him. He knows the world; the place in which he is to pass a few days or years, not as an inhabitant, but a stranger and sojourner, in his way to the everlasting habitations: and accordingly he uses the world, as not abusing it, and as knowing the fashion of it passes away. He knows God, his Father and his Friend, the parent of all good, the center of the spirits of all flesh, the sole happiness of all intelligent beings. He sees, clearer than the light of the noon-day sun, that this is the end of man, To glorify him who made him for himself, and to love and enjoy him for ever. And with equal clearness he sees the means to that end, to the enjoyment of God in glory, even now to know, to love, to imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.

3. He is a wise man, even in God’s account; for he buildeth his house upon a rock: upon the rock of ages, the everlasting rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fitly is he so called; for he changeth not. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. To him both the man of God of old, and the apostle citing his words bear witness, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest; they all shall wax old as doth a garment. And as a vesture shall thou fold them up and they shall be changed: but thou art the same and thy years shall not fail. Heb. i. 10, 11, 12. Wise therefore is the man who buildeth on him; who layeth him for his only foundation; who builds only upon his blood and righteousness, upon what he hath done and suffered for us. On this corner-stone he fixes his faith, and rests the whole weight of his soul upon it. He is taught of God to say, Lord, I have sinned: I deserve the nethermost hell. But I am justified freely by thy grace, thro’ the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. And the life I now live, I live by faith in him, who loved me and gave himself for me. The life I now live: namely, a divine, heavenly life; a life, which is hid with Christ in God. I now live even in the flesh, a life of love, of pure love both to God and man: a life of holiness and happiness, praising God and doing all things to his glory.

4. Yet let not such an one think, That he shall not see war any more, that he is now out of the reach of temptation. It still remains, for God to prove the grace he hath given: he shall be tried as gold in the fire. He shall be tempted not less, than they who know not God: perhaps abundantly more. For Satan will not fail to try to the uttermost, those whom he is not able to destroy. Accordingly, the rain will impetuously descend: only at such times and in such a manner, as seems good, not to the prince of the power of the air, but to him whose kingdom ruleth over all. The floods, or torrents, will come; they will lift up their waves and rage horribly. But to them also, the Lord that sitteth above the water-floods, that remaineth a King for ever, will say, Hitherto shall ye come and no farther: here shall your proud waves be stayed. The winds will blow and beat upon that house, as tho’ they would tear it up from the foundation. But they cannot prevail: it falleth not: for it is founded upon a rock. He buildeth on Christ by faith and love: therefore he shall not be cast down. He shall not fear, tho’ the earth be moved, and tho’ the hills be carried into the midst of the sea. Tho’ the waters thereof rage and swell, and the mountains shake at the tempest of the same: still he dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, and is safe under the shadow of the Almighty.

III. 1. *How nearly then does it concern every child of man, practically to apply these things to himself? Diligently to examine, on what foundation he builds, whether on a rock or on the sand? How deeply are you concerned to inquire, what is the foundation of my hope? Whereon do I build my expectation of entring into the kingdom of heaven? Is it not built on the sand? Upon my orthodoxy or right opinions, (which by a gross abuse of words I have called faith!) Upon my having a set of notions (suppose more rational or scriptural than others have.) Alas! what madness is this? Surely this is building on the sand: or rather on the froth of the sea! Say, I am convinced of this. Am I not again building my hope on what is equally unable to support it? Perhaps on my belonging to “so excellent a church: reformed after the true scripture-model: blest with the purest doctrine, the most primitive liturgy, the most apostolical form of government.” These are doubtless so many reasons for praising God, as they may be so many helps to holiness. But they are not holiness itself. And if they are separate from it, they will profit me nothing. Nay, they will leave me the more without excuse, and exposed to the greater damnation. Therefore if I build my hope upon this foundation, I am still building upon the sand.

2. You cannot, you dare not rest here. Upon what next will you build your hope of salvation? Upon your innocence? Upon your doing no harm? Your not wronging or hurting any one? Well; allow this plea to be true. You are just in all your dealings: you are a downright honest man. You pay every man his own: you neither cheat, nor extort: you act fairly with all mankind. And you have a conscience towards God: you do not live in any known sin. Thus far is well. But still it is not the thing. You may go thus far, and yet never come to heaven. When all this harmlessness flows from a right principle, it is the least part of the religion of Christ. But in you it does not flow from a right principle, and therefore is no part at all of religion. So that in grounding your hope of salvation on this, you are still building upon the sand.

3. Do you go farther yet? Do you add to the doing no harm, the attending all the ordinances of God? Do you at all opportunities partake of the Lord’s supper? Use public and private prayer? Fast often? Hear and search the scriptures, and meditate thereon? These things likewise ought you to have done, from the time you first set your face towards heaven. Yet these things also are nothing, being alone. They are nothing without the weightier matters of the law. And those you have forgotten. At least you experience them not; faith, mercy, and the love of God: holiness of heart: heaven opened in the soul. Still therefore you build upon the sand.

4. *Over and above all this, are you zealous of good works? Do you, as you have time, do good to all men? Do you feed the hungry and cloath the naked, and visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction? Do you visit those that are sick? Relieve them that are in prison? Is any a stranger and you take him in? Friend, come up higher. Do you prophesy in the name of Christ? Do you preach the truth as it is in Jesus? And does the influence of his Spirit attend your word, and make it the power of God unto salvation? Does he enable you to bring sinners from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God? Then go and learn what thou hast so often taught, By grace ye are saved thro’ faith. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy he saveth us. Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all thou hast done but dung and dross. Apply to him just in the spirit of the dying thief, of the harlot with her seven devils. Else thou art still on the sand, and after saving others, thou wilt lose thy own soul.

5. *Lord! increase my faith, if I now believe! else, give me faith, tho’ but as a grain of mustard-seed!—But what doth it profit, if a man says he hath faith, and have not works? Can that faith save him? O no! That faith which hath not works, which doth not produce both inward and outward holiness, which does not stamp the whole image of God on the heart, and purify us as he is pure: that faith which does not produce the whole of the religion described in the foregoing chapters, is not the faith of the gospel, not the Christian faith, not the faith which leads to glory. O beware of this, above all other snares of the devil, of resting on unholy, unsaving faith! if thou layest stress on this, thou art lost for ever: thou still buildest thy house upon the sand. When the rain descends and the floods come, it will surely fall, and great will be the fall of it.

6. *Now therefore, build thou upon a rock. By the grace of God, know thyself. Know and feel, that thou wast shapen in wickedness, and in sin did thy mother conceive thee: and yet that thyself hast been heaping sin upon sin, ever since thou couldst discern good from evil. Own thyself guilty of eternal death: and renounce all hope of ever being able to save thyself. Be it all thy hope, to be washed in his blood, and purified by his Spirit, who himself bore all thy sins, in his own body upon the tree. And if thou knowest he hath taken away thy sins, so much the more abase thyself before him, in a continued sense of thy total dependance on him for every good thought and word and work, and of thy utter inability to all good, unless he water thee every moment.

7. Now weep for your sins, and mourn after God till he turns your heaviness into joy. And even then weep with them that weep: and for them that weep not for themselves. Mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind: and see, but just before your eyes, the immense ocean of eternity, without a bottom or a shore; which has already swallowed up millions of millions of men, and is gaping to devour them that yet remain. See here the house of God, eternal in the heavens; there, hell and destruction without a covering. And thence learn the importance of every moment, which just appears, and is gone for ever!

8. Now add to your seriousness, meekness of wisdom. Hold an even scale as to all your passions, but in particular, as to anger, sorrow and fear. Calmly acquiesce in whatsoever is the will of God. Learn in every state wherein you are, therewith to be content. Be mild to the good: be gentle toward all men; but especially toward the evil and the unthankful. Beware not only of outward expressions of anger, such as calling thy brother Raca, or thou fool! but of every inward emotion contrary to love, tho’ it go no farther than the heart. Be angry at sin, as an affront offered to the Majesty of heaven; but love the sinner still: like our Lord, who looked round about upon the Pharisees with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. He was grieved at the sinners, angry at the sin. Thus be thou angry and sin not.

9. *Now do thou hunger and thirst, not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life. Trample under foot the world and the things of the world: all these riches, honours, pleasures. What is the world to thee? Let the dead bury their dead: but follow thou after the image of God. And beware of quenching that blessed thirst, if it is already excited in thy soul, by what is vulgarly called religion, a poor, dull farce, a religion of form, of outside show, which leaves the heart still cleaving to the dust, as earthly and sensual as ever. Let nothing satisfy thee but the power of godliness, but a religion that is spirit and life; the dwelling in God and God in thee; the being an inhabitant of eternity; the entering in by the blood of sprinkling within the veil, and sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.

10. Now, seeing thou canst do all things thro’ Christ strengthening thee, be merciful as thy Father in heaven is merciful. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Love friends and enemies as thy own soul. And let thy love be long-suffering, and patient towards all men. Let it be kind, soft, benign: inspiring thee with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection. Let it rejoice in the truth, wheresoever it is found, the truth that is after godliness. Enjoy whatsoever brings glory to God, and promotes peace and good-will among men. In love cover all things; of the dead and the absent speaking nothing but good: believe all things, which may any way tend to clear your neighbour’s character: hope all things, in his favour, and endure all things, triumphing over all opposition. For true love never faileth, in time or in eternity.

11. Now be thou pure in heart; purified thro’ faith from every unholy affection, cleansing thyself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Being thro’ the power of his grace, purified from pride by deep poverty of spirit, from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and mercifulness, from every desire but to please and enjoy God, by hunger and thirst after righteousness; now love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy strength.

12. In a word. Let thy religion be the religion of the heart. Let it lie deep in thy inmost soul. Be thou little and base, and mean and vile, (beyond what words can express) in thy own eyes; amazed and humbled to the dust, by the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Be serious. Let the whole stream of thy thoughts, words and actions flow from the deepest conviction, that thou standest on the edge of the great gulph, thou and all the children of men, just ready to drop in, either into everlasting glory or everlasting burnings. Let thy soul be filled with mildness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering towards all men: at the same time that all which is in thee is athirst for God, the living God; longing to awake up after his likeness, and to be satisfied with it. Be thou a lover of God and of all mankind. In this Spirit do and suffer all things. Thus shew thy faith by thy works: thus do the will of thy Father which is in heaven. And as sure as thou now walkest with God on earth, thou shalt also reign with him in glory.


Rom. vii. 12.

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

1.PERHAPS there are few subjects within the whole compass of religion, so little understood as this. The reader of this epistle is usually told, by the law, St. Paul means Jewish law: and so apprehending himself to have no concern therewith, passes on without farther thought about it. Indeed some are not satisfied with this account: but observing the epistle is directed to the Romans, thence infer, that the apostle in the beginning of this chapter, alludes to the old Roman law. But as they have no more concern with this, than with the ceremonial law of Moses, so they spend not much thought, on what they suppose is occasionally mentioned, barely to illustrate another thing.

2. But a careful observer of the apostle’s discourse, will not be content with these slight explications of it. And the more he weighs the words, the more convinced he will be that St. Paul by the law mentioned in this chapter, does not mean either the ancient law of Rome, or the ceremonial law of Moses. This will clearly appear to all who attentively consider the tenor of his discourse. He begins the chapter, Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law, to them who have been instructed therein from their youth) That the law hath dominion over a man, as long as he liveth? ver. 1. (What the law of Rome only, or the ceremonial law? No surely; but the moral law) For, to give a plain instance, the woman that hath an husband, is bound by the (moral) law to her husband as long as he liveth. But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband, ver. 2. So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, tho’ she be married to another man. ver 3. From this particular instance the apostle proceeds to draw that general conclusion. Wherefore, my brethren, by a plain parity of reason, ye also are become dead to the law, the whole Mosaic institution, by the body of Christ offered for you, and bringing you under a new dispensation: that ye should without any blame be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, and hath thereby given proof of his authority to make the change, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God. ver. 4. And this we can do now, whereas before we could not: For when we were in the flesh, under the power of the flesh, that is, of corrupt nature, (which was necessarily the case till we knew the power of Christ’s resurrection) the motions of sin, which were by the law, which were shewn and inflamed by the Mosaic law, not conquered, did work in our members, broke out various ways, to bring forth fruit unto death. ver. 5. But now we are delivered from the law, from that whole moral as well as ceremonial œconomy; that being dead whereby we were held: that intire institution being now as it were dead, and having no more authority over us, than the husband when dead hath over his wife: that we should serve him who died for us and rose again; in newness of spirit, in a new spiritual dispensation, and not in the oldness of the letter, ver. 6. with a bare outward service, according to the letter of the Mosaic institution.

3. The apostle having gone thus far, in proving that the Christian had set aside the Jewish dispensation, and that the moral law itself, tho’ it could never pass away, yet stood on a different foundation from what it did before, now stops to propose and answer an objection. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? So some might infer from a misapprehension of those words, the motions of sin which were by the law. God forbid! saith the apostle, that we should say so. Nay, the law is an irreconcileable enemy to sin; searching it out wherever it is. I had not known sin but by the law. I had not known lust, evil desire to be sin, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet, ver. 7. After opening this farther in the four following verses, he subjoins this general conclusion, with regard more especially to the moral law, from which the preceding instance was taken: Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

4. In order to explain and inforce these deep words, so little regarded, because so little understood, I shall endeavour to shew, first, the original of this law, secondly, the nature thereof; thirdly, the properties, that it is holy and just and good, and fourthly, the uses of it.

I. 1. I shall, first, endeavour to shew the original of the moral law, often called the law, by way of eminence. Now this is not, as some may possibly have imagined, of so late an institution as the time of Moses. Noah declared it to men long before that time, and Enoch before him. But we may trace its original higher still, even beyond the foundation of the world, to that period, unknown indeed to men, but doubtless inrolled in the annals of eternity, when the morning stars first sang together, being newly called into existence. *It pleased the great Creator to make these his first born sons, intelligent beings, that they might know him that created them. For this end he endued them with understanding, to discern truth from falshood, good from evil: and as a necessary result of this, with liberty, a capacity of chusing the one and refusing the other. By this they were likewise enabled to offer him a free and willing service: a service rewardable in itself, as well as most acceptable to their gracious Master.

2. To employ all the faculties which he had given them, particularly their understanding and liberty, he gave them a law, a compleat model of all truth, so far as is intelligible to a finite being, and of all good, so far as angelic minds were capable of embracing it. It was also the design of their beneficent governor herein, to make way for a continual increase of their happiness: seeing every instance of obedience to that law, would both add to the perfection of their nature, and intitle them to an higher reward, which the righteous judge would give in its season.

3. *In like manner, when God in his appointed time, had created a new order of intelligent beings, when he had raised man from the dust of the earth, breathed into him the breath of life, and caused him to become a living soul, endued with power to chuse good or evil: he gave to this free, intelligent creature, the same law as to his first-born children: not wrote indeed upon tables of stone, or any corruptible substance, but engraven on his heart by the finger of God, wrote in the inmost spirit both of men and of angels: to the intent it might never be far off, never hard to be understood; but always at hand, and always shining with clear light, even as the sun in the midst of heaven.

4. Such was the original of the law of God. With regard to man, it was co-eval with his nature. But with regard to the elder sons of God, it shone in its full splendor, or ever the mountains were brought forth, on the earth and the round world were made. But it was not long before man rebelled against God, and by breaking this glorious law, well nigh effaced it out of his heart; the eyes of his understanding being darkened, in the same measure as his soul was alienated from the life of God. And yet God did not despise the work of his own hands: but being reconciled to man thro’ the Son of his love, he in some measure re-inscribed the law, on the heart of his dark, sinful creature. He again shewed thee, O man what is good (altho’ not as in the beginning) even to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

5. And this he shewed not only to our first parents, but likewise to all their posterity, by that true light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world. But notwithstanding this light, all flesh had in process of time corrupted their way before him: till he chose out of mankind a peculiar people, to whom he gave a more perfect knowledge of his law. And the heads of this, because they were slow of understanding, he wrote on two tables of stone; which he commanded the fathers to teach their children, thro’ all succeeding generations.

6. And thus it is, that the law of God is now made known to them that know not God. They hear, with the hearing of the ear, the things that were written aforetime for our instruction. But this does not suffice. They cannot by this means comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth thereof. God alone can reveal this by his Spirit. And so he does to all that truly believe, in consequence of that gracious promise, made to all the Israel of God: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. And this shall be the covenant that I will make, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jer. xxxi. 31, &c.

II. 1. The nature of that law which was originally given to angels in heaven and man in paradise, and which God has so mercifully promised to write afresh, in the hearts of all true believers, was the second thing I proposed to shew. In order to which I would first observe, that altho’ the law and the commandment are sometimes differently taken, (the commandment meaning but a part of the law) yet in the text they are used as equivalent terms, implying one and the same thing. But we cannot understand here, either by one or the other, the ceremonial law. ’Tis not the ceremonial law, whereof the apostle says, in the words above recited, I had not known sin but by the law: this is too plain to need a proof. Neither is it the ceremonial law which saith, in the words immediately subjoined, Thou shalt not covet. Therefore the ceremonial law, has no place in the present question.

2. Neither can we understand by the law mentioned in the text, the Mosaic dispensation. ’Tis true, the word is sometimes so understood: as when the apostle says, speaking to the Galatians, (c. iii. v. 17.) The covenant which was confirmed before (namely with Abraham the father of the faithful) the law, i. e. the Mosaic dispensation, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul. But it cannot be understood so in the text; for the apostle never bestows, so high commendations as these upon that imperfect and shadowy dispensation. He no where affirms, the Mosaic to be a spiritual law: or, that it is holy and just and good. Neither is it true, that God will write that law in the hearts of them whose iniquities he remembers no more. It remains, that the law, eminently so termed, is no other than the moral law.

3. Now this law is an incorruptible picture of the high and holy one that inhabiteth eternity. It is he whom in his essence no man hath seen or can see, made visible to men and angels. It is the face of God unveiled: God manifested to his creatures as they are able to bear it: manifested to give and not to destroy life; that they may see God and live. It is the heart of God disclosed to man. Yea, in some sense we may apply to this law, what the apostle says of his Son, it is ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης, καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ· The streaming forth or out-beaming of his glory, the express image of his person.

4. *“If virtue, said the antient Heathen, could assume such a shape as that we could behold her with our eyes, what wonderful love would she excite in us!” If virtue could do this! It is done already. The law of God is all virtues in one, in such a shape, as to be beheld with open face, by all those whose eyes God hath enlightened. What is the law, but divine virtue and wisdom, assuming a visible form? What is it, but the original ideas of truth and good, which were lodged in the uncreated mind from eternity, now drawn forth and cloathed with such a vehicle, as to appear even to human understanding?

5. *If we survey the law of God in another point of view, it is supreme, unchangeable reason: it is unalterable rectitude: it is the everlasting fitness of all things that are or ever were created. I am sensible, what a shortness, and even impropriety there is, in these and all other human expressions, when we endeavour by these faint pictures, to shadow out the deep things of God. Nevertheless we have no better, indeed no other way, during this our infant state of existence. As we now know but in part, so we are constrained to prophesy, i. e. speak of the things of God, in part also. We cannot order our speech by reason of darkness, while we are in this house of clay. While I am a child I must speak as a child. But I shall soon put away childish things. For when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

6. *But to return. The law of God, (speaking after the manner of men) is a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of the divine nature: yea it is the fairest offspring of the everlasting Father, the brightest efflux of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most High. It is the delight and wonder of Cherubim and Seraphim and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer, every well-instructed child of God upon earth.

III. 1. Such is the nature of the ever blessed law of God. I am, in the third place, to shew the properties of it: not all; for that would exceed the wisdom of an angel. But those only which are mentioned in the text. These are three: It is holy, just and good. And first, The law is holy.

2. In this expression the apostle does not appear to speak of its effects; but rather of its nature: as St. James speaking of the same thing under another name, says, The wisdom from above (which is no other than this law, written on our heart) is first pure, chap. iii. 17. ἁγνὴ, chaste, spotless, internally, and essentially holy. And consequently, when it is transcribed into the life, as well as the soul, it is (as the same apostle terms it,) chap. i. 27. θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος. Pure religion and undefiled; or, the pure, clean, unpolluted worship of God.

3. It is indeed, in the highest degree, pure, chaste, clean, holy. Otherwise it could not be the immediate offspring, and much less the express resemblance of God, who is essential holiness. It is pure from all sin, clean and unspotted from any touch of evil. It is a chaste virgin, incapable of any defilement, of any mixture with that which is unclean or unholy. It has no fellowship with sin of any kind. For what communion hath light with darkness? As sin is in its very nature enmity to God, so his law is enmity to sin.

Therefore it is, that the apostle rejects with such abhorrence, that blasphemous supposition, that the law of God is either sin itself, or the cause of sin. God forbid, that we should suppose, it is the cause of sin, because it is the discoverer of it: because it detects the hidden things of darkness, and drags them out into open day. ’Tis true, by this means, (as the apostle observes, ver. 13.) sin appears to be sin. All its disguises are torn away, and it appears in its native deformity. ’Tis true likewise, that sin by the commandment becomes exceeding sinful. Being now committed against light and knowledge, being stript even of the poor plea of ignorance, it loses its excuse as well as disguise, and becomes far more odious both to God and man. Yea, and it is true, that sin worketh death by that which is good, which in itself is pure and holy. When it is dragged out to light, it rages the more: when it is restrained, it bursts out with greater violence. Thus the apostle, (speaking in the person of one, who was convinced of sin, but not yet delivered from it) sin taking occasion by the commandment, detecting and endeavouring to restrain it, disdained the restraint, and so much the more wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, ver. 8. All manner of foolish and hurtful desire, which that commandment sought to restrain. Thus when the commandment came, sin revived, ver. 9. It fretted and raged the more. But this is no stain on the commandment. Though it is abused it cannot be defiled. This only proves, that the heart of man is desperately wicked. But the law of God is holy still.

5. And it is, secondly, just. It renders to all their due. It prescribes exactly what is right, precisely what ought to be done, said or thought both with regard to the author of our being, with regard to ourselves, and with regard to every creature which he has made. It is adapted in all respects to the nature of things, of the whole universe and every individual. It is suited to all the circumstances of each, and to all their mutual relations, whether such as have existed from the beginning, or such as commenced in any following period. It is exactly agreeable to the fitnesses of things, whether essential or accidental. It clashes with none of these in any degree; nor is ever unconnected with them. If the word be taken in that sense, there is nothing arbitrary in the law of God. Altho’ still the whole and every part thereof, is totally dependent upon his will: so that thy will be done, is the supreme, universal law both in earth and heaven.

6. “But is the will of God the cause of his law? Is his will the original of right and wrong? Is a thing therefore right, because God wills it? Or does he will it, because it is right?”

I fear, this celebrated question is more curious than useful. And perhaps, in the manner it is usually treated of, it does not so well consist with the regard that is due from a creature, to the Creator and governor of all things. ’Tis hardly decent for man, to call the supreme God, to give an account to him! Nevertheless, with awe and reverence we may speak a little. The Lord pardon us, if we speak amiss!

7. It seems then, that the whole difficulty arises, from considering God’s will as distinct from God. Otherwise it vanishes away. For none can doubt, but God is the cause of the law of God. But the will of God is God himself. It is God considered as willing thus or thus. Consequently, to say, That the will of God, or that God himself is the cause of the law, is one and the same thing.

8. *Again; if the law, the immutable rule of right and wrong, depends on the nature and fitnesses of things, and on their essential relations to each other: (I do not say, their eternal relations; because the eternal relation of things existing in time, is little less than a contradiction:) if, I say, this depends on the nature and relations of things, then it must depend on God, or the will of God: because those things themselves, with all their relations, are the works of his hands. By his will, for his pleasure alone, they all are and were created.

9. And yet it may be granted (which is probably all that a considerate person would contend for) that in every particular case, God wills this or this (suppose that men should honour their parents) because it is right, agreeable to the fitness of things, to the relation wherein they stand.

10. The law then is right and just concerning all things. And it is good as well as just. This we may easily infer from the fountain whence it flowed. For what was this, but the goodness of God? What but goodness alone inclined him to impart that divine copy of himself to the holy angels? To what else can we impute his bestowing upon man the same transcript of his own nature? And what but tender love constrained him afresh to manifest his will to fallen man? Either to Adam, or any of his seed, who like him were come short of the glory of God? Was it not mere love that moved him to publish his law, after the understandings of men were darkened? And to send his prophets to declare that law, to the blind, thoughtless children of men? Doubtless his goodness it was which raised up Enoch and Noah, to be preachers of righteousness; which caused Abraham, his friend, and Isaac and Jacob, to bear witness to his truth. It was his goodness alone, which when darkness had covered the earth, and thick darkness the people, gave a written law to Moses, and through him, to the nation whom he had chosen. It was his love which explained these living oracles by David and all the prophets that followed: until, when the fulness of time was come, he sent his only-begotten Son, not to destroy the law but to fulfil, to confirm every jot and tittle thereof, till having wrote it in the hearts of all his children, and put all his enemies under his feet, he shall deliver up his mediatorial kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.

11. And this law which the goodness of God gave at first and has preserved through all ages, is, like the fountain from whence it springs, full of goodness and benignity: It is mild and kind; it is (as the Psalmist expresses it) sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. It is winning and amiable. It includes whatsoever things are lovely or of good report. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise before God and his holy angels, they are all comprized in this: wherein are hid all the treasures of the divine wisdom and knowledge and love.

12. And it is good in its effects, as well as in its nature. As the tree is, so are its fruits. The fruits of the law of God written in the heart, are righteousness and peace and assurance for ever. Or rather, the law itself is righteousness, filling the soul with a peace which passeth all understanding, and causing us to rejoice evermore, in the testimony of a good conscience toward God. It is not so properly a pledge, as an earnest of our inheritance, being a part of the purchased possession. It is God made manifest in our flesh, and bringing with him eternal life: assuring us by that pure and perfect love, that we are sealed unto the day of redemption: that he will spare us as a man spareth his own son that serveth him, in the day when he maketh up his jewels, and that there remaineth for us a crown of glory which fadeth not away.

IV. 1. It remains only, to shew, in the fourth and last place, the uses of the law. And the first use of it without question is, to convince the world of sin. This is indeed the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost: who can work it without any means at all, or by whatever means it pleaseth him, however insufficient in themselves, or even improper to produce such an effect. And accordingly some there are whose hearts have been broken in pieces in a moment, either in sickness or in health, without any visible cause, or any outward means whatever. And others (one in an age) have been awakened to a sense of the wrath of God abiding on them, by hearing, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. But it is the ordinary method of the Spirit of God, to convict sinners by the law. It is this, which being set home on the conscience, generally breaketh the rocks in pieces. It is more especially this part of the word of God, which is ζῶν καὶ ἐνεργής, quick and powerful, full of life and energy, and sharper than any two-edged sword. This in the hand of God and of those whom he hath sent, pierces through all the folds of a deceitful heart, and divides asunder even the soul and spirit, yea, as it were, the very joints and marrow. By this is the sinner discovered to himself. All his fig-leaves are torn away, and he sees that he is wretched and poor and miserable and blind and naked. The law flashes conviction on every side. He feels himself a mere sinner. He has nothing to pay. His mouth is stopt, and he stands guilty before God.

2. To slay the sinner is then the first use of the law; to destroy the life and strength wherein he trusts, and convince him that he is dead while he liveth; not only under the sentence of death, but actually dead unto God, void of all spiritual life, dead in trespasses and sins. The second use of it is, to bring him unto life, unto Christ, that he may live. ’Tis true, in performing both these offices, it acts the part of a severe school-master. It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love. And yet love is the spring of all. It is the spirit of love, which by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner stript of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, or groan in the depth of his heart,

“I give up every plea beside

Lord, I am damn’d—but thou hast died.”

3. The third use of the law is, to keep us alive. It is the grand means whereby the blessed Spirit prepares the believer for larger communications of the life of God.

I am afraid this great and important truth is little understood, not only by the world, but even by many whom God hath taken out of the world, who are real children of God by faith. Many of these lay it down as an unquestioned truth, that when we come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that in this sense, Christ is the end of the law, to every one that believeth. The end of the law. So he is, for righteousness, for justification to every one that believeth. Herein the law is at an end. It justifies none; but only brings them to Christ. Who is also in another respect, the end or scope of the law, the point at which it continually aims. But when it has brought us to him, it has yet a farther office, namely, to keep us with him. For it is continually exciting all believers, the more they see of its height and depth and length and breadth, to exhort one another so much the more,

“Closer and closer let us cleave

To his belov’d embrace:

Expect his fulness to receive,

And grace to answer grace.”

4. *Allowing then that every believer has done with the law, as it means the Jewish ceremonial law, or the entire Mosaic dispensation (for these Christ hath taken out of the way) yea, allowing we have done with the moral law, as a means of procuring our justification (for we are justified freely by his grace, thro’ the redemption that is in Jesus). Yet in another sense, we have not done with this law. For it is still of unspeakable use, first, in convincing us of the sin that yet remains both in our hearts and lives, and thereby keeping us close to Christ, that his blood may cleanse us every moment; secondly, in deriving strength from our head into his living members, whereby he impowers them to do what his law commands; and thirdly, in confirming our hope of whatsoever it commands, and we have not yet attained, of receiving grace upon grace, till we are in actual possession of the fulness of his promises.

5. How clearly does this agree with the experience of every true believer! While he cries out, O what love have I unto thy law! All the day long is my study in it; he sees daily in that divine mirror, more and more of his own sinfulness. He sees more and more clearly, that he is still a sinner in all things; that neither his heart nor his ways are right before God. And that every moment sends him to Christ. This shews him the meaning of what is written, Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, Holiness to the Lord. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead (the type of our great highpriest) that Aaron may bear the iniquities of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hollow, in all their holy gifts: (so far are our prayers or holy things from atoning for the rest of our sin!) And it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. Exod. xxviii. 36, 38.

6. To explain this by a single instance. The law says, Thou shalt not kill, and hereby (as our Lord teaches) forbids not only outward acts, but every unkind word or thought. Now the more I look into this perfect law, the more I feel how far I come short of it: and the more I feel this, the more I feel my need of his blood to atone for all my sin: and of his Spirit to purify my heart, and make me perfect and entire, lacking nothing.

7. *Therefore I cannot spare the law one moment, no more than I can spare Christ: Seeing I now want it as much, to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to him. Otherwise, this evil heart of unbelief would immediately depart from the living God. Indeed each is continually sending me to the other, the law to Christ, and Christ to the law. On the one hand, the height and depth of the law constrain me to fly to the love of God in Christ. On the other, the love of God in Christ, endears the law to me above gold or precious stones: seeing I know every part of it, is a gracious promise, which my Lord will fulfil in its season.

8. *Who art thou then, O man, that judgest the law, and speakest evil of the law? That rankest it with sin, Satan and death, and sendest them all to hell together! The apostle James esteemed judging or speaking evil of the law, so enormous a piece of wickedness, that he knew not how to aggravate the guilt of judging our brethren, more than by shewing it included this. So now, says he, thou art not a doer of the law but a judge! A judge of that which God hath ordained to judge thee. So thou hast set up thyself in the judgment-seat of Christ, and cast down the rule whereby he will judge the world! O take knowledge what advantage Satan hath gained over thee; and for the time to come never think or speak lightly of, much less dress up as a scare-crow this blessed instrument of the grace of God. Yea, love and value it for the sake of him from whom it came, and of him to whom it leads. Let it be thy glory and joy, next to the cross of Christ. Declare its praise, and make it honourable before all men.

9. And if thou art throughly convinced, That it is the offspring of God, that it is the copy of all his imitable perfections, and that it is holy and just and good, but especially to them that believe: then instead of casting it away as a polluted thing, see that thou cleave to it more and more. Never let the law of mercy and truth, of love to God and man, of lowliness, meekness and purity forsake thee. Bind it about thy neck: write it on the table of thy heart. Keep close to the law, if thou wilt keep close to Christ: hold it fast: let it not go. Let this continually lead thee to the atoning blood, continually confirm thy hope, till all the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in thee, and thou art filled with all the fulness of God.

10. And if thy Lord hath already fulfilled his word, if he hath already written his law in thy heart, then stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made thee free. Thou art not only made free from Jewish ceremonies, from the guilt of sin and the fear of hell: (these are so far from being the whole, that they are the least and lowest part, of Christian liberty:) but what is infinitely more, from the power of sin, from serving the devil, from offending God. O stand fast in this liberty, in comparison of which, all the rest is not even worthy to be named. Stand fast in loving God with all thy heart, and serving him with all thy strength. This is perfect freedom; thus to keep his law, and to walk in all his commandments blameless. Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. I do not mean of Jewish bondage: nor yet of bondage to the fear of hell: these, I trust, are far from thee. But beware of being intangled again with the yoke of sin, of any inward or outward transgression of the law. Abhor sin far more than death or hell; abhor sin itself, far more than the punishment of it. Beware of the bondage of pride, of desire, of anger; of every evil temper or word or work. Look unto Jesus, and in order thereto, look more and more into the perfect law, the law of liberty. And continue therein: so shalt thou daily grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Discourse I.
Rom. iii. 31.

Do we then make void the law thro’ Faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law.

1.SAINT Paul having in the beginning of this epistle, laid down his general proposition, namely, That the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth: the powerful means, whereby God makes every believer a partaker of present and eternal salvation, goes on to shew, that there is no other way under heaven, whereby men can be saved. He speaks particularly of salvation from the guilt of sin, which he commonly terms justification. And that all men stood in need of this, that none could plead their own innocence, he proves at large by various arguments, addrest to the Jews as well as the Heathens. Hence he infers (in the 19th verse of this chapter) That every mouth, whether of Jew or Heathen, must be stopt from excusing or justifying himself, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore, saith he, by his own obedience, by the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight, ver. 20. But now the righteousness of God without the law, without our previous obedience thereto, is manifested, ver. 21. Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe, ver. 22. For there is no difference, as to their need of justification, or the manner wherein they attain it. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, (ver. 23.) the glorious image of God wherein they were created: and all (who attain) are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: ver. 24. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, thro’ faith in his bloodver. 25. That he might be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus; ver. 36. that without any impeachment to his justice, he might shew him mercy, for the sake of that propitiation. Therefore we conclude, (which was the grand position he had undertaken to establish) That a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law, ver. 28.

2. It was easy to foresee an objection which might be made, and which has in fact been made in all ages: namely, That to say we are justified without the works of the law, is to abolish the law. The apostle, without entering into a formal dispute, simply denies the charge. Do we then, says he, make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.

3. The strange imagination of some, that St. Paul, when he says, A man is justified without the works of the law, means only the ceremonial law, is abundantly confuted by these very words. For did St. Paul establish the ceremonial law? It is evident, he did not. He did make void that law through faith, and openly avowed his doing so. It was the moral law only of which he might truly say, We do not make void but establish this through faith.

4. But all men are not herein of his mind. Many there are who will not agree to this. Many in all ages of the church, even among those who bore the name of Christians, have contended, That the faith once delivered to the saints, was designed to make void the whole law. They would no more spare the moral than the ceremonial law, but were for hewing, as it were, both in pieces before the Lord: vehemently maintaining, “If you establish any law, Christ shall profit you nothing: Christ is become of no effect to you: ye are fallen from grace.”

5. But is the zeal of these men according to knowledge? Have they observed the connection between the law and faith? And that considering the close connection between them, to destroy one is indeed to destroy both? That to abolish the moral law is in truth, to abolish faith and the law together? As leaving no proper means, either of bringing us to faith, or of stirring up that gift of God in our soul.

6. It therefore behoves all who desire either to come to Christ, or to walk in Him whom they have received, to take heed how they make void the law through faith; to secure us effectually against which, let us enquire, first, which are the most usual ways of making void the law through faith, and secondly, How we may follow the apostle, and by faith establish the law.

I. 1. Let us, first, inquire, Which are the most usual ways of making void the law through faith. Now the way for a preacher to make it all void at a stroke, is, Not to preach it at all. This is just the same thing, as to blot it out of the oracles of God. More especially when it is done with design; when it is made a rule, “Not to preach the law:” and the very phrase, “A preacher of the law,” is used as a term of reproach, as tho’ it meant little less than, “an enemy to the gospel.”

2. All this proceeds from the deepest ignorance of the nature, properties and use of the law: and proves that those who act thus, either know not Christ, are utter strangers to living faith: or at least, that they are but babes in Christ, and as such unskilled in the word of righteousness.

3. Their grand plea is this: “That preaching the gospel (that is, according to their judgment, the speaking of nothing but the sufferings and merits of Christ) answers all the ends of the law.” But this we utterly deny. It does not answer the very first end of the law, namely, The convincing men of sin, the awakening those who are still asleep on the brink of hell. There may have been here and there an exempt case. One in a thousand may have been awakened by the gospel. But this is no general rule. The ordinary method of God, is to convict sinners by the law, and that only. The gospel is not the means which God hath ordained, or which our Lord himself used, for this end. We have no authority in scripture for applying it thus, nor any ground, to think it will prove effectual. Nor have we any more ground to expect this, from the nature of the thing. They that be whole, as our Lord himself observes, need not a physician, but they that be sick. It is absurd therefore to offer a physician to them that are whole, or that at least imagine themselves so to be. You are first, to convince them, that they are sick. Otherwise they will not thank you for your labour. It is equally absurd to offer Christ to them, whose heart is whole, having never yet been broken. It is in the proper sense, casting pearls before swine. Doubtless, they will trample them under foot. And it is no more than you have reason to expect, if they also turn again and rent you.

4. “But altho’ there is no command in scripture, to offer Christ to the careless sinner, yet are there not scriptural precedents for it?” I think not: I know not any. I believe you can’t produce one, either from the four Evangelists, or the Acts of the Apostles. Neither can you prove this to have been the practice of any of the apostles, from any passage in all their writings.

5. “Nay, does not the apostle Paul say, in his former Epistle to the Corinthians, We preach Christ crucified? ch. i. ver. 23. And in his latter, We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord? ch. v. ver. 4.”

We consent to rest the cause on this issue: to tread in his steps, to follow his example. Only preach you, just as Paul preached, and the dispute is at an end.

For altho’ we are certain he preached Christ, in as perfect a manner as the very chief of the apostles, yet who preached the law more than St. Paul? Therefore he did not think the gospel answered the same end.

6. The very first sermon of St. Paul’s, which is recorded, concludes in these words. By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the Prophets, Behold ye despisers and wonder and perish. For I work a work in your days, a work which you will in no wise believe, tho’ a man declare it unto you, Acts xiii. 39, &c. Now it is manifest, all this is preaching the law, in the sense wherein you understand the term: even altho’ great part of, if not all his hearers, were either Jews or religious proselytes, ver. 43. and therefore probably many of them, in some degree at least, convinced of sin already. He first reminds them, That they could not be justified by the law of Moses, but only by faith in Christ: and then severely threatens them with the judgments of God, which is in the strongest sense preaching the law.

7. In his next discourse, that to the Heathens at Lystra, (ch. xiv. ver. 15, &c.) we do not find so much as the name of Christ. The whole purport of it is, That they should turn from those vain idols, unto the living God. Now confess the truth. Do not you think, If you had been there, you could have preached much better than he? I should not wonder, if you thought too, That his preaching so ill, occasioned his being so ill treated: and that his being stoned, was a just judgment upon him, for not preaching Christ!

8. To the jailor indeed, when he sprang in and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, What must I do to be saved, he immediately said, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. (ch. xvi. ver. 29, &c.) And in the case of one so deeply convinced of sin, who would not have said the same? But to the men of Athens you find him speaking in a quite different manner, reproving their superstition, ignorance and idolatry; and strongly moving them to repent, from the consideration of a future judgment, and of the resurrection from the dead, (ch. xvii. ver. 2431.) Likewise when Felix sent for Paul, on purpose that he might hear him concerning the faith in Christ; instead of preaching Christ in your sense (which would probably have caused the governor either to mock, or to contradict and blaspheme) he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, till Felix (hardened as he was) trembled. (ch. xxiv. ver. 24, 25.) Go thou and tread in his steps. Preach Christ to the careless sinner, by reasoning of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come!

9. If you say, “But he preached Christ in a different manner in his epistles;” I answer, He did not there preach at all: not in that sense wherein we speak: for preaching in our present question, means, speaking before a congregation. But waving this, I answer, 2. His epistles are directed, not to unbelievers, such as those we are now speaking of, but to the saints of God in Rome, Corinth, Philippi and other places. Now unquestionably he would speak more of Christ to these, than to those who were without God in the world. And yet, 3. Every one of these is full of the law, even the epistles to the Romans and the Galatians: in both of which he does what you term preaching the law, and that to believers as well as unbelievers.

10. From hence ’tis plain, you know not what it is, to preach Christ, in the sense of the apostle. For doubtless St. Paul judged himself to be preaching Christ, both to Felix, and at Antioch, Lystra, and Athens. From whose example every thinking man must infer, That not only the declaring the love of Christ to sinners, but also the declaring that he will come from heaven in flaming fire, is, in the apostle’s sense, preaching Christ. Yea, in the full scriptural meaning of the word. To preach Christ, is, to preach what he hath revealed, either in the old or new Testament: so that you are then as really preaching Christ, when you are saying, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God, as when you are saying, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!

10. Consider this well: that to preach Christ, is to preach all things that Christ hath spoken; all his promises, all his threatnings and commands; all that is written in his book. And then you will know how to preach Christ, without making void the law.

11. “But does not the greatest blessing attend those discourses, wherein we peculiarly preach the merits and sufferings of Christ?”

Probably, when we preach to a congregation of mourners or of believers, these will be attended with the greatest blessing: because such discourses are peculiarly suited to their state. At least, these will usually convey the most comfort. But this is not always the greatest blessing. I may sometimes receive a far greater, by a discourse that cuts me to the heart and humbles me to the dust. Neither should I receive that comfort, if I were to preach or to hear no discourses but on the sufferings of Christ. These by constant repetition would lose their force and grow more and more flat and dead: ’till at length they would become a dull round of words, without any spirit or life or virtue. So that thus to preach Christ, must in process of time, make void the gospel as well as the law.

II. 1. A second way of making void the law thro’ faith, is, the teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness. This divides itself into a thousand smaller paths: and many there are that walk therein. Indeed there are few that wholly escape it: few who are convinced, we are saved by faith, but are sooner or later, more or less, drawn aside into this by-way.

2. *All those are drawn into this by-way, who if it be not their settled judgment, that faith in Christ intirely sets aside the necessity of keeping his law, yet suppose either, 1. That holiness is less necessary now than it was before Christ came: or, 2. That a less degree of it is necessary; or, 3. That it is less necessary to believers than to others. Yea, and so are all those, who altho’ their judgment be right in the general, yet think they may take more liberty in particular cases, than they could have done before they believed. Indeed the using the term liberty, in such a manner, for “Liberty from obedience or holiness,” shews at once, that their judgment is perverted, and that they are guilty of what they imagined to be far from them, namely of making void the law thro’ faith, by supposing faith to supersede holiness.

3. The first plea of those who teach this expresly, is, that “we are now under the covenant of grace, not works: and therefore we are no longer under the necessity of performing the works of the law.”

And whoever was under the covenant of works? None but Adam before the fall. He was fully and properly under that covenant, which required perfect, universal obedience, as the one condition of acceptance; and left no place for pardon, upon the very least transgression. But no man else was ever under this, neither Jew nor Gentile, neither before Christ nor since. All his sons were and are under the covenant of grace; the manner of their acceptance is this: the free grace of God thro’ the merits of Christ, gives pardon to them that believe, that believe with such a faith as working by love, produces all obedience and holiness.

4. The case is not therefore as you suppose, that men were once more obliged to obey God, or to work the works of his law than they are now. This is a supposition you cannot make good. But, we should have been obliged, if we had been under the covenant of works, to have done those works antecedent to our acceptance. Whereas now all good works, tho’ as necessary as ever, are not antecedent to our acceptance but consequent upon it. Therefore the nature of the covenant of grace, gives you no ground, no encouragement at all, to set aside any instance or degree of obedience, any part or measure of holiness.

5. “But are we not justified by faith, without the works of the law?” Undoubtedly we are, without the works either of the ceremonial or the moral law. And would to God all men were convinced of this. It would prevent innumerable evils. Antinomianism, in particular; for generally speaking, they are the Pharisees who make the Antinomians. Running into an extreme so palpably contrary to scripture, they occasion others to run into the opposite one. These seeking to be justified by works, affright those from allowing any place for them.

6. *But the truth lies between both. We are doubtless justified by faith. This is the corner-stone of the whole Christian building. We are justified without the works of the law, as any previous condition of justification. But they are an immediate fruit of that faith, whereby we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is nothing worth: we are yet in our sins. Therefore, that we are justified by faith, even by faith without works, is no ground for making void the law thro’ faith: or for imagining that faith is a dispensation, from any kind or degree of holiness.

7. “Nay, but does not St. Paul expresly say, Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness? And does it not follow from hence, That faith is to a believer in the room, in the place of righteousness? But if faith is in the room of righteousness or holiness, what need is there of this too?”

This, it must be acknowledged, comes home to the point, and is indeed the main pillar of Antinomianism. And yet it needs not a long or laboured answer. We allow, 1. That God justifies the ungodly, him that till that hour is totally ungodly, full of all evil, void of all good. 2. That he justifies the ungodly that worketh not, that till that moment worketh no good work: neither can he: for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. 3. That he justifies him by faith alone, without any goodness or righteousness preceding: and, 4. *That faith is then counted to him for righteousness, namely, for preceding righteousness: i. e. God, thro’ the merits of Christ, accepts him that believes, as if he had already fulfilled all righteousness. But what is all this to your point? The apostle does not say, either here or elsewhere, that this faith is counted to him for subsequent righteousness. He does teach, that there is no righteousness before faith. But where does he teach, that there is none after it? He does assert, holiness cannot precede justification: but not, that it need not follow it. St. Paul therefore gives you no colour for making void the law, by teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness.

III. 1. There is yet another way of making void the law thro’ faith, which is more common than either of the former. And that is, the doing it practically: the making it void in fact, tho’ not in principle: the living, as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness.

How earnestly does the Apostle guard us against this, in those well known words: What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid! Rom. vi. 15. A caution which it is needful throughly to consider, because it is of the last importance.

2. The being under the law may here mean, 1. The being obliged to observe the ceremonial law. 2. The being obliged to conform to the whole Mosaic institution. 3. The being obliged to keep the whole moral law, as the condition of our acceptance with God: and, 4. The being under the wrath and curse of God, under sentence of eternal death; under a sense of guilt and condemnation, full of horror and slavish fear.

3. Now altho’ a believer is not without law to God, but under the law to Christ, yet from the moment he believes, he is not under the law, in any of the preceding senses. On the contrary, he is under grace, under a more benign, gracious dispensation. As he is no longer under the ceremonial law, nor under the Mosaic institution; as he is not obliged to keep even the moral law, as the condition of his acceptance: so he is delivered from the wrath and the curse of God, from all sense of guilt and condemnation, and from all that horror and fear of death and hell, whereby he was all his life before subject to bondage. And he now performs (which while under the law he could not do) a willing and universal obedience. He obeys not from the motive of slavish fear, but on a nobler principle, namely, The grace of God ruling in his heart, and causing all his works to be wrought in love.

4. What then? Shall this evangelical principle of action, be less powerful than the legal? Shall we be less obedient to God from filial love, than we were from servile fear?

’Tis well, if this is not a common case: if this practical Antinomianism, this unobserved way of making void the law thro’ faith, has not infected thousands of believers.

*Has it not infected you? Examine yourself honestly and closely. Do you not do now, what you durst not have done when you was under the law, or (as we commonly call it) under conviction? For instance. You durst not then indulge yourself in food. You took just what was needful, and that of the cheapest kind. Do you not allow yourself more latitude now? Do you not indulge yourself a little more than you did? O beware, lest you sin, because you are not under the law, but under grace!

5. *When you was under conviction, you durst not indulge the lust of the eye in any degree. You would not do any thing, great or small, merely to gratify your curiosity. You regarded only cleanliness and necessity, or at most very moderate convenience, either in furniture or apparel; superfluity and finery of whatever kind, as well as fashionable elegance, were both a terror and an abomination to you.

*Are they so still? Is your conscience as tender now in these things, as it was then? Do you still follow the same rule both in furniture and apparel, trampling all finery, all superfluity, every thing useless, every thing merely ornamental; however fashionable, under foot? Rather, have you not resumed what you had once laid aside, and what you could not then use without wounding your conscience? And have you not learned to say, “O, I am not so scrupulous now.” I would to God you were! Then you would not sin thus, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

6. *You was once scrupulous too of commending any to their face, and still more, of suffering any to commend you. It was a stab to your heart: you could not bear it: you sought the honour that cometh of God only. You could not endure such conversation: nor any conversation which was not good, to the use of edifying. All idle talk, all trifling discourse you abhorred: you hated as well as feared it, being deeply sensible of the value of time, of every precious, fleeting moment. In like manner, you dreaded and abhorred idle expence; valuing your money only less than your time, and trembling lest you should be found an unfaithful steward even of the mammon of unrighteousness.

Do you now look upon praise as deadly poison, which you can neither give nor receive but at the peril of your soul? Do you still dread and abhor all conversation, which does not tend to the use of edifying; and labour to improve every moment, that it may not pass without leaving you better than it found you? Are not you less careful as to the expence both of money and time? Cannot you now lay out either, as you could not have done once? Alas! How has that which should have been for your health, proved to you an occasion of falling? How have you sinned, because you was not under the law, but under grace!

7. *God forbid you should any longer continue thus to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness! O remember, how clear and strong a conviction you once had, concerning all these things. And at the same time you was fully satisfied, from whom that conviction came. The world told you, you was in a delusion: but you knew, It was the voice of God. In these things you was not too scrupulous then; but you are not now scrupulous enough. God kept you longer in that painful school, that you might learn those great lessons the more perfectly. And have you forgot them already? O recollect them, before it is too late. Have you suffered so many things in vain? I trust, it is not yet in vain. Now use the conviction without the pain: practise the lesson without the rod. Let not the mercy of God weigh less with you now, than his fiery indignation did before. Is love a less powerful motive than fear? If not, let it be an invariable rule “I will do nothing now I am under grace, which I durst not have done when under the law.”

8. *I cannot conclude this head, without exhorting you to examine yourself likewise touching sins of omission. Are you as clear of these, now you are under grace, as you was when under the law? How diligent was you then in hearing the word of God? Did you neglect any opportunity? Did you not attend thereon day and night? Would a small hindrance have kept you away? A little business? A visitant? A slight indisposition? A soft bed? A dark or cold morning?—Did you not then fast often? Or use abstinence to the uttermost of your power? Was not you much in prayer, (cold and heavy as you was) while you was hanging over the mouth of hell? Did you not speak and not spare, even for an unknown God? Did you not boldly plead his cause? Reprove sinners? And avow the truth, before an adulterous generation?—And are you now a believer in Christ? Have you the faith that overcometh the world? What! and are less zealous for your Master now, than you was when you knew him not? Less diligent in fasting, in prayer, in hearing his word, in calling sinners to God? O repent. See and feel your grievous loss! Remember from whence you are fallen! Bewail your unfaithfulness! Now be zealous and do the first works; lest if you continue to make void the law through faith, God cut you off, and appoint you your portion with the unbelievers!


Discourse II.
Rom. iii. 31.

Do we then make void the law thro’ faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.

1.IT has been shewn in the preceding discourse, which are the most usual ways of making void the law thro’ faith: namely, first, The not preaching it at all, which effectually makes it all void at a stroke: and this under colour of preaching Christ and magnifying the gospel, tho’ it be in truth, destroying both the one and the other: secondly, The teaching (whether directly or indirectly) that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness: that this is less necessary now, or a less degree of it necessary, than before Christ came: that it is less necessary to us, because we believe, than otherwise it would have been: or, that Christian liberty is a liberty from any kind or degree of holiness: (so perverting those great truths, that we are now under the covenant of grace and not of works: that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law; and that to him that worketh not but believeth, his faith is counted for righteousness:) or, thirdly, The doing this practically; the making void the law in practice tho’ not in principle: the living or acting, as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness: the allowing ourselves in sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace. It remains to enquire, how we may follow a better pattern, how we may be able to say with the apostle, Do we then make void the law thro’ faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.

2. We do not indeed establish the old ceremonial law: we know that is abolished for ever. Much less do we establish the whole Mosaic dispensation. This, we know, our Lord has nailed to his cross. Nor yet do we so establish the moral law (which it is to be feared, too many do) as if the fulfilling it, the keeping all the commandments, were the condition of our justification. If it were so, surely in his sight, should no man living be justified. But all this being allowed, we still in the apostle’s sense, establish the law, the moral law.

I. 1. We establish the law, first, By our doctrine: by endeavouring to preach it in its whole extent, to explain and inforce every part of it, in the same manner as our great Teacher did, while upon earth. We establish it, by following St. Peter’s advice, If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God; as the holy men of old moved by the Holy Ghost, spoke and wrote for our instruction, and as the apostles of our blessed Lord, by the direction of the same spirit. We establish it whenever we speak in his name, by keeping back nothing from them that hear; by declaring to them, without any limitation or reserve, the whole counsel of God. And in order the more effectually to establish it, we use herein great plainness of speech. We are not as many that corrupt the word of God, καπηλεύουσι· (as artful men their bad wines) we do not cauponize, mix, adulterate or soften it, to make it suit the taste of the hearers. But as of sincerity, but as of God in the sight of God, speak we in Christ: as having no other aim, than by manifestation of the truth, to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

2. We then by our doctrine establish the law, when we thus openly declare it to all men: and that, in the fulness wherein it is delivered by our blessed Lord and his apostles: when we publish it in the height and depth and length and breadth thereof. We then establish the law, when we declare every part of it, every commandment contained therein, not only in its full literal sense, but likewise in its spiritual meaning: not only with regard to the outward actions, which it either forbids or enjoins: but also with respect to the inward principle, to the thoughts, desires and intents of the heart.

3. And indeed this we do the more diligently, not only because it is of the deepest importance; inasmuch as all the fruit, every word and work, must be only evil continually, if the tree be evil, if the dispositions and tempers of the heart, be not right before God: but likewise, because as important as these things are, they are little considered or understood. So little, that we may truly say of the law too, when taken in its full spiritual meaning, It is a mystery which was hid from ages and generations since the world began. It was utterly hid from the Heathen world. They, with all their boasted wisdom, neither found out God, nor the law of God, not in the letter, much less in the spirit of it. Their foolish hearts were more and more darkened, while professing themselves wise, they became fools. And it was almost equally hid, as to its spiritual meaning, from the bulk of the Jewish nation. Even these who were so ready to declare concerning others, this people that know not the law, is accursed, pronounced their own sentence therein, as being under the same curse, the same dreadful ignorance. Witness our Lord’s continual reproof of the wisest among them, for their gross misinterpretations of it. Witness the supposition almost universally received among them, that they needed only to make clean the outside of the cup: that the paying tythe of mint, anise and cummin, outward exactness would atone for inward unholiness; for the total neglect both of justice and mercy, of faith and the love of God. Yea, so absolutely was the spiritual meaning of the law hidden from the wisest of them, that one of their most eminent Rabbi’s comments thus, on those words of the Psalmist, If I incline unto iniquity with my heart, the Lord will not hear me: that is, saith he, if it be only in my heart, if I do not commit outward wickedness, the Lord will not regard it; he will not punish me, unless I proceed to the outward act!

4. But alas! The law of God, as to its inward spiritual meaning, is not hid from the Jews or Heathens only, but even from what is called the Christian world; at least, from a vast majority of them. The spiritual sense of the commandments of God, is still a mystery to these also. Nor is this observable also in those lands, which are overspread with Romish darkness and ignorance. But this is too sure, that the far greater part, even of those, who are called reformed Christians, are utter strangers at this day to the law of Christ, in the purity and spirituality of it.

5. Hence it is that to this day the Scribes and Pharisees, the men who have the form but not the power of religion, and who are generally wise in their own eyes, and righteous in their own conceits; hearing these things are offended: are deeply offended, when we speak of the religion of the heart, and particularly when we shew, that without this, were we to give all our goods to feed the poor, it would profit us nothing. But offended they must be: for we cannot but speak the truth as it is in Jesus. It is our part, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, to deliver our own soul. All that is written in the book of God we are to declare, not as pleasing men, but the Lord. We are to declare not only all the promises, but all the threatnings too which we find therein. At the same time that we proclaim all the blessings and privileges, which God hath prepared for his children, we are likewise to teach all the things, whatsoever he hath commanded. And we know, that all these have their use; either for the awakening those that sleep, the instructing the ignorant, the comforting the feeble-minded, or the building up and perfecting of the saints. We know that all scripture, given by inspiration of God, is profitable either for doctrine, or for reproof, either for correction or for instruction in righteousness: and that the man of God, in the process of the work of God in his soul, has need of every part thereof, that he may at length be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

6. It is our part, thus to preach Christ, by preaching all things whatsoever he hath revealed. We may indeed without blame, yea, and with a peculiar blessing from God, declare the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may speak, in a more especial manner, of the Lord our righteousness. We may expatiate upon the grace of God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. We may, at proper opportunities, dwell upon his praise, as bearing the iniquities of us all, as wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, that by his stripes we might be healed. But still we should not preach Christ, according to his word, if we were wholly to confine ourselves to this. We are not ourselves clear before God, unless we proclaim him in all his offices. To preach Christ, as a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, is to preach him not only as our great High-priest, taken from among men, and ordained for men, in things pertaining to God; as such, reconciling us to God by his blood, and ever living to make intercession for us: but likewise as the prophet of the Lord, who of God is made unto us wisdom. Who by his word, and his Spirit, is with us always, guiding us into all truth: yea, and as remaining a King for ever; as giving laws to all whom he has bought with his blood: as restoring those to the image of God, whom he had first re-instated in his favour: as reigning in all believing hearts, until he has subdued all things to himself; until he hath utterly cast out all sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness.

II. 1. We establish the law, secondly, when we so preach faith in Christ, as not to supersede, but produce holiness: to produce all manner of holiness, negative and positive, of the heart and of the life.

In order to this, we continually declare (what should be frequently and deeply considered, by all who would not make void the law thro’ faith) that faith itself, even Christian faith, the faith of God’s elect, the faith of the operation of God, still is only the hand-maid of love. As glorious and honourable as it is, it is not the end of the commandment. God hath given this honour to love alone: love is the end of all the commandments of God. Love is the end, the sole end of every dispensation of God, from the beginning of the world, to the consummation of all things. And it will endure when heaven and earth flee away; for love alone never faileth. Faith will totally fail: it will be swallowed up in sight, in the everlasting vision of God. But even then love

“Its nature and its office still the same,

Lasting its lamp and unconsum’d its flame,

In deathless triumph shall for ever live,

And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive.”

2. Very excellent things are spoken of faith, and whosoever is a partaker thereof, may well say with the apostle, Thanks be to God, for his unspeakable gift. Yet still it loses all its excellence, when brought into a comparison with love. What St. Paul observes concerning the superior glory of the gospel, above that of the law, may with great propriety be spoken of the superior glory of love, above that of faith. Even that which was made glorious, hath no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away is glorious, much more doth that which remaineth exceed in glory. Yea, all the glory of faith before it is done away, arises hence, That it ministers to love. It is the great temporary means which God has ordained to promote that eternal end.

3. *Let those who magnify faith beyond all proportion, so as to swallow up all things else, and who so totally misapprehend the nature of it, as to imagine it stands in the place of love, consider farther, That as love will exist after faith, so it did exist long before it. The angels, who from the moment of their creation, beheld the face of their Father that is in heaven, had no occasion for faith, in its general notion, as it is the evidence of things not seen. Neither had they need of faith, in its more particular acceptation, faith in the blood of Jesus: for he took not upon him the nature of angels; but only the seed of Abraham. There was therefore no place before the foundation of the world, for faith either in the general or particular sense. But there was for love. Love existed from eternity, in God, the great ocean of love. Love had a place in all the children of God, from the moment of their creation. They received at once from their gracious Creator, to exist, and to love.

4. Nor is it certain (as ingeniously and plausibly as many have descanted upon this.) That faith, even in the general sense of the word, had any place in paradise. It is highly probable, from that short and uncircumstantial account which we have in holy writ, That Adam before he rebelled against God, walked with him by sight and not by faith.

“For then his reason’s eye was strong and clear,

And as an eagle can behold the sun,

Might have beheld his Maker’s face as near,

As th’ intellectual angels could have done.”

He was then able to talk with him face to face, whose face we cannot now see and live. And consequently had no need of that faith, whose office it is, to supply the want of sight.

5. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain, faith in its particular sense had then no place. For in that sense it necessarily pre-supposes sin, and the wrath of God declared against the sinner: without which there is no need of an atonement for sin, in order to the sinner’s reconciliation with God. Consequently, as there was no need of an atonement before the fall, so there was no place for faith in that atonement: man being then pure from every stain of sin, holy as God is holy. But love even then filled his heart. It reigned in him without a rival. And it was only when love was lost by sin, that faith was added, not for its own sake, nor with any design, that it should exist any longer, than until it had answered the end for which it was ordained, namely, To restore man, to the love from which he was fallen. At the fall therefore was added this evidence of things unseen, which before was utterly needless: this confidence in redeeming love, which could not possibly have any place, till the promise was made, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.

6. *Faith then was originally designed of God, to re-establish the law of love. Therefore in speaking thus, we are not undervaluing it, or robbing it of its due praise: but on the contrary shewing its real worth, exalting it in its just proportion, and giving it that very place which the wisdom of God assigned it from the beginning. It is the grand means of restoring that holy love, wherein man was originally created. It follows, that altho’ faith is of no value in itself (as neither is any other means whatsoever) yet as it leads to that end, the establishing anew the law of love in our hearts, and as, in the present state of things, it is the only means under heaven for effecting it: it is, on that account, an unspeakable blessing to man, and of unspeakable value before God.

III. 1. And this naturally brings us to observe, thirdly, The most important way of establishing the law: namely, The establishing it in our own hearts and lives. Indeed without this, what would all the rest avail? We might establish it by our doctrine; we might preach it in its whole extent, might explain and inforce every part of it. We might open it in its most spiritual meaning, and declare the mysteries of the kingdom: we might preach Christ in all his offices, and faith in Christ, as opening all the treasures of his love. And yet all this time, if the law we preached, were not established in our hearts, we should be of no more account before God, than sounding brass or tinkling cymbals. All our preaching would be so far from profiting ourselves, that it would only increase our damnation.

2. This is therefore the main point to be considered, how may we establish the law in our own hearts, so that it may have its full influence on our lives? And this can only be done by faith.

Faith alone it is, which effectually answers this end, as we learn from daily experience. For so long as we walk by faith not by sight, we go swiftly on in the way of holiness. While we steadily look, not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen, we are more and more crucified to the world and the world crucified to us. Let but the eye of the soul be constantly fixed, not on the things which are temporal, but on those which are eternal, and our affections are more and more loosened from earth, and fixed on things above. So that faith in general is the most direct and effectual means of promoting all righteousness and true holiness: of establishing the holy and spiritual law, in the hearts of them that believe.

3. And by faith, taken in its more particular meaning, for a confidence in a pardoning God, we establish his law in our own hearts, in a still more effectual manner. For there is no motive which so powerfully inclines us to love God, as the sense of the love of God in Christ. Nothing enables us like a piercing conviction of this, to give our hearts to him who was given for us. And from this principle of grateful love to God, arises love to our brother also. Neither can we avoid loving our neighbour, if we truly believe the love wherewith God hath loved us. Now this love to man grounded on faith and love to God, worketh no ill to our neighbour. Consequently, it is (as the Apostle observes) the fulfilling of the whole negative law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbour. It continually incites us to do good: as we have time, and opportunity, to do good in every possible kind and in every possible degree to all men. It is therefore the fulfilling of the positive likewise, as well as of the negative law of God.

4. Nor does faith fulfil either the negative or positive law, as to the external part only: but it works inwardly by love, to the purifying of the heart, the cleansing it from all vile affections. Every one that hath this faith in him purifieth himself even as he is pure: purifieth himself from every earthly, sensual desire, from all vile and inordinate affections: yea, from the whole of that carnal mind, which is enmity against God. At the same time, if it have its perfect work, it fills him with all goodness, righteousness and truth. It brings all heaven into his soul, and causes him to walk in the light even as God is in the light.

5. Let us thus endeavour to establish the law in ourselves: not sinning, because we are under grace, but rather using all the power we receive thereby, to fulfil all righteousness. Calling to mind, what light we received from God, while his Spirit was convincing us of sin, let us beware we do not put out that light; what we had then attained let us hold fast. Let nothing induce us to build again what we have destroyed; to resume any thing, small or great, which we then clearly saw was not for the glory of God, or the profit of our own soul: or to neglect any thing, small or great, which we could not then neglect, without a check from our own conscience. To increase and perfect the light which we had before, let us now add the light of faith. Confirm we the former gift of God, by a deeper sense of whatever he had then shewn us; by a greater tenderness of conscience, and a more exquisite sensibility of sin. Walking now with joy and not with fear, in a clear, steady sight of things eternal, we shall look on pleasure, wealth, praise, all the things of earth, as on bubbles upon the water: counting nothing important, nothing desirable, nothing worth a deliberate thought, but only what is within the veil, where Jesus sitteth at the right hand of God.

6. Can you say, Thou art merciful to my unrighteousness: my sins thou rememberest no more? *Then for the time to come, see that you fly from sin, as from the face of a serpent. For how exceeding sinful does it appear to you now? How heinous above all expression? On the other hand, in how amiable a light do you now see the holy and perfect will of God? Now therefore labour that it may be fulfilled, both in you, by you, and upon you. Now watch and pray that you may sin no more, that you may see and shun the least transgression of his law. You see the motes which you could not see before, when the sun shines into a dark place. In like manner, you see the sins which you could not see before, now the Sun of Righteousness shines in your heart. Now then do all diligence to walk in every respect, according to the light you have received. Now be zealous to receive more light daily, more of the knowledge and love of God, more of the Spirit of Christ, more of his life, and of the power of his resurrection. Now use all the knowledge, and love, and life, and power you have already attained. So shall you continually go on from faith to faith. So shall you daily increase in holy love, till faith is swallowed up in sight, and the law of love established to all eternity.


Acts xxvi. 24.

And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, Thou art beside thyself.

1.AND so say all the world, the men who know not God, of all that are of Paul’s religion; of every one who is so a follower of him, as he was of Christ. It is true, there is a sort of religion, nay and it is called Christianity too, which may be practised without any such imputation, which is generally allowed to be consistent with common sense. That is, a religion of form, a round of outward duties, performed in a decent, regular manner. You may add orthodoxy thereto, a system of right opinions, yea, and some quantity of Heathen morality. And yet not many will pronounce, that much religion hath made you mad. But if you aim at the religion of the heart, if you talk of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, then it will not be long before your sentence is past, Thou art beside thyself.

2. And it is no compliment which the men of the world pay you herein. They, for once, mean what they say. They not only affirm, but cordially believe, that every man is beside himself, who says, the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost given unto him, and that God has enabled him to rejoice in Christ, with joy unspeakable and full of glory. If a man is indeed alive to God, and dead to all things here below; if he continually sees him that is invisible, and accordingly walks by faith and not by sight: then they account it a clear case: beyond all dispute, much religion hath made him mad.

3. *It is easy to observe, that the determinate thing which the world accounts madness, is that utter contempt of all temporal things, and steady pursuit of things eternal; that divine conviction of things not seen; that rejoicing in the favour of God; that happy, holy love of God; and that testimony of his Spirit with our spirit, that we are the children of God. That is, in truth, the whole spirit and life and power of the religion of Jesus Christ.

4. They will however allow, in other respects, the man acts and talks like one in his senses. In other things, he is a reasonable man: ’tis in these instances only his head is touched. It is therefore acknowledged, that the madness under which he labours, is of a particular kind. And accordingly they are accustomed to distinguish it by a particular name, Enthusiasm.

5. A term this, which is exceeding frequently used, which is scarce ever out of some men’s mouths. And yet it is exceeding rarely understood, even by those who use it most. It may be therefore not unacceptable to serious men, to all who desire to understand what they speak or hear, if I endeavour to explain the meaning of this term, to shew what Enthusiasm is. It may be an encouragement to those who are unjustly charged therewith: and may possibly be of use, to some who are justly charged with it, at least to others, who might be so, were they not cautioned against it.

6. As to the word itself, it is generally allowed to be of Greek extraction. But whence the Greek word ἐνθουσιασμός, is derived, none has yet been able to shew. Some have endeavoured to derive it from ἐν Θεῷ, in God, because all Enthusiasm has reference to him. But this is quite forced; there being small resemblance between the word derived, and those they strive to derive it from. Others would derive it from ἐν θυσία, in sacrifice, because many of the Enthusiasts of old, were affected in the most violent manner, during the time of sacrifice. Perhaps it is a fictitious word, invented from the noise, which some of those made who were so affected.

7. It is not improbable, that one reason why this uncouth word has been retained in so many languages, was because men were no better agreed, concerning the meaning than concerning the derivation of it. They therefore adopted the Greek word, because they did not understand it: they did not translate it into their own tongues, because they knew not how to translate it: it having been always a word of a loose, uncertain sense, to which no determinate meaning was affixed.

8. It is not therefore at all surprizing, that it is so variously taken at this day: different persons understanding it in different senses, quite inconsistent with each other. Some take it in a good sense, for a divine impulse or impression, superior to all the natural faculties, and suspending for the time, either in whole or in part, both the reason and the outward senses. In this meaning of the word, both the prophets of old, and the apostles were proper Enthusiasts: being at divers times so filled with the Spirit, and so influenced by him who dwelt in their hearts, that the exercise of their own reason, their senses, and all their natural faculties being suspended, they were wholly actuated by the power of God, and spoke only as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

9. Others take the word in an indifferent sense, such as is neither morally good nor evil. Thus they speak of the Enthusiasm of the poets; of Homer and Virgil in particular. And this a late eminent writer extends so far as to assert, there is no man excellent in his profession, whatsoever it be, who has not in his temper a strong tincture of Enthusiasm. By Enthusiasm these appear to understand, an uncommon vigour of thought, a peculiar fervor of spirit, a vivacity and strength not to be found in common men: elevating the soul to greater and higher things, than cool reason could have attained.

10. But neither of these is the sense wherein the word Enthusiasm is most usually understood. The generality of men, if no farther agreed, at least agree thus far concerning it, that it is something evil: and this is plainly the sentiment of all those, who call the religion of the heart, Enthusiasm. Accordingly I shall take it in the following pages, as an evil; a misfortune, if not a fault.

11. *As to the nature of Enthusiasm, it is undoubtedly a disorder of the mind; and such a disorder, as greatly hinders the exercise of reason. Nay sometimes, it wholly sets it aside: it not only dims, but shuts the eyes of the understanding. It may therefore well be accounted a species of madness; of madness rather than of folly: seeing a fool is properly one who draws wrong conclusions from right premises: whereas a madman draws right conclusions, but from wrong premises. And so does an Enthusiast. Suppose his premises true, and his conclusions would necessarily follow. But here lies his mistake, his premises are false. He imagines himself to be what he is not. And therefore setting out wrong, the farther he goes, the more he wanders out of the way.

12. *Every Enthusiast then is properly a madman. Yet his is not an ordinary, but a religious madness. By religious, I do not mean, that it is any part of religion. Quite the reverse: religion is, the spirit of a sound mind: and consequently stands in direct opposition to madness of every kind. But I mean, it has religion for its object; it is conversant about religion. And so the Enthusiast is generally talking of religion, of God or the things of God: but talking in such a manner that every reasonable Christian may discern the disorder of his mind. Enthusiasm in general may then be described in some such manner as this: a religious madness arising from some falsely imagined influence or inspiration of God: at least, from imputing something to God which ought not to be imputed to him, or expecting something from God which ought not to be expected from him.

13. There are innumerable sorts of Enthusiasm. Those which are most common and for that reason most dangerous, I shall endeavour to reduce under a few general heads, that they may be more easily understood and avoided.

The first sort of Enthusiasm which I shall mention, is that of those who imagine they have the grace which they have not. Thus some imagine when it is not so, that they have redemption thro’ Christ, even the forgiveness of sin. These are usually such as have no root in themselves; no deep repentance, or thorough conviction. Therefore they receive the word with joy. And because they have no deepness of earth, no deep work in their heart, therefore the seed immediately springs up. There is immediately a superficial change, which together with that light joy, striking in with the pride of their unbroken heart, and with their inordinate self-love, easily persuades them, they have already tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.

14. This is properly an instance of the first sort of Enthusiasm: it is a kind of madness, arising from the imagination, that they have that grace which in truth they have not: so that they only deceive their own souls. Madness it may justly be termed: for the reasonings of these poor men are right, were their premises good: but as those are a mere creature of their own imagination, so all that is built on them falls to the ground. The foundation of all their reveries is this: they imagine themselves to have faith in Christ. If they had this, they would be Kings and Priests to God, possest of a kingdom which cannot be moved. But they have it not. Consequently, all their following behaviour, is as wide of truth and soberness, as that of the ordinary madman, who fancying himself an earthly King, speaks and acts in that character.

15. *There are many other Enthusiasts of this sort. Such, for instance, is the fiery zealot for religion; or (more probably) for the opinions and modes of worship, which he dignifies with that name. This man also strongly imagines himself, to be a believer in Jesus, yea, that he is a champion for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. Accordingly all his conduct is formed, upon that vain imagination. And allowing his supposition to be just, he would have some tolerable plea for his behaviour: whereas now it is evidently the effect of a distempered brain, as well as of a distempered heart.

16. *But the most common of all the Enthusiasts of this kind, are those who imagine themselves Christians, and are not. These abound not only in all parts of our land, but in most parts of the habitable earth. That they are not Christians is clear and undeniable, if we believe the oracles of God. For Christians are holy; these are unholy: Christians love God; these love the world. Christians are humble; these are proud: Christians are gentle; these are passionate. Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are at the utmost distance from it. Consequently, they are no more Christians, than they are archangels. Yet they imagine themselves so to be; and they can give several reasons for it. For they have been called so ever since they can remember: they were christened many years ago: they embrace the Christian opinions, vulgarly termed, The Christian or Catholick faith. They use the Christian modes of worship, as their fathers did before them. They live what is called a good, Christian life, as the rest of their neighbours do. And who shall presume to think or say, that these men are not Christians? Tho’ without one grain of true faith in Christ, or of real, inward holiness! without ever having tasted the love of God, or been made partakers of the Holy Ghost.

17. *Ah poor self-deceivers! Christians ye are not. But you are Enthusiasts in a high degree. Physicians, heal yourselves. But first, know your disease: your whole life is Enthusiasm: as being all suitable to the imagination, that you have received that grace of God which you have not. In consequence of this grand mistake, you blunder on, day by day, speaking and acting under a character, which does in no wise belong to you. Hence arises that palpable, glaring inconsistency, that runs thro’ your whole behaviour: which is an aukward mixture of real Heathenism and imaginary Christianity. Yet still, as you have so vast a majority on your side, you will always carry it by mere dint of numbers, “That you are the only men in your senses, and all are lunaticks who are not as you are.” But this alters not the nature of things. In the sight of God and his holy angels, yea, and all the children of God upon earth, you are mere madmen, mere Enthusiasts all. Are you not? Are you not walking in a vain shadow, a shadow of religion, a shadow of happiness? Are you not still disquieting yourselves in vain? With misfortunes as imaginary as your happiness or religion? Do you not fancy yourselves great or good? Very knowing, and very wise! How long? Perhaps till death brings you back to your senses; to bewail your folly for ever and ever!

18. A second sort of Enthusiasm, is that of those, who imagine they have such gifts from God as they have not. Thus some have imagined themselves to be endued with a power of working miracles, of healing the sick by a word or a touch, of restoring sight to the blind; yea, even of raising the dead, a notorious instance of which is still fresh in our own history. Others have undertaken to prophesy, to foretel things to come, and that with the utmost certainty and exactness. But a little time usually convinces these Enthusiasts. When plain facts run counter to their predictions, experience performs what reason could not, and sinks them down into their senses.

19. To the same class belong those, who in preaching or prayer, imagine themselves to be so influenced by the Spirit of God as in fact they are not. I am sensible indeed, that without him we can do nothing; more especially in our public ministry: that all our preaching is utterly vain, unless it be attended with his power; and all our prayer, unless his Spirit therein help our infirmities. I know, if we do not both preach and pray by the Spirit, it is all but lost labour: seeing the help that is done upon earth, he doth it himself, who worketh all in all. But this does not affect the case before us. Tho’ there is a real influence of the Spirit of God, there is also an imaginary one; and many there are who mistake the one for the other. Many suppose themselves to be under that influence, when they are not, when it is far from them. And many others suppose, they are more under that influence than they really are. Of this number, I fear, are all they who imagine, that God dictates the very words they speak; and that consequently, it is impossible they should speak any thing amiss, either as to the matter or manner of it. It is well known, how many Enthusiasts of this sort also, have appeared during the present century: some of whom speak in a far more authoritative manner, than either St. Paul or any of the apostles.

20. The same sort of Enthusiasm, tho’ in a lower degree, is frequently found in men of a private character. They may likewise imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit, when they are not. I allow, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his: and that if ever we either think, speak, or act aright, it is thro’ the assistance of that blessed Spirit. But how many impute things to him, or expect things from him, without any rational or scriptural ground? Such are they who imagine, they either do or shall receive particular directions from God, not only in points of importance, but in things of no moment, in the most trifling circumstances of life. Whereas in these cases God has given us our own reason for a guide: tho’ never excluding the secret assistance of his Spirit.

21. To this kind of Enthusiasm they are peculiarly exposed, who expect to be directed of God, either in spiritual things or in common life, in what is justly called, an extraordinary manner. I mean, by visions or dreams, by strong impressions or sudden impulses on the mind. I do not deny, that God has of old times manifested his will in this manner. Or, that he can do so now. Nay, I believe, he does, in some very rare instances. But how frequently do men mistake herein? How are they misled by pride and a warm imagination, to ascribe such impulses or impressions, dreams or visions to God, as are utterly unworthy of him? Now this is all pure Enthusiasm, all as wide of religion, as it is of truth and soberness.

22. Perhaps some may ask, “Ought we not then to enquire, What is the will of God in all things? And ought not his will to be the rule of our practice?” Unquestionably it ought. But how is a sober Christian to make this enquiry? To know, what is the will of God? Not by waiting for supernatural dreams. Not by expecting God to reveal it in visions. Not by looking for any particular impressions, or sudden impulses on his mind. No: but by consulting the oracles of God. To the law and to the testimony. This is the general method of knowing what is the holy and acceptable will of God.

23. “But how shall I know what is the will of God, in such and such a particular case? The thing proposed is in itself of an indifferent nature, and so left undetermined in scripture.” I answer, The scripture itself gives you a general rule, applicable to all particular cases. The will of God is our sanctification. It is his will that we should be inwardly and outwardly holy; that we should be good and do good in every kind, and in the highest degree whereof we are capable. Thus far we tread upon firm ground. This is as clear as the shining of the sun. In order therefore to know, what is the will of God in a particular case, we have only to apply this general rule.

24. *Suppose, for instance, it were proposed to a reasonable man, to marry, or to enter into a new business: in order to know, whether this is the will of God, being assured, “It is the will of God concerning me, that I should be as holy and do as much good as I can,” he has only to inquire, “In which of these states can I be most holy, and do the most good?” And this is to be determined, partly by reason, and partly by experience. Experience tells him what advantages he has in his present state, either for being or doing good: and reason is to shew, what he certainly or probably will have in the state proposed. By comparing these, he is to judge, which of the two may most conduce to his being and doing good: and as far as he knows this, so far he is certain, what is the will of God.

25. *Meantime, the assistance of his Spirit is supposed, during the whole process of the inquiry. Indeed ’tis not easy to say, in how many ways, that assistance is conveyed. He may bring many circumstances to our remembrance, may place others in a stronger and clearer light; may insensibly open our mind to receive conviction, and fix that conviction upon our heart. And to a concurrence of many circumstances of this kind, in favour of what is acceptable in his sight, he may superadd such an unutterable peace of mind, and so uncommon a measure of his love, as will leave us no possibility of doubting, That this even this, is his will concerning us.

26. *This is the plain, scriptural, rational way to know, what is the will of God in a particular case. But considering how seldom this way is taken, and what a flood of Enthusiasm must needs break in, on those who endeavour to know the will of God, by unscriptural, irrational ways: it were to be wished, that the expression itself, were far more sparingly used. The using it, as some do, on the most trivial occasions, is a plain breach of the third commandment. It is a gross way of taking the name of God in vain, and betrays great irreverence toward him. Would it not be far better then, to use other expressions, which are not liable to such objections? For example. Instead of saying, on any particular occasion, “I want to know what is the will of God.” Would it not be better to say, “I want to know, what will be most for my improvement: and, what will make me most useful.” This way of speaking is clear and unexceptionable. It is putting the matter on a plain scriptural issue, and that without any danger of Enthusiasm.

27. A third very common sort of Enthusiasm (if it does not co-incide with the former) is that of those who think to attain the end without using the means, by the immediate power of God. If indeed those means were providentially with-held, they would not fall under this charge. God can, and sometimes does, in cases of this nature, exert his own immediate power. But they who expect this when they have those means, and will not use them, are proper Enthusiasts. Such are they who expect to understand the holy scriptures, without reading them and meditating thereon: yea, without using all such helps as are in their power, and may probably conduce to that end. Such are they who designedly speak in the public assembly, without any premeditation. I say designedly: because there may be such circumstances, as at some times make it unavoidable. But whoever despises that great means of speaking profitably, is so far an Enthusiast.

28. *It may be expected that I should mention what some have accounted, a fourth sort of Enthusiasm, namely, The imagining those things to be owing to the providence of God, which are not owing thereto. But I doubt. I know not what things they are, which are not owing to the providence of God: in ordering, or, at least, in governing of which, this is not either directly or remotely concerned, I except nothing but sin: and even in the sins of others, I see the providence of God to me. I do not say, his general providence; for this I take to be a sounding word, which means just nothing. And if there be a particular providence, it must extend to all persons and all things. So our Lord understood it, or he could never have said, Even the hairs of your head are all numbred. And, Not a sparrow falleth to the ground, without the will of your Father which is in heaven. But if it be so, if God presides universis tanquam singulis, et singulis tanquam universis; over the whole universe as over every single person, over every single person as over the whole universe: what is it (except only our own sins) which we are not to ascribe to the providence of God? So that I cannot apprehend, there is any room here, for the charge of Enthusiasm.

29. *If it be said, The charge lies here: “when you impute this to providence, you imagine yourself the peculiar favourite of heaven.” I answer, you have forgot some of the last words I spoke, Præsidet universis tanquam singulis. His providence is over all men in the universe, as much as over any single person. Don’t you see, that he who believing this, imputes any thing which befalls him to providence, does not therein make himself any more the favourite of heaven, than he supposes every man under heaven to be? Therefore you have no pretence, upon this ground, to charge him with Enthusiasm.

30. Against every sort of this, it behoves us to guard, with the utmost diligence: considering the dreadful effects it has so often produced, and which indeed naturally result from it. Its immediate offspring is pride; it continually increases this source from whence it flows, and hereby it alienates us more and more, from the favour and from the life of God. It dries up the very springs of faith and love; of righteousness and true holiness. Seeing all these flow from grace. But God resisteth the proud and giveth grace only to the humble.

31. Together with pride there will naturally arise an unadvisable and unconvincible spirit. So that into whatever error or fault the Enthusiast falls, there is small hope of his recovery. For reason will have little weight with him (as has been justly and frequently observed) who imagines he is led by an higher guide, by the immediate wisdom of God. And as he grows in pride, so he must grow in unadvisableness and in stubbornness also. He must be less and less capable of being convinced, less susceptible of persuasion; more and more attached to his own judgment and his own will, ’till he is altogether fixt and immovable.

32. Being thus fortified both against the grace of God, and against all advice and help from man, he is wholly left to the guidance of his own heart, and of the king of the children of pride. No marvel then that he is daily more rooted and grounded in contempt of all mankind, in furious anger, in every unkind disposition, in every earthly and devilish temper. Neither can we wonder at the terrible outward effects, which have flowed from such dispositions in all ages: even all manner of wickedness, all the works of darkness, committed by those who called themselves Christians, while they wrought with greediness such things, as were hardly named even among the Heathens.

Such is the nature, such the dreadful effects, of that many-headed monster Enthusiasm! From the consideration of which, we may now draw some plain inferences, with regard to our own practice.

33. And, first, If Enthusiasm be a term, tho’ so frequently used, yet so rarely understood, take you care, not to talk of you know not what, not to use the word, till you understand it. As in all other points, so likewise in this, learn to think before you speak. First, know the meaning of this hard word; and then use it, if need require.

34. But if so few, even among men of education and learning, much more among the common sort of men, understand this dark, ambiguous word, or have any fixt notion of what it means: then, secondly, Beware of judging or calling any man an Enthusiast upon common report. This is by no means a sufficient ground, for giving any name of reproach to any man: least of all is it a sufficient ground, for so black a term of reproach as this. The more evil it contains, the more cautious you should be, how you apply it to any one: to bring so heavy an accusation without full proof, being neither consistent with justice nor mercy.

35. But if Enthusiasm be so great an evil, beware you are not intangled therewith yourself. Watch and pray that you fall not into the temptation. It easily besets those who fear or love God. O beware you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Do not imagine you have attained that grace of God, to which you have not attained. You may have much joy: you may have a measure of love, and yet not have living faith. Cry unto God that he would not suffer you, blind as you are, to go out of the way: that you may never fancy yourself a believer in Christ, till Christ is revealed in you, and till his Spirit witnesses with your Spirit, that you are a child of God.

36. Beware you are not a fiery, persecuting Enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you, (just contrary to the spirit of him you stile your Master) to destroy men’s lives, and not to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way, never compel to come in, by any other means, than reason, truth and love.

37. Beware you do not run with the common herd of Enthusiasts, fancying you are a Christian when you are not. Presume not to assume that venerable name, unless you have a clear, scriptural title thereto: unless you have the mind which was in Christ, and walk as he also walked.

38. Beware you do not fall into the second sort of Enthusiasm, fancying you have those gifts from God which you have not. Trust not in visions or dreams; in sudden impressions, or strong impulses of any kind. Remember, it is not by these you are to know, what is the will of God on any particular occasion; but by applying the plain scripture-rule, with the help of experience and reason, and the ordinary assistance of the Spirit of God. Do not lightly take the name of God in your mouth: do not talk of the will of God on every trifling occasion. But let your words as well as your actions be all tempered with reverence and godly fear.

39. Beware, lastly, of imagining you shall obtain the end, without using the means conducive to it. God can give the end, without any means at all: but you have no reason to think he will. Therefore constantly and carefully use all these means, which he has appointed to be the ordinary channels of his grace. Use every means which either reason or scripture recommends, as conducive (thro’ the free love of God in Christ) either to the obtaining, or increasing any of the gifts of God. Thus expect a daily growth in that pure and holy religion, which the world always did, and always will call Enthusiasm: but which, to all who are saved from real Enthusiasm, from merely nominal Christianity, is the wisdom of God and the power of God, the glorious image of the Most High: righteousness and peace: a fountain of living water, springing up into everlasting life!


Mark ix. 38, 39.

And John answered him saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

And Jesus said, Forbid him not.

1.IN the preceding verses we read, that after the twelve had been disputing, which of them should be the greatest, Jesus took a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of these little children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me (only) but him that sent me. Then John answered (that is, said with reference to what our Lord had spoken just before) Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. As if he had said, “Ought we to have received him? In receiving him, should we have received thee? Ought we not rather to have forbidden him? Did not we do well therein?” But Jesus said, Forbid him not.

2. The same passage is recited by St. Luke, and almost in the same words. But it may be asked, What is this to us? Seeing no man now casts out devils. Has not the power of doing this been withdrawn from the church, for twelve or fourteen hundred years? How then are we concerned in the case here proposed, or in our Lord’s decision of it?

3. Perhaps more nearly than is commonly imagined, the case proposed being no uncommon case. That we may reap our full advantage from it I design to shew, first, In what sense men may and do now cast out devils: secondly, What we may understand by, He followeth not us. I shall, thirdly, explain our Lord’s direction, Forbid him not, and conclude with an inference from the whole.

I. 1. I am, in the first place to shew, in what sense men may, and do now cast out devils.

In order to have the clearest view of this, we should remember, that (according to the scriptural account) as God dwells and works in the children of light, so the devil dwells and works in the children of darkness. As the holy Spirit possesses the souls of good men, so the evil spirit possesses the souls of the wicked. Hence it is that the apostle terms him, The God of this world: from the uncontrolled power he has over worldly men. Hence our blessed Lord stiles him the prince of this world: so absolute is his dominion over it. And hence St. John, We know that we are of God, and all who are not of God, the whole world, ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται· Not, lieth in wickedness: but lieth in the wicked one; lives and moves in him, as they who are not of the world, do in God.

2. For the devil is not to be considered only as a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour: nor barely as a subtle enemy, who cometh unawares upon poor souls, and leads them captive at his will: but as he who dwelleth in them and walketh in them; who ruleth the darkness or wickedness of this world, of worldly men and all their dark designs and actions, by keeping possession of their hearts, setting up his throne there, and bringing every thought into obedience to himself. Thus the strong one armed keepeth his house; and if this unclean spirit sometime go out of a man, yet he often returns with seven spirits worse than himself, and they enter in and dwell there. Nor can he be idle in his dwelling. He is continually working in these children of disobedience. He works in them with power, with mighty energy, transforming them into his own likeness, effacing all the remains of the image of God, and preparing them for every evil word and work.

3. It is therefore an unquestionable truth, that the God and prince of this world, still possesses all who know not God. Only the manner wherein he possesses them now, differs from that wherein he did it of old time. Then he frequently tormented their bodies, as well as souls, and that openly, without any disguise. Now he torments their souls only, (unless in some rare cases) and that as covertly as possible. The reason of this difference is plain. It was then his aim to drive mankind into superstition. Therefore he wrought as openly as he could. But ’tis his aim to drive us into infidelity. Therefore he works as privately as he can: for the more secret he is, the more he prevails.

4. Yet, if we may credit Historians, there are countries even now, where he works as openly as aforetime. “But why in savage and barbarous countries only? Why not in Italy, France or England?” For a very plain reason: he knows his men. And he knows what he hath to do with each. To Laplanders, he appears barefaced: because he is to fix them in superstition and gross idolatry. But with you he is pursuing a different point. He is to make you idolize yourselves: to make you wiser in your own eyes than God himself, than all the oracles of God. Now in order to this, he must not appear in his own shape: that would frustrate his design. No: he uses all his art, to make you deny his being, till he has you safe in his own place.

5. *He reigns therefore, altho’ in a different way, yet as absolute in one land as in the other. He has the gay Italian infidel in his teeth, as sure as the wild Tartar. But he is fast asleep in the mouth of the lion, who is too wise to wake him out of sleep. So he only plays with him for the present, and when he pleases swallows him up.

*The God of this world holds his English worshippers full as fast as those in Lapland. But it is not his business to affright them, lest they should fly to the God of heaven. The prince of darkness therefore does not appear, while he rules over these his willing subjects. The conqueror holds his captives so much the safer, because they imagine themselves at liberty. Thus the strong one armed keepeth his house, and his goods are in peace: neither the deist nor nominal Christian suspects he is there; so he and they are perfectly at peace with each other.

6. All this while he works with energy in them. He blinds the eyes of their understanding, so that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, cannot shine upon them. He chains their souls down to earth and hell, with the chains of their own vile affections. He binds them down to the earth, by love of the world, love of money, of pleasure, of praise. And by pride, envy, anger, hate, revenge, he causes their souls to draw nigh unto hell: acting the more secure and uncontrolled, because they know not that he acts at all.

7. But how easily may we know the cause from its effects? These are sometimes gross and palpable. So they were in the most refined of the Heathen nations. Go no farther than the admired, the virtuous Romans. And you will find these, when at the height of their learning and glory, filled with all unrighteousness; fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity: whisperers, backbiters, despiteful, proud boasters, disobedient to parents: covenant-breakers, without natural affection; implacable, unmerciful.

8. The strongest parts of this description are confirmed by one, whom some may think a more unexceptionable witness. I mean, their brother Heathen, Dion Cassius: who observes, that before Cæsar’s return from Gaul, not only gluttony and lewdness of every kind, were open and barefaced; not only falshood, injustice and unmercifulness abounded, in public courts as well as private families: but the most outrageous robberies, rapine and murders, were so frequent in all parts of Rome, that few men went out of doors without making their wills, as not knowing if they should return alive.

9. *As gross and palpable are the works of the devil, among many (if not all) the modern Heathens. The natural religion of the Greeks, Cherokees, Chicasaws, and all other Indians, bordering on our southern settlements (not of a few single men, but of entire nations) is, to torture all their prisoners from morning to night, till at length they roast them to death; and upon the slightest, undesigned provocation, to come behind and shoot any of their own countrymen. Yea, it is a common thing among them, for the son, if he thinks his father lives too long, to knock out his brains: and for a mother, if she is tired of her children, to fasten stones about their necks, and throw three or four of them into the river, one after another.

10. It were to be wished that none but Heathens had practised such gross, palpable works of the devil. But we dare not say so. Even in cruelty and bloodshed, how little have the Christians come behind them? And not the Spaniards or Portuguese alone, butchering thousands in South-America. Not the Dutch only in the East-Indies, or the French in North-America, following the Spaniards step by step. Our own countrymen too have wantoned in blood, and exterminated whole nations: plainly proving thereby, what spirit it is, that dwells and works in the children of disobedience.

11. These monsters might almost make us overlook the works of the devil that are wrought in our own country. But alas! We cannot open our eyes even here, without seeing them on every side. Is it a small proof of his power, that common swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, robbers, sodomites, murderers, are still found in every part of our land? How triumphant does the prince of this world reign, in all these children of disobedience?

12. He less openly, but no less effectually works in dissemblers, talebearers, liars, slanderers: in oppressors and extortioners; in the perjured, the seller of his friend, his honour, his conscience, his country. And yet these may talk of religion or conscience still! Of honour, virtue and public spirit. But they can no more deceive Satan than they can God. He likewise knows those that are his: and a great multitude they are out of every nation and people of whom he has full possession at this day.

13. If you consider this, you cannot but see in what sense, men may now also cast out devils: yea, and every minister of Christ does cast them out, if his Lord’s work prosper in his hand.

By the power of God attending his word, he brings these sinners to repentance: an entire inward as well as outward change, from all evil to all good. And this is, in a sound sense, to cast out devils, out of the souls wherein they had hitherto dwelt. The strong one can no longer keep his house. A stronger than he is come upon him, and hath cast him out, and taken possession for himself, and made it an habitation of God thro’ his Spirit. Here then the energy of Satan ends, and the Son of God destroys the works of the devil. The understanding of the sinner is now enlightned, and his heart sweetly drawn to God. His desires are refined, his affections purified: and being filled with the Holy Ghost, he grows in grace till he is not only holy in heart, but in all manner of conversation.

14. All this is indeed the work of God. It is God alone who can cast out Satan. But he is generally pleased to do this by man, as an instrument in his hand: who is then said, to cast out devils in his name, by his power and authority. And he sends whom he will send upon this great work: but usually such as man would never have thought of. For his ways are not as our ways, neither his thoughts as our thoughts. Accordingly he chuses the weak to confound the mighty, the foolish, to confound the wise: for this plain reason, that he may secure the glory to himself; that no flesh may glory in his sight.

II. 1. But shall we not forbid one who thus casteth out devils, if he followeth not us? This it seems was both the judgment and practice of the apostle, till he referred the case to his Master. We forbad him, saith he, because he followeth not us, which he supposed to be a very sufficient reason. What we may understand by this expression, He followeth not us, is the next point to be considered.

The lowest circumstance we can understand thereby, is, he has no outward connexion with us. We do not labour in conjunction with each other. He is not our fellow-helper in the gospel. And indeed whensoever our Lord is pleased, to send many labourers into his harvest, they cannot all act, in subordination to, or connexion with each other. Nay, they cannot all have personal acquaintance with, nor be so much as known to one another. Many there will necessarily be in different parts of the harvest, so far from having any mutual intercourse, that they will be as absolute strangers to each other, as if they had lived in different ages. And concerning any of these whom we know not, we may doubtless say, He followeth not us.

2. A second meaning of this expression may be, he is not of our party. It has long been matter of melancholy consideration, to all who pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that so many several parties are still subsisting, among those who are all stiled Christians. This has been particularly observable in our own countrymen, who have been continually dividing from each other, upon points of no moment, and many times such as religion had no concern in. The most trifling circumstances have given rise to different parties, which have continued for many generations. And each of these would be ready to object to one who was on the other side, He followeth not us.

3. That expression may mean, thirdly, he differs from us, in our religious opinions. There was a time, when all Christians were of one mind, as well as of one heart. So great grace was upon them all, when they were first filled with the Holy Ghost. But how short a space did this blessing continue? How soon was that unanimity lost, and difference of opinion sprang up again, even in the church of Christ? And that not in nominal, but in real Christians: nay in the very chief of them, the apostles themselves? Nor does it appear, that the difference which then began, was ever entirely removed. We do not find, that even those pillars in the temple of God, so long as they remained upon earth, were ever brought to think alike, to be of one mind, particularly with regard to the ceremonial law. ’Tis therefore no way surprizing, that infinite varieties of opinion should now be found in the Christian church. A very probable consequence of this is, that whenever we see any casting out devils, he will be one that, in this sense, followeth not us: that is not of our opinion. ’Tis scarce to be imagined he will be of our mind, in all points, even of religion. He may very probably think in a different manner from us, even on several subjects of importance: such as, the nature and use of the moral law, the eternal decrees of God, the sufficiency and efficacy of his grace, and the perseverance of his children.

4. He may differ from us, fourthly, not only in opinion, but likewise in some points of practice. He may not approve of that manner of worshipping God, which is practised in our congregation: and may judge that to be more profitable for his soul, which took its rise from Calvin, or Martin Luther. He may have many objections to that liturgy, which we approve of, beyond all others; many doubts concerning that form of Church-government, which we esteem both apostolical and scriptural. Perhaps he may go farther from us yet: he may, from a principle of conscience, refrain from several of those, which we believe to be the ordinances of Christ. Or if we both agree, that they are ordained of God, there may still remain a difference between us, either as to the manner of administring those ordinances, or the persons to whom they should be administred. Now the unavoidable consequence of any of these differences, will be, that he who thus differs from us, must separate himself, with regard to those points, from our society. In this respect therefore he followeth not us: he is not (as we phrase it) of our church.

5. But in a far stronger sense, he followeth not us, who is not only of a different church, but of such a church as we account to be in many respects antiscriptural and antichristian: a church which we believe to be utterly false and erroneous in her doctrines, as well as very dangerously wrong in her practice, guilty of gross superstition as well as idolatry. A church that has added many articles to the faith, which was once delivered to the saints: that has dropt one whole commandment of God, and made void several of the rest by her traditions: and that pretending the highest veneration for, and strictest conformity to the antient church, has nevertheless brought in numberless innovations, without any warrant either from antiquity or scripture. Now most certainly he followeth not us, who stands at so great a distance from us.

6. And yet there may be a still wider difference than this. He who differs from us in judgment or practice, may possibly stand at a greater distance from us, in affection than in judgment. And this indeed is a very natural and a very common effect of the other. The differences which begin in points of opinion, seldom terminate there. They generally spread into the affections, and then separate chief friends. Nor are any animosities so deep and irreconcileable, as those that spring from disagreement in religion. For this cause the bitterest enemies of a man, are those of his own houshold. For this the father rises against his own children, and the children against the father; and perhaps persecute each other even to the death, thinking all the time they are doing God service. It is therefore nothing more than we may expect, if those who differ from us either in religious opinions or practice, soon contract a sharpness, yea bitterness toward us; if they are more and more prejudiced against us, till they conceive as ill an opinion of our persons as of our principles. An almost necessary consequence of this will be, they will speak in the same manner as they think of us. They will set themselves in opposition to us, and as far as they are able hinder our work: seeing it does not appear to them to be the work of God, but either of man or of the devil. He that thinks, speaks and acts in such a manner as this, in the highest sense, followeth not us.

7. I do not indeed conceive, That the person of whom the apostle speaks in the text (altho’ we have no particular account of him, either in the context, or in any other part of holy writ) went so far as this. We have no ground to suppose, That there was any material difference between him and the apostles; much less that he had any prejudice either against them or their Master. It seems we may gather thus much from our Lord’s own words, which immediately follow the text, There is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. But I purposely put the case in the strongest light, adding all the circumstances which can well be conceived: that being forewarned of the temptation in its full strength, we may in no case yield to it, and fight against God.

III. 1. Suppose then a man have no intercourse with us, suppose he be not of our party, suppose he separate from our church, yea, and widely differ from us, both in judgment, practice, and affection: yet if we see even this man casting out devils, Jesus saith, Forbid him not. This important direction of our Lord, I am, in the third place, to explain.

2. If we see this man casting out devils—But ’tis well, if in such a case, we would believe even what we saw with our eyes, if we did not give the lie to our own senses. He must be little acquainted with human nature, who does not immediately perceive, how extremely unready we should be, to believe that any man does cast out devils, who followeth not us, in all, or most of the senses above-recited. I had almost said, In any of them: seeing we may easily learn even from what passes in our own breasts, How unwilling men are, to allow any thing good in those, who do not in all things agree with themselves.

3. “But what is a sufficient, reasonable proof that a man does (in the sense above) cast out devils?” The answer is easy. Is there full proof, 1. That a person before us was a gross, open sinner? Secondly, That he is not so now; that he has broke off his sins, and lives a Christian life? And, thirdly, That his change was wrought by his hearing this man preach? If these three points be plain and undeniable, then you have sufficient, reasonable proof, such as you cannot resist without wilful sin, That this man casts out devils.

4. *Then forbid him not. Beware how you attempt to hinder him, either by your authority, or arguments, or persuasions. Do not in any wise strive to prevent his using all the power which God has given him. If you have authority with him, do not use that authority, to stop the work of God. Do not furnish him with reasons, why he ought not any more to speak in the name of Jesus. Satan will not fail to supply him with these, if you do not second him therein. Persuade him not, to depart from the work. If he should give place to the devil and you, many souls might perish in their iniquity, but their blood would God require at your hands.

5. “But what if he be only a Layman who casts out devils? Ought I not to forbid him then?”

Is the fact allowed? Is there reasonable proof, That this man has or does cast out devils? If there is, forbid him not: no, not at the peril of your soul. Shall not God work by whom he will work? No man can do these works unless God is with him, unless God hath sent him for this very thing. But if God hath sent him, will you call him back? Will you forbid him to go?

6. “But I do not know, That he is sent of God.” Now herein is a marvellous thing (may any of the seals of his mission say, any whom he hath brought from Satan to God) that ye know not whence this man is, and behold he hath opened mine eyes! If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. If you doubt the fact, send for the parents of the man: send for his brethren, friends, acquaintance. But if you cannot doubt this, if you must needs acknowledge, That a notable miracle hath been wrought, then with what conscience, with what face can you charge him whom God hath sent, not to speak any more in his name?

7. I allow, That it is highly expedient, whoever preaches in his name, should have an outward as well as an inward call. But that it is absolutely necessary I deny.

“Nay, is not the scripture express? No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron?Heb. v. 4.

Numberless times has this text been quoted on the occasion, as containing the very strength of the cause. But surely never was so unhappy a quotation. For, first, Aaron was not called to preach at all. He was called to offer gifts and sacrifice for sin. That was his peculiar employment. Secondly, These men do not offer sacrifice at all; but only preach, which Aaron did not. Therefore it is not possible to find one text in all the Bible, which is more wide of the point than this.

8. “But what was the practice of the apostolic age?” You may easily see in the Acts of the apostles. In the 8th chapter we read, There was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem: and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles, ver. 1. Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went every-where preaching the word, ver. 4. Now were all these outwardly called to preach? No man in his senses can think so. Here then is an undeniable proof, what was the practice of the apostolic age. Here you see not one, but a multitude of Lay-preachers, men that were only sent of God.

9. Indeed so far is the practice of the apostolic age, from inclining us to think it was unlawful for a man to preach before he was ordained, that we have reason to think, it was then accounted necessary. Certainly the practice and the direction of the apostle Paul was, to prove a man before he was ordained at all. Let these, (the deacons) says he, first be proved: then let them use the office of a deacon1 Tim. iii. 10. Proved? How? By setting them to construe a sentence of Greek? And asking them a few common-place questions? O amazing proof of a minister of Christ! Nay: but by making a clear, open trial (as is still done by most of the Protestant churches in Europe) not only whether their lives be holy and unblameable, but whether they have such gifts as are absolutely and indispensably necessary, in order to edify the church of Christ.

10. *“But what if a man has these? And has brought sinners to repentance? And yet the bishop will not ordain him?” Then the bishop does forbid him to cast out devils. But I dare not forbid him. I have published my reasons to all the world. Yet ’tis still insisted, I ought to do it. You who insist upon it, answer those reasons. I know not that any have done this yet, or even made an attempt of doing it. Only some have spoken of them as very weak and trifling. And this was prudent enough. For ’tis far easier to despise, at least, seem to despise an argument than to answer it. Yet till this is done I must say, when I have reasonable proof that any man does cast out devils, Whatever others do, I dare not forbid him, lest I be found even to fight against God.

11. And whosoever thou art that fearest God, forbid him not, either directly or indirectly. There are many ways of doing this. You indirectly forbid him, if you either wholly deny, or despise and make little account of the work which God has wrought by his hands. You indirectly forbid him, when you discourage him in his work, by drawing him into disputes concerning it, by raising objections against it, or frighting him with consequences, which very possibly will never be. You forbid him, when you shew any unkindness toward him, either in language or behaviour: and much more, when you speak of him to others, either in an unkind or a contemptuous manner: when you endeavour to represent him to any, either in an odious or a despicable light. You are forbidding him all the time you are speaking evil of him, or making no account of his labours. O forbid him not in any of these ways: nor by forbidding others to hear him, by discouraging sinners from hearing that word, which is able to save their souls.

12. Yea, if you would observe our Lord’s direction in its full meaning and extent, then remember his word, He that is not for us, is against us; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. He that gathereth not men into the kingdom of God, assuredly scatters them from it. For there can be no neuter in this war. Every one is either on God’s side or on Satan’s. Are you on God’s side? Then you will not only not forbid any man that casts out devils, but you will labour to the uttermost of your power, to forward him in the work. You will readily acknowledge the work of God, and confess the greatness of it. You will remove all difficulties and objections, as far as may be, out of his way. You will strengthen his hands by speaking honourably of him before all men, and avowing the things which you have seen and heard. You will encourage others to attend upon his word, to hear him whom God hath sent. And you will omit no actual proof of tender love, which God gives you an opportunity of shewing him.

IV. 1. If we willingly fail in any of these points, if we either directly or indirectly forbid him, because he followeth not us, then we are Bigots. This is the inference I draw from what has been said. But the term bigotry, I fear, as frequently as it is used, is almost as little understood as Enthusiasm. It is, too strong an attachment to, or fondness for, our own party, opinion, church and religion. Therefore he is a bigot, who is so fond of any of these, so strongly attached to them, as to forbid any who cast out devils, because he differs from himself, in any or all these particulars.

2. *Do you beware of this. Take care, 1. That you do not convict yourself of bigotry, by your unreadiness to believe, that any man does cast out devils, who differs from you. And if you are clear thus far, if you acknowledge the fact, then examine yourself, secondly. Am I not convicted of bigotry in this, in forbidding him, directly or indirectly? Do I not directly forbid him on this ground, because he is not of my party? Because he does not fall in with my opinions? Or because he does not worship God according to that scheme of religion, which I have received from my fathers?

3. *Examine yourself, do I not indirectly at least forbid him, on any of these grounds? Am I not sorry, that God should thus own and bless a man that holds such erroneous opinions? Do I not discourage him, because he is not of my church? By disputing with him concerning it, by raising objections, and by perplexing his mind with distant consequences? Do I shew no anger, contempt or unkindness of any sort, either in my words or actions? Do I not mention behind his back, his (real or supposed) faults? His defects or infirmities? Do not I hinder sinners from hearing his word? If you do any of these things, you are a bigot to this day.

4. Search me, O Lord, and prove me. Try out my reins and my heart! Look well if there be any way of bigotry in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. In order to examine ourselves throughly, let the case be proposed in the strongest manner. What if I were to see a Papist, an Arian, a Socinian casting out devils? If I did, I could not forbid even him, without convicting myself of bigotry. Yea, if it could be supposed, that I should see a Jew, a Deist, or a Turk doing the same, were I to forbid him either directly or indirectly, I should be no better than a bigot still.

5. O stand clear of this. But be not content with not forbidding any that casts out devils. *’Tis well, to go thus far, but do not stop here. If you will avoid all bigotry, go on. In every instance of this kind, whatever the instrument be, acknowledge the finger of God. And not only acknowledge, but rejoice in his work and praise his name with thanksgiving. Encourage whomsoever God is pleased to employ, to give himself wholly up thereto. Speak well of him wheresoever you are: defend his character and his mission. Enlarge as far as you can his sphere of action. Shew him all kindness in word and deed. And cease not to cry to God in his behalf, that he may save both himself and them that hear him.

6. I need add but one caution. Think not, the bigotry of another, is any excuse for your own. ’Tis not impossible, that one who casts out devils himself, may yet forbid you so to do. You may observe, this is the very case mentioned in the text. The apostles forbad another to do what they did themselves. But beware of retorting. It is not your part, to return evil for evil. Another’s not observing the direction of our Lord is no reason why you should neglect it. Nay, but let him have all the bigotry to himself. If he forbids you, do not you forbid him. Rather labour and watch and pray the more, to confirm your love toward him. If he speaks all manner of evil of you, speak all manner of good (that is true) of him. Imitate herein that glorious saying of a great man (O that he had always breathed the same spirit!) “Let Luther call me an hundred devils: I will still reverence him as a messenger of God.”


2 Kings x. 15.

And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he saluted him and said, Is thine heart right as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand.

1.IT is allowed even by those who do not pay this great debt, that love is due to all mankind: the royal law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, carrying its own evidence to all that hear it. And that, not according to the miserable construction put upon it by the zealots of old times, thou shalt love thy neighbour, thy relation, acquaintance, friend, and hate thine enemy: not so. I say unto you, saith our Lord, love your enemies, bless them that curse you: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you: that ye may be the children, may appear so to all mankind, of your Father which is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

2. But it is sure, there is a peculiar love which we owe to those that love God. So David, all my delight is upon the saints that are in the earth and upon such as excel in virtue. And so a greater than he, a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another: John xiii. 34, 35. This is that love on which the apostle John so frequently and strongly insists. This, saith he, is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 1 John c. iii. 11. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought, if love should call us thereto, to lay down our lives for the brethren, v. 16. And again, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is love, c. iv. 7, 8. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another, v. 10, 11.

3. All men approve of this. But do all men practise it? Daily experience shews the contrary. Where are even the Christians who love one another, as he hath given us commandment? How many hindrances lie in the way? The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike: and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike: but in several smaller points their practice must differ, in proportion to the difference of their sentiments.

4. But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship, may prevent an intire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another, in love and in good works.

5. Surely in this respect, the example of Jehu himself, as mixt a character as he was of, is well worthy both the attention and imitation, of every serious Christian. And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he saluted him and said, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand.

The text naturally divides itself into two parts, first, a question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? Secondly, an offer made on Jehonadab’s answering, it is. If it be, give me thine hand.

I. 1. And, first, let us consider the question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?

The very first thing we may observe in these words, is that here is no enquiry concerning Jehonadab’s opinions. And yet ’tis certain, he held some which were very uncommon, indeed quite peculiar to himself: and some which had a close influence upon his practice; on which likewise he laid so great a stress, as to intail them upon his children’s children, to their latest posterity. This is evident from the account given by Jeremiah, many years after his death. I took Jaazaniah and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites—and set before them pots full of wine and cups, and said unto them, drink ye wine. But they said, we will drink no wine; for Jonadab (or Jehonadab) the son of Rechab our father (It would be less ambiguous if the words were placed thus, Jehonadab our father the son of Rechab: out of love and reverence to whom he probably desired his descendents might be called by his name) commanded us, saying, ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons for ever. Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents—and we have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us, Jer. xxxv. 310.

2. And yet Jehu (although it seems to have been his manner, both in things secular and religious to drive furiously) does not concern himself at all with any of these things, but lets Jehonadab abound in his own sense. And neither of them appears to have given the other the least disturbance, touching the opinions which he maintained.

3. ’Tis very possible, that many good men now also may entertain peculiar opinions: and some of them maybe as singular herein, as even Jehonadab was. And ’tis certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding, that several men will be of several minds, in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be till the restitution of all things.

4. Nay farther. Altho’ every man necessarily believes, that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for, to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as, not to hold it:) yet can no man be assured, that all his own opinions taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured, they are not: seeing Humanum est errare et nescire. To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity. This therefore he is sensible is his own case. He knows in the general, that he himself is mistaken. Altho’ in what particulars he mistakes, he does not, perhaps cannot know.

5. I say, perhaps he cannot know. For who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend? Or (that comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice: which is so fixt in tender minds, that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root. And who can say, unless he knew every circumstance attending it, how far any mistake is culpable? Seeing all guilt must suppose some concurrence of the will: of which he only can judge who searcheth the heart.

6. Every wise man therefore will allow others the same liberty of thinking, which he desires they should allow him: and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him, with whom he desires to unite in love, that single question, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?

7. We may, secondly, observe, That here is no enquiry made, concerning Jehonadab’s mode of worship: altho’ it is highly probably, there was in this respect also, a very wide difference between them. For we may well believe Jehonadab as well as all his posterity, worshipped God at Jerusalem: whereas Jehu did not; he had more regard to state-policy than religion. And therefore altho’ he slew the worshippers of Baal, and destroyed Baal out of Israel: yet from the convenient sin of Jeroboam, the worship of the golden calves, he departed not, 2 Kings x. 29.

8. But even among men of an upright heart, men who desire to have a conscience void of offence, it must needs be, that as long as there are various opinions, there will be various ways of worshipping God: seeing a variety of opinion necessarily implies a variety of practice. And as in all ages, men have differed in nothing more than in their opinions concerning the supreme Being, so in nothing have they more differed from each other, than in the manner of worshipping him. Had this been only in the Heathen world, it would not have been at all surprising. For we know these by their wisdom knew not God; nor therefore could they know how to worship him. But is it not strange, That even in the Christian world, altho’ they all agree in the general, God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth: yet the particular modes of worshipping God, are almost as various as among the Heathens?

9. And how shall we chuse, among so much variety? No man can chuse for, or prescribe to another. But every one must follow the dictates of his own conscience, in simplicity and godly sincerity. He must be fully persuaded in his own mind, and then act according to the best light he has. Nor has any creature power to constrain another to walk by his own rule. God has given no right to any of the children of men, thus to lord it over the conscience of his brethren. But every man must judge for himself, as every man must give an account of himself to God.

10. Altho’ therefore every follower of Christ is obliged by the very nature of the Christian institution, to be a member of some particular congregation or other, some church, as it is usually termed: (which implies a particular manner of worshipping God;) for two cannot walk together unless they be agreed; yet none can be obliged by any power on earth, but that of his own conscience, to prefer this or that congregation to another, this or that particular manner of worship. I know it is commonly supposed, That the place of our birth, fixes the church to which we ought to belong: that one, for instance, who is born in England ought to be a member of that which is stiled The Church of England, and consequently to worship God in the particular manner which is prescribed by that church. I was once a zealous maintainer of this: but I find many reasons to abate of this zeal. I fear, it is attended with such difficulties, that as no reasonable man can get over. Not the least of which is, that if this rule had took place, there could have been no reformation from Popery: seeing it intirely destroys the right of private judgment, on which that whole reformation stands.

11. I dare not therefore presume to impose my mode of worship on any other. I believe it is truly primitive and apostolical. But my belief is no rule for another. I ask not therefore of him with whom I would unite in love, “Are you of my church? Of my congregation? Do you receive the same form of church-government, and allow the same church-officers with me? Do you join in the same form of prayer, wherein I worship God?” I inquire not, Do you receive the supper of the Lord, in the same posture and manner that I do? Nor, whether in the administration of baptism, you agree with me, in admitting sureties for the baptized? In the manner of administring it? Or the age of these to whom it should be administred? Nay, I ask not of you (as clear as I am in my own mind) whether you allow baptism and the Lord’s supper at all? Let all these things stand by: we will talk of them, if need be, at a more convenient season. My only question at present is this, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?

12. But what is properly implied in the question? I do not mean what did Jehu imply therein? But what should a follower of Christ understand thereby, when he proposes it to any of his brethren?

The first thing implied in this: is thy heart right with God? Dost thou believe his being, and his perfections? His eternity, immensity, wisdom, power: his justice, mercy and truth? Dost thou believe, that he now upholdeth all things, by the word of his power? And that he governs even the most minute, even the most noxious, to his own glory and the good of them that love him? Hast thou a divine evidence, a supernatural conviction, of the things of God? Dost thou walk by faith not by sight? Looking not at temporal things, but things eternal?

13. Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God over all blessed for ever? Is he revealed in thy soul? Dost thou know Jesus Christ and him crucified? Does he dwell in thee, and thou in him? Is he formed in thy heart by faith? Having absolutely disclaimed all thy own works, thy own righteousness, hast thou submitted thyself unto the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus? Art thou found in him, not having thy own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith? And art thou, thro’ him, fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life?

14. Is thy faith ἐνεργουμένη δι’ ἀγάπης. Filled with the energy of love? Dost thou love God? I do not say, above all things; for it is both an unscriptural and an ambiguous expression: but with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength? Dost thou seek all thy happiness in him alone? And dost thou find what thou seekest? Does thy soul continually magnify the Lord, and thy spirit rejoice in God thy Saviour? Having learned in every thing to give thanks, dost thou find, it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful? Is God the center of thy soul? The sum of all thy desires? Art thou accordingly laying up thy treasure in heaven, and counting all things else dung and dross? Hath the love of God cast the love of the world out of thy soul? Then thou art crucified to the world. Thou art dead to all below and thy life is hid with Christ in God.

15. *Art thou employed in doing not thy own will, but the will of him that sent thee? Of him that sent thee down to sojourn here a-while, to spend a few days in a strange land, till having finished the work he hath given thee to do, thou return to thy Father’s house? Is it thy meat and drink to do the will of thy Father which is in heaven? Is thine eye single in all things? Always fixt on him? Always looking unto Jesus? Dost thou point at him in whatsoever thou dost? In all thy labour, thy business, thy conversation? Aiming only at the glory of God in all? Whatsoever thou dost, either in word or deed, doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God, even the Father thro’ him?

16. Does the love of God constrain thee to serve him with fear? To rejoice unto him with reverence? Art thou more afraid of displeasing God, than either of death or hell? Is nothing so terrible to thee as the thought of offending the eyes of his glory? Upon this ground dost thou hate all evil ways; every transgression of his holy and perfect law? And herein exercise thyself, to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man?

17. Is thy heart right toward thy neighbour? Dost thou love as thyself, all mankind without exception? If you love those only that love you, what thank have you? Do you love your enemies? Is your soul full of good-will, of tender affection toward them? Do you love even the enemies of God? The unthankful and unholy? Do your bowels yearn over them? Could you wish yourself (temporally) accurst for their sake? And do you shew this, by blessing them that curse you, and praying for those that despitefully use you and persecute you?

18. Do you shew your love by your works? While you have time, as you have opportunity, do you in fact do good to all men, neighbours or strangers, friends, or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can? Endeavouring to supply all their wants, assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power? If thou art thus minded, may every Christian say, yea, if thou art but sincerely desirous of it, and following on till thou attain, then thy heart is right, as my heart is with thy heart.

II. 1. If it be, give me thine hand. I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not. I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot. It does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear as I will. Keep you your opinion, I mine: and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other. Only give me thine hand.

2. I do not mean, “embrace my modes of worship; or, I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act, as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church-government to be scriptural and apostolical. It you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, think so still and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized, and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow your own persuasion. It appears to me, that forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitable to your own judgment. My sentiment is, that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized: and, that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master. However, if you are not convinced of this, act according to the light you have. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment, upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. If thine heart is as my heart, if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: give me thine hand.

3. I mean, first, love me. And that not only as thou lovest all mankind; not only as thou lovest thine enemies, or the enemies of God, those that hate thee, that despitefully use thee and persecute thee: not only as a stranger, as one of whom thou knowest neither good nor evil. I am not satisfied with this. No: If thine heart be right, as mine with thy heart, then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother: as a brother in Christ, a fellow-citizen of the new Jerusalem, a fellow-soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint-heir of his glory.

4. Love me (but in an higher degree, than thou dost the bulk of mankind) with the love that is long-suffering and kind, that is patient, if I am ignorant or out of the way, bearing and not increasing my burthen, and is tender, soft and compassionate still: that envieth not, if at any time it please God, to prosper me in his work even more than thee. Love me with the love that is not provoked either at my follies or infirmities; or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to thee) not according to the will of God. Love me so as to think no evil of me, to put away all jealousy and evil surmising. Love me with the love that covereth all things, that never reveals either my faults or infirmities: that believeth all things, is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions: That hopeth all things; either that the thing related was never done; or not done with such circumstances as are related: or at least, that it was done with a good intention: or in sudden stress of temptation. And hope to the end, that whatever is amiss, will by the grace of God be corrected, and whatever is wanting supplied, thro’ the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus.

5. I mean, secondly, commend me to God in all thy prayers, wrestle with him in my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss, and supply what is wanting in me. In thy nearest access to the throne of grace, beg of him, who is then very present with thee, that my heart may be more as thy heart, more right both toward God and toward man: that I may have a fuller conviction of things not seen, and a stronger view of the love of God in Christ Jesus: may more steadily walk by faith, not by sight, and more earnestly grasp eternal life. Pray, that the love of God and of all mankind, may be more largely poured into my heart; that I may be more fervent and active in doing the will of my Father which is in heaven; more zealous of good works, and more careful to abstain from all appearance of evil.

6. I mean, thirdly, provoke me to love and to good works. Second thy prayer as thou hast opportunity, by speaking to me in love whatsoever thou believest to be for my soul’s health. Quicken me in the work which God has given me to do, and instruct me how to do it more perfectly. Yea smite me friendly and reprove me, wherein soever I appear to thee, to be doing rather my own will, than the will of him that sent me. O speak and spare not, whatever thou believest may conduce, either to the amending my faults, the strengthning my weakness, the building me up in love, or the making me more fit in any kind for the master’s use.

7. I mean, lastly, Love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience thou canst (retaining still thy own opinions, and thy own manner of worshipping God) join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand. And thus far, it is certain, thou mayst go. Speak honourably wherever thou art, of the work of God by whomsoever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And if it be in thy power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a chearful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on thy behalf.

8. Two things should be observed, with regard to what has been spoken under this last head. The one, that whatsoever love, whatsoever offices of love, whatsoever spiritual or temporal assistance, I claim from him whose heart is right, as my heart is with his: the same I am ready, by the grace of God, according to my measure, to give him. The other, that I have not made this claim, in behalf of myself only, but of all whose heart is right toward God and man, that we may all love one another, as Christ hath loved us.

III. 1. One inference we may make from what has been said. We may learn from hence, what is a Catholic spirit.

There is scarce any expression which has been more grosly misunderstood, and more dangerously misapplied than this. But it will be easy for any who calmly consider the preceding observations, to correct any such misapprehensions of it, and to prevent any such misapplication.

For from hence we may learn, first, That a Catholic spirit, is not speculative latitudinarianism. It is not an indifference to all opinions. This is the spawn of hell, not the offspring of heaven. This unsettledness of thought, this being driven to and fro and tost about with every wind of doctrine, is a great curse not a blessing; an irreconcileable enemy not a friend to true Catholicism. A man of a truly Catholic spirit, has not now his religion to seek. He is fixt as the sun in his judgment concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine. ’Tis true, he is always ready to hear and weigh, whatsoever can be offered against his principles. But as this does not shew any wavering in his own mind, so neither does it occasion any. He does not halt between two opinions, nor vainly endeavour to blend them into one. Observe this, you who know not what spirit ye are of: who call yourselves men of a Catholic spirit, only because you are of a muddy understanding: because your mind is all in a mist: because you have no settled, consistent principles, but are for jumbling all opinions together. Be convinced, that you have quite missed your way: you know not where you are. You think you are got into the very Spirit of Christ; when in truth you are nearer the spirit of antichrist. Go first and learn the first elements of the gospel of Christ, and then shall you learn to be of a truly Catholic spirit.

2. From what has been said we may learn, secondly, That a Catholic spirit is not any kind of practical latitudinarianism. It is not indifference as to public worship, or as to the outward manner of performing it. This likewise would not be a blessing but a curse. Far from being an help thereto, it would so long as it remained be an unspeakable hindrance to the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. But the man of a truly Catholick spirit, having weighed all things in the balance of the sanctuary, has no doubt, no scruple at all concerning that particular mode of worship wherein he joins. He is clearly convinced, that this manner of worshipping God is both scriptural and rational. He knows none in the world, which is more scriptural, none which is more rational. Therefore without rambling hither and thither, he cleaves close thereto, and praises God for the opportunity of so doing.

3. Hence we may, thirdly, learn. That a Catholick spirit is not indifference to all congregations. This is another sort of latitudinarianism no less absurd and unscriptural than the former. But it is far from a man of a truly Catholick spirit. He is fixt in his congregation as well as his principles. He is united to one, not only in spirit, but by all the outward ties of Christian fellowship. There he partakes of all the ordinances of God. There he receives the supper of the Lord. There he pours out his soul in public prayer, and joins in public praise and thanksgiving. There he rejoices to hear the word of reconciliation, the gospel of the grace of God. With these his nearest, his best beloved brethren, on solemn occasions he seeks God by fasting. These particularly he watches over in love, as they do over his soul, admonishing, exhorting, comforting, reproving, and every way building up each other in the faith. These he regards as his own houshold, and therefore according to the ability God has given him, naturally cares for them, and provides that they may have all the things that are needful for life and godliness.

4. *But while he is steadily fixt in his religious principles, in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus; while he firmly adheres to that worship of God, which he judges to be most acceptable in his sight, and while he is united by the tenderest and closest ties, to one particular congregation: his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not: he embraces with strong and cordial affection, neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. This is Catholic or universal love. And he that has this, is of a Catholic spirit. For love alone gives the title to this character. Catholic love is a Catholic spirit.

5. *If then we take this word in the strictest sense, a man of a Catholic spirit, is one who in the manner above-mentioned, gives his hand, to all whose hearts are right with his heart. One who knows how to value, and praise God, for all the advantages he enjoys; with regard to the knowledge of the things of God, the true scriptural manner of worshipping him; and above all, his union with a congregation, fearing God and working righteousness. One who retaining these blessings with the strictest care, keeping them as the apple of his eye, at the same time loves as friends, as brethren in the Lord, as members of Christ and children of God, as joint-partakers now of the present kingdom of God, and fellow-heirs of his eternal kingdom, all of whatever opinion or worship or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; who love God and man; who rejoicing to please and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil and zealous of good works. He is the man of a truly Catholic spirit, who bears all these continually upon his heart, who having an unspeakable tenderness for their persons, and longing for their welfare, does not cease to commend them to God in prayer, as well as to plead their cause before men: who speaks comfortably to them, and labours by all his words, to strengthen their hands in God. He assists them to the uttermost of his power in all things, spiritual and temporal. He is ready to spend and be spent for them; yea, to lay down his life for their sake.

6. Thou, O man of God, think on these things. If thou art already in this way, go on. If thou hast heretofore mistook the path, bless God who hath brought thee back. And now run the race which is set before thee, in the royal way of universal love. Take heed, lest thou be either wavering in thy judgment, or straitened in thy bowels. But keep an even pace, rooted in the faith once delivered to the saints, and grounded in love, in true Catholic love, till thou art swallowed up in love for ever and ever.


Phil. iii. 12.

Not as tho’ I had already attained, either were already perfect.

1.THERE is scarce any expression in holy writ, which has given more offence than this. The word perfect is what many cannot bear. The very sound of it is an abomination to them. And whosoever preaches perfection (as the phrase is) i. e. asserts that it is attainable in this life, runs great hazard of being accounted by them, worse than a Heathen man or a Publican.

2. And hence some have advised, wholly to lay aside the use of those expressions: “because they have given so great offence.” But are they not found in the oracles of God? If so, by what authority, can any messenger of God lay them aside, even tho’ all men should be offended? We have not so learned Christ; neither may we thus give place to the devil. Whatsoever God hath spoken, that will we speak, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear: knowing that then alone can any minister of Christ be pure from the blood of all men, when he hath not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God.

3. We may not therefore lay these expressions aside, seeing they are the words of God, and not of man. But we may, and ought to explain the meaning of them; that those who are sincere of heart, may not err to the right-hand or to the left, from the mark of the prize of their high calling. And this is the more needful to be done, because in the verse already repeated, the apostle speaks of himself as not perfect: not, saith he, as tho’ I were already perfect. And yet immediately after, in the fifteenth verse, he speaks of himself, yea and many others, as perfect. Let us, saith he, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.

4. In order therefore to remove the difficulty arising from this seeming contradiction, as well as to give light to them who are pressing forward to the mark, and that those who are lame be not turned out of the way, I shall endeavour to shew.

First, In what sense Christians are not, and,

Secondly, In what sense they are perfect.

I. 1. In the first place I shall endeavour to shew, in what sense Christians are not perfect. And both from experience and scripture it appears, first, that they are not perfect in knowledge: they are not so perfect in this life, as to be free from ignorance. They know, it may be in common with other men, many things relating to the present world; and they know, with regard to the world to come, the general truths which God hath revealed. They know likewise (what the natural man receiveth not: for these things are spiritually discerned) what manner of love it is, wherewith the Father hath loved them, that they should be called the sons of God: they know the mighty working of his Spirit in their hearts, and the wisdom of his providence, directing all their paths, and causing all things to work together for their good. Yea, they know in every circumstance of life, what the Lord requireth of them, and how to keep a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward man.

2. But innumerable are the things which they know not. Touching the Almighty himself, they cannot search him out to perfection. Lo, these are but a part of his ways; but the thunder of his power, who can understand? They cannot understand, I will not say, how there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one; or how the eternal Son of God took upon himself the form of a servant: but not any one attribute, not any one circumstance of the divine nature. Neither is it for them to know the times and seasons, when God will work his great works upon the earth; no, not even those which he hath in part revealed, by his servants and prophets, since the world began. Much less do they know, when God having accomplished the number of his elect will hasten his kingdom: when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.

3. They know not the reasons even of many of his present dispensations with the sons of men: but are constrained to rest here, tho’ clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his seat. Yea, often with regard to his dealings with themselves doth their Lord say unto them, What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. And how little do they know, of what is ever before them, of even the visible works of his hands? How he spreadeth the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing? How he unites all the parts of this vast machine by a secret chain which cannot be broken? So great is the ignorance, so very little the knowledge of even the best of men.

4. No one then is so perfect in this life, as to be free from ignorance. Nor, secondly, from mistake, which indeed is almost an unavoidable consequence of it; seeing those who know but in part, are ever liable to err, touching the things which they know not. ’Tis true, the children of God do not mistake, as to the things essential to salvation. They do not put darkness for light, or light for darkness, neither seek death in the error of their life. For they are taught of God, and the way which he teaches them, the way of holiness is so plain, that the wayfaring man, tho’ a fool, need not err therein. But in things unessential to salvation, they do err, and that frequently. The best and wisest of men are frequently mistaken, even with regard to facts: believing those things not to have been, which really were, or those to have been done, which were not. Or suppose they are not mistaken as to the fact itself, they may be, with regard to its circumstances; believing them, or many of them, to have been quite different, from what in truth they were. And hence cannot but arise many farther mistakes. Hence they may believe either past or present actions, which were, or are evil, to be good; and such as were, or are good to be evil. Hence also they may judge, not according to truth, with regard to the characters of men: and that not only by supposing good men to be better, or wicked men to be worse than they are; but by believing them to have been, or to be good men, who were, or are very wicked: or, perhaps, those to have been, or to be wicked men, who were, or are holy and unreprovable.

5. Nay, with regard to the holy scriptures themselves, as careful as they are to avoid it, the best of men are liable to mistake, and do mistake day by day: especially, with respect to those parts thereof, which less immediately relate to practice. Hence even the children of God are not agreed, as to the interpretation of many places in holy writ: nor is their difference of opinion any proof that they are not the children of God on either side. But it is a proof, that we are no more to expect any living man, to be infallible than to be omniscient.

6. If it be objected to what has been observed under this and the preceding head, that St. John speaking to his brethren in the faith, says, Ye have an unction from the holy one, and know all things, 1 John ii. 20. The answer is plain, “Ye know all things that are needful for your soul’s health.” That the apostle never designed to extend this farther, that he could not speak it in an absolute sense, is clear first from hence, that otherwise he would describe the disciple as above his master; seeing Christ himself, as man, knew not all things.—Of that hour, saith he, knoweth no man, no not the Son, but the Father only. It is clear, secondly, from the apostle’s own words that follow, These things have I written unto you concerning them that deceive you: as well as from his frequently repeated caution, Let no man deceive you; which had been altogether needless, had not those very persons, who had that unction from the Holy One been liable not to ignorance only; but to mistake also.

7. Even Christians therefore are not so perfect, as to be free either from ignorance or error. We may, thirdly, add: nor from infirmities. Only let us take care to understand this word aright. Only let us not give that soft title to known sins, as the manner of some is. So, one man tells us, “Every man has his infirmity, and mine is drunkenness:” another has the infirmity of uncleanness; another that of taking God’s holy name in vain. And yet another has the infirmity of calling his brother, Thou fool, or returning railing for railing. It is plain, that all you who thus speak, if ye repent not, shall with your infirmities, go quick into hell. But I mean hereby, not only those which are properly termed bodily infirmities, but all those inward or outward imperfections, which are not of a moral nature. Such are weakness or slowness of understanding, dullness or confusedness of apprehension, incoherency of thought, irregular quickness or heaviness of imagination. Such (to mention no more of this kind) is the want of a ready or retentive memory. Such in another kind are, those which are commonly in some measure consequent upon these: namely, slowness of speech, impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation: to which one might add a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behaviour. These are the infirmities which are found in the best of men, in a larger or smaller proportion. And from these none can hope to be perfectly freed, till the spirit returns to God that gave it.

8. Nor can we expect till then, to be wholly free from temptation. Such perfection belongeth not to this life. It is true, there are those who being given up to work all uncleanness with greediness, scarce perceive the temptations which they resist not, and so seem to be without temptation. There are also many whom the wise enemy of souls seeing to be fast asleep in the dead form of godliness, will not tempt to gross sin, lest they should awake, before they drop into everlasting burnings. I know, there are also children of God, who being now justified freely, having found redemption in the blood of Christ, for the present feel no temptation. God hath said to their enemies, Touch not mine anointed, and do my children no harm. And for this season, it may be for weeks or months, he causeth them to ride on high places, he beareth them as on eagles wings, above all the fiery darts of the wicked one. But this state will not last always, as we may learn from that single consideration, that the Son of God himself, in the days of his flesh, was tempted even to the end of his life. Therefore so let his servant expect to be; for it is enough that he be as his master.

9. Christian perfection therefore does not imply (as some men seem to have imagined) an exemption either from ignorance or mistake, or infirmities or temptations. Indeed it is only another term for holiness. They are two names for the same thing. Thus, every one that is holy, is in the scripture sense, perfect. Yet we may, lastly, observe, that neither in this respect is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of a continual increase. So that how much soever any man has attained, or in how high a degree soever he is perfect, he hath still need to grow in grace, and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Saviour.

II. 1. In what sense then are Christians perfect? This is what I shall endeavour, in the second place to shew. But it should be premised, that there are several stages in Christian life as in natural: some of the children of God being but new-born babes; others having attained to more maturity, And accordingly St. John, in his first epistle (c. ii. 12, &c.) applies himself severally, to those he terms little children, those he stiles young men, and those whom he intitles fathers. I write unto you, little children, saith the apostle, because your sins are forgiven: because thus far you have attained, being justified freely, you have peace with God, thro’ Jesus Christ. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one; or (as he afterwards addeth) because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you. Ye have quenched the fiery darts of the wicked one, the doubts and fears, wherewith he disturbed your first peace, and the witness of God that your sins are forgiven, now abideth in your heart. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. Ye have known both the Father and the Son, and the Spirit of Christ in your inmost soul. Ye are perfect men, being grown up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

2. It is of these chiefly I speak in the latter part of this discourse. For these only are perfect Christians. But even babes in Christ are in such a sense perfect, or born of God (an expression taken also in divers senses) as first, not to commit sin. If any doubt of this privilege of the sons of God, the question is not to be decided by abstract reasonings, which may be drawn out into an endless length, and leave the point just as it was before. Neither is it to be determined by the experience of this or that particular person. Many may suppose they do not commit sin, when they do: but this proves nothing either way. To the law and to the testimony we appeal. Let God be true, and every man a liar. By his word will we abide, and that alone. Hereby we ought to be judged.

3. Now the word of God plainly declares, that even those who are justified, who are born again in the lowest sense, do not continue in sin; that they cannot live any longer therein (Rom. vi. 1, 2.) that they are planted together in the likeness of the death of Christ. (verse 5.) That their old man is crucified with him, the body of sin being destroyed, so that thenceforth they do not serve sin: that being dead with Christ, they are freed from sin (verses 6, 7.) That they are dead unto sin, and alive unto God (verse 11.) That sin hath no more dominion over them, who are not under the law, but under grace; but that these being free from sin, are become the servants of righteousness, verses 14, 18.

4. The very least which can be implied in these words, is, that the persons spoken of therein, namely, all real Christians or believers in Christ, are made free from outward sin. And the same freedom which St. Paul here expresses in such variety of phrases, St. Peter expresses in that one (1 Pet. iv. 1, 2.) He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin,—that he no longer should live—to the desires of men, but to the will of God. For this ceasing from sin, if it be interpreted in the lowest sense, as regarding only the outward behaviour, must denote the ceasing from the outward act, from any outward transgression of the law.

5. But most express are the well known words of St. John, in the third chapter of his first epistle, verse the eighth, &c. He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin. For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. And those in the fifth, verse 18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not. But he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

6. Indeed it is said, this means only, he sinneth not wilfully; or he doth not commit sin habitually; or, not as other men do; or, not as he did before. But by whom is this said? By St. John? No. There is no such word in the text: nor in the whole chapter; nor in all this epistle; nor in any part of his writings whatsoever. Why then, the best way to answer a bold assertion is, simply to deny it. And if any man can prove it from the word of God, let him bring forth his strong reasons.

7. And a sort of reason there is, which has been frequently brought to support these strange assertions, drawn from the examples recorded in the word of God, “What say they, did not Abraham himself commit sin, prevaricating and denying his wife? Did not Moses commit sin, when he provoked God, at the waters of strife? Nay, to produce one for all, did not even David, the man after God’s own heart, commit sin, in the matter of Uriah the Hittite, even murder and adultery?” It is most sure he did. All this is true. But what is it you would infer from hence? It may be granted, first, that David, in the general course of his life, was one of the holiest men among the Jews. And, secondly, that the holiest men among the Jews did sometimes commit sin. But if you would hence infer, that all Christians do, and must commit sin, as long as they live: this consequence we utterly deny. It will never follow from those premisses.

8. Those who argue thus, seem never to have considered that declaration of our Lord (Matth. xi. 11.) Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. I fear indeed there are some who have imagined the kingdom of heaven here, to mean the kingdom of glory: As if the Son of God had just discovered to us, that the least glorified saint in heaven is greater than any man upon earth! To mention this is sufficiently to refute it. There can therefore no doubt be made but the kingdom of heaven here, (as in the following verse, where it is said to be taken by force) or, the kingdom of God, as St. Luke expresses it, is that kingdom of God on earth, whereunto all true believers in Christ, all real Christians belong. In these words then our Lord declares two things. First, That before his coming in the flesh, among all the children of men, there had not been one greater than John the Baptist: whence it evidently follows, that neither Abraham, David, nor any Jew was greater than John. Our Lord, secondly, declares, that he which is least in the kingdom of God (in that kingdom which he came to set up on earth, and which the violent now began to take by force) is greater than he. Not a greater prophet (as some have interpreted the word) for this is palpably false in fact. But greater in the grace of God, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we cannot measure the privileges of real Christians, by those formerly given to the Jews. Their ministration (or dispensation) we allow was glorious; but ours exceeds in glory. So that whosoever would bring down the Christian dispensation to the Jewish standard, whosoever gleans up the examples of weakness, recorded in the law and the prophets, and thence infers, that they who have put on Christ, are indued with no greater strength, doth greatly err, neither knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

9. “But are there not assertions in scripture which prove the same thing, if it cannot be inferred from those examples? Does not the scripture say expresly, Even a just man sinneth seven times a day?” I answer, No. The scripture says no such thing. There is no such text in all the bible. That which seems to be intended is the sixteenth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Proverbs: the words of which are these, A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again. But this is quite another thing. For, first, the words a day, are not in the text. So that if a just man falls seven times in his life, it is as much as is affirmed here. Secondly, here is no mention of falling into sin at all; what is here mentioned is, falling into temporal affliction. This plainly appears from the verse before, the words of which are these: Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting-place. It follows, For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief. As if he had said, “God will deliver him out of his trouble. But when thou fallest, there shall be none to deliver thee.”

10. But however in other places, continue the objectors, Solomon does assert plainly, There is no man that sinneth not (1 Kings viii. 46. 2 Chron. vi. 36.) yea, there is not a just man upon earth that doth good, and sinneth not (Eccles. vii. 20.) I answer, without doubt, thus it was, in the days of Solomon. Yea, thus it was, from Adam to Moses, from Moses to Solomon, and from Solomon to Christ. There was then no man that sinned not. Even from the day that sin entered into the world, there was not a just man upon earth that did good, and sinned not, until the Son of God was manifested to take away our sins. It is unquestionably true, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant. And that even so they (all the holy men of old, who were under the Jewish dispensation) were during that infant-state of the church, in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons; that they might receive that grace which is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light thro’ the gospel, (2 Tim. i. 10.) Now therefore they are no more servants, but sons. So that whatsoever was the case of those under the law, we may safely affirm with St. John, that since the gospel was given, He that is born of God, sinneth not.

11. It is of great importance to observe, and that more carefully than is commonly done, the wide difference there is between the Jewish and the Christian dispensation: and that ground of it which the same apostle assigns in the seventh chapter of his gospel, verse 38, &c. After he had there related those words of our blessed Lord, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, he immediately subjoins, This spake he of the spirit, οὗ ἔμελλον λαμβάνειν οἱ πιστεύοντες εἰς αὐτόν, which they who should believe on him, were afterwards to receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. Now the apostle cannot mean here (as some have taught) that the miracle-working power of the Holy Ghost was not yet given. For this was given; our Lord had given it to all his apostles, when he first sent them forth to preach the gospel. He then gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out; power to heal the sick, yea, to raise the dead. But the Holy Ghost was not yet given in his sanctifying graces, as he was after Jesus was glorified. It was then when he ascended up on high and led captivity captive, that he received those gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, then first it was, that they who waited for the promise of the Father, were made more than conquerors over sin, by the Holy Ghost given unto them.

12. That this great salvation from sin was not given till Jesus was glorified, St. Peter also plainly testifies; where speaking of his brethren in the flesh, as now receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls, he adds, (1 Pet. i. 9, 10, &c.) Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace (i. e. the gracious dispensation) that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ and the glory (the glorious salvation) that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister, the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven (viz. at the day of Pentecost, and so unto all generations, into the hearts of all true believers.) On this ground even the grace which was brought unto them by the revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle might well build that strong exhortation, Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind,—as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.

13. Those who have duly considered these things must allow, that the privileges of Christians, are in no wise to be measured by what the Old Testament records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation: seeing the fulness of times is now come; the Holy Ghost is now given: the great salvation of God is brought unto men, by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is now set up on earth: concerning which the Spirit of God declared of old (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian perfection) He that is feeble among them at that day, shall be as David: and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them (Zech. xii. 8.)

14. If therefore you would prove that the apostle’s words, he that is born of God sinneth not, are not to be understood, according to their plain, natural, obvious meaning, it is from the New Testament you are to bring your proofs: else you will fight as one that beateth the air. And the first of these which is usually brought is taken from the examples recorded in the New Testament. “The apostles themselves (it is said) committed sin: nay the greatest of them. Peter and Paul: St. Paul, by his sharp contention with Barnabas, and St. Peter, by his dissimulation at Antioch.” Well; suppose both Peter and Paul did then commit sin: what is it you would infer from hence? That all the other apostles committed sin sometimes? There is no shadow of proof in this. Or, would you thence infer, that all the other Christians of the apostolic age committed sin? Worse and worse; this is such an inference as one would imagine a man in his senses could never have thought of. Or, will you argue thus? “If two of the apostles did once commit sin, then all other Christians, in all ages, do, and will commit sin as long as they live.” Alas, my brother! a child of common understanding, would be ashamed of such reasoning as this. Least of all can you with any colour of argument infer, “That any man must commit sin at all.” No; God forbid we should thus speak. No necessity of sinning was laid upon them. The grace of God was surely sufficient for them. And it is sufficient for us at this day. With the temptation which fell on them, there was a way to escape: as there is to every soul of man in every temptation. So that whosoever is tempted to any sin, need not yield; for no man is tempted above that he is able to bear.

15. “But St. Paul besought the Lord thrice, and yet he could not escape from his temptation.” Let us consider his own words literally translated. There was given to me, a thorn, to the flesh, an angel, or messenger of Satan, to buffet me. Touching this I besought the Lord thrice, that it or he might depart from me. And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in these my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses,—for when I am weak, then am I strong.

16. As this scripture is one of the strong-holds of the patrons of sin, it may be proper to weigh it throughly. Let it be observed then, first, It does by no means appear, that this thorn, whatsoever it was, occasioned St. Paul to commit sin: much less laid him under any necessity of doing so. Therefore, from hence it can never be proved that any Christian must commit sin. Secondly, The antient fathers inform us, it was bodily pain: a violent head-ach, saith Tertullian (de Pudic.) to which both Chrysostom and St. Jerom agree. St. Cyprian1 expresses it a little more generally in those terms, Many and grievous torments of the flesh and of the body2. Thirdly, To this exactly agree the apostle’s own words, A thorn to the flesh, to smite, beat, or buffet me. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Which same words occur no less than four times in these two verses only. But, fourthly, Whatsoever it was, it could not be either inward or outward sin. It could no more be inward stirrings, than outward expressions, of pride, anger, or lust. This is manifest beyond all possible exception, from the words that immediately follow, Most gladly will I glory in these my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. What? Did he glory in pride, in anger, in lust? Was it through these weaknesses, that the strength of Christ rested upon him? He goes on; Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses; for when I am weak, than am I strong; i. e. When I am weak in body, then am I strong in spirit. But will any man dare to say, when I am weak by pride or lust, then am I strong in spirit? I call you all to record this day, who find the strength of Christ resting upon you, can you glory in anger, or pride, or lust? Can you take pleasure in these infirmities? Do these weaknesses make you strong? Would you not leap into hell, were it possible, to escape them? Even by yourselves then judge, whether the apostle could glory, and take pleasure in them? Let it be, lastly, observed, That this thorn was given to St. Paul above fourteen years before he wrote this epistle: which itself was wrote several years before he finished his course. So that he had after this a long course to run, many battles to fight, many victories to gain, and great increase to receive in all the gifts of God, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore from any spiritual weakness (if such had been) which he at that time felt, we could by no means infer, that he was never made strong, that Paul, the aged, the Father in Christ, still laboured under the same weaknesses: that he was in no higher state till the day of his death. From all which it appears, that this instance of St. Paul is quite foreign to the question, and does in no wise clash with the assertion of St. John, He that is born of God, sinneth not.

17. “But does not St. James, directly contradict this? His words are, In many things we offend all, ch. iii. ver. 2. And is not offending the same as committing sin?” In this place I allow it is. I allow the persons here spoken of did commit sin, yea, that they all committed many sins. But who are the persons here spoken of? Why, those many masters or teachers, whom God had not sent (probably the same vain men who taught that faith without works, which is so sharply reproved in the preceding chapter.) Not the apostle himself, nor any real Christian. That in the word we (used by a figure of speech, common in all other, as well as the inspired writings) the apostle could not possibly include himself, or any other true believer, appears evidently, first, From the same word, in the ninth verse; Therewith (saith he) bless we God, and therewith curse we men. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. True; but not out of the mouth of the apostle, nor of any one who is in Christ a new creature. Secondly, From the verse immediately preceding the text, and manifestly connected with it. My brethren, be not many masters (or teachers) knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation: for in many things we offend all: We! Who? Not the apostles, nor true believers; but they who knew they should receive the greater condemnation, because of those many offences. But this could not be spoke of the apostle himself, or of any who trod in his steps; seeing there is no condemnation for them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Nay, thirdly, The very verse itself proves, that we offend all, cannot be spoken, either of all men, or of all Christians; for in it there immediately follows the mention of a man who offends not, as the we first mentioned did: from whom therefore he is professedly contradistinguished, and pronounced, a perfect man.

18. So clearly does St. James, explain himself, and fix the meaning of his own words. Yet lest any one should still remain in doubt, St. John, writing many years after St. James, puts the matter intirely out of dispute, by the express declarations above recited. But here a fresh difficulty may arise. How shall we reconcile St. John with himself? In one place he declares, “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.” And, again, We know that he which is born of God, sinneth not. And yet in another he saith, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And again, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

19. As great a difficulty as this may at first appear, it vanishes away if we observe, first, That the tenth verse fixes the sense of the eighth: If we say we have no sin, in the former, being explained by, If we say we have not sinned, in the latter verse. Secondly, That the point under present consideration is not, whether we have or have not sinned heretofore: and neither of these verses assert, that we do sin, or commit sin now. Thirdly, That the ninth verse explains both the eighth and tenth; If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness: as if he had said, “I have before affirmed, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. But let no man say, I need it not: I have no sin to be cleansed from. If we say that we have no sin, that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves and make God a liar. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, not only to forgive our sins, but also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we may go and sin no more.”

20. St. John therefore is well consistent with himself, as well as with the other holy writers: as will yet more evidently appear, if we place all his assertions touching this matter in one view. He declares, first, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. Secondly, No man can say, I have not sinned, I have no sin to be cleansed from. Thirdly, But God is ready both to forgive our past sins, and to save us from them for the time to come. Fourthly, These things I write unto you, saith the apostle, that you may not sin: but if any man should sin, or have sinned (as the word might be rendered) he need not continue in sin, seeing we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous. Thus far all is clear. But lest any doubt should remain, in a point of so vast importance, the apostle resumes this subject in the third chapter, and largely explains his own meaning. Little children, saith he, let no man deceive you (as tho’ I had given any encouragement to those that continue in sin.) He that doth righteousness, is righteous even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. (Verses 710.) Here the point, which till then might possibly have admitted of some doubt in weak minds, is purposely settled by the last of the inspired writers, and decided in the clearest manner. In conformity therefore both to the doctrine of St. John, and to the whole tenor of the New Testament, we fix this conclusion, “A Christian is so far perfect, as not to commit sin.”

21. This is the glorious privilege of every Christian, yea, tho’ he be but a babe in Christ. But it is only of those who are strong in the Lord, and have overcome the wicked one, or rather of those who have known him that is from the beginning, that it can be affirmed they are in such a sense perfect; as, secondly to be freed from evil thoughts, and evil tempers. First, from evil or sinful thoughts. But here let it be observed, that thoughts concerning evil, are not always evil thoughts: that a thought concerning sin, and a sinful thought, are widely different. A man, for instance may think of a murder which another has committed, and yet this is no evil or sinful thought. So our blessed Lord himself, doubtless thought of, or understood the things spoken by the devil, when he said, All this will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Yet had he no evil or sinful thought, nor indeed was capable of having any. And even hence it follows, that neither have real Christians. For every one that is perfect is as his Master. (Luke vi. 40.) Therefore, if he was free from evil or sinful thoughts, so are they likewise.

22. And indeed, whence should evil thoughts proceed, in the servant who is as his Master? out of the heart of man (if at all) proceed evil thoughts (Mark vii. 21.) If therefore his heart, be no longer evil, then evil thoughts can no longer proceed out of it. If the tree were corrupt, so would be the fruit; but the tree is good. The fruit therefore is good also. (Matth. xii. 33.) Our Lord himself bearing witness, Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, as a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, Matt. vii. 17, 18.

23. The same happy privilege of real Christians, St. Paul asserts from his own experience. The weapons of our warfare, saith he, are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds: casting down imaginations (or reasonings rather, for so the word λογισμούς signifies: all the reasonings of pride and unbelief against the declarations, promises or gifts of God) and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. x. 5, &c.

24. And as Christians indeed, are freed from evil thoughts, so are they, secondly, from evil tempers. This is evident from the above-mentioned declaration of our Lord himself: The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master. He had been delivering just before some of the sublimest doctrines of Christianity, and some of the most grievous to flesh and blood. I say unto you, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you: and unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other. Now these he well knew the world would not receive: and therefore immediately adds, Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? As if he had said, “Do not confer with flesh and blood touching these things, with men void of spiritual discernment, the eyes of whose understanding God hath not opened, lest they and you perish together.” In the next verse he removes the two grand objections, with which these wise fools meet us at every turn, “These things are too grievous to be borne,” or, “They are too high to be attained:” saying, The disciple is not above his Master: therefore, if I have suffered, be content to tread in my steps. And doubt ye not then, but I will fulfil my word: for every one that is perfect, shall be as his Master. But his Master was free from all sinful tempers. So therefore is his disciple, even every real Christian.

25. Every one of these can say with St. Paul, I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: words that manifestly describe a deliverance from inward, as well as from outward sin. This is expressed both negatively, I live not: my evil nature, the body of sin is destroyed: and positively, Christ liveth in me, and therefore all that is holy, and just, and good. Indeed both these, Christ liveth in me, and I live not, are inseparably connected. For what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?

26. He therefore who liveth in true believers, hath purified their hearts by faith: insomuch that every one that hath Christ in him, the hope of glory, purifieth himself even as he is pure. (1 John iii. 3.) He is purified from pride; for Christ was lowly of heart. He is pure from self-will, or desire; for Christ desired only to do the will of his Father, and to finish his work. And he is pure from anger, in the common sense of the word; for Christ was meek and gentle, patient and long-suffering. I say, in the common sense of the word: for all anger is not evil. We read of our Lord himself (Mark iii. 5.) that he once looked round with anger. But with what kind of anger? The next word shews; συλλυπούμενος, being at the same time grieved for the hardness of their hearts. So then he was angry at the sin, and in the same moment grieved for the sinners. Angry or displeased at the offence; but sorry, for the offenders. With anger, yea, hatred, he looked upon the thing; with grief and love upon the persons. Go thou that art perfect, and do likewise. Be thus angry, and thou sinnest not: feeling a displacency at every offence against God; but only love and tender compassion to the offender.

27. Thus doth Jesus save his people from their sins: and not only from outward sins, but also from the sins of their hearts; from evil thoughts and from evil tempers. “True, say some; we shall thus be saved from our sins: but not till death, not in this world.” But how are we to reconcile this with the express words of St. John? Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. The apostle here beyond all contradiction speaks of himself and other living Christians, of whom (as tho’ he had foreseen this very evasion, and set himself to overturn it from the foundation) he flatly affirms, that not only at, or after death, but in this world, they are as their Master, 1 John iv. 17.

28. Exactly agreeable to this are his words in the first chapter of this epistle, (verse 6, &c.) God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. And again, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now it is evident, the apostle here also speaks of a deliverance wrought in this world. For he saith not, the blood of Christ will cleanse (at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment) but it cleanseth (at the time present) us (living Christians) from all sin. And it is equally evident, that if any sin remain, we are not cleansed from all sin: if any unrighteousness remain in the soul, it is not cleansed from all unrighteousness. Neither let any sinner against his own soul say, that this relates to justification only, or the cleaning us from the guilt of sin; first, Because this is confounding together what the apostle clearly distinguishes; who mentions first, to forgive us our sins, and then to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Secondly, Because this is asserting justification by works in the strongest sense possible: it is making all inward, as well as outward holiness, necessarily previous to justification. For if the cleansing here spoken of is no other than the cleansing us from the guilt of sin, then we are not cleaned from guilt; i. e. are not justified, unless on condition of walking in the light, as he is in the light. It remains then, that Christians are saved in this world from all sin, from all unrighteousness: that they are now in such a sense perfect, as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers.

29. Thus hath the Lord fulfilled the things he spake by his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: by Moses in particular, saying (Deut. xxx. 6.) I will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; by David crying out, Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me: and most remarkably by Ezekiel, in those words, 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. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.—Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.—Thus saith the Lord your God, in the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities—the Heathen shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places,—I the Lord have spoken it,—and I will do it, Ezek. xxxvi. 25, &c.

30. Having therefore these promises dearly beloved, both in the law and in the prophets, and having the prophetic word confirmed unto us in the gospel, by our blessed Lord and his apostles: Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Let us fear lest so many promises being made us of entering into his rest (which he that hath entered into, is ceased from his own works) any of us should come short of it. This one thing let us do; forgeting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, Let us press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: crying unto him day and night, till we also are delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.


Ezek. xxxvi. 25, &c.

By the Rev. Mr. Charles Wesley.

GOD of all power, and truth, and grace,

Which shall from age to age endure;

Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,

Remains, and stands for ever sure:

Calmly to thee my soul looks up,

And waits thy promises to prove;

The object of my stedfast hope,

The seal of thine eternal love.

That I thy mercy may proclaim,

That all mankind thy truth may see,

Hallow thy great and glorious name,

And perfect holiness in me.

Chose from the world if now I stand

Adorned in righteousness divine,

If brought unto the promis’d land,

I justly call the Saviour mine;

Perform the work thou hast begun,

My inmost soul to thee convert:

Love me, for ever, love thine own,

And sprinkle with thy blood my heart.

Thy sanctifying Spirit pour

To quench my thirst, and wash me clean;

Now, Father, let the gracious shower

Descend, and make me pure from sin.

Purge me from every sinful blot;

My idols all be cast aside:

Cleanse me from every evil thought;

From all the filth of self and pride.

Give me a new, a perfect heart,

From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;

The mind which was in Christ impart,

And let my spirit cleave to thee.

O take this heart of stone away,

(Thy rule it doth not, cannot own)

In me no longer let it stay:

O take away this heart of stone.

The hatred of my carnal mind

Out of my flesh at once remove;

Give me a tender heart, resign’d,

And pure, and fill’d with faith and love.

Within me thy good Spirit place,

Spirit of health, and love, and power:

Plant in me thy victorious grace,

And sin shall never enter more.

Cause me to walk in Christ my way,

And I thy statutes shall fulfil;

In every point thy law obey,

And perfectly perform thy will.

Hast thou not said, who canst not lie,

That I thy law shall keep and do?

Lord, I believe, tho’ men deny:

They all are false; but thou art true.

O that I now, from sin releas’d,

Thy word might to the utmost prove!

Enter into the promis’d rest,

The Canaan of thy perfect love!

There let me ever, ever dwell;

Be thou my God, and I will be

Thy servant: O set to thy seal;

Give me eternal life in thee.

From all remaining filth within

Let me in thee salvation have:

From actual, and from inbred sin,

My ransom’d soul persist to save.

Wash out my old orig’nal stain:

Tell me no more, it cannot be,

Demons or men! The Lamb was slain,

His blood was all pour’d out for me.

Sprinkle it, Jesu, on my heart!

One drop of thy all-cleansing blood

Shall make my sinfulness depart,

And fill me with the life of God.

Father, supply my every need:

Sustain the life thyself hast giv’n;

Call for the corn, the living bread,

The manna that comes down from heav’n.

The gracious fruits of righteousness,

Thy blessing’s unexhausted store,

In me abundantly increase:

Nor never let me hunger more.

Let me no more in deep complaint

“My leanness, O my leanness,” cry!

Alone consum’d with pining want,

Of all my Father’s children I!

The painful thirst, the fond desire

Thy joyous presence shall remove,

While my full soul doth still require

The whole eternity of love.

Holy, and true, and righteous Lord,

I wait to prove thy perfect will:

Be mindful of thy gracious word,

And stamp me with thy Spirit’s seal.

Thy faithful mercies let me find

In which thou causest me to trust;

Give me thy meek and lowly mind,

And lay my spirit in the dust.

Shew me how foul my heart hath been

When all renew’d by grace I am;

When thou hast emptied me of sin,

Shew me the fulness of my shame.

Open my faith’s interior eye,

Display thy glory from above;

And all I am shall sink and die,

Lost in astonishment and love.

Confound, o’erpower me with thy grace:

I would be by myself abhor’d,

(All might, all majesty, all praise,)

All glory be to Christ my Lord!

Now let me gain perfection’s height!

Now let me into nothing fall!

Be less than nothing in my sight,

And feel that Christ is all in all!


2 Cor. x. 4.

Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

1.BUT will God so bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, that no wandering thought will find a place in the mind, even while we remain in the body? So some have vehemently maintained: yea, have affirmed, that none are perfected in love, unless they are so far perfected in understanding, that all wandering thoughts are done away: unless not only every affection and temper, be holy, and just, and good, but every individual thought which arises in the mind, be wise and regular.

2. This is a question of no small importance. For how many of those who fear God, yea and love him, perhaps with all their heart, have been greatly distrest on this account? How many, by not understanding it right, have not only been distrest, but greatly hurt in their souls? Cast into unprofitable, yea, mischievous reasonings, such as slackened their motion towards God, and weakened them in running the race set before them. Nay many, thro’ misapprehensions of this very thing, have cast away the precious gift of God? They have been induced first to doubt of, and then to deny the work God had wrought in their souls; and hereby have grieved the Spirit of God, ’till he withdrew and left them in utter darkness.

3. How is it then, that amidst the abundance of books which have been lately published almost on all subjects, we should have none upon wandering thoughts? At least none that will at all satisfy a calm and serious mind? In order to do this in some degree, I purpose to enquire

I. What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts?
II. What are the general occasions of them?
III. Which of them are sinful, and which not?
IV. Which of them we may expect and pray to be delivered from?

I. 1. I purpose to enquire, first, What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts? The particular sorts are innumerable; but in general, they are of two sorts, thoughts that wander from God, and thoughts that wander from the particular point we have in hand.

2. With regard to the former, all our thoughts are naturally of this kind. For they are continually wandering from God: we think nothing about him. God is not in all our thoughts: we are, one and all, as the apostle observes, without God in the world. We think of what we love: but we do not love God: therefore we think not of him. Or if we are now and then constrained to think of him for a time, yet as we have no pleasure therein, nay rather, as these thoughts are not only insipid, but distasteful and irksome to us, we drive them out as soon as we can, and return to what we love to think of. So that the world and the things of the world, what we shall eat, what we shall drink, what we shall put on: what we shall see, what we shall hear, what we shall gain: how we shall please our senses or our imagination, takes up all our time, and engrosses all our thought. So long therefore as we love the world, that is, so long as we are in our natural state, all our thoughts, from morning to evening, and from evening to morning, are no other than wandering thoughts.

3. But many times we are not only without God in the world, but also fighting against him: as there is in every man by nature a carnal mind which is enmity against God: no wonder therefore that men abound with unbelieving thoughts: either saying in their hearts there is no God, or questioning, if not denying his power or wisdom, his mercy, or justice, or holiness. No wonder, that they so often doubt of his providence, at least, of its extending to all events: or that even tho’ they allow it, they still entertain murmuring or repining thoughts. Nearly related to these and frequently connected with them, are proud and vain imaginations. Again: sometimes they are taken up with angry, malicious or revengeful thoughts: at other times, with airy scenes of pleasure, whether of sense or imagination: whereby the earthy sensual mind, becomes more earthy and sensual still. Now by all these, they make flat war with God; these are wandering thoughts of the highest kind.

4. Widely different from these are the other sort of wandering thoughts: in which the heart does not wander from God, but the understanding wanders from the particular point it had then in view. For instance: I sit down to consider those words in the verse preceeding the text, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty thro’ God. I think, “This ought to be the case with all that are called Christians. But how far is it otherwise? Look round into almost every part of what is termed the Christian world! What manner of weapons are these using? In what kind of warfare are they engaged,

“While men, like fiends, each other tear

In all the hellish rage of war?

See how these Christians love one another! Wherein are they preferable to Turks and Pagans? What abomination can be found among Mahometans or Heathens, which is not found among Christians also?” And thus my mind runs off, before I am aware, from one circumstance to another. Now all these are in some sense wandering thoughts. For altho’ they do not wander from God, much less fight against him, yet they do wander from the particular point I had in view.

II. Such is the nature, such are the sorts (to speak rather usefully, than philosophically) of wandering thoughts. But what are the general occasions of them? This we are, in the second place to consider.

1. And it is easy to observe, that the occasion of the former sort of thoughts which oppose or wander from God, are in general, sinful tempers. For instance. Why is not God in all the thoughts, in any of the thoughts of a natural man? For a plain reason: be he rich or poor, learned or unlearned, he is an atheist; (tho’ not vulgarly so called) he neither knows nor loves God. Why are his thoughts continually wandering after the world? Because he is an idolater. He does not indeed worship an image, or bow down to the stock of a tree: yet is he sunk into equally damnable idolatry: he loves, that is, worships the world. He seeks happiness in the things that are seen, in the pleasures that perish in the using. Why is it that his thoughts are perpetually wandering from the very end of his being, the knowledge of God in Christ? Because he is an unbeliever; because he has no faith, or at least, no more than a devil. So all these wandering thoughts easily and naturally spring from that evil root of unbelief.

2. The case is the same in other instances, pride, anger, revenge, vanity, lust, covetousness, every one of them occasion thoughts suitable to their own nature. And so does every sinful temper, of which the human mind is capable. The particulars it is hardly possible, nor is it needful to enumerate. It suffices to observe, that as many evil tempers as find a place in any soul, so many ways that soul will depart from God, by the worst kind of wandering thoughts.

3. The occasions of the latter kind of wandering thoughts, are exceeding various. Multitudes of them are occasioned, by the natural union between the soul and body. How immediately and how deeply is the understanding affected by a diseased body! Let but the blood move irregularly in the brain, and all regular thinking is at an end. Raging madness ensues, and then farewell to all evenness of thought. Yea, let only the spirits be hurried or agitated to a certain degree, and a temporary madness, a delirium prevents all settled thought. And is not the same irregularity of thought in a measure occasioned by every nervous disorder? So does the corruptible body press down the soul, and cause it to muse about many things.

4. *But does it only cause this in the time of sickness, or preternatural disorder? Nay, but more or less, at all times, even in a state of perfect health. Let a man be ever so healthy, he will be more or less delirious, every four-and-twenty hours. For does he not sleep? And while he sleeps, is he not liable to dream? And who then is master of his own thoughts, or able to preserve the order and consistency of them? Who can then keep them fixt to any one point, or prevent their wandering from pole to pole?

5. *But suppose we are awake, are we always so awake, that we can steadily govern our thoughts? Are we not unavoidably exposed to contrary extremes, by the very nature of this machine, the body? Sometimes we are too heavy too dull and languid, to pursue any chain of thought. Sometimes, on the other hand, we are too lively. The imagination, without leave, starts to and fro, and carries us away, hither and thither, whether we will or no: and all this, from the merely natural motion of the spirits, or vibration of the nerves.

6. *Farther, How many wanderings of thought may arise, from those various associations of our ideas, which are made entirely without our knowledge, and independently on our choice? How these connexions are formed we cannot tell: but they are formed in a thousand different manners. Nor is it in the power of the wisest or holiest of men, to break those associations, or to prevent what is the necessary consequence of them, and matter of daily observation. Let the fire but touch one end of the train, and it immediately runs on to the other.

7. *Once more. Let us fix our attention as studiously as we are able on any subject, yet let either pleasure or pain arise, especially if it be intense, and it will demand our immediate attention, and attach our thought to itself. It will interrupt the steadiest contemplation, and divert the mind from its favourite subject.

8. *These occasions of wandering thoughts lie within, are wrought into our very nature. But they will likewise naturally and necessarily arise, from the various impulse of outward objects. Whatever strikes upon the organ of sense, the eye or ear, will raise a perception in the mind. And accordingly, whatever we see or hear, will break in upon our former train of thought. Every man therefore that does any thing in our sight, or speaks any thing in our hearing, occasions our mind to wander more or less from the point it was thinking of before.

9. *And there is no question but those evil spirits, who are continually seeking whom they may devour, make use of all the foregoing occasions, to hurry and distract our minds. Sometimes by one, sometimes by another of these means, they will harass and perplex us, and so far as God permits, interrupt our thoughts, particularly when they are engaged on the best subjects. Nor is this at all strange: they well understand the very springs of thought, and know on which of the bodily organs, the imagination, the understanding, and every other faculty of the mind more immediately depends. And hereby they know, how by affecting those organs, to affect the operations dependent on them. Add to this, that they can inject a thousand thoughts, without any of the preceding means: it being as natural for spirit to act upon spirit, as for matter to act upon matter. These things being considered, we cannot admire, that our thought so often wanders from any point which we have in view.

III. 1. What kind of wandering thoughts are sinful, and what not, is the third thing to be inquired into. And first, all those thoughts which wander from God, which leave him no room in our minds, are undoubtedly sinful. For all these imply practical atheism, and by these we are without God in the world. And so much more are all those which are contrary to God, which imply opposition or enmity to him. Such are all murmuring, discontented thoughts, which say in effect, We will not have thee to rule over us: all unbelieving thoughts, whether with regard to his being, his attributes, or his providence. I mean his particular providence over all things as well as all persons in the universe: that without which not a sparrow falls to the ground, by which the hairs of our head are all numbered. For as to a general providence (vulgarly so called) contradistinguished from a particular, it is only a decent, well-sounding word, which means just nothing.

2. Again. All thoughts which spring from sinful tempers, are undoubtedly sinful. Such, for instance, are those that spring from a revengeful temper, from pride, or lust, or vanity. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Therefore if the tree be evil, so must the fruit be also.

3. And so must those be, which either produce or feed any sinful temper: those which either give rise to pride or vanity, to anger or love of the world, or confirm and increase these or any other unholy temper, passion, or affection. For not only whatever flows from evil is evil, but also whatever leads to it; whatever tends to alienate the soul from God, and to make or keep it earthly, sensual, and devilish.

4. Hence even those thoughts which are occasioned by weakness or disease, by the natural mechanism of the body, or by the laws of vital union, however innocent they may be in themselves, do nevertheless become sinful, when they either produce or cherish and increase in us any sinful temper: suppose the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. In like manner the wandering thoughts which are occasioned, by the words or actions of other men, if they cause or feed any wrong disposition, then commence sinful. And the same we may observe of those which are suggested or injected by the devil. When they minister to any earthly or devilish temper (which they do, whenever we give place to them, and thereby make them our own) then they are equally sinful, with the tempers to which they minister.

5. But abstracting from these cases, wandering thoughts, in the latter sense of the word, that is, thoughts wherein our understanding wanders, from the point it has in view, are no more sinful than the motion of the blood in our veins, or of the spirits in our brain. If they arise from an infirm constitution, or from some accidental weakness or distemper, they are as innocent as it is to have a weak constitution, or a distempered body. And surely no one doubts but a bad state of nerves, a fever of any kind, and either a transient or a lasting delirium, may consist with perfect innocence. And if they should arise in a soul which is united to an healthful body, either from the natural union between the body and soul, or from any of ten thousand changes, which may occur in those organs of the body, that minister to thought: in any of these cases they are as perfectly innocent as the causes from which they spring. And so they are when they spring from the casual, involuntary associations of our ideas.

6. If our thoughts wander from the point we had in view, by means of other men, variously affecting our senses, they are equally innocent still: for it is no more a sin, to understand what I see and hear, and in many cases cannot help seeing, hearing, and understanding, than it is to have eyes and ears. “But if the devil injects wandering thoughts, are not those thoughts evil?” They are troublesome, and in that sense evil; but they are not sinful. I do not know that he spoke to our Lord with an audible voice; perhaps he spoke to his heart only, when he said, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. But whether he spoke inwardly or outwardly, our Lord doubtless understood what he said. He had therefore a thought correspondent to those words. But was it a sinful thought? We know it was not. In him was no sin, either in action, or word, or thought. Nor is there any sin in a thousand thoughts of the same kind, which Satan may inject into any of our Lord’s followers.

7. *It follows, that none of these wandering thoughts (whatever unwary persons have affirmed, thereby grieving whom the Lord had not grieved) are inconsistent with perfect love. Indeed if they were, then not only sharp pain, but sleep itself would be inconsistent with it: sharp pain; for whenever this supervenes, whatever we were before thinking of, it will interrupt our thinking, and of course draw our thoughts into another channel: yea, and sleep itself, as it is a state of insensibility and stupidity: and such as is generally mixt with thoughts wandering over the earth, loose, wild and incoherent. Yet certainly these are consistent with perfect love: so then are all wandering thoughts of this kind.

IV. 1. From what has been observed, it is easy to give a clear answer to the last question, What kind of wandering thoughts we may expect and pray to be delivered from?

2. From the former sort of wandering thoughts, those wherein the heart wanders from God: from all that are contrary to his will, or that leave us without God in the world, every one that is perfected in love, is unquestionably delivered. This deliverance therefore we may expect: this we may, we ought to pray for. Wandering thoughts of this kind imply unbelief, if not enmity against God. But both of these he will destroy, will bring utterly to an end. And indeed, from all sinful wandering thoughts we shall be absolutely delivered. All that are perfected in love are delivered from these; else they were not saved from sin. Men and devils will tempt them all manner of ways. But they cannot prevail over them.

2. With regard to the latter sort of wandering thoughts, the case is widely different. ’Till the cause is removed, we cannot in reason expect the effect should cease. But the causes or occasions of these will remain, as long as we remain in the body. So long therefore we have all reason to believe, the effects will remain also.

3. *To be more particular. Suppose a soul, however holy, to dwell in a distempered body. Suppose the brain be so throughly disordered, as that raging madness follows: will not all the thoughts be wild and unconnected, as long as that disorder continues? Suppose a fever occasions that temporary madness, which we term a delirium, can there be any just connection of thought, ’till that delirium is removed? Yea, suppose what is called a nervous disorder, to rise to so high a degree, as to occasion at least a partial madness, will there not be a thousand wandering thoughts? And must not these irregular thoughts continue, as long as the disorder which occasions them?

4. Will not the case be the same, with regard to those thoughts that necessarily arise from violent pain? They will, more or less, continue while that pain continues, by the inviolable order of nature. This order likewise will obtain, where the thoughts are disturbed, broken or interrupted, by any defect of the apprehension, judgment or imagination, flowing from the natural constitution of the body. And how many interruptions may spring from the unaccountable and involuntary association of our ideas? Now all these are directly or indirectly caused by the corruptible body pressing down the mind. Nor therefore can we expect them to be removed, ’till this corruptible shall put on incorruption.

5. And then only, when we lie down in the dust, shall we be delivered from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by what we see and hear, among those by whom we are now surrounded. To avoid these we must go out of the world. For as long as we remain therein, as long as there are men and women round about us, and we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the things which we daily see and hear, will certainly affect our mind, and will more or less, break in upon and interrupt our preceding thoughts.

6. And as long as evil spirits roam to and fro in a miserable, disordered world, so long they will assault (whether they can prevail or no) every inhabitant of flesh and blood. They will trouble even those whom they cannot destroy: they will attack if they cannot conquer. And from these attacks of our restless, unwearied enemies, we must not look for an entire deliverance, till we are lodged where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.

7. To sum up the whole. To expect deliverance from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by evil spirits, is to expect that the devil should die or fall asleep; or at least should no more go about as a roaring lion. To expect deliverance from those which are occasioned by other men, is to expect either that men should cease from the earth; or that we should be absolutely secluded from them, and have no intercourse with them: or that having eyes we should not see, neither hear with our ears, but be as senseless as stocks or stones. And to pray for deliverance from those which are occasioned by the body, is in effect to pray that we may leave the body. Otherwise it is praying for impossibilities and absurdities; praying that God would reconcile contradictions, by continuing our union with a corruptible body, without the natural, necessary consequences of that union. It is as if we should pray to be angels and men, mortal and immortal at the same time. Nay, but when that which is immortal is come, mortality is done away.

8. Rather let us pray, both with the spirit and with the understanding, that all these things may work together for our good: that we may suffer all the infirmities of our nature, all the interruptions of men, all the assaults and suggestions of evil spirits, and in all be more than conquerors. Let us pray, that we may be delivered from all sin, that both root and branch may be destroyed; that we may be cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit, from every evil temper and word and work: that we may love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul, and with all our strength: that all the fruit of the spirit may be found in us; not only love, joy, peace; but also long-suffering, gentleness, goodness; fidelity, meekness, temperance. Pray that all these things may flourish and abound, may increase in you more and more, ’till an abundant entrance be ministered unto you, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!


2 Cor. ii. 11.

We are not ignorant of his devices.

1.THE devices whereby the subtle god of this world, labours to destroy the children of God, or at least to torment whom he cannot destroy, to perplex and hinder them in running the race which is set before them, are numberless as the stars of heaven or the sand upon the sea-shore. But it is of one of them only that I now propose to speak, (altho’ exerted in various ways) whereby he endeavours to divide the gospel against itself, and by one part of it to overthrow the other.

2. The inward kingdom of heaven, which is set up in the heart of all that repent and believe the gospel, is no other than righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Every babe in Christ knows we are made partakers of these, the very hour that we believe in Jesus. But these are only the first fruits of his Spirit: the harvest is not yet. Altho’ these blessings are inconceivably great, yet we trust to see greater than these. We trust to love the Lord our God, not only as we do now, with a weak tho’ sincere affection, but with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength. We look for power to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing and in every thing to give thanks; knowing this is the will of God concerning us in Christ Jesus.

3. We expect to be made perfect in love, in that love which casts out all painful fear, and all desire, but that of glorifying him we love, and of loving and serving him more and more. We look for such an increase in the experimental knowledge and love of God our Saviour, as will enable us, always to walk in the light, as he is in the light. We believe the whole mind will be in us which was also in Christ Jesus: that we shall love every man so as to be ready to lay down our life for his sake. So as by this love to be freed from anger and pride, and from every unkind affection. We expect to be cleansed from all our idols, from all filthiness whether of flesh or spirit: to be saved from all our uncleannesses, inward or outward, to be purified as he is pure.

4. We trust in his promise who cannot lie, that the time will surely come, when in every word and work we shall do his blessed will on earth as it is done in heaven: when all our conversation shall be seasoned with salt, all meet to minister grace to the hearers: when whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, it shall be done to the glory of God: when all our words and deeds shall be in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God even the Father thro’ him.

5. Now this is the grand device of Satan, to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least, to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater work. It is therefore my present design, first, to point out the several ways whereby he endeavours this: and, secondly, to observe how we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one: how we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.

I. 1. I am, first, To point out the several ways whereby Satan endeavours to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least, to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater work. And 1. He endeavours to damp our joy in the Lord, by the consideration of our own vileness, sinfulness, unworthiness, added to this, that there must be a far greater change than is yet, or we cannot see the Lord. If we knew we must remain as we are, even to the day of our death, we might possibly draw a kind of comfort, poor as it was, from that necessity. But as we know, we need not remain in this state, as we are assured, there is a greater change to come, and that unless sin be all done away in this life, we cannot see God in glory: that subtle adversary often damps the joy we should otherwise feel in what we have already attained, by a perverse representation of what we have not attained, and the absolute necessity of attaining it. So that we cannot rejoice in what we have, because there is more which we have not. We cannot rightly taste the goodness of God, who hath done so great things for us, because there are so much greater things, which as yet he hath not done. Likewise the deeper conviction God works in us of our present unholiness, and the more vehement desire we feel in our heart, of the entire holiness he hath promised, the more are we tempted to think lightly of the present gifts of God, and to undervalue what we have already received, because of what we have not received.

2. If he can prevail thus far, if he can damp our joy, he will soon attack our peace also. He will suggest, “Are you fit to see God? He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. How then can you flatter yourself, so as to imagine he beholds you with approbation? God is holy: You are unholy. What communion hath light with darkness? How is it possible that you, unclean as you are, should be in a state of acceptance with God? You see indeed the mark, the prize of your high calling. But do you not see, it is afar off? How can you presume then to think, that all your sins are already blotted out? How can this be, until you are brought nearer to God, until you bear more resemblance to him?” Thus will he endeavour, not only to shake your peace, but even to overturn the very foundation of it: to bring you back by insensible degrees, to the point from whence you set out first: even to seek for justification by works, or by your own righteousness; to make something in you the ground of your acceptance, or at least necessarily previous to it.

3. Or if we hold fast, other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ; and I am justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus: yet he will not cease to urge, “But the tree is known by its fruits. And have you the fruits of justification? Is that mind in you which was in Christ Jesus? Are you dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness? Are you made conformable to the death of Christ, and do you know the power of his resurrection?” And then, comparing the small fruits we feel in our souls, with the fullness of the promises, we shall be ready to conclude, “Surely God hath not said, that my sins are forgiven me! Surely I have not received the remission of my sins; for what lot have I among them that are sanctified?”

4. More especially in the time of sickness and pain, he will press this with all his might. “Is it not the word of him that cannot lie, without holiness no man shall see the Lord? But you are not holy. You know it well; you know holiness is the full image of God. And how far is this above, out of your sight? You cannot attain unto it. Therefore all your labour has been in vain. All these things you have suffered in vain. You have spent your strength for nought. You are yet in your sins and must therefore perish at the last.” And thus, if your eye be not steadily fixt on him who hath borne all your sins, he will bring you again under that fear of death, whereby you was so long subject unto bondage: and by this means impair, if not wholly destroy, your peace as well as joy in the Lord.

5. But his master-piece of subtility is still behind. Not content to strike at your peace and joy, he will carry his attempts farther yet: he will level his assault against your righteousness also. He will endeavour to shake, yea, if it be possible, to destroy the holiness you have already received by your very expectation of receiving more, of attaining all the image of God.

6. *The manner wherein he attempts this, may partly appear from what has been already observed. For, first, By striking at our joy in the Lord, he strikes likewise at our holiness: seeing joy in the Holy Ghost is a precious means of promoting every holy temper; a choice instrument of God whereby he carries on much of his work in a believing soul. And it is a considerable help not only to inward, but also to outward holiness. It strengthens our hands to go on in the work of faith and in the labour of love: manfully to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life. It is peculiarly designed of God to be a balance both against inward and outward sufferings: to lift up the hands that hang down and confirm the feeble knees. Consequently, whatever damps our joy in the Lord, proportionally obstructs our holiness. And therefore so far as Satan shakes our joy, he hinders our holiness also.

7. *The same effect will ensue, if he can by any means either destroy or shake our peace. For the peace of God is another precious means of advancing the image of God in us. There is scarce a greater help to holiness than this, a continual tranquility of spirit, the evenness of a mind stayed upon God; a calm repose in the blood of Jesus. And without this, it is scarce possibly to grow in grace, and in the vital knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For all fear (unless the tender, filial fear) freezes and benumbs the soul. It binds up all the springs of spiritual life, and stops all motion of the heart toward God. And doubt, as it were, bemires the soul, so that it sticks fast in the deep clay. Therefore in the same proportion as either of these prevail, our growth in holiness is hindered.

8. *At the same time that our wise adversary endeavours, to make our conviction of the necessity of perfect love, an occasion of shaking our peace by doubts and fears, he endeavours to weaken, if not destroy our faith. Indeed these are inseparably connected; so that they must stand or fall together. So long as faith subsists, we remain in peace: our heart stands fast, while it believes in the Lord. But if we let go our faith, our filial confidence in a loving pardoning God, our peace is at an end, the very foundation on which it stood being overthrown. And this is the only foundation of holiness as well as of peace. Consequently whatever strikes at this, strikes at the very root of all holiness. For without this faith, without an abiding sense, that Christ loved me and gave himself for me, without a continuing conviction, that God for Christ’s sake is merciful to me a sinner, it is impossible that I should love God. We love him, because he first loved us; and in proportion to the strength and clearness of our conviction, that he hath loved us and accepted us in his Son. And unless we love God, it is not possible that we should love our neighbour as ourselves: nor consequently, that we should have any right affections, either toward God or toward man. It evidently follows, that whatever weakens our faith, must in the same degree obstruct our holiness. And this is not only the most effectual, but also the most compendious way of destroying all holiness. Seeing it does not affect any one Christian temper, any single grace or fruit of the spirit, but so far as it succeeds, tears up the very root of the whole work of God.

9. *No marvel therefore, that the ruler of the darkness of this world, should here put forth all his strength. And so we find by experience. For it is far easier to conceive than it is to express the unspeakable violence, wherewith this temptation is frequently urged on them, who hunger and thirst after righteousness. When they see in a strong and clear light, on the one hand, the desperate wickedness of their own hearts, on the other hand, the unspotted holiness to which they are called in Christ Jesus: on the one hand, the depth of their own corruption, of their total alienation from God; on the other, the height of the glory of God, that image of the Holy One wherein they are to be renewed: there is many times no spirit left in them; they could almost cry out, with God this is impossible. They are ready to give up both faith and hope, to cast away that very confidence, whereby they are to overcome all things, through Christ strengthning them; whereby, after they have done the will of God, they are to receive the promise.

10. And if they hold fast the beginning of their confidence stedfast unto the end, they shall undoubtedly receive the promise of God, reaching through both time and eternity. But here is another snare laid for our feet. While we earnestly pant for that part of the promise which is to be accomplished here, for the glorious liberty of the children of God, we may be led unawares, from the consideration of the glory which shall be revealed. Our eye may be insensibly turned aside from that crown which the righteous Judge hath promised to give at that day, to all that love his appearing: and we may be drawn away from the view of that incorruptible inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. But this also would be a loss to our souls, and an obstruction to our holiness. For to walk in the continual sight of our goal, is a needful help in our running the race that is set before us. This it was, the having respect unto the recompence of reward, which of old time encouraged Moses, rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season: esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Nay it is expresly said of a greater than him, that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame, till he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Whence we may easily infer, how much more needful for us, is the view of that joy set before us, that we may endure whatever cross the wisdom of God lays upon us, and press on thro’ holiness to glory.

11. But while we are reaching to this, as well as to that glorious liberty which is preparatory to it, we may be in danger of falling into another snare of the devil, wherein he labours to intangle the children of God. We may take too much thought for to-morrow, so as to neglect the improvement of to-day. We may so expect perfect love, as not to use that, which is already shed abroad in our hearts. There have not been wanting instances of those, who have greatly suffered hereby. They were so taken up with what they were to receive hereafter, as utterly to neglect what they had already received. In expectation of having five talents more, they buried their one talent in the earth. At least they did not improve it as they might have done, to the glory of God and the good of their own souls.

12. Thus does the subtle adversary of God and man, endeavour to make void the counsel of God, by dividing the gospel against itself, and making one part of it overthrow the other: while the first work of God in the soul is destroyed by the expectation of his perfect work. We have seen several of the ways wherein he attempts this, by cutting off, as it were, the springs of holiness. But this he likewise does more directly, by making that blessed hope an occasion of unholy tempers.

13. Thus, whenever our heart is eagerly athirst for all the great and precious promises, when we pant after the fulness of God, as the hart after the water-brook, when our soul breaketh out in fervent desire, “Why are his chariot-wheels so long a coming?” He will not neglect the opportunity, of tempting us to murmur against God. He will use all his wisdom and all his strength, if haply in an unguarded hour, we may be influenced to repine at our Lord, for thus delaying his coming. At least, he will labour to excite some degree of fretfulness or impatience: and perhaps of envy at those, whom we believe to have already attained the prize of our high calling. He well knows, that by giving way to any of these tempers, we are pulling down the very thing we would build up. By thus following after perfect holiness, we become more unholy than before. Yea, there is great danger that our last state should be worse than the first: like them of whom the apostle speaks, in those dreadful words, It had been better they had never known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

14. *And from hence he hopes to reap another advantage, even to bring up an evil report of the good way. He is sensible, how few are able to distinguish (and too many are not willing so to do) between the accidental abuse and the natural tendency of a doctrine. These therefore, will he continually blend together, with regard to the doctrine of Christian perfection: in order to prejudice the minds of unwary men against the glorious promises of God. And how frequently, how generally, I had almost said, how universally has he prevailed herein? For who is there that observes any of these accidental ill effects of this doctrine, and does not immediately conclude, this is its natural tendency? And does not readily cry out, “See, these are the fruits (meaning the natural, necessary fruits) of such doctrine!” Not so. They are fruits which may accidentally spring from the abuse of a great and precious truth. But the abuse of this, or any other scriptural doctrine, does by no means destroy its use. Neither can the unfaithfulness of man, perverting his right way, make the promise of God of no effect. No: let God be true and every man a liar. The word of the Lord it shall stand. Faithful is he that hath promised: he also will do it. Let not us then be removed from the hope of the gospel. Rather let us observe, which was the second thing proposed, how we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one: how we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.

II. 1. And, first, does Satan endeavour to damp your joy in the Lord, by the consideration of your sinfulness, added to this, that without entire, universal holiness no man can see the Lord? You may cast back this dart upon his own head, while through the grace of God, the more you feel of your own vileness, the more you rejoice in confident hope, that all this shall be done away. While you hold fast this hope, every evil temper you feel, though you hate it with a perfect hatred, may be a means, not of lessening your humble joy, but rather of increasing it. “This and this, may you say, shall likewise perish from the presence of the Lord. Like as the wax melteth at the fire, so shall this melt away before his face.” By this means the greater that change is, which remains to be wrought in your soul, the more may you triumph in the Lord and rejoice in the God of your salvation: who hath done so great things for you already, and will do so much greater things than these.

2. Secondly, the more vehemently he assaults your peace with that suggestion, “God is holy, you are unholy. You are immensely distant from that holiness, without which you cannot see God: how then can you be in the favour of God? How can you fancy you are justified?” Take the more earnest heed to hold fast, that, Not by works of righteousness which I have done. I am found in him: I am accepted in the beloved; not having my own righteousness (as the cause either in whole or in part of our justification before God) but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. O bind this about your neck: write it upon the table of thy heart. Wear it as a bracelet upon thy arm, as frontlets between thine eyes: I am justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Value and esteem more and more that precious truth, By grace we are saved through faith. Admire more and more the free grace of God, in so loving the world as to give his only Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish but have everlasting life. So shall the sense of the sinfulness you feel on the one hand, and of the holiness you expect on the other, both contribute to establish your peace and to make it flow as a river. So shall that peace flow on with an even stream, in spite of all those mountains of ungodliness, which shall become a plain in the day when the Lord cometh, to take full possession of your heart. Neither will sickness or pain, or the approach of death, occasion any doubt or fear. You know a day, an hour, a moment with God is as a thousand years. He cannot be streightened for time, wherein to work whatever remains to be done in your soul. And God’s time is always the best time. Therefore be thou careful for nothing. Only make thy request known unto him, and that not with doubt or fear, but thanksgiving: as being previously assured, he cannot withhold from thee any manner of thing that is good.

3. Thirdly, the more you are tempted to give up your shield, to cast away your faith, your confidence in his love, so much the more take heed that you hold fast that, whereunto you have attained. So much the more labour to stir up the gift of God which is in you. Never let that slip, I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Be this thy glory and crown of rejoicing. And see that no one take thy crown. Hold that fast, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And I now have redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Thus, being filled with all peace and joy in believing, press on in the peace and joy of faith to the renewal of thy whole soul, in the image of him that created thee. Mean while cry continually to God, that thou mayst see that prize of thy high calling, not as Satan represents it, in a horrid dreadful shape, but in its genuine native beauty: not as something that must be, or thou wilt go to hell, but as what may be, to lead thee to heaven. Look upon it as the most desirable gift, which is in all the stores of the rich mercies of God. Beholding it in the true point of light, thou wilt hunger after it more and more: thy whole soul will be athirst for God, and for this glorious conformity to his likeness. And having received a good hope of this, and strong consolation through grace, thou wilt no more be weary or faint in this mind, but wilt follow on till thou attainest.

4. *In the same power of faith, press on to glory. Indeed this is the same prospect still. God hath joined from the beginning pardon, holiness, heaven. And why should man put them asunder? O beware of this. Let not one link of the golden chain be broken. God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven me. He is now renewing me in his own image. Shortly he will make me meet for himself, and take me to stand before his face. I whom he hath justified thro’ the blood of his Son, being throughly sanctified by his Spirit, shall quickly ascend to the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God. Yet a little while and I shall come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, and to God the judge of all, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. How soon will these shadows flee away, and the day of eternity dawn upon me! How soon shall I drink of the river of the water of life, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb? There all his servants shall praise him and shall see his face, and his name shall be upon their foreheads. And no night shall be there; and they have no need of a candle or the light of the sun. For the Lord God enlighteneth them, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

5. And if you thus taste of the good word and of the powers of the world to come, you will not murmur against God, because you are not yet meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Instead of repining at your not being wholly delivered, you will praise God for thus far delivering you. You will magnify God for what he hath done, and take it as an earnest of what he will do. You will not fret against him, because you are not yet renewed, but bless him because you shall be; and because now is your salvation from all sin, nearer than when you first believed. Instead of uselessly tormenting yourself because the time is not fully come, you will calmly and quietly wait for it, knowing that it will come and will not tarry. You may therefore the more chearfully endure as yet, the burden of sin that still remains in you, because it will not always remain. Yet a little while and it shall be clean gone. Only tarry thou the Lord’s leisure: be strong, and he shall comfort thy heart, and put thou thy trust in the Lord.

6. And if you see any who appear (so far as man can judge, but God alone searcheth the hearts) to be already partakers of their hope, already made perfect in love: far from envying the grace of God in them, let it rejoice and comfort your heart. Glorify God for their sake. If one member is honoured, shall not all the members rejoice with it? Instead of jealousy or evil surmising concerning them, praise God for the consolation. Rejoice in having a fresh proof of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling all his promises. And stir yourself up the more, to apprehend that for which you also are apprehended of Christ Jesus.

6. *In order to this, redeem the time, improve the present moment. Buy up every opportunity of growing in grace, or of doing good. Let not the thought of receiving more grace to-morrow, make you negligent of to-day. You have one talent now. If you expect five more, so much the rather improve that you have. And the more you expect to receive hereafter, the more labour for God now. Sufficient for the day is the grace thereof. God is now pouring his benefits upon you. Now approve yourself a faithful steward, of the present grace of God. Whatever may be to-morrow, give all diligence to-day, to add to your faith, courage, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness and the fear of God, ’till you attain that pure and perfect love. Let these things be now in you and abound. Be not now slothful or unfruitful. So shall an entrance be ministred into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7. Lastly, If in time past you have abused this blessed hope of being holy as he is holy, yet do not therefore cast it away. Let the abuse cease, the use remain. Use it now to the more abundant glory of God and profit of your own soul. In stedfast faith, in calm tranquillity of spirit, in full assurance of hope, rejoicing evermore for what God hath done, press ye on unto perfection. Daily growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and going on from strength to strength, in resignation, in patience, in humble thankfulness for what ye have attained, and for what ye shall, run the race set before you, looking unto Jesus, ’till through perfect love ye enter into his glory!


Eph. ii. 8.

Ye are saved through faith.

1.NOTHING can be more intricate, complex, and hard to be understood, than religion as it has been often described. And this is not only true concerning the religion of the Heathens, even many of the wisest of them, but concerning the religion of those also, who were, in some sense, Christians: yea, and men of great name in the Christian world, men who seemed to be pillars thereof. Yet how easy to be understood, how plain and simple a thing is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ! Provided only, that we take it in its native form, just as it is described in the oracles of God. It is exactly suited by the wise Creator and Governor of the world, to the weak understanding, and narrow capacity, of man in his present state. How observable is this, both with regard to the end it proposes, and the means to attain that end! The end is, in one word salvation: the means to attain it faith.

2. It is easily discerned, that these two little words, I mean faith and salvation, include the substance of all the bible, the marrow, as it were, of the whole scripture. So much the more should we take all possible care, to avoid all mistake concerning them, and to form a true and accurate judgment concerning both the one and the other.

3. Let us then seriously enquire

I. What is salvation?

II. What is that faith whereby we are saved, and

III. How we are saved by it?

I. 1. And, first, let us enquire, What is salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of, is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul’s going to paradise, termed by our Lord, Abraham’s bosom. It is not a blessing which lies on the other side death, or (as we usually speak) in the other world. The very words of the text itself, put this beyond all question. Ye are saved. It is not something at a distance: it is a present thing; a blessing, which through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of. Nay, the words may be rendered, and that with equal propriety, Ye have been saved. So that the salvation which is here spoken of, might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, ’till it is consummated in glory.

2. If we take this in its utmost extent, it will include all that is wrought in the soul, by what is frequently termed, natural conscience, but more properly, preventing grace: all the drawings of the Father: the desires after God, which, if we yield to them, increase more and more: all that light, wherewith the Son of God inlighteneth every one that cometh into the world, shewing every man, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God: all the convictions which his Spirit, from time to time, works in every child of man. Although, it is true, the generality of men stifle them as soon as possible; and after awhile forget, or at least deny, that ever they had them at all.

3. But we are at present concerned only with that salvation, which the apostle is directly speaking of. And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.

Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins, and (what is necessarily implied therein) our acceptance with God. The price whereby this hath been procured for us, (commonly termed the meritorious cause of our justification) is the blood and righteousness of Christ, or (to express it a little more clearly) all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, ’till he poured out his soul for the transgressors. The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a peace that passeth all understanding, and a rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

4. And at the same time that we are justified, yea in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant, we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit. There is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel the love of God shed abroad in our heart, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, producing love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God: expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honour, of money: together with pride, anger, self-will, and every other evil temper: in a word, changing the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, into the mind which was in Christ Jesus.

5. How naturally do those who experience such a change, imagine that all sin is gone? That it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein? How easily do they draw that inference, “I feel no sin: therefore I have none.” It does not stir; therefore it does not exist: it has no motion; therefore it has no being.

6. But it is seldom long, before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed. Temptations return and sin revives, shewing it was but stunned before, not dead. They now feel two principles in themselves plainly contrary to each other, the flesh lusting against the spirit, nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny, that, although they still feel power to believe in Christ, and to love God; and although his Spirit still witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God: yet they feel in themselves, sometimes pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief. They find one or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not conquering: yea, perhaps, thrusting sore at them, that they may fail: but the Lord is their help.

7. How exactly did Macarius, fourteen hundred years ago, describe the present experience of the children of God? “The unskilful (or unexperienced) when grace operates, presently imagine, they have no more sin. Whereas they that have discretion cannot deny, that even we who have the grace of God, may be molested again.—For we have often had instances of some among the brethren, who have experienced such grace, as to affirm that they had no sin in them. And yet after all, when they thought themselves entirely freed from it, the corruption that lurked within, was stirred up anew, and they were well nigh burnt up.”

8. From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled by the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body, of our evil nature. And as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We go on from grace to grace, while we are careful to abstain from all appearance of evil, and are zealous of good works, as we have opportunity, doing good to all men. While we walk in all his ordinances blameless, therein worshipping him in spirit and in truth: while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves every pleasure, that does not lead us to God.

9. It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification, for a full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the apostle expresses it, go on to perfection. But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means, perfect love. It is love excluding sin: love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in every thing giving thanks.

II. But what is that faith through which we are saved? This is the second point to be considered.

1. Faith in general is defined by the apostle Ἔλεγχος πραγμάτων οὐ βλεπομένων An evidence, a divine evidence and conviction (the word means both) of things not seen: not visible, not perceivable either by sight, or by any other of the external senses. It implies both a supernatural evidence of God and of the things of God, a kind of spiritual light exhibited to the soul, and a supernatural sight or perception thereof: accordingly the scripture speaks of God’s giving sometimes light, sometimes a power of discerning it. So St. Paul. God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. And elsewhere the same apostle speaks, of the eyes of our understanding being opened. By this twofold operation of the Holy Spirit, having the eyes of our soul both opened and enlightened, we see the things which the natural eye hath not seen, neither the ear heard. We have a prospect of the invisible things of God: we see the spiritual world, which is all round about us, and yet no more discerned by our natural faculties, than if it had no being: and we see the eternal world, piercing through the veil which hangs between time and eternity. Clouds and darkness then rest upon it no more, but we already see the glory which shall be revealed.

2. Taking the word in a more particular sense, faith is a divine evidence and conviction, not only that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; but also that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. It is by this faith, (whether we term it, the essence, or rather a property thereof) that we receive Christ, that we receive him in all his offices, as our prophet, priest, and king. It is by this that he is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

3. “But is this the faith of assurance, or faith of adherence?” The scripture mentions no such distinction. The apostle says, There is one faith, and one hope of our calling, one Christian, saving faith, as there is one Lord, in whom we believe, and one God and Father of us all. And it is certain, this faith necessarily implies an assurance (which is here only another word for evidence, it being hard to tell the difference between them) that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. For he that believeth, with the true, living faith, hath the witness in himself. The Spirit witnesseth with his spirit, that he is a child of God. Because he is a Son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying Abba, Father: giving him an assurance that he is so, and a child-like confidence in him. But let it be observed, that, in the very nature of the thing, the assurance goes before the confidence. For a man cannot have a child-like confidence in God, till he knows, he is a child of God. Therefore confidence, trust, reliance, adherence, or whatever else it be called, is not the first, as some have supposed, but the second branch or act of faith.

4. It is by this faith we are saved, justified and sanctified, taking that word in its highest sense. But how are we justified and sanctified by faith? This is our third head of enquiry. And this being the main point in question, and a point of no ordinary importance, it will not be improper, to give it a more distinct and particular consideration.

III. 1. And first, how are we justified by faith? In what sense is this to be understood? I answer, faith is the condition, and the only condition of justification. It is the condition: none is justified but he that believes; without faith no man is justified. And it is the only condition; this alone is sufficient for justification. Every one that believes is justified, whatever else he has or has not. In other words: no man is justified, ’till he believes: every man when he believes is justified.

2. “But does not God command us to repent also? Yea, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance? To cease, for instance, from doing evil, and learn to do well? And is not both the one and the other of the utmost necessity? Insomuch, that if we willingly neglect either, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all? But if this be so, how can it be said, that faith is the only condition of justification?”

God does undoubtedly command us, both to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance: which if we willingly neglect, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all: therefore both repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, are in some sense necessary to justification. But they are not necessary in the same sense with faith, nor in the same degree. Not in the same degree; for those fruits are only necessary conditionally; if there be time and opportunity for them. Otherwise a man may be justified without them, as was the thief upon the cross: (if we may call him so; for a late writer has discovered, that he was no thief, but a very honest and respectable person!) But he cannot be justified without faith: this is impossible. Likewise let a man have ever so much repentance, or ever so many of the fruits meet for repentance, yet all this does not at all avail: he is not justified ’till he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without those fruits, yea, with more or less repentance, he is justified. Not in the same sense; for repentance and its fruits are only remotely necessary, necessary in order to faith: whereas faith is immediately and directly necessary to justification. It remains, that faith is the only condition, which is immediately and proximately necessary to justification.

3. “But do you believe, we are sanctified by faith? We know you believe, that we are justified by faith: but do not you believe, and accordingly teach, that we are sanctified by our works?”

So it has been roundly and vehemently affirmed, for these five and twenty years. But I have constantly declared just the contrary: and that in all manner of ways. I have continually testified in private and in public, that we are sanctified, as well as justified, by faith. And indeed the one of those great truths does exceedingly illustrate the other. Exactly as we are justified by faith, so are we sanctified by faith. Faith is the condition, and the only condition of sanctification, exactly as it is of justification. It is the condition; none is sanctified but he that believes; without faith no man is sanctified. And it is the only condition: this alone is sufficient for sanctification. Every one that believes is sanctified, whatever else he has, or has not. In other words: no man is sanctified till he believes: every man when he believes is sanctified.

4. “But is there not a repentance consequent upon, as well as a repentance previous to, justification? And is it not incumbent on all that are justified, to be zealous of good works? Yea, are not these so necessary, that if a man willingly neglect them, he cannot reasonably expect, that he shall ever be sanctified in the full sense, that is, perfected in love? Nay, can he grow at all in grace, in the loving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Yea, can he retain the grace which God has already given him? Can he continue in the faith which he has received, or in the favour of God? Do not you yourself allow all this, and continually assert it? But if this be so, how can it be said, that faith is the only condition of sanctification?”

5. I do allow all this, and continually maintain it, as the truth of God. I allow, there is a repentance consequent upon, as well as a repentance previous to justification. It is incumbent on all that are justified, to be zealous of good works. And these are so necessary, that if a man willingly neglect them, he cannot reasonably expect, that he shall ever be sanctified. He cannot grow in grace, in the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus. Nay, he cannot retain the grace he has received, he cannot continue in faith, or in the favour of God.

What is the inference we must draw herefrom? Why, that both repentance, rightly understood, and the practice of all good works, works of piety, as well as works of mercy, (now properly so called, since they spring from faith) are in some sense necessary to sanctification.

6. I say, “Repentance rightly understood.” For this must not be confounded with the former repentance. The repentance consequent upon justification is widely different from that which is antecedent to it. This implies no guilt, no sense of condemnation, no consciousness of the wrath of God. It does not suppose any doubt of the favour of God, or any fear that hath torment. It is properly a conviction wrought by the Holy Ghost, of the sin which still remains in our heart, of the φρόνημα σαρκός· the carnal mind, which “does still remain,” as our church speaks, “even in them that are regenerate:” altho’ it does no longer reign, it has not now dominion over them. It is a conviction of our proneness to evil, of an heart bent to backsliding, of the still-continuing tendency of the flesh to lust against the spirit. Sometimes, unless we continually watch and pray, it lusteth to pride, sometimes to anger, sometimes to love of the world, love of ease, love of honour, or love of pleasure more than of God. It is a conviction of the tendency of our heart to self-will, to atheism, or idolatry: and above all to unbelief, whereby in a thousand ways, and under a thousand pretences, we are ever departing, more or less, from the living God.

7. With this conviction of the sin remaining in our hearts, there is joined a clear conviction of the sin remaining in our lives, still cleaving to all our words and actions. In the best of these we now discern a mixture of evil, either in the spirit, the matter or the manner of them: something that could not endure the righteous judgment of God, were he extreme to mark what is done amiss. Where we least suspected it, we find a taint of pride or self-will, of unbelief or idolatry: so that we are now more ashamed of our best duties, than formerly of our worst sins: and hence we cannot but feel, that these are so far from having any thing meritorious in them, yea so far from being able to stand, in sight of the divine justice, that for those also we should be guilty before God, were it not for the blood of the covenant.

8. Experience shews, that together with the conviction of sin remaining in our hearts and cleaving to all our words and actions, as well as the guilt which on account thereof we should incur, were we not continually sprinkled with the atoning blood; one thing more is implied in this repentance, namely a conviction of our helplessness, of our utter inability to think one good thought, or to form one good desire; and much more to speak one word aright, or to perform one good action, but thro’ his free, almighty grace first preventing us, and then accompanying us every moment.

9. “But what good works are those, the practice of which, you affirm to be necessary to sanctification.” First, all works of piety, such as public prayer, family prayer, and praying in our closet: receiving the supper of the Lord: searching the scriptures, by hearing, reading, meditating: and using such a measure of fasting or abstinence, as our bodily health allows.

10. Secondly, All works of mercy, whether they relate to the bodies or souls of men: such as feeding the hungry, cloathing the naked, entertaining the stranger, visiting those that are in prison, or sick, or variously-afflicted: such as the endeavouring to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the stupid sinner, to quicken the lukewarm, to confirm the wavering, to comfort the feeble-minded, to succour the tempted, or contribute in any manner to the saving of souls from death. This is the repentance, and these the fruits meet for repentance, which are necessary to full sanctification. This is the way wherein God hath appointed his children to wait for compleat salvation.

11. Hence may appear the extreme mischievousness of that seemingly innocent opinion, That “there is no sin in a believer; that all sin is destroyed, root and branch, the moment a man is justified.” By totally preventing that repentance, it quite blocks up the way to sanctification. There is no place for repentance, in him who believes there is no sin either in his life or heart. Consequently there is no place for his being perfected in love to which that repentance is indispensably necessary.

12. Hence it may likewise appear, that there is no possible danger in thus expecting full salvation. For suppose we were mistaken, suppose no such blessing ever was, or can be attained, yet we lose nothing: nay, that very expectation quickens us in using all the talents which God has given us; yea, in improving them all, so that when our Lord cometh, he will receive his own with increase.

13. But to return. Tho’ it be allowed, That both this repentance and its fruits are necessary to full salvation, yet they are not necessary either in the same sense with faith, or in the same degree: not in the same degree; for these fruits are only necessary conditionally, if there be time and opportunity for them, otherwise a man may be sanctified without them. But he cannot be sanctified without faith. Likewise let a man have ever so much of this repentance, or ever so many good works, yet all this does not at all avail: he is not sanctified till he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without those fruits, yea, with more or less of this repentance, he is sanctified. Not in the same sense; for this repentance and these fruits are only remotely necessary, necessary in order to the continuance of his faith, as well as the increase of it: whereas faith is immediately and directly, necessary to sanctification. It remains, that faith is the only condition, which is immediately and proximately necessary to sanctification.

14. “But what is that faith whereby we are sanctified, saved from sin and perfected in love?” It is a divine evidence and conviction, 1. That God hath promised it in the holy scripture. Till we are throughly satisfied of this, there is no moving one step further. And one would imagine, there needed not one word more, to satisfy a reasonable man of this, than the ancient promise, Then will I circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul. How clearly does this express the being perfected in love? How strongly imply the being saved from all sin? For as long as love takes up the whole heart, what room is there for sin therein?

15. It is a divine evidence and conviction, secondly, That what God hath promised he is able to perform. Admitting therefore that with men it is impossible, to bring a clean thing out of an unclean, to purify the heart from all sin, and to fill it with all holiness, yet this creates no difficulty in the case, seeing with God all things are possible. And surely no one ever imagined it was possible to any power less than that of the Almighty! But if God speaks, it shall be done. God saith, Let there be light: and there is light.

16. It is, thirdly, a divine evidence and conviction that he is able and willing to do it now. And why not? Is not a moment to him, the same as a thousand years? He cannot want more time to accomplish whatever is his will. And he cannot want or stay for any more worthiness or fitness in the persons he is pleased to honour. We may therefore boldly say, at any point of time, Now is the day of salvation. To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Behold! All things are now ready! Come unto the marriage!

17. To this confidence, That God is both able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more, a divine evidence and conviction, That he doth it. In that hour it is done. God says to the inmost soul, According to thy faith, be it unto thee! Then the soul is pure from every spot of sin; it is clean from all unrighteousness. The believer then experiences the deep meaning of those solemn words, If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

18. “But does God work this great work in the soul gradually or instantaneously?” Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some: I mean, in this sense. They do not advert to the particular moment, wherein sin ceases to be. But it is infinitely desirable, were it the will of God, that it should be done instantaneously; that the Lord should destroy sin by the breath of his mouth, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. And so he generally does, a plain fact, of which there is evidence enough to satisfy any unprejudiced person. Thou therefore look for it every moment. Look for it in the way above described; in all those good works whereunto thou art created anew in Christ Jesus. There is then no danger: you can be no worse, if you are no better for that expectation. For were you to be disappointed of your hope, still you lose nothing. But you shall not be disappointed of your hope: it will come, and will not tarry. Look for it then every day, every hour, every moment. Why not this hour, this moment? Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith. And by this token you may surely know, whether you seek it by faith or by works. If by works, you want something to be done first: before you are sanctified. You think, “I must first be or do thus or thus.” Then you are seeking it by works unto this day. If you seek it by faith, you may expect it as you are: and if as you are, then expect it now. It is of importance to observe, that there is an inseparable connexion between these three points, expect it by faith, expect it as you are, and expect it now! To deny one of them is to deny them all: to allow one, is to allow them all. Do you believe, we are sanctified by faith? Be true then to your principle; and look for this blessing just as you are, neither better, nor worse; as a poor sinner, that has still nothing to pay, nothing to plead, but Christ died. And if you look for it as you are, then expect it now. Stay for nothing: why should you? Christ is ready. And he is all you want. He is waiting for you: he is at the door! Let your inmost soul cry out,

“Come in, come in, thou heavenly guest!

Nor hence again remove;

But sup with me, and let the feast

Be everlasting love.”


Gen. vi. 5.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

1.HOW widely different is this from the fair pictures of human nature, which men have drawn in all ages! The writings of many of the antients abound with gay descriptions of the dignity of man: whom some of them paint as having all virtue and happiness in his composition, or at least, entirely in his power, without being beholden to any other being: yea, as self-sufficient, able to live on his own stock, and little inferior to God himself.

2. Nor have Heathens alone, men who were guided in their researches by little more than the dim light of reason, but many likewise of them that bear the name of Christ, and to whom are intrusted the oracles of God, spoke as magnificently concerning the nature of man, as if it were all innocence and perfection. Accounts of this kind have particularly abounded in the present century: and perhaps in no part of the world more, than in our own country. Here not a few persons of strong understanding, as well as extensive learning, have employed their utmost abilities to shew, what they termed, “The fair side of human nature.” And it must be acknowledged, that if their accounts of him be just, man is still but a little lower than the angels, or (as the words may be more literally rendered) a little less than God.

3. Is it any wonder, that these accounts are very readily received by the generality of men? For who is not easily persuaded to think favourably of himself? Accordingly writers of this kind are almost universally read, admired, applauded. And innumerable are the converts they have made, not only in the gay, but the learned world. So that it is now quite unfashionable to talk otherwise, to say any thing to the disparagement of human nature: which is generally allowed, notwithstanding a few infirmities, to be very innocent and wise and virtuous.

4. But in the mean-time, what must we do with our bibles; for they will never agree with this. These accounts, however pleasing to flesh and blood, are utterly irreconcileable with the scriptural. The scripture avers, that by one man’s disobedience, all men were constituted sinners: that in Adam all died, spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God: that fallen, sinful Adam then begat a son in his own likeness: nor was it possible he should beget him in any other: for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? That consequently we as well as other men were by nature, dead in trespasses and sins, without hope, without God in the world, and therefore children of wrath: that every man may say, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me: that there is no difference, in that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: of that glorious image of God, wherein man was originally created. And hence, when the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, he saw they were all gone out of the way, they were all together become abominable, there was none righteous, no not one, none that truly sought after God: just agreeable this, to what is declared by the Holy Ghost, in the words above recited, God saw when he looked down from heaven before, that the wickedness of man was great in the earth: so great, that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

This is God’s account of man: from which I shall take occasion, first, To shew what men were before the flood; secondly, To enquire, Whether they are not the same now? And, thirdly, To add some inferences.

I. 1. I am, first, By opening the words of the text, to shew, what men were before the flood. And we may fully depend on the account here given. For God saw it, and he cannot be deceived. He saw that the wickedness of man was great. Not of this or that man; not of a few men only: not barely of the greater part, but of man in general, of men universally. The word includes the whole human race, every partaker of human nature. And it is not easy for us to compute their numbers, to tell how many thousands and millions they were. The earth then retained much of its primeval beauty and original fruitfulness. The face of the globe was not rent and torn, as it is now: and spring and summer went hand in hand. ’Tis therefore probable, it afforded sustenance for far more inhabitants, than it is now capable of sustaining; and these must be immensely multiplied, while men begat sons and daughters for seven or eight hundred years together. Yet among all this inconceivable number, only Noah found favour with God. He alone (perhaps including part of his houshold) was an exception from the universal wickedness, which by the just judgment of God, in a short time after brought on universal destruction. All the rest were partakers in the same guilt, as they were in the same punishment.

2. God saw all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart—Of his soul, his inward man, the spirit within him, the principle of all his inward and outward motions. He saw all the imaginations. It is not possible to find a word of a more extensive signification. It includes whatever is formed, made, fabricated within; all that is, or passes in the soul: every inclination, affection, passion, appetite; every temper, design, thought. It must of consequence include every word and action, as naturally flowing from these fountains: and being either good or evil, according to the fountain from which they severally flow.

3. Now God saw that all this, the whole thereof was evil, contrary to moral rectitude; contrary to the nature of God, which necessarily includes all good; contrary to the divine will, the eternal standard of good and evil: contrary to the pure, holy image of God, wherein man was originally created, and wherein he stood when God surveying the works of his hands, saw them all to be very good: contrary to justice, mercy and truth, and to the essential relations which each man bore to his Creator and his fellow creatures.

4. But was there not good mingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixt with the darkness? No, none at all: God saw that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil. It cannot indeed be denied, but many of them, perhaps all, had good motions put into their hearts. For the Spirit of God did then also strive with man, if haply he might repent: more especially during that gracious reprieve, the hundred and twenty years, while the ark was preparing. But still in his flesh dwelt no good thing: all his nature was purely evil. It was wholly consistent with itself, and unmixt with any thing of an opposite nature.

5. However it may still be matter of enquiry, “Was there no intermission of this evil? Were there no lucid intervals, wherein something good might be found in the heart of man?” We are not here to consider, what the grace of God might occasionally work in his soul. And abstracted from this, we have no reason to believe, there was any intermission of that evil. For God who saw the whole imagination of the thoughts of his heart to be only evil, saw likewise, that it was always the same, that it was only evil continually: every year, every day, every hour, every moment. He never deviated into good.

II. Such is the authentic account of the whole race of mankind, which he who knoweth what is in man, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, hath left upon record for our instruction. Such were all men before God brought the flood upon the earth. We are, secondly, to enquire, Whether they are the same now?

1. And this is certain, the scripture gives us no reason, to think any otherwise of them. On the contrary, all the above-cited passages of scripture, refer to those who lived after the flood. It was above a thousand years after, that God declared by David concerning the children of men, They are all gone out of the way of truth and holiness, there is none righteous, no, not one. And to this bear all the prophets witness, in their several generations. So Isaiah, concerning God’s peculiar people, (and certainly the Heathens were in no better condition) The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores. The same account is given by all the apostles, yea, by the whole tenor of the oracles of God. From all these we learn, concerning man in his natural state, unassisted by the grace of God, that all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart are still evil, only evil, and that continually.

2. And this account of the present state of man, is confirmed by daily experience. It is true, the natural man discerns it not: and this is not to be wondered at. So long as a man born blind, continues so, he is scarce sensible of his want. Much less, could we suppose a place where all were born without sight, would they be sensible of the want of it. In like manner, so long as men remain, in their natural blindness of understanding, they are not sensible of their spiritual wants, and of this in particular. But as soon as God opens the eyes of their understanding, they see the state they were in before; they are then deeply convinced, that every man living, themselves especially, are by nature altogether vanity, that is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness.

3. We see, when God opens our eyes, that we were before ἄθεοι ἐν κόσμῳ· without God, or rather Atheists in the world. We had by nature no knowledge of God, no acquaintance with him. It is true, as soon as we came to the use of reason, we learned the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, from the things that are made. From things that are seen, we infered the existence of an eternal, powerful Being, that is not seen. But still, although we acknowledged his being, we had no acquaintance with him. As we know there is an Emperor of China, whom yet we do not know; so we knew, there was a King of all the earth; yet we know him not. Indeed we could not; by any of our natural faculties. By none of these could we attain the knowledge of God. We could no more perceive him by our natural understanding, than we could see him with our eyes. For no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son willeth to reveal him. And no one knoweth the Son but the Father, and he to whom the Father revealeth him.

4. *We read of an antient king, who being desirous to know, what was the natural language of men, in order to bring the matter to a certain issue, made the following experiment. He ordered two infants as soon as they were born, to be conveyed to a place prepared for them, where they were brought up without any instruction at all, and without ever hearing an human voice. And what was the event? Why, that when they were at length brought out of their confinement, they spake no language at all; they uttered only inarticulate sounds, like those of other animals. Were two infants in like manner to be brought up from the womb, without being instructed in any religion, there is little room to doubt, but (unless the grace of God interposed) the event would be just the same. They would have no religion at all: they would have no more knowledge of God, than the beasts of the field, than the wild ass’s colt. Such is Natural religion! Abstracted from traditional, and from the influences of God’s Spirit.

5. And having no knowledge, we can have no love of God: we cannot love him we know not. Most men talk indeed of loving God, and perhaps imagine they do. At least, few will acknowledge they do not love him: but the fact is too plain to be denied. No man loves God by nature, any more than he does a stone, or the earth he treads upon. What we love, we delight in: but no man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural state, we cannot conceive, how any one should delight in him. We take no pleasure in him at all: he is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! It is far above, out of our sight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it.

6. *We have by nature not only no love, but no fear of God. It is allowed indeed, that most men have, sooner or later, a kind of senseless, irrational fear, properly called superstition, though the blundering Epicureans gave it the name of religion. Yet even this is not natural, but acquired; chiefly by conversation or from example. By nature, God is not in all our thoughts: we leave him to manage his own affairs, to sit quietly, as we imagine, in heaven, and leave us on earth to manage ours. So that we have no more of the fear of God before our eyes, than of the love of God in our hearts.

7. Thus are all men Atheists in the world. But Atheism itself does not screen us from idolatry. In his natural state, every man born into the world is a rank idolater. Perhaps indeed we may not be such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do not, like the idolatrous Heathens, worship molten or graven images. We do not bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do not pray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon the earth. But what then? We have set up our idols in our hearts: and to these we bow down and worship them: we worship ourselves, when we pay that honour to ourselves which is due to God only. Therefore all pride is idolatry: it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And altho’ pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is born without it? But hereby we rob God of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.

8. *But pride is not the only sort of idolatry, which we are all by nature guilty of. Satan has stamped his own image on our heart in self-will also. I will, said he, before he was cast out of heaven, I will sit upon the sides of the north. I will do my own will and pleasure, independently on that of my Creator. The same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousand instances. Nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear or shame. Ask the man, “Why did you do this?” He answers, “Because I had a mind to it.” What is this but, “Because it was my will;” that is in effect, because the devil and I are agreed: because Satan and I govern our actions, by one and the same principle. The will of God mean-time is not in his thoughts, is not considered in the least degree: although it be the supreme rule of every intelligent creature, whether in heaven or earth, resulting from the essential, unalterable relation, which all creatures bear to their Creator.

9. *So far we bear the image of the devil, and tread in his steps. But at the next step we leave Satan behind, we run into an idolatry whereof he is not guilty: I mean, Love of the world, which is now as natural to every man, as to love his own will. What is more natural to us, than to seek happiness in the creature, instead of the Creator? To seek that satisfaction in the works of his hands, which can be found in God only? What more natural than the desire of the flesh? That is, of the pleasure of sense in every kind? Men indeed talk magnificently of despising these low pleasures, particularly men of learning and education. They affect to sit loose to the gratification of those appetites, wherein they stand with a level with the beasts that perish. But it is mere affectation: for every man is conscious to himself, that in this respect he is by nature a very beast. Sensual appetites, even those of the lowest kind, have, more or less, the dominion over him. They lead him captive, they drag him to and fro, in spite of his boasted reason. The man, with all his good breeding and other accomplishments, has no pre-eminence over the goat: nay, it is much to be doubted, whether the beast has not the pre-eminence over him? Certainly he has, if we may hearken to one of their modern oracles, who very decently tells us.

“Once in a season, beasts too taste of love:

Only the beast of reason is its slave,

And in that folly drudges all the year.”

A considerable difference indeed, it must be allowed, there is between man and man, arising (beside that wrought by preventing grace) from difference of constitution, and of education. But notwithstanding this, who, that is not utterly ignorant of himself, can here cast the first stone at another? Who can abide the test of our blessed Lord’s comment on the seventh commandment? He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. So that one knows not which to wonder at most, the ignorance or the insolence of those men, who speak with such disdain of them that are overcome by desires, which every man has felt in his own breast! The desire of every pleasure of sense, innocent or not, being natural to every child of man.

10. *And so is the desire of the eye, the desire of the pleasures of the imagination. These arise either from great, or beautiful, or uncommon objects: if the two former do not coincide with the latter; for perhaps it would appear upon a diligent enquiry, that neither grand nor beautiful objects please, any longer than they are new: that when the novelty of them is over, the greatest part, at least, of the pleasure they give is over; and in the same proportion as they become familiar, they become flat and insipid. But let us experience this ever so often, the same desire will remain still. The inbred thirst continues fixt in the soul: nay the more it is indulged, the more it increases, and incites us to follow after another, and yet another object; altho’ we leave every one with an abortive hope, and a deluded expectation. Yea

“The hoary fool, who many days

Has struggled with continued sorrow,

Renews his hope, and fondly lays

The desperate bet upon to-morrow!

“To-morrow comes! ’Tis noon! ’Tis night!

This day like all the former flies:

Yet on he goes, to seek delight

To-morrow, till to-night he dies!”

11. *A third symptom of this fatal disease the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted in our nature, is the pride of life, the desire of praise, of the honour that cometh of men. This the greatest admirers of human nature allow to be strictly natural: as natural as the sight or hearing, or any other of the external senses. And are they ashamed of it, even men of letters, men of refined and improved understanding? So far from it, that they glory therein! They applaud themselves for their love of applause! Yea, eminent Christians, so called, make no difficulty of adopting the saying of the old, vain Heathen, Animi dissoluti est & nequam negligere quid de se homines sentiant: “Not to regard what men think of us, is the mark of a wicked and abandoned mind.” So that to go calm and unmoved thro’ honour and dishonour, thro’ evil report and good report, is with them a sign of one that is indeed not fit to live; away with such a fellow from the earth. But would one imagine, that these men had ever heard of Jesus Christ or his apostles? Or that they knew who it was that said, How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only? But if this be really so, if it be impossible to believe, and consequently to please God, so long as we receive or seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only: then in what a condition are all mankind! The Christians as well as Heathens! Since they all seek honour one of another! Since it is as natural for them so to do, themselves being the judges, as it is to see the light which strikes upon their eye, or to hear the sound which enters their ear: yea, since they account it the sign of a virtuous mind, to seek the praise of men; and of a vicious one, to be content with the honour that cometh of God only!

III. 1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, first, from hence we may learn one grand, fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness or cruelty, their luxury or prodigality. Some have dared to say, That “no man is born without vices, of one kind or another.” But still, as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not, that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born in the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices, which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will and love of the world. This therefore is the first, grand, distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges, That many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much overbalances the evil. The other declares, That all men are conceived in sin, and shapen in wickedness: that hence there is in every man a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be subject to his law, and which so infects the whole soul, that there dwelleth in him, in his flesh, in his natural state, no good thing; but all the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, is evil, only evil, and that continually.

2. Hence we may, secondly, learn, That all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are but Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may indeed allow, That men have many vices: that some are born with us: and that consequently we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous, as we should be: there being few that will roundly affirm, “We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is by nature as virtuous and wise, as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth: is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, Is every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually? Allow this and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. *We may learn from hence, in the third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is Θεραπεία ψυχῆς· God’s method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism, by the knowledge of himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God and of the things of God: in particular, of this important truth, Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed: that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God. And for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now this is properly religion, faith thus working by love, working the genuine, meek humility, entire deadness of the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in and conformity to the whole will and word of God.

4. Indeed if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work of the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the superfluity of naughtiness. For an outside religion without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does accordingly suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only, “A well-ordered train of words:” according to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves: for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to cleanse the outside of the cup? Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.

5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that he who seeth what is in man, gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness, which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, altho’ they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness, with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the holy scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, once delivered to the saints, and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: therefore ye must be born again, born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted: by grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: in the second Adam, in Christ ye all are made alive. You that are dead in sins hath he quickened: he hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you, and gave himself for you! Now go on from faith to faith, until your whole sickness be healed, and all that mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!


John iii. 7.

Ye must be born again.

1.IF any doctrine within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two, the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: the former relating to that great work, which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work, which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other: in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, thro’ the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also born of the Spirit: but in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.

2. How great importance then must it be of to every child of man, throughly to understand these fundamental doctrines? From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have wrote very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have wrote on the new birth; and some of them largely enough: but yet not so clearly as might have been desired; nor so deeply and accurately: having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial one. Therefore a full, and at the same time, a clear account of the new birth seems to be wanting still: such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions, first, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth? Secondly, How must we be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? And thirdly, Wherefore must we be born again? To what end is it necessary? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer, and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.

I. 1. And, first, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine? The foundation of it lies near as deep as the creation of the world: *In the scriptural account whereof we read, 3And God, the three-one God, said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality, a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections: not merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth: but chiefly in his moral image, which according to the apostle, is 4righteousness and true holiness. In this image of God was man made. God is love: accordingly man at his creation was full of love: which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words and actions. God is full of justice, mercy and truth: so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity: and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot. Otherwise God could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other works of his hands, 5very good. This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true holiness. For there is no medium: if we suppose an intelligent creature, not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all: much less to be very good.

2. But although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable. This would have been inconsistent with that state of trial, in which God was pleased to place him. He was therefore created able to stand, and yet liable to fall. And this God himself apprized him of, and gave him a solemn warning against it. Nevertheless man did not abide in honour: he fell from his high estate. He ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded him, Thou shalt not eat thereof. By this wilful act of disobedience to his Creator, this flat rebellion against his Sovereign, he openly declared, that he would no longer have God to rule over him: that he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of him that created him, and that he would not seek his happiness in God, but in the world, in the works of his hands. Now God had told him before, In the day that thou eatest of that fruit thou shalt surely die. And the word of the Lord cannot be broken. Accordingly in that day he did die: he died to God, the most dreadful of all deaths. He lost the life of God: he was separated from him, in union with whom his spiritual life consisted. The body dies, when it is separated from the soul; the soul, when it is separated from God. But this separation from God Adam sustained in the day, the hour he ate of the forbidden fruit. And of this he gave immediate proof; presently shewing by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was now alienated from the life of God. Instead of this, he was now under the power of servile fear, so that he fled from the presence of the Lord. Yea, so little did he retain even of the knowledge of him, who filleth heaven and earth, that he endeavoured to 6hide himself from the Lord God, among the trees of the garden! So had he lost both the knowledge and the love of God, without which the image of God could not subsist. Of this therefore he was deprived at the same time, and became unholy as well as unhappy. In the room of this, he had sunk into pride and self-will, the very image of the devil, and into sensual appetites and desires, the image of the beasts that perish.

3. If it be said, “Nay but that threatning, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, refers to temporal death and that alone, to the death of the body only;” The answer is plain; to affirm this, is flatly and palpably to make God a liar: to aver, that the God of truth positively affirmed a thing contrary to truth. For it is evident, Adam did not die in this sense, in the day that he ate thereof. He lived in the sense opposite to this death, above nine hundred years after. So that this cannot possibly be understood of the death of the body, without impeaching the veracity of God. It must therefore be understood of spiritual death, the loss of the life and image of God.

4. And in Adam all died, all human-kind, all the children of men who were then in Adam’s loins. The natural consequence of this is, that every one descended from him, comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin: entirely void of the life of God, void of the image of God, of all that righteousness and holiness, wherein Adam was created. Instead of this every man born into the world, now bears the image of the devil, in pride and self-will; the image of the beast, in sensual appetites and desires. This then is the foundation of the new birth, the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is, that being born in sin, we must be born again. Hence every one that is born of a woman, must be born of the Spirit of God.

II. 1. But how must a man be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? This is the second question. And a question it is, of the highest moment that can be conceived. We ought not therefore in so weighty a concern, to be content with a slight enquiry; but to examine it with all possible care, and to ponder it in our hearts, ’till we fully understand this important point, and clearly see, how we are to be born again.

2. Not that we are to expect any minute, philosophical account, of the manner how this is done. Our Lord sufficiently guards us against any such expectation, by the words immediately following the text: wherein he reminds Nicodemus of as indisputable a fact, as any in the whole compass of nature: which notwithstanding the wisest man under the sun, is not able fully to explain. The wind bloweth where it listeth, not by thy power or wisdom, and thou hearest the sound thereof: thou art absolutely assured, beyond all doubt, that it doth blow. But thou canst not tell, whence it cometh, neither whither it goeth. The precise manner how it begins and ends, rises and falls, no man can tell. So is every one that is born of the Spirit. Thou mayst be as absolutely assured of the fact, as of the blowing of the wind: but the precise manner how it is done, how the Holy Spirit works this in the soul, neither thou nor the wisest of the children of men is able to explain.

3. However it suffices for every rational and Christian purpose, that without descending into curious, critical enquiries, we can give a plain scriptural account of the nature of the new birth. This will satisfy every reasonable man, who desires only the salvation of his soul. The expression, being born again, was not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus. It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews, when our Saviour appeared among them. When an adult Heathen was convinced, that the Jewish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when he was baptized, he was said to be born again: by which they meant, that he who was before a child of the devil was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children. This expression therefore which Nicodemus being a teacher in Israel, ought to have understood well, our Lord uses in conversing with him: only in a stronger sense than he was accustomed to. And this might be the reason of his asking, How can these things be? They cannot be literally. A man cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. But they may, spiritually. A man may be born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit: in a manner which bears a very near analogy to the natural birth.

4. Before a child is born into the world, he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, he begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold, in all these instances? While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not, a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them. He has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up; he is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God, no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things. Therefore though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The eyes of his understanding are opened (such is the language of the great apostle:) and he who of old commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God, his glorious love, in the face of Jesus Christ. His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, Be of good chear, thy sins are forgiven thee: Go and sin no more. This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart: Although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever He that teacheth man knowledge is pleased from time to time to reveal to him. He “feels in his heart (to use the language of our church) the mighty working of the Spirit of God:” not in a gross, carnal sense, as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression: though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: he feels, is inwardly sensible of the graces which the Spirit of God works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of a peace which passeth all understanding. He many times feels such a joy in God, as is unspeakable and full of glory. He feels the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him. And all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and of all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a life which is hid with Christ in God. God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul, and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart, and prayer and praise ascending to heaven. And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained: and the child of God grows up, ’till he comes to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

5. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul, when he brings it into life: when he raises it from the death of sin, to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God, when it is created anew in Christ Jesus, when it is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness: when the love of the world is changed into the love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, is turned into the mind which was in Christ Jesus. This is the nature of the new birth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

III. 1. It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the necessity of the new birth, and to answer the third question, wherefore, to what ends is it necessary that we should be born again? It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, first, in order to holiness. For what is holiness, according to the oracles of God? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, how many soever they be, and how exactly soever performed. No: gospel-holiness is no less than the image of God stamped upon the heart. It is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus. It consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love, to him who hath not with-held from us his Son, his only Son, as makes it natural and in a manner necessary, to us, to love every child of man; as fills us with bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering. It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are, and all we have, all our thoughts, words and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now this holiness can have no existence, ’till we are renewed in the image of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul, ’till that change be wrought, ’till by the power of the highest overshadowing us we are brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God: that is, ’till we are born again; which therefore is absolutely necessary in order to holiness.

2. But without holiness no man shall see the Lord, shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence the new birth is absolutely necessary, in order to eternal salvation. Men may indeed flatter themselves (so desperately wicked and so deceitful is the heart of man!) that they may live in their sins ’till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards live with God. And thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leadeth not to destruction. What danger, say they, can a woman be in, that is so harmless and so virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven? Especially, if over and above all this, they constantly attend on church and sacrament. One of these will ask with all assurance, “What, shall not I do as well as my neighbours?” Yes, as well as your unholy neighbours; as well as your neighbours that die in their sins. For you will all drop into the pit together, into the nethermost hell. You will all lie together in the lake of fire, the lake of fire burning with brimstone. Then, at length you will see (but God grant you may see it before!) the necessity of holiness in order to glory: and consequently, of the new birth, since none can be holy, except he be born again.

3. For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us,

Nemo malus felix:

No wicked man is happy. The reason is plain. All unholy tempers are uneasy tempers. Not only malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast, but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even hope, when deferred (and how often must this be the case?) maketh the heart sick. And every desire which is not according to the will of God, is liable to pierce us through with many sorrows. And all those general forces of sin, pride, self-will and idolatry, are in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore as long as these reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign, ’till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, ’till we are born again. Consequently the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come.

IV. I proposed in the last place, to subjoin a few inferences which naturally follow from the preceding observations.

1. And, first, It follows, that baptism is not the new birth: they are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine, they are just the same: at least, they speak as if they thought so: but I do not know, that this opinion is publickly avowed, by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not, by any within these kingdoms, whether of the established church, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the latter is clearly declared, in their 7large Catechism: Q. “What are the parts of a sacrament? A. The parts of a sacrament are two: The one, an outward and sensible sign; the other, an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified. Q. What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration, by his Spirit.” Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.

In the church-catechism likewise the judgment of our church is declared with the utmost clearness. “What meanest thou by this word, sacrament? I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. What is the outward part, or form in baptism? Water wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. What is the inward part or thing signified? A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” Nothing therefore is plainer, than that according to the church of England, baptism is not the new birth.

But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than that the one is an external, the other an internal work? That the one is a visible, the other an invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other: the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other, a change wrought by God in the soul. So that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost.

2. From the preceding reflections, we may, secondly, observe, that as the new birth is not the same thing with baptism, so it does not always accompany baptism: they do not constantly go together. A man may possibly be born of water, and yet not be born of the Spirit. There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants: it is certain, our church supposes, that all who are baptized in their infancy, are at the same time born again. And it is allowed, that the whole office for the baptism of infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend, how this work can be wrought in infants? For neither can we comprehend, how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at the same time born again. The tree is known by its fruits: and hereby it appears too plain to be denied, that divers of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized, continue the same after baptism: for the works of their Father they do; they continue servants of sin, without any pretence either to inward or outward holiness.

3. *A third inference which we may draw from what has been observed, is, that the new birth is not the same with sanctification. This is indeed taken for granted by many: particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on “the nature and grounds of Christian regeneration.” To wave several other weighty objections which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: it all along speaks of regeneration as a progressive work, carried on in the soul by slow degrees, from the time of our first turning to God. This is undeniably true of sanctification; but of regeneration, the new birth, it is not true. This is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate of it, the entrance into it. When we are born again, then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness begins. And thenceforward we are gradually to grow up in him who is our head. This expression of the apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and farther points out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things. A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time. Afterward he gradually and slowly grows, ’till he attains to the stature of a man. In like manner a child is born of God, in a short time, if not in a moment. But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ. The same relation therefore which there is, between our natural birth and our growth, there is, also between our new birth, and our sanctification.

4. *One point more we may learn from the preceding observations. But it is a point of so great importance, as may excuse the considering it the more carefully, and prosecuting it at some length. What must one who loves the souls of men, and is grieved that any of them should perish, say to one whom he sees living in sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, or any other wilful sin? What can he say, if the foregoing observations are true, but you must be born again. “No, says a zealous man, that cannot be. How can you talk so uncharitably to the man? Has he not been baptized already? He cannot be born again now.” Can he not be born again? Do you affirm this? Then he cannot be saved. Though he be as old as Nicodemus was, yet except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Therefore in saying, “He cannot be born again,” you in effect deliver him over to damnation. And where lies the uncharitableness now? On my side, or on yours? I say, he may be born again, and so become an heir of salvation. You say, “He cannot be born again.” And if so, he must inevitably perish. So you utterly block up his way to salvation, and send him to hell, out of mere charity!

*But perhaps the sinner himself, to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again,” has been taught to say, “I defy your new doctrine; I need not be born again. I was born again when I was baptized. What! Would you have me deny my baptism?” I answer, first, There is nothing under heaven which can excuse a lie. Otherwise I should say to an open sinner, If you have been baptized, do not own it. For how highly does this aggravate your guilt? How will it increase your damnation? Was you devoted to God at eight days old, and have you been all these years devoting yourself to the devil? Was you, even before you had the use of reason, consecrated to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? And have you ever since you had the use of it, been flying in the face of God, and consecrating yourself to Satan? Does the abomination of desolation, the love of the world, pride, anger, lust, foolish desire, and a whole train of vile affections stand where it ought not? Have you set up all these accursed things in that soul, which was once a temple of the Holy Ghost? Set apart for an habitation of God through the Spirit? Yea, solemnly given up to him? And do you glory in this, that you once belonged to God? O be ashamed! Blush! Hide yourself in the earth! Never boast more of what ought to fill you with confusion, to make you ashamed before God and man! I answer, secondly, You have already denied your baptism; and that in the most effectual manner. You have denied it a thousand and a thousand times; and you do so still day by day. For in your baptism, you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever therefore you give place to him again, whenever you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism. Therefore you deny it by every wilful sin: by every act of uncleanness, drunkenness, or revenge: by every obscene or profane word; by every oath that comes out of your mouth. Every time you profane the day of the Lord, you thereby deny your baptism: yea, every time you do any thing to another, which you would not he should do to you. I answer, thirdly, Be you baptized or unbaptized, you must be born again. Otherwise it is not possible you should be inwardly holy: and without inward as well as outward holiness, you cannot be happy even in this world; much less in the world to come. Do you say, “Nay, but I do no harm to any man; I am honest and just in all my dealings; I do not curse, or take the Lord’s name in vain; I do not profane the Lord’s day: I am no drunkard; I do not slander my neighbour, nor live in any wilful sin.” If this be so, it were much to be wished, that all men went as far as you do. But you must go farther yet, or you cannot be saved: still you must be born again. Do you add, “I do go farther yet; for I not only do no harm, but do all the good I can.” I doubt that fact; I fear you have had a thousand opportunities of doing good, which you have suffered to pass by unimproved, and for which therefore you are accountable to God. But if you had improved them all, if you really had done all the good you possibly could to all men, yet this does not at all alter the case: still you must be born again. Without this nothing will do any good to your poor sinful, polluted soul. “Nay, but I constantly attend all the ordinances of God: I keep to my church and sacrament.” It is well you do. But all this will not keep you from hell, except you be born again. Go to church twice a day, go to the Lord’s table every week, say ever so many prayers in private, hear ever so many good sermons, read ever so many good books, still you must be born again: none of these things will stand in the place of the new birth: no, nor any thing under heaven. Let this therefore, if you have not already experienced this inward work of God, be your continual prayer, “Lord, add this to all thy blessings, let me be born again. Deny whatever thou pleasest, but deny not this, Let me be born from above. Take away whatsoever seemeth thee good, reputation, fortune, friends, health. Only give me this, To be born of the Spirit! To be received among the children of God. Let me be born, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. And then let me daily grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!”


John xvi. 22.

Ye now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

1.AFTER God had wrought a great deliverance for Israel, by bringing them out of the house of bondage, they did not immediately enter into the land which he had promised to their fathers, but wandered out of the way in the wilderness, and were variously tempted and distressed. In like manner after God has delivered them that fear him from the bondage of sin and Satan; after they are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus, yet not many of them immediately enter into the rest which remaineth for the people of God. The greater part of them wander, more or less, out of the good way into which he hath brought them. They come as it were into a waste and howling desert, where they are variously tempted and tormented. And this some, in allusion to the case of the Israelites, have termed a wilderness-state.

2. Certain it is, that the condition wherein these are, has a right to the tenderest compassion. They labour under an evil and sore disease; though one that is not commonly understood. And for this very reason it is the more difficult for them to find a remedy. Being in darkness themselves, they cannot be supposed to understand the nature of their own disorder. And few of their brethren, nay perhaps, of their teachers, know either what their sickness is, or how to heal it. So much the more need there is to enquire, first, What is the nature of this disease; secondly, What is the cause, and thirdly, What is the cure of it.

I. And, first, What is the nature of this disease, into which so many fall, after they have believed? Wherein does it properly consist? And what are the genuine symptoms of it? It properly consists in the loss of that faith which God once wrought in their heart. They that are in the wilderness have not now that divine evidence, that satisfactory conviction of things not seen which they once enjoyed. They have not now that inward demonstration of the Spirit, which before enabled each of them to say, The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The light of heaven does not now shine in their hearts, neither do they see him that is invisible: but darkness is again on the face of their souls, and blindness on the eyes of their understanding. The Spirit no longer witnesses with their spirits, that they are the children of God; neither does he continue, as the Spirit of adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father. They have not now a sure trust in his love, and a liberty of approaching him with holy boldness. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, is no more the language of their heart: but they are shorn of their strength, and become weak and feeble-minded, even as other men.

2. Hence, secondly, proceeds the loss of love, which cannot but rise or fall, at the same time, and in the same proportion, with true, living faith. Accordingly, they that are deprived of their faith, are deprived of the love of God also. They cannot now say, Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. They are not now happy in God, as every one is, that truly loves him. They do not delight in him as in time past, and smell the odour of his ointments. Once, all their desire was unto him, and to the remembrance of his name. But now even their desires are cold and dead, if not utterly extinguished. And as their love of God is waxed cold, so is also their love of their neighbour. They have not now that zeal for the souls of men, that longing after their welfare, that fervent, restless, active desire of their being reconciled to God. They do not feel those bowels of mercies for the sheep that are lost, that tender compassion for the ignorant and them that are out of the way. Once they were gentle toward all men, meekly instructing such as opposed the truth, and if any was overtaken in a fault, restoring such an one in the spirit of meekness. But after a suspense, perhaps of many days, anger begins to regain its power. Yea, peevishness and impatience thrust sore at them that they may fall. And it is well if they are not sometimes driven, even to render evil for evil, and railing for railing.

3. In consequence of the loss of faith and love, follows, thirdly, Loss of joy in the Holy Ghost. For if the loving consciousness of pardon be no more, the joy resulting therefrom cannot remain. If the Spirit does not witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, the joy that flowed from that inward witness, must also be at an end. And in like manner, they who once rejoiced with joy unspeakable, in hope of the glory of God, now they are deprived of that hope full of immortality, are deprived of the joy it occasioned: as also of that which resulted from a consciousness of the love of God then shed abroad in their hearts. For the cause being removed, so is the effect: the fountain being dammed up, those living waters spring no more, to refresh the thirsty soul.

4. With loss of faith and love and joy, there is also joined, fourthly, the loss of that peace which once past all understanding. That sweet tranquillity of mind, that composure of spirit is gone. Painful doubt returns: doubt whether we ever did, and perhaps whether we ever shall believe. We begin to doubt, whether we ever did find in our hearts, the real testimony of the Spirit? Whether we did not rather deceive our own souls, and mistake the voice of nature for the voice of God? Nay, and perhaps, whether we shall ever hear his voice, and find favour in his sight. And these doubts are again joined with servile fear, with that fear which hath torment. We fear the wrath of God, even as before we believed: we fear lest we should be cast out of his presence; and thence sink again into that fear of death, from which we were before wholly delivered.

5. But even this is not all. For loss of peace is accompanied with loss of power. We know, every one who has peace with God through Jesus Christ, has power over all sin. But whenever he loses the peace of God, he loses also the power over sin. While that peace remained, power also remained, even over the besetting sin; whether it were the sin of his nature, of his constitution, of his education, or his profession: yea, and over those evil tempers and desires, which ’till then he could not conquer. Sin had then no more dominion over him: but he hath now no more dominion over sin. He may struggle indeed, but he cannot overcome; the crown is fallen from his head. His enemies again prevail over him, and more or less bring him into bondage. The glory is departed from him, even the kingdom of God which was in his heart. He is dispossessed of righteousness, as well as of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

II. 1. Such is the nature of what many have termed, and not improperly, the wilderness-state. But the nature of it may be more fully understood, by enquiring, secondly, What are the causes of it? These indeed are various. But I dare not rank among these, the bare, arbitrary, sovereign will of God. He rejoiceth in the prosperity of his servants: he delighteth not to afflict or grieve the children of men. His invariable will is our sanctification, attended with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. These are his own free gifts: and we are assured the gifts of God are, on his part, without repentance. He never repenteth of what he hath given, or desires to withdraw them from us. Therefore he never deserts us, as some speak: it is we only that desert him.

2. The most usual cause of inward darkness is sin of one kind or another. This it is which generally occasions what is often a complication of sin and misery. And, first, Sin of commission. This may frequently be observed to darken the soul in a moment: especially if it be a known, a wilful or presumptuous sin. If for instance, a person who is now walking in the clear light of God’s countenance, should be any way prevailed on to commit a single act of drunkenness or uncleanness, it would be no wonder if in that very hour he fell into utter darkness. It is true, there have been some very rare cases, wherein God has prevented this, by an extraordinary display of his pardoning mercy, almost in the very instant. But in general, such an abuse of the goodness of God, so gross an insult on his love, occasions an immediate estrangement from God, and a darkness that may be felt.

3. But it may be hoped, this case is not very frequent; that there are not many who so despise the riches of his goodness, as while they walk in his light, so grosly and presumptuously to rebel against him. That light is much more frequently lost, by giving way to sins of omission. This indeed does not immediately quench the Spirit, but gradually and slowly. The former may be compared to pouring water upon a fire: the latter to withdrawing the fewel from it. And many times will that loving Spirit reprove our neglect, before he departs from us. Many are the inward checks, the secret notices he gives, before his influences are withdrawn. So that only a train of omissions wilfully persisted in, can bring us into utter darkness.

4. Perhaps no sin of omission more frequently occasions this, than the neglect of private prayer; the want whereof cannot be supplied by any other ordinance whatever. Nothing can be more plain, than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunities of communing with God, and pouring out our hearts before him. If therefore we are negligent of this, if we suffer business, company, or any avocation whatever, to prevent these secret exercises of the soul, (or which comes to the same thing, to make us hurry them over in a slight and careless manner) that life will surely decay. And if we long or frequently intermit them, it will gradually die away.

5. Another sin of omission which frequently brings the soul of a believer into darkness, is the neglect of what was so strongly enjoined, even under the Jewish dispensation, Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart. Now if we do hate our brother in our heart, if we do not rebuke him when we see him in a fault, but suffer sin upon him: this will soon bring leanness into our own soul: seeing hereby we are partakers of his sin. By neglecting to reprove our neighbour, we make his sin our own. We become accountable for it to God: we saw his danger, and gave him no warning. So, if he perish in his iniquity, God may justly require his blood at our hands. No wonder then if by thus grieving the Spirit, we lose the light of his countenance.

6. A third cause of our losing this, is the giving way to some kind of inward sin. For example: we know every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: and that, although this pride of heart should not appear in the outward conversation. Now how easily may a soul filled with peace and joy, fall into this snare of the devil? How natural is it for him to imagine, that he has more grace, more wisdom or strength than he really has? To think more highly of himself than he ought to think? How natural, to glory in something he has received, as if he had not received it? But seeing God continually resisteth the proud, and giveth grace only to the humble, this must certainly obscure, if not wholly destroy the light which before shone on his heart.

7. *The same effect may be produced by giving place to anger, whatever the provocation or occasion be: yea, though it were coloured over with the name of zeal for the truth, or for the glory of God. Indeed all zeal which is any other than the flame of love, is earthly, animal, devilish. It is the flame of wrath: It is flat, sinful anger, neither better, nor worse. And nothing is a greater enemy to the mild, gentle love of God than this: they never did, they never can, subsist together in one breast. In the same proportion as this prevails, love and joy in the Holy Ghost decrease. This is particularly observable in the case of offence, I mean, anger at any of our brethren, at any of those who are united with us either by civil or religious ties. If we give way to the spirit of offence but one hour, we lose the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit: so that instead of amending them we destroy ourselves, and become an easy prey to any enemy that assaults us.

8. *But suppose we are aware of this snare of the devil, we may be attacked from another quarter. When fierceness and anger are asleep, and love alone is waking, we may be no less endangered by desire, which equally tends to darken the soul. This is the sure effect of any foolish desire, any vain or inordinate affection. If we set our affection on things of the earth, on any person or thing under the sun, if we desire any thing but God and what tends to God, if we seek happiness in any creature, the jealous God will surely contend with us: for he can admit of no rival. And if we will not hear his warning voice, and return to him with our whole soul; if we continue to grieve him with our idols, and running after other gods, we shall soon be cold, barren and dry, and the god of this world will blind and darken our hearts.

9. But this he frequently does, even when we do not give way to any positive sin. It is enough, it gives him sufficient advantage, if we do not stir up the gift of God which is in us: if we do not agonize continually to enter in at the strait gate: if we do not earnestly strive for the mastery, and take the kingdom of heaven by violence. There needs no more than not to fight, and we are sure to be conquered. Let us only be careless or faint in our mind, let us be easy and indolent, and our natural darkness will soon return, and overspread our soul. It is enough therefore, if we give way to spiritual sloth: this will effectually darken the soul. It will as surely destroy the light of God, if not so swiftly, as murder or adultery.

10. But it is well to be observed, that the cause of our darkness, (whatsoever it be, whether omission or commission, whether inward or outward sin) is not always nigh at hand. Sometimes the sin which occasioned the present distress, may lie at a considerable distance. It might be committed days or weeks or months before. And that God now withdraws his light and peace, on account of what was done so long ago, is not (as one might at first imagine) an instance of his severity, but rather a proof of his long-suffering and tender mercy. He waited all this time, if haply we would see, acknowledge and correct what was amiss. And in default of this, he at lengths shews his displeasure, if thus at last he may bring us to repentance.

(II.) 1. Another general cause of this darkness is ignorance; which is likewise of various kinds. If men know not the scriptures, if they imagine there are passages either in the Old or New Testament, which assert that all believers without exception, must sometimes be in darkness, this ignorance will naturally bring upon them the darkness which they expect. And how common a case has this been among us? How few are there that do not expect it? And no wonder, seeing they are taught to expect it: seeing their guides lead them into this way. Not only the Mystic writers of the Romish church, but many of the most spiritual and experimental in our own, (very few of the last century excepted) lay it down with all assurance, as a plain, unquestionable scripture-doctrine, and cite many texts to prove it.

2. Ignorance also of the work of God in the soul, frequently occasions this darkness. Men imagine (because so they have been taught, particularly by writers of the Romish communion, whose plausible assertions too many Protestants have received without due examination) that they are not always to walk in luminous faith: that this is only a lower dispensation; that as they rise higher, they are to leave those sensible comforts, and live by naked faith: (naked indeed, if it be stript both of love and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost!) That a state of light and joy is good; but a state of darkness and dryness is better: that it is by these alone we can be purified from pride, love of the world, and inordinate self-love; and that therefore we ought neither to expect nor desire, to walk in the light always. Hence it is (though other reasons may concur) that the main body of pious men in the Romish church, generally walk in a dark, uncomfortable way, and if ever they receive, soon lose the light of God.

(III.) 1. A third general cause of this darkness is temptation. When the candle of the Lord first shines on our head, temptation frequently flees away, and totally disappears. All is calm within: perhaps without too, while God makes our enemies to be at peace with us. It is then very natural to suppose, that we shall not see war any more. And there are instances wherein this calm has continued, not only for weeks, but for months or years. But commonly it is otherwise: in a short time the winds blow, the rains descend, and the floods arise anew. They who know not either the Son or the Father, and consequently, hate his children, when God slackens the bridle which is in their teeth, will shew that hatred in various instances. As of old, he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now: the same cause still producing the same effect. The evil which yet remains in the heart, will then also move afresh: anger and many other roots of bitterness, will endeavour to spring up. At the same time, Satan will not be wanting, to cast in his fiery darts: and the soul will have to wrestle, not only with the world, not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with wicked spirits in high places. Now when so various assaults made at once, and perhaps with the utmost violence, it is not strange if it should occasion not only heaviness, but even darkness in a weak believer. More especially, if he was not watching, if these assaults are made in an hour when he looked not for them: if he expected nothing less, but had “fondly told himself

“The day of evil would return no more.”

2. The force of those temptations which arise from within, will be exceedingly heightened, if we before thought too highly of ourselves, as if we had been cleansed from all sin. And how naturally do we imagine this, during the warmth of our first love? How ready are we to believe, That God has fulfilled in us the whole work of faith with power? That because we feel no sin, we have none in us, but the soul is all love? And well may a sharp attack from an enemy whom we supposed not only conquered but slain, throw us into much heaviness of soul, yea, sometimes into utter darkness. Particularly when we reason with this enemy, instead of instantly calling upon God, and casting ourselves upon him by simple faith, who alone knoweth to deliver his out of temptation.

III. These are the usual causes of this second darkness. Enquire we, thirdly, What is the cure of it?

1. *To suppose that this is one and the same in all cases, is a great and fatal mistake: and yet extremely common even among many who pass for experienced Christians; yea, perhaps take upon them to be teachers in Israel, to be the guides of other souls. Accordingly they know and use but one medicine, whatever be the cause of the distemper. They begin immediately to apply the promises, to preach the gospel, as they call it. To give comfort is the single point at which they aim: in order to which they say many soft and tender things, concerning the love of God to poor, helpless sinners, and the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Now this is quackery indeed, and that of the worst sort, as it tends, if not to kill men’s bodies, yet without the peculiar mercy of God, to destroy both their bodies and souls in hell. It is hard to speak of these daubers with untempered mortar, these promise-mongers, as they deserve. They well deserve the title which has been ignorantly given to others: they are spiritual mountebanks. They do, in effect, make the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. They vilely prostitute the promises of God, by thus applying them to all, without distinction. Whereas indeed the cure of spiritual, as of bodily diseases, must be as various as are the causes of them. The first thing therefore is, to find out the cause, and this will naturally point out the cure.

2. For instance. Is it sin which occasions darkness? What sin? Is it outward sin of any kind? Does your conscience accuse you of committing any sin, whereby you grieve the Holy Spirit of God? Is it on this account that he is departed from you, and that joy and peace are departed with him? And how can you expect they should return, till you put away the accursed thing? Let the wicked forsake his way; cleanse your hands, ye sinners; put away the evil of your doings. So shall your light break out of obscurity: the Lord will return and abundantly pardon.

3. If upon the closest search, you can find no sin of commission which causes the cloud upon your soul, enquire next, if there be not some sin of omission, which separates between God and you? Do you not suffer sin upon your brother? Do you reprove them that sin in your sight? Do you walk in all the ordinances of God? In public, family, private prayer? If not, and you habitually neglect any one of these known duties, how can you expect, that the light of his countenance should continue to shine upon you? Make haste to strengthen the things that remain: then your soul shall live. To-day, if ye will hear his voice, by his grace supply what is lacking. When you hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way; walk thou in it: harden not your heart: be no more disobedient to the heavenly calling. Till the sin, whether of omission or commission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful. It is only skinning the wound over, which still festers and rankles beneath. Look for no peace within till you are at peace with God; which cannot be without fruits meet for repentance.

4. But perhaps you are not conscious of even any sin of omission, which impairs your peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Is there not then some inward sin, which as a root of bitterness springs up in your heart to trouble you? Is not your dryness and barrenness of soul occasioned by your hearts departing from the living God? Has not the foot of pride come against you? Have you not thought of yourself more highly than you ought to think? Have you not in any respect sacrificed to your own net, and burnt incense to your own drag? Have you not ascribed your success in any undertaking, to your own courage, or strength, or wisdom? Have you not boasted of something you have received, as though you have not received it? Have you not gloried in any thing save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you not sought after or desired the praise of men? Have you not taken pleasure in it? If so, you see the way you are to take. If you have fallen by pride, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you in due time. Have not you forced him to depart from you, by giving place to anger? Have you not fretted yourself because of the ungodly, or been envious against the evil-doers? Have you not been offended at any of your brethren? Looking at their (real or imagined) sin, so as to sin yourself against the great law of love, by estranging your heart from them? Then look unto the Lord, that you may renew your strength, that all this sharpness and coldness may be done away, that love and peace and joy may return together, and you may be invariably kind to each other and tender-hearted; forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Have not you given way to any foolish desire? To any kind or degree of inordinate affection? How then can the love of God have place in your heart, till you put away your idols? Be not deceived: God is not mocked: he will not dwell in a divided heart. As long therefore as you cherish Delilah in your bosom, he has no place there: it is vain to hope for a recovery of his light, till you pluck out the right-eye and cast it from you. O let there be no longer delay. Cry to him, that he may enable you so to do! Bewail your own impotence and helplessness; and the Lord being your helper, enter in at the strait gate: take the kingdom of heaven by violence! Cast out every idol from his sanctuary, and the glory of the Lord shall soon appear.

5. Perhaps it is this very thing, the want of striving, spiritual sloth, which keeps your soul in darkness. You dwell at ease in the land: there is no war in your coasts, and so you are quiet and unconcerned. You go on in the same even track of outward duties, and are content, there to abide. And do you wonder mean-time, that your soul is dead? O stir yourself up before the Lord! Arise, and shake yourself from the dust: wrestle with God for the mighty blessing. Pour out your soul unto God in prayer, and continue therein with all perseverance. Watch! Awake out of sleep and keep awake! Otherwise there is nothing to be expected, but that you will be alienated more and more from the light and life of God.

6. If upon the fullest and most impartial examination of yourself, you cannot discern that you at present give way, either to spiritual sloth, or any other inward or outward sin, then call to mind the time that is past. Consider your former tempers, words and actions. Have these been right before the Lord? Commune with him in your chamber and be still, and desire of him to try the ground of your heart, and bring to your remembrance whatever has at any time offended the eyes of his glory. If the guilt of any unrepented sin remain on your soul, it cannot be but you will remain in darkness, till having been renewed by repentance, you are again washed by faith in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.

7. Entirely different will be the manner of the cure, if the cause of the disease be not sin, but ignorance. It may be, ignorance of the meaning of scripture; perhaps occasioned by ignorant commentators; ignorant at least in this respect, however knowing or learned they may be in other particulars. And in this case, that ignorance must be removed, before we can remove the darkness arising from it. We must shew the true meaning of those texts, which have been misunderstood. My design does not permit me to consider all the passages of scripture which have been prest into this service. I shall just mention two or three, which are frequently brought to prove, that all believers must, sooner or later, walk in darkness.

8. One of these is Isaiah l. 10. Who is among you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. But how does it appear either from the text or context, that the person here spoke of ever had light? One who is convinced of sin, feareth the Lord and obeyeth the voice of his servant. And him we should advise, tho’ he was still dark of soul, and had never seen the light of God’s countenance, yet to trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. This text therefore proves nothing less, than that a believer in Christ “must sometimes walk in darkness.”

9. Another text which has been supposed to speak the same doctrine, is Hosea ii. 14. I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. Hence it has been inferred, that God will bring every believer into the wilderness, into a state of deadness and darkness. But it is certain, the text speaks no such thing. For 1. It does not appear, that it speaks of particular believers at all. It manifestly refers to the Jewish nation; and perhaps, to that only. But if it be applicable to particular persons, the plain meaning of it is this, I will draw him by love: I will next convince him of sin, and then comfort him by my pardoning mercy.

10. A third scripture from whence the same inference has been drawn, is that above recited, Ye now have sorrow: but I will see you again; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. This has been supposed to imply, That God would, after a time withdraw himself from all believers: and that they could not, till after they had thus sorrowed, have the joy which no man could take from them. But the whole context shews, that our Lord is here speaking personally to the apostles, and no others; and that he is speaking concerning those particular events, his own death and resurrection. A little while, says he, and ye shall not see me, namely, whilst I am in the grave: And again, a little while, and ye shall see me, when I am risen from the dead. Ye will weep and lament, and the world will rejoice: but your sorrow shall be turned into joy—Ye now have sorrow, because I am about to be taken from your head. But I will see you again, after my resurrection, and your heart shall rejoice. And your joy which I will then give you, no man taketh from you. All this we know was literally fulfilled, in the particular case of the apostles. But no inference can be drawn from hence, with regard to God’s dealings with believers in general.

11. A fourth text (to mention no more) which has been frequently cited, in proof of the same doctrine, is, 1 Pet. iv. 12. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. But this is full as foreign to the point as the preceding. The text, literally rendered, runs thus. Beloved, wonder not at the burning, which is among you, which is for your trial. Now however this may be accommodated to inward trials, in a secondary sense, yet primarily it doubtless refers to martyrdom, and the sufferings connected with it. Neither therefore is this text any thing at all to the purpose for which it is cited. And we may challenge all men to bring one text either from the Old or New Testament, which is any more to the purpose than this.

12. “But is not darkness much more profitable for the soul than light? Is not the work of God in the heart, most swiftly and effectually carried on, during a state of inward suffering? Is not a believer more swiftly and throughly purified, by sorrow than by joy? By anguish and pain and distress and spiritual martyrdoms, than by continual peace?” So the Mystics teach: so it is written in their books; but not in the oracles of God. The scripture no where says, that the absence of God best perfects his work in the heart! Rather his presence, and a clear communion with the Father and the Son. A strong consciousness of this will do more in an hour, than his absence in an age. Joy in the Holy Ghost will far more effectually purify the soul, than the want of that joy. And the peace of God is the best means of refining the soul from the dross of earthly affections. Away then with the idle conceit, that the kingdom of God is divided against itself: that the peace of God and joy in the Holy Ghost are obstructive of righteousness: and that we are saved not by faith, but by unbelief; not by hope, but by despair!

13. So long as men dream thus, they may well walk in darkness: nor can the effect cease, till the cause is removed. But yet we must not imagine, it will immediately cease, even when the cause is no more. When either ignorance or sin has caused darkness, one or the other may be removed, and yet the light which was obstructed thereby, may not immediately return. As it is the free gift of God, he may restore it, sooner or later, as it pleases him. In the case of sin, we cannot reasonably expect, that it should immediately return. The sin began before the punishment, which may therefore justly remain, after the sin is at an end. And even in the natural course of things, tho’ a wound cannot be healed while the dart is sticking in the flesh, yet neither is it healed as soon as that is drawn out; but soreness and pain may remain long after.

14. Lastly, If darkness be occasioned by manifold, heavy and unexpected temptations, the best way of removing and preventing this is, to teach believers always to expect temptation: seeing they dwell in an evil world, among wicked, subtle, malicious spirits, and have an heart capable of all evil. Convince them that the whole work of sanctification, is not (as they imagined) wrought at once: that when they first believe, they are but as new-born babes, who are gradually to grow up, and may expect many storms, before they come to the full stature of Christ. Above all, let them be instructed, when the storm is upon them, not to reason with the devil, but to pray; to pour out their souls before God, and shew him of their trouble. And these are the persons unto whom chiefly we are to apply the great and precious promises: (not to the ignorant, till the ignorance is removed; much less to the impenitent sinner.) To these we may largely and affectionately declare the loving kindness of God our Saviour, and expatiate upon his tender mercies, which have been ever of old. Here we may dwell upon the faithfulness of God, whose word is tried to the uttermost, and upon the virtue of that blood which was shed for us, to cleanse us from all sin. And God will then bear witness to his word, and bring their souls out of trouble. He will say, Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Yea, and that light, if thou walk humbly and closely with God, will shine more and more unto the perfect day.


1 Peter i. 6.

Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

1.IN the preceding discourse I have particularly spoken of that darkness of mind, into which those are often observed to fall, who once walked in the light of God’s countenance. Nearly related to this is the heaviness of soul, which is still more common, even among believers: indeed almost all the children of God, experience this, in an higher or lower degree. And so great is the resemblance between one and the other, that they are frequently confounded together: and we are apt to say indifferently, such an one is in darkness, or such an one is in heaviness; as if they were equivalent terms, one of which implied no more than the other. But they are far, very far from it. Darkness is one thing; heaviness is another. There is a difference, yea a wide, an essential difference, between the former and the latter. And such a difference it is, as all the children of God are deeply concern’d to understand: otherwise nothing will be more easy than for them to slide out of heaviness into darkness. In order to prevent this, I will endeavour to shew,

I. What manner of persons those were, to whom the apostle says, Ye are in heaviness: II. What kind of heaviness they were in. III. What were the causes, and IV. What were the ends of it. I shall conclude with some inferences.

I. 1. I am in the first place to shew, what manner of persons those were, to whom the apostle says, Ye are in heaviness. And, first, It is beyond all dispute, that they were believers, at the time the apostle thus addrest them. For so he expresly says, ver. 5. Ye who are kept through the power of God by faith unto salvation: again, ver. 7. he mentions, the trial of their faith, much more precious than that of gold which perisheth. And yet again, ver. 9, he speaks of their receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls. At the same time therefore that they were in heaviness, they were possessed of living faith. Their heaviness did not destroy their faith: they still endured, seeing him that is invisible.

2. Neither did their heaviness destroy their peace, the peace that passeth all understanding, which is inseparable from true, living faith. This we may easily gather from the second verse: wherein the apostle prays, Not that grace and peace may be given them, but only, that it may be multiplied unto them; that the blessing which they already enjoyed, might be more abundantly bestowed upon them.

3. The persons to whom the apostle here speaks were also full of a living hope. For thus he speaks, ver. 3. Blessed be the GOD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again, me and you, all of us who are sanctified by the Spirit, and enjoy the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, unto a living hope unto an inheritance, that is unto a living hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. So that notwithstanding their heaviness, they still retained an hope full of immortality.

4. And they still rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. They were filled with joy in the Holy Ghost. So ver. 8. the apostle having just mentioned the final revelation of Jesus Christ (namely when he cometh to judge the world) immediately adds, In whom though now ye see him not (not with your bodily eyes) yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Their heaviness therefore was not only consistent with living hope, but also with joy unspeakable: at the same time they were thus heavy, they nevertheless rejoiced with joy full of glory.

5. In the midst of their heaviness they likewise still enjoyed the love of God which had been shed abroad in their hearts, Whom, says the apostle, having not seen, ye love. Tho’ ye have not yet seen him face to face, yet knowing him by faith, ye have obeyed his word My son give me thy heart. He is your God, and your love, the desire of your eyes, and your exceeding great reward. Ye have sought and found happiness in him: ye delight in the Lord, and he hath given you your hearts desire.

6. Once more, though they were heavy, yet were they holy: they retained the same power over sin. They were still kept from this by the power of God: they were obedient children, not fashioned according to their former desires, but as he that had called them is holy, so were they holy in all manner of conversation. Knowing they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without spot and without blemish, they had thro’ the faith and hope which they had in God, purified their souls by the Spirit. So that upon the whole, their heaviness well consisted with faith, with hope, with love of God and man! with the peace of God, with joy in the Holy Ghost, with inward and outward holiness. It did no way impair, much less destroy, any part of the work of God in their hearts. It did not at all interfere with that sanctification of the Spirit, which is the root of all true obedience; neither with the happiness which must needs result from grace and peace reigning in the heart.

II. 1. Hence we may easily learn what kind of heaviness they were in: the second thing which I shall endeavour to shew. The word in the original is λυπηθέντες· made sorry, grieved, from λύπη, grief or sorrow. This is the constant, literal meaning of the word: and this being observed, there is no ambiguity in the expression, nor any difficulty in understanding it. The persons spoken of here were grieved: the heaviness they were in, was neither more nor less than sorrow or grief; a passion which every child of man is well acquainted with.

2. It is probable, our translators rendered it heaviness (tho’ a less common word) to denote two things, first, The degree; and next, the continuance of it. It does indeed seem, that it is not a slight or inconsiderable degree of grief which is here spoken of, but such as makes a strong impression upon, and sinks deep into the soul. Neither does this appear to be a transient sorrow, such as passes away in an hour: but rather such as having taken fast hold of the heart, is not presently shaken off, but continues for some time, as a settled temper, rather than a passion, even in them that have living faith in Christ, and the genuine love of God in their hearts.

3. Even in these this heaviness may sometimes be so deep as to overshadow the whole soul, to give a colour, as it were, to all the affections, such as will appear in the whole behaviour. It may likewise have an influence over the body: particularly in those that are either of a naturally weak constitution, or weakened by some accidental disorder, especially of the nervous kind. In many cases we find the corruptible body presses down the soul; in this, the soul rather presses down the body, and weakens it more and more. Nay, I will not say, that deep and lasting sorrow of heart, may not sometimes weaken a strong constitution, and lay the foundation of such bodily disorders, as are not easily removed. And yet all this may consist with a measure of that faith which still worketh by love.

4. This may well be termed a fiery trial: and though it is not the same with that the apostle speaks of in the fourth chapter, yet many of the expressions there used concerning outward sufferings, may be accommodated to this inward affliction. They cannot indeed with any propriety be applied to them that are in darkness: these do not, cannot rejoice; neither is it true, that the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon them. But he frequently doth on those that are in heaviness, so that though sorrowful, yet are they always rejoicing.

III. 1. But to proceed to the third point, What are the causes of such sorrow or heaviness in a true believer? The apostle tells us clearly; Ye are in heaviness, says he, through manifold temptations: ποικίλοις manifold; not only many in number, but of many kinds. They may be varied and diversified a thousand ways, by the change or addition of numberless circumstances. And his very diversity and variety make it more difficult to guard against them. Among these we may rank all bodily disorders: particularly acute diseases, and violent pain of every kind, whether affecting the whole body or the smallest part of it. It is true, some who have enjoyed uninterrupted health and have felt none of these, may make light of them, and wonder that sickness or pain of body, should bring heaviness upon the mind. And perhaps, one in a thousand is of so peculiar a constitution, as not to feel pain, like other men. So hath it pleased God to shew his almighty power by producing some of these prodigies of nature, who have seemed, not to regard pain at all, though of the severest kind: if that contempt of pain was not owing partly to the force of education, partly to a preternatural cause; to the power either of good or evil spirits, who raised those men above the state of mere nature. But abstracting from these particular cases, it is in general a just observation,

That “Pain is perfect misery, and extreme

Quite overturns all patience.”

And even where this is prevented by the grace of God, where men do possess their souls in patience, it may nevertheless occasion much inward heaviness, the soul sympathizing with the body.

2. All diseases of long continuance, though less painful, are apt to produce the same effect. When God appoints over us consumption or the chilling and burning ague, if it be not speedily removed, it will not only consume the eyes, but cause sorrow of heart. This is eminently the case with regard to all those which are termed nervous disorders. And faith does not overturn the course of nature: natural causes still produce natural effects. Faith no more hinders the sinking of the spirits (as it is called) in an hysteric illness, than the rising of the pulse in a fever.

3. *Again, when calamity cometh as a whirlwind, and poverty as an armed man, is this a little temptation? Is it strange, if it occasion sorrow and heaviness? Although this also may appear but a small thing, to those that stand at a distance, or who look and pass by on the other side, yet it is otherwise to them who feel it. Having food and raiment indeed (the latter word σκεπάσματα implies lodging as well as apparel) we may, if the love of God is in our hearts, be therewith content. But what shall they do, who have none of these? Who as it were embrace the rock for a shelter? Who have only the earth to lie upon, and only the sky to cover them? Who have not a dry, or warm, much less a clean abode for themselves and their little ones? No, nor cloathing to keep themselves, or those they love next themselves, from pinching cold, either by day or night? I laugh at the stupid Heathen, crying out

Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se

Quam quod ridiculos homines facit!

Has poverty nothing worse in it than this, that it makes men liable to be laughed at? ’Tis a sign this idle poet talked by rote of the things which he knew not. Is not want of food something worse than this? God pronounced it as a curse upon man, that he should earn it by the sweat of his brow. But how many are there in this Christian country, that toil and labour, and sweat, and have it not at last, but struggle with weariness and hunger together? Is it not worse, for one after an hard day’s labour, to come back to a poor, cold, dirty, uncomfortable lodging, and to find there not even the food which is needful to repair his wasted strength? You that live at ease in the earth, that want nothing but eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand how well God has dealt with you: is it not worse to seek bread, day by day, and find none? Perhaps to find the comfort also of five or six children, crying for what he has not to give. Were it not, that he is restrained by an unseen hand, would he not soon curse God and die? O want of bread! Want of bread! Who can tell what this means, unless he hath felt it himself? I am astonished, it occasions no more than heaviness even in them that believe!

4. *Perhaps next to this we may place the death of those who were near and dear unto us: of a tender parent, and one not much declined into the vale of years: of a beloved child just rising into life, and clasping about our heart: of a friend, that was as our own soul: next the grace of God, the last, best gift of heaven. And a thousand circumstances may inhance the distress; perhaps the child, the friend, died in our embrace! Perhaps, was snatched away, when we looked not for it! Flourishing, cut down like a flower! In all these cases, we not only may, but ought to be affected: it is the design of God, that we should. He would not have us stocks and stones: he would have our affections regulated, not extinguished. Therefore

“Nature unreprov’d may drop a tear:”

There may be sorrow without sin.

5. *A still deeper sorrow we may feel, for those who are dead while they live, on account of the unkindness, ingratitude, apostacy of those, who were united to us in the closest ties. Who can express what a lover of souls may feel, for a friend, a brother dead to God? For an husband, a wife, a parent, a child, rushing into sin as an horse into the battle, and in spite of all arguments and persuasions, hasting to work out his own damnation? And this anguish of spirit may be heightened to an inconceivable degree, by the consideration, that he who is now posting to destruction, once ran well in the way of life. Whatever he was in time past, serves now to no other purpose, than to make our reflections on what he is, more piercing and afflictive.

6. In all these circumstances we may be assured our great adversary will not be wanting to improve his opportunity. He who is always walking about seeking whom he may devour, will then especially use all his power, all his skill, if haply he may gain any advantage, over the soul that is already cast down. He will not be sparing of his fiery darts, such as are most likely to find an entrance, and to fix most deeply in the heart, by their suitableness to the temptation that assaults it. He will labour to inject unbelieving, or blasphemous, or repining thoughts: he will suggest, that God does not regard, does not govern the earth: or at least that he does not govern it aright, not by the rules of justice and mercy. He will endeavour to stir up the heart against God, to renew our natural enmity against him. And if we attempt to fight him with his own weapons, if we begin to reason with him, more and more heaviness will undoubtedly ensue, if not utter darkness.

7. It has been frequently supposed, that there is another cause (if not of darkness, at least) of heaviness, namely, God’s withdrawing himself from the soul, because it is his sovereign will. Certainly he will do this, if we grieve his holy Spirit, either by outward or inward sin: either by doing evil, or neglecting to do good: by giving way either to pride or anger, to spiritual sloth, to foolish desire or inordinate affection. But that he ever withdraws himself, because he will, merely because it is his good pleasure, I absolutely deny: there is no text in all the bible which gives any colour for such a supposition. Nay it is a supposition contrary not only to many particular texts, but to the whole tenor of scripture. It is repugnant to the very nature of God: it is utterly beneath his majesty and wisdom, (as an eminent writer strongly expresses it) “to play at bo-peep with his creatures.” It is inconsistent both with his justice and mercy, and with the sound experience of all his children.

8. One more cause of heaviness is mentioned by many of those who were termed mystic authors. And the notion has crept in, I know not how, even among plain people who have no acquaintance with them. I cannot better explain this, than in the words of a late writer, who relates this, as her own experience. “I continued so happy in my Beloved, that altho’ I should have been forced to live a vagabond in a desert, I should have found no difficulty in it. This state had not lasted long, when in effect, I found myself led into a desert.—I found myself in a forlorn condition, altogether poor, wretched and miserable.—The proper source of this grief is, the knowledge of ourselves, by which we find, that there is an extreme unlikeness between God and us. We see ourselves most opposite to him, and that our inmost soul is entirely corrupted, depraved and full of all kind of evil and malignity, of the world and flesh and all sorts of abominations:” from hence it has been inferred, That the knowledge of ourselves, without which we should perish everlastingly, must even after we have attained justifying faith, occasion the deepest heaviness.

9. But upon this I would observe, 1. In the preceding paragraph, this writer says, “Hearing I had not a true faith in Christ, I offered myself up to God, and immediately felt his love.” It may be so; and yet it does not appear, That this was justification. ’Tis more probable, it was no more then what are usually termed the drawings of the Father. And if so, the heaviness and darkness which followed, was no other than conviction of sin, which in the nature of things must precede that faith whereby we are justified. 2. Suppose she was justified almost the same moment she was convinced of wanting faith, there was then no time for that gradually increasing self-knowledge which uses to precede justification. In this case therefore it came after, and was probably the more severe, the less it was expected. 3. It is allowed, there will be a far deeper, a far clearer and fuller knowledge of our inbred sin, of our total corruption by nature, after justification, than ever there was before it. But this need not occasion darkness of soul: I will not say That it must bring us into heaviness. Were it so, the apostle would not have used that expression, if need be: for there would be an absolute, indispensable need of it, for all that would know themselves: that is in effect, for all that would know the perfect love of God, and be thereby made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. But this is by no means the case: On the contrary, God may increase the knowledge of ourselves to any degree, and increase in the same proportion the knowledge of himself and the experience of his love. And in this case, there would be no “desert, no misery, no forlorn condition;” but love and peace and joy gradually springing up into everlasting life.

IV. 1. For what ends then, (which was the fourth thing to be considered) does God permit heaviness to befal so many of his children? The apostle gives us a plain and direct answer to this important question; That the trial of their faith, which is much more precious than gold that perisheth though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise and honour and glory, at the revelation of Jesus Christ, ver. 7. There may be an allusion to this, in that well-known passage of the fourth chapter (altho’ it primarily relates to quite another thing, as has been already observed:) Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, but rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ: That when his glory shall be revealed, ye may likewise rejoice with exceeding great joy, ver. 12, &c.

2. Hence we learn, that the first and great end of God’s permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on his children, is the trial of their faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire, is purified thereby, is separated from its dross. And so is faith, in the fire of temptation; the more it is tried, the more it is purified. Yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness of God. This then, to increase our faith is one gracious end of God’s permitting those manifold temptations.

3. They serve to try, to purify, to confirm and increase that living hope also, whereunto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us again of his abundant mercy. Indeed our hope cannot but increase, in the same proportion with our faith. On this foundation it stands: believing in his name, living by faith in the Son of God, we hope for, we have a confident expectation of, the glory which shall be revealed. And consequently, whatever strengthens our faith; increases our hope also. At the same time it increases our joy in the Lord, which cannot but attend an hope full of immortality. In this view the apostle exhorts believers in the other chapter, Rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ. On this very account, happy are you; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. And hereby ye are enabled, even in the midst of sufferings to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

4. They rejoice the more, because the trials which increase their faith and hope, increase their love also: both their gratitude to God for all his mercies, and their good-will to all mankind. Accordingly the more deeply sensible they are, of the loving-kindness of God their Saviour, the more is their heart inflamed with love to him who first loved us. The clearer and stronger evidence they have of the glory that shall be revealed, the more do they love him who hath purchased it for them, and given them the earnest thereof in their hearts. And this, the increase of their love, is another end of the temptations permitted to come upon them.

5. Yet another is, Their advance in holiness; holiness of heart and holiness of conversation: the latter naturally resulting from the former; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that worketh by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from love of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that sanctified afflictions have (thro’ the grace of God) an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Thro’ the operation of his Spirit, they humble more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and self-will, crucify us to the world; and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in God.

6. And all these terminate in that great end, That our faith, hope, love and holiness, may be found (if it doth not yet appear) unto praise from God himself, and honour from men and angels, and glory assigned by the great Judge to all that have endured to the end. And this will be assigned in that awful day to every man according to his works, according to the work which God had wrought in his heart, and the outward works which he has wrought for God: and likewise according to what he had suffered; so that all these trials are unspeakable gain. So many ways do these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

7. Add to this the advantage which others may receive, by seeing our behaviour under affliction. We find by experience, example frequently makes a deeper impression upon us than precept. And what examples have a stronger influence, not only on those who are partakers of like precious faith, but even on them who have not known God, than that of a soul calm and serene in the midst of storms, sorrowful yet always rejoicing: meekly accepting whatever is the will of God, however grievous it may be to nature: saying in sickness and pain, The cup which my Father hath given me shall I not drink it? In loss or want, The Lord gave: the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!

V. 1. I am to conclude with some inferences. And, first, How wide is the difference between darkness of soul and heaviness? Which nevertheless are so generally confounded with each other, even by experienced Christians! Darkness, or the wilderness-state implies a total loss of joy in the Holy Ghost: heaviness does not; in the midst of this we may rejoice with joy unspeakable. They that are in darkness have lost the peace of God; they that are in heaviness have not: so far from it, that at the very time peace as well as grace may be multiplied unto them. In the former, the love of God is waxed cold, if it be not utterly extinguished: in the latter it retains its full force, or rather increases daily. In these, faith itself, if not totally lost, is however grievously decayed. Their evidence and conviction of things not seen, particularly of the pardoning love of God, is not so clear or strong as in time past: and their trust in him is proportionally weakened. Those, tho’ they see him not, yet have a clear, unshaken confidence in God, and an abiding evidence of that love, whereby all their sins are blotted out. So that as long as we can distinguish faith from unbelief, hope from despair, peace from war, the love of God from the love of the world, we may infallibly distinguish heaviness from darkness.

2. We may learn from hence, secondly, That there may be need of heaviness, but there can be no need of darkness. There may be need of our being in heaviness for a season, in order to the ends above recited: at least, in this sense, as it is a natural result of those manifold temptations, which are needful to try and increase our faith, to confirm and inlarge our hope, to purify our heart from all unholy tempers, and to perfect us in love. And by consequence they are needful, in order to brighten our crown, and add to our eternal weight of glory. But we cannot say, that darkness is needful, in order to any of these ends. It is no way conducive to them: the loss of faith, hope, love, is surely neither conducive to holiness, nor to the increase of that reward in heaven, which will be in proportion to our holiness on earth.

3. From the apostle’s manner of speaking we may gather, thirdly, That even heaviness is not always needful. Now, for a season, if need be: so it is not needful for all persons; nor for any person, at all times. God is able, he hath both power and wisdom, to work when he pleases, the same work of grace, in any soul, by other means. And in some instances he does so: he causes those whom it pleaseth him to go on from strength to strength, even till they perfect holiness in his fear, with scarce any heaviness at all: as having an absolute power over the heart of man, and moving all the springs of it at his pleasure. But these cases are rare: God generally sees good to try acceptable men in the furnace of affliction. So that manifold temptations and heaviness, more or less, are usually the portion of his dearest children.

4. We ought therefore, lastly, to watch and pray and use our utmost endeavours to avoid falling into darkness. But we need not be sollicitous how to avoid, so much as how to improve by heaviness. Our great care should be, so to behave ourselves under it, so to wait upon the Lord therein, that it may fully answer all the design of his love, in permitting it to come upon us: that it may be a means of increasing our faith, of confirming our hope, of perfecting us in all holiness. Whenever it comes, let us have an eye to these gracious ends, for which it is permitted, and use all diligence, that we may not make void the counsel of God against ourselves. Let us earnestly work together with him, by the grace which he is continually giving us, in purifying ourselves from all pollution both of flesh and spirit, and daily growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, till we are received into his everlasting kingdom!

The End of the Third Volume.


1 ‒ De mortalitate.
2 ‒ Carnis & corporis multa ac: gravia tormenta.
3 ‒ Gen. i. 26, 27.
4 ‒ Eph. iv. 24.
5 ‒ Gen. i. 31.
6 ‒ Gen. iii. 8.
7 ‒ Q. 163, 165.

Transcriber’s Notes.

The following corrections have been made in the text:
 – numeral ‘2’ was skipped
(3. To consider this a little more)
 – ‘Ἀγωνίζεθε’ replaced with ‘Ἀγωνίζεσθε’
(Ἀγωνίζεσθε εἰσελθεῖν)
 – ‘ἄρξηθε ἔχω ἐσἀναι’ replaced with ‘ἄρξησθε ἔχω ἐστάναι’
(ἄρξησθε ἔχω ἐστάναι)
 – ‘2’ replaced with ‘9’
(9. And if thou art throughly)
 – duplicated paragraph number ‘10.’
(10. Consider this well:)
 – ‘Jehonabab’ replaced with ‘Jehonadab’
(as even Jehonadab was)
 – ‘Jehonabab’ replaced with ‘Jehonadab’
(Jehonadab as well as all his posterity)
 – ‘it’ replaced with ‘is’
(whosoever is born of God)
 – ‘λαμθὰνειν’ replaced with ‘λαμβάνειν’
(οὗ ἔμελλον λαμβάνειν οἱ πιστεύοντες εἰς αὐτόν)
 – duplicated paragraph number ‘2.’
(2. With regard to the)
 – ‘withold’ replaced with ‘withhold’
(he cannot withhold from thee)
 – duplicated paragraph number ‘6.’
(6. *In order to this,)
 – ‘Ἔλεγκος πραγμάτων οὐ βλετομένων’ replaced with ‘Ἔλεγχος πραγμάτων οὐ βλεπομένων’
(Ἔλεγχος πραγμάτων οὐ βλεπομένων)
 – ‘as’ replaced with ‘or’
(or has not)
 – duplicated word removed ‘to’
(saw them all to be very good:)
 – Omitted word added ‘A.’
(A. Baptism is a sacrament)

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Works of the Rev. John Wesley,
Vol. 3 (of 32), by John Wesley


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