What Christ hath done to purchase, procure, and bring about our justification before God, is mentioned already, viz. That he stood in the room of sinners, engaging for them as their cautioner, undertaking, and at length paying down the ransom; becoming sin, or a sacrifice for sin, and a curse for them, and so laying down his life a ransom to satisfy divine justice; and this he hath made known in the gospel, calling sinners to an accepting of him as their only Mediator, and to a resting upon him for life and salvation; and withal, working up such, as belong to the election of grace, to an actual closing with him upon the conditions of the covenant, and to an accepting of him, believing in him, and resting upon him, as satisfied with, and acquiescing in that sovereign way of salvation and justification through a crucified Mediator.
Now, for such as would make use of Christ as the way to the Father in the point of justification, those things are requisite; to which we shall only premise this word of caution, That we judge not the want of these requisites a ground to exempt any, that heareth the gospel, from the obligation to believe and rest upon Christ as he is offered in the gospel.
1. There must be a conviction of sin and misery. A conviction of original guilt, whereby we are banished out of God's presence and favour, and are in a state of enmity and death, are come short of the glory of God, Rom. iii. 23; becoming dead or under the sentence of death, through the offence of one, Rom. v. 15; being made sinners by one man's disobedience, verse 19, and therefore under the reigning power of death, verse 17, and under that judgment that came upon all men to condemnation, verse 18. And of original innate wickedness, whereby the heart is filled with enmity against God, and is a hater of him and all his ways, standing in full opposition to him and to his holy laws; loving to contradict and resist him in all his actings; despising and undervaluing all his condescensions of love; obstinately refusing his goodness and offers of mercy; and peremptorily persisting in rebellion and heart-opposition; not only not accepting his kindness and offers of mercy, but contemning them, trampling them under foot as embittered against him. As also, there must be a conviction of our actual transgressions, whereby we have corrupted our ways yet more, run farther away from God, brought on more wrath upon our souls, according to that sentence of the law, "Cursed is everyone that abideth not in all things that are written in the law to do them," Deut. xxvii. 26. Gal. iii. 10. What way this conviction is begun and carried on in the soul, and to what measure it must come, I cannot now stand to explain; only, in short, know, That upon whatever occasion it be begun, whether by a word carried home to the heart by the finger of God, or by some sharp and crossing dispensation, fear of approaching death, some heinous out-breaking, or the like, it is a real thing, a heart-reaching conviction, not general and notional, but particular, plain, and pinching, affecting the heart with fear and terror, making the soul seriously and really to mind this matter, to be taken up with the thoughts of it, and anxiously and earnestly to cry out, "What shall I do to be saved?" and finally, will make the soul willing to hearken and hear what hopes of mercy there is in the gospel, and to embrace the way of salvation which is there laid down. And the reason of this is, because Christ himself tells us, "The whole needeth not the physician, but the sick," Matt. ix. 12. "He is not come to call the righteous," that is, such as are righteous in their own eyes, "but sinners," that is, such as are now no more whole at the heart, as seeing no evil, no hazard or danger, but pricked and pierced with the sense of their lost condition, being under the heavy wrath and vengeance of the great God, because of sin; and seeing their own vileness, cursedness, wickedness and desperate madness. Because naturally we hate God and Christ, John xv. 23-25, and have a strong and natural antipathy at the way of salvation through Jesus, therefore nothing but strong and inevitable necessity will drive us to a compliance with this gospel device of love.
2. There must be some measure of humiliation. Under this conviction the man is bowed down, and made mute before God; no more boasting of his goodness and of his happy condition; no high or great thoughts of his righteousness; for all are looked on now as "filthy rags," Isa. lxv. 6. "What things were as gain before to the soul, must now be counted loss, yea, and as dung," Philip, iii. 7, 8. The man must be cast down in himself, and far from high and conceity thoughts of himself, or of any thing he ever did or can do. "For the Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble," James iv. 6; 1 Pet. v. 5. "He reviveth the spirit of the humble," Isa. lvii. 15. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," Matt. xviii. 4, and xxiii. 12; Luke xiv. 11, and xviii. 14.
3. There must be a despairing of getting help or relief out of this condition, by ourselves, or any thing we can do; a conviction of the unprofitableness of all things under the sun for our relief. No expectation of help from our supposed good heart, good purposes, good deeds, works of charity, many prayers, commendations of others, sober and harmless walking, or anything else within us or without us that is not Christ. For, so long as we have the least hope or expectation of doing our own business without Christ, we will not come to him. Our heart hangeth so after the old way of salvation through works, that we cannot endure to hear of any other, nor can we yield to any other. Could we but have heaven by the way of works, we would spare no pains, no cost, no labour, no expenses; nay, we would put ourselves to much pain and torment by whippings, cuttings, fastings, watchings, and the like; we would spare our first-born; nay, we would dig our graves in a rock with our nails, and cut our own days, could we but get heaven by this means; such is our antipathy at the way of salvation through a crucified Christ, that we would choose any way but that, cost what it would; therefore, before we can heartily close with Christ and accept of him, we must be put from those refuges of lies, and see that there is nothing but a disappointment written on them all, that all our prayers, fastings, cries, duties, reformations, sufferings, good wishes, good deeds, &c. are nothing in his eyes, but so many provocations to the eyes of his jealousy, and so, further causes of our misery.
4. There must be a rational, deliberate, and resolute relinquishing of all those things in ourselves, on which our heart is ready to dote. The man being convinced of the vanity of all things by which he hath been hoping for salvation, must now purpose to lose his grips of them, to turn his back upon them, to quit them with purpose of heart, and to say to them, get you hence, as Isa. xxx. 22. This is to deny ourselves, which we must do ere we become his disciples, Matt. xvi. 24. This is to forsake our father's house, Psalm xlv. 10, and to pluck out our right eye, and to cut off our right arm, Matth. v. 29, 30. This abandoning of all our false propes and subterfuges must be resolute, over the belly of much opposition within, from the carnal and natural inclinations of the heart; and of much opposition without, from Satan's ensnaring suggestions and deceitful temptations: It must be a real, rational act of the soul, upon solid and thorough conviction of their unprofitableness, yea, of their dangerousness and destructiveness.
5. There must be some knowledge of the nature of the gospel covenant, and of the way which now God hath chosen whereby to glorify his grace in the salvation of poor sinners. That God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost thought good, for the glory of free grace and wisdom, in a way of justice and mercy, to send Jesus Christ to assume man's nature, and so become God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever; and to become under the law, to undergo the curse thereof, and to die the cursed death of the cross, to satisfy justice, and pay the ransom for the redemption of the elect. In which undertaking our Lord was a servant, Isa. xlii. 1, and xlix. 6, and lii. 13, and liii. 11. Zech. iii. 8. Matt. xii. 18; and had furniture from God for all his undertaking, Isa. xlii. 1, and lxi. 1, 2. Matt. xii. 18; and had a promise of seeing his seed, and of prolonging his days, &c. Isa. xliii. 10, 11. Thus there was a covenant of redemption betwixt God and the Mediator; and the Mediator undertaking, was obliged to perform all that he undertook, and accordingly did so. For, as the Lord laid on him, or caused to meet together on him, "the iniquity of us all," Isa. liii. 6, so in due time "he bare our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him. He was cut off out of the land of the living, and stricken for the transgression of his people; he made his soul an offering for sin, and bare the iniquities of his people. Pouring out his soul unto death he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors," Isa. liii. 4, 5, 10, 11, 12. So "that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin (or by a sacrifice for sin) condemned sin in the flesh," Rom. viii. 3, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," verse 4. Thus "he made him sin (or a sacrifice for sin) that we might become righteous," 2 Cor. v. 20; and "he was once offered to bear the sins of many," Heb. ix. 28; and "he, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God," verse 14, and "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," 1 Pet. ii. 24. There must, I say, be some knowledge of, and acquaintance with this great mystery of the gospel, wherein is declared "the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 10, and with the noble design of God, in sending his Son, after this manner, to die the death, that condemned sinners might live, and return to the bosom of God; as redeemed "not with gold or silver, or corruptible things but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," 1 Pet. i. 18. And being "so redeemed by blood, to become kings and priests unto God," 1 Pet. ii. 2. Rev. v. 9, 10. The man must not be ignorant of this, else all will be in vain. I do not determine how distinct and full this knowledge must be; but sure there must be so much knowledge of it, as will give the soul ground of hope, and, in expectation of salvation by this way, cause it turn its back upon all other ways, and account itself happy if it could once win here.
6. There must be a persuasion of the sufficiency, completeness and satisfactoriness of the way of salvation through this crucified Mediator, else the soul will not be induced to leave its other courses, and betake itself to this alone. He must be sure that salvation is only to be had this way, and that undoubtedly it will be had this way, that so with confidence he may cast himself over on this way, and sweetly sing of a noble outgate. And therefore he must believe, that Christ is really God as well as man, and a true man as well as God; that he is fully furnished for the work of redemption, having the Spirit given to him without measure; and endued fully and richly with all qualifications fitting for all our necessities, and enabling him to "save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him," Heb. vii. 25; that "he is made of God to us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification," 1 Cor. i. 30; that "all power in heaven and in earth is given unto him," Matt. xxviii. 18; that "all things are put under his feet;" and that "he is given to be Head over all things to the church," Eph. i. 22; that "in him dwelleth all fulness," Col. i. 19; that "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3; yea, "that in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;" so that we are "complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power," verses 9, 10.
7. The soul must know that he is not only an able and all-sufficient Mediator, but that also he is willing and ready to redeem and save all that will come. For all the preceding particulars will but increase his sorrow and torment him more, so long as he supposeth, through ignorance and the suggestion of Satan, that he hath no part in that redemption, no access to it, no ground of hope of salvation by it. Therefore it is necessary that the soul conceive not only a possibility, but also a probability of help this way, and that the dispensation of the gospel of grace, and the promulgation and offer of these good news to him, speak out so much, that the patience of God waiting long, and his goodness renewing the offers, confirmeth this; that his serious pressing, his strong motives, on the one hand, and his sharp threatenings on the other; his reiterated commands, his ingeminated obtestations; his expressed sorrow and grief over such as would not come to him; his upbraiding and objurations of such as do obstinately refuse, and the like, put his willingness to save such as will come to him out of all question. Yea, his obviating of objections, and taking all excuses out of their mouth, maketh the case plain and manifest, so that such as will not come are left without excuse, and have no impediment lying in the way but their own unwillingness.
8. The man must know upon what terms and conditions Christ offereth himself in the gospel, viz. upon condition of accepting of him, believing in him, and resting upon him; and that no other way we can be made partakers of the good things purchased by Christ, but by accepting of him as he is offered in the gospel, that is to say, freely, "without price or money," Isa. lv. 1, absolutely without reservation, wholly, and for all ends, &c. For, till this be known, there will be no closing with Christ; and till there be a closing with Christ, there is no advantage to be had by him. The soul must be married to him as an husband, fixed to him as the branches to the tree, united to him as the members to the head, become one with him, "one spirit," 1 Cor. vi. 17. See John xv. 5. Eph. v. 30. The soul must close with him for all things, adhere to him upon all hazards, take him and the sharpest cross that followeth him. Now, I say, the soul must be acquainted with these conditions; for it must act deliberately and rationally here. Covenanting with Christ is a grave business, and requireth deliberation, posedness of soul, rational resolution, full purpose of heart, and satisfaction of soul, and therefore the man must be acquainted with the conditions of the new covenant.
9. There must be a satisfaction with the terms of the gospel, and the heart must actually close with Christ as he is offered in the gospel. The heart must open to him, and take him in, Rev. iii. 20. The soul must embrace and receive him, John i. 12. The man must take him as his Lord and Master, King, Priest, and Prophet; must give up himself to him as his leader and commander, and resolve to follow him in all things, and thus close a bargain with him; for, till this be done, there is no union with Christ, and, till there be an union with Christ, there is no partaking of the fruits of his redemption as to justification, no pardon, no acceptance, no access to the favour of God, nor peace nor joy in the Holy Ghost, no getting of the conscience sprinkled, nor no intimation of love or favour from God, &c.
10. There must be a leaning to and resting upon him and on his perfect sacrifice. The soul must sit down here as satisfied, and acquiesce in this complete mediation of his. This is to believe on him, to rest on him, John iii. 18. 1 Pet. ii. 6, as an all-sufficient help. This is to cast the burden of a broken covenant, of a guilty conscience, of deserved wrath, of the curse of the law, &c. upon him, that he may bear away those evils from us. This is to put on the Lord Jesus (in part), Rom. xiii. 14; to cover ourselves with his righteousness from the face of justice, to stand in this armour of proof against the accusations of law, Satan, and an evil conscience. This is to flee to him as our city of refuge, that we may be safe from the avenger of blood. This is to make him our refuge from the storm of God's anger, and a shadow from the heat of his wrath, Isa. xxv. 4, and "our hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest," and as the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land," Isa. xxxii. 2. When we hide ourselves in him as the complete cautioner that hath fully satisfied justice, and "desire to be found in him alone, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," Phil. iii. 9. This is to lay our hand on the head of the sacrifice, when we rest on this sacrifice, and expect salvation through it alone. This is to cast ourselves in Christ's arms, as peremptorily resolving to go no other way to the Father, and to plead no other righteousness before God's bar but Christ's; that is faith, yea, the lively acting of justifying faith.
Thus then is Christ made use of as the way to the Father, in the point of justification, when the poor awakened sinner, convinced of his sin and misery, of his own inability to help himself, of the insufficiency of all means beside Christ, of Christ's all-sufficiency, readiness, and willingness to help, of the equity and reasonableness of the conditions on which he is offered, and life through him, is now content and fully satisfied with this way, actually renouncing all other ways whatsoever, and doth with heart and hand embrace Jesus Christ, and take him as he is offered in the gospel, to make use of him for all things, to Jean to him, and rest upon him in all hazards, and particularly, to refuge itself under his wings, and to rest there with complacency, satisfaction, and delight, and hide itself from the wrath of God and all accusations.
Yet it should be known, that this act of faith, whereby the soul goeth out to Christ, and accepteth of and leaneth to him, is not alike in all.
1. In some it may be more lively, strong and active, like the centurion's faith, that could argue syllogistically, Matt. viii. 8, &c, which Christ looked upon as a great faith, a greater whereof he had not found, no not in Israel, verse 10; and like the faith of the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv. 21, &c, that would take no naysay, but of seeming refusals did make arguments, which Christ commendeth as a great faith, verse 28. But in others it may be more weak and fainting, not able to reason aright for its own comfort and strength, as Matt, vi. 30, but is mixed with much fear, as Matt. viii. 26, yea, and with much faithfulness, so that the soul must cry, "Lord, help my unbelief!" Mark ix. 24.
2. In some the acts and actings of this faith may be more clear and discernible, both by themselves, and by spiritual onlookers; in others, so covered over with a heap of doubts, unbelief, jealousy, and other corruption, that the actings of it can hardly, or not at all, be perceived by themselves or others; so that nothing shall be heard but complaints, fears, doubtings, and objections.
3. In some, this faith may have strong and perceptible actings, wrestling through much discouragement and opposition, and many difficulties; as in the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv.; running through with peremptory resoluteness, saying, with Job, chap. xiii. 15, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" and thus taking the kingdom of heaven with violence. In others it may be so weak, that the least opposition or discouragement may be sufficient to make the soul give over hope, and almost despair of overcoming and winning through, and be as a bruised reed or a smoking flax.
4. In some, though it appear not strong and violent or wilful (in a manner) in its actings, yet it may be firm, fixed, and resolute in staying upon him, Isa. xxvi. 3, 4, and trusting in him, Psalm cxxv. 1, resolving to hing there, and if it perish, it perisheth; in others weak and bashful.
5. In some it may be yet weaker, going out in strong and vehement hungerings, Matt. v. 6. The man dare not say, that he doth believe or that he doth adhere to Christ and stay upon him; yet he dare say, he longeth for him, and panteth after him, as ever "the hart doth after the water-brooks," Psalm xlii. 1, 2; he hungereth and thirsteth for him, and cannot be satisfied with any thing without him.
6. In some, it may be so weak, that the soul can only perceive the heart looking out after him; upon little more ground than a maybe it shall be helped, Isa. xlv. 22. They look to him for salvation, being convinced that there is no other way; and resolved to follow no other way, they resolve to lie at his door, waiting and looking for a sight of the king's face, and to lie waiting till they die, if no better may be.
7. In some, it may be so weak, that nothing more can be perceived but a satisfaction with the terms of the covenant, a willingness to accept of the bargain, and an heart consenting thereunto, though they dare not say that they actually close therewith, yea, nor dare say that they shall be welcome, Rev. xxii. 17.
8. In some, it may be so weak and low, that they cannot say that they have any right hunger or desire after him, nor that their heart doth rightly and really consent to the covenant of grace; yet they would fain be at it, and cry out, O for a willing heart! O for ardent desires! O for a right hunger! and they are dissatisfied, and cannot be reconciled with their hearts for not desiring more, hungering more, consenting more; so that, if they had this, they would think themselves happy and up-made. And thus we see their faith is so low, that it appeareth in nothing more manifestly, than in their complainings of the want of it.
So then, the poor weak believer needeth not to be so far discouraged as to despair and give over the matter as hopeless and lost; let him hang on, depend and wait. A weak faith to-day may become stronger within a short time. He that laid the foundation can and will finish the building, for all his works are perfect. And a weak faith, when true, will prove saving, and lay hold on a saving strong Mediator.
Moreover, as to the acting of faith on Christ's death and sacrifice for the stopping the mouth of conscience, law, Satan, and for the opposing to the pursuing justice of God because of sin, it may sometimes be strong, distinct, clear, and resolute; at other times again be weak, mixed, or accompanied with much fear, perplexity, doubting, and distrust, because of their own seen unworthiness, many failings, doubtings of the sincerity of their repentance, and the like.
This is a main business, and of great concernment, yet many are not much troubled about it, nor exercised at the heart hereabout, as they ought, deceiving themselves with foolish imaginations: For,
1. They think they were believers all their days, they never doubted of God's grace and good-will, they had always a good heart for God, though they never knew what awakened conscience, or sense of the wrath of God meant.
2. Or they think, because God is merciful, he will not be so severe as to stand upon all those things that ministers require; forgetting that he is a just God, and a God of truth, that will do according to what he hath said.
3. Or they suppose it is an easy matter to believe, and not such a difficult thing as it is called; not considering or believing, that no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead, will work up the heart unto faith.
4. Or they resolve, that they will do it afterward, at some more convenient season; not perceiving the cunning slight of Satan in this, nor considering, that faith is not in their power, but the gift of God; and that, if they lay not hold on the call of God, but harden their heart in their day, God may judicially blind them, so that these things shall be hid from their eyes; and so that occasion, they pretend to wait for, never come.
Oh! if such whom this mainly concerneth, could be induced to enter into this way; considering,
1. That except they enter into this way they cannot be safe, the wrath of God will pursue them, the avenger of blood will overtake them; no salvation but here.
2. That in this way is certain salvation; this way will infallibly lead to the Father; for he keepeth in the way, and bringeth safe home, Exod. xxiii. 20.
3. 'Tis the old path and the good way, Jer. vi. 16; all the saints have the experience of this, who are already come to glory. And,
4. It is a highway, and a way of righteousness, wherein, if very fools walk, they shall not wander, Isa. xxxv. 8, 9, and if the weak walk in it, they shall not faint, Isa. xl. 31.
5. That except this be done, there is no advantage to be had by him; his death and all his sufferings, as to those persons that will not believe and enter into him as the way to the Father, are in vain.
6. Yea, such as will not believe in him say, in effect, either that Christ hath not died nor consecrated a way through the vail of his flesh; or, that all that he hath done and suffered is not sufficient to bring a soul home to God; or that they can do their own business without him, and that it was a foolish and vain thing for Christ to die the death for that end; or, lastly, that they care not for salvation; they are indifferent whether they perish or be saved.
7. That, as to them, the whole gospel is in vain, all the ordinances, all the administration of ordinances, all the pains of ministers, are in vain.
8. That, as to them, all Christ's intreaties, motives, allurements, patience and long-suffering, his standing at the door and knocking till his locks be wet with the dew, &c. are in vain; yea, they are contemptuously rejected, despised, slighted, and undervalued.
9. That all the great promises are by such rejected as untrue, or as not worthy the seeking or having; and that all the threatenings, on the other hand, are not to be regarded or feared.
10. In a word, that heaven and the fellowship of God is not worth the seeking, and that hell and the fellowship of devils is not worth the fearing; or, that there is neither a heaven nor a hell, and that all are but fictions; and that there is no such thing as the wrath of God against sinners, or that it is not much to be feared.
If it be asked, what warrant have poor sinners to lay hold on Christ, and grip to him, as made of God righteousness?
I answer, 1. our absolute necessity of him is a ground to press us to go and seek help and relief: we see we are gone in ourselves, and therefore are we allowed to seek out for help elsewhere.
2. Christ's all-sufficient furniture, whereby he is a qualified Mediator, fitted with all necessaries for our case and condition, having laid down a price to the satisfaction of justice, is a sufficient invitation for us to look toward him for help, and to wait at that door.
3. His being appointed of the Father to be Mediator of the covenant, and particularly, to lay down his life a ransom for sin; and Christ's undertaking all his offices, and performing all the duties thereof, conform to the covenant of redemption, is a strong encouragement to poor sinners to come to him, because he cannot deny himself, and he will be true to his trust.
4. The Father's offering of him to us in the gospel, and Christ's inviting us who are weary and heavy laden; yea, calling and commanding such to come to him in his own and in his Father's name, under the pain of his and his Father's wrath and everlasting displeasure; exhorting further, and requesting upon terms of love, pressing earnestly by many motives, sending out his ambassadors to beseech in his stead poor sinners to be reconciled, and to turn in to him for life and salvation; yea, upbraiding such as will not come to him. All these are a sufficient warrant for a poor necessitous sinner to lay hold on his offer.
And, further, to encourage poor souls to come unto him, all things are so well ordered in the gospel, as that nothing occurreth that can in the least prove a stumbling-block or a just ground of excuse for their forbearing to believe and to accept of his offers. All objections possible are obviated to such as are but willing; the way is cast up, and all stones of stumbling cast out of it; so that such as will not come can pretend no excuse. They cannot object the greatness of their sins: for the greater their sins be they have the greater need of one who is sent to take away sin, and whose blood purgeth from all sin, 1 John i. 7. What great sinner did he ever refuse that came to him, and was willing to be saved by him? Is there any clause in all the gospel excluding great sinners? Nor need they object their great unworthiness; for he doth all freely for the glory of his free grace. None ever got any good of him for their worth; for no man ever had any worth. Nor need they object their long refusing and resisting many calls; for he will make such as are willing welcome at the eleventh hour; him that cometh he will in no case put away, John vi. 37. Nor can they object their changeableness, that they will not stand to the bargain, but break and return with the dog to the vomit; for Christ hath engaged to bring all through that come unto him; he will raise them up at the last day, John vi. 40; he will present them to himself holy and without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, Eph. v. The covenant is fully provided with promises to stop the mouth of that objection. Nor can they object the difficulty or impossibility of believing; for that is Christ's work also, he "is the author and finisher of faith," Heb. xii. 1. Can they not with confidence cast themselves upon him; yet if they can hunger and thirst for him, and look to him, he will accept of that; "look to me," says he, "and be saved," Isa. xlv. 22. If they cannot look to him, nor hunger and thirst for him, yet if they be willing, all is well. Are they willing that Christ save them in his way, and therefore willingly give themselves over to him, and are willing and content that Christ, by his Spirit, work more hunger in them, and a more lively faith, and work both to will and to do according to his own good pleasure, it is well.
But it will be said, that the terms and conditions on which he offereth himself are hard. Answer--I grant the terms are hard to flesh and blood, and to proud unmortified nature; but to such as are willing to be saved, so as God may be most glorified, the terms are easy, most rational and satisfying: for,
1. We are required to take him only for our Mediator, and to join none with him, and to mix nothing with him. Corrupt nature is averse from this, and would at least mix something of self with him, and not rest on Christ only: corrupt nature would not have the man wholly denying himself, and following Christ only. And hence many lose themselves, and lose all; because, with the Galatians, they would mix the law and the gospel together; do something themselves for satisfaction of justice, and take Christ for the rest that remains. Now, the Lord will have all the glory, as good reason is, and will have none to share with him; he will give of his glory to none. And is not this rational and easy? What can be objected against this?
2. We are required to take him wholly, that he may be a complete Mediator to us; as a prophet to teach, as a king to subdue our lusts, to cause us to walk in his ways, as well as a priest to satisfy justice for us, to die and intercede for us. Is it not reason that we take him as God hath made him for us? Is there any thing in him to be refused? And is there any thing in him which we have no need of? Is there not all the reason then in the world for this, that we take him wholly? And what stumbling-block is here?
3. We are required to take him freely, "without money and without price," Isa. lv. 1, for he will not be bought any manner of way; that free grace may be free grace, therefore he will give all freely. True enough it is, corruption would be at buying, though it have nothing to lay out. Pride will not stoop to a free gift. But can any say the terms are hard, when all is offered freely?
4. We are required to take them absolutely, without any reversion of mental reservation. Some would willingly quit all but one or two lusts they cannot think to twin with; and they would deny themselves in many things, but they would still most willingly keep a back-door open to some beloved lust or other. And who seeth not what double dealing is here? And what reason can plead for this double dealing? Corruption, it is true, will think this hard, but no man can rationally say that this is a just ground of discouragement to any, or a sufficient ground to warrand them to stay away from Christ, seeing they cannot be supposed sincerely to desire redemption from any sin, who would not desire redemption from every sin. He who loveth any known lust, and would not willingly be delivered therefrom, hath no real hatred at any lust, as such, nor desire to be saved; for one such lust would be his death.
5. It is required, that we accept of him really and cordially, with our heart and soul, and not by a mere external verbal profession, And is there not all the reason in the world for this? He offereth himself really to us, and shall we not be real in accepting of him? What, I pray, can be justly excepted against this? or, what real discouragement can any gather from this?
6. We are to take him for all necessaries, that is, with a resolution to make use of him as our all-sufficient Mediator. And is not this most reasonable? Ought we not to take him for all the ends and purposes for which God hath appointed him, and set him forth, and offered him to us? What then can any suppose to lie here which should scar a soul from laying hold upon him? Nay, should not this be looked upon as a very great encouragement? And should we not bless the Lord, that hath provided such a complete and all-sufficient Mediator?
7. We are to take him and all the crosses that may attend our taking or following of him; we must take up our cross, be it what it will that he thinketh good to appoint to us, and follow him, Matt. xvi. 24. Mark viii. 34. "For he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth not after him, is not worthy of him," Matt. x. 38. I know flesh and blood will take this for a hard saying; but they that consider, that Christ will bear the heaviest end of the cross, yea, all of it, and so support them by his Spirit while they are under it, that they shall have no just cause to complain; and how he will suffer none to go his errand upon their own charges, but will be with them when they go through the fire and water, Isa. xliii. 2, so that they shall suffer no loss, neither shall the waters overflow them, nor the fire kindle upon them; and that he who loseth his life for Christ's sake and the gospel's, shall save it, Mark viii. 35; yea, that they shall receive an hundred-fold for all their losses, Matt. xix. 29, and that even with persecution, Mark x. 30, and, in the world to come, eternal life. They, I say, who consider this, will see no discouragement here, nor ground of complaint; nay, they will account it their glory to suffer any loss for Christ's sake.
8. Hence it followeth, that we are to take him, so as to avouch him and his cause and interest on all hazards, stand to his truth, and not be ashamed of him in a day of trial. Confession of him must be made with the mouth, as with the heart we must believe, Rom. x. 9. Let corruption speak against this what it will, because it is always desirous to keep the skin whole. Yet reason cannot but say that it is equitable, especially seeing he hath said, that "whosoever confesseth him before men, he will confess them before his Father which is in heaven," Matt. x. 32. And that, "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him," 2 Tim. ii. 12. Is he our Lord and master, and should we not own and avouch him? Should we be ashamed of him for any thing, that can befall us, upon that account? What master would not take that ill at his servant's hands?
Hence, then, we see, that there is nothing in all the conditions on which he offereth himself to us, that can give the least ground, in reason, why a poor soul should draw back, and be unwilling to accept of this noble offer, or think that the conditions are hard.
But there is one main objection, which may trouble some, and that is, they cannot believe; faith being the gift of God, it must be wrought in them; how then can they go to God for this, and make use of Christ for this end, that their souls may be wrought up to a believing and consenting to the bargain, and hearty accepting of the offer?
To this I would say these things:
1. It is true, that "faith is the gift of God," Eph. ii. 8, and that it is "he alone who worketh in us, both to will and to do," Phil. i. 29, "and none cometh to the Son, but whom the Father draweth," John vi. 44; and it is a great matter, and no small advancement, to win to the real faith, and through conviction of this our impotency. For thereby the soul will be brought to a greater measure of humiliation, and of despairing of salvation in itself, which is no small advantage unto a poor soul that would be saved.
2. Though faith be not in our power, yet it is our duty. Our impotency to perform our duty, doth not loose our obligation to the duty; so that our not believing is our sin; and for this God may justly condemn us. His wrath abideth on all who believe not in his Son Jesus, and will not accept of the offer of salvation through the crucified Mediator. And though faith, as all other acts of grace, be efficiently the work of the Spirit, yet it is formally our work: we do believe; but it is the Spirit that worketh faith in us.
3. The ordinary way of the Spirit's working faith in us, is by pressing home the duty upon us, whereby we are brought to a despairing in ourselves, and to a looking out to him, whose grace alone it is that can work it in the soul, for that necessary help and breathing, without which the soul will not come.
4. Christ Jesus hath purchased this grace of faith to all the elect, as other graces necessary to their salvation; and it is promised and covenanted to him, "That he shall see his seed, and shall see of the travail of his soul," Isa. liii. 10; and that by the knowledge of him, that is, the rational and understanding act of the soul gripping to and laying hold upon him, as he is offered in the gospel, "many shall be justified," Isa. liii. 10. Hence he saith, "That all whom the Father hath given to him, shall come unto him," John vi. 37; and the apostle tells us, "that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in him," Eph. i. 3.
5. Not only hath Christ purchased this grace of faith, and all other graces necessary for the salvation of the elect, but God hath committed to him the administration and actual dispensation, and out-giving of all those graces, which the redeemed stand in need of. Hence "he is a prince exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of sins," Acts v. 31. "All power in heaven and earth is committed unto him," Matt, xxviii. 18, 19. Hence he is called, "the author and finisher of faith," Heb. xii. 2; and he tells his disciples, John xiv. 13, 14, that whatever they shall ask in his name, he will do it. He is made a Prince and a Saviour, "having all judgment committed unto him," John v. 22; and "he is Lord of all," Acts x. 36. Rom. xiv. 9.
6. Hereupon the sinner, being convinced of his lost condition through sin and misery, of an utter impossibility of helping himself out of that state of death, of Christ's all-sufficiency and willingness to save all that will come to him, and of its own inability to believe or come to him for life and salvation, or to lay hold on, and lean to his merits and satisfaction, and so despairing in himself, is to look out to Jesus, the author of eternal salvation, the foundation and chief corner-stone, the author and finisher of faith; I say, the sinner, being thus convinced, is thus to look out to Jesus; not that that conviction is any proper qualification prerequisite as necessary, either to prepare, dispose, and fit for faith, or far less to merit any manner of way, or bring on faith; but because this is Christ's method to bring a soul to faith by this conviction, to the glory of his grace. The soul naturally being averse from Christ, and utterly unwilling to accept of that way of salvation, must be redacted to that strait, that it shall see, that it must either accept of this offer or die. As the whole needeth not a physician, so Christ is come to save only that which is lost; and his method is to convince the world of sin, in the first place; and then of righteousness, John xvi. 8, 9.
7. This looking out to Jesus for faith, comprehendeth those things: (1.) The soul's acknowledgment of the necessity of faith, to the end it may partake of Christ, and of his merits. (2.) The soul's satisfaction with that way of partaking of Christ, by a closing with him, and a resting upon him by faith. (3.) A sense and conviction of the unbelief and stubbornness of the heart, or a seeing of its own impotency, yea, and unwillingness to believe. (4.) A persuasion that Christ can over-master the infidelity and wickedness of the heart, and work up the soul unto a willing consent unto the bargain. (5.) A hope, or a half-hope (to speak so) that Christ, who is willing to save all poor sinners that come to him for salvation; and hath said, that he will put none away in any case that cometh--will have pity upon him at length. (6.) A resolution to lie at his door, till he come with life, till he quicken, till he unite the soul to himself. (7.) A lying open to the breathings of his Spirit, by guarding against every thing (so far as they can) that may grieve or provoke him, and waiting on him in all the ordinances, he hath appointed, for begetting faith; such as reading the Scriptures, hearing the word, conference with godly persons, and prayer, &c. (8.) A waiting with patience on him who never said to the house of Jacob, "seek me in vain," Isa. xlv. 19; still crying and looking to him who hath commanded the ends of the earth to look to him; and waiting for him who waiteth to be gracious, Isa. xxx. 18, remembering that they are all blessed that wait for him; and that "there is much good prepared for them that wait for him," Isa. lxiv. 4.
8. The sinner would essay this believing, and closing with Christ, and set about it, as he can, seriously, heartily, and willingly, yea, and resolutely over the belly of much opposition, and many discouragements, looking to him who must help, yea, and work the whole work; for God worketh in and with man as a rational creature. The soul then would set the willingness it findeth, on work, and wait for more; and as the Lord is pleased to commend, by his Spirit, the way of grace more unto the soul, and to warm the heart with love to it, and a desire after it, strike the iron while it is hot; and, looking to him for help, grip to Christ in the covenant; and so set to its seal, though with a trembling hand; and subscribe its name, though with much fear and doubting, remembering "that he who worketh to will, must work the deed also," Phil. ii. 13, "and he that beginneth a good work will perfect it," Phil. i. 6.
9. The soul essaying thus to believe in Christ's strength, and to creep when it cannot walk or run, would hold fast what it hath attained, and resolve never to recall any consent, or half-consent, it hath given to the bargain, but still look forward, hold on, wrestle against unbelief and unwillingness, entertain every good motion of the Spirit for this end, and never admit of any thing that may quench its lodgings, desires, or expectation.
10. Nay, if the sinner be come this length, that, with the bit willingness he hath, he consenteth to the bargain, and is not satisfied with any thing in himself, that draweth back, or consenteth not, and with the little skill or strength he hath is writing down his name, and saying, even so I take him; and is holding at this, peremptorily resolving never to go back, or unsay what he hath said; but, on the contrary, is firmly purposed to adhere, and as he groweth in strength, to grip more firmly, and adhere to him, he may conclude that the bargain is closed already, and that he hath faith already; for here there is an accepting of Christ on his own terms, a real consenting unto the covenant of grace, though weak, and not so discernible as the soul would wish. The soul dare not say but it loveth the bargain, and is satisfied with it, and longeth for it, and desireth nothing more than that it might partake thereof, and enjoy him whom it loveth, hungereth for, panteth after, or breatheth, as it is able, that it may live in him, and be saved through him.
But some will say, If I had any evidence of God's approbation of this act of my soul, any testimony of his Spirit, I could then with confidence say, that I had believed and accepted of the covenant and of Christ offered therein; but so long as I perceive nothing of this, how can I suppose, that any motion of this kind in my soul is real faith?
For Answer--1. We would know, that our believing, and God's sealing to our sense, are two distinct acts and separable, and oft separated. Our believing is one thing, and God's sealing with the Holy Spirit of promise to our sense, is another thing; and this followeth, though not inseparably, the other, Eph. i. 13, "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise."
And so, 2. We would know, that many a man may believe, and yet not know that he doth believe. He may set to his seal, that God is true in his offer of life through Jesus, and accept of that offer as a truth, and close with it; and yet live under darkness and doubtings of his faith, long and many a day; partly through not discerning the true nature of faith; partly through the great sense and feeling of his own corruption and unbelief; partly through a mistake of the Spirit's operations within, or the want of a clear and distinct uptaking of the motions of his own soul; partly because he findeth so much doubting and fear, as if there could be no faith where there was doubting or fear, contrary to Mark ix. 24. Matth. viii. 26, and xiv. 31.; partly, because he hath not that persuasion that others have had, as if there were not various degrees of faith, as there is of other graces, and the like.
Therefore, 3. We would know, that many may really believe, and yet miss this sensible sealing of the Spirit which they would be at. God may think it not yet seasonable to grant them that, lest they forget themselves and become too proud; and to train them up more to the life of faith, whereby he may be glorified; and for other holy ends, he may suspend the giving of this for a time.
4. Yet we would know, that all that believe, have the seal within them, 1 John v. 10, "He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself," that is, he hath that which really is a seal, though he see it not, nor perceive it not; even the work of God's Spirit in his soul, inclining and determining him unto the accepting of this bargain, and to a liking of and endeavouring after holiness; and the whole gospel clearing up what faith is, is a seal and confirmation of the business. So that the matter is sealed, and confirmed by the word, though the soul want those sensible breathings of the Spirit, shedding abroad his love in the heart, and filling the soul with a full assurance, by hushing all doubts and fears to the door; yea, though they should be a stranger unto the Spirit's witnessing thus with their spirits, that they are the children of God, and clearing up distinctly the real work of grace within their soul, and so saying in effect, that they have in truth believed.
But enough of this; seeing all this, and much more is abundantly held forth and explained, in that excellent and useful treatise of Mr. Guthrie's, entitled, "The Christian's Great Interest."