The sweetest seasons on this side heaven are, when the soul sinks into nothing before the face of God, and is absorbed in the sight of Christ and the love of the Spirit: when we feel the presence of Deity, and silently wait on him, at the feet of the cross, with weeping eyes, affections, and bleeding hearts.
What coming and what returning sinner need despair of acceptance? No man can be worse than St. Paul was before his conversion; and no man can be worse than St. Peter was after his conversion.
Where Scripture is to any silent concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of any action, consult the book of your own conscience, and follow its dictates. Observe also, what does or does not, tend to take off from your mind that exquisite sense of divine love which a believer would ever wish to cultivate and cherish.
A Believer’s affections are, too often, like a cascade, or waterfall, that flows downward; instead of being like a fountain, which rises and shoots upwards toward heaven.
If you thoroughly exhaust a vessel of the air it contains, the pressure of the air on the outside will break that vessel into (perhaps) millions of pieces; because there is not a sufficiency of air to resist and counteract the weight of the atmosphere from without. A person who is exercised by severe affliction, and who does not experience the divine comforts and supports in his soul, resembles the exhausted receiver above describes; and it is no wonder if he yields, and is broken to shivers, under the weight of God’s providential hand. But affliction to one who is sustained by the inward presence of the Holy Ghost, resembles the aerial pressure on the outer surface of an unexhausted vessel. There is that within which supports it, and which preserves it from being destroyed by the incumbent pressure from without.
Some persons are apt to walk in their sleep. They are said to be effectually cured of this dangerous habit by only once horse whipping them soundly until they awake. God’s people are apt to dose, and run themselves into danger; on which Providence takes the horsewhip of affliction, and brings them to themselves. Was he to spare the rod, his children would be spoiled.
The world is a sea of glass, affliction scatters our path with sand and ashes and gravel, in order to keep our feet from sliding.
In a long sunshine of outward prosperity, the dust of our inward corruptions is apt to fly about and lift itself up. Sanctified affliction, like seasonable rain, lays the dust, and softens the soul, and keeps us from carrying our heads too high.
The earth must be ploughed, and sown, and harrowed, and weeded, and endure many frosty nights and scorching days. In order to its being made and preserved fruitful. Gentle showers, soft days, and moderate sun-shine will not suffice always. So it is with the soul of a faithful Christian.
A person was lately observing of some fine ornamental china on his chimney-piece, that the “elegance of its figures, and the perpetuity of its colours were owing to its having been consolidated by passing through the fire.” Is not the same remark applicable to the afflicted people of God?
Christ is still crucified between two thieves; Antinomianism and Pharisaism.
I much question whether the man that dies an Arminian can go to heaven. But certainly he will not be an Arminian when he is in heaven. The employ of the blessed is to cast their crowns at the feet of God and the Lamb, and to sing, “Not unto us, O Lord.”
Should it be thought harsh to question the salvation of one who dies under the blindness of Arminianism; as if a man who only robs God in part might miss of glory; let it be considered that, even on earth, if a person robs me only of my watch, or of a single guinea, he has forfeited his life to the law, as much as if he had robbed me of all I am worth.
The old Arminians mentioned in scripture are blamed for thinking wickedly that God was such an one as themselves; but our new Arminians out-sin their predecessors, and actually represent God as a being in many respects considerably inferior to themselves. They suppose him both to form schemes with less wisdom, and to execute them with less power, spirit, and success, than a prime minister of common sense forms and executes his. They dare ascribe to God such impotence, blunders, imperfections and disappointments, as they would blush to ascribe to a Xiemenes, or a Sully.
Arminians consider the grace that is inspired into a true believer’s heart, as a text of scripture written upon a pane of glass, liable to be demolished by the first hand that flings a stone at it.
All the disputes between us and the Arminians may be reduced to these two questions: 1. Is God dependent on man, or is man dependent on God? 2. Is man a debtor to God, or God a debtor to man?
When the Arminians foolishly affirm concerning the will of an unregenerate man, vis., that “Its liberty consists in an indifferency to good or evil, like a balance in equal poise;” holds true of a regenerate man in some circumstances, and in some respect, vis., that a person who is happily resigned to God’s providential disposals, may (in point of absolute acquiescence) be said to have his will in equilibrio, i.e., he wishes to be quite conformed to the divine pleasure, and to incline neither to prosperity nor adversity, life nor death, but is desirous that God’s own hand may incline the scale. We are never truly contented, nor of (course) truly happy, until God and we have but one will between us.
The Arminians think, that in conversion God does little or nothing for men, but gives them a pull by the elbow, to awake them from their sleep. Rather, he acts as maritime officers do by their sailors; he cuts down the hammock of carnal security in which the elect are; down they fall, and the bruises and surprise they receive awaken them to themselves whether, they will or no.
According to Arminians, grace has the name, but free-will has the game.
Arminians suppose God to give us heaven, as the king grants a brief for building a church. The brief runs, “We have granted our most gracious letters patent.” But these same most gracious letters are amply paid for before they are granted. No free, no brief.
Some people (especially the Arminians) seem to speak of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Established Church, as if those articles were like Mr. Van Bushel’s newly-in-vented elastic garters, which are so contrived by springs, that they will accommodate and fit themselves to any leg that should wear them.
Arminians will ask, “Where’s the use of preaching the doctrines of grace, even supposing them to be true? since we may go to heaven without a clear knowledge of them.” And a man may go to heaven with broken bones; yet it is better to go thither in a whole skin. A man may get to his journey’s end, though it rain and thunder all the way; yet it is more comfortable to travel in fair weather. You or I might make a better shift to live upon a scanty allowance of bread and water; yet, surely, and easy fortune, and a decent table are, in themselves, abundantly preferable to poverty and short commons. Who would wish to go upon thorns when his way may be strewed with roses?
Where is the difference between Arminianism and Epicurism? To suppose a fortuitous concourse of incidents is no less Atheistical than to suppose a fortuitous concourse of atoms.
I can compare some ranting Arminian preachers, who represent salvation as a matter of chance, and press men to help forward their own conversion, upon pain of damnation, to none so well as to auctioneers; who, with the hammer in their hands, are always bawling out, “Now is your time; now is your time; a-going a- going, a–going.”
Such a method is equally inconsistent with the analogy of faith, and subversive of the majesty of the gospel. Shall I order a dead soul to awake, and rise itself to life? Let me rather address the living God, and say, “Awake, and put on thy strength, O arm of the Lord! Breathe on these slain, that they may live!”
It is not deemed presumptuous for the favourites of an earthly king to know and be conscious that they are so; and why should it be deemed presumptuous for the favourites of God to be assured of his love?
A truly enlightened believer (i.e. one who has clear view of gospel privileges, and makes conscience of gospel duties), stands between two fires; the Pharisees call him an Antinomian, and the real Antinomians call him a pharisee.
There is a true and sound sense in which we may say that a true believer may live as he will; for it is the prevailing will and desire of every real believer to life only to the glory of God. He is not a Christian who doth not delight in the law of God, after the inner man.
To unconverted persons, a great part of the Bible resembles a letter written in cypher. The blessed Spirit’s office is to set as God’s decipherer by letter his people into the secret of celestial experience, as the key and the clue to those sweet mysteries of grace, which were before as a garden shut up, or as a fountain sealed, or as a book written in an unknown character.
Whenever I preach from any passage in the Book of Canticles, or in the Book of Revelation, I consider myself as standing on ground peculiarly consecrated and mysterious. The Scripture in general may be considered as the temple at large: but these two books as the holy of holies.
The most convincing argument, and most infallible demonstration that the scriptures are indeed the word of God, is to feel their enlivening, enlightening, and transforming power in our hearts.
Bigots are stiff, straitened, and confined; like Egyptian mummies, which are bound round with thousands of yards of ribbon.
Bigots are like some trees that grow by the sea shore, which do not spread their branches equally on all sides, but are blown awry, and stand entirely one way.
Bigots (like Nebuchadnezzar), if you fall not down at the word of command, before whatever image they set up, consign you at once to the burning fiery furnace.
The largeness of the gospel (more properly termed, the ministerial) call does by no means universality of grace. A fisher throws his net into the sea at large; not from an expectation of catching all the fish that are in the sea, but with a view of catching as many as he can. And this is the end of in definitively preaching to all.
Wherever there is a Paul to preach, there will be a Tertullus to find fault.
Some people can no more help cavilling at the doctrines of grace, than some dogs can help howling at the sound of a trumpet.
The house that is built partly in a rock, and partly on the sand, will fall; and the sinner who rests his hope of salvation partly on Christ, and partly on his own works, will be damned.
You may as well trust in the supposed merits and pretended intercession of the Virgin Mary, or other saints departed, as trust in your own good works, prayers, or any thing you can do and suffer, either as a compensation to God’s justice for your sins, or as conducive toward your acceptance and salvation.
It is a common saying, that ” He who buys land, buys stones,” and all the weeds and rubbish which belong to the soil. When Christ accepted of us in the decree of election (when the Father gave and made us over to him), and when he brought us afterwards with his blood; he took us with all our imperfections and wretchedness, for better for worse, as a bridegroom taken his bride, and as a purchaser buys an estate.
Wrap up ever so good a flint in silk or satin, and not a spark of its latent fire will appear. But bruise it with a hammer, or strike it with a steel, the dormant sparks will shew themselves. In prosperity the graces of a saint too often lie hid. In adversity they shine forth with light and heat like a flint in collision with a steel.
If a merchant of incontestable opulence and honesty gives me his note of hand binding himself to pay me so much money; I have no reason to fear a failure of payment. “Mr.-is a person of vast wealth, and of as great integrity; my money, therefore, is as sure as if I had it in my pocket.” Thus the reason concerning human things.
Give the same implicit credit to God’s promises. We have it in his own writing, under his own hand and seal, that “Every one who believeth shall have everlasting life;” and “Whoso cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out,” &c. &c. Do not dishonour God’s note of hand, by letting unbelief question either his ability or his veracity. Do not withhold from the God of heaven and earth that confidence which, in many cases, you cannot withhold from man.
I am resolved, in the strength of grace, to preach all the truths of the gospel so far as I know them; and leave God to take care of consequences.
To expose ourselves to worldly contempt and persecution for Christ’s sake, is like going into the cold bath. At first it gives us a shock; but it grows easier and easier every time; until, by decrees, it ceases to be disagreeable.
It is in the Church as it is with nations: war must sometimes be carried on, in order to establish a sound and durable peace at last.
One moment’s communion with God is worth all the controversial volumes in the world.
A Christian too conversant with people of the world, resembles a bright piece of plate too much exposed to the air; which though in reality it continues plate still, yet grows tarnished and loses its fine burnish, and needs a fresh cleaning and rubbing up.
When a saint is in darkness all his expedients for delivering himself out of it are vain: they are literally dark lanterns, and will not afford him a single gleam to see by. The day will not dawn nor the shadows flee away until the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings. And we can no more command the rising of the spiritual sun within, than we can that of the natural sun without. We can only, like Paul’s mariners, cast anchor and wish for day.
Believers should not have a slavish dread of death. Where is the infant that is afraid to go to sleep in its nurse’s arms?
In those countries that are the seat of war, it is common to see a fine field of standing corn flourishing one hour and laid waste the next; when a party of the enemy have cut down, with their swords, what was ripening for the sickle, and given that to their horses for fodder which the husbandman hoped would repay him for his toil.-So does death, sickness or unforeseen disappointment, frequently disconcert our worldly schemes; and blast our expectations in a moment. Man turneth to his dust, and then all his thoughts perish.
To a true believer, death is but going to Church; from church below to the Church above.
A man would not be sorry to be ejected from a cottage in order to his living in a palace: and yet how apt we are to fear death, which to a child of God is but the writ of ejectment that turns him out of a prison, and transmits him to his apartments at court!
I have known many a believer go weeping to the river of death; but I never knew a believer go weeping all the way through it.
Even an earthly parent is particularly tender and careful of a dying child. Much more will the great and gracious Father of the elect support, cherish and defend his own children in the hour of death.
The world is a nursery of elect sinners. At death God transplants them, one by one, into the garden above; and fills up their places below with a fresh succession of spiritual trees.
The Church of the elect, which is partly militant on earth, and partly triumphant in heaven, resembles a city built on both sides of a river. There is but the stream of death between grace and glory.
Death to God’s people is but a ferryboat. Every day and every hour the boat pushes off with some of the saints, and returns for more.
You may have seen the children of some fruitful family walking to church all clothed in a different colour. Yet are they all children of one parent; all brothers and sisters. So the various denominations of God’s believing people.
The best watchfulness I know of is a continued looking to, and dependence on the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, from moment to moment.
DIGNITY of the Children of GOD.
God’s people below are kings incog. They are travelling disguised like pilgrims to their dominions above.-Once a king unto God always so: God does not make kings for the devil to unmake at his pleasure. If you are spiritual kings, be holy. Should I meet a person all in dirt and rags, I should be mad was I to take that person for a king or a queen. Nor can I believe you to be royally descended, or crowned for the skies, unless you carry the marks of royalty in your life and conversation,-If any of God’s anointed kings so far forget their dignity as to live in sin; their throne will shake; the crown will tremble on their heads; they will be driven from their palace for a time, like David, when he fled from Absalom, and went weeping over the brook Kidron. But like David, they shall be brought back again to Jerusalem (for Christ will not lose the purchase of his blood): though not until they have severely smarted for it.
God’s people are kings and priests, Rev. i.6.
1. As kings they are (1.) ordained to a kingdom of glory; and in the mean while, have an internal kingdom of holiness and happiness. (2.) They are anointed with the Holy Ghost. (3.) They are crowned. The doctrines of the gospel are the Church’s crown and ornament, Rev. iii.11. and xii.1. They have the sceptre of God’s strength to lean upon. (5.) And a globe also. They only truly enjoy even present life. Earthly kings hold a globe in their hands; but the spiritual kings have the globe under their feet. (6.) They have robes. The inner robe of sanctification; and the outer robe of Christ’s righteousness for justification before God, Psalm xlv. (7.) They have their guards: angels, grace, providence.
Before conversion they are reges designati, kings elect; after it reges de facto, actual kings.
2. As priests, they are devoted to God, and set apart for his service by a spiritual ordination. Here is a truly indelible character conferred: when the Holy Ghost lays the hand of his grace, not only upon the sinner’s head, but upon the sinner’s heart.-They offer up spiritual and moral sacrifices. -They pray.-They are blessers both in will and in act.
Inward holiness and eternal glory are the crown with which God adorns and dignifies his elect. But they are not the cause of election. A king is not made a king by the royal robes he wears, and by the crowns that encircles his brow: but he therefore wears his robes and puts on his crown because he is a king.
May not God have mercy on whom, he willeth to have mercy, without asking leave of men or angels? Is not his grace totally and infinitely free? and may not he bestow his own blessing when and where he pleases? Let not our eye then be evil and envious because his is gracious? Away, then, with these anti-christian bickerings, and let none who call themselves believers, be sorry for that which makes angels glad.
Some believers are very rude and very ignorant. Grace, in the hearts of sour, unpolished people, resembles a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout.
Disputing, captious, bigoted people, do but pump themselves dry. Unfair disputants are ever for dwelling on the most unfavorable side of an argument; like the blundering painter, who being to take the profile of a lady that had lost an eye, very injudiciously drew her blind side.
Cavilling publications are not always to be regarded. Who would be at the pains to kill an insect of a day? Let the poor creature alone, and it will soon die of itself. Do not make it considerable by taking notice of it. If a child of four years old come against me with a straw, that is no reason I should knock him down with the poker.
The terrors of the law have much the same effect on our duties and obedience as frost has on a stream: it hardens, cools, and stagnates. Whereas, let the shinning of divine love rise upon the soul; repentance will then flow, our hardness and coldness thaw and melt away, and all the blooming fruits of godliness flourish and abound.
To the humble, self-emptied, self-renouncing sinner, even the sword of Divine Justice is a curtana, a sword of mercy, a sword without a point.
As the setting of the sun appears of greater magnitude, and his beams of richer gold, than when he is in his meridian; so a dying believer is usually richer in experience, stronger in grace, and brighter in his evidences for heaven, than a living one.
When a person is going into a foreign land where he never was before, it is comfortable for him to consider, “Though I am embarking for an unknown country, yet it is a place where I have many friends, who are already settled there: So that I shall be, in fact, at home the instant I get thither.”-How sweet for a dying believer to reflect that, though he is yet a stranger in the world of spirits, still the world of spirits are no strangers to him. God, his Father, is there. Christ, his brother, is there.-Angels, his elect brothers, are there. And more will follow him every day. He has the blood and righteousness of Christ for his letters of recommendation, and the Holy Spirit for his introducer. He also goes upon express invitation from the King of the country.
The book of life, or decree of election, is the marriage-register of the saints; in which their everlasting espousal to Christ stands indelibly recorded by the pen of God’s free and eternal love.
As the bullion of which money is made is the king’s property even before it is struck into coin, and before it visibly bears the royal image and superscription; so the unregenerate elect are God’s own heritage, though they do not appear to be such, until the Holy Spirit has made them pass through the mint of effectual calling, and actually stamped them into current coin for the kingdom of heaven.
The elect were betrothed to Christ from everlasting in the covenant of grace; they are actually married to him, and join hands with him, in conversion; but they are not taken home to the bridegroom’s house until death dismisses them from the body.
Poor people envy the rich, and the rich people envy the poor. Why? Because neither of them are privy to the troubles of the other. Unconverted persons (i.e. the far greater part of mankind) go on envying each other’s imaginary happiness, and smarting under their own crosses. And so the world goes round.
Little more can be said concerning the generality of men, than that they live, and sinned, and died. But concerning all God’s people it may be said that they lived, were converted, preserved to the end, and went to heaven.
Many of the enemies to God’s truths, when they are silenced by the force of evidence, do, like a small provoked, draw in their horns and spit.
If a person who has been long in possession of a large estate comes, in process of time to have his title disputed, he rummages every corner of his scrutore, and of is strong boxes, to find the original deeds; which, having found, he appeals to as authentic vouchers.
Thus past experiences of the grace of God, though not proper to be rested in, may yet be recollected with comfort, and referred to with advantage, by a deserted saint in an hour of doubt and darkness.
We cannot heartily love the distinguishing truths of the gospel, without experiencing them, and we cannot experience them without loving them.
Faith in God’s promises may be compared to a bank note; full and felt possession of the blessings promised is like ready cash. The man who has bank-notes to any given value; looks upon himself as possessed of much money, though, in reality, it is only so much paper. Thus faith is as satisfied, and rests with as great complacency in the promises of Jehovah, as if it had all the blessings of grace and glory in hand. In faith’s estimation, God’s note is current coin.
Weak faith says, “God can save me if he will.” Strong faith says, “God both can and will saved me.” See Dan. iii: 17.
What can be more feeble than ivy, the jessamine or the vine? Yet these, by the assistance of their tendrils, or claspers, rise and are supported until they sometimes mount as high as the tree or the wall that sustains them. So the weak believer, laying hold on Jesus by the tendril of faith, rises into the fullness of God, defies the invading storm, and becomes as a fruitful vine upon the wall of an house.
Under the influence of the blessed Spirit, faith produces holiness, and holiness strengthens faith, like a fruitful parent, is plenteous in all good works; and good works, like dutiful children, confirm and add to the support of faith.
Faith is the eye of the soul, and the Holy Spirit’s influence is the light by which it sees.
In the hands of a skillful husbandman even weeds are turned to good account. When rooted up and burnt, they are good manure, and conduce to fertilize the land they annoyed before. So the doubts and fears, and the infirmities of the elect are overruled by Almighty grace, to their present and eternal good; as conducing to keep us humble at God’s footstool, to endear the merits of Jesus, and to make us feel our weakness and dependence, and to render us watchful unto prayer.
I have known several wealthy persons who, contrary to all sense and reason, have teased and harassed themselves with a fear that they should at last come to want. Equally, nay, infinitely more absurd and groundless, are the doubts of those who have fled to the righteousness and blood of Christ for salvation. Such must be in a state of grace; they must and infallibly are accepted of God; and they certainly shall preserve to the end. Think who think themselves the poorest in spiritual things, are immensely rich, without knowing it. But such is the state of man below, that if God does-not lay crosses upon us we are sure to create crosses for ourselves.
Flattery is nectar and ambrosia to little minds. They drink it in, and enjoy it, like an old woman sucking metheglin through a quill.
As I would not throw away my watch for varying a few minutes from the exact point of time; so neither would I disclaim a regenerate person for his not in every thing exactly thinking with me. Christians are no more infallible than watches.
If a person of exalted rank and vast opulence desires you to make his house your home, and you avail yourself of the invitation, would it not affront him, if you was to offer at paying him for the accommodations?
What greater affront can be offered to the majesty of God, than to imagine that he sets his favours to sale, and that you must pay him for admitting you into the kingdom of grace and glory?
Christ has received gifts for men, and bestows the gifts he has received. God grant, that we may, if I may so speak, give him continual receipts for these gifts, from time to time, in large returns of love and duty, thankfulness and obedience.
“Get grace-get faith-get interest in Christ,” say the Arminians. When, in truth, grace is not of man’s getting, but of God’s giving; nor is faith of man’s acquisition, but of God’s operation.
A man’s free-will cannot cure him even of the tooth ache, or of a sore figure; and yet he madly thinks it is its power to cure his soul.
The greatest judgment which God himself can, in the present life, inflict upon a man is, leave him in the hand of his own boasted free-will.
Look where you will, and you will generally find that free-willers are very free livers.
Even among men, if a generous antagonist has his adversary down, he will spare his life. If God, O sinner, has humbled thee, and thrown thee down, he will not kill thee, but spare thee, and give thee quarter, raise thee up, and save thee.
GOD AS FATHER
God who knowns the unfaithfulness of the heart, will not trust his grace to the keeping of his own people; if he did, they would soon make havock of it, like the prodigal son. He therefore acts by them as a prudent father would make provision for an extravagant child, vis. Not by giving them the stock to manage for themselves; but by leaving it in trust, to be dealt out to them, from time to time, by stated allowance.
GOD ALL SUFFICIENT
We will suppose that some opulent person makes the tour of Europe. If his money falls short, he comforts himself with reflecting, that he has a sufficient stock in bank, which he can draw out at any time by writing to his cashiers. This is just the case, spiritually, with God’s people. They are travellers in a foreign land, remote from home. Their treasure is in heaven, and God himself is their banker. When their graces seem to be almost spent and exhausted, when the barrel of meal and the cruise of oil appear to be failing; they need but draw upon God by prayer and faith and humble waiting. The Holy Spirit will honour their bill at sight; and issue to them, from time to time, sufficient remittances to carry them to their journey’s end.
Practical Discourse, by Elisha Coles.
It would be entirely needless, to say any thing in favour of a book which has given such profitable and universal satisfaction to God’s people, of all denominations, for almost a century past: it will, and must ever be considered, as one of the choicest treasures which God of infinite wisdom has vouchsafed to his Church. Since the days of the Apostles, it is a work calculated for the instruction, establishment, and consolation of little children, of young men, and of fathers in Christ. Would the newly awakened penitent, the advanced convert and the repenting saint, wish to read merely for their sake of seeing the light of truth, of feeling the warmth of grace, and of rising into the holy image of God, let them make Elisha Coles their companion, their guide, and their own familiar friend.
O ye believers in Jesus, whom God has intrusted with any thing above a bare sufficiency of this world’s goods, seize the opportunity of furnishing the poor and needy with a book, the best calculated of almost any other to extend the knowledge of gospel salvation, to diffuse the fragrance of gospel comfort, to elevate the glorious standard of gospel grace, and to promote the vital interests of gospel holiness and good works.
Good works, like the golden ear-rings of the Israelites, are valuable in themselves; but if once exalted into a golden calf, to be worshipped and relied upon, are damningly pernicious.
A true believe lives upon free grace as his necessary food. And, indeed, he who has really tasted the sweetness of grace, can live upon nothing else.
There is no difference between the brightest archangel in glory and the blackest apostate spirit in hell, but what free-grace has made.
If I might not have both, I would rather have grace without learning, than learning with grace. I would infinitely rather be a Bunyan than a Grotius.
Grace cannot be severed from its fruits. If God gives you St. Paul’s faith, you will soon have St. James’s works.
The graces of God’s Spirit in our hearts resemble, during the present life, the citrons and other noble fruits imported from abroad: we have them, but not in perfection. Our graces will ever be defective, until we get to heaven, the country where they grow.
Gifts may differ: but grace, as such, is the same in all God’s people. Just as some pieces of money are of gold, some of silver, others of copper; but they all agree in bearing the king’s image and inscription.
The way to heaven lies, not over a toll-bridge, but over a free-bridge: even the unmerited grace of God in Christ Jesus.
We may not be proud of grace, but we ought to be glad of grace.
Good works cannot go before regeneration. Effectual grace is that which builds the soul into an habitation of God. Holy tempers and holy obedience are the furniture of the house. And a house must be built before it can be furnished.
Grace finds us beggars, and always leaves us debtors.
GRACE AND GLORY
Inherent grace below resembles silver in the one, which, though genuine silver, is mingled with much earth and dross: glory above resembles silver refined to its proper standard, and wrought into vessels of the most exquisite workmanship.
The Greek Testament is, beyond all competition, the most important volume in the world. The inexhaustible riches of its contents, and its unequalled beauties as a composition, are such as must for ever exalt its worth infinitely above that of all other books which have appeared, or which will appear, while heaven and earth remain. Every judicious attempt, therefore, to lead us into a deeper and clearer acquaintance with this inestimable magna charts of our salvation, and to unlock its heavenly treasures, has a direct tendency to advance the glory of God, by promoting the knowledge, the happiness, and the sanctification of men.
Some people hear the gospel as a butterfly settles upon a flower; without being at all the better for it. Others hear the gospel as a bee settles upon a flower; they enjoy its fragrance, they imbibe its honey, and return home richly laden with its sweets. And some hear the gospel as a spider visits a flower: they would, if possible, extract poison from the rose of Sharon.
Even on earth “joy of heaven” is great; but what infinite joy will ensue when the number of he elect is accomplished,-when the bodies of the saints are all retrieved from the grave, and Christ celebrates his “harvest-home!”
The kingdom of heaven is elective, to which men are chosen by God; and yet, at the same time, it goes by indefeasible, hereditary right: it proceeds in the line of election and the line of regeneration.
When the rays of the sun fall on the surface of a material object, part of those rays are absorbed, part of them are reflected back in strait lines, and part of them refracted, this way and that, in various directions. When the Holy Ghost shines upon our souls, part of the grace he inspires is absorbed to our own particular comfort, part of it reflected back in acts of love and joy and prayer and praise, and part of it refracted every way, in accts of benevolence, beneficence, and all moral and social duty.
The most correct and lively description of the sun cannot convey either the light, the warmth, the cheerfulness, or the fruitfulness which the actual shining of that luminary conveys; neither can the most labored and accurate dissertations on grace and spiritual things impart a true idea of them without an experience of the Holy Spirit’s work on the heart.
In vain do the inhabitants of London go to their conduits for supply, unless the man who has the master-key turns the water on. And in vain do we seek to quench our thirst at ordinances, unless God communicates the living water of his Spirit.
Scripture can be savingly understood only in and by the inward illumination of the Holy Ghost. The gospel is a picture of God’s free grace to sinners. Were we in a room hung with the finest paintings, and adorned with the most exquisite statues, we could not see one of them if all light was excluded. Now the blessed Spirit’s irradiation is the same to the mind that outward light is to the bodily eyes.
As the sails of a ship carry it into the harbour, so prayer carries us to the throne and bosom of God. But as the sails cannot of themselves speed the progress of a vessel, unless filled with a favourable breeze, so the Holy Spirit must breath upon our hearts, or our prayers will be motionless and lifeless.
An excellent divine of the last century, Mr. Thomas Cole, compared “the Scriptures to a seal, and the heart of man to wax.” I would add that the Holy Ghost is the fire that warms, and penetrates, and softens the wax, in order to its becoming susceptible of impression.
The word of God will not avail to salvation without the Spirit of God. A compass is of no use to a mariner unless he has light to see it by.
A house uninhabited soon comes to ruin; and a soul uninhabited by the Holy Spirit of God verges faster and faster to destruction.
The progress of holiness is sometimes like the lengthening of a day-light after the days are past the shortest. The difference is for some time imperceptible, but still it is real, and in due season becomes undeniably visible.
If one of Mr. Pope’s letters (if I mistake not) mention is made of an eastern fable to this effect: – “On a time the owls and the bats joined in a petition to Jupiter against the sun, setting forth that his beams were so insufferably troublesome that the petitioners could not fly aboard with comfort, but were kept prisoner at home for at least twelve hours out of the twenty-four. Jupiter seeing Apollo shortly after, informed him of the application he had received, adding, I shall however, take the notice of the petition; and for you, do you be revenged by shining.” O believers, when Papists and Arminians charge the doctrines of grace with a tendency to licentiousness, let your lives be a confutation of the falsehood. Be revenged by shining.
It is a great thing to have gospel humility. If you know you want it, it is a sign you are not quite without it.
Children much indulged are apt to take liberties. To keep us humble, God must sometimes seem to frown.
Many husbands are like some members of parliament, all complaisance, humility, and fair speeches beforehand, but no sooner in passion of the desired object than the supple candidate becomes a haughty master.
There is sometimes no trees and flowers what florists call a false blossom: how many such do we see in the world of professing Christians!
Different members of the body have different offices and we some of greater, others of less importance; but they all belong to the body. Hypocrites are not real members, but excrescences of the Church, like falling hair, or the parings of the nails.
Definitions, or accurate ascertainments of the precise ideas which we mean to convey, by particular terms and phrases, are of great consequence in disembarrassing a question, and in shorting a debate.
Men adopt vice and error for want of knowing the true deformity of both: as in Russia, where unmarried women constantly were veils, it is frequent for the bridegroom never to see his wife’s face until after marriage.
The Holy Ghost must shine upon you graces, or you will not be able to see them and your good works must shine upon your faith, or your neighbours will not be able to see it.
If I build a house, it is ten thousand to one if I do not afterwards find it defective in some respect or other: there is continually something to add, or something to alter, and something that may be improved for the better.-If I write a book, I find it imperfect. Some errata of the printer, some defects in the language, something to add, or something to refresh. So it is with all human works. The work of Christ’s righteousness and redemption is the only finished, the only perfect work that ever was wrought among men. God give me faith in it!
The form of salutation in some countries is by respectfully touching or lifting up the corner of the person’s garment you would address; but to kiss the vest is the highest token of reverence.-And the highest instance of regard you can show Christ is by embracing the robe of his imputed righteousness.
Man, even in his most enlightened state, can no more form a competent idea of the wisdom that lies at the bottom of God’s effective and permissive decrees, than an earth-worm or a beetle can enter into the political views which actuate the movements of a prime minister.
I have know an unskillful weeder pull up and destroy flower-roots and herbs under the notion of their being weeds. Just such would be the conduct of the present restless enemies to the Church of England, if their innovating wishes were to take effect. (1772.)
INTEREST IN CHRIST
Our interest in Christ does not depend on our sanctification, but our sanctification depends on our interest in Christ.
Go to heaven boldly, let men say what they will. Use yourself to the weather: a little rain will not melt you. The more you warp up, the more liable you will be to take cold.
Some harbours have bars of sand which lie across the entrance and prohibit the access of ships at low water.-There is a bar, not of sand, but of adamantine rock, the bar of Divine justice, which lies between a sinner and heaven. Christ’s righteousness is the high-water that carries a believing sinner over this bar, and transmits him safe to the land of eternal rest, which will fail us in our greatest need, and will ever us short of the heavenly Canaan.
Antiquarians set an inestimable value on uniques on such curiosities of which there is but one of a sort in the world. Justification is in the number of the believer’s uniques. There is but one justification (properly so called) in the whole universe, and it equally belongs, through grace, to all the children of God, and the Christians wishes to be viewing it every moment.
Christ’s sheep do not contribute any part of their own wool to their own cloathing. They wear, and are justified by, the fine linen of Christ’s obedience only.
KNOWLEDGE IN THEORY
I am acquainted with a lady who is a thorough mistress of music as a science, and can play the harpsichord with great judgement; but though she understands it, she does not love it, and never plays if she can avoid it. Too strong a picture of some who know the gospel in theory, but neither love it in sincerity nor practice its precepts with a good will!
It were to be wished that the advocates for the best of causes would, with Solomon, seek out acceptable words. I acknowledge that genteel drapery adds nothing to the value, but it adds much to the agreeableness of truth, which is not the better received for appearing in dishabille, much less for being attired like a sloven. If we do not decorate her with what Lord Chesterfield terms “lace and embroidery.” That is, with rich metaphors and refinements of style, yet an author should not permit her to walk abroad either in sluttish negligence, or in the garb of a shabby old gentlewoman fallen to decay.
The terrors of the law have much the same effect on our duties and obedience as frost has on a stream; it hardens, cools, and stagnates. Whereas, let the shining of divine love rise upon the soul, repentance will then flow, our hardness and coldness thaw.
LIFE OF CHRIST
The life of Christ on earth may be compared to the garden of Eden before Adam fell, in which was no plant growing but such as were beautiful and salutary, none that was either useless or hurtful.
It is certainly no small point gained to prove, that what is now generally considered as the first day of the week is, in reality, and in order of rotation from the beginning, the seventh or primeval Sabbath, and that God incarnate rose from the tomb on that very day in succession on which God absolute ceased from, the works of creation. Indeed, the compilers of our Liturgy seem to have had some insight into this matter, else they would hardly have engrafted the fourth commandment (which expressly and peremptorily enjoins the sanctification of the seventh day) into the communion service, and directed all the members of the Church to unite in prayer to God for grace to keep that law.
LOVE TO GOD
The people of Christ are not merit-mongers. Love to the captain of their salvation ranks them under his banner. They are not like the Swiss, who fight for pay.
As fruits artificially raised or forced in a hot-house, have not the exquisite flavour of those fruits which grow naturally and in their due season; so that obedience which is forced by the terrors of the law, wants the genuine flavour and sweetness of that obedience which springs from a heart warmed and meliorated with the love of God in Christ Jesus.
If Christ has your good will, he will certainly have your good word. If you truly love him, you will not be ashamed to speak for him.
When a believer marries an unbeliever, what is it but reviving the old cruel punishment of trying the living and the dead together?
Gospel ministers should not be too hasty and eager to wipe off every aspersion that is cast on them falsely for Christ’s sake. Dirt and the character (if unjustly thrown), like dirt on the clothes, should be let alone for a while, until it dries; and then it will rub off easily enough.
Ministers then only draw the bow successfully, when God’s Holy Spirit sharpens the gospel arrow, and wings it to the hearts of them that hear.
Gregory Nazianzen says, in his eulogium on Basil, “thy word was thunder and thy life was lightning.” Such should the preaching and the conversation of every minister be.
The weight of opposition will always fall heaviest on those who sound the gospel trumpet loudest.
Gospel ministers do, indeed, in some sense, turn the world upside-down. The fall of Adam has turned human nature up-side-down long ago; and converting grace must turn us up-side-down again, in order to bring us right.
Gospel ministers are usually, in will and desire at least, employed for God to the last moment of their lives. Their work being accomplished, they are call from labour to heaven; as Cincinnatus was found at the plough when he received his call to the dictatorship of Rome.
Among the great variety of preachers, some give the pure gospel wine, unadulterated and undashed.
Were evangelical preachers and writers to stop, and give a lash to every spiteful noisy cur that yelps at them in their way to the kingdom of God, they would have enough to do before they got to their journey’s end.
Next to being a true believer, it is the hardest thing in the world to be a faithful minister.
Ministers are the bow: the law is the arrow. God must bend the bow by the impulse of his own arm, and wing the arrow or it will never hit a sinner’s heart.
I have read of some harbour abroad, where salt water and fresh run together in one amicable stream, but without mingling. Such should be the case of God’s ministers. They are to preach both law and gospel; but without mixing or confounding them together.
The best clock in the world will be spoiled, if you are perpetually moving the hand backwards and forwards, and altering it in order to make it keep time with a variety of other clocks; it will hardly ever go regularly and well. So a minister, who shapers and accommodates his sentiments and opinions of other people, will never be happy, respectable, or useful.
Different ministers are sent of God to different persons. Just as a great man who keeps many servants, sends them with letters or messages to such or such particular people.
A minister can only lay on the caustic; God alone can make the hearers feel it.
To amuse the sinners with lectures on morality is like going to a hospital and haranguing to a company of sick folks on the advantages of health. Rather let us labour to cure them of their diseases, and then they will know the value and comforts of health without our giving them a dissertation upon it. Lead sinners to Christ and to the Holy Spirit, and then they will love and practice morality as naturally as sparks fly upward.
Morality not flowing from faith in Christ resembles an artificial flower; which has the appearance, but neither the life, the beauty, nor the fragrance of a real one.
I have no more conception of a true believer without morality, than of a river without water, or of a sun without light and heat.
National matters at present carry a very gloomy aspect. But it is in things civil as well is spiritual; and I regard my country and myself in a similar view. Considered in myself, I am most unworthy and sinful creature; considered in Christ, I am without fault before the throne of God. Consider the state of public affairs as they are in themselves; and hardly any thing can be more threatening, cloudy, or unfavourable. Consider them in a providential view, and whatever is, is right. This is my sheet anchor, concerning that black and dismal storm which now seems to be bursting over the English empire. A. T. Bath, Aug. 4. 1775.
When a person loiter on a journey they are sometimes benighted afterwards; and when believers are not diligent in the use of ordinances, and in the performance of good works, no wonder if they walk in darkness.
All God’s children are still-born. They come spiritually dead into the world. And dead they continue till they are born again of the Holy Ghost.
Every believer has four births. A natural birth into the world; a spiritual birth into the kingdom of grace, at regeneration; a birth into glory at death; and a new birth of his body from the grave at the resurrection.
No man can remember the day of his natural birth; but most of God’s people can remember the day when they were born again.
The times are such that it is almost impossible for a man to go to heaven without getting a nickname by the way. But it is better to go to heaven with a nickname, than to go to hell without one. If I must give up the truths of God, or lose my character; then farewell character, and welcome the truths of God.
OLD AND NEW MAN
Old Adam never was a saint yet, and yet never will be; Rom. vii. On the other hand, the new man, or principle of grace in the heart, never sinned, and never can; Ron. vii. 1 John.
Take a man of quicksilver, let it fall to the floor, and it will split itself into a vast number of distinct globulas. Gather them up, and put them together again, and they coalesce into one body, as before. Thus God’s elect below are sometimes crumbled and distinguished into various parties, though they are all, in fact, members of one and the same mystic body. But, when taken up from the world, and put together in heaven, they will constitute one glorious undivided church, for ever and ever.
In North America have been lately-reckoned no fewer than seventy-five religious denominations. And were there seventy-five thousand it would not signify seven pins heads. Denomination is nothing. Grace is grace in every converted person. There is but one Church after all.
Before the fall, man’s will was free to good, and burned with a pure celestial flame. Original sin acted as an extinguisher; and leaves the soul in the dark, until lighted again by fire of God’s Spirit.
Some harbours are fenced with messy chains of iron, reaching from side to side, to obstruct the access of shipping. Similar is the profession of Christ and his cause in persecuting times. But as a ship has often been able to force its way into the port, and burst the chains that oppose its entrance by the aid of a favourable tide and strong breeze, so persecution is nothing to a believing soul whose sails are filled with the breathings of the Holy Ghost, and the full tide of whose affections is turned by grace to God and Christ and heaven.
Pharisees are Pharisees in all ages and all countries. What is the difference between a pharisee in Judea and a pharisee in England?
Nothing but the lancet of God’s law in the hand of the Spirit can let out the proud blood of a pharisee, and reduce the swellings of self-righteousness.
Some time after the commencement of the 17th century, a singularly ingenious piece of spiritual allegory was published under the following title: “The Isle of Man, or legal Proceeding in Manshire against Sin.” The author was the Rev. Mr. Richard Bernard, rector of Batcombe, in Somersetshire. This performance seems to have had a great run; my copy is of the eighth edition, printed at London, A. D. 1632.
The above work, in all probability, suggested to Mr. John Bunyan the first idea of his “Pilgrim Progress,” and of his “Holy War.” The former of these ism perhaps, the finest allegorical work extant, describing every stage of believer’s experience, from conversion to glorification, in the most artless simplicity of language, yet peculiarly rich with spiritual unction, and glowing with the most vivid, just, and well conducted machinery throughout; it is, in short, a master-piece of piety and genius, and will, I doubt not, be of standing use to the people of God so long as the sun and moon endure. It has been affirmed, and I believe with truth, that no book in the English tongue has gone through so many editions, the Bible and Common Prayer alone excepted.
It is a saying that kings have long hands. This is eminently true of Christ, the king of saints. He has long hands to reach his enemies in a way of judgement, and a long hand to lay hold on his elect, and to bring nigh those who once stood afar off from him and his righteousness.
The longer we neglect writing to an absent friend, the less mind we have to set about it. So the more we neglect private prayer and closet communion with God, the more we grow in our own approaches to him. Nothing breeds a greater strangeness between the soul and God than the restraining of prayer before him. And nothing would renew the blessed intimacy if God himself, the neglected party, did not, as it were, send us a letter of expostulation from heaven and sweetly chide us for our negligence. Then we melt, then we kindle, and the blissful intercourse gradually open as usual.
David would not have been so often upon his knees in prayer if affliction had not weighted him down.-There are, I believe, more prayers in the writings of David and of Jeremiah than in any other portion of Scripture.
The longer you are with God on the mount of prayer and secret communion with him, the brighter will your face shine when you come down.
We pray spiritually by a form, and we may pray formally and coldly without one.-Suppose I was to say to a converted dissenter, “Sir you do not sing the praises of God spiritually.” He would ask, “Why not?” Was I to answer, “Because you sing by a form: Dr. Watt’s psalm and hymns are all precomposed: they are forms in the strictest sense of the word;” the good man would reply, “True: they are precomposed forms; but I can sing them very spiritually for all that.” I should rejoin. “And I can pray in the words of the liturgy as spiritually as you can sing in the words of Dr. Watts.”
Mere moral preaching only tells people how the house ought to be built. Gospel preaching does more, for it actually builds the house.
Was I a layman, and Providence was to cast me in a place where I could not possibly hear the gospel preached, but should be forced to hear either an Arian or an Arminian ministry if I heard any at all, I should much rather choose to spend my Lord’s days at home in reading and praying privately. By the same rule that I would rather stay within, and take such a dinner as my own house affords, than go abroad to dine where I should be sure of sitting down (at best) to a dish of gravel or sand, if not of arsenic.- See Ezek. xi. 16.
PRESENCE OF GOD
If you go to Court, you know whether you have seen the king, and whether he has spoken to you or not. And when you attend an ordinance, you know whether you have enjoyed the presence of God or not.
If God had not chosen thee in his Son, he would have called thee by his Spirit; and he that called thee by his Spirit will preserve thee to his kingdom.
If a coach or wagon be likely to run over us, we exert all our strength and speed to get out of the way. If a storm overtakes us, we look out for a place of shelter. O that we were equally sedulous to flee from the wrath to come.
People who profess to believe the doctrines of the gospel, and yet do not experience the power of those doctrines unto sanctification resembles a man who looks over a hedge into a garden without going into it.
Some professors pass for very meek, good-natured people until you displease them. They resemble a pool or pond which, while you let it alone, looks clean and limpid, but if you put in a stick and stir the bottom, the rising sediment soon discovers the impurity that lurks beneath.
As the most florid people do not always enjoy the firmest state of health, so the most shewy professors are not always the holiest and most substantial believers.
There is a set of fellows in the present age jocosely called Jessamies and Maccaronies, who affect to dress as fine as butterflies, and to be squeamishly delicate and elegant; so that you would almost take a macaroni to be a Semiramis or a Cleopatra in men’s clothes. But there are spiritual Maccaronies as well as world ones. And who are those? Your self-righteous people, and perfectionists above all; who surveying themselves, not in the unflattering glass of God’s law, but in the delusive mirror and through the false medium of self-conceit, fall in love with their own image (Like Narcissus), and think themselves to be spiritually rich and beautiful, though all the while they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Christ’s imputed righteousness constitutes the best dress, and sanctification by his Spirit constitutes the real beauty of the soul. And if we have not his righteousness to wear, and his grace to make us holy, we are but paltry Maccaronies, be our profession ever so splendid.
All the promises of man to man ought to be conditional. It is for God to make absolute promises, for he alone is unchangeable and omnipotent.
If our Lord was upon earth, and there were in the same street two persons, the one rich and the other poor, but both equally desirous of his company, I verily believe that he would visit the poor man first.
Too much wealth, like a suit of cloths too heavily embroidered, does but encumber and weigh us down, instead of answering the solid purposes of usefulness and convenience.
Generally speaking, the sun-shine of too much worldly favour weakens and relaxes our spiritual nerves; as weather too intensely hot relaxes those of the body. A degree of seasonable and invigorates and braces up.
I have no notion of a timid, sneaking profession of Christ. Such preachers and professors are like a rat playing at hide and seek behind a wainscot, who pops his head through a hole to see if the coast is clear, and ventures out if nobody is in the way, but slinks back again when danger appears. We cannot be honest to Christ except we are bold for him. He is either worth all we can lose for him, or he is worth nothing.
Reason is God’s candle in man. But as a candle must first be lighted ere it will enlighten, so reason must be illuminated by divine grace, ere it can savingly discern spiritual things.
The covenant of redemption, which is a covenant of absolute grace to us, was to Christ a covenant of works and a covenant of sufferings.
Mere reformation differs just as much from regeneration as white-washing an old rotten house differs from taking it down and building it anew.
Some people laugh at regeneration by the Spirit of God, and think there is nothing in it. A plain sign that they themselves are quite without it. If a man was to come and tell me that there is no such thing in the world as money, I should take it for granted that he therefore thinks so because he himself never had any.
RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
A celebrated heathen said, “I wrap myself up in mu own virtue.” A true believer has something infinitely better to warp himself up in. When Satan says-thou hast yielded to my suggestions-when conscience says, thou hast turned a deaf ear to my admonitions-when the law of God says, thou hast broke me-when the gospel says, thou hast neglected me-when justice says, thou hast insulted me-when mercy says, thou hast slighted me-faith can say, all this is too true; but Christ justified me involvo, I warp myself up in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
The gates of heaven fly open before the righteousness of Christ, as certainly as the door of Lydia’s heart flew open under the hand of God’s regenerating Spirit.
But by nature we are all weavers and spinners. We shut our eyes against the garment ready wrought; and like silkworms, we shall die and perish in our own web, if the Spirit of God does not unravel it for us, and lead us to the righteousness of Christ.
We may safely go as far as the candle of God’s word goes before.
We should be in a bad condition indeed, if our salvation was suspended on conditions of our own performing.
God’s everlasting love, his decree of election, and eternal covenant of redemption, are the three hinges on which the door of man’s salvation turns. When man fell from God, infinite justice put a lock upon the door: a lock which nothing but the golden key of Christ’s blood and righteousness can open. The Holy Ghost (if I may venture to use so familiar a comparison) is, as it were the omniscient keeper of the door; and he lets no souls in but such as he himself has washed and justified and sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by his own efficacious grace.
I should as soon expect to be saved by my sins as to be saved by my good works.
An old proverb says, “They who are not handsome at twenty , will never be handsome: they who are not strong at thirty, will never be strong: they who are not wise at forty, will never be wise: and they who are not rich at fifty, will never be rich.” However this may be generally be, yet the grace of God is free, and not bound to time or place. Some come to Christ in childhood; some in youth; some in mature age; and some who go unconverted to a dying bed, rise converted from a dying bed to heaven. Happy they who are effectually caught by grace; whether at first, the third, the sixth, the ninth, or the eleventh hour! Our law says, Nullum tempus occurrit regi: (“no time runs against the king”) and I am sure it is the case with God.
When I have been in a post-chaise, I have often seen a dog pursue it with much noise and self-importance. The poor animal thought the carriage was running away from him; whereas, in truth, it was going at an equal rate long enough before he appeared, and continued to do so long after he was out of hearing. When public persons are attacked by wretched scribblers too mean to answer; the scribblers affect to think that the omission is owing to their own superiority in argument. While, in fact, they are too scurrilous and unimportant to be noticed.
Self-righteous people are like a man who has run up a very slight house for his own residence; in which, while he sits or sleeps securely, a sudden storm arises, and blows down the whole fabric, and buries the builder in the ruins. God will either bring us out of our self-righteous castle, or crush us with its fall.
A believer, with regard to spiritual enjoyments, resembles a barometer. As the silver in this instrument rises when the sun shines and the weather is fine; but sinks when the air is heavy and loaded with damps; so the Christian’s sensible comfort rises when the Holy Spirit’s countenance shines upon his soul, but subsides when left to the evil workings of his own heart.
It is in grace as it is in nature. Some have a sharp sight, some are near-sighted. Some clearly see their interest in Christ; some can hardly discern it at all. Some have likewise a clear view of gospel doctrines: some a confused one.
It is a peculiar happiness to observe, that in matters of spiritual concern, the philosopher and ploughman (if truly regenerate) have the same feelings, and speak the same language; they all eat of the same spiritual meat, and drink of the same spiritual rock which followers them, and that rock is Christ. Hence that similitude of experience, or to speak figuratively, that strong and striking family likeness which obtains among the converted people of God, in every period of time, and in every nation under heaven. They all, without exception, feel themselves totally ruined by original sin; they all, without exception, take refuge in the righteousness and cross of Christ, and unite in ascribing the whole praise of their salvation to the alone free grace and sovereign mercy of Father, Son, and Spirit.
Suppose a loving and beloved husband dies a violent death. Can the widow love and admire and value the sword or the pistol by which her husband lost his life? As little can be true believers love sin; for by it Christ, the bridegroom of their souls, was put to death. If a person fall and break his leg, or be burnt out of his house, most people pity and symphathize with him. But if a man live in sin, where are the neighbours that feel for his danger and labour to reclaim him? Or, if a believer be overtaken by a fault, how few professors will commiserate his case, and endeavour to restore him in the spirit of meekness?
Our corrupt hearts are like gunpowder, apt to kindle at every spark of temptation.
The Spirit of God must be continually throwing water upon the soul in order to preserve it from taking fire.
Nothing but Christ will do for a dying sinner; and why should we dream that any thing else will do for a living sinner?
Sin cannot enter into heaven; but a sinner may.
I know but of two uninterrupted successions. 1. Of sinners, ever since the fall of Adam. 2. Of saints; for God always had, and will always have, a need to serve him.
Want of spiritual comfort is often attended with spiritual advantage. A person who walks in he dark is usually the more cautious and careful where and how he treads.
It is with our souls as it is with our bodies; we sometimes catch cold we know not how.
How many people deceive themselves under a profession of extraordinary strictness! The Capuchin friars make a vow never to touch any piece of money whatever while they live. Offer them a shilling, or a guinea, they will refuse to take it; but warp it up in a bit of paper, and they will receive and pocket it without scruple.
God knows best what to do with us. We are not qualified to choose for ourselves. The patient ought not to prescribe for the physician, but the physician for the patient.
When Hagar was quite disconsolate with fatigue of body and distress of mind, there was a fountain by her, though she knew it not. So the weeping believer has relief at hand which he cannot see. God’s word, God’s Spirit, and God’s ministers, are the angels that direct and lead his afflicted people to the fountain opened.
Was a man, every day, to throw a purse of money, or even a single guinea, into the sea, he would be looked upon as a mad mean, and his friends would soon confine him for such. But a man that throws away that which is of more value than gold, then mines, than the whole world; even his health, his peace, his time, and his soul; such a one is admired, esteemed, and applauded by the greater part of man-kind.
Worms and other insects take up their habitation under the surface of the earth. A plat of ground may be, outwardly, verdant with grass, and decorated with flowers. But take a spade in your hand, and turn up the mould, and you soon have a sample of the vermin that lurk beneath. Temptation is the spade which breaks up the ground of a believer’s heart, and helps to discover the corruptions of his fallen nature.
Trust the promise, and God will make good the performance.
We can never be truly easy and happy until we are enabled to trust God for all things: and the more we are enabled to trust him, the more gracious and faithful we shall find him.
A good king carefully observes the law. Christ, the king of Zion, kept the divine law in all respects; and his converted subjects first trust in him as a law-fulfiller ere they can obey him acceptably as a law-giver.
Many turnpike-gates bear this inscription in large capital letters, “No trust here.” This is the very language of our own unbelieving hearts. We do not trust God.We do not give him credit. Hence all murmurings, anxiety, &c.
People of fluctuating principles resemble what is fabled of Mahomet’s iron coffin suspended in the air between two large load-stones, but without touching either of them.
Some have entertained a chimerical idea of a universal language. There is, indeed, spiritual speaking, a language common to all the converted, of every age and country. The language of Canaan is understood all the world over, by every one who is taught of God.
It is a common thing in London, when a house is uninhabited and shut up, for boys to write in chalk on the window-shutters and door “Empty.” When a person professes godliness, and does not bring forth good works in his practice, we too may write the word “Empty” on all the profession he makes.
“Universality,” say the Papists, “is a mark of the true Church. There are some Catholics in every country under heaven.” But if this be a just mark, the Jews will bid the fairest of any for being the true Church. For they are sifted among all nations.
It is said of the original Indians of Florida that, when they could not pay their debts, they took a short method of settling the account by knocking their creditors on the head. Sinners, in a state of unregeracy, though partly sensible that they do not keep the law of God, yet think to knock God’s justice on the head by pleading absolute mercy.
An unregenerate man is absolutely dead in a spiritual sense. He has no hearing of the promises; no sight of his own misery, of the holiness of God, of the purity of the law, use of Christ as covenanting, obeying,dying, and interceding; no taste of God’s love in Christ, and the sweetness of communion with him by the Spirit; no feeling of conviction in a way of race, humiliation, and self-renunciations; no scent after God and glory; no hungerings and thirstings after spiritual consolations and assurance; no motion toward divine enjoyments and evangelical holiness.
Mount Sinai, or the hope of being saved (in part at least) by our own works, may be compared to a dreary rock. Satan is the monster that gapes to devour. Christ is Perseus, who, by the sword of his Spirit slays the monster’s power, breaks the legal chain, and sets the awakened soul at liberty.
Mount Sinai (i.e. salvation by works), is labour-in-vain hill. Do all you can, you will never get up to the top of it, not so much as half way up.
The business of Christ’s blood is to wash our bad works out, and to wash our good works clean.
Some mens’ writings resemble a dark night, enlivened by a few occasional flashed of lighting.
I was lately asked what my opinion is of Mr. John Fletcher’s writings: my answer was, that in the very few pages which I had perused, the serious passages were dulness double condensed; and the lighter passages impudence double distilled.
Young converts are generally great bigots. When we are first converted to God, our brotherly affections too often resembles the narrowness of a river at its first setting out. But as we advance nearer to the great ocean of all good, the channel widens, and our hearts expand more and more, until death perfectly unites us to the source of uncreated love.