Page images

ledge and belief of these mysteries by humble prayer, than by the most anxious study; as at court, an hour of favour is worth a year's attendance. Man cannot acquire so much as God can give.

And as humility, so holiness prepares the soul for the receiving of supernatural truths. The understanding is clarified by the purification of the heart. It is not the difficulty and obscurity of things revealed, that is the real cause of infidelity, since men believe other things upon far less evidence; but it is the prejudice of the lower faculties that hinders them. When all affections to sin are mortified, the soul is in the best disposition to receive divine revelation. He that doth the will of God, shall know whether the doctrine of the gospel came from heaven, John vii. 17.

The Spirit of God is the alone instructer of the spirit of man in these mysteries, so as to produce a saving belief of them. That knowledge is more clear and satisfying, that we have by his teaching, than by our own learning. The rational mind may discern the literal sense of the propositions in the gospel, and may yield a naked assent to the truth of them ; but without supernatural irradiation by the Spirit of life, there can be no transforming and saving knowledge and belief of them. And as the vast expansion of air that is about us, doth not preserve life, but that part which we breathe in ; so it is not the compass of our knowledge and belief, though it were equal to the whole revealed will of God, that is vital to the soul, but that which is practised by us. The apostle saith, though he had the understanding of all mysteries, and all knowledge, and all faith ; yet if it were not joined with love, the principle of obedience, it were unprofitable, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. There is the same difference between the speculative knowledge of these mysteries, and that which is affectionate and operative, as between the wearing of pearls for ornament, and the taking of them as a cordial to revive the fainting spirits. In short; such a belief is required, as prevails upon the will, and draws the affections, and renders the whole man obsequious to the gospel ; for such a faith alone is answerable to the quality of the revelation. The gospel


is not a mere narrative, but a promise. Christ is not represented only as an innocent person dying, but as the Son of God dying to deliver men from sin and the effects of it. The fallen angels may understand and believe it without any affections, being unconcerned in it; to them it is a naked history; but to men it is a promise, and cannot be rightly conceived without the most ardent affections. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Tim. i. 15. december

It is, essentially, as good as true ; its sweetness and profit are equal to its certainty : so that it commends itself to all our faculties. There are severe and sad truths which are attended with fearful expectation, and the mind is averse from receiving them; as the law, which, like lightning, terrifies the soul with its amazing brightness: and there are pleasant illusions which have no solid foundation : and as truth doth not delight the mind unless united to goodness, such as is suitable to its palate, so goodness doth not affect the will, unless it be real. Now the doctrine of the gospel is as certain as the law, and infinitely more comfortable than all the inventions of men. It is in the knowledge of it alone, that the sensible and considering soul enjoys perfect satisfaction and the most composed rest. It is evident, that the understanding doth not behold these truths in their proper light, when the will doth not embrace them; for the rational appetite follows the last judgment of the mind. When the apostle had a powerful conviction of “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ,” this made him so earnest to gain an interest in him, Phil. iii. 8. For this reason, those who are only Christians in title, “having a form of godliness, and denying the power of it,” are, in scripture language, styled infidels; it being impossible that those who truly and heartily believe this great mystery of godliness, should remain ungodly. It is a strong and effectual assent that descends from the brain to the heart and life, that denominates us true believers; so that when the death of Christ is propounded as the cause of our reconciliation with God, the wonder of the mystery doth not make it incredible, when as

truths ;

the reason of the mortification of our lusts, the pleasures of sin do not disguise its horror. When salvation is offered upon our accepting of Christ for our Prince and Saviour, the soul is ravished with its beauty, and chooses it for an everlasting portion.

To conclude; the doctrine of the gospel clearly discovers its divine original. It is so reasonable in itself, and profitable to us, so sublime and elevated above man, yet hath such an admirable agreement with natural

it is so perfectly corresponding in all its parts, that without affected obstinacy, no man can reject it. And if, after the open revelation of it, we are so stupid and wicked as not to see its superlative excellency, and not to receive it with the faith, love, and obedience which are due to it, what contempt is this of that infinite wisdom which contrived the astonishing way of our salvation ! what a reproach to the divine understanding, as if it had been employed from eternity about a matter of no moment, and that deserves not our serious consideration and acceptance! The neglect of it will justly bring a more severe punishment than the hell of the uninstructed heathens, who are strangers to supernatural mysteries.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Though all the divine attributes are equal as they are in God, (for one infinite cannot exceed another,) yet in their exercise and effects, they shine with a different glory. And mercy is represented in scripture with peculiar advantages above the rest. It is God's natural offspring; he is styled “the Father of mercies,” 2 Cor. i. 3. It is his dear" attribute, that which he places next to himself; he is proclaimed, “ The Lord God merciful and gracious,” Exod. xxxiv. 6. It is his delight, mercy pleases him, Mic. vii. 18. It is his treasure, “he is rich in mercy,” Ephes. ii. 4. It is his triumphant attribute, and the special matter of his glory ; mercy rejoices over judgment, Jam. ii. 13. Now, in the performance of our redemption, mercy is the predominant attribute, that sets all the rest a working. The acts of his wisdom, justice, and power, were in order to the illustration of his mercy. And if we duly consider that glorious work, we shall find in it all the ingredients of the most sovereign mercy. In discoursing of it, I shall principally consider two things, wherein this attribute is eminently glorified, the freeness and the greatness of it.

The freeness of this mercy will appear by considering the original and object of it.

1. The original is God: and the notion of a Deity includes infinite perfections, so that it necessarily follows that he hath no need of the creature's service to preserve or heighten his felicity. "If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand ?” Job xxxv. 7. From eternity he was without external honour, yet in that infinite duration he was perfectly joyful and happy. He is the fountain of his own blessedness, the theatre of his own glory, the glass of his own beauty. One drop increases the ocean, but to God a million of worlds can add nothing. Every thing hath so much of goodness as it derives from him. As there was no gain to him by the creation, so there can be no loss by the annihilation of all things. The world proceeded from his wisdom as the idea and exemplar, and from his power as the efficient cause ; and it so proceeds from him, as to remain more perfectly in him. And as the possession of all things, and the obedience of angels and men, is of no advantage to God, so the opposition of impenitent rebels cannot lessen his blessedness. “If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or, if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him?" Job xxxv. 6. The sun suffers no loss of his light by the darkness of the night or an eclipse, but the world loses its day: if intelligent beings do not esteem God for his greatness, and love him for his goodness, it is no injury to him, but their own infelicity. Were it for his interest, he could by one act of power conquer the obstinacy of his fiercest enemies. If he require subjection from his

« PreviousContinue »