The Consistent Christian
William Secker, 1660
WHY a Christian Should Do More than Others
"What are you doing more than others?" Matthew 5:47
In a mountain, the law was propounded to Moses—and in a mountain the law was expounded by Jesus; the former to a man of God—the latter by the Son of God; the one to a prophet of the Lord, the other by the Lord of the prophets.
As the works of Christ were miraculous—so the words of Christ were mysterious; they were such a depth which none could sound but those whom God had furnished with the plummet of an enlightened understanding. Before any one can peruse the Scriptures to profit, the Lamb of God must open the 'seven seals'.
In this chapter, the soul-justifying Savior condemns the self-justifying Scribes and Pharisees. Never did men make more boast in the law—but never had men less cause. They knew but little as to the letter—but less of its spirit. They were better acquainted with the customs of nature—than the canons of Scripture. Alas! how shall the blind see—when the seers are blind! They who should have put the eyes of others in, had put their own out!
The righteous laws of God cannot connive at the unrighteous lives of men; they not only require truth without—but within also. The rays of this sun enter the most secret chambers of the heart, therefore he who lusts after, and he who lies with a woman are both adulterers. He is a murderer whose heart is full of hatred, though his hands are free from violence. Thus the lusts of men may be predominant, when the lives of men are not inordinate; as guests may be in the house, when they look not out of the windows. He who begins religion where it should end—will end religion where it should be begun.
But as the suburbs direct to the city, and the portal leads to the palace—so the context will guide us to the text.
"If you love those who love you—what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" As an echo returns the voice it receives—so many will show kindness where kindness is shown; but shall tax collectors be as godly as the Lord's disciples? Shall the sons of men—equal the sons of God? Shall the law of nature swell to so high a tide—as the law of grace? This were for the dribbling rivulet to vie with the swelling ocean; this were for royalty to degenerate into beggary; and for the meridian sun to yield no more light than midnight shadows.
"And if you greet only your brothers—what are you doing more than others?" I shall not meticulously dissect these words, lest I should present to your view a frightful skeleton; nor shall I lavishly paint these windows, lest my deep colors should shut out the light. The native loveliness of Scripture scorns the unnatural color of a bewitching Jezebel. One rough diamond is of more value—than many smooth counterfeits.
My subject treats not of oratory—but divinity; and my design in it is rather to express affections, than to affect expressions. Though the sweetness of the sauce may yield pleasure to the palate—yet it is only the soundness of the meat which can administer nourishment to the blood.
This text is like a precious jewel—small in quantity, but great in quality. The words contain two parts:
I. An action propounded.
II. A question proposed.
I. An action propounded, touching that which is lawful: "If you love those who love you." "And if you greet only your brothers." This means to greet—with kisses and affection; therefore, what one verse calls greeting, the other calls loving; because greeting is a pledge of affection, it is the overflowing of the heart at the lips. There is a kiss of subjection and obedience—that is the subject's kiss; there is a kiss of wantonness and temptation—that is the harlot's kiss; there is a kiss of deception—that is the traitor's kiss; there is also a kiss of tenderness and affection—and that is the brother's kiss.
Now this Scripture enjoins you, not only to greet your friends—but your enemies also. Party esteem is but withered fruit, and falls rather from Sodom's vines—than Zion's trees. There is therefore a kiss of pity and forgiveness—and that is the Christian's kiss. If this is lacking—the others are vain. For, if you greet your brethren only, then observe what follows, which is:
II. A question proposed, "What are you doing more than others?" What great or singular thing do you do? The words thus understood contain this golden head of instruction,
Doctrine, That singular Christians will perform singular actions.
This is the well from which I shall draw the water; and the foundation upon which I shall raise the superstructure. You cannot rationally imagine that you will be supplied with bitter streams—from so sweet a spring; or that I should make a crooked wall or tottering fence—with such choice materials. Those who collect pearls from this spot—will leave as many behind them, as they carry with them.
As the disciples of Christ are more than others—so the disciples of Christ do more than others. A religious hypocrite may move beyond a Sodomite—but a true Christian moves beyond them both. Though the naturally dead can do nothing—yet the spiritually dead may do something. Though they can do nothing to merit the grace of life—yet they may do something as to using the means of life.
Cicero complains of Homer, that 'he taught the gods—to live like men'. But grace teaches men—to live like gods. It is lamentable that we should live so long in the world—and do so little for God; or that we should live so short a time in the world—and do so much for Satan. Other creatures are not more below a sinner, than a saint is above a sinner. Man is the excellency of the creature, the saint is the excellency of man, grace is the excellency of the saint, and glory is the excellency of grace!
Believers are among others, as Saul was among the Israelites—the tallest by the head and shoulders. Their birth is truly low—who are not born from above. "What are such earthly shrubs—compared with heavenly cedars? Those trees which have their top branches of hope in heaven—will have their lower boughs of activity on earth. Those who look for a heaven made ready—will live as though they were already in heaven.
Grace not only makes a man more a man—but it also makes him more than a man. The primitive Christians were the best of men. None were more lowly in their dispositions, or more lovely in their conversation. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generation. He was not a sinner among saints—but he was a saint among sinners. Who would have looked for so fair a bird—in so foul a nest! Though he once acted as the sons of men do—yet he was numbered with the sons of God. A field of wheat may be good—and yet have a weed in it. A saint is not free from sin—that is his burden; a saint is not free to sin—that is his blessing. Sin is in him—that is his lamentation; his soul is not in sin—that is his consolation.
Mark how an immaculate Savior glories in one of these singular saints, "And the Lord said unto Satan, Have you considered my servant Job?" Why, what is there in him so considerable? "There is none like him in all the earth." Though there were none in heaven so bad as Job—yet there were none on earth so good as Job. He was a man so like unto God—that there was no man like him.
A gracious person once hearing how far a hypocrite might go, said "Let hypocrites proceed as far as they can in that which is laudable; and when they can advance no further—I will go beyond them. A true Christian not only does more than others will do—but he also does more than others can do. Whatever is not above the top of nature, is below the bottom of grace. There are some who pretend to believe—but work not; there are others who work—but believe not. But a saint does both, he so obeys the law, as if there were no gospel to be believed; and so believes the gospel, as though there were no law to be obeyed. Religion consists not singly in believing or doing—but in both.
There are four sorts of things in the world:
1. There are some things which are neither good nor pleasant—as envy and slander. The eclipsing of another's sun—will not make your own shine with brighter beams. O pare off those envious nails, which are ever disfiguring that face which is fairer than your own. Why do you wound yourself—with that plaster which is laid upon your brother's sore? Why do you weep at every shower—which falls beside your own field? Who would envy an ox that pasture—which only fits it for the slaughter? Who would envy the malefactor that carriage—which only conveys him to the place of execution? You have no less—because others have much; nor have they much—because you have little. Another's wealth is no more the cause of your need, than Leah's fruitfulness was the cause of Rachel's barrenness. O never pine at your neighbor's prosperity—and you shall never pine away through your own scarcity. He enjoys much—who is thankful for a little. A grateful mind is a great mind.
2. There are some things which are pleasant—but not good, as youthful lusts and worldly delights. These bees carry honey in their mouths—but they have a sting in their tails! When this Jael brings forth her milk and her butter—then beware of the nail and the hammer! Death is in the pot—while you are tasting the soup! The world always presents a deadly potion—in the gilded cup of worldly pleasure. If the cup is sinful—do not taste it; if it is lawful—do not carouse over it. Reason forbids you, either to taste known poison—or to be intoxicated with pleasant wine. The fish is caught upon the hook—by leaping at the bait. Sin is like a river, which begins in a quiet spring—but ends in a tumultuous sea. "Flee from youthful lusts—and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace." 2 Timothy 2:22
3. There are some things good—but not pleasant, as sorrow and affection. Sin is pleasant—but unprofitable. Affliction is unpleasant—but profitable. "Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I keep Your word!" Psalm 119:67. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes!" Psalm 119:71. By affliction, the Lord separates the sin that he hates—from the soul that he loves. He sends affliction—to take the dirt of the world out of the hearts of His children. It is not sent to take down the tabernacle of nature—but to rear up the temple of grace within you. As waters are purest when they are in motion—so saints are generally holiest when in affliction. A foul fescue* frequently points to a fair lesson. Some Christians resemble those doltish children, who will learn their lessons—no longer than while the rod is on their backs! It is well known that by the greatest affliction—the Lord has sealed the sweetest instruction. Many are not bettered by the judgments they see—when they have bettered by the judgments they have felt. The purest gold is the most pliable by being in the furnace. That is the best blade which bends well, without retaining its crooked figure. (*A fescue is small wire by which those who teach to read, point out the letters.)
4. There are some things both good and pleasant, and those are gracious operations on the soul. A believer's bed of graces—is more fragrant than the most precious bed of spices. He who freely gives his image to us—must of necessity love his image in us. How illustrious do the heavens appear—while the sun is radiating them with his beams! "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things!"
But, as you cannot see so well by a candle under a bushel, as upon a table—I shall therefore hold up the subject to your view in the following light:
Firstly, I shall touch upon the explanation of that which is doctrinal.
Secondly, Upon the application of that which is practical.
The former is like cutting the garment out—the
latter is like putting the garment on.
I am first to treat of that which is DOCTRINAL. And here I shall show, first—WHY a believer does more than others; and, secondly—WHAT he does more than others.
I. WHY do Christians do more than others?
1. Because more is done FOR them—than is done for others.
There is that done for them—which none but he who made them could do. They are loved, they are atoned for, they are prayed for, and they are provided for—more than others. Now where there is an overabundance of privilege—there should be an overabundance of practice. We naturally expect more splendor from the beaming of the sun—than from the burning of a candle; and we look for more moisture from the drops from a cloud—than from a drops from a bucket. The same heat which melts the wax—will harden the clay. The juice which distills into a rose—is returned in a sweet perfume; but that which drops upon a nettle—is returned in an ill savor. If the mercies of God are not loadstones to draw us to heaven—they will be millstones to draw or sink us to hell! "Do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment is revealed!" Romans 2:4-5
"To whom much is given—of them much shall be required." The blessings we enjoy are not the fruit of our merit—but the fruit of God's mercy. By how much the more grace we have received—by so much the more glory we are obliged to return to the giver. He does not exact much—where little is bestowed; nor does he accept little—where much is received. A drop of praise is an unsuitable acknowledgment for an ocean of mercy! "Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel—You only have I loved of all the families of the earth." But was their return according to the benefit? Surely not—otherwise he would not have added, "Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." They were more loved by God than others—therefore they should have acknowledged him more than others.
Those who have tasted the goodness of God—can never speak good enough of God. Reason teaches, that those should bless most—who are most blessed. What are carnal men—compared to Christian men? The power of God appears in the formation of the carnal man—but the stupendous grace of God shines illustriously in the transformation of the the Christian man. In creation God has given the productions of the earth for our bodies—but in redemption he has given himself for our souls! Thus, it is a greater favor to be converted than to be created; yes, it were better for us to have no being—than not to have a new being.
When you were sailing to destruction, before sin's dangerous blast—then the most blessed gales of mercy sprang up, and changed your course! When you lay in the blood of your transgression—then God beheld you with affections of his compassion. His heart pitied you—and his hand helped you! Now where there is distinguishing mercy—there ought to be distinguishing duty. The gardener who holds the largest farms—will pay the greatest rent; and he who sows the most precious seed—will expect the choicest crop. Now read the great gardener's complaint against his vineyard: "My beloved has a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with choice vines." Here is an inventory of God's goodness to his vineyard. Now what follows? "He waited for a harvest of sweet grapes—but the grapes that grew were wild and sour!" God looked that they should be better to him than others—because he had been better to them than he had been to others.
God had made them flowers of his paradise; while others were left as the weeds of the Satan's wilderness. While others were Satan's thoroughfare—they were God's choice enclosed garden.
God has made you his own dials—on which the beams of the Sun of righteousness shines! He has made you gems for his crown—while others are stools for his feet! "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself unto us—and not unto the world?" As if he had said: "Lord, what are we more than others—that you should show yourself to us; when you might have shown yourself to them—and not to us?'
Reader! has God made you a vessel unto honor—out of the same lump, as another unto dishonor? Has he shown himself to you—and not to the world? And will you not show yourself for God—and not for the world? Remember, that it lay as a great blotch on Hezekiah's escutcheon, that, "he rendered not unto the Lord—according to the benefit done unto him."
2. Another reason why Christians do more than others, is—Because they stand in a nearer RELATION to God than others.
The nearer the relation—the stronger are the ties of obligation. In this view, believers on earth are superior to angels in heaven. Christ is related to the angels as a master to his servants—but he is united to believer as a head to its members. In this head, there are no glazed eyes—nor are there any withered or dead members in this body. While others are made of God—believers are born of God. While others stand before him as prisoners before their judge—believers appear before him as children before their father, and as a bride before a bridegroom. There are no stillborn children in the family of grace. God is the living Father, and therefore all his children live by him; he is also the everlasting Father, and therefore he will have due honor paid him. "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?" As a father—he will be revered for his goodness; and as a master—he will be feared for his greatness.
If honor is not the Lord's due—let him not have it; if it be his due—let him not be denied it. As man was born to serve God—he had better never have been born, than to refuse God that service.
This is the language of God to his children—I did not give you bodies and souls to serve sin with—but to serve me with. Our bodies were not formed to be the instruments of unrighteous actions—nor our souls the gloomy abodes of foul spirits.
The everlasting Father cannot endure the ungrateful behavior of his own children. Therefore, attend to the great complaint he makes against them. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for my children refuse to hear! I have nourished and brought up children—and they have rebelled against me!" Where the relation is the nearest—there the provocation is the greatest. It is far more pleasing to behold rebels becoming children—than to behold children becoming rebels.
When Caesar was wounded by the senators of Rome, Brutus a Roman of an illustrious family, also made a thrust at him. With that Caesar gave him a wishful look, saying, "What you—my son Brutus!" How can that tender mother endure to feel those lips sucking her blood—which used to draw her maternal breast? The unkindness of a friend is more sensibly felt—than that of an enemy.
The Roman censors took such an utter dislike to the debauched son of Africanus, that they refused to let him wear a ring on which his father's likeness was engraved; alleging, "That he who was so unlike the father—was unworthy to wear the father's picture." Thus God will never grant any to enjoy the love of Christ in heaven—who are destitute of the likeness of Christ on earth.
Alexander, who is reported to be an exceeding swift runner, was once solicited to run in the Olympic games. He answered "I will, if kings are my competitors." Give me such a saint who will pursue nothing on earth, which may be unsuitable to his birth from heaven. What! Shall he walk in darkness—whose Father is light! What! Shall those lips be found broaching falsehood—which were found breathing out prayers! What! Shall those eyes be found gazing on sinful objects—which were found reading the living Word of God!
The remembrance of our dignity—should engage us to our heavenly duty. "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine and strong drink." Such a sin is detestable in a sovereign, who has the eyes of his subjects upon him; but it is aggravated in a saint, who has the eyes of his Savior upon him. A spot in scarlet, is worse than a stain in cotton.
3. Another reason why Christians do more than others, is—Because they PROFESS more than others.
Though there are many professors who are not true believers; yet there are no true believers—who are not professors. As trees are known by their fruits—so believers are known by their works. Such as have received Christ's bounty—are unwilling to fight under Satan's banner.
There are many who "claim to know God—but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Man is not what he says—but what he does. For a man to say what he does—and not to do what he says—is to resemble those trees which are full of leaves—but void of fruits; or those barns wherein there is much chaff—but no wheat. "There is a difference between chaff and wheat!—says the Lord."
Ah, how intolerable will the punishment of those professors be—who have appeared as burnished gold to men—and are found only base metal in the sight of God! What will it profit, to put off the old manners—and not put off the old man? A snake may change its skin—and yet preserve its sting. The gospel professed, may lift a man unto heaven—but it is only the gospel possessed, that brings a man into heaven. To profess piety—and yet to practice impiety—will be so far from advancing a man's commendation, that it will assuredly heighten his condemnation!
"Why call you me, Lord, Lord—and do not do the things that I say?" As if he had said, "Either keep my words more—or else call me Lord no more! Either take me into your lives—or cast me out of your lips." As princes disdain to have their images on base counterfeits—so the Lord Jesus cannot delight to see his name on rotten hypocrites. Therefore he says, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ, depart from all iniquity." If godliness is evil—why is it so much professed? If godliness is good—why is it so little practiced?
"Who has saved us—and called us with a holy calling." Now a holy calling—will be attended with a holy carriage. Many may be found who can talk of grace—but very few can be found who taste of grace. It is not everyone who looks like a Christian—who lives like a Christian. For there are some who make their boast of the law, and yet through breaking the law, they dishonor God. It is a greater glory to us, that we are allowed to serve God—than it is to him, that we offer him that service. He is not rendered happy by us—but we are made happy by him. He can do without such earthly servants—but we cannot do without such a heavenly master.
It is unnatural for a Christian's tongue—to be larger than his hand. It is lamentable for him to hold a lamp to others—and yet to walk in darkness himself. There are more infected by the undue conduct of some—than there are instructed by the righteous doctrines of others. He who gives proper precepts, and then sets improper examples, resembles that foolish person, who labors hard to kindle a fire, and when he has done it, throws cold water upon it to quench it. Though such a physician may administer the reviving cordial to some fainting disciple—yet he is in danger himself of dying in a swoon. I may say of such professors, as was once said of a certain preacher, that "when he was in the pulpit, it was a pity he should ever leave it—for he was so excellent an instructor. But when he was out of the pulpit, it was a pity he should ever ascend it again—for he was so wretched a liver!"
Many people are offended with the profession of religion, because all are not truly pious who make a profession. A little consideration will correct this error. Does the sheep despise its fleece, because the wolf has worn it? Who blames a crystal river—because some melancholy men have drowned themselves in its streams? Will you refuse medicine—because some have wantonly poisoned themselves with it? He is a bad steward, who having a spot in his garment, cuts off the cloth, instead of rubbing off the dirt. God rejects all religion—but his own.
4. Another reason why Christians do more than others, is—Because they are inwardly CONFORMED to the image of their Redeemer more than others.
As Jesus Christ is the fountain of all excellency—to which all must come; so he is the pattern of excellency—to which all must conform. As he is the root on which a saint grows; so he is the rule by which a saint walks. God has made one Son in the image of us all—that he might make all his sons in the image of that one. Jesus Christ lived to teach us how to live—and died to teach us how to die. Therefore he commands us, saying, "Learn of me—for I am meek and lowly in heart—and you shall find rest unto your souls." O Reader! if the life of Christ is not your pattern—the death of Christ will never be your pardon! Though the Lord Jesus was a man of many sorrows—yet he was not a man of the least sin. No man can equalize him in holiness; yet every man ought to imitate him in holiness.
As the sun is the glory of creation—so is Christ the glory of redemption. The summit of true religion consists in imitating God. Without this, your religion will be found a Tekel—when it is weighed in the balance, it will be wanting. It would be well if there were as great a similarity between the life of Christ—and the life of Christians; as there is between a copy and the original. What he was by nature—that we should be by grace. As face answers to face in water—so should life answer to life in Scripture. He who was a way to others—never went out of the way himself.
A truly pious life, is a looking-glass, wherein Christ sees his own likeness. In our sacramental participations, we show forth the death of Christ; and in our evangelical conversation, we show forth the life of Christ. An excellent Christ—calls for excellent Christians. As he was never unemployed, he was never ill-employed. For, "he went about doing good." As our happiness lay near his heart—so his honor should lie near our hearts.
Jesus Christ even submits his person to be judged by his actions: "If I do not the works of my Father—do not believe me." As if he had said, "Never take me for a Savior—if I act contrary to a Savior." Thus should it be with a professor, "Never take me for a Christian—if I live contrary to the life of a Christian." If professors do more than others, it might be said, "Those are professors; but not Christians."
Man is naturally an aspiring being, and loves to be nearest to those who are highest. Why does he not therefore take as much delight in those precepts which enjoin holiness—as in those promises which ensure happiness?
All those who are conformed to the image of the Redeemer, are as willing to be ruled by Christ, as they are to be esteemed by him. He who deems his yoke heavy—will not find his crown easy.
By David's language, there were many singular saints in his day: "To the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." Was it so then? And should it not be so now? We know the New Testament outshines the Old, as much as the sun outshines the moon. If we then live in a more glorious dispensation, should we not maintain a more glorious conversation?
How blessed would it be for us, to have that blessed Scripture fulfilled in us, "As he was—so are we in this world." Now if we are in this world as he was—we shall be in heaven as he is! If there be no likeness between Christ and you on earth— there can be no friendship between Christ and you in heaven!
5. Another reason why Christians should do more than others, is—Because they are WATCHED more than others.
If once a man commence to be a professor—the eyes of all are upon him; and well they may, for his profession in the world, is a separation from the world. Believers condemn those by their lives—who condemn them by their lips! Righteous David saw many who were waiting to triumph in his mistakes. Hence the more they watched—the more he prayed: "Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of my enemies." It may be rendered, "because of my observers."
Christian, if you dwell in the open tent of licentiousness—the wicked will not walk backward, like modest Shem and Japheth, to cover your shame; but they will walk forward, like cursed Ham, to publish it. Thus they make use of your weakness—as a plea for their wickedness.
Men are merciless in their censures of Christians! They have no sympathy for their infirmity. But God weighs them in more equal scales, and says, "The spirit is willing—but the flesh is weak." While the saint is a dove in the eyes of God—he is only a raven in the estimation of sinners. Consider Christian—that an unholy life strips off the rich ornamental jewels from the neck of the bride, the Lamb's wife! Sin indulged in a believer, is like a rent in a richly embroidered garment; or like a crack in a golden bell. A foul spot is soonest discerned—in the fairest cloth. The world will sooner make an excuse for its own enormities—than for your infirmities.
The behavior of some professors has often given the wicked an opportunity to reproach religion. Lactantius reports, that the heathens were accustomed to say, "The master could not be good—when his disciples were so bad." The malice of sinners is such, that they will reproach the rectitude of God's Word—for the blemishes of the lives of professors who swerve from it. O that your pure life, did but hang a padlock upon their impure lips! Such will ever be throwing the dirt of professors—upon the face of profession!
If the sun is eclipsed one day—it attracts more spectators than if it shone a whole year! So if you commit one sin—it will cause you many sorrows—and the world many triumphs. Dr. Whitaker, on reading the Sermon on the Mount, broke out, saying, "either this is not the gospel—or we are not of the gospel." The cruelty of the Spaniards to the Indians, made them refuse Christian baptism, "For," said they, "he must be a wicked God, who has such wicked servants!" O that God's jewels would sparkle more—in this benighted world!
That was a glorious eulogy given to Zacharias and Elizabeth: "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless." God made them both righteous—and then men saw them righteous. Their religion was undefiled before God—and their lives were unspotted from the world.
Reader! would you be righteous in God's sight? Then you must be righteous in God's Son. Would you be unspotted from the world? Then remember, you are not of the world. When the godly are left to fall, then the envious sinner will exclaim, "So that is your religion!" No wonder if a Barbarian gives the alarm—when the leprosy is in an Israelitish house.
6. Another reason why believers should do more than others, is—Because if they do no more—it will appear that they are no more than others.
As there is no man so vicious—but some good may be performed by him to man; so there is no one so religious—but some evil may be committed by him against God. As one bird does not prove the approach of summer—neither does one good action prove a man to be a believer. There is in every being a natural tendency to some center. God is the center of the saints—and glory is the center of grace. Now where we do not discover that bias towards grace—we may deny the being of grace.
Reader! would you be thought more than tax collectors and sinners? Then beware of living as tax collectors and sinners! Jesus Christ gives you an excellent mirror in his memorable sermon upon the mount, for you to behold your own likeness in: "You shall know them by their fruits." There is no ascertaining the quality of a tree—but by its fruits. When the wheels of a clock move within—the hand on the dial will move without. When the heart of a man is sound in conversion—then the life will be fair in profession. How shall we judge of the well—but by the waters which run through the pipes?
As a sinner will reveal the good he desires; so a saint will show the good he enjoys. When the sun dawns upon the earth, it is presently known; and when the Sun of righteousness arises upon the heart—it cannot be hidden. It is said of the Savior, that "he could not be hidden." As it is with the head—so it is with the members: "You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine among men, that they may see your good works." When Saul was made a sovereign, he had another spirit poured out upon him; a spirit of government, for a place of government: and when a sinner is made a saint, he has also another spirit poured out upon him. As he is what he was not—so he does what he did not.
It is reported of a harlot, that when she saw a certain person with whom she had committed immorality, she renewed her enticements; to whom he replied, "I am not now what I once was!" Though she was the same woman that she was before—yet he was not the same man he was before.
Were the sun to give no more light than a star, you could not believe he was the regent of the day; were he to transmit no more heat than a glow-worm, you would question his being the source of earthly heat. Were God to do no more than a creature—where would his Godhead be? Were a man to do no more than a brute—where would his manhood be? Were not a saint to excel the sinner—where would his sanctity be?
Professor, if you live and walk as a worldling, you subject yourself to that apostolic rebuke, "Are you not carnal—and walk as men?" If men debase themselves as beasts—the Lord will denominate them beasts. If professors live like other men—God will call them unregenerate men. There is no passing for current coin in heaven—without the stamp and signature of heaven.
7. The disciples of Christ do more than others—Because they are appointed to be JUDGES of others.
If you consult the Holy Scriptures, you will find that both the Father, the Son—and the saints are to judge the world. The ordination is the Father's, the execution is the Son's, and the approbation is the saints'. This shall no more derogate from the honor of Christ, than the sessions of the justices derogate from the authority of the judges.
When the apostle Paul would quash the sinful suits among the believing Corinthians, he informed them that they did not so much require men of eminence to terminate their controversy, as men of godliness. "Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? If you are to judge in causes between God and man—how much more in controversies between man and man?" If about matters that are eternal—why not in affairs that are temporal?
Felons may be jovial in the prison, and bold at the bar—but they will tremble at the hangman's halter. When wicked men come like miserable captives out of their holes, the godly shall rise like an unclouded sun above the horizon of the grave.
There is a, cloud of witnesses to prove the Christian's judicial process—Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all." Again he says, "When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Now the world judges the godly—but then the godly shall judge the world. The act of the head is imputed to the members, and the act of the members is acknowledged by the head.
Reader! in the great day there will be no distinction made between him who now sits on the bench, and him who stands at the bar. Tell me—how will you be capable of passing a righteous sentence on others, for those evils which you have lived in the constant commission of? The true Christian can cordially subscribe to that ancient maxim, "Because I enjoy the greatest share of religious majesty, I am therefore entitled to the least share of licentious liberty." It was once said to Caesar, "Seeing all things are lawful to Caesar, therefore it is the less lawful for Caesar to do them.'
"By faith Noah, being warned of God, prepared an ark—by which he condemned the world." Noah's believing set him to prosecute his building. Thus the sanctified Christian judges the world, both by his faith and his practice.
Christian Reader! remember, that the gospel purity of your life—shows to worldlings the impurity of theirs. The usual prejudices which the world has against religion, is—that it makes no man better, though it may make some men stricter.
We too frequently behold that those who exclaim against the pride of others—are as proud as others. As they so constantly meet together, they are expected to be more godly—but they are not more godly for their meeting together. Take away their profession, and you take away their religion. They have nothing belonging to the sheep—but its skin.
Mark, how the God of Israel expostulates with the professing Israel of God, "Has a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit." Here is a professing people, outdone by a people who made no profession. If heathens take up their gods—they will zealously keep up their gods. They were true to the false gods—while Israel was false to the true God.
"Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth!" Why, what is the matter? "Even the animals—the donkey and the ox—know their owner and appreciate his care—but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still do not understand." God does not call in a jury of angels to condemn them—but he calls a jury of oxen and donkeys, to pass sentence upon them. Alas, that oxen and donkeys should be more religious—than men who professed religion! In their kind they are more kind. If their owners feed them, they readily own their owners.
8. And lastly, the disciples of Christ do more than others—Because they EXPECT more than others.
A true hope of heaven—excites an utter dislike to the earth. "And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure." Hope is too pure a plant—to flourish or grow in an impure soil.
Reader! you must not expect to toil for the prince of darkness all the long day of your life—and then sup with the Prince of light at the evening of death. There is no going from Delilah's lap—to Abraham's bosom. It is not the tyrannic reign of sin in your mortal body—which makes way for the triumphant reign of your soul in eternal glory. Grace is such a pilot, as without its steerage you will certainly suffer shipwreck in your voyage to everlasting tranquility.
There is no gaining admittance into the King of heaven's privy chamber of felicity—without passing through the strait gate of purity. "Blessed are the pure in heart—for they shall see God." A dirty looking-glass will not clearly represent the face. To look for a Turkish paradise, is to conceive of the heaven of purity—as a house of impurity; but while they expect to bathe themselves in carnal pleasures—you should look to be the chaste and happy consort of the Lamb!
The Lord's gratuitous bestowments on saints—awaken the grateful sentiments of saints. "Giving thanks unto the Father—who has made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Men commonly season the vessel with water—before they trust it with costly wine. Thus God will season the vessel of your heart with his grace—before he pours into it the wine of his glory. It is hard to say, whether God discovers more love in preparing heavenly mansions for the soul—than in preparing the soul for heavenly mansions.
Reader! if the Lord has made you a true believer, you earnestly desire that your present deportment may be suitable to your future preferment. You know there is no living a wicked life—and dying a righteous death. As divine justice crushes none on earth before they are corrupted—so divine mercy crowns none in heaven before they are converted.
Holiness and happiness are so wisely joined together—that God will never allow them to be put asunder: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Though holiness is that which a sinner scorns—yet it is that which a Savior crowns.
The soul of man is the Lord's casket, and grace the jewel. Now, wherever the jewel is not found—the casket will be thrown away. Though the wheat is for a garner—yet the chaff is for the fire. The Scripture presents you, not only, with an account of what God will do for a Christian—but also what a Christian will do for God.
The high prize of heavenly bliss, is at the end of the gospel race: "So run—that you may obtain." To neglect the race of holiness, is to reject the prize of happiness. He who made you without your assistance—will not crown you until he has saved you from your disobedience.
It would be well for fruitless sinners, were they seriously to consider that fearful Scripture: "Every tree that doesn't produce good fruit—is cut down and thrown into the fire!" If you are not fruit-bearing plants—you must be burning brands. There is no making out your salvation, where there is no working out your salvation. Men are condemned, not only for their profaneness—but also for their slothfulness. Men may perish for being unprofitable servants, as well as for being abominable servants.
The Lord binds none in the bundle of life—but such as are heirs of life. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." How cheerfully should those cast in their net—who are sure to enclose so excellent a draught of fishes!
Reader! why do you expect more than others in heaven—if grace has not made you more than others on earth? "If you love those who love you—what reward do you have?" It is but natural, that love should be returned to those from whom it has been received. Now, natural works—shall have only natural wages. If you would not have God put you off with a Pharisee's portion—how can you put him off with a Pharisee's performance?
The Lord hangs the bait of duty—upon the hook of mercy. He sets the promises of the gospel—in the galleries of his ordinances. The hardy soldier will undergo a bloody seed time—to enjoy a happy harvest. He has nothing more than earthly mammon in his pursuit—but the saint has nothing less than heavenly mansions in his pursuit.
Thus have I dispatched the first general head, namely, WHY the disciples of Christ do more than others. I therefore come secondly to consider, WHAT the disciples of Christ do more than others.