The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
Thomas Brooks, 1655
I shall now proceed to the fifth doctrine, namely—That the Lord Jesus Christ is very rich.
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8
For the opening of this point, we shall attempt these three things:
I. To demonstrate this to be a truth—that the Lord Jesus is very rich.
II. The grounds why he is thus held forth in the word, to be one full of unsearchable riches.
III. To show you the excellency of the riches of Christ, above all other riches in the world.
IV. And then the use and application of the point.
I. To demonstrate this to be a truth—that the Lord Jesus is very rich.
[1.] First, Express scripture speaks out this truth. He is rich in goodness: Romans 2:4, "the riches of his goodness," his "native goodness," etc., that is ready to be employed for your internal and eternal good, etc.
Again, He is rich in wisdom and knowledge: Col. 2:3, "In whom," speaking of Christ, "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Christ was content that his riches should be hid from the world; therefore do not be angry that yours is no more known to the world. What is your one mite to Christ's many millions? etc. [As man is an epitome of the whole world, so is Christ the epitome of all wisdom and knowledge etc.]
Again, He is rich in grace: Eph. 1:7, "By whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
Again, He is rich in glory: Eph. 1:18, "That you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." So in chapter 3:16, "That he would grant unto you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." So in Philip. 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ." The riches of glory are unconceivable riches. Search is made through all the depths of the earth for something to picture it by. The riches of this glory is fitter to be believed than to be discoursed of, as some of the very heathens have acknowledged. [Neither Christ nor heaven can be exaggerated.—Augustine.]
[2.]. But, secondly, as express scripture speaks out this truth, that Christ is very rich, so there are eight things more that do with open mouth speak out Christ to be very rich.
(1.) First, You may judge of his riches, by the dowry and portion that his Father has given him. In Psalm 2:7, "You are my Son, this day have I begotten you; ask of me, and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession." He is the heir of all things. All things above and below, in heaven and earth, are his. Heb. 1:2, "God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things." Christ is the richest heir in heaven and earth. Men cry up this man to be a good match and that; and why so—but because they are great heirs. Ah! but what are all the great heirs of the world to this heir, the Lord Jesus? Joseph gave portions to all his brethren—but to Benjamin a portion five times as good as what he gave the others. So the Lord scatters portions among the sons of men. He gives brass to some, gold to others; temporals to some, spirituals to others; but the greatest portion of all he has given into the hands of Christ, whom he has made the heir of all things; Rev. 11:15, "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." So in chapter 19:11-12, "Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war. His eyes were bright like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him, and only he knew what it meant." Mark that! What are princes' single crowns, and the pope's triple crown, compared to Christ's many crowns? Certainly he must be very rich, that has so many kingdoms and crowns. Wait but a while, and you shall see these scriptures made good, etc.
(2.) Secondly, You may judge of his riches, by his keeping open house for the relief and supply of all created creatures, both in heaven and in earth.
You look upon those as very rich that keep open house for all comers and goers. Why, such a one is the Lord Jesus Christ; he keeps open house for all comers and goers, for all created creatures both in heaven and earth. Psalm 104:24, "The earth is full of your riches. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small." "When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing." says the Psalmist, Psalm 145:16. So Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, everyone who thirsts, let him come and buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Why do you lay out your money for that which is not bread, and your strength for that which does not profit?" [King Croesus was so rich, that he maintained a whole army with his own revenues. But what is this to what Jesus does? etc.] All creatures, high and low, honorable and base, noble and ignoble, blessed and cursed—are fed at the cost and charge of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are all fed at his table, and maintained by what comes out of his treasury, his purse. All angels and saints above, and all saints and sinners below, are indebted to Christ for what they enjoy. Oh! the multitudes, the numberless number of those who live upon the cost and charge of Christ. Can you number the stars of heaven? can you number the sands upon the sea-shore? then may you number the multitudes, the millions of angels and men who are maintained upon the cost and charge of the Lord Jesus.
In Col. 1:16-17, "For by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together."
(3.) Thirdly, You may judge of the riches of Christ by the time that he has fed and clothed, cherished and maintained, so many innumerable millions of angels and men.
He has maintained his court above and below, upon his own cost and charge, for some six thousand years. Oh, to keep such a multitude, if it were but for a day, would speak him out to be richer than all the princes in the world; but to keep so many millions, and to keep them so long, what does this speak out—but that Christ is infinitely rich, rich in goodness and mercy? It would beggar all the princes on earth, to keep but one day the least part of those who Christ maintains every day, etc.
(4.) But, fourthly, you may judge of the riches of Christ by this, that he does not only enrich all the saints—but every aspect of the saints.
That is, he enriches all the faculties of their souls; he enriches their understandings with glorious light; their consciences with quickness, pureness, tenderness and quietness; and their wills with holy intentions and heavenly resolutions; and their affections of love, joy, fear, etc.—with life, heat, and warmth, and with the beauty and glory of the most soul-enriching, soul-delighting, soul-ravishing, and soul-contenting objects etc. All saints' experiences seal to this truth, and therefore a touch shall suffice, etc.
(5.) Fifthly, Judge of the riches of Christ by this, that notwithstanding all the vast expense and charge that he is at, and has been at for so many millions of thousands of creatures, and that for some six thousand years—yet he is never the poorer; his purse is never the emptier.
There is still in Christ a fullness of abundance, and a fullness of redundance, notwithstanding all that he has expended. It were blasphemy to think that Christ should be a penny the poorer by all that he has laid out for the relief of all those who have their dependence upon him. Col. 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Not stay or abide a night or a day and then be gone—but should dwell. The sun has not the less light for filling the world with light. A fountain has not the less for filling the lesser vessels. There is in Christ the fullness of a fountain. The overflowing fountain pours out water abundantly, and yet remains full. Why, the Lord Jesus is such an overflowing fountain; he fills all, and yet remains full. Christ has the greatest worth and wealth in him. As the worth and value of many pieces of silver is concentrated in one piece of gold, so all the petty excellencies scattered abroad in the creature are united to Christ; yes, all the whole volume of perfections which is spread through heaven and earth, is epitomized in him, etc. [They say it is true of the oil at Rhemes that, though it be continually spent in the inauguration of their kings of France—yet it never runs dry. I am sure, though all creatures spend continually, on Christ's stock—yet it never wastes.]
(6.) Sixthly, The Lord Jesus is universally rich, and that speaks him out to be rich indeed. He is universally rich. You have few people who are universally rich. That is a rich man indeed, who is universally rich; that is, he is rich in money and rich in land, and rich in commodities, and rich in jewels, etc. Now the Lord Jesus Christ is one who is universally rich; he is rich in all spirituals; he is rich in goodness, rich in wisdom and knowledge; he is rich in grace, and rich in glory. Yes, he is universally rich in respect of temporals. "He is the heir of all things." He is the heir of all the gold in the world, and of all the silver, and of all the jewels, and of all the land, and of all the cattle in the world—as you may see by comparing some scriptures together. Hos. 2:5, 8, 9, "Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said—I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink." But mark what follows: verses 8-9, "She doesn't realize that it was I who gave her everything she has—the grain, the wine, the olive oil. Even the gold and silver she used in worshiping the god Baal were gifts from me!"
So in Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him." All others are either usurpers or stewards; it is the Lord Jesus who is the great landlord of heaven and earth. "For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird of the mountains and all the animals of the field belong to me. Psalm 50:10-11. It is all mine! says the Lord.
Thus you see that the Lord is universally rich—rich in houses, in lands, in gold, in silver, in cattle, etc., in all temporals as well as in spirituals; but where will you find a man who is universally rich either in spirituals or temporals? It is true, you may find one Christian rich in one grace, and another Christian rich in another; but where will you find a Christian who is universally rich—who is rich in every grace—who is rich in knowledge, in faith, in love, in wisdom, in humility, in meekness, in patience, in self-denial? Abraham was rich in faith, and Moses was rich in meekness, and Job was rich in patience, and Joshua was rich in courage, and David was rich in uprightness, etc. But where will you find a saint that is rich in all these graces?
Or where will you find a man who is universally rich, in respect of temporals, as to be rich in lands, and rich in moneys, and rich in wares, and rich in jewels, etc. But now the Lord Jesus Christ is universally rich, both in respect of spirituals and temporals. "In having nothing I have all things," says one, "because I have Christ; having therefore all things in him, I seek no other reward, for he is the universal reward," etc. [Gregory the Great was accustomed to say that he was poor whose soul was void of grace—not whose coffers were empty of money.]
(7.) Seventhly, You may judge of the riches of Christ, by the tribute which is due to him.
He is the great landlord and owner of all that angels and men possess above and below. All created creatures are but tenants-at-will to this rich landlord, the Lord Jesus. He puts out and puts in as he pleases; he lifts up one, and casts down another; he throws down the mighty, and sets up the needy—according to the pleasure of his own will. "Whom he will—he destroys, and whom he will—he saves alive," Psalm 113:7; 148:14; Luke 1:52. Whom he will—he binds, and whom he will—he sets at liberty; whom he will—he exalts, and whom he will—he abases; whom he will he makes happy, and whom he will he makes miserable, etc. The psalmist, Psalm 148, upon this account, calls upon all celestial and terrestrial creatures, to pay their tribute of praise to the Lord. He has given them all their beings, and he maintains them all in the beings that he has given them.
The ancient Hebrews, as Josephus relates, set marks and tokens sometimes on their arms, sometimes at their gates—to declare to all the world the tribute and praise that was due to the Lord, for all his benefits and favors shown unto them. Bernard says, "We must imitate the birds, who morning and evening, at the rising and setting of the sun, omit not to pay the debt of praise that is due to their creator."
(8.) Eighthly and lastly, judge of the riches of Christ by the multiplicity and variety of temporal and spiritual gifts and rewards that he scatters among men. Christ says to the believer, as the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, "I am yours—and all that I have," 1 Kings 20:4. This is a hive which is full of divine comfort.
He gives honors to thousands, and riches to thousands, and peace to thousands, and pardon to thousands, and the joys and comforts of the Holy Spirit to thousands. There is not a moment that passes over our head—but he is a-scattering of his jewels up and down the world; he throws some into one bosom, and others into others—but the best into the bosom of his saints. Oh, the abundance of peace, the abundance of joy and comfort! Oh, the fear, the faith, the love, the kindness, the goodness and sweetness—which the Lord Jesus Christ scatters up and down among the precious sons and daughters of Zion, besides all temporal favors. There is not a saint that receives so much as a cup of cold water—but Christ rewards it abundantly into the bosom of the giver, Mat. 10:42. By all which you may well judge, that certainly the Lord Jesus is very rich, for if he were not, he could never hold out in scattering of rich rewards among so many millions, and for so many thousand years, as he has done. [The Duke of Burgundy gave a poor man a great reward for offering him a plant root, being the best present the poor man had. And surely so will God bountifully reward the least favors showed to his.]
And so much for the proof of the point, namely, that the Lord Jesus is very rich. We come now in the second place to discover to you,
II. The grounds and reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ is held forth in the word to be so very rich.
And they are these that follow:
[1.] First, To encourage poor sinners to look after, and to be willing to match with him. [Abraham's servant, to win over the heart of Rebekah to Isaac, brings forth jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and acquaints her what a rich match she would have by matching with Isaac, and so overcame her, Gen. 24. And so does God deal with poor sinners, etc.]
Poverty hinders many a match. The Lord did foresee from eternity, that fallen man would never look after Christ, if there were not something to be gotten by Christ. The Lord has therefore in his wisdom and goodness to fallen man, thus presented him as one exceeding rich, that so poor sinners might fall in love with him, and be willing to give up themselves to him: Proverbs 8:34-35, "Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors;" as guards do at princes' gates and doors. Now, the arguments to draw out the soul thus to wait upon the Lord, lie in the next words, "For whoever finds me finds life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord." The Hebrew runs thus, "For finding me he shall find lives, and shall draw forth the favor of the Lord." Divine favor is as it were a jewel locked up; ay—but by finding Christ, by getting Christ, the soul gets this jewel, that is more worth than a world; yes, by gaining him, the soul gains lives; namely—a life of grace, and a life of glory—and what more would the soul desire?
A second ground of this is,
[2.] Because he is ordained by the Father to convey all riches of grace to his chosen and beloved ones.
John 1:16, "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another;" and this we receive by divine ordination. John 6:27, "Labor not," says Christ, "for the food that perishes—but for that which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him has God the Father sealed." God the Father has sealed Christ; [Sealed, that is, made his commission authentic, as men do their deeds by their seal.] He has designed Christ, he has set Christ apart for this very work, that he might give grace unto us. God has ordained to convey all fullness of light to the air by the sun, and therefore has put a greater fullness of light into the sun. God has ordained all fullness of nourishment to the branches by the roots, and therefore has put a fullness of juice into the roots. So the Lord has ordained that all the riches of grace, of peace, of glory, etc., which believers shall enjoy here and in heaven, they shall have from the Sun of righteousness, from this blessed root the Lord Jesus Christ; and therefore the Father has filled this Sun with light, this root with heavenly juice, because he is by divine ordination to convey all spiritual and glorious riches into the hearts of his chosen and beloved ones, John 15:21-22.
A third ground is,
[3.] To take away all excuse from ungodly and wicked men, and that they may be found speechless in the day of vengeance, when the Lord shall come to reckon with them. [Sirens are said to sing skillfully while they live—but to roar horribly when they die. So will all those who have rejected so rich a Jesus as has been offered to them, when the Lord Jesus shall plead with them, etc.]
Ah, sinners! how will you who have turned your backs upon Christ, who is thus rich—be able to answer in the day when God shall reason the case with you? When God shall say, Sinners, has it not been often told you that Christ is rich in mercy, and rich in goodness, and rich in grace, rich in pardons, rich in loves, and rich in glory, rich in spirituals, rich in temporals, and rich in eternals—and yet you have slighted this Christ, you have turned your backs upon this Christ—you have preferred your lusts, and the world, and the service of the devil, above this Christ. Oh! how dumb, how speechless will sinners be, when the Lord shall thus plead with them. Oh! how will their countenances be changed, their thoughts troubled, and their joints loosed, their consciences enraged, and their souls terrified—when they shall see what a rich match they have refused, and thereupon how justly they are forever accursed, etc.
[4.] Lastly, It is upon this account, That he may be a complete Redeemer to us, and that nothing may hinder our souls closing with the Lord Jesus Christ.
We stand in need of one who is rich—rich in grace to pardon us, rich in power to support us, and rich in goodness to relieve us, and rich in glory to crown us. There is none but such a Christ can serve our turns. We stand in need of one who is rich, who is universally rich, one who is rich in money to pay all our debts. We have run much in debt with God, and none can pay this score but Christ. Our sins are debts that none can pay but Christ. It is not our tears but his blood, it is not our sighs but his sufferings—which can satisfy justice for our sins. We are much in debt to God for the ground we tread on, the air we breathe in, the beds we lie on, the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, etc.; and none can pay this debt but Christ. Angels and saints may pity us—but they cannot discharge the least debt for us, etc. Christ must pay all—or we are prisoners forever, etc. We stand in need of one who is rich in goodness. We are a needy people, and are still in need. Christ must be still a-giving, or we shall be still a-languishing. If he shuts his hand—we perish and return to dust. Our temporal needs are many, our spiritual needs are more, and if Christ does not supply them, who will? who can? Nay, our needs are so many and so great, that Christ himself could not supply them, were be not very, very rich.
And thus I have given you a brief account of the reasons of the point, why the Lord Jesus is held forth by the Scripture to be so very rich. We shall now come to the third thing proposed, and that is,
III. The excellency of the riches of Christ—above all other riches in the world.
I shall briefly run over this third branch, and so come to the application, which is most in my eye, and upon my heart.
[1.] First, The riches of Christ are INCOMPARABLE riches.
"Happy is the man who finds Wisdom," that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, "For the profit of wisdom is better than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying." Proverbs 3:14-17
One grain of grace is of far greater worth, than all the gold of Ophir and all the silver of the Indies—which are but the guts and garbage of the earth. We may say of the riches of this world, compared with the riches of Christ, as Gideon once said of the vintage of Abiezer, "The gleanings of Ephraim are better than the vintage of Abiezer." So the gleanings, the smallest gatherings of the riches of Christ, are far better, more excellent, more satisfying, more contenting, more ravishing than all the riches of this world. [Riches are called thick clay, Hab. 2:6, which will sooner break the back than lighten the heart, etc.]
"The whole Turkish empire," says Luther, "is but a crust which God throws to a dog." The wise merchant, Mat. 13:44-45, parts with all to gain this pearl of price; the truth is, other riches are but a burden. Gen. 13:2, "Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold." The Hebrew is, "He was very heavy in cattle, in silver, and in gold"; to signify, that riches are but heavy burdens. A little will satisfy nature, less will satisfy grace—but nothing will satisfy men's lusts.
Pheraulus, a poor man, on whom Cyrus bestowed so much, that he knew not what to do with his riches, being wearied out with care in keeping of them, he desired rather to live quietly, though poor, as he had done before, than to possess all those riches with discontent; therefore he gave away all his wealth, desiring only to enjoy so much as might supply his necessities. Let worldly professors think seriously of this story and blush, etc.
[2.] Secondly, The riches of Christ are INEXHAUSTIBLE riches. As I have showed you, Christ can never be drawn dry. Earthly riches are true gardens of Adonis, where we can gather nothing but trivial flowers surrounded with many briars, etc. "Have you entered into the treasures of the snow?" says God to Job. Now, Gregory of Nyssa says that the treasures of the snow are worldly riches, which men rake together as children do snow, which the next shower washes away, and leaves nothing in the place but dirt; and can dirt satisfy? Surely not! No more can worldly riches.
The Spanish ambassador coming to see the treasury of St. Mark, in Venice, which is famous throughout the world, fell a-groping whether it had any bottom, and being asked why, answered, "In this among other things, my great master's treasure differs from yours, in that his has no bottom, as I find yours to have," alluding to the mines of Mexico and Potosi, etc. Certainly Christ's treasures have no bottom, all his bags are bottomless; but Scripture, history, and experience, do abundantly testify that men's bags, purses, coffers, and mines—may be exhausted or drawn dry—but Christ's can never. Millions of thousands live upon Christ, and he feels it not; his purse is always full, though he is always giving, etc.
[3.] Thirdly, The riches of Christ are SOUL-SATISFYING riches. Oh those riches of grace and goodness that are in Christ—how do they satisfy the souls of sinners! A pardon does not more satisfy a condemned man, nor bread the hungry man, nor drink the thirsty man, nor clothes the naked man, nor health the sick man, than the riches of Christ do satisfy the gracious man.
John 4:13-14, "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of living water springing up to everlasting life." Grace is a perpetual flowing fountain. Grace is compared to water. Water serves to cool men when they are in a burning heat, so grace cools the soul when it has been scorched and burned up under the sense of divine wrath and displeasure. Water is cleansing, so is grace; water is fructifying, so is grace; and water is satisfying, it satisfies the thirsty, and so does grace. "Show us the Father, and it suffices us," John 14:8. But now earthly riches can never satisfy the soul; but as they said once of Alexander, "that had he a body suitable to his mind, he would set one foot upon sea, and the other upon land;" he would reach the east with one hand, and the west with the other. And doubtless the same frame of spirit is to be found in all the sons of Adam.
In Eccles. 5:10, "He who loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase. This is also vanity." If a man is hungry, silver cannot feed him; if naked, it cannot clothe him; if cold, it cannot warm him; if sick, it cannot cure him—much less then is it able to satisfy him. Oh! but the riches of Christ are soul-satisfying riches. A soul rich in spirituals, rich in eternals, says, I have enough, though I have not this and that temporal good, etc. [The reasonable soul may be busied about other things—but it cannot be filled with them, etc.—Bernard.]
[4.] Fourthly, The riches of Christ are HARMLESS riches. They are riches that will not hurt the soul, that will not harm the soul. Where is there a soul to be found in all the world that was ever made worse by spiritual riches? Oh but earthly riches have cast down many, they have slain many. If poverty, with Saul, has killed her thousands, riches, with David, has killed her ten thousands. Eccles. 5:13, "There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt." Earthly riches are called thorns, and well they may; for as thorns, they pierce both head and heart; the head with cares in getting them, and the heart with grief in parting with them. Oh the souls that riches have pierced through and through with many sorrows! Oh the minds that riches have blinded! Oh the hearts that riches have hardened! Oh the consciences that riches have benumbed! Oh the wills that riches have perverted! Oh the affections that riches have disordered and destroyed! Earthly riches are very vexing, very defiling, very dividing, and to multitudes prove very ruining. "For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10. [Some say where gold grows, no plant will prosper; so no truth, no good, etc., will have any heart-room where the love of money prevails, etc.]
It was a wise and Christian speech of Charles the Fifth to the Duke of Venice, who, when he had showed him the glory of his princely palace and earthly paradise, instead of admiring it, or him for it, only returned him this grave and serious memento, These are the things which make us unwilling to die.
[5.] Fifthly, The riches of Christ are UNSEARCHABLE riches. This is plain in the text, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." There are riches of justification, riches of sanctification, riches of consolation, and riches of glorification in Christ. All the riches of Christ are unsearchable riches. A saint with all the light that he has from the Spirit of Christ, is not able to search to the bottom of these riches. Nay, suppose that all the perfections of angels and saints in a glorified estate should meet in one noble bosom—yet all those perfections could not enable that glorious glorified creature for to search to the bottom of Christ's unsearchable riches. Doubtless when believers come to heaven, when they shall see God face to face, when they shall know as they are known, when they shall be filled with the fullness of God, even then they will sweetly sing this song, "Oh the height, the depth, the length, the breadth of the unsearchable riches of Christ!" As there is no Christ to this Christ, so there are no riches to his riches, etc. Oh but such are not the riches of this world, they may be reckoned, they may be fathomed, etc. [The philosophers seeing to the very bottom of earthly riches, despised them, and preferred a contemplative life above them.]
[6.] Sixthly, The riches of the Lord Jesus Christ are permanent and abiding riches; they are lasting, they are DURABLE riches. That is a choice scripture, Proverbs 8:18, "Riches and honor are with me, yes, durable riches and righteousness." The Hebrew word that is rendered "durable riches" signifies old riches. All other riches are but new, they are but of yesterday as it were. Oh! but with me are old riches, durable riches. All other riches, in respect of their fickleness, are as a shadow, a bird, a ship, an arrow, a dream, a post, etc. [It is reported of one Myrogenes, when great gifts were sent him, he sent them back, saying, I only desire this one thing at your master's hands, to pray for me, that I may be saved for eternity, etc.] This Valerian, Valens, and Bajazet, three proud emperors, found by experience, and so have many kings, and generals, and nobles, as Scripture and history do abundantly evidence. Earthly riches are very uncertain, 1 Tim. 6:17. They are ever upon the wing; they are like tennis balls, which are bandied up and down from one to another. As the bird hops from twig to twig, so do riches from man to man. This age can furnish us with multitudes of instances of this nature, etc.
[7.] Seventhly and lastly, The riches of Christ are the most USEFUL riches—to sweeten all other riches, mercies, and changes, etc., which speaks out the excellency of these riches above all other riches. The more useful anything is, the more excellent it is. Now the riches of Christ are of all things the most useful to poor souls. When the soul is under the guilt of sin, nothing relieves it like the riches of Christ. When the soul is surrounded with temptations, nothing strengthens it like the riches of Christ. When the soul is mourning under afflictions, nothing comforts it like the riches of Christ. When all earthly good fails, nothing makes a Christian sing care away like the riches of Christ, etc. The riches of Christ sweeten all other riches that men enjoy. [Earthly riches cannot enrich the soul, nor better the soul. Oftentimes under silk and satin apparel there is a threadbare soul.]
If a man be rich in parts, or rich in grace, rich in faith, rich in knowledge, rich in wisdom, rich in joy, rich in peace, etc.; or if a man be rich in temporals, rich in money, rich in wares, rich in jewels, rich in lands, etc., the glorious and unsearchable riches of Christ sweeten all his riches, and the lack of these riches embitters all the riches which men enjoy. When men's consciences are enlightened and awakened, then they cry out, what are all these worldly riches to us, except we had an interest in the unsearchable riches of Christ? As Absalom once said, "What are all these to me, except I see the king's face?"
I have read of one that, upon his dying bed, called for his bags, and laid a bag of gold to his heart, and then cried out, "Take it away, it will not do, it will not do."
There are things that earthly riches can never do:
They can never satisfy divine justice.
They can never pacify divine wrath.
Nor they can never quiet a guilty conscience.
And until these things are done, man is undone. The crown of gold cannot cure the headache, nor can the honorable ring cure the gout, nor can the chain of pearls around the neck take away the pain of the teeth. Oh but the unsearchable riches of Christ give ease under all pains and torments.
Nugas, the Scythian king, despising the rich presents and ornaments that were sent unto him by the emperor of Constantinople, asked "Whether those things could drive away calamities, diseases, or deaths?" looking upon all those presents as no presents, that could not keep off calamities from him. Truly, all the riches and glories of this world cannot keep off the least calamity, neither can they make up the lack of the least mercy. But the riches of Christ do both keep off calamities, and make up the lack of all mercies that the soul craves or needs. All which speak out the excellency of the riches of Christ above all other riches. We come now unto,
IV. The USES and APPLICATION of this point.
Use 1. And the first use that we shall make, is a use of exhortation, to exhort you all, seeing Christ is so rich, to labor to be spiritually rich. Oh labor to be rich in grace. In the handling of this use I shall propound this method.
[1.] I shall lay down some considerations that may provoke your souls to labor to be rich in grace.
[2.] I shall propound some directions or helps, to help you to be rich in grace, which is as much a mercy as a duty, etc.
[3.] I shall lay down some propositions concerning the soul's being rich in grace.
[4.] I shall show you how you may know whether you are the people who are rich in grace, or no.
I shall begin with the first, and be a little the more large upon it, because it is a point of mighty weight and concern; and then be the more brief in the three following particulars.
For the first, by way of MOTIVE, I shall only propound these following considerations, to provoke your souls to labor to be rich in grace. Laborandum was one of the emperors' motto, and must be every Christian's.
[1.] First, Consider that the more rich the soul is in grace, the higher the soul will be in joy and comfort. [Oh the joys, the joys, the unconceivable joys! cried out Katharine Bretterge, who had attained to a great measure of grace, etc.]
It is the greatest measures of grace, which usher in the greatest measure of joy and comfort into a believing heart. Christians, have you tasted of the consolations of God? Have you at times sat down and drank of these wells of salvation? Are your hearts carried out for more of those waters of life? Then labor to be rich in grace. A little star yields but a little light, and a little grace will yield but a little comfort—but great measures of grace will yield a man not only a heaven hereafter—but also a heaven of joy here. Divine comfort is a choice flower, a precious jewel, and only to be found in their bosoms who are rich in grace. Spiritual comforts are such strong waters, that weak Christians are not able to bear them. Great measures of grace carry with them the greatest evidence of the truth of grace; and the clearer evidence there is in the soul of the truth of grace, the higher will joy and comfort spring. The soul is apt to hang her comforts on every hedge, to seek in every by-corner for comfort; but as fuel heats not without fire, so neither can anything soundly comfort a Christian without the God of grace, without his being rich in grace.
Great measures of grace carry with them the greatest evidence of a man's union and communion with God, and the more a man's union and communion with God is evidenced, the more will the soul be filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, and with that comfort and peace which passes understanding. In great measures of grace a man may read most of the love and favor of God; and the more a man sees of the love and favor of God to him, the more high the springs of comfort rise in him. In great measures of grace, as in a crystal glass, the soul sees the glorious face of God shining and sparkling—and this fills the soul with joy. Acts 9:31, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied." The more their graces were increased, the more their comforts were augmented.
"If one drop of the joy of the Holy Spirit should fall into hell, it would swallow up all the torments of hell," says Austin. Oh! who would not then labor to increase in grace, that he may abound in joy? The promise lies most fair before the eyes of those who are rich in grace. Their interest in it is most clear, and rarely that they go without it, unless it is by taking part sometimes with Satan against their interest in Christ, or sometimes through the power of unbelief, which indeed cuts off all the comfort of the soul, or by looking after other lovers, or by not hearkening to the voice of the Comforter, etc. Christians, you often complain of the lack of joy and comfort. Oh! do but abound in grace, and you won't complain of the lack of comfort. "Without delight the soul cannot live," says one; "take away all delight, and the soul dies." Let this that has been spoken, provoke every Christian to labor to be rich in grace.
[2.] But, secondly, consider this, you have singular opportunities and choice advantages to be rich in grace.
In former times God gave our grace by drops—but now by flagons, Cant. 2:5. Opportunities, if not improved, will, as that sword which Hector gave Ajax, be turned into your own heart. This will be a sword in your heart—that there have been soul-enriching opportunities, and you have neglected them, and turned your back upon them. The thoughts of this will one day be the scorpions that will vex you, the rod that will lash you, the thorns that will prick you, and the worm that will gnaw you. "The stork," says the prophet, "knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know what the Lord requires of them" Jer. 8:7. The market for your souls is open; do not let your season slip away, lest with the foolish virgins you go to buy when it is too late, Mat. 25. The merchant will not slip his opportunity of buying, nor the sailor his of sailing, nor the farmer his of sowing; and why should you slip yours of growing rich in grace? Many men lose their souls, as Saul lost his kingdom—by not discerning their time to be spiritually rich.
Tamerlane at first hung out a white flag—but if they slipped that opportunity, then a red, and so death and destruction followed, etc. The Lord Jesus hangs out the white flag of mercy in these days, to entice souls to come in, and to share with him in his glorious and unsearchable riches, in the riches of his grace and mercy; but if you don't come, Christ has a red flag, and if that be once put out, you are lost forever. Thrice happy are those who take the first opportunity of closing with Christ, and of subjecting themselves to Christ. [Such there have been who, by giving a glass of water opportunely, have obtained a kingdom, as you may see in the story of Thaumastus and king Agrippa, etc.]
Plutarch writes of Hannibal, "That when he could have taken Rome he would not—but when he would have taken Rome he could not." When many men may have mercy—they would not receive it; and when they would have mercy—they will be refused. Proverbs 1:24, seq. Mercy and grace are sometimes upon the bare knee. Christ stands knocking at sinners' doors; he is willing to come in and make sinners rich and happy forever; he calls upon souls to open to him, Rev. 3:20, seq. "Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle," Psalm 24:7-8. The King of glory comes not empty-handed; no, he comes with his hands and heart full of rich and royal presents, and blessed and enriched forever are those who open to this King of glory, etc.
[3.] Thirdly, Consider this, souls rich in grace shall have their names immortal.
Every man naturally would have, if it were possible, his name immortal. Now there is no way in the world to have your names immortal, like this of growing rich in grace. A man who is spiritually rich shall live—and his name shall live when he is dead. In Neh. 7:2, it is said of Hananiah, that "he was a faithful man, and feared God above many;" or, "he feared God above multitudes," as the Hebrew has it. His name lives, though his body for many hundred years has been turned to dust. So in Acts 7:55, "Stephen was a man full of the Holy Spirit." Though Stephen was stoned—yet his name lives, his memorial is precious among the saints to this very day. So in Heb. 11:38, they were such "of whom this world was not worthy." And in the third Epistle of John, the six first verses, compared with ver. 12, Gaius and Demetrius, who were rich in grace, have crowns of honor set upon their heads, their names live, and are a sweet savor to this very day, etc. So in Psalm 112:6, "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance—but the name of the wicked shall rot." The great man's name, and the rich man's name, shall rot, says he—but "the name of the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." [If I may but keep a good name, I have wealth enough, said Plautus.]
The Persians use to write their kings' names in golden letters; so the Lord writes the names of souls rich in grace in golden characters. Their names are always heirs to their lives. Believe it, there is no such way in the world to have immortal names, like this of growing rich in grace. One man thinks to make his name immortal, by making himself great; another by heaping up silver and gold as the dust of the earth or the stones of the street; and another by doing some strange exploits, etc. But for all this the Lord will make good his word, "the name of the wicked shall rot." If God is God, his name must rot; but "the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance;" they leave their names behind for a blessing, Isaiah 65:15. It is sad to consider what many poor carnal creatures have done and suffered to make their names immortal. The Romans' desires of praise and a name, made them bountiful of their purses, and prodigal of their lives. [A good name yields a fragrant smell over town and country; it puts a shining luster upon the countenance; it fits to any public employment, in ministry or magistracy; it stops many a foul mouth, and it makes men live when they are dead.]
Erostratus set the temple of Diana on fire, on that night that Alexander was born—only that he might be talked of when he was dead.
Calvin observes, that Servetus in Geneva, in the year 1555, gave all his goods to the poor, and his body to be burned—and all for a name, for a little glory among men. But these poor creatures have all missed the mark. There is no way, Christians, to have your names immortal, like this, of growing rich in grace. Neither Satan nor the world shall ever be able to bury such men's names, who are rich in grace; their names shall rise in glory here, as well as their bodies hereafter.
[4.] But then, fourthly and mainly, consider, that spiritual riches will enable you to live up to your principles.
That man who has but so much grace as will keep hell and his soul asunder, will never live up to his principles. Souls weak in grace are too apt to deny, and in their practices to contradict—their own principles. Oh that this age could not furnish us with too many instances of this nature! Oh! what is that that is the reproach of religion, and the dishonor of God and the gospel—but this, that professors live below their principles, that they live not up to their principles? And let me tell you, Christians, there is nothing but a rich measure of grace that will enable a soul to live up to his principles. A man who is not rich in grace will never be able to live up to his own principles—but will upon every occasion and temptation be ready to wound two at once; the honor of God and his own soul. Yes, men who are not rich in grace, will be ready to deny their own principles—as many weak Christians did in persecuting times.
But you will say to me, What are those gracious and holy principles, that a rich measure of grace will enable a man to live up to?
I will instance only in those who have most worth and weight in them, and they are worthy of all your thoughts.
(1.) First, It is your principle, that you must suffer, rather than sin.
It is your principle rather to undergo the greatest calamities, than willingly to commit the least iniquity. Now, pray tell me, what will enable a Christian to live up to this principle? Will a little grace, a little knowledge of God, a little faith in God, a little love to God, a little zeal for God, a little communion with God? Will this do it? Surely not! It must be much grace that must enable the soul to live up to this principle. [It is better for me to be a martyr than a monarch, said Ignatius when he was to suffer, etc.] When sin and suffering have stood in competition, many weak Christians have chosen rather to sin, than to suffer, which has opened many a mouth, and saddened many a heart, and wounded many a conscience. Yes, such by their not suffering, have suffered more than ever they could have suffered from the wrath and rage of man.
Oh! but now spiritual riches will enable a man to live up to this principle, as you may see in Daniel, who had an excellent spirit in him, who was rich in grace, and filled with the Holy Spirit; he lives up to his principles; he lives out his principles, when he was put hard to it; when he must either neglect the worship of his God and make a god of his king—or be thrown into the lions' den. Now, Daniel chooses rather to be cast into the lions' den than not to do homage to his God; he had rather suffer much, than that God should lose a grain of his glory. Of the same spirit and metal were those worthies, Heb. 11, who, when they were put to it, did rather choose to suffer the very worst of miseries, than they would in the least dishonor the Lord, wound their own consciences, and make work for repentance, etc. And so did Jovinian, Eusebius, Galeacius, Basil, Vincentius, Bolilas, etc. By all which you see, that Christians who are spiritually rich, live up to this principle, namely—to suffer rather than sin, when sin and suffering stand in competition; which babes in grace cannot do. [Of the very same spirit were the primitive Christians: they chose rather to be thrown to lions without, than left to lusts within.]
(2.) Secondly, It is your principle, that grace and virtue are to be pursued after, for their own worth, beauty, and excellency.
But pray, tell me, what will carry a Christian out to this principle? Will a little grace carry a man out to pursue after grace, for the beauty, holiness, excellency, and spirituality that is in it? Alas! we see by daily experience that it will not do it. All other considerations put together, are little enough to draw men on to pursue after grace for its native beauty and excellency. Many seek Christ—but it is more for loaves—than for love, John 6:26; and they pursue after the means of grace, not for the beauty, excellency, and glory that is stamped upon the means—but one to maintain his honor, and another to keep up his name, and another to bring in credit or custom, and another to please his friends, and another to silence his conscience, etc.—but few there be, if any—but those who are rich in grace, who are true to this principle, who pursue after grace for its own beauty and excellency.
It was a notable expression of David, who was a man rich in grace, Psalm 119:140, "Your word is very pure, therefore your servant loves it." Oh! for a soul to love grace, and the word of grace, for its own interest, for the holiness, purity, and glory of it. This speaks out the soul to be rich in grace. So Paul, a man rich in grace, pursues after grace for its own interest, for the beauty and excellency of it. He forgets "what is behind, and presses forward after the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that if by any means he might attain to the resurrection of the dead," Philip. 3:13-14. That is, to that perfection that the dead shall reach to in the morning of the resurrection, etc.
The young philosophers were very forward to learn the precepts of their sect, and the rules of severity, that they might discourse with kings and nobles, not that they might reform their own manners. Many professors in this age are like those philosophers; they are very industrious to get knowledge, that they may be able to discourse, and that they may be eyed, owned, and honored among others, for their knowledge and understanding. But now souls who are rich in grace, they labor after greater measures of grace, out of love to grace, and because of an excellency that they see in grace. Grace is a very sparkling jewel, and he who loves it, and pursues after it for its own native beauty, has much of it within him, etc.
(3.) Thirdly, It is your principle, that men must subject themselves, and square all their actions by the word of God.
Now, what will make a man live up to this principle? Will a little grace? Surely not! Isaiah 8:10. But great measures of grace will. Zacharias and Elizabeth were rich in grace, and they lived up to this principle: Luke 1:5, "They walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless." The apostles were rich in grace, and they lived up to this principle: 2 Cor. 1:12, "This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have lived our lives in the world." So in 1 Thes. 2:10, "You are witnesses, and God also, how holily, justly, and unblameably, we have behaved ourselves among you who believe." Oh! here are souls who live up to their principles. A Christian who is rich in grace is excellent all over.
George, prince of Anhalt—his family is said to have been ecclesia, academia, curia, a church, a university, and a court. A Christian who is rich in grace has a heart as large as his head, yes, a heart that is as large as the whole will of God: Acts 13:22, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who shall fulfill all my will." In the Greek it is, all my wills, to note the universality and sincerity of his obedience. Souls rich in grace practice that themselves, which they prescribe to ethers. Lessons of music must not be read only—but acted also. Souls rich in grace are good at this, and they will be good in all places and cases. They are as good at the particular duties of religion, as at those who are more general; they are good fathers, and good masters, and good husbands—as well as good Christians, in a more general sense.
But now souls who have but a little grace, they are much in the general duties of religion—but very defective in the particular duties of religion, as sad experience does abundantly evidence. Those who have a blemish in their eye, think the sky to be ever cloudy; and nothing is more common to weak spirits, than to be criticizing and contending about other duties, and to neglect their own. But such who are rich in grace, make it their glory to subject themselves to the rule of righteousness; as Baldasser, a German minister, cried out, Let the word of the Lord come, let it come—and we will submit to it. It must be much grace that must enable a man freely, fully, and sweetly to subject himself and his actions to the word of the Lord.
(4.) Fourthly, It is your principle, that you must deny yourselves, your own profit, ease, pleasure, etc., for a public good.
And this the Scripture requires. It is your principle to deny yourselves, your own honor, pleasure, profit, etc., for a public advantage, when your particular advantages stand in competition with the public. Now self must be laid by, and the public must carry the day. Oh—but will a little grace enable a man to live up to this principle! Woeful experience shows the contrary. Ay—but now, give me a man who is rich in grace, and he will live up to this golden principle, as you may see in Nehem. 5:14-18.
Nehemiah was a man eminent in grace, and he chose rather to live upon his own purse than upon the public purse: "I would like to mention that for the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth until the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides a pound of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because of my fear of God, I did not act that way. I devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my officials to spend time working on the wall. I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! The provisions required at my expense for each day were one ox, six fat sheep, and a large number of domestic fowl. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor's food allowance because the people were already having a difficult time."
Oh, here was a brave spirit indeed; he was far from enriching himself by others' ruins, from emptying others' purses to fill his own. But he is dead—and it seems this brave spirit is buried with him! There are few of his name, and fewer of his spirit, if any in this world, and therefore well might he pray, "Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it." And accordingly God did remember him for good—and made him very famous and glorious in his generation. [It is a base and unworthy spirit for a man to make himself the center of all his actions. The very heathen man could say, A man's country and his friends, and others—challenge a great part of him.]
And that is a remarkable passage concerning Moses: Num. 14:12-21, "I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a great nation, and mightier than they," says God to Moses. "Therefore let me alone to destroy them and cut them off, for they are a rebellious generation. And I will make you a mightier nation for honor, riches, and power, than they. Nay!" says Moses, "this may not be, Lord." Oh, the people must be spared, the people must be pardoned, and the people must have your presence with them, and rather than it should be otherwise, let my name, Lord, be blotted out of the book of life. Lord! I care not how bad it goes with myself—just so they may live. Can the self-seekers of our age think seriously of this and not blush?
So Mordecai was a man of a brave public spirit: Esther 10:3, "Mordecai the Jew was next unto King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, because he worked for the good of his people." He made it his business to seek their good.
Christ also was full of grace, and had a brave public spirit; he laid out himself and laid down himself for a public good; and so did Paul, etc. Few in our days are of Lorenzo's opinion and mind—who was rather willing to beautify Italy than his own house. "That pilot dies nobly," says Seneca, "who perishes in the storm with the helm in his hand." Such that seek themselves more than the public good, must be served as Aesop did his fellow-servant; he gave him warm water to drink, by which means he vomited up the stolen figs. Friends, it is not a little grace that will make a man prefer the public good, above his own particular good—but much grace will; therefore labor to be rich in grace. [Christ healed others—but was hurt himself; he fed and filled others—but was hungry himself, etc.]
(5.) Fifthly, It is your principle, that you are to do the duties that God requires of you, and quietly leave the outcomes and results of all, to the wise disposal of God.
But pray tell me, will a little grace enable a man to live up to this principle, to do his duty, and to leave outcomes and results to him to whom they belong? Surely not! Eccles. 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do—do it with all your might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave where you go." Mark, he does not say, what your head finds to do, for that may find a thousand things; nor what your heart finds to do, for that may find ten thousand things; but what your hand finds to do; that is, look what work which God cuts out to your hand to do—that do with all your might.
We are to do much good in a little time; we are made here, and set to be a-doing something that may do us good a thousand years hence, yes, that may stand us in stead to eternity. Our time is short, our task is great. The devil knows that his time is but short, and that is the reason why he is so active and stirring, why he does outwork the children of light, in a quick despatch of the deeds of darkness. Christians, do not deceive yourselves; it is not shows of grace, nor little measures of grace—which will enable a man to live up to this principle—but great measures of grace will, as you may see in the three Hebrew children, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king—O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16-18
So those worthies, Psalm 44:19, "Though you have sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death—yet have we not forgotten you, neither have we dealt falsely in your covenant." Here was much of Christ and grace within. So in Acts 21, when Paul was to go up to Jerusalem to suffer, his friends, by many tears and arguments, labored to dissuade him, for fear of some sad outcome and event which would follow. But Paul, rich in grace, answered, "Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus." I will go up to Jerusalem, and I am willing to go up, though I die for it. Ay, here is a soul who lives up to his principle!
Ay—but now souls who are weak in grace, as we have had large experience of it in our times, they are more taken up and busied about the outcomes and results of things, than they are with their own duties. [Christ healed others—but was hurt himself; he fed and filled others—but was hungry himself, etc.] When they should be a-praying, a-believing, a-waiting, and acting for God—they have been a-questioning and fearing what the outcomes and results of this, and that, and the other thing would be. And indeed they have been high and low, as secondary causes have wrought—which has made many of their lives a very hell. But now those who are rich in grace, they say as once he did, "Let us be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do that which seems him good," 2 Sam. 10:10-12. Let us do our duties—and let the Lord do as pleases him, etc.
(6.) Sixthly, It is your principle, that men are to be prepared, and to stand fast against all sudden assaults and invasions that may be made upon them.
Many a valiant person dares fight in a battle or a duel, who yet will be timorous and fearful if suddenly surprised in a midnight alarm. Many precious souls, when they have time to consider of the evil of sin, the holiness of God, the eye of God, the honor of God, the glory of the gospel, the joys of the saints, and the stopping of the mouths of sinners—will rather die than sin; they will rather suffer anything than do the least thing that may be a reproach to Christ. Oh! but when a sudden occasion or temptation is presented, why, then they often fall; as David, by chance, spied Bathsheba washing herself, and falls before the temptation; he is conquered and carried captive by that sudden occasion.
But that is a more comfortable and considerable passage that you have concerning Joseph, in Gen. 49:23-24, "The archers sorely grieved him," says the text, "and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Joseph never lacked counsel nor courage, when he was at the worst. Souls rich in grace usually stand firm under the greatest and suddenest pressures, assaults, and invasions, as you may see in Paul, 2 Cor. 1:9-12; and so the three children; and so Daniel; and so those worthies, Heb. 11:35, "They would not accept of deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." Many sudden assaults and attempts were made upon them; their enemies would gladly have stormed them, and overcome them—sometimes by golden offers, sometimes by terrible threats. But they are invincible; nothing stirs them, nothing overcomes them.
Really, friends, it must be much grace that will make a man live up to this principle; and there is nothing that speaks out more the strength of grace in a man, than his standing against sudden assaults and invasions that by the devil and the world are made upon him. You may talk of this—but without much grace you will never be able to do it, etc.
(7.) Seventhly and lastly, It is your principle, that your hearts are to be ready for every work which God shall impose upon you.
You are not to choose your employment, neither are you to refuse any employment that God shall put upon you. You are always to have an open ear, a ready hand, an obedient heart, and a willing cheerful soul—to comply with whatever work or service it is, which God shall put upon you; this is your principle. Ay—but tell me, Christians, will a little grace enable a man to live up to this principle? I judge not. You are to stand ready to change your employment from better to worse, if the Lord shall be pleased to order it so. You are to be ready to change your crown—for a cross; to change that employment that is honorable—for that which is base and low; and that which is more profitable—for that which is less profitable: as it were from the ruling of a province—to the keeping of a herd; from being a master—to be a servant; from being a servant to great men—to be a servant to the basest servant, yes, to the poorest beast. Certainly a little grace will never enable a man bravely and sweetly to live up to this principle. Their hearts which are poor in grace, are like a wounded hand or arm, which being but imperfectly cured, can only move one way, and cannot turn to all postures and all natural uses.
Weak Christians are very apt to choose three things—their mercies, their crosses, and their employments. They are often unwilling that God himself should choose their way or their work.
But now souls who are rich in grace—they are at God's beck and call. They are willing that God shall choose their work and their way. They are willing to be at his disposal; to be high or low; to serve or to be served; to be something or to be nothing, etc. Now I beseech you, Christians, that you would seriously and frequently remember this, that there is nothing in all the world that is such an honor to God, and a glory to the gospel—as for Christians to live up to their principles; nor is there anything of such a reproach to God and his ways, as this—for men to live below their principles, and to act contrary to their principles. And you will never be able to live up to your principles, nor to live out your principles, except you grow rich in grace; therefore labor, I say, labor as for life, to abound in grace, etc.
[5.] Now the fifth motive is this, consider that souls rich in grace are a mighty blessing to the land and place where they live.
There are no such blessings to cities, and nations, as those souls are, who are rich in grace. Oh they are great blessings to all places where they come; they are people who are fit for the highest and noblest employments. There is not the highest work that is too high for a man who is rich in grace; nor the hottest work that is too hot for a man rich in grace; nor the lowest work that is below a man rich in grace. Such a man will not say, I would do it—but it is below my place, my nobility, my parts, my education. May Christ have honor? may others have good? If so, I will do it, says the soul who is rich in grace, whatever comes of it, and bless God for the opportunity.
Dan. 6:3, "Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." Why was Daniel set upon the throne? Because of his his exceptional qualities, which fitted him for the highest employment.
So Joseph was a blessing to his master's family, and the people among whom he lived. None can be such blessings to people and places, as souls rich in grace. So in Neh. 7:2, "I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani." And why he? "because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do." Oh the wisdom, the prudence, the zeal, the courage, the compassion, the patience, the self-denial—that should be in magistrates! There is a truth in that old maxim, magistracy will try a man. None fit to rule—but such who are rich in grace; such a one will be father of his country.
What a world of good may a man do with worldly riches, in a parish, in a city, in a nation! but that is nothing compared to the good that a man may do, who is rich in grace. Oh the sins that he may prevent! Oh the judgments that he may divert! Oh the favors and blessings that he may draw down upon the heads and hearts of people! I presume you forget not what a blessing Moses, Joseph, Job, Nehemiah, Mordecai, and Daniel, proved to the people among whom they lived; and these were all rich in grace. A man rich in wisdom, rich in faith, rich in goodness, etc., oh what a blessing may he prove to ignorant souls, to staggering souls, to wandering souls, to tempted souls, to deserted souls, etc.
Look! What the sun is to us, that may a soul rich in grace be to others, etc. O friends! would you be blessings to your families? would you be blessings to the city, to the nation? Oh then labor to be rich in grace, and do not think it enough that you have so much grace as will keep you from dropping into hell, and which will bring you to heaven; but labor to be rich in grace, and then you will prove indeed a blessing to the place and nation where you live.
The Romans, when they did perceive any natural excellency to be in any people, though they were never so poor and base—they would take them from their dinners of turnips and water-cresses, to lead the Roman army. It is true, that natural and moral endowments will enable men to do much; but grace will enable men to do ten thousand times more. There is no work too high nor too hard for souls rich in grace; and therefore, as you would be choice instruments in the Lord's hand, and eminently serviceable in your generations, oh labor to be rich in grace! It is not he who has most wit in his head—but he who has most grace in his heart—who is most fit for generation-work.
[6.] Sixthly, A rich measure of grace will bear up your souls in several cases, therefore labor to be rich in grace.
A rich measure of grace will bear up the soul under great means of grace. When a soul is spiritually rich, this will bear him up under great means. Such a one will be able to look God in the face with joy and comfort; he can say, It is true, Lord, I have had more means than others, and lo! I am grown richer than others. You have taken more pains with me than with others, and lo! I bring forth more fruit than others: my five talents have become ten. But a little grace will not bear men out under much means of grace.
Again, A great measure of grace will bear the soul up under a great name, as well as under great means. For a man to have a great name to live, and yet to have but a little life—is a dreadful stroke; to be high in name and little in worth—is a very sad and sore judgment. [What will the name avail, where the thing is lacking? says Augustine.] To have a name to be an eminent Christian, and yet to be poor in faith, in love, in wisdom, in knowledge, etc., is the greatest unhappiness in the world. This stroke is upon many in these days. But that which is saddest of all is this—they feel it not, they observe it not. But now he who is rich in grace, has something within which will bear him up under a great name in the world.
Again, a great measure of grace will bear you up under great desires, as well as under a great name. A man who is rich in grace may ask what he pleases; he is one much involved with God, and God will deny him nothing. The best of the best is for this man; he may have anything; he may have everything that heaven affords. He is able to improve much, and therefore he may ask much, and have it.
It was a sweet saying of one, "O Lord, I never come to you but by you. I never go from you without you." Sozomen says of Apollonius, that he never asked anything of God—but he had it.
And another, speaking of Luther, says, He could have what he wanted from God. Rich men may long for this and that, and have it; they have something that will fetch it—but poor men may not. Oh! now, who would not labor as for life, to be rich in grace? Oh! this will bear you out under great means, and under great names, and under great desires; therefore, rest not satisfied with a little grace.
But then, seventhly and lastly,
[7.] Souls rich in grace are the honor of Christ, and the glory of Christianity.
It is the glory of Christ when those who are ingrafted into him thrive and grow. This declares to all the world that Christ keeps a good house, and that he does not feed his children with trash—but with the choicest delicacies; that he is open-handed and free-hearted. It is the glory of the father when the child grows rich under him, and the glory of the master when the servant grows rich under him; and so it is the glory of Christ when poor souls grow rich under him. The name of Christ, and the honor of Christ, is kept up in the world by souls who are rich in grace. They are the people who make others think well and speak well of Christ.
You may at your leisure read the first and second epistles to the Thessalonians, and there you shall see what an honor they were to the Lord Jesus and the gospel, who abounded in spiritual riches. Such Christians who are like to Pharaoh's lean kine reproach three at once—God, the gospel, and their teachers: and this age is full of such Christians. It is your greatest work in this world to keep up the honor and the glory of the Lord, and this you can never, you will never do, except you labor to be rich in grace. Let others "labor for the food which perishes." You are to "labor for that which endures to everlasting life." When you come to die, and when you come to make up your accounts, it will never be a grief—but a joy unto you, that you have made it your greatest business and work in this world to be rich in grace.
But here you may say,
What MEANS must we use that we may grow rich in grace?
[1.] First, Let no discouragements take you off from laboring to be enriched with spiritual riches.
A soul who would be spiritually rich must be divinely resolved, that come what may—he will hold on in the use of means, that he may be rich with the riches of Christ. Joshua was resolute in this point: "Choose whom you will serve, whether the Lord, or those other gods that your fathers served. As for my part, I and my house will serve the Lord!" Josh. 24:15; Luke 13:24, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." The Greek word signifies, "to strive with all your might," with all your strength, to strive even to an agony, to strive as they did for the garlands in the Olympic games. The word here used seems to allude to their striving for the garland, where they put out themselves to the utmost. So in John 6:27, "Labor not for the food which perishes—but for that which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you." [Many men are like Cicero, not thoroughly resolved in themselves whether to follow Pompey or Caesar; the riches of this world, or the riches of another world. Such men will still be poor.]
I have read of one that did not fear what he did, nor what he suffered, so he might get riches: "For," says he, "men do not ask how good one is, or how gracious one is—but how rich one is." Oh, sirs! the day is a-coming when God will ask how rich your souls are; how rich you are in faith, in wisdom, in knowledge, in fear, etc.; and not how rich you are in money, or in jewels, or in land, or in goods—but how rich are you in grace! This should provoke your souls to strive in the face of all discouragements to be rich in grace. What will not the merchant do, and the mariner do, to gain these temporal riches? Oh the dangers, the hazards, the tempests, the storms, the deaths that they run through for earthly riches—which are never without their sting! And shall not Christians labor in the face of all oppositions after spiritual riches?
It is reported of Nevessan the lawyer, that he would say, "He who will not venture his body—can never be valiant; and he who will not venture his soul—will never be rich." I am sure that man who will not venture, and venture hard, in the face of all discouragements, to be spiritually rich—will never be rich. He may be good in the main, and may go to heaven in a storm; but he will never be rich in spirituals, who will not venture himself to the uttermost for the gain of spiritual riches.
[2.] Secondly, Be fixed under a Christ-exalting and a soul-enriching ministry.
Fix yourself under that man's ministry, who makes it his business; not a thing by the by—but his business, his work; not to tickle the ear, to please the fancy—but to enrich the soul, to win the soul, and to build up the soul. 2 Tim. 4:3, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine—but after their own lusts shall they heap up to themselves teachers, having itching ears." This age, yes, this city is full of such slight, light, delirious souls—who neither like nor love anything, but what is empty and airy.
Junius confesses, "that in his time there was one who confessed that he had spent over twenty years in trying different religions," pretending that scripture, "Try all things, and hold fast that which is good." It is sad to see how many preachers in our days, under pretenses of angelical attainments, make it their business to enrich men's heads with high, empty, airy notions—instead of enriching their souls with saving truths. If these are not strangers to that wisdom that is from above, I know nothing. Proverbs 11:30, "He who wins souls is wise." The Hebrew word signifies to catch souls, by using all art and industry, as fowlers do to take birds. [He is the best preacher, not who tickles the ear—but who breaks the heart!] No wisdom compared to that which wins souls from sin and the world, and which wins souls to Christ and holiness! No teaching compared to this! Remember this, you will never be rich in grace if you care not who you hear, nor what you hear. That Christ that commands you to take heed how you hear, commands you also to take heed what you hear. And every soul won to God is a new pearl added to a minister's crown, etc.
But you will say to me,
How should we know which is a soul-enriching ministry, that so we may wait on it?Take these three rules:
(1.) First, Judge not of the soul-enriching ministry by the voice of the minister, nor by the multitude of hearers who follow him, nor by his affected tone, nor by his rhetoric and flashes of wit—but by the holiness, heavenliness, and spiritualness of the matter. Many ministers are like empty orators, who have a flood of words—and a drop of matter.
Some preachers affect rhetorical strains; they seek abstrusities, and love to hover and soar aloft in dark and cloudy expressions, and so shoot their arrows over their hearers' heads, instead of bettering their hearers' hearts. Mirthful things in a sermon are only for men to gaze upon and admire. What are high strains and flashes of wit, new-minted words and phrases—but like fancy bottles to the good corn. Truth is like Solomon's spouse, "all glorious within." [rather the Spouse, the Church: Psalm 45:13—G.] She is most beautiful when most naked, as Adam was in innocency.
The oracle would have Philip of Macedon use silver lances in winning an impregnable fort, etc.—but ministers must not use golden sentences, strong lines, froth of wit. It is iron, and not gold, that kills in the encounter. It is the steel sword, not the golden sword—which wins the field, etc. "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God." 1 Corinthians 2:1
(2.) Secondly, Judge of it by its revealing the whole counsel of God, the whole will of God, revealed in his word.
In Acts 20:27, "For I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." There are some who make it their business only to advance the glory of Christ, and to darken the glory of the Father; and some cry up the glory of the Father, and yet cast clouds and darkness upon the glory of the Son. And what dirt and scorn is cast upon the Spirit by many vain, blasphemous people in these times is notoriously known; and if these men are not far from declaring the whole counsel and will of God, I know nothing.
Christ must be held out in all his offices, for they all tend to the enriching of poor souls, to the adding of pearls to a Christian's crown. And clearly it is sad to consider how many there be that cry up one office and cry down another. Some cry up the kingly office of Christ—but mind not his prophetic office; and some cry up his prophetic office—but trample upon his kingly office; and some cry up both his kingly and prophetic office, and yet make slight of his priestly office. Christians, fix yourselves under his ministry, who gives the Father his due, the Son his due, and the Spirit his due; who makes it his business to open the treasures and the riches both of the one and the other, and to declare to you the whole will of God; for there are many who "hold the word in unrighteousness," Romans 1:18, and who will only acquaint you with some parts of the will of God, and keep you ignorant of other parts—whose condemnation will be great as well as just, etc. Serious experienced saints relish those very truths best—which such corrupt teachers distaste most, etc.
(3.) Thirdly and lastly, You may judge of it by its coming nearest to the ministry of Christ and his apostles. [Christ and his apostles labored to make men Christians, and not critics. Augustine.]
There was no ministry so soul-enriching and soul-winning as the ministry of Christ and his apostles. Oh! the thousands that were brought in by one exercise! Let men of frothy wits say what they will, there are no preachers compared to these who come nearest in their ministry to Christ and his apostles. That incomparable man, Peter Hamus, said: "Let us speak the very words of Scripture, for so did Christ, the prophets, and apostles; let us make use of the language of the Holy Spirit, and forever abominate those who profanely disdain at the stately plainness of God's blessed book, and who think to correct the divine wisdom and eloquence with their own childishness and sophistry." God's holy things ought to be handled with fear and reverence, rather than with wit and dalliance. Spiritual sophistry is the next degree to unfaithfulness. No ministry like that which comes nearest to Christ, etc.
[3.] The third direction is this,If ever you would be rich in grace, be rich in spirituals—then keep humble.
Psalm 25:9, "The humble he will teach his way, and the meek he will guide in judgment;" James 4:6, "God resists the proud—but gives grace to the humble." "He sets himself in battle-array against the proud," as the Greek has it, "but he gives grace to the humble." He pours grace into an humble soul, as men pour wine into an empty vessel. Of all souls, humble souls do most prize spiritual riches; of all souls they most improve spiritual riches; of all souls they are most fearful of losing spiritual riches. In Isaiah 57:15, "For this is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives forever, whose name is holy—I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."
Humility, as the violet, though the lowest—yet is the sweetest of flowers. The word notes to us thus much: that God will not dwell with a humble man as a wayfaring man dwells with his relations—a few nights and then away. Dwelling notes a constant and not a transient act of God. God will forever keep house with the humble soul; when once they meet, they never part. There is no such way to be rich—as to be poor and low in our own eyes. This is the way to enjoy his company—in whom all treasures are.
[4.] Fourthly, If ever you would be spiritually rich, improve the riches that you have.
Improve that knowledge, that faith, that light, that love that you have. Those who had two talents did, by the improvement of them, gain two more; and those who had five did, by the improvement of them, gain five more: Proverbs 10:4, "The diligent hand makes rich." Take hold of all opportunities to enrich your souls with spiritual riches. Men will easily, readily, greedily, and unweariedly grasp all opportunities wherein they may get earthly riches; and why should not you be as diligent in taking hold of all opportunities to enrich your precious souls? [The neglect of golden, soul-enriching opportunities, has made many a man's life a hell.]
Is not the soul worth more than raiment, more than friends, more than relations, more than life—yes, more than all? And why, then, do you not labor to enrich your souls? You were better have a rich soul under a thread-bare coat, than a thread-bare soul under a silk or golden coat. If he is a monster among men, who makes liberal provision for his dog—and starves his wife; what a monster is he who makes much provision for his baser part—but none for his noble part!
A slothful heart in the things of God is a heavy judgment: Proverbs 4:31, "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," or, as the Hebrew has it, "the man who had no heart," that is, to make use of his vineyard, "and lo, it was all grown over with thorns and nettles," etc. Oh the lusts, the wickednesses—which will overgrow slothful, sluggish souls! Spiritual sluggards are subject to the saddest strokes. Oh the deadly sins, the deadly temptations, the deadly judgments that spiritual sluggards will unavoidably fall under! None such an enemy to himself—none such a friend to Satan—as the spiritual sluggard. It is sad to think how the riches of Christ, the riches of consolation, the riches of justification, the riches of glorification, are brought to many men's doors, and yet they have no hearts to embrace them! There is no judgment like this! Well, spiritual sluggards, remember this, when your consciences are awakened, this will be a sword in your souls—that you might have been saved, you might have been spiritually and eternally enriched—but that you have trifled and fooled away golden opportunities and your own salvation! Wealth without wit is ill bestowed, etc.
[5.] Fifthly, If ever you would be spiritually rich, walk uprightly, holily, and obediently.
If ever you would be spiritually rich, look to your walking. It is not the knowing soul, nor the talking soul—but the close-walking soul, the obediential soul—that is in spirituals the richest soul. Others may be rich in notions—but none so rich in spiritual experiences, and in all holy and heavenly grace, as close-walking Christians. Psalm 84:11, "The Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." The upright walker shall be both of his court and council; he shall know anything, and have anything.
In John 14:21, 23, compared, "If any man loves me, he will keep my commandments, and I will love him, and my Father will love him." What then? "We will make our abode with him, and will manifest ourselves to him." Certainly they cannot be poor, who enjoy such guests as these; they must needs be full, who enjoy those who are fullness itself. God and Christ are overflowing fountains, and holy souls find it so. [When my heart is coldest—I present God to my soul under the notions of his greatness; but when my heart is loose and fearing—then I present God to my soul under the notion of his goodness, says Luther.]
[6.] Sixthly, If ever you would be spiritually rich, be most in with those Christians who are spiritually rich.
Let them be your choicest companions—who have made Christ their chief companion. Do not so much eye the outsides of men, as their inside; look most to their internal worth. Many people have an eye upon the external garb of this and that professor—but give me a Christian who minds the internal worth of people—who makes such as are most filled with the fullness of God, to be his choicest and his chief companions.
In Psalm 16:2, "My goodness extends not to you," says David, now David speaks in the person of Christ—"but to the saints who are in the earth, in whom is all my delight." There are saints—and there are excellent saints. Now those are the excellent ones—who are most rich in heavenly treasures; and these you should make your bosom friends, your choicest companions: Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with wise men shall be wise;" that is, he shall be more wise, more humble, more holy, and more abounding in all spiritual riches. The word that is rendered walk, signifies walking; to note to us, that it is not he who talks with the wise, nor he who commends the wise, nor he who takes a step or two or three with the wise, who shall be wise—but he who gives up himself to the society and company of the wise, who shall be more and more wise, more and more gracious, more and more holy.
He who comes where sweet spices or ointments are stirring, does carry away some of the sweet savor, though he himself does not realize it. The spouse's lips drop as the honeycomb: Cant. 4:10, "The tongue of the just is as choice silver," he scatters pearls, he throws abroad treasures where he comes: Proverbs 15:7, "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge." The Hebrew word is a metaphor from scattering abroad with a fan, or from seedsmen scattering abroad of their seed in the furrows of the field. They scatter their light, their love, their experiences, among those with whom they converse, as seedsmen scatter their seed in the field. Christ says his spouse's lips are like a thread of scarlet, with talking of nothing but a crucified Christ; and thin like a thread, not swelled with other vain and wicked discourses.
The old zealous primitive Christians did so frequently, and so effectually mind and talk of the kingdom of heaven, and of the riches and glory of that state, that the heathen began to be a little jealous who they affected the Roman empire; when, alas, their ambition was of another and a nobler nature: Psalm 37:30, "The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks judgment; for the law of the Lord is in his heart." Proverbs 12:28, "The tongue of the wise is health, his tongue is a tree of life, whose leaves are medicinable." No way to be rich in spirituals, like being much in with precious souls, whose tongues drop marrow and fatness. [The very heathen man could say, When a wise man speaks, he opens the rich treasures and wardrobe of his mind, etc.]
Utterance is a gift; and dumb Christians are blameworthy, as well as dumb ministers. We should all strive to a holy ability and dexterity of savory discourse. If Christ should come to many of us, as he did to his two disciples, in that last chapter of Luke, and say to us, as to them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" oh! with what paleness of face and sadness of countenance would we look! When the heart is full, it overflows in speech. We know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking. Happy is he who speaks out anything of Christ from experience.
[7.] Seventhly, If ever you would be spiritually rich, then take heed of tasting or eating of forbidden fruit.
This stripped Adam of his crown, of his jewels, and of all his rich ornaments in a moment; and of the richest and greatest prince who ever breathed, made him the miserablest beggar that ever lived. Oh take heed of tasting of poison, of eating of poison. A person who has ate poison will not thrive, let him take ever such wholesome food. The choicest cordials will not increase blood, and spirits, and strength—but the man will vomit up all. Poor souls who have been tasting of poison, are apt to find fault with the minister, and sometimes with this and that, as the cause of their not growing rich in spirituals; when, alas! the only cause is their eating of poison. These are like him who, having a thorn in his foot, complained of the roughness of the way as the cause of his limping. Sirs, it is not the minister, nor this, nor that—but your eating of forbidden fruit, that is the cause of your non-thriving in spirituals. Sin is the soul's sickness—and nothing more hinders growth than sickness. Christians, if ever you would be trees, not only having the leaves of honor—but the fruits of righteousness, then take heed of sin, abhor it more than hell, and fly from it as from your deadliest enemy, etc.
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, if ever you would be spiritually rich, be sure to maintain secret communion with God.
You know many men come to be very rich in the world by a secret trade. Though many have not such an open trade as others—yet they have a more secret trade, and by that they gain very great estates, as many of you here in London know by experience. [Acts 10:3, 9; Gen. 21:33; Exod. 14:16; 1 Sam. 1:13.] Take it, friends, as an experienced truth, there is no such way under heaven, to be rich in spirituals, as by driving of a secret trade heaven-wards. It is true, it is good for men to attend upon this, and that, and the other public services; for in all divine services God shows his beauty and glory. Ay—but such that delight to be more upon the public stage than in the closet, will never be rich in spirituals. They may grow rich in notions—but they will never grow rich in gracious experiences, Psalm 63:2-3; 27:4; 84:10.
Oh! God loves to see a poor Christian shut his closet door, Mat. 6:6, and then to open his bosom, and pour out his soul before him. God has very choice discoveries for souls who drive a secret trade—the best wine, the best dainties and delicacies are for such. And I never knew any man or woman in my life, who was richer in grace, than those who were much in closet communion with God. Much of a Christian's spiritual strength lies in secret prayer, as Samson's did in his hair. Nothing charms away Satan, and weakens sin, like this. Secret prayers are the pillars of smoke wherein the soul ascends to God, out of the wilderness of this world. Secret prayer is Jacob's ladder, where you have God descending down into the soul, and the soul sweetly ascending up to God. No way to be rich in spirituals like this. Therefore be sure to maintain and keep up a secret trade between God and your own souls.
Oh let God hear often of you in secret. Oh! in the secret
walks, the soul meets with the King of glory. Oh! there the soul hangs upon
Christ; there the soul sucks and draws virtue from Christ; and there the
soul is made rich with the riches of Christ. Christ is much delighted and
taken with secret prayer: Cant. 2:14, "O my dove, who is in the clefts of
the rock, in the secret places of the stairs—let me hear your voice, let me
see your countenance; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is
lovely." Secret meals are very fattening, and secret duties are very
soul-enriching! Christians! set more close to this work, and if you
don't thrive by it, trust me no more. And thus you see by what means you may
grow rich in grace.
3.The third thing I propounded to speak to was, Some propositions concerning spiritual riches. And the first proposition is this:
[1.] All who grow rich in grace—grow rich gradually.
The sun ascends by degrees; children, plants, and trees all grow by degrees; so do saints in spirituals. It is true, many men as to temporals, by the death of some friend, or this and that providence, grow rich in a sudden; but no soul who is rich in grace—but grows rich gradually. In Proverbs 4:18, "But the path of the just is like the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day." He proceeds from virtue to virtue, until at length he shines like the sun in its strength. And so in Mal. 4:2, "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." Hosea 14:5-7, "I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. It will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like those of beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedar forests of Lebanon. My people will return again to the safety of their land. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon ." I shall but hint at this now, because I have spoken more fully to it already, etc.
The second proposition is this:
[2.] Few or none are rich in all graces.
There are some men in the world who are generally rich—who are rich in money, and rich in land, and rich in goods—but where you have one man who is a generally rich man in this sense, you have ten thousand who are only rich in some one thing, as money, goods, or land, etc.; so it is here. It is a hard thing, if possible, to find a soul who is universally rich; who is rich in every grace, who is rich in faith, and rich in wisdom, and rich in love, and rich in patience, etc. Abraham was rich in faith, and Job was rich in patience, and Moses was rich in meekness, and David was rich in zeal, etc; but none of these were rich in every grace. And so in these days you may find one Christian rich in one grace, and another Christian rich in another grace; but where will you find a Christian who is rich in every grace? Such who are rich in some graces—are yet very defective and lame in other graces.
The saints once at Rome were richer in wisdom and knowledge than the saints at Thessalonica, Romans 15:14; and the saints at Thessalonica were richer in faith, love, patience, and charity than the saints at Rome, 1 Thes. 1:4, 2:8, compared with 2 Epistle 1:3-4. It is with saints as with sinners, one sinner excels in one vice, another in another vice; so one saint excels in one virtue, and another in another virtue. One is rich in joy, in comfort; another is rich in humility, in fear; another in faith and hope; and another in love. [No grace grows alike in all saints. In the parable some brought forth thirty, some sixty, some a hundred, etc.] And mark how this arises.
It arises sometimes from hence—that every saint does endeavor to excel in that particular grace which is most opposite to his bosom sin. Now every saint's bosom sin is not alike. It may be pride is one man's bosom sin, and hypocrisy another man's bosom sin, etc. Now it is the very nature of grace to make a man strive to be most eminent in that particular grace that is most opposite to his bosom sin, and upon this account it comes to pass that one is rich in one grace, and another in another.
Again, some saints have frequent occasions to act and exercise such and such graces. Others are called forth to exercise such and such other graces. Now the more any particular grace is exercised, the more that particular grace is increased. Frequent exercise cause a stronger habit both in graces and in sins. If all Christians would be rich in all graces, what difference would there be between heaven and earth? What need would there be of ordinances? And when would Christians long to be dissolved, and to be with Christ? etc.
The third proposition is this:
[3.] Souls may be rich in grace, and yet not know it—and yet not perceive it.
The child is heir to a crown, to a great estate—but knows it not. Moses' face did shine, and others saw it—but he perceived it not. So many a precious soul is rich in grace, and others see it, and know it, and bless God for it—and yet the poor soul perceives it not. Now because a right understanding of this may be of much use to some saddened, dejected souls, I will show you how this comes to pass.
First, Sometimes it arises from the soul's strong desires of spiritual riches. The strength of the soul's desires after spiritual riches, does often take away the very sense of growing spiritually rich. Many covetous men's desires are so strongly carried forth after earthly riches, that though they do grow rich—yet they cannot perceive it, they cannot believe it. It is just so with many a precious Christian; his desires after spiritual riches are so strong, that they take away the very sense of his growing rich in spirituals. [The sun ascends without perception; and so it is often in this supernatural motion, etc. The Greeks derive their word for desire from a root that signifies to burn. Now, if one should heap ever so much fuel upon a fire, it would not quench it—but kindle it the more. The application is easy.] Many Christians have much worth within them—but they see it not. It was a godly man who said, "The Lord was in this place, and I knew it not," etc. Gen. 28.
Again, This arises sometimes from men's neglecting the casting up of their accounts. Many men thrive and grow rich, and yet by neglecting the casting up of their accounts, they cannot tell whether they go backward or forward. It is so with many precious souls; they grow in grace and are spiritually rich, and yet by neglecting the casting up of their accounts, they do not know it, they do not perceive it, etc. [Seneca reports of one Sextius, that he would every night ask himself these three questions: (1). What evil have you mended this day? (2). What vice have you stood against this day? (3). In what part are you bettered this day? etc.]
Again, sometimes it arises from the soul's too frequent casting up of its accounts. If a man should cast up his accounts once a week or once a month, he may not be able to discern that he does grow rich—and yet he may grow rich. But let him compare one year with another, and he shall clearly see that he does grow rich. Though most are to blame for neglecting the casting up of their accounts—yet some are to blame for casting up their accounts too often; for by this means they are not able to perceive their spiritual growth, and so can neither be so thankful nor so cheerful as otherwise they might. Let there be some considerable time between your casting up of your accounts, and you will find that your souls are grown rich, though for the present you perceive it not.
But then again, sometimes it arises from the soul's mistake in casting up of its accounts. The soul many times mistakes; it is in a hurry; and there the soul puts down ten for a hundred, and a hundred for a thousand; as sometimes men in hurrying over their books, they slip and make mistakes, and so they think there is nothing gained, whereas indeed there is much gained, and in the close they shall find it so. Many a gracious soul many times takes a great deal of grace for a little; and little grace for no grace. Look, as hypocrites put down their counters for gold, their pence for pounds, and always appraise themselves above the market; so sincere souls do often put down their pounds for pence, their thousands for hundreds, and still appraise themselves below the market, etc.
The fourth proposition is this:
[4.] That saints must endeavor to grow rich in every grace.
It is the duty and the glory of saints to endeavor to grow rich in every grace. So the apostle, 2 Pet. 1:5-12, "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge," etc. It is the work, the duty, the glory of a Christian, to be still adding one grace to another. So in chapter 3:18, "Grow in grace," that is, in every grace—but more particularly and specially, "in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"Grow in grace." That is, grow in love, in faith, in humility, in meekness, etc.—but especially "in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior." All the graces which are in you are weak; and therefore you had need to strengthen them all.
Again, You have the seeds of all corruptions in you; and is there any way to be rid of every sin—but by thriving in every grace?
Again, You have opportunities as well to thrive in one grace as in another.
Again, Will not Satan labor might and main to keep your graces low and poor? You never hurt him less, you never honor Christ less, you never mind your work less—than when grace is weak and low. This he knows, and therefore labors to keep your graces down.
Again, are not you liable to many changes in this world? As, to be rich and poor, exalted and abased; now to relieve, and at another time to be relieved; now well, and at another time sick; now strong, and at another time weak; now in storms, and at another time in calms; now tempted, and at another time delivered; now in one condition, and at another time in another condition; now up, now down; now forward, now backward, etc.
Now pray tell me, do not the many changes and variety of providences which we meet with in this world behoove us to be rich, not in some—but in every grace? Don't a state of prosperity behoove a man to be rich in wisdom, rich in humility, rich in love, and rich in compassion, that his heart may be kept close to God in that state, and that he may do nothing unworthy of God, who has done so much for him? And now, when God shall change the manner of his administrations towards such a man, when God shall put out his candle, pull off his robes, and clothe him with rags, and set him with Job upon the ash-heap, doesn't this condition bespeak much patience, much contentment, much self-denial, much faith? How else will this man bravely bear up, when God shall write such bitter things against him, and pass the sentence of death upon his nearest and his dearest comforts? If a man be not rich in one grace as well as in another, when God shall bring changes upon him, and pour him from vessel to vessel—his life will be a burden, a hell to him, etc.
Again, consider this: growing rich in every grace renders a Christian most lovely and beautiful in grace; as a growth in all the members of the body renders the body most lovely and beautiful. The perfect beauty and loveliness of the body rises from the symmetry and fitness of the parts unto one another. Rare and excellent beauty arises from the loveliness of all parts. If one part is lovely, and another deformed, then there is no perfect beauty. Well, remember this, there are no such beautiful Christians as those who grow rich in every grace. Oh! they are the beauty of Christ, the honor of the gospel, and the glory of Christianity.
And so much for the fourth proposition, namely, that we must labor to be rich in every grace.
The fifth proposition that I shall lay down is this,
[5.] Saints should labor more particularly and more especially to be rich in FAITH.
Though it is of concern to believers to be rich in every grace—yet it is of special concern to them to labor to be rich in this particular grace of faith. In Jude, ver. 20, "Building up yourselves in your most holy faith." It is not enough to have faith—but they must build up themselves and build up one another "in their most holy faith."
There are three things that the Scripture calls precious:
First, The blood of Christ: in 1 Peter 1:19, "You are not redeemed with silver and gold—but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot."
Secondly, The promises are called precious promises: 2 Peter 1:4, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises."
Thirdly, Faith is called precious faith: ver. 1, "Unto those who have obtained like precious faith with us." Now, though it be of concern for every saint to labor to be rich in every grace—yet more especially and more particularly to be rich in this grace of faith; and that upon this account that follows:
(1.) First, Because faith is the soul's greatest and choicest fence against her worst enemies. In Eph. 6:16, "Above all, take the shield of faith, whereby you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." "Above all, take the shield of faith." Neglect no part of your armor—but above all, look to the shield of faith. Look, what the shield is to the body, that is faith to a believer's soul, to secure him against all the fierce and fiery darts of Satan.
Satan would say to a man with great faith, "You do always overcome me. When I would exalt and promote you, you keep yourself in humility; and when I would throw you down, you lift yourself up in assurance of faith." Faith makes the soul invincible; it makes the soul victorious; it leads captivity captive; it binds Satan in chains; it foils him at every weapon; and therefore, above all, labor to be rich in faith.
(2.) Secondly, Growth in faith will advance the growth of all other graces.
All other graces thrive in the soul as faith thrives—and not otherwise. Be rich in faith, and be rich in all; be weak in faith, and be weak in all. Faith has an influence upon all other graces; it is like a silver thread which runs through a chain of pearls; it puts strength and vivacity into all other graces. You never knew a man rich in any grace—who has not been rich in faith. Every man's hope, joy, fear, love, humility, patience, etc., is as his faith is. All other graces live upon faith's cost and charge. Look, what the breast is to the child, wings to the bird, oil to the wheels, and the soul to the body—that is faith to all other graces in the soul of man.
It is reported of the crystal, that it has such a virtue in it, that the very touching of it quickens other stones, and puts a luster and a beauty upon them. I am sure it is true of faith. There is such a divine virtue and power in faith, that it will quicken and cast a luster and a beauty upon all other graces in the soul of man; and therefore you should labor as for life—to be rich in this particular grace of faith.
(3.) Thirdly, consider this, Of all graces that are in the soul of man, faith is the most useful grace; and therefore you should, above all, labor to be rich in faith.
It is a Christian's right eye, without which he cannot see for Christ; it is his right hand, without which he cannot do for Christ; it is his tongue, without which he cannot speak for Christ; it is his very vital spirits, without which he cannot act for Christ.
It is fabled of King Midas, that whatever he touched would be turned into gold. I am sure that whatever faith touches, it turns into gold, that is, into our good. If our faith touches the promises, it turns them into our good; whatever faith lays its hand upon, it appropriates to itself, and turns it into the soul's good. If faith looks upon God, it says, "This God is my God forever and ever, and he shall be my guide unto death," Psalm 63:1; 89:26. When it looks upon Christ, it says with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God," John 20:28. When it looks upon the crown of righteousness, it says, "This crown is laid up for me," etc.
Faith is bread to nourish us, and wine to cheer us, and a cordial to strengthen us. Faith is a sword to defend us, a guide to direct us, a staff to support us, a plaster to heal us, a friend to comfort us, and a golden key to open heaven unto us. Faith, of all graces, is the most useful grace to the soul of man. "Without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6; 4:2. All those services are lost, wherein faith has not a hand. You may write loss upon all the prayers you make, and upon all the sermons you hear, and upon all the tears you shed, and upon all the alms you give—if all be not managed by a hand of faith.
(4.) Fourthly, You should labor above all to be rich in faith, because faith is that princely grace that Christ is most taken with.
Cant. 4:9, "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, you have ravished my heart with one of your eyes,"—that is, with that piercing eye of faith that looks up to my mercy-seat—"with one chain of your neck."
There are two things that with open mouth speak out Christ to be most taken with the faith of his people.
And the first is, his uncrowning himself to crown his people's faith. Christ does often take the crown off his own head, and puts it upon the head of faith. Witness such passages as these, which are frequent in Scripture, "Your faith has healed you," "Your faith has saved you," "Your faith has made you whole," etc. Christ takes the crown off his own head—and puts it upon the head of faith. And no wonder; for of all graces, faith takes the crown off a man's own head, and puts it on the head of Christ. Man naturally is apt to crown anything but Christ. He is apt to crown his prayers, and crown his desires, and crown his endeavors, etc. Oh but now faith acts like a king of kings—and uncrowns all, and sets the crown upon the head of Christ!
And then a second thing that speaks out Christ to be most taken with the grace of faith is this, that he overlooks all other graces in comparison of faith, as you may see in the Canaanite woman, Mat. 15:21-29. The poor woman shows a great deal of compassion, a great deal of wisdom, a great deal of humility, a great deal of love, and a great deal of self-denial; but in the close says Christ, "O woman, great is your faith, be it unto you even as you will." He does not say, O woman, great is your love; nor, O woman, great is your wisdom; nor, O woman, great is your humility and self-denial; nor, O woman, great is your patience, etc.; but, "O woman, great is your faith!" He overlooks, as it were, all other graces, and sets the crown upon the head of faith: "O woman, great is your faith."
So in Mark 5, the woman who had a hemorrhage twelve years comes to Christ for cure, and in the close of the story says Christ to her, "Woman, your faith has made you whole." He does not say, Woman, your pressing hard to come to me has made you whole—but "Your faith has made you whole." He does not say, Woman, your earnest desires and endeavors to be made whole has made you whole—but "Your faith has made you whole." He does not say, Woman, your fear and trembling has made you whole—but "Your faith has made you whole," etc.
So in Luke 7:50, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace." Though she wept much, and loved much—yet Christ does not say, Your tears have saved you, your sorrow has saved you. He does not say, Your humility, your charity has saved you; but "O woman, your faith has saved you." Christ overlooks all other graces, as it were, and casts a loving eye upon the grace of faith, etc.
(5.) And then again, in the fifth place, you should above all labor to be rich in faith, because of all graces in the soul of man, faith makes him most lively and active.
There is no grace, I say, no grace in the soul of man, which makes him so full of life and action—as the grace of faith. Faith is the first pin, the first wheel which moves all the golden wheels of obedience. In Heb. 11, you read what those worthies did; they left their country, their kindred, upon a bare command of God. Faith has Rachel's eye—but Leah's womb. Faith makes souls very fruitful in ways of well-doing. Faith is as the spring in the watch, which moves the wheels. Not a grace stirs until faith sets it to work.
Faith is like Solomon's virtuous woman, who sets all her maidens to work. Faith sets joy to work. "Abraham desired to see my day, and saw it, and rejoiced." Faith sets love to work; it works by love; Gal. 5:6. Faith sets hope to work, Romans 8:24-25. Faith sets godly sorrow to work, Zech. 12:10. Faith sets patience to work. I believe that God is wise and loving, and what he does is out of some noble design to do my soul good; this spins out patience. Faith fits a man to do, to suffer, to wait, to walk, etc., therefore labor above all to be rich in faith. [True faith puts forth itself into vital operations. Ferdinand believed the story told him by Columbus, and therefore he furnished him with ships, and got the West Indies by his faith in the undertaking. But Henry the 7th of England believed him not, and therefore trusted him not with shipping, and so lost all the purchase of that faith.]
(6.) And then, sixthly, of all graces, faith renders the soul most invincible; and therefore you should labor above all to be rich in faith.
It renders the soul invincible and unconquerable under all the hardships and trials which it meets with in this world. Faith makes a man triumph in all the changes and conditions of this life. It was their faith which made them invincible in Daniel 3:16-18, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king—O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
And so Daniel's faith stopped the lion's mouth; it made him too strong for the strongest beasts of prey, as you may see in Daniel 6.
Though the enemies of a believer are very subtle, strong, and experienced; and though the battle be hot and long—yet a soul rich in faith shall have the day. Faith will render a believer victorious in the close: "He may suffer death," as Cyprian said to Cornelius, "but never conquest." Faith renders the soul a lion, a rock, etc. It is reported of some of the Roman and Grecian captains, that they proved always victorious, and were never beaten by any. Such is the nature of faith; it renders a soul victorious in all engagements. In all engagements faith brings a man bravely off, and enables him to keep his ground, and triumph. [As may be fully seen in the Book of Martyrs, and in Heb. 11.] Psalm 60:6-10, "God has spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice: I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of my head; Judah is my lawgiver; Moab is my wash-pot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph you because of me," etc.
It is not great resolutions, nor big words, nor high looks—but faith, that will make a man stand fast in shaking times. No hand can put the garland upon a Christian—but the hand of faith, etc. Faith alters the tenses, it puts the future into the present; Gilead is mine, etc.
(7.) And then, seventhly, above all labor to be rich in faith, because Satan will labor might and main to weaken your faith.
Oh! the great design of Satan is not so much to weaken you in externals, as it is to weaken you in internals. Satan can be contented that men should have their heads full of notions, and their mouths full of religion, and their bags full of gold, and their chests full of silver, and their shops full of wares—just so that their souls be either void of faith, or but poor and low in faith. Satan's greatest plot is to weaken the faith of Christians. Luke 22:31-32, "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Satan has a gnawing tooth at your faith; his design is upon that; he will labor might and main to weaken that, to frustrate that, and therefore "I have prayed that your faith fail not."
(8.) And then, eighthly, consider this, of all graces, faith contributes most to the bringing down of mercies and blessings upon yourselves and friends; and therefore you should above all labor to be rich in this particular grace of faith.
Faith contributes to the bringing down of blessings upon ourselves. In Dan. 6:23, "Daniel was delivered," says the text, "because he believed in his God." It was his faith, and not his prayers; it was his faith, and not his tears; it was his faith, and not his sighs that stopt the lion's mouths, and wrought deliverance for him. So in Psalm 27:13, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living: So in 2 Chron. 20:20, "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper," and so they did.
That is a very famous scripture to this purpose, 2 Chron. 13:15-17, "Then the men of Judah began to shout. At the sound of their battle cry, God defeated Jeroboam and the Israelite army and routed them before Abijah and the army of Judah. The Israelite army fled from Judah, and God handed them over to Judah in defeat. Abijah and his army inflicted heavy losses on them; there were 500,000 casualties among Israel's finest troops that day." Here was a great slaughter; no wars, no slaughters comparable to those the Scripture speaks of. And the reason is rendered, verse 18, "So Judah defeated Israel because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their ancestors." Were men more rich in faith, they would be more rich in other blessings, etc.
And as faith is the only way to bring down a blessing upon ourselves, so faith is the only way to bring down blessings upon our friends and relations. Though another man cannot be saved by my faith—yet he may be blessed with many blessings, upon the account of my faith. In Mat. 15:22-29, it was the Canaanitish woman's faith which brought a blessing of healing upon her daughter. And so in Mat. 8:6-14, the centurion's faith healed his servant that was sick of a palsy, "and from that very hour he was healed." The servant got well by his master's faith. And so likewise in Mark 9, the faith of the father prevailed for the his demon possessed son. "If you can believe," says Christ, "all things are possible." And the poor man said with tears, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." And presently Christ charged the evil spirit to come out of him, etc. A believing husband, a believing wife, a believing child, or a believing servant, may bring down, by the actings of faith, many a blessing upon their relations. Faith has a happy hand, and never but speeds in one kind or another. It has what it would, either in money or money's worth.
One pointing to Luther said, "There is a man who can have anything of God that he will ask." Faith has a kind of omnipotency in it, it is able to do all things, etc.
And as faith brings down blessings upon our own heads and the heads of our friends, so it often brings down wrath upon our enemies. There is nothing contributes so much to our enemies' ruin as faith does. I am confident it has neither been armies, nor navies, nor parliaments, that have had the chief hand in bringing down the proud and stout enemies of Christ and Zion, in this and other nations—but the faith of his despised people. One enemy may stand before the face of another—but what enemy can stand before the face and power of faith? That is a remarkable scripture, Heb. 11:33, "By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight." Other means were used—but that which did the work, and struck all dead, was faith. Faith engages God in every encounter, and who can stand before a consuming fire? [Mary Queen of Scots, was accustomed to say that she feared John Knox's prayers, who was a man of much faith—more than an army of ten thousand men.]
Polybius, speaking of Horatius' keeping of the field against his enemies' forces, says, "That his enemies were more afraid of his faith than of his warlike strength." And truly there is nothing that renders men more dreadful to an understanding enemy than their faith. Oh! it is brave for men to believe down the power of darkness, to believe down those who war against the Lamb, etc. No way to get an enemy down like this; nor no way to keep an enemy down like this; no way to save a kingdom like this; nor no way to keep a kingdom like this. The nation is indebted to none so much as to believing souls. O England! England! you had long before this been a prey to men that delight in blood, had it not been for the faith of the worm Jacob, etc. Christians! as you would have Christ, go on and do more and more for England; as you would be crowned with the choicest and the chief blessings, and as you would have vengeance executed upon all that hate, that wage war against and persecute Christ and the saints—be mighty in believing.
(9.) Ninthly and lastly, Faith is a root grace; and will the branches flourish if the root withers?
Oh! therefore, water this root, have an eye to this root. If you have a choice root in any of your gardens, oh how careful are you of it! you will mind it and water it and look to it, etc. Well, of all graces faith is the root grace, and if this dies you will find your graces to languish. Your hope, love, fear, patience, humility, joy, etc., can never outlive your faith. These live together and they die together; therefore, above all, labor to be rich in faith, for this is a root grace, and if this flourishes—all other graces will flourish; but if this decays—all other graces will lose their strength, beauty, glory, etc.
And thus much for the fifth proposition. We come now to the sixth proposition, and that is this:
[6.] That no gracious souls do at all times alike grow and thrive in spiritual riches.
A child sometimes shoots up more in a month than he does at other times in many months, and sometimes more in a year than he does afterwards in many years. And do not plants and trees sometimes shoot up more in a week than in many, etc. So, many a Christian thrives more, and gets more spiritual riches in one month than in many, in one year than in many. I appeal to your experiences, Christians! don't you find it so? I know you do. To cite Scripture to prove this would be to cast water into the sea, and to light candles to see the sun at noon. Sin and Satan do sometimes work more violently and more strongly in the souls of saints than at other times. Now, when sin and Satan work most, and prevail most, then grace thrives least. As the life of grace is the death of sin, and the growth of grace the decay of sin—so the increase of sin is the decay of grace, and the strengthening of sin is the weakening of grace.
Again, No saints have at all times alike gales of the Spirit of God, and therefore they do not grow in spiritual riches at all times alike. No ships have at all times the same gales of wind, etc. A man thrives in spiritual riches as the gales of the Spirit of God are upon him, and not otherwise. When the Spirit of the Lord does blow most sweetly and strongly upon his heart, then his graces thrive and flourish most, then those beds of spices do yield the most fragrant smell; but when the Spirit of the Lord withdraws and withholds his influences, how does the strength and glory of grace wither and decay! Latimer said of the Spirit, that He is coming and going, etc.
The herb heliotropium does turn about, and open and shut, according to the motion of the sun; so do the graces of the saints according to the internal gales, motions, and operations of the Spirit, etc.
Again, no saints have at all times the like external advantages and opportunities of growing rich in spirituals. They have not the word, it may be, in that power and life as formerly; or it perhaps they enjoy not the communion of saints as formerly; or if they do—yet perhaps those who have formerly been as fire to warm and inflame them, are now become water to cool them, and deaden them; or it may be they have not those advantages for closet duties as formerly; or it may be, the course of nature is changed; and if so, it is no wonder that they thrive not in spirituals as formerly. When children have not as good food, and as good lodging, and as good looking after as at other times, no wonder if they thrive not as at other times. When men have not the same advantages and opportunities to grow rich in the world as formerly, do we wonder that they thrive not as before? Surely not!
And sometimes this arises from the breaking of some bone by sin. David found it so. Many a man, by breaking a bone, is much hindered from thriving in the world. Oh! this broken arm, this broken leg, has cost me many a fair pound which otherwise I might have got. Oh friends! sin is the breaking of the bones, the breaking of a man's peace and communion with God; it is the breaking of his hope and confidence in God; it is the disjoining of a man from God; and so it hinders a man's spiritual growth: Isaiah 59:1-2; chapter 64:7; Gal. 6:1. Believe it, Christians! if you play and dally with sin, if you fall in with sin, if you make friends with one with sin—you will never grow rich in spirituals. Sin will cause such a breaking of bones, as will undoubtedly hinder the prosperity of your souls. And so much for the sixth proposition.
[7.] The seventh and last proposition that I shall propound is this: A man may grow rich in those graces which are more remote from Christ, which are less conversant about Christ, when he does not grow rich in those graces, that, as special favorites, stand always at the elbow of Christ, and are most busied and conversant about Christ. Let me open it thus to you:
You know at court there are some that have the honor to attend always at the prince's elbow, and there are others that appertain to the same prince—but are more remote in their employments for him, etc. So in the soul, there are some graces which are more remote, and not so conversant about the person of Christ, as now humility, self-denial, patience, meekness, temperance, sobriety, and the like. Now, though these graces do appertain to the same prince, though they are all servants of the Lord Jesus—yet notwithstanding they are more remote, and busied about other objects and things. Oh! but now faith and love are choice favorites, that always stand at the elbow of Christ. Faith and love are Christ's greatest favorites in heaven.
Now I say, a Christian may grow rich in those graces which are more remote from Christ, which are less conversant about the person of Christ, when he does not grow rich in those particular graces which are most active about the person of Christ. He may grow rich in humility, in self-denial, in meekness, in temperance, etc., when he does not grow up in joy and delight and comfort, etc. The tree grows downward, when it does not grow upward; so a soul may grow rich in some particular graces, when he does not grow rich in other graces. He may grow rich in those graces which are more remote from Christ, when he does not grow rich in those graces which are more conversant about the person of Christ. Some limbs and branches of a tree grow more than others.
And so I have done with these propositions; the serious minding of them may prevent many objections, and to many give satisfaction in several cases, etc.
The fourth and last thing propounded was, to give you,
Five marks of a person who is spiritually rich.
Clearly, as there are few worldly rich men, compared to those who are poor; so there are few in this professing age, that will be found to be spiritually rich, compared with the multitude of Laodiceans who swarm in these times. We have many who say they are rich, and who think they are rich; when the truth is they have either no grace, or but a very little grace; and these five following things do clearly evidence it, etc.
[1.] First, Rich men have more variety of objects to delight themselves with, than poor men have.
They have houses and gardens, and lands and cattle, and silver and gold, and jewels and pearls, and what not, to delight themselves with. Oh! but poor men have not such variety of objects to delight themselves with, as rich men have. It is just thus in spiritual riches. A man who is rich in grace has more variety of spiritual objects, about which his soul is most conversant, than a man who is poor in grace. He has more objects of love, of joy, of delight, of contentment—to busy and exercise his soul about, than others who are weak in grace. A soul rich in grace possesses and enjoys all things in Christ, and Christ in all things. They enjoy all good in him who is the chief good, who is the spring and fountain of good. Joseph, in Pharaoh's court, had more variety of objects to delight him, than his brethren had to delight themselves in their father's house, etc.
I have spoken largely to this already, and therefore shall content myself in giving you this hint. It stands upon you to inquire what variety of objects you have to delight your souls in. But,
[2.] Secondly, Rich men can reach to those things that poor men cannot reach to.
I would have such and such things, says the poor man, as the rich man has; I would fare as he fares, and wear as he wears, and do as he does—but my funds will not reach it. So a soul who is spiritually rich can reach to those things that one who is poor in grace cannot reach unto. He can reach to those joys, to those comforts, and to those contentments, to those heights of communion with God, and to those visions and apprehensions of God—that a soul who is not rich in grace cannot reach to. Oh! I would gladly have that comfort, and that joy, and that peace, and that communion with God, and those visions of God, that such and such souls have, says a poor Christian; but I cannot; my funds will not reach to it.
It is an argument a man is grown taller, when he can reach higher than he could before, whether it be a beam or a pin, etc. So it is an argument, that a soul is grown rich in grace, when he can reach beyond what formerly he could reach unto; when he can reach beyond his enlargements, beyond his in-comes, beyond his comforts—to Christ; when in duty—he can reach above duty; when in an ordinance—he can reach to Christ, above the ordinance; when under enlargements—he can reach above enlargements, to Jesus Christ.
Oh! but now a man who has but a little grace, he can rarely reach above his duties, above ordinances, above enlargements—to Christ. He is very apt to sit down and warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, and to feed upon ashes, as the prophet speaks, Isaiah 50:11, 44:20, etc. But now, a soul who is rich in grace, says, Well! these ordinances are not Christ, these refreshings are not Christ, these meltings are not Christ, these enlargements are not Christ; these are sweet—but he is more sweet; these are very precious—but he is most precious. And thus those who are spiritually rich do out-reach all others, etc. [A tree that is well grown stands firm in the worst storms; it bends not, it breaks not, etc.]
[3.] Thirdly, Rich men can with more ease and pleasure bear burdens, than poor men can.
When trials and burdens are laid upon poor men, they sigh, and shrug, and complain that they are not able to bear them—when rich men make nothing of them. So souls who are rich in grace can bear burdens without a burden; they can bear crosses, afflictions, and persecutions, with abundance of ease, cheerfulness, and contentedness of spirit; they do not shrug, nor grumble—but bear the greatest trials with greatest sweetness, as you may see in Acts 5, "They went out rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus." So Paul, 2 Cor. 12:10, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake." "I take pleasure." The Greek word is an emphatical word; it is the same word that God the Father uses to express his infinite delight in his Son: Mat. 3:17, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" or, "in whom I am infinitely delighted." The same word the apostle uses to express the wonderful delight that he took under all his sufferings; he rejoices and leaps for joy under all his burdens.
Oh! but now a soul who is poor in grace, he cannot bear a burden without a burden; every light affliction discourages him, and sinks him; every molehill is a mountain; every scratch on the hand is a stab at the heart; every wave is a sea—and the poor Christian sighs and groans, and cries out, Oh! There is no sorrow like my sorrow! no loss like my loss! no cross like my cross! but souls rich in grace act quite contrary, as has been hinted and proved, etc.
[4.] Fourthly, Rich men are most envied.
History and Scripture speak out this, as well as our own experience. The rich man above all others is the greatest object of envy, and it is as true that such who are most rich in spirituals are of all men the most envied. Moses and Aaron were rich in spirituals—and oh, how were they envied by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and other wicked wretches! Ezra, Nehemiah, and Mordecai, were rich in spirituals—and who more envied? Among all the prophets and apostles, those have been most envied, who have most abounded in spiritual worth. And to this very day, none are such objects of scorn and envy, as those who have most of Christ within. Men who have more leaves than fruit, who have a golden outside—but a threadbare inside—are less envied than those who are "all glorious within." [It was said of Caesar and Pompey, that the one could not endure a superior, nor the other an equal.]
Men of greatest excellencies, are the main objects upon which the eye of envy is placed, Psalm 45:13. Saul's envious eye was placed upon David, and Cain's upon Abel, and Esau's upon Jacob, and Herod's upon John, and the Pharisees' upon Christ. Envious souls are like the ravens, that fly over the sweet garden, and light upon the stinking carrion. Envy does ever ascend; it never descends. An envious man can with more ease die miserably, than see another live happily. An envious heart weeps to see others' mercies, and joys to see others' miseries. An envious heart is like the mermaid, which never sings but in a storm, and never mourns but in a calm. An envious man cannot endure those excellencies in others that he lacks in himself; he loves not any light which outshines his own, any crown which outweighs his own, etc. Socrates calls envy the soul's saw, etc.
[5.] Fifthly, Rich men are most tempted and assaulted.
Pirates do not attack empty vessels—but those who are most richly laden. Beggars need not fear the thief, though the rich man does. Those who have been most rich in spirituals, have been most assaulted and tempted by Satan. Witness Abraham, Job, Joshua, Peter, Paul, yes, Christ himself. The best men have always been most and worst tempted. None so much in the school of temptation—as those who are most rich in grace. There are none who are such blocks, such mountains in Satan's ways—as these. None do him such mischief as these; none are so active and so resolute in their oppositions against him as these, etc.; and therefore none so assaulted and tempted as they. [God and Satan will try to the utmost those particular graces wherein any Christian does excel, etc.] And thus by these five things you may know whether you are rich in grace or no.
Use 2. If the Lord Jesus Christ is so rich, then do not join anything with him, in the great work of your redemption and salvation.
There are riches enough in Christ to pay all your debts, and to satisfy divine justice to the utmost farthing, without being indebted to your prayers, tears, or humiliations. Kings love no equals.
When Augustus Caesar desired the senate to join two consuls with him, for the carrying on the government of the state, the senators answered, "That they held it a diminution to his dignity to join any with so incomparable a man as Augustus Caesar was." Was it a diminution to his dignity to join others with him in the government of the state? And is it not a diminution of the dignity and glory of Christ, to join your actions and your endeavors with his blood, in the business of your redemption? In Isaiah 63:3, "I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me." And in Isaiah 44:24, "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and he who formed you from the womb, I am the Lord who makes all things; who stretches forth the heavens alone, who spreads abroad the earth by myself." It is a sad reproach to Christ to join anything with him in the great business of your salvation; therefore abhor it more than hell itself: let Christ be all in all. We must say of Christ as it was once said of Caesar, He may have a companion—but he must not have a competitor, etc.
Use 3. If Christ is so rich, then take heed of three things.
(1.) Take heed of sitting down dejected and discouraged under any losses or troubles which befall you, or which have or shall befall you for the name of Christ.
Christ is universally rich; he is able to make up all your losses and needs: Philip. 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ," as he did the widow's vessel. The fountain has not the less water for the vessel it fills, nor the sun the less light for that it gives forth to the stars; so the Lord Jesus Christ has never a whit the less for what he gives forth unto his saints.
When Zedislaus, the king of Poland's general, had lost his hand in his service, the king sent him a golden hand. Ah, Christians! when you lose this or that for Jesus, he will send you a golden hand; if you lose a penny for him, he will give you a pearl. Christ will not live long in any man's debt; if he would, he would lose his glory, etc.
(2.) If the Lord Jesus is very rich, Oh then take heed of despairing by reason of your sins.
I confess, the least sin should humble the soul—but certainly the greatest sin should never discourage the soul, much less should it work the soul to despair. Read 1 Tim. 1:13-15, and despair—if you can. Despairing Judas perished, Acts 2, whereas the murderers of Christ, believing on Christ, were saved. Despair is a sin exceeding vile and contemptible; it is a word of eternal reproach, dishonor, and confusion; it declares the devil a conqueror; and what greater dishonor can be done to Christ, than for a soul to proclaim before all the world the devil a crowned conqueror? A despairing soul is a terror to himself; his heart a hell of horror; his conscience a field of black blood. He has no rest at home nor abroad, at bed nor board—but is as if infernal devils followed him in fearful shapes, terrifying and tormenting his perplexed soul. Eternity of misery, feared or felt, begets that monster which, like Medusa's head, astonishes with its very aspect, and strangles hope, which is the breath of the soul. Other miseries may wound the spirit—but despair kills it dead, etc. ["My sin is greater than can be forgiven," says Cain. You lie, Cain, says Augustine; for God's mercy is greater than the sins of all men, and it is a great injury to God to distrust of his mercy.]
(3.) If Christ be so rich, then take heed of presuming.
Take heed of taking encouragement to sin upon this account, that Christ is rich in grace and mercy. Christ is a lion as well as a lamb; he has a sword as well as a scepter. To argue from the riches of Christ's mercy to sinful liberty—is the devil's logic. A soul who thus reasons is a soul left of God, a soul who is upon the last step of the ladder, a soul who Satan has by the hand; and the eternal God knows where he will lead him. What the women sung of Saul and David, that "Saul had slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands," 1 Sam. 18:6-7, that I may say of despair and presumption, "Despair has slain her thousand—but presumption has slain her ten thousand." "Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Romans 6:1-2.
As the beams of the sun, shining on the fire, put out the fire, so the shinings of God's mercy on us should extinguish sin in us, as the apostles argue, 2 Peter 3:15, Romans 2:4. Christ seems to say to souls, as Theseus said once, "Go," says he, "and tell Creon, Theseus offers you a gracious offer—yet I am pleased to be friends, if you will submit. This is my first message—but if this offer prevails not, look for me to be up in arms." Ah souls! if you shall abuse the riches of grace to a presumptuous sinning against Christ, Christ will take up arms, and you shall die for it.
Use 4. If Christ be so rich, Oh! then, open to Christ when he knocks.
Christ knocks by his word, and he knocks by his rod; he knocks by his Spirit, and he knocks by his messengers, and he knocks by conscience. Oh, open to him! for he is very rich. Though you shut the door against a poor man—yet you will open it to one that is rich; and why not then to Christ, who would sincerely have entrance? Rev. 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
"Behold, I stand." I who am the King of glory, I who am "King of kings, and Lord of lords," Psalm 24:7-9, Rev. 17:14. I who am rich in mercy, rich in goodness, rich in grace, rich in glory, "I stand at the door and knock." I who have gold to enrich you, I who have eye-salve to enlighten you, I who have glorious apparel to clothe you, I who have mercy to pardon you, I who have power to save you, I who have wisdom to counsel you, I who have happiness to crown you, "I stand at the door and knock."
"If any man opens." If the master will not—yet if the servant will; if the mistress will not—yet if the maid will; if the parent will not—yet if the child will; if the rich man will not—yet if the poor man will; if the pharisee won't—yet if the publican will.
"I will come in, and sup with him, and he with me." Jesus Christ has the greatest worth and wealth in him. As the worth and value of many pieces of silver is concentrated in one piece of gold, so all the heavenly excellencies which are scattered abroad in angels and men, are united in Christ; yes, all the whole volume of perfection which is spread through heaven and earth—is epitomized in Christ.
They say it is true of the oil at Rheems, that though it be continually spent in the inauguration of their kings of France—yet it never wastes. Christ is a pot of manna, a cruse of oil, a bottomless ocean of all comforts and contentments—which never fail. A saint may say, "In having nothing, I have all things, because I have Christ. Having therefore all things in him, I seek no other reward, for he is the universal reward."
Use 5. If Christ be so rich, then sit down and wonder at his condescending love.
That one so rich should fall in love with such who are poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, Rev. 3:17-21, etc.; that one so high should look so low as poor us; that one so great, that one who is the Lord and heir of all, should match with us who have nothing at all. O the breadth, the length, the depth, the height of Christ's love to unlovely souls! to such that had neither portion nor proportion; that had neither external nor internal worth that might in the least draw his love towards them, Heb. 1:2-4, Philip. 3:17-19, etc., Ezek. 6:16. You were indebted to God for the clothes you wear, for the bread you eat, for the houses you live in, the air you breathe in, the beds you lie on, the ground you tread on, etc. Now for Christ to love such, and to be willing to bestow himself upon such nothings, oh! how should this work them to spend their days in admiring and contemplating upon his kindness and goodness!
I have read a story of an elephant, who being fallen down, and unable to help himself or get up again, by reason of the inflexibleness of his legs, a forester coming by helped him up, wherewith the elephant, by the very instinct of nature, was so affected, that he followed this man, would do anything for him, and never left him until his dying day. The application is easy. [Love is like fire, very operative.]
Use 6. If Christ be so rich as has been discovered to you, then PRIZE Christ above all.
As the people prized David above themselves, saying, "You are worth ten thousand of us," 2 Sam. 18:3, so should saints lift up Jesus Christ above themselves, and above everything below himself. He who does not lift Christ up above all—has no saving interest in Christ at all; he who sets not Christ above all—is not a disciple of Christ: Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26. Surely they do not truly love Christ—who love anything more than Christ. [Austin says he would willingly go through hell to Christ.]
It was a notable saying of Jerome, "If my father should hang upon me, my brethren should press round about me, and my mother should stand before me—I would throw down my father, I would break through my brethren, and I would trample upon my mother—to come to Christ."
Other saints have lifted up Christ above all their lands, relations, and lives, as you may see in Heb. 11; and so did a multitude of the martyrs under the ten persecutions, etc. As Pharaoh set up Joseph above all, and made him governor of the land, and as Darius set up Daniel over all—so you must prize Christ, and set up Christ above all.
Remember a few things, that this may the better stick upon your hearts.
[1.] First, A Christ highly prized will be a Christ greatly delighted in.
Every soul delights in Christ as he prizes Christ—and no otherwise. The reason of reasons why Christ is no more delighted in, is because he is no more prized among the sons of men: Cant. 2:5, "As the apple-tree among the trees of the forest, so is my well-beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was pleasant to any taste." The seeing of this object delights the eye of a believer, the hearing of this object delights the ear of a believer, the enjoying, the possessing of this object delights the heart of a believer: "I sat down under his shadow with great delight."
The apple-tree is delightful for shadow, so is Christ; he is a shadow to poor souls when they are scorched with troubles within and terrors without: Isaiah 32:2, "And a man," that is, Christ, "shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and as a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
The apple-tree is delightful for pleasantness of fruit, so is the Lord Jesus for those pleasant fruits of righteousness and holiness which grow upon him.
And the apple-tree is delightful for varieties, so is Christ; for there are all varieties of excellencies in himself: Col. 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." We delight in people and things as we prize them, and no otherwise. Jonathan highly prized David, and delighted in him accordingly. Jacob highly prized Rachel, and delighted in her answerably. You will delight in Christ as you prize him; if you prize him but a little, you will delight in him but a little.
[2.] Secondly, Remember this, a Christ highly prized will be a Christ gloriously obeyed.
Every man obeys Christ as he prizes Christ, and no otherwise. The higher price any soul sets upon Christ, the more noble will that soul be in his obedience to Christ. If Christ were more prized in the world, he would be more obeyed in the world. A soul who highly prizes Christ is better at obeying than at disputing any command of Christ. If Christ will command such a soul to step over the world's crown to take up his cross, the soul will do it, as you may see in Moses, Heb. 11:24-26. He sets a higher price upon Christ's cross than upon Pharaoh's crown. When Christ's cross and the world's crown stood in competition, upon a bare command of God Moses steps over the world's crown to take up Christ's cross: "He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." And so Abraham, upon a bare command of God, leaves his country, and his near and dear relations. He wholly resigns up himself to God; he puts his hand into God's, and is willing that God should lead him where he pleases, and do with him what he pleases. [The command of God must outweigh all authority and example of men.—Jerome.]
I remember an excellent saying of Luther, "I had rather," says he, "fall with Christ than stand with Caesar." And indeed every gracious soul who highly prizes Christ will rather choose to fall with Christ than to neglect his obedience to Christ. By obeying Christ we gain more honor than we can give; by kissing the Son we even command him, and make him ours, etc.
[3.] Thirdly, Christians, remember this, all the causes of prizing people and things are eminently and only in Christ; which bespeaks you all to set a very, very high price upon the Lord Jesus. Christ's beauty needs no letters of commendation. You prize some for their beauty; why, the Lord Jesus Christ is the fairest among the children of men, Psalm 45:1-2; Cant. 5:10, "My beloved is white and ruddy; the chief," or, the standard-bearer, "among ten thousand." You prize others for their strength; why, the Lord Jesus Christ has in him everlasting strength: Isaiah 26:4, "Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength; he is the rock of ages." You prize others for bearing their father's image; why the Lord Jesus bears the image of his Father: Heb. 1:3, "He is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person." [The character of his subsistence. A comparison from the seal of a ring, the form of which is imprinted in the wax.] You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge; such a one is a very wise man, you say, and therefore you prize him; and such a one is a very knowing man, and therefore you prize him; why, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ: Col. 2:3, "In whom," says he, speaking of Christ, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The truth is, all those perfections and excellencies which are in all angels and men, they all center in Christ, they are all epitomized in Christ.
All the angels in heaven have but some of those perfections that are in Christ. All wisdom, and all power, and all goodness, and all mercy, and all love, etc., is in no glorified creature, no, not in all glorified creatures put together. But now in Christ all these perfections and excellencies meet, as all water meets in the sea, and as all light meets in the sun. Others you prize for their usefulness; the more useful people and things are, the more you prize and value them. The Lord Jesus Christ is of universal use to his people; why, he is the right eye of his people, without which they cannot see; and the right hand of his people, without which they cannot do, etc. He is of singular use to all his people. He is of use to weak saints—to strengthen them; and he is of use to doubting saints—to settle them; and he is of use to dull saints—to quicken them; and he is of use to falling saints—to support them; and he is of use to wandering saints—to recover them. In prosperity he is of use to keep his saints humble and watchful, spotless and fruitful; and in adversity he is of use to keep them contented and cheerful. All which should very much engage our hearts to prize this Christ. [Christ is, as Origen speaks, whatever we can desire. If we hunger and thirst, he is the food of the soul.]
Again, we prize things as they suit us; why, Christ is not only a good—but a suitable good. Christ is light to enlighten us, John 1:8-9; and he is life to enliven us. He is riches to supply us, and he is raiment to clothe us; he is a staff to support us, and he is a sword to defend us; he is bread to nourish us, and he is water to refresh us, and wine to cheer us; and what would we have more?
[4.] Fourthly—yet once more, that this may stick upon us, let us consider, that where we are highly prized—there we highly prize. [Christ may well be compared to the trees of the sanctuary, Ezek. 47:12, which were both for food and for medicine.]
Why, the Lord Jesus Christ does exceedingly prize every believing soul; yes, even such poor weak saints—whom many swelled souls slight and despise as people of no worth, because they lack that light and knowledge, and those parts and gifts—which others have. Well, Christians, remember this, Christ prizes you as the apple of his eye, Zech. 2:8; he prizes you as his jewels, Mal. 3:17; he prizes you as his portion, Deut. 32:9, "The Lord's portion is his people;" he prizes you as his glory, Isaiah 46:13; he prizes you as his ornaments, Ezek. 7:20; he prizes you as his throne, Jer. 40:21; he prizes you as his diadem, Isaiah 62:3; he prizes you as his friends, John 14; he prizes you as his brethren, Heb. 2:11-12; he prizes you as his bride, Isaiah 62:5; he prizes you above his Father's bosom—for he leaves that to do you service, John 16:28; yes, he prizes you above his very life—he lays down his life to save your souls, John 10. Now, oh who would not highly prize such a Christ—who sets such an invaluable price upon such worthless souls!
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, consider, That your high prizing of Christ will work you to value the least things of Christ, above the greatest worldly good.
It will make you value the least nod of Christ, the least love-token from Christ, the least good look from Christ, the least good word from Christ, the least truth of Christ, etc.—above all the honors, treasures, pleasures, and glories of this world: Psalm 119:72, "The law of your mouth is better than thousands of gold and silver." Luther would not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible. And oh that a serious consideration of these things might work all your hearts to a high prizing of the Lord Jesus!
Use 7. If Christ be so rich—then TRUST to Christ.
Who will not trust a rich man? Everyone strives to trust a rich man: "The rich have many friends," Proverbs 14:20. Why, the Lord Jesus Christ is very rich; will you be persuaded to trust him? Oh trust him with your best treasures, with your choicest jewels, with your names, souls, estates, relations! The apostle was excellent at this: 2 Tim. 1:12, "I know him," says he, "in whom I have believed, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, until that day." [Interpreters differ about the pawn or pledge which the apostle committed to God's custody. One says it was his soul; a second says it was himself, which is all one; a third says it was his works; a fourth says it was his sufferings; a fifth says it was his salvation. Without doubt, it was all that was near and dear to him.] I have committed my soul to him, and my life to him, and my name to him, and all my mercies and enjoyments to him. The child cannot better secure any precious thing it has, than by putting it into the father's hands to keep. Our mercies are always safest and surest when they are out of our hands, when they are in the hands of God. We trust as we love, and we trust where we love; where we love much, we trust much. Much trust speaks out much love; if you love Christ much, surely you will trust him much.
That was a notable bold expression of Luther, "Let him who died for my soul—see to the salvation of it." I have committed my soul to him, I have given it up into his hands, who is my life, who is my love, and let him look after it, let him take care of it. In securing of that, he secures his own glory.
Oh that Christians would trust in this rich Christ for a supply of necessities!Is Christ so rich—and will you not take his word that he will not see you lack? Will you trust a rich man upon his word, and will you not trust a rich Christ upon his word? Do you believe he will give you a crown—and will you not trust him for a crust? Do you believe he will give you a kingdom—and do you doubt whether he will give you a cottage to rest in? Has he given you his blood—and do you think that he will deny you anything that is really for your good? Surely he will not, he cannot." [Christ's promises are ever performed, 2 Cor. 1:20. His promises are over-performed, 1 Cor. 2:9, etc.]
Again,Trust him for power against all the remainders of sin in you. Has Christ freed you from the damnatory power of sin, and from the dominion of sin—and will not you trust him for deliverance from the remainders of sin? Psalm 65:3, "Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, you shall purge them away." Oh excellent faith! Romans 8:1, 6:14.
Again,Trust him to bring you into the land of rest. Do you think that this Joshua is not able to carry you through all difficulties, dangers, and deaths? Do you think that he will leave you to die in the wilderness, who have already had some glimpses of heaven's glory? Oh trust to this Christ for the bringing your souls into the promised land! Christ would lose his glory should you fall short of glory, etc.
Use 8. If Christ be so rich—then do not forsake him, do not leave, do not turn your backs upon him.Are there riches of justification, and riches of sanctification, and riches of consolation, and riches of glorification in Christ? Yes! Then do not depart from him, do not shake hands with him. [You read of no arms for the back, though you do for the breast, Eph. 6:11.] That is a sad complaint of God in Jer. 2:12-13, "Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the Lord. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." It is madness and folly to fly from the fountain—to the stream; from the light of the sun—to the light of a candle. And is it not greater madness and folly to forsake the Creator—to run after the creature? Oh say as Peter, "Where should we go, you have the words of eternal life," John 6:68. To run from Christ, is to run from all life, peace, and joy; it is to run from our strength, our shelter, our security, our safety, our crown, our glory. Crabs, which go backward, are reckoned among unclean creatures, Lev. 11:10. The application is easy.
Origen, on coming to Jerusalem, after he had shamefully turned his back upon Christ and his truth, and being exceedingly pressed to preach, at last he yields, and as he opened the book, he happened to cast his eye upon that place of the psalmist, "What have you to do to declare my statutes, or that you should take my covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction, and cast my word behind you?" Psalm 50:16-17. Now the remembrance of his own folly so reflected upon his conscience, that it made him close the book and sit down and weep. Such as forsake a rich, a full Christ—shall have weeping work enough.
That is a very solemn scripture, Jer. 17:13, "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water." Can you read this text, backsliding souls, and not tremble? etc.
Use 9. If the Lord Jesus Christ be so rich, Oh! then all you who have a saving interest in him, labor mightily to clear up your interest, and to be more and more confident of your interest in so rich a Jesus.
My brethren, it is one thing for a man to have an interest in Christ, and another thing to have his interest cleared up to him. I do speak it with grief of heart, that even among such Christians that I hope to meet in heaven, there is scarce one of forty, nay, one of a hundred, that is groundedly able to make out his interest in the Lord Jesus. Most Christians live between fear and hope, between doubting and believing. One day they hope that all is well, and that all shall be well forever; the next day they are ready to say that they shall one day perish by the hand of such a corruption, or else by the hand of such or such a temptation; and thus they are up and down, saved and lost, many times in a day.
But you will say unto me, What means should we use to clear up our interest in Christ? I will tell you.
There are six distinct means that you should labor after, for the evidencing more and more your interest in Christ. And take it from experience, you will find that they will contribute very much for the evidencing your interest in Christ.
[1.] And the first is this, Faithfully and constantly fall in with the interest of Christ.
Holiness is the interest of Christ, the gospel is the interest of Christ, the precious ordinances are the interest of Christ, etc. Now the more sincerely and soundly you fall in with the interest of Christ, the more abundantly you will be confirmed and persuaded of your interest in Christ. Such souls as fall in with strange interests, or with base and carnal interests, may justly question whether ever they had any real interest in Christ. Christians! did you more sincerely and fully fall in with Christ's interest, you would less question your interest in Christ; this would scatter many a cloud. [The primitive Christians did generally fall in with the interest of Christ, and they generally had an assurance of their interest in Christ.]
[2.] Secondly, Be kind to the Spirit of Christ. [Lam. 1:16, Philip. 4:30, Isaiah 63:10.]
Do not grieve him, do not slight him. If you should set this Spirit a-mourning—who alone can evidence your interest—who alone can seal up your interest in Christ—by whom shall your interest in Christ be sealed up. Oh do not grieve the Spirit by acting against light, against conscience, against engagements; do not grieve him by casting his cordials and comforts behind your backs; do not grieve him by slighting and despising his gracious actings in others; do not cast water upon the Spirit—but wisely attend the hints, the items, and motions of the Spirit, and he will clear up your interest in Christ, he will make you say, "My beloved is mine, and I am his!" Cant. 2:16.
[3.] Thirdly, Labor more and more after a full and universal conformity to Jesus Christ.
The more the soul is conformable to Christ—the more confident it will be of its interest in Christ: 1 John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world." "As he, so are we." The child is not more like the father—than we are like our Savior. The child is the father multiplied, the second edition of the father. Our summum bonum—our highest good—consists in our full communion with Christ, and in our full conformity to Christ. Oh! if men were more universally conformable to Christ in their affections, ends, designs, and actings, etc., they would have abundantly more clear, full, and glorious evidences of their interest in Christ. A more full conformity to Christ in heart and life will make your lives a very heaven, etc. As all good orators endeavor to be like Demosthenes, so all good Christians should endeavor to be like Jesus Christ; for therein lies their glory and perfection.
[4.] Fourthly, Interest Christ in the glory of all you enjoy, and in the glory of all you do.
This is a precious way to have your interest in Christ more and more evidenced to your own souls, 1 Cor. 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do—do it all for the glory of God." Such as are good at this, as are much in this—will find Christ every day a-clearing up more and more their interest in himself. It is not usually night for a long time, with such souls.
Oh Christians! interest Christ more and more in the glory of all your graces, interest him in the glory of all your duties, interest him in the glory of all your abilities, as Christ does interest you in himself, in his Spirit, in his graces, in his riches, in his titles, in his dignities, in his offices. Ah Christians! did you interest Christ more in all you have, in all you are, and in all you do—you would never be so full of fears, and doubts, and questions about your interest in Christ as you are, John 1:16, Rev. 1:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9. Your glorifying of Christ in all you have and do, will speak out not only the truth of your love—but also the strength and greatness of your love; and where men love much, where they love strongly, there they do not question the truth of their love. [The mother who strongly loves her child, does not question the truth of her love to her child.]
The heathen gods were contented to divide their honors among themselves; and hence the senate of Rome rejected Christ, from taking him to be a God, after that they had consulted about it; for, said they, if Christ comes to be acknowledged a God, he will not share with the rest, he will have all himself; and so upon this reason they refused him. Christians! Christ will not have any competitor; he will rather part with anything than with his glory: Isaiah 42:8, "I am the Lord, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." Christ will rather part with his life than with his honor; therefore, let every Christian say as David does: 1 Chron. 29:11-13, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Riches and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is at your discretion that people are made great and given strength. O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!" And clearly, friends, the more your hearts are led forth to interest Christ in all you enjoy, and in all you do, the more clear and glorious evidence you will have of your interest in Christ. Let his honor and glory lie nearer and nearer to your hearts—and you shall see that he has set you as a seal upon his arm, as a seal upon his heart.
[5.] The fifth means to gain the knowledge of your interest in Christ is, By cleaving to Christ, and whatever is dear to Christ—in the face of all miseries, difficulties, and dangers.
It is nothing to cleave to Christ in fair weather, when everyone cleaves to Christ, when everyone professes Christ; but to cleave to him in a storm, when everyone runs from him, this speaks out a child-like disposition; it speaks out a Jacob's spirit: Psalm 44; Acts 5; Heb. 11; Dan. 3; Acts 21:13. Surely he must needs have much of Christ—which nothing can take off from cleaving to Christ. When the soul says to Christ, as Ruth said to Naomi, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me," Ruth 1:15-18.
When neither the frowns of men, nor the reproach of men, nor the contempt of men, nor oppositions from men—can take the soul off from cleaving to Christ—it will not be long before Christ speaks peace to such a soul: Psalm 63:8, "My soul follows hard after you, your right hand upholds me." In the Hebrew it is, "My soul cleaves to you," or "is glued to you," as Jonathan's soul cleaved to David, and as Jacob's soul cleaved to Rachel—in the face of all difficulties and troubles.
Doubtless, when the soul cleaves to Christ in the face of all afflictions and difficulties, this very much evidences of its interest in Christ. In temporals men cleave to people and things, as their interest is in them; and so it is in spirituals also. Christ cannot, Christ will not, throw such to hell—who hang about him, who cleave to him. [Shamma, one of David's worthies, stood and defended the field when all the rest fled.]
[6.] Sixthly and lastly, If you would know whether you have an interest in Christ—then be very much in observing what interest Christ has in you.
Observe whether he has the interest of a head, a husband, a father, or no. Christ has a general interest in all creatures—as he is the Creator and preserver of them; and he has a head's interest, a husband's interest, a father's interest—only in those who have a saving interest in him. The interest of the head, the husband, the father, is the greatest interest; it is the sweetest interest, it is a commanding interest, it is a growing interest, it is a peculiar interest, it is a lasting interest. And really, if the Lord Jesus has such an interest in you, you may be as confident that you have a real and glorious interest in him, as you are confident that you live. And thus much for the means whereby you may come to know your interest in rich Jesus.
Before I close up this discourse, give me permission to speak a few words to poor sinners who, to this very day, are afar off from this Jesus, who is so rich in all excellencies and glories. Ah poor hearts! you have heard much of the riches of the Lord Jesus, and oh that I could persuade with you to get a saving interest in this Christ! Get this Christ—and you get all. Miss him—and you miss all. It is a matter of eternal concernment to your souls. Nothing can make that man miserable—who has this rich Christ. Nothing can make that man happy—who lacks this rich Christ.
In Proverbs 4:5-7, "Get wisdom (that is Christ), get understanding, forget it not. Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all your getting get understanding." And so in Proverbs 16:16, "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold? and to get understanding, rather to be chosen than silver?" Had you all the power of the world, without a saving interest in Christ—you would be but weak,"1 Cor. 1:25-29. Had you all the wit and learning in the world, without a saving interest in Christ—you will be but a fool. Had you all the honors in the world—yet without a saving interest in Christ, you would be but base. Had you all the wealth in the world—yet without a saving interest in Christ—you would be but a beggar, Dan. 4:17; Luke 16:22-26, etc. Oh, therefore, labor for a a saving interest in Christ!
Oh, become the wise merchant at last! The wise merchant in the Gospel, parts with all to buy the pearl, to get an interest in Christ, Mat. 13:45-47. Oh it is your greatest wisdom, it is of an eternal concernment to your souls—to sell all, to part with all, for an interest in the Lord Jesus! Oh do not deal with your own souls, when Christ is offered to you, as sometimes simple people do when they go to market; they might have a good pennyworth—but they are loath to part with some old piece of gold that has been given them by a father or a friend; somewhat willing they are to have a good pennyworth—but unwilling they are to part with their gold. It is so with many poor sinners, when the Lord Jesus Christ is presented to their souls as a very glorious pennyworth, somewhat willing they are to have him—but unwilling they are to part with their old good, with some old sweet darling lust.
But, sinners, don't you deceive your own souls. Sin and your souls must part—or Christ and your souls can never meet! Sin and your souls must be two—or Christ and your souls can never be one. Christ is a most precious commodity; he is better than rubies, Proverbs 8:11, or the most costly pearls; and you must part with your old gold, with your shining gold, your old sins, your most shining sins—or you must perish forever. Christ is to be sought and bought with any pains—at any price. We cannot buy this gold too dear. He is a jewel more worth than a thousand worlds—as all know that have him. Get him—and get all; miss him—and miss all.
Now if ever you would get an interest in Christ, and so by gaining a saving interest in him, be possessed of all the riches and glory that come by him—then be sure to get your hearts possessed with these nine principles that follow.
[1.] And the first principle is this, That the great end and design of Christ's coming into the world, was the salvation of sinners.
Get this principle rooted in your spirits. "I came not to call the righteous," says he, "but sinners to repentance," Mat. 9:13, Mark 2:17. And in 1 Tim. 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Christ lays aside his royal crown; he puts off his glorious robe; he leaves his Father's bosom; he takes a journey from heaven to earth—and all to save poor lost sinners. That which Christ had most in his eye, and upon his heart, in his coming into the world—was the salvation of sinners. Lay up this truth, feed upon this honey-comb.
[2.] Secondly, Get this principle rooted upon your hearts, namely, That none ever yet obtained an interest in Christ but unworthy creatures.
When you are pressed to get an interest in Christ, you are ready to say, Oh "I am unworthy," will Christ ever look after such a one as I am?
I answer—this is a most certain principle, that none ever attained an interest in Christ but unworthy creatures. Was Paul worthy before he had a saving interest in Christ? What worthiness was in Matthew when Christ called him from the tax collector's booth? And what worthiness was in Zaccheus when Christ called him down from the sycamore tree, and told him that this day salvation was come to his house? Was Manasseh or Mary Magdalene worthy before they had a saving interest in Christ? Surely not! Though you are unworthy—yet Christ is worthy; though you have no merit—yet God has mercy; though there is no salvation for you by the law—yet there is salvation for you by the gospel.
Again, Christ requires no worthiness in any man before he believes. He who won't believe before he is worthy—will never believe. [Such as shall go to prove he does—must make a new gospel, a new Bible.] If you look upon God with an evangelical eye, you shall see that he who is most unworthy—is most capable of mercy. A real sense of our own unworthiness renders us most fit for divine mercy. This objection, I am unworthy, is an unworthy objection, and speaks out much pride and ignorance of the gospel, and of the freeness and riches of God's grace, etc.
[3.] Thirdly, Let this principle dwell in you, namely, That Christ has lost none of his affections to poor sinners by going to heaven.
Oh how did his affections work toward sinners when he was on earth! And certainly they work as strongly towards them now that he is in heaven. His love, his heart, his good-will, is as much towards them as ever. Christ is Alpha and Omega; the phrase is taken from the Greek alphabet, whereof Alpha is the first letter, and Omega the last, Rev. 1:8. I am before all, and I am after all. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," Heb. 13:8. Christ is the same before time, in time, and after time. Christ is unchangeable in his essence, in his promises, and in his love to poor sinners.
[4.] Fourthly, Get this principle riveted in your hearts, That he is able to save to the uttermost—all who come unto God by him.
Heb. 7:25, "He is able to save to the uttermost;" that is, to all ends and purposes, perfectly and perpetually. He needs none to help him in the great business of redemption; he is thorough Savior; "he has trod the wine-press alone," Isaiah 63:3.
[5.] Fifthly, Get this principle riveted in your hearts, That the lack of such preparations or qualifications that many men lay a great stress upon, shall be no impediment to hinder your soul's interest in Christ, if you will but open to Christ, and close with Jesus Christ. [Some men there are, who would have men better Christians before they come to Christ, before they believe in Christ—than usually they prove after they are come to Christ. Surely, did legal preachers seriously weigh the following scriptures, they would not so vehemently, I say not angerly, press the absolute necessity of such and such qualifications before faith in Christ, as they do: Mark 16:16; John 3:34; Heb. 11:6; Romans 14:28; John 5:12; Mat. 7:17-18, 12:33; Romans 8:2; Gal. 5:6.]
Rev. 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and open to me, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Pray tell me at whose door was this that Christ stood and knocked? Was it not at the Laodiceans' door? Was it not at their door who thought their penny as good silver as any—who said they were rich, and had need of nothing, when Christ tells them to their very faces, "that they were poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked." None more unprepared, unqualified, and unfitted for union and communion with Christ than these lukewarm Laodiceans; and yet the Lord Jesus is very ready and willing that such should have intimate communion and fellowship with him.
"If any man will open, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." The truth of this you have further evidenced, Proverbs 1:20-24, and 8:1-6, and 9:1-6. All these scriptures with open mouth speak out the truth asserted, namely, That the lack of preparations or qualifications shall not hinder the soul's interest in Christ—if the soul will adventure itself by faith upon Christ. I ask, what qualifications and preparations had they in Ezekiel 16, when God saw them in their blood—and yet that was a time of love, and God even then spread his skirt over them, and made a covenant with them, and they became his. What qualifications or preparations had Paul, Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, and Lydia, etc.? And yet these believed in Christ, these had a blessed and glorious interest in Christ, etc.
Ay—but some may object, and say,
Objection: What is the meaning of that text, Mat. 11:28, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"?
Answer: There is a threefold answer to be given to this objection.
First, Though the invitation be to those who are weary and heavy laden—yet the promise is made to coming, to believing. [The dove found no rest until she returned to the ark. No more will the troubled soul until it returns to Christ.]
Secondly, This text shows only this, that those who are burdened and bowed down under sin, and under the sense of divine wrath, are to come to Christ, and that there is no way for them to obtain ease and rest but by coming to Christ. But this text does not show that only these must come to Christ, or that only these may come to Christ.
Thirdly, and lastly, No one scripture speaks out the whole mind of God; and therefore you must compare and consult this scripture with the scriptures, and instances lately cited, and then you will clearly see that souls may believe in Christ, and come to obtain an interest in Christ, though they are not so and so prepared, nor so and so qualified, as some would have them.
[6.] Sixthly, Get this principle rooted in your hearts, That Christ is appointed and anointed by the Father to this very office of receiving and saving poor sinners. [Moses was faithful in his office as a servant—but Christ as a Son, Heb. 3:2-6. Christ had never entered into glory, had he not been faithful in his offices, etc.]
Turn to Isaiah 61:1-4, John 6:28, and Psalm 68:18, "You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts for men; yes, for the rebellious also (what for?), that the Lord God might dwell among them." Christ has received gifts for rebellious sinners, for rebellious Sabbath breakers, for rebellious swearers, for rebellious drunkards, etc.
"That the Lord God might dwell among them." That is, that he might have near communion and fellowship with them.
[7.] Seventhly, Get this principle rooted in you, That it is the delight of Christ to give poor sinners a saving interest in himself.
He is not only able to do it—but it is his delight to do it. Christ's soul is in nothing more. Witness his leaving his Father's bosom; witness his laying down his crown; witness those many sufferings and deaths that he went through in this world; witness those gospel acclamations, Mark 16:16, Rev. 22:17; witness those persuasive exhortations and gracious entreaties, Ezek. 53:11, Mat. 11:28, 2 Cor. 5:20; witness divine injunctions, 1 John 5:23, Mat. 11:21; witness those solemn lamentations, Mat. 23:37, Luke 19:42, Psalm 81:13; and witness the inward motions and secret excitations of his blessed Spirit, Gen. 6:3, all which speak out his great willingness and delight to save poor sinners.
So in Psalm 40:7-8, "I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is in my heart;" or, as the Hebrew has it, "It is in the midst of my affections." Now mark, the will of the Father was the salvation of sinners. This was the will of the Father, "That Jesus Christ should seek and save those who are lost," Mat. 18:11. Now, says Christ, "I delight to do your will, O my God;" it is the joy and rejoicing of my heart to be a-seeking and a-saving lost sinners. When Christ was hungry, he went not into a dining house—but into the temple, and taught the people most part of the day, to show how much he delighted in the salvation of sinners, etc. [Christ did so much delight, and his heart was so much set upon the conversion and salvation of the Samaritans, that he neglected his own body to save their souls, as you may clearly see in John 4.]
[8.] Eighthly, Get this principle riveted in your hearts, That as there is nothing in Christ to discourage you from looking after an interest in him—so there is everything in Christ that may encourage you to get an interest in him.
Look upon his name: [The name of a Savior is honey in the mouth, and music in the ear, and a jubilee in the heart, says one.] "Your name is an ointment poured out, and therefore do the virgins love you," Cant. 1:3. The name of Jesus has a thousand treasures of joy and comfort in it, says Chrysostom; and so have all his other names.
If you look upon Christ in his natures, in his offices, in his graces, in his beauties, in his gifts, and in his works, you will find nothing but what may encourage you to believe in him, and to resign up yourselves to him. Ah, poor sinners, what would you have? Is there not power in Christ to support you, and mercy in Christ to pardon you, and grace in Christ to heal you, and goodness in Christ to relieve you, and happiness in Christ to crown you—what more would you have? Oh that you would believe!
[9.] Ninthly, Let this principle be rooted in you, That the surest way, and the shortest way to mercy, and to get an interest in Christ, is by an instant casting of the soul by faith on Christ.
There is no way under heaven to be saved by Christ but by believing. There is no way to get an interest in the riches of Christ but this, "he who believes shall be saved," let his sins be ever so great. "He who believes not, shall be damned," let his sins be ever so little. [John 3:16-18, 36, and 8:24, and 16:9, and 4:50, 53, and 5:24, and 6:35, 40, and 7:38, and 11:25, 26, and 12:46; Acts 10:43; Romans 3:26; 1 John 5:10-12.] And so much shall suffice to have spoken concerning this great and weighty point. I shall follow what has been said with my prayers, that what has been said may work for your internal and eternal welfare, etc.