The Christian's Charter

Showing the Privileges of a Believer

by Thomas Watson

"All things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come—all are yours, and you belong to Christ, and Christ to God." 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Chapter 1. The Porch or Entrance into the Words, together with the Proposition.

Happiness is the mark and center which every man aims at. The next thing that is sought after being, is being happy. Surely, the nearer the soul comes to God, who is the fountain of life and peace, the nearer it approaches to happiness. Who is so near to God as the believer, who is mystically one with him? he must needs be the happy man. If you would survey his blessed estate, cast your eyes upon this text, which points to it, as the finger to the dial: "All things are yours." The text may not unfitly be compared to the tree of life, which bore twelve kinds of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; there are many precious clusters growing out of this text, and being skillfully improved, will yield much excellent fruit.

In the words we have the inventory of a Christian, "All things are yours!" A strange paradox! when a believer can call nothing his, yet he can say, all things are his. I have often thought a poor Christian who lives in a prison, or some old cottage, is like the banker, who, though he goes poor, and can hardly find himself bread, yet has thousands at his fingertips. So it is with a child of God, "as having nothing—yet possessing all things." What once the philosopher said, "Only the wise man is the rich man." But I say, "only the believer is the rich man!" Here is his estate summed up, "all things are his."

Objection. Before I come to the words, there is an objection must be removed. If all things are ours, there seems to be a community; what is one man's is another's.

Answer. The apostle does not speak here of civil possessions. Paul was no leveler, he did not go about to destroy any man's property; for though he says, "all things are yours"; yet he does not say, what any man has is yours.

Objection: But is it not said, They had all things common? Acts 2:44.

Answer. It is true; but this was purely voluntary; there was no precept for it, or obligation to do it.

If it be objected, that this was set down as an example to imitate;

1. I answer—Examples in scripture are not always precepts. The prophet Elijah called for fire from heaven, to consume the captains and their fifties; but it does not therefore follow, that when one Christian is angry with another, he may call for fire from heaven. Thus the primitive saints, out of prudence and charity, had all things common; it will not therefore follow, that in every age and century of the church, there should be a common stock, and everyone have a share.

2. I answer—Though the disciples had all things common—yet still they held their ownership, as is clear by Peter's speech to Ananias, "While it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power?" It is true in one sense, what the primitive church had, was not their own; so much as could be spared, was for the relief of the saints; thus all things were common. But still they kept a part of their estate in their own hand. There is a double right to an estate, a right of Ownership, and a right of Charity. The right of charity belongs to the poor—but the right of ownership belongs to the owner. For instance, God made a law, that a man must not put his sickle into his neighbor's grain. We read that the disciples being hungry when they went through the fields on the Sabbath, did pluck the ears of corn—there was Charity; but they must not put the sickle into the corn—here was ownership. This I the rather speak, because there are some, that when God has made a gift to one, would make all common. The Lord has set the eighth commandment as a fence about a man's estate; and he who breaks this hedge, a serpent shall bite him. Thus having taken that objection out of the way, I come now to the next.

The text falls into three parts.

1. The inventory, "all things,"

2. The proprietors, "all things are yours."

3. The tenure, "You are Christ's."

Which three branches will make up this one proposition.

Doctrine. That all things in heaven and earth are the portion and privilege of a believer. "He who overcomes shall inherit all things." A large inventory! "All things!" We cannot have more than all; and the apostle doubles it, to take away all hesitancy and doubting from faith.

Chapter 2. The Arguments proving the Proposition.

There are two reasons which will serve to illustrate and confirm the proposition, "All things are a believer's."

Reason 1. All things are a believer's, because the covenant of grace is his. The covenant is our Great Charter, by virtue of which God settles all things in heaven and earth upon us. By sin we had forfeited all; therefore if all things are ours, the title comes in by a covenant: until then we had nothing of our own. This covenant is the and plan and outcome of God's love; it is the legacy of free-grace. This covenant is enriched with mercy, it is embroidered with promises: you may read the Charter, "I will be their God." And there is a parallel to it, "I am God, even your God." This is a sufficient dowry. If God is ours, then all things are ours.

1. God is eminently good. One diamond does virtually contain many lesser pearls: the excellencies in the creature are single, and lack their adjuncts. Learning has not always noble parentage; honor has not always virtue. No individual can be the receptacle of all perfections. Those excellencies which lie scattered in the creature, are all united and concentrated in God—as the beams in the sun, or the drops in the ocean.

2. God is superlatively good. Whatever is in the creature, is to be found in God after a most transcendent manner. A man may be said to be wise—but God is infinitely so. A man may be said to be powerful—but God is eternally so. A man may be said to be faithful—but God is unchangeably so. Now in the covenant of grace, God passes himself over to us to be our God, "I am God, your God!" Psalm 50:7

This expression, "I am your God," imports three things:

1. Pacification. You shall find grace in my sight, I will cast a favorable aspect upon you. I will take off my armor, I will take down my standard, I no more will be enemy.

2. Donation. God makes himself over to us by a deed of gift, and gives away himself to us. He says to the believer, as the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, "I am yours—and all that I have!" This is a hive of divine comfort! All that is in God is ours! His wisdom is ours to teach us; his love is ours to pity us; his Spirit is ours to comfort us; his mercy is ours to save us. When God says to the soul, "I am yours,"—He cannot say no more!

3. Duration. I will be your God—as long as I am a God. "For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end." Psalm 48:14.

Reason 2. All things are a believer's, because CHRIST is his. Jesus Christ is the pillar and hinge upon which the covenant of grace turns. Without Christ, we have nothing to do with a covenant. The covenant is founded upon Christ, and is sealed in his blood. We read of the mercy-seat, Exod. 25:17, which was a divine emblem, typifying Jesus Christ. "There will I meet you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy-seat," verse 22, to show that in Christ, God is propitious. From above this mercy-seat he communes with us, and enters into covenant. Therefore it is observable, when the Apostle had said, "All things are yours," he presently adds, "You are Christ's." Belong to Christ, gives us the title to all things. This golden chain, "Things present, and things to come," are linked to us, by virtue of our being linked to Christ. By faith we have a saving interest in Christ; having an interest in Christ, we have an interest in God; having an interest in God, we have a title to all things.

Chapter 3. Things PRESENT are a Believer's.

Question. And now I come to that great question, What are the things contained in the Charter?

Answer. There are two words in the text that express it, "Things present, and things to come." I begin with the first.

1. Things present, are a believer's. Among these things present, there are three specified in the text; Paul and Apollos, the world, life, etc. Here is, methinks, a chain of pearls! I will take every one of these pearls asunder, and show you their worth; then see how rich a believer is, who wears such a chain of pearl about him.

Section 1. Paul and Apollos are yours.

1. Under these words, "Paul and Apollos," by a figure are comprehended all the ministers of Christ, the weakest as well as the most eminent. "Paul and Apollos are yours," namely, their labors are for edifying the church. They are the helpers of your faith; the abilities of a minister are not given for himself, they are the church's. If the people have a taint of error, the ministers of Christ must season them with wholesome words; therefore they are called "the salt of the earth." If any soul is fainting under the burden of sin, it is the work of a minister to drop in comfort, therefore he is said to hold forth the breast as a nursing mother.

In this way, Paul and Apollos are yours—all the gifts of a minister, all his graces, are not only for himself, they are the Church's. A minister must not monopolize his gifts to himself, this is "to hide his talents in a napkin." "Paul and Apollos are yours." The ministers of Christ should be as musk among linen, which casts a fragrancy; or like that box of spikenard, which being broken open, filled the house with its fragrance. So should they do by the fragrance of their ointments.

A minister by sending out a sweet perfume in his doctrine and life, makes the church of God as a garden of spices. "Paul and Apollos are yours," that is, they are as a lamp or torch to light souls to heaven. Chrysostom's hearers thought they had better be without the sun in the sky, than Chrysostom in the pulpit. Paul and Apollos are springs which hold the water of life; as these springs must not be poisoned, so neither must they be shut up or sealed. A minister of Christ is both a granary to hold the corn, and a steward to give it out. It is little better than theft—to withhold the bread of life! The lips of Apollos must be as a honeycomb, dropping in season and out of season. The graces of the Spirit are sacred flowers, which though they cannot die—yet being apt to wither, Apollos must come with his water-pot. It is not enough that there is grace in the believer's heart—but it must be poured into his lips. As Paul is a believer, so all things are his; but as Paul is a minister, so he is not his own, he is the church's. There are three corollaries I shall draw from this.

Use 1. If "Paul and Apollos are yours," every minister of Christ is given for the edifying of the church; take heed that you despise not the least of these, for all are for your profit. The least star gives light, the least drop moistens, the least minister is no less than an angel. There is some use to be made even of the lowest abilities of men: there are "gifts differing," but all are yours. The weakest minister may help to strengthen your faith. In the law, all the Levites did not sacrifice, only the priests, as Aaron, and his sons; but all were serviceable in the worship of God. Those who did not sacrifice—yet they helped to carry the ark.

As in a building, some bring stones, some timber, some perhaps bring only nails; yet all these are useful, these all serve to fasten the work in the building. The church of God is a spiritual building, some ministers bring stones, are more eminent and useful; others timber; others less, they have but a nail in the work—yet all serve for the good of this building. The least nail in the ministry serves for the fastening of souls to Christ, therefore let no true minster be despised. Though all are not apostles, all are not evangelists, all have not the same dexterous abilities in their work; yet remember, "All are yours," all edify. Oftentimes God crowns his labors, and sends most fish into his net, who, though he may be less skillful—is more faithful; and though he has less brain—yet he has more heart. An ambassador may deliver his message with a trembling lip, and a stammering tongue—but he is honorable for his work's sake—he represents the king's person.

Use 2. If "Paul and Apollos are yours," all Christ's ministers have a subserviency to your good, they come to make up the match between Christ and you—then love Paul and Apollos. All the labors of a minister, his prayers, his tears, the usefulness of his abilities, the torrent of his affections—all are yours; then, by the law of equity—there must be some reflections of love from your hearts towards Paul and Apollos, such as are "set over you in the Lord."

1. Show your love, by honoring them. Manoah would know the angel's name, that he might honor him. And the apostle calls for this, "We beseech you, brethren, know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and esteem them very highly." They are co-workers with God. God and his ministers (to speak with reverence) drive one and the same trade; and "they labor among you," therefore esteem them very highly. Next to sending out Christ and the Spirit, God never honored the world more than in sending out his Pauls and Apolloses. Kings may be your fathers to nurse you up in peace—but ministers are your fathers to beget you to Christ. The earthly father is an instrument of conveying nature, the spiritual father of conveying grace. Therefore Chrysostom thinks that the ministers should not only more reverenced than kings and judges—but more than our natural parents as well. What shall we say then to those who make no more reckoning of their ministers, than the Egyptians did of their shepherds! "Every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians."

"Know those who labor among you"; many can be content "to know them" in the baseness of their parentage; "Is not this the carpenter's son?" Or to know them in their infirmities—but not to know them in the apostle's sense, so as to give them double honor. Surely, were it not for the ministry, you would not be a vineyard—but a wilderness! Were it not for the ministry, you would be destitute of the two seals of the covenant, baptism and the Lord's supper; you would be infidels, for "faith comes by hearing." "How shall they hear without someone preaching to them?" O therefore honor Paul and Apollos; though they may be lowly—yet their office is honorable.

2. Show your love to the ministers, by pleading their cause, when they are unjustly traduced and calumniated. It is counted by some, a piece of their religion—to defame a minister. Others who would be thought more modest, though they do not raise a report—yet they can receive it as a welcome present. This is contrary to that apostolical rule, "against an elder" (or minister) "receive not an accusation—but before two or three witnesses." Constantine was a great honorer of the ministry; it is reported of him, that he would not read the envious accusations brought in against them—but burned them. O, if you love Paul and Apollos, stand up in their defense, become their advocates! It was a law the Egyptians made, that if a man found another in the hands of thieves, and did not deliver him when it was in his power, he was condemned to die. Just so, when your ministers fall among thieves who would rob them of their good name—you must seek to deliver them. We have too many who labor to clip the credit of God's ministers, to make them weigh lighter. O, you must put some grains into the scales! Do they open their mouths to God for you, and will not you open your mouths in their behalf? Certainly if they labor to save your souls, you ought to save their reputation.

3. Show your love to your ministers, by encouraging them, and by being a screen to keep off injuries from them. If they seek your establishment, you must seek their encouragement. If they endeavor your salvation, you must endeavor their safety. The very name of an ambassador, has been a protection from wrongs. What an unnatural thing is it, that any should strive to bring them to death, whose very calling is to bring men to life! The minister is a spiritual father; it was a brand of infamy on them, "For this people are as those who strive with their priest." Was there none to strive with, but the priest, even he who offered up their sacrifices for them! Is is right for men to quarrel with their spiritual fathers! even those whom they once had a venerable opinion of, and acknowledged to be the means of their conversion! Either love your spiritual fathers, or there is ground of suspicion that yours was but a false birth.

Use 3. If "Paul and Apollos are yours," they are for the building you up in your faith; then endeavor to get good by the labors of Paul and Apollos, I mean such as labor in the word and doctrine. Let them not plough upon the rock; answer God's end in sending them among you. "Labor to profit;" you may get some knowledge by the word, such as is discursive and polemical, and yet not profit.

Question. What is it to profit?

Answer. The apostle tells us, "When we mingle the word with faith," that is, when we so hear that we believe, and so believe that we are transformed into the image of the word. "You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine into which you were delivered." It is one thing for the truth to be delivered to us, and another thing for us to be delivered into the truth. These words are a metaphor taken from lead or silver cast into a mold. This is to profit when our hearts are cast into the mold of the word preached: as the seed is spiritual, so the heart is spiritual. We should do as the bee, when she has sucked sweetness from the flower, she works it in her own hive, and so turns it to honey. So when we have sucked any precious truth, we should by holy meditation work it in the hive of our hearts, and then it would turn to honey. Then we would profit by it.

O, let the labors of Paul and Apollos have an influence upon us. A good hearer should labor to go out from the ministry of the word, as Naaman out of Jordan—his leprous flesh was healed! So though we came to the word proud—we should go home humble. Though we came to the word earthly—we should go home heavenly. Our leprosy should be healed. Ambrose observes of the woman of Samaria, who came to Jacob's well—she came a sinner—she went away a prophetess. Such a metamorphosis should the word of God make. Let not the ministers of Christ say upon their deathbeds, that they have spent their lungs and exhausted their strength; but know not whether they have done anything, unless they preached men to hell.

It is Augustine's note upon those words of the apostle, "That they may give up their accounts with joy." "When" (says he) "does a minister give up his account with joy—but when he has been working in the vineyard and sees fruit appear?" Brethren, this will be his joy, and your joy also in the day of the Lord. O, labor to grow; some grow not at all, others grow worse for hearing. "Evil men shall wax worse and worse," as Pliny speaks of some fish which swim backward: they grow dead-hearted under preaching; they grow covetous, they grow apostates. It were far easier to write a book of apostates in this age, than a book of martyrs! Men grow riper for hell every day!

O, labor to thrive under the spiritual dew that falls upon you. Let not the ministers of Christ be as those "which beat the air." Is it not sad when the spiritual clouds shall drop their rain upon a barren desert! —when the minister's tongue "is as the pen of a ready writer," and the peoples' heart is like oiled paper that will take no impression. O, improve in grace. If you have a barren piece of ground, you do all you can to improve it, and will you not improve a barren heart!

Iit is a great compliment and honor to the ministry, when people thrive under it: "Need we as some others, epistles of commendation?" Paul esteemed the Corinthians his glory and his crown; hence says he, though other ministers have need of letters of commendation—yet he needed none; for when men should hear of the faith of these Corinthians, which was wrought in them by Paul's preaching; this was sufficient certificate for him, that God had blessed his labors, there should need no other epistle; they themselves were walking certificates, they were his testimonial letters. This was a high commendation; what an honor is it to a minister, when it shall be said of him, as once of Octavius when he came to Rome—he found the walls of brick—but he left them walls of marble! So when the minister came among the people, he found hearts of stone—but he left hearts of flesh.

On the other side, it is a dishonor to a minister when his people are like Laban's sickly lambs, or Pharaoh's lean cows. There are some diseases which they call the reproach of physicians—as they cannot be healed. And there are some people who may be called the reproach of ministers—as they will not be mended. What greater dishonor to a minister, than when it shall be said of him, he has lived so many years in a parish, he found them an ignorant people—and they are so still! That he found them a dull slothful people, (as if they went to the church as some use to go to the apothecary's shop—to take a medicine to make them sleep) and they are so still! That he found them a profane people—and so they are still. Such a people are not a minister's crown—but his heart-breaking. Beloved, when God's stars shine in the sky of the church, will you still walk in the dark! when for the work of Christ they are "near unto death," will you be as near unto hell as ever? when these golden bells of Aaron sound, shall you not chime in with Christ? I beseech you, "let your profiting appear to all." God sends Paul and Apollos as blessings among a people, they are to be helpers of your faith; if they "toil all night and catch nothing," it is to be feared that Satan caught the fish, before the ministers threw their net.

Section 2. Showing, that the WORLD is a Believer's.

1. The lawful use of the world is a believer's.

2. The special use of the world is a believer's.

1. The "LAWFUL use of the world" is yours. The gospel does somewhat enlarge our charter. We are not in all things so tied up as the Jews were; there were several kinds of meat which were prohibited to them; they might eat of those beasts only, which chewed the cud, and parted the hoof. They might not eat of the swine, because though it divided the hoof—yet it did not chew the cud; it was unclean. But to Christians who live under the gospel, there is not this prohibition. "The world is yours," that is—the lawful use of it is yours. Every creature "being sanctified by the word and prayer," is good, and we may eat, asking no question for conscience sake. The world is a garden; God has given us permission to pick off any flower. The world is a paradise; we may eat of any tree that grows in it—but the forbidden tree—that is, sin. Yet even in things lawful, beware of excess. We are apt to offend in lawful things. The world is yours to use; only let those who buy, "be as if they bought not." Take heed that you do not drive such a trade in the world, that you are likely to break in your trading for heaven.

2. The SPECIAL use of the world is yours.

1. The world was made for your sake.

2. All things which happen in the world, are for your good.

1. The world "was made for your sake." God has raised this great fabric of the world, chiefly for a believer. The saints are "God's jewels." The world is the cabinet where God locks up these jewels for a time. The world is yours—it was made for you. The creation is but a theater to act the great work of redemption upon. The world is the Field, the saints are the Corn, the ordinances are the Showers, the mercies of God are the Sunshine which ripens this corn, death is the Sickle which cuts it down, the angels are the Harvesters who carry it into the barn. The world is yours; God would never have made this field, were it not for the corn growing in it. What use then is there of the wicked? They are as a hedge to keep the corn from foreign invasions, though ofttimes they are a thorn hedge.

Question. But alas, a child of God has often the least share in the world; how then is the world his?

Answer. If you are a believer, that little you have, though it be but a handful of the world, it is blessed to you. If there is any consecrated ground in the world, that is a believer's. The world is yours! Esau had the venison—but Jacob got the blessing. A little blessed is sweet. A little of the world with a great deal of peace, is better than the "revenues of the wicked." Every mercy a child of God has, swims to him in Christ's blood, and this sauce makes it relish the sweeter. Whatever he tastes is seasoned with God's love; he has not only corn, but money in the mouth of the sack; not only the gift but the blessing. Thus, the world is a believer's. An unbeliever may be wealthy—yet the world is not his—as he does not taste the quintessence of it. "Thorns and thistles does the ground bring forth to him." He feeds upon the fruit of the curse, "I will curse your blessings"; he eats "with bitter herbs". Thus, properly the world is a believer's. He only has a scripture-tenure, and that little he has, turns to cream! Every mercy is a present sent him from heaven.

2. All things which happen in the world, are for your good.

1. The lack of the world is for your good.

2. The hatred of the world is for your good.

1. The LACK of the world is for your good. By lacking the honors and revenues of the world—you lack the temptations which others have. Physicians observe that men die sooner by eating an abundance of food, than by scarcity. It is hard to say which kills most—the sword or surfeit. A glutton digs his own grave with his teeth! The world's beauty tempts—but it is like a fair plant to the eye—but poison to the taste. The lack of the world is a mercy.

2. The HATRED of the world is for your good. Wicked men are instruments in God's hand for good—albeit they do not intend this. They are flails to thresh off our husks, files to brighten our graces, leeches to suck out the noxious blood. Out of the most poisonous drug—God distills his glory, and our salvation. A child of God is indebted even to his enemies; "The ploughers ploughed upon my back"; if they did not plough and harrow us, we should bear but a very thin crop. After a man has planted a tree, he prunes and dresses it. Persecutors are God's pruning-scissors, to cut off the protrusions of sin! The bleeding vine is most fruitful. The envy and malice of the wicked shall do us good. God stirred up the people of Egypt to hate the Israelites, and that was a means to usher in their deliverance. The frowns of the wicked, make us the more ambitious for God's smile! Their incensed rage, shall only carry on God's decree (for while they sit backward to his command, they shall row forward to his decree) so it shall have a subserviency to our good. Every cross wind of Providence shall blow a believer nearer to the port of glory! What a blessed condition is a child of God in! Kill him—or save him alive—it is all working to his good. The opposition of the world is for his good. The world is yours.

Section 3. Showing, that LIFE is a Believers.

"Life is yours." Hierom understands it of the life of Christ. It is true, Christ's life is ours; the life which he lived on earth, and the life which he now lives in heaven; his satisfaction and his intercession both are ours, and they are of unspeakable comfort to us. But I conceive by LIFE in the text, is meant natural life, that which is contra-distinguished to death. But how is life a believer's? Two ways.

1. The privilege of life is his.

2. The comfort of life is his.

1. The PRIVILEGE of life is a believer's. That is, life to a child of God is an advantage for heaven; this life is given him to make provision for a better life. Life is the porch of eternity; here on earth, the believer dresses himself, that he may be fit to enter in with the Bridegroom. We cannot say of a wicked man, that life is his. Though he lives—yet life is not his, he is "dead while he lives." He does not improve the life of nature—to get the life of grace. He is like a man who takes the lease of a farm, and makes no benefit of it. He has been so long in the world—but he has not lived. He was born in the reign of such a king, his father left him such an estate, he was of such an age, and then he died. There is the end of him—his life was not worth a prayer—nor his death worth a tear. But life is yours; it is a privilege to a believer; while he has natural life, he "lays hold upon eternal life." How does he work out his salvation! What ado is there to get his evidences sealed! What weeping! What wrestling! How does he even take heaven by storm! Just so, that life is yours. It is to a child of God a season of grace, the seed-time of eternity; the longer he lives—the riper he grows for heaven. The life of a believer is as a figure engraved in marble; the life of an unbeliever, as letters written in dust.

2. The COMFORT of life is a believer's. "As sorrowful—yet always rejoicing." Take a child of God at the greatest disadvantage, let his life be overcast with clouds—yet if there be any comfort in life, the believer has it. Our life is often sickly and weak—but the spiritual life administers comfort to the natural life. "Man" (says Augustine) "is compounded of the mortal part, and the rational part; the rational serves to comfort the mortal part." So, I may say, a Christian consists of a natural life, and a spiritual life; the spiritual revives the natural. Observe how the spiritual life distills sweetness into the natural, in three cases.

1. In case of Poverty. This often eclipses the comfort of life. But what though poverty has clipped your wings? "Poor in the world—yet rich in faith," James 2:5. Poverty humbles, faith revives.

2. In case of Reproach. This is a heart-breaking, Psalm 69:20. "Reproach has broken my heart." Yet a Christian has his cordial by him, 2 Cor. 1:12. "For this is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience." Who would desire a better jury to acquit him—than God and his own conscience!

3. In case of Losses. It is in itself sad, to have an interposition between us and our dear relations. A limb as it were pulled from our body, and sometimes our estates strangely melted away. Yet a believer has some gleanings of comfort left, and such gleanings as are better than the world's vintage. "You took joyfully the confiscation of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring substance," Heb. 10:34. They had lost their estate—but not their God. Here is you see, the dry rod, blossoming. The spiritual life distills comfort into the natural life. Take the sourest part of a Christian's life, and there is comfort in it. When you hear him sighing bitterly, it is for sin; and such a sigh, though it may break the heart—yet it revives it. The tears of the godly are sweeter than the triumph of the wicked. The comfort that a wicked man has is only imaginary, it is but a pleasant delusion. He is as rejoicing—yet always sorrowing. He has that within, which spoils his music.

But life is yours! When a believer's life is at the lowest ebb—yet he has a spring-tide of comfort.

Chapter 4. The Augmentation of the Charter.

Among these "things present," there are yet two other eminent privileges which are in the believer's charter.

1. Remission of sin.

2. Regeneration.

Section 1. Remission of Sin is a Jewel of the Believer's Crown.

To pardon sin, is a privilege belonging to God alone. Pope's pardons are like blanks in a lottery—good for nothing but to be torn up and thrown away. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Mark 2:7. Now this remission or pardon is,

1. A costly mercy.

2. A choice mercy.

1. Pardon of sin is a COSTLY mercy. That which enhances the price of it is that it is the great fruit of Christ's sacrificial death. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Christ bled out our pardon: he was not only "a lamb without spot," but a lamb slain. Every pardon a sinner has, is written in Christ's blood.

2. Pardon of sin is a choice mercy. This jewel God hangs upon none but his elect. It is put into the charter; "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." This is an enriching mercy, it entitles us to blessedness; "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him." Psalm 32:1-2. Of all the debts we owe, our sins are the worst! To have the book cancelled and God appeased; to hear God whisper by his Spirit, "son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven; I will not blot your Name out of my book—but I will blot your Sins out of my book,"—this is a mercy of the first magnitude. "Blessed is that man"; in the original it is in the plural, "blessednesses." "Have you but one blessing, my father," says Esau. But here is a plurality, a whole chain of blessings. Pardon of sin draws the silver link of grace, and the golden link of glory after it. It is a voluminous mercy, there are many mercies bound up with it. You may name it Gad, for behold, "a troop comes."

When God pardons a sinner, now he puts on (if I may so speak) his brightest robe. Therefore when he would proclaim himself in his glory to Moses, it was after this manner, "The Lord, the Lord merciful." Exod. 34:6. His mercy is his glory: and if you read a little further, you shall see it was no other than pardoning mercy: "Forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin," etc. This is a high act of indulgence. God seals the sinner's pardon with a kiss. This made David put on his best clothes and anoint himself. It was strange, his child newly dead, and God had told him that the sword should not depart from his house; yet now he falls anointing himself. The reason was, David had heard good news, God sent him his pardon by Nathan the prophet; "The Lord has put away your sin!" This oil of gladness which God had poured into his heart, made way for the anointing oil.

Question. How shall I know that this privilege is mine?

Answer. He whose sins are pardoned, has something to show for it. There are three scripture-evidences:

1. The pardoned sinner is a WEEPING sinner. Never did any man read his pardon with dry eyes. Look upon that weeping penitent, "she stood behind Christ weeping." Tears were distilled out of her penitent heart! O, how precious were Mary's tears! surely more costly in Christ's esteem than her ointment. They dropped from her eyes—as so many pearls. Her amorous eyes, whose sparkles had so often set on fire all her lovers, she now seeks to be revenged on them, and washes Christ's feet with her tears! Her embroidered hair, which had so often as a net, ensnared others—she now makes it a towel to wipe Christ's feet! Here was a pardoned penitent. A pardon will turn the stony heart into a spring of tears! O sinner, ask yourself the question—Is your heart dissolved into tears? does it melt for sin? God seals his pardons only upon melting hearts.

Question. But to what purpose is all this cost? What is the need of weeping after pardon?

Answer. Because now sin and mercy are drawn out in more lively colors than ever. The Spirit comes thus to a sinner; "You have sinned against God, who never intended you evil; you have abused his mercy; all this you have done—yet behold, here is your pardon! I will set up my mercy above your sin, nay, in spite of it!" The sinner being sensible of this, falls a weeping, and wishes himself even dissolved into tears. He looks upon a bleeding Christ with a bleeding heart. Nothing can so melt the heart of a sinner as the love of God, and the blood of Christ.

2. He whose sins are pardoned, his heart burns in a flame of LOVE. Thus we read of Mary Magdalene—as her eyes were broached with tears—so her heart was red with love to Christ, "for she loved much." God's love in pardoning a sinner has an attracting power. The law has a driving power—but love has a drawing power.

3. He whose sins are pardoned, is willing to pardon others. He does forbear and forgive those who have offended him, Eph. 4:32. Some will pray, go to church, give alms—anything but forgive! It is the brand set upon the heathens, "unmerciful," Romans 1:31. Those who live without forgiveness, cannot pray the Lord's prayer, or if they do, they must pray against themselves; they pray that God will forgive them "as they forgive others," which is in effect to pray that God will not forgive them. Surely he who has tasted of pardon will think it but rational and Christian, that he should forgive his offending brother.

Section 2. Showing that Regeneration goes along with Remission, and is a Branch of the Charter.

Privilege 2. Regeneration—which is nothing else but the transforming the heart, and casting it into a new mold. You have a pregnant verse for this, Romans 12:2, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." In the Incarnation, Christ did assume our human nature; and in Regeneration, we partake of his divine nature.

This blessed work of regeneration, is in scripture called sometimes the "new birth," because it is begotten of a new seed, the Word, James 1:18, and sometimes the "new creature"; new, not in substance but in quality. This is the great promise, Ezek. 36:26, "A new heart also will I give you." Observe, remission of sin and regeneration are two twins; when God pardons he takes away the rebel's heart. Where this work of regeneration is wrought, the heart has a new bias, and the life a new bent. How great a privilege this is, will appear two ways.

1. Until this blessed work of regeneration, we are in a spiritual sense, DEAD. "Dead in trespasses and sins," Eph. 2:1.

A. He is dead in respect of WORKING. A dead man cannot work. The works of a sinner in scripture are called "dead works"; bid a natural man do anything, you had as good set a dead man about your work; bring him to a sermon, you do but bring a dead corpse to church; bring him to the sacrament, he poisons the sacramental cup; it is as if you should put bread and wine into a dead man's mouth. "Reprove him sharply for sin"; to what purpose do you strike a dead man?

B. He is dead in respect of HONOR. He is dead to all privileges; he is not fit to inherit mercy. Who sets the crown upon a dead man? The apostle calls it the crown of life, Rev. 2:10. It is only the living Christian, who shall wear the crown of life.

2. Until this blessed work of regeneration, we are in a spiritual sense, ILLEGITIMATE. The Devil is his father. "You are of your father the Devil." Thus it is, until Christ be formed in the heart of a sinner; then his reproach is rolled away from him. Regeneration ennobles a person; therefore such a one is said to be "born of God," 1 John 3:9. O how beautiful is that soul! I may say with Bernard, "O divine soul, invested with the image of God, espoused to him by faith, dignified with the Spirit! A person regenerate is embroidered with all the graces; he has the silver spangles of holiness, the angels" glory shining in him; he has upon him the image of Christ's beauty. The new creature is a new paradise set full of the heavenly plants. A heart ennobled with grace (to speak with reverence) is God's lesser heaven.

Chapter V. Showing that things to COME are a Believer's.

And so I slide into the second part of the text, "Things to come," are yours! Here is portion enough! It is a great comfort that when things present are taken away—yet things to come are ours. Methinks the very naming this word, "things to come," should make the spirits of a Christian revive. It is a sweet word; our happiness is "to come"—the best is ahead! Truly if we had nothing but what we have here on earth, we would be miserable; here on earth, are disgraces and martyrdoms; we must taste some of that gall and vinegar which Jesus Christ drank upon the cross. But, O Christian, be of good cheer, there is something to come! The best part of our portion is yet to be given—"all things to come are yours!" God deals with us as a merchant who shows the worst piece of cloth first. We meet sometimes with coarse usage in the world; that piece which is of the finest spinning, is kept until we come at heaven. It is true, God does chequer his work in this life—white and black. He gives us something to sweeten our pilgrimage here—some tastes of his love—these are the pledge and first-fruits. But what is this to that which is to come? "Now we are the sons of God," 1 John 3:2, "But it does not yet appear what we shall be." Expect that God should keep his best wine until last; "things to come are yours!"

What are those things which are to come? There are twelve things yet to come, the which I call Twelve Royal Privileges, with which the believer shall be invested. The first is set down in the text, which I will begin with.

Chapter 6. The first Royal Privilege of a Christian, is DEATH.

"Death is yours!" Death in scripture is called an enemy, 1 Cor. 15:26. Yet here it is put in a Christian's inventory of royal privileges, "death is yours." Death is an enemy to the mortal part—but a friend to the spiritual. Death is one of our best friends, next to Christ. When Moses saw his rod turned into a serpent, it did at the first affright him, and he fled from it; but when God bade him take hold of it, he found by the miraculous effects which it wrought, it did him and the people of Israel much good. Just so, death at the first sight is like the rod turned into a serpent—it affrights. But when by faith we take hold of it, then we find much benefit and comfort in it. As Moses' rod divided the waters, and made a passage for Israel into Canaan; so death divides the waters of tribulation, and makes a passage for us into the "land of promise." Death is called the king of terrors—but it can do a child of God no hurt; this snake may hiss and wind about the body—but the sting is pulled out. The bee by stinging, loses its sting. While death did sting Christ upon the cross, it has quite lost its sting to a believer; it can hurt the soul no more than David did king Saul, when he cut off the lap of his garment. Death to a believer is but like the arresting of a man for debt—after the debt is paid! Death, as God's sergeants at arms, may arrest us, and carry us before God's justice; but Christ will show our discharge—the debt-book is crossed in his blood!

Question. How is death ours?

Answer. Two ways

1. Death is the outlet to sin.

2. Death is the inlet to happiness.

1. Death to a believer, is an outlet to SIN. We are in this life under a sinful necessity; even the best saint: "There is not a just man upon earth, that does good and sins not." Evil thoughts are continually arising out of our hearts, as sparks out of a furnace. Sin keeps house with us whether we will or not; the best saint alive is troubled with these evil inhabitants; though he forsakes his sins—yet his sins will not forsake him.

Sin does indisposes to good. "How to perform that which is good I find not," Romans 7:18. When we would pray, the heart is a violin out of tune; when we would weep, we are as clouds without rain.

Sin tempts to evil. "The flesh lusts against the spirit." There needs be no external wind of temptation, we have tide strong enough in our hearts, to carry us to hell. Consider sin under this threefold notion.

1. Sin is a "body of death," and that not impertinently.

First, it is a body for its weight. The body is a heavy and weighty substance: so is sin a body, it weighs us down. When we would pray, the weights of sin are tied to our feet that we cannot ascend. Anselm, seeing a little boy playing with a bird, he let her fly up, and presently pulls the bird down again by a string: so, says he, it is with me as with this bird; when I would fly up to heaven upon the wings of meditation, I find a string tied to my leg; I am overpowered with corruption; but death pulls off these weights of sin, and lets the soul free.

Secondly, sin is a body of death, for its annoyance. It was a cruel torment that one used, he tied a dead man to a living man, that the dead man might annoy and infest the living. Thus it is with a child of God, he has two men within him—flesh and spirit—grace and corruption. There is the dead man tied to the living man. A proud sinful heart is worse to a child of God, than the smell of a dead corpse. Indeed to a natural man sin is not offensive; for, being "dead in sin," he is not sensible: but where there is a vital principle of spiritual life, there is no greater annoyance than the body of death: insomuch that the pious soul often cries out, as David, "Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar." So says he, "Woe is me, that I am constrained to abide with sin! How long shall I be troubled with evil inhabitants! How long shall I offend that God whom I love! When shall I leave these tents of Kedar!"

2. Sin is a tyrant, it carries in it the nature of a law; the apostle calls it the "law in his members." Romans 7:14. There is the law of pride, the law of unbelief; it has a kind of jurisdiction, as Caesar over the senate. "What I hate, that I do"; verse 15. The apostle was for the present like a man carried down the stream, and was not able to bear up against it. Whence are our carnal fears? whence our sinful passions? whence is it that a child of God does that which he does not want to do? yes, sometimes against knowledge? The reason is, he is captivated under sin. But be of good cheer, where grace makes a combat—death shall make a conquest!

3. Sin is a leprous spot. It makes everything we touch unclean. Thus in every man naturally, there is a fretting leprosy of sin, pride, unbelief, impenitency, etc. These are leprous spots. In conversion, God makes a change in the heart of a sinner—but still the leprosy of sin spreads; then at last death comes and pulls down the stones and timber of the house, and the soul is quite freed from the leprosy. Sin is a defiling thing, it makes us red with guilt—and black with filth Sin is compared to a "menstruous cloth"; we need carry it no higher. Hierom says, there was nothing in the law more unclean than the menstruous cloth: this is sin. Sin draws the Devil's picture in a man; malice is the Devil's eye; oppression is his hand; hypocrisy is his cloven foot!

But behold, death will give us our discharge; death is the last and best physician, which cures all diseases and sins—the aching head and the unbelieving heart. Sin was the midwife which brought death into the world, and death shall be the grave to bury sin! O the privilege of a believer! he is not taken away in his sins—but he is taken away from his sins. The Persians had a certain day in the year, wherein they used to kill all serpents and venomous creatures: such a day as that will the day of death be to a man in Christ. This day the old serpent dies in a believer, which has so often stung him with his temptations! This day the sins of the godly, these venomous creatures, shall all be destroyed. They shall never more be proud; they shall never more grieve the Spirit of God; the death of the body shall quite destroy the body of death.

2. To a believer, death is the inlet to eternal happiness. Samson found a honeycomb in the lion's carcass; so may a child of God suck much sweetness from death. Death is the gate of life! Death pulls off our rags, and gives us glorious raiment. All the hurt death does to us—is to put us into a blissful condition. Death is called in scripture a sleep, 1 Thess. 4:14. "Those who sleep in Jesus"; as after sleep the spirits are exhilarated and refreshed, so after death, "the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord." Death is yours. Death is a believer's ferryman, to ferry him over to the land of rest! Death opens the portal into heaven! The day of a Christian's death—is the birthday of his heavenly life! Death is his ascension-day to glory! Death is his marriage-day with Jesus Christ! After his funeral, he begins his marriage!

Well then might Solomon say, "The day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth." Death is the spiritual man's advancement, why then should he fear it? Death, I confess, has a grim visage to an impenitent sinner; so it is ghastly to look upon; it is a messenger to carry him to hell. But to such as are in Christ, "death is yours!" Death is like the "pillar of cloud," it has a dark side to a sinner: but it has a light side to a believer. Death's pale face looks ruddy, when the "blood of sprinkling" is upon it; in short, faith gives us a property in heaven, death gives us a possession: fear not your privilege, the thoughts of death should be delightful. Jacob, when he saw the wagons, his spirits revived. Death is the chariot which carries us to our Father's house! What were the martyrs' flames but a fiery chariot to carry them up to heaven! This world we live in, is but a desert; shall we not be willing to leave it for paradise! We say, it is good to be here; we try to have an earthly paradise. But grace must curb nature.

Think of the privileges of death. Though naturally we desire to live here on earth, as we are made up of flesh—yet grace should be as the master wheel, which sways our will, making us long for death. "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" 2 Cor. 5:2, "We groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling." We would put off the earthly clothes of our body, and put on the bright robe of immortality. "We groan," it is a metaphor taken from a mother, who being pregnant, groans and cries out for delivery. Augustine longed to die, that he might see that head which was once crowned with thorns. We pray, "May Your kingdom come"; and when God is leading us into his kingdom, shall we be afraid to go! The times we live in should, methinks, make us long for death. We live in dying times, we may hear, as it were, God's death bell ringing over these nations. They are well—who are out of the storm—and have gotten already to the haven!

Question. But who shall have this privilege?

Answer. Death is certain; but there are only two sorts of people to whom we may say "Death is yours!" It is your preferment.

1. Such as die daily. We are not born angels; die we must, therefore we had need carry always a death's head with us. The basilisk, if it sees a man first—it kills him; but if he sees it first—it does him no hurt. The basilisk death, if it sees us first, before we see it—it is dangerous; but if we see it first by meditating upon it, it does us no hurt. Study death, often walk among the tombs. It is the thoughts of death beforehand, that must do us good. In a dark night, one torch carried before a man is worth many torches carried after him: one serious thought of death beforehand, one tear shed for sin before death—is worth a thousand shed after, when it is too late. It is good to make death our familiar friend, and in this sense to be in deaths often: that if God should presently send us a letter of summons this night, we might have nothing to do but to die.

Alas, how do many put off the thoughts of death! It is almost death to them—to think of death. There are some who are in the very threshold of the grave, who have one foot in the grave, and the other foot in hell; yet "put far from them the evil day." I have read of one Lysicrates, who in his old age dyed his gray hairs black, that he might seem young again. When we should be building our tombs, we are building our houses! Die daily, lest you die eternally! The holy patriarchs in purchasing for themselves a burying place, showed us what thoughts they still had of death. Joseph of Arimathea erected his sepulcher in his garden: we have many that set up the trophies of their victories; others that set up their trophies, that they may blaze their honor. But how few that set up their sepulchers; who erect in their hearts the serious thoughts of death! O remember when you are in your gardens, in places most delicious and fragrant, to keep a place for your tombstone; die daily! There is no better way to bring sin into a consumption, than by often looking on the pale horse, and the one that sits thereon. By thinking on death, we begin to repent of an evil life; and so we disarm death before it comes, and cut the lock where its strength lies.

2. Such as are in heaven before they die. Death is yours! If we must be high-minded, let it be in setting our mind upon heavenly things. Heaven must come down into us before we go up there. A child of God breathes his faith in heaven; his thoughts are there: "When I awake I am still with you," Psalm 139:17. David awaked in heaven; his conversation is there; Philip. 3:20, "For our conversation is in heaven." The believer often ascends mount Tabor, and takes a prospect of glory. O that we had this celestial frame of heart! When Zaccheus was in the crowd, he was too low to see Christ; therefore he climbed up into the Sycamore tree. When we are in a crowd of worldly business, we cannot see Christ. Climb up into the tree by divine contemplation! If you would get Christ into your heart, let heaven be in your eye! "Set your affections upon things above," Col. 3:2. There needs be no exhortation for us to set our hearts on things below. How is the curse of the serpent upon most men! "Upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life." Those who feed only upon dust, golden dust, will be unwilling to return to dust. To them, death will be terrible!

The tribes of Reuben and Gad desired that they might stay on this side Jordan—and have their portion there; it being a place convenient for their cattle. It seems they minded their cattle more than their passage into the holy land! Just so, many professors, if they may have but a little grazing here in the world, in their shops, and in their farms, they are content to live on this side the river, and mind not their passage into the land of promise! But you who are in heaven before you die—death is yours!

An earthly saint is a contradiction. The Greek word for saint signifies a man refined and separated from the earth. If an astronomer, instead of observing the planets, and the motions of the heavens, should take a reed in his hand, and fall a measuring of the earth, would not this be counted a contradiction! And is not it as great a contradiction in religion, when men pretend to have Christ and heaven in their eye—yet mind earthly things! Phil. 3:19. Our souls, methinks should be like to a ship, which is made little and narrow downwards—but more wide and broad upwards. So our affections should be very narrow downwards to the earth—but wide and large upwards towards heavenly things.

Thus we see death is a privilege to believers; death is yours! The heir while he is under age, is heir of the land he is born to—but he has not the use or the benefit of it, until he comes of age. Be as old as you will, you are never of age for heaven—until you die. Death brings us to age, and then the possession comes into our hands!

Chapter 7. The second Royal Privilege of a Christian, is that he shall be carried up by the angels.

Now I proceed to the second privilege, which is yet to come: what holy David says of Zion, "Glorious things are spoken of you, O you city of God," Psalm 87:3.

In this life, a believer is carried by the saints; they lift him upon the wings of their prayers; and when they can carry him no longer, after death, the angels take him, and carry him up. Wicked men, when they die, they shall have a black guard of angels to carry them. You who are an old sinner (who has a hoary head—but your heart is as young in sin as ever) I may say to you as Christ said in another sense to Peter: "When you are old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not." So I say, You old sinner, the time is shortly coming, when you shall stretch forth your hands on your death-bed, and another shall bind you, and carry you where you would not; you shall be carried by a black guard!

But a believer shall be carried by the angels into heaven: "The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Abraham's bosom is a figurative speech, representing the seat of the blessed. There poor Lazarus was carried by the angels. When he was upon earth, he had no friends but the dogs which licked his sores. But when he died, he had a convoy of angels. After our fall, the angels (as well as God) fell out with us, and became our enemies; hence we read that the angels (the cherubim) stood with a flaming sword, to keep our first parents out of Paradise, Gen. 3:24. But being now at peace with God, we are at peace with the angels. Therefore the angel comes with an olive-branch of peace in his mouth, and proclaims with triumph the news of Christ's incarnation. Luke 2:11, "For unto you is born, in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord!" The angels bless God for man's redemption, verse 13. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly multitude praising God, and saying, glory be to God in the highest."

The angels love mankind (especially where there is the new man) and are ready to do all friendly offices for us. As in our lifetime, they are our supporters, Psalm 91:11. "He shall give his angels charge to keep you;" so after death they are our porters. Lazarus was carried by the angels. The angels are called ministering spirits; they are willing to minister for the good of the saints. Hence some observe, it is said, Lazarus was carried by the angels, in the plural, not by one angel—as if the angels had been ambitious to carry Lazarus, and each one strived which should have a part. O in what pomp and triumph did Lazarus's soul now ride! Never was Dives so honored in his life—as Lazarus was at his death. For a king to help to carry the coffin of one of his subjects, were a high honor; but a believer shall have a guard of angels to conduct him. Amasis king of Egypt, that he might set forth his magnificence, would have his chariot drawn by four princes, which he had conquered in the war. But what was all this, compared to the chariot in which Lazarus, and the soul of every believer, shall be drawn at their death! They shall be carried by the angels of God!