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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Section 1. Remission of Sin is a Jewel of the Believer's
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
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
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 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
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
1. Sin is a "body of death," and that not
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
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
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!