The Christian's Charter
Showing the Privileges of a Believer
by Thomas Watson
"All things are yours!"
1 Corinthians 3:21
"So will it be with the resurrection of the
dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is
sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is
raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body! For our
perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will
never die!" 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53. In this life the body is infirm,
physicians have much work to repair it and keep it going! It is like a house
out of repair—every storm of sickness it rains through. How does a holy
soul often lodge in a sickly or deformed body! The body is like a
piece of rotten wood, diseases like worms, breed there. Fevers, aches, etc.
But this body shall be made glorious at the resurrection; it shall neither
have diseases nor defects! Leah shall no more complain of her bleary
eyes, nor Barzillai of his lameness. There are five properties of our
Chapter 13. The eighth Royal Privilege—The bodies of the saints shall be
enameled with glory!
1. They shall be AGILE and nimble. The bodies
of the saints on earth are heavy and weary in their motion—but in heaven
there shall be no gravity hindering; but our bodies being refined, shall be
swift and facile in their motion, and made fit to ascend, as the body of
Elijah. This is the apostle's meaning when he calls it a spiritual
body; that is not only a body made fit to serve God without weariness—but a
body that can move swiftly from one place to another. In this life the body
is a great hindrance to the soul in its operation: "The spirit is
willing—but the flesh is weak." When the soul would fly up to Christ,
the body as a leaden lump keeps it down. Here on earth, the body is a
clog; in heaven it shall be a wing. The bodies of the saints
shall be agile and lively, they shall be made fully subject to the soul, and
will in no way, impede or hinder the soul in its progress.
2. The bodies of the saints shall be transparent, full of
clarity and BRIGHTNESS. They shall be as Christ's body when it
was transfigured, Matt. 17:2. Our bodies shall have a divine luster put upon
them! Here on earth, they are as iron when it is rusty; there they shall be
as iron when it is filed and made bright, as the sun in its splendor; nay,
"seven times brighter!" says Chrysostom. Here on earth, our bodies are as
the gold in the ore—drossy and impure. In heaven they shall be as gold when
it spangles and glitters! So clear shall they be, that the soul may venture
out at every part, and sparkle through the body as the wine through the
3. They shall be BEAUTIFUL. Beauty consists in
1. Symmetry and proportion, when all the parts are drawn
out in their perfect lineaments.
2. Complexion, when there is a mixture and variety in the
colors. Thus the bodies of the saints shall have a transcendency of beauty
upon them. Here on earth, the body is called a vile body. It is vile
in its origin—it is made of the dust of the earth. The earth is the
most ignoble element. The body is also vile in the use that it is put
to; the soul often uses the body as a weapon to fight against God. But this
vile body shall be ennobled and beautified with glory; it shall be made like
How beautiful was Christ's body upon earth! In it there
was the rose and the lily; it was a mirror of beauty! For all
deformities of body issue immediately from sin—but Christ being
conceived by the Holy Spirit, and so without sin, he must needs have a
beautiful body, and in this sense he was fairer than the children of men,
Psalm 45:2. There was graceful majesty in his looks. Christ's body, as some
writers aver, was so fair by reason of the beauty and grace which shined in
it, that no artist could ever draw it exactly. And if it was so glorious a
body on earth, how great is the luster of it now in heaven!
That light which shone upon Paul, "surpassing the glory of the sun," was no
other than the beauty of Christ's body in heaven. O then what beauty and
resplendency will be put upon the bodies of the saints! they shall be made
"like Christ's glorious body."
4. The bodies of the saints shall be IMPECCABLE.
Not but that the body when it is glorified, shall have such a passion
as is delightful, (for the body is capable of joy) but it will have no
passion which is hurtful; it shall not be capable of any noxious impression;
1. The bodies of the saints shall be free from the
NECESSITIES of nature, such as hunger and thirst. Here on earth,
we are pinched with hunger: "David waxed faint," 2 Sam. 21:15. Here on
earth, we need continual supplies for nature. Christ "took compassion on the
multitude," and wrought a miracle, lest they should "faint by the way,"
Matt. 15:32. Nature must have its supplies; these are as necessary to
maintain life, as the oil is to maintain the lamp. But in heaven we shall
hunger no more, Rev. 7:16. Hunger implies a need and lack, which cannot be
in heaven; there we need not pray, "Give us our daily bread."
Question. But does not Christ say, "I will not drink this
day of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in
my Father's kingdom"; which implies there will be eating and drinking in
heaven, and by consequence hunger?
Answer. We must not understand the words literally; our
Savior only alludes to the metaphor of the vine. It is as if Christ had
said, as drinking the fruit of the vine now with you, is an action of
familiarity and pleasantness; so when you shall be with me in the kingdom of
heaven, you shall be filled with such joy and delight, as if all the time
were a time of feasting and banqueting.
2. Glorified bodies shall be free from the INFIRMITIES of
nature, such as cold and heat. Heaven is a temperate zone:
there is no nipping frost or scorching heat, nothing will be there in
3. The bodies of the saints shall be free from the
BURDENS of nature, such as labor and sweating. There will be no
more ploughing or sowing—what is the need of that—when the saints shall
receive the full crop of joy! When the farmer works in the field, he
needs his rake, his spade, etc. But let this same farmer be advanced to the
throne, and now he has no more use for the spade—he is freed from all
those labors! So though now we must "eat our bread with the sweat of our
brows," yet when we are in heaven, and shall be advanced to the throne—there
will be no more need of our working tools! Labor shall cease! Our sweat
as well as our tears shall be dried up!
4. The bodies of the saints shall be free from the
INJURIES of nature, such as sufferings. We run the race of our
life on the track of misery! We go from one suffering to another.
We never finish our troubles—but merely change them! "Man is
born to trouble," he is the natural heir to it. Where the body is, there
will afflictions like vultures be gathered together. Job was smitten with
boils, and Paul did bear in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Afflictions, like hard frosts, nip the tender buds of our comfort; but
before long the saints shall be impeccable, they shall have a protection
from injuries granted them.
5. The bodies of the saints shall be IMMORTAL.
Here on earth, our bodies are always dying. It is improper to ask, "When
shall we die?" We should rather ask, "When shall we be finished dying?"
First, the infancy dies, then the childhood, then the youth,
then the old age—and then we are finished dying! It is not only the
running out of the last sand in the glass which spends it—but all the sands
which run out before. Death is a worm that is ever feeding at the root of
our gourds! But in heaven "our mortal shall put on immortality." As it was
with Adam in innocency, if he had not sinned, such was the excellent
temperature and harmony in all the qualities of his body, that it is
probable he would have never died—but had been translated from paradise
to heaven! Indeed, Belarmine says that Adam would have died,
though he had not sinned. But I know no ground for that assertion, for sin
is made the formal cause of death!
However there is no such thing disputable in heaven, as
the bodies there are immortal. Luke 20:36, "Neither can they die any more":
heaven is a healthful place, there is no sickness or dying; we shall never
more hear a death-bell ring! As our souls shall be eternal, so our bodies
immortal. If God made manna (which is in itself corruptible) to last many
years in the golden pot, much more is he able by a divine power, so to
fashion the bodies of the saints, that they shall be preserved to eternity.
God "will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or
mourning or crying or pain." Revelation 21:4.
Matthew 22:30, "The will be like the angels in heaven."
Christ does not say, we shall be angels—but like the angels.
Chapter 14. The Ninth Royal Privilege is—that we shall be as the angels in
Question. How is that?
Answer. Two ways.
1. In regard of our manner of WORSHIP. The
angels fulfill the will of God, 1. Readily. 2. Perfectly.
1. The angels fulfill the will of God READILY.
When God sends the angels upon a commission, they do not hesitate or dispute
the case with God—but immediately obey. The cherubim are pictured with wings
displayed—to show how ready they are in their obedience, it is as if they
had wings, Dan. 9:21. As soon as God speaks the word, the angels are eager
to obey. When we get to heaven—we shall be as the angels!
This is a singular comfort to a weak Christian!
Alas, we are not as the angels in this life! When God commands us to
service, or to mourn for sin, or to take up the cross—O what a dispute is
there! how long is it sometimes before we can get permission from our
stubborn hearts to go to prayer! Jesus Christ went more willingly to
suffer, than we do often to pray! How badly do we perform our
duties! God had as good almost be without it! O but (if this is our grief)
be of good comfort—in heaven we shall serve God swiftly—we shall be
winged in our obedience, even as the angels!
2. The angels fulfill the will of God PERFECTLY.
They fulfill God's whole will; they leave nothing undone! When God
commands them upon duty, they can shoot to a hair's breadth. Alas, our
services—how lame and bedridden are they! We do things by halves. We pray as
if we prayed not; we weep for sin as if we wept not; how many blemishes are
there in our holy things! as the moon when it shines brightest, has a dark
spot in it. How many grains would we lack, if Christ did not put his merits
into the scales! Our duties, like good wine, do smell of a bad cask. The
angel pouring sweet fragrances into the prayers of the saints, Rev. 8:3,
shows that in themselves they yield no sweet savor, unless perfumed with
Christ's incense. But in heaven we shall be even as the angels—we shall
serve God perfectly! How should we long for that time!
2. We shall be as the angels in regard of DIGNITY.
There is no question—but in regard of our marriage-union with Christ, we
shall be above the angels. But behold our human nature, simply and
entirely considered, shall be parallel with the angelic nature. Luke 20:36,
"they shall be equal to the angels." I shall show the dignity of the angelic
nature, and the analogies between the saints glorified, and the angels. The
dignity of the angels appears,
1. The dignity of the angels appears in their SAGACITY.
The angels (who are God's courtiers) are wise, intelligent
creatures. Tyre in regard of wisdom is styled a cherubim, or angel, Ezek.
28:3, 4, 16. The angels have a most critical exquisite judgment, they are
discerning spirits. Thus the saints shall be as the angels—for wisdom and
sagacity. Christ the wisdom of God is their oracle.
2. The dignity of angels appears in their MAJESTY.
An angel is a beautiful glorious creature. They saw Stephen's face "as it
had been the face of an angel," Acts 6:15. The angels are compared to
lightning, in regard of their sparkling luster, Matt. 28:3. Such beams of
majesty fall from the angels, that we are not able to bear a sight of them.
John the apostle was so amazed at the sight of an angel, that he fell at his
feet to worship him, Rev. 19:10. Thus shall we be as the angels—for splendor
and majesty. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom
of their Father," Matt. 13:43, not that the saints shall not surpass the sun
in brightness, says Chrysostom; but the sun being the most noble and
excellent creature, therefore our Savior takes a resemblance thence, to
express the saints' glory. They shall not only be of a sun-like
brightness—but angel-like brightness! The beams of Christ's glory will be
transparent in them.
3. The dignity of angels is seen in their POWER.
Angels "excel in strength," Psalm 103:20. We read of one angel which
destroyed an army of a hundred and eighty-five thousand at one blow! An
angel would be able to merely look us dead! Thus shall we be as the
angels. Here on earth, we have our fainting fits, we wrestle continually
with infirmities; but in heaven the weak reed shall be turned into a cedar!
We shall put on strength, and be as the angels of God.
4. The dignity and nobility of angels consists in their
PURITY. Take away holiness from an angel, and he is no more an
angel—but a devil. Those blessed spirits are sinless, spotless
creatures; no unholy thought enters into their mind. They are virgin
spirits; therefore they are said to be "clothed in pure white linen," Rev.
15:6. And they are represented by the cherubim overshadowing the mercy-seat,
which were made "all of fine gold," to denote the purity of their essence.
In this sense we shall be as the angels—of a refined, pure, sublime nature.
Therefore the saints are said to have "washed their robes, and made them
white in the blood of the Lamb," Rev. 7:14. Christ's blood washes
white! We read of "the spirits of just men made perfect."
5. The dignity of angels appears in their IMMUNITY.
The angels are privileged by their immunities—and thus shall we be as the
angels. There is a two-fold immunity.
1. We shall be immune from the DIFFICULTIES of piety.
Duties are irksome to the flesh. But in heaven, we shall be as the angels;
no more praying or fasting, no more repenting or
mortification. When we are above sin—then we shall be above ordinances! I do
not say we shall be free from serving God—but we shall be freed from all
that is tedious and unpleasant! The angels serve God—but it is
with cheerfulness. It is their heaven to serve God—when they are
singing hallelujahs they are ravished with holy delight! Though being
spirits, they need no food—yet it is their food and drink to be doing the
will of God: "the joy of the Lord is their strength." Thus the saints shall
be as the angels, "they shall rest from their labors," Rev. 14:13. They
shall not rest from serving God—but from their labor in serving him.
Their service shall be sweetened with so much pleasure and delight, that it
shall not be a task—but a recreation! What joy will it be to
sing in the heavenly choir! The angels begin the music—and the saints join
in the concert!
2. We shall be immune from TEMPTATION. The
angels, those blessed spirits, have no temptations to sin—thus shall we be
as the angels. It is sad to have atheistical, blasphemous thoughts forced
upon us. It is sad always to lie under the Devil's spout, to have
temptations dropping upon us! And though we do not yield to the enemy—yet to
have the garrison continually assaulted, is a great grief to a child of God!
But this is a believer's privilege—he shall be shortly as the angels—not
subject to temptation. The Devil is cast out of paradise! The old serpent
shall never sneak into the New Jerusalem. Heaven is pictured out by an
exceeding high mountain, Rev. 21:10. This heavenly mount is so high, that
Satan's fiery darts cannot shoot up to it—it is above the reach of his
6. The dignity of angels consist in their IMPECCABILITY.
The blessed angels are not only without sin—but they are in an
impossibility of sinning. The angels have a clear sight of God! They
are, by the sweet influence of that vision, so enamored with the beauty and
love of God, that they have not the least motion or will to sin. "They are
confirmed by the power of God," says Augustine, "that they cannot
sin!" The angels are immoveable in holiness.
Indeed Origen affirms that there is a possibility of
sinning even in the angels; but this opinion is, 1. Contrary to the current
of the fathers—that the angels are of that invincible sanctity, that
they cannot be drawn by any violence to sin. 2. That it should be possible
for the angels to be stained with the least tincture of sin—is repugnant to
scripture; for if the angels may sin, then they may fall—but they cannot
fall. The minor proposition is clear: elected angels cannot fall—but the
angels are elected; the apostle proves the election of angels. 1 Tim. 5:21,
"I charge you before God and the elect angels."
The angels are called stars, Job. 38:7. These
angelical stars are so fixed in their orb of sanctity, that they
cannot have the least erring, or retrograde motion to sin. Does not all this
set forth the privilege and comfort of believers? They shall
be in this sense as the angels—in an impossibility of sinning! Here on
earth, it is impossible that we should not sin; in heaven it is impossible
that we should sin! There we shall not only be exempted from the act
of sinning—but from the capacity of sinning—for we shall be as the
angels of God! What a blessed privilege is this! We who are now accounted as
the off-scouring of men—shall be as the angels!
Oh how may this excite the most profane people to the
study of piety! Fly from sin! Sin will not make you angels—but devils!
"Follow after holiness!" The huntsmen pursues the deer with earnestness.
Pursue holiness as the huntsman pursues his game! Here is reason enough— you
shall not only be with the angels—but you shall be like the
angels! If while you live, you live as saints—when you die,
you shall be as angels!
Fulgentius calls a good name the godly man's heir, because it lives when he
is dead. A good reputation is the best temporal blessing—yet all do not wear
this garland. Those who have a good conscience, have not always a
good name. The old serpent spits his venom at the godly—through the
mouths of wicked men! If Satan cannot strike his fiery dart into our
conscience—he will put a dead fly into our reputation.
Chapter 15. The Tenth Royal Privilege is—the vindication of our REPUTATIONS.
The people of God are represented to the world, in a very
bad light. How strangely does a saint look—when he is put in the Devil's
dress! Some primitive Christians that were clothed with bear's skins, and
painted with red devils. Job was represented to the world as a hypocrite—and
by his friends too—which was very painful to him. Paul was called a
seditious man. He suffered (in the opinion of some) as an evildoer,
2 Tim. 2:9. "Wherein I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even unto bonds." He
did not only bear Christ's mark in his body—but in his name.
Our blessed Savior was called a glutton and a drunkard, and a
deceiver of the people. It has always been the manner of the wicked
world—to paint God's children in very strange colors.
It is a great sin to defame a saint, it is murder; better
take away his life than his name! It is a sin which we can never make him
reparation for; a flaw in a man's credit being like a blot in white paper,
which will never come out. The defaming of a saint is no less than the
defaming of God himself! The saints have God's picture drawn in their
hearts: a man cannot abuse the picture of Caesar, without some reflection
upon Caesar's person. Well, either God will clear his peoples' innocency
here, which he has promised, Psalm 37:6, "And he shall bring forth your
righteousness as the light." Your good name may be in a cloud—but it
shall not set in a cloud; or else God will clear his peoples'
innocency at the day of judgment.
In this life the godly are called the troublers of
Israel, seditious, rebellious and what not! but a day is
shortly coming, when God himself will proclaim their innocency. Believe it,
as God will make inquisition for blood, so also for names! The
name of a saint is precious in God's esteem—it is like a statue of gold
which the polluted breath of men cannot stain. And though the wicked may
throw dust upon it—yet as God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of his
people—so he will wipe off the dust from their name! The time is shortly
coming when God will say to us, as once to Joshua, "I have rolled away the
reproach of Egypt from off you." Even as it was with Christ, the Jews rolled
a great stone upon him, and as they thought, it was impossible he should
rise again; but an angel came and rolled away the stone, and he arose in a
glorious triumphant manner. So it shall be with the godly, their good names
or titles are buried, a stone of calumny and reproach is rolled upon them;
but at the day of judgment, not an angel—but God himself will roll away the
stone, and they shall come forth from among the pots, where they have been
blackened and sullied, "as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her
feathers with yellow gold." O what a blessed day will that be, when God
himself shall be the saints' vindicator.
Here take notice of two things.
Chapter 16. The Eleventh Royal Privilege is—the sentence of ABSOLUTION.
1. The process in law. "And I saw the dead,
great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another
book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according
to what they had done as recorded in the books." Revelation 20:12. This is a
metaphor taken from the manner of our courts of judicature, where there is
the whole process, every circumstance considered, and the witnesses
examined. So here—the books are opened, the book of God's accounting, and
the book of conscience! Now observe, "another book was opened, which is the
book of life"; that is, the book of God's decree, the book of free grace,
the book which has the saints' names written in it, and their pardon! The
elect shall be judged out of this book! Surely the sentence cannot be
dismal, when our husband is judge—and will judge us by the book of life!
2. The sentence itself. Matt. 25:34, "Come you
who are blessed by my Father!"
1. This implies the saints' ACQUITTANCE. The
curse is taken off; they have their discharge in the court of justice, and
shall have the broad seal of heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all
setting their hands to the pardon, and this Christ shall proclaim.
2. This implies the saints' INSTALLMENT. "Come
you who are blessed." As if Christ should say, "You are the heirs
to the crown of heaven! Come in—enter upon possession!" And this sentence
can never be reversed to eternity; but as Isaac said, "I have blessed him,
and he shall be blessed!" At the hearing of this wondrous sentence, O
with what ineffable joy will the saints be filled! it will be like music in
the ear, and a jubilee in the heart! Even as Elizabeth once said to the
virgin Mary, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the
babe leaped in my womb for joy! Just so, the heart of a believer will leap
inside him—at the hearing of this blessed sentence, and be ready to
leap out of him for joy. O what trembling now among the
devils! What triumph among the angels!
This I ground upon three scriptures. Matt. 15:21, "Well done—good and
faithful servant!" The world maligns and censures us. When we discharge our
conscience, they say "Badly done!" But God will say, "Well done—good and
faithful servant!" He will set a trophy of honor upon his people, "He will
place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King
will say to those on the right—Come, you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I
was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a
stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me
clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited
me!" Matthew 25:33-36.
Chapter 17. The Last Royal Privilege is—that God will make a public and
honorable mention of all the good which the saints have done.
King Ahasuerus had his book of records; and when he read
in his book, he took notice of Mordecai's good service, and caused him to
have public honor. Be assured—God has his book of record, and will openly
take notice of all the good service you have done, and he himself will be
the herald to proclaim your praises! 2 Cor. 4:5, "Then shall every man have
praise from God."
I speak this the rather, to encourage you in God's
service. Perhaps you have laid out yourself for the cause of God, but it
came to nothing, and you begin to think that it was a foolish venture—and
all is lost. No! your faith and zeal are recorded; your
service iw written in heaven, and God will give you a public testimony of
honor, "Well done—good and faithful servant!" What a whetstone is this to
duty? How should it add oil to the flame of our devotion? You
perhaps have prayed a great while, and watered this seed with your tears. Be
of good comfort—your tears are not lost! God bottles them as precious wine,
and it will not be long before he will open his bottle, and this wine which
came from the wine-press of your eyes—shall sparkle forth in the sight of
men and angels!
More—God will not only take notice of what we have
done for him—but what we would have done, if we could have. David had
an intention to build God a house, and the Lord interpreted it as if
he had done it, 1 Kings 8:18. "Whereas it was in your heart to build a house
unto my name, you did well that it was in your heart." Intentional
goodness is recorded, and shall add to our crown!
What a good and generous God we serve! Who would ever
change such a master! It were, one would think, enough that God should give
us wages for our work (especially seeing that he was the one who gave us the
ability to work). But what a marvel it this—that God should applaud us with
a "Well done!" Think how sweet it will be to hear such a word from God—how
amazing and ravishing, when he shall say openly, "These are the servants of
the most high God! These are those who feared to sin! These are those who
have wept in secret for that which it was not in their power to perform!
These are those who have kept their garments pure—who have valued my favor
above life—who rather choose to honor me than humor men! These are those who
were willing to wash off the stains from the face of religion with their
blood, and to make my crown flourish, though it were in their ashes! Well
done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!" Thus
shall it be done to those whom God delights to honor!
These are those glorious things which are to come! I have
led you to the top of the mount, and given you a prospect of heaven! I have
shown you just a glimpse. I shall say of this glory of heaven, as
once the queen of Sheba said of Solomon's pomp and magnificence, "The half
of it has not been told!"
Chapter 18. The First Inference drawn from the Proposition.
It shows us what a high valuation and esteem we should
set upon the godly. They are, we see, men "greatly in favor with
God," as the angel once proclaimed to Daniel, and they are invested with
glorious privileges. They are of a heavenly descent, born of the Spirit;
they are very rich, for they are heirs of the kingdom! God has not only laid
out some parcels of land, or divided heaven to them, as Canaan was divided
to Israel by lot: the tribe of Judah to inhabit in one country, the tribe of
Reuben in another, etc. God, I say, does not parcel out heaven thus to the
saints. No! heaven is theirs, with all its privileges, blessings, and
royalties. There are no enclosures or fences in heaven; there can be
no confinement where everything is infinite. Oh what a high value and
estimate then should be put upon the saints! they are heirs of God! How does
the world respect great heirs! What honor then should we give to the godly!
They are adopted into all the stately privileges of heaven. How rich is he
when possessed of the inheritance! How rich shall the saints be, when God
shall pour out of his love, and shall empty all the treasures of glory into
them! The saints are jewels—but their worth and riches are not known;
therefore they are trampled upon by the world. "It does not yet appear what
they shall be!" All things are theirs!
Chapter XIX. The Second Inference drawn from the Proposition.
It shows us a main difference between the godly and the
wicked. he godly man has all his best things to come.
The wicked man has all his worst things to come. As their
way is different, so their end. "You in your lifetime received
your good things." The wicked have all their good things here on earth;
their worst things are to come. Why—what is to come? The apostle answers, 1
Thes. 1:10, "Wrath to come!" And here I shall briefly show you the wicked
man's charter—which consists in five things.
Section 1. The first thing to come, is the awakening of
conscience. Conscience is God's deputy in the soul, his viceroy.
A wicked man does what he can to unthrone conscience, and put it out of
office. Conscience is God's echo, and sometimes it is so shrill and
clamorous, that the sinner cannot endure the noise—but silences conscience.
By frequent sinning, conscience begins to be sleepy and seared; "having
their conscience seared with a hot iron," 1 Tim. 4:2. This conscience is
quiet—but not good; for the silence of conscience proceeds from the numbness
of it. It is with him as with a sick patient, who having a confluence of
diseases upon him—yet being asleep, is insensible of his diseases.
Time was when conscience was tender—but by often sinning,
he is like the ostrich which can digest iron; or as it is said of
Mithridates, that by often accustoming his body to poison, it never hurt
him—but he could live upon it as his food. That sin which was before as the
wounding of the sensitive eye; now is no more painful than the cutting of
the finger nail.
Well, there is a time coming when this sleepy conscience
shall be awakened! Belshazzar was drinking wine in bowls, when "the fingers
of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king's palace. The king
himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fear! Such
terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way
beneath him!" There conscience began to be awakened.
Conscience is like a looking-glass; if it is foul and
dusty, you can see nothing in it; but wipe away the dust, and you may see
your face in it clearly. There is a time coming, when God will wipe off the
dust from the looking-glass of a man's conscience, and he shall see his sins
clearly represented! Conscience is like a sleeping lion; when he awakes—he
roars and tears his prey. When conscience awakes, then it roars upon a
sinner, and tears him!—as the devil did the man into which he entered; he
"rent him, and threw him into the fire." When Moses' rod was turned into a
serpent, he was afraid and fled from it. Oh what is it when conscience is
turned into a serpent!
Conscience is like the bee, if a man does well—then
conscience gives honey, it speaks comfort; if he does evil—it puts forth a
sting. Conscience is called a worm, Mark 9:44, "where the worm never dies."
It is like Prometheus' vulture, it is ever gnawing. Conscience is God's
bloodhound, which pursues a man. When the jailor saw the prison doors
open, and, as he thought, the prisoners were missing, he drew his sword and
would have killed himself. Just so, when the eye of conscience is opened,
and the sinner begins to look about him for his evidences, faith,
repentance, etc. and sees they are missing, he will be ready to kill
himself! A troubled conscience is the first-fruits of hell; indeed it is a
lesser hell. That it is so, appears two ways:
1. By the testimony of scripture. Proverbs 18:14, "A
wounded spirit who can bear?" a wound in the name, in the estate, in the
body, is sad; but a wound in the conscience, who can bear? especially when
the wound can never be healed—I speak of such as awake in the night of
2. By the experience both of good and bad.
A. By the experience of good men; when the storm
has risen in their conscience (though afterwards it has been allayed) yet
for the present, they have been in the suburbs of hell. David complains of
his broken bones, he was like a man that had all his bones out of joint.
What is the matter? You may see where his pain lay, Psalm 51:3, "My sin is
ever before me!" He was in a spiritual agony: it was not the sword which
threatened; it was not the death of the child—but it was the roarings of his
conscience! Some of God's arrows fast stuck there! Though God will not damn
his children—yet he may send them to hell in this life!
B. By the experience of bad men, who have been in
the perpetual convulsions of conscience. "I have sinned!" says Judas.
Before, he was nibbling at the silver bait—the thirty pieces. But now the
hook troubles him, conscience wounds him. Such was Judas' horror,
being now like a man upon the rack, that he hangs himself to quiet his
conscience. This shows what the hell of conscience is; that men account
death easy—to get rid of conscience; but in vain. It is with them as with a
sick man, he moves out of one room into another, and changes the air—but
still he carries his disease with him. O sinner, what will you do when
conscience will begin to fly upon you, and shall probe you with scourgings?
It is a mercy when conscience is awakened in time; but the misery is when
the wound is too late, there being then, no balm in Gilead.
Section 2. The second thing to come is, his appearing
before the judge. "For we must all appear before the
judgment-seat of Christ." Hierome thought he ever heard that sounding in his
ears, "Arise you dead, and come to judgment!" What solemnity is there at
court, when the judge comes to the bench, and the trumpets are sounded! Thus
Christ the Judge shall be accompanied with angels and archangels, and the
trumpets shall be blown; 1 Thess. 4:16, "For the Lord himself shall descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the
trumpet of God!" This is the great and general judgement. Then shall Christ
sit down upon the throne of judgement, holding his sword in his hand, and a
flame coming out of his mouth. Now the sinner being summoned before him as a
prisoner at bar, he has his guilt written in his forehead; he is condemned
before he comes, I mean in his conscience, which is the petty judgement; and
appearing before Christ, he begins to tremble and be amazed with horror! And
not being covered with Christ's righteousness, for lack of a better
covering, he cries to the mountains to cover him! "And the kings and the
great men said to the mountains and rocks—fall on us, and hide us from the
face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!" Nothing
so dreadful as the sight of mercy abused. Now the Lamb will be
turned into a Lion; and he who was once a Savior will be a
Section 3. The third thing to come is, his charge read.
"I will reprove you, and set your sins in order before you," Psalm 50:21. As
God has a bottle for the tears of his people; so he has a book to register
men's sins, Rev. 20:12, "the books were opened." Oh what a black charge will
be read against a sinner! not only the sins which have damnation written in
their forehead—such as drunkenness, swearing, blasphemy, shall be brought
into the charge—but those sins which he slighted, as,
1. Secret sins, such as the world never took
notice of. Many a man does not forsake his sins—but grows more cunning in
concealing them. His heart gives as much vent to sin as ever. His care is
rather that sin should be concealed, than cured. He is like
him who shuts up his shop windows—but follows his trade within doors; he
sits brooding upon sin. He does with his sins, as Rachel did with her
father's idols, she put them under her that he might not find them; so does
he put his sins in a secret place. But all these sins shall be set in order
before him! Luke 12:2, "For there is nothing covered that shall not be
revealed!" God has a key for the heart!
2. Little sins, as the world calls them. The
majesty of God—against which it is committed, does accent and enhance the
sin. Besides, little sins (suppose them so) yet multiplied, become great!
What is less than a grain of sand? Yet when multiplied, what is heavier than
the sands of the sea? A little sum multiplied, is great. A little sin,
unrepented of, will damn! Just as one leak in the ship, if it be not looked
to, will sink it. You would think it is no great matter to merely forget
God—yet it has a heavy doom, "Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue!" Psalm 50:22. "The wicked
shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."
Psalms 9:17. The non-improvement of talents, the world looks upon as
a small thing; yet we read of him who "hid his talent in the earth," Matt.
25:25. He had not wasted it. Only not trading it, is sentenced. "You
wicked and lazy servant!" "Now throw this useless servant into outer
darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
3. Sins that in the eye of the world were looked upon as
virtues; sins that were colored and masked over with zeal of God,
and good intentions, etc. Men put fine glosses upon their sins, that they
may obtain credit, and be the more commendable. It is said of Alcibiades,
that he embroidered a curtain with lions and eagles, that he might hide the
picture underneath, full of witches and satyrs. So does Satan embroider the
curtain with the image of virtue, that he may hide the foul picture of sin
underneath. The devil is like the spider—first she weaves her web, and then
hangs the fly in it. Just so, the devil helps men to weave the web of sin
with religious pretenses, and then he hangs them in the snare! All these
sins shall be read in the sinner's charge, and set in order before him!
SECTION 4. The next thing is, the passing of the
sentence. Matt. 25:41, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into
the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" At the hearing of
this sentence, the heart of a sinner will be rent through with horror; that
heart which before would not break with sorrow for sin, shall now
break with despair. At the pronouncing of this dreadful sentence,
"depart from me," the sinner would be glad if he could depart from himself,
and be annihilated. O it will be a sad departing! We use to say, when a man
is dead, he is departed. But this will be a departing without
a deceasing. As soon as Christ has pronounced the curse, the sinner
will begin to curse himself. "Oh what have I been doing! I have lain in wait
for my own blood! I have twisted the noose of my own damnation!" While he
lived, he blessed himself; "oh how happy am I, how does providence smile
upon me!" Psalm 49:18, "Though while he lived he blessed his soul," yet when
this sentence is passed, he is the first who will curse himself.
SECTION 5. The pouring out of the vial. Psalm
75:8, "For the Lord holds a cup in his hand; it is full of foaming wine
mixed with spices. He pours the wine out in judgment, and all the wicked
must drink it, draining it to the dregs!" This is the sad execution. Hell
is pictured out by Tophet, Isaiah 30:33, which was a place
situated near Jerusalem, where they offered their children in the fire to
Moloch. This is a fit metaphor to picture out the infinite torments of
hell—the sinner shall lie in the furnace of God's wrath, and the breath of
the Lord, as a pair of bellows, shall blow the fire!
Hell is said to be prepared, as if God had been
sitting down to study and devise some exquisite torment. Hell is pictured
out as fire, and in another place by darkness—to show that
hell is a fire without light. The hypocrite, while he lived, was all light,
no fire; and in hell he shall be all fire, no light! In hell there is
nothing to give comfort! There is no music but the shrieks of the damned!
There is no wine but what is burnt with the flame of God's wrath: "There
shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth!" The weeping hypocrite
shall go to the place of weeping: while he lived, he lifted up his eyes in a
false devotion, and now being in hell he shall lift up his eyes in torment.
He who gnashed his teeth at the godly, shall now have gnashing enough!
Before he gnashed in envy—now in despair—and this forever!
"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" The
word unquenchable scorches hotter than the fire! The fire of hell is
like that stone in Arcadia, I have read of, which being once kindled, could
not be extinguished. Eternity is the hell of hell! The loss of the soul is
irreparable! If all the angels in heaven should put together a purse, they
could not make up this loss. When a sinner is in hell, shall another Christ
be found to die for him? or will the same Christ be crucified again? Oh no!
They are everlasting burnings!
Thus the sinner has all worst things to come; but a
believer has all his best things to come—the things which eye has not seen,
nor ear heard, namely, the beatific vision, the crystal streams of joy that
run at God's right hand! His heaven is to come!
Chapter 20. A Serious Scrutiny about the Believer's Charter.
I hear, methinks, a Christian say, "Great are the
privileges of a believer; but I fear I have no title to this glorious
charter." Were there a dispute about our estate, whether such an inheritance
did belong to us, we would desire that there should be a trial in law to
decide it. Here is a large inheritance, 'things present and things to
come;' but the question is—whether we are the true heirs to whom it
belongs? Now for the deciding this, we must seriously examine what right we
have to Christ; for all this estate is made over to us through Christ. "All
things are yours, and you are Christ's"—there comes in the title. Jesus
Christ is the great treasury and storehouse of a Christian, he has purchased
heaven with his blood. If we can say we are Christ's, then we may say, "all
things are ours!"
Question. But how shall we know that we are Christ's?
Answer. Those that are Christ's—Christ is in them, 2 Cor.
13:5. "Know you not that Christ is in you?"
Question. But how shall we know that?
Answer. If we are in the faith. It is observable, before
the apostle had said, "Know you not that Christ is in you"; first he puts
this query, "Examine whether you are in the faith." Christ is in you, if you
are in the faith. Here lies the question, Have you faith? Now for the
deciding this, I shall show,
The antecedents, the concomitants, the genuine act, and
the fruits of faith.
Section 1. Showing the ANTECEDENTS of Faith.
1. Antecedent to faith, is KNOWLEDGE. Faith is
an intelligent grace; though there can be knowledge without faith—yet there
can be no faith without knowledge. "Those who know your name will put their
trust in you," Psalm 9:10. One calls it, quick-sighted faith.
Knowledge must carry the torch before faith, 2 Tim. 1:12, "For I know whom I
have believed." As in Paul's conversion, a light from heaven 'shined round
about him," Acts 9:3; so before faith be wrought, God shines in with a light
upon the understanding. A blind faith is as bad as a dead
faith. That eye may as well be said to be a good eye, which is without
sight; as that faith is good, which is without knowledge. Devout
ignorance damns! This condemns the church of Rome, which teaches that
ignorance is the mother of devotion! But surely, where the sun is set in
the understanding, it must needs be night in the affections. So necessary is
knowledge to the being of faith, that the scriptures do sometimes baptize
faith with the name of knowledge, Isaiah 53:11, "By his knowledge shall my
righteous servant justify many;" knowledge is put there for faith. This
knowledge which is antecedent to faith and does usher it in, consists in the
apprehension of four things: the soul through this optic glass of knowledge
1. The soul, by faith, sees a PRECIOUSNESS in Christ,
"he is the chief of ten thousand." There is nothing in Christ but what is
precious: he is precious in his name, in his nature, in his influences, in
his privileges. He is called a precious stone, Isaiah 28:16. He must needs
be a precious stone—who has made us living stones, 1 Pet. 2:5.
2. The soul, by faith, sees a FULLNESS in Christ,
the fullness of the Godhead. Col. 2:9, "all fullness," Col. 1:19. Christ has
a fullness of merit—his blood is able to satisfy God's justice.
Christ has a fullness of spirit—his grace able to supply our needs.
3. The soul, by faith, sees a SUITABLENESS in Christ;
nothing can be satisfactory but what is suitable. If a man is hungry, bring
him fine flowers, this is not suitable; he desires food. If he be sick,
bring him music, this is not suitable, he desires medicine. In this sense
there is a suitableness in Christ to the soul: there is a fitness as
well as a fullness. He is (as Origen speaks) everything which is
desirable. If we hunger, he is the food of the soul, therefore he is called
the bread of life. If we are sick unto death, his blood is the balm of
Gilead. He may be compared to the trees of the sanctuary, which were both
for food and medicine, Ezek. 47:12.
4. The soul, by faith, sees a propensity and readiness in
Christ to GIVE out his fullness. There is bounty in Christ
as well as beauty. Isaiah 55:1, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come
to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine
and milk without money and without cost!" Behold, at what a low price does
God set his heavenly blessings! it is but thirsting: bring but
desires. Behold the readiness in Christ to dispense and give out his
fullness: "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" A
strange kind of buying! As he is all fullness, so he is all sweetness—he
is of a noble and generous disposition. This is the enticer of the
affections; this draws the eyes and heart of a sinner after him. What are
the promises—but Christ's golden scepter held forth? What are the motions of
the Spirit—but Jesus Christ coming a wooing?
Such a knowledge of Christ does necessarily precede and
go before faith; now the soul begins to move towards him.
2. The second antecedent to faith is CREDENCE;
a setting our seal to the truth of the word; a giving credit to that which
the Word asserts concerning Christ: namely, that he is the true Messiah,
that there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved; that
whoever believes in him shall not perish; that he delights in mercy. It is
delightful to the mother to have her breasts drawn. Just so, it is pleasing
to Christ, that sinners should draw the breasts of the promises. An assent,
and giving credence to all that the scripture holds forth concerning Christ,
is necessary to precede faith. Dogmatic faith goes before
3. The third preparatory or antecedent to faith, is deep
CONVICTION and HUMILIATION. The seed that lacked depth of earth
withered; so will that faith which is not laid in deep humiliation.
Christ is never sweet, until sin is bitter! He never gives ease, but to
those who feel their burden, Matt. 11:28. Indeed, until a man feels his
burden, he cannot cast it upon Christ. A man must see himself as lost. Many
are lost for lack of knowing their lostness. Acts 2:37, "they were pricked
at their hearts," etc. as if a balloon were pricked and the wind let out.
Just so, the swelling of pride, was let out by humiliation, Romans 7:9,
"when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." As if Paul had said,
"when the law of God came, and showed me the spots of my soul, sin revived;
that is—sin began to appear in its bloody colors, striking horror and
amazement into my soul, and I died! The good opinion which before I had of
myself—died!" As it was with the people of Israel, they saw the Red Sea
before them, and Pharaoh pursuing behind. So the sinner after some legal
bruisings, being affrighted, sees the sea of his sins before ready to
swallow him up, and the justice of God pursuing and ready to overtake him,
and no way to extricate or help himself; only there is a brazen serpent
lifted up, and if he can look upon that, he may be saved!
4. The fourth antecedent to faith is self-renunciation,
or a disclaiming and renouncing anything in a man's self that can save. This
is certain—before a man can come to Christ, he must come out of himself.
Before he can trust in Christ, he must despair in himself; Phil. 3:7, "Not
having my own righteousness." Men would like to have something of their own,
to trust to. They would bow down to their own righteousness, their duties
and moralities, Romans 10:3. Oh but if you will lean on Christ—throw away
these rotten crutches! You must use duty, as the dove did her
wings—to fly. But trust to Christ the ark—for safety. A man must be
first transplanted; he must be taken out of the old soil, and have nothing
of his own to grow upon, before he can be engrafted into Christ the true
olive tree. As the angel said to Mary when she looked for Christ in the
sepulcher, "he is not here," Matt. 28:6, so I may say to that man who seeks
to make a Christ of his duties, and moral excellencies, "Christ is not here,
you must look higher! Salvation is not to be found within you—but in
something without you, in something above you."
5. The fifth antecedent, or that which goes before faith,
is a secret persuasion in the soul of man, that Christ is willing to show
mercy to him in particular. Mark 10:49, "Arise, he calls you."
Just so, the Spirit secretly whispers to the soul, "Arise out of your sins,
Jesus Christ calls you! He bids you believe in him." Then the soul begins to
think thus, "Did Jesus Christ come to save sinners, such as are humble and
penitent? Does he not only invite them—but command them to believe in him, 1
John. 3:23. Then why do I not believe? What is it which keeps me off from
Christ? Is it my unworthiness? Behold there is merit enough in Christ to
make me worthy! Is it my impurity? "The blood of Jesus cleanses from all
sin," 1 John 1:7. His blood is a balsam to heal me, a laver to wash me!
Though I have nothing whereby to ingratiate myself into his favor—yet my
comfort is, that Jesus Christ does not require that I should carry anything
to him—but, fetch everything from him. I need carry no water to this well of
salvation—only an empty vessel—only a humble broken heart. If God justifies
the ungodly—why should I hold off from Christ any longer? Romans 4:5. Why
then should not I think that there is mercy for me? Surely there is!
Methinks I see Christ beckoning to me to come to him, methinks I hear the
soundings of his affections. These are the preparations to faith.
SECTION 2. Showing the ATTENDANTS of faith.
1. CONSENT is the first attendant of faith.
The soul now consents to have Christ, and to have him upon his own terms.
1. As a Head. The head has a double office—it
is the fountain of spirits, and the seat of government. The head is, as it
were, the pilot of the body, it rules and steers it in its motion. The
believer consents to have Christ, not only as a head to send forth spirits,
that is comfort—but as a head to rule. A hypocrite would take Christ's
promises—but not his laws. He would be under Christ's
benediction—but not his jurisdiction. A believer consents to have
whole Christ; he does not pick and choose. As he expects to one day to sit
down with Christ upon the throne, so he now makes his heart Christ's throne.
2. The believer consents to have Christ for better for
worse—a naked Christ, a persecuted Christ; for he sees a beauty
and glory—in the reproaches of Christ, 1 Pet. 4:14, and will have Christ not
only in his royal purple—but when with John Baptist he is clothed in camel's
hair. He can embrace the fire—if Christ is in it. He looks upon the cross
as Jacob's ladder by which he ascends up to heaven. He says, "Blessed be
that affliction, welcome that cross—which carries Christ upon
3. He consents to have Christ purely for love.
If the wife should give her consent only for her husband's riches,
she would marry his estate rather than his person; it were not
properly to make a marriage with him—but rather to make a
merchandise of him. The believer consents for love. He loves Christ for
Christ. Heaven without Christ is not a sufficient dowry for a believer;
there is no ulterior motive in his consent—it is not sinister; there is
nothing forced—it is not for fear; that would rather be a constraint
than consent; a forced consent will not hold in law. The believer's
consent is voluntary; the beauty of Christ's person and the sweetness of his
disposition draws the will, which as the master-wheel, carries the whole
soul with it.
4. The believer consents to have Christ, never more to
part. He would have an uninterrupted communion with him. He will
part with life—but not with Christ. Death, when it slips the knot between
the soul and the body—it ties it faster between the soul and Christ!
5. The believer does so consent to have Christ, as he
makes a deed of gift—resigning up all the interest in himself, to Christ.
He is willing to lose his own name, and surname himself by the name of
Christ. He is willing to lose his own will and be wholly at Christ's
disposal, 1 Cor. 6:19. He resigns up his love to Christ. In this sense the
spouse is said to be a spring shut up, Cant. 4:12; she has love for
relations—but the best of her love is kept for Christ. The world has the
milk of her love—but Christ has the cream of it. The choicest and
purest of her love is a spring shut up; it is broached only for
Christ to drink!
2. The second attendant of faith is DESIRE.
Psalm 42:1, "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul
after you, O God!" "Oh!" (says the soul) "that I had Christ, that I might
but touch the hem of his garment!" "Oh that one would give me drink of the
water of the well of Bethlehem!" 2 Sam. 23:15. So says the thirsty sinner,
"Who will give me to drink of those streams of living water, which run in
Christ's blood? O that I had this morning star—to enlighten me! O that I had
this pearl of great price—to enrich me! O that I this tree of life—to
quicken me. Oh that I had a sight of Christ's beauty, a taste of his
sweetness! There is such a thirst raised in the soul, that nothing can
quench it but the blood of Christ! Nothing but the breast will quiet the
child; nothing will quiet the longing soul—but God's opening the breasts of
free-grace, and giving his Son out of his bosom!
3. The third attendant of faith is a spirit of
CONTRITION. The soul is even melted into tears, Zech. 12:10,
"They shall look upon me whom they have pierced—and shall mourn!" The Spirit
of grace drops as dew upon the heart, and makes it soft and tender. The poor
sinner weeps for his sins of unkindness against Christ! "Oh," says he, "that
I should sin against so sweet a Savior!" He looks upon a broken Christ with
a broken heart! He washes Christ's wounds with his tears! Before, he wept
for fear; now, he weeps for love! Mary stood at Jesus feet—weeping!
Section 3. Showing the genuine ACT of Faith.
Then follows the genuine and proper act of faith, namely
recumbency. The soul rests upon Christ, and Christ alone for
salvation. This is the very door by which we enter into heaven. Faith casts
itself upon Christ, as a man that casts himself upon the stream to swim. The
believer stays himself upon Christ, therefore faith is called a "leaning
upon Christ," Cant. 5:8. Believers are called living stones, 1 Pet. 2:5, and
they rest upon Christ the corner-stone, Isaiah 28:16. The believer caches
hold of Christ, as Adonijah caught hold of the horns of the altar, 1 Kings
1:51, or as a man that is sinking caches hold of a bough. Faith makes a holy
venture upon Christ, as Queen Esther did upon king Ahasuerus, "If I perish,
I perish!" Esther 4:16; and this venturing upon Christ, is by virtue of a
promise: else it is not faith—but presumption. Faith has its warrant
in its hand, John 6:37, "he who comes to me, I will never cast out."
This is the proper act of faith—the soul's resting with a
humble affiance upon Jesus Christ. Bernard, being a little before his death
(as he thought) brought before God's tribunal, and Satan standing at his
right hand to accuse him for his sins, he runs to Christ, and he says,
"Satan I am sinful and unworthy as you say—but though you do magnify my
disease, I will magnify my physician. I know the Lord Jesus has a double
right to the kingdom of glory, not only by heritage—but conquest; and he has
conquered for me. So that I am not confounded while I look on Christ as my
Savior, and heaven as my inheritance!" It was a saying of Augustine, "I can
rest securely, while I lay my head on Christ's bleeding side."
Now concerning this faith I shall lay down two rules.
1. That faith justifies not as a formal cause—but purely
as an instrument, namely, as it lays hold on Christ the blessed
object, and fetches in his fullness. In this sense it is called a precious
faith. But the worth lies not in the faith—but in Christ, on
which it does center and terminate. Faith in itself considered, is not more
excellent than other graces. Take a piece of wax, and a piece of gold of the
same magnitude, the wax is not valuable with the gold; but as the wax seals
the label of some will, by virtue of which a great estate is confirmed and
conveyed, so it may be of more worth than the gold. So faith considered
purely in itself, does challenge nothing more than other graces, nay in some
sense, it is inferior, it being an empty hand. But as this hand
receives the precious alms of Christ's merits, and is an instrument or
channel through which the blessed streams of life flow to us from him; so it
does challenge a superiority above other graces.
Indeed, some affirm that the very act of believing,
without reference to the merits of Christ, justifies. To which I shall say
1. Faith cannot justify, as it is an act; for it
must have an object. We cannot (if we make good sense) separate between the
act and the object. What is faith, if it does not fix upon Christ—but
fancy! It was not the people of Israel's looking up that cured
them—but the fixing their eye upon the brazen serpent!
2. Faith does not justify, as it is a grace. This
would be to substitute faith in Christ's place, it were to make a savior
of faith. Faith is a good grace—but a bad savior!
3. Faith does not justify, as it is a work. Which
must needs be, if the stress and virtue of faith lies only in the act, but
then we should be justified by works, which is contrary to Eph. 2:9, where
the apostle says expressly, "not of works." So that it is clear, faith's
excellency lies in the apprehending and applying the object Christ!
Therefore in scripture we are said to be justified through faith—as
an instrument which lays hold on Christ the blessed object, and
fetches in his fullness.
2. The second rule is, that faith does not justify, as it
exercises grace. It cannot be denied but faith has an influence
upon the graces; it is like a silver thread which runs through a chain of
pearls. Faith puts strength and vivacity into all the virtues; but it does
not justify under this notion. Faith begets obedience. By faith
Abraham obeyed—but Abraham was not justified because he obeyed—but as he
believed. Faith works by love—but it does not justify as it works by
love. For as the sun shines by its brightness, not by its heat (though both
are inseparably joined); so faith and love are tied together by an
indissoluble knot. Yet faith does not justify as it works by love—but as it
lays hold on Christ. Though faith is accompanied with all the graces—yet in
point of justification, it is alone, and has nothing to do with any of the
graces. Hence that speech of Luther, "In the justification of a sinner,
Christ and faith are alone; as the bridegroom and bride in the bed-chamber."
Faith is never separated from the graces—yet sometimes it is alone. And thus
I have shown you the essentials of faith.
Section 4. Showing what are the FRUITS and Products of
I proceed to the products of faith. There are many
rare and supernatural fruits of faith.
1. Faith is a HEART-QUICKENING grace. It is
the vital artery of the soul: "The just shall live by his faith," Hab. 2:4.
When we begin to believe, we begin to live. Faith grafts the soul into
Christ, as the scion into the stock, and fetches all its sap and juice from
the blessed vine. Faith is the great quickener; it quickens our graces and
Faith quickens our graces. The Spirit of God
infuses all the seeds and habits—but faith is the fountain of all the
acts of grace; it is as the spring in the watch, which moves the wheels. Not
a grace stirs, until faith sets it to work. How does love work? By
faith! When I apprehend
by faith, Christ's love to me—this attracts and draws up
my love to
Him in return. How does humility work? By faith!
Faith humbles the soul; it has a double aspect; it looks upon sin, and a
sight of sin humbles: it looks upon free-grace, and a sight of mercy
humbles. How does patience work? By faith! If I believe God is a wise
God, who knows what is best for me, and can deliver not only from
affliction—but by affliction. This spins out patience. Thus faith is
not only alive—but gives life. It puts forth a divine energy and operation
into all the graces.
2. Faith animates and quickens our DUTIES.
What was the blood of bulls and goats, to take away sin? It was their faith
in the Messiah which made their dead sacrifices become living sacrifices.
What are ordinances, but a dumb show, without the breathings of faith in
them? therefore in scripture it is called the prayer of faith, the
hearing of faith, and the obedience of faith. Dead things have no
beauty in them; it is faith which quickens and beautifies our duties.
3. Faith is a HEART-PURIFYING grace. "Having
purified their hearts by faith," Acts 15:9. Faith is a virgin grace, of a
pure and heavenly nature. Faith is in the soul, as the storm, which purifies
the air. Faith is in the soul, as fire to the metals, which refines them.
Faith is in the soul, as medicine in the body, which works out the disease.
Faith works out pride, self-love, hypocrisy. Faith consecrates the heart.
That which was before the devil's thoroughfare, is now made into God's
enclosure; 1 Tim. 3:9, "Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience."
Faith is a heavenly plant, which will not grow in an impure soil. Faith does
not only justify—but sanctify. As it has one work in heaven, so it has
another work in the heart. He who before was under the power of some
debasing corruption, as soon as faith is wrought, there is a sacred virtue
coming from Christ, for the enervating and weakening of that sin: "the
waters are abated." The woman that did but touch the hem of Christ's
garment, felt virtue coming out of him. The touch of faith has a healing
power! Faith casts the devil out of the castle of the heart, though still he
keeps the out-works. Satan has a party in a believer—but there is a duel
fought every day: and faith will never give up, until, as a prince, it
prevails. "This is the faith of God's elect."
You that say you Believe, has your faith removed the
mountain of sin, and cast it into the sea? What, a believer—and a drunkard!
A believer—and a swearer! A believer—and a worldling! Shame! Either leave
your sins, or leave your profession! Faith and the love of sin can no
more exist together, than light and darkness.
4. Faith is a HEART-PACIFYING grace. Peace is
the daughter of faith, Romans 5:1. "Being justified by faith—we have peace
with God." Faith is the dove that brings an olive branch of peace in its
mouth. Faith presents a reconciled God—and that gives peace. What is it
which makes heaven—but the smile of God? Faith puts the soul into Christ—and
there is peace. "That in me—you may have peace." When the conscience
is in a fever, and burns as hell, faith opens the orifice in Christ's side,
and sucks in his blood—which has a cooling and pacifying virtue in it!
Faith gives us peace in trouble; nay, out
of trouble as well!
1. Faith gives peace in trouble. Faith is a
heart-pacifying, because a heart-securing grace. When Noah was in the ark,
he did not fear the deluge; he could sing in the ark. Faith shuts a believer
into the ark, Christ! "Lead me to the rock which is higher than I," was
David's prayer. Faith plants the soul upon this rock. The West Indians built
their palaces upon the tops of hills: in the flood the waters covered the
hills. But a believer is built higher: "These are the ones who will dwell on
high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress of safety." Isaiah
33:16. His place of defense shall be the munition of rocks. But a man may
starve upon a rock; therefore it follows, "Food will be supplied to them,
and they will have water in abundance." Faith builds a Christian upon the
power, wisdom, and faithfulness of God—this is the munition of rocks. And
faith feeds him with the hidden manna of God's love—here is bread given him.
The way to be safe in evil times, is to get faith; this ushers in peace, and
it is such a peace as does garrison the heart, Phil. 4:7. "The peace of God
shall guard your heart"; it shall guard it as in a tower or garrison.
2. Faith gathers peace out of trouble. It gathers
joy out of sorrow; glory out of reproach. This is the key to Samson's
riddle, "out of the eater came meat"; this explains that paradox, "Can a man
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" Yes, of trials and
persecutions, faith gathers joy and peace: here are figs of thistles. How
were the martyrs ravished in the flames! the Apostles were whipped in
prison—but it was with sweet-briar. O how sweet is that peace which faith
breeds! it is a plant of the heavenly paradise; it is a Christian's
festival! it is his music: it is as Chrysostom speaks, the anticipation of
5. Faith is a HEART-STRENGTHENING grace. A
believer has a heart of oak—he is strong to resist temptation, to bear
afflictions, to foil corruptions; he gives check to them, though not
full mate. An unbeliever is like Rueben, unstable as water, he shall
not excel. A state of unbelief is a state of impotency. A believer is as
Joseph, who though the archers shot at him, his bow abode in strength. If a
Christian is to do anything, he consults with faith; this is the sinew,
which if it be cut, all his strength goes from him. When he is called out to
suffering, he harnesses himself with faith—he puts on this coat of armor.
Faith gives suffering strength, furnishes the soul with suffering
promises, musters together suffering graces, and propounds
But how is it, that faith is so strong?
Answer. 1. Because it is a piece of God's armor. It
is a shield which God puts into our hand. Eph. 6:16, "Above all, taking the
shield of faith." A shield will serve for a breast-plate; a sword, if need
be; and a helmet; it defends the head, it guards the vitals; such a shield
Answer. 2. Faith brings the strength of Christ into the
soul. Phil. 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens
me." The strength of faith lies outside of itself, it grafts upon another
stock—Christ. When it would have wisdom, it consults with Christ,
whose name is Wonderful, Counselor. When it would have strength, it
goes to Christ, who is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Christ is a
Christian's armory, faith is the key that unlocks it! Faith hangs upon the
lock of Christ, all its strength lies here; cut it off from this lock, and
it is weaker than any other grace. Christ may be compared to that tower of
David, on which there hung a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men:
the faith of all the elect, these shields hang upon Christ. Faith is a
heroical grace; the crown of martyrdom is set upon the head of faith. "By
faith they quenched the violence of the fire"; the fire overcame their
bodies—but their faith overcame the flame.
5. Faith is a LIFE-FRUCTIFYING grace. It is
fruitful. Julian, upbraiding the Christians, said, that their motto was, "only
believe." Indeed, when faith is alone, and views all the rare beauties
in Christ, then faith sets a low value and esteem upon works. But when faith
goes abroad in the world, good works are the handmaids which wait on this
queen! Though we place faith in the highest orb, in matter of
justification—yet good works are in conjunction with it—in matter of
sanctification. It is no wrong to good works—to give faith the
upper hand, which goes hand in hand with Christ. Good works are not
separated from faith—only faith claims the higher rank. Faith believes as
if it did not work, and it works as if it did not believe. Faith has
Rachel's clear eye, and Leah's fruitful womb! Romans 7:4, "That you should
be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead—that you
should bring forth fruit unto God." Faith is that spouse-like grace which
marries Christ; and good works are the children which faith bears.
Thus having briefly shown you the nature of faith, I now
come to the application: Have you true faith or not?
And here let me turn myself, first to unbelievers,
such as cannot find that they have this uniting, this espousing grace. What
shall I say to you? Go home and mourn; think with yourselves, "What if you
should die this night? what if God should send you a letter of summons to
judgement? "What would become of you? You lack that faith, which entitles
you to Christ and heaven! Oh, I say, mourn! Yet mourn not as those who are
without hope, for in the use of means, you may recover a title
to Christ. I know it is otherwise in our law-courts; if a title to an estate
is once lost, it can never be recovered. But it is otherwise here; though
you have no title to Christ today—yet you may recover a title: you have not
sinned away the hope of a title, unless you have sinned away the sense of
sinning. To such as are resolved to go on in sin, I have not a word to
say—except that they shall shortly go to hell. But to you that have been
prodigal sons—but are now taking up serious resolutions to give a bill
of divorce to your sins, let me encourage you to come to Christ, and to
throw yourselves upon his blood; for yet a title to heaven is recoverable.
Objection 1. "But," says the sinner, "Is there hope of
mercy for me? surely this is too good news to be true! I would
believe, and repent—but I am a great sinner."
Answer. And whom else does Christ come to save! whom does
God justify—but the ungodly! Did Christ take our flesh on him, and not our
Objection 2. "But my sins are of no ordinary dye."
Answer. And is not Christ's blood of a deeper purple than
your sins? Is there not more virtue in his blood, than there can be
venom in the your sin? What if the devil magnifies your sins?
Can you not magnify your physician? Cannot God drown one sea in
another—your sea of sins, in the ocean of his mercy?
Objection 3. "But my sins are of a long standing."
Answer. Can Christ's blood only heal new and
fresh wounds? We read that Christ raised not only the daughter of Jairus,
who was newly dead, and the widow's son who was carried forth to burying;
but he also Lazarus, who had lain four days in the grave, and had begun to
putrefy! Has Christ less virtue now in heaven, than he had upon earth? if
yours is an old wound—yet the medicine of Christ's blood, applied by
faith, is able to heal it! Therefore, do not sink in these quicksands of
despair! Judas' despair was worse in some sense than his treason. I
would not encourage any to go on in sin, God forbid! It is sad to have
old age and old sins. It is hard to pull up an old tree
that is deeply rooted; it is easier to cut it down for the fire! But let not
such despair: God can give an old sinner a new heart! He can
"make springs in the desert!" Have not others been set forth as
patterns of mercy, who have come in at the twelfth hour? Therefore
break off your league with sin, throw yourself into Christ's arms! Say,
"Lord Jesus, you have said—Those who come to you, you will never cast out!"
2. Let me turn myself to the people of God, such
as upon a serious scrutiny with their own hearts, have solid grounds to
think that they have faith, and being in the faith, are engrafted into
Christ. Read over your charter, "All things are yours!" Things present and
to come! You are the heir on which God has settled all these glorious
privileges. "Give wine," says Solomon, "to those who are of heavy hearts."
But while I am going to pour in this wine of consolation, methinks I hear
the Christian sadly disputing against himself, that he has no right to this