The Christian's Charter
Showing the Privileges of a Believer
by Thomas Watson
"All things are yours!"
1 Corinthians 3:21
Chapter 21. The Believer's Objections answered.
There are three great objections which he makes.
Objection. 1. "Alas!" says he, "I cannot tell
whether I have faith or not."
Answer. Have you no faith? How did you come to see that?
A blind man cannot see. You cannot see the lack of grace—but by the
light of grace.
Question. "But surely, if I had faith I would be able
to discern it?"
Answer 1. You may have faith, and not know it. A man may
sometimes seek for that, which he has in his hand. Mary was with Christ, she
saw him, she spoke with him—yet her eyes were blurred, that she did not know
it was Christ. The child lives in the womb—yet does not know that it lives.
Answer 2. Faith often lies hidden in the heart, and we
see it not, for lack of search. The fire lies hidden in the embers—but blow
aside the ashes, and it is discernable. Faith may be hidden under fears, or
temptations; but blow away the ashes! You prize faith. If had you a thousand
jewels lying by, you would part with all of them—for this jewel of faith! No
man can prize grace—but he who has it. You desire faith; the true desire of
faith, is faith. You mourn for lack of faith; dispute not—but believe! What
are these tears—but the seeds of faith.
Objection. 2. "But my faith is weak. The hand
of faith so trembles, that I fear it will hardly lay hold upon Christ."
Answer. There are seven things which I shall say in reply
1. A little faith is faith; as a sparkle of
fire is fire. Though the pearl of faith be little—yet if it be a true pearl,
it shines in God's eyes. This little grace is the seed of God, and it shall
never die—but live as a sparkle in the main sea.
2. A weak faith will entitle us to Christ, just as well
as a stronger faith. "To those who have obtained like precious
faith," 2 Pet. 1:1. Not but that there are degrees of faith—as faith
sanctifies, so all faith is not alike, one is more than another. But
as faith justifies, so faith is alike precious. The weakest faith
justifies, just as well as the faith of the most eminent saint! A weak hand
is able to receive great alms. For a man to doubt of his grace because it is
weak, is to rely upon his grace, rather than upon Christ.
3. The promise is not made to strong faith—but to true
faith. The promise does not say, Whoever has a faith which can
move mountains, or which can stop the mouths of lions—shall be saved; but
whoever believes—be his faith ever so small. The promise is made to true
faith, and for the most part to weak faith. What is a grain of mustard seed,
what is a bruised reed—but the emblems of a weak faith? Yet the promise is
made to these: "A bruised reed he will not break." The words are a figure of
speech, where the lesser is put for the greater. He will not break, that is,
he will bind it up! Though Christ chides a weak faith—yet that it may not be
discouraged, he makes a promise to it. Hierome observes upon the beatitudes,
there are many of the promises made to weak grace; Matt. 5:3, "Blessed are
the poor in spirit"; "blessed are those who mourn," verse 4,
"blessed are those who hunger," verse 5.
4. A weak faith may be fruitful. Weakest
things may multiply most. The vine is a weak plant, it must be borne up and
under-propped—but it is fruitful; it is made in scripture the emblem of
fruitfulness. The thief on the cross, when he was newly converted, had but a
weak faith; but how many precious clusters grew upon that vine! Luke 23:40.
He chides his fellow-thief, "Do you not fear God?" He falls to self-judging,
"we indeed suffer justly." He makes a heavenly prayer, and believes in
Christ when he says, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!"
Here was a young plant—but very fruitful. Weak Christians often are most
fruitful in affections. How strong is the first love to Christ, which is
after the first planting of faith!
5. A Christian may mistake, and think he is weak in
faith, because he is weak in assurance. But faith
may be strongest—when assurance is weakest. Assurance is
rather the fruit of faith. The woman of Canaan was weak in
assurance—but was strong in faith. Christ gives her three repulses—but her
faith stands the shock. She pursues Christ with a holy obstinacy of faith,
insomuch that Christ sets a trophy of honor upon her faith, "O woman,
great is your faith!" It may be a strong faith, though it does not see
the print of the nails! It is a heroic faith which can swim against wind and
tide, and believe against hope. Christ sets the crown upon the head
of faith—not of assurance! John 20:29, "Blessed are those who have
not seen, and yet have believed."
6. God has most care of weak believers. The
mother tends the weak child the most. "God will gather the lambs with
his arms, and carry them in his bosom." The Lord has a great care of his
weak tribes: when Israel marched towards Canaan, the tribes were divided
into several companies or brigades: now it is observable, all the weak
tribes were not put together, lest they should discourage one another, and
so have fainted in their march. But God puts a strong tribe with two weak
tribes; as Issachar, Zebulun, two weak tribes, and Judah a victorious tribe.
Therefore he gives the lion in his standard. Surely this was not
without a mystery, to show what care God has of his weak children! Christ
the lion of the tribe of Judah shall be joined to them.
7. Weak faith is a growing faith. It is
resembled by the grain of mustard-seed, which, of all seeds, is the least.
But when it is full-grown, it is the "greatest among herbs, and becomes a
tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches." Faith
must have a growing time. The seed springs up by degrees, first the
blade, and then the ear; and then the full corn in the ear. The strongest
faith had once been weak. The faith that has been renowned in the world, was
once in its infancy. Grace is like the waters of the sanctuary, which rose
higher and higher. Wait on the ordinances, these are the breasts to nourish
faith. Do not be discouraged at your weak faith; though it be now in the
blossom and bud, it will come to the full flower.
Objection. 3. "But," says a child of God, "I
fear I am not elected!"
Answer. What! a believer—and not elected? Who told you
that you were not elected? Have you seen your name in the black book of
reprobation? Even the angels cannot unclasp this book—and will you meddle
with it? Which is our duty to study, God's secret will, or his revealed
will? It is a sin for any man to say he is a reprobate—as that which keeps
him in sin, must needs be a sin. This opinion keeps him in sin, it cuts the
sinews of endeavor. Who will take pains for heaven—who gives himself up for
lost? O believer, be of good comfort, you need not look into the book of
God's decree—but look into the book of your heart, see what is written
there! He who finds the Bible copied out into his heart—his nature
transformed, the bias of his will changed, the signature and engravings of
the Holy Spirit upon him—this man does not look like a reprobate!
When you see the fruits of the earth spring up, you
conclude the sun has been there! It is hard to climb up into election. But
if we find the fruits of holiness springing up in our hearts—we may conclude
the Sun of Righteousness has risen there, 2 Thes. 2:13. "God has from the
beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the
Spirit." By our sanctification we must calculate our election.
Indeed, God in saving us, begins at the highest link of the chain, election;
but we must begin at the lowest link of the chain, sanctification, and so
Therefore laying aside all disputes, let me pour in of
the wine of consolation. You who are a believer, (and though you will
not affirm it—yet you cannot deny it without sin) let me do two things, show
you your happiness, then your duty.
1. Behold your happiness! All the things which you
have heard of, present and to come—are your portion and privilege!
What shall I say to you? All my expressions fall short! When I speak of
things to come, I know not how to express myself but by a deep silence and
astonishment. O the magnitude and magnificence of the saints' glory! The
ascent to it is so high, that it is too high for any man's thoughts to
climb! The most sublime spirit, would here be too low and insipid. How happy
are you, O believer! If God himself can make you blessed, you shall be so!
If being invested with Christ's robes, enameled with his beauty, replenished
with his love—if all the dimensions of glory will make you blessed, you
shall be so! O the infinite superlative happiness of a believer! All things
to come are his!
What! To have a partnership with the angels, those
blessed spirits! Nay, to speak with reverence, to have a partnership with
God himself! To be enriched with the same glory which sparkled forth in the
human nature of Christ! How amazing is this! The thoughts of it are
enough to swallow us up! O what an inheritance is he born to, who is
new-born! Suppose he is poor in the world, and despised, I say to him as our
Savior, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God!" All
things to come are yours! Who would not be a believer! O that I might
tempt such to Christ—who as yet hold out against him!
Chapter 23. Showing the DUTIES of a believer—in response to God's
There are several duties which I would press upon
believers; and they branch themselves into ten particulars.
1. If you have such a glorious inheritance to
come—admire, and thankfully adore the love of God in settling this rich
charter upon you! You who are mirrors of mercy should be
monuments of praise. How was David affected with God's goodness? 2
Sam. 7:19, "You have spoken of your servant's house for a great while to
come." So should we say, "Lord, you have not only given us things
present—but you have spoken of your servants for a great while to come, nay,
forever!" It will be a great part of our work in heaven, to admire God; let
us begin to do that work now—which we shall be forever doing.
Adore free grace! Free grace is the hinge on which all
this astonishing mercy turns! Every link in this golden chain is
richly enameled with free grace! Free grace has provided us a plank after
shipwreck. When things past were forfeited—God has given us things to come!
When we had lost paradise—he has provided heaven! Thus are we raised a step
higher—by our fall. Set the crown upon the head of free grace! O to what a
seraphic frame of spirit, should our hearts be raised! How should we join
with angels and archangels in blessing God for this! It is well there is an
eternity coming; and truly that will be little enough time, to praise
Say as that sweet singer of Israel, Psalm 103:1, "Bless
the Lord, O my soul"; or as the original will bear, "Bow the knee, O my
soul, before the Lord!" Thus should a Christian say, "All things in heaven
and earth are mine, God has settled this great portion upon me! Bow the
knee, O my soul!" Praise God with the best instrument, the heart,
and let the instrument be pitched up to the highest pitch—do it with the
whole heart. When God is tuning upon the string of mercy—a Christian
should be tuning upon the string of praise! I have given you a taste
of this new wine—yet so full of spirits is it, that a little of it would
inflame the heart in thankfulness. Let me call upon you, who are the heirs
apparent to this rich inheritance, "Things present and to come;" that you
would get your hearts elevated, and wound up to a thankful frame!
It is not a handsome posture, to see a Christian ever
complaining when things go contrary. O do not so look upon your troubles—as
to forget your mercies. Bless God for what is to come! To heighten your
praises, consider God gives you not only these things—but he gives you
himself! It was Augustine's prayer: "Lord," says he, "Whatever you have
given me, take all away, only give me yourself!" Christian! You have not
only the gift but the Giver! O take the harp and violin! If
you do not bless God—who shall? Where will God get his praise? He has
but a little in the world. Praise is in itself a high angelic work, and
requires the highest spirited Christians to perform it. Wicked men cannot
praise God. Indeed, who can praise God for these glorious privileges to
come—but he who has the seal of the Spirit to assure him that all is his? O
that I might persuade the people of God to be thankful, "make God's praise
glorious." Let me tell you, God is much pleased with this thankful frame.
Repentance is the joy of heaven; but thankfulness is the music of
heaven! Let not God lack his music! Let it not be said, that God has more
murmurers than musicians. "Whoever offers praise, glorifies me."
2. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—LIVE
suitable to these glorious hopes! You who look for things to
come, let me tell you, God looks for something present from you;
namely, that you live suitably to your hopes. "What kind of people ought you
to be?" 2 Pet. 3:21. You have heard what kind of privileges you shall have;
yes—but what kind of people ought you to be! Those who look to differ from
others in their condition, must differ from them also in their
conversation and lifestyle. Therefore beloved, "seeing you look for such
things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot." We
would all be glad to be found of God in peace—then labor to be found
without spot. Spot not your faces, spot not your consciences; live as
those who are the citizens and nobles of this New Jerusalem above. Walk
as Christ did, when he was upon earth. There are three steps, in which we
should follow Christ.
1. Live HOLY. His life was a holy life. "Who
of you convinces me of sin?" Though he was made sin—yet he knew no sin. The
very devils acknowledged his holiness: "We know you who you are—the Holy
One of God." O be like Christ; tread in his steps. In the sacrament, "we
show forth the Lord's death," and in a holy walk, we show forth his life.
The holy oil, with which the vessels of the sanctuary were to be
consecrated, was compounded of the purest ingredients. This was a type and
emblem of that sanctity which should rest upon the godly: their hearts and
lives should be consecrated with the holy oil of the Spirit. Holiness of
life is the ornament of the gospel, it credits religion. Sozomen observes,
that the devout life of a poor captive Christian woman moved a king and his
whole family to embrace the Christian faith. Whereas how does it eclipse,
and as it were, entomb the honor of religion, when men profess they are
going to heaven—yet there is nothing of heaven in them? If there is light in
the lantern—it will shine out. Just so, if grace is in the heart—it will
shine forth in the life.
The looseness of professors lives—is a great sin
to be bewailed. Even those whom we hope (by the rule of charity) have the
sap of grace in their heart—yet do not give forth such a sweet
fragrance in their lives! How many under the notion of Christian liberty,
degenerate into libertinism! The lives of some professors are so bad—that it
would make profane men afraid to embrace the Christian religion!
If a stranger should come from beyond the ocean, and see
the loose lives of many professors—their covetousness, and their
licentiousness; and had he no other Bible to read in, but the lives of some
professors, he would turn back again and resolve never to be made a
Christian. What a shame is this! Did Christ walk thus—when he was upon
earth? His life was a pattern of sanctity! You who are professors, your sins
are sins of unkindness; they go nearest to Christ's heart. Do you
live as those who have hope of eternal felicity? Is Christ preparing heaven
for you—and are you preparing war against him? Is this your kindness to your
friend! O consider how you wound religion! Your sins are worse than others!
A stain in a black cloth is not easily seen or taken notice of; but a
spot in a piece of white linen, everyone's eye is upon it.
The sins of wicked men are not much wondered at,
they can do nothing else but sin—theirs is a spot on black. But a sin in a
professor, this is like a spot on white linen, everyone's eye is upon
it! How does this dishonor the gospel? Is it not sad, that others should
make a rod of your sin—to lash the gospel? The deviation of the godly, is as
odious as the devotion of the profane. O that there were such a luster and
majesty of holiness in the lives of professors, that others might say,
"These look as if they had been with Jesus! They live as if they were in
heaven already!" Aaron must not only have bells for sound—but
pomegranates, which were for savor. It is not enough to
discourse of godliness, or to make a noise by a profession. What are
these bells without the pomegranates; namely, a life which
casts no fragrance in the church of God!
2. Walk as Christ did, in HUMILITY. His life
was a pattern of humility. He was the heir of heaven, the Godhead was in
him, "yet he took on him the form of a servant," Phil. 2:7. O infinite
humility—for a Savior to become a servant; for the Lord of
glory to lay aside his robe, and put on rags; as if a king should leave his
throne, and serve at table! Nay, that is not all—but Christ washes his
disciples' feet. "He poured water into a basin, and began to wash his
disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel," John 13:5. No wonder it
is said that he came in the form of a servant; he stands here with his basin
of water and a towel! Yes, to express the depth of his humility, he was made
in the likeness of men. O how did Christ abase himself in taking flesh! it
was more humility in Christ to humble himself to the womb—than to the
cross. It was not so much for flesh to suffer—but for God to
be made flesh—this was the wonder of humility! We read that Christ's flesh
is called a veil, Heb. 10:20. "Through the veil, his flesh"; indeed the
taking of flesh was the wearing of a veil. By putting this dark veil
upon himself, he eclipsed the glory of the Deity. This was Christ's
"emptying of himself," Phil. 2. The metaphor may allude to a vessel full of
wine that is drawn out; Christ, in whom all fullness dwells, by humility
seemed to be so drawn out, as if there had been nothing left in him. Behold
here a rare pattern of humility!
You who look for the eternal inheritance—tread in this
step of Christ— be humble! Grace shines brightest through the mask of
humility! Humility is such a precious herb as grows not in the garden of
philosophy, that is rather humanity than humility. Humility beautifies us.
The humble saint looks like a citizen of heaven. Humility is the veil of a
Christian: Christ's bride never looks more beautiful in his eyes, than when
she has on this veil of humility. "Be clothed with humility." Or as
the Greek word is, be knotted. Humility is the spangled knot in the
garment of our graces.
Humility sweetens our duties. Incense smells sweetest
when it is beaten small. When the incense of our duties is beaten small with
humility, then it sends forth its most fragrant perfume. The violet is a
sweet flower; it hangs down the head so low, that it can hardly be seen, and
only discovers itself by its scent. This is the emblem of humility.
The humble Christian studies his own unworthiness.
He looks with one eye upon grace—to keep his heart cheerful; and with
the other eye upon sin—to keep it humble. Better is that sin which
humbles me, than that duty which makes me proud! As humility hides another's
error—so it hides its own graces. Humility looks upon
another's virtues—and its own infirmities. The humble man
admires that in another which he slights in himself. He is one who does not
deny only his evil things—but his good things. He is one who
does not deny only his sins but his duties. He desires to have
atonement made even for the pious duties.
The humble Christian is no murmurer—yet he is ever
complaining. The more knowledge he has, the more he complains of
ignorance. The more faith he has, the more he complains of unbelief.
In short, the humble Christian translates all the glory—from himself—to
Christ. Constantine use to write the name of Christ upon his doors. Just so,
does the humble soul write Christ and free-grace upon his duties! "I labored
more abundantly than they all; yet not I—but the grace of God which was with
me!" When he prays, he says—"it is the Spirit who helps my
infirmities." When he mourns for sin, he says, "the Almighty makes my
heart soft." When his heart is in a good frame, he says, "By the
grace of God I am what I am." When he conquers a corruption, he says, "It is
through Christ, who strengthens me."
As Joab, when he had gotten a victory, sends for king
David that he might carry away the crown; just so does the humble Christian,
when he has gotten the victory over a corruption, he sets the crown upon the
head of Christ! O blessed humility! You who look for things above, let me
tell you—the way to ascend is to descend! The lower the
tree roots—the higher it shoots up! Would you shoot up in glory,
would you be tall cedars in the kingdom of God? Be deeply rooted in
humility. Humility is compared by some—to a valley. We must walk to heaven,
through this valley of humility. Humility distinguishes Christ's spouse,
from harlots. Hypocrites grow in knowledge—but not in humility.
"Knowledge puffs up," 1 Cor. 8:1. It is a metaphor taken from a pair of
bellows that are blown up and filled with wind. He who is proud of his
knowledge, the devil cares not how much he knows. It is observable in the
old law, that God hated the very semblance of the sin of pride. He would
have no honey mingled in their offering; "You shall burn no leaven,
nor any honey in any offering of the Lord made by fire," Lev. 2:1. Indeed,
leaven is sour—but what is there in honey that should offend? Why no
honey? because honey, when it is mingled with meal, makes it to rise and
swell: therefore the people of Israel must mingle no honey in their
offering. This was to let us see how God hated the semblance of this sin of
pride. Be humble.
3. Be like Christ in LOVE. Christ's life was a
life of love. He breathed nothing but love; he was full of this sweet
perfume! As his person was lovely, so was his disposition! He was composed
all of love: his lips dropped honey, his side dropped blood,
his heart dropped love. You who expect these glorious things to
come—live as Christ did—live in love! O that this spice might send out its
fragrant smell among Christians! "We know that we have passed from death to
life, because we love the brethren." Do you love the person of
Christ, and hate the picture? "Everyone who loves the Father loves
his children, too." There are two devils which are not fully cast out
of God's own people; the devil of vain-glory, and the devil of
uncharitableness! Are we not fellow-citizens? Do we not all expect the same
heaven? Nay, are we not brethren? This should be a sufficient bond to knit
us together in amity. We have all the same Father, God; we are born of the
same mother, the Church; we are begotten of the same seed, the Word; we suck
the same breasts, the promises; we feed at the same table, the Table of the
Lord; we all wear the same clothing, the Robe of Christ's Righteousness; we
are partners in the same glory, the inheritance of the saints in light.
Shall we not love one another!
You who look for things to come—live suitably to your
hopes! Walk as Christ did, that some of his beams may shine in you, and his
life may be copied out in yours!
3. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—be
content, though you have the less of present things. A
believer is to be valued, according to that which is in eternity. Things to
come are his. If you were to take an estimate of a man's estate—would you
value it by that which he has in his house, or by his land? Perhaps he has
little in his house, little money or decorations. But he has a rich
inheritance coming—there lies his estate. While we are in this house of
clay, we have but little. Many a Christian can hardly keep life and soul
together; but he has a rich inheritance coming! So be content with less of
present things. It is sufficient if we have but enough for our necessities,
until we come to heaven!
An heir who has a great estate beyond the sea, will be
content, though he has but little money for his voyage there! Should not
Hagar have been content, though the water were spent in her bottle, when
there was a well so near? God has given Christ to a believer, and in him all
things, "things present and to come," grace and glory! Is not this enough to
make him content? "But," says the Christian, "I want present comforts."
Consider, the angels in heaven are rich—yet they have no money. You have
things to come—angels' riches, so be content then, with the less of present
things. If you complain of anything—let it be of your complaining.
4. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—labor
for such a high degree of faith, as to make these future blessings, to
become present realities. Faith and hope are two
sisters, and are very alike. But they differ thus; hope looks at the
excellency of the promise, faith looks at the certainty of it.
Now faith looking at the infallible truth of him who promises, thus it makes
things to come, present. Faith does antedate glory; it does substantiate
things not seen. Faith alters the tenses—it puts the future into the present
tense, Psalm 60:7, "Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine, Ephraim
is the strength of my head," etc. Those places were not yet
subdued—but God had spoken in his holiness, he had made David a promise, and
he believed it, therefore he looked upon it as already subdued: Gilead is
mine, etc. "Just so," says faith, "God has spoken in his holiness; he has
made me a promise of things to come; therefore heaven is mine already!"
When one will shortly have the inheritance of a house, he
says, "this house is mine!" O that we had this art of faith, thus to
anticipate heaven, and make things to come present. You who are a
believer—heaven is yours now! Your head is already glorified; nay, heaven is
begun in you—you have some of those joys which are the first fruits of it. A
Christian, by the eye of faith, through the telescope of the promise—may see
into heaven. Faith sees the promise fulfilled before it is fulfilled. Faith
sets it down as already recieved—before it is paid. Had we a vigorous faith,
we might be in heaven before our time! That which a weak believer hopes
for—a strong believer does in some measure, possess. Oh that we could often
take a prospect of the heavenly paradise: "Go, inspect the city of
Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified
walls, and tour all the citadels," Psalm 48:12, 13. So, go and inspect your
heavenly inheritance, see what a glorious situation it is, go count her
towers, see what an inheritance you have! O that every day—we could thus
look by faith into our heavenly inheritance!
Do not say, "all this shall be mine;" but say,
"all this is mine already! My head is there, my faith
is there, my heart is there!" Could we thus, living up to the height
of our faith, realize and enter into things to come—how would all present
things vanish! If a man could live in the sun—the earth would not appear!
When Paul had been enraptured up into the third heaven, the earth
did hardy appear ever after! See how he scorns it, "I am crucified to
the world!" It was a dead thing to him, he had begun heaven already. Thus it
is with a man who is heavenized. You saints who are earthly—the eye
of your faith is bloodshot! It is the character of a sinner, "he cannot see
afar off"; like a man who has bad eyes, who can see only things which are
just before him. Faith carries the heart up to heaven—and brings heaven down
into the heart!
5. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—then
walk CHEERFULLY with God. Put on your white robes! Has a believer
a title to heaven? What—and sad! "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God!"
Romans 5:2. It is but a little while—it is but putting off the earthly
clothes of our body—and we shall be clothed with the bright robes of glory!
And can a believer be sad! See how Christ does secretly check his disciples
for this, Luke 24:17. What, sad—and Christ risen! So I say to
believers—things to come are yours! How can you be sad? Let them be sad—who
have no hope. O rejoice in God!
When the lead of the flesh begins to sink, let the
cork of faith swim above! How does the heir rejoice in hope of the
inheritance! How does the slave rejoice to think of ending his time of
service! Here on earth, we are harassed by sin, and a child of God is forced
sometimes to do the devil's work—but shortly death will make us free! There
is an eternal jubilee coming, therefore "rejoice in hope of the glory of
God!" Can wicked men rejoice that have their portion in this life? And
cannot he rejoice, who has an inheritance in heaven? Can the waters of
Abanah and Pharphar compare to the waters of Jordan?
O you saints, think into what a blessed condition you are
now brought! Is it not a sweet thing to have God appeased? Is it not a
matter of joy to be an heir of the promise? Adam in paradise had choice of
all the trees, one only excepted. The promises are the trees of life—you may
walk in the garden of the Bible, and pluck from all these trees. Who should
rejoice—if not a Christian? He has never so much cause to be sad—as he has
to be cheerful.
Objection: 1. But my sins trouble me.
Answer. This is true. That sin will not forsake you—is
matter of sadness; but that you have forsaken sin—is matter of joy! Sin is a
heavy weight upon you. That you cannot run so fast as you desire, in the
ways of God, is matter of sadness. But that you go without halting (in
regard of righteousness) this is matter of joy! And for your comfort
remember, shortly you shall sin no more—all things shall be yours—but sin!
Objection: 2. But we are bid to mourn.
Answer. I would not speak against holy mourning; while we
carry fire about us, we must carry water. That is, as long as
the fire of sin burns in our breasts, we must carry tears to
quench it. But consider,
1. Spiritual joy and mourning are not inconsistent.
Sometimes it rains and shines at once: when there is a shower in the eyes,
there may be a sunshine in our heart. Mourning and music may stand together;
the great mourner in Israel, was the sweet singer of Israel.
2. The end why God makes us sad, is to make us rejoice;
he does not require sorrow for sorrow—but it is ordained to be as sauce
to make our joy relish the better. We sow in tears—that we may reap in
3. The sweetest joy is from the sourest tears. Christ
made the best wine—from water. The purest and most excellent joy, is made of
the waters of true repentance. The bee gathers the best honey from the
bitterest herbs. Tears are the breeders of spiritual joy. After Hannah had
wept, she went away, and was no longer sad. Those clouds are very
uncomfortable, which never have any sunshine. Just so, that mourning which
dyes the soul all in sable, which has no place for rejoicing, I would rather
think it despair, than true remorse. The same God who has bid us mourn,
has also bid us rejoice, Phil. 4:4. It is an excellent temper to be
serious—yet cheerful. Jesus Christ loves the joyful Christian.
Joy puts liveliness and activity into a Christian, it oils the wheels of the
affections. A heavy mind makes a dull action. The joy of the Lord is your
The pensive, melancholy Christian, disparages the glory
of heaven. What will others say? Here is one who speaks of future
glory—but surely he does not believe it—see how sad he is! What ado
is here on earth, to make a child of God cheerful! Must we have to force an
heir, to rejoice in the estate which has befallen him? Let me tell you, you
who refuse consolation, are not fit people to praise God—it is a
contradiction to praise God with a sad heart: "I will sing praises," Psalm
108:1. It is more proper to sing praises, than to weep them. Rejoice, O
Christian, lift up your crest, triumph in the hope of these things to come.
It is not enough that there is joy within the Christian's heart—but it must
shine forth in his countenance.
6. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—let him
not envy those who have only present things. God often
wrings out the waters of a full cup to wicked men; but there are
dregs at the bottom! Indeed, the prosperity of sinners is a great
temptation. David stumbled at it, and had almost fallen. Psalm 73, "My feet
had well near slipped!" It is not matter of envy but pity—to see men thrive
in a way of sin! Do you envy a fool is in mirthful clothes? Do you envy a
condemned man, who is going up the ladder to be hung—simply because he has a
rich coat? "Those who will be rich, fall into temptations and a snare," 1
Tim. 6:9. Do you envy a man who is fallen into a snare? Wicked men have that
guilt which embitters their comforts. They are like a man who has great
possessions—yet having a fit of the stone or gout, while he is in that
torment, he may be said not to have them, because the comfort of them is
taken away. A believer has better things than these—an blissful inheritance!
Wicked men have a crown of unrighteousness, but you have a crown of
righteousness! They have rich robes, but you have the bright robe of glory.
"Envy not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways." Better is sanctified
adversity, than successful impiety.
7. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—be
supported in lack of spiritual comfort. Spiritual joy is a sweet
thing; this is the hidden manna, the cluster of grapes which grow upon the
true vine; this is the saints' banqueting stuff; how sweet is it to have
Word, and Spirit, and Conscience speaking peace! in the mouth of these three
witnesses, faith is confirmed. "But," says the poor soul that goes mourning,
"It is not so with me, I have not the secret seal of heaven, I lack
assurance." Well, do not give up waiting. We read that the disciples were in
the ship, and there arose a great storm, "And when they had rowed
about three or four miles, they saw Jesus." This, O Christian, may be
your case: there is a tempest of sorrow risen in your heart; and you have
rowed from one ordinance to another, and have no comfort! Well, be not
discouraged, do not give up rowing; you have but rowed three or four miles;
perhaps when you has rowed a little more—you may see Jesus, and have a
comfortable evidence of his love!
But suppose you should row all your life long, and not
have assurance—yet this may be a pillar of support—things to come are yours!
It is but waiting a while—and you shall be brimful of comfort! A believer is
now an heir of this joy; let him wait until he is of age, and he shall be
fully possessed of the joys of heaven. For the present, God leaves a seed of
comfort in the heart; there is a time shortly coming, when we shall have the
full flower; we shall drink of the fruit of the vine in the kingdom of
heaven! As Paul said of Onesimus, Philem. verse 15, "For perhaps he
therefore departed for a season, that you might receive him forever." So I
say of the comforts of God's Spirit—that they may be withdrawn for a season,
that we may have them forever! There is a time coming when we shall bathe
ourselves in the rivers of divine pleasure.
8. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—let us
zealously contend for it against all oppositions. We have a city
above—but there are enemies in the way which we must give battle to. God
would give Israel Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey; but first they
must encounter with the sons of Anak. So he will bestow upon us a crown—but
we must fight for it. Heaven is not taken without storm. Hence it is the
scripture bids us to "fight the good fight of faith," 1 Tim. 6:12, that we
may not through a slothful negligence lose the recompense of a reward.
Christians must be military people; it befits the children of light to put
on the armor of light. The apostle reckons up our several pieces of armor;
the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of righteousness;
and our weapons—the sword of the Spirit, the cannon-bullet of prayer. Indeed
in heaven our armor shall be hung up in token of victory and triumph; but
now it is a day of battle, and no cessation of arms, until death. And there
is a threefold regiment we must fight against, which would hinder us of our
1. The enemy within, namely, a treacherous HEART.
This is a sly enemy; "A man's enemies are those of his own house," Mic. 7:6,
nay, of his own heart! Man by his fall lost his head-piece, namely,
spiritual wisdom, and ever since he is an enemy to himself. He lays a snare
for his own blood, Proverbs 1:18, therefore Augustine prays, "Lord deliver
me from that evil man—myself!" The heart is a conclave of wickedness. It is
an armory and magazine, where all the weapons of unrighteousness lie. The
heart holds conference with Satan—and it sides with him—at every turn is
ready to deliver up the keys to him. This is good reason why we should gird
on our armor, and give battle to this bosom traitor, which stands in
our way to the heavenly crown.
It is reported of Basil, that to shun the allurements and
flatteries of the world, he retired and fled into the wilderness; but when
he was there, he cries out against his heart, "I have forsaken all—but my
evil heart is still tempting me!" Luther used to say, that he feared his
heart more than pope or cardinals. Your heart, O Christian, would supplant
you of the eternal inheritance. O therefore make a brave fight, run the
sword of the Spirit up to the hilt, in the blood of your sins! Stab your
heart-lusts to the heart with the knife of mortification! If the flesh does
war against us, good reason we should war against the flesh.
2. The second regiment that stands in the way to
salvation, and which we must arm against, is the DEVIL. He may be
called a regiment, for his name being Legion. This is the red
regiment! How furiously does he make his onset upon us, sometimes with
temptations, sometimes with persecutions, that if possible we might let fall
our armor, and so let go our crown! The devil, that roaring lion, while we
are marching to heaven, raises all the bands of hell against us; "whom
resist, steadfast in the faith," 1 Pet. 5:9. Our enemy is beaten in part
already, he knows no march but running away.
3. The third regiment which stands in our way to heaven
is the WORLD. This enemy courts us. It smiles that it may
deceive. It kills by embracing! It has a golden apple in one hand—and a
dagger in the other! Marcia gave to the emperor Commodus poison, in sweet
wine. Such an aromatic cup does the world present us with—that we may drink
and die. The ivy, while it clasps about the oak, sucks away the heart of it
for its own leaves and berries; such are the world's embraces. "The one I
kiss," says Judas, "is the man; arrest him and lead him away." So, whom the
world kisses—it often betrays. The world is a silken halter. The world is a
golden fetter. Some have been drowned in the sweet waters of pleasure!
Others have been choked in silver mines! Oh arm, arm against this flattering
enemy! "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world
is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes
an enemy of God." James 4:4
If the world's music enchants us, and we fall asleep upon
our guard, then the devil falls on, and wounds us. Fight it out against all
Consider the excellency of the prize! Things to come!
What striving is there for earthly crowns and scepters! with what zeal and
alacrity did Hannibal continue his march over the Alps, and Caesar's
soldiers fight with hunger and cold? Men will break through laws and oaths,
run a thousand hazards for those things which, when they have them, will
prove damnable gains. But "things to come are yours." You expect
salvation, which is the crown of your desires, the flower of your ambition;
oh therefore muster and rally together all your forces against this
three-headed adversary which stands in your way to hinder you from taking
possession. Fight it out to the death, you have a good captain; Christ is
"the Captain of your salvation," Heb. 2:l0. If a flock of sheep have a lion
for their captain, what need they fear? So, fear not little flock, you fight
under the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
9. If we have such a glorious inheritance to come—if all
Christ's things are ours—then all our things must be Christ's.
Justice and equity require it. There is a joint interest
between Christ and a believer Christ says, "All that is mine—is yours!" Then
the heart of a believer must echo back to Christ, "Lord, all that is mine—is
yours!" It was the saying of a holy man, "Lord, you are my all; and my all
is yours." Oh be willing to spend, and be spent; do, and suffer for Christ.
1. Let us, with all our might, advance the honor and
interest of Jesus Christ! Alas, what is all that we can do? If a
king should bestow upon a person, a million dollars per year, with this
proviso—that this person shall pay a peppercorn every year to the king; what
proportion is there between this man's payment—and his revenue? Alas, we are
but unprofitable servants; all that we can do for Christ is not so much as
this peppercorn! Yet up, and be doing! Christ hates compliments: we must not
only bow the knee to him—but, with the wise men, present him with gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Do not be like the sons of Belial, who
brought their king no presents. "But," says the Christian, "I am poor, and
can do little for Christ." Can you not bestow your love upon Christ?
In the law, he who could not afford a lamb for an offering, if he brought
but two turtle-doves, it was sufficient. The woman in the gospel threw in
only her two mites—yet she was accepted. God is not angry with any man
because he has but one talent—but because he does not use it.
2. Suffer for Christ, be willing to sell all, nay,
to lose all for Christ. We may be losers for him, we shall
never be losers by him. If he calls for our blood, let us not deny it him;
we have no such blood to shed for Christ—as he has shed for us. It was
Luther's saying, "That in the cause of God he was content to endure the
odium and fury of the whole world." Basil affirms of the primitive saints,
they had so much courage in their sufferings, that many of the heathens,
seeing their heroic zeal, turned Christians. They snatched up torments
as so many crowns! O think nothing too dear for Christ! We who
look for things to come, should be willing to part with things
present for Christ.
10. Lastly, If we have such a glorious inheritance to
come—be content to wait for these great privileges. It is not
incongruous to long for Christ's appearing, and yet to wait
for it. You see the glory which a believer shall be invested with; but
though the Lord gives a large portion, he may set a long day for the
payment. David had the promise of a crown—but was long before he came to
wear it. God will not deny his promise—yet he may delay his
promise, to teach us to wait. It is but a shortsighted faith, which cannot
wait. The farmer waits for the seed. There is a seed of glory sown in
a believer's heart; wait until it springs up into a harvest.
Truly, it is a hard thing to wait for these things to
come. There are so many discouragements from without, so many distempers
from within, that the Christian desires to be at home with Christ. Therefore
we need patience, Heb. 10:36, "For you have need of patience." But how shall
we get it? Nourish faith. verse 35, "So do not throw away your confidence;
it will be richly rewarded." Patience is nothing else but faith spun out; if
you would lengthen patience, be sure to strengthen faith.
There are great reasons why a believer should be content
to wait for heaven.
1. God is faithful who promises. God's word is
security enough to venture upon. All the world hangs upon the word of his
power; and cannot our faith hang upon the word of his promise? We
have His hand and seal, nay, his oath!
2. While we are waiting, God is tuning and fitting us for
glory. "Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit
for the inheritance," Col. 1:12. We must be made fit. Perhaps our hearts are
not humble enough, or not patient enough. Perhaps our faith is but in its
infancy. We should be content to wait a while, until we have gotten such a
vigorous faith as will carry us full sail to heaven! As there is a ripening
and a fitting of vessels for hell, Romans 9:22, so there is a ripening and a
preparing of the vessels of mercy, verse 23. A Christian should be willing
to wait for glory, until he is fit to take his inheritance.
3. While we are waiting, our glory is increasing.
While we are laying out for God—he is laying up for us, 2 Tim. 4:8. If we
suffer for God, the heavier our cross—the heavier shall be our crown. Would
a Christian be in the meridian of glory? Would he have his robes shine
bright? Let him stay here and do service; God will reward us, though not
for our works—yet according to our works, Mark 16:27. The longer
we keep the principal, the greater will the interest be.
The longer a Christian lives, the more glory he may bring
to God. Faith is an ingenuous grace; as it has one eye at the reward, so it
has another eye at duty. The time of life is the only time we have to
work for God. Heaven is a place of receiving; this world is a place of
doing. Hence the apostle being inflamed with divine love, though he desired
with all his heart be with Christ—yet he was content to live a while longer,
that he might build up souls, and make the crown flourish upon the head of
It is self-love which says, "Who will show us any good?"
Divine love says, "How may I do good?" The prodigal son could say,
"Father, give me my portion!" He thought more of his portion than his
duty. A gracious spirit is content to stay out of heaven a while—that he may
be a means to bring others there. He whose heart has been divinely touched
with the love of God, his care is not so much for receiving the talents
of gold, as for improving the talents of grace. O wait a while!
Learn from the saints of old, they waited patiently. If we cannot wait now,
what would we have done in the times of the long-lived patriarchs? Look upon
worldly men, they wait for pleasures. Shall they wait for earth—and
cannot we wait for heaven! If a man has the promise of a grand
estate, when such a lease is out, will he not wait for it? We have the
promise of heaven when the lease of life is run out; and shall we not wait?
Look upon wicked men, they wait for an opportunity to
sin; the adulterer waits for the twilight; sinners "lie in wait for their
own blood," Proverbs 1:18. Shall men wait for their damnation, and
shall not we be content to wait for our salvation? Wait without
murmuring, wait without fainting! The things we expect are infinitely more
than we can hope for.
And let me add one caution; "wait on the Lord and keep
to his ways," Psalm 37:34. While we are waiting, let us take heed of
wavering. Go not a step out of God's way, though a lion be in the way. Do
not avoid duty—to meet with safety. Keep to God's highway, "the good old
way," Jer. 6:16, the way which is paved with holiness, Isaiah 25:8. "And a
highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness." Avoid
crooked paths, take heed of turning to the left hand, lest you be set on the
left hand! Sin crosses our hopes; it barricades up our way. A man may as
well expect to find heaven in hell, as in a sinful way.
My last use is to such as have only present
things—that they would labor for things to come. You have seen the blessed
condition of a man in Christ; never rest until this be yours. Alas, how poor
and contemptible are these present earthly enjoyments, when laid in balance
with things to come!
1. What is honor—
which is the highest elevation of men's ambition? One calls honor—the
gallant madness. It was foretold to Agrippina, Nero's mother, that her son
would be emperor, and that he would afterward kill his own mother; to which
Agrippina replied, "let my son be emperor, and then let him kill me and
spare not"—so thirsty was she of honor. Alas, what are swelling titles
but rattles to applaud men's ambition? Honor is like a gale of wind
which carries the ship; sometimes this wind is down, a man has lost his
honor, and lives to see himself entombed: sometimes this wind is too high:
how many have been blown to hell, while they have been sailing with the wind
of popular applause! Honor is but a glorious nothing! Acts 25:23. It does
not make a man really the better—but often the worse. A man swelled with
honor, lacking grace—his bigness is his disease and doom.
2. What are riches—that
men so thirst after them? Amos 2:7, "Who pant after the dust of the earth."
Golden dust will sooner choke than satisfy! How many have pulled down their
souls to build up their houses! What a transiency and deficiency is there in
all things under the sun? Christ, who had all riches, scorned these earthly
riches. He was born poor—the feeding-trough was his cradle, the
cobwebs his curtains. He lived poor—he had nowhere to lay his head.
He died poor; he made no will; he had no crown-lands, only his coat
was left, and that the soldiers parted among them. His funeral was
fitting; for as he was born in another man's stable, so he was buried in
another man's tomb; to show how he did despise earthly dignities and
possessions. His kingdom was not of this world.
Suppose an hour of adversity comes, can these present
earthly things quiet the mind in trouble? Riches are called thick clay,
which will sooner break the back, than lighten the heart. When pangs of
conscience and pangs of death come, and there is no hope of things to come,
what peace can the world give at such a time? Surely it can yield no more
comfort, than a silken stocking to a man whose leg is out of joint. A fresh
color delights the eye; but if the eye be sore, this color will not heal it.
"Riches avail not in the day of wrath." You can not hold your wedge of gold
as a screen to keep off the fire of God's justice.
Let this sound a retreat to call us off from the
immoderate pursuit of present things, to labor for things to come. What are
these lower springs—compared to the upper springs? As Abraham
said, "Lord, what will you give me, seeing I go childless?" So say, "Lord,
what will you give me, seeing I go Christless?" Luther did solemnly protest,
God should not put him off with these worldly things. Oh labor for those
blessings in heavenly places. Earthly things may be pleasing—but they
are not permanent.
Do not be content with a few earthly gifts: Abraham gave
unto the sons of the concubines gifts, and sent them away; "but unto
Isaac, he gave all that he had." Reprobates may have a few jewels and
earrings which God scatters with an indifferent hand: these, like the
sons of the concubines, are put off with a few earthly gifts. But labor for
the eternal inheritance! Get into Christ, and then all is yours! So says the
Apostle, "All things are yours, and you belong to Christ!"