Sermons on different occasions from John Wesley, 23-49 – by ArchBishop Uwe AE. Rosenkranz




“Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: For they shall obtain mercy.”

Matt. 5:5–7

I. 1. When “the winter is past,” when “the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land;” when He that comforts the mourners is now returned, “that he may abide with them for ever;” when, at the brightness of his presence, the clouds disperse, the dark clouds of doubt and uncertainty, the storms of fear flee away, the waves of sorrow subside, and their spirit again rejoiceth in God their Saviour; then is it that this word is eminently fulfilled; then those whom he hath comforted can bear witness, “Blessed,” or happy, “are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

2. But who are “the meek?” Not those who grieve at nothing, because they know nothing; who are not discomposed at the evils that occur, because they discern not evil from good. Not those who are sheltered from the shocks of life by a stupid insensibility; who have, either by nature or art, the virtue of stocks and stones, and resent nothing, because they feel nothing. Brute philosophers are wholly unconcerned in this matter. Apathy is as far from meekness as from humanity. So that one would not easily conceive how any Christians of the purer ages, especially any of the Fathers of the Church, could confound these, and mistake one of the foulest errors of Heathenism for a branch of true Christianity.

3. Nor does Christian meekness imply, the being without zeal for God, any more than it does ignorance or insensibility. No; it keeps clear of every extreme, whether in excess or defect. It does not destroy but balance the affections, which the God of nature never designed should be rooted out by grace, but only brought and kept under due regulations. It poises the mind aright. It holds an even scale, with regard to anger, and sorrow, and fear; preserving the mean in every circumstance of life, and not declining either to the right hand or the left.

4. Meekness, therefore, seems properly to relate to ourselves[.] But it may be referred either to God or our neighbour. When this due composure of mind has reference to God, it is usually termed resignation; a calm acquiescence in whatsoever is his will concerning us, even though it may not be pleasing to nature; saying continually, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” When we consider it more strictly with regard to ourselves, we style it patience or contentedness. When it is exerted toward other men, then it is mildness to the good, and gentleness to the evil.

5. They who are truly meek, can clearly discern what is evil; and they can also suffer it. They are sensible of everything of this kind, but still meekness holds the reins. They are exceeding “zealous for the Lord of hosts;” but their zeal is always guided by knowledge, and tempered, in every thought, and word, and work, with the love of man, as well as the love of God. They do not desire to extinguish any of the passions which God has for wise ends implanted in their nature; but they have the mastery of all: They hold them all in subjection, and employ them only in subservience to those ends. And thus even the harsher and more unpleasing passions are applicable to the noblest purposes; even hatred, and anger, and fear, when engaged against sin, and regulated by faith and love, are as walls and bulwarks to the soul, so that the wicked one cannot approach to hurt it.

6. It is evident, this divine temper is not only to abide but to increase in us day by day. Occasions of exercising, and thereby increasing it, will never be wanting while we remain upon earth. “We have need of patience, that after we have done” and suffered “the will of God, we may receive the promise.” We have need of resignation, that we may in all circumstances say, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And we have need of “gentleness toward all men;” but especially toward the evil and unthankful: Otherwise we shall be overcome of evil, instead of overcoming evil with good.

7. Nor does meekness restrain only the outward act, as the Scribes and Pharisees taught of old, and the miserable Teachers who are not taught of God will not fail to do in all ages. Our Lord guards against this, and shows the true extent of it, in the following words: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment:” (Matt. 5:21.) “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.”

8. Our Lord here ranks under the head of murder, even that anger which goes no farther than the heart; which does not show itself by an outward unkindness, no, not so much as a passionate word. “Whosoever is angry with his brother,” with any man living, seeing we are all brethren; whosoever feels any unkindness in his heart, any temper contrary to love; whosoever is angry without a cause, without a sufficient cause, or farther than that cause requires, “shall be in danger of the judgment;” _enochos estai, shall, in that moment, be obnoxious to the righteous judgment of God.

But would not one be inclined to prefer the reading of those copies which omit the word eike, without a cause? Is it not entirely superfluous? For if anger at persons be a temper contrary to love, how can there be a cause, a sufficient cause for it, any that will justify it in the sight of God?

Anger at sin we allow. In this sense we may be angry, and yet we sin not. In this sense our Lord himself is once recorded to have been angry: he looked round about upon them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. he was grieved at the sinners, and angry at the sin. And this is undoubtedly right before God.

9. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca; whosoever shall give way to anger, so as to utter any contemptuous word. It is observed by commentators, that Raca is a Syriac word, which properly signifies, empty, vain, foolish; so that it is as inoffensive an expression as can well be used, toward one at whom we are displeased. And yet, whosoever shall use this, as our Lord assures us, shall be in danger of the council; rather, shall be obnoxious thereto: he shall be liable to a severer sentence from the Judge of all the earth.

“But whosoever shall say, Thou fool;”—whosoever shall so give place to the devil, as to break out into reviling, into designedly reproachful and contumelious language, “shall be obnoxious to hell-fire;” shall, in that instant, be liable to the highest condemnation. It should be observed, that our Lord describes all these as obnoxious to capital punishment. The first, to strangling, usually inflicted on those who were condemned in one of the inferior courts; the second, to stoning, which was frequently inflicted on those who were condemned by the great Council at Jerusalem; the third, to burning alive, inflicted only on the highest offenders, in the “valley of the sons of Hinnom;” Ge Hennon, from which that word is evidently taken which we translate “hell.”

10. And whereas men naturally imagine, that God will excuse their defect in some duties, for their exactness in others; our Lord next takes care to cut off that vain, though common imagination. He shows, that it is impossible for any sinner to commute with God; who will not accept one duty for another, nor take a part of obedience for the whole. He warns us, that the performing our duty to God will not excuse us from our duty to our neighbour; that works of piety, as they are called, will be so far from commending us to God, if we are wanting in charity, that, on the contrary, that want of charity will make all those works an abomination to the Lord.

“Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee,”—on account of thy unkind behaviour toward him, of thy calling him “Raca,” or, “Thou fool;” think not that thy gift will atone for thy anger; or that it will find any acceptance with God, so long as thy conscience is defiled with the guilt of unrepented sin. “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother,” (at least do all that in thee lies toward being reconciled,) “and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt. 5:23, 24.)

11. And let there be no delay in what so nearly concerneth thy soul. “Agree with thine adversary quickly;”—now; upon the spot; “whiles thou art in the way with him;” if it be possible, before he go out of thy sight; “lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge;” lest he appeal to God, the Judge of all; “and the judge deliver thee to the officer;” to Satan, the executioner of the wrath of God; “and thou be cast into prison;” into hell, there to be reserved to the judgment of the great day: “Verily, I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” But this it is impossible for thee ever to do; seeing thou hast nothing to pay. Therefore, if thou art once in that prison, the smoke of thy torment must “ascend up for ever and ever.”

12. Meantime “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Such is the foolishness of worldly wisdom! The wise of the world had warned them again and again,—that if they did not resent such treatment, if they would tamely suffer themselves to be thus abused, there would be no living for them upon earth; that they would never be able to procure the common necessaries of life, nor to keep even what they had; that they could expect no peace, no quiet possession, no enjoyment of anything. Most true,—suppose there were no God in the world; or, suppose he did not concern himself with the children of men: But, “when God ariseth to judgment, and to help all the meek upon earth,” how doth he laugh all this heathen wisdom to scorn, and turn the “fierceness of man to his praise!” He takes a peculiar care to provide them with all things needful for life and godliness; he secures to them the provision he hath made, in spite of the force, fraud, or malice of men; and what he secures he gives them richly to enjoy. It is sweet to them, be it little or much. As in patience they possess their souls, so they truly possess whatever God hath given them. They are always content, always pleased with what they have: It pleases them because it pleases God: So that while their heart, their desire, their joy is in heaven, they may truly be said to “inherit the earth.”

13. But there seems to be a yet farther meaning in these words, even that they shall have a more eminent part in “the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;” in that inheritance, a general description of which (and the particulars we shall know hereafter) St. John has given in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven,—and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent,—and bound him a thousand years.—And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and of them which had not worshipped the Beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” [Rev. 20:6]

II. 1. our Lord has hitherto been more immediately employed in removing the hindrances of true religion: Such is pride, the first, grand hindrance of all religion, which is taken away by poverty of spirit; levity and thoughtlessness, which prevent any religion from taking root in the soul, till they are removed by holy mourning; such are anger, impatience, discontent, which are all healed by Christian meekness. And when once these hindrances are removed, these evil diseases of the soul, which were continually raising false cravings therein, and filling it with sickly appetites, the native appetite of a heaven-born spirit returns; it hungers and thirsts after righteousness: And “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

2. Righteousness, as was observed before, is the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus. It is every holy and heavenly temper in one; springing from, as well as terminating in, the love of God, as our Father and Redeemer, and the love of all men for his sake.

3. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after” this: In order fully to understand which expression, we should observe, First, that hunger and thirst are the strongest of all our bodily appetites. In like manner this hunger in the soul, this thirst after the image of God, is the strongest of all our spiritual appetites, when it is once awakened in the heart: Yea, it swallows up all the rest in that one great desire,—to be renewed after the likeness of Him that created us. We should, Secondly, observe, that from the time we begin to hunger and thirst, those appetites do not cease, but are more and more craving and importunate, till we either eat and drink, or die. And even so, from the time that we begin to hunger and thirst after the whole mind which was in Christ, these spiritual appetites do not cease, but cry after their food with more and more importunity; nor can they possibly cease, before they are satisfied, while there is any spiritual life remaining. We may, Thirdly, observe, that hunger and thirst are satisfied with nothing but meat and drink. If you would give to him that is hungry all the world beside, all the elegance of apparel, all the trappings of state, all the treasure upon earth, yea thousands of gold and silver; if you would pay him ever so much honour;—he regards it not: All these things are then of no account with him. He would still say, “These are not the things I want; give me food, or else I die.” The very same is the case with every soul that truly hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He can find no comfort in anything but this: He can be satisfied with nothing else. Whatever you offer besides, it is lightly esteemed: Whether it be riches, or honour, or pleasure, he still says, “This is not the thing which I want! Give me love, or else I die!”

4. And it is as impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The religion of the world implies three things: (1.) The doing no harm, the abstaining from outward sin; at least from such as is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunkenness: (2.) The doing good, the relieving the poor; the being charitable, as it is called: (3.) The using the means of grace; at least the going to church and to the Lords Supper. He in whom these three marks are found is termed by the world a religious man. But will this satisfy him who hungers after God? No: It is not food for his soul. He wants a religion of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He can no more feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he can “fill his belly with the east wind.” True, he is careful to abstain from the very appearance of evil; he is zealous of good works; he attends all the ordinances of God: But all this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that religion, which he insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of God in Christ Jesus; “the life which is hid with Christ in God;” the being “joined unto the Lord in one Spirit;” the having “fellowship with the Father and the Son;” the “walking in the light as God is in the light;” the being “purified even as He is pure;”—this is the religion, the righteousness, he thirsts after: Nor can he rest, till he thus rests in God.

5. “Blessed are they who” thus “hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” They shall be filled with the things which they long for; even with righteousness and true holiness. God shall satisfy them with the blessings of his goodness, with the felicity of his chosen. He shall feed them with the bread of heaven, with the manna of his love. He shall give them to drink of his pleasures as out of the river, which he that drinketh of shall never thirst, only for more and more of the water of life. This thirst shall endure for ever.

The painful thirst, the fond desire,

Thy joyous presence shall remove;

But my full soul shall still require

A whole eternity of love.

6. Whosoever then thou art, to whom God hath given to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” cry unto him that thou mayest never lose that inestimable gift,—that this divine appetite may never cease. If many rebuke thee, and bid thee hold thy peace, regard them not; yea, cry so much the more, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!” “Let me not live, but to be holy as thou art holy!” No more “spend thy money for that which is not bread, nor thy labour for that which satisfieth not.” Canst thou hope to dig happiness out of the earth,—to find it in the things of the world? o trample under foot all its pleasures, despise its honours, count its riches as dung and dross,—yea, and all the things which are beneath the sun,—”for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” for the entire renewal of thy soul in that image of God wherein it was originally created. Beware of quenching that blessed hunger and thirst, by what the world calls religion; a religion of form, of outward show, which leaves the heart as earthly and sensual as ever. Let nothing satisfy thee but the power of godliness, but a religion that is spirit and life; thy dwelling in God and God in thee,—the being an inhabitant of eternity; the entering in by the blood of sprinkling “within the veil,” and sitting “in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”

III. 1. And the more they are filled with the life of God, the more tenderly will they be concerned for those who are still without God in the world, still dead in trespasses and sins. Nor shall this concern for others lose its reward. “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.”

The word used by our Lord more immediately implies the compassionate, the tender-hearted; those who, far from despising, earnestly grieve for, those that do not hunger after God.

This eminent part of brotherly love is here, by a common figure, put for the whole; so that “the merciful,” in the full sense of the term, are they who love their neighbours as themselves.”

2. Because of the vast importance of this love,—without which, “though we spake with the tongues of men and angels, though we had the gift of prophecy, and understood all mysteries, and all knowledge; though we had all faith, so as to remove mountains; yea, though we gave all our goods to feed the poor, and our very bodies to be burned, it would profit us nothing,”—the wisdom of God has given us, by the Apostle Paul, a full and particular account of it; by considering which we shall most clearly discern who are the merciful that shall obtain mercy.

3. “Charity,” or love, (as it were to be wished it had been rendered throughout, being a far plainer and less ambiguous word,) the love of our neighbour as Christ hath loved us, “suffereth long;” is patient toward all men: It suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, infirmities, all the frowardness and littleness of faith, of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world. And it suffers all this, not only for a time, for a short season, but to the end; still feeding our enemy when he hungers; if he thirst, still giving him drink; thus continually “heaping coals of fire,” of melting love, “upon his head.”

4. And in every step toward this desirable end, the “overcoming evil with good,” “love is kind:” (chresteuetai, a word not easily translated:) It is soft, mild, benign. It stands at the utmost distance from moroseness, from all harshness or sourness of spirit; and inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection.

5. Consequently, “love envieth not:” It is impossible it should; it is directly opposite to that baneful temper. It cannot be, that he who has this tender affection to all, who earnestly wishes all temporal and spiritual blessings, all good things in this world and the world to come, to every soul that God hath made, should be pained at his bestowing any good gift on any child of man. If he has himself received the same, he does not grieve, but rejoice, that another partakes of the common benefit. If he has not, he blesses God that his brother at least has, and is herein happier than himself. And the greater his love, the more does he rejoice in the blessings of all mankind; the farther is he removed from every kind and degree of envy toward any creature.

6. Love ou perpereuetai, not vaunteth not itself; which coincides with the very next words; but rather, (as the word likewise properly imports,) is not rash or hasty in judging; it will not hastily condemn any one. It does not pass a severe sentence, on a slight or sudden view of things: It first weighs all the evidence, particularly that which is brought in favour of the accused. A true lover of his neighbour is not like the generality of men, who, even in cases of the nicest nature, see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion. No: he proceeds with wariness and circumspection, taking heed to every step; willingly subscribing to that rule of the ancient heathen, (o where will the modern Christian appear!) I am so far from lightly believing what one man says against another, that I will not easily believe what a man says against himself. I will always allow him second thoughts, and many times counsel too.

7. It follows, love “is not puffed up:” It does not incline or suffer any man “to think more highly of himself than he ought to think;” but rather to think soberly: Yea, it humbles the soul unto the dust. It destroys all high conceits, engendering pride; and makes us rejoice to be as nothing, to be little and vile, the lowest of all, the servant of all. They who are “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love,” cannot but “in honour prefer one another.” Those who, having the same love, are of one accord, do in lowliness of mind “each esteem other better thanthemselves.”

8. “It doth not behave itself unseemly:” It is not rude, or willingly offensive to any. It “renders to all their due; fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour;” courtesy, civility, humanity to all the world; in their several degrees “honouring all men.” A late writer defines good breeding, nay, the highest degree of it, politeness, “A continual desire to please, appearing in all the behaviour.” But if so, there is none so well-bred as a Christian, a lover of all mankind. For he cannot but desire to “please all men for their good to edification:” And this desire cannot be hid; it will necessarily appear in all his intercourse with men. For his “love is without dissimulation:” It will appear in all his actions and conversation; yea, and will constrain him, though without guile, “to become all things to all men, if by any means he may save some.”

9. And in becoming all things to all men, “love seeketh not her own.” In striving to please all men, the lover of mankind has no eye at all to his own temporal advantage. he covets no mans silver, or gold, or apparel: He desires nothing but the salvation of their souls: Yea, in some sense, he may be said, not to seek his own spiritual, any more than temporal, advantage; for while he is on the full stretch to save their souls from death, he, as it were, forgets himself. He does not think of himself, so long as that zeal for the glory of God swallows him up. Nay, at some times he may almost seem, through an excess of love, to give up himself, both his soul and his body; while he cries out, with Moses, “o, this people have sinned a great sin; yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me out of the book which thou hast written;” (Exod. 32:31, 32;)—or, with St. Paul, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh!” (Rom. 9:3.)

10. No marvel that such “love is not provoked:” ou paroxynetai. Let it be observed, the word easily, strangely inserted in the translation, is not in the original: St. Pauls words are absolute. “Love is not provoked:” It is not provoked to unkindness toward any one. occasions indeed will frequently occur; outward provocations of various kinds; but love does not yield to provocation; it triumphs over all. In all trials it looketh unto Jesus, and is more than conqueror in his love.

It is not improbable that our translators inserted that word, as it were, to excuse the Apostle; who, as they supposed, might otherwise appear to be wanting in the very love which he so beautifully describes. They seem to have supposed this from a phrase in the Acts of the Apostles; which is likewise very inaccurately translated. When Paul and Barnabas disagreed concerning John, the translation runs thus, “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder.” (Acts 15:39.) This naturally induces the reader to suppose, that they were equally sharp therein; that St. Paul, who was undoubtedly right, with regard to the point in question, (it being quite improper to take John with them again, who had deserted them before,) was as much provoked as Barnabas, who gave such a proof of his anger, as to leave the work for which he had been set apart by the Holy Ghost. But the original imports no such thing; nor does it affirm that St. Paul was provoked at all. It simply says, egeneto oun paroxysmos, And there was a sharpness, a paroxysm of anger; in consequence of which Barnabas left St. Paul, took John, and went his own way. Paul then chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren to the grace of God; (which is not said concerning Barnabas;) and he went through Syria and Cilicia, as he had proposed, “confirming the churches.” [Acts 15:39–41] But to return.

11. Love prevents a thousand provocations which would otherwise arise, because it “thinketh no evil.” Indeed the merciful man cannot avoid knowing many things that are evil, he cannot but see them with his own eyes, and hear them with his own ears. For love does not put out his eyes, so that it is impossible for him not to see that such things are done; neither does it take away his understanding, any more than his senses, so that he cannot but know that they are evil. For instance: When he sees a man strike his neighbour, or hears him blaspheme God, he cannot either question the thing done, or the words spoken, or doubt of their being evil. Yet, ou logizetai to kakon. The word logizetai, thinketh, does not refer either to our seeing and hearing, or to the first and involuntary acts of our understanding; but to our willingly thinking what we need not; our inferring evil, where it does not appear; to our reasoning concerning things which we do not see; our supposing what we have neither seen nor heard. This is what true love absolutely destroys. It tears up, root and branch, all imagining what we have not known. It casts out all jealousies, all evil surmisings, all readiness to believe evil. It is frank, open, unsuspicious; and, as it cannot design, so neither does it fear, evil.

12. It rejoiceth not in iniquity; common as this is, even among those who bear the name of Christ, who scruple not to rejoice over their enemy, when he falleth either into affliction, or error, or sin. Indeed, how hardly can they avoid this, who are zealously attached to any party! how difficult is it for them not to be pleased with any fault which they discover in those of the opposite party, with any real or supposed blemish, either in their principles or practice! What warm defender of any cause is clear of these? Yea, who is so calm as to be altogether free? Who does not rejoice when his adversary makes a false step, which he thinks will advantage his own cause? only a man of love. he alone weeps over either the sin or folly of his enemy, takes no pleasure in hearing or in repeating it, but rather desires that it may be forgotten for ever.

13. But he rejoiceth in the truth, wheresoever it is found; in “the truth which is after godliness;” bringing forth its proper fruit, holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation. he rejoices to find that even those who oppose him, whether with regard to opinions, or some points of practice, are nevertheless lovers of God, and in other respects unreprovable. He is glad to hear good of them, and to speak all he can consistently with truth and justice. Indeed, good in general is his glory and joy, wherever diffused throughout the race of mankind. As a citizen of the world, he claims a share in the happiness of all the inhabitants of it. Because he is a man, he is not unconcerned in the welfare of any man; but enjoys whatsoever brings glory to God, and promotes peace and good-will among men.

14. This “love covereth all things:” (So, without all doubt, panta stegei should be translated; for otherwise it would be the very same with panta hypomenei, “endureth all things:”) Because the merciful man rejoiceth not in iniquity, neither does he willingly make mention of it. Whatever evil he sees, hears, or knows, he nevertheless conceals, so far as he can without making himself “partaker of other men’s sins.” Wheresoever or with whomsoever he is, if he sees anything which he approves not, it goes not out of his lips, unless to the person concerned, if haply he may gain his brother. So far is he from making the faults or failures of others the matter of his conversation, that of the absent he never does speak at all, unless he can speak well. A tale-bearer, a backbiter, a whisperer, an evil-speaker, is to him all one as a murderer. He would just as soon cut his neighbour’s throat, as thus murder his reputation. Just as soon would he think of diverting himself by setting fire to his neighbour’s house, as of thus “scattering abroad arrows, fire-brands, and death,” and saying, “Am I not in sport?”

He makes one only exception. Sometimes he is convinced that it is for the glory of God, or (which comes to the same) the good of his neighbour, that an evil should not be covered. In this case, for the benefit of the innocent, he is constrained to declare the guilty. But even here, (1.) He will not speak at all, till love, superior love, constrains him. (2.) He cannot do it from a general confused view of doing good, or promoting the glory of God, but from a clear sight of some particular end, some determinate good which he pursues. (3.) Still he cannot speak, unless he be fully convinced that this very means is necessary to that end; that the end cannot be answered, at least not so effectually, by any other way. (4.) He then doeth it with the utmost sorrow and reluctance; using it as the last and worst medicine, a desperate remedy in a desperate case, a kind of poison never to be used but to expel poison. Consequently, (5.) He uses it as sparingly as possible. And this he does with fear and trembling, lest he should transgress the law of love by speaking too much, more than he would have done by not speaking at all.

15. Love “believeth all things.” It is always willing to think the best; to put the most favourable construction on everything. It is ever ready to believe whatever may tend to the advantage of any one’s character. It is easily convinced of (what it earnestly desires) the innocence or integrity of any man; or, at least, of the sincerity of his repentance, if he had once erred from the way. It is glad to excuse whatever is amiss; to condemn the offender as little as possible; and to make all the allowance for human weakness which can be done without betraying the truth of God.

16. And when it can no longer believe, then love “hopeth all things.” Is any evil related of any man? Love hopes that the relation is not true, that the thing related was never done. Is it certain it was?—”But perhaps it was not done with such circumstances as are related; so that, allowing the fact, there is room to hope it was not so ill as it is represented.” Was the action apparently undeniably evil? Love hopes the intention was not so. Is it clear, the design was evil too?—”Yet might it not spring from the settled temper of the heart, but from a start of passion, or from some vehement temptation, which hurried the man beyond himself.” And even when it cannot be doubted, but all the actions, designs, and tempers are equally evil; still love hopes that God will at last make bare his arm, and get himself the victory; and that there shall be “joy in heaven over” this “one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.”

17. Lastly. It “endureth all things.” This completes the character of him that is truly merciful. He endureth not some, not many, things only; not most, but absolutely all things. Whatever the injustice, the malice, the cruelty of men can inflict, he is able to suffer. He calls nothing intolerable; he never says of anything, “This is not to be borne.” No; he can not only do, but suffer, all things through Christ which strengtheneth him. And all he suffers does not destroy his love, nor impair it in the least. It is proof against all. It is a flame that burns even in the midst of the great deep. “Many waters cannot quench” his “love, neither can the floods drown it.” It triumphs over all. It “never faileth,” either in time or in eternity.

In obedience to what heaven decrees,

Knowledge shall fail, and prophecy shall cease;

But lasting charity’s more ample sway,

Nor bound by time, nor subject to decay,

In happy triumph shall for ever live,

And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive.

So shall “the merciful obtain mercy;” not only by the blessing of God upon all their ways, by his now repaying the love they bear to their brethren a thousand fold into their own bosom; but likewise by “an exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” in the “kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world.”

18. For a little while you may say, “Woe is me, that I” am constrained to “dwell with Mesech, and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar!” You may pour out your soul, and bemoan the loss of true, genuine love in the earth: Lost indeed! You may well say, (but not in the ancient sense,) “See how these Christians love one another!” these Christian kingdoms, that are tearing out each other’s bowels, desolating one another with fire and sword! these Christian armies, that are sending each by thousands, by ten thousands, quick into hell! these Christian nations, that are all on fire with intestine broils, party against party, faction against faction! these Christian cities, where deceit and fraud, oppression and wrong, yea, robbery and murder, go not out of their streets! these Christian families, torn asunder with envy, jealousy, anger, domestic jars, without number, without end! yea, what is most dreadful, most to be lamented of all, these Christian Churches!—Churches (“tell it not in Gath,”—but, alas! how can we hide it, either from Jews, Turks, or Pagans?) that bear the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace, and wage continual war with each other! that convert sinners by burning them alive! that are “drunk with the blood of the saints!”—Does this praise belong only to “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth?” Nay, verily; but Reformed Churches (so called) have fairly learned to tread in her steps. Protestant Churches too know to persecute, when they have power in their hands, even unto blood. And, meanwhile, how do they also anathematize each other! devote each other to the nethermost hell! What wrath, what contention, what malice, what bitterness, is everywhere found among them, even where they agree in essentials, and only differ in opinions, or in the circumstantials of religion! Who follows after only the “things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another?” O God! how long? Shall thy promise fail? Fear it not, ye little flock! Against hope, believe in hope! It is your Father’s good pleasure yet to renew the face of the earth. Surely all these things shall come to an end, and the inhabitants of the earth shall learn righteousness. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they know war any more.” “The mountains of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains;” and “all the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdoms of our God.” “They shall not” then “hurt or destroy in all his holy mountain;” but they shall call their “walls salvation, and their gates praise.” They shall all be without spot or blemish, loving one another, even as Christ hath loved us.—Be thou part of the first-fruits, if the harvest is not yet. Do thou love thy neighbor as thyself. The Lord God fill thy heart with such a love to every soul, that thou mayest be ready to lay down thy life for his sake! May thy soul continually overflow with love, swallowing up every unkind and unholy temper, till he calleth thee up into the region of love, there to reign with him for ever and ever!




“Blessed are the pure in heart: For they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: For they shall be called the children of God. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: For great is your reward in heaven: For so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you.”

Matt. 5:8–12.

I. 1. How excellent things are spoken of the love of our neighbour! It is “the fulfilling of the law,” “the end of the commandment.” Without this, all we have, all we do, all we suffer, is of no value in the sight of God. But it is that love of our neighbour which springs from the love of God: Otherwise itself is nothing worth. It behoves us, therefore, to examine well upon what foundation our love of our neighbour stands; whether it is really built upon the love of God; whether we do “love him because he first loved us;” whether we are pure in heart: For this is the foundation which shall never be moved. “Blessed are the pure in heart: For they shall see God.”

2. “The pure in heart” are they whose hearts God hath “purified even as he is pure;” who are purified, through faith in the blood of Jesus, from every unholy affection; who, being “cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfect holiness in the” loving “fear of God.” They are, through the power of his grace, purified from pride, by the deepest poverty of spirit; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and gentleness; from every desire but to please and enjoy God, to know and love him more and more, by that hunger and thirst after righteousness which now engrosses their whole soul: So that now they love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and mind, and strength.

3. But how little has this purity of heart been regarded by the false teachers of all ages! They have taught men barely to abstain from such outward impurities as God hath forbidden by name; but they did not strike at the heart; and by not guarding against, they in effect countenanced, inward corruptions.

A remarkable instance of this, our Lord has given us in the following words: “Ye have heard, that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery;” (Matt. 5:27;) and, in explaining this, those blind leaders of the blind only insist on men’s abstaining from the outward act. “But I say unto you, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart;” (Matt. 5:28;) for God requireth truth in the inward parts: He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins; and if thou incline unto iniquity with thy heart, the Lord will not hear thee.

4. And God admits no excuse for retaining anything which is an occasion of impurity. Therefore, “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell:” (Matt. 5:29:) If persons as dear to thee as thy right eye be an occasion of thy thus offending God, a means of exciting unholy desire in thy soul, delay not, forcibly separate from them. “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell:” (Matt. 5:30:) If any who seem as necessary to thee as thy right hand be an occasion of sin, of impure desire; even though it were never to go beyond the heart, never to break out in word or action; constrain thyself to an entire and final parting: cut them off at a stroke: Give them up to God. Any loss, whether of pleasure, or substance, or friends, is preferable to the loss of thy soul.

Two steps only it may not be improper to take before such an absolute and final separation. First, try whether the unclean spirit may not be driven out by fasting and prayer, and by carefully abstaining from every action, and word, and look, which thou hast found to be an occasion of evil. Secondly, if thou art not by this means delivered, ask counsel of him that watcheth over thy soul, or, at least, of some who have experience in the ways of God, touching the time and manner of that separation; but confer not with flesh and blood, lest thou be “given up to a strong delusion to believe a lie.”

5. Nor may marriage itself, holy and honourable as it is, be used as a pretence for giving a loose to our desires. Indeed, “it hath been said, Whosoever will put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:” And then all was well; though he alleged no cause, but that he did not like her, or liked another better. “But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the case of fornication,’ (that is, adultery; the word porneia signifying unchastity in general, either in the married or unmarried state,) causeth her to commit adultery, if she marry again: And whosoever shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery. (Matt 5:31, 32.)

All polygamy is clearly forbidden in these words, wherein our Lord expressly declares, that for any woman who has a husband alive, to marry again is adultery. By parity of reason, it is adultery for any man to marry again, so long as he has a wife alive, yea, although they were divorced; unless that divorce had been for the cause of adultery: In that only case there is no scripture which forbids to marry again.

6. Such is the purity of heart which God requires, and works in those who believe on the Son of his love. And blessed are they who are thus “pure in heart; for they shall see God.” he will “manifest himself unto them,” not only “as he doth not unto the world,” but as he doth not always to his own children. he will bless them with the clearest communications of his Spirit, the most intimate “fellowship with the Father and with the Son.” he will cause his presence to go continually before them, and the light of his countenance to shine upon them. It is the ceaseless prayer of their heart, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory;” and they have the petition they ask of him. They now see Him by faith, (the veil of the flesh being made as it were transparent,) even in these his lowest works, in all that surrounds them, in all that God has created and made. They see Him in the height above, and in the depth beneath; they see Him filling all in all. The pure in heart see all things full of God. They see Him in the firmament of heaven; in the moon, walking in brightness; in the sun, when he rejoiceth as a giant to run his course. They see Him “making the clouds his chariots, and walking upon the wings of the wind.” They see Him “preparing rain for the earth, and blessing the increase of it; giving grass for the cattle, and green herb for the use of man.” They see the Creator of all, wisely governing all, and “upholding all things by the word of his power.” “o Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the world!”

7. In all his providences relating to themselves, to their souls or bodies, the pure in heart do more particularly see God. They see his hand ever over them for good; giving them all things in weight and measure, numbering the hairs of their head, making a hedge round about them and all that they have, and disposing all the circumstances of their life according to the depth both of his wisdom and mercy.

8. But in a more especial manner they see God in his ordinances. Whether they appear in the great congregation, to “pay him the honour due unto his name,” “and worship him in the beauty of holiness;” or “enter into their closets,” and there pour out their souls before their “Father which is in secret;” whether they search the oracles of God, or hear the ambassadors of Christ proclaiming glad tidings of salvation; or, by eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup, “show forth his death till he come” in the clouds of heaven; in all these his appointed ways, they find such a near approach as cannot be expressed. They see him, as it were, face to face, and “talk with him, as a man talking with his friend;” a fit preparation for those mansions above, wherein they shall see him as he is.

9. But how far were they from seeing God, who, having heard “that it had been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths,” (Matt. 5:33,) interpreted it thus, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, when thou swearest by the Lord Jehovah. Thou “shalt perform unto the Lord” these thine oaths;” but as to other oaths, he regardeth them not.

So the Pharisees taught. They not only allowed all manner of swearing in common conversation; but accounted even forswearing a little thing, so they had not sworn by the peculiar name of God.

But our Lord here absolutely forbids all common swearing, as well as all false swearing; and shows the heinousness of both, by the same awful consideration, that every creature is Gods, and he is everywhere present, in all, and over all. “I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is Gods throne;” (Matt. 5:34;) and, therefore, this is the same as to swear by Him who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens: “Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool;” (Matt. 5:35;) and he is as intimately present in earth as heaven: “Neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King;” and God is well known in her palaces. “Neither shalt thou swear by thy head; because thou canst not make one hair white or black;” (Matt. 5:36;) because even this, it is plain, is not thine, but Gods, the sole disposer of all in heaven and earth. “But let your communication,” (Matt. 5:37,) your conversation, your discourse with each other “be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay;” a bare, serious affirming or denying; “for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil:” ek tou ponerou estin, is of the evil one; proceedeth from the devil, and is a mark of his children.

10. That our Lord does not here forbid the “swearing in judgment and truth,” when we are required so to do by a Magistrate, may appear, (1.) From the occasion of this part of his discourse,—the abuse he was here reproving,—which was false swearing and common swearing; the swearing before a Magistrate being quite out of the question.—(2.) From the very words wherein he forms the general conclusion: “Let your communication,” or discourse, “be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.”—(3.) From his own example; for he answered himself upon oath, when required by a Magistrate. When the High Priest said unto him, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God;” Jesus immediately answered in the affirmative, “Thou hast said;” (that is, the truth;) “nevertheless,” (or rather, moreover,) “I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:63, 64.)—(4.) From the example of God, even the Father, who, “willing the more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” (Heb. 6:17.)—(5.) From the example of St. Paul, who we think had the Spirit of God, and well understood the mind of his Master. “God is my witness,” saith he, to the Romans, “that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers:” (Rom. 1:9:) To the Corinthians, “I call God to record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth:” (2 Cor. 1:23:) And to the Philippians, “God is my record, how greatly I long after you in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:8.) Hence it undeniably appears that, if the Apostle knew the meaning of his Lord’s words, they do not forbid swearing on weighty occasions, even to one another: How much less before a Magistrate!—And, Lastly, from that assertion of the great Apostle, concerning solemn swearing in general: (Which it is impossible he could have mentioned without any touch of blame, if his Lord had totally forbidden it:) “Men verily swear by the greater;” by one greater than themselves; “and an oath for confirmation is to them the end of all strife.” (Heb. 6:16.)

11. But the great lesson which our blessed Lord inculcates here, and which he illustrates by this example, is, that God is in all things, and that we are to see the Creator in the glass of every creature; that we should use and look upon nothing as separate from God, which indeed is a kind of practical atheism; but, with a true magnificence of thought, survey heaven and earth, and all that is therein, as contained by God in the hollow of his hand, who by his intimate presence holds them all in being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame, and is, in a true sense, the soul of universe.

II. 1. Thus far our Lord has been more directly employed in teaching the religion of the heart. He has shown what Christians are to be. He proceeds to show, what they are to do also;—how inward holiness is to exert itself in our outward conversation. “Blessed,” saith he, “are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.”

2. “The peace-makers:” The word in the original is hoi eirenopoioi. It is well known that eirene, in the sacred writings, implies all manner of good; every blessing that relates either to the soul or the body, to time or eternity. Accordingly, when St. Paul, in the titles of his epistles, wishes grace and peace to the Romans or the Corinthians, it is as if he had said, “As a fruit of the free, undeserved love and favour of God, may you enjoy all blessings, spiritual and temporal; all the good things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

3. Hence we may easily learn, in how wide a sense the term peace-makers is to be understood. In its literal meaning it implies those lovers of God and man who utterly detest and abhor all strife and debate, all variance and contention; and accordingly labour with all their might, either to prevent this fire of hell from being kindled, or, when it is kindled, from breaking out, or, when it is broke out, from spreading any farther. They endeavour to calm the stormy spirits of men, to quiet their turbulent passions, to soften the minds of contending parties, and, if possible, reconcile them to each other. They use all innocent arts, and employ all their strength, all the talents which God has given them, as well to preserve peace where it is, as to restore it where it is not. It is the joy of their heart to promote, to confirm, to increase, mutual good-will among men, but more especially among the children of God, however distinguished by things of smaller importance; that as they have all “one Lord, one faith,” as they are all “called in one hope of their calling,” so they may all “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

4. But in the full extent of the word, a peace-maker is one that, as he hath opportunity, “doth good unto all men;” one that, being filled with the love of God and of all mankind, cannot confine the expressions of it to his own family, or friends, or acquaintance, or party, or to those of his own opinions;—no, nor those who are partakers of like precious faith; but steps over all these narrow bounds, that he may do good to every man, that he may, some way or other, manifest his love to neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. He doth good to them all, as he hath opportunity, that is, on every possible occasion; “redeeming the time,” in order thereto; “buying up every opportunity, improving every hour, losing no moment wherein he may profit another. He does good, not of one particular kind, but good in general, in every possible way; employing herein all his talents of every kind, all his powers and faculties of body and soul, all his fortune, his interest, his reputation; desiring only, that when his Lord cometh He may say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

5. He doth good, to the uttermost of his power, even to the bodies of all men. He rejoices to “deal his bread to the hungry,” and to “cover the naked with a garment.” Is any a stranger? He takes him in, and relieves him according to his necessities. Are any sick or in prison? He visits them, and administers such help as they stand most in need of. And all this he does, not as unto man; but remembering him that hath said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

6. How much more does he rejoice, if he can do any good to the soul of any man! This power, indeed, belongeth unto God. It is He only that changes the heart, without which every other change is lighter than vanity. Nevertheless, it pleases Him who worketh all in all, to help man chiefly by man; to convey his own power, and blessing, and love, through one man to another. Therefore, although it be certain that “the help which is done upon earth, God doth it himself;” yet has no man need, on this account to stand idle in his vineyard. The peace-maker cannot: He is ever labouring therein, and, as an instrument in God’s hand, preparing the ground for his Master’s use, or sowing the seed of the kingdom, or watering what is already sown, if haply God may give the increase. According to the measure of grace which he has received, he uses all diligence, either to reprove the gross sinner, to reclaim those who run on headlong in the broad way of destruction; or “to give light to them that sit in darkness,” and are ready to “perish for lack of knowledge;” or to “support the weak, to lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees;” or to bring back and heal that which was lame and turned out of the way. Nor is he less zealous to confirm those who are already striving to enter in at the strait gate; to strengthen those that stand, that they may “run with patience the race which is set before them;” to build up in their most holy faith those that know in whom they have believed; to exhort them to stir up the gift of God which is in them, that daily growing in grace, “an entrance may be ministered unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

7. “Blessed” are they who are thus continually employed in the work of faith and the labour of love; “for they shall be called,” that is, shall be, (a common Hebraism,) “the children “of God.” God shall continue unto them the Spirit of adoption, yea, shall pour it more abundantly into their hearts. He shall bless them with all the blessings of his children. He shall acknowledge them as sons before angels and men; “and, if sons, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

III. 1. One would imagine such a person as has been above described, so full of genuine humility, so unaffectedly serious, so mild and gentle, so free from all selfish design, so devoted to God, and such an active lover of men, should be the darling of mankind. But our Lord was better acquainted with human nature in its present state. He therefore closes the character of this man of God with showing him the treatment he is to expect in the world. “Blessed,” saith he, “are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

2. In order to understand this throughly, let us, First, inquire, Who are they that are persecuted? And this we may easily learn from St. Paul: “As of old, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” (Gal. 4:29.) “Yea,” saith the Apostle, “and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12.) The same we are taught by St. John: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” (1 John 3:13–14.) As if he had said, The brethren, the Christians, cannot be loved, but by them who have passed from death unto life. And most expressly by our Lord: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18.)

By all these Scriptures it manifestly appears who they are that are persecuted; namely, the righteous: He “that is born of the Spirit;” “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus;” they that are “passed from death unto life;” those who are “not of the world;” all those who are meek and lowly in heart, that mourn for God, that hunger after his likeness; all that love God and their neighbour, and therefore, as they have opportunity, do good unto all men.

3. If it be, secondly, inquired, why they are persecuted, the answer is equally plain and obvious. It is “for righteousness’ sake;” because they are righteous; because they are born after the Spirit; because they “will live godly in Christ Jesus;” because they “are not of the world.” Whatever may be pretended, this is the real cause: Be their infirmities more or less, still, if it were not for this, they would be borne with, and the world would love its own. They are persecuted, because they are poor in spirit; that is, say the world, “poor-spirited, mean, dastardly souls, good for nothing, not fit to live in the world:”—because they mourn: “They are such dull, heavy, lumpish creatures, enough to sink anyone’s spirits that sees them! They are mere death-heads; they kill innocent mirth, and spoil company wherever they come:”—Because they are meek: “Tame, passive fools, just fit to be trampled upon:”—Because they hunger and thirst after righteousness: “A parcel of hot-brained enthusiasts, gaping after they know not what, not content with rational religion, but running mad after raptures and inward feelings:”—Because they are merciful, lovers of all, lovers of the evil and unthankful: “Encouraging all manner of wickedness; nay, tempting people to do mischief by impunity: and men who, it is to be feared, have their own religion still to seek; very loose in their principles:”—Because they are pure in heart: “Uncharitable creatures, that damn all the world, but those that are of their own sort! Blasphemous wretches, that pretend to make God a liar, to live without sin!”—Above all, because they are peace-makers; because they take all opportunities of doing good to all men. This is the grand reason why they have been persecuted in all ages, and will be till the restitution of all things: “If they would but keep their religion to themselves, it would be tolerable: But it is this spreading their errors, this infecting so many others, which is not to be endured. They do so much mischief in the world, that they ought to be tolerated no longer. It is true, the men do some things well enough; they relieve some of the poor: But this, too, is only done to gain the more to their party; and so, in effect, to do the more mischief!” Thus the men of the world sincerely think and speak. And the more the kingdom of God prevails, the more the peace-makers are enabled to propagate lowliness, meekness, and all other divine tempers, the more mischief is done, in their account: Consequently, the more are they enraged against the authors of this, and the more vehemently will they persecute them.

4. Let us, Thirdly, inquire, Who are they that persecute them? St. Paul answers, “He that is born after the flesh:” Everyone who is not “born of the Spirit,” or, at least, desirous so to be; all that do not at least labour to “live godly in Christ Jesus;” all that are not “passed from death unto life,” and, consequently, cannot “love the brethren;” “the world,” that is, according to our Saviour’s account, they who “know not him that sent me; they who know not God, even the loving, pardoning God, by the teaching of his own Spirit.

The reason is plain: The spirit which is in the world is directly opposite to the Spirit which is of God. It must therefore needs be, that those who are of the world will be opposite to those who are of God. There is the utmost contrariety between them, in all their opinions, their desires, designs, and tempers. And hitherto the leopard and the kid cannot lie down in peace together. The proud, because he is proud, cannot but persecute the lowly; the light and airy, those that mourn: And so in every other kind; the unlikeness of disposition (were there no other) being a perpetual ground of enmity. Therefore, were it only on this account, all the servants of the devil will persecute the children of God.

5. Should it be inquired, Fourthly, how they will persecute them, it may be answered in general, Just in that manner and measure which the wise Disposer of all sees will be most for his glory,—will tend most to his children’s growth in grace, and the enlargement of his own kingdom. There is no one branch of God’s government of the world which is more to be admired than this. His ear is never heavy to the threatenings of the persecutor, or the cry of the persecuted. His eye is ever open, and his hand stretched out to direct every the minutest circumstance. When the storm shall begin, how high it shall rise, which way it shall point its course, when and how it shall end, are all determined by his unerring wisdom. The ungodly are only a sword of his; an instrument which he uses as it pleaseth him, and which itself, when the gracious ends of his providence are answered, is cast into the fire.

At some rare times, as when Christianity was planted first, and while it was taking root in the earth; as also when the pure doctrine of Christ began to be planted again in our nation; God permitted the storm to rise high, and his children were called to resist unto blood. There was a peculiar reason why he suffered this with regard to the Apostles, that their evidence might be the more unexceptionable. But from the annals of the church we learn another, and a far different reason, why he suffered the heavy persecutions which rose in the second and third centuries; namely, because “the mystery of iniquity” did so strongly “work;” because of the monstrous corruptions which even then reigned in the church: These God chastised, and at the same time strove to heal, by those severe but necessary visitations.

Perhaps the same observation may be made, with regard to the grand persecution in our own land. God had dealt very graciously with our nation. He had poured out various blessings upon us: He had given us peace abroad and at home; and a King, wise and good beyond his years: And, above all, he had caused the pure light of his gospel to arise and shine amongst us. But what return did he find? “He looked for righteousness; but behold a cry!”—a cry of oppression and wrong, of ambition and injustice, of malice, and fraud, and covetousness. Yea, the cry of those who even then expired in the flames entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. It was then God arose to maintain his own cause against those that held the truth in unrighteousness. Then he sold them into the hands of their persecutors, by a judgment mixed with mercy; an affliction to punish, and yet a medicine to heal, the grievous backslidings of his people.

6. But it is seldom God suffers the storm to rise so high as torture, or death, or bonds, or imprisonment. Whereas his children are frequently called to endure those lighter kinds of persecution; they frequently suffer the estrangement of kinsfolk,—the loss of the friends that were as their own soul. They find the truth of their Lord’s word (concerning the event, though not the design of his coming,) “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” (Luke 12:51.) And hence will naturally follow loss of business or employment, and consequently of substance. But all these circumstances likewise are under the wise direction of God, who allots to everyone what is most expedient for him.

7. But the persecution which attends all the children of God is that our Lord describes in the following words: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,”—shall persecute by reviling you,—”and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake.” This cannot fail; it is the very badge of our discipleship; it is one of the seals of our calling; it is a sure portion entailed on all the children of God: If we have it not, we are bastards and not sons. Straight through evil report, as well as good report, lies the only way to the kingdom. The meek, serious, humble, zealous lovers of God and man are of good report among their brethren; but of evil report with the world, who count and treat them “as the filth and offscouring of all things.”

8. Indeed some have supposed that before the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in the scandal of the cross will cease; that God will cause Christians to be esteemed and loved, even by those who are as yet in their sins. Yea, and sure it is, that even now he at some times suspends the contempt as well as the fierceness of men; “he makes a man’s enemies to be at peace with him for a season, and gives him favour with his bitterest persecutors. But setting aside this exempt case, the scandal of the cross is not yet ceased; but a man may say still, “If I please men, I am not the servant of Christ. Let no man therefore regard that pleasing suggestion (pleasing doubtless to flesh and blood,) that bad men only pretend to hate and despise them that are good, but do indeed love and esteem them in their hearts.” Not so: They may employ them sometimes; but it is for their own profit. They may put confidence in them; for they know their ways are not like other men’s. But still they love them not; unless so far as the Spirit of God may be striving with them. Our Saviour’s words are express: “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Yea, (setting aside what exceptions may be made by the preventing grace or the peculiar providence, of God,) it hateth them as cordially and sincerely as ever it did their Master.

9. It remains only to inquire, How are the children of God to behave with regard to persecution? And, First, they ought not knowingly or designedly to bring it upon themselves. This is contrary, both to the example and advice of our Lord and all his Apostles; who teach us not only not to seek, but to avoid it, as far as we can, without injuring our conscience; without giving up any part of that righteousness which we are to prefer before life itself. So our Lord expressly, “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another,” which is indeed, when it can be taken, the most unexceptionable way of avoiding persecution.

10. Yet think not that you can always avoid it, either by this or any other means. If ever that idle imagination steals into your heart, put it to flight by that earnest caution, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” But will this screen you from persecution? Not unless you have more wisdom than your Master, or more innocence than the Lamb of God.

Neither desire to avoid it, to escape it wholly; for if you do, you are none of his. If you escape the persecution, you escape the blessing; the blessing of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. If you are not persecuted for righteousness’ sake, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him, he will also deny us.”

11. Nay, rather, “rejoice and be exceeding glad,” when men persecute you for his sake; when they persecute you by reviling you, and by “saying all manner of evil against you falsely;” which they will not fail to mix with every kind of persecution: They must blacken you to excuse themselves: “For so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you!”—those who were most eminently holy in heart and life; yea, and all the righteous which ever have been from the beginning of the world. Rejoice, because by his mark also ye know unto whom ye belong. And, because great is your reward in heaven,”—the reward purchased by the blood of the covenant, and freely bestowed in proportion to your sufferings, as well as to your holiness of heart and life. Be exceeding glad;” knowing that “these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

12. Meantime, let no persecution turn you out of the way of lowliness and meekness, of love and beneficence. “Ye have heard” indeed “that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;” (Matt. 5:38;) and your miserable teachers have hence allowed you to avenge yourselves, to return evil for evil: “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil:”—Not thus; not by returning it in kind. “But, rather than do this, “whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

So invincible let thy meekness be. And be thy love suitable thereto. “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Only give not away that which is another man’s, that which is not thine own. Therefore, (1.) Take care to owe no man anything: For what thou owest is not thy own, but another man’s. (2.) Provide for those of thine own household: This also God hath required of thee; and what is necessary to sustain them in life and godliness is also not thine own. Then, (3.) Give or lend all that remains, from day to day, or from year to year: Only, first, seeing thou canst not give or lend to all, remember the household of faith.

13. The meekness and love we are to feel, the kindness we are to show to them which persecute us for righteousness’ sake, our blessed Lord describes farther in the following verses: O that they were graven upon our hearts! “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy:” (Matt. 5:43.) God indeed had said only the former part, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour;” the children of the devil had added the latter, “and hate thy enemy:” “But I say unto you,” (1.) “Love your enemies:” See that you bear a tender good-will to those who are most bitter of spirit against you; who wish you all manner of evil. (2.) “Bless them that curse you.” Are there any whose bitterness of spirit breaks forth in bitter words? who are continually cursing and reproaching you when you are present, and “saying all evil against you” when absent? So much the rather do you bless: In conversing with them use all mildness and softness of language. Reprove them, by repeating a better lesson before them; by showing them how they ought to have spoken. And, in speaking of them, say all the good you can, without violating the rules of truth and justice. (3.) “Do good to them that hate you:” Let your actions show, that you are as real in love as they in hatred. Return good for evil. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (4). If you can do nothing more, at least “pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” You can never be disabled from doing this; nor can all their malice or violence hinder you. Pour out your souls to God, not only for those who did this once, but now repent:—This is a little thing: “If thy brother, seven times a day, turn and say unto thee, I repent;” (Luke 17:4) that is, if, after ever so many relapses, he give thee reason to believe that he is really and throughly changed; then thou shalt forgive him, so as to trust him, to put him in thy bosom, as if he had never sinned against thee at all:—But pray for, wrestle with God for, those that do not repent, that now despitefully use thee and persecute thee. Thus far forgive them, “not until seven times only, but until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:22.) Whether they repent or no, yea, though they appear farther and farther from it, yet show them this instance of kindness: “That ye may be the children,” that ye may approve yourselves the genuine children, “of your Father which is in heaven;” who shows his goodness by giving such blessings as they are capable of, even to his stubbornest enemies; “who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46;)—who pretend to no religion; whom ye yourselves acknowledge to be without God in the world. “And if ye salute,” show kindness in word or deed to “your brethren,” your friends or kinsfolk, “only; what do ye more than others?”—than those who have no religion at all? “Do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:47.) Nay, but follow ye a better pattern than them. In patience, in longsuffering, in mercy, in beneficence of every kind, to all, even to your bitterest persecutors; “be ye,” Christians, “perfect,” in kind, though not in degree, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.)

IV. Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered by its great Author! This is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ! Such he presents it to him whose eyes are opened. See a picture of God, so far as he is imitable by man! A picture drawn by God’s own hand: “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish!” Or rather, wonder and adore! Rather cry out, “Is this the religion of Jesus of Nazareth? the religion which I persecuted! Let me no more be found even to fight against God. Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?” What beauty appears in the whole! How just a symmetry! What exact proportion in every part! How desirable is the happiness here described! How venerable, how lovely the holiness! This is the spirit of religion; the quintessence of it. These are indeed the fundamentals of Christianity. O that we may not be hearers of it only!—”like a man beholding his own face in a glass, who goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” Nay, but let us steadily “look into this perfect law of liberty, and continue therein.” Let us not rest, until every line thereof is transcribed into our own hearts. Let us watch, and pray, and believe, and love, and “strive for the mastery,” till every part of it shall appear in our soul, graven there by the finger of God; till we are “holy as He which hath called us is holy, perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect!”




“Ye are the salt of the earth. But if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matt. 5:13–16

1. The beauty of holiness, of that inward man of the heart which is renewed after the image of God, cannot but strike every eye which God hath opened,—every enlightened understanding. The ornament of a meek, humble, loving spirit, will at least excite the approbation of all those who are capable in any degree, of discerning spiritual good and evil. From the hour men begin to emerge out of the darkness which covers the giddy, unthinking world, they cannot but perceive how desirable a thing it is to be thus transformed into the likeness of him that created us. This inward religion bears the shape of God so visibly impressed upon it, that a soul must be wholly immersed in flesh and blood when he can doubt of its divine original. We may say of this, in a secondary sense, even as of the Son of God himself, that it is the “brightness of his glory, the express image of his person;” apaugasma tes doxe autou, the beaming forth of his eternal glory; and yet so tempered and softened, that even the children of men may herein see God and live; charakter tes hupostaseos autou, the character, the stamp, the living impression, of his person, who is the fountain of beauty and love, the original source of all excellency and perfection.

2. If religion, therefore, were carried no farther than this, they could have no doubt concerning it; they should have no objection against pursuing it with the whole ardour of their souls. “But why,” say they, “is it clogged with other things? What need of loading it with doing and suffering? These are what damps the vigour of the soul, and sinks it down to earth again. Is it not enough to follow after charity; to soar upon the wings of love? Will it not suffice to worship God, who is a Spirit, with the spirit of our minds, without encumbering ourselves with outward things, or even thinking of them at all? Is it not better, that the whole extent of our thought should be taken up with high and heavenly contemplation; and that instead of busying ourselves at all about externals, we should only commune with God in our hearts?”

3. Many eminent men have spoken thus; have advised us “to cease from all outward action;” wholly to withdraw from the world; to leave the body behind us; to abstract ourselves from all sensible things; to have no concern at all about outward religion, but to work all virtues in the will; as the far more excellent way, more perfective of the soul, as well as more acceptable to God.

4. It needed not that any should tell our Lord of this masterpiece of the wisdom from beneath, this fairest of all the devices wherewith Satan hath ever perverted the right ways of the Lord! And o! what instruments hath he found, from time to time, to employ in this his service, to wield this grand engine of hell against some of the most important truths of God!—men that would “deceive, if it were possible, the very elect,” the men of faith and love; yea, that have for a season deceived and led away no inconsiderable number of them, who have fallen in all ages into the gilded snare, and hardly escaped with the skin of their teeth.

5. But has our Lord been wanting on his part? has he not sufficiently guarded us against this pleasing delusion? has he not armed us here with armour of proof against Satan “transformed into an angel of light?” Yea, verily: he here defends, in the clearest and strongest manner, the active, patient religion he had just described. What can be fuller and plainer, than the words he immediately subjoins to what he had said of doing and suffering? “Ye are the salt of the earth: But if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

In order fully to explain and enforce these important words, I shall endeavour to show, First, that Christianity is essentially a social religion; and that to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it. Secondly, that to conceal this religion is impossible, as well as utterly contrary to the design of its Author. I shall, Thirdly, answer some objections; and conclude the whole with a practical application.

I. 1. First, I shall endeavour to show, that Christianity is essentially a social religion; and that to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it.

By Christianity I mean that method of worshipping God which is here revealed to man by Jesus Christ. When I say, This is essentially a social religion, I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without society,—without living and conversing with other men. And in showing this, I shall confine myself to those considerations which will arise from the very discourse before us. But if this be shown, then doubtless, to turn this religion into a solitary one is to destroy it.

Not that we can in any wise condemn the intermixing solitude or retirement with society. This is not only allowable but expedient; nay, it is necessary, as daily experience shows, for everyone that either already is, or desires to be, a real Christian. It can hardly be, that we should spend one entire day in a continued intercourse with men, without suffering loss in our soul, and in some measure grieving the Holy Spirit of God. We have need daily to retire from the world, at least morning and evening, to converse with God, to commune more freely with our Father which is in secret. Nor indeed can a man of experience condemn even longer seasons of religious retirement, so they do not imply any neglect of the worldly employ wherein the providence of God has placed us.

2. Yet such retirement must not swallow up all our time; this would be to destroy, not advance, true religion. For, that the religion described by our Lord in the foregoing words cannot subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other men, is manifest from hence, that several of the most essential branches thereof can have no place if we have no intercourse with the world.

3. There is no disposition, for instance, which is more essential to Christianity than meekness. Now although this, as it implies resignation to God, or patience in pain and sickness, may subsist in a desert, in a hermits cell, in total solitude; yet as it implies (which it no less necessarily does) mildness, gentleness, and long-suffering, it cannot possibly have a being, it has no place under heaven, without an intercourse with other men. So that to attempt turning this into a solitary virtue is to destroy it from the face of the earth.

4. Another necessary branch of true Christianity is peacemaking, or doing of good. That this is equally essential with any of the other parts of the religion of Jesus Christ, there can be no stronger argument to evince, (and therefore it would be absurd to allege any other,) than that it is here inserted in the original plan he has laid down of the fundamentals of his religion. Therefore, to set aside this is the same daring insult on the authority of our Great Master as to set aside mercifulness, purity of heart, or any other branch of his institution. But this is apparently set aside by all who call us to the wilderness; who recommend entire solitude either to the babes, or the young men, or the fathers in Christ. For will any man affirm that a solitary Christian (so called, though it is little less than a contradiction in terms) can be a merciful man,—that is, one that takes every opportunity of doing all good to all men? What can be more plain, than that this fundamental branch of the religion of Jesus Christ cannot possibly subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other men?

5. “But is it not expedient, however,” one might naturally ask, “to converse only with good men,—only with those whom we know to be meek and merciful,—holy of heart and holy of life? Is it not expedient to refrain from any conversation or intercourse with men of the opposite character,—men who do not obey, perhaps do not believe, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? The advice of St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth may seem to favour this: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” (1 Cor. 5:9) And it is certainly not advisable so to company with them, or with any of the workers of iniquity, as to have any particular familiarity, or any strictness of friendship with them. To contract or continue an intimacy with any such is no way expedient for a Christian. It must necessarily expose him to abundance of dangers and snares, out of which he can have no reasonable hope of deliverance.

But the Apostle does not forbid us to have any intercourse at all, even with the men that know not God: “For then,” says he, “ye must needs go out of the world;” which he could never advise them to do. But, he subjoins, “If any man that is called a brother,” that professes himself a Christian, “be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner;” (1 Cor. 5:11;) now I have written unto you not to keep company’ with him; “with such an one, no not to eat.” This must necessarily imply, that we break off all familiarity, all intimacy of acquaintance with him. “Yet count him not,” saith the Apostle elsewhere, “as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother;” (2 Thes. 3:15;) plainly showing that even in such a case as this we are not to renounce all fellowship with him. So that here is no advice to separate wholly, even from wicked men. Yea, these very words teach us quite the contrary.

6. Much more the words of our Lord; who is so far from directing us to break off all commerce with the world, that without it, according to his account of Christianity, we cannot be Christians at all. It would be easy to show, that some intercourse even with ungodly and unholy men is absolutely needful, in order to the full exertion of every temper which he has described as the way of the kingdom; that it is indispensably necessary, in order to the complete exercise of poverty of spirit, of mourning, and of every other disposition which has a place here, in the genuine religion of Jesus Christ. Yea, it is necessary to the very being of several of them; of that meekness, for example, which, instead of demanding “an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth,” doth “not resist evil,” but causes us rather, when smitten “on the right cheek, to turn the other also;”—of that mercifulness, whereby “we love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute us;”—and of that complication of love and all holy tempers which is exercised in suffering for righteousness’ sake. Now all these, it is clear, could have no being, were we to have no commerce with any but real Christians.

7. Indeed were we wholly to separate ourselves from sinners, how could we possibly answer that character which our Lord gives us in these very words? “Ye” (Christians, ye that are lowly, serious and meek; ye that hunger after righteousness, that love God and man, that do good to all, and therefore suffer evil; ye) “are the salt of the earth:” It is your very nature to season whatever is round about you. It is the nature of the divine savour which is in you, to spread to whatsoever you touch; to diffuse itself, on every side, to all those among whom you are. This is the great reason why the providence of God has so mingled you together with other men, that whatever grace you have received of God may through you be communicated to others; that every holy temper, and word, and work of yours, may have an influence on lo them also. By this means a check will, in some measure, be given to the corruption which is in the world; and a small part, at least, saved from the general infection, and rendered holy and pure before God.

8. That we may the more diligently labour to season all we can with every holy and heavenly temper, our Lord proceeds to show the desperate state of those who do not impart the religion they have received; which indeed they cannot possibly fail to do, so long as it remains in their own hearts. “If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men:” If ye who were holy and heavenly-minded, and consequently zealous of good works, have no longer that savour in yourselves, and do therefore no longer season others; if you are grown flat, insipid, dead, both careless of your own soul and useless to the souls of other men; wherewith shall ye be salted? How shall ye be recovered? What help? What hope? Can tasteless salt be restored to its savour? No; “it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out,” even as the mire in the streets, “and to be trodden under foot of men,” to be overwhelmed with everlasting contempt. If ye had never known the Lord, there might have been hope,—if ye had never been “found in him:” But what can you now say to that, his solemn declaration, just parallel to what he hath here spoken? “every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he, the Father, “taketh away. He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit.” “If a man abide not in me,” or do not bring forth fruit.” “he is cast out as a branch, and withered; and men gather them,” not to plant them again, but “to cast them into the fire.” (John 15:2, 5, 6.)

9. Toward those who have never tasted of the good word, God is indeed pitiful and of tender mercy. But justice takes place with regard to those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have afterwards turned back “from the holy commandment” then “delivered to them.” “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened;” (Heb. 6:4) in whose hearts God had once shined, to enlighten them with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; “who have tasted of the heavenly gift” of redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of sins; “and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” of lowliness, of meekness, and of the love of God and man shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which was given unto them; and “have fallen away,”—kai parapesontas—(here is not a supposition, but a flat declaration of matter of fact) “to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

But that none may misunderstand these awful words, it should be carefully observed, (1.) Who they are that are here spoken of; namely they, and they only, who were once thus “enlightened;” they only, “who did taste of” that “heavenly gift, and were” thus ” ‘made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” So that all who have not experienced these things are wholly unconcerned in this Scripture. (2.) What that falling away is which is, here spoken of: It is an absolute, total apostasy. A believer may fall, and not fall away. He may fall and rise again. And if he should fall, even into sin, yet this case, dreadful as it is, is not desperate. For “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.” But let him above all things beware, lest his “heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin;” lest he should sink lower and lower, till he wholly fall away, till he become as salt that hath lost its savour: For if we thus sin wilfully, after we have received the experimental “knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain, fearful looking for of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

II. 1. “But although we may not wholly separate ourselves from mankind, although it be granted we ought to season them with the religion which God has wrought in our hearts, yet may not this be done insensibly? May we not convey this into others in a secret and almost imperceptible manner, so that scarce anyone shall be able to observe how or when it is done?—even as salt conveys its own savour into that which is seasoned thereby, without any noise, and without being liable to any outward observation. And if so, although we do not go out of the world, yet we may lie hid in it. We may thus far keep our religion to ourselves; and not offend lo those whom we cannot help.”

2. Of this plausible reasoning of flesh and blood our Lord was well aware also. And he has given a full answer to it in those words which come now to be considered; in explaining which, I shall endeavour to show, as I proposed to do in the Second place, that so long as true religion abides in our hearts, it is impossible to conceal it, as well as absolutely contrary to the design of its great Author.

And, First, it is impossible for any that have it, to conceal the religion of Jesus Christ. This our Lord makes plain beyond all contradiction, by a two-fold comparison: “Ye are the light of the world: A city set upon an hill cannot be hid.” Ye Christians “are the light of the world,” with regard both to your tempers and actions. Your holiness makes you as conspicuous as the sun in the midst of heaven. As ye cannot go out of the world, so neither can ye stay in it without appearing to all mankind. Ye may not flee from men; and while ye are among them, it is impossible to hide your lowliness and meekness, and those other dispositions whereby ye aspire to be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Love cannot be hid any more than light; and least of all, when it shines forth in action, when ye exercise yourselves in the labour of love, in beneficence of every kind. As well may men think to hide a city, as to hide a Christian; yea, as well may they conceal a city set upon a hill, as a holy, zealous, active lover of God and man.

3. It is true, men who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, will take all possible pains to prove, that the light which is in you is darkness. They will say evil, all manner of evil, falsely, of the good which is in you; they will lay to your charge that which is farthest from your thoughts, which is the very reverse of all you are, and all you do. And your patient continuance in well-doing, your meek suffering all things for the Lord’s sake, your calm, humble joy in the midst of persecution, your unwearied labour to overcome evil with good, will make you still more visible and conspicuous than ye were before.

4. So impossible it is, to keep our religion from being seen, unless we cast it away; so vain is the thought of hiding the light, unless by putting it out! Sure it is, that a secret, unobserved religion, cannot be the religion of Jesus Christ. Whatever religion can be concealed, is not Christianity. If a Christian could be hid, he could not be compared to a city set upon an hill; to the light of the world, the sun shining from heaven, and seen by all the world below. Never, therefore, let it enter into the heart of him whom God hath renewed in the spirit of his mind, to hide that light, to keep his religion to himself; especially considering it is not only impossible to conceal true Christianity, but likewise absolutely contrary to the design of the great Author of it.

5. This plainly appears from the following words: “Neither do men light a candle, to put it under a bushel.” As if he had said, As men do not light a candle, only to cover and conceal it, so neither does God enlighten any soul with his glorious knowledge and love, to have it covered or concealed, either by prudence, falsely so called, or shame, or voluntary humility; to have it hid either in a desert, or in the world; either by avoiding men, or in conversing with them. “But they put it on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house:” In like manner, it is the design of God that every Christian should be in an open point of view; that he may give light to all around, that he may visibly express the religion of Jesus Christ.

6. Thus hath God in all ages spoken to the world, not only by precept, but by example also. He hath “not left himself without witness,” in any nation where the sound of the gospel hath gone forth, without a few who testified his truth by their lives as well as their words. These have been “as lights shining in a dark place.” And from time to time they have been the means of enlightening some, of preserving a remnant, a little seed which was “counted unto the Lord for a generation.” They have led a few poor sheep out of the darkness of the world, and guided their feet into the way of peace.

7. One might imagine that, where both Scripture and the reason of things speak so clearly and expressly, there could not be much advanced on the other side, at least not with any appearance of truth. But they who imagine thus know little of the depths of Satan. After all that Scripture and reason have said, so exceeding plausible are the pretences for solitary religion, for a Christian’s going out of the world, or at least hiding himself in it, that we need all the wisdom of God to see through the snare, and all the power of God to escape it; so many and strong are the objections which have been brought against being social, open, active Christians.

III. 1. To answer these, was the Third thing which I proposed. And, First, it has been often objected, that religion does not lie in outward things, but in the heart, the inmost soul; that it is the union of the soul with God, the life of God in the soul of man; that outside religion is nothing worth; seeing God “delighteth not in burnt-offerings,” in outward services, but a pure and holy heart is “the sacrifice he will not despise.”

I answer, It is most true that the root of religion lies in the heart, in the inmost soul; that this is the union of the soul with God, the life of God in the soul of man. But if this root be really in the heart, it cannot but put forth branches. And these are the several instances of outward obedience, which partake of the same nature with the root; and consequently, are not only marks or signs, but substantial parts of religion.

It is also true, that bare outside religion, which has no root in the heart, is nothing worth; that God delighteth not in such outward services, no more than in Jewish burnt-offerings; and that a pure and holy heart is a sacrifice with which he is always well pleased. But he is also well pleased with all that outward service which arises from the heart; with the sacrifice of our prayers (whether public or private,) of our praises and thanksgivings; with the sacrifice of our goods, humbly devoted to him, and employed wholly to his glory; and with that of our bodies, which he peculiarly claims, which the Apostle beseeches us, “by the mercies of God, to present unto him, a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God.”

2. A Second objection, nearly related to this, is that love is all in all; that it is “the fulfilling of the law,” “the end of the commandment,” of every commandment of God; that all we do, and all we suffer, if we have not charity or love, profiteth us nothing; and therefore the Apostle directs us to “follow after charity,” and terms this “the more excellent way.”

I answer, It is granted, that the love of God and man, arising from faith unfeigned, is all in all, the fulfilling of the law, the end of every commandment of God. It is true, that without this, whatever we do, whatever we suffer, profits us nothing. But it does not follow, that love is all in such a sense as to supersede either faith or good works. It is “the fulfilling of the law,” not by releasing us from, but by constraining us to obey it. It is “the end of the commandment,” as every commandment leads to and centres in it. It is allowed, that whatever we do or suffer without love, profits us nothing. But withal, whatever we do or suffer in love, though it were only the suffering reproach for Christ, or the giving a cup of cold water in his name, it shall in no wise lose its reward.

3. “But does not the Apostle direct us to ‘follow after charity?’ And does he not term it ‘a more excellent way?’ “—He does direct us to “follow after charity;” but not after that alone. His words are, “follow after charity;” and desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Cor. 14:1) Yea, “follow after charity;” and desire to spend and to be spent for your brethren. “Follow after charity;” and as you have opportunity do good to all men.

In the same verse also wherein he terms this, the way of love, “a more excellent way,” he directs the Corinthians to desire other gifts besides it; yea, to desire them earnestly. “Covet earnestly,” saith he, “the best gifts; and yet I show unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31.) More excellent than what? Than the gifts of healing, of speaking with tongues, and of interpreting, mentioned in the preceding verse; but not more excellent than the way of obedience. Of this the Apostle is not speaking; neither is he speaking of outward religion at all: So that this text is quite wide of the present question.

But suppose the Apostle had been speaking of outward as well as inward religion, and comparing them together; suppose, in the comparison, he had given the preference ever so much to the latter; suppose he had preferred (as he justly might) a loving heart, before all outward works whatever; yet it would not follow that we were to reject either one or the other. No; God hath joined them together from the beginning of the world; and let not man put them asunder.

4. “But ‘God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ And is not this enough? Nay, ought we not to employ the whole strength of our mind herein? Does not attending to outward things clog the soul, that it cannot soar aloft in holy contemplation? Does it not damp the vigour of our thought? Has it not a natural tendency to encumber and distract the mind? Whereas St. Paul would have us to be ‘without carefulness’, and to ‘wait upon the Lord without distraction.’ ”

I answer, “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Yea, and this is enough: We ought to employ the whole strength of our mind therein. But then I would ask, What is it to worship God, a Spirit, in spirit and in truth?’ Why, it is to worship him with our spirit; to worship him in that manner which none but spirits are capable of. It is to believe in him as a wise, just, holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and yet merciful, gracious, and long-suffering; forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin; casting all our sins behind his back, and accepting us in the Beloved. It is, to love him, to delight in him, to desire him, with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; to imitate him we love, by purifying ourselves, even as he is pure; and to obey him whom we love, and in whom we believe, both in thought, and word, and work. Consequently, one branch of the worshipping God in spirit and in truth is, the keeping his outward commandments. To glorify him, therefore with our bodies, as well as with our spirits; to go through outward work with hearts lifted up to him; to make our daily employment a sacrifice to God; to buy and sell, to eat and drink, to his glory;—this is worshipping God in spirit and in truth, as much as the praying to him in a wilderness.

5. But if so, then contemplation is only one way of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Therefore to give ourselves up entirely to this, would be to destroy many branches of spiritual worship, all equally acceptable to God and equally profitable, not hurtful, to the soul. For it is a great mistake, to suppose that an attention to those outward things, whereto the providence of God hath called us, is any clog to a Christian, or any hindrance at all to his always seeing Him that is invisible. It does not at all damp the ardour of his thought; it does not encumber or distract his mind; it gives him no uneasy or hurtful care, who does it all as unto the Lord; who hath learned whatsoever he doth, in word or deed, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus; having only one eye of the soul, which moves round on outward things, and one immovably fixed on God. Learn what this meaneth, ye poor recluses, that you may clearly discern your own littleness of faith: Yea, that you may no longer judge others by yourselves, go and learn what that meaneth:—

Thou, O Lord, in tender love

Dost all my burdens bear;

Lift my heart to things above,

And fix it ever there.

Calm on tumult’s wheel I sit;

Midst busy multitudes alone;

Sweetly waiting at thy feet

Till all thy will he done.

6. But the grand objection is still behind. “We appeal,” say they, “to experience. Our light did shine; we used outward things many years; and yet they profited nothing. We attended on all the ordinances; but we were no better for it; nor indeed anyone else; Nay, we were the worse; for we fancied ourselves Christians for so doing, when we knew not what Christianity meant.”

I allow the fact: I allow that you and ten thousand more, have thus abused the ordinances of God; mistaking the means for the end; supposing that the doing these, or some other outward works either was the religion of Jesus Christ, or would be accepted in the place of it. But let the abuse be taken away, and the use remain. Now use all outward things, but use them with a constant eye to the renewal of your soul in righteousness and true holiness.

7. But this is not all: They affirm, “Experience likewise shows, that the trying to do good is but lost labour. What does it avail to feed or clothe men’s bodies, if they are just dropping into everlasting fire? And what good can any man do to their souls? If these are changed, God doth it himself. Besides, all men are either good, at least desirous so to be, or obstinately evil. Now the former have no need of us; let them ask help of God, and it shall be given them: And the latter will receive no help from us. Nay, and our Lord forbids to ‘cast our pearls before swine.’ ”

I answer, (1.) Whether they will finally be lost or saved, you are expressly commanded to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. If you can, and do not, whatever becomes of them, you shall go away into everlasting fire. (2.) Though it is God only changes hearts, yet he generally doth it by man. It is our part to do all that in us lies, as diligently as if we could change them ourselves, and then to leave the event to him. (3.) God, in answer to their prayers, builds up his children by each other in every good gift; nourishing and strengthening the whole “body by that which every joint supplieth.” So that “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee;” no, nor even “the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” Lastly, How are you assured, that the persons before you are dogs or swine? Judge them not, until you have tried. “How knowest thou, O man, but thou mayst gain thy brother,”—but thou mayst, under God, save his soul from death? When he spurns thy love, and blasphemes the good word, then it is time to give him up to God.

8. “We have tried; we have laboured to reform sinners; and what did it avail? On many we could make no impression at all. And if some were changed for a while, yet their goodness was but as the morning dew, and they were soon as bad, nay, worse than ever: So that we only hurt them, and ourselves too; for our minds were hurried and discomposed,—perhaps filled with anger instead of love: Therefore, we had better have kept our religion to ourselves.”

It is very possible this fact also may be true; that you have tried to do good, and have not succeeded; yea, that those who seemed reformed, relapsed into sin, and their last state was worse than the first. And what marvel? Is the servant above his master? But how often did He strive to save sinners, and they would not hear; or when they had followed him awhile, they turned back as a dog to his vomit! But he did not therefore desist from striving to do good: No more should you, whatever your success be. It is your part to do as you are commanded: The event is in the hand of God. You are not accountable for this. Leave it to him, who orders all things well. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper.” (Eccles. 11:6)

But the trial hurries and frets your own soul. Perhaps it did so for this very reason, because you thought you was accountable for the event, which no man is, nor indeed can be;—or perhaps, because you was off your guard; you was not watchful over your own spirit. But this is no reason for disobeying God. Try again; but try more warily than before. Do good (as you forgive) “not seven times only, but until seventy times seven.” Only be wiser by experience: Attempt it every time more cautiously than before. Be more humbled before God, more deeply convinced that of yourself you can do nothing. Be more jealous over your own spirit; more gentle, and watchful unto prayer. Thus “cast your bread upon the waters, and you shall find it again after many days.”

IV. 1. Notwithstanding all these plausible pretences for hiding it, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” This is the practical application which our Lord himself makes of the foregoing considerations.

“Let your light so shine:”—Your lowliness of heart; your gentleness, and meekness of wisdom; your serious, weighty concern for the things of eternity, and sorrow for the sins and miseries of men; your earnest desire of universal holiness, and full happiness in God; your tender good-will to all mankind, and fervent love to your supreme Benefactor. Endeavour not to conceal this light, wherewith God hath enlightened your soul; but let it shine before men, before all with whom you are, in the whole tenor of your conversation. Let it shine still more eminently in your actions, in your doing all possible good to all men; and in your suffering for righteousness’ sake, while you “rejoice and are exceeding glad, knowing that great is your reward in heaven.”

2. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works:”—So far let a Christian be from ever designing or desiring to conceal his religion! On the contrary, let it be your desire, not to conceal it; not to put the light under a bushel. Let it be your care to place it “on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house.” Only take heed, not to seek your own praise herein, not to desire any honour to yourselves. But let it be your sole aim, that all who see your good works may “glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

3. Be this your one ultimate end in all things. With this view, be plain, open, undisguised. Let your love be without dissimulation: Why should you hide fair, disinterested love? Let there be no guile found in your mouth: Let your words be the genuine picture of your heart. Let there be no darkness or reservedness in your conversation, no disguise in your behaviour. Leave this to those who have other designs in view; designs which will not bear the light. Be ye artless and simple to all mankind; that all may see the grace of God which is in you. And although some will harden their hearts, yet others will take knowledge that ye have been with Jesus, and, by returning themselves ‘to the great Bishop of their souls, “glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

4. With this one design, that men may glorify God in you, go on in his name, and in the power of his might. Be not ashamed even to stand alone, so it be in the ways of God. Let the light which is in your heart shine in all good works both works of piety and works of mercy. And in order to enlarge your ability of doing good, renounce all superfluities. Cut off all unnecessary expense in food, in furniture, in apparel. Be a good steward of every gift of God, even of these his lowest gifts. Cut off all unnecessary expense of time, all needless or useless employments; and “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” In a word, be thou full of faith and love; do good; suffer evil. And herein be thou “steadfast, unmovable;” yea, “always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as thou knowest that thy labour is not in vain in the Lord.”




“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you: Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For verily I say unto you: That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt. 5:17–20

1. Among the multitude of reproaches which fell upon Him who “was despised and rejected of men,” it could not fail to be one, that He was a teacher of novelties, an introducer of a new religion. This might be affirmed with the more colour because many of the expressions He had used were not common among the Jews: either they did not use them at all, or not in the same sense, not in so full and strong a meaning. Add to this, that the worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” must always appear a new religion to those who have hitherto known nothing but outside worship, nothing but the “form of godliness.”

2. And it is not improbable, some might hope it was so, that He was abolishing the old religion, and bringing in another,—one which, they might flatter themselves, would be an easier way to heaven. But our Lord refutes, in these words, both the vain hopes of the one, and the groundless calumnies of the other.

I shall consider them in the same order as they lie, taking each verse for a distinct head of discourse.

I. 1. And First, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

The ritual or ceremonial law, delivered by Moses to the children of Israel, containing all the injunctions and ordinances which related to the old sacrifices and service of the temple, our Lord indeed did come to destroy, to dissolve, and utterly abolish. To this bear all the Apostles witness; not only Barnabas and Paul, who vehemently withstood those who taught that Christians ought “to keep the law of Moses;” (Acts 15:5;) not only St. Peter, who termed the insisting on this, on the observance of the ritual law, a “tempting God,” and “putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers,” saith he, “nor we, were able to bear;” but all the Apostles, elders, and brethren, being assembled with one accord, (Acts 15:22,) declared, that to command them to keep this law, was to “subvert their souls;” and that “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost” and to them, to lay no such burden upon them. (Acts 15:28.) This “hand-writing of ordinances” our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His cross.

2. But the moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away. It was not the design of His coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken, which stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven. The moral stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law, which was only designed for a temporary restraint upon a disobedient and stiff-necked people; whereas this was from the beginning of the world, being “written not on tables of stone,” but on the hearts of all the children of men, when they came out of the hands of the Creator. And, however the letters once wrote by the finger of God are now in a great measure defaced by sin, yet can they not wholly be blotted out, while we have any consciousness of good and evil. Every part of this law must remain in force, upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.

3. “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Some have conceived our Lord to mean,—I am come to fulfil this by my entire and perfect obedience to it. And it cannot be doubted but he did, in this sense, fulfil every part of it. But this does not appear to be what He intends here, being foreign to the scope of his present discourse. Without question, his meaning in this place is, (consistently with all that goes before and follows after,)—I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite of all the glosses of men: I am come to place in a full and clear view whatsoever was dark or obscure therein: I am come to declare the true and full import of every part of it; to show the length and breadth, the entire extent of every commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches.

4. And this our Lord has abundantly performed in the preceding and subsequent parts of the discourse before us, in which He has not introduced a new religion into the world, but the same which was from the beginning:—a religion the substance of which is, without question, as old as the creation, being coeval with man, and having proceeded from God at the very time when “man became a living soul;” (the substance, I say; for some circumstances of it now relate to man as a fallen creature;)—a religion witnessed to both by the Law and by the Prophets, in all succeeding generations. Yet was it never so fully explained, nor so thoroughly understood till the great Author of it Himself condescended to give mankind this authentic comment on all the essential branches of it; at the same time declaring it should never be changed, but remain in force to the end of the world.

II. 1. “For verily I say unto you,” (a solemn preface, which denotes both the importance and certainty of what is spoken,) “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”

“One jot:”—It is literally, not one iota, not the most inconsiderable vowel: “Or one tittle,” mia keraia, one corner, or point of a consonant. It is a proverbial expression which signifies that no one commandment contained in the moral law, nor the least part of any one, however inconsiderable it might seem, should ever be disannulled.

Shall in no wise pass from the law:ou me parelthei apo tou nomou. The double negative, here used, strengthens the sense, so as to admit of no contradiction: And the word parelthei, it may be observed, is not barely future, declaring what will be; but has likewise the force of an imperative, ordering what shall be. It is a word of authority, expressing the sovereign will and power of him that spake; of him whose word is the law of heaven and earth, and stands fast for ever and ever.

one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass till heaven and earth pass; or as it is expressed immediately after, hews an panta genetai, till all (or rather, all things) be fulfilled, till the consummation of all things. here is therefore no room for that poor evasion (with which some have delighted themselves greatly) that no part of the law was to pass away till all the law was fulfilled: But it has been fulfilled by Christ, and therefore now must pass, for the gospel to be established. Not so; the word all does not mean all the law, but all things in the universe; as neither has the term fulfilled any reference to the law, but to all things in heaven and earth.

2. From all this we may learn, that there is no contrariety at all between the law and the gospel; that there is no need for the law to pass away, in order to the establishing of the gospel. Indeed neither of them supersedes the other, but they agree perfectly well together. Yea, the very same words, considered in different respects, are parts both of the law and of the gospel. If they are considered as commandments, they are parts of the law: if as promises, of the gospel. Thus, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, when considered as a commandment, is a branch of the law; when regarded as a promise, is an essential part of the gospel; the gospel being no other than the commands of the law proposed by way of promises. Accordingly poverty of spirit, purity of heart, and whatever else is enjoined in the holy law of God, are no other, when viewed in a gospel light, than so many great and precious promises.

3. There is, therefore, the closest connexion that can be conceived between the law and the gospel. on the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to the gospel; on the other, the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbour, to be meek, humble, or holy. We feel that we are not sufficient for these things; yea, that “with man this is impossible:” But we see a promise of God, to give us that love, and to make us humble, meek, and holy: We lay hold of this gospel, of these glad tidings; it is done unto us according to our faith; and “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,” through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

We may yet farther observe, that every command in holy writ is only a covered promise. For by that solemn declaration, “This is the covenant I will make after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws in your minds, and write them in your hearts,” God hath engaged to give whatsoever he commands. Does he command us then to “pray without ceasing?” To “rejoice evermore?” “To be holy as He is holy?” It is enough. He will work in us this very thing. It shall be unto us according to his word.

4. But if these things are so, we cannot be at a loss what to think of those who in all ages of the Church, have undertaken to change or supersede some commands of God, as they professed, by the peculiar direction of his Spirit. Christ has here given us an infallible rule, whereby to judge of all such pretensions. Christianity, as it includes the whole moral law of God, both by way of injunction and of promise, if we will hear him is designed of God to be the last of all his dispensations. There is no other to come after this. This is to endure till the consummation of all things. of consequence, all such new revelations are of Satan, and not of God; and all pretences to another more perfect dispensation fall to the ground of course. “Heaven and earth shall pass away;” but this word “shall not pass away.”

III. 1. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Who, what are they that make “the preaching of the law” a character of reproach? Do they not see on whom their reproach must fall,—on whose head it must light at last? Whosoever on this ground despiseth us, despiseth Him that sent us. For did ever any man preach the law like Him, even when he came not to condemn but to save the world; when he came purposely to “bring life and immortality to light through the gospel?” Can any preach the law more expressly, more rigorously, than Christ does in these words? And who is he that shall amend them? Who is he that shall instruct the Son of God how to preach? Who will teach Him a better way of delivering the message which He hath received of the Father?

2. “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments,” or one of the least of these commandments.—”These commandments,” we may observe, is a term used by our Lord as equivalent with the law, or the law and the Prophets,—which is the same thing, seeing the Prophets added nothing to the law, but only declared, explained, or enforced it, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

“Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments,” especially if it be done wilfully or presumptuously:—one;—for “he that keepeth the whole law, and” thus “offends in one point, is guilty of all;” the wrath of God abideth on him, as surely as if he had broken every one. So that no allowance is made for one darling lust; no reserve for one idol; no excuse for refraining from all besides, and only giving way to one bosom sin. What God demands is an entire obedience; we are to have an eye to all His commandments; otherwise we lose all the labour we take in keeping some, and our poor souls for ever and ever.

“one of these least,” or one of the least of these commandments:—Here is another excuse cut off, whereby many, who cannot deceive God, miserably deceive their own souls. “This sin,” saith the sinner, “is it not a little one? Will not the Lord spare me in this thing? Surely he will not be extreme to mark this, since I do not offend in the greater matters of the law.” Vain hope! Speaking after the manner of men, we may term these great, and those little commandments; but in reality they are not so. If we use propriety of speech there is no such thing as a little sin; every sin being a transgression of the holy and perfect law, and an affront on the great Majesty of heaven.

3. “And shall teach men so.” In some sense it may be said that whosoever openly breaks any commandment teaches others the same; for example speaks, and many times louder than precept. In this sense, it is apparent, every open drunkard is a teacher of drunkenness; every sabbath-breaker is constantly teaching his neighbour to profane the day of the Lord. But this is not all: An habitual breaker of the law is seldom content to stop here; he generally teaches other men to do so too, by word as well as example; especially when he hardens his neck, and hateth to be reproved. Such a sinner soon commences an advocate for sin; he defends what he is resolved not to forsake; he excuses the sin which he will not leave, and thus directly teaches every sin which he commits.

“He shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;”—that is, shall have no part therein. He is a stranger to the kingdom of heaven which is on earth; he hath no portion in that inheritance; no share of that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Nor, by consequence can he have any part in the glory which shall be revealed.

4. But if those who even thus break, and teach others to break “one of the least of these commandments shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of God; if even these shall be cast into “outer darkness, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth,” then where will they appear whom our Lord chiefly and primarily intends in these words,—they who, bearing the character of Teachers sent from God, do nevertheless themselves break his commandments; yea, and openly teach others so to do; being corrupt both in life and doctrine?

5. These are of several sorts. Of the first sort are they who live in some wilful, habitual sin. Now, if an ordinary sinner teaches by his example, how much more a sinful Minister,—even if he does not attempt to defend, excuse, or extenuate his sin! If he does, he is a murderer indeed; yea, the murderer-general of his congregation! He peoples the regions of death. He is the choicest instrument of the prince of darkness. When he goes hence, “hell from beneath is moved to meet him at his coming.” Nor can he sink into the bottomless pit without dragging a multitude after him.

6. Next to these are the good-natured, good sort of men: who live an easy, harmless life, neither troubling themselves with outward sin, nor with inward holiness; men who are remarkable neither one way nor the other, neither for religion nor irreligion who are very regular both in public and private, but do not pretend to be any stricter than their neighbours. A Minister of this kind breaks not one, or a few only, of the least commandments of God; but all the great and weighty branches of his law which relate to the power of godliness, and all that require us to “pass the time of our sojourning in fear,” to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling;” to have our “loins always girt and our lights burning,” to “strive,” or agonize, “to enter in at the strait gate.” And he teaches men so, by the whole form of his life, and the general tenor of his preaching, which uniformly tends to soothe those in their pleasing dream who imagine themselves Christians and are not; to persuade all who attend upon his ministry to sleep on and take their rest. No marvel, therefore, if both he and they that follow him wake together in everlasting burnings.”

7. But above all these, in the highest rank of the enemies of the gospel of Christ, are they who openly and explicitly “judge the law” itself, and “speak evil of the law;” who teach men to break (lysai, to dissolve, to loose, to untie the obligation of) not one only, whether of the least, or of the greatest, but all the commandments at a stroke; who teach, without any cover, in so many words,—What did our Lord do with the law? he abolished it. There is but one duty, which is that of believing. All commands are unfit for our times. From any demand of the law, no man is obliged now to go one step, to give away one farthing, to eat or omit one morsel. This is, indeed, carrying matters with a high hand; this is withstanding our Lord to the face, and telling him that he understood not how to deliver the message on which he was sent. o Lord, lay not this sin to their charge! Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!

8. The most surprising of all the circumstances that attend this strong delusion, is, that they who are given up to it, really believe that they honour Christ by overthrowing his law, and that they are magnifying his office, while they are destroying his doctrine! Yea, they honour him just as Judas did, when he said, “Hail, Master!” and kissed him. And he may as justly say to every one of them, “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” It is no other than betraying him with a kiss, to talk of his blood, and take away his crown; to set light by any part of his law, under pretence of advancing his gospel. Nor, indeed, can anyone escape this charge, who preaches faith in any such manner as either directly or indirectly tends to set aside any branch of obedience; who preaches Christ so as to disannul, or weaken, in anywise, the least of the commandments of God.

9. It is impossible, indeed, to have too high an esteem for “the faith of Gods elect.” And we must all declare, “By grace ye are saved through faith; not of works, lest any man should boast.” We must cry aloud to every penitent sinner, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But, at the same time, we must take care to let all men know, we esteem no faith but that which worketh by love [Gal. 5:6]; and that we are not saved by faith, unless so far as we are delivered from the power as well as the guilt of sin. And when we say, “Believe, and thou shalt be saved;” we do not mean, “Believe, and thou shalt step from sin to heaven, without any holiness coming between; faith supplying the place of holiness;” but, “Believe, and thou shalt be holy; believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt have peace and power together: Thou shalt have power from Him in whom thou believest, to trample sin under thy feet; power to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and to serve him with all thy strength: Thou shalt have power by patient continuance in well-doing, to seek for glory, and honour, and immortality; thou shalt both do and teach all the commandments of God, from the least even to the greatest: Thou shalt teach them by thy life as well as thy words, and so be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

IV. 1. Whatever other way we teach to the kingdom of heaven, to glory, honour, and immortality, be it called the way of faith, or by any other name, it is, in truth, the way to destruction. It will not bring a man peace at the last. For thus saith the Lord, “[Verily] I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

The Scribes, mentioned so often in the New Testament, as some of the most constant and vehement opposers of our Lord, were not secretaries, or men employed in writing only, as that term might incline us to believe. Neither were they lawyers, in our common sense of the word; although the word nomikoi is so rendered in our translation. Their employment had no affinity at all to that of a lawyer among us. They were conversant with the laws of God, and not with the laws of man. These were their study: It was their proper and peculiar business to read and expound the law and the Prophets, particularly in the synagogues. They were the ordinary, stated preachers among the Jews. So that if the sense of the original word was attended to, we might render it, the Divines. For these were the men who made divinity their profession: and they were generally (as their name literally imports) men of letters; men of the greatest account for learning that were then in the Jewish nation.

2. The Pharisees were a very ancient sect, or body of men, among the Jews; originally so called from the Hebrew word PRS—which signifies to separate or divide. Not that they made any formal separation from, or division in, the national church. They were only distinguished from others by greater strictness of life, by more exactness of conversation. For they were zealous of the law in the minutest points; paying tithes of mint, anise, and cummin: And hence they were had in honour of all the people, and generally esteemed the holiest of men.

Many of the Scribes were of the sect of the Pharisees. Thus St. Paul himself, who was educated for a Scribe, first at the university of Tarsus, and after that in Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel, (one of the most learned Scribes or Doctors of the law that were then in the nation,) declares of himself before the Council, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee;” (Acts 23:6;) and before King Agrippa, “After the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:5.) And the whole body of the Scribes generally esteemed and acted in concert with the Pharisees. Hence we find our Saviour so frequently coupling them together, as coming in many respects under the same consideration. In this place they seem to be mentioned together as the most eminent professors of religion; the former of whom were accounted the wisest,—the latter, the holiest of men.

3. What “the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” really was, it is not difficult to determine. Our Lord has preserved an authentic account which one of them gave of himself: And he is clear and full in describing his own righteousness; and cannot be supposed to have omitted any part of it. He went up indeed “into the temple to pray;” but was so intent upon his own virtues, that he forgot the design upon which he came. For it is remarkable, he does not properly pray at all: He only tells God how wise and good he was. “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week: I give tithes of all that I possess.” His righteousness therefore consisted of three parts: First, saith he, “I am not as other men are;” I am not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer; not “even as this publican.” Secondly, “I fast twice in the week:” And, Thirdly, “I give tithes of all that I possess.”

“I am not as other men are.” This is not a small point. It is not every man that can say this. It is as if he had said,—”I do not suffer myself to be carried away by that great torrent, custom. I live not by custom, but by reason; not by the examples of men, but the word of God. I am not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer; however common these sins are, even among those who are called the people of God; (extortion, in particular,—a kind of legal injustice, not punishable by any human law, the making gain of another’s ignorance or necessity, having filled every corner of the land;) nor even as this publican, not guilty of any open or presumptuous sin; not an outward sinner; but a fair, honest man of blameless life and conversation.”

4. “I fast twice in the week.” There is more implied in this, than we may at first be sensible of. All the stricter Pharisees observed the weekly fasts; namely, every Monday and Thursday. On the former day they fasted in memory of Moses receiving on that day (as their tradition taught) the two tables of stone written by the finger of God; on the latter, in memory of his casting them out of his hand, when he saw the people dancing round the golden calf. On these days, they took no sustenance at all, till three in the afternoon; the hour at which they began to offer up the evening sacrifice in the temple. Till that hour, it was their custom to remain in the temple, in some of the corners, apartments, or courts thereof; that they might be ready to assist at all the sacrifices, and to join in all the public prayers. The time between they were accustomed to employ, partly in private addresses to God, partly in searching the Scriptures, in reading the Law and the Prophets, and in meditating thereon. Thus much is implied in, “I fast twice in the week;” the second branch of the righteousness of a Pharisee.

5. “I give tithes of all that I possess.” This the Pharisees did with the utmost exactness. They would not except the most inconsiderable thing; no, not mint, anise, and cummin. They would not keep back the least part of what they believed properly to belong to God; but gave a full tenth of their whole substance yearly, and of all their increase, whatsoever it was.

Yea, the stricter Pharisees (as has been often observed by those who are versed in the ancient Jewish writings,) not content with giving one tenth of their substance to God in his priests and Levites, gave another tenth to God in the poor, and that continually. They gave the same proportion of all they had in alms as they were accustomed to give in tithes. And this likewise they ajusted with the utmost exactness; that they might not keep back any part, but might fully render unto God the things which were God’s, as they accounted this to be. So that, upon the whole, they gave away, from year to year an entire fifth of all that they possessed.

6. This was “the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees;” a righteousness which, in many respects, went far beyond the conception which many have been accustomed to entertain concerning it. But perhaps it will be said, “It was all false and feigned; for they were all a company of hypocrites.” Some of them doubtless were; men who had really no religion at all, no fear of God, or desire to please him; who had no concern for the honour that cometh of God, but only for the praise of men. And these are they whom our Lord so severely condemns, so sharply reproves, on many occasions. But we must not suppose, because many Pharisees were hypocrites, therefore all were so. Nor indeed is hypocrisy by any means essential to the character of a Pharisee. This is not the distinguishing mark of their sect. It is rather this, according to our Lord’s account, “They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” This is their genuine badge. But the Pharisee of this kind cannot be a hypocrite. He must be, in the common sense, sincere; otherwise he could not “trust in himself that he is righteous.” The man who was here commending himself to God unquestionably thought himself righteous. Consequently, he was no hypocrite; he was not conscious to himself of any insincerity. He now spoke to God just what he thought, namely, that he was abundantly better than other men.

But the example of St. Paul, were there no other, is sufficient to put this out of all question. He could not only say, when he was a Christian, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men;” (Acts 24:16;) but even concerning the time when he was a Pharisee, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) He was therefore sincere when he was a Pharisee, as well when he was a Christian. He was no more a hypocrite when he persecuted the Church, than when he preached the faith which once he persecuted. Let this then be added to “the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,”—a sincere belief that they are righteous, and in all things “doing God service.”

7. And yet, “except your righteousness,” saith our Lord, “shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” A solemn and weighty declaration, and which it behoves all who are called by the name of Christ seriously and deeply to consider. But before we inquire how our righteousness may exceed theirs, let us examine whether at present we come up to it.

First, a Pharisee was “not as other men are.” In externals he was singularly good. Are we so? Do we dare to be singular at all? Do we not rather swim with the stream? Do we not many times dispense with religion and reason together, because we would not look particular? Are we not often more afraid of being out of the fashion, than of being out of the way of salvation? Have we courage to stem the tide?—to run counter to the world?—”to obey God rather than man?” Otherwise, the Pharisee leaves us behind at the very first step. It is well if we overtake him any more.

But to come closer. Can we use his first plea with God, which is, in substance, “I do no harm: I live in no outward sin. I do nothing for which my own heart condemns me.” Do you not? Are you sure of that? Do you live in no practice for which your own heart condemns you? If you are not an adulterer, if you are not unchaste, either in word or deed, are you not unjust? The grand measure of justice, as well as of mercy, is, “Do unto others as thou wouldst they should do unto thee.” Do you walk by this rule? Do you never do unto any what you would not they should do unto you, Nay, are you not grossly unjust? Are you not an extortioner? Do you not make a gain of anyone’s ignorance or necessity; neither in buying nor selling? Suppose you are engaged in trade: Do you demand, do you receive, no more than the real value of what you sell? Do you demand, do you receive, no more of the ignorant than of the knowing,—of a little child, than of an experienced trader? If you do, why does not your heart condemn you? You are a barefaced extortioner! Do you demand no more than the usual price of goods of any who is in pressing want,—who must have, and that without delay, the things which you only can furnish him with? If you do, this also is flat extortion. Indeed you do not come up to the righteousness of a Pharisee.

8. A Pharisee, Secondly, (to express his sense in our common way,) used all the means of grace. As he fasted often and much, twice in every week, so he attended all the sacrifices. He was constant in public and private prayer, and in reading and hearing the Scriptures. Do you go as far as this? Do you fast much and often?—twice in the week? I fear not! Once, at least, “on all Fridays in the year?” (So our Church clearly and peremptorily enjoins all her members to do; to observe all these as well as the vigils and the forty days of Lent, as days of fasting or abstinence.) Do you fast twice in the year? I am afraid some among us cannot plead even this! Do you neglect no opportunity of attending and partaking of the Christian sacrifice? How many are they who call themselves Christians, and yet are utterly regardless of it,—yet do not eat of that bread, or drink of that cup, for months, perhaps years, together? Do you, every day, either hear the Scriptures, or read them and meditate thereon? Do you join in prayer with the great congregation, daily, if you have opportunity; if not, whenever you can; particularly on that day which you “remember to keep it holy?” Do you strive to “make opportunities?” Are you glad when they say unto you, “We will go into the house of the Lord?” Are you zealous of, and diligent in, private prayer? Do you suffer no day to pass without it? Rather are not some of you so far from spending therein (with the Pharisee) several hours in one day that you think one hour full enough, if not too much? Do you spend an hour in a day, or in a week, in praying to your Father which is in secret? yea, an hour in a month? Have you spent one hour together in private prayer ever since you was born? Ah, poor Christian! Shall not the Pharisee rise up in the judgment against thee and condemn thee? His righteousness is as far above thine, as the heaven is above the earth!

9. The Pharisee, Thirdly, paid tithes and gave alms of all that he possessed. And in how ample a manner! So that he was (as we phrase it) “a man that did much good.” Do we come up to him here? Which of us is so abundant as he was in good works? Which of us gives a fifth of all his substance to God? Both of the principal and of the increase? Who of us out of (suppose) an hundred pounds a year, gives twenty to God and the poor; out of fifty, ten; and so in a larger or a smaller proportion? When shall our righteousness, in using all the means of grace, in attending all the ordinances of God, in avoiding evil and doing good, equal at least the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees?

10. Although if it only equalled theirs, what would that profit? “For verily I say unto you, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But how can it exceed theirs? Wherein does the righteousness of a Christian exceed that of a scribe or Pharisee? Christian righteousness exceeds theirs, First, in the extent of it. Most of the Pharisees, though they were rigorously exact in many things, yet were emboldened, by the traditions of the Elders to dispense with others of equal importance. Thus they were extremely punctual in keeping the fourth commandment,—they would not even rub an ear of corn on the Sabbath-day; but not at all in keeping the third,—making little account of light, or even false, swearing. So that their righteousness was partial; whereas the righteousness of a real Christian is universal. He does not observe one, or some parts, of the law of God, and neglect the rest; but keeps all his commandments, loves them all, values them above gold or precious stones.

11. It may be, indeed, that some of the Scribes and Pharisees endeavoured to keep all the commandments, and consequently were, as touching the righteousness of the law, that is, according to the letter of it, blameless. But still the righteousness of a Christian exceeds all this righteousness of a Scribe or Pharisee, by fulfilling the spirit as well as the letter of the law; by inward as well as outward obedience. In this, in the spirituality of it, it admits of no comparison. This is the point which our Lord has so largely proved, in the whole tenor of this discourse. Their righteousness was external only: Christian righteousness is in the inner man. The Pharisee “cleansed the outside of the cup and the platter;” the Christian is clean within. The Pharisee laboured to present God with a good life; the Christian with a holy heart. The one shook off the leaves, perhaps the fruits, of sin; the other “lays the axe to the root,” as not being content with the outward form of godliness, how exact soever it be, unless the life, the Spirit, the power of God unto salvation, be felt in the inmost soul.

Thus, to do no harm, to do good, to attend the ordinances of God (the righteousness of a Pharisee,) are all external; whereas, on the contrary, poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst after righteousness, the love of our neighbour, and purity of heart, (the righteousness of a Christian,) are all internal. And even peace-making (or doing good,) and suffering for righteousness’ sake, stand entitled to the blessings annexed to them, only as they imply these inward dispositions, as they spring from, exercise, and confirm them. So that whereas the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was external only, it may be said in some sense that the righteousness of a Christian is internal only: All his actions and sufferings being as nothing in themselves, being estimated before God only by the tempers from which they spring.

12. Whosoever therefore thou art, who bearest the holy and venerable name of a Christian, see, First, that thy righteousness fall not short of the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Be not thou “as other men are!” Dare to stand alone, to be “against example, singularly good.” If thou “follow a multitude” at all, it must be “to do evil.” Let not custom or fashion be thy guide, but reason and religion. The practice of others is nothing to thee: “Every man must give an account of himself to God.” Indeed, if thou canst save the soul of another, do; but at least save one,—thy own. Walk not in the path of death because it is broad, and many walk therein. Nay, by this very token thou mayst know it. Is the way wherein thou now walkest, a broad, well-frequented, fashionable way? Then it infallibly leads to destruction. O be not thou “damned for company!” Cease from evil; fly from sin as from the face of a serpent! At least, do no harm. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Be not thou found in that number. Touching outward sins, surely the grace of God is even now sufficient for thee. “Herein,” at least, “exercise thyself to have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”

Secondly. Let not thy righteousness fall short of theirs with regard to the ordinances of God. If thy labour or bodily strength will not allow of thy fasting twice in the week, however, deal faithfully with thy own soul, and fast as often as thy strength will permit. Omit no public, no private opportunity of pouring out thy soul in prayer. Neglect no occasion of eating that bread and drinking that cup which is the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Be diligent in searching the Scriptures: read as thou mayst, and meditate therein day and night. Rejoice to embrace every opportunity of hearing “the word of reconciliation” declared by the “ambassadors of Christ,” the “stewards of the mysteries of God.” In using all the means of grace, in a constant and careful attendance on every ordinance of God, live up to (at least till thou canst go beyond) “the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.”

Thirdly. Fall not short of a Pharisee in doing good. Give alms of all thou dost possess. Is any hungry? Feed him. Is he athirst? Give him drink. Naked? Cover him with a garment. If thou hast this world’s goods, do not limit thy beneficence to a scanty proportion. Be merciful to the uttermost of thy power. Why not, even as this Pharisee? Now “make thyself friends,” while the time is, “of the mammon of unrighteousness,” that when thou failest,” when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, “they may receive thee into everlasting habitations.”

13. But rest not here. Let thy “righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.” Be not thou content to “keep the whole law, and offend in one point.” Hold thou fast all His commandments, and all “false ways do thou utterly abhor.” Do all the things whatsoever He hath commanded, and that with all thy might. Thou canst do all things through Christ strengthening thee; though without Him thou canst do nothing.

Above all, let thy righteousness exceed theirs in the purity and spirituality of it. What is the exactest form of religion to thee? the most perfect outside righteousness? Go thou higher and deeper than all this! Let thy religion be the religion of the heart. Be thou poor in spirit; little, and base, and mean, and vile in thy own eyes; amazed and humbled to the dust at the “love of God which is in Christ Jesus thy Lord! Be serious: Let the whole stream of thy thoughts, words, and works, be such as flows from the deepest conviction that thou standest on the edge of the great gulf, thou and all the children of men, just ready to drop in, either into everlasting glory, or everlasting burnings! Be meek: Let thy soul be filled with mildness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering toward all men; at the same time that all which is in thee is athirst for God, the living God, longing to awake up after his likeness, and to be satisfied with it. Be thou a lover of God, and of all mankind. In this spirit, do and suffer all things. Thus “exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,” and thou shalt be “called great in the kingdom of heaven.”




“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do: For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matt. 6:1–15.

1. In the preceding chapter our Lord has described inward religion in its various branches. He has laid before us those dispositions of soul which constitute real Christianity; the inward tempers contained in that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord;” the affections which, when flowing from their proper fountain, from a living faith in God through Christ Jesus, are intrinsically and essentially good, and acceptable to God. He proceeds to show, in this chapter, how all our actions likewise, even those that are indifferent in their own nature, may be made holy, and good and acceptable to God, by a pure and holy intention. Whatever is done without this, he largely declares, is of no value before God. Whereas whatever outward works are thus consecrated to God, they are, in his sight, of great price.

2. The necessity of this purity of intention, he shows, First, with regard to those which are usually accounted religious actions, and indeed are such when performed with a right intention. Some of these are commonly termed works of piety; the rest, works of charity or mercy. Of the latter sort, he particularly names almsgiving; of the former, prayer and fasting. But the directions given for these are equally to be applied to every work, whether of charity or mercy.

I. 1. And, First, with regard to works of mercy. “Take heed,” saith he,”that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” “That ye do not your alms:”—Although this only is named, yet is every work of charity included, every thing which we give, or speak, or do, whereby our neighbour may be profited; whereby another man may receive any advantage, either in his body or soul. The feeding the hungry, the clothing the naked, the entertaining or assisting the stranger, the visiting those that aresick or in prison, the comforting the afflicted, the instructing the ignorant, the reproving the wicked, the exhorting and encouraging the well-doer; and if there be any other work of mercy, it is equally included in this direction.

2. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.”—The thing which is here forbidden, is not barely the doing good in the sight of men; this circumstance alone, that others see what we do, makes the action neither worse nor better; but the doing it before men, “to be seen of them,” with this view from this intention only. I say, from this intention only; for this may, in some cases, be a part of our intention; we may design that some of our actions should be seen, and yet they may be acceptable to God. We may intend that our light should shine before men, when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, that our ultimate end in designing they should see our good works, is, “that they may glorify our Father which is in heaven.” But take heed that ye do not the least thing with a view to your own glory: Take heed that a regard to the praise of men have no place at all in your works of mercy. If ye seek your own glory, if you have any design to gain the honour that cometh of men whatever is done with this view is nothing worth; it is not done unto the Lord; he accepteth it not; “ye have no reward” for this “of our Father which is in heaven.”

3. “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound atrumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have praise of men.”—The word synagogue does not here mean a place of worship, but any place of public resort, such as the market-place, or exchange. It was a common thing among the Jews, who were men of large fortunes, particularly among the Pharisees, to cause a trumpet to be sounded before them in the most public parts of the city, when they were about to give any considerable alms. The pretended reason for this was, to call the poor together to receive it; but the real design, that they might have praise of men. But be not thoulike unto them. Do not thou cause a trumpet to be sounded before thee. Use no ostentation in doing good. Aim at the honour which cometh of God only. They who seek the praise of men have their reward: They shall have no praise of God.

4. “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”—This is a proverbial expression, the meaning of which is,—Do it in as secret a manner as is possible; as secret as is consistent with the doing it at all, (for it must not be left undone; omit no opportunity of doing good, whether secretly or openly,) and with the doing it in the most effectual manner. For here is also an exception to be made: When you are fully persuaded in your own mind, that by your not concealing the good which is done, either you will yourself be enabled, or others excited, to do the more good, then you may not conceal it: Then let your light appear, and “shine to all that are in the house.” But, unless where the glory of God and the good of mankind oblige you to the contrary, act in as private and unobserved a manner as the nature of the thing will admit;—”that thy alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly;” perhaps in the present world,—many instances of this stand recorded in all ages; but infallibly in the world to come, before the general assembly of men and angels.

II. 1. From works of charity or mercy our Lord proceeds to those which are termed works of piety. “And when thou prayest,” saith he, “thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”—”Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are.” Hypocrisy, then, or insincerity, is the first thing we are to guard against in prayer. Beware not to speak what thou dost not mean. Prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God: All words of prayer, without this, are mere hypocrisy. Whenever therefore thou attemptest to pray, see that it be thy one design to commune with God, to lift up thy heart to him, to pour out thy soul before him; not as the hypocrites, who love, or are wont, “to pray standing in the synagogues,” the exchange, or market-places, “and in the corners of the streets,” wherever the most people are, “that they may be seen of men:” This was the sole design, the motive, and end, of the prayers which they there repeated. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”—They are to expect none from your Father which is in heaven.

2. But it is not only the having an eye to the praise of men, which cuts us off from any reward in heaven; which leaves us no room to expect the blessing of God upon our works, whether of piety or mercy. Purity of intention is equally destroyed by a view to any temporal reward whatever. If we repeat our prayers, if we attend the public worship of God, if we relieve the poor, with a view to gain or interest, it is not a whit more acceptable to God, than if it were done with a view to praise. Any temporal view, any motive whatever on this side eternity, any design but that of promoting the glory of God, and the happiness of men for God’s sake, makes every action, however fair it may appear to men, an abomination unto the Lord.

3. “But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”—There is a time when thou art openly to glorify God, to pray, and praise him, in the great congregation. But when thou desirest more largely and more particularly to make thy requests known unto God, whether it be in the evening, or in the morning or at noon-day, “enter into thy closet, and shut the door.” Use all the privacy thou canst. (Only leave it not undone, whether thou hast any closet, any privacy, or no. Pray to God, if it be possible, when none seeth but He; but, if otherwise, pray to God.) Thus “pray to thy Father which is in secret;” pour out thy heart before him; “and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly.”

4. “But when ye pray,” even in secret, “use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do;” me battalogesete. Do not use abundance of words without any meaning. Say not the same thing over and over again; think not the fruit of your prayers depends on the length of them, like the heathens; for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.

The thing here reproved is not simply the length, any more than the shortness, of our prayers; but, First, length without meaning; speaking much, and meaning little or nothing; the using (not all repetitions; for our Lord himself prayed thrice, repeating the same words; but) vain repetitions, as the heathens did, reciting the names of their gods, over and over; as they do among Christians, (vulgarly so called,) and not among the Papists only, who say over and over the same string of prayers, without ever feeling what they speak: Secondly, the thinking to be heard for our much speaking, the fancying God measures prayers by their length, and is best pleased with those which contain the most words, which sound the longest in his ears. These are such instances of superstition and folly as all who are named by the name of Christ should leave to the heathens, to them on whom the glorious light of the gospel hath never shined.

5. Be not ye therefore like unto them.—Ye who have tasted of the grace of God in Christ Jesus are throughly convinced, your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. So that the end of your praying is not to inform God, as though he knew not your wants already; but rather to inform yourselves; to fix the sense of those wants more deeply in your hearts, and the sense of your continual dependence on Him who only is able to supply all your wants. It is not so much to move God, who is always more ready to give than you to ask, as to move yourselves, that you may be willing and ready to receive the good things he has prepared for you.

III. 1. After having taught the true nature and ends of prayer, our Lord subjoins an example of it; even that divine form of prayer which seems in this place to be proposed by way of pattern chiefly, as the model and standard of all our prayers: “After this manner therefore pray ye.” Whereas, elsewhere he enjoins the use of these very words: “He said unto them, When ye pray, say—.” (Luke 11:2.)

2. We may observe, in general, concerning this divine prayer, First, that it contains all we can reasonably or innocently pray for. There is nothing which we have need to ask of God, nothing which we can ask without offending him, which is not included, either directly or indirectly, in this comprehensive form. Secondly, that it contains all we can reasonably or innocently desire; whatever is for the glory of God, whatever is needful or profitable, not only for ourselves, but for every creature in heaven and earth. And, indeed, our prayers are the proper test of our desires; nothing being fit to have a place in our desires which is not fit to have a place in our prayers: What we may not pray for, neither should we desire. Thirdly, that it contains all our duty to God and man; whatsoever things are pure and holy, whatsoever God requires of the children of men, whatsoever is acceptable in his sight, whatsoever it is whereby we may profit our neighbour, being expressed or implied therein.

3. It consists of three parts,—the preface, the petitions, and the doxology, or conclusion. The preface, “our Father which art in heaven,” lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers or our lives should find acceptance with him.

4. “our Father:”—If he is a Father, then he is good, then he is loving, to his children. And here is the first and great reason for prayer. God is willing to bless; let us ask for a blessing. “our Father;”—our Creator; the Author of our being; He who raised us from the dust of the earth; who breathed into us the breath of life, and we became living souls. But if he made us, let us ask, and he will not withhold any good thing from the work of his own hands. “our Father;”—our Preserver; who, day by day, sustains the life he has given; of whose continuing love we now and every moment receive life and breath and all things. So much the more boldly let us come to him, and we shall “obtain mercy, and grace to help in time of need.” Above all, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all that believe in him; who justifies us “freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus;” who hath “blotted out all our sins, and healed all our infirmities;” who hath received us for his own children, by adoption and grace; and, “because” we “are sons, hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into” our “hearts, crying, Abba, Father;” who “hath begotten us again of incorruptible seed”, and “created us anew in Christ Jesus.” Therefore we know that he heareth us always; therefore we pray to him without ceasing. We pray, because we love; and “we love him because he first loved us.”

5. “our Father:”—Not mine only who now cry unto him, but ours in the most extensive sense. The God and “Father of the spirits of all flesh;” the Father of angels and men: So the very Heathens acknowledged him to be, Pater te theOn te. The Father of the universe, of all the families both in heaven and earth. Therefore with him there is no respect of persons. He loveth all that he hath made. “He is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” And the Lords delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy; in them that trust in him through the Son of his love, knowing they are “accepted in the Beloved.” But “if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another;” yea, all mankind; seeing “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son”, even to die the death, that they “might not perish, but have everlasting life”

6. “Which art in heaven:”—High and lifted up; God over all, blessed for ever: Who, sitting on the circle of the heavens, beholdeth all things both in heaven and earth; whose eye pervades the whole sphere of created being; yea, and of uncreated night; unto whom “are known all his works”, and all the works of every creature, not only “from the beginning of the world,” (a poor, low, weak translation,) but ap aionos, from all eternity, from everlasting to everlasting; who constrains the host of heaven, as well as the children of men, to cry out with wonder and amazement, o the depth! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! Which art in heaven: The Lord and Ruler of all, superintending and disposing all things; who art the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the blessed and only Potentate; who art strong and girded about with power, doing whatsoever pleaseth thee; the Almighty; for whensoever thou willest, to do is present with thee. In heaven: eminently there. heaven is thy throne, “the place where thine honour” particularly “dwelleth.” But not there alone; for thou fillest heaven and earth, the whole expanse of space. “heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, o Lord, most high!”

Therefore should we “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto him with reverence.” Therefore should we think, speak, and act, as continually under the eye, in the immediate presence, of the Lord, the King.

7. “hallowed be thy name.”—This is the first of the six petitions, whereof the prayer itself is composed. The name of God is God himself; the nature of God, so far as it can be discovered to man. It means, therefore, together with his existence, all his attributes or perfections; His eternity, particularly signified by his great and incommunicable name, JeHoVAH, as the Apostle John translates it: To A kai to o, arche kai telos, oon kai ho On kai ho en kai ho erchomenos,—”the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; He which is, and which was, and which is to come;”—His Fullness of Being, denoted by his other great name, I AM THAT I AM!—His omnipresence;—His omnipotence; who is indeed the only Agent in the material world; all matter being essentially dull and inactive, and moving only as it is moved by the finger of God; and he is the spring of action in every creature, visible and invisible, which could neither act nor exist, without the continual influx and agency of his almighty power;—His wisdom, clearly deduced from the things that are seen, from the goodly order of the universe;—His Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity, discovered to us in the very first line of his written word; bara elohim—literally, the Gods created, a plural noun joined with a verb of the singular number; as well as in every part of his subsequent revelations, given by the mouth of all his holy Prophets and Apostles;—His essential purity and holiness;—and, above all, his love, which is the very brightness of his glory.

In praying that God, or his name, may “be hallowed” or glorified, we pray that he may be known, such as he is, by all that are capable thereof, by all intelligent beings, and with affections suitable to that knowledge; that he may be duly honoured, and feared, and loved, by all in heaven above and in the earth beneath; by all angels and men, whom for that end he has made capable of knowing and loving him to eternity.

8. “Thy kingdom come.”—This has a close connexion with the preceding petition. In order that the name of God might be hallowed, we pray that his kingdom, the kingdom of Christ, may come. This kingdom then comes to a particular person, when he “repents and believes the gospel;” when he is taught of God, not only to know himself, but to know Jesus Christ and him crucified. As “this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent;” so it is the kingdom of God begun below, set up in the believers heart; “the Lord God Omnipotent” then “reigneth,” when he is known through Christ Jesus. He taketh unto himself his mighty power, that he may subdue all things unto himself. He goeth on in the soul conquering and to conquer, till he hath put all things under his feet, till “every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

When therefore God shall “give his Son the Heathen for hisinheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession;” when “all kingdoms shall bow before him, and all nations shall do him service;” when “the mountain of the Lords house,” the Church of Christ, “shall be established in the top of the mountains;” when “the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved;” then shall it be seen, that “the Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel,” appearing to every soul of man as King of kings, and Lord of lords. And it is meet for all those who love his appearing, to pray that he would hasten the time; that this his kingdom, the kingdom of grace, may come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of the earth; that all mankind, receiving him for their King, truly believing in his name, may be filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy, with holiness and happiness,—till they are removed hence into his heavenly kingdom, there to reign with him for ever and ever.

For this also we pray in those words, “Thy kingdom come:” We pray for the coming of his everlasting kingdom, the kingdom of glory in heaven, which is the continuation and perfection of the kingdom of grace on earth. Consequently this, as well as the preceding petition, is offered up for the whole intelligent creation, who are all interested in this grand event, the final renovation of all things, by Gods putting an end to misery and sin, to infirmity and death, taking all things into his own hands, and setting up the kingdom which endureth throughout all ages.

exactly answerable to this are those awful words in the prayer at the burial of the dead: “Beseeching thee, that it may please thee of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom: That we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy everlasting glory.”

9. “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—This is the necessary and immediate consequence wherever the kingdom of God is come; wherever God dwells in the soul by faith, and Christ reigns in the heart by love.

It is probable, many, perhaps the generality of men, at the first view of these words, are apt to imagine they are only an expression of, or petition for, resignation; for a readiness to suffer the will of God, whatsoever it be concerning us. And this is unquestionably a divine and excellent temper, a most precious gift of God. But this is not what we pray for in this petition; at least, not in the chief and primary sense of it. We pray, not so much for a passive, as for an active, conformity to the will of God, in saying, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

How is it done by the angels of God in heaven,—those who now circle his throne rejoicing? They do it willingly; they love his commandments, and gladly hearken to his words. It is their meat and drink to do his will; it is their highest glory and joy. They do it continually; there is no interruption in their willing service. They rest not day nor night, but employ every hour (speaking after the manner of men; otherwise our measures of duration, days, and nights, and hours, have no place in eternity) in fulfilling his commands, in executing his designs, in performing the counsel of his will. And they do it perfectly. No sin, no defect belongs to angelic minds. It is true, “the stars are not pure in his sight,” even the morning-stars that sing together before him. “In his sight,” that is, in comparison of Him, the very angels are not pure. But this does not imply, that they are not pure in themselves. Doubtless they are; they are without spot and blameless. They are altogether devoted to his will, and perfectly obedient in all things.

If we view this in another light, we may observe, the angels of God in heaven do all the will of God. And they do nothing else, nothing but what they are absolutely assured is his will. Again they do all the will of God as he willeth; in the manner which pleases him, and no other. Yea, and they do this, only because it is his will; for this end, and no other reason.

10. When therefore we pray, that the will of God may “be done in earth as it is in heaven,” the meaning is, that all the inhabitants of the earth, even the whole race of mankind, may do the will of their Father which is in heaven, as willingly as the holy angels; that these may do it continually, even as they, without any interruption of their willing service; yea, and that they may do it perfectly,—that “the God of peace, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, may make them perfect in every good work to do his will, and work in them all “which is well-pleasing in his sight.”

In other words, we pray that we and all mankind may do the whole will of God in all things; and nothing else, not the least thing but what is the holy and acceptable will of God. We pray that we may do the whole will of God as he willeth, in the manner that pleases him: And, lastly, that we may do it because it is his will; that this may be the sole reason and ground, the whole and only motive, of whatsoever we think, or whatsoever we speak or do.

11. “Give us this day our daily bread.”—In the three former petitions we have been praying for all mankind. We come now more particularly to desire a supply for our own wants. Not that we are directed, even here, to confine our prayer altogether to ourselves; but this, and each of the following petitions, may be used for the whole Church of Christ upon earth.

By “bread” we may understand all things needful, whether for our souls or bodies; ta pros zoen kai eusebeian, the things pertaining to life and godliness: We understand not barely the outward bread, what our Lord terms the meat which perisheth; but much more the spiritual bread, the grace of God, the food which endureth unto everlasting life. It was the judgment of many of the ancient Fathers, that we are here to understand the sacramental bread also; daily received in the beginning by the whole Church of Christ, and highly esteemed, till the love of many waxed cold, as the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God.

our daily bread. The word we render daily has been differently explained by different commentators. But the most plain and natural sense of it seems to be this, which is retained in almost all translations, as well ancient as modern;—what is sufficient for this day; and so for each day as it succeeds.

12. “Give us:”—For we claim nothing of right, but only of free mercy. We deserve not the air we breathe, the earth that bears, or the sun that shines upon, us. All our desert, we own, is hell: But God loves us freely; therefore, we ask him to give, what we can no more procure for ourselves, than we can merit it at his hands.

Not that either the goodness or the power of God is a reason for us to stand idle. It is his will that we should use all diligence in all things, that we should employ our utmost endeavours, as much as if our success were the natural effect of our own wisdom and strength: And then, as though we had done nothing, we are to depend on him, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

“This day:”—For we are to take no thought for the morrow. For this very end has our wise Creator divided life into these little portions of time, so clearly separated from each other, that we might look on every day as a fresh gift of God, another life, which we may devote to his glory; and that every evening may be as the close of life, beyond which we are to see nothing but eternity.

13. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”—As nothing but sin can hinder the bounty of God from flowing forth upon every creature, so this petition naturally follows the former; that, all hinderances being removed, we may the more clearly trust in the God of love for every manner of thing which is good.

“our trespasses:”—The word properly signifies our debts. Thus our sins are frequently represented in Scripture; every sin laying us under a fresh debt to God, to whom we already owe, as it were, ten thousand talents. What then can we answer when he shall say, “Pay me that thou owest?” We are utterly insolvent; we have nothing to pay; we have wasted all our substance. Therefore, if he deal with us according to the rigour of his law, if he exact what he justly may, he must command us to be “bound hand and foot, and delivered over to the tormentors.”

Indeed we are already bound hand and foot by the chains of our own sins. These, considered with regard to ourselves, are chains of iron and fetters of brass. They are wounds wherewith the world, the flesh, and the devil, have gashed and mangled us all over. They are diseases that drink up our blood and spirits, that I bring us down to the chambers of the grave. But considered, as they are here, with regard to God, they are debts, immense and numberless. Well, therefore, seeing we have nothing to pay, may we cry unto him that he would “frankly forgive’ us all!

The word translated forgive implies either to forgive a debt, or to unloose a chain. And if we attain the former, the latter follows of course: if our debts are forgiven, the chains fall off our hands. As soon as ever, through the free grace of God in Christ, we “receive forgiveness of sins,” we receive likewise “a lot among those which are sanctified, by faith which is in him.” Sin has lost its power; it has no dominion over those who “are under grace,” that is, in favour with God. As “there is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus,” so they are freed from sin as well as from guilt. “The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in” them, and they “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

14. “As we forgive them that trespass against us.”—In these words our Lord clearly declares both on what condition, and in what degree or manner, we may look to be forgiven of God. All our trespasses and sins are forgiven us, if we forgive, and as we forgive, others. [First, God forgives us if we forgive others.] This is a point of the utmost importance. And our blessed Lord is so jealous lest at any time we should let it slip out of our thoughts, that he not only inserts it in the body of his prayer, but presently after repeats it twice over. “If,” saith he, “ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14, 15.) Secondly, God forgives us as we forgive others. So that if any malice or bitterness, if any taint of unkindness or anger remains, if we do not clearly, fully, and from the heart, forgive all men their trespasses, we far cut short the forgiveness of our own: God cannot clearly and fully forgive us: he may show us some degree of mercy; but we will not suffer him to blot out all our sins, and forgive all our iniquities.

In the mean time, while we do not from our hearts forgive our neighbour his trespasses, what manner of prayer are we offering to God whenever we utter these words? We are indeed setting God at open defiance: we are daring him to do his worst. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us!” That is, in plain terms, “Do not thou forgive us at all; we desire no favour at thy hands. We pray that thou wilt keep our sins in remembrance, and that thy wrath may abide upon us.” But can you seriously offer such a prayer to God? And hath he not yet cast you quick into hell?’ o tempt him no longer! Now, even now, by his grace, forgive as you would be forgiven! Now have compassion on thy fellow-servant, as God hath had and will have pity on thee!

15. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”—”[And] lead us not into temptation.” The word translated temptation means trial of any kind. And so the english word temptation was formerly taken in an indifferent sense, although now it is usually understood of solicitation to sin. St. James uses the word in both these senses; first, in its general, then in its restrained, acceptation. he takes it in the former sense when he saith, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; For when he is tried,” or approved of God, “he shall receive the crown of life.” (James 1:12, 13.) He immediately adds, taking the word in the latter sense, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust,” or desire, exelkomenos, drawn out of God, in whom alone he is safe,—“and enticed;” caught as a fish with a bait. Then it is, when he is thus drawn away and enticed, that he properly “enters into temptation.” Then temptation covers him as a cloud; it overspreads his whole soul. Then how hardly shall he escape out of the snare! Therefore, we beseech God “not to lead us into temptation,” that is, (seeing God tempteth no man,) not to suffer us to be led into it. “But deliver us from evil:” Rather “from the evil one,”; apo tou ponerouho. Poneros is unquestionably the wicked one, emphatically so called, the prince and god of this world, who works with mighty power in the children of disobedience. But all those who are the children of God by faith are delivered out of his hands. He may fight against them; and so he will. But he cannot conquer, unless they betray their own souls. He may torment for a time, but he cannot destroy; for God is on their side, who will not fail, in the end, to “avenge his own elect, that cry unto him day and night.” Lord, when we are tempted, suffer us not to enter into temptation! Do thou make a way for us to escape, that the wicked one touch us not!

16. The conclusion of this divine prayer, commonly called the Doxology, is a solemn thanksgiving, a compendious acknowledgement of the attributes and works of God. “For thine is the kingdom”—the sovereign right of all things that are or ever were created; yea, thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all ages. “The power”—the executive power whereby thou governest all things in thy everlasting kingdom, whereby thou dost whatsoever pleaseth thee, in all places of thy dominion. “And the glory”—the praise due from every creature, for thy power, and the mightiness of thy kingdom, and for all thy wondrous works which thou workest from everlasting, and shalt do, world without end, “for ever and ever! Amen!” So be it!

I believe it will not be unacceptable to the serious reader, to subjoin


1 Father of all, whose powerful voice

Call’d forth this universal frame;

Whose mercies over all rejoice,

Through endless ages still the same.

Thou, by thy word, upholdest all;

Thy bounteous love to all is show’d,

Thou hear’st thy every creature’s call,

And fillest every mouth with good.

2 In heaven thou reign’st, enthroned in light,

Nature’s expanse beneath thee spread;

Earth, air, and sea before thy sight,

And hell’s deep gloom are open laid.

Wisdom, and might, and love are thine:

Prostrate before thy face we fall,

Confess thine attributes divine,

An hail the Sovereign Lord of All.

3 Thee, sovereign Lord, let all confess

That moves in earth, or air, or sky

Revere thy power, thy goodness bless,

Tremble before thy piercing eye.

All ye who owe to Him your birth,

In praise your every hour employ:

Jehovah reigns! Be glad, O earth!

And shout, ye morning stars, for joy!

4 Son of thy Sire’s eternal love,

Take to thyself thy mighty power;

Let all earth’s sons thy mercy prove,

Let all thy bleeding grace adore.

The triumphs of thy love display;

In every heart reign thou alone;

Till all thy foes confess thy sway,

And glory ends what grace begun.

5 Spirit of grace, and health, and power,

Fountain of light and love below,

Abroad thine healing influence shower,

O’er all the nations let it flow.

Inflame our hearts with perfect love;

In us the work of faith fulfil;

So not heaven’s hosts shall swifter move

Than we on earth to do thy will.

6 Father, ’tis thine each day to yield

Thy children’s wants a fresh supply:

Thou cloth’st the lilies of the field,

And hearest the young ravens cry.

On thee we cast our care; we live

Through thee, who know’st our every need;

O feed us with thy grace, and give

Our souls this day the living bread!

7 Eternal, spotless Lamb of God,

Before the world’s foundation slain,

Sprinkle us ever with thy blood;

O cleanse and keep us ever clean.

To every soul (all praise to Thee!)

Our bowels of compassion more:

And all mankind by this may see

God is in us; for God is love.

8 Giver and Lord of life, whose power

And guardian care for all are free;

To thee, in fierce temptation’s hour,

From sin and Satan let us flee.

Thine, Lord, we are, and ours thou art;

In us be all thy goodness show’d;

Renew, enlarge, and fill our heart

With peace, and joy, and heaven, and God.

9 Blessing and honour, praise and love,

Co-equal, co-eternal Three,

In earth below, in heaven above,

By all thy works be paid to thee.

Thrice Holy! thine the kingdom is,

The power omnipotent is thine;

And when created nature dies,

Thy never-ceasing glories shine.




“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Matthew 6:16–18.

1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world, to put asunder what God hath joined together; to separate inward from outward religion; to set one of these at variance with the other. And herein he has met with no small success among those who were “ignorant of his devices.”

Many, in all ages, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, have been strictly attached to the “righteousness of the law,” the performance of outward duties, but in the mean time wholly regardless of inward righteousness, “the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And many have run into the opposite extreme, disregarding all outward duties, perhaps even “speaking evil of the law, and judging the law,” so far as it enjoins the performance of them.

2. It is by this very device of Satan, that faith and works have been so often set at variance with each other. And many who had a real zeal for God have, for a time, fallen into the snare on either hand. Some have magnified faith to the utter exclusion of good works, not only from being the cause of our justification, (for we know that man is justified freely by the redemption which is in Jesus,) but from being the necessary fruit of it, yea, from having any place in the religion of Jesus Christ. Others, eager to avoid this dangerous mistake, have run as much too far the contrary way; and either maintained that good works were the cause, at least the previous condition, of justification,—or spoken of them as if they were all in all, the whole religion of Jesus Christ.

3. In the same manner have the end and the means of religion been set at variance with each other. Some well-meaning men have seemed to place all religion in attending the Prayers of the Church, in receiving the Lord’s supper, in hearing sermons, and reading books of piety; neglecting, mean time, the end of all these, the love of God and their neighbour. And this very thing has confirmed others in the neglect, if not contempt, of the ordinances of God,—so wretchedly abused to undermine and overthrow the very end they were designed to establish.

4. But of all the means of grace there is scarce any concerning which men have run into greater extremes, than that of which our Lord speaks in the above-mentioned words, I mean religious fasting. How have some exalted this beyond all Scripture and reason;—and others utterly disregarded it; as it were revenging themselves by undervaluing as much as the former had overvalued it! Those have spoken of it, as if it were all in all; if not the end itself, yet infallibly connected with it: These, as if it were just nothing, as if it were a fruitless labour, which had no relation at all thereto. Whereas it is certain the truth lies between them both. It is not all, nor yet is it nothing. It is not the end, but it is a precious means thereto; a means which God himself has ordained, and in which therefore, when it is duly used, he will surely give us his blessing.

In order to set this in the clearest light, I shall endeavour to show, First, what is the nature of fasting, and what the several sorts and degrees thereof: Secondly, what are the reasons, grounds, and ends of it: Thirdly, how we may answer the most plausible objections against it: And Fourthly, in what manner it should be performed.

I. 1. I shall endeavour to show, First, what is the nature of fasting, and what the several sorts and degrees thereof. As to the nature of it, all the inspired writers, both in the Old Testament and the New, take the word to fast in one single sense, for not to eat, to abstain from food. This is so clear, that it would be labour lost to quote the words of David, Nehemiah, Isaiah, and the Prophets which followed, or of our Lord and his Apostles; all agreeing in this, that to fast, is, not to eat for a time prescribed.

2. To this, other circumstances were usually joined by them of old, which had no necessary connexion with it. Such were the neglect of their apparel; the laying aside those ornaments which they were accustomed to wear; the putting on mourning; the strewing ashes upon their head; or wearing sackcloth next their skin. But we find little mention made in the New Testament of any of these indifferent circumstances. Nor does it appear, that any stress was laid upon them by the Christians of the purer ages; however some penitents might voluntarily use them, as outward signs of inward humiliation. Much less did the Apostles, or the Christians contemporary with them, beat or tear their own flesh: Such discipline as this was not unbecoming the priests or worshippers of Baal. The gods of the Heathens were but devils; and it was doubtless acceptable to their devil-god, when his priests (1 Kings 18:28) “cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner, till the blood gushed out upon them:” But it cannot be pleasing to Him, nor become His followers, who “came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

3. As to the degrees or measures of fasting, we have instances of some who have fasted several days together. So Moses, Elijah, and our blessed Lord, being endued with supernatural strength for that purpose, are recorded to have fasted, without intermission, “forty days and forty nights.” But the time of fasting, more frequently mentioned in Scripture, is one day, from morning till evening. And this was the fast commonly observed among the ancient Christians. But beside these, they had also their half-fasts (Semijejunia, as Tertullian styles them) on the fourth and sixth days of the week, (Wednesday and Friday,) throughout the year; on which they took no sustenance till three in the afternoon, the time when they returned from the public service.

4. Nearly related to this, is what our Church seems peculiarly to mean by the term abstinence; which may be used when we cannot fast entirely, by reason of sickness or bodily weakness. This is the eating little; the abstaining in part; the taking a smaller quantity of food than usual. I do not remember any scriptural instance of this. But neither can I condemn it; for the Scripture does not. It may have its use, and receive a blessing from God.

5. The lowest kind of fasting, if it can be called by that name, is the abstaining from pleasant food. Of this, we have several instances in Scripture, besides that of Daniel and his brethren, who from a peculiar consideration, namely, that they might “not defile themselves with the portion of the King’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank,” (a daily provision of which the King had appointed for them,) requested and obtained, of the prince of the eunuchs, pulse to eat and water to drink. (Daniel 1:8.) Perhaps from a mistaken imitation of this might spring the very ancient custom of abstaining from flesh and wine during such times as were set apart for fasting and abstinence;—if it did not rather arise from a supposition that these were the most pleasant food, and a belief that it was proper to use what was least pleasing at those times of solemn approach to God.

6. In the Jewish church there were some stated fasts. Such was the fast of the seventh month, appointed by God himself to be observed by all Israel under the severest penalty. “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, On the tenth day of this seventh month, there shall be a day of atonement: And ye shall afflict your souls,—to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.” (Lev. 23:26.) In after-ages, several other stated fasts were added to these. So mention is made, by the Prophet Zechariah, of the fast not only “of the seventh, but also of the fourth, of the fifth, and of the tenth month.” (Zech. 8:19)

In the ancient Christian Church, there were likewise stated fasts, and those both annual and weekly. Of the former sort was that before Easter; observed by some for eight-and-forty hours; by others, for an entire week; by many, for two weeks; taking no sustenance till the evening of each day: Of the latter, those of the fourth and sixth days of the week, observed (as Epiphanius writes, remarking it as an undeniable fact) en holei tei oikoumenei, in the whole habitable earth; at least in every place where any Christians made their abode. The annual fasts in our Church are, the forty days of Lent, the ember days at the four seasons, the Rogation days, and the Vigils or eves of several solemn festivals; the weekly, all Fridays in the year, except Christmas-day.

But beside those which were fixed, in every nation fearing God there have always been occasional fasts, appointed from time to time, as the particular circumstances and occasions of each required. So when the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, came against Jehoshaphat to battle, Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. (2 Chron. 20:1, 3) And so, in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, in the ninth month, when they were afraid of the King of Babylon, the Princes of “Judah proclaimed a fast before the Lord, to all the people of Jerusalem.” (Jer. 36:9)

And, in like manner, particular persons, who take heed unto their ways, and desire to walk humbly and closely with God, will find frequent occasion for private seasons of thus afflicting their souls before their Father which is in secret. And it is to this kind of fasting that the directions here given do chiefly and primarily refer.

II. 1. I proceed to show, in the Second place, what are the grounds, the reasons, and ends of fasting.

And, First, men who are under strong emotions of mind, who are affected with any vehement passion, such as sorrow or fear, are often swallowed up therein, and even forget to eat their bread. At such seasons they have little regard for food, not even what is needful to sustain nature, much less for any delicacy or variety; being taken up with quite different thoughts. Thus when Saul said, “I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me;” it is recorded, “he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.” (1 Sam. 28:15, 20.) Thus those who were in the ship with St. Paul, “when no small tempest lay upon them, and all hope that they should be saved was taken away,” “continued fasting, having taken nothing,” no regular meal, for fourteen days together. (Acts 27:33.) And thus David, and all the men that were with him, when they heard that the people were fled from the battle, and that many of the people were fallen and dead, and Saul and Jonathan his son were dead also, “mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul and Jonathan, and for the house of Israel.” (2 Sam. 1:12.)

Nay, many times they whose minds are deeply engaged are impatient of any interruption, and even loathe their needful food, as diverting their thoughts from what they desire should engross their whole attention: even as Saul, when, on the occasion mentioned before, he had “fallen all along upon the earth, and there was no strength in him,” yet said, “I will not eat,” till “his servants, together with the woman, compelled him.”

2. here, then, is the natural ground of fasting. one who is under deep affliction, overwhelmed with sorrow for sin, and a strong apprehension of the wrath of God, would, without any rule, without knowing or considering whether it were a command of God or not, “forget to eat his bread,” abstain not only from pleasant but even from needful food;—like St. Paul, who, after he was led into Damascus, “was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.” (Acts 9:9.)

Yea, when the storm rose high; “when an horrible dread overwhelmed” one who had been without God in the world, his soul would “loathe all manner of meat;” it would be unpleasing and irksome to him; he would be impatient of anything that should interrupt his ceaseless cry, “Lord, save or I perish.”

how strongly is this expressed by our Church in the first part of the Homily on Fasting!—”When men feel in themselves the heavy burden of sin, see damnation to be the reward of it, and behold, with the eye of their mind, the horror of hell, they tremble, they quake, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, and cannot but accuse themselves, and open their grief unto Almighty God, and call unto him for mercy. This being done seriously, their mind is so occupied, [taken up,] partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that all desire of meat and drink is laid apart, and loathsomeness [or loathing] of all worldly things and pleasure cometh in place. So that nothing then liketh them more than to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behaviour of body to show themselves weary of life.”

3. Another reason or ground of fasting is this: Many of those who now fear God are deeply sensible how often they have sinned against him, by the abuse of these lawful things. They know how much they have sinned by excess of food; how long they have transgressed the holy law of God, with regard to temperance, if not sobriety too; how they have indulged their sensual appetites, perhaps to the impairing even their bodily health,—certainly to the no small hurt of their soul For hereby they continually fed and increased that sprightly folly, that airiness of mind, that levity of temper, that gay inattention to things of the deepest concern, that giddiness and carelessness of spirit, which were no other than drunkenness of soul, which stupefied all their noblest faculties, no less than excess of wine or strong drink. To remove, therefore, the effect, they remove the cause. They keep at a distance from all excess. They abstain, as far as is possible, from what had well nigh plunged them in everlasting perdition. They often wholly refrain; always take care to be sparing and temperate in all things.

4. They likewise well remember how fulness of bread increased not only carelessness and levity of spirit, but also foolish and unholy desires, yea, unclean and vile affections. And this experience puts beyond all doubt. Even a genteel, regular sensuality is continually sensualizing the soul, and sinking it into a level with the beasts that perish. It cannot be expressed what an effect variety and delicacy of food have on the mind as well as the body; making it just ripe for every pleasure of sense, as soon as opportunity shall invite. Therefore, on this ground also, every wise man will refrain his soul, and keep it low; will wean it more and more from all those indulgences of the inferior appetites, which naturally tend to chain it down to earth, and to pollute as well as debase it Here is another perpetual reason for fasting; to remove the food of lust and sensuality, to withdraw the incentives of foolish and hurtful desires, of vile and vain affections.

5. Perhaps we need not altogether omit (although I know not if we should do well to lay any great stress upon it) another reason for fasting, which some good men have largely insisted on; namely, the punishing themselves for having abused the good gifts of God, by sometimes wholly refraining from them; thus exercising a kind of holy revenge upon themselves, for their past folly and ingratitude, in turning the things which should have been for their health into an occasion of falling. They suppose David to have had an eye to this, when he said, “I wept and chastened,” or punished, “my soul with fasting;” and St. Paul, when he mentions “what revenge” godly sorrow occasioned in the Corinthians.

6. A Fifth and more weighty reason for fasting is, that it is an help to prayer; particularly when we set apart larger portions of time for private prayer. Then especially it is that God is often pleased to lift up the souls of his servants above all the things of earth, and sometimes to rap them up, as it were, into the third heavens. And it is chiefly, as it is an help to prayer, that it has so frequently been found a means, in the hand of God, of confirming and increasing, not one virtue, not chastity only, (as some have idly imagined, without any ground either from Scripture, reason, or experience,) but also seriousness of spirit, earnestness, sensibility and tenderness of conscience, deadness to the world, and consequently the love of God, and every holy and heavenly affection.

7. Not that there is any natural or necessary connexion between fasting, and the blessings God conveys thereby. But he will have mercy as he will have mercy; he will convey whatsoever seemeth him good by whatsoever means he is pleased to appoint. And he hath, in all ages, appointed this to be a means of averting his wrath, and obtaining whatever blessings we, from time to time, stand in need of.

How powerful a means this is to avert the wrath of God, we may learn from the remarkable instance of Ahab. “There was none like him who did sell himself”—wholly give himself up, like a slave bought with money—”to work wickedness.” Yet when he “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and went softly, the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.”

It was for this end, to avert the wrath of God, that Daniel sought God “with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” This appears from the whole tenor of his prayer, particularly from the solemn conclusion of it: “o Lord, according to all thy righteousness,” or mercies, “let thy anger be turned away from thy holy mountain.—Hear the prayer of thy servant, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate.—o Lord, hear; o Lord, forgive; o Lord, hearken and do, for thine own sake.” (Dan. 9:3, 16.)

8. But it is not only from the people of God that we learn, when his anger is moved, to seek him by fasting and prayer; but even from the Heathens. When Jonah had declared, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” the people of Nineveh proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them unto the least. “For the King of Nineveh arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: Let them not feed, nor drink water:” (Not that the beast had sinned, or could repent; but that, by their example, man might be admonished, considering that, for his sin, the anger of God was hanging over all creatures:) “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” And their labour was not in vain. The fierce anger of God was turned away from them. “God saw their works;” (the fruits of that repentance and faith which he had wrought in them by his Prophet;) “and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:4.)

9. And it is a means not only of turning away the wrath of God, but also of obtaining whatever blessings we stand in need of. So, when the other tribes were smitten before the Benjamites, “all the children of Israel went up unto the house of God, and wept, and fasted that day until even;” and then the Lord said, “Go up” again; “for to-morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.” (Judges 20:26.) So Samuel gathered all Israel together, when they were in bondage to the Philistines, “and they fasted on that day” before the Lord: And when “the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel, the Lord thundered” upon them “with a great thunder, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.” (1 Sam. 7:6.) So Ezra: “I proclaimed a fast at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones; and he was entreated of us.” (Ezra 8:21.) So Nehemiah: I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, Prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man:” And God granted him mercy in the sight of the king. (Neh. 1:4–11)

10. In like manner, the apostles always joined fasting with prayer when they desired the blessing of God on any important undertaking. Thus we read, (Acts 13.,) “There were in the church that was at Antioch certain Prophets and Teachers: As they ministered to the Lord and fasted,” doubtless for direction in this very affair, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had” a second time “fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:13.)

Thus also Paul and Barnabas themselves, as we read in the following chapter, when they “returned again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and when they had ordained them Elders in every Church, and had prayed with fasting, commended them to the Lord.” (Acts 14:23.)

Yea, that blessings are to be obtained in the use of this means, which are no otherwise attainable, our Lord expressly declares in his answer to his disciples, asking, “Why could not we cast him out? Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit, this kind” of devils “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting:” (Matt. 17:19.)—These being the appointed means of attaining that faith whereby the very devils are subject unto you.

11. These were the appointed means: For it was not merely by the light of reason, or of natural conscience, as it is called, that the people of God have been, in all ages, directed to use fasting as a means to these ends; but they have been, from time to time, taught it of God himself, by clear and open revelations of his will. Such is that remarkable one by the Prophet Joel: “Therefore saith the Lord, Turn you to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:—Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:—Then will the Lord be jealous over his land, and will pity his people. Yea, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil:—I will no more make you a reproach among the Heathen.” (Joel 2:12.)

Nor are they only temporal blessings which God directs his people to expect in the use of these means. For, at the same time that he promised to those who should seek him with fasting, and weeping, and mourning, “I will restore you the years which locust hath eaten, the canker-worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm, my great army;” he subjoins, “So shall ye eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God.—Ye shall also know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God.” And then immediately follows the great gospel promise: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” [Joel 2:28–29]

12. Now whatsoever reasons there were to quicken those of old, in the zealous and constant discharge of this duty, they are of equal force still to quicken us. But above all these, we have a peculiar reason for being “in fastings often;” namely, the command of Him by whose name we are called. He does not, indeed, in this place expressly enjoin either fasting, giving of alms, or prayer; but his directions how to fast, to give alms, and to pray, are of the same force with such injunctions. For the commanding us to do anything thus, is an unquestionable command to do that thing; seeing it is impossible to perform it thus, if it be not performed at all. Consequently, the saying, “Give alms, pray, fast” in such a manner, is a clear command to perform all those duties; as well as to perform them in that manner which shall in nowise lose its reward.

And this is a still farther motive and encouragement to the performance of this duty; even the promise which our Lord has graciously annexed to the due discharge of it: “Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Such are the plain grounds, reasons, and ends of fasting; such our encouragement to persevere therein, notwithstanding abundance of objections which men, wiser than their Lord, have been continually raising against it.

III. 1. The most plausible of these I come now to consider. And, First, it has been frequently said, “Let a Christian fast from sin, and not from food: This is what God requires at his hands.” So he does; but he requires the other also. Therefore this ought to be done, and that not left undone.

View your argument in its full dimensions; and you will easily judge of the strength of it:—

If a Christian ought to abstain from sin, then he ought not to abstain from food:

But a Christian ought to abstain from sin.

Therefore he ought not to abstain from food.

That a Christian ought to abstain from sin, is most true; but how does it follow from hence that he ought not to abstain from food? Yea, let him do both the one and the other. Let him, by the grace of God, always abstain from sin; and let him often abstain from food, for such reasons and ends as experience and Scripture plainly show to be answered thereby.

2. “But is it not better” (as it has, Secondly, been objected) “to abstain from pride and vanity, from foolish and hurtful desires, from peevishness, and anger, and discontent, than from food?” Without question, it is. But here again we have need to remind you of our Lords words: “These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” And, indeed, the latter is only in order to the former; it is a means to that great end. We abstain from food with this view,—that, by the grace of God conveyed into our souls through this outward means, in conjunction with all the other channels of his grace which he hath appointed, we may be enabled to abstain from every passion and temper which is not pleasing in his sight. We refrain from the one, that, being endued with power from on high, we may be able to refrain from the other. So that your argument proves just the contrary to what you designed. It proves that we ought to fast. For if we ought to abstain from evil tempers and desires, then we ought thus to abstain from food; since these little instances of self-denial are the ways God hath chose, wherein to bestow that great salvation.

3. “But we do not find it so in fact:” (This is a Third objection:) “We have fasted much and often; but what did it avail? We were not a whit better; we found no blessing therein. Nay, we have found it an hinderance rather than an help. Instead of preventing anger, for instance, or fretfulness, it has been a means of increasing them to such a height, that we could neither bear others nor ourselves.” This may very possibly be the case. It is possible either to fast or pray in such a manner as to make you much worse than before; more unhappy, and more unholy. Yet the fault does not lie in the means itself, but in the manner of using it. Use it still, but use it in a different manner. Do what God commands as he commands it; and then, doubtless, his promise shall not fail: His blessings shall be withheld no longer; but, when thou fastest in secret, “He that seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

4. “But is it not mere superstition,” (so it has been, Fourthly, objected,) “to imagine that God regards such little things as these?” If you say it is, you condemn all the generations of Gods children. But will you say, These were all weak, superstitious men? Can you be so hardy as to affirm this, both of Moses and Joshua, of Samuel and David, of Jehosaphat, Ezra, Nehemiah, and all the prophets? yea, of a greater than all,—the Son of God himself? It is certain, both our Master, and all these his servants, did imagine that fasting is not a little thing, and that He who is higher than the highest doth regard it. Of the same judgment, it is plain, were all his Apostles, after they were “filled with the Holy Ghost, and with wisdom.” When they had the “unction of the Holy One, teaching them all things,” they still approved themselves the Ministers of God, “by fastings,” as well as “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” After “the bridegroom was taken from them, then did they fast in those days.” Nor would they attempt anything (as we have seen above) wherein the glory of God was nearly concerned, such as the sending forth labourers into the harvest, without solemn fasting as well as prayer.

5. “But if fasting be indeed of so great importance, and attended with such a blessing, is it not best,” say some, Fifthly, “to fast always? not to do it now and then, but to keep a continual fast? to use as much abstinence, at all times, as our bodily strength will bear?” Let none be discouraged from doing this. By all means use as little and plain food, exercise as much self-denial herein, at all times, as your bodily strength will bear. And this may conduce, by the blessing of God, to several of the great ends above-mentioned. It may be a considerable help, not only to chastity, but also to heavenly-mindedness; to the weaning your affections from things below, and setting them on things above. But this is not fasting, scriptural fasting; it is never termed so in all the Bible. It, in some measure, answers some of the ends thereof; but still it is another thing. Practise it by all means; but not so as thereby to set aside a command of God, and an instituted means of averting his judgments, and obtaining the blessings of his children.

6. Use continually then as much abstinence as you please; which, taken thus, is no other than Christian temperance; but this need not at all interfere with your observing solemn times of fasting and prayer. For instance: Your habitual abstinence or temperance would not prevent your fasting in secret, if you were suddenly overwhelmed with huge sorrow and remorse, and with horrible fear and dismay. Such a situation of mind would almost constrain you to fast; you would loathe your daily food; you would scarce endure even to take such supplies as were needful for the body, till God “lifted you up out of the horrible pit, and set your feet upon a rock, and ordered your goings.” The same would be the case if you were in agony of desire, vehemently wrestling with God for his blessing. You would need none to instruct you not to eat bread till you had obtained the request of your lips.

7. Again, had you been at Nineveh when it was proclaimed throughout the city, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: Let them not feed or drink water, but let them cry mightily unto God;”—would your continual fast have been any reason for not bearing part in that general humiliation? Doubtless it would not. You would have been as much concerned as any other not to taste food on that day.

No more would abstinence, or the observing a continual fast, have excused any of the children of Israel from fasting on the tenth day of the seventh month, that shall not be afflicted,” shall not fast, “in that day, he shall be cut off from among his people.”

Lastly. Had you been with the brethren in Antioch, at the time when they fasted and prayed, before the sending forth of Barnabas and Saul, can you possibly imagine that your temperance or abstinence would have been a sufficient cause for not joining therein? Without doubt, if you had not, you would soon have been cut off from the Christian community. You would have deservedly been cast out from among them, as bringing confusion into the Church of God.

IV. 1. I am, in the Last place, to show in what manner we are to fast, that it may be an acceptable service unto the Lord. And, First, let it be done unto the Lord, with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven; to express our sorrow and shame for our manifold transgressions of his holy law; to wait for an increase of purifying grace, drawing our affections to things above; to add seriousness and earnestness to our prayers; to avert the wrath of God, and to obtain all the great and precious promises which he hath made to us in Jesus Christ.

Let us beware of mocking God, of turning our fast, as well as our prayers, into an abomination unto the Lord, by the mixture of any temporal view, particularly by seeking the praise of men. Against this our blessed Lord more peculiarly guards us in the words of the text. “Moreover when ye fast, be ye not as the hypocrites:”—Such were too many who were called the people of God; “of a sad countenance;” sour, affectedly sad, putting their looks into a peculiar form. “For they disfigure their faces,” not only by unnatural distortions, but also by covering them with dust and ashes; “that they may appear unto men to fast;” this is their chief, if not only design. “Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward;” even the admiration and praise of men. “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face:” Do as thou art accustomed to do at other times; “that thou appear not unto men to fast;”—let this be no part of thy intention; if they know it without any desire of thine, it matters not, thou art neither the better nor the worse;—”but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

2. But, if we desire this reward, let us beware, Secondly of fancying we merit anything of God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to “establish our own righteousness,” to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts. Fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for his unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of ours, he hath promised freely to give us his blessing.

3. Not that we are to imagine, the performing the bare outward act will receive any blessing from God. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen, saith the Lord; a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?” Are these outward acts, however strictly performed, all that is meant by a mans “afflicting his soul?”—”Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” No, surely: If it be a mere external service, it is all but lost labour. Such a performance may possibly afflict the body; but as to the soul, it profiteth nothing.

4. Yea, the body may sometimes be afflicted too much, so as to be unfit for the works of our calling. This also we are diligently to guard against; for we ought to preserve our health, as a good gift of God. Therefore care is to be taken, whenever we fast, to proportion the fast to our strength. For we may not offer God murder for sacrifice, or destroy our bodies to help our souls.

But at these solemn seasons, we may, even in great weakness of body, avoid that other extreme, for which God condemns those who of old expostulated with him for not accepting their fasts. “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?—Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, saith the Lord.” If we cannot wholly abstain from food, we may, at least, abstain from pleasant food; and then we shall not seek his face in vain.

5. But let us take care to afflict our souls as well as our bodies. Let every season, either of public or private fasting, be a season of exercising all those holy affections which are implied in a broken and contrite heart. Let it be a season of devout mourning, of godly sorrow for sin; such a sorrow as that of the Corinthians, concerning which the Apostle saith, “I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance. For ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow”—he kata Theon lype,—the sorrow which is according to God, which is a precious gift of his Spirit, lifting the soul to God from whom it flows—”worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.” Yea, and let our sorrowing after a godly sort work in us the same inward and outward repentance; the same entire change of heart, renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness; and the same change of life, till we are holy as He is holy, in all manner of conversation. Let it work in us the same carefulness to be found in him, without spot and blameless; the same clearing of ourselves, by our lives rather than words, by our abstaining from all appearance of evil; the same indignation, vehement abhorrence of every sin; the same fear of our own deceitful hearts; the same desire to be in all things conformed to the holy and acceptable will of God; the same zeal for whatever may be a means of his glory, and of our growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the same revenge against Satan and all his works, against all filthiness both of flesh and Spirit. (2 Cor. 7:9.)

6. And with fasting let us always join fervent prayer, pouring out our whole souls before God, confessing our sins with all their aggravations, humbling ourselves under his mighty hand, laying open before him all our wants, all our guiltiness and helplessness. This is a season for enlarging our prayers, both in behalf of ourselves and of our brethren. Let us now bewail the sins of our people; and cry aloud for the city of our God, that the Lord may build up Zion, and cause his face to shine on her desolations. Thus, we may observe, the men of God, in ancient times always joined prayer and fasting together; thus the Apostles, in all the instances cited above; and thus our Lord joins them in the discourse before us.

7. It remains only, in order to our observing such a fast as is acceptable to the Lord, that we add alms thereto; works of mercy, after our power, both to the bodies and souls of men: “With such sacrifices” also “God is well pleased.” Thus the angel declares to Cornelius, fasting and praying in his house, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4.) And this God himself expressly and largely declares: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer: Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.—If, “when thou fastest, “thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: And thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Isa. 58:6.)




“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Matt. 6:19–23.

1. From those which are commonly termed religious actions, and which are real branches of true religion where they spring from a pure and holy intention and are performed in a manner suitable thereto,—our Lord proceeds to the actions of common life, and shows that the same purity of intention is as indispensably required in our ordinary business as in giving alms, or fasting, or prayer.

And without question the same purity of intention “which makes our alms and devotions acceptable must also make our labour or employment a proper offering to God. If a man pursues his business that he may raise himself to a state of honour and riches in the world, he is no longer serving God in his employment, and has no more title to a reward from God than he who gives alms that he may be seen, or prays that he may be heard of men. For vain and earthly designs are no more allowable in our employments than in our alms and devotions. They are not only evil when they mix with our good works,” with our religious actions, “but they have the same evil nature when they enter into the common business of our employments. If it were allowable to pursue them in our worldly employments, it would be allowable to pursue them in our devotions. But as our alms and devotions are not an acceptable service but when they proceed frond a pure intention, so our common employment cannot be reckoned a service to him but when it is performed with the same piety of heart.”

2. This our blessed Lord declares in the liveliest manner in those strong and comprehensive words which he explains, enforces, and enlarges upon, throughout this whole chapter. “The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light: but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” The eye is the intention: what the eye is to the body, the intention is to the soul. As the one guides all the motions of the body, so does the other those of the soul. This eye of the soul is then said to be single when it looks at one thing only; when we have no other design but to “know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent,”—to know him with suitable affections, loving him as he hath loved us; to please God in all things; to serve God (as we love him) with all our heart and mind and Soul and strength; and to enjoy God in all and above all things, in time and in eternity.

3. “If thine eye be” thus “single,” thus fixed on God, “thy whole body shall be full of light.” “Thy whole body:”—all that is guided by the intention, as the body is by the eye. All thou art, all thou doest thy desires, tempers, affections; thy thoughts, and words, and actions. The whole of these “shall be full of light;” full of true divine knowledge. This is the first thing we may here understand by light. “In his light thou shalt see light.” “He which of old commanded light to shine out of darkness, shall shine in thy heart:” He shall enlighten the eyes of thy understanding with the knowledge of the glory of God. His Spirit shall reveal unto thee the deep things of God. The inspiration of the Holy One shall give thee understanding, and cause thee to know wisdom secretly. Yea, the anointing which thou receivest of him “shall abide in thee and teach thee of all things.”

How does experience confirm this! Even after God hath opened the eyes of our understanding, if we seek or desire anything else than God, how soon is our foolish heart darkened! Then clouds again rest upon our souls. Doubts and fears again overwhelm us. We are tossed to and fro, and know not what to do, or which is the path wherein we should go. But when we desire and seek nothing but God, clouds and doubts vanish away. We who “were sometime darkness are now light in the Lord.” The night now shineth as the day and we find “the path of the upright is light.” God showeth us the path wherein we should go, and maketh plain the way before our face.

4. The Second thing which we may here understand by light, is holiness. While thou seekest God in all things thou shalt find him in all, the fountain of all holiness, continually filling thee with his own likeness, with justice, mercy, and truth. While thou lookest unto Jesus and Him alone thou shalt be filled with the mind that was in him. Thy soul shall be renewed day by day after the image of him that created it. If the eye of thy mind be not removed from him, if thou endurest “as seeing him that is invisible,” and seeking nothing else in heaven or earth, then as thou beholdest the glory of the Lord thou shalt be transformed “into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”

And it is also matter of daily experience that “by grace we are” thus “saved through faith.” It is by faith that the eye of the mind is opened to see the light of the glorious love of God. And as long as it is steadily fixed thereon, on God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, we are more and more filled with the love of God and man, with meekness, gentleness, long-suffering; with all the fruits of holiness, which are, through Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father.

5. This light which fills him who has a single eye implies, Thirdly, happiness as well as holiness. Surely “light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to see the sun:” But how much more to see the Sun of Righteousness continually shining upon the soul! And if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any peace that passeth all understanding, if any rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, they all belong to him whose eye is single. Thus is his “whole body full of light.” He walketh in the light as God is in the light, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks, enjoying whatever is the will of God concerning him in Christ Jesus.

6. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” “If thine eye be evil:”—We see there is no medium between a single and an evil eye. If the eye be not single, then it is evil. If the intention in whatever we do be not singly to God, if we seek anything else, then our “mind and conscience are defiled.”

Our eye therefore is evil if in anything we do we aim at any other end than God; if we have any view, but to know and to love God, to please and serve him in all things; if we have any other design than to enjoy God, to be happy in him both now and for ever.

7. If thine eye be not singly fixed on God, “thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” The veil shall still remain on thy heart. Thy mind shall be more and more blinded by “the God of this world,” “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon thee.” Thou wilt be full of ignorance and error touching the things of God, not being able to receive or discern them. And even when thou hast some desire to serve God, thou wilt be full of uncertainty as to the manner of serving him; finding doubts and difficulties on every side, and not seeing any way to escape.

Yea, if thine eye be not single, if thou seek any of the things of earth, thou shalt be full of ungodliness and unrighteousness, thy desires, tempers, affections, being all out of course, being all dark, and vile, and vain. And thy conversation will be evil as well as thy heart, not “seasoned with salt,” or “meet to minister grace unto the hearers;” but idle, unprofitable, corrupt, grievous to the Holy Spirit of God.

8. Both destruction and unhappiness are in thy ways; “for the way of peace hast thou not known.” There is no peace, no settled, solid peace, for them that know not God. There is no true nor lasting content for any who do not seek him with their whole heart. While thou aimest at any of the things that perish, “all that cometh is vanity;” yea, not only vanity, but “vexation of spirit,” and that both in the pursuit and the enjoyment also. Thou walkest indeed in a vain shadow, and disquietest thyself in vain. Thou walkest in darkness that may be felt. Sleep on; but thou canst not take thy rest. The dreams of life can give pain, and that thou knowest; but ease they cannot give. There is no rest in this world or the world to come, but only in God, the centre of spirits.

“If the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” If the intention which ought to enlighten the whole soul, to fill it with knowledge, and love, and peace, and which in fact does so as long as it is single, as long as it aims at God alone—if this be darkness; if it aim at anything beside God, and consequently cover the soul with darkness instead of light, with ignorance and error, with sin and misery: O how great is that darkness! It is the very smoke which ascends out of the bottomless pit! It is the essential night which reigns in the lowest deep, in the land of the shadow of death!

9. Therefore, “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” If you do, it is plain your eye is evil; it is not singly fixed on God.

With regard to most of the commandments of God, whether relating to the heart or life, the Heathens of Africa or America stand much on a level with those that are called Christians. The Christians observe them (a few only being excepted) very near as much as the Heathens. For instance: the generality of the natives of England, commonly called Christians, are as sober and as temperate as the generality of the heathens near the Cape of Good Hope. And so the Dutch or French Christians are as humble and as chaste as the Choctaw or Cherokee Indians. It is not easy to say, when we compare the bulk of the nations in Europe with those in America, whether the superiority lies on the one side or the other. At least the American has not much the advantage. But we cannot affirm this with regard to the command now before us. Here the heathen has far the pre-eminence. He desires and seeks nothing more than plain food to eat and plain raiment to put on. And he seeks this only from day to day. He reserves, he lays up nothing; unless it be as much corn at one season of the year as he will need before that season returns. This command, therefore, the heathens, though they know it not, do constantly and punctually observe. They “lay up for themselves no treasures upon earth;” no stores of purple or fine linen, of gold or silver, which either “moth or rust may corrupt”, or “thieves break through and steal.” But how do the Christians observe what they profess to receive as a command of the most high God? Not at all! not in any degree; no more than if no such command had ever been given to man. Even the good Christians, as they are accounted by others as well as themselves, pay no manner of regard thereto. It might as well be still hid in its original Greek for any notice they take of it. In what Christian city do you find one man of five hundred who makes the least scruple of laying up just as much treasure as he can?—of increasing his goods just as far as he is able? There are indeed those who would not do this unjustly; there are many who will neither rob nor steal; and some who will not defraud their neighbour; nay, who will not gain either by his ignorance or necessity. But this is quite another point. Even these do not scruple the thing, but the manner of it. They do not scruple the “laying up treasures upon earth,” but the laying them up by dishonesty. They do not start at disobeying Christ, but at a breach of heathen morality. So that even these honest men do no more obey this command than a highwayman or a house-breaker. Nay, they never designed to obey it. From their youth up it never entered into their thoughts. They were bred up by their Christian parents, masters, and friends, without any instruction at all concerning it; unless it were this,—to break it as soon and as much as they could, and to continue breaking it to their lives’ end.

10. There is no one instance of spiritual infatuation in the world which is more amazing than this. Most of these very men read or hear the Bible read,—many of them every Lord’s day. They have read or heard these words an hundred times, and yet never suspect that they are themselves condemned thereby, any more than by those which forbid parents to offer up their sons or daughters unto Moloch. O that God would speak to these miserable self-deceivers with his own voice, his mighty voice! That they may at last awake out of the snare of the devil, and the scales may fall from their eyes!

11. Do you ask what it is to “lay up treasures on earth?” It will be needful to examine this thoroughly. And let us, First, observe what is not forbidden in this command, that we may then clearly discern what is.

We are not forbidden in this command, First, to “provide things honest in the sight of all men,” to provide wherewith we may render unto all their due,—whatsoever they can justly demand of us. So far from it that we are taught of God to “owe no man anything.” We ought therefore to use all diligence in our calling, in order to owe no man anything: this being no other than a plain law of common justice which our Lord came “not to destroy but to fulfil.”

Neither, Secondly, does he here forbid the providing for ourselves such things as are needful for the body; a sufficiency of plain, wholesome food to eat, and clean raiment to put on. Yea, it is our duty, so far as God puts it into our power, to provide these things also; to the end we may “eat our own bread,” and be burdensome to no man.

Nor yet are we forbidden, Thirdly, to provide for our children, and for those of our own household. This also it is our duty to do, even upon principles of heathen morality. Every man ought to provide the plain necessaries of life both for his own wife and children, and to put them into a capacity of providing these for themselves when he is gone hence and is no more seen. I say, of providing these, the plain necessaries of life; not delicacies, not superfluities;—and that by their diligent labour; for it is no man’s duty to furnish them any more than himself with the means either Of luxury or idleness. But if any man provides not thus far for his own children (as well as for the widows of his own house, of whom primarily St. Paul is speaking in those well-known words to Timothy), he hath practically “denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” or Heathen.

Lastly. We are not forbidden, in these words, to lay up, from time to time what is needful for the carrying on our worldly business in such a measure and degree as is sufficient to answer the foregoing purposes;—in such a measure as, First, to owe no man anything; Secondly, to procure for ourselves the necessaries of life; and, Thirdly, to furnish those of our own house with them while we live, and with the means of procuring them when we are gone to God.

12. We may now clearly discern (unless we are unwilling to discern it) what that is which is forbidden here. It is the designedly procuring more of this world’s goods than will answer the foregoing purposes; the labouring after a larger measure of worldly substance, a larger increase of gold and silver,—the laying up any more than these ends require,—is what is here expressly and absolutely forbidden. If the words have any meaning at all, it must be this; for they are capable of no other. Consequently, whoever he is that, owing no man anything, and having food and raiment for himself and his household, together with a sufficiency to carry on his worldly business so far as answers these reasonable purposes; whosoever, I say, being already in these circumstances, seeks a still larger portion on earth; he lives in an open habitual denial of the Lord that bought him. He hath practically denied the faith, and is worse than” an African or American “infidel.”

13. Hear ye this, all ye that dwell in the world, and love the world wherein ye dwell. Ye may be “highly esteemed of men;” but ye are “an abomination in the sight of God.” How long shall your souls cleave to the dust? How long will ye load yourselves with thick clay? When will ye awake and see that the open, speculative Heathens are nearer the kingdom of heaven than you? When will ye be persuaded to choose the better part; that which cannot be taken away from you? When will ye seek only to “lay up treasures in heaven,” renouncing, dreading, abhorring all other? If you aim at “laying up treasures on earth,” you are not barely losing your time and spending your strength for that which is not bread: for what is the fruit if you succeed?—You have murdered your own soul! You have extinguished the last spark of spiritual life therein! Now indeed, in the midst of life you are in death! You are a living man, but a dead Christian. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Your heart is sunk into the dust, your soul cleaveth to the ground. Your affections are set, not on things above, but on things of the earth; on poor husks that may poison, but cannot satisfy an everlasting spirit made for God. Your love your joy, your desire are all placed on the things which perish in the using. You have thrown away the treasure in heaven: God and Christ are lost! You have gained riches, and hell-fire!

14. O “how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” When our Lord’s disciples were astonished at his speaking thus he was so far from retracting it that he repeated the same important truth in stronger terms than before. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” How hard is it for them whose very word is applauded not to be wise in their own eyes! How hard for them not to think themselves better than the poor, base, uneducated herd of men! How hard not to seek happiness in their riches, or in things dependent upon them; in gratifying the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life! O ye rich, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Only, with all God all things are possible!

15. And even if you do not succeed, what is the fruit of your endeavouring to lay up treasures on earth? “They that will be rich” (hoi boulomenoi ploutein, they that desire, that endeavour after it, whether they succeed or no,) fall into a temptation and a snare, a gin, a trap of the devil; and into many foolish and hurtful lusts; epithymias anoetous, desires with which reason hath nothing to do; such as properly belong, not to rational and immortal beings, but only to the brute beasts which have no understanding;—which drown men in destruction and perdition, in present and eternal misery. Let us but open our eyes, and we may daily see the melancholy proofs of this,—men who, desiring, resolving to be rich, coveting after money, the root of all evil, have already pierced themselves through with many sorrows, and anticipated the hell to which they are going!

The cautiousness with which the Apostle here speaks is highly observable. he does not affirm this absolutely of the rich: For a man may possibly be rich, without any fault of his, by an overruling Providence, preventing his own choice: But he affirms it of hoi boulomenoi plourein, those who desire or seek to be rich. Riches, dangerous as they are, do not always drown men in destruction and perdition; but the desire of riches does: those who calmly desire and deliberately seek to attain them, whether they do, in fact, gain the world or no, do infallibly lose their own souls. These are they that sell him who bought them with his blood, for a few pieces of gold or silver. These enter into a covenant with death and hell; and their covenant shall stand. For they are daily making themselves meet to partake of their inheritance with the devil and his angels!

16. o who shall warn this generation of vipers to flee from the wrath to come! Not those who lie at their gate, or cringe at their feet, desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fall from their tables. Not those who court their favour or fear their frown: none of those who mind earthly things. But if there be a Christian upon earth, if there be a man who hath overcome the world, who desires nothing but God, and fears none but him that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell; thou, o man of God, speak and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet! Cry aloud, and show these honourable sinners the desperate condition wherein they stand! It may be, one in a thousand may have ears to hear, may arise and shake himself from the dust; may break loose from these chains that bind him to the earth, and at length lay up treasures in heaven.

17. And if it should be that one of these, by the mighty power of God, awoke and asked, What must I do to be saved? the answer, according to the oracles of God, is clear, full, and express. God doth not say to thee, “Sell all that thou hast.” Indeed he who seeth the hearts of men saw it needful to enjoin this in one peculiar case, that of the young, rich ruler. But he never laid it down for a general rule to all rich men, in all succeeding generations. his general direction is, first, “Be not high minded.” God seeth not as man seeth.” he esteems thee not for thy riches, grandeur or equipage, for any qualification or accomplishment which is directly or indirectly owing to thy wealth, which can be bought or procured thereby. All these are with him as dung and dross: let them be so with thee also. Beware thou think not thyself to be one jot wiser or better for all these things. Weigh thyself in another balance: estimate thyself only by the measure of faith and love which God hath given thee. If thou hast more of the knowledge and love of God than he, thou art on this account, and no other, wiser and better, more valuable and honourable than him who is with the dogs of thy flock. But if thou hast not this treasure those art more foolish, more vile, more truly contemptible, I will not say, than the lowest servant under thy roof, but than the beggar laid at thy gate, full of sores.

18. Secondly. “Trust not in uncertain riches.” Trust not in them for help: And trust not in them for happiness.

First. Trust not in them for help. Thou art miserably mistaken if thou lookest for this in gold or silver. These are no more able to set thee above the world than to set thee above the devil. Know that both the world, and the prince of this world, laugh at all such preparations against them. These will little avail in the day of trouble-even if they remain in the trying hour. But it is not certain that they will; for how oft do they “make themselves wings and fly away!” But if not, what support will they afford, even in the ordinary troubles of life? The desire of thy eyes, the wife of thy youth, thy son, thine only son, or the friend which was as thy own soul, is taken away at a stroke. Will thy riches re-animate the breathless clay, or call back its late inhabitant? Will they secure thee from sickness, diseases, pain? Do these visit the poor only? Nay, he that feeds thy flocks or tills thy ground has less sickness and pain than thou. He is more rarely visited by these unwelcome guests: and if they come there at all they are more easily driven away from the little cot than from the “cloud-topt palaces.” And during the time that thy body is chastened with pain, or consumes away with pining sickness, how do thy treasures help thee? Let the poor Heathen answer,

Ut lippum pictae tabulae, fomenta podagrum,

Auriculas citharae collecta sorde dolentes.

[Such help as pictures to sore eyes afford,

As heapd-up tables to their gouty lord.]

19. But there is at hand a greater trouble than all these. Thou art to die! Thou art to sink into dust; to return to the ground from which thou wast taken, to mix with common clay. Thy body is to go to the earth as it was, while thy spirit returns to God that gave it. And the time draws on: the years slide away with a swift though silent pace. Perhaps your day is far spent: the noon of life is past, and the evening shadows begin to rest upon you. You feel in yourself sure approaching decay. The springs of life wear away apace. Now what help is there in your riches? Do they sweeten death? Do they endear that solemn hour? Quite the reverse. “o death, how bitter art thou to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions!” How unacceptable to him is that awful sentence, “This night shall thy soul be required of thee!” or will they prevent the unwelcome stroke, or protract the dreadful hour? Can they deliver your soul that it should not see death? Can they restore the years that are past? Can they add to your appointed time a month, a day, an hour, a moment?—or will the good things you have chosen for your portion here follow you over the great gulf? Not so. Naked came you into this world; naked must you return.

Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens

Uxor; neque harum quas colis, arborum,

Te, praeter invisam cupressos,

Ulla brevem dominum sequetur!

[The following is Boscawens translation of these verses from Horace:

Thy lands, thy dome, thy pleasing wife,

These must thou quit; ’tis natures doom.

No tree, whose culture charms thy life,

Save the sad cypress, waits thy tomb.—edit.]

Surely, were not these truths too plain to be observed, because they are too plain to be denied, no man that is to die could possibly trust for help in uncertain riches.

20. And trust not in them for happiness: For here also they will be found “deceitful upon the weights.” Indeed this every reasonable man may infer from what has been observed already. For if neither thousands of gold and silver, nor any of the advantages or pleasures purchased thereby, can prevent our being miserable, it evidently follows they cannot make us happy. What happiness can they afford to him who in the midst of all is constrained to cry out,

To my new courts sad thought does still repair,

And round my gilded roofs hangs hovering care?

Indeed experience is here so full, strong, and undeniable, that it makes all other arguments needless. Appeal we therefore to fact. Are the rich and great the only happy men? And is each of them more or less happy in proportion to his measure of riches? Are they happy at all? I had well nigh said, they are of all men most miserable! Rich man, for once, speak the truth from thy heart. Speak, both for thyself, and for thy brethren!

Amidst our plenty something still,—

To me, to thee, to him is wanting!

That cruel something unpossessed

Corrodes and leavens all the rest.

Yea, and so it will, till thy wearisome days of vanity are shut up in the night of death.

Surely then, to trust in riches for happiness is the greatest folly of all that are under the sun! Are you not convinced of this? Is it possible you should still expect to find happiness in money or all it can procure? What! Can silver and gold, and eating and drinking, and horses and servants, and glittering apparel, and diversions and pleasures (as they are called) make thee happy? They can as soon make thee immortal!

21. These are all dead show. Regard them not. Trust thou in the living God; so shalt thou be safe under the shadow of the Almighty; his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler. He is a very present help in time of trouble such an help as can never fail. Then shalt thou say, if all thy other friends die, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my strong helper!” He shall remember thee when thou liest sick upon thy bed; when vain is the help of man. When all the things of earth can give no support, he will “make all thy bed in thy sickness.” He will sweeten thy pain; the consolations of God shall cause thee to clap thy hands in the flames. And even when this house of earth” is well nigh shaken down, when it is just ready to drop into the dust, he will teach thee to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God, who giveth” me “the victory, through” my “Lord Jesus Christ.”

O trust in Him for happiness as well as for help. All the springs of happiness are in him. Trust in him “who giveth us all things richly to enjoy,” parechonti plousiOs panta eis apolausin.—who, of his own rich and free mercy holds them out to us as in his own hand, that receiving them as his gift, and as pledges of his love, we may enjoy all that we possess. It is his love gives a relish to all we taste,—puts life and sweetness into all, while every creature leads us up to the great Creator, and all earth is a scale to heaven. he transfuses the joys that are at his own right hand into all he bestows on his thankful children; who, having fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, enjoy him in all and above all.

22. Thirdly, seek not to increase in goods. Lay not up for thyself “treasures upon earth.” This is a flat, positive command; full as clear as “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” How then is it possible for a rich man to grow richer without denying the Lord that bought him? Yea, how can any man who has already the necessaries of life gain or aim at more, and be guiltless? “Lay not up,” saith our Lord, “treasures upon earth.” If, in spite of this, you do and will lay up money or goods, which “moth or rust may corrupt, or thieves break through and steal;” if you will add house to house, or field to field,—why do you call yourself a Christian? You do not obey Jesus Christ. You do not design it. Why do you name yourself by his name? “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord,” saith he himself, “and do not the things which I say?”

23. If you ask, “But what must we do with our goods, seeing we have more than we have occasion to use, if we must not lay them up? Must we throw them away?” I answer: If you threw them into the sea, if you were to cast them into the fire and consume them, they would be better bestowed than they are now. You cannot find so mischievous a manner of throwing them away as either the laying them up for your posterity or the laying them out upon yourselves in folly and superfluity. Of all possible methods of throwing them away, these two are the very worst; the most opposite to the gospel of Christ, and the most pernicious to your own soul.

How pernicious to your own soul the latter of these is has been excellently shown by a late writer:—

“If we waste our money we are not only guilty of wasting a talent which God has given us, but we do ourselves this farther harm, we turn this useful talent into a powerful means of corrupting ourselves; because so far as it is spent wrong, so far it is spent in the support of some wrong temper, in gratifying some vain and unreasonable desires, which as Christians we are obliged to renounce.

“As wit and fine parts cannot be only trifled away, but will expose those that have them to greater follies, so money cannot be only trifled away, but if it is not used according to reason and religion, will make people live a more silly and extravagant life than they would have done without it. If therefore you don’t spend your money in doing good to others, you must spend it to the hurt of yourself. You act like one that refuses the cordial to his sick friend which he cannot drink himself without inflaming his blood. For this is the case of superfluous money, if you give it to those who want it is a cordial; if you spend it upon yourself in something that you do not want it only inflames and disorders your mind.

“In using riches where they have no real use, nor we any real want, we only use them to our great hurt, in creating unreasonable desires, in nourishing ill tempers, in indulging in foolish passions, and supporting a vain turn of mind. For high eating and drinking, fine clothes and fine houses, state and equipage, gay pleasures and diversions, do all of them naturally hurt and disorder our heart. They are the food and nourishment of all the folly and weakness of our nature. They are all of them the support of something that ought not to be supported. They are contrary to that sobriety and piety of heart which relishes divine things. They are so many weights upon our mind, that makes us less able and less inclined to raise our thoughts and affections to things above.

“So that money thus spent is not merely wasted or lost, but it is spent to bad purposes and miserable effects; to the corruption and disorder of our hearts; to the making us unable to follow the sublime doctrines of the gospel. It is but like keeping money from the poor to buy poison for ourselves.”

24. equally inexcusable are those who lay up what they do not need for any reasonable purposes:—

“If a man had hands and eyes and feet that he could give to those that wanted them; if he should lock them up in a chest instead of giving them to his brethren that were blind and lame, should we not justly reckon him an inhuman wretch? If he should rather choose to amuse himself with hoarding them up than entitle himself to an eternal reward by giving them to those that wanted eyes and hands, might we not justly reckon him mad?

“Now money has very much the nature of eyes and feet. If therefore we lock it up in chests, while the poor and distressed want it for their necessary uses, we are not far from the cruelty of him that chooses rather to hoard up the hands and eyes than to give them to those that want them. If we choose to lay it up rather than to entitle ourselves to an eternal reward by disposing of our money well, we are guilty of his madness that rather chooses to lock up eyes and hands than to make himself for ever blessed by giving them to those that want them.”

25. May not this be another reason why rich men shall so hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven? A vast majority of them are under a curse, under the peculiar curse of God; inasmuch as in the general tenor of their lives they are not only robbing God continually, embezzling and wasting their Lord’s goods, and by that very means corrupting their own souls; but also robbing the poor, the hungry, the naked, wronging the widow and the fatherless, and making themselves accountable for all the want, affliction, and distress which they may but do not remove. Yea, doth not the blood of all those who perish for want of what they either lay up or lay out needlessly, cry against them from the earth? O what account will they give to him who is ready to judge both the quick and the dead!

26. The true way of employing what you do not want yourselves you may, Fourthly, learn from those words of our Lord which are the counterpart of what went before: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.” Put out whatever thou canst spare upon better security than this world can afford. Lay up thy treasures in the bank of heaven; and God shall restore them in that day. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again.” “Place that,” saith he, “unto my account. Howbeit, thou owest me thine own self besides!”

Give to the poor with a single eye, with an upright heart, and write, “So much given to God.” For “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This is the part of a “faithful and wise steward:” Not to sell either his houses or lands, or principal stock, be it more or less, unless some peculiar circumstance should require it; and not to desire or endeavour to increase it, any more than to squander it away in vanity; but to employ it wholly to those wise and reasonable purposes for which his Lord has lodged it in his hands. The wise steward, after having provided his own household with what is needful for life and godliness, makes himself friends with all that remains from time to time of the “mammon of unrighteousness; that when he fails they may receive him into everlasting habitations,”—that whensoever his earthly tabernacle is dissolved, they who were before carried into Abraham’s bosom, after having eaten his bread, and worn the fleece of his flock., and praised God for the consolation, may welcome him into paradise, and to “the house of God, eternal in the heavens.”

27. We “charge” you, therefore, “who are rich in this world,” as having authority from our great Lord and Master, agathoergein, to be habitually doing good, to live in a course of good works. Be ye merciful as your Father which is in heaven is merciful; who doth good, and ceaseth not. Be ye merciful, how far? After your power, with all the ability which God giveth. Make this your only measure of doing good, not any beggarly maxims or customs of the world. We charge you to “be rich in good works;” as you have much, to give plenteously. “Freely ye have received; freely give;” so as to lay up no treasure but in heaven. Be ye “ready to distribute” to everyone according to his necessity. Disperse abroad, give to the poor: deal your bread to the hungry. Cover the naked with a garment, entertain the stranger, carry or send relief to them that are in prison. heal the sick; not by miracle, but through the blessing of God upon your seasonable support. Let the blessing of him that was ready to perish through pining want come upon thee. Defend the oppressed, plead the cause of the fatherless, and make the widows heart sing for joy.

28. We exhort you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be “willing to communicate;” koinonikous einai: to be of the same spirit (though not in the same outward state) with those believers of ancient times, who remained steadfast en tei koinoniai, in that blessed and holy fellowship, wherein “none said that anything was his own, but they had all things common.” Be a steward, a faithful and wise steward, of God and of the poor; differing from them in these two circumstances only, that your wants are first supplied out of the portion of your Lord’s goods which remains in your hands, and that you have the blessedness of giving. Thus “lay up for yourselves a good foundation,” not in the world which now is, but rather “for the time to come, that ye may lay hold on eternal life.” The great foundation indeed of all the blessings of God, whether temporal or eternal, is the Lord Jesus Christ,—his righteousness and blood,—what he hath done, and what he hath suffered for us. And “other foundation,” in this sense, “can no man lay;” no, not an Apostle, no, not an angel from heaven. But through his merits, whatever we do in his name is a foundation for a good reward in the day when “every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.” Therefore “labour” thou “not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.” Therefore “whatsoever thy hand” now “findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Therefore let

No fair occasion pass unheeded by;

Snatching the golden moments as they fly,

Thou by few fleeting years ensure eternity!

“By patient continuance in well-doing, seek” thou “for glory and honour and immortality.” In a constant, zealous performance of all good works, wait thou for that happy hour when the King shall say, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in, Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.—Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!”




” ‘No man can serve two masters; For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

” ‘Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: For they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

” ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow: For the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ “

Matt. 6:24–34.

1. It is recorded of the nations whom the King of Assyria, after he had carried Israel away into captivity, placed in the cities of Samaria, that “they feared the Lord, and served their own gods.” “These nations,” saith the inspired writer, “feared the Lord;” performed an outward service to him (a plain proof that they had a fear of God, though not according to knowledge;) “and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: As did their fathers, so do they unto this day. (2 Kings 17:33.)

How nearly does the practice of most modern Christians resemble this of the ancient Heathens! “They fear the Lord;” they also perform an outward service to him, and hereby show they have some fear of God; but they likewise “serve their own gods.” There are those who “teach them” as there were who taught the Assyrians, “the manner of the God of the land;” the God whose name the country bears to this day, and who was once worshipped there with an holy worship: “Howbeit,” they do not serve him alone; they do not fear him enough for this: But “every nation maketh gods of their own: Every nation in the cities wherein they dwell.” “These nations fear the Lord;” they have not laid aside the outward form of worshipping him; but “they serve their graven images,’ silver and gold, the work of men’s hands: Money, pleasure, and praise, the gods of this world, more than divide their service with the God of Israel. This is the manner both of “their children and their children’s children; as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.”

2. But although, speaking in a loose way, after the common manner of men, those poor Heathens were said to “fear the Lord,” yet we may observe the Holy Ghost immediately adds, speaking according to the truth and real nature of things, “They fear not the Lord, neither do after the law and the commandment, which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob; with whom the Lord made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor serve them.—But the Lord your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.”

The same judgment is passed by the unerring Spirit of God, and indeed by all the eyes of whose understanding he hath opened to discern the things of God, upon these poor Christians, commonly so called. If we speak according to the truth and real nature of things, “they fear not the Lord, neither do they serve him.” For they do not “after the covenant the Lord hath made with them, neither after the law and commandment which he hath commanded them, saying, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” “They serve other gods unto this day.” And “no man can serve two masters.”

3. How vain is it for any man to aim at this,—to attempt the serving of two masters! Is it not easy to foresee what must be the unavoidable consequence of such an attempt? “Either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” The two parts of this sentence, although separately proposed, are to be understood in connection with each other; for the latter part is a consequence of the former. He will naturally hold to him whom he loves. He will so cleave to him, as to perform to him a willing, faithful, and diligent service. And, in the meantime, he will so far at least despise the master he hates as to have little regard to his commands, and to obey them, if at all, in a slight and careless manner. Therefore, whatsoever the wise men of the world may suppose, “ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

4. Mammon was the name of one of the heathen gods, who was supposed to preside over riches. It is here understood of riches themselves; gold and silver; or, in general, money; and, by a common figure of speech, of all that may be purchased thereby; such as ease, honor, and sensual pleasure.

But what are we here to understand by serving God, and what by serving mammon?

We cannot serve God unless we believe in him. This is the only true foundation of serving him. Therefore, believing in God, as “reconciling the world to himself through Christ Jesus,” the believing in him, as a loving, pardoning God, is the first great branch of his service.

And thus to believe in God implies, to trust in him as our strength, without whom we can do nothing, who every moment endues us with power from on high, without which it is impossible to please him; as our help, our only help in time of trouble, who compasseth us about with songs of deliverance; as our shield, our defender, and the lifter up of our head above all our enemies that are round about us.

It implies, to trust in God as our happiness; as the centre of spirits; the only rest of our souls; the only good who is adequate to all our capacities, and sufficient to satisfy all the desires he hath given us.

It implies, (what is nearly allied to the other,) to trust in God as our end; to have an eye to him in all things; to use all things only as means of enjoying him; wheresoever we are, or whatsoever we do, to see him that is invisible, looking on us well-pleased, and to refer all things to him in Christ Jesus.

5. Thus to believe, is the First thing we are to understand by serving God. The Second is, to love him.

Now to love God in the manner the Scripture describes, in the manner God himself requires of us, and by requiring engages to work in us,—is to love him as the ONE GOD; that is, “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength;”—it is to desire God alone for his own sake; and nothing else, but with reference to him;—to rejoice in God;—to delight in the Lord; not only to seek, but find, happiness in him; to enjoy God as the chiefest among ten thousand; to rest in him, as our God and our all;—in a word, to have such a possession of God as makes us always happy.

6. A Third thing we are to understand by serving God is to resemble or imitate him.

So the ancient Father: Optimus Dei cultus, imitari quem colis: “It is the best worship or service of God, to imitate him you worship.”

We here speak of imitating or resembling him in the spirit of our minds: For here the true Christian imitation of God begins. “God is a Spirit;” and they that imitate or resemble him must do it “in spirit and in truth.”

Now God is love: Therefore, they who resemble him in the spirit of their minds are transformed into the same image. They are merciful even as he is merciful. Their soul is all love. They are kind, benevolent, compassionate, tender-hearted; and that not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Yea, they are, like Him, loving unto every man, and their mercy extends to all his works.

7. One thing more we are to understand by serving God, andthat is, the obeying him; the glorifying him with our bodies, as well as with our spirits; the keeping his outward commandments; the zealously doing whatever he hath enjoined; the carefully avoiding whatever he hath forbidden; the performing all the ordinary actions of life with a single eye and a pure heart, offering them all in holy, fervent love, as sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

8. Let us consider now what we are to understand, on the other hand, by serving mammon. And, First, it implies the trusting in riches, in money, or the things purchasable thereby, as our strength,—the means whereby we shall perform whatever cause we have in hand; the trusting in them as our help,—by which we look to be comforted in or delivered out of trouble.

It implies the trusting in the world for happiness; the supposing that “a man’s life,” the comfort of his life, “consisteth in the abundance of the things which he possesseth;” the looking for rest in the things that are seen; for content, in outward plenty; the expecting that satisfaction in the things of the world, which can never be found out of God.

And if we do this, we cannot but make the world our end; the ultimate end, if not of all, at least of many, of our undertakings, many of our actions and designs; in which we shall aim only at an increase of wealth, at the obtaining pleasure or praise, at the gaining a larger measure of temporal things, without any reference to things eternal.

9. The serving mammon implies, Secondly, loving the world; desiring it for its own sake; the placing our joy in the things thereof, and setting our hearts upon them; the seeking (what indeed it is impossible we should find) our happiness therein; the resting with the whole weight of our souls, upon the staff of this broken reed, although daily experience shows it cannot support, but will only “enter into our hand and pierce it.”

10. To resemble, to be conformed to the world, is a Third thing we are to understand by serving mammon; to have not only designs, but desires, tempers, affections, suitable to those of the world; to be of an earthly, sensual mind, chained down to the things of earth; to be self-willed, inordinate lovers of ourselves; to think highly of our own attainments; to desire and delight in the praise of men; to fear, shun, and abhor reproach; to be impatient of reproof, easy to be provoked, and swift to return evil for evil.

11. To serve mammon is, Lastly, to obey the world, by outwardly conforming to its maxims and customs; to walk as other men walk, in the common road, in the broad, smooth, beaten path; to be in the fashion; to follow a multitude; to do like the rest of our neighbours; that is, to do the will of the flesh and the mind, to gratify our appetites and inclinations; to sacrifice to ourselves; aim at our own ease and pleasure, in the general course both of our words and actions.

Now what can be more undeniably clear than that we cannot thus serve God and mammon?

12. Does not every man see, that he cannot comfortably serve both? That to trim between God and the world is the sure way to be disappointed in both, and to have no rest either in one or the other? How uncomfortable a condition must he be in, who, having the fear but not the love of God,—who, serving him, but not with all his heart,—has only the toils and not the joys of religion? He has religion enough to make him miserable, but not enough to make him happy: His religion will not let him enjoy the world, and the world will not let him enjoy God. So that, by halting between both, he loses both; and has no peace either in God or the world.

13. Does not every man see, that he cannot serve both consistently with himself? What more glaring inconsistency can be conceived, than must continually appear in his whole behavior, who is endeavoring to obey both these masters,—striving to “serve God and mammon?” He is indeed a “sinner that goeth two ways;” one step forward and another backward. He is continually building up with one hand, and pulling down with the other. He loves sin, and he hates it: He is always seeking, and yet always fleeing from, God. He would, and he would not. He is not the same man for one day; no, not for an hour together. He is a motley mixture of all sorts of contrarieties; a heap of contradictions jumbled in one. O be consistent with thyself one way or the other! Turn to the right hand or to the left. If mammon be God, serve thou him; if the Lord, then serve him. But never think of serving either at all, unless it be with thy whole heart.

14. Does not every reasonable, every thinking man see that he cannot possibly serve God and mammon? Because there is the most absolute contrariety, the most irreconcilable enmity between them. The contrariety between the most opposite things on earth, between fire and water, darkness and light, vanishes into nothing when compared to the contrariety between God and mammon. So that, in whatsoever respect you serve the one, you necessarily renounce the other. Do you believe in God through Christ? Do you trust in him as your strength, your help, your shield, and your exceeding great reward? as your happiness? your end in all, above all things? Then you cannot trust in riches. It is absolutely impossible you should, so long as you have this faith in God. Do you thus trust in riches? Then you have denied the faith. You do not trust in the living God. Do you love God? Do you seek and find happiness in him? Then you cannot love the world, neither the things of the world. You are crucified to the world, and the world crucified to you. Do you love the world? Are your affections set on things beneath? Do you seek happiness in earthly things? Then it is impossible you should love God. Then the love of the Father is not in you. Do you resemble God? Are you merciful, as your Father is merciful? Are you transformed, by the renewal of your mind, into the image of him that created you? Then you cannot be conformed to the present world. You have renounced all its affections and lusts. Are you conformed to the world? Does your soul still bear the image of the earthly? Then you are not renewed in the spirit of your mind. You do not bear the image of the heavenly. Do you obey God? Are you zealous to do his will on earth as the angels do in heaven? Then it is impossible you should obey mammon. Then you set the world at open defiance. You trample its customs and maxims under foot, and will neither follow nor be led by them. Do you follow the world? Do you live like other men? Do you please men? Do you please yourself? Then you cannot be a servant of God. You are of your master and father, the devil.

15. Therefore, “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God; and him only shalt thou serve.” Thou shalt lay aside all thoughts of obeying two masters, of serving God and mammon. Thou shalt propose to thyself no end, no help, no happiness, but God. Thou shalt seek nothing in earth or heaven but him: Thou shalt aim at nothing, but to know, to love, and enjoy him. And because this is all your business below, the only view you can reasonably have, the one design you are to pursue in all things,—”Therefore I say unto you,” (as our Lord continues his discourse,) “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on:”—A deep and weighty direction, which it imports us well to consider and thoroughly to understand.

16. Our Lord does not here require, that we should be utterly without thought, even touching the concerns of this life. A giddy, careless temper is at the farthest remove from the whole religion of Jesus Christ. Neither does he require us to be “slothful in business,” to be slack and dilatory therein. This, likewise, is contrary to the whole spirit and genius of his religion. A Christian abhors sloth as much as drunkenness; and flees from idleness as he does from adultery. He well knows, that there is one kind of thought and care with which God is well pleased; which is absolutely needful for the due performance of those outward works unto which the providence of God has called him.

It is the will of God, that every man should labour to eat his own bread; yea, and that every man should provide for his own, for them of his own household. It is likewise his will, that we should “owe no man anything, but provide things honest in the sight of all men.” But this cannot be done without taking some thought, without having some care upon our minds; yea, often, not without long and serious thought, not without much and earnest care. Consequently this care, to provide for ourselves and our household, this thought how to render to all their dues, our blessed Lord does not condemn. Yea, it is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

It is good and acceptable to God, that we should so take thought concerning whatever we have in hand, as to have a clear comprehension of what we are about to do, and to plan our business before we enter upon it. And it is right that we should carefully consider, from time to time, what steps we are to take therein; as well as that we should prepare all things beforehand, for the carrying it on in the most effectual manner. This care, termed by some, “the care of the head,” it was by no means our Lord’s design to condemn.

17. What he here condemns is, the care of the heart; the anxious, uneasy care; the care that hath torment; all such care as does hurt, either to the soul or body. What he forbids is, that care which, sad experience shows, wastes the blood and drinks up the spirits; which anticipates all the misery it fears, and comes to torment us before the time. He forbids only that care which poisons the blessings of to-day, by fear of what may be to-morrow; which cannot enjoy the present plenty, through apprehensions of future want. This care is not only a sore disease, a grievous sickness of soul, but also an heinous offence against God, a sin of the deepest dye. It is a high affront to the gracious Governor and wise Disposer of all things; necessarily implying, that the great Judge does not do right; that he does not order all things well. It plainly implies, that he is wanting, either in wisdom, if he does not know what things we stand in need of; or in goodness, if he does not provide those things for all who put their trust in him. Beware, therefore, that you take not thought in this sense: Be ye anxiously careful for nothing. Take no uneasy thought: This is a plain, sure rule, Uneasy care is unlawful care. With a single eye to God, do all that in you lies to provide things honest in the sight of all men. And then give up all into better hands; leave the whole event to God.

18. “Take no thought” of this kind, no uneasy thought, even “for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” If then God gave you life, the greater gift, will he not give you food to sustain it? If he hath given you the body, how can ye doubt but he will give you raiment to cover it? More especially, if you give yourselves up to him, and serve him with your whole heart. “Behold,” see before your eyes, “the fowls of the air: For they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns;” and yet they lack nothing; “yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Ye that are creatures capable of God, are ye not of more account in the eyes of God? of a higher rank in the scale of beings? “And which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature?” What profit have you then from this anxious thought? It is every way fruitless and unavailing.

“And why take ye thought for raiment?” Have ye not a daily reproof wherever you turn your eyes? “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven,” (is cut down, burned up, and seen no more,) “shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” you, whom he made to endure for ever and ever, to be pictures of his own eternity! Ye are indeed of little faith; otherwise ye could not doubt of his love and care; no, not for a moment.

19. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat,” if we lay up no treasure upon earth? “What shall we drink,” if we serve God with all our strength, if our eye be singly fixed on him? “Wherewithal shall we be clothed,” if we are not conformed to the world, if we disoblige those by whom we might be profited? “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek,”—the Heathens who know not God. But ye are sensible “your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” And he hath pointed out to you an infallible way of being constantly supplied therewith: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

20. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God:”—Before ye give place to any other thought or care, let it be your concern that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who “gave his only begotten Son,” to the end that, believing in him, “ye might not perish, but have everlasting life”) may reign in your heart, may manifest himself in your soul, and dwell and rule there; that he may “cast down every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Let God have the sole dominion over you: Let him reign without a rival: Let him possess all your heart, and rule alone. Let him be your one desire, your joy, your love; so that all that is within you may continually cry out, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

“Seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Righteousness is the fruit of God’s reigning in the heart. And what is righteousness, but love?—the love of God and of all mankind, flowing from faith in Jesus Christ, and producing humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering, patience, deadness to the world; and every right disposition of heart, toward God and toward man. And by these it produces all holy actions, whatsoever are lovely or of good report; whatsoever works of faith and labour of love are acceptable to God, and profitable to man.

“His righteousness:”—This is all his righteousness still: It is his own free gift to us, for the sake of Jesus Christ the righteous, through whom alone it is purchased for us. And it is his work; it is He alone that worketh it in us, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

21. Perhaps the well observing this may give light to some other scriptures, which we have not always so clearly understood. St. Paul, speaking in his Epistle to the Romans concerning the unbelieving Jews, saith, “They, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” I believe this may be one sense of the words: They were “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” not only of the righteousness of Christ, imputed to every believer, whereby all his sins are blotted out, and he is reconciled to the favour of God: But (which seems here to be more immediately understood) they were ignorant of that inward righteousness, of that holiness of heart, which is with the utmost propriety termed God’s righteousness; as being both his own free gift through Christ, and his own work, by his almighty Spirit. And because they were “ignorant” of this, they “went about to establish their own righteousness.” They laboured to establish that outside righteousness which might very properly be termed their own. For neither was it wrought by the Spirit of God, nor was it owned or accepted of him. They might work this themselves, by their own natural strength; and when they had done, it was a stink in his nostrils. And yet, trusting in this, they would “not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Yea, they hardened themselves against that faith whereby alone it was possible to attain it. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Christ, when he said, “It is finished!” put an end to that law,—to the law of external rites and ceremonies, that he might bring in a better righteousness through his blood, by that one oblation of himself once offered, even the image of God, into the inmost soul of everyone that believeth.

22. Nearly related to these are those words of the Apostle, in his Epistle to the Philippians: “I count all things but dung that I may win Christ;” an entrance into his everlasting kingdom; “and be found in him,” believing in him, “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”—”Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law;” a barely external righteousness, the outside religion I formerly had, when I hoped to be accepted of God because I was, “touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless;”—”but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;” [Phil. 3:8–9] that holiness of heart, that renewal of the soul in all its desires, tempers, and affections, “which is of God,” (it is the work of God, and not of man,) “by faith;” through the faith of Christ, through the revelation of Jesus Christ in us, and by faith in his blood; whereby alone we obtain the remission of our sins, and an inheritance among those that are sanctified.

23. “Seek ye first” this “kingdom of God” in your hearts; this righteousness, which is the gift and work of God, the image of God renewed in your souls; “and all these things shall be added unto you;” all things needful for the body; such a measure of all as God sees most for the advancement of his kingdom. These shall be added,—they shall be thrown in, over and above. In seeking the peace and the love of God, you shall not only find what you more immediately seek, even the kingdom that cannot be moved; but also what you seek not,—not at all for its own sake, but only in reference to the other. You shall find in your way to the kingdom, all outward things, so far as they are expedient for you. This care God hath taken upon himself: Cast you all your care upon Him. He knoweth your wants; and whatsoever is lacking he will not fail to supply.

24. “Therefore take no thought for the morrow.” Not only, take ye no thought how to lay up treasures on earth, how to increase in worldly substance; take no thought how to procure more food than you can eat, or more raiment than you can put on, or more money than is required from day to day for the plain, reasonable purposes of life;—but take no uneasy thought, even concerning those things which are absolutely needful for the body. Do not trouble yourself now, with thinking what you shall do at a season which is yet afar off. Perhaps that season will never come; or it will be no concern of yours;—before then you will have passed through all the waves, and be landed in eternity. All those distant views do not belong to you, who are but a creature of a day. Nay, what have you to do with the morrow, more strictly speaking? Why should you perplex yourself without need? God provides for you to-day what is needful to sustain the life which he hath given you. It is enough: Give yourself up into his hands. If you live another day, he will provide for that also.

25. Above all, do not make the care of future things a pretence for neglecting present duty. This is the most fatal way of “taking thought for the morrow.” And how common is it among men! Many, if we exhort them to keep a conscience void of offence, to abstain from what they are convinced is evil, do not scruple to reply, “How then must we live? Must we not take care of ourselves and of our families?” And this they imagine to be a sufficient reason for continuing in known, wilful sin. They say, and perhaps think, they would serve God now, were it not that they should, by and by, lose their bread. They would prepare for eternity; but they are afraid of wanting the necessaries of life. So they serve the devil for a morsel of bread; they rush into hell for fear of want; they throw away their poor souls, lest they should, some time or other, fall short of what is needful for their bodies!

It is not strange that they who thus take the matter out of God’s hand should be so often disappointed of the very things they seek; that, while they throw away heaven to secure the things of earth, they lose the one but do not gain the other. The jealous God, in the wise course of his providence, frequently suffers this. So that they who will not cast their care on God, who, taking thought for temporal things, have little concern for things eternal, lose the very portion which they have chosen. There is a visible blast on all their undertakings; whatsoever they do, it doth not prosper; insomuch that, after they have forsaken God for the world, they lose what they sought, as well as what they sought not: They fall short of the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; nor yet are other things added unto them.

26. There is another way of “taking thought for the morrow,” which is equally forbidden in these words. It is possible to take thought in a wrong manner, even with regard to spiritual things; to be so careful about what may be by and by, as to neglect what is now required at our hands. How insensibly do we slide into this, if we are not continually watching unto prayer! How easily are we carried away, in a kind of waking dream, projecting distant schemes, and drawing fine scenes in our own imagination! We think, what good we will do when we are in such a place, or when such a time is come! How useful we will be, how plenteous in good works, when we are easier in our circumstances! How earnestly we will serve God, when once such an hindrance is out of the way!

Or perhaps you are now in heaviness of soul: God, as it were, hides his face from you. You see little of the light of his countenance: You cannot taste his redeeming love. In such a temper of mind, how natural is it to say, “O how I will praise God, when the light of his countenance shall be again lifted up upon my soul! How will I exhort others to praise him, when his love is again shed abroad in my heart! Then I will do thus and thus: I will speak for God in all places: I will not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Then I will redeem the time: I will use to the uttermost every talent I have received.” Do not believe thyself. Thou wilt not do it then, unless thou doest it now. “He that is faithful in that which is little,” of whatsoever kind it be, whether it be worldly substance, or the fear or love of God, “will be faithful in that which is much.” But if thou now hidest one talent in the earth, thou wilt then hide five: That is, if ever they are given; but there is small reason to expect they ever will. Indeed “unto him that hath,” that is, uses what he hath, “shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly. But from him that hath not,” that is, uses not the grace which he hath already received, whether in a larger or smaller degree, “shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

27. And take no thought for the temptations of to-morrow. This also is a dangerous snare. Think not, “When such a temptation comes, what shall I do? how shall I stand? I feel I have not power to resist. I am not able to conquer that enemy.” Most true: You have not now the power which you do not now stand in need of. You are not able at this time to conquer that enemy; and at this time he does not assault you. With the grace you have now, you could not withstand the temptations which you have not. But when the temptation comes, the grace will come. In greater trials you will have greater strength. When sufferings abound, the consolations of God will, in the same proportion, abound also. So that, in every situation, the grace of God will be sufficient for you. He doth not suffer you “to be tempted” to-day “above that ye are able to bear;” and “in every temptation he will make a way to escape.” “As thy days, so thy strength shall be.”

28. “Let the morrow,” therefore, “take thought for the things of itself;” that is, when the morrow comes, then think of it. Live thou to-day. Be it thy earnest care to improve the present hour. This is your own; and it is your all. The past is as nothing, as though it had never been. The future is nothing to you. It is not yours; perhaps it never will be. There is no depending on what is yet to come; for you “know not what a day may bring forth.” Therefore, live to-day: Lose not an hour: Use this moment; for it is your portion. “Who knoweth the things which have been before him, or which shall be after him under the sun?” The generations that were from the beginning of the world, where are they now? Fled away: Forgotten. They were; they lived their day; they were shook off of the earth, as leaves off of their trees: They mouldered away into common dust! Another and another race succeeded; then they “followed the generation of their fathers, and shall never more see the light.” Now is thy turn upon the earth. “Rejoice, O young man, in the days of thy youth! Enjoy the very, very now, by enjoying Him “whose years fail not.” Now let thine eye be singly fixed on Him in “whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning!” Now give Him thy heart; now stay thyself on Him: Now be thou holy, as he is holy. Now lay hold on the blessed opportunity of doing his acceptable and perfect will! Now rejoice to “suffer the loss of all things,” so thou mayest “win Christ!”

29. Gladly suffer to-day, for his name’s sake, whatsoever he permits this day to come upon thee. But look not at the sufferings of to-morrow. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Evil it is, speaking after the manner of men; whether it be reproach or want, pain or sickness; but in the language of God, all is blessing: It is a precious balm, prepared by the wisdom of God, and variously dispensed among his children, according to the various sicknesses of their souls. And he gives in one day, sufficient for that day; proportioned to the want and strength of the patient. If, therefore, thou snatchest to-day what belongs to the morrow; if thou addest this to what is given thee already, it will be more than thou canst bear: This is the way not to heal, but to destroy thy own soul. Take, therefore, just as much as he gives thee to-day: To-day, do and suffer his will! To-day, give up thyself, thy body, soul, and spirit to God, through Christ Jesus; desiring nothing, but that God may be glorified in all thou art, all thou doest, all thou sufferest; seeking nothing, but to know God, and his Son Jesus Christ, through the eternal Spirit; pursuing nothing, but to love him, to serve him, and to enjoy him at this hour, and to all eternity!

Now unto “God the Father, who hath made me and all the world;” unto “God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind;” unto “God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God;” be honour and praise, majesty, and dominion, for ever and ever! Amen.




“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Matt. 7:1–12.

1. Our blessed Lord, having now finished his main design, having first delivered the sum of true religion, carefully guarded against those glosses of men whereby they would make the Word of God of none effect; and having, next, laid down rules touching that right intention which we are to preserve in all our outward actions, now proceeds to point out the main hindrances of this religion, and concludes all with a suitable application.

2. In the fifth chapter, our great Teacher has fully described inward religion in its various branches. He has there laid before us those dispositions of soul which constitute real Christianity; the tempers contained in that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord;” the affections which, when flowing from their proper fountain, from a living faith in God through Christ Jesus, are intrinsically and essentially good, and acceptable to God. In the sixth he hath shown how all our actions likewise, even those that are indifferent in their own nature, may be made holy, and good, and acceptable to God, by a pure and holy intention. Whatever is done without this he declares is of no value with God: Whereas, whatever outward works are thus consecrated to God are, in his sight, of great price.

3. In the former part of this chapter, he points out the most common and most fatal hindrances of this holiness: In the latter, he exhorts us by various motives, to break through all, and secure that prize of our high calling.

4. The first hindrance he cautions us against is judging. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Judge not others, that ye be not judged of the Lord, that ye bring not vengeance on your own heads. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again:”—A plain and equitable rule, whereby God permits you to determine for yourselves in what manner he shall deal with you in the judgment of the great day.

5. There is no station of life, nor any period of time, from the hour of our first repenting and believing the gospel till we are made perfect in love, wherein this caution is not needful for every child of God. For occasions of judging can never be wanting. And the temptations to it are innumerable; many whereof are so artfully disguised that we fall into the sin before we suspect any danger. And unspeakable are the mischiefs produced hereby,—always to him that judges another, thus wounding his own soul, and exposing himself to the righteous judgment of God;—and frequently to those who are judged, whose hands hang down, who are weakened and hindered in their course, if not wholly turned out of the way, and caused to turn back even to perdition. Yea, how often when this “root of bitterness springs up,” are “many defiled thereby;” by reason whereof the way of truth itself is evil spoken of, and that worthy name blasphemed whereby we are called!

6. Yet it does not appear that our Lord designed this caution only, or chiefly, for the children of God; but rather for the children of the world, for the men who know not God. These cannot but hear of those who are not of the world; who follow after the religion above described; who endeavour to be humble, serious, gentle, merciful, and pure in heart; who earnestly desire such measures of these holy tempers as they have not yet attained, and wait for them in doing all good to all men, and patiently suffering evil. Whoever go but thus far cannot be hid, no more than “a city set upon a hill.” And why do not those who ‘see” their “good works glorify their Father which is in heaven?” What excuse have they for not treading in their steps?—for not imitating their example and being followers of them, as they are also of Christ? Why, in order to provide an excuse for themselves, they condemn those whom they ought to imitate. They spend their time in finding out their neighbour’s faults, instead of amending their own. They are so busied about others going out of the way, that themselves never come into it at all; at least, never get forward, never go beyond a poor dead form of godliness without the power.

7. It is to these more especially that our Lord says, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye;”—the infirmities, the mistakes, the imprudence, the weakness of the children of God;—”but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Thou considerest not the damnable impenitence, the satanic pride, the accursed self-will, the idolatrous love of the world, which are in thyself, and which make thy whole life an abomination to the Lord. Above all, with what supine carelessness and indifference art thou dancing over the mouth of hell! And “how then,” with what grace, with what decency or modesty, “wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye;”—the excess of zeal for God, the extreme of self-denial, the too great disengagement from worldly cares and employments, the desire to be day and night in prayer, or hearing the words of eternal life?—”And behold a beam is in thine own eye!” Not a mote, like one of these. “Thou hypocrite!” who pretendest to care for others, and hast no care for thy own soul; who makest a show of zeal for the cause of God, when in truth thou neither lovest nor fearest him! “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye:” Cast out the beam of impenitence! Know thyself! See and feel thyself a sinner! Feel that thy inward parts are very wickedness, that thou art altogether corrupt and abominable, and that the wrath of God abideth on thee! Cast out the beam of pride; abhor thyself; sink down as in dust and ashes; be more and more little, and mean, and base, and vile in thine own eyes! Cast out the beam of self-will! Learn what that meaneth, “If any man will come after me, let him renounce himself.” Deny thyself, and take up thy cross daily. Let thy whole soul cry out, “I came down from heaven,”—for so thou didst, thou never-dying spirit, whether thou knowest it or no,—”not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Cast out the beam of love of the world! Love not the world, neither the things of the world. Be thou crucified unto the world, and the world crucified unto thee. Only use the world, but enjoy God. Seek all thy happiness in him! Above all, cast out the grand beam, that supine carelessness and indifference! Deeply consider, that “one thing is needful;” the one thing which thou hast scarce ever thought of. Know and feel, that thou art a poor, vile, guilty worm, quivering over the great gulf! What art thou? A sinner born to die; a leaf driven before the wind; a vapour ready to vanish away, just appearing, and then scattered into air, to be no more seen! See this! “And then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Then, if thou hast leisure from the concerns of thy own soul, thou shalt know how to correct thy brother also.

8. But what is properly the meaning of this word, “Judge not?” What is the judging which is here forbidden? It is not the same as evil-speaking, although it is frequently joined therewith. Evil-speaking is the relating anything that is evil concerning an absent person; whereas judging may indifferently refer either to the absent or the present. Neither does it necessarily imply the speaking at all, but only the thinking evil of another. Not that all kind of thinking evil of others is that judging which our Lord condemns. If I see one commit robbery or murder, or hear him blaspheme the name of God, I cannot refrain from thinking ill of the robber or murderer. Yet this is not evil judging: There is no sin in this, nor anything contrary to tender affection.

9. The thinking of another in a manner that is contrary to love is that judging which is here condemned; and this maybe of various kinds. For, First, we may think another to blame when he is not. We may lay to his charge (at least in our own mind) the things of which he is not guilty; the words which he has never spoke, or the actions which he has never done. Or we may think his manner of acting was wrong, although in reality it was not. And even where nothing can justly be blamed, either in the thing itself or in the manner of doing it, we may suppose his intention was not good, and so condemn him on that ground, at the same time that he who searches the heart sees his simplicity and godly sincerity.

10. But we may not only fall into the sin of judging by condemning the innocent; but also, Secondly, by condemning the guilty to a higher degree than he deserves. This species of judging is likewise an offence against justice as well as mercy; and yet such an offence as nothing can secure us from but the strongest and tenderest affection. Without this we readily suppose one who is acknowledged to be in fault to be more in fault than he really is. We undervalue whatever good is found in him. Nay, we are not easily induced to believe that anything good can remain in him in whom we have found anything that is evil.

11. All this shows a manifest want of that love which ou logizetai kakon, thinketh no evil; which never draws an unjust or unkind conclusion from any premises whatsoever. Love will not infer from a persons falling once into an act of open sin that he is accustomed so to do, that he is habitually guilty of it: And if he was habitually guilty once, love does not conclude he is so still, much less, that if he is now guilty of this, therefore he is guilty of other sins also. These evil reasonings all pertain to that sinful judging which our Lord here guards us against; and which we are in the highest degree concerned to avoid, if we love either God or our own souls.

12. But supposing we do not condemn the innocent, neither the guilty any farther than they deserve; still we may not be altogether clear of the snare: For there is a Third sort of sinful judging, which is the condemning any person at all where there is not sufficient evidence. And be the facts we suppose ever so true; yet that does not acquit us. For they ought not to have been supposed, but proved; and till they were, we ought to have formed no judgment; I say, till they were; for neither are we excused; although the facts admit of ever so strong proof, unless that proof be produced before we pass sentence, and compared with the evidence on the other side. Nor can we be excused if ever we pass a full sentence before the accused has spoken for himself. even a Jew might teach us this, as a mere lesson of justice abstracted from mercy and brotherly love. Doth our law, says Nicodemus, judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth? (John 7:51.) Yea, a heathen could reply, when the chief of the Jewish nation desired to have judgment against his prisoner, It is not the manner of the Romans to judge “any man, before he that is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.”

13. Indeed we could not easily fall into sinful judging were we only to observe that rule which another [Seneca] of those heathen Romans affirms to have been the measure of his own practice. “I am so far,” says he, “from lightly believing every mans or any mans evidence against another, that I do not easily or immediately believe a man’s evidence against himself. I always allow him second I thoughts, and many times counsel too.” Go, thou who art called a Christian, and do likewise, lest the heathen rise and condemn thee in that day!

14. But how rarely should we condemn or judge one another, at least how soon would that evil be remedied, were we to walk by that clear and express rule which our Lord himself has taught us!—”If thy brother shall trespass against thee,” or if thou hear or believe that he hath, “go and tell him of his fault, between him and thee alone.” This is the first step thou art to take. “But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” This is the second step. “If he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church,” either to the overseers thereof, or to the whole congregation. Thou hast then done thy part. Then think of it no more, but commend the whole to God.

15. But supposing thou hast by the grace of God “cast the beam out of thine own eye,” and dost now “clearly see the mote or the beam which is in thy brother’s eye,” yet beware thou dost not receive hurt thyself by endeavouring to help him. Still “give not that which is holy unto dogs.” Do not lightly account any to be of this number; but if it evidently appear that they deserve the title, then “cast ye not your pearls before swine.” Beware of that zeal which is not according to knowledge. For this is another great hindrance in their way who would be “perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect.” They who desire this cannot but desire that all mankind should partake of the common blessing. And when we ourselves first partake of the heavenly gift, the divine “evidence of things not seen,” we wonder that all mankind do not see the things which we see so plainly; and make no doubt at all but we shall open the eyes of all we have any intercourse with. hence we are for attacking all we meet without delay, and constraining them to see, whether they will or no. And by the ill success of this intemperate zeal, we often suffer in our own souls. To prevent this spending our strength in vain our Lord adds this needful caution (needful to all, but more especially to those who are now warm in their first love,) “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under foot, and turn again and rend you.”

16. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.” Beware of thinking that any deserve this appellation till there is full and incontestable proof, such as you can no longer resist. But when it is clearly and indisputably proved that they are unholy and wicked men, not only strangers to, but enemies to God, to all righteousness and true holiness; “give not that which is holy,” to hagion,—”the holy thing,” emphatically so called, unto these. The holy, the peculiar doctrines of the gospel—such as were “hid from the ages and generations” of old, and are now made known to us only by the revelation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of his Holy Spirit—are not to be prostituted unto these men, who know not if there be any Holy Ghost. Not indeed that the ambassadors of Christ can refrain from declaring them in the great congregation, wherein some of these may probably be; we must speak, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear; but this is not the case with private Christians. They do not bear that awful character; nor are they under any manner of obligation to force these great and glorious truths on them who contradict and blaspheme, who have a rooted enmity against them. Nay, they ought not so to do, but rather to lead them as they are able to bear. Do not begin a discourse with these upon remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost; but talk with them in their own manner, and upon their own principles. With the rational, honourable, and unjust Epicure, reason of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” This is the most probable way to make Felix tremble. Reserve higher subjects for men of higher attainments.

17. “Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” Be very unwilling to pass this judgment on any man. But if the fact be plain and undeniable, if it is clear beyond all dispute, if the swine do not endeavour to disguise themselves, but rather glory in their shame, making no pretence to purity either of heart or life, but working all uncleanness with greediness; then “cast” not ye your pearls before them. Talk not to them of the mysteries of the kingdom; of the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; which of consequence, as they have no other inlets of knowledge, no spiritual senses, it cannot enter into their hearts to conceive. Tell not them of the “exceeding great and precious promises” which God hath given us in the Son of his love. What conception can they have of being made partakers of the divine nature, who do not even desire to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust? Just as much knowledge as swine have of pearls, and as much relish as they have for them, so much relish have they for the deep things of God, so much knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, who are immersed in the mire of this world, in worldly pleasures, desires, and cares. O cast not those pearls before these, “lest they trample them under their feet!”—lest they utterly despise what they cannot understand, and speak evil of the things which they know not. Nay, it is probable this would not be the only inconvenience which would follow. It would not be strange if they were, according to their nature, to “turn again, and rend you;” if they were to return you evil for good, cursing for blessing, and hatred for your goodwill. Such is the enmity of the carnal mind against God and all the things of God. Such is the treatment you are to expect from these, if you offer them the unpardonable affront of endeavouring to save their souls from death, to pluck them as brands out of the burning.

18. And yet you need not utterly despair even of these, who, for the present, “turn again and rend you.” For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left; and one that is frequently found effectual when no other method avails; this is prayer. Therefore whatever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” The neglect of this is a Third grand hindrance of holiness. Still we “have not, because we ask not.” O how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and men, might ye have been at this day, if you had only asked;—if you had continued instant in prayer! Therefore, now, at least, “ask, and it shall be given unto you.” Ask, that ye may throughly experience and perfectly practise the whole of that religion which our Lord has here so beautifully described. It shall then be given you, to be holy as he is holy, both in heart and in all manner of conversation. Seek, in the way he hath ordained, in searching the Scriptures, in hearing his word, in meditating thereon, in fasting, in partaking of the Supper of the Lord, and surely ye shall find: Ye shall find that pearl of great price, that faith which overcometh the world, that peace which the world cannot give, that love which is the earnest of your inheritance. Knock; continue in prayer, and in every other way of the Lord: Be not weary or faint in your mind. Press on to the mark: Take no denial: Let him not go until he bless you. And the door of mercy, of holiness, of heaven shall be opened unto you.

19. It is in compassion to the hardness of our hearts, so unready to believe the goodness of God, that our Lord is pleased to enlarge upon this head, and to repeat and confirm what he hath spoken. “For everyone,” saith he, “that asketh, receiveth;” so that none need come short of the blessing; “and he that seeketh,” even everyone that seeketh, “findeth” the love and the image of God; “and to him that knocketh,” to everyone that knocketh, the gate of righteousness shall be opened. So that here is no room for any to be discouraged, as though they might ask or seek or knock in vain. Only remember always to pray, to seek, to knock, and not to faint. And then the promise standeth sure. It is firm as the pillars of heaven;—yea, more firm; for heaven and earth shall pass away; but his word shall not pass away.

20. To cut off every pretence for unbelief, our blessed Lord, in the following verses, illustrates yet farther what he had said, by an appeal to what passes in our own breasts. “What man,” saith he, “is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?” Will even natural affection permit you to refuse the reasonable request of one you love? “Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?” Will he give him hurtful instead of profitable things? So that even from what you feel and do yourselves you may receive the fullest assurance, as on the one hand that no ill effect can possibly attend your asking, so, on the other, that it will be attended with that good effect, a full supply of all your wants. For “if ye, being evil, know I how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven,” who is pure, unmixed, essential goodness, “give good things to them that ask him!” or, (as he expresses it on another occasion,) “give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him?” In him are included all good things; all wisdom, peace, joy, love; the whole treasures of holiness and happiness; all that God hath prepared for them that love him.

21. But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men; for otherwise it is more likely to bring a curse than a blessing on your own head; nor can you expect to receive any blessing from God while you have not charity towards your neighbour. Therefore, let this hindrance be removed without delay. Confirm your love towards one another, and towards all men. And love them, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”

22. This is that royal law, that golden rule of mercy as well as justice, which even the heathen Emperor caused to be written over the gate of his palace; a rule which many believe to be naturally engraved on the mind of everyone that comes into the world. And thus much is certain, that it commends itself, as soon as heard, to every man’s conscience and understanding; insomuch that no man can knowingly offend against it without carrying his condemnation in his own breast.

23. “This is the law and the prophets.” Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind, and whatsoever precepts God has given by his holy Prophets which have been since the world began,” they are all summed up in these few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth.

24. It may be understood either in a positive or negative sense. If understood in a negative sense, the meaning is, “Whatever ye would not that men should do to you, do not ye unto them.” Here is a plain rule, always ready at hand, always easy to be applied. In all cases relating to your neighbour, make his case your own. Suppose the circumstances to be changed, and yourself to be just as he is now. And then beware that you indulge no temper or thought, that no word pass out of your lips, that you take no step which you should have condemned in him, upon such a change of circumstances. If understood in a direct and positive sense, the plain meaning of it is, “Whatsoever you could reasonably desire of him, supposing yourself to be in his circumstances, that do, to the uttermost of your power, to every child of man.”

25. To apply this in one or two obvious instances. It is clear to every man’s own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us; much less would we that any should speak evil of us,—should publish our real faults or infirmities. Apply this to yourself. Do not unto another what you would not he should do unto you; and you will never more judge your neighbour, never causelessly or lightly think evil of anyone; much less will you speak evil; you will never mention even the real fault of an absent person, unless so far as you are convinced it is absolutely needful for the good of other souls.

26. Again: We would that all men should love and esteem us, and behave towards us according to justice, mercy, and truth. And we may reasonably desire that they should do us all the good they can do without injuring themselves; yea, that in outward things (according to the known rule,) their superfluities should give way to our conveniencies, their conveniencies to our necessities, and their necessities to our extremities. Now then, let us walk by the same rule: Let us do unto all as we would they should do to us. Let us love and honour all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth govern all our minds and actions. Let our superfluities give way to our neighbour’s conveniencies; (and who then will have any superfluities left?) our conveniencies to our neighbour’s necessities; our necessities to his extremities.

27. This is pure and genuine morality. This do, and thou shalt live. “As many as walk by this rule, peace be to them, and mercy;” for they are “the Israel of God.” But then be it observed, none can walk by this rule (nor ever did from the beginning of the world,) none can love his neighbour as himself, unless he first love God. And none can love God unless he believe in Christ; unless he have redemption through his blood, and the Spirit of God bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. Faith, therefore, is still the root of all, of present as well as future salvation. Still we must say to every sinner, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Thou shalt be saved now, that thou mayst be saved for ever; saved on earth, that thou mayst be saved in heaven. Believe in him, and thy faith will work by love. Thou wilt love the Lord thy God because he hath loved thee: Thou wilt love thy neighbour as thyself: And then it will be thy glory and joy, to exert and increase this love; not barely by abstaining from what is contrary thereto, from every unkind thought, word, and action, but by showing all that kindness to every man which thou wouldst he should show unto thee.




“Enter ye in at the strait gate: For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in threat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Mat. 7:13, 14.

1. Our Lord, having warned us of the dangers which easily beset us at our first entrance upon real religion, the hinderances which naturally arise from within, from the wickedness of our own hearts; now proceeds to apprize us of the hinderances from without, particularly ill example and ill advice. By one or the other of these, thousands, who once ran well, have drawn back unto perdition;—yea, many of those who were not novices in religion, who had made some progress in righteousness. His caution, therefore, against these he presses upon us with all possible earnestness, and repeats again and again, in variety of expressions, lest by any means we should let it slip. Thus, effectually to guard us against the former, “Enter ye in,” saith he, “at the strait gate: For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it:” To secure us from the latter, “Beware,” saith he, “of false prophets.” We shall, at present, consider the former only.

2. “Enter ye in,” saith our blessed Lord, “at the strait gate: For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

3. In these words we may observe, First, the inseparable properties of the way to hell: “Wide is the gate, broad the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat:” Secondly, the inseparable properties of the way to heaven: “Strait is that gate, and few there be that find it:” Thirdly, a serious exhortation grounded thereon, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.”

I. 1. We may observe, First, the inseparable properties of the way to hell: “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.”

2. Wide indeed is the gate, and broad the way, that leadeth to destruction! For sin is the gate of hell, and wickedness the way to destruction. And how wide a gate is that of sin! How broad is the way of wickedness! The “commandment” of God “is exceeding broad;” as extending not only to all our actions, but to every word which goeth out of our lips, yea, every thought that rises in our heart. And sin is equally broad with the commandment, seeing any breach of the commandment is sin. Yea, rather, it is a thousand times broader; since there is only one way of keeping the commandment; for we do not properly keep it, unless both the thing done, the manner of doing it, and all the other circumstances, are right: But there are a thousand ways of breaking every commandment; so that this gate is wide indeed.

3. To consider this a little more particularly: How wide do those parent-sins extend, from which all the rest derive their being;—that carnal mind which is enmity against God, pride of heart, self-will, and love of the world! Can we fix any bounds to them? Do they not diffuse themselves through all our thoughts, and mingle with all our tempers! Are they not the leaven which leavens, more or less, the whole mass of our affections? May we not, on a close and faithful examination of ourselves, perceive these roots of bitterness continually springing up, infecting all our words, and tainting all our actions? And how innumerable an offspring do they bring forth, in every age and nation! Even enough to cover the whole earth with darkness and cruel habitations.

4. O who is able to reckon up their accursed fruits; to count all the sins, whether against God or our neighbour, not which imagination might paint, but which may be matter of daily, melancholy experience? Nor need we range over all the earth to find them. Survey any one kingdom, any single country, or city, or town; and how plenteous is this harvest! And let it not be one of those which are still overspread with Mahometan or Pagan darkness; but of those which name the name of Christ, which profess to see the light of his glorious Gospel. Go no farther than the kingdom to which we belong, the city wherein we are now. We call ourselves Christians; yea, and that of the purest sort: We are Protestants; Reformed Christians! But alas! who shall carry on the reformation of our opinions into our hearts and lives? Is there not a cause? For how innumerable are our sins;—and those of the deepest dye! Do not the grossest abominations, of every kind, abound among us from day to day? Do not sins of every sort cover the land, as the waters cover the sea? Who can count them? Rather go and count the drops of rain, or the sands on the sea-shore. So “wide is the gate,” so “broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction!”

5. “And many there are who go in at” that gate; many who walk in that way;—almost as many as go in at the gate of death, as sink into the chambers of the grave. For it cannot be denied, (though neither can we acknowledge it but with shame and sorrow of heart,) that even in this which is called a Christian country, the generality of every age and sex, of every profession and employment, of every rank and degree, high and low, rich and poor, are walking in the way of destruction. The far greater part of the inhabitants of this city, to this day, live in sin; in some palpable, habitual, known transgression of the law they profess to observe; yea, in some outward transgression, some gross, visible kind of ungodliness or unrighteousness; some open violation of their duty, either to God or man. These then, none can deny, are all in the way that leadeth to destruction. Add to these, those who have a name indeed that they live, but were never yet alive to God; those that outwardly appear fair to men, but are inwardly full of all uncleanness; full of pride or vanity, of anger or revenge, of ambition or covetousness; lovers of themselves, lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. These, indeed, may be highly esteemed of men; but they are an abomination to the Lord. And how greatly will these saints of the world swell the number of the children of hell! Yea, add all, whatever they be in other respects, whether they have more or less of the form of godliness, who, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness,” as the ground of their reconciliation to God and acceptance with him, of consequence have not “submitted themselves unto the righteousness which is of God” by faith. Now, all these things joined together in one, how terribly true is our Lord’s assertion, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat!”

6. Nor does this only concern the vulgar herd,—the poor, base, stupid part of mankind. Men of eminence in the world, men who have many fields and yoke of oxen, do not desire to be excused from this. On the contrary, “many wise men after the flesh,” according to the human methods of judging, “many mighty,” in power, in courage, in riches, many “noble, are called;” called into the broad way, by the world, the flesh, and the devil; and they are not disobedient to that calling Yea, the higher they are raised in fortune and power, the deeper do they sink into wickedness. The more blessings they have received from God, the more sins do they commit; using their honour or riches, their learning or wisdom, not as means of working out their salvation, but rather of excelling in vice, and so insuring their own destruction!

II. 1. And the very reason why many of these go on so securely in the broad way, is, because it is broad; not considering that this is the inseparable property of the way to destruction. “Many there be,” saith our Lord, “which go in thereat:” for the very reason why they should flee from it, even “because strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

2. This is an inseparable property of the way to heaven. So narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, unto life everlasting,—so strait the gate,—that nothing unclean, nothing unholy, can enter. No sinner can pass through that gate, until he is saved from all his sins. Not only from his outward sins, from his evil “conversation received by tradition from his fathers.” It will not suffice, that he hath “ceased to do evil” and “learned to do well:” He must not only be saved from all sinful actions, and from all evil and useless discourse; but inwardly changed, thoroughly renewed in the spirit of his mind: Otherwise he cannot pass through the gate of life, he cannot enter into glory.

3. For, “narrow is the way that leadeth unto life;” the way of universal holiness. Narrow indeed is the way of poverty of spirit; the way of holy mourning; the way of meekness; and that of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Narrow is the way of mercifulness; of love unfeigned; the way of purity of heart; of doing good unto all men; and of gladly suffering evil, all manner of evil, for righteousness’ sake.

4. “And few there be that find it.” Alas! How few find even the way of heathen honesty! How few are there that do nothing to another which they would not another should do unto them! How few that are clear, before God, from acts either of injustice or unkindness! How few that do not “offend with their tongue;” that speak nothing unkind, nothing untrue! What a small proportion of mankind are innocent even of outward transgressions! And how much smaller a proportion have their hearts right before God,—clean and holy in his sight! Where are they, whom his all-searching eye discerns to be truly humble; to abhor themselves in dust and ashes, in the presence of God their Saviour; to be deeply and steadily serious, feeling their wants, and “passing the time of their sojourning with fear;” truly meek and gentle, never “overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good;” thoroughly athirst for God, and continually painting after a renewal in his likeness? How thinly are they scattered over the earth, whose souls are enlarged in love to all mankind; and who love God with all their strength, who have given him their hearts, and desire nothing else in earth or heaven! How few are those lovers of God and man, that spend their whole strength in doing good unto all men; and are ready to suffer all things, yea, death itself, to save one soul from eternal death!

5. But while so few are found in the way of life, and so many in the way of destruction, there is great danger lest the torrent of example should bear us away with them. Even a single example, if it be always in our sight, is apt to make much impression upon us; especially when it has nature on its side, when it falls in with our own inclinations. How great then must be the force of so numerous examples, continually before our eyes; and all conspiring, together with our own hearts to carry us down the stream of nature! How difficult must it be to stem the tide, and to keep ourselves “unspotted in the world!”

6. What heightens the difficulty still more is, that they are not the rude and senseless part of mankind, at least not these alone, who set us the example, who throng the downward way, but the polite, the well-bred, the genteel, the wise, the men who understand the world, the men of knowledge, of deep and various learning, the rational, the eloquent! These are all, or nearly all, against us. And how shall we stand against these? Do not their tongues drop manna; and have they not learned all the arts of soft persuasion?—And of reasoning too; for these are versed in all controversies, and strife of words. It is therefore a small thing with them to prove, that the way is right, because it is broad; that he who follows a multitude cannot do evil, but only he who will not follow them; that your way must be wrong, because it is narrow, and because there are so few that find it. These will make it clear to a demonstration, that evil is good, and good is evil; that the way of holiness is the way of destruction, and the way of the world the only way to heaven.

7. O how can unlearned and ignorant men maintain their cause against such opponents! And yet these are not all with whom they must contend, however unequal to the task: For there are many mighty, and noble, and powerful men, as well as wise, in the road that leadeth to destruction; and these have a shorter way of confuting, than that of reason and argument. They usually apply, not to the understanding, but to the fears, of any that oppose them;—a method that seldom fails of success, even where argument profits nothing, as lying level to the capacities of all men; for all can fear, whether they can reason or no. And all who have not a firm trust in God, a sure reliance both on his power and love, cannot but fear to give any disgust to those who have the power of the world in their hands. What wonder, therefore, if the example of these is a law to all who know not God?

8. Many rich are likewise in the broad way. And these apply to the hopes of men, and to all their foolish desires, as strongly and effectually as the mighty and noble to their fears. So that hardly can you hold on in the way of the kingdom, unless you are dead to all below, unless you are crucified to the world, and the world crucified to you, unless you desire nothing more but God.

9. For how dark, how uncomfortable, how forbidding is the prospect on the opposite side! A strait gate! A narrow way! And few finding that gate! Few walking in the way! Besides, even those few are not wise men, not men of learning or eloquence. They are not able to reason either strongly or clearly: They cannot propose an argument to any advantage. They know not how to prove what they profess to believe; or to explain even what they say they experience. Surely such advocates as these will never recommend, but rather discredit, the cause they have espoused.

10. Add to this, that they are not noble, not honourable men: If they were, you might bear with their folly. They are men of no interest, no authority, of no account in the world. They are mean and base; low in life; and such as have no power, if they had the will, to hurt you. Therefore there is nothing at all to be feared from them; and there is nothing at all to hope: For the greater part of them may say, “Silver and gold have I none;” at least a very moderate share. Nay, some of them have scarce food to eat, or raiment to put on. For this reason, as well as because their ways are not like those of other men, they are everywhere spoken against, are despised, have their names cast out as evil, are variously persecuted, and treated as the filth and offscouring of the world. So that both your fears, your hopes, and all your desires (except those which you have immediately from God,) yea, all your natural passions, continually incline you to return into the broad way.

III. 1. Therefore it is, that our Lord so earnestly exhorts, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.” Or, (as the same exhortation is elsewhere expressed,) “Strive to enter in:” Agonizesthe eiselthein, strive as in an agony: For many, saith our Lord, shall seek to enter in, indolently strive, “and shall not be able.”

2. It is true, he intimates what may seem another reason for this, for their not being able to enter in, in the words which immediately follow these. For after he had said, “Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” he subjoins, “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without,” arxesthe exo estanai, rather, ye stand without; for arxesthe seems to be only an elegant expletive,—”and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not: Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:24.)

3. It may appear, upon a transient view of these words, that their delaying to seek at all, rather than their manner of seeking, was the reason why they were not able to enter in. But it comes, in effect, to the same thing. They were, therefore, commanded to depart, because they had been “workers of iniquity;” because they had walked in the broad road; in other words, because they had not agonized to “enter in at the strait gate.” Probably they did seek, before the door was shut; but that did not suffice: And they did strive, after the door was shut; but then it was too late.

4. Therefore strive ye now, in this your day, to “enter in at the strait gate.” And in order thereto, settle it in your heart, and let it be ever uppermost in your thoughts, that if you are in a broad way, you are in the way that leadeth to destruction. If many go with you, as sure as God is true, both they and you are going to hell! If you are walking as the generality of men walk, you are walking to the bottomless pit! Are many wise, many rich, many mighty, or noble travelling with you in the same way? By this token, without going any farther, you know it does not lead to life. Here is a short, a plain, an infallible rule, before you enter into particulars. In whatever profession you are engaged, you must be singular, or be damned! The way to hell has nothing singular in it; but the way to heaven is singularity all over. If you move but one step towards God, you are not as other men are. But regard not this. It is far better to stand alone, than to fall into the pit. Run, then, with patience the race which is set before thee, though thy companions therein are but few. They will not always be so. Yet a little while, and thou wilt “come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.”

5. Now, then, “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” being penetrated with the deepest sense of the inexpressible danger your soul is in, so long as you are in a broad way,—so long as you are void of poverty of spirit, and all that inward religion, which the many, the rich, the wise, account madness. “Strive to enter in;” being pierced with sorrow and shame for having so long run on with the unthinking crowd, utterly neglecting, if not despising, that “holiness without which no man can see the Lord.” Strive, as in an agony of holy fear, lest “a promise being made you of entering into his rest,” even that “rest which remaineth for the people of God,” you should nevertheless “come short of it.” Strive, in all the fervour of desire, with “groanings which cannot be uttered. Strive by prayer without ceasing; at all times, in all places, lifting up your heart to God, and giving him no rest, till you “awake up after his likeness” and are “satisfied with it.”

6. To conclude. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer; but likewise by ordering thy conversation aright, by walking with all thy strength in all the ways of God, the way of innocence, of piety, and of mercy. Abstain from all appearance of evil: Do all possible good to all men: Deny thyself, thy own will, in all things, and take up thy cross daily. Be ready to cut off thy right hand, to pluck out thy right eye and cast it from thee; to suffer the loss of goods, friends, health, all things on earth, so thou mayst enter into the kingdom of heaven!




“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Matt. 7:15–20.

1. It is scarce possible to express or conceive what multitudes of souls run on to destruction, because they would not be persuaded to walk in a narrow way, even though it were the way to everlasting salvation. And the same thing we may still observe daily. Such is the folly and madness of mankind, that thousands of men still rush on in the way to hell, only because it is a broad way. They walk in it themselves, because others do: Because so many perish, they will add to the number. Such is the amazing influence of example over the weak, miserable children of men! It continually peoples the regions of death, and drowns numberless souls in everlasting perdition!

2. To warn mankind of this, to guard as many as possible against this spreading contagion, God has commanded his watchmen to cry aloud, and show the people the danger they are in. For this end he has sent his servants, the Prophets, in their succeeding generations, to point out the narrow path, and exhort all men not to be conformed to this world. But what, if the watchmen themselves fall into the snare against which they should warn others? What, if “the Prophets prophesy deceits?” if they “cause the people to err from the way?” What shall be done if they point out, as the way to eternal life, what is in truth the way to eternal death; and exhort others to walk, as they do themselves, in the broad, not the narrow way?

3. Is this and unheard-of, is it an uncommon thing? Nay, God knoweth it is not. The instances of it are almost innumerable. We may find them in every age and nation. But how terrible is this!—when the ambassadors of God turn agents for the devil!—when they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven do in fact teach them the way to hell! These are like the locusts of Egypt, “which eat up the residue that had escaped, that had remained after the hail.” They devour even the residue of men that had escaped, that were not destroyed by ill example. It is not, therefore, without cause, that our wise and gracious Master so solemnly cautions us against them: “Beware,” saith he, “of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

4 A caution this of the utmost importance.—That it may the more effectually sink into our hearts, let us inquire, First, who these false prophets are: Secondly, what appearance they put on: And, Thirdly, how we may know what they really are, notwithstanding their fair appearance.

I. 1. We are, First, to inquire who these false prophets are. And this it is needful to do the more diligently, because these very men have so laboured to “wrest this scripture to their own,” though not only their own, “destruction.” In order, therefore, to cut off all dispute, I shall raise no dust, (as the manner of some is,) neither use any loose, rhetorical exclamations, to deceive the hearts of the simple; but speak rough, plain truths, such as none can deny, who has either understanding or modesty left, and such truths as have the closest connexion with the whole tenor of the preceding discourse: Whereas too many have interpreted these words without any regard to all that went before; as if they bore no manner of relation to the sermon in the close of which they stand.

2. By prophets here (as in many other passages of Scripture, particularly in the New Testament) are meant, not those who foretell things to come, but those who speak in the name of God; those men who profess to be sent of God, to teach others the way to heaven.

Those are false prophets, who teach a false way to heaven, a way which does not lead thither; or, (which comes in the end to the same point,) who do not teach the true.

3. Every broad way is infallibly a false one. Therefore this is one plain, sure rule, “They who teach men to walk in a broad way, a way that many walk in, are false prophets.”

Again: The true way to heaven is a narrow way. Therefore this is another plain, sure rule, “They who do not teach men to walk in a narrow way, to be singular, are false prophets.”

4. To be more particular: The only true way to heaven is that pointed out in the preceding sermon. Therefore they are false prophets who do not teach men to walk in this way.

Now the way to heaven pointed out in the preceding sermon is the way of lowliness, mourning, meekness, and holy desire, love of God and of our neighbour, doing good, and suffering evil for Christ’s sake. They are, therefore, false prophets, who teach, as the way to heaven, any other way than this.

5. It matters not what they call that other way. They may call it faith; or good works; or faith and works; or repentance; or repentance, faith, and new obedience. All these are good words: But if, under these, or any other terms whatever, they teach men any way distinct from this, they are properly false prophets.

6. How much more do they fall under that condemnation, who speak evil of this good way;—but above all, they who teach the directly opposite way, the way of pride, of levity, of passion, of worldly desires, of loving pleasure more than God, of unkindness to our neighbour, of unconcern for good works, and suffering no evil, no persecution for righteousness’ sake!

7. If it be asked, “Why, who ever did teach this, or who does teach it, as the way to heaven?” I answer, Ten thousand wise and honourable men; even all those, of whatever denomination, who encourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creature, the man who suffers no reproach for righteousness’ sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven. These are false prophets in the highest sense of the word. These are traitors both to God and man. These are no other than the first-born of Satan; the eldest sons of Apollyon, the Destroyer. These are far above the rank of ordinary cut-throats; for they murder the souls of men. They are continually peopling the realms of night; and whenever they follow the poor souls whom they have destroyed, “hell shall be moved from beneath to meet them at their coming!”

II. 1. But do they come now in their own shape? By no means. If it were so, they could not destroy. You would take the alarm, and flee for your life. Therefore they put on a quite contrary appearance: (Which was the Second thing to be considered:) “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, although inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

2. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing;” that is, with an appearance of harmlessness. They come in the most mild, inoffensive manner, without any mark or token of enmity. Who can imagine that these quiet creatures would do any hurt to any one? Perhaps they may not be so zealous and active in doing good as one would wish they were. However, you see no reason to suspect that they have even the desire to do any harm. But this is not all.

3. They come, Secondly, with an appearance of usefulness. Indeed to this, to do good, they are particularly called. They are set apart for this very thing. They are particularly commissioned to watch over your soul, and to train you up to eternal life. It is their whole business, to “go about doing good, and healing those that are oppressed of the devil.” And you have been always accustomed to look upon them in this light, as messengers of God, sent to bring you a blessing.

4. They come, Thirdly, with an appearance of religion. All they do is for conscience’ sake! They assure you, it is out of mere zeal for God, that they are making God a liar. It is out of pure concern for religion, that they would destroy it root and branch. All they speak is only from a love of truth, and a fear lest it should suffer; and, it may be, from a regard for the Church, and a desire to defend her from all her enemies.

5. Above all, they come with an appearance of love. They take all these pains, only for your good. They should not trouble themselves about you, but that they have a kindness for you. They will make large professions of their good-will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire to preserve you from error, from being entangled in new and mischievous doctrines. They should be very sorry to see one who means so well, hurried into any extreme, perplexed with strange and unintelligible notions, or deluded into enthusiasm. Therefore it is that they advise you to keep still, in the plain middle way; and to beware of “being righteous overmuch,” lest you should “destroy yourself.”

III. 1. But how may we know what they really are, notwithstanding their fair appearance? This was the Third thing into which it was proposed to inquire. Our blessed Lord saw how needful it was for all men to know false prophets, however disguised. He saw, likewise, how unable most men were to deduce a truth through a long train of consequences. He therefore gives us a short and plain rule, easy to be understood by men of the meanest capacities, and easy to be applied upon all occasions: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

2. Upon all occasions you may easily apply this rule. In order to know whether any who speak in the name of God are false or true prophets it is easy to observe, First, What are the fruits of their doctrine as to themselves? What effect has it had upon their lives? Are they holy and unblamable in all things? What effect has it had upon their hearts? Does it appear by the general tenor of their conversation that their tempers are holy, heavenly, divine? that the mind is in them which was in Christ Jesus? That they are meek, lowly, patient, lovers of God and man, and zealous of good works?

3. You may easily observe, Secondly, what are the fruits of their doctrine as to those that hear them;—in many, at least, though not in all; for the Apostles themselves did not convert all that heard them. Have these the mind that was in Christ? And do they walk as he also walked? And was it by hearing these men that they began so to do? Were they inwardly and outwardly wicked till they heard them? If so, it is a manifest proof that those are true Prophets, Teachers sent of God. But if it is not so, if they do not effectually teach either themselves or others to love and serve God, it is a manifest proof that they are false prophets; that God hath not sent them.

4. A hard saying this! How few can bear it! This our Lord was sensible of, and therefore condescends to prove it at large by several clear and convincing arguments. “Do men,” says he, “gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:16.) Do you expect that these evil men should bring forth good fruit? As well might you expect that thorns should bring forth grapes, or that figs should grow upon thistles! “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” (Matt. 5:17.) Every true Prophet, every Teacher whom I have sent, bringeth forth the good fruit of holiness. But a false prophet, a teacher whom I have not sent, brings forth only sin and wickedness. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” A true Prophet, a Teacher sent from God, does not bring forth good fruit sometimes only, but always; not accidentally, but by a kind of necessity. In like manner, a false prophet, one whom God hath not sent, does not bring forth evil fruit accidentally or sometimes only, but always, and of necessity. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Verse 19.) Such infallibly will be the lot of those prophets who bring not forth good fruit, who do not save souls from sin, who do not bring sinners to repentance. “Wherefore,” let this stand as an eternal rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20.) They who, in fact bring the proud, passionate, unmerciful, lovers of the world to be lowly, gentle, lovers of God and man,—they are true Prophets, they are sent from God, who therefore confirms their word. On the other hand, they whose hearers, if unrighteous before, remain unrighteous still, or, at least, void of any righteousness which “exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,”—they are false prophets; they are not sent of God; therefore their word falls to the ground: And, without a miracle of grace, they and their hearers together will fall into the bottomless pit!

5. O “beware of these false prophets!” For though they “come in sheep’s clothing, yet inwardly they are ravening wolves.” They only destroy and devour the flock: They tear them in pieces, if there is none to help them. They will not, cannot, lead you in the way to heaven. How should they, when they know it not themselves? O beware they do not turn you out of the way, and cause you to “lose what you have wrought!”

6. But perhaps you will ask, “If there is such danger in hearing them, ought I to hear them at all?” It is a weighty question, such as deserves the deepest consideration, and ought not to be answered but upon the calmest thought, the most deliberate reflection. For many years I have been almost afraid to speak at all concerning it; being unable to determine one way or the other, or to give any judgment upon it. Many reasons there are which readily occur, and incline me to say, “Hear them not.” And yet what our Lord speaks concerning the false prophets of his own times seems to imply the contrary. “Then spake Jesus unto the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat,”—are the ordinary, stated Teachers in your Church: “All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. But do not ye after their works; for they say and do not.” Now, that these were false prophets, in the highest sense, our Lord hath shown during the whole course of his ministry; as indeed he does in those very words, “They say and do not.” Therefore, by their fruits his disciples could not but know them, seeing they were open to the view of all men. Accordingly, he warns them again and again, to beware of these false prophets. And yet he does not forbid them to hear even these: Nay, he, in effect, commands them so to do, in those words: “All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do:” For unless they heard them, they could not know, much less observe, whatsoever they bade them do. Here, then, our Lord himself gives a plain direction, both to his Apostles and the whole multitude, in some circumstances, to hear even false prophets, known and acknowledged so to be.

7. But perhaps it will be said, “He only directed to hear them, when they read the Scripture to the congregation.” I answer, at the same time that they thus read the Scripture, they generally expounded it too. And here is no kind of intimation that they were to hear the one, and not the other also. Nay, the very terms, “All things whatsoever they bid you observe,” exclude any such limitation.

8. Again: Unto them, unto false prophets, undeniably such, is frequently committed (O grief to speak! for surely these things ought not so to be) the administration of the sacrament also. To direct men, therefore, not to hear them, would be, in effect, to cut them off from the ordinances of God. But this we dare not do, considering the validity of the ordinance doth not depend on the goodness of him that administers, but on the faithfulness of Him that ordained it; who will and doth meet us in his appointed ways. Therefore, on this account, likewise, I scruple to say, “Hear not even the false prophets.” Even by these who are under a curse themselves, God can and doth give us his blessing. For the bread which they break, we have experimentally known to be “the communion of the body of Christ:” And the cup which God blessed, even by their unhallowed lips, was to us the communion of the blood of Christ.

9. All, therefore, which I can say, is this: in any particular case, wait upon God by humble and earnest prayer, and then act according to the best light you have: Act according to what you are persuaded, upon the whole, will be most for your spiritual advantage. Take great care that you do not judge rashly; that you do not lightly think any to be false prophets: And when you have full proof, see that no anger or contempt have any place in your heart. After this, in the presence and in the fear of God, determine for yourself. I can only say, If by experience you find that the hearing them hurts your soul, then hear them not; then quietly refrain, and hear those that profit you. If, on the other hand, you find it does not hurt your soul, you then may hear them still. Only “take heed how you hear:” Beware of them and of their doctrine. Hear with fear and trembling, lest you should be deceived, and given up, like them, to a strong delusion. As they continually mingle truth and lies, how easily may you take in both together! Hear with fervent and continual prayer to Him who alone teacheth man wisdom. And see that you bring whatever you hear “to the law and to the testimony.” Receive nothing untried, nothing till it is weighed in the balance of the sanctuary: Believe nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by passages of holy writ. Wholly reject whatsoever differs therefrom, whatever is not confirmed thereby. And, in particular, reject, with the utmost abhorrence, whatsoever is described as the way of salvation, that is either different from, or short of, the way our Lord has marked out in the foregoing discourse.

10. I cannot conclude without addressing a few plain words to those of whom we have now been speaking. O ye false prophets! O ye dry bones! hear ye, for once, the word of the Lord! How long will ye lie in the name of God, saying, “God hath spoken;” and God hath not spoken by you? How long will ye pervert the right ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls whom ye profess to bring unto God?

11. “Woe unto you, ye blind leaders of the blind! for ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men. Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” Them that would “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” ye call back into the broad way. Them that have scarce gone one step in the ways of God, you devilishly caution against going too far. Them that just begin to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” you warn not to “be righteous overmuch.” Thus you cause them to stumble at the very threshold; yea, to fall and rise no more. O wherefore do ye this? What profit is there in their blood, when they go down to the pit? Miserable profit to you! “They shall perish in their iniquity; but their blood will God require at your hands!”

12. Where are your eyes? Where is your understanding? Have ye deceived others, till you have deceived yourselves also? Who hath required this at your hands, to teach a way which ye never knew? Are you “given up to” so “strong a delusion,” that ye not only teach but “believe a lie?” And can you possibly believe that God hath sent you? that ye are His messengers? Nay; if the Lord had sent you, the work of the Lord would prosper in your hand. As the Lord liveth, if ye were messengers of God, he would “confirm the word of his messengers.” But the work of the Lord doth not prosper in your hand. You bring no sinners to repentance. The Lord doth not confirm your word; for you save no souls from death.

13. How can you possibly evade the force of our Lord’s words,—so full, so strong, so express? How can ye evade knowing yourselves by your fruits,—evil fruits of evil trees? And how should it be otherwise? “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Take this to yourselves, ye to whom it belongs! O ye barren trees, why cumber ye the ground? “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit.” See ye not, that here is no exception? Take knowledge, then, ye are not good trees; for ye do not bring forth good fruit. “But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit;” and so have ye done from the beginning. Your speaking, as from God, has only confirmed them that heard you in the tempers, if not works, of the devil. O take warning of Him in whose name ye speak, before the sentence he hath pronounced take place: “Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.”

14. My dear brethren, harden not your hearts! You have too long shut your eyes against the light. Open them now before it is too late; before you are cast into outer darkness! Let not any temporal consideration weigh with you; for eternity is at stake. Ye have run before ye were sent. O go no farther! Do not persist to damn yourselves and them that hear you! You have no fruit of your labours. And why is this? Even because the Lord is not with you. But can you go this warfare at your own cost? It cannot be. Then humble yourselves before him. Cry unto him out of the dust, that he may first quicken thy soul; give thee the faith that worketh by love; that is lowly and meek, pure and merciful, zealous of good works, rejoicing in tribulation, in reproach, in distress, in persecution for righteousness’ sake! So shall “the Spirit of glory and of Christ rest upon thee,” and it shall appear that God hath sent thee. So shalt thou indeed “do the work of an Evangelist, and make full proof of thy ministry.” So shall the word of God in thy mouth be “an hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces!” It shall then be known by thy fruits that thou art a Prophet of the Lord, even by the children whom God hath given thee. And having “turned many to righteousness,” thou shalt “shine as the stars for ever and ever!”




“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: For it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: And great was the fall of it.”

Matt. 7:21–27

1. Our Divine Teacher, having declared the whole counsel of God with regard to the way of salvation, and observed the chief hindrances of those who desire to walk therein, now closes the whole with these weighty words; thereby, as it were, setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations.

2. For thus saith the Lord, that none may ever conceive there is any other way than this, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore, everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: And great was the fall of it.”

3. I design, in the following discourse, First, to consider the case of him who thus builds his house upon the sand: Secondly, to show the wisdom of him who builds upon a rock: And, Thirdly, to conclude with a practical application.

I. 1. And, First, I am to consider the case of him who builds his house upon the sand. It is concerning him our Lord saith, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And this is a decree which cannot pass; which standeth fast for ever and ever. It therefore imports us, in the highest degree, throughly to understand the force of these words. Now what are we to understand by that expression, “That saith unto me, Lord, Lord?” It undoubtedly means, that thinks of going to heaven by any other way than that which I have now described. It therefore implies (to begin at the lowest point) all good words, all verbal religion. It includes whatever creeds we may rehearse, whatever professions of faith we make, whatever number of prayers we may repeat, whatever thanksgivings we read or say to God. We may speak good of his name, and declare his lovingkindness to the children of men. We may be talking of all his mighty acts, and telling of his salvation from day to day. By comparing spiritual things with spiritual we may show the meaning of the oracles of God. We may explain the mysteries of his kingdom, which have been hid from the beginning of the world. We may speak with the tongue of angels, rather than men, concerning the deep things of God. We may proclaim to sinners, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!” Yea, we may do this with such a measure of the power of God, and such demonstration of his Spirit, as to save many souls from death, and hide a multitude of sins. And yet it is very possible, all this may be no more than saying, “Lord, Lord.” After I have thus successfully preached to others, still I myself may be a castaway. I may, in the hand of God, snatch many souls from hell, and yet drop into it when I have done. I may bring many others to the kingdom of heaven, and yet myself never enter there. Reader, if God hath ever blessed my word to thy soul, pray that he may be merciful to me a sinner!

2. The saying, “Lord, Lord,” may, Secondly, imply the doing no harm. We may abstain from every presumptuous sin, from every kind of outward wickedness. We may refrain from all those ways of acting or speaking which are forbidden in holy writ. We may be able to say to all those among whom we live, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” We may have a conscience void of any external offence, towards God and towards man. We may be clear of all uncleanness, ungodliness, and unrighteousness, as to the outward act; or, (as the Apostle testifies concerning himself,) “touching the righteousness of the law,” that is, outward righteousness, “blameless.” But yet we are not hereby justified. Still this is no more than saying, “Lord, Lord;” and if we go no farther than this, we shall never “enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

3. The saying, “Lord, Lord,” may imply, Thirdly, many of what are usually styled good works. A man may attend the supper of the Lord, may hear abundance of excellent sermons, and omit no opportunity of partaking all the other ordinances of God. I may do good to my neighbour, deal my bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with a garment. I may be so zealous of good works as even to “give all my goods to feed the poor.” Yea, and I may do all this with a desire to please God, and a real belief that I do please him thereby; (which is undeniably the case of those our Lord introduces, saying unto him, “Lord, Lord;”) and still I may have no part in the glory which shall be revealed.

4. If any man marvels at this, let him acknowledge he is a stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ; and, in particular, to that perfect portraiture thereof which he has set before us in this discourse. For how far short is all this of that righteousness and true holiness which he has described therein! How widely distant from that inward kingdom of heaven which is now opened in the believing soul,—which is first sown in the heart as a grain of mustard-seed, but afterwards putteth forth great branches, on which grow all the fruits of righteousness, every good temper, and word, and work.

5. Yet as clearly as he had declared this, as frequently as he had repeated, that none who have not this kingdom of God within them shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; our Lord well knew that many would not receive this saying, and therefore confirms it yet again: “Many” (saith he: not one; not a few only: It is not a rare or an uncommon case) “shall say unto me in that day,” not only, We have said many prayers; We have spoken thy praise; We have refrained from evil; We have exercised ourselves in doing good;—but, what is abundantly more than this, “We have prophesied in thy name; in thy name have we cast out devils; in thy name done many wonderful works.” “We have prophesied;”—we have declared thy will to mankind; we have showed sinners the way to peace and glory. And we have done this “in thy name;” according to the truth of thy gospel; yea, and by thy authority, who didst confirm the word with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. For in or by thy name, by the power of thy word and of thy Spirit, “have we cast out devils;” out of the souls which they had long claimed as their own, and whereof they had full and quiet possession. “And in thy name,” by thy power, not our own, “have we done many wonderful works;” insomuch that “even the dead heard the voice of the Son of God” speaking by us, and lived. “And then will I profess” even “unto them, I never knew you;” no, not then, when you were “casting out devils in my name:” Even then I did not know you as my own; for your heart was not right toward God. Ye were not yourselves meek and lowly; ye were not lovers of God, and of all mankind; ye were not renewed in the image of God; ye were not holy as I am holy. “Depart from me, ye” who, notwithstanding all this, are “workers of iniquity;”—anomia,—Ye are transgressors of my law, my law of holy and perfect love.

6. It is to put this beyond all possibility of contradiction, that our Lord confirms it by that apposite comparison: “Every one,” saith he, “who heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;”—as they will surely do, sooner or later, upon every soul of man; even the floods of outward affliction, or inward temptation; the storms of pride, anger, fear, or desire;—”and it fell: And great was the fall of it:” So that it perished for ever and ever. Such must be the portion of all who rest in anything short of that religion which is above described. And the greater will their fall be, because they “heard those sayings, and” yet “did them not.”

II. 1. I am, Secondly, to show the wisdom of him that doeth them, that buildeth his house upon a rock. He indeed is wise, “who doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” He is truly wise, whose “righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.” He is poor in spirit; knowing himself even as also he is known. He sees and feels all his sin, and all his guilt, till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself, till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. He is meek and gentle, patient toward all men, never “returning evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing,” till he overcomes evil with good. His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He has bowels of love for all mankind, and is ready to lay down his life for his enemies. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength. He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, who, in this spirit, doeth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, rejoices and is “exceeding glad,” knowing in whom he hath believed, and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will “work out for him an eternal weight of glory.”

2. How truly wise is this man! He knows himself;—an everlasting spirit, which came forth from God, and was sent down into an house of clay, not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him. He knows the world;—the place in which he is to pass a few days or years, not as an inhabitant, but as a stranger and sojourner, in his way to the everlasting habitations; and accordingly he uses the world as not abusing it, and as knowing the fashion of it passes away. He knows God;—his Father and his Friend, the parent of all good, the centre of the spirits of all flesh, the sole happiness of all intelligent beings. He sees, clearer than the light of the noon-day sun, that this is the end of man, to glorify Him who made him for himself, and to love and enjoy him for ever. And with equal clearness he sees the means to that end, to the enjoyment of God in glory; even now to know, to love, to imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.

3. He is a wise man, even in God’s account; for “he buildeth his house upon a rock;” upon the Rock of Ages, the everlasting Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fitly is he so called; for he changeth not: He is “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” To him both the man of God of old, and the Apostle citing his words, bear witness: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” (Heb. 1:10–12) Wise, therefore, is the man who buildeth on Him; who layeth Him for his only foundation; who builds only upon his blood and righteousness, upon what he hath done and suffered for us. On this corner-stone he fixes his faith, and rests the whole weight of his soul upon it. He is taught of God to say, “Lord, I have sinned; I deserve the nethermost hell; but I am justified freely by thy grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; and the life I now live, I live by faith in Him, who loved me, and gave himself for me:—The life I now live; namely, a divine, heavenly life; a life which is hid with Christ in God. I now live, even in the flesh, a life of love; of pure love both to God and man; a life of holiness and happiness; praising God, and doing all things to his glory.”

4. Yet, let not such an one think that he shall not see war any more; that he is now out of the reach of temptation. It still remains for God to prove the grace he hath given: He shall be tried as gold in the fire. He shall be tempted not less than they who know not God: Perhaps abundantly more; for Satan will not fail to try to the uttermost those whom he is not able to destroy. Accordingly, “the rain” will impetuously descend; only at such times and in such a manner as seems good, not to the prince of the power of the air, but to Him “whose kingdom ruleth over all.” “The floods,” or torrents, will come; they will lift up their waves and rage horribly. But to them also, the Lord that sitteth above the water-floods, that remaineth a King for ever, will say, “Hitherto shall ye come, and no farther: Here shall your proud waves be stayed.” “The winds will blow, and beat upon that house,” as though they would tear it up from the foundation: But they cannot prevail: It falleth not; for it is founded upon a rock. He buildeth on Christ by faith and love; therefore, he shall not be cast down. He “shall not fear though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea.” “Though the waters thereof rage and swell, and the mountains shake at the tempest of the same;” still he “dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, and is safe under the shadow of the Almighty.”

III. 1. How nearly then does it concern every child of man, practically to apply these things to himself! diligently to examine on what foundation he builds, whether on a rock or on the sand! How deeply are you concerned to inquire, “What is the foundation of my hope? Whereon do I build my expectation of entering into the kingdom of heaven? Is it not built on the sand? upon my orthodoxy, or right opinions, which, by a gross abuse of words, I have called faith? upon my having a set of notions, suppose more rational or scriptural than others have?” Alas! what madness is this! Surely this is building on the sand, or, rather, on the froth of the sea! Say, “I am convinced of this: Am I not again building my hope on what is equally unable to support it? Perhaps on my belonging to ‘so excellent a church; reformed after the true Scripture model; blessed with the purest doctrine, the most primitive liturgy, the most apostolical form of government!” These are, doubtless, so many reasons for praising God, as they may be so many helps to holiness; but they are not holiness itself: And if they are separate from it, they will profit me nothing; nay, they will leave me the more without excuse, and exposed to the greater damnation. Therefore, if I build my hope upon this foundation, I am still building upon the sand.

2. You cannot, you dare not, rest here. Upon what next will you build your hope of salvation?—upon your innocence? upon your doing no harm? your not wronging or hurting anyone? Well; allow this plea to be true. You are just in all your dealings; you are a downright honest man; you pay every man his own; you neither cheat nor extort; you act fairly with all mankind; and you have a conscience towards God; you do not live in any known sin. Thus far is well: But still it is not the thing. You may go thus far, and yet never come to heaven. When all this harmlessness flows from a right principle, it is the least part of the religion of Christ. But in you it does not flow from a right principle, and therefore is no part at all of religion. So that in grounding your hope of salvation on this, you are still building upon the sand.

3. Do you go farther yet? Do you add to the doing no harm, the attending all the ordinances of God? Do you, at all opportunities, partake of the Lord’s supper? use public and private prayer? fast often? hear and search the Scriptures, and meditate thereon? These things, likewise, ought you to have done, from the time you first set your face towards heaven. Yet these things also are nothing, being alone. They are nothing without “the weightier matters of the law.” And those you have forgotten: At least, you experience them not:—Faith, mercy, and love of God; holiness of heart; heaven opened in the soul. Still, therefore, you build upon the sand.

4. Over and above all this, are you zealous of good works? Do you, as you have time, do good to all men? Do you feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction? Do you visit those that are sick? relieve them that are in prison? Is any a stranger, and you take him in? Friend, come up higher! Do you “prophesy” in the “name” of Christ? Do you preach the truth as it is in Jesus? And does the influence of his Spirit attend your word, and make it the power of God unto salvation? Does he enable you to bring sinners from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God? Then go and learn what thou hast so often taught, “By grace ye are saved through faith:” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy he saveth us.” Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all thou hast done but dung and dross. Apply to him just in the spirit of the dying thief, of the harlot with her seven devils! else thou art still on the sand; and, after saving others, thou wilt lose thy own soul.

5. Lord, increase my faith, if I now believe! else, give me faith, though but as a grain of mustard-seed!—But “what doth it profit, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can” that “faith save him?” O no! That faith which hath not works, which doth not produce both inward and outward holiness, which does not stamp the whole image of God on the heart, and purify us as he is pure; that faith which does not produce the whole of the religion described in the foregoing chapters, is not the faith of the gospel, not the Christian faith, not the faith which leads to glory. O beware of this, above all other snares of the devil,—of resting on unholy, unsaving faith! If thou layest stress on this, thou art lost for ever: Thou still buildest thy house upon the sand. When “the rain descends, and the floods come, it will surely fall, and great will be the fall of it.”

6. Now, therefore, build thou upon a rock. By the grace of God, know thyself. Know and feel that thou wast shapen in wickedness, and in sin did thy mother conceive thee; and that thou thyself hast been heaping sin upon sin, ever since thou couldst discern good from evil. Own thyself guilty of eternal death; and renounce all hope of ever being able to save thyself. Be it all thy hope, to be washed in his blood, and purified by his Spirit, “who himself bore” all “thy sins in his own body upon the tree.” And if thou knowest he hath taken away thy sins, so much the more abase thyself before him, in a continual sense of thy total dependence on him for every good thought, and word, and work, and of thy utter inability to all good unless he “water thee every moment.”

7. Now weep for your sins, and mourn after God, till he turns your heaviness into joy. And even then weep with them that weep; and for them that weep not for themselves. Mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind; and see, but just before your eyes, the immense ocean of eternity, without a bottom or a shore, which has already swallowed up millions of millions of men, and is gaping to devour them that yet remain! See here, the house of God eternal in the heavens! there, hell and destruction without a covering!—and thence learn the importance of every moment, which just appears, and is gone for ever!

8. Now add to your seriousness, meekness of wisdom. Hold an even scale as to all your passions, but in particular, as to anger, sorrow, and fear. Calmly acquiesce in whatsoever is the will of God. Learn in every state wherein you are, therewith to be content. Be mild to the good: Be gentle toward all men; but especially toward the evil and the unthankful. Beware, not only of outward expressions of anger, such as calling thy brother, Raca, or Thou fool; but of every inward emotion contrary to love, though it go no farther than the heart. Be angry at sin, as an affront offered to the Majesty of heaven; but love the sinner still: Like our Lord, who “looked round about upon the Pharisees with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” He was grieved at the sinners, angry at sin. Thus be thou “angry, and sin not!”

9. Now do thou hunger and thirst, not for “the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.” Trample underfoot the world, and the things of the world; all these riches, honours, pleasures. What is the world to thee? Let the dead bury their dead; but follow thou after the image of God. And beware of quenching that blessed thirst, if it is already excited in thy soul, by what is vulgarly called religion; a poor, dull farce, a religion of form, of outside show, which leaves the heart still cleaving to the dust, as earthly and sensual as ever. Let nothing satisfy thee but the power of godliness, but a religion that is spirit and life; the dwelling in God and God in thee; the being an inhabitant of eternity; the entering in by the blood of sprinkling “within the veil,” and “sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus!”

10. Now, seeing thou canst do all things through Christ strengthening thee, be merciful as thy Father in heaven is merciful! Love thy neighbour as thyself! Love friends and enemies as thy own soul! And let thy love be longsuffering and patient towards all men. Let it be kind, soft, benign; inspiring thee with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection. Let it rejoice in the truth, wheresoever it is found; the truth that is after godliness. Enjoy whatsoever brings glory to God, and promotes peace and goodwill among men. In love, cover all things,—of the dead and the absent speaking nothing but good; believe all things which may any way tend to clear your neighbour’s character; hope all things in his favour; and endure all things, triumphing over all opposition: For true love never faileth, in time or in eternity.

11. Now be thou pure in heart; purified through faith from every unholy affection; “cleansing thyself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Being, through the power of his grace, purified from pride, by deep poverty of spirit; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and mercifulness; from every desire but to please and enjoy God, by hunger and thirst after righteousness; now love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy strength!”

12. In a word: Let thy religion be the religion of the heart. Let it lie deep in thy inmost soul. Be thou little, and base, and mean, and vile (beyond what words can express) in thy own eyes; amazed and humbled to the dust by the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Be serious. Let the whole stream of thy thoughts, words, and actions flow from the deepest conviction that thou standest on the edge of the great gulf, thou and all the children of men, just ready to drop in, either into everlasting glory or everlasting burnings! Let thy soul be filled with mildness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering towards all men;—at the same time that all which is in thee is athirst for God, the living God; longing to awake up after his likeness, and to be satisfied with it! Be thou a lover of God and of all mankind! In this spirit do and suffer all things! Thus show thy faith by thy works; thus “do the will of thy Father which is in heaven!” And, as sure as thou now walkest with God on earth, thou shalt also reign with him in glory!



“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”

Rom. 7:12

1. Perhaps there are few subjects within the whole compass of religion so little understood as this. The reader of this Epistle is usually told, by the law St. Paul means the Jewish law; and so, apprehending himself to have no concern therewith, passes on without farther thought about it. Indeed some are not satisfied with this account; but observing the Epistle is directed to the Romans, thence infer that the Apostle in the beginning of this chapter alludes to the old Roman law. But as they have no more concern with this, than with the ceremonial law of Moses, so they spend not much thought on what they suppose is occasionally mentioned barely to illustrate another thing.

2. But a careful observer of the Apostle’s discourse will not be content with theses light explications of it. And the more he weighs the words, the more convinced he will be, that St. Paul, by the law mentioned in this chapter, does not mean either the ancient law of Rome, or the ceremonial law of Moses. This will clearly appear to all who attentively consider the tenor of his discourse. He begins the chapter, “Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law,)” to them who have been instructed therein from their youth, “that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” (What! the law of Rome only, or the ceremonial law? No, surely; but the moral law.) “For,” to give a plain instance, “the woman which hath an husband is bound by the” moral “law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law: so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” From this particular instance the Apostle proceeds to draw that general conclusion: “Wherefore, my brethren,” by a plain parity of reason, “ye also are become dead to the law,” the whole Mosaic institution, “by the body of Christ,” offered for you, and bringing you under a new dispensation: “That ye should” without any blame “be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead;” and hath thereby given proof of his authority to make the change; “that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” And this we can do now, whereas before we could not: “for when we were in the flesh”—under the power of the flesh, that is, of corrupt nature, which was necessarily the case till we knew the power of Christ’s resurrection, “the motions of sins, which were by the law,”—which were shown and inflamed by the Mosaic law, not conquered, “did work in our members,”—broke out various ways, “to bring forth fruit unto death.” “But now we are delivered from the law;” from that whole moral, as well as ceremonial economy; “that being dead whereby we were held;”—that entire institution being now as it were dead, and having no more authority over us than the husband, when dead, hath over his wife: “That we should serve him,”—who died for us and rose again, “in newness of spirit;”—in a new spiritual dispensation; “and not in the oldness of the letter;”—with a bare outward service, according to the letter of the Mosaic institution (Rom. 7:1–6.)

3. The Apostle, having gone thus far in proving that the Christian had set aside the Jewish dispensation, and that the moral law itself, though it could never pass away, yet stood on a different foundation from what it did before,—now stops to propose and answer an objection: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?” So some might infer from a misapprehension of those words, “the motions of sins, which were by the law.” “God forbid!” saith the Apostle, that we should say so. Nay, the law is an irreconcilable enemy to sin; by the law: for I had not known lust,” evil desire, to be sin, “except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7.) After opening this farther, in the four following verses, he subjoins this general conclusion, with regard more especially to the moral law, form which the preceding instance was taken: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”

4. In order to explain and enforce these deep words, so little regarded, because so little understood, I shall endeavour to show, First, the original of this law: Secondly, the nature thereof: Thirdly, the properties; that it is holy, and just, and good. And, Fourthly, the uses of it.

I. 1. I shall, first, endeavour to show the original of the moral law, often called “the law,” by way of eminence. Now this is not, as some may have possibly imagined, of so late an institution as the time of Moses. Noah declared it to men long before that time, and Enoch before him. But we may trace its original higher still, even beyond the foundation of the world: to that period, unknown indeed to men, but doubtless enrolled in the annals of eternity, when “the morning stars” first “sang together,” being newly called into existence. It pleased the great Creator to make these, his first-born sons, intelligent beings, that they might know him that created them. For this end he endued them with understanding, to discern truth from falsehood, good from evil; and, as a necessary result of this, with liberty,—a capacity of choosing the one and refusing the other. By this they were, likewise, enabled to offer him a free and willing service; a service rewardable in itself, as well as most acceptable to their gracious Master.

2. To employ all the faculties which he had given them, particularly their understanding and liberty, he gave the a law, a complete model of all truth, so far as is intelligible to a finite being; and of all good, so far as angelic minds were capable of embracing it. It was also the design of their beneficent Governor herein to make way for a continual increase of their happiness; seeing every instance of obedience to that law would both add to the perfection of their nature, and entitle them to an higher reward, which the righteous Judge would give in its season.

3. In like manner, when God, in his appointed time, had created a new order of intelligent beings, when he had raised man form the dust of the earth, breathed into him the breath of life, and caused him to become a living soul, endued with power to choose good or evil; he gave to this free, intelligent creature the same law as to his first-born children,—not wrote, indeed, upon tables of stone, or any corruptible substance, but engraven on his heart by the finger of God; wrote in the inmost spirit both of men and of angels; to the intent it might never be far off, never hard to be understood, but always at hand, and always shining with clear light, even as the sun in the midst of heaven.

4. Such was the original of the law of God. With regard to man, it was coeval with his nature; but with regard to the elder sons of God, it shone in its full splendour “or ever the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the round world were made.” But it was not long before man rebelled against God, and, by breaking this glorious law, wellnigh effaced it out of his heart; the eyes of his understanding being darkened in the same measure as his soul was “alienated from the life of God.” And yet God did not despise the work of his own hands; but, being reconciled to man through the Son of his love, he, in some measure, re-inscribed the law on the heart of his dark, sinful creature. “He” again “showed thee, O man, what is good,” although not as in the beginning, “even to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

5. And this he showed, not only to our first parents, but likewise to all their posterity, by “that true light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” But, notwithstanding this light, all flesh had, in process of time, “corrupted their way before him;” till he chose out of mankind a peculiar people, to whom he gave a more perfect knowledge of his law; and the heads of this, because they were slow of understanding, he wrote on two tables of stone, which he commanded the fathers to teach their children, through all succeeding generations.

6. And thus it is, that the law of God is now made known to them that know not God. They hear, with the hearing of the ear, the things that were written aforetime for our instruction. But this does not suffice: they cannot, by this means, comprehend the height, and depth, and length, and breadth thereof. God alone can reveal this by his Spirit. And so he does to all that truly believe, in consequence of that gracious promise made to all the Israel of God: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. And this shall be the covenant that I will make; I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:31 & c.)

II. 1. The nature of that law which was originally given to angels in heaven and man in paradise, and which God has so mercifully promised to write afresh in the hearts of all true believers, was the second thing I proposed to show. In order to which, I would first observe, that although the “law” and the “commandment” are sometimes differently taken (the commandment meaning but a part of the law,) yet, in the text they are used as equivalent terms, implying one and the same thing. But we cannot understand here, either by one or the other, the ceremonial law. It is not the ceremonial law, whereof the Apostle says, in the words above recited, “I had not known sin, but by the law:” this is too plain to need a proof. Neither is it the ceremonial law which saith, in the words immediately subjoined, “Thou shalt not covet.” Therefore the ceremonial law has no place in the present question.

2. Neither can we understand by the law mentioned in the text the Mosaic dispensation. It is true, the word is sometimes so understood; as when the Apostle says, speaking to the Galatians (Gal. 3:17,) “The covenant that was confirmed before;” namely, with Abraham, the father of the faithful, “the law,” that is, the Mosaic dispensation, “which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul.” But it cannot be so understood in the text; for the Apostle never bestows so high commendations as these upon that imperfect and shadowy dispensation. He nowhere affirms the Mosaic to be a spiritual law; or, that it is holy, and just, and good. Neither is it true, that God will write that law in the hearts of those whose iniquities he remembers no more. It remains, that “the law,” eminently so termed, is no other than the moral law.

3. Now, this law is an incorruptible picture of the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity. It is he whom, in his essence, no man hath seen, or can see, made visible to men and angels. It is the face of God unveiled; God manifested to his creatures as they are able to bear it; manifested to give, and not to destroy, life—that they may see God and live. It is the heart of God disclosed to man. Yea, in some sense, we may apply to this law what the Apostle says of his Son: It is apaugasma tes doxes, kai charakter tes hypostaseos autou the streaming forth or out-beaming of his glory, the express image of his person.

4. If virtue, said the ancient heathen, could assume such a shape as that we could behold her with our eyes, what wonderful love would she excite in us! If virtue could do this! It is done already. The law of God is all virtues in one, in such a shape as to be beheld with open face by all those whose eyes God hath enlightened. What is the law but divine virtue and wisdom assuming a visible form? What is it but the original ideas of truth and good, which were lodged in the uncreated mind from eternity, now drawn forth and clothed with such a vehicle as to appear even to human understanding?

5. If we survey the law of God in another point of view, it is supreme, unchangeable reason; it is unalterable rectitude, it is the everlasting fitness of all things that are or ever were created. I am sensible, what a shortness, and even impropriety, there is, in these and all other human expressions, when we endeavour by these faint pictures to shadow out the deep things of God. Nevertheless, we have no better, indeed no other way, during this our infant state of existence. As we now know but “in part,” so we are constrained to “prophesy,” that is, speak of the things of God, “in part” also. “We cannot order our speech by reason of darkness,” while we are in this house of clay. While I am “a child,” I must “speak as a child:” but I shall soon “put away childish things:” for “when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.”

6. But to return. The law of God (speaking after the manner of men) is a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of the divine nature: Yea, it is the fairest offspring of the everlasting Father, the brightest efflux of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most high. It is the delight and wonder of cherubim and seraphim, and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer, every well-instructed child of God upon earth.

III. 1. Such is the nature of the ever-blessed law of God. I am, in the Third place, to show the properties of it: Not all; for that would exceed the wisdom of an angel; but those only which are mentioned in the text. These are three: it is holy, just, and good. And, First, the law is holy.

2. In this expression the Apostle does not appear to speak of its effects, but rather of its nature: As St. James, speaking of the same thing under another name, says, “The wisdom from above” (which is no other than this law, written in our heart) “is first pure” (Jas. 3:17;) agne,—chaste, spotless; eternally and essentially holy. And, consequently, when it is transcribed into the life, as well as the soul, it is (as the same Apostle terms it, Jas. 1:27) threskeia kathara kai amiantos, pure religion and undefiled; or, the pure, clean, unpolluted worship of God.

3. It is, indeed, in the highest degree, pure, chaste, clean, holy. otherwise it could not be the immediate offspring, and much less the express resemblance, of God, who is essential holiness. It is pure from all sin, clean and unspotted from any touch of evil. It is a chaste virgin, incapable of any defilement, of any mixture with that which is unclean or unholy. It has no fellowship with sin of any kind: For what communion hath light with darkness? As sin is, in its very nature, enmity to God, so his law is enmity to sin.

4. Therefore it is that the Apostle rejects with such abhorrence that blasphemous supposition, that the law of God is either sin itself, or the cause of sin. God forbid that we should suppose it is the cause of sin, because it is the discoverer of it; because it detects the hidden things of darkness, and drags them out into open day. It is true, by this means (as the Apostle observes, Rom. 7:13,) sin appears to be sin. All its disguises are torn away, and it appears in its native deformity. It is true likewise, that sin, by the commandment, becomes exceeding sinful: Being now committed against light and knowledge, being stripped even of the poor plea of ignorance, it loses its excuse, as well as disguise, and becomes far more odious both to God and man. Yea, and it is true, that “sin worketh death by that which is good;” which in itself is pure and holy. When it is dragged out to light, it rages the more: when it is restrained, it bursts out with greater violence. Thus the Apostle (speaking in the person of one who was convinced of sin, but not yet delivered from it,) “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment” detecting and endeavouring to restrain it, disdained the restraint, and so much the more “wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” (Rom. 7:8;) all manner of foolish and hurtful desire, which that commandment sought to restrain. Thus, “when the commandment came, sin revived” (Rom. 7:9;) it fretted and raged the more. But this is no stain on the commandment. Though it is abused, it cannot be defiled. This only proves that “the heart of man is desperately wicked.” But “the law” of God “is holy” still.

5. And it is, Secondly, just. It renders to all their due. It prescribes exactly what is right, precisely what ought to be done, said, or thought, both with regard to the Author of our being, with regard to ourselves, and with regard to every creature which he has made. It is adapted, in all respects, to the nature of things, of the whole universe, and every individual. It is suited to all the circumstances of each, and to all their mutual relations, whether such as have existed from he beginning, or such as commenced in any following period. It is exactly agreeable to the fitnesses of things, whether essential or accidental. It clashes with none of these in any degree; nor is ever unconnected with them. If the word be taken in that sense, there is nothing arbitrary in the law of God. Although still the whole and every part thereof is totally dependent upon his will; so that, “Thy will be done,” is the supreme, universal law both in earth and heaven.

6. “But is the will of God the cause of his law? Is his will the original of right and wrong? Is a thing therefore right, because God wills it? or does he will it because it is right?”

I fear this celebrated question is more curious than useful. And perhaps in the manner it is usually treated of, it does not so well consist with the regard that is due from a creature to the Creator and Governor of all things. It is hardly decent for man to call the supreme God to give an account to him. Nevertheless, with awe and reverence we may speak a little. The Lord pardon us if we speak amiss!

7. It seems, then, that the whole difficulty arises from considering Gods will as distinct from God: otherwise it vanishes away. For none can doubt but God is the cause of the law of God. But the will of God is God himself. It is God considered as willing thus or thus. Consequently, to say that the will of God, or that God himself, is the cause of the law, is one and the same thing.

8. Again: If the law, the immutable rule of right and wrong, depends upon the nature and fitnesses of things, and on their essential relations to each other (I do not say, their eternal relations; because the eternal relation of things existing in time, is little less than a contradiction;) if, I say, this depends on the nature and relations of things, then it must depend on God, or the will of God; because those thing themselves, with all their relations, are the works of his hands. By his will, “for his pleasure” alone, they all “are and were created.”

9. And yet it may be granted (which is probably all that a considerate person would contend for,) that in every particular case, God wills this or this (suppose, that men should honour their parents,) because it is right, agreeable to the fitness of things, to the relation wherein they stand.

10. The law, then, is right and just concerning all things. And it is good as well as just. This we may easily infer from the fountain whence it flowed. For what was this, but the goodness of God? What but goodness alone inclined him to impart that divine copy of himself to the holy angels? To what else can we impute his bestowing upon man the same transcript of his own nature? And what but tender love constrained him afresh to manifest his will to fallen man either to Adam, or any of his seed, who like him were “come short of the glory of God?” Was it not mere love that moved him to publish his law after the understandings of men were darkened? and to send his prophets to declare that law to the blind, thoughtless children of men? Doubtless his goodness it was which raised up enoch and Noah to be preachers of righteousness; which caused Abraham, his friend, and Isaac, and Jacob, to bear witness to his truth. It was his goodness alone, which, when “darkness had covered the earth, and thick darkness the people,” gave a written law to Moses, and, through him, to the nation whom he had chosen. It was love which explained these living oracles by David and all the prophets that followed; until, when the fullness of time was come, he sent his only-begotten Son, “not to destroy the law, but to fulfil,” confirm every jot and title thereof; till, having wrote it in the hearts of all his children, and put all his enemies under his feet, “he shall deliver up” his mediatorial “kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.” [1 Cor. 15:28]

11. And this law, which the goodness of God gave at first, and has preserved through all ages, is, like the fountain from whence it springs, full of goodness and benignity; it is mild and kind; it is, as the Psalmist expresses it, “sweeter than honey and the honey-comb.” It is winning and amiable. It includes “whatsoever things are lovely or of good report. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise” before God and his holy angels, they are all comprised in this; wherein are hid all the treasures of the divine wisdom, and knowledge, and love.

12. And it is good in its effects, as well as in its nature. As the tree is, so are its fruits. The fruits of the law of God written in the heart are “righteousness, and peace, and assurance for ever.” or rather, the law itself is righteousness, filling the soul with a peace which passeth all understanding, and causing us to rejoice evermore, in the testimony of a good conscience toward God. It is to so properly a pledge, as “an earnest, of our inheritance,” being a part of the purchased possession. It is God made manifest in our flesh, and bringing with him eternal life; assuring us by that pure and perfect love, that we are “sealed unto the day of redemption;” that he will “spare us as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,” “in that day when he maketh up his jewels;” and that there remaineth for us “a crown of glory which fadeth not away.”

IV. 1. It remains only to show, in the Fourth and last place, the uses of the law. And the First use of it, without question, is, to convince the world of sin. This is, indeed, the peculiar work of the holy Ghost; who can work it with out any means at all, or by whatever means it pleaseth him, however insufficient in themselves, or even improper, to produce such an effect. And, accordingly, some there are whose hearts have been broken in pieces in a moment, either in sickness or in health, without any visible cause, or any outward means whatever; and others (one in an age) have been awakened to a sense of the “wrath of God abiding on them, by hearing that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” But it is the ordinary method of the Spirit of God to convict sinners by the law. It is this which, being set home on the conscience, generally breaketh the rocks in pieces. It is more especially this part of the word of God which is zon kai energes,—quick and powerful, full of life and energy, “and sharper than any two edged sword.” This, in the hand of God and of those whom he hath sent, pierces through all the folds of a deceitful heart, and “divides asunder even the soul and the spirit;” yea, as it were, the very “joints and marrow.” By this is the sinner discovered to himself. All his fig-leaves are torn away, and he sees that he is “wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” The law flashes conviction on every side. He feels himself a mere sinner. He has nothing to pay. His “mouth is stopped,” and he stands “guilty before God.”

2. To slay the sinner is, then, the First use of the law; to destroy the life and strength wherein he trusts, and convince him that he is dead while he liveth; not only under the sentence of death, but actually dead unto God, void of all spiritual life, “dead in trespasses and sins.” The Second use of it is, to bring him unto life, unto Christ, that he may live. It is true, in performing both these offices, it acts the part of a severe school-master. It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love. And yet love is the spring of all. It is the spirit of love which, by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner, stripped of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, or groan in the depth of his heart,

I give up every plea beside,—

Lord, I am damn’d; but Thou hast died.

3. The Third use of the law is, to keep us alive. It is the grand means whereby the blessed Spirit prepares the believer for larger communications of the life of God.

I am afraid this great and important truth is little understood, not only by the world, but even by many whom God hath taken out of the world, who are real children of God by faith. Many of these lay it down as an unquestioned truth, that when we come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that, in this sense, “Christ is the end of the law to every one that believeth.” “The end of the law:” so he is, “for righteousness,” for justification, “to every one that believeth.” Herein the law is at an end. It justifies none, but only brings them to Christ; who is also, in another respect, the end or scope of the law,—the point at which it continually aims. But when it has brought us to him it has yet a farther office, namely, to keep us with him. For it is continually exciting all believers, the more they see of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, to exhort one another so much the more,—

Closer and closer let us cleave

To his beloved Embrace;

Expect his fullness to receive,

And grace to answer grace.

4. Allowing then, that every believer has done with the law, as it means the Jewish ceremonial law, or the entire Mosaic dispensation; (for these Christ hath taken out of the way;) yea, allowing we have done with the moral law, as a means of procuring our justification; for we are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus”; yet, in another sense, we have not done with this law: for it is still of unspeakable use, First, in convincing us of the sin that yet remains both in our hearts and lives, and thereby keeping us close to Christ, that his blood may cleanse us every moment; Secondly, in deriving strength from our Head into his living members, whereby he empowers them to do what his law commands; and, Thirdly, in confirming our hope of whatsoever it commands and we have not yet attained,—of receiving grace upon grace, till we are in actual possession of the fulness of his promises.

5. How clearly does this agree with the experience of every true believer! While he cries out, “O what love have I unto thy law! all the day long is my study in it;” he sees daily, in that divine mirror, more and more of his own sinfulness. He sees more and more clearly, that he is still a sinner in all things,—that neither his heart nor his ways are right before God; and that every moment sends him to Christ. This shows him the meaning of what is written, “Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, Holiness to the Lord. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead,” (the type of our great High-Priest,) “that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts” (so far are our prayers or holy things from atoning for the rest of our sin!) “and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord” (Exod. 28:36, 38.)

6. To explain this by a single instance: The law says, “Thou shalt not kill;” and hereby, (as our Lord teaches,) forbids not only outward acts, but every unkind word or thought. Now, the more I look into this perfect law, the more I feel how far I come short of it; and the more I feel this, the more I feel my need of his blood to atone for all my sin, and of his Spirit to purify my heart, and make me “perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”

7. Therefore I cannot spare the law one moment, no more than I can spare Christ; seeing I now want it as much to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to him. Otherwise, this “evil heart of unbelief” would immediately “depart from the living God.” Indeed each is continually sending me to the other,—the law to Christ, and Christ to the law. On the one hand, the height and depth of the law constrain me to fly to the love of God in Christ; on the other, the love of God in Christ endears the law to me “above gold or precious stones;” seeing I know every part of it is a gracious promise which my Lord will fulfil in its season.

8. Who art thou then, O man, that “judgest the law, and speakest evil of the law?”—that rankest it with sin, Satan, and death and sendest them all to hell together? The Apostle James esteemed judging or “speaking evil of the law” so enormous a piece of wickedness, that he knew not how to aggravate the guilt of judging our brethren more, than by showing it included this. “So now,” says he, “thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge!” A judge of that which God hath ordained to judge thee! So thou hast set up thyself in the judgement-seat of Christ, and cast down the rule whereby he will judge the world! O take knowledge what advantage Satan hath gained over thee; and, for the time to come, never think or speak lightly of, much less dress up as a scarecrow, this blessed instrument of the grace of God. Yea, love and value it for the sake of him from whom it came, and of him to whom it leads. Let it be thy glory and joy, next to the cross of Christ. Declare its praise, and make it honourable before all men.

9. And if thou are thoroughly convinced that it is the offspring of God, that it is the copy of all his inimitable perfections, and that it is “holy, and just, and good,” but especially to them that believe; then, instead of casting it away as a polluted thing, see that thou cleave to it more and more. Never let the law of mercy and truth, of love to God and man, of lowliness, meekness, and purity, forsake thee. “Bind it about thy neck; writ it on the table of thy heart.” Keep close to the law, if thou wilt keep close to Christ; hold it fast; let it not go. Let this continually lead thee to the atoning blood, continually confirm thy hope, till all the “righteousness of the law is fulfilled in thee,” and thou art “filled with all the fullness of God.”

10. And if thy Lord hath already fulfilled his word, if he hath already “written his law in thy heart,” then “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free.” Thou art not only made free from Jewish ceremonies, from the guilt of sin, and the fear of hell (these are so far from being the whole, that they are the least and lowest part of Christian liberty;) but, what is infinitely more, from the power of sin, from serving the devil, from offending God. O stand fast in this liberty; in comparison of which, all the rest is not even worthy to be named! Stand fast in loving God with all thy heart, and serving him with all thy strength! This is perfect freedom; thus to keep his law, and to walk in all his commandments blameless. “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” I do not mean of Jewish bondage; nor yet of bondage to the fear of hell: These, I trust, are far from thee. But beware of being entangled again with the yoke of sin, of any inward or outward transgression of the law. Abhor sin far more than death or hell; abhor sin itself, far more than the punishment of it. Beware of the bondage of pride, of desire, of anger; of every evil temper, or word, or work. “Look unto Jesus;” and in order thereto, look more and more into the perfect law, “the law of liberty;” and “continue therein;” so shalt thou daily “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”




“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law.”

Romans 3:31.

1. St. Paul, having the beginning of this Epistle laid down his general proposition, namely, that “the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;”—the powerful means, whereby God makes every believer a partaker of present and eternal salvation;—goes on to show, that there is no other way under heaven whereby men can be saved. He speaks particularly of salvation from the guilt of sin, which he commonly terms justification. And that all men stood in need of this, that none could plead their own innocence, he proves at large by various arguments, addressed to the Jews as well as the Heathens. Hence he infers, (in the 19th verse of this chapter,) “that every mouth,” whether of Jew or Heathen, must be “stopped” from excusing or justifying himself, “and all the world become guilty before God.” “Therefore,” saith he, by his own obedience, “by the words of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” “But now the righteousness of God without the law,”—without our previous obedience thereto,—”is manifested;” “even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe:” “For there is no difference,”—as to their need of justification, or the manner wherein they attain it;—”for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;—”the glorious image of God wherein they were created: And all (who attain) “are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; that he might be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus;—”that without any impeachment to his justice, he might show him mercy for the sake of that propitiation. “Therefore we conclude,” (which was the grand position he had undertaken to establish,) “that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law.” (Verses 20–28.)

2. It was easy to foresee an objection which might be made, and which has in fact been made in all ages; namely, that to say we are justified without the works of the law, is to abolish the law. The Apostle, without entering into a formal dispute, simply denies the charge. “Do we then,” says he, “make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.”

3. The strange imagination of some, that St. Paul, when he says, “A man is justified without the works of the law,” means only ceremonial law, is abundantly confuted by these very words. For did St. Paul establish the ceremonial law? It is evident he did not. He did make void that law through faith, and openly avowed his doing so. It was the moral law only, of which he might truly say, We do not make void, but establish this through faith.

4. But all men are not herein of his mind. Many there are who will not agree to this. Many in all ages of the Church, even among those who bore the name of Christians, have contended, that “the faith once delivered to the saints” was designed to make void the whole law. They would no more spare the moral than the ceremonial law, but were for “hewing,” as it were, “both in pieces before the Lord; “vehemently maintaining, “If you establish any law, Christ shall profit you nothing; Christ is become of no effect to you; ye are fallen from grace.”

5. But is the zeal of these men according to knowledge? Have they observed the connexion between the law and faith? and that, considering the close connexion between them, to destroy one is indeed to destroy both?—that, to abolish the moral law, is, in truth, to abolish faith and the law together? as leaving no proper means, either of bringing us to faith, or of stirring up that gift of God in our soul.

6. It therefore behoves all who desire either to come to Christ, or to walk in him whom they have received, to take heed how they “make void the law through faith;” to secure us effectually against which, let us inquire, First, Which are the most usual ways of making “void the law through faith?” And, Secondly, how we may follow the Apostle, and by faith “establish the law.”

I. 1. Let us, First, inquire, Which are the most usual ways of making void the law through faith? Now the way for a Preacher to make it all void at a stroke, is, not to preach it at all. This is just the same thing as to blot it out of the oracles of God. More especially, when it is done with design; when it is made a rule, not to preach the law; and the very phrase, “a Preacher of the law,” is used as a term of reproach, as though it meant little less than an enemy of the gospel.

2. All this proceeds from the deepest ignorance of the nature, properties, and use of the law; and proves, that those who act thus, either know not Christ,—are utter strangers to living faith,—or, at least, that they are but babes in Christ, and, as such, “unskilled in the word of righteousness.”

3. Their grand plea is this: That preaching the gospel, that is, according to their judgment, the speaking of nothing but the sufferings and merits of Christ, answers all the ends of the law. But this we utterly deny. It does not answer the very first end of the law, namely, the convincing men of sin; The awakening those who are still asleep on the brink of hell. There may have been here and there an exempt case. One in a thousand may have been awakened by the gospel: But this is no general rule: The ordinary method of God is, to convict sinners by the law, and that only. The gospel is not the means which God hath ordained, or which our Lord himself used, for this end. We have no authority in Scripture for applying it thus, nor any ground to think it will prove effectual. Nor have we any more ground to expect this, from the nature of the thing. “They that be whole,” as our Lord himself observes, “need not a physician, but they that are sick.” It is absurd, therefore, to offer a physician to them that are whole, or that at least imagine themselves so to be. You are first to convince them that they are sick; otherwise they will not thank you for your labour. It is equally absurd to offer Christ to them whose heart is whole, having never yet been broken. It is, in the proper sense, “casting pearls before swine.” Doubtless “they will trample them under foot;” and it is no more than you have reason to expect, if they also “turn again and rend you.”

4. “But although there is no command in Scripture, to offer Christ to the careless sinner, yet are there not scriptural precedents for it?” I think not: I know not any. I believe you cannot produce one, either from the four Evangelists, or the Acts of the Apostles. Neither can you prove this to have been the practice of any of the Apostles, from any passage in all their writings.

5. “Nay, does not the Apostle Paul say, in his former Epistle to the Corinthians, ‘We preach Christ crucified?’ (1:23,) and in his latter, ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord?’ (4:5.)”

We consent to rest the cause on this issue; to tread in his steps, to follow his example. Only preach you just as Paul preached, and the dispute is at an end.

For although we are certain he preached Christ in as perfect a manner as the very chief of the Apostle, yet who preached the law more than St. Paul? Therefore he did not think the gospel answered the same end.

6. The very first sermon of St. Paul’s which is recorded, concludes in these words: “By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the Prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: For I work a work in your days, a work which you will in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” (Acts 13:39, 40.) Now it is manifest, all this is preaching the law, in the sense wherein you understand the term; even although great part of, if not all, his hearers, were either Jews or religious proselytes, (verse 43.) and, therefore, probably many of them, in some degree at least, convicted of sin already. He first reminds them, that they could not be justified by the law of Moses, but only by faith in Christ; and then severely threatens them with the judgments of God, which is in the strongest sense, preaching the law.

7. In his next discourse, that to the Heathens at Lystra, (14:15ff.) we do not find so much as the name of Christ: The whole purport of it is, that they should “turn from those vain idols, unto the living God.” Now confess the truth. Do not you think, if you had been there, you could have preached much better than he? I should not wonder if you thought too, that his preaching so ill occasioned his being so ill treated; and that his being stoned was a just judgment upon him for not preaching Christ!

8. To the gaoler indeed, when “he sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he immediately said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ;” (Acts 16:29, 30;) and in the case of one so deeply convicted of sin, who would not have said the same? But to the men of Athens you find him speaking in a quite different manner; reproving their superstition, ignorance, and idolatry; and strongly moving them to repent, from the consideration of a future judgment, and of the resurrection from the dead. (17:24–31.) Likewise when Felix sent for Paul, on purpose that he might “hear him concerning the faith in Christ;” instead of preaching Christ in your sense, (which would probably have caused the Governor either to mock or to contradict and blaspheme,) “he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” till Felix (hardened as he was) “trembled.” (24:24, 25.) Go thou, and tread in his steps. Preach Christ to the careless sinner, by reasoning “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come!”

9. If you say, “But he preached Christ in a different manner in his Epistles:” I answer, (1.) He did not there preach at all; not in that sense wherein we speak: For preaching, in our present question, means speaking before a congregation. But, waving this, I answer, (2.) His Epistles are directed, not to unbelievers, such as those we are now speaking of, but “to the saints of God,” in Rome, Corinth, Philippi, and other places. Now, unquestionably, he would speak more of Christ to these than to those who were without God in the world. And yet, (3.) Every one of these is full of the law, even the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians; in both of which he does what you term “preaching the law,” and that to believers, as well as unbelievers.

10. From hence it is plain, you know not what it is to preach Christ, in the sense of the Apostle. For doubtless St. Paul judged himself to be preaching Christ, both to Felix, and at Antioch, Lystra, and Athens: From whose example every thinking man must infer, that not only the declaring the love of Christ to sinners, but also the declaring that he will come from heaven in flaming fire, is, in the Apostle’s sense, preaching Christ; yea, in the full scriptural meaning of the word. To preach Christ, is to preach what he hath revealed, either in the Old or New Testament; so that you are really preaching Christ, when you are saying, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God,” as when you are saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!”

11. Consider this well;—that to preach Christ, is to preach all things that Christ hath spoken; all his promises; all his threatenings and commands; all that is written in his book; and then you will know how to preach Christ, without making void the law.

12. “But does not the greatest blessing attend those discourses wherein we peculiarly preach the merits and suffering of Christ?”

Probably when we preach to a congregation of mourners, or of believers, these will be attended with the greatest blessing; because such discourses are peculiarly suited to their state. At least, these will usually convey the most comfort. But this is not always the greatest blessing. I may sometimes receive a far greater by a discourse that cuts me to the heart, and humbles me to the dust. Neither should I receive that comfort, if I were to preach or to hear no discourses but on the sufferings of Christ. These, by constant repetition, would lose their force, and grow more and more flat and dead, till at length they would become a dull round of words, without any spirit, or life, or virtue. So that thus to preach Christ must, in process of time, make void the gospel as well as the law.

II. 1. A Second way of making void the law through faith is, the teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness. This divides itself into a thousand smaller paths, and many there are that walk therein. Indeed there are few that wholly escape it; few who are convinced, we are saved by faith, but are sooner or later, more or less, drawn aside into this by-way.

2. All those are drawn into this by-way who, if it be not settled judgment that faith in Christ entirely sets aside the necessity of keeping his law; yet suppose either sets aside the necessity of keeping his law; yet suppose either, (1.) That holiness is less necessary now than it was before Christ came; or, (2.) That a less degree of it is necessary; or, (3.) That it is less necessary to believers than to others. Yea, and so are all those who, although their judgment be right in the general, yet think they may take more liberty in particular cases than they could have done before they believed. Indeed, the using the term liberty, in such a manner, for liberty from obedience or holiness, shows at once, that their judgment is perverted, and that they are guilty of what they imagined to be far from them; namely, of making void the law through faith, by supposing faith to supersede holiness.

3. The first plea of those who teach this expressly is, that we are now under the covenant of grace, not works; and therefore we are no longer under the necessity of performing the works of the law.

And who ever was under the covenant of works? None but Adam before the fall. He was fully and properly under that covenant which required perfect, universal obedience, as the one condition of acceptance; and left no place for pardon, upon the very least transgression. But no man else was ever under this, neither Jew nor Gentile; neither before Christ nor since. All his sons were and are under the covenant of grace. The manner of their acceptance is this: The free grace of God, through the merits of Christ, gives pardon to them that believe; that believe with such a faith as, working by love, produces all obedience and holiness.

4. The case is not, therefore, as you suppose, that men were once more obliged to obey God, or to work the works of his law, than they are now. This is a supposition you cannot make good. But we should have been obliged, if we had been under the covenant of works, to have done those works antecedent to our acceptance. Whereas now all good works, though as necessary as ever, are not antecedent to our acceptance, but consequent upon it. Therefore the nature of the covenant of grace gives you no ground, no encouragement at all, to set aside any insistence or degree of obedience; any part or measure of holiness.

5. “But are we not justified by faith, without the works of the law?” Undoubtedly we are; without the works either of the ceremonial or the moral law. And would to God all men were convicted of this! It would prevent innumerable evils; Antinomianism in particular: For generally speaking, they are the Pharisees who make the Antinomians. Running into an extreme so palpably contrary to Scripture, they occasion others to run into the opposite one. These, seeking to be justified by works, affright those from allowing any place for them.

6. But the truth lies between both. We are, doubtless, justified by faith. This is the corner-stone of the whole Christian building. We are justified without the works of the law, as any previous condition of justification; but they are an immediate fruit of that faith whereby we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is nothing worth; we are yet in our sins. Therefore, that we are justified by faith, even by our faith without works, is no ground for making void the law through faith; or for imagining that faith is a dispensation from any kind or degree of holiness.

7. “Nay, but does not St. Paul expressly say, ‘Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness?’ And does it not follow from hence, that faith is to a believer in the room, in the place, of righteousness? But if faith is in the room of righteousness or holiness, what need is there of this too?”

This, it must be acknowledged, comes home to the point, and is, indeed, the main pillar of Antinomianism. And yet it needs not a long or laboured answer. We allow, (1.) That God justifies the ungodly; him that, till that hour, is totally ungodly;—full of all evil, void of all good: (2.) That he justifies the ungodly that worketh not; that, till that moment, worketh no good work;—neither can he; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit: (3.) That he justifies him by faith alone, without any goodness or righteousness preceding: And, (4.) That faith is then counted to him for righteousness; namely, for preceding righteousness; that is, God, through the merits of Christ, accepts him that believes, as if he had already fulfilled all righteousness. But what is all this to your point? The Apostle does not say, either here or elsewhere, that this faith is counted to him for subsequent righteousness. He does teach that there is no righteousness before faith; but where does he teach that there is none after it? He does assert, holiness cannot precede justification; but not, that it need not follow it. St. Paul, therefore, gives you no colour for making void the law, by teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness.

III. 1. There is yet another way of making void the law through faith, which is more common than either of the former. And that is, the doing it practically; the making it void in fact, though not in principle; the living as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness.

How earnestly does the Apostle guard us against this, in those well-known words: “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid:” (Rom. 6:15:) A caution which it is needful thoroughly to consider, because it is of the last importance.

2. The being “under the law,” may here mean, (1.) The being obliged to observe the ceremonial law: (2.) The being obliged to conform to the whole Mosaic institution: (3.) The being obliged to keep the whole moral law, as the condition of our acceptance with God: And, (4.) The being under the wrath and curse of God; under sentence of eternal death; under a sense of guilt and condemnation, full of horror and slavish fear.

3. Now although a believer is “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,” yet from the moment he believes, he is not “under the law,” in any of the preceding senses. On the contrary, he is “under grace,” under a more benign, gracious dispensation. As he is no longer under the ceremonial law, nor under the Mosaic institution; as he is not obliged to keep even the moral law, as the condition of his acceptance; so he is delivered from the wrath and the curse of God, from all sense of guilt and condemnation, and from all that horror and fear of death and hell whereby he was all his life before subject to bondage. And he now performs (which while “under the law” he could not do) a willing and universal obedience. He obeys not from the motive of slavish fear, but on a nobler principle; namely, the grace of God ruling in his heart, and causing all his works to be wrought in love.

4. What then? Shall this evangelical principle of action be less powerful that the legal? Shall we be less obedient to God from filial love than we were from servile fear?

It is well if this is not a common case; if this practical Antinomianism, this unobserved way of making void the law through faith, has not infected thousands of believers.

Has it not infected you? Examine yourself honestly and closely. Do you not do now what you durst not have done when you was “under the law,” or (as we commonly call it) under conviction? For instance: You durst not then indulge yourself in food: You took just what was needful, and that of the cheapest kind. Do you not allow yourself more latitude now? Do you not indulge yourself a little more than you did? O beware lest you “sin because you are not under the law, but under grace!”

5. When you was under conviction, you durst not indulge the lust of the eye in any degree. You would not do anything, great or small, merely to gratify your curiosity. You regarded only cleanliness and necessity, or at most very moderate convenience, either in furniture or apparel; superfluity and finery of whatever kind, as well as fashionable elegance, were both a terror and an abomination to you.

Are they so still? Is your conscience as tender now in these things as it was then? Do you still follow the same rule both in furniture and apparel, trampling all finer, all superfluity, every thing useless, every thing merely ornamental, however fashionable, underfoot? Rather, have you not resumed what you had once laid aside, and what you could not then use without wounding you conscience? And have you not learned to say, “O, I am not so scrupulous now?” I would to God you were! Then you would not sin thus, “because you are not under the law, but under grace!”

6. You was once scrupulous too of commending any to their face; and still more, of suffering any to commend you. It was a stab to your heart; you could not bear it; you sought the honour that cometh of God only. You could not endure such conversation; nor any conversation which was not good to the use of edifying. All idle talk, all trifling discourse, you abhorred; you hated as well as feared it; being deeply sensible of the value of time, of every precious, fleeting moment. In like manner, you dreaded and abhorred idle expense; valuing your money only less than your time, and trembling lest you should be found an unfaithful steward even of the mammon of unrighteousness.

Do you now look upon praise as deadly poison, which you can neither give nor receive but at the peril of your soul? Do you still dread and abhor all conversation which does not tend to the use of edifying; and labour to improve every moment, that it may not pass without leaving you better than it found you? Are not you less careful as to the expense both of money and time? Cannot you now lay out either, as you could not have done once? Alas! how has that “which should have been for your health, proved to you an occasion of falling!” How have you “sinned because you was not under the law, but under grace!”

7. God forbid you should any longer continue thus to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness!” O remember how clear and strong a conviction you once had concerning all these things! And, at the same time, you was fully satisfied from whom that conviction came. The world told you, you was in a delusion; but you knew it was the voice of God. In these things you was not too scrupulous then; but you are not now scrupulous enough. God kept you longer in that painful school, that you might learn those great lessons the more perfectly. And have you forgot them already? O recollect them before it is too late! Have you suffered so many things in vain? I trust, it is not yet in vain. Now use the conviction without the pain! Practice the lesson without the rod! Let not the mercy of God weigh less with you now, than his fiery indignation did before. Is love a less powerful motive than fear? If not, let it be an invariable rule, “I will do nothing now I am ‘under grace,’ which I durst not have done when ‘under the law.’ ”

8. I cannot conclude this head without exhorting you to examine yourself, likewise, touching sins of omission. Are you as clear of these, now you “are under grace,” as you was when “under the law?” How diligent was you then in hearing the word of God! Did you neglect any opportunity? Did you not attend thereon day and night? Would a small hinderance have kept you away? a little business? a visitant? a slight indisposition? a soft bed? a dark or cold morning?—Did not you then fast often; or use abstinence to the uttermost of your power? Was not you much in prayer, (cold and heavy as you was,) while you was hanging over the mouth of hell? Did you not speak and not spare even for and unknown God? Did you not boldly plead his cause?—reprove sinners?—and avow the truth before an adulterous generation? And are you now a believer in Christ? Have you the faith that overcometh the world? What! and are less zealous for your Master now, than you was when you knew him not? less diligent in fasting, in prayer, in hearing his word, in calling sinners to God? O repent! See and feel your grievous loss! Remember from whence you are fallen! Bewail your unfaithfulness! Now be zealous and do the first works; lest, if you continue to “make void the law through faith,” God cut you off, and appoint you your portion with the unbelievers!




“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.”

Rom. 3:31.

1. It has been shown in the preceding discourse, which are the most usual ways of making void the law through faith; namely, First, the not preaching it at all; which effectually makes it all void a stroke; and this under colour of preaching Christ and magnifying the gospel though it be, in truth, destroying both the one and the other: Secondly, the teaching (whether directly or directly,) that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness; that this less necessary now, or a less degree of it necessary, than before Christ came; that it is less necessary to us, because we believe, than otherwise it would have been; or, that Christian liberty is a liberty from any kind or degree of holiness: (So perverting those great truths, that we are now under the covenant of grace, and not of works; that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law; and that “to him that worketh not, but believeth, his faith is counted for righteousness:”) Or, Thirdly, the doing this practically; the making void the law in practice, though not in principle; the living or acting as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness; the allowing ourselves in sin, “because we are not under the law, but under grace.” It remains to inquire how we may follow a better pattern, how we may be able to say, with the Apostle, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law.”

2. We do not, indeed, establish the old ceremonial law; we know that is abolished for ever. Much less do we establish the whole Mosaic dispensation; this we know our Lord has nailed to his cross. Nor yet do we so establish the moral law, (which, it is to be feared too many do,) as if the fulfilling it, the keeping all the commandments, were the condition of our justification: If it were so, surely “in His sight should no man living be justified.” But all this being allowed, we still, in the Apostle’s sense, “establish the law,” the moral law.

I. 1. We establish the law, First, by our doctrine; by endeavouring to preach it in its whole extent, to explain and enforce every part of it, in the same manner as our great Teacher did while upon earth. We establish it by following St. Peter’s advice: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;” as the holy men of old, moved by the Holy Ghost, spoke and wrote for our instruction; and as the Apostles of our blessed Lord, by the direction of the same Spirit. We establish it whenever we speak in his name, by keeping back nothing from them that hear; by declaring to them, without any limitation or reserve, the whole counsel of God. And in order the more effectually to establish it, we use herein great plainness of speech. “We are not as many that corrupt the word of God;”—kapEleuontes_, (as artful men their bad wines;) we do not cauponize, mix, adulterate, or soften it, to make it suit the taste of the hearers:—”But as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ;” as having no other aim, than “by manifestation of the truth to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

2. We then, by our doctrine, establish the law, when we thus openly declare it to all men; and that in the fullness wherein it is delivered by our blessed Lord and his Apostles; when we publish it in the height, and depth, and length, and breadth thereof. We then establish the law, when we declare every part of it, every commandment contained therein, not only in its full, literal sense, but likewise in its spiritual meaning; not only with regard to the outward actions, which it either forbids or enjoins, but also with respect to the inward principle, to the thoughts, desires, and intents of the heart.

3. And indeed this we do the more diligently, not only because it is of the deepest importance;—inasmuch as all the fruit, every word and work, must be only evil continually, if the tree be evil, if the dispositions and tempers of the heart be not right before God;—but likewise because as important as these things are, they are little considered or understood,—so little, that we may truly say of the law, too, when taken in its full spiritual meaning, it is “a mystery which was hid from ages and generations since the world began.” It was utterly hid from the heathen world. They, with all their boasted wisdom, neither found out God, nor the law of God; not in the letter, much less in the spirit of it. “Their foolish hearts were” more and more “darkened;” while “professing themselves wise, they became fools.” And it was almost equally hid, as to its spiritual meaning, from the bulk of the Jewish nation. Even these, who were so ready to declare concerning others, “this people that know not the law are cursed,” pronounced their own sentence therein, as being under the same curse, the same dreadful ignorance. Witness our Lord’s continual reproof of the wisest among them for their gross misinterpretations of it. Witness the supposition almost universally received among them, that they needed only to make clean the outside of the cup; that the paying tithe of mint, anise, and cummin,—outward exactness,—would atone for inward unholiness, for the total neglect both of justice and mercy, of faith and the love of God. Yea, so absolutely was the spiritual meaning of the law hidden from the wisest of them, that one of their most eminent Rabbis comments thus on those words of the Psalmist, “If I incline unto iniquity with my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” “That is,” saith he, “if it be only in my heart, if I do not commit outward wickedness, the Lord will not regard it; he will not punish me unless I proceed to the outward act!”

4. But alas! the law of God, as to its inward, spiritual meaning, is not hid from the Jews or heathens only, but even from what is called the Christian world; at least, from a vast majority of them. The spiritual sense of the commandments of God is still a mystery to these also. Nor is this observable only in those lands which are overspread with Romish darkness and ignorance. But this is too sure, that the far greater part, even of those who are called Reformed Christians are utter strangers at this day to the law of Christ, in the purity and spirituality of it.

5. Hence it is that to this day, ” ‘the Scribes and Pharisees,” the men who have the form but not the power of religion, and who are generally wise in their own eyes, and righteous in their own conceits,—”hearing these things, are offended;” are deeply offended, when we speak of the religion of the heart; and particularly when we show, that without this, were we to “give all our goods to feed the poor,” it would profit us nothing. But offended they must be; for we cannot but speak the truth as it is in Jesus. It is our part, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, to deliver our own soul. All that is written in the book of God we are to declare, not as pleasing men, but the Lord. We are to declare, not only all the promises, but all the threatenings, too, which we find therein. At the same time that we proclaim all the blessings and privileges which God hath prepared for his children, we are likewise to “teach all the things whatsoever he hath commanded.” And we know that all these have their use; either for the awakening those that sleep, the instructing the ignorant, the comforting the feeble-minded, or the building up and perfecting of the saints. We know that “all Scripture, given by inspiration of God is profitable,” either “for doctrine,” or “for reproof,” either “for correction or for instruction in righteousness;” and “that the man of God,” in the process of the work of God in his soul, has need of every part thereof, that he may at length “be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

6. It is our part thus to preach Christ, by preaching all things whatsoever he hath revealed. We may indeed, without blame, yea, and with a peculiar blessing from God, declare the love of our Lord Jesus Christ; we may speak, in a more especial manner, of “the Lord our righteousness.” We may expatiate upon the grace of God in Christ, “reconciling the world unto himself;” we may, at proper opportunities, dwell upon his praise, as “bearing the iniquities of us all, as wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, that by his stripes we might be healed:”—But still we should not preach Christ, according to his word, if we were wholly to confine ourselves to this: We are not ourselves clear before God, unless we proclaim him in all his offices. To preach Christ, as a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, is to preach him, not only as our great High Priest, “taken from among men, and ordained for men, in things pertaining to God;” as such, “reconciling us to God by his blood,” and “ever living to make intercession for us;”—but likewise as the Prophet of the Lord, “who of God is made unto us wisdom,” who, by his word and his Spirit, is with us always, “guiding us into all truth;”—yea, and as remaining a King for ever; as giving laws to all whom he has bought with his blood; as restoring those to the image of God, whom he had first re-instated in his favour; as reigning in all believing hearts until he has “subdued all things to himself,”—until he hath utterly cast out all sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness.

II. 1. We establish the law, Secondly, when we so preach faith in Christ as not to supersede, but produce holiness; to produce all manner of holiness, negative and positive, of the heart and of the life.

In order to this, we continually declare, (what should be frequently and deeply considered by all “who would not make void the law through faith,”) that faith itself, even Christian faith, the faith of God’s elect, the faith of the operation of God, still is only the handmaid of love. As glorious and honourable as it is, it is not the end of the commandment. God hath given this honour to love alone: Love is the end of all the commandments of God. Love is the end, the sole end, of every dispensation of God, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things. And it will endure when heaven and earth flee away; for “love” alone “never faileth.” Faith will totally fail; it will be swallowed up in sight, in the everlasting vision of God. But even then love,—

Its nature and its office still the same,

Lasting its lamp and unconsumed its flame,—

In deathless triumph shall for ever live,

And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive.

2. Very excellent things are spoken of faith, and whosoever is a partaker thereof may well say with the Apostle, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” Yet still it loses all its excellence when brought into a comparison with love. What St. Paul observes concerning the superior glory of the gospel above that of the law may with great propriety be spoken of the superior glory of love above that of faith: “Even that which was made glorious hath no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away is glorious, much more doth that which remaineth exceed in glory” Yea, all the glory of faith, before it is done away, arises hence, that it ministers to love: It is the great temporary means which God has ordained to promote that eternal end.

3. Let those who magnify faith beyond all proportion, so as to swallow up all things else, and who so totally misapprehend the nature of it as to imagine it stands in the place of love, consider farther, that as love will exist after faith, so it did exist long before it. The angels who, from the moment of their creation, beheld the face of their Father that is in heaven, had no occasion for faith, in its general notion, as it is the evidence of things not seen. Neither had they need of faith in its more particular acceptation, faith in the blood of Jesus: for he took not upon him the nature of angels, but only the seed of Abraham. There was therefore no place before the foundation of the world for faith either in the general or particular sense. But there was for love. Love existed from eternity, in God, the great ocean of love. Love had a place in all the children of God, from the moment of their creation. They received at once from their gracious Creator to exist, and to love.

4. Nor is it certain (as ingeniously and plausibly as many have descanted upon this) that faith, even in the general sense of the word, had any place in paradise. It is highly probable, from that short and uncircumstantial account which we have in Holy Writ, that Adam, before he rebelled against God, walked with him by sight and not by faith.

For then his reason’s eye was strong and clear,

And (as an eagle can behold the sun)

Might have beheld his Maker’s face as near,

As the’ intellectual angels could have done.

He was then able to talk with him face to face, whose face we cannot now see and live; and consequently had no need of that faith whose office it is to supply the want of sight.

5. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain, faith, in its particular sense, had then no place. For in that sense it necessarily presupposes sin, and the wrath of God declared against the sinner; without which there is no need of an atonement for sin in order to the sinner’s reconciliation with God. Consequently, as there was no need of an atonement before the fall, so there was no place for faith in that atonement; man being then pure from every stain of sin; holy as God is holy. But love even then filled his heart; it reigned in him without rival; and it was only when love was lost by sin, that faith was added, not for its own sake, nor with any design that it should exist any longer than until it had answered the end for which it was ordained,—namely, to restore man to the love from which he was fallen. At the fall, therefore, was added this evidence of things unseen, which before was utterly needless; this confidence in redeeming love, which could not possibly have any place till the promise was made, that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.”

6. Faith, then, was originally designed of God to re-establish the law of love. Therefore, in speaking thus, we are not undervaluing it, or robbing it of its due praise; but on the contrary showing its real worth, exalting it in its just proportion, and giving it that very place which the wisdom of God assigned it from the beginning. It is the grand means of restoring that holy love wherein man was originally created. It follows, that although faith is of no value in itself, (as neither is any other means whatsoever,) yet as it leads to that end, the establishing anew the law of love in our hearts; and as, in the present state of things, it is the only means under heaven for effecting it; it is on that account an unspeakable blessing to man, and of unspeakable value before God.

III. 1. And this naturally brings us to observe, Thirdly, the most important way of establishing the law; namely, the establishing it in our own hearts and lives. Indeed, without this, what would all the rest avail? We might establish it by our doctrine; we might preach it in its whole extent; might explain and enforce every part of it. We might open it in its most spiritual meaning, and declare the mysteries of the kingdom; we might preach Christ in all his offices, and faith in Christ as opening all the treasures of his love; and yet, all this time, if the law we preached were not established in our hearts, we should be of no more account before God than “sounding brass, or tinkling cymbals:” All our preaching would be so far from profiting ourselves, that it would only increase our damnation.

2. This is, therefore, the main point to be considered, How may we establish the law in our own hearts so that it may have its full influence on our lives? And this can only be done by faith.

Faith alone it is which effectually answers this end, as we learn from daily experience. For so long as we walk by faith, not by sight, we go swiftly on in the way of holiness. While we steadily look, not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen, we are more and more crucified to the world and the world crucified to us. Let but the eye of the soul be constantly fixed, not on the things which are temporal, but on those which are eternal, and our affections are more and more loosened from earth, and fixed on things above. So that faith, in general, is the most direct and effectual means of promoting all righteousness and true holiness; of establishing the holy and spiritual law in the hearts of them that believe.

3. And by faith, taken in its more particular meaning, for a confidence in a pardoning God, we establish his law in our own hearts in a still more effectual manner. For there is no motive which so powerfully inclines us to love God, as the sense of the love of God in Christ. Nothing enables us like a piercing conviction of this to give our hearts to him who was given for us. And from this principle of grateful love to God arises love to our brother also. Neither can we avoid loving our neighbour, if we truly believe the love wherewith God hath loved us. Now this love to man, grounded on faith and love to God, “worketh no ill to” our “neighbour.” Consequently, it is, as the Apostle observes,”the fulfilling of the” whole negative “law.” “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness; Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbour. It continually incites us to do good, as we have time and opportunity; to do good, in every possible kind, and in every possible degree, to all men. It is therefore, the fulfilling of the positive, likewise, as well as of the negative, law of God.

4. Nor does faith fulfil either the negative or positive law, as to the external part only; but it works inwardly by love, to the purifying of the heart, the cleansing it from all vile affections. Everyone that hath this faith in himself, “purifieth himself, even as he is pure;”—purifieth himself from every earthly, sensual desire, from all vile and inordinate affections; yea, from the whole of that carnal mind which is enmity against God. At the same time, if it have its perfect work, it fills him with all goodness, righteousness, and truth. It brings all heaven into his soul; and causes him to walk in the light, even as God is in the light.

5. Let us thus endeavour to establish the law in ourselves; not sinning “because we are under grace,” but rather using all the power we receive thereby, “to fulfil all righteousness.” Calling to mind what light we received from God while his Spirit was convincing us of sin, let us beware we do not put out that light; what we had then attained let us hold fast. Let nothing induce us to build again what we have destroyed; to resume anything, small or great, which we then clearly saw was not for the glory of God, or the profit of our own soul; or to neglect anything, small or great, which we could not then neglect, without a check from our own conscience. To increase and perfect the light which we had before, let us now add the light of faith. Confirm we the former gift of God by a deeper sense of whatever he had then shown us, by a greater tenderness of conscience, and a more exquisite sensibility of sin. Walking now with joy, and not with fear, in a clear, steady sight of things eternal, we shall look on pleasure, wealth, praise-all the things of earth, as on bubbles upon the water; counting nothing important, nothing desirable, nothing worth a deliberate thought, but only what is “within the veil,” where Jesus “sitteth at the right hand of God.”

6. Can you say, “Thou art merciful to my unrighteousness; my sins thou rememberest no more?” Then for the time to come see that you fly from sin, as from the face of a serpent! For how exceeding sinful does it appear to you now! How heinous above all expression! On the other hand, in how amiable a light do you now see the holy and perfect will of God! Now, therefore, labour that it may be fulfilled, both in you, by you, and upon you! Now watch and pray that you may sin no more, that you may see and shun the least transgression of his law! You see the motes which you could not see before, when the sun shines into a dark place. In like manner you see the sins which you could not see before, now the Sun of Righteousness shines in your heart. Now, then, do all diligence to walk, in every respect, according to the light you have received! Now be zealous to receive more light daily, more of the knowledge and love of God, more of the Spirit of Christ, more of his life, and of the power of his resurrection! Now use all the knowledge, and love, and life, and power you have already attained: So shall you continually go on from faith to faith; so shall you daily increase in holy love, till faith is swallowed up in sight, and the law of love established to all eternity!



“And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself.”

Acts 26:24.

1. And so say all the world, the men who know not God, of all that are of Paul’s religion: of every one who is so a follower of him as he was of Christ. It is true, there is a sort of religion, nay, and it is called Christianity too, which may be practised without any such Imputation, which is generally allowed to be consistent with common sense,—that is, a religion of form, a round of outward duties, performed in a decent, regular manner. You may add orthodoxy thereto, a system of right opinions, yea, and some quantity of heathen morality; and yet not many will pronounce, that “much religion hath made you mad.” But if you aim at the religion of the heart, if you talk of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” then it will not be long before your sentence is passed, “Thou art beside thyself.”

2. And it is no compliment which the men of the world pay you here. They, for once, mean what they say. They not only affirm, but cordially believe, that every man is beside himself who says, “the love of God is shed abroad in” his “heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” and that God has enabled him to rejoice in Christ “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” If a man is indeed alive to God, and dead to all things here below; if he continually sees Him that is invisible, and accordingly walks by faith, and not by sight; then they account it a clear case: beyond all dispute, “much religion hath made him mad.”

3. It is easy to observe, that the determinate thing which the world account madness is, that utter contempt of all temporal things, and steady pursuit of things eternal; that divine conviction of things not seen; that rejoicing in the favour of God that happy, holy love of God; and that testimony of His Spirit with our spirit, that we are the children of God,—that is, in truth, the whole spirit, and life, and power of the religion of Jesus Christ.

4. They will, however, allow, in other respects, the man acts and talks like one in his senses. In other things, he is a reasonable man, it is in these instances only his head is touched. It is therefore acknowledged, that the madness under which he labours is of a particular kind; and accordingly they are accustomed to distinguish it by a particular name, “enthusiasm.”

5. A term this, which is exceeding frequently used, which is scarce ever out of some men’s mouths; and yet it is exceeding rarely understood, even by those who use it most. It may be, therefore, not unacceptable to serious men, to all who desire to understand what they speak or hear, if I endeavour to explain the meaning of this term—to show what enthusiasm is. It may be an encouragement to those who are unjustly charged therewith; and may possibly be of use to some who are justly charged with it; at least to others who might be so, were they not cautioned against it.

6. As to the word itself, it is generally allowed to be of Greek extraction. But whence the Greek word, enthousiasmos, is derived, none has yet been able to show. Some have endeavoured to derive it from en theoi, in God; because all enthusiasm has reference to him. But this is quite forced; there being small resemblance between the word derived, and those they strive to derive it from. others would derive it from en thysiai,—in sacrifice; because many of the enthusiasts of old were affected in the most violent manner during the time of sacrifice. Perhaps it is a fictitious word, invented from the noise which some of those made who were so affected.

7. It is not improbable, that one reason why this uncouth word has been retained in so many languages was, because men were not better agreed concerning the meaning than concerning the derivation of it. They therefore adopted the Greek word, because they did not understand it: they did not translate it into their own tongues, because they knew not how to translate it; it having been always a word of a loose, uncertain sense, to which no determinate meaning was affixed.

8. It is not, therefore, at all surprising, that it is so variously taken at this day; different persons understanding it in different senses, quite inconsistent with each other. Some take it in a good sense, for a divine impulse or impression, superior to all the natural faculties, and suspending, for the time, either in whole or in part, both the reason and the outward senses. In this meaning of the word, both the Prophets of old, and the Apostles, were proper enthusiasts; being, at divers times, so filled with the Spirit, and so influenced by Him who dwelt in their hearts, that the exercise of their own reason, their senses, and all their natural faculties, being suspended, they were wholly actuated by the power of God, and “spake” only “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

9. Others take the word in an indifferent sense, such as is neither morally good nor evil: thus they speak of the enthusiasm of the poets; of Homer and Virgil in particular. And this a late eminent writer extends so far as to assert, there is no man excellent in his profession, whatsoever it be, who has not in his temper a strong tincture of enthusiasm. By enthusiasm these appear to understand, all uncommon vigour of thought, a peculiar fervour of spirit, a vivacity and strength not to be found in common men; elevating the soul to greater and higher things than cool reason could have attained.

10. But neither of these is the sense wherein the word “enthusiasm” is most usually understood. The generality of men, if no farther agreed, at least agree thus far concerning it, that it is something evil: and this is plainly the sentiment of all those who call the religion of the heart “enthusiasm.” Accordingly, I shall take it in the following pages, as an evil; a misfortune, if not a fault.

11. As to the nature of enthusiasm, it is, undoubtedly a disorder of the mind; and such a disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason. Nay, sometimes it wholly sets it aside: it not only dims but shuts the eyes of the understanding. It may, therefore, well be accounted a species of madness; of madness rather than of folly: seeing a fool is properly one who draws wrong conclusions from right premisses; whereas a madman draws right conclusions, but from wrong premisses. And so does an enthusiast suppose his premisses true, and his conclusions would necessarily follow. But here lies his mistake: his premisses are false. He imagines himself to be what he is not: and therefore, setting out wrong, the farther he goes, the more he wanders out of the way.

12. Every enthusiast, then, is properly a madman. Yet his is not an ordinary, but a religious, madness. By “religious,” I do not mean, that it is any part of religion: quite the reverse. Religion is the spirit of a sound mind; and, consequently, stands in direct opposition to madness of every kind. But I mean, it has religion for its object; it is conversant about religion. And so the enthusiast is generally talking of religion, of God, or of the things of God, but talking in such a manner that every reasonable Christian may discern the disorder of his mind. Enthusiasm in general may then be described in some such manner as this: a religious madness arising from some falsely imagined influence or inspiration of God; at least, from imputing something to God which ought not to be imputed to Him, or expecting something from God which ought not to be expected from Him.

13. There are innumerable sorts of enthusiasm. Those which are most common, and for that reason most dangerous, I shall endeavour to reduce under a few general heads, that they may be more easily understood and avoided.

The first sort of enthusiasm which I shall mention, is that of those who imagine they have the grace which they have not. Thus some imagine, when it is not so, that they have redemption through Christ, “even the forgiveness of sins.” These are usually such as “have no root in themselves;” no deep repentance, or thorough conviction. “Therefore they receive the word with joy.” And “because they have no deepness of earth,” no deep work in their heart, therefore the seed “immediately springs up.” There is immediately a superficial change, which, together with that light joy, striking in with the pride of their unbroken heart, and with their inordinate self-love, easily persuades them they have already “tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.”

14. This is properly an instance of the first sort of enthusiasm: it is a kind of madness, arising from the imagination that they have that grace which, in truth, they have not: so that they only deceive their own souls. Madness it may be justly termed: for the reasonings of these poor men are right, were their premisses good; but as those are a mere creature of their own imagination, so all that is built on them falls to the ground. The foundation of all their reveries is this: they imagine themselves to have faith in Christ. If they had this, they would be “kings and priests to God;” possessed of a “kingdom which cannot be moved”: but they have it not; consequently, all their following behaviour is as wide of truth and soberness as that of the ordinary madman who, fancying himself an earthly king, speaks and acts in that character.

15. There are many other enthusiasts of this sort. Such, for instance, is the fiery zealot for religion; or, more properly, for the opinions and modes of worship which he dignifies with that name. This man, also, strongly imagines himself to be a believer in Jesus; yea, that he is a champion for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Accordingly, all his conduct is formed upon that vain imagination. And allowing his supposition to be just, he would have some tolerable plea for his behaviour; whereas now it is evidently the effect of a distempered brain, as well as of a distempered heart.

16. But the most common of all the enthusiasts of this kind are those who imagine themselves Christians, and are not. These abound, not only in all parts of our land, but in most parts of the habitable earth. That they are not Christians, is clear and undeniable, if we believe the oracles of God. For Christians are holy; these are unholy: Christians love God; these love the world: Christians are humble; these are proud: Christians are gentle; these are passionate; Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are at the utmost distance from it. Consequently, they are no more Christians, than they are archangels. Yet they imagine themselves so to be; and they can give several reasons for it: for they have been called so ever since they can remember; they were christened many years ago; they embrace the Christian opinions, vulgarly termed the Christian or catholic faith; they use the Christian modes of worship, as their fathers did before them; they live what is called a good Christian life, as the rest of their neighbours do. And who shall presume to think or say that these men are not Christians?—though without one grain of true faith in Christ, or of real, inward holiness; without ever having tasted the love of God, or been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost!”

17. Ah poor self-deceivers! Christians ye are not. But you are enthusiasts in a high degree. Physicians, heal yourselves! But first know your disease: your whole life is enthusiasm; as being all suitable to the imagination, that you have received that grace of God which you have not. In consequence of this grand mistake, you blunder on, day by day, speaking and acting under a character which does in no wise belong to you. Hence arises that palpable, glaring inconsistency that runs through your whole behaviour; which is an awkward mixture of real Heathenism and imaginary Christianity. Yet still, as you have so vast a majority on your side, you will always carry it by mere dint of numbers, “that you are the only men in your senses, and all are lunatics who are not as you are.” But this alters not the nature of things. In the sight of God, and His holy angels, yea, and all the children of God upon earth, you are mere madmen, mere enthusiasts all! Are you not? Are you not “walking in a vain shadow, a shadow of religion, a shadow of happiness? Are you not still “disquieting yourselves in vain” with misfortunes as imaginary as your happiness or religion? Do you not fancy yourselves great or good—very knowing and very wise? How long? Perhaps till death brings you back to your senses, to bewail your folly for ever and ever!

18. A second sort of enthusiasm is that of those who imagine they have such gifts from God as they have not. Thus some have imagined themselves to be endued with a power of working miracles, of healing the sick by a word or a touch, of restoring sight to the blind: yea, even of raising the dead—a notorious instance of which is still fresh un our own history. Others have undertaken to prophesy, to foretell things to come, and that with the utmost certainty and exactness. But a little time usually convinces these enthusiasts. When plain facts run counter to their predictions, experience performs what reason could not, and sinks them down into their senses.

19. To the same class belong those who, in preaching or prayer, imagine themselves to be so influenced by the Spirit of God, as, in fact, they are not. I am sensible, indeed, that without Him we can do nothing, more especially in our public ministry; that all our preaching is utterly vain, unless it be attended with His power; and all our prayer, unless His Spirit therein help our infirmities. I know, if we do not both preach and pray by the Spirit, it is all but lost labour; seeing the help that is done upon earth He doeth it Himself, who worketh all in all. But this does not affect the case before us. Though there is a real influence of the Spirit of God, there is also an imaginary one: and many there are who mistake the one for the other. Many suppose themselves to be under that influence, when they are not, when it is far from them. And many others suppose they are more under that influence than they really are. Of this number, I fear, are all they who imagine that God dictates the very words they speak; and that, consequently, it is impossible they should speak anything amiss, either as to the matter or manner of it. It is well known how many enthusiasts of this sort also have appeared during the present century; some of whom speak in a far more authoritative manner than either St. Paul or any of the Apostles.

20. The same sort of enthusiasm, though in a lower degree, is frequently found in men of a private character. They may likewise imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit when they are not. I allow, “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His;” and that if ever we either think, speak, or act aright, it is through the assistance of that blessed Spirit. But how many impute things to Him, or expect things from Him, without any rational or scriptural ground! Such are they who imagine, they either do or shall receive particular directions from God, not only in points of importance, but in things of no moment; in the most trifling circumstances of life. Whereas in these cases God has given us our own reason for a guide; though never excluding the secret assistance of His Spirit.

21. To this kind of enthusiasm they are peculiarly exposed, who expect to be directed of God, either in spiritual things or in common life, in what is justly called an extraordinary manner: I mean, by visions or dreams, by strong impressions or sudden impulses on the mind. I do not deny, that God has, of old times, manifested His will in this manner; or, that He can do so now: nay, I believe He does, in some very rare instances. But how frequently do men mistake herein! How are they misled by pride, and a warm imagination, to ascribe such impulses or impressions, dreams or visions, to God, as are utterly unworthy of Him! Now this is all pure enthusiasm; all as wide of religion, as it is of truth and soberness.

22. Perhaps some may ask, “Ought we not then to inquire what is the will of God in all things? And ought not His will to be the rule of our practice?” Unquestionably it ought. But how is a sober Christian to make this inquiry? to know what is the will of God? Not by waiting for supernatural dreams; not by expecting God to reveal it in visions; not by looking for any particular impressions or sudden impulses on his mind: no; but by consulting the oracles of God. “To the law and to the testimony!” This is the general method of knowing what is “the holy and acceptable will of God.”

23. “But how shall I know what is the will of God, in such and such a particular case? The thing proposed is, in itself, of an indifferent nature, and so left undetermined in Scripture.” I answer, the Scripture itself gives you a general rule. applicable to all particular cases: “The will of God is our sanctification.” It is His will that we should be inwardly and outwardly holy; that we should be good, and do good, in every kind and in the highest degree whereof we are capable. Thus far we tread upon firm ground. This is as clear as the shining of the sun. In order, therefore, to know what is the will of God in a particular case, we have only to apply this general rule.

24. Suppose, for instance, it were proposed to a reasonable man to marry, or to enter into a new business: in order to know whether this is the will of God, being assured, “It is the will of God concerning me, that I should be as holy and do as much good as I can,” he has only to enquire, “In which of these states can I be most holy, and do the most good?” And this is to be determined, partly by reason, and partly by experience. Experience tells him what advantages he has in his present state, either for being or doing good; and reason is to show, what he certainly or probably will have in the state proposed. By comparing these, he is to judge which of the two may most conduce to his being and doing good; and as far as he knows this, so far he is certain what is the will of God.

25. Meantime, the assistance of His Spirit is supposed, during the whole process of the inquiry. Indeed it is not easy to say, in how many ways that assistance is conveyed. He may bring many circumstances to our remembrance; may place others in a stronger and clearer light; may insensibly open our mind to receive conviction, and fix that conviction upon our heart. And to a concurrence of many circumstances of this kind, in favour of what is acceptable in His sight, He may superadd such an unutterable peace of mind, and so uncommon a measure of His love, as will leave us no possibility of doubting, that this, even this, is His will concerning us.

26. This is the plain, scriptural, rational way to know what is the will of God in a particular case. But considering how seldom this way is taken, and what a flood of enthusiasm must needs break in on those who endeavour to know the will of God by unscriptural, irrational ways; it were to be wished that the expression itself were far more sparingly used. The using it, as some do, on the most trivial occasions, is a plain breach of the third commandment. It is a gross way of taking the name of God in vain, and betrays great irreverence toward Him. Would it not be far better, then, to use other expressions, which are not liable to such objections? For example: instead of saying, on any particular occasion, “I want to know what is the will of God;” would it not be better to say, “I want to know what will be most for my improvement; and what will make me most useful?” this way of speaking is clear and unexceptionable: it is putting the matter on a plain, scriptural issue, and that without any danger of enthusiasm.

27. A Third very common sort of enthusiasm (if it does not coincide with the former) is that of those who think to attain the end without using the means, by the immediate power of God. If, indeed, those means were providentially withheld, they would not fall under this charge. God can, and sometimes does, in cases of this nature, exert His own immediate power. But they who expect this when they have those means, and will not use them, are proper enthusiasts. Such are they who expect to understand the holy Scriptures, without reading them, and meditating thereon; yea, without using all such helps as are in their power, and may probably conduce to that end. Such are they who designedly speak in the public assembly without any premeditation. I say “designedly;” because there may be such circumstances as, at some times, make it unavoidable. But whoever despises that great means of speaking profitably is so far an enthusiast.

28. It may be expected that I should mention what some have accounted a Fourth sort of enthusiasm, namely, the imagining those things to be owing to the providence of God which are not owing thereto. But I doubt: I know not what things they are which are not owing to the providence of God; in ordering, or at least in governing, of which, this is not either directly or remotely concerned. I except nothing but sin; and even in the sins of others, I see the providence of God to me. I do not say His general providence; for this I take to be a sounding word. which means just nothing. And if there be a particular providence, it must extend to all persons and all things. So our Lord understood it, or He could never have said, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered;” and, “Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without” the will of “your Father” which is in heaven. But if it be so, if God preside universis tanquam singulis, et singulis tanquam universis; “over the whole universe as over every single person, and over every single person as over the whole universe;” what is it (except only our own sins) which we are not to ascribe to the providence of God? So that I cannot apprehend there is any room here for the charge of enthusiasm.

29. If it be said, the charge lies here: “When you impute this to Providence, you imagine yourself the peculiar favourite of heaven”: I answer, you have forgot some of the last words I spoke: Praesidet universis tanquam singulis: “His providence is over all men in the universe, as much as over any single person.” Do you not see that he who, believing this, imputes anything which befalls him to Providence, does not therein make himself any more the favourite of heaven, than he supposes every man under heaven to be? Therefore you have no pretence, upon this ground, to charge him with enthusiasm.

30. Against every sort of this it behoves us to guard with the utmost diligence; considering the dreadful effects it has so often produced, and which, indeed, naturally result from it. Its immediate offspring is pride; it continually increases this source from whence it flows; and hereby it alienates us more and more from the favour and from the life of God. It dries up the very springs of faith and love, of righteousness and true holiness; seeing all these flow from grace: but “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace” only “to the humble.”

31. Together with pride there will naturally arise an unadvisable and unconvincible spirit. So that into whatever error or fault the enthusiast falls, there is small hope of his recovery. For reason will have little weight with him (as has been frequently and justly observed) who imagines he is led by a higher guide,—by the immediate wisdom of God. And as he grows in pride, so he must grow in unadvisableness and in stubbornness also. He must be less and less capable of being convinced, less susceptible of persuasion; more and more attached to his own judgement and his own will, till he is altogether fixed and immovable.

32. Being thus fortified both against the grace of God, and against all advice and help from man, he is wholly left to the guidance of his own heart, and of the king of the children of pride. No marvel, then, that he is daily more rooted and grounded in contempt of all mankind, in furious anger, in every unkind disposition, in every earthly and devilish temper. Neither can we wonder at the terrible outward effects which have flowed from such dispositions in all ages; even all manner of wickedness, all the works of darkness, committed by those who call themselves Christians, while they wrought with greediness such things as were hardly named even among the Heathens.

Such is the nature, such the dreadful effects, of that manyheaded monster, Enthusiasm! From the consideration of which we may now draw some plain inferences, with regard to our own practice.

33. And, first, if enthusiasm be a term, though so frequently used, yet so rarely understood, take you care not to talk of you know not what; not to use the word till you understand it. As in all other points, so likewise in this, learn to think before you speak. First know the meaning of this hard word; and then use it, if need require.

34. But if so few, even among men of education and learning, much more among the common sort of men, understand this dark, ambiguous word, or have any fixed notion of what it means; then, secondly, beware of judging or calling any man an enthusiast, upon common report. This is by no means a sufficient ground for giving any name of reproach to any man; least of all is it a sufficient ground for so black a term of reproach as this. The more evil it contains, the more cautious you should be how you apply it to any one; to bring so heavy an accusation, without full proof, being neither consistent with justice nor mercy.

35. But if enthusiasm be so great an evil, beware you are not entangled therewith yourself. Watch and pray, that you fall not into the temptation. It easily besets those who fear or love God. O beware you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Do not imagine you have attained that grace of God which you have not attained. You may have much joy; you may have a measure of love; and yet not have living faith. Cry unto God, that He would not suffer you, blind as you are, to go out of the way; that you may never fancy yourself a believer in Christ, till Christ is revealed in you, and till His Spirit witnesses with your spirit that you are a child of God.

36. Beware you are not a fiery, persecuting enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you (just contrary to the spirit of Him you style your Master) to destroy men’s lives, and not to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love.

37. Beware you do not run with the common herd of enthusiasts, fancying you are a Christian when you are not. Presume not to assume that venerable name, unless you have a clear, scriptural title thereto; unless you have the mind which was in Christ, and walk as He also walked.

38. Beware you do not fall into the second sort of enthusiasm—fancying you have those gifts from God which you have not. Trust not in visions or dreams; in sudden impressions, or strong impulses of any kind. Remember, it is not by these you are to know what is the will of God on any particular occasion, but by applying the plain Scripture rule, with the help of experience and reason, and the ordinary assistance of the Spirit of God. Do not lightly take the name of God in your mouth; do not talk of the will of God on every trifling occasion: but let your words, as well as your actions, be all tempered with reverence and godly fear.

39. Beware, lastly, of imagining you shall obtain the end without using the means conducive to it. God can give the end without any means at all; but you have no reason to think He will. Therefore constantly and carefully use all those means which He has appointed to be the ordinary channels of His grace. Use every means which either reason or Scripture recommends, as conducive (through the free love of God in Christ) either to the obtaining or increasing any of the gifts of God. Thus expect a daily growth in that pure and holy religion which the world always did, and always will, call “enthusiasm;” but which, to all who are saved from real enthusiasm, from merely nominal Christianity, is “the wisdom of God, and the power of God;” the glorious image of the Most High; “righteousness and peace;” a “fountain of living water, springing up into everlasting life!”



“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name: and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not.”

Mark 9:38, 39.

1. In the preceding verses we read, that after the Twelve had been disputing “which of them should be the greatest,” Jesus took a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, said unto them, “Whosoever shall receive one of these little children in My name, receiveth me; and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me” only, “but him that sent me.” Then “John answered,” that is, said, with reference to what our Lord had spoken just before, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” As if he had said, “Ought we to have received him? In receiving him, should we have received thee? Ought we not rather to have forbidden him? Did not we do well therein?” “But Jesus said, Forbid him not.”

2. The same passage is recited by St. Luke, and almost in the same words. But it may be asked, “What is this to us, seeing no man now casts out devils? Has not the power of doing this been withdrawn from the church, for twelve or fourteen hundred years? How then are we concerned in the case here proposed, or in our Lord’s decision of it?”

3. Perhaps more nearly than is commonly imagined; the case proposed being no uncommon case. That we may reap our full advantage from it, I design to show, first, in what sense men may, and do, now cast out devils: secondly, what we may understand by, “He followeth not us.” I shall, thirdly, explain our Lord’s direction, “Forbid him not;” and conclude with an inference from the whole.

I. 1. I am, in the first place, to show, in what sense men may, and do, now cast out devils.

In order to have the clearest view of this, we should remember, that (according to the scriptural account) as God dwells and works in the children of light, so the devil dwells and works in the children of darkness. As the Holy Spirit possesses the souls of good men, so the evil spirit possesses the souls of the wicked. Hence it is that the Apostle terms him “the god of this world;” from the uncontrolled power he has over worldly men. Hence our blessed Lord styles him “the prince of this world;” so absolute is his dominion over it. And hence St. John: “We know that we are of God, and” all who are not of God, “the whole world,” “en toi poneroi keitai,”—not lieth in wickedness, but “lieth in the wicked one;” lives and moves in him, as they who are not of the world do in God.

2. For the devil is not to be considered only as “a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour;” nor barely as a subtle enemy, who cometh unawares upon poor souls, and “leads them captive at his will;” but as he who dwelleth in them, and walketh in them; who ruleth the darkness or wickedness of this world (of worldly men and all their dark designs and actions), by keeping possession of their hearts, setting up his throne there, and bringing every thought into obedience to himself. Thus the “strong one armed keepeth his house;” and if this “unclean spirit” sometimes “go out of a man,” yet he often returns with “seven spirits worse than himself, and they enter in and dwell there.” Nor can he be idle in his dwelling. He is continually “working in” these “children of disobedience.” he works in them with power, with mighty energy, transforming them into his own likeness, effacing all the remains of the image of God, and preparing them for every evil word and work.

3. It is, therefore, an unquestionable truth, that the god and prince of this world still possesses all who know not God. Only the manner wherein he possesses them now differs from that wherein he did it of old time. Then he frequently tormented their bodies as well as souls, and that openly, without any disguise: now he torments their souls only (unless in some rare cases), and that as covertly as possible. The reason of this difference is plain: it was then his aim to drive mankind into superstition; therefore, he wrought as openly as he could. But it is his aim to drive us into infidelity; therefore, he works as privately as he can: for the more secret he is, the more he prevails.

4. Yet, if we may credit historians, there are countries, even now, where he works as openly as aforetime. “But why in savage and barbarous countries only? Why not in Italy, France, or England?” For a very plain reason: he knows his men, and he knows what he hath to do with each. To Laplanders he appears barefaced; because he is to fix them in superstition and gross idolatry. But with you he is pursuing a different point. He is to make you idolize yourselves; to make you wiser in your own eyes than God himself, than all the oracles of God. Now, in order to do this, he must not appear in his own shape: that would frustrate his design. No: He uses all his art to make you deny his being, till he has you safe in his own place.

5. He reigns, therefore, although in a different way, yet as absolute in one land as in the other. He has the gay Italian infidel in his teeth, as sure as the wild Tartar. But he is fast asleep in the mouth of the lion, who is too wise to wake him out of sleep. So he only plays with him for the present, and when he pleases, swallows him up!

The god of this world holds his English worshippers full as fast as those in Lapland. But it is not his business to affright them, lest they should fly to the God of heaven. The prince of darkness, therefore, does not appear, while he rules over these his willing subjects. The conqueror holds his captives so much the safer, because they imagine themselves at liberty. Thus “the strong one armed keepeth his house, and his goods are in peace;” neither the Deist nor nominal Christian suspects he is there: so he and they are perfectly at peace with each other.

6. All this while he works with energy in them. He blinds the eyes of their understanding, so that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ cannot shine upon them. He chains their souls down to earth and hell, with the chains of their own vile affections. He binds them down to the earth, by love of the world, love of money, of pleasure, of praise. And by pride, envy, anger, hate, revenge, he causes their souls to draw nigh unto hell; acting the more secure and uncontrolled, because they know not that he acts at all.

7. But how easily may we know the cause from its effects! These are sometimes gross and palpable. So they were in the most refined of the heathen nations. Go no farther than the admired, the virtuous Romans; and you will find these, when at the height of their learning and glory, “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, despiteful, proud, boasters, disobedient to parents, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.”

8. The strongest parts of this description are confirmed by one whom some may think a more unexceptionable witness. I mean their brother heathen, Dion Cassius; who observes, that, before Caesar’s return from Gaul, not only gluttony and lewdness of every kind were open and barefaced; not only falsehood, injustice, and unmercifulness abounded, in public courts, as well as private families; but the most outrageous robberies, rapine, and murders were so frequent in all parts of Rome, that few men went out of doors without making their wills, as not knowing if they should return alive!

9. As gross and palpable are the works of the devil among many (if not all) the modern heathens. The natural religion of the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, and all other Indians bordering on our southern settlements (not of a few single men, but of entire nations), is to torture all their prisoners from morning till night, till at length they roast them to death; and upon the slightest undesigned provocation, to come behind and shoot any of their own countrymen! Yea, it is a common thing among them, for the son, if he thinks his father lives too long, to knock out his brains; and for mother, if she is tired of her children, to fasten stones about their necks, and throw three or four of them into the river, one after another!

10. It were to be wished, that none but heathens had practised such gross, palpable works of the devil. But we dare not say so. Even in cruelty and bloodshed, how little have the Christians come behind them! And not the Spaniards or Portuguese alone, butchering thousands in South America: not the Dutch only in the East Indies, or the French in North America, following the Spaniards step by step: our own countrymen, too, have wantoned in blood, and exterminated whole nations; plainly proving thereby what spirit it is that dwells and works in the children of disobedience.

11. These monsters might almost make us overlook the works of the devil that are wrought in our own country. But, alas! we cannot open our eyes even here, without seeing them on every side. Is it a small proof of his power, that common swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, robbers, sodomites, murderers, are still found in every part of our land? How triumphant does the prince of this world reign in all these children of disobedience!

12. He less openly, but no less effectually, works in dissemblers, tale-bearers, liars, slanderers; in oppressors and extortioners, in the perjured, the seller of his friend, his honour, his conscience, his country. And yet these may talk of religion or conscience still; of honour, virtue, and public spirit! But they can no more deceive Satan than they can God. He likewise knows those that are his: and a great multitude they are, out of every nation and people, of whom he has full possession at this day.

13. If you consider this, you cannot but see in what sense men may now also cast out devils: yea, and every Minister of Christ does cast them out, if his Lord’s work prosper in his hand.

By the power of God attending his word, he brings these sinners to repentance; an entire inward as well as outward change, from all evil to all good. And this is, in a sound sense, to cast out devils, out of the souls wherein they had hitherto dwelt. The strong one can no longer keep his house. A stronger than he is come upon him, and hath cast him out, and taken possession for himself, and made it an habitation of God through his Spirit. Here, then, the energy of Satan ends, and the Son of God “destroys the works of the devil.” The understanding of the sinner is now enlightened, and his heart sweetly drawn to God. His desires are refined, his affections purified; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, he grows in grace till he is not only holy in heart, but in all manner of conversation.

14. All this is indeed the work of God. It is God alone who can cast out Satan. But he is generally pleased to do this by man as an instrument in his hand: who is then said to cast out devils in his name, by his power and authority. And he sends whom he will send upon this great work; but usually such as man would never have thought of: for “His ways are not as our ways, neither his thoughts as our thoughts.” Accordingly, he chooses the weak to confound the mighty; the foolish to confound the wise; for this plain reason, that he may secure the glory to himself; that “no flesh may glory in his sight.”

II. 1. But shall we not forbid one who thus “casteth out devils,” if “he followeth not us”? This, it seems, was both the judgement and practice of the Apostle, till he referred the case to his Master. “We forbad him,” saith he, “because he followeth not us!” which he supposed to be a very sufficient reason. What we may understand by this expression, “He followeth not us,” is the next point to be considered.

The lowest circumstance we can understand thereby, is, he has no outward connexion with us. We do not labour in conjunction with each other. He is not our fellow-helper in the gospel. And indeed whensoever our Lord is pleased to send many labourers into his harvest, they cannot all act in subordination to, or connexion with, each other. Nay, they cannot be personal acquaintance with, nor be so much as known to, one another. Many there will necessarily be, in different parts of the harvest, so far from having any mutual intercourse, that they will be as absolute strangers to each other as if they had lived in different ages. And concerning any of these whom we know not, we may doubtless say, “He followeth not us.”

2. A Second meaning of this expression may be,—he is not of our party. It has long been matter of melancholy consideration to all who pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that so many several parties are still subsisting among those who are all styled Christians. This has been particularly observable in our own countrymen, who have been continually dividing from each other, upon points of no moment, and many times such as religion had no concern in. The most trifling circumstances have given rise to different parties, which have continued for many generations; and each of these would be ready to object to one who was on the other side, “He followeth not us.”

3. That expression may mean, Thirdly,—he differs from us in our religious opinions. There was a time when all Christians were of one mind, as well as of one heart, so great grace was upon them all, when they were first filled with the Holy Ghost! But how short a space did this blessing continue! How soon was that unanimity lost! and difference of opinion sprang up again, even in the church of Christ,—and that not in nominal but in real Christians; nay, in the very chief of them, the Apostles themselves! Nor does it appear that the difference which then began was ever entirely removed. We do not find that even those pillars in the temple of God, so long as they remained upon the earth, were ever brought to think alike, to be of one mind, particularly with regard to the ceremonial law. It is therefore no way surprising, that infinite varieties of opinion should now be found in the Christian church. A very probable consequence of this is, that whenever we see any “casting out devils,” he will be one that, in this sense, “followeth not us”—that is not of our opinion. It is scarce to be imagined he will be of our mind in all points, even of religion. He may very probably think in a different manner from us, even on several subjects of importance; such as the nature and use of the moral law, the eternal decrees of God, the sufficiency and efficacy of his grace, and the perseverance of his children.

4. He may differ from us, Fourthly, not only in opinion, but likewise in some point of practice. He may not approve of that manner of worshipping God which is practised in our congregation; and may judge that to be more profitable for his soul which took its rise from Calvin or Martin Luther. He may have many objections to that Liturgy which we approve of beyond all others; many doubts concerning that form of church government which we esteem both apostolical and scriptural. Perhaps he may go farther from us yet: he may, from a principle of conscience, refrain from several of those which we believe to be the ordinances of Christ. Or, if we both agree that they are ordained of God, there may still remain a difference between us, either as to the manner of administering those ordinances, or the persons to whom they should be administered. Now the unavoidable consequence of any of these differences will be, that he who thus differs from us must separate himself, with regard to those points, from our society. In this respect, therefore, “he followeth not us”: he is not (as we phrase it) “of our Church.”

5. But in a far stronger sense “he followeth not us,” who is not only of a different Church, but of such a Church as we account to be in many respects anti-scriptural and anti-Christian,—a Church which we believe to be utterly false and erroneous in her doctrines, as well as very dangerously wrong in her practice; guilty of gross superstition as well as idolatry,—a Church that has added many articles to the faith which was once delivered to the saints; that has dropped one whole commandment of God, and made void several of the rest by her traditions; and that, pretending the highest veneration for, and strictest conformity to, the ancient Church, has nevertheless brought in numberless innovations, without any warrant either from antiquity or Scripture. Now, most certainly, “he followeth not us,” who stands at so great a distance from us.

6. And yet there may be a still wider difference than this. He who differs from us in judgement or practice, may possibly stand at a greater distance from us in affection than in judgement. And this indeed is a very natural and a very common effect of the other. The differences which begin in points of opinion seldom terminate there. They generally spread into the affections, and then separate chief friends. Nor are any animosities so deep and irreconcilable as those that spring from disagreement in religion. For this cause the bitterest enemies of a man are those of his own household. For this the father rises against his own children, and the children against the father; and perhaps persecute each other even to the death, thinking all the time they are doing God service. It is therefore nothing more than we may expect, if those who differ from us, either in religious opinions or practice, soon contract a sharpness, yea, bitterness towards us; if they are more and more prejudiced against us, till they conceive as ill an opinion of our persons as of our principles. An almost necessary consequence of this will be, they will speak in the same manner as they think of us. They will set themselves in opposition to us, and, as far as they are able, hinder our work; seeing it does not appear to them to be the work of God, but either of man or of the devil. He that thinks, speaks, and acts in such a manner as this, in the highest sense, “followeth not us.”

7. I do not indeed conceive, that the person of whom the Apostle speaks in the text (although we have no particular account of him, either in the context, or in any other part of holy writ) went so far as this. We have no ground to suppose that there was any material difference between him and the Apostles, much less that he had any prejudice either against them or their Master. It seems we may gather thus much from our Lord’s own words, which immediately follow the text: “There is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” But I purposely put the case in the strongest light, adding all the circumstances which can well be conceived, that, being forewarned of the temptation in its full strength, we may in no case yield to it, and fight against God.

III. 1. Suppose, then, a man have no intercourse with us, suppose he be not of our party, suppose he separate from our Church, yea, and widely differ from us, both in judgement, practice, and affection; yet if we see even this man “casting out devils,” Jesus saith, “Forbid him not.” This important direction of our Lord I am, in the Third place, to explain.

2. If we see this man casting out devils: But it is well if, in such a case, we would believe even what we saw with our eyes, if we did not give the lie to our own senses. He must be little acquainted with human nature who does not immediately perceive how extremely unready we should be to believe that any man does cast out devils who “followeth not us” in all or most of the senses above recited: I had almost said, in any of them, seeing we may easily learn even from what passes in our own breasts, how unwilling men are to allow anything good in those who do not in all things agree with themselves.

3. “But what is a sufficient, reasonable proof, that a man does (in the sense above) cast out devils?” The answer is easy. Is there full proof, (1) That a person before us was a gross, open sinner? (2) That he is not so now? that he has broke off his sins, and lives a Christian life? And (3) That this change was wrought by his hearing this man preach? If these three points be plain and undeniable, then you have sufficient, reasonable proof, such as you cannot resist without wilful sin, that this man casts out devils.

4. Then “forbid him not.” Beware how you attempt to hinder him, either by your authority, or arguments, or persuasions. Do not in any wise strive to prevent his using all the power which God has given him. If you have authority with him, do not use that authority to stop the work of God. Do not furnish him with reasons why he ought not any more to speak in the name of Jesus. Satan will not fail to supply him with these, if you do not second him therein. Persuade him not to depart from the work. If he should give place to the devil and you, many souls might perish in their iniquity, but their blood would God require at your hands.

5. “But what, if he be only a layman, who casts out devils! Ought I not to forbid him then?”

Is the fact allowed? Is there reasonable proof that this man has or does cast out devils? If there is, forbid him not; no, not at the peril of your soul. Shall not God work by whom he will work? No man can do these works unless God is with him; unless God hath sent him for this very thing. But if God hath sent him, will you call him back? Will you forbid him to go?

6. “But I do not know that he is sent of God.” “Now herein is a marvellous thing” (may any of the seals of his mission say, any whom he hath brought from Satan to God), “that ye know not whence this man is, and, behold, he hath opened mine eyes! If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” If you doubt the fact, send for the parents of the man: send for his brethren, friends, acquaintance. But if you cannot doubt this, if you must needs acknowledge “that a notable miracle hath been wrought” then with what conscience, with what face, can you charge him whom God hath sent, “not to speak any more in his name”?

7. I allow, that it is highly expedient, whoever preaches in his name should have an outward as well as an inward call, but that it is absolutely necessary, I deny.

“Nay, is not the Scripture express? ‘No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron’ ” (Heb. 5:4).

Numberless times has this text been quoted on the occasion, as containing the very strength of the cause; but surely never was so unhappy a quotation. For, First, Aaron was not called to preach at all: he was called “to offer gifts and sacrifice for sin.” That was his peculiar employment. Secondly, these men do not offer sacrifice at all, but only preach; which Aaron did not. Therefore it is not possible to find one text in all the Bible which is more wide of the point than this.

8. “But what was the practice of the apostolic age?” You may easily see in the Acts of the Apostles. In the eighth chapter we read, “There was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles” (verse 1). “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (verse 4). Now, were all these outwardly called to preach? No man in his senses can think so. Here, then, is an undeniable proof, what was the practice of the apostolic age. Here you see not one, but a multitude of lay preachers, men that were only sent of God.

9. Indeed, so far is the practice of the apostolic age from inclining us to think it was unlawful for a man to preach before he was ordained, that we have reason to think it was then accounted necessary. Certainly the practice and the direction of the Apostle Paul was, to prove a man before he was ordained at all. “Let these” (the deacons), says he, “first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon” (1 Tim. 3:10). Proved, how? By setting them to construe a sentence of Greek and asking them a few commonplace questions? O amazing proof of a Minister of Christ! Nay; but by making a clear, open trial (as is still done by most of the Protestant Churches of Europe) not only whether their lives be holy and unblamable, but whether they have such gifts as are absolutely and indispensably necessary in order to edify the church of Christ.

10. But what if a man has these, and has brought sinners to repentance, and yet the Bishop will not ordain him? Then the Bishop does forbid him to cast out devils. But I dare not forbid him: I have published my reasons to all the world. Yet it is still insisted I ought to do it. You who insist upon it answer those reasons. I know not that any have done this yet, or even made an attempt of doing it. Only some have spoken of them as very weak and trifling: and this was prudent enough; for it is far easier to despise, at least seem to despise, an argument, than to answer it. Yet till this is done I must say, when I have reasonable proof that any man does cast out devils, whatever others do, I dare not forbid him, lest I be found even to fight against God.

11. And whosoever thou art that fearest God, “forbid him not, either directly or indirectly. There are many ways of doing this. You indirectly forbid him, if you either wholly deny, or despise and make little account of, the work which God has wrought by his hands. You indirectly forbid him, when you discourage him in his work, by drawing him into disputes concerning it, by raising objections against it, or frightening him with consequences which very possibly will never be. You forbid him when you show any unkindness toward him either in language or behaviour; and much more when you speak of him to others either in an unkind or a contemptuous manner; when you endeavour to represent him to any either in an odious or a despicable light. You are forbidding him all the time you are speaking evil of him, or making no account of his labours. O forbid him not in any of these ways; nor by forbidding others to hear him,—by discouraging sinners from hearing that word which is able to save their souls!

12. Yea, if you would observe our Lord’s direction in its full meaning and extent, then remember his word: “He that is not for us is against us; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth”: he that gathereth not men into the kingdom of God, assuredly scatters them from it. For there can be no neuter in this war. Every one is either on God’s side, or on Satan’s. Are you on God’s side? Then you will not only not forbid any man that casts out devils, but you will labour, to the uttermost of your power, to forward him in the work. You will readily acknowledge the work of God, and confess the greatness of it. You will remove all difficulties and objections, as far as may be, out of his way. You will strengthen his hands by speaking honourably of him before all men, and avowing the things which you have seen and heard. You will encourage others to attend upon his word, to hear him whom God hath sent. And you will omit no actual proof of tender love, which God gives you an opportunity of showing him.

IV. 1. If we willingly fail in any of these points, if we either directly or indirectly forbid him, “because he followeth not us,” then we are bigots. This is the inference I draw from what has been said. But the term “bigotry,” I fear, as frequently as it is used, is almost as little understood as “enthusiasm.” It is too strong an attachment to, or fondness for, our own party. opinion, church, and religion. Therefore he is a bigot who is so fond of any of these, so strongly attached to them, as to forbid any who casts out devils because he differs from himself in any or all these particulars.

2, Do you beware of this. Take care (1) That you do not convict yourself of bigotry, by your unreadiness to believe that any man does cast out devils, who differs from you. And if you are clear thus far, if you acknowledge the fact, then examine yourself, (2) Am I not convicted of bigotry in this, in forbidding him directly or indirectly? Do I not directly forbid him on this ground, because he is not of my party, because he does not fall in with my opinions, or because he does not worship God according to that scheme of religion which I have received from my fathers?

3. Examine yourself, Do I not indirectly at least forbid him, on any of these grounds? Am I not sorry that God should thus own and bless a man that holds such erroneous opinions? Do I not discourage him, because he is not of my Church, by disputing with him concerning it, by raising objections, and by perplexing his mind with distant consequences? Do I show no anger, contempt, or unkindness of any sort, either in my words or actions? Do I not mention behind his back, his (real or supposed) faults—his defects or infirmities? Do not I hinder sinners from hearing his word? If you do any of these things, you are a bigot to this day.

4. “Search me, O Lord, and prove me. Try out my reins and my heart! Look well if there be any way of” bigotry “in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” In order to examine ourselves thoroughly, let the case be proposed in the strongest manner. What, if I were to see a Papist, an Arian, a Socinian casting out devils? If I did, I could not forbid even him, without convicting myself of bigotry. Yea, if it could be supposed that I should see a Jew, a Deist, or a Turk, doing the same, were I to forbid him either directly or indirectly, I should be no better than a bigot still.

5. O stand clear of this! But be not content with not forbidding any that casts out devils. It is well to go thus far; but do not stop here. If you will avoid all bigotry, go on. In every instance of this kind, whatever the instrument be, acknowledge the finger of God. And not only acknowledge, but rejoice in his work, and praise his name with thanksgiving. Encourage whomsoever God is pleased to employ, to give himself wholly up thereto. Speak well of him wheresoever you are; defend his character and his mission. Enlarge, as far as you can, his sphere of action; show him all kindness in word and deed; and cease not to cry to God in his behalf, that he may save both himself and them that hear him.

6. I need add but one caution: Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own. It is not impossible, that one who casts out devils himself, may yet forbid you so to do. You may observe, this is the very case mentioned in the text. The Apostles forbade another to do what they did themselves. But beware of retorting. It is not your part to return evil for evil. Another’s not observing the direction of our Lord, is no reason why you should neglect it. Nay, but let him have all the bigotry to himself. If he forbid you, do not you forbid him. Rather labour, and watch, and pray the more, to confirm your love toward him. If he speak all manner of evil of you, speak all manner of good (that is true) of him. Imitate herein that glorious saying of a great man (O that he had always breathed the same spirit!), “Let Luther call me a hundred devils; I will still reverence him as a messenger of God.”



“And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered: It is. If it be, give me thine hand.”

2 Kings 10:15.

1. It is allowed even by those who do not pay this great debt, that love is due to all mankind, the royal law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” carrying its own evidence to all that hear it: and that, not according to the miserable construction put upon it by the zealots of old times, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour,” thy relation, acquaintance, friend, “and hate thine enemy;” not so; “I say unto you,” said our Lord, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children,” may appear so to all mankind, “of your Father which is in heaven; who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

2. But it is sure, there is a peculiar love which we owe to those that love God. So David: “All my delight is upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue.” And so a greater than he: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34, 35). This is that love on which the Apostle John so frequently and strongly insists: “This,” saith he, “is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought,” if love should call us thereto, “to lay down our lives for the brethren” (verse 16). And again: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love” (4:7, 8). “Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (verses 10, 11).

3. All men approve of this; but do all men practise it? Daily experience shows the contrary. Where are even the Christians who “love one another as he hath given us commandment?” how many hindrances lie in the way! The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike; but in several smaller points their practice must differ in proportion to the difference of their sentiments.

4. But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.

5. Surely in this respect the example of Jehu himself, as mixed a character as he was of, is well worthy both the attention and imitation of every serious Christian. “And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand.”

The text naturally divides itself into two parts:—First, a question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab: “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?” Secondly, an offer made on Jehonadab’s answering, “It is:” “If it be, give me thine hand.”

I. 1. And, first, let us consider the question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

The very first thing we may observe in these words, is, that here is no inquiry concerning Jehonadab’s opinions. And yet it is certain, he held some which were very uncommon, indeed quite peculiar to himself; and some which had a close influence upon his practice; on which, likewise, he laid so great a stress, as to entail them upon his children’s children, to their latest posterity. This is evident from the account given by Jeremiah many years after his death: “I took Jaazaniah and his brethren and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, … and set before them pots full of wine, and cups, and said unto them, Drink ye wine. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab,” or Jehonadab, “the son of Rechab, our father” (it would be less ambiguous, if the words were placed thus: “Jehonadab our father, the son of Rechab,” out of love and reverence to whom, he probably desired his descendants might be called by his name), “commanded us, saying, ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever. Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed; nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents.… And we have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us” (Jer. 35:3–10).

2. And yet Jehu (although it seems to have been his manner both in things secular and religious, to drive furiously) does not concern himself at all with any of these things, but lets Jehonadab abound in his own sense. And neither of them appears to have given the other the least disturbance touching the opinions which he maintained.

3. It is very possible, that many good men now also may entertain peculiar opinions; and some of them may be as singular herein as even Jehonadab was. And it is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding, that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be “till the restitution of all things.”

4. Nay, farther: although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it); yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not, seeing humanum est errare et nescire: “To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.” This, therefore, he is sensible, is his own case. He knows, in the general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particulars he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know.

5. I say “perhaps he cannot know;” for who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend? or (that comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice?—which is often so fixed in tender minds, that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root. And who can say, unless he knew every circumstance attending it, how far any mistake is culpable? seeing all guilt must suppose some concurrence of the will; of which he only can judge who searcheth the heart.

6. Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

7. We may, secondly, observe, that here is no inquiry made concerning Jehonadab’s mode of worship; although it is highly probable there was, in this respect also, a very wide difference between them. For we may well believe Jehonadab, as well as all his posterity, worshipped God at Jerusalem! whereas Jehu did not: he had more regard to state-policy than religion. And, therefore, although he slew the worshippers of Baal, and “destroyed Baal out of Israel,” yet from the convenient sin of Jeroboam, the worship of the “golden calves,” he “departed not” (2 Kings 10:29).

8. But even among men of an upright heart, men who desire to “have a conscience void of offence,” it must needs be, that, as long as there are various opinions, there will be various ways of worshipping God; seeing a variety of opinion necessarily implies a variety of practice. And as, in all ages, men have differed in nothing more than in their opinions concerning the Supreme Being, so in nothing have they more differed from each other, than in the manner of worshipping him. Had this been only in the heathen world, it would not have been at all surprising: for we know, these “by” their “wisdom knew not God;” nor, therefore, could they know how to worship him. But is it not strange, that even in the Christian world, although they all agree in the general, “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth;” yet the particular modes of worshipping God are almost as various as among the heathens?

9. And how shall we choose among so much variety? No man can choose for, or prescribe to, another. But every one must follow the dictates of his own conscience, in simplicity and godly sincerity. He must be fully persuaded in his own mind and then act according to the best light he has. Nor has any creature power to constrain another to walk by his own rule. God has given no right to any of the children of men thus to lord it over the conscience of his brethren; but every man must judge for himself, as every man must give an account of himself to God.

10. Although, therefore, every follower of Christ is obliged, by the very nature of the Christian institution, to be a member of some particular congregation or other, some Church, as it is usually termed (which implies a particular manner of worshipping God; for “two cannot walk together unless they be agreed”); yet none can be obliged by any power on earth but that of his own conscience, to prefer this or that congregation to another, this or that particular manner of worship. I know it is commonly supposed, that the place of our birth fixes the Church to which we ought to belong; that one, for instance, who is born in England, ought to be a member of that which is styled the Church of England, and consequently, to worship God in the particular manner which is prescribed by that Church. I was once a zealous maintainer of this; but I find many reasons to abate of this zeal. I fear it is attended with such difficulties as no reasonable man can get over. Not the least of which is, that if this rule had took place, there could have been no Reformation from Popery; seeing it entirely destroys the right of private judgement, on which that whole Reformation stands.

11. I dare not, therefore, presume to impose my mode of worship on any other. I believe it is truly primitive and apostolical: but my belief is no rule for another. I ask not, therefore, of him with whom I would unite in love, Are you of my church, of my congregation? Do you receive the same form of church government, and allow the same church officers, with me? Do you join in the same form of prayer wherein I worship God? I inquire not, Do you receive the supper of the Lord in the same posture and manner that I do? nor whether, in the administration of baptism, you agree with me in admitting sureties for the baptized, in the manner of administering it; or the age of those to whom it should be administered. Nay, I ask not of you (as clear as I am in my own mind), whether you allow baptism and the Lord’s supper at all. Let all these things stand by: we will talk of them, if need be, at a more convenient season, my only question at present is this, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

12. But what is properly implied in the question? I do not mean, What did Jehu imply therein? But, What should a follower of Christ understand thereby, when he proposes it to any of his brethren?

The first thing implied is this: Is thy heart right with God? Dost thou believe his being and his perfections? his eternity, immensity, wisdom, power? his justice, mercy, and truth? Dost thou believe that he now “upholdeth all things by the word of his power?” and that he governs even the most minute, even the most noxious, to his own glory, and the good of them that love him? hast thou a divine evidence, a supernatural conviction, of the things of God? Dost thou “walk by faith not by sight?” looking not at temporal things, but things eternal?

13. Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “God over all, blessed for ever?” Is he revealed in thy soul? Dost thou know Jesus Christ and him crucified? Does he dwell in thee, and thou in him? Is he formed in thy heart by faith? having absolutely disclaimed all thy own works, thy own righteousness, hast thou “submitted thyself unto the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus? Art thou “found in him, not having thy own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith?” And art thou, through him, “fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life?”

14. Is thy faith energoumene di agapes,—filled with the energy of love? Dost thou love God (I do not say “above all things,” for it is both an unscriptural and an ambiguous expression, but) “with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength?” Dost thou seek all thy happiness in him alone? And dost thou find what thou seekest? Does thy soul continually “magnify the Lord, and thy spirit rejoice in God thy Saviour?” having learned “in everything to give thanks, dost thou find “it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful?” Is God the centre of thy soul, the sum of all thy desires? Art thou accordingly laying up thy treasure in heaven, and counting all things else dung and dross? hath the love of God cast the love of the world out of thy soul? Then thou art “crucified to the world;” thou art dead to all below; and thy “life is hid with Christ in God.”

15. Art thou employed in doing, “not thy own will, but the will of him that sent thee”—of him that sent thee down to sojourn here awhile, to spend a few days in a strange land, till, having finished the work he hath given thee to do, thou return to thy Father’s house? Is it thy meat and drink “to do the will of thy Father which is in heaven?” Is thine eye single in all things? always fixed on him? always looking unto Jesus? Dost thou point at him in whatsoever thou doest? in all thy labour, thy business, thy conversation? aiming only at the glory of God in all, “whatsoever thou doest, either in word or deed, doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus; giving thanks unto God, even the Father, through him?”

16. Does the love of God constrain thee to serve him with fear, to “rejoice unto him with reverence?” Art thou more afraid of displeasing God, than either of death or hell? Is nothing so terrible to thee as the thought of offending the eyes of his glory? Upon this ground, dost thou “hate all evil ways,” every transgression of his holy and perfect law; and herein “exercise thyself, to have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man?”

17. Is thy heart right toward thy neighbour? Dost thou love as thyself, all mankind, without exception? “If you love those only that love you, what thank have ye?” Do you “love your enemies?” Is your soul full of good-will, of tender affection, toward them? Do you love even the enemies of God, the unthankful and unholy? Do your bowels yearn over them? Could you “wish yourself” temporally “accursed” for their sake? And do you show this by “blessing them that curse you, and praying for those that despitefully use you, and persecute you?”

18. Do you show your love by your works? While you have time as you have opportunity, do you in fact “do good to all men,” neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can; endeavouring to supply all their wants; assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power?—If thou art thus minded, may every Christian say, yea, if thou art but sincerely desirous of it, and following on till thou attain, then “thy heart is right, as my heart is with thy heart.”

II. 1. “If it be, give me thy hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot, it does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep you your opinion; I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: only “give me thine hand.”

2. I do not mean, “Embrace my modes of worship,” or, “I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church government to be scriptural and apostolical. If you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, think so still, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized; and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow your own persuasion. It appears to me, that forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitable to your own judgement. My sentiment is, that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master: however, if you are not convinced of this act according to the light you have. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight “If thine heart is as my heart,” if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: “give me thine hand.”

3. I mean, first, love me: and that not only as thou lovest all mankind; not only as thou lovest thine enemies, or the enemies of God, those that hate thee, that “despitefully use thee, and persecute thee;” not only as a stranger, as one of whom thou knowest neither good nor evil,—I am not satisfied with this,—no; “if thine heart be right, as mine with thy heart,” then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother; as a brother in Christ, a fellow citizen of the New Jerusalem, a fellow soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same Captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.

4. Love me (but in a higher degree than thou dost the bulk of mankind) with the love that is long-suffering and kind; that is patient,—if I am ignorant or out of the way, bearing and not increasing my burden; and is tender, soft, and compassionate still; that envieth not, if at any time it please God to prosper me in his work even more than thee. Love me with the love that is not provoked, either at my follies or infirmities; or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to thee) not according to the will of God. Love me so as to think no evil of me; to put away all jealousy and evil-surmising. Love me with the love that covereth all things; that never reveals either my faults or infirmities,—that believeth all things; is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions,—that hopeth all things; either that the thing related was never done; or not done with such circumstances as are related; or, at least, that it was done with a good-intention, or in a sudden stress of temptation. And hope to the end, that whatever is amiss will, by the grace of God, be corrected; and whatever is wanting, supplied, through the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus.

5 I mean, Secondly, commend me to God in all thy prayers; wrestle with him in my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss, and supply what is wanting in me. In thy nearest access to the throne of grace, beg of him who is then very present with thee, that my heart may be more as thy heart, more right both toward God and toward man; that I may have a fuller conviction of things not seen, and a stronger view of the love of God in Christ Jesus; may more steadily walk by faith, not by sight; and more earnestly grasp eternal life. Pray that the love of God and of all mankind may be more largely poured into my heart; that I may be more fervent and active in doing the will of my Father which is in heaven, more zealous of good works, and more careful to abstain from all appearance of evil.

6. I mean, Thirdly, provoke me to love and to good works. Second thy prayer, as thou hast opportunity, by speaking to me, in love, whatsoever thou believest to be for my soul’s health. Quicken me in the work which God has given me to do, and instruct me how to do it more perfectly. Yea, “smite me friendly, and reprove me,” whereinsoever I appear to thee to be doing rather my own will, than the will of him that sent me. O speak and spare not, whatever thou believest may conduce, either to the amending my faults, the strengthening my weakness, the building me up in love, or the making me more fit, in any kind, for the Master’s use.

7. I mean, Lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience thou canst (retaining still thy own opinions, and thy own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God; and let us go on hand in hand. And thus far, it is certain, thou mayest go. Speak honourably wherever thou art, of the work of God, by whomsoever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And, if it be in thy power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a cheerful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on thy behalf.

8. Two things should be observed with regard to what has been spoken under this last head: the one, that whatsoever love, whatsoever offices of love, whatsoever spiritual or temporal assistance, I claim from him whose heart is right, as my heart is with his, the same I am ready, by the grace of God, according to my measure, to give him: the other, that I have not made this claim in behalf of myself only, but of all whose heart is right toward God and man, that we may all love one another as Christ hath loved us.

III. 1. One inference we may make from what has been said. We may learn from hence, what is a catholic spirit.

There is scarce any expression which has been more grossly misunderstood, and more dangerously misapplied, than this: but it will be easy for any who calmly consider the preceding observations, to correct any such misapprehensions of it, and to prevent any such misapplication.

For, from hence we may learn, first, that a catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism. It is not an indifference to all opinions: this is the spawn of hell, not the offspring of heaven. This unsettledness of thought, this being “driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine,” is a great curse, not a blessing, an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism. A man of a truly catholic spirit has not now his religion to seek. He is fixed as the sun in his judgement concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine. It is true, he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles; but as this does not show any wavering in his own mind, so neither does it occasion any. He does not halt between two opinions, nor vainly endeavour to blend them into one. Observe this, you who know not what spirit ye are of: who call yourselves men of a catholic spirit, only because you are of a muddy understanding; because your mind is all in a mist; because you have no settled, consistent principles, but are for jumbling all opinions together. Be convinced, that you have quite missed your way; you know not where you are. You think you are got into the very spirit of Christ; when, in truth, you are nearer the spirit of Antichrist. Go, first, and learn the first elements of the gospel of Christ, and then shall you learn to be of a truly catholic spirit.

2. From what has been said, we may learn, secondly, that a catholic spirit is not any kind of practical latitudinarianism. It is not indifference as to public worship, or as to the outward manner of performing it. This, likewise, would not be a blessing but a curse. Far from being an help thereto, it would, so long as it remained, be an unspeakable hindrance to the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. But the man of a truly catholic spirit, having weighed all things in the balance of the sanctuary, has no doubt, no scruple at all, concerning that particular mode of worship wherein he joins. He is clearly convinced, that this manner of worshipping God is both scriptural and rational. He knows none in the world which is more scriptural, none which is more rational. Therefore, without rambling hither and thither, he cleaves close thereto, and praises God for the opportunity of so doing.

3. Hence we may, thirdly, learn, that a catholic spirit is not indifference to all congregations. This is another sort of latitudinarianism, no less absurd and unscriptural than the former. But it is far from a man of a truly catholic spirit. He is fixed in his congregation as well as his principles. He is united to one, not only in spirit, but by all the outward ties of Christian fellowship. There he partakes of all the ordinances of God. There he receives the supper of the Lord. There he pours out his soul in public prayer, and joins in public praise and thanksgiving. There he rejoices to hear the word of reconciliation, the gospel of the grace of God. With these his nearest, his best-beloved brethren, on solemn occasions, he seeks God by fasting. These particularly he watches over in love, as they do over his soul; admonishing, exhorting, comforting, reproving, and every way building up each other in the faith. These he regards as his own household; and therefore, according to the ability God has given him, naturally cares for them, and provides that they may have all the things that are needful for life and godliness.

4. But while he is steadily fixed in his religious principles in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus; while he firmly adheres to that worship of God which he judges to be most acceptable in his sight; and while he is united by the tenderest and closest ties to one particular congregation,—his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not; he embraces with strong and cordial affection neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. This is catholic or universal love. And he that has this is of a catholic spirit. For love alone gives the title to this character: catholic love is a catholic spirit.

5. If, then, we take this word in the strictest sense, a man of a catholic spirit is one who, in the manner above-mentioned, gives his hand to all whose hearts are right with his heart: one who knows how to value, and praise God for, all the advantages he enjoys, with regard to the knowledge of the things of God, the true scriptural manner of worshipping him, and, above all, his union with a congregation fearing God and working righteousness: one who, retaining these blessings with the strictest care, keeping them as the apple of his eye, at the same time loves—as friends, as brethren in the Lord, as members of Christ and children of God, as joint partakers now of the present kingdom of God, and fellow heirs of his eternal kingdom—all, of whatever opinion or worship, or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; who love God and man; who, rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil, and zealous of good works. He is the man of a truly catholic spirit, who bears all these continually upon his heart; who having an unspeakable tenderness for their persons, and longing for their welfare, does not cease to commend them to God in prayer, as well as to plead their cause before men; who speaks comfortably to them, and labours, by all his words, to strengthen their hands in God. He assists them to the uttermost of his power in all things, spiritual and temporal. He is ready “to spend and be spent for them;” yea, to lay down his life for their sake.

6. Thou, O man of God, think on these things! If thou art already in this way, go on. If thou hast heretofore mistook the path, bless God who hath brought thee back! And now run the race which is set before thee, in the royal way of universal love. Take heed, lest thou be either wavering in thy judgement, or straitened in thy bowels: but keep an even pace, rooted in the faith once delivered to the saints, and grounded in love, in true catholic love, till thou art swallowed up in love for ever and ever!

[Charles Wesley’s hymn, CATHOLIC LOVE, added in some editions:

Weary of all this wordy strife,

These notions, forms, and modes, and names,

To Thee, the way, the Truth, the Life,

Whose love my simple heart inflames,

Divinely taught, at last I fly,

With Thee and Thine to live and die.

Forth from the midst of Babel brought,

Parties and sects I cast behind;

Enlarged my heart, and free my thought,

Where’er the latent truth I find

The latent truth with joy to own,

And bow to Jesus’ name alone.

Redeem’d by Thine almighty grace,

I taste my glorious liberty,

With open arms the world embrace,

But cleave to those who cleave to Thee;

But only in Thy saints delight,

Who walk with God in purest white.

One with the little flock I rest,

The members sound who hold the head.

The chosen few, with pardon blest

And by th’ anointing Spirit led

Into the mind that was in Thee

Into the depths of Deity.

My brethren, friends, and kinsmen these

Who do my heavenly Father’s will;

Who aim at perfect holiness,

And all Thy counsels to fulfil,

Athirst to be whate’er Thou art,

And love their God with all their heart.

For these, howe’er in flesh disjoin’d,

Where’er dispersed o’er earth abroad,

Unfeign’d, unbounded love I find

And constant as the life of God

Fountain of life, from thence it sprung,

As pure, as even, and as strong.

Join’d to the hidden church unknown

In this sure bond of perfectness

Obscurely safe, I dwell alone

And glory in th’ uniting grace,

To me, to each believer given,

To all Thy saints in earth and heaven.

Charles Wesley]



“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.”

Phil. 3:12.

1. There is scarce any expression in Holy Writ which has given more offence than this. The word perfect is what many cannot bear. The very sound of it is an abomination to them. And whosoever preaches perfection (as the phrase is,) that is, asserts that it is attainable in this life, runs great hazard of being accounted by them worse than a heathen man or a publican.

2. And hence some have advised, wholly to lay aside the use of those expressions, “because they have given so great offence.” But are they not found in the oracles of God? If so, by what authority can any Messenger of God lay them aside, even though all men should be offended? We have not so learned Christ; neither may we thus give place to the devil. Whatsoever God hath Spoken that will we speak, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear; knowing that then alone can any Minister of Christ be “pure from the blood of all men,” when he hath “not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:26, 27]

3. We may not, therefore, lay these expressions aside, seeing they are the words of God, and not of man. But we may and ought to explain the meaning of them, that those who are sincere of heart may not err to the right hand or to the left, from the mark of the prize of their high calling. And this is the more needful to be done because in the verse already repeated the Apostle speaks of himself as not perfect: “Not,” saith he, “as though I were already perfect.” And yet immediately after, in the fifteenth verse, he speaks of himself, yea and many others, as perfect. “Let us,” saith he, “as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” [Phil. 3:15]

4. In order, therefore, to remove the difficulty arising from this seeming contradiction, as well as to give light to them who are pressing forward to the mark, and that those who are lame be not turned out of the way, I shall endeavor to show,

First, in what sense Christians are not; and,

Secondly, in what sense they are, perfect.

I. 1. In the first place I shall endeavor to show in what sense Christians are not perfect. And both from experience and Scripture it appears, First, that they are not perfect in knowledge: they are not so perfect in this life as to be free from ignorance. They know, it may be, in common with other men, many things relating to the present world; and they know, with regard to the world to come, the general truths which God hath revealed. They know, likewise, (what the natural man receiveth not, for these things are spiritually discerned,) “what manner of love” it is wherewith “the Father” hath loved them, “that they should be called the sons of God.” [1 John 3:1] They know the mighty working of his Spirit in their hearts; [Eph. 3:16] and the wisdom of his providence, directing all their paths, [Prov. 3:6] and causing all things to work together for their good. [Rom. 8:28] Yea, they know in every circumstance of life what the Lord requireth of them, and how to keep a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward man. [Acts 24:16]

2. But innumerable are the things which they know not. Touching the Almighty himself, they cannot search him out to perfection. “Lo, these are but a part of his ways; but the thunder of his power who can understand?” [Job 26:14] They cannot understand, I will not say, how “there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one;” [1 John 5:7] or how the eternal Son of God “took upon himself the form of a servant;” [Phil. 2:7]—but not any one attribute, not any one circumstance of the divine nature. [2 Pet. 1:4] Neither is it for them to know the times and seasons [Acts 1:7] when God will work his great works upon the earth; no, not even those which he hath in part revealed by his servants and Prophets since the world began. [see Amos 3:7] Much less do they know when God, having “accomplished the number of his elect, will hasten his kingdom;” when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” [2 Pet. 3:10]

3. They know not the reasons even of many of his present dispensations with the sons of men; but are constrained to rest here,—Though “clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his seat.” [Ps. 97:2] Yea, often with regard to his dealings with themselves, doth their Lord say unto them, “What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” [John 13:7] And how little do they know of what is ever before them, of even the visible works of his hands!—How “he spreadeth the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing?” [Job 26:7] how he unites all the parts of this vast machine by a secret chain which cannot be broken? So great is the ignorance, so very little the knowledge, of even the best of men!

4. No one, then, is so perfect in this life, as to be free from ignorance. Nor, Secondly, from mistake; which indeed is almost an unavoidable consequence of it; seeing those who “know but in part” [1 Cor. 13:12] are ever liable to err touching the things which they know not. It is true, the children of God do not mistake as to the things essential to salvation: They do not “put darkness for light, or light for darkness;” [Isa. 5:20] neither “seek death in the error of their life.” [Wisdom 1:12] For they are “taught of God,” and the way which he teaches them, the way of holiness, is so plain, that “the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.” [Isa. 35:8] But in things unessential to salvation they do err, and that frequently. The best and wisest of men are frequently mistaken even with regard to facts; believing those things not to have been which really were, or those to have been done which were not. Or, suppose they are not mistaken as to the fact itself, they may be with regard to its circumstances; believing them, or many of them, to have been quite different from what in truth, they were. And hence cannot but arise many farther mistakes. Hence they may believe either past or present actions which were or are evil, to be good; and such as were or are good, to be evil. Hence also they may judge not according to truth with regard to the characters of men; and that, not only by supposing good men to be better, or wicked men to be worse, than they are, but by believing them to have been or to be good men who were or are very wicked; or perhaps those to have been or to be wicked men, who were or are holy and unreprovable.

5. Nay, with regard to the Holy Scriptures themselves, as careful as they are to avoid it, the best of men are liable to mistake, and do mistake day by day; especially with respect to those parts thereof which less immediately relate to practice. Hence even the children of God are not agreed as to the interpretation of many places in holy writ: Nor is their difference of opinion any proof that they are not the children of God on either side; but it is a proof that we are no more to expect any living man to be infallible than to be omniscient.

6. If it be objected to what has been observed under this and the preceding head, that St. John, speaking to his brethren in the faith says, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things:” (1 John 2:20:) The answer is plain: “Ye know all things that are needful for your souls’ health.” [cf. 3 John 2] That the Apostle never designed to extend this farther, that he could not speak it in an absolute sense, is clear, First from hence;—that otherwise he would describe the disciple as “above his Master;” seeing Christ himself, as man, knew not all things: “Of that hour,” saith he, “knoweth no man; no, not the Son, but the Father only.” [Mark 13:32] It is clear, Secondly, from the Apostle’s own words that follow: “These things have I written unto you concerning them that deceive you;” [cf. 1 John 3:7] as well as from his frequently repeated caution, “Let no man deceive you;” [see Mark 13:5;Eph. 5:6;2 Thess. 2:3] which had been altogether needless, had not those very persons who had that unction from the Holy One [1 John 2:20] been liable, not to ignorance only, but to mistake also.

7. Even Christians, therefore, are not so perfect as to be free either from ignorance or error: We may, Thirdly, add, nor from infirmities.—Only let us take care to understand this word aright: Only let us not give that soft title to known sins, as the manner of some is. So, one man tells us, “Every man has his infirmity, and mine is drunkenness;” Another has the infirmity of uncleanness; another of taking God’s holy name in vain; and yet another has the infirmity of calling his brother, “Thou fool,” [Matt. 5:22] or returning “railing for railing.” [1 Pet. 3:9] It is plain that all you who thus speak, if ye repent not, shall, with your infirmities, go quick into hell! But I mean hereby, not only those which are properly termed bodily infirmities, but all those inward or outward imperfections which are not of a moral nature. Such are the weakness or slowness of understanding, dulness or confusedness of apprehension, incoherency of thought, irregular quickness or heaviness of imagination. Such (to mention no more of this kind) is the want of a ready or of a retentive memory. Such in another kind, are those which are commonly, in some measure, consequent upon these; namely, slowness of speech, impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation; to which one might add a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behaviour. These are the infirmities which are found in the best of men, in a larger or smaller proportion. And from these none can hope to be perfectly freed till the spirit returns to God that gave it. [Eccles. 12:7]

8. Nor can we expect, till then, to be wholly free from temptation. Such perfection belongeth not to this life. It is true, there are those who, being given up to work all uncleanness with greediness, [Eph. 4:19] scarce perceive the temptations which they resist not, and so seem to be without temptation. There are also many whom the wise enemy of souls, seeing to be fast asleep in the dead form of godliness, will not tempt to gross sin, lest they should awake before they drop into everlasting burnings. I know there are also children of God who, being now justified freely, [Rom. 5:1] having found redemption in the blood of Christ, [Eph. 1:7] for the present feel no temptation. God hath said to their enemies, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my children no harm.” [see 1 Chron. 16:22] And for this season, it may be for weeks or months, he causeth them to “ride on high places;” [Deut. 32:13] he beareth them as on eagles’ wings, [Exod. 19:4] above all the fiery darts of the wicked one. [Eph. 6:16] But this state will not last always; as we may learn from that single consideration,—that the Son of God himself, in the days of his flesh, was tempted even to the end of his life. [Heb. 2:18;4:15;6:7] Therefore, so let his servant expect to be; for “it is enough that he be as his Master.” [Luke 6:40]

9. Christian perfection, therefore, does not imply (as some men seem to have imagined) an exemption either from ignorance or mistake, or infirmities or temptations. Indeed, it is only another term for holiness. They are two names for the same thing. Thus every one that is perfect is holy, and every one that is holy is, in the Scripture sense, perfect. Yet we may, lastly, observe, that neither in this respect is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of a continual increase. So that how much soever any man hath attained, or in how high a degree soever he is perfect, he hath still need to “grow in grace,” [2 Pet. 3:18] and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Saviour. [see Phil. 1:9]

II. 1. In what sense, then, are Christians perfect? This is what I shall endeavor, in the Second place, to show. But it should be premised, that there are several stages in Christian life, as in natural; some of the children of God being but new-born babes; others having attained to more maturity. And accordingly St. John, in his first Epistle, (1 John 2:12.) applies himself severally to those he terms little children, those he styles young men, and those whom he entitles fathers. “I write unto you, little children,” saith the Apostle, “because your sins are forgiven you:” Because thus far you have attained,—being “justified freely,” you “have peace with God, through Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 5:1] “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one;” or (as he afterwards addeth,) “because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you.” [1 John 2:13, 14] Ye have quenched the fiery darts of the wicked one, [Eph. 6:16] the doubts and fears wherewith he disturbed your first peace; and the witness of God, that your sins are forgiven, now abideth in your heart. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” [1 John 2:13] Ye have known both the Father and the Son and the Spirit of Christ, in your inmost soul. Ye are “perfect men, being grown up to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” [Eph. 4:13]

2. It is of these chiefly I speak in the latter part of this discourse: For these only are properly Christians. But even babes in Christ are in such a sense perfect, or born of God, (an expression taken also in divers senses,) as, First, not to commit sin. If any doubt of this privilege of the sons of God, the question is not to be decided by abstract reasonings, which may be drawn out into an endless length, and leave the point just as it was before. Neither is it to be determined by the experience of this or that particular person. Many may suppose they do not commit sin, when they do; but this proves nothing either way. To the law and to the testimony we appeal. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” [Rom. 3:4] By his Word will we abide, and that alone. Hereby we ought to be judged.

3. Now the Word of God plainly declares, that even those who are justified, who are born again in the lowest sense, “do not continue in sin;” that they cannot “live any longer therein;” (Rom. 6:1, 2;) that they are “planted together in the likeness of the death” of Christ; (Rom. 6:5;) that their “old man is crucified with him,” the body of sin being destroyed, so that henceforth they do not serve sin; that being dead with Christ, they are free from sin; (Rom. 6:6, 7;) that they are “dead unto sin, and alive unto God;” (Rom. 6:11;) that “sin hath no more dominion over them,” who are “not under the law, but under grace;” but that these, “being free from sin, are become the servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:14, 18)

4. The very least which can be implied in these words, is, that the persons spoken of therein, namely, all real Christians, or believers in Christ, are made free from outward sin. And the same freedom, which St. Paul here expresses in such variety of phrases, St. Peter expresses in that one: (1 Pet. 4:1, 2:) “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,—that he no longer should live to the desires of men, but to the will of God.” For this ceasing from sin, if it be interpreted in the lowest sense, as regarding only the outward behaviour, must denote the ceasing from the outward act, from any outward transgression of the law.

5. But most express are the well-known words of St. John, in the third chapter of his First Epistle, verse 8: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: And he cannot sin because he is born of God.” [1 John 3:8, 9] And those in the fifth: (1 John 5:18:) “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”

6. Indeed it is said this means only, He sinneth not wilfully; or he doth not commit sin habitually; or, not as other men do; or, not as he did before. But by whom is this said? By St. John? No. There is no such word in the text; nor in the whole chapter; nor in all his Epistle; nor in any part of his writings whatsoever. Why then, the best way to answer a bold assertion is simply to deny it. And if any man can prove it from the Word of God, let him bring forth his strong reasons.

7. And a sort of reason there is, which has been frequently brought to support these strange assertions, drawn from the examples recorded in the Word of God: “What!” say they, “did not Abraham himself commit sin,—prevaricating, and denying his wife? Did not Moses commit sin, when he provoked God at the waters of strife? Nay, to produce one for all, did not even David, ‘the man after God’s own heart,’ commit sin, in the matter of Uriah the Hittite; even murder and adultery?” It is most sure he did. All this is true. But what is it you would infer from hence? It may be granted, First, that David, in the general course of his life, was one of the holiest men among the Jews; and, Secondly, that the holiest men among the Jews did sometimes commit sin. But if you would hence infer, that all Christians do and must commit sin as long as they live; this consequence we utterly deny: It will never follow from those premises.

8. Those who argue thus, seem never to have considered that declaration of our Lord: (Matt. 11:11:) “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” I fear, indeed, there are some who have imagined “the kingdom of heaven,” here, to mean the kingdom of glory; as if the Son of God had just discovered to us, that the least glorified saint in heaven is greater than any man upon earth! To mention this is sufficiently to refute it. There can, therefore, no doubt be made, but “the kingdom of heaven,” here, (as in the following verse, where it is said to be taken by force.) [Matt. 11:12] or, “the kingdom of God,” as St. Luke expresses it,—is that kingdom of God on earth whereunto all true believers in Christ, all real Christians, belong. In these words, then, our Lord declares two things: First, that before his coming in the flesh, among all the children of men there had not been one greater than John the Baptist; whence it evidently follows, that neither Abraham, David, nor any Jew was greater than John. Our Lord, Secondly, declares that he which is least in the kingdom of God (in that kingdom which he came to set up on earth, and which the violent now began to take by force) is greater than he:—Not a greater Prophet as some have interpreted the word; for this is palpably false in fact; but greater in the grace of God, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we cannot measure the privileges of real Christians by those formerly given to the Jews. Their “ministration,” (or dispensation,) we allow “was glorious;” but ours “exceeds in glory.” [2 Cor. 3:7–9] So that whosoever would bring down the Christian dispensation to the Jewish standard, whosoever gleans up the examples of weakness, recorded in the Law and the Prophets, and thence infers that they who have “put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27] are endued with no greater strength, doth greatly err, neither “knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” [Matt. 22:29]

9. “But are there not assertions in Scripture which prove the same thing, if it cannot be inferred from those examples? Does not the Scripture say expressly, “Even a just man sinneth seven times a day?” I answer, No. The Scripture says no such thing. There is no such text in all the Bible. That which seems to be intended is the sixteenth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Proverbs the words of which are these: “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” [Prov. 24:16] But this is quite another thing. For, First, the words “a day” are not in the text. So that if a just man falls seven times in his life, it is as much as is affirmed here. Secondly, here is no mention of falling into sin at all; what is here mentioned is falling into temporal affliction. This plainly appears from the verse before, the words of which are these: “Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place.” [Prov. 24:15] It follows, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” As if he had said, “God will deliver him out of his trouble; but when thou fallest, there shall be none to deliver thee.”

10. “But, however, in other places,” continue the objectors, “Solomon does assert plainly, ‘There is no man that sinneth not;’ (1 Kings 8:46;2 Chron. 6:36;) yea, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.’ (Eccles. 7:20.)” I answer, Without doubt, thus it was in the days of Solomon. Yea, thus it was from Adam to Moses, from Moses to Solomon, and from Solomon to Christ. There was then no man that sinned not. Even from the day that sin entered into the world, there was not a just man upon earth that did good and sinned not, until the Son of God was manifested to take away our sins. It is unquestionably true, that “the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant.” [Gal. 4:1] And that even so they (all the holy men of old, who were under the Jewish dispensation) were, during that infant state of the Church, “in bondage under the elements of the world.” [Gal. 4:3] “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons;” [Gal. 4:4]—that they might receive that “grace which is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10.) Now, therefore, they “are no more servants, but sons.” [see Gal. 4:7] So that, whatsoever was the case of those under the law, we may safely affirm with St. John, that, since the gospel was given, “he that is born of God sinneth not.” [1 John 5:18]

11. It is of great importance to observe, and that more carefully than is commonly done, the wide difference there is between the Jewish and the Christian dispensation; and that ground of it which the same Apostle assigns in the seventh chapter of his Gospel. (John 7:38) After he had there related, those words of our blessed Lord, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” he immediately subjoins, “This spake he of the Spirit,” ou emellon lambanein hoi pisteuontes eis auton, which they who should believe on him were afterwards to receive. For the holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. [John 7:39] Now, the Apostle cannot mean here, (as some have taught,) that the miracle-working power of the holy Ghost was not yet given. For this was given; our Lord had given it to all the Apostles, when he first sent them forth to preach the gospel. he then gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out; power to heal the sick; yea, to raise the dead. [Mark 10:8] But the Holy Ghost was not yet given in his sanctifying graces, as he was after Jesus was glorified. It was then when he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, that he received those gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” [Ps. 68:18; cf. Eph. 4:8] And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, [Acts 2:1] then first it was, that they who “waited for the promise of the Father” [Acts 1:4] were made more than conquerors [Rom. 8:37] over sin by the Holy Ghost given unto them.

12. That this great salvation from sin was not given till Jesus was glorified, St. Peter also plainly testifies; where, speaking of his brethren in the flesh, as now “receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls,” he adds, (1 Peter 1:9, 10.) “of which salvation the Prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace” that is, the gracious dispensation, “that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ. and the glory,” the glorious salvation, “that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;” [1 Pet. 1:12] viz., at the day of Pentecost, and so unto all generations, into the hearts of all true believers. on this ground, even “the grace which was brought unto them by the revelation of Jesus Christ,” [1 Pet. 1:13] the Apostle might well build that strong exhortation, “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” [1 Pet. 1:13]

13. Those who have duly considered these things must allow, that the privileges of Christians are in no wise to be measured by what the old Testament records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation; seeing the fulness of times is now come; the Holy Ghost is now given; the great salvation of God is brought unto men, by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is now set up on earth; concerning which the Spirit of God declared of old, (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian perfection,) “He that is feeble among them at that day, shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.” (Zech. 12:8.)

14. If, therefore, you would prove that the Apostles words, “He that is born of God sinneth not,” [1 John 5:18] are not to be understood according to their plain, natural, obvious meaning, it is from the New Testament you are to bring your proofs, else you will fight as one that beateth the air. [1 Cor. 9:26] And the first of these which is usually brought is taken from the examples recorded in the New Testament. “The Apostles themselves,” it is said, “committed sin; nay, the greatest of them, Peter and Paul: St. Paul, by his sharp contention with Barnabas; [Acts 15:39] and St. Peter, by his dissimulation at Antioch.” [Gal. 2:11] Well: Suppose both Peter and Paul did then commit sin; what is it you would infer from hence? That all the other Apostles committed sin sometimes? There is no shadow of proof in this. or would you thence infer, that all the other Christians of the apostolic age committed sin? Worse and worse: This is such an inference as, one would imagine, a man in his senses could never have thought of. or will you argue thus: “If two of the Apostles did once commit sin, then all other Christians, in all ages, do and will commit sin as long as they live?” Alas, my brother! a child of common understanding would be ashamed of such reasoning as this. Least of all can you with any colour of argument infer, that any man must commit sin at all. No: God forbid we should thus speak! No necessity of sinning was laid upon them. The grace of God was surely sufficient for them. And it is sufficient for us at this day. With the temptation which fell on them, there was a way to escape; as there is to every soul of man in every temptation. So that whosoever is tempted to any sin, need not yield; for no man is tempted above that he is able to bear. [1 Cor. 10:13]

15. “But St. Paul besought the Lord thrice, and yet he could not escape from his temptation.” Let us consider his own words literally translated: “There was given to me a thorn to the flesh, an angel” (or messenger) “of Satan, to buffet me. Touching this, I besought the Lord thrice, that it” (or he) “might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in” these “my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses;—for when I am weak, then am I strong.” [2 Cor. 12:7–10]

16. As this scripture is one of the strong-holds of the patrons of sin, it may be proper to weigh it thoroughly. Let it be observed then, First, it does by no means appear that this thorn, whatsoever it was, occasioned St. Paul to commit sin; much less laid him under any necessity of doing so. Therefore, from hence it can never be proved that any Christian must commit sin. Secondly, the ancient Fathers inform us, it was bodily pain: “a violent headache, saith Tertullian; (De Pudic.😉 to which both Chrysostom and St. Jerome agree. St. Cyprian [De Mortalitate] expresses it, a little more generally, in those terms: “Many and grievous torments of the flesh and of the body.” [Carnis et corporis multa ac gravia tormenta.] Thirdly, to this exactly agree the Apostles own words, “A thorn to the flesh to smite, beat, or buffet me.” “My strength is made perfect in weakness:”—Which same word occurs no less than four times in these two verses only. But, Fourthly, whatsoever it was, it could not be either inward or outward sin. It could no more be inward stirrings, than outward expressions, of pride, anger, or lust. This is manifest, beyond all possible exception from the words that immediately follow: “Most gladly will I glory in” these “my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me.” [2 Cor. 12:9] What! Did he glory in pride, in anger, in lust? Was it through these weaknesses, that the strength of Christ rested upon him? He goes on: “Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses; for when I am weak, then am I strong;” [2 Cor. 12:10] that is, when I am weak in body, then am I strong in spirit. But will any man dare to say, “When I am weak by pride or lust, then am I strong in spirit?” I call you all to record this day, who find the strength of Christ resting upon you, can you glory in anger, or pride, or lust? Can you take pleasure in these infirmities? Do these weaknesses make you strong? Would you not leap into hell, were it possible, to escape them? even by yourselves, then, judge, whether the Apostle could glory and take pleasure in them! Let it be, Lastly, observed, that this thorn was given to St. Paul above fourteen years before he wrote this epistle; [2 Cor. 12:2] which itself was wrote several years before he finished his course. [see Acts 20:24; 2 Tim. 4:7] So that he had after this, a long course to run, many battles to fight, many victories to gain, and great increase to receive in all the gifts of God, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore from any spiritual weakness (if such it had been) which he at that time felt, we could by no means infer that he was never made strong; that Paul the aged, the father in Christ, still laboured under the same weaknesses; that he was in no higher state till the day of his death. From all which it appears that this instance of St. Paul is quite foreign to the question, and does in no wise clash with the assertion of St. John, “He that is born of God sinneth not.” [1 John 5:18]

17. “But does not St. James directly contradict this? His words are, ‘In many things we offend all, (Jas. 3:2:) And is not offending the same as committing sin?” In this place, I allow it is: I allow the persons here spoken of did commit sin; yea, that they all committed many sins. But who are the persons here spoken of? Why, those many masters or teachers whom God had not sent; (probably the same vain men who taught that faith without works, which is so sharply reproved in the preceding chapter;) [Jas. 2] not the Apostle himself, nor any real Christian. That in the word we (used by a figure of speech common in all other, as well as the inspired, writings) the Apostle could not possibly include himself or any other true believer, appears evidently, First, from the same word in the ninth verse:—”Therewith,” saith he, “bless we God and therewith curse we men. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.” [Jas. 3:9] True; but not out of the mouth of the Apostle, nor of anyone who is in Christ a new creature. [2 Cor. 5:17] Secondly, from the verse immediately preceding the text, and manifestly connected with it: “My brethren, be not many masters,” (or teachers,) “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” “For in many things we offend all.” [Jas. 3:1] We! Who? Not the Apostles, not true believers; but they who know they should receive the greater condemnation, because of those many offences. But this could not be spoke of the Apostle himself, or of any who trod in his steps, seeing “there is no condemnation to them who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Rom. 8:2] Nay, Thirdly, the very verse itself proves, that “we offend all,” cannot be spoken either of all men, or of all Christians: For in it there immediately follows the mention of a man who offends not, as the we first mentioned did; from whom, therefore, he is professedly contradistinguished, and pronounced a perfect man.

18. So clearly does St. James explain himself, and fix the meaning of his own words. Yet, lest any one should still remain in doubt, St. John, writing many years after St. James, puts the matter entirely out of dispute, by the express declarations above recited. But here a fresh difficulty may arise: How shall we reconcile St. John with himself? In one place he declares, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;” [1 John 3:9] and again,—”We know that he which is born of God sinneth not:” [1 John 5:18] And yet in another he saith, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;” [1 John 1:8] and again,—”If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” [1 John 1:10]

19. As great a difficulty as this may at first appear, it vanishes away, if we observe, First, that the tenth verse fixes the sense of the eighth: “If we say we have no sin,” in the former, being explained by, “If we say we have not sinned,” in the latter verse. [1 John 1:10, 8] Secondly, that the point under present consideration is not whether we have or have not sinned heretofore; and neither of these verses asserts that we do sin, or commit sin now. Thirdly, that the ninth verse explains both the eighth and tenth. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness:” As if he had said, “I have before affirmed, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin; but let no man say, I need it not; I have no sin to be cleansed from. If we say that we have no sin, that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and make God a liar: But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just,’ not only ‘to forgive our sins,’ but also ‘to cleanse us from all unrighteousness:’ [1 John 1:8–10] that we may ‘go and sin no more.’ ” [John 8:11]

20. St. John, therefore, is well consistent with himself, as well as with the other holy writers; as will yet more evidently appear if we place all his assertions touching this matter in one view: He declares, First, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. Secondly, no man can say, I have not sinned, I have no sin to be cleansed from. Thirdly, but God is ready both to forgive our past sins and to save us from them for the time to come. [1 John 1:7–10] Fourthly, “These things I write unto you,” saith the Apostle, “that ye may not sin. But if any man” should “sin,” or have sinned, (as the word might be rendered,) he need not continue in sin; seeing “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” [1 John 2:1–2] Thus far all is clear. But lest any doubt should remain in a point of so vast importance, the Apostle resumes this subject in the third chapter, and largely explains his own meaning. “Little children,” saith he, “let no man deceive you:” (As though I had given any encouragement to those that continue in sin:) “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: For his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” (1 John 3:7–10.) Here the point, which till then might possibly have admitted of some doubt in weak minds, is purposely settled by the last of the inspired writers, and decided in the clearest manner. In conformity, therefore, both to the doctrine of St. John, and to the whole tenor of the New Testament, we fix this conclusion—A Christian is so far perfect, as not to commit sin.

21. This is the glorious privilege of every Christian; yea, though he be but a babe in Christ. But it is only of those who are strong in the Lord, “and “have overcome the wicked one,” or rather of those who “have known him that is from the beginning,” [1 John 2:13, 14] that it can be affirmed they are in such a sense perfect, as, Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers. First, from evil or sinful thoughts. But here let it be observed, that thoughts concerning evil are not always evil thoughts; that a thought concerning sin, and a sinful thought, are widely different. A man, for instance, may think of a murder which another has committed; and yet this is no evil or sinful thought. So our blessed Lord himself doubtless thought of, or understood the thing spoken by the devil, when he said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” [Matt. 4:9] Yet had he no evil or sinful thought; nor indeed was capable of having any. And even hence it follows, that neither have real Christians: for “every one that is perfect is as his Master.” (Luke 6:40) Therefore, if He was free from evil or sinful thoughts, so are they likewise.

22. And, indeed, whence should evil thoughts proceed, in the servant who is as his Master? “Out of the heart of man” (if at all) “proceed evil thoughts.” (Mark 7:21) If, therefore, his heart be no longer evil, then evil thoughts can no longer proceed out of it. If the tree were corrupt, so would be the fruit: But the tree is good; The fruit, therefore is good also; (Matt. 22:33) our Lord himself bearing witness, “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” as “a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt 7:17, 18)

23. The same happy privilege of real Christians, St. Paul asserts from his own experience. “The weapons of our warfare,” saith he, “are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations” (or reasonings rather, for so the word logimous signifies; all the reasonings of pride and unbelief against the declarations, promises, or gifts of God) “and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4.)

24. And as Christians indeed are freed from evil thoughts, so are they, Secondly, from evil tempers. This is evident from the above-mentioned declaration of our Lord himself: “The disciple is not above his Master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.” [Luke 6:40] He had been delivering, just before, some of the sublimest doctrines of Christianity, and some of the most grievous to flesh and blood. “I say unto you, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you;—and unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other.” [Luke 6:29] Now these he well knew the world would not receive; and, therefore, immediately adds, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” [Luke 6:39] As if he had said, “Do not confer with flesh and blood touching these things,—with men void of spiritual discernment, the eyes of whose understanding God hath not opened,—lest they and you perish together.” In the next verse he removes the two grand objections with which these wise fools meet us at every turn: “These things are too grievous to be borne,” or, “They are too high to be attained,” [Matt. 23:4] saying, ” ‘The disciple is not above his Master;’ therefore, if I have suffered, be content to tread in my steps. And doubt ye not then, but I will fulfill my word: ‘For every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.’ ” [Luke 6:40] But his Master was free from all sinful tempers. So, therefore, is his disciple, even every real Christian.

25. every one of these can say, with St. Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:” [Gal 2:20]—Words that manifestly describe a deliverance from inward as well as from outward sin. This is expressed both negatively, I live not; (my evil nature, the body of sin, is destroyed;) and positively, Christ liveth in me; and, therefore, all that is holy, and just, and good. Indeed, both these, Christ liveth in me, and I live not, are inseparably connected; for “what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?” [2 Cor. 6:15]

26. He, therefore, who liveth in true believers, hath “purified their hearts by faith;” [Acts 15:9] insomuch that every one that hath Christ in him the hope of glory, [Col. 1:27] “purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3.) He is purified from pride; for Christ was lowly of heart. [Matt. 11:29] He is pure from self-will or desire; for Christ desired only to do the will of his Father, and to finish his work. [John 4:34; 5:30] And he is pure from anger, in the common sense of the word; for Christ was meek and gentle, patient and long-suffering. I say, in the common sense of the word; for all anger is not evil. We read of our Lord himself, (Mark 3:5,) that he once “looked round with anger.” But with what kind of anger? The next word shows, syllypoumenos, being, at the same time “grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” [Mark 3:6] So then he was angry at the sin, and in the same moment grieved for the sinners; angry or displeased at the offence, but sorry for the offenders. With anger, yea, hatred, he looked upon the thing; with grief and love upon the persons. Go, thou that art perfect, and do likewise. Be thus angry, and thou sinnest not; [see Eph. 4:26] feeling a displacency at every offence against God, but only love and tender compassion to the offender.

27. Thus doth Jesus “save his people from their sins:” [Matt. 1:21] And not only from outward sins, but also from the sins of their hearts; from evil thoughts and from evil tempers.—”True,” say some, “we shall thus be saved from our sins; but not till death; not in this world.” But how are we to reconcile this with the express words of St. John?—”Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. Because as he is, so are we in this world.” The Apostle here, beyond all contradiction, speaks of himself and other living Christians, of whom (as though he had foreseen this very evasion, and set himself to overturn it from the foundation) he flatly affirms, that not only at or after death but in this world they are as their Master. (1 John 4:17.)

28. Exactly agreeable to this are his words in the first chapter of this Epistle, (1 John 1:5.) “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light,—we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” And again, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9] Now it is evident, the Apostle here also speaks of a deliverance wrought in this world. For he saith not, the blood of Christ will cleanse at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment, but, it “cleanseth,” at the time present, “us,” living Christians, “from all sin.” And it is equally evident, that if any sin remain, we are not cleansed from all sin: If any unrighteousness remain in the soul, it is not cleansed from all unrighteousness. Neither let any sinner against his own soul say, that this relates to justification only, or the cleansing us from the guilt of sin. First, because this is confounding together what the Apostle clearly distinguishes, who mentions first, to forgive us our sins, and then to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “Secondly, because this is asserting justification by works, in the strongest sense possible; it is making all inward as well as outward holiness necessarily previous to justification. For if the cleansing here spoken of is no other than the cleansing us from the guilt of sin, then we are not cleansed from guilt; that is, are not justified, unless on condition of “walking in the light, as he is in the light.” [1 John 1:7] It remains, then, that Christians are saved in this world from all sin, from all unrighteousness; that they are now in such a sense perfect, as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers.”

29. Thus hath the Lord fulfilled the things he spake by his holy prophets, which have been since the world began;—by Moses in particular, saying, (Deut. 30:6.) I “will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul;” by David, crying out, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me;” [Ps. 51:10]—and most remarkably by Ezekiel, in those words: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you;—and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.—Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.—Thus saith the Lord your God, In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities,—the Heathen shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places;—I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” (Ezek. 36:25.)

30. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved,” both in the Law and in the Prophets, and having the prophetic word confirmed unto us in the Gospel, by our blessed Lord and his Apostles; “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” [2 Cor. 7:1] “Let us fear, lest” so many “promises being made us of entering into his rest,” which he that hath entered into, has ceased from his own works, “any of us should come short of it.” [Heb. 4:1] “This one thing let us do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let us press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;” [Phil. 3:13, 14] crying unto him day and night, till we also are “delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God!” [Rom. 8:21]

The Promise of Sanctification

(Ezekiel 36:25.)

By the Rev. Charles Wesley.

1 God of all power, and truth, and grace,

Which shall from age to age endure;

Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,

Remains, and stands for ever sure:

2 Calmly to thee my soul looks up,

And waits thy promises to prove;

The object of my steadfast hope,

The seal of thine eternal love.

3 That I thy mercy may proclaim,

That all mankind thy truth may see,

Hallow thy great and glorious name,

And perfect holiness in me.

4 Chose from the world, if now I stand

Adorn’d in righteousness divine;

If, brought unto the promised land,

I justly call the Saviour mine;

5 Perform the work thou hast begun,

My inmost soul to thee convert:

Love me, for ever love thine own,

And sprinkle with thy blood my heart.

6 Thy sanctifying Spirit pour,

To quench my thirst, and wash me clean;

Now, Father, let the gracious shower

Descend, and make me pure from sin.

7 Purge me from every sinful blot;

My idols all be cast aside:

Cleanse me from every evil thought,

From all the filth of self and pride.

8 Give me a new, a perfect heart,

From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;

The mind which was in Christ impart,

And let my spirit cleave to thee.

9 O take this heart of stone away,

(Thy rule it doth not, cannot own;)

In me no longer let it stay:

O take away this heart of stone.

10 The hatred of my carnal mind

Out of my flesh at once remove;

Give me a tender heart, resign’d,

And pure, and fill’d with faith and love.

11 Within me thy good Spirit place,

Spirit of health, and love and power;

Plant in me thy victorious grace,

And sin shall never enter more.

12 Cause me to walk in Christ my Way,

And I thy statutes shall fulfill;

In every point thy law obey.

And perfectly perform thy will.

13 Hast thou not said, who canst not lie,

That I thy law shall keep and do?

Lord, I believe, though men deny;

They all are false, but thou art true.

14 O that I now, from sin released,

Thy word might to the utmost prove!

Enter into the promised rest,

The Canaan of thy perfect love!

15 There let me ever, ever dwell;

By thou my God, and I will be

Thy servant: O set to thy seal!

Give me eternal life in thee.

16 From all remaining filth within

Let me in Thee salvation have:

From actual, and from inbred sin

My ransom’d soul persist to save.

17 Wash out my old original stain:

Tell me no more It cannot be,

Demons or men! The Lamb was slain

His blood was all poured out for me!

18 Sprinkle it, Jesu, on my heart:

One drop of thy all-cleansing blood

Shall make my sinfulness depart,

And fill me with the life of God.

19 Father, supply my every need:

Sustain the life thyself hast given;

Call for the corn, the living bread,

The manna that comes down from heaven.

20 The gracious fruits of righteousness,

Thy blessings’ unexhausted store,

In me abundantly increase;

Nor let me ever hunger more.

21 Let me no more in deep complaint

“My leanness, O my leanness!” cry;

Alone consumed with pining want,

Of all my Father’s children I!

22 The painful thirst, the fond desire,

Thy joyous presence shall remove;

While my full soul doth still require

Thy whole eternity of love.

23 Holy, and true, and righteous Lord,

I wait to prove thy perfect will;

Be mindful of thy gracious word,

And stamp me with thy Spirit’s seal!

24 Thy faithful mercies let me find,

In which thou causest me to trust;

Give me the meek and lowly mind,

And lay my spirit in the dust.

25 Show me how foul my heart hath been,

When all renew’d by grace I am:

When thou hast emptied me of sin,

Show me the fulness of my shame.

26Open my faith’s interior eye,

Display thy glory from above;

And all I am shall sink and die,

Lost in astonishment and love.

27 Confound, o’erpower me with thy grace:

I would be by myself abhorr’d;

(All might, all majesty, all praise,

All glory be to Christ my Lord!)

28 Now let me gain perfection’s height!

Now let me into nothing fall!

Be less than nothing in thy sight,

And feel that Christ is all in all!



“Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

2 Cor. 5:5.

1. But will God so “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” that no wandering thought will find a place in the mind, even while we remain in the body? So some have vehemently maintained; yea, have affirmed that none are perfected in love unless they are so far perfected in understanding, that all wandering thoughts are done away; unless not only every affection and temper be holy and just and good, but every individual thought which arises in the mind be wise and regular.

2. This is a question of no small importance. For how many of those who fear God, yea, and love him, perhaps with all their heart, have been greatly distressed on this account! How many, by not understanding it right, have not only been distressed, but greatly hurt in their souls;—cast into unprofitable, yea, mischievous reasonings, such as slackened their motion towards God, and weakened them in running the race set before them! Nay, many, through misapprehensions of this very thing, have cast away the precious gift of God. They have been induced, first, to doubt of, and then to deny, the work God had wrought in their souls; and hereby have grieved the Spirit of God, till he withdrew and left them in utter darkness!

3. How is it then, that amidst the abundance of books which have been lately published almost on all subjects, we should have none upon wandering thoughts? at least none that will at all satisfy a calm and serious mind? In order to do this in some degree, I purpose to inquire,

    I.    What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts?

    II.    What are the general occasions of them?

    III.    Which of them are sinful, and which not?

    IV.    Which of them we may expect and pray to be delivered from?

I. 1. I purpose to inquire, First, What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts? The particular sorts are innumerable; but, in general, they are of two sorts: Thoughts that wander from God; and thoughts that wander from the particular point we have in hand.

2. With regard to the former, all our thoughts are naturally of this kind: For they are continually wandering from God: We think nothing about him: God is not in all our thoughts: We are, one and all, as the Apostle observes, “without God in the world.” We think of what we love; but we do not love God; therefore, we think not of him. Or, if we are now and then constrained to think of him for a time, yet as we have not pleasure therein, nay, rather, as these thoughts are not only insipid, but distasteful and irksome to us, we drive them out as soon as we can, and return to what we love to think of. So that the world, and the things of the world,—what we shall eat, what we shall drink, what we shall put on,—what we shall see, what we shall hear, what we shall gain,—how we shall please our senses or our imagination,—takes up all our time, and engrosses all our thought. So long, therefore, as we love the world; that is, so long as we are in our natural state; all our thoughts, from morning to evening, and from evening to morning, are no other than wandering thoughts.

3. But many times we are not only “without God in the world,” but also fighting against him; as there is in every man by nature a “carnal mind which is enmity against God:” No wonder, therefore, that men abound with unbelieving thoughts; either saying in their hearts, “There is no God,” or questioning, if not denying, his power or wisdom, his mercy, or justice, or holiness. No wonder that they so often doubt of his providence, at least, of its extending to all events; or that, even though they allow it, they still entertain murmuring or repining thoughts. Nearly related to these, and frequently connected with them, are proud and vain imaginations. Again: Sometimes they are taken up with angry, malicious, or revengeful thoughts; at other times, with airy scenes of pleasure, whether of sense or imagination; whereby the earthly, sensual mind becomes more earthy and sensual still. Now by all these they make flat war with God: These are wandering thoughts of the highest kind.

4. Widely different from these are the other sort of wandering thoughts; in which the heart does not wander from God, but the understanding wanders from the particular point it had then in view. For instance: I sit down to consider those words in the verse preceding the text: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.” I think, “This ought to be the case with all that are called Christians. But how far is it otherwise! Look round into almost every part of what is termed the Christian world. What manner of weapons are these using? In what kind of warfare are they engaged;

While men, like fiends, each other tear;

In all the hellish rage of war?

See how these Christians love one another! Wherein are they preferable to Turks and Pagans? What abomination can be found among Mahometans or Heathens which is not found among Christians also?” And thus my mind runs off, before I am aware, from one circumstance to another. Now, all these are, in some sense, wandering thoughts: For although they do not wander from God, much less fight against him, yet they do wander from the particular point I had in view.

II. Such is the nature, such are the sorts (to speak rather usefully than philosophically) of wandering thoughts. But what are the general occasions of them? This we are, in the Second place, to consider.

1. And it is easy to observe, that the occasion of the former sort of thoughts, which oppose or wander from God, are, in general, sinful tempers. For instance: Why is not God in all the thoughts, in any of the thoughts of a natural man? For a plain reason: Be he rich or poor, learned or unlearned, he is an Atheist; (though not vulgarly so called;) he neither knows nor loves God. Why are his thoughts continually wandering after the world? Because he is an idolater. He does not indeed worship an image, or bow down to the stock of a tree; yet is he sunk into equally damnable idolatry: He loves, that is worships, the world. He seeks happiness in the things that are seen, in the pleasures that perish in the using. Why is it that his thoughts are perpetually wandering from the very end of his being, the knowledge of God in Christ? Because he is an unbeliever; because he has no faith; or at least, no more than a devil. So all these wandering thoughts easily and naturally spring from that evil root of unbelief.

2. The case is the same in other instances: Pride, anger, revenge, vanity, lust, covetousness, every one of them occasions thoughts suitable to its own nature. And so does every sinful temper of which the human mind is capable. The particulars it is hardly possible, nor is it needful, to enumerate: It suffices to observe, that as many evil tempers as find a place in any soul, so many ways that soul will depart from God, by the worst kind of wandering thoughts.

3. The occasions of the latter kind of wandering thoughts are exceeding various. Multitudes of them are occasioned by the natural union between the soul and body. How immediately and how deeply is the understanding affected by a diseased body! Let but the blood move irregularly in the brain, and all regular thinking is at an end. Raging madness ensues; and then farewell to all evenness of thought. Yea, let only the spirits be hurried or agitated to a certain degree, and a temporary madness, a delirium, prevents all settled thought. And is not the same irregularity of thought, in a measure, occasioned by every nervous disorder? So does the “corruptible body press down the soul, and cause it to muse about many things.”

4. But does it only cause this in the time of sickness or preternatural disorder? Nay, but more or less, at all times, even in a state of perfect health. Let a man be ever so healthy, he will be more or less delirious every four-and-twenty hours. For does he not sleep? And while he sleeps, is he not liable to dream? And who then is master of his own thoughts, or able to preserve the order and consistency of them? Who can then keep them fixed to any one point, or prevent their wandering from pole to pole?

5. But suppose we are awake, are we always so awake that we can steadily govern our thoughts? Are we not unavoidably exposed to contrary extremes, by the very nature of this machine, the body? Sometimes we are too heavy, too dull and languid, to pursue any chain of thought. Sometimes, on the other hand, we are too lively. The imagination, without leave, starts to and fro, and carries us away hither and thither, whether we will or no; and all this from the merely natural motion of the spirits, or vibration of the nerves.

6. Farther: How many wanderings of thought may arise from those various associations of our ideas which are made entirely without our knowledge, and independently on our choice? How these connexions are formed, we cannot tell; but they are formed in a thousand different manners. Nor is it in the power of the wisest or holiest of men to break those associations, or prevent what is the necessary consequences of them, and matter of daily observation. Let the fire but touch one end of the train, and it immediately runs on to the other.

7. Once more: Let us fix our attention as studiously as we are able on any subject, yet let either pleasure or pain arise, especially if it be intense, and it will demand our immediate attention, and attach our thought to itself. It will interrupt the steadiest contemplation, and divert the mind from its favourite subject.

8. These occasions of wandering thoughts lie within, are wrought into our very nature. But they will likewise naturally and necessarily arise from the various impulse of outward objects. Whatever strikes upon the organ of sense, the eye or ear, will raise a perception in the mind. And, accordingly, whatever we see or hear will break in upon our former train of thought. Every man, therefore, that does anything in our sight, or speaks anything in our hearing, occasions our mind to wander, more or less, from the point it was thinking of before.

9. And there is no question but those evil spirits who are continually seeking whom they may devour make use of all the foregoing occasions to hurry and distract our minds. Sometimes by one, sometimes by another, of these means, they will harass and perplex us, and, so far as God permits, interrupt our thoughts, particularly when they are engaged on the best subjects. Nor is this at all strange: They will understand the very springs of thought; and know on which of the bodily organs the imagination, the understanding, and every other faculty of the mind more immediately depends. And hereby they know how, by affecting those organs, to affect the operations dependent on them. Add to this, that they can inject a thousand thoughts, without any of the preceding means; it being as natural for spirit to act upon spirit, as for matter to act upon matter. These things being considered, we cannot admire that our thought so often wanders from any point which we have in view.

III. 1. What kind of wandering thoughts are sinful, and what not, is the Third thing to be inquired into. And, First, all those thoughts which wander from God, which leave him no room in our minds, are undoubtedly sinful. For all these imply practical Atheism; and by these we are without God in the world. And so much more are all those which are contrary to God, which imply opposition or enmity to him. Such are all murmuring, discontented thoughts, which say, in effect, “We will not have thee to rule over us;”—all unbelieving thoughts, whether with regard to his being, his attributes, or his providence. I mean, his particular providence over all things, as well as all persons, in the universe; that without which “not a sparrow falls to the ground,” by which “the hairs of our head are all numbered;” for as to a general providence, (vulgarly so called,) contradistinguished from a particular, it is only a decent, well-sounding word, which means just nothing.

2. Again: All thoughts which spring from sinful tempers, are undoubtedly sinful. Such, for instance, are those that spring from a revengeful temper, from pride, or lust, or vanity. “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit:” Therefore if the tree be evil, so must the fruit be also.

3. And so must those be which either produce or feed any sinful temper; those which either give rise to pride or vanity, to anger or love of the world, or confirm and increase these or any other unholy temper, passion, or affection. For not only whatever flows from evil is evil; but also whatever leads to it; whatever tends to alienate the soul from God, and to make or keep it earthly, sensual, and devilish.

4. Hence, even those thoughts which are occasioned by weakness or disease, by the natural mechanism of the body, or by the laws of vital union, however innocent they may be in themselves, do nevertheless become sinful, when they either produce or cherish and increase in us any sinful temper; suppose the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. In like manner, the wandering thoughts which are occasioned by the words or actions of other men, if they cause or feed any wrong disposition, then commence sinful. And the same we may observe of those which are suggested or injected by the devil. When they minister to any earthly or devilish temper, (which they do, whenever we give place to them, and thereby make them our own,) then they are equally sinful with the tempers to which they minister.

5. But, abstracting from these cases, wandering thoughts, in the latter sense of the word, that is, thoughts wherein our understanding wanders from the point it has in view, are no more sinful than the motion of the blood in our veins, or of the spirits in our brain. If they arise from an infirm constitution, or from some accidental weakness or distemper, they are as innocent as it is to have a weak constitution or a distempered body. And surely no one doubts but a bad state of nerves, a fever of any kind, and either a transient or a lasting delirium, may consist with perfect innocence. And if they should arise in a soul which is united to a healthful body, either from the natural union between the body and soul, or from any of ten thousand changes which may occur in those organs of the body that minister to thought;—in any of these cases they are as perfectly innocent as the causes from which they spring. And so they are when they spring from the casual, involuntary associations of our ideas.

6. If our thoughts wander from the point we had in view, by means of other men variously affecting our senses, they are equally innocent still: For it is no more a sin to understand what I see and hear, and in many cases cannot help seeing, hearing, and understanding, than it is to have eyes and ears. “But if the devil injects wandering thoughts, are not those thoughts evil?” They are troublesome, and in that sense evil; but they are not sinful. I do not know that he spoke to our Lord with an audible voice; perhaps he spoke to his heart only when he said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” But whether he spoke inwardly or outwardly, our Lord doubtless understood what he said. He had therefore a thought correspondent to those words. But was it a sinful thought? We know it was not. In him was no sin, either in action, or word, or thought. Nor is there any sin in a thousand thoughts of the same kind, which Satan may inject into any of our Lord’s followers.

7. It follows that none of these wandering thoughts (whatever unwary persons have affirmed, thereby grieving whom the Lord had not grieved) are inconsistent with perfect love. Indeed, if they were, then not only sharp pain, but sleep itself, would be inconsistent with it:—Sharp pain; for whenever this supervenes, whatever we were before thinking of, it will interrupt our thinking, and of course draw our thoughts into another channel:—Yea, and sleep itself; as it is a state of insensibility and stupidity; and such as is generally mixed with thoughts wandering over the earth, loose, wild, and incoherent. Yet certainly these are consistent with perfect love: So then are all wandering thoughts of this kind.

IV. 1. From what has been observed, it is easy to give a clear answer to the last question,—What kind of wandering thoughts we may expect and pray to be delivered from.

From the former sort of wandering thoughts,—those wherein the heart wanders from God; from all that are contrary to his will, or that leave us without God in the world; every one that is perfected in love is unquestionably delivered. This deliverance, therefore, we may expect; this we may, we ought to pray for. Wandering thoughts of this kind imply unbelief, if not enmity against God; but both of these he will destroy, will bring utterly to an end. And indeed, from all sinful wandering thoughts we shall be absolutely delivered. All that are perfected in love are delivered from these; else they were not saved from sin. Men and devils will tempt them all manner of ways; but they cannot prevail over them.

2. With regard to the latter sort of wandering thoughts, the case is widely different. Till the cause is removed, we cannot in reason expect the effect should cease. But the causes or occasions of these will remain as long as we remain in the body. So long, therefore, we have all reason to believe the effects will remain also.

3. To be more particular: Suppose a soul, however holy, to dwell in a distempered body; suppose the brain be so thoroughly disordered, as that raging madness follows; will not all the thoughts be wild and unconnected as long as that disorder continues? Suppose a fever occasions that temporary madness which we term a delirium; can there be any just connexion of thought till that delirium is removed? Yea, suppose what is called a nervous disorder to rise to so high a degree as to occasion at least a partial madness; will there not be a thousand wandering thoughts? And must not these irregular thoughts continue as long as the disorder which occasions them?

4. Will not the case be the same with regard to those thoughts that necessarily arise from violent pain? They will more or less continue, while that pain continues, by the inviolable order of nature. This order, likewise, will obtain, where the thoughts are disturbed, broken, or interrupted, by any defect of the apprehension, judgement, or imagination, flowing from the natural constitution of the body. And how many interruptions may spring from the unaccountable and involuntary association of our ideas! Now, all these are directly or indirectly caused by the corruptible body pressing down the mind. Nor, therefore, can we expect them to be removed till “this corruptible shall put on incorruption.”

5. And then only, when we lie down in the dust, shall we be delivered from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by what we see and hear, among those by whom we are now surrounded. To avoid these, we must go out of the world: For as long as we remain therein, as long as there are men and women round about us, and we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the things which we daily see and hear will certainly affect our mind, and will more or less break in upon and interrupt our preceding thoughts.

6. And as long as evil spirits roam to and fro in a miserable, disordered world, so long they will assault (whether they can prevail or no) every inhabitant of flesh and blood. They will trouble even those whom they cannot destroy: They will attack, if they cannot conquer. And from these attacks of our restless, unwearied enemies, we must not look for an entire deliverance, till we are lodged “where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.”

7. To sum up the whole: To expect deliverance from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by evil spirits is to expect that the devil should die or fall asleep, or, at least, should no more go about as a roaring lion. To expect deliverance from those which are occasioned by other men is to expect either that men should cease from the earth, or that we should be absolutely secluded from them, and have no intercourse with them; or that having eyes we should see, neither hear with our ears, but be as senseless as stocks or stones. And to pray for deliverance from those which are occasioned by the body is, in effect, to pray that we may leave the body: Otherwise it is praying for impossibilities and absurdities; praying that God would reconcile contradictions, by continuing our union with a corruptible body without the natural, necessary consequences of that union. It is as if we should pray to be angels and men, mortal and immortal, at the same time. Nay!—but when that which is immortal is come, mortality is done away.

8. Rather let us pray, both with the spirit and with the understanding, that all these things may work together for our good; that we may suffer all the infirmities of our nature, all the interruptions of men, all the assaults and suggestions of evil spirits, and in all be “more than conquerors.” Let us pray, that we may be delivered from all sin; that both the root and branch may be destroyed; that we may be “cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit,” from every evil temper, and word, and work; that we may “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength;” that all the fruit of the Spirit may be found in us,—not only love, joy, peace, but also “long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance.” Pray that all these things may flourish and abound, may increase in you more and more, till an abundant entrance be ministered unto you, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!



“We are not ignorant of his devices.”

2 Cor. 2:11.

1. The devices whereby the subtle god of this world labours to destroy the children of God—or at least to torment whom he cannot destroy, to perplex and hinder them in running the race which is set before them—are numberless as the stars of heaven or the sand upon the sea-shore. But it is of one of them only that I now propose to speak, (although exerted in various ways,) whereby he endeavours to divide the gospel against itself, and by one part of it to overthrow the other.

2. The inward kingdom of heaven, which is set up in the heart of all that repent and believe the gospel, is no other than “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Every babe in Christ knows we are made partakers of these, the very hour that we believe in Jesus. But these are only the first-fruits of his Spirit; the harvest is not yet. Although these blessings are inconceivably great, yet we trust to see greater than these. We trust to love the Lord our God, not only as we do now, with a weak though sincere affection, but “with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength.” We look for power to “rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks;” knowing, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.”

3. We expect to be “made perfect in love;” in that love which casts out all painful fear, and all desire but that of glorifying him we love, and of loving and serving him more and more. We look for such an increase in the experimental knowledge and love of God our Saviour as will enable us always “to walk in the light, as he is in the light.” We believe the whole mind will be in us, “which was also in Christ Jesus;” that we shall love every man so as to be ready to lay down our life for his sake; so as, by this love, to be freed from anger, and pride, and from every unkind affection. We expect to be “cleansed from all our idols,” “from all filthiness,” whether “of flesh or spirit;” to be “saved from all our uncleannesses,” inward or outward; to be “purified as He is pure.”

4. We trust in his promise who cannot lie, that the time will surely come, when, in every word and work, we shall do his blessed will on earth, as it is done in heaven; when all our conversation shall be seasoned with salt, all meet to minister grace to the hearers; when, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, it shall be done to the glory of God; when all our words and deeds shall be “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God, even the Father, through him.”

5. Now this is the grand device of Satan, to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater work. It is therefore my present design, First, to point out the several ways whereby he endeavours: this; And, secondly, to observe how we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one, how we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.

I. 1. I am, First, to point out the several ways whereby Satan endeavours to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least to hinder its increase by our expectation of that greater work. And, 1. He endeavours to damp our joy in the Lord by the consideration of our own vileness, sinfulness, unworthiness; added to this, that there must be a far greater change than is yet, or we cannot see the Lord. If we knew we must remain as we are even to the day of our death, we might possibly draw a kind of comfort, poor as it was, from that necessity. But as we know, we need not remain in this state, as we are assured there is a greater change to come, and that unless sin be all done away in this life we cannot see God in glory,—that subtle adversary often damps the joy we should otherwise feel in what we have already attained, by a perverse representation of what we have not attained, and the absolute necessity of attaining it. So that we cannot rejoice in what we have, because there is more which we have not. We cannot rightly taste the goodness of God, who hath done so great things for us, because there are so much greater things which as yet he hath not done. Likewise, the deeper conviction God works in us of our present unholiness, and the more vehement desire we feel in our heart of the entire holiness he hath promised, the more are we tempted to think lightly of the present gifts of God, and to undervalue what we have already received because of what we have not received.

2. If he can prevail thus far, if he can damp our joy, he will soon attack our peace also. He will suggest, “Are you fit to see God? He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. How then can you flatter yourself, so as to imagine he beholds you with approbation? God is holy: You are unholy. What communion hath light with darkness? How is it possible that you, unclean as you are, should be in a state of acceptance with God? You see indeed the mark, the prize of your high calling; but do you not see it is afar off? How can you presume then to think that all your sins are already blotted out? How can this be, until you are brought nearer to God, until you bear more resemblance to him?” Thus will he endeavour not only to shake your peace, but even to overturn the very foundation of it; to bring you back, by insensible degrees, to the point from whence you set out first, even to seek for justification by works, or by your own righteousness,—to make something in you the ground of your acceptance, or at least necessarily previous to it.

3. Or, if we hold fast, “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ;” and, “I am justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus;” yet he will not cease to urge, “But the tree is known by its fruits: And have you the fruits of justification? Is that mind in you which was in Christ Jesus? Are you dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness? Are you made conformable to the death of Christ, and do you know the power of his resurrection?” And then, comparing the small fruits we feel in our souls with the fullness of the promises, we shall be ready to conclude: “Surely God hath not said that my sins are forgiven me! Surely I have not received the remission of my sins; for what lot have I among them that are sanctified?”

4. More especially in the time of sickness and pain he will press this with all his might: “Is it not the word of Him that cannot lie, ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord?’ But you are not holy. You know it well; you know holiness is the full image of God; and how far is this above, out of your sight? You cannot attain unto it. Therefore, all your labour has been in vain. All these things you have suffered in vain. You have spent your strength for nought. You are yet in your sins, and must therefore perish at the last.” And thus, if your eye be not steadily fixed on Him who hath borne all your sins, he will bring you again under that “fear of death,” whereby you was so long “subject unto bondage,” and, by this means, impair, if not wholly destroy, your peace as, well as joy in the Lord.

5. But his master-piece of subtlety is still behind. Not content to strike at your peace and joy, he will carry his attempts farther yet: He will level his assault against your righteousness also. He will endeavour to shake, yea, if it be possible, to destroy the holiness you have already received by your very expectation of receiving more, of attaining all the image of God.

6. The manner wherein he attempts this, may partly appear from what has been already observed. For, First, by striking at our joy in the Lord, he strikes likewise at our holiness: Seeing joy in the Holy Ghost is a precious means of promoting every holy temper; a choice instrument of God whereby he carries on much of his work in a believing soul. And it is a considerable help not only to inward, but also to outward holiness. It strengthens our hands to go on in the work of faith, and in the labour of love; manfully to “fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life.” It is peculiarly designed of God to be a balance both against inward and outward sufferings; to “lift up the hands that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees.” Consequently, whatever damps our joy in the Lord proportionably obstructs our holiness. And therefore, so far as Satan shakes our joy he hinders our holiness also.

7. The same effect will ensue, if he can, by any means, either destroy or shake our peace. For the peace of God is another precious means of advancing the image of God in us. There is scarce a greater help to holiness than this, a continual tranquility of spirit, the evenness of a mind stayed upon God, a calm repose in the blood of Jesus. And without this, it is scarce possible to “grow in grace,” and in the vital “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For all fear (unless the tender, filial fear) freezes and benumbs the soul. It binds up all the springs of spiritual life, and stops all motion of the heart toward God. And doubt, as it were, bemires the soul, so that it sticks fast in the deep clay. Therefore, in the same proportion as either of these prevail, our growth in holiness is hindered.

8. At the same time that our wise adversary endeavours to make our conviction of the necessity of perfect love an occasion of shaking our peace by doubts and fears, he endeavours to weaken, if not destroy, our faith. Indeed these are inseparably connected, so that they must stand or fall together. So long as faith subsists we remain in peace; our heart stands fast, while it believes in the Lord. But if we let go our faith, our filial confidence in a loving, pardoning God, our peace is at an end, the very foundation on which it stood being overthrown. And this is the only foundation of holiness, as well as of peace; consequently whatever strikes at this, strikes at the very root of all holiness: For without this faith, without an abiding sense that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me, without a continuing conviction that God for Christ’s sake is merciful to me a sinner, it is impossible that I should love God: “We love him, because he first loved us;” and in proportion to the strength and clearness of our conviction that he hath loved us, and accepted us in his Son. And unless we love God, it is not possible that we should love our neighbour as ourselves; nor, consequently, that we should have any right affections, either toward God, or toward man. It evidently follows, that whatever weakens our faith, must, in the same degree obstruct our holiness: And this is not only the most effectual, but also the most compendious, way of destroying all holiness; seeing it does not affect any one Christian temper, any single grace or fruit of the Spirit, but, so far as it succeeds, tears up the very root of the whole work of God.

9. No marvel, therefore, that the ruler of the darkness of this world should here put forth all his strength. And so we find by experience. For it is far easier to conceive, than it is to express, the unspeakable violence wherewith this temptation is frequently urged on them who hunger and thirst after righteousness. When they see, in a strong and clear light, on the one hand, the desperate wickedness of their own hearts,—on the other hand, the unspotted holiness to which they are called in Christ Jesus; on the one hand, the depth of their own corruption, of their total alienation from God,—on the other, the height of the glory of God, that image of the Holy One, wherein they are to be renewed; there is, many times, no spirit left in them; they could almost cry out, “With God this is impossible!” They are ready to give up both faith and hope; to cast away that very confidence, whereby they are to overcome all things, and do all things, through Christ strengthening them; whereby, “after’ they have done the will of God,” they are to “receive the promise.”

10. And if they “hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end,” they shall undoubtedly receive the promise of God, reaching through both time and eternity. But here is another snare laid for our feet: While we earnestly pant for that part of the promise which is to be accomplished here, “for the glorious liberty of the children of God,” we may be led unawares from the consideration of the glory which shall hereafter be revealed. Our eye may be insensibly turned aside from that crown which the righteous Judge hath promised to give at that day “to all that love his appearing;” and we may be drawn away from the view of that incorruptible inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. But this also would be a loss to our souls, and an obstruction to our holiness. For to walk in the continual sight of our goal, is a needful help in our running the race that is set before us. This it was, the having “respect unto the recompense of reward,” which of old time, encouraged Moses, rather “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” Nay, it is expressly said of a greater than he, that “for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame,” till he “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Whence we may easily infer, how much more needful for us is the view of that joy set before us, that we may endure whatever cross the wisdom of God lays upon us, and press on through holiness to glory.

11. But while we are reaching to this, as well as to that glorious liberty which is preparatory to it, we may be in danger of falling into another snare of the devil, whereby he labours to entangle the children of God. We may take too much thought for tomorrow, so as to neglect the improvement of to-day. We may so expect perfect love, as not to use that which is already shed abroad in our hearts. There have not been wanting instances of those who have greatly suffered hereby. They were so taken up with what they were to receive hereafter, as utterly to neglect what they had already received. In expectation of having five talents more, they buried their one talent in the earth. At least, they did not improve it as they might have done, to the glory of God and the good of their own souls.

12. Thus does the subtle adversary of God and man endeavour to make void the counsel of God, by dividing the gospel against itself, and making one part of it overthrow the other; while the first work of God in the soul is destroyed by the expectation of his perfect work. We have seen several of the ways wherein he attempts this by cutting off, as it were, the springs of holiness. But this he likewise does more directly by making that blessed hope an occasion of unholy tempers.

13. Thus, whenever our heart is eagerly athirst for all the great and precious promises; when we pant after the fullness of God, as the hart after the water-brook; when our soul breaketh out in fervent desire, “Why are his chariot-wheels so long a-coming?”—he will not neglect the opportunity of tempting us to murmur against God. He will use all his wisdom, and all his strength, if haply, in an unguarded hour, we may be influenced to repine at our Lord for thus delaying his coming. At least, he will labour to excite some degree of fretfulness or impatience; and, perhaps, of envy at those whom we believe to have already attained the prize of our high calling. He well knows, that, by giving way to any of these tempers, we are pulling down the very thing we would build up. By thus following after perfect holiness, we become more unholy than before. Yea, there is great danger that our last state should be worse than the first; like them of whom the Apostle speaks in those dreadful words, “It had been better they had never known the way of righteousness, than, after they had known it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

14. And from hence he hopes to reap another advantage, even to bring up an evil report of the good way. He is sensible, how few are able to distinguish (and too many are not willing so to do) between the accidental abuse, and the natural tendency, of a doctrine. These, therefore, will he continually blend together, with regard to the doctrine of Christian perfection; in order to prejudice the minds of unwary men against the glorious promises of God. And how frequently, how generally, I had almost said how universally, has he prevailed herein! For who is there that observes any of these accidental ill effects of this doctrine, and does not immediately conclude, this is its natural tendency; and does not readily cry out, “See, these are the fruits (meaning the natural, necessary fruits) of such doctrine?” Not so: They are fruits which may accidentally spring from the abuse of a great and precious truth: But the abuse of this, or any other scriptural doctrine, does by no means destroy its use. Neither can the unfaithfulness of man perverting his right way, make the promise of God of none effect No: Let God be true, and every man a liar. The word of the Lord, it shall stand. “Faithful is he that hath promised: He also will do it.” Let not us then be “removed from the hope of the gospel.” Rather let us observe, which was the second thing proposed: How we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one: How we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.

II. 1. And, First, does Satan endeavour to damp your joy in the Lord, by the consideration of your sinfulness; added to this, that without entire, universal holiness, no man can see the Lord? You may cast back this dart upon his own head, while through the grace of God, the more you feel of your own vileness, the more you rejoice in confident hope, that all this shall be done away. While you hold fast this hope, every evil temper you feel, though you hate it with a perfect hatred, may be a means, not of lessening your humble joy, but rather of increasing it. “This and this,” may you say, “shall likewise perish from the presence of the Lord. Like as the wax melteth at the fire, so shall this melt away before his face.” By this means, the greater that change is which remains to be wrought in your soul, the more may you triumph in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of your salvation, who hath done so great things for you already, and will do so much greater things than these.

2. Secondly: The more vehemently he assaults your peace with that suggestion, “God is holy; you are unholy; You are immensely distant from that holiness, without which you cannot see God: How then can you be in the favour of God? How can you fancy you are justified?”—take the more earnest heed to hold fast that, “Not by works of righteousness which I have done, I am found in him; I am accepted in the Beloved; not having my own righteousness, (as the cause, either in whole or in part, of our justification before God,) but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” O bind this about your neck: Write it upon the table of thy heart. Wear it as a bracelet upon thy arm, as frontlets between thine eyes: “I am ‘justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Value and esteem, more and more, that precious truth, “By grace we are saved through faith.” Admire, more and more, the free grace of God, in so loving the world as to give “his only Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” So shall the sense of the sinfulness you feel, on the one hand, and of the holiness you expect, on the other, both contribute to establish your peace, and to make it flow as a river. So shall that peace flow on with an even stream, in spite of all those mountains of ungodliness, which shall become a plain in the day when the Lord cometh to take full possession of your heart. Neither will sickness, or pain, or the approach of death, occasion any doubt or fear. You know a day, an hour, a moment with God, is as a thousand years. He cannot be straitened for time, wherein to work whatever remains to be done in your soul. And God’s time is always the best time. Therefore be thou careful for nothing: Only make thy request known unto Him, and that, not with doubt or fear, but thanksgiving; as being previously assured, He cannot withhold from thee any manner of thing that is good.

3. Thirdly: The more you are tempted to give up your shield, to cast away your faith, your confidence in his love, so much the more take heed that you hold fast that whereunto you have attained; so much the more labour to stir up the gift of God which is in you. Never let that slip, “I have ‘an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;’ and, ‘The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ ” Be this thy glory and crown of rejoicing. And see that no one take thy crown. Hold that fast: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;” and, “I now ‘have redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ ” Thus, being filled with all peace and joy in believing, press on, in the peace and joy of faith to the renewal of thy whole soul in the image of him that created thee! Meanwhile, cry continually to God that thou mayest see that prize of thy high calling, not as Satan represents it, in a horrid dreadful shape, but in its genuine native beauty; not as something that must be, or thou wilt go to hell, but as what may be, to lead thee to heaven. Look upon it as the most desirable gift which is in all the stores of the rich mercies of God. Beholding it in this true point of light, thou wilt hunger after it more and more; thy whole soul will be athirst for God, and for this glorious conformity to his likeness; and having received a good hope of this, and strong consolation through grace, thou wilt no more be weary or faint in thy mind, but wilt follow on till thou attainest.

4. In the same power of faith, press on to glory. Indeed this is the same prospect still. God hath joined from the beginning pardon, holiness, heaven. And why should man put them asunder? O beware of this! Let not one link of the golden chain be broken. “God, for Christ’s sake hath forgiven me. He is now renewing me in his own image. Shortly he will make me meet for himself, and take me to stand before his face. I, whom he hath justified through the blood of his Son, being thoroughly sanctified by his Spirit, shall quickly ascend to the ‘New Jerusalem, the city of the living God.’ Yet a little while, and I shall ‘come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, and to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant.’ How soon will these shadows flee away, and the day of eternity dawn upon me! How soon shall I drink of ‘the river of the water of life, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! There all his servants shall praise him, and shall see his face, and his name shall be upon their foreheads. And no night shall be there; and they have no need of a candle or the light of the sun. For the Lord God enlighteneth them, and they shall reign for ever and ever.’ ”

5. And if you thus “taste of the good word, and of the powers of the world to come,” you will not murmur against God, because you are not yet “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Instead of repining at your not being wholly delivered, you will praise God for thus far delivering you. You will magnify God for what he hath done, and take it as an earnest of what he will do. You will not fret against him, because you are not yet renewed, but bless him because you shall be; and because “now is your salvation” from all sin “nearer than when you” first “believed.” Instead of uselessly tormenting yourself because the time is not fully come, you will calmly and quietly wait for it, knowing that it “will come, and will not tarry.” You may, therefore, the more cheerfully endure, as yet, the burden of sin that still remains in you, because it will not always remain. Yet a little while, and it shall be clean gone. Only “tarry thou the Lord’s leisure:” Be strong, and “he shall comfort thy heart;” and put thou thy trust in the Lord!

6. And if you see any who appear (so far as man can judge, but God alone searcheth the hearts) to be already partakers of their hope, already “made perfect in love;” far from envying the grace of God in them, let it rejoice and comfort your heart. Glorify God for their sake! “If one member is honoured,” shall not “all the members rejoice with it?” Instead of jealousy or evil surmising concerning them, praise God for the consolation! Rejoice in having a fresh proof of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling all his promises; and stir yourself up the more, to “apprehend that for which you also are apprehended of Christ Jesus!”

7. In order to this, redeem the time. Improve the present moment. Buy up every opportunity of growing in grace, or of doing good. Let not the thought of receiving more grace to-morrow, make you negligent of to-day. You have one talent now: If you expect five more, so much the rather improve that you have. And the more you expect to receive hereafter, the more labour for God now. Sufficient for the day is the grace thereof. God is now pouring his benefits upon you: Now approve yourself a faithful steward of the present grace of God. Whatever may be to-morrow, give all diligence to-day, to “add to your faith courage, temperance, patience, brotherly-kindness,” and the fear of God, till you attain that pure and perfect love! Let these things be now “in you and abound!” Be not now slothful or unfruitful: “So shall an entrance be ministered into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

8. Lastly: If in time past you have abused this blessed hope of being holy as he is holy, yet do not therefore cast it away. Let the abuse cease, the use remain. Use it now to the more abundant glory of God, and profit of your own soul. In steadfast faith, in calm tranquility of spirit, in full assurance of hope, rejoicing evermore for what God hath done, press ye on unto perfection! Daily growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and going on from strength to strength, in resignation, in patience, in humble thankfulness for what ye have attained, and for what ye shall, run the race set before you, “looking unto Jesus,” till, through perfect love, ye enter into his glory!



“Ye are saved through faith.”

Ephesians 2:8.

1. Nothing can be more intricate, complex, and hard to be understood, than religion, as it has been often described. And this is not only true concerning the religion of the Heathens, even many of the wisest of them, but concerning the religion of those also who were, in some sense, Christians; yea, and men of great name in the Christian world; men who seemed to be pillars thereof. Yet how easy to be understood, how plain and simple a thing, is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ; provided only that we take it in its native form, just as it is described in the oracles of God! It is exactly suited, by the wise Creator and Governor of the world, to the weak understanding and narrow capacity of man in his present state. How observable is this, both with regard to the end it proposes, and the means to attain that end! The end is, in one word, salvation; the means to attain it, faith.

2. It is easily discerned, that these two little words, I mean faith and salvation, include the substance of all the Bible, the marrow, as it were, of the whole Scripture. So much the more should we take all possible care to avoid all mistake concerning them, and to form a true and accurate judgement concerning both the one and the other.

3. Let us then seriously inquire,

    I.    What is Salvation?

    II.    What is that faith whereby we are saved? And,

    III.    How are we saved by it?

1. I. And, first, let us inquire, What is salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul’s going to paradise, termed by our Lord, “Abraham’s bosom.” It is not a blessing which lies on the other side death; or, as we usually speak, in the other world. The very words of the text itself put this beyond all question: “Ye are saved.” It is not something at a distance: it is a present thing; a blessing which, through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of. Nay, the words may be rendered, and that with equal propriety, “Ye have been saved”: so that the salvation which is here spoken of might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, till it is consummated in glory.

2. If we take this in its utmost extent, it will include all that is wrought in the soul by what is frequently termed “natural conscience,” but more properly, “preventing grace”;—all the drawings of the Father; the desires after God, which, if we yield to them, increase more and more;—all that light wherewith the Son of God “enlighteneth every one that cometh into the world;” showing every man “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God”;—all the convictions which His Spirit, from time to time, works in every child of man—although it is true, the generality of men stifle them as soon as possible, and after a while forget, or at least deny, that they ever had them at all.

3. But we are at present concerned only with that salvation which the Apostle is directly speaking of. And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.

Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins; and, what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God. The price whereby this hath been procured for us (commonly termed “the meritorious cause of our justification”), is the blood and righteousness of Christ; or, to express it a little more clearly, all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, till He “poured out His soul for the transgressors.” The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a “peace that passeth all understanding,” and a “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God” “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

4. And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit: there is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel “the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”; producing love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God; expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honour, of money, together with pride, anger, self-will, and every other evil temper; in a word, changing the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, into “the mind which was in Christ Jesus.”

5. How naturally do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein! How easily do they draw that inference, “I feel no sin; therefore, I have none: it does not stir; therefore it does not exist: it has no motion; therefore, it has no being!”

6. But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed. Temptations return, and sin revives; showing it was but stunned before, not dead. They now feel two principles in themselves, plainly contrary to each other; “the flesh lusting against the Spirit”; nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny, that although they still feel power to believe in Christ, and to love God; and although His “Spirit” still “witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God”; yet they feel in themselves sometimes pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief. They find one or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not conquering; yea, perhaps, “thrusting sore at them that they may fall”; but the Lord is their help.

7. How exactly did Macarius, fourteen hundred years ago, describe the present experience of the children of God: “The unskilful,” or unexperienced, “when grace operates, presently imagine they have no more sin. Whereas they that have discretion cannot deny, that even we who have the grace of God may be molested again. For we have often had instances of some among the brethren, who have experienced such grace as to affirm that they had no sin in them; and yet, after all, when they thought themselves entirely freed from it, the corruption that lurked within was stirred up anew, and they were wellnigh burned up.”

8. From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled “by the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body,” of our evil nature; and as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We so on from grace to grace, while we are careful to “abstain from all appearance of evil,” and are “zealous of good works,” as we have opportunity, doing good to all men; while we walk in all His ordinances blameless, therein worshipping Him in spirit and in truth; while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves every pleasure that does not lead us to God.

9. It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins,—from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “go unto perfection.” But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks.”

II. But what is faith through which we are saved? This is the second point to be considered.

1. Faith, in general, is defined by the Apostle, oprgmaton elegchos ou blepomenon. An evidence, a divine evidence and conviction (the word means both) of things not seen; not visible, not perceivable either by sight, or by any other of the external senses. It implies both a supernatural evidence of God, and of the things of God; a kind of spiritual light exhibited to the soul, and a supernatural sight or perception thereof. Accordingly, the Scripture speaks of Gods giving sometimes light, sometimes a power of discerning it. So St. Paul: God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And elsewhere the same Apostle speaks of the eyes of our understanding being opened. By this two-fold operation of the holy Spirit, having the eyes of our soul both opened and enlightened, we see the things which the natural “eye hath not seen, neither the ear heard.” We have a prospect of the invisible things of God; we see the spiritual world, which is all round about us, and yet no more discerned by our natural faculties than if it had no being. And we see the eternal world; piercing through the veil which hangs between time and eternity. Clouds and darkness then rest upon it no more, but we already see the glory which shall be revealed.

2. Taking the word in a more particular sense, faith is a divine evidence and conviction not only that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,” but also that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. It is by this faith (whether we term it the essence, or rather a property thereof) that we receive Christ; that we receive Him in all His offices, as our Prophet, Priest, and King. It is by this that He is “made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

3. “But is this the faith of assurance, or faith of adherence?” The Scripture mentions no such distinction. The Apostle says, “There is one faith, and one hope of our calling”; one Christian, saving faith; “as there is one Lord,” in whom we believe, and “one God and Father of us all.” And it is certain, this faith necessarily implies an assurance (which is here only another word for evidence, it being hard to tell the difference between them) that Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me. For “he that believeth” with the true living faith “hath the witness in himself”: “the Spirit witnesseth with his spirit that he is a child of God.” “Because he is a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father”; giving him an assurance that he is so, and a childlike confidence in Him. But let it be observed, that, in the very nature of the thing, the assurance goes before the confidence. For a man cannot have a childlike confidence in God till he knows he is a child of God. Therefore, confidence, trust, reliance, adherence, or whatever else it be called, is not the first, as some have supposed, but the second, branch or act of faith.

4. It is by this faith we are saved, justified, and sanctified; taking that word in its highest sense. But how are we justified and sanctified by faith? This is our third head of inquiry. And this being the main point in question, and a point of no ordinary importance, it will not be improper to five it a more distinct and particular consideration.

III. 1. And, first, how are we justified by faith? In what sense is this to be understood? I answer, Faith is the condition, and the only condition, of justification. It is the condition: none is justified but he that believes: without faith no man is justified. And it is the only condition: this alone is sufficient for justification. every one that believes is justified, whatever else he has or has not. In other words: no man is justified till he believes; every man when he believes is justified.

2. “But does not God command us to repent also? Yea, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance’to cease, for instance, from doing evil, and learn to do well? And is not both the one and the other of the utmost necessity, insomuch that if we willingly neglect either, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all? But if this be so, how can it be said that faith is the only condition of justification?” God does undoubtedly command us both to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance; which if we willingly neglect, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all: therefore both repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, are, in some sense, necessary to justification. But they are not necessary in the same sense with faith, nor in the same degree. Not in the same degree; for those fruits are only necessary conditionally; if there be time and opportunity for them. otherwise a man may be justified without them, as was the thief upon the cross (if we may call him so; for a late writer has discovered that he was no thief, but a very honest and respectable person!); but he cannot be justified without faith; this is impossible. Likewise, let a man have ever so much repentance, or ever so many of the fruits meet for repentance, yet all this does not at all avail; he is not justified till he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without those fruits, yea, with more or less repentance, he is justified. Not in the same sense; for repentance and its fruits are only remotely necessary; necessary in order to faith; whereas faith is immediately necessary to justification. It remains, that faith is the only condition, which is immediately and proximately necessary to justification.

3. “But do you believe we are sanctified by faith? We know you believe that we are justified by faith; but do not you believe, and accordingly teach, that we are sanctified by our works?” So it has been roundly and vehemently affirmed for these five-and-twenty years: but I have constantly declared just the contrary; and that in all manner of ways. I have continually testified in private and in public, that we are sanctified as well as justified by faith. And indeed the one of those great truths does exceedingly illustrate the other. exactly as we are justified by faith, so are we sanctified by faith. Faith is the condition, and the only condition, of sanctification, exactly as it is of justification. It is the condition: none is sanctified but he that believes; with out faith no man is sanctified. And it is the only condition: this alone is sufficient for sanctification. every one that believes is sanctified, whatever else he has or has not. In other words, no man is sanctified till he believes: every man when he believes is sanctified.

4. “But is there not a repentance consequent upon, as well as a repentance previous to, justification? And is it not incumbent on all that are justified to be zealous of good works’? Yea, are not these so necessary, that if a man willingly neglect them he cannot reasonably expect that he shall ever be sanctified in the full sense; that is, perfected in love? Nay, can he grow at all in grace, in the loving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Yea, can he retain the grace which God has already given him? Can he continue in the faith which he has received, or in the favour of God. Do not you yourself allow all this, and continually assert it? But, if this be so, how can it be said that faith is the only condition of sanctification?”

5. I do allow all this, and continually maintain it as the truth of God. I allow there is a repentance consequent upon, as well as a repentance previous to, justification. It is incumbent on all that are justified to be zealous of good works. And there are so necessary, that if a man willingly neglect them, he cannot reasonably expect that he shall ever be sanctified; he cannot grow in grace, in the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus; nay, he cannot retain the grace he has received; he cannot continue in faith, or in the favour of God. What is the inference we mist draw herefrom? Why, that both repentance, rightly understood, and the practice of all good works,—works of piety, as well as works of mercy (now properly so called, since they spring from faith), are, in some sense, necessary to sanctification.

6. I say, “repentance rightly understood”; for this must not be confounded with the former repentance. The repentance consequent upon justification is widely different from that which is antecedent to it. This implies no guilt, no sense of condemnation, no consciousness of the wrath of God. It does not suppose any doubt of the favour of God, or any “fear that hath torment.” It is properly a conviction, wrought by the Holy Ghost, of the sin which still remains in our heart; of the phronema sarkos, the carnal mind, which “does still remain” (as our Church speaks) “even in them that are regenerate”; although it does no longer reign; it has not now dominion over them. It is a conviction of our proneness to evil, of an heart bent to backsliding, of the still continuing tendency of the flesh to lust against the spirit. Sometimes, unless we continually watch and pray, it lusteth to pride, sometimes to anger, sometimes to love of the world, love of ease, love of honour, or love of pleasure more than of God. It is a conviction of the tendency of our heart to self-will, to Atheism, or idolatry; and above all, to unbelief; whereby, in a thousand ways, and under a thousand pretenses, we are ever departing, more or less, from the living God.

7. With this conviction of the sin remaining in our hearts, there is joined a clear conviction of the sin remaining in our lives; still cleaving to all our words and actions. In the best of these we now discern a mixture of evil, either in the spirit, the matter, or the manner of them; something that could not endure the righteous judgement of God, were He extreme to mark what is done amiss. Where we least suspected it, we find a taint of pride or self-will, of unbelief or idolatry; so that we are now more ashamed of our best duties than formerly of our worst sins: and hence we cannot but feel that these are so far from having anything meritorious in them, yea, so far from being able to stand in sight of the divine justice, that for those also we should be guilty before God, were it not for the blood of the covenant.

8. Experience shows that, together with this conviction of sin remaining in our hearts, and cleaving to all our words and actions; as well as the guilt which on account thereof we should incur, were we not continually sprinkled with the atoning blood; one thing more is implied in this repentance; namely, a conviction of our helplessness, of our utter inability to think one good thought, or to form one good desire; and much more to speak one word aright, or to perform one good action, but through His free, almighty grace, first preventing us, and then accompanying us every moment.

9. “But what good works are those, the practice of which you affirm to be necessary to sanctification?” First, all works of piety; such as public prayer, family prayer, and praying in our closet; receiving the supper of the Lord; searching the Scriptures, by hearing, reading, meditating; and using such a measure of fasting or abstinence as our bodily health allows.

10. Secondly, all works of mercy; whether they relate to the bodies or souls of men; such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, entertaining the stranger, visiting those that are in prison, or sick, or variously afflicted; such as the endeavouring to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the stupid sinner, to quicken the lukewarm, to confirm the wavering, to comfort the feeble-minded, to succour the tempted, or contribute in any manner to the saving of souls from death. This is the repentance, and these the “fruits meet for repentance,” which are necessary to full sanctification. This is the way wherein God hath appointed His children to wait for complete salvation.

11. Hence may appear the extreme mischievousness of that seemingly innocent opinion, that there is no sin in a believer; that all sin is destroyed, root and branch, the moment a man is justified. By totally preventing that repentance, it quite blocks up the way to sanctification. There is no place for repentance in him who believes there is no sin either in his life or heart: consequently, there is no place for his being perfected in love, to which that repentance is indispensably necessary.

12. Hence it may likewise appear, that there is no possible danger in thus expecting full salvation. For suppose we were mistaken, suppose no such blessing ever was or can be attained, yet we lose nothing: nay, that very expectation quickens us in using all the talents which God has given us; yea, in improving them all; so that when our Lord cometh, He will receive His own with increase.

13. But to return. though it be allowed, that both this repentance and its fruits are necessary to full salvation; yet they are not necessary either in the same sense with faith, or in the same degree:—Not in the same degree; for these fruits are only necessary conditionally, if there be time and opportunity for them; otherwise a man may be sanctified without them. But he cannot be sanctified without faith. likewise, let a man have ever so much of this repentance, or ever so many good works, yet all this does not at all avail: he is not sanctified till he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without those fruits, yea, with more or less of this repentance, he is sanctified.—Not in the same sense; for this repentance and these fruits are only remotely necessary,—necessary in order to the continuance of his faith, as well as the increase of it; whereas faith is immediately and directly necessary to sanctification. It remains, that faith is the only condition which is immediately and proximately necessary to sanctification.

14. “But what is that faith whereby we are sanctified,—saved from sin, and perfected in love?” It is a divine evidence and conviction, first, that God hath promised it in the holy Scripture. Till we are thoroughly satisfied of this, there in no moving one step further. And one would imagine there needed not one word more to satisfy a reasonable man of this, than the ancient promise, “Then will I circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” How clearly does this express the being perfected in love!—how strongly imply the being saved from all sin! For as long as love takes up the whole heart, what room is there for sin therein?

15. It is a divine evidence and conviction, secondly, that what God hath promised He is able to perform. Admitting, therefore, that “with men it is impossible” to “bring a clean thing out of an unclean,” to purify the heart from all sin, and to till it with all holiness; yet this creates no difficulty in the case, seeing “with God all things are possible.” And surely no one ever imagined it was possible to any power less than that of the Almighty! But if God speaks, it shall be done. God saith, “Let there be light; and there” is “light”!

16. It is, thirdly, a divine evidence and conviction that He is able and willing to do it now. And why not? Is not a moment to Him the same as a thousand years? He cannot want more time to accomplish whatever is His will. And He cannot want or stay for any more worthiness or fitness in the persons He is pleased to honour. We may therefore boldly say, at any point of time, “Now is the day of salvation!” “To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts!” “Behold, all things are now ready; come unto the marriage!”

17. To this confidence, that God is both able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more,—a divine evidence and conviction that He doeth it. In that hour it is done: God says to the inmost soul, “According to thy faith be it unto thee!” Then the soul is pure from every spot of sin; it is clean “from all unrighteousness.” The believer then experiences the deep meaning of those solemn words, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

18. “But does God work this great work in the soul gradually or instantaneously?” Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some; I mean in this sense,—they do not advert to the particular moment wherein sin ceases to be. But it us infinitely desirable, were it the will of God, that it should be done instantaneously; that the Lord should destroy sin “by the breath of His mouth,” in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. And so He generally does; a plain fact, of which there is evidence enough to satisfy any unprejudiced person. Thou therefore look for it every moment! Look for it in the way above described; in all those good works whereunto thou art “created anew in Christ Jesus.” There in then no danger: you can be no worse, if you are no better, for that expectation. For were you to be disappointed of your hope, still you lose nothing. But you shall not be disappointed of your hope: it will come, and will not tarry. Look for it then every day, every hour, every moment! Why not this hour, this moment? Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith. And by this token you may surely know whether you seek it by faith or by works. If by works, you want something to be done first, before you are sanctified. You think, I must first be or do thus or thus. Then you are seeking it by works unto this day. If you seek it by faith, you may expect it as you are; and expect it now. It is of importance to observe, that there is an inseparable connexion between these three points,—expect it by faith; expect it as you are; and expect it now! To deny one of them, is to deny them all; to allow one, is to allow them all. Do you believe we are sanctified by faith? Be true then to your principle; and look for this blessing just as you are, neither better nor worse; as a poor sinner that has still nothing to pay, nothing to plead, but “Christ died.” And if you look for it as you are, then expect it now. Stay for nothing: why should you? Christ is ready; and He is all you want. He is waiting for you: He is at the door! Let your inmost soul cry out,

Come in, come in, thou heavenly Guest!

Nor hence again remove;

But sup with me, and let the feast

Be everlasting love.



“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Gen. 6:5.

1. How widely different is this from the fair pictures of human nature which men have drawn in allages! The writings of many of the ancients abound with gay descriptions of the dignity of man; whomsome of them paint as having all virtue and happiness in his composition, or, at least, entirely inhis power, without being beholden to any other being; yea, as self-sufficient, able to live on hisown stock, and little inferior to God himself.

2. Nor have Heathens alone, men who are guided in their researches by little more than the dimlight of reason, but many likewise of them that bear the name of Christ, and to whom are entrustedthe oracles of God, spoken as magnificently concerning the nature of man, as if it were all innocenceand perfection. Accounts of this kind have particularly abounded in the present century; and perhapsin no part of the world more than in our own country. Here not a few persons of strong understanding, as well as extensive learning, have employed their utmost abilities to show, what they termed, “thefair side of human nature.” And it must he acknowledged, that, if their accounts of him be just, manis still but “a little lower than the angels;” or, as the words may be more literally rendered, “alittle less than God.”

3. Is it any wonder, that these accounts are very readily received by the generality of men? Forwho is not easily persuaded to think favourably of himself? Accordingly, writers of this kind aremost universally read, admired, applauded. And innumerable are the converts they have made, not onlyin the gay, but the learned world. So that it is now quite unfashionable to talk otherwise, to sayany thing to the disparagement of human nature; which is generally allowed, notwithstanding a fewinfirmities, to be very innocent, and wise, and virtuous!

4. But, in the mean time, what must we do with our Bibles?—for they will never agree with this. These accounts, however pleasing to flesh and blood, are utterly irreconcilable with the scriptural. The Scripture avers, that “by one man’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners;” that “in Adamall died,” spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then “begata son in his own likeness;”—nor was it possible he should beget him in any other; for “who canbring a clean thing out of an unclean?”—that consequently we, as well as other men, were by nature”dead in trespasses and sins,” “without hope, without God in the world,” and therefore “children ofwrath;” that every man may say, “I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me;”that “there is no difference,” in that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” of thatglorious image of God wherein man was originally created. And hence, when “the Lord looked down fromheaven upon the children of men, he saw they were all gone out of the way; they were altogetherbecome abominable, there was none righteous, no, not one,” none that truly sought after God: Justagreeable this, to what is declared by the Holy Ghost in the words above recited, “God saw,” when helooked down from heaven before, “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth;” so great, that”every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

This is God’s account of man: From which I shall take occasion, First, to show what men werebefore the flood: Secondly, to inquire, whether they are not the same now: And, Thirdly, to add someinferences.

I. 1. I am, First, by opening the words of the text, to show what men were before the flood. Andwe may fully depend on the account here given: For God saw it, and he cannot be deceived. He “sawthat the wickedness of man was great:”—Not of this or that man; not of a few men only; not barelyof the greater part, but of man in general; of men universally. The word includes the whole humanrace, every partaker of human nature. And it is not easy for us to compute their numbers, to tell howmany thousands and millions they were. The earth then retained much of its primeval beauty andoriginal fruitfulness. The face of the globe was not rent and torn as it is now; and spring andsummer went hand in hand. It is therefore probable, it afforded sustenance for far more inhabitantsthan it is now capable of sustaining; and these must be immensely multiplied, while men begat sonsand daughters for seven or eight hundred years together. Yet, among all this inconceivable number, only “Noah found favour with God.” He alone (perhaps including part of his household) was anexception from the universal wickedness, which, by the just judgment of God, in a short time afterbrought on universal destruction. All the rest were partakers in the same guilt, as they were in thesame punishment.

2. “God saw all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart;”—of his soul, his inward man, the spirit within him, the principle of all his inward and outward motions. He “saw all theimaginations:” It is not possible to find a word of a more extensive signification. It includeswhatever is formed, made, fabricated within; all that is or passes in the soul; every inclination, affection, passion, appetite; every temper, design, thought. It must of consequence include everyword and action, as naturally flowing from these fountains, and being either good or evil accordingto the fountain from which they severally flow.

3. Now God saw that all this, the whole thereof, was evil;—contrary to moral rectitude; contrary to the nature of God, which necessarily includes all good; contrary to the divine will, theeternal standard of good and evil; contrary to the pure, holy image of God, wherein man wasoriginally created, and wherein he stood when God, surveying the works of his hands, saw them all tobe very good; contrary to justice, mercy, and truth, and to the essential relations which each manbore to his Creator and his fellow-creatures.

4. But was there not good mingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixed with the darkness? No; none at all: “God saw that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil.” It cannotindeed be denied, but many of them, perhaps all, had good motions put into their hearts; for theSpirit of God did then also “strive with man,” if haply he might repent, more especially during thatgracious reprieve, the hundred and twenty years, while the ark was preparing. But still “in his fleshdwelt no good thing;” all his nature was purely evil: It was wholly consistent with itself, andunmixed with anything of an opposite nature.

5. However, it may still be matter of inquiry, “Was there no intermission of this evil? Were thereno lucid intervals, wherein something good might be found in the heart of man?” We are not here toconsider, what the grace of God might occasionally work in his soul; and, abstracted from this, wehave no reason to believe, there was any intermission of that evil. For God, who “saw the wholeimagination of the thoughts of his heart to be only evil,” saw likewise, that it was alwaysthe same, that it “was only evil continually;” every year, every day, every hour, everymoment. He never deviated into good.

II. Such is the authentic account of the whole race of mankind which He who knoweth what is inman, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, hath left upon record for our instruction. Suchwere all men before God brought the flood upon the earth. We are, Secondly, to inquire, whether theyare the same now.

1. And this is certain, the Scripture gives us no reason to think any otherwise of them. On thecontrary, all the above cited passages of Scripture refer to those who lived after the flood. It wasabove a thousand years after, that God declared by David concerning the children of men, “They areall gone out of the way, of truth and holiness; “there is none righteous, no, not one.” And to thisbear all the Prophets witness, in their several generations. So Isaiah, concerning God’s peculiarpeople, (and certainly the Heathens were in no better condition,) “The whole head is sick, and thewhole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.” The same account is given by all the Apostles, yea, by the wholetenor of the oracles of God. From all these we learn, concerning man in his natural state, unassistedby the grace of God, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is” still “evil, onlyevil,” and that “continually.”

2. And this account of the present state of man is confirmed by daily experience. It is true, thenatural man discerns it not: And this is not to be wondered at. So long as a man born blind continuesso, he is scarce sensible of his want: Much less, could we suppose a place where all were bornwithout sight, would they be sensible of the want of it. In like manner, so long as men remain intheir natural blindness of understanding, they are not sensible of their spiritual wants, and of thisin particular. But as soon as God opens the eyes of their understanding, they see the state they werein before; they are then deeply convinced, that “every man living,” themselves especially, are, bynature, “altogether vanity;” that is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness.

3. We see, when God opens our eyes, that we were before atheoi en toi kosmoi without God, or, rather, Atheists, in the world. We had, by nature, no knowledge of God, no acquaintance withhim. It is true, as soon as we came to the use of reason, we learned the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, from the things that are made. From the things that are seen weinferred the existence of an eternal, powerful Being, that is not seen. But still, although weacknowledged his being we had no acquaintance with him. As we know there is an emperor of China, whomyet we do not know; so we knew there was a King of all the earth, yet we knew him not. Indeed wecould not by any of our natural faculties. By none of these could we attain the knowledge of God. Wecould no more perceive him by our natural understanding, than we could see him with our eyes. For noone knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son willeth to reveal him. And no one knoweththe Son but the Father, and he to whom the Father revealeth him.

4. We read of an ancient king, who, being desirous to know what was the natural language ofmen, in order to bring the matter to a certain issue, made the following experiment: he ordered twoinfants, as soon as they were born, to be conveyed to a place prepared for them, where they werebrought up without any instruction at all, and without ever hearing a human voice. And what was theevent? Why that when they were at length brought out of their confinement, they spoke no language atall; they uttered only inarticulate sounds, like those of other animals. Were two infants in likemanner to be brought up from the womb without being instructed in any religion, there is little roomto doubt but (unless the grace of God interposed) the event would be just the same. They would haveno religion at all: Thy would have no more knowledge of God than the beasts of the field, than thewild asss colt. Such is natural religion, abstracted from traditional, and from the influences ofGods Spirit!

5. And having no knowledge, we can have no love of God: We cannot love him we know not. Most men talk indeed of loving God, and perhaps imagine they do; at least, few will acknowledge they donot love him: But the fact is too plain to be denied. No man loves God by nature, any more than hedoes a stone, or the earth he treads upon. What we love we delight in: But no man has naturally anydelight in God. In our natural state we cannot conceive how any one should delight in him. We take nopleasure in him at all; he is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! it is far above, out of oursight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it.

6. We have by nature, not only no love, but no fear of God. It is allowed, indeed, that most menhave, sooner or later, a kind of senseless, irrational fear, properly called superstition; though theblundering epicureans gave it the name of religion. Yet even this is not natural, but acquired; chiefly by conversation or from example. By nature God is not in all our thoughts: We leave himto manage his own affairs, to sit quietly, as we imagine, in heaven, and leave us on earth to manageours; so that we have no more of the fear of God before our eyes, than of the love of God in ourhearts.

7. Thus are all men “Atheists in the world.” But Atheism itself does not screen us from idolatry. In his natural state, every man born into the world is a rank idolater. Perhaps, indeed, we may notbe such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do no, like the idolatrous heathens, worship molten orgraven images. We do not bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do notpray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon the earth. But whatthen? We have set up our idols in our hearts; and to these we bow down and worship them: We worshipourselves, when we pay that honour to ourselves which is due to God only. Therefore all pride isidolatry; it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And although pride was not made forman, yet where is the man that is born without it? But hereby we rob god of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.

8. But pride is not the only sort of idolatry which we are all by nature guilty of. Satan hasstamped his own image on our heart in self-will also. “I will,” said he, before he was cast out ofheaven, “I will sit upon the sides of the north;” I will do my own will and pleasure, independentlyon that of my Creator. the same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousandinstances; nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear orshame. Ask the man, “Why did you do this?” he answers, “Because I had a mind to it.” What is thisbut, “Because it was my will;” that is, in effect, because the devil and I agreed; because Satan andI govern our actions by one and the same principle. The will of God, mean time, is not in histhoughts, is not considered in the least degree; although it be the supreme rule of every intelligentcreature, whether in heaven or earth, resulting from the essential, unalterable relation which allcreature bear to their Creator.

9. So far we bear the image of the devil, and tread in his steps. But at the next step we leaveSatan behind; we run into an idolatry whereof he is not guilty: I mean love of the world; which isnow as natural to every man, as to love his own will. What is more natural to us than to seekhappiness in the creature, instead of the Creator? to seek that satisfaction in the works of hishands, which can be found in God only? What more natural than “the desire of the flesh?” that is, ofthe pleasure of sense in every kind? Men indeed talk magnificently of despising these low pleasures, particularly men of learning and education. They affect to sit loose to the gratification of theseappetites wherein they stand on a level with the beasts that perish. But it is mere affectation; forevery man is conscious to himself, that in this respect he is, by nature, a very beast. Sensualappetites, even those of the lowest kind, have, more or less, the dominion over him. They lead himcaptive; they drag him to and fro, in spite of his boasted reason. The man, with all his goodbreeding, and other accomplishments, has no pre-eminence over the goat: Nay, it is much to bedoubted, whether the beast has not the pre-eminence over him. Certainly he has, if we may hearken toone of their modern oracles, who very decently tells us,

once in a season beasts too taste of love;

only the beast of reason is its slave,

And in that folly drudges all the year.

A considerable difference indeed, it must be allowed, there is between man and man, arising (besidethat wrought by preventing grace) from difference of constitution and of education. But, notwithstanding this, who, that is not utterly ignorant of himself, can here cast the first stoneat another? Who can abide the test of our blessed Lords comment on the Seventh Commandment: “He thatlooketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?” So thatone knows not which to wonder at most, the ignorance or the insolence of those men who speak withsuch disdain of them that are overcome by desires which every man has felt in his own breast; thedesire of every pleasure of sense, innocent or not, being natural to every child of man.

10. And so is “the desire of the eye;” the desire of the pleasures of the imagination. Thesearise either from great, or beautiful, or uncommon objects;—if the two former do not coincide withthe latter; for perhaps it would appear, upon a diligent inquiry, that neither grand nor beautifulobjects please any longer than they are new; that when the novelty of them is over, the greatestpart, at least, of the pleasure they give is over; and in the same proportion as they becomefamiliar, they become flat and insipid. But let us experience this ever so often, the same desirewill remain still. The inbred thirst continues fixed in the soul; nay, the more it is indulged, themore it increases, and incites us to follow after another, and yet another object; although we leaveevery one with an abortive hope, and a deluded expectation. Yea,

The hoary fool, who many days

Has struggled with continued sorrow,

Renews his hope, and fondly lays

The desperate bet upon tomorrow!

To-morrow comes! ‘Tis noon! ‘Tis night!

This day, like all the former, flies:

Yet on he goes, to seek delight

To-morrow, till to-night he dies!

11. A third symptom of this fatal disease, the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted inour nature, is “the pride of life;” the desire of praise, of the honour that cometh of men. This thegreatest admirers of human nature allow to be strictly natural; as natural as the sight, or hearing, or any other of the external senses. And are they ashamed of it, even men of letters, men of refinedand improved understanding? So far from it that they glory therein! They applaud themselves fortheir love of applause! Yea, eminent Christians, so called, make no difficulty of adopting the sayingof the old, vain Heathen, _Animi dissoluti est et nequam negligere quid de se homines sentiant: “Notto regard what men think of us is the mark of a wicked and abandoned mind.” So that to go calm andunmoved through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, is with them a sign of onethat is, indeed, not fit to live: “Away with such a flow from the earth!” But would one imagine thatthese men had ever heard of Jesus Christ or his Apostles; or that they knew who it was that said,”How can ye believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of Godonly?” But if this is really so, if it be impossible to believe, and consequently to please God, solong as we receive or seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only; then in what a condition are all mankind! the Christians as well as Heathens! since they all seekhonour one of another! since it is as natural for them so to do, themselves being the judges, as itis to see the light which strikes upon their eye, or to hear the sound which enters their ear; yea, since they account it a sign of a virtuous mind, to seek the praise of men, and of a vicious one, tobe content with the honour that cometh of God only!

III. 1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, First, from hence wemay learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices ofparticular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, orprodigality. Some have dared to say that “no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” Butstill as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They werewholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into theworld, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particularpersons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of theworld. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness tothem; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The otherdeclares that all men are conceived in sin,” and “shapen in wickedness;”—that hence there is inevery man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his”law;” and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in” him, “in his flesh,” in hisnatural state, “no good thing;” but “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” onlyevil, and that “continually.”

2. Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any othertitle, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism fromChristianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; andthat, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there beingfew that will roundly affirm, “We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and thatevery man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is hewholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination ofthe thoughts of his heart only evil continually?” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Denyit, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. We may learn from hence, in the Third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of thereligion of Jesus Christ. It is therapeia psyches, God’s method of healing a soul which isthus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; torestore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism by theknowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidenceand conviction of God, and of the things of God,—in particular, of this important truth, “Christloved me“—and gave himself for me.” By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadlydisease of pride is healed; that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to thewill of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereignremedy. Now, this is properly religion, “faith” thus “working by love;” working the genuine meekhumility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.

4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be nooccasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity ofgodliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness.” For anoutside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does, accordingly, suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reasonis only “a well-ordered train of words:” According to them, religion is only a well-ordered train ofwords and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full ofwickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to “cleanse the outside of the cup?” Outwardreformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.

5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that He who seeth what is in man givesa far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that thegreat end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss ofrighteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that allreligion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in theimage of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a meremockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who wouldpalm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all thedeceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty andelegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the HolyScriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, “once delivered to the saints,” and delivered by the Spiritof God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: Therefore, “ye must beborn again,” born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted. By grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: In the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. “You that were dead in sinshath he quickened:” He hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved youand gave himself for you! Now, “go on from faith to faith,” until your whole sickness be healed; andall that “mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!”



“Ye must be born again.”

John 3:7.

1. If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two,—the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: The former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other: in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also “born of the Spirit;” but in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.

2. How great importance then must it be of, to every child of man, throughly to understand these fundamental doctrines! From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have wrote very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the Scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have wrote on the new birth: And some of them largely enough; but yet not so clearly as might have been desired, nor so deeply and accurately; having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial one. Therefore a full, and at the same time a clear, account of the new birth, seems to be wanting still; such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions: First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth? Secondly, How must we be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? And, Thirdly, Wherefore must we be born again? To what end is it necessary? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer; and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.

I. 1. And, First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine? The foundation of it lies near as deep as the creation of the world; in the scriptural account whereof we read, “And God,” the three-one God, “said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him:” (Gen. 1:26, 27:)—Not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality; a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections;—nor merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having “dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth;”—but chiefly in his moral image; which, according to the Apostle, is “righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:24.) in this image of God was man made. “God is love:” Accordingly, man at his creation was full of love; which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions. God is full of justice, mercy, and truth; so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity; and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot; otherwise God could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other work of his hands, “very good” (Gen. 1:31.) This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true holiness. For there is no medium: If we suppose and intelligent creature not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all; much less to be “very good.”

2. But, although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable. This would have been inconsistent with the state of trial in which God was pleased to place him. He was therefore created able to stand, and yet liable to fall. And this God himself apprized him of, and gave him a solemn warning against it. Nevertheless, man did not abide in honour: He fell from his high estate. He “ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded him, Thou shalt not eat thereof.” By this wilful act of disobedience to his Creator, this flat rebellion against his Sovereign, he openly declared that he would no longer have God to rule over him; That he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of Him that created him; and that he would not seek his happiness in God, but in the world, in the works of his hands. Now, God had told him before, “In the day that thou eatest” of that fruit, “thou shalt surely die.” And the word of the Lord cannot be broken. Accordingly, in that day he did die: He died to God,—the most dreadful of all deaths. He lost the life of God: He was separated from Him, in union with whom his spiritual life consisted. The body dies when it is separated from the soul; the soul, when it is separated from God. But this separation from God, Adam sustained in the day, the hour, he ate of the forbidden fruit. And of this he gave immediate proof; presently showing by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was now “alienated from the life of God.” Instead of this, he was now under the power of servile fear, so that he fled from the presence of the Lord. Yea, so little did he retain even of the knowledge of Him who filleth heaven and earth, that he endeavored to “hide himself from the Lord God among the trees of the garden:” (Gen. 3:8:) So had he lost both the knowledge and the love of God, without which the image of God could not subsist. Of this, therefore, he was deprived at the same time, and became unholy as well as unhappy. In the room of this, he had sunk into pride and self-will, the very image of the devil; and into sensual appetites and desires, the image of the beasts that perish.

3. If it be said, “Nay, but that threatening, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,’ refers to temporal death, and that alone, to the death of the body only;” the answer is plain: To affirm this is flatly and palpably to make God a liar; to aver that the God of truth positively affirmed a thing contrary to truth. For it is evident, Adam did not die in this sense, “in the day that he ate thereof.” He lived, in the sense opposite to this death, above nine hundred years after. So that this cannot possibly be understood of the death of the body, without impeaching the veracity of God. It must therefore be understood of spiritual death, the loss of the life and image of God.

4. And in Adam all died, all human kind, all the children of men who were then in Adam’s loins. The natural consequence of this is, that every one descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin; entirely void of the life of God; void of the image of God, of all that righteousness and holiness wherein Adam was created. Instead of this, every man born into the world now bears the image of the devil in pride and self-will; the image of the beast, in sensual appetites and desires. This, then, is the foundation of the new birth,—the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is, that, being born in sin, we must be “born again.” Hence every one that is born of a woman must be born of the Spirit of God.

II. 1. But how must a man be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? This is the Second question. And a question it is of the highest moment that can be conceived. We ought not, therefore, in so weighty a concern, to be content with a slight inquiry; but to examine it with all possible care, and to ponder it in our hearts, till we fully understand this important point, and clearly see how we are to be born again.

2. Not that we are to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner how this is done. Our Lord sufficiently guards us against any such expectation, by the words immediately following the text; wherein he reminds Nicodemus of as indisputable a fact as any in the whole compass of nature, which, notwithstanding, the wisest man under the sun is not able fully to explain. “The wind bloweth where it listeth,”—not by thy power or wisdom; “and thou hearest the sound thereof;”—thou art absolutely assured, beyond all doubt, that it doth blow; “but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth;”—the precise manner how it begins and ends, rises and falls, no man can tell. “So is every one that is born of the Spirit:”—Thou mayest be as absolutely assured of the fact, as of the blowing of the wind; but the precise manner how it is done, how the Holy Spirit works this in the soul, neither thou nor the wisest of the children of men is able to explain.

3. However, it suffices for every rational and Christian purpose, that, without descending into curious, critical inquiries, we can give a plain scriptural account of the nature of the new birth. This will satisfy every reasonable man, who desires only the salvation of his soul. The expression, “being born again,” was not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus: It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews when our Saviour appeared among them. When an adult Heathen was convinced that the Jewish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when he was baptized, he was said to be born again; by which they meant, that he who was before a child of the devil was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children. This expression, therefore, which Nicodemus, being “a Teacher in Israel,” ought to have understood well, our Lord uses in conversing with him; only in a stronger sense than he was accustomed to. And this might be the reason of his asking, “How can these things be?” They cannot be literally:—A man cannot “enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born:”—But they may spiritually: A man may be born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit, in a manner which bears a very near analogy to the natural birth.

4. Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, be begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold in all these instances! While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them; he has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: He is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God; no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things; therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The “eyes of his understanding are opened;” (such is the language of the great Apostle;) and, He who of old “commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,” his glorious love, “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, “Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee;” “go and sin no more.” This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever “He that teacheth man knowledge” is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He “feels in his heart,” to use the language of our Church, “the mighty working of the Spirit of God;” not in a gross, carnal sense as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression; though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of god works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a “peace which passeth all understanding.” He many times feels such a joy in God as is “unspeakable, and full of glory.” He feels “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent and to all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a “life which is hid with Christ in God.” God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the “full measure of the stature of Christ.”

5. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is “created anew in Christ Jesus;” when it is “renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;” when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the “mind which was in Christ Jesus.” This is the nature of the new birth: “So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

III. 1. It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the necessity of the new birth, and to answer the Third question, Wherefore, to what end, is it necessary that we should be born again? It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, First, in order to holiness. For what is holiness according to the oracles of God? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, how many soever they be, and how exactly soever performed. No: Gospel holiness is no less than the image of God stamped upon the heart; it is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus; it consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love to Him who hath not withheld from us his Son, his only son, as makes it natural, and in a manner necessary to us, to love every child of man; as fills us “with bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering:” It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are and all we have, all our thoughts, words, and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now, this holiness can have no existence till we are renewed in the image of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul till that change be wrought; till, by the power of the Highest overshadowing us, we are “brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God;” that is, till we are born again; which, therefore, is absolutely necessary in order to holiness.

2. But “without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to eternal salvation. Men may indeed flatter themselves (so desperately wicked and so deceitful is the heart of man!) that they may live in their sins till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards live with God; and thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leadeth not to destruction. “What danger,” say they, “can a woman be in that is so harmless and so virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven; especially if, over and above all this, they constantly attend on church and sacrament?” One of these will ask with all assurance, “What! Shall not I do as well as my neighbours?” Yes as well as your unholy neighbours; as well as your neighbours that die in their sins! For you will all drop into the pit together, into the nethermost hell! You will all lie together in the lake of fire; “the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Then, at length, you will see (but God grant you may see it before!) the necessity of holiness in order to glory; and, consequently, of the new birth, since none can be holy, except he be born again.

3. For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us, Nemo malus felix: “no wicked man is happy.” The reason is plain: All unholy tempers are uneasy tempers: Not only malice, hatred, envy jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast; but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even “hope,” when “deferred,” (and how often must this be the case!) “maketh the heart sick;” and every desire which is not according to the will of God is liable to “pierce” us “through with many sorrows:” And all those general sources of sin—pride, self-will, and idolatry—are, in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come.

IV. I proposed in the Last place to subjoin a few inferences, which naturally follow from the preceding observations.

1. And, First, it follows, that baptism is not the new birth: They are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine that they are just the same; at least, they speak as if they thought so; but I do not know that this opinion is publicly avowed by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not by any within these kingdoms, whether of the established Church, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the latter is clearly declared in the large Catechism:[Q. 163, 165.—Ed.]—Q. “What are the parts of a sacrament? A. The parts of a sacrament are two: The one an outward and sensible sign; the other, and inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified.—Q. What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration by his Spirit.” Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.

In the Church Catechism likewise, the judgment of our Church is declared with the utmost clearness: “What meanest thou by this word, sacrament? A. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Q. What is the outward part or form in baptism? A. Water, wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified? A. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” Nothing, therefore, is plainer than that, according to the Church of England, baptism is not the new birth.

But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than the one is a visible, the and invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other?—the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul: So that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost.

2. From the preceding reflections we may, Secondly, observe, that as the new birth is not the same thing with baptism, so it does not always accompany baptism: They do not constantly go together. A man my possibly be “born of water,” and yet not be “born of the Spirit.” There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants: It is certain our Church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again; and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work can be wrought I infants. For neither can we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at the same time born again. “The tree is known by its fruits:” And hereby it appears too plain to be denied, that divers of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same after baptism: “for the works of their father they do:” They continue servants of sin, without any pretence either to inward or outward holiness.

3. A Third inference which we may draw from what has been observed, is, that the new birth is not the same with sanctification. This is indeed taken for granted by many; particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on “The Nature and Grounds of Christian Regeneration.” To wave several other weighty objections which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: It all along speaks of regeneration as a progressive work, carried on in the soul by slow degrees, from the time of our first turning to God. This is undeniably true of sanctification; but of regeneration, the new birth, it is not true. This is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate to it, the entrance into it. When we are born again, then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness, begins; and thenceforward we are gradually to “grow up in Him who is our Head.” This expression of the Apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and farther points out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things. A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time: Afterward he gradually and slowly grows, till he attains to the stature of a man. In like manner, a child is born of God in a short time, if not in a moment. But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ. The same relation, therefore, which there is between our natural birth and our growth, there is also between our new birth and our sanctification.

4. One point more we may learn from the preceding observations. But it is a point of so great importance, as my excuse the considering it the more carefully, and prosecuting it at some length. What must one who loves the souls of men, and is grieved that any of them should perish, say to one whom he sees living in sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, or any other wilful sin? What can he say, if the foregoing observations are true, but, “You must be born again?” “No,” says a zealous man, “that cannot be. How can you talk so uncharitably to the man? Has he not been baptized already? He cannot be born again now.” Can he not be born again? Do you affirm this? Then he cannot be saved. Though he be as old as Nicodemus was, yet “except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore in saying, “He cannot be born again,” you in effect deliver him over to damnation. And where lies the uncharitableness now?—on my side, or on yours? I say, he may be born again, and so become an heir of salvation. You say, “He cannot be born again:” And if so, he must inevitably perish! So you utterly block up his way to salvation, and send him to hell, out of mere charity!

But perhaps the sinner himself, to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again,” has been taught to say, “I defy your new doctrine; I need not be born again: I was born again when I was baptized. What! Would you have me deny my baptism?” I answer, First, There is nothing under heaven which can excuse a lie; otherwise I should say to an open sinner, If you have been baptized, do not own it. For how highly does this aggravate your guilt! How will it increase your damnation! Was you devoted to God at eight days old, and have you been all these years devoting yourself to the devil? Was you, even before you had the use of reason, consecrated to God the Father, the son, and the Holy Ghost? And have you, ever since you had the use of it, been flying in the face of God, and consecrating yourself to Satan? Does the abomination of desolation—the love of the word, pride, anger, lust, foolish desire, and a whole train of vile affections—stand where it ought not? Have you set up all the accursed things in that soul which was once a temple of the Holy Ghost; set apart for an “habitation of God, through the Spirit;” yea, solemnly given up to him? And do you glory in this, that you once belonged to God? O be ashamed! blush! hide yourself in the earth! Never boast more of what ought to fill you with confusion, to make you ashamed before God and man! I answer, Secondly, You have already denied your baptism; and that in the most effectual manner. You have denied it a thousand and a thousand times; and you do so still, day by day. For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you give place to him again, whenever you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism. Therefore you deny it by every wilful sin; by every act of uncleanness, drunkenness, or revenge; by every obscene or profane word; by every oath that comes out of your mouth. Every time you profane the day of the Lord, you thereby deny your baptism; yea, every time you do any thing to another which you would not he should do to you. I answer, Thirdly, Be you baptized or unbaptized, “you must be born again;” otherwise it is not possible you should be inwardly holy; and without inward as well as outward holiness, you cannot be happy, even in this world, much less in the world to come. Do you say, “Nay, but I do no harm to any man; I am honest and just in all my dealings; I do not curse, or take the Lord’s name in vain; I do not profane the Lord’s day; I am no drunkard; I do not slander my neighbour, nor live in any wilful sin?” If this be so, it were much to be wished that all men went as far as you do. But you must go farther yet, or you cannot be saved: Still, “you must be born again.” Do you add, “I do go farther yet; for I not only do no harm, but do all the good I can?” I doubt that fact; I fear you have had a thousand opportunities of doing good which you have suffered to pass by unimproved, and for which therefore you are accountable to God. But if you had improved them all, if you really had done all the good you possibly could to all men, yet this does not at all alter the case; still, “you must be born again.” Without this nothing will do any good to your poor, sinful, polluted soul. “Nay, but I constantly attend all the ordinances of God: I keep to my church and sacrament.” It is well you do: But all this will not keep you from hell, except you be born again. Go to church twice a day; go to the Lord’s table every week; say ever so many prayers in private; hear ever so many good sermons; read ever so many good books; still, “you must be born again:” None of these things will stand in the place of the new birth; no, nor any thing under heaven. Let this therefore, if you have not already experienced this inward work of God, be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all thy blessings,—let me be born again! Deny whatever thou pleasest, but deny not this; let me be ‘born from above!’ Take away whatsoever seemeth thee good,—reputation, fortune, friends, health,—only give me this, to be born of the Spirit, to be received among the children of God! Let me be born, ‘not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever;’ and then let be daily ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!’ ”



“Ye now have sorrow: But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

John 16:22.

1. After God had wrought a great deliverance for Israel, by bringing them out of the house of bondage, they did not immediately enter into the land which he had promised to their fathers; but “wandered out of the way in the wilderness,” and were variously tempted and distressed. In like manner, after God has delivered them that fear him from the bondage of sin and Satan; after they are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus,” yet not many of them immediately enter into “the rest which remaineth for the people of God.” The greater part of them wander, more or less, out of the good way into which he hath brought them. They come, as it were, into a “waste and howling desert,” where they are variously tempted and tormented: And this, some, in allusion to the case of the Israelites, have termed “a wilderness state.”

2. Certain it is, that the condition wherein these are has a right the tenderest compassion. They labour under an evil and sore disease; though one that is not commonly understood; and for this very reason it is the more difficult for them to find a remedy. Being in darkness themselves, they cannot be supposed to understand the nature of their own disorder; and few of their brethren, nay, perhaps, of their teachers, know either what their sickness is, or how to heal it. So much the more need there is to inquire, First, What is the nature of this disease? Secondly, What is the cause? and, Thirdly, What is the cure of it?

I. 1. And, First, what is the nature of this disease, into which so many fall after they have believed? Wherein does it properly consist; and what are the genuine symptoms of it? It properly consists in the loss of that faith which God once wrought in their heart. They that are in the wilderness, have not now that divine “evidence,” that satisfactory conviction “of things not seen,” which they once enjoyed. They have not now that inward demonstration of the Spirit which before enabled each of them to say, “The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The light of heaven does not now “shine in their hearts,” neither do they “see him that is invisible;” but darkness is again on the face of their souls, and blindness on the eyes of their understanding. The Spirit no longer “witnesses with their spirits, that they are the children of God;” neither does he continue as the Spirit of adoption, “crying” in their hearts, “Abba, Father.” They have not now a sure trust in his love, and a liberty of approaching him with holy boldness. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” is no more the language of their heart; but they are shorn of their strength, and become weak and feeble-minded, even as other men.

2. Hence, Secondly, proceeds the loss of love; which cannot but rise or fall, at the same time, and in the same proportion, with true, living faith. Accordingly, they that are deprived of their faith, are deprived of the love of God also. They cannot now say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” They are not now happy in God, as everyone is that truly loves him. They do not delight in him as in time past, and “smell the odour of his ointments.” Once, all their “desire was unto him, and to the remembrance of his name;” but now even their desires are cold and dead, if not utterly extinguished. And as their love of God is waxed cold, so is also their love of their neighbour. They have not now that zeal for the souls of men, that longing after their welfare, that fervent, restless, active desire of their being reconciled to God. They do not feel those “bowels of mercies” for the sheep that are lost,—that tender “compassion for the ignorant, and them that are out of the way.” Once they were “gentle toward all men,” meekly instructing such as opposed the truth; and, “if any was overtaken in a fault, restoring such an one in the spirit of meekness:” But, after a suspense, perhaps of many days, anger begins to regain its power; yea, peevishness and impatience thrust sore at them that they may fall; and it is well if they are not sometimes driven, even to “render evil for evil and railing for railing.”

3. In consequence of the loss of faith and love, follows, Thirdly, loss of joy in the Holy Ghost. For if the loving consciousness of pardon be no more, the joy resulting therefrom cannot remain. If the Spirit does not witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, the joy that flowed from that inward witness must also be at an end. And, in like manner, they who once “rejoiced with joy unspeakable,” “in hope of the glory of God,” now they are deprived of that “hope full of immortality,” are deprived of the joy it occasioned; as also of that which resulted from a consciousness of “the love of God,” then “shed abroad in their hearts.” For the cause being removed, so is the effect: The fountain being dammed up, those living waters spring no more to refresh the thirsty soul.

4. With loss of faith, and love, and joy there is also joined, Fourthly, the loss of that peace which once passed all understanding. That sweet tranquillity of mind, that composure of spirit, is gone. Painful doubt returns; doubt, whether we ever did, and perhaps whether we ever shall, believe. We begin to doubt, whether we ever did find in our hearts the real testimony of the Spirit; whether we did not rather deceive our own souls, and mistake the voice of nature for the voice of God. Nay, and perhaps, whether we shall ever hear his voice, and find favour in his sight. And these doubts are again joined with servile fear, with that fear which hath torment. We fear the wrath of God, even as before we believed: We fear, lest we should be cast out of his presence; and thence sink again into that fear of death, from which we were before wholly delivered.

5. But even this is not all; for loss of peace is accompanied with loss of power. We know everyone who has peace with God, through Jesus Christ, has power over all sin. But whenever he loses the peace of God, he loses also the power over sin. While that peace remained, power also remained, even over the besetting sin, whether it were the sin of his nature, his constitution, of his education, or that of his profession; yea, and over those evil tempers and desires which, till then, he could not conquer Sin had then no more dominion over him; but he hath now no more dominion over sin. He may struggle, indeed, but he cannot overcome; the crown is fallen from his head. His enemies again prevail over him, and, more or less, bring him into bondage. The glory is departed from him, even the kingdom of God which was in his heart. He is dispossessed of righteousness, as well as of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

II. 1. Such is the nature of what many have termed, and not improperly, “The wilderness state.” But the nature of it may be more fully understood by inquiring, Secondly, What are the causes of it? These indeed are various. But I dare not rank among these the bare, arbitrary, sovereign will of God. He “rejoiceth in the prosperity of his servants: He delighteth not to afflict or grieve the children of men.” His invariable will is our sanctification, attended with “peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” These are his own free gifts; and we are assured “the gifts of God are,” on his part, “without repentance.” He never repenteth of what he hath given, or desires to withdraw them from us. Therefore he never deserts us, as some speak; it is we only that desert him.

(I.) 2. The most usual cause of inward darkness is sin, of one kind or another. This it is which generally occasions what is often a complication of sin and misery. And, First, sin of commission. This may frequently be observed to darken the soul in a moment; especially if it be a known, a wilful, or presumptuous sin. If, for instance, a person, who is now walking in the clear light of God’s countenance, should be any way prevailed on to commit a single act of drunkenness, or uncleanness, it would be no wonder, if, in that very hour, he fell into utter darkness. It is true, there have been some very rare cases, wherein God has prevented this, by an extraordinary display of his pardoning mercy, almost in the very instant. But in general, such an abuse of the goodness of God, so gross an insult on his love, occasions an immediate estrangement from God, and a “darkness that may be felt.”

3. But it may be hoped this case is not very frequent; that there are not many who so despise the riches of his goodness as, while they walk in his light, so grossly and presumptuously to rebel against him. That light is much more frequently lost by giving way to sins of omission. This, indeed, does not immediately quench the Spirit, but gradually and slowly. The former may be compared to pouring water upon a fire; the latter to withdrawing the fuel from it. And many times will that loving Spirit reprove our neglect, before he departs from us. Many are the inward checks, the secret notices, he gives, before his influences are withdrawn. So that only a train of omissions, wilfully persisted in, can bring us into utter darkness.

4. Perhaps no sin of omission more frequently occasions this than the neglect of private prayer; the want whereof cannot be supplied by any other ordinance whatever. Nothing can be more plain, than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunities of communing with God, and pouring out our hearts before him. If therefore we are negligent of this, if we suffer business, company, or any avocation whatever, to prevent these secret exercises of the soul, (or, which comes to the same thing, to make us hurry them over in a slight and careless manner,) that life will surely decay. And if we long or frequently intermit them, it will gradually die away.

5. Another sin of omission, which frequently brings the soul of a believer into darkness, is the neglect of what was so strongly enjoined, even under the Jewish dispensation: “Thou shalt, in anywise, rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.” Now, if we do hate our brother in our heart, if we do not rebuke him when we see him in a fault, but suffer sin upon him, this will soon bring leanness to our own soul; seeing hereby we are partakers of his sin. By neglecting to reprove our neighbour, we make his sin our own: We become accountable for it to God: We saw his danger, and gave him no warning: So, “if he perish in his iniquity,” God may justly require “his blood at our hands.” No wonder then, if by thus grieving the Spirit, we lose the light of his countenance.

6. A Third cause of our losing this is, the giving way to some kind of inward sin. For example: We know, every one that is “proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;” and that, although this pride of heart should not appear in the outward conversation. Now, how easily may a soul filled with peace and joy fall into this snare of the devil! How natural is it for him to imagine that he has more grace, more wisdom or strength, than he really has to “think more highly of himself than he ought to think!” How natural to glory in something he has received, as if he had not received it! But seeing God continually “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace” only “to the humble,” this must certainly obscure, if not wholly destroy, the light which before shone on his heart.

7. The same effect may be produced by giving place to anger, whatever the provocation or occasion be; yea, though it were coloured over with the name of zeal for the truth, or for the glory of God. Indeed all zeal which is any other than the flame of love is “earthly, animal, devilish.” It is the flame of wrath: It is flat, sinful anger, neither better nor worse. And nothing is a greater enemy to the mild, gentle love of God than this: They never did, they never can, subsist together in one breast. In the same proportion as this prevails, love and joy in the Holy Ghost decrease. This is particularly observable in the case of offence; I mean, anger at any of our brethren, at any of those who are united with us either by civil or religious ties. If we give way to the spirit of offence but one hour, we lose the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit; so that, instead of amending them, we destroy ourselves, and become an easy prey to any enemy that assaults us.

8. But suppose we are aware of this snare of the devil, we may be attacked from another quarter. When fierceness and anger are asleep, and love alone is waking, we may be no less endangered by desire, which equally tends to darken the soul. This is the sure effect of any foolish desire, any vain or inordinate affection. If we set our affection on things of the earth, on any person or thing under the sun; if we desire anything but God, and what tends to God; if we seek happiness in any creature; the jealous God will surely contend with us, for he can admit of no rival. And if we will not hear his warning voice, and return to him with our whole soul, we continue to grieve him with our idols, and running after other gods, we shall soon be cold, barren, and dry; and the god of this world will blind and darken our hearts.

9. But this he frequently does, even when we do not give way to any positive sin. It is enough, it gives him sufficient advantage, if we do not “stir up the gift of God which is in us;” if we do not agonize continually “to enter in at the strait gate;” if we do not earnestly “strive for the mastery,” and “take the kingdom of heaven by violence.” There needs no more than not to fight, and we are sure to be conquered. Let us only be careless or “faint in our mind,” let us be easy and indolent, and our natural darkness will soon return, and overspread our soul. It is enough, therefore, if we give way to spiritual sloth; this will effectually darken the soul: It will as surely destroy the light of God, if not so swiftly, as murder or adultery.

10. But it is well to be observed, that the cause of our darkness (whatsoever it be, whether omission or commission, whether inward or outward sin) is not always nigh at hand. Sometimes the sin which occasioned the present distress may lie at a considerable distance. It might be committed days, or weeks, or months before. And that God now withdraws his light and peace on account of what was done so long ago is not (as one might at first imagine) an instance of his severity, but rather a proof of his longsuffering and tender mercy. He waited all this time if haply we would see, acknowledge, and correct what was amiss. And in default of this he at length shows his displeasure, if thus, at last, he may bring us to repentance.

(II). 1. Another general cause of this darkness is ignorance; which is likewise of various kinds. If men know not the Scriptures, if they imagine there are passages either in the Old or New Testament which assert, that all believers without exception, must sometimes be in darkness; this ignorance will naturally bring upon them the darkness which they expect. And how common a case has this been among us! How few are there that do not expect it! And no wonder, seeing they are taught to expect it; seeing their guides lead them into this way. Not only the mystic writers of the Romish Church, but many of the most spiritual and experimental in our own, (very few of the last century excepted,) lay it down with all assurance as a plain, unquestionable Scripture doctrine, and cite many texts to prove it.

2. Ignorance also of the work of God in the soul frequent occasions this darkness. Men imagine (because so they have been taught, particularly by writers of the Romish communion, whose plausible assertions too many Protestants have received without due examination) that they are not always to walk in luminous faith; that this is only a lower dispensation; that as they rise higher they are to leave those sensible comforts, and to live by naked faith (naked indeed, if it be stripped both of love, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost!) that a state of light and joy is good, but a state of darkness and dryness is better; that it is by these alone we can be purified from pride, love of the world, and inordinate self-love; and that, therefore, we ought neither to expect nor desire to walk in the light always. Hence it is, (though other reasons may concur.) that the main body of pious men in the Romish Church generally walk in a dark uncomfortable way, and if ever they receive, soon lose the light of God.

(III). 1. A Third general cause of this darkness is temptation. When the candle of the Lord first shines on our head, temptation frequently flees away, and totally disappears. All is calm within; perhaps without too, while God makes our enemies to be at peace with us. It is then very natural to suppose that we shall not see war any more. And there are instances wherein this calm has continued, not only for weeks, but for months or years. But commonly it is otherwise: In a short time “the winds blow, the rains descend, and the floods arise” anew. They who know not either the Son or the Father, and consequently hate his children, when God slackens the bridle which is in their teeth, will show that hatred in various instances. As of old, “he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now;” the same cause still producing the same effect. The evil which yet remains in the heart will then also move afresh; anger, and many other roots of bitterness will endeavour to spring up. At the same time, Satan will not be wanting to cast in his fiery darts; and the soul will have to wrestle, not only with the world, not only “with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with wicked spirits in high places.” Now, when so various assaults are made at once, and perhaps with the utmost violence, it is not strange if it should occasion, not only heaviness, but even darkness in a weak believer;—more especially if he was not watching; if these assaults are made in an hour when he looked not for them; if he expected nothing less, but had fondly told himself,—the day of evil would return no more.

2. The force of those temptations which arise from within will be exceedingly heightened if we before thought too highly of ourselves, as if we had been cleansed from all sin. And how naturally do we imagine this during the warmth of our first love! How ready are we to believe that God has “fulfilled in us the” whole “work of faith with power!” that because we feel no sin, we have none in us; but the soul is all love! And well may a sharp attack from an enemy whom we supposed to be not only conquered but slain, throw us into much heaviness of soul; yea, sometimes, into utter darkness: Particularly when we reason with this enemy, instead of instantly calling upon God, and casting ourselves upon Him, by simple faith, who “alone knoweth how to deliver” his “out of temptation.”

III. These are the usual causes of this second darkness. Inquire we, Thirdly, What is the cure of it?

1. To suppose that this is one and the same in all cases is a and fatal mistake; and yet extremely common, even among many, who pass for experienced Christians, yea, perhaps take upon them to be teachers in Israel, to be the guides of other souls. Accordingly, they know and use but one medicine, whatever be the cause of the distemper. They begin immediately to apply the promises; to preach the gospel, as they call it. To give comfort is the single point at which they aim; in order to which they say many soft and tender things, concerning the love of God to poor helpless sinners, and the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Now this is quackery indeed, and that of the worse sort, as it tends, if not to kill men’s bodies, yet without the peculiar mercy of God, “to destroy both their bodies and souls in hell.” It is hard to speak of these “daubers with untempered mortar,” these promise-mongers, as they deserve. They well deserve the title, which has been ignorantly given to others: They are spiritual mountebanks. They do, in effect, make “the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.” They vilely prostitute the promises of God by thus applying them to all without distinction. Whereas, indeed, the cure of spiritual, as of bodily diseases, must be as various as are the causes of them. The first thing, therefore, is to find out the cause; and this will naturally point out the cure.

2. For instance: Is it sin which occasions darkness? What sin? Is it outward sin of any kind? Does your conscience accuse you of committing any sin, whereby you grieve the Holy Spirit of God? Is it on this account that he is departed from you, and that joy and peace are departed with him? And how can you expect they should return, till you put away the accursed thing? “Let the wicked forsake his way;” “cleanse your hands, ye sinners;” “put away the evil of your doings;” so shall your “light break out of obscurity;” the Lord will return and “abundantly pardon.”

3. If, upon the closest search, you can find no sin of commission which causes the cloud upon your soul, inquire next, if there be not some sin of omission which separates between God and you. Do you “not suffer sin upon your brother?” Do you reprove them that sin in your sight? Do you walk in all the ordinances of God? in public, family, private prayer? If not, if you habitually neglect any one of these known duties, how can you expect that the light of his countenance should continue to shine upon you? Make haste to “strengthen the things that remain;” then your soul shall live. “Today, if ye will hear his voice,” by his grace supply what is lacking. When you hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk thou in it,” harden not your heart; be no more “disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Till the sin, whether of omission or commission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful. It is only skinning the wound over, which still festers and rankles beneath. Look for no peace within, till you are at peace with God; which cannot be without “fruits meet for repentance.”

4. But perhaps you are not conscious of even any sin of omission which impairs your peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Is there not then some inward sin, which as a root of bitterness, springs up in your heart to trouble you? Is not your dryness, and barrenness of soul, occasioned by your heart’s “departing from the living God?” Has not “the foot of pride come against” you? Have you not thought of yourself “more highly than you ought to think?” Have you not, in any respect, “sacrificed to your own net, and burned incense to your own drag?” Have you not ascribed your success in any undertaking to your own courage, or strength, or wisdom? Have you not boasted of something “you have received, as though you had not received it?” Have you not gloried in anything, “save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?” Have you not sought after or desired the praise of men? Have you not taken pleasure in it? If so, you see the way you are to take. If you have fallen by pride, “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you in due time.” Have you not forced him to depart from you, by giving place to anger? Have you not “fretted yourself because of the ungodly” or “been envious against the evil-doers?” Have you not been offended at any of your brethren, looking at their (real or imagined) sin, so as to sin yourself against the great law of love, by estranging your heart from them? Then look unto the Lord, that you may renew your strength; that all this sharpness and coldness may be done away; that love and peace and joy may return together, and you may be invariably kind to each other, and “tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Have not you given way to any foolish desire? To any kind or degree of inordinate affection? How then can the love of God have place in your heart, till you put away your idols? “Be not deceived: God is not mocked:” He will not dwell in a divided heart. As long, therefore, as you cherish Delilah in your bosom he has no place there. It is vain to hope for a recovery of his light, till you pluck out the right eye, and cast it from you. O let there be no longer delay! Cry to Him, that he may enable you so to do! Bewail your own impotence and helplessness; and, the Lord being your helper, enter in at the strait gate; take the kingdom of heaven by violence! Cast out every idol from his sanctuary, and the glory of the Lord shall soon appear.

5. Perhaps it is this very thing, the want of striving, spiritual sloth, which keeps your soul in darkness. You dwell at ease in the land; there is no war in your coasts; and so you are quiet and unconcerned. You go on in the same even track of outward duties, and are content there to abide. And do you wonder, meantime, that your soul is dead? O stir yourself up before the Lord! Arise, and shake yourself from the dust; wrestle with God for the mighty blessing; pour out your soul unto God in prayer, and continue therein with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep; and keep awake! Otherwise there is nothing to be expected, but that you will be alienated more and more from the light and life of God.

6. If, upon the fullest and most impartial examination of yourself, you cannot discern that you at present give way either to spiritual sloth, or any other inward or outward sin, then call to mind the time that is past. Consider your former tempers, words, and actions. Have these been right before the Lord? “Commune with him in your chamber, and be still;” and desire of him to try the ground of your heart, and bring to your remembrance whatever has at any time offended the eyes of his glory. If the guilt of any unrepented sin remain on our soul, it cannot be but you will remain in darkness, till, having been renewed by repentance, you are again washed by faith in the “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”

7. Entirely different will be the manner of the cure, if the cause of the disease be not sin, but ignorance. It may be, ignorance of the meaning of Scripture; perhaps occasioned by ignorant commentators; ignorant, at least, in this respect, however knowing and learned they may be in other particulars. And, in this case that ignorance must be removed before we can remove the darkness arising from it. We must show the true meaning of those texts which have been misunderstood. My design does not permit me to consider all the passages of Scripture which have been pressed into this service. I shall just mention two or three, which are frequently brought to prove that all believers must, sooner or later, “walk in darkness.”

8 One of these is Isaiah 50:10: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God.” But how does it appear, either from the text or context, that the person here spoken of ever had light? One who is convinced of sin, “feareth the Lord, and obeyeth voice of his servant.” And him we should advise, though he was still dark of soul, and had never seen the light of God’s countenance, yet to “trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” This text, therefore, proves nothing less than that believer in Christ “must sometimes walk in darkness.”

9. Another text which has been supposed to speak the same doctrine is Hosea 2:14: “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.” Hence it has been inferred, that God will bring every believer into the wilderness, into a state of deadness and darkness. But it is certain the text speaks no such thing; for it does not appear that it speaks of particular believers at all: It manifestly refers to the Jewish nation; and, perhaps, to that only. But if it be applicable to particular persons, the plain meaning of it is this:—I will draw him by love; I will next convince him of sin; and then comfort him by pardoning mercy.

10. A third Scripture from whence the same inference has been drawn is that above recited, “Ye now have sorrow: But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” This has been supposed to imply, that God would after a time withdraw himself from all believers; and that they could not, till after they had thus sorrowed, have the joy which no man could take from them. But the whole context shows that our Lord is here speaking personally to the Apostles, and no others; and that he is speaking concerning those particular events, his own death and resurrection. “A little while,” says he, “and ye shall not see me;” viz., whilst I am in the grave: “And again, a little while, and ye shall see me;” when I am risen from the dead. Ye will weep and lament, and the world will rejoice: But your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”—”Ye now have sorrow,” because I am about to be taken from your head; “but I will see you again,” after my resurrection, “and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy,” which I will then give you, “no man taketh from you.” All this we know was literally fulfilled in the particular case of the Apostles. But no inference can be drawn from hence with regard to God’s dealings with believers in general.

11. A fourth text (to mention no more) which has been frequently cited in proof of the same doctrine, is 1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” But this is full as foreign to the point as the preceding. The text, literally rendered, runs thus: “Beloved, wonder not at the burning which is among you, which is for your trial.” Now, however, this may be accommodated to inward trials, in a secondary sense; yet, primarily, it doubtless refers to martyrdom, and the sufferings connected with it. Neither, therefore, is this text anything at all to the purpose for which it is cited. And we may challenge all men to bring one text, either from the Old or New Testament, which is any more to the purpose than this.

12. “But is not darkness much more profitable for the soul than light? Is not the work of God in the heart most swiftly and effectually carried on during a state of inward suffering? Is not a believer more swiftly and thoroughly purified by sorrow, than by joy?—by anguish, and pain, and distress, and spiritual martyrdoms, than by continual peace?” So the Mystics teach; so it is written in their books; but not in the oracles of God. The Scripture nowhere says, that the absence of God best perfects his work in the heart! Rather, his presence, and a clear communion with the Father and the Son: A strong consciousness of this will do more an hour, than his absence in an age. Joy in the Holy Ghost will far more effectually purify the soul than the want of that joy; and the peace of God is the best means of refining the soul from the dross of earthly affections. Away then with the idle conceit, that the kingdom of God is divided against itself; that the peace of God, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are obstructive of righteousness; and that we are saved, not by faith, but by unbelief; not by hope, but by despair!

13. So long as men dream thus, they may well “walk in darkness:” Nor can the effect cease, till the cause is removed. But yet we must not imagine it will immediately cease, even when the cause is no more. When either ignorance or sin has caused darkness, one or the other may be removed, and yet the light which was obstructed thereby may not immediately return. As it is the free gift of God, he may restore it, sooner or later, as it pleases him. In the case of sin, we cannot reasonably expect that it should immediately return. The sin began before the punishment, which may, therefore, justly remain after the sin is at an end. And even in the natural course of things, though a wound cannot be healed while the dart is sticking in the flesh; yet neither is it healed as soon as that is drawn out, but soreness and pain may remain long after.

14. Lastly. If darkness be occasioned by manifold and heavy and unexpected temptations, the best way of removing and preventing this is, to teach believers always to expect temptation, seeing they dwell in an evil world, among wicked, subtle, malicious spirits, and have an heart capable of all evil. Convince them that the whole work of sanctification is not, as they imagined, wrought at once; that when they first believe the are but as new-born babes, who are gradually to grow up, and may expect many storms before they come to the full stature of Christ. Above all, let them be instructed, when the storm is upon them, not to reason with the devil, but to pray; to pour out their souls before God, and show him of their trouble. And these are the persons unto whom, chiefly, we are to apply the great and precious promises; not to the ignorant, till the ignorance is removed, much less to the impenitent sinner. To these we may largely and affectionately declare the loving kindness of God our Saviour, expatiate upon his tender mercies, which have been ever of old. Here we may dwell upon the faithfulness of God, whose “word is tried to the uttermost;” and upon the virtue of that blood which was shed for us, to “cleanse us from all sin:” And God will then bear witness to his word, and bring their souls out of trouble. He will say, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Yea, and that light, if thou walk humbly and closely with God, will “shine more and more unto the perfect day.”



“Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”

1 Pet. 1:6.

1. In the preceding discourse I have particularly spoken of that darkness of mind into which those are often observed to fall who once walked in the light of God’s countenance. Nearly related to this is the heaviness of soul which is still more common, even among believers. Indeed, almost all the children of God experience this, in an higher or lower degree. And so great is the resemblance between one and the other, that they are frequently confounded together; and we are apt to say, indifferently, “Such an one is in darkness,” or “Such an one is in heaviness;”—as if they were equivalent terms, one of which implied no more than the other. But they are far, very far from it. Darkness is one thing; heaviness is another. There is a difference, yea, a wide an essential difference, between the former and the latter. And such a difference it is as all the children of God are deeply concerned to understand: Otherwise nothing will be more easy than for them to slide out of heaviness into darkness. In order to prevent this, I will endeavor to show,

    I.    What manner of persons those were to whom the Apostle says, “Ye are in heaviness.”

    II.    What kind of heaviness they were in:

    III.    What were the causes: and,

    IV.    What were the ends of it. I shall conclude with some inferences.

I. 1. I am, in the first place, to show what manner of persons those were to whom the Apostle says, “Ye are in heaviness.” And, first, it is beyond all dispute, that they were believers at the time the Apostle thus addressed them: For so he expressly says, (1 Pet. 1:5,) “Ye who are kept through the power of God by faith unto salvation.” Again, (1 Pet. 1:7,) he mentions “the trial of their faith, much more precious than that of gold which perisheth.” And yet again, (1 Pet. 1:9,) he speaks of their “receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.” At the same time, therefore, that they were “in heaviness,” they were possessed of living faith. Their heaviness did not destroy their faith: They still “endured, as seeing him that is invisible.”

2. Neither did their heaviness destroy their peace; the “peace that passeth all understanding;” which is inseparable from true, living faith. This we may easily gather from the second verse, wherein the Apostle prays, not that grace and peace may be given them, but only that it may “be multiplied unto them;” that the blessing which they already enjoyed might be more abundantly bestowed upon them.

3. The persons to whom the Apostle here speaks were also full of a living hope. For thus he speaks, (1 Pet. 1:3,) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again,”—me and you, all of us who are “sanctified by the Spirit,” and enjoy the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”—”unto a living hope, unto an inheritance,”—that is, unto a living hope of an inheritance, “incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” So that, notwithstanding their heaviness, they still retained an hope full of immortality.

4. And they still “rejoiced in hope of the glory of God.” They were filled with joy in the Holy Ghost. So, (1 Pet. 1:8), the Apostle, having just mentioned the final “revelation of Jesus Christ” (namely, when he cometh to judge the world,) immediately adds, “In whom, though now ye see him not,” not with your bodily eyes, “yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Their heaviness, therefore, was not only consistent with living hope, but also with joy unspeakable: At the same time they were thus heavy, they nevertheless rejoiced with joy full of glory.

5. In the midst of their heaviness they likewise still enjoyed the love of God, which had been shed abroad in their hearts;—”whom,” says the Apostle, “having not seen, ye love.” Though ye have not yet seen him face to face; yet, knowing him by faith, ye have obeyed his word, “My son, give me thy heart. “He is your God, and your love, the desire of your eyes, and your “exceeding great reward.” Ye have sought and found happiness in Him; ye “delight in the Lord,” and he hath given you your “hearts’ desire.”

6. Once more: Though they were heavy, yet were they holy; they retained the same power over sin. They were still “kept” from this, “by the power of God;” they were “obedient children, not fashioned according to their former desires;” but “as He that had called them is holy,” so were they “holy in all manner of conversation.” Knowing they were “redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as a Lamb without spot and without blemish,” they had, through the faith and hope which they had in God, “purified their souls by the Spirit.” So that, upon the whole, their heaviness well consisted with faith, with hope, with love of God and man, with the peace of God, with joy in the Holy Ghost, with inward and outward holiness. It did no way impair, much less destroy, any part of the work of God in their hearts. It did not at all interfere with that “sanctification of the Spirit” which is the root of all true obedience; neither with the happiness which must needs result from grace and peace reigning in the heart.

II. 1. Hence we may easily learn what kind of heaviness they were in;—the Second thing which I shall endeavor to show. The word in the original, is lupethentes, made sorry, grieved; from lupe, grief or sorrow. This is the constant, literal meaning of the word: And, this being observed, there is no ambiguity in the expression, nor any difficulty in understanding it. The persons spoken of here were grieved: The heaviness they were in was neither more nor less than sorrow or grief;—a passion which every child of man is well acquainted with.

2. It is probable our translators rendered it heaviness (though a less common word,) to denote two things: First, the degree, and next, the continuance, of it. It does indeed, seem that it is not a slight or inconsiderable degree of grief which is here spoken of; but such as makes a strong impression upon, and sinks deep into, the soul. Neither does this appear to be a transient sorrow, such as passes away in an hour; but rather, such as, having taken fast hold of the heart, is not presently shaken off, but continues for some time, as a settled temper, rather than a passion,—even in them that have living faith in Christ, and the genuine love of God in their hearts.

3. even in these, this heaviness may sometimes be so deep as to overshadow the whole soul; to give a colour, as it were, to all the affections; such as will appear in the whole behavior. It may likewise have an influence over the body; particularly in those that are either of a naturally weak constitution, or weakened by some accidental disorder, especially of the nervous kind. In many cases, we find the corruptible body presses down the soul. In this, the soul rather presses down the body, and weakens it more and more. Nay, I will not say that deep and lasting sorrow of heart may not sometimes weaken a strong constitution, and lay the foundation of such bodily disorders as are not easily removed: And yet, all this may consist with a measure of that faith which still worketh by love.

4. This may well be termed a fiery trial: And though it is not the same with that the Apostle speaks of in the fourth chapter [1 Pet. 4], yet many of the expressions there used concerning outward sufferings may be accommodated to this inward affliction. They cannot, indeed, with any propriety, be applied to them that are in darkness: These do not, cannot rejoice; neither is it true, that the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon them. But he frequently doth on those that are in heaviness; so that, though sorrowful, yet are they always rejoicing.

III. 1. But to proceed to the Third point: What are the causes of such sorrow or heaviness in a true believer? The Apostle tells us clearly: “Ye are in heaviness,” says he, “through manifold temptations,” poikilois, manifold, not only many in number, but of many kinds. They may be varied and diversified a thousand ways, by the change or addition of numberless circumstances. And this very diversity and variety makes it more difficult to guard against them. Among these we may rank all bodily disorders; particularly acute diseases, and violent pain of every kind, whether affecting the whole body or the smallest part of it. It is true, some who have enjoyed uninterrupted health, and have felt none of these, may make light of them, and wonder that sickness, or pain of body, should bring heaviness upon the mind. And perhaps one in a thousand is of so peculiar a constitution as not to feel pain like other men. So hath it pleased God to show his almighty power by producing some of these prodigies of nature, who have seemed not to regard pain at all, though of the severest kind; if that contempt of pain was not owing partly to the force of education, partly to a preternatural cause, to the power either of good or evil spirits, who raised those men above the state of mere nature. But, abstracting from these particular cases, it is, in general, a just observation, that

Pain is perfect misery, and extreme

Quite overturns all patience.

And even where this is prevented by the grace of God, where men do “possess their souls in patience,” it may, nevertheless, occasion much inward heaviness; the soul sympathizing with the body.

2. All diseases of long continuance, though less painful, are apt to produce the same effect. When God appoints over us consumption, or the chilling and burning ague, if it be not speedily removed it will not only “consume the eyes,” but “cause sorrow of heart.” This is eminently the case with regard to all those which are termed nervous disorders. And faith does not overturn the course of nature: Natural causes still produce natural effects. Faith no more hinders the sinking of the spirits (as it is called) in an hysteric illness than the rising of the pulse in a fever.

3. Again: When “calamity cometh as a whirlwind, and poverty as an armed man;” is this a little temptation? Is it strange if it occasion sorrow and heaviness? Although this also may appear but a small thing to those who stand at a distance, or who look, and “pass by on the other side;” yet it is otherwise to them who feel it. “having food and raiment,” (indeed the latter word, skepasmata, implies lodging as well as apparel,) we may, if the love of God is in our hearts, “be therewith content.” But what shall they do who have none of these? who, as it were, “embrace the rock for a shelter?” who have only the earth to lie upon, and only the sky to cover them? who have not a dry, or warm, much less a clean, abode for themselves and their little ones: no, nor clothing to keep themselves, or those they love next themselves, from pinching cold, either by day or night? I laugh at the stupid Heathen, crying out,

Nil habet, Jelix paupertas durtus tn se,

Quam quod ndiculos homines facit!

Has poverty nothing worse in it than this, that it makes men liable to be laughed at? It is a sign this idle poet talked by rote of the things which he knew not. Is not want of food something worse than this? God pronounced it as a curse upon man, that he should earn it “by the sweat of his brow.” But how many are there in this Christian country, that toil, and labour, and sweat, and have it not at last, but struggle with weariness and hunger together? Is it not worse for one, after an hard day’s labour, to come back to a poor, cold, dirty, uncomfortable lodging, and to find there not even the food which is needful to repair his wasted strength? You that live at ease in the earth, that want nothing but eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand how well God has dealt with you,—is it not worse to seek bread day by day, and find none? perhaps to find the comfort also of five or six children, crying for what he has not to give! Were it not that he is restrained by an unseen hand, would he not soon “curse God and die?” O want of bread! want of bread! Who can tell what this means unless he hath felt it himself? I am astonished it occasions no more than heaviness even in them that believe!

4. Perhaps, next to this, we may place the death of those who were near and dear unto us; of a tender parent, and one not much declined into the vale of years; of a beloved child, just rising into life, and clasping about our heart; of a friend that was as our own soul,—next the grace of God, the last, best gift of Heaven. And a thousand circumstances may enhance the distress. Perhaps the child, the friend, died in our embrace!—perhaps, was snatched away when we looked not for it! flourishing, cut down like a flower! In all these cases, we not only may, but ought to, be affected: It is the design of God that we should. He would not have us stocks and stones. He would have our affections regulated, not extinguished. Therefore,—”Nature unreproved may drop a tear.” There may be sorrow without sin.

5. A still deeper sorrow we may feel for those who are dead while they live; on account of the unkindness, ingratitude, apostasy, of those who were united to us in the closest ties. Who can express what a lover of souls may feel for a friend, a brother, dead to God? for an husband, a wife, a parent, a child rushing into sin, as an horse into the battle; and, in spite of all arguments and persuasions, hasting to work out his own damnation? And this anguish of spirit may be heightened to an inconceivable degree, by the consideration, that he who is now posting to destruction once ran well in the way of life. Whatever he was in time past, serves now to no other purpose, than to make our reflections on what he is more piercing and afflictive.

6. In all these circumstances, we may be assured, our great adversary will not be wanting to improve his opportunity. He, who is always “walking about, seeking whom he may devour,” will then, especially, use all his power, all his skill, if haply he may gain any advantage over the soul that is already cast down. He will not be sparing of his fiery darts, such as are most likely to find an entrance, and to fix most deeply in the heart, by their suitableness to the temptation that assaults it. He will labour to inject unbelieving, or blasphemous, or repining thoughts. He will suggest that God does not regard, does not govern, the earth; or, at least, that he does not govern it aright, not by the rules of justice and mercy. He will endeavor to stir up the heart against God, to renew our natural enmity against him. And if we attempt to fight him with his own weapons, if we begin to reason with him, more and more heaviness will undoubtedly ensue, if not utter darkness.

7. It has been frequently supposed, that there is another cause; if not of darkness, at least, of heaviness; namely, God’s withdrawing himself from the soul, because it is his sovereign will. Certainly he will do this, if we grieve his Holy Spirit, either by outward or inward sin; either by doing evil, or neglecting to do good; by giving way either to pride or anger, to spiritual sloth, to foolish desire, or inordinate affection. But that he ever withdraws himself because he will, merely because it is his good pleasure, I absolutely deny. There is no text in all the Bible which gives any colour for such a supposition. Nay, it is a supposition contrary, not only to many particular texts, but to the whole tenor of Scripture. It is repugnant to the very nature of God: It is utterly beneath his majesty and wisdom, (as an eminent writer strongly expresses it,) “to play at bo-peep with his creatures.” It is inconsistent both with his justice and mercy, and with the sound experience of all his children.

8. One more cause of heaviness is mentioned by many of those who are termed Mystic authors. And the notion has crept in, I know not how, even among plain people who have no acquaintance with them. I cannot better explain this, than in the words of a late writer, who relates this as her own experience:—”I continued so happy in my Beloved, that, although I should have been forced to live a vagabond in a desert, I should have found no difficulty in it. This state had not lasted long, when, in effect, I found myself led into a desert. I found myself in a forlorn condition, altogether poor, wretched, and miserable. The proper source of this grief is, the knowledge of ourselves; by which we find that there is an extreme unlikeness between God and us. We see ourselves most opposite to him; and that our inmost soul is entirely corrupted, depraved, and full of all kind of evil and malignity, of the world and the flesh, and all sorts of abominations.”—From hence it has been inferred, that the knowledge of ourselves, without which we should perish everlastingly, must, even after we have attained justifying faith, occasion the deepest heaviness.

9. But upon this I would observe, (1.) In the preceding paragraph, this writer says, “Hearing I had not a true faith in Christ, I offered myself up to God, and immediately felt his love.” It may be so; and yet it does not appear that this was justification. It is more probable, it was no more than what are usually termed, the “drawings of the Father.” And if so, the heaviness and darkness which followed was no other than conviction of sin; which in the nature of things, must precede that faith whereby we are justified. (2.) Suppose she was justified almost the same moment she was convinced of wanting faith, there was then no time for that gradually-increasing self-knowledge which uses to precede justification: In this case, therefore, it came after, and was probably the more severe, the less it was expected. (3.) It is allowed, there will be a far deeper, a far clearer and fuller knowledge of our inbred sin, of our total corruption by nature, after justification, than ever there was before it. But this need not occasion darkness of soul: I will not say, that it must bring us into heaviness. Were it so, the Apostle would not have used that expression, if need be for there would be an absolute, indispensable need of it, for all that would know themselves; that is, in effect, for all that would know the perfect love of God, and be thereby “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But this is by no means the case. On the contrary, God may increase the knowledge of ourselves to any degree, and increase in the same proportion, the knowledge of himself and the experience of his love. And in this case there would be no “desert, no misery, no forlorn condition;” but love, and peace, and joy, gradually springing up into everlasting life.

IV. 1. For what ends, then, (which was the Fourth thing to be considered,) does God permit heaviness to befall so many of his children? The Apostle gives us a plain and direct answer to this important question: “That the trial of their faith, which is much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:7.) There may be an allusion to this, in that well-known passage of the fourth chapter; (Although it primarily relates to quite another thing, as has been already observed:) “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: But rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may likewise rejoice with exceeding great joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12.)

2. Hence we learn, that the first and great end of God’s permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on his children, Is the trial of their faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire is purified thereby; is separated from its dross. And so is faith in the fire of temptation; the more it is tried, the more it is purified;—yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness, of God. This, then,—to increase our faith,—is one gracious end of God’s permitting those manifold temptations.

3. They serve to try, to purify, to confirm, and increase that living hope also, where unto “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us again of his abundant mercy.” Indeed our hope cannot but increase in the same proportion with our faith. On this foundation it stands: Believing in his name, living by faith in the Son of God, we hope for, we have a confident expectation of, the glory which shall be revealed; And, consequently, whatever strengthens our faith, increases our hope also. At the same time it increases our joy in the Lord, which cannot but attend an hope full of immortality. In this view the Apostle exhorts believers in the other chapter: “Rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ.” On this very account, “happy are you; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you:” And hereby ye are enabled, even in the midst of sufferings, to “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

4. They rejoice the more, because the trials which increase their faith and hope increase their love also; both their gratitude to God for all his mercies, and their good-will to all mankind. Accordingly, the more deeply sensible they are of the loving-kindness of God their Saviour, the more is their heart inflamed with love to him who “first loved us.” The clearer and stronger evidence they have of the glory that shall be revealed, the more do they love Him who hath purchased it for them, and “given them the earnest” thereof “in their hearts.” And this, the increase of their love, is another end of the temptations permitted to come upon them.

5. Yet another is, their advance in holiness: holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation; the latter naturally resulting from the former; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that worketh by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from love of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that, sanctified afflictions have, through the grace of God, an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Through the operation of his Spirit, they humble, more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and self-will, crucify us to the world, and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in, God.

6. And all these terminate in that great end, that our faith, hope, love, and holiness “may be found,” if it doth not yet appear, “unto praise” from God himself, “and honour” from men and angels, “and glory,” assigned by the great Judge to all that have endured unto the end. And this will be assigned in that awful day to every man, “according to his works;” according to the work which God had wrought in his heart, and the outward works which he has wrought for God; and likewise according to what he had suffered; So that all these trials are unspeakable gain. So many ways do these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”

7. Add to this the advantage which others may receive by seeing our behavior under affliction. We find by experience, example frequently makes a deeper impression upon us than precept. And what examples have a stronger influence, not only on those who are partakers of like precious faith, but even on them who have not known God, than that of a soul calm and serene in the midst of storms; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; meekly accepting whatever is the will of God, however grievous it may be to nature; saying, in sickness and pain, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”—in loss or want, “The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

V. 1. I am to conclude with some inferences. And, First, how wide is the difference between darkness of soul, and heaviness; which, nevertheless, are so generally confounded with each other, even by experienced Christians! Darkness, or the wilderness-state, implies a total loss of joy in the Holy Ghost: Heaviness does not; in the midst of this we may “rejoice with joy unspeakable.” They that are in darkness have lost the peace of God; They that are in heaviness have not; So far from it, that at the very time “peace,” as well as “grace,” may “be multiplied” unto them. In the former, the love of God is waxed cold, if it be not utterly extinguished; in the latter, it retains its full force, or, rather, increases daily. In these, faith itself, if not totally lost, is, however, grievously decayed: Their evidence and conviction of things not seen, particularly of the pardoning love of God, is not so clear or strong as in time past: and their trust in him is proportionably weakened: Those, though they see him not, yet have a clear, unshaken confidence in God, and an abiding evidence of that love whereby all their sins are blotted out. So that as long as we can distinguish faith from unbelief, hope from despair, peace from war, the love of God from the love of the world, we may infallibly distinguish heaviness from darkness!

2. We may learn from hence, Secondly, that there may be need of heaviness, but there can be no need of darkness. There may be need of our being in “heaviness for a season,” in order to the ends above recited; at least, in this sense, as it is a natural result of those “manifold temptations” which are needful to try and increase our faith, to confirm and enlarge our hope, to purify our heart from all unholy tempers, and to perfect us in love. And, by consequence, they are needful in order to brighten our crown, and add to our eternal weight of glory. But we cannot say, that darkness is needful in order to any of these ends. It is no way conducive to them: The loss of faith, hope, love, is surely neither conducive to holiness, nor to the increase of that reward in heaven which will be in proportion to our holiness on earth.

3. From the Apostle’s manner of speaking we may gather, Thirdly, that even heaviness is not always needful. “Now, for a season, if need be;” So it is not needful for all persons; nor for any person at all times. God is able, he has both power and wisdom, to work, when he pleases, the same work of grace in any soul, by other means. And in some instances he does so; he causes those whom it pleaseth him to go on from strength to strength, even till they “perfect holiness in his fear,” with scarce any heaviness at all; as having an absolute power over the heart of man, and moving all the springs of it at his pleasure. But these cases are rare: God generally sees good to try “acceptable men in the furnace of affliction.” So that manifold temptations and heaviness, more or less, are usually the portion of his dearest children.

4. We ought, therefore, Lastly, to watch and pray, and use our utmost endeavours to avoid falling into darkness. But we need not be solicitous how to avoid so much as how to improve by heaviness. Our great care should be, so to behave ourselves under it, so to wait upon the Lord therein, that it may fully answer all the design of his love, in permitting it to come upon us; that it may be a means of increasing our faith, of confirming our hope, of perfecting us in all holiness. Whenever it comes, let us have an eye to these gracious ends for which it is permitted, and use all diligence that we may not make void the counsel of God against ourselves. Let us earnestly work together with him, by the grace which he is continually giving us, in “purifying ourselves from all pollution, both of flesh and spirit,” and daily growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, till we are received into his everlasting kingdom!



“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

1. It has been frequently imagined, that the direction here given related chiefly, if not wholly, to the Apostles; at least, to the Christians of the first ages, or those in a state of persecution. But this is a grievous mistake; For although our blessed Lord is here directing his discourse more immediately to his Apostles, and those other disciples who attended him in the days of his flesh; yet, in them he speaks to us, and to all mankind, without any exception or limitation. The very reason of the thing puts it beyond dispute, that the duty which is here enjoined is not peculiar to them, or to the Christians of the early ages. It no more regards any particular order of men, or particular time, than any particular country. No: It is of the most universal nature, respecting all times, and all persons, yea, and all things; not meats and drinks only, and things pertaining to the senses. The meaning is, “If any man,” of whatever rank, station, circumstances, in any nation, in any age of the world, “will” effectually “come after me, let him deny himself” in all things; let him “take up his cross” of whatever kind; yea, and that “daily; and follow me.”

2. The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practise it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.

3. It is for this reason, that so many Ministers of Christ, in almost every age and nation, particularly since the Reformation of the Church from the innovations and corruptions gradually crept into it, have wrote and spoke so largely on this important duty, both in their public discourses and private exhortations. This induced them to disperse abroad many tracts upon the subject; and some in our own nation. They knew both from the oracles of God, and from the testimony of their own experience, how impossible it was not to deny our Master, unless we will deny ourselves; and how vainly we attempt to follow Him that was crucified, unless we take up our cross daily.

4. But may not this very consideration make it reasonable to inquire, If much has been said and wrote on the subject already, what need is there to say or write any more? I answer, There are no inconsiderable numbers, even of people fearing God, who have not had the opportunity either of hearing what has been spoke, or reading what has been wrote, upon it. And, perhaps, if they had read much of what has been written, they would not have been so much profited. Many who have wrote, (some of them large volumes,) do by no means appear to have understood the subject. Either they had imperfect views of the very nature of it, (and then they could never explain it to others,) or they were unacquainted with the due extent of it; they did not see how exceeding broad this command is; or they were not sensible of the absolute, the indispensable necessity of it. Others speak of it in so dark, so perplexed, so intricate, so mystical a manner, as if they designed rather to conceal it from the vulgar, than to explain it to common readers. Others speak admirably well, with great clearness and strength, on the necessity of self-denial; but then they deal in generals only, without coming to particular instances, and so are of little use to the bulk of mankind, to men of ordinary capacity and education. And if some of them do descend to particulars, it is to those particulars only which do not affect the generality of men, since they seldom, if ever, occur in common life;—such as the enduring imprisonment, or tortures; the giving up, in a literal sense, their houses or lands, their husbands or wives, children, or life itself; to none of which we are called, nor are likely to be, unless God should permit times of public persecution to return. In the meantime, I know of no writer in the English tongue who has described the nature of self-denial in plain and intelligible terms, such as lie level with common understandings, and applied it to those little particulars which daily occur in common life. A discourse of this kind is wanted still; and it is wanted the more, because in every stage of the spiritual life, although there is a variety of particular hinderances of our attaining grace or growing therein, yet are all resolvable into these general ones,—either we do not deny ourselves, or we do not take up our cross.

In order to supply this defect in some degree, I shall endeavour to show, First, what it is for a man to deny himself, and what to take up his cross; and, Secondly, that if a man be not fully Christ’s disciple, it is always owing to the want of this.

I. 1. I shall, First, endeavour to show, what it is for a man to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily.” This is a point which is, of all others, most necessary to be considered and throughly understood, even on this account, that it is, of all others, most opposed by numerous and powerful enemies. All our nature must certainly rise up against this, even in its own defence; the world, consequently, the men who take nature, not grace, for their guide, abhor the very sound of it. And the great enemy of our souls, well knowing its importance, cannot but move every stone against it. But this is not all: Even those who have in some measure shaken off the yoke of the devil, who have experienced, especially of late years, a real work of grace in their hearts, yet are no friends to this grand doctrine of Christianity, though it is so peculiarly insisted on by their Master. Some of them are as deeply and totally ignorant concerning it, as if there was not one word about it in the Bible. Others are farther off still, having unawares imbibed strong prejudices against it. These they have received partly from outside Christians, men of a fair speech and behaviour, who want nothing of godliness but the power, nothing of religion but the spirit;—and partly from those who did once, if they do not now, “taste of the powers of the world to come.” But are there any of these who do not both practise self-denial themselves, and recommend it to others? You are little acquainted with mankind, if you doubt of this. There are whole bodies of men who only do not declare war against it. To go no farther than London: Look upon the whole body of Predestinarians, who by the free mercy of God have lately been called out of the darkness of nature into the light of faith. Are they patterns of self-denial? How few of them even profess to practise it at all! How few of them recommend it themselves, or are pleased with them that do! Rather, do they not continually represent it in the most odious colours, as if it were seeking “salvation by works,” or seeking “to establish our own righteousness?” And how readily do Antinomians of all kinds, from the smooth Moravian, to the boisterous, foul-mouthed Ranter, join the cry, with their silly, unmeaning cant of legality, and preaching the law! Therefore you are in constant danger of being wheedled, hectored, or ridiculed out of this important gospel-doctrine, either by false teachers, or false brethren, (more or less beguiled from the simplicity of the gospel,) if you are not deeply grounded therein. Let fervent prayer, then, go before, accompany, and follow what you are now about to read, that it may be written in your heart by the finger of God, so as never to be erased.

2. But what is self-denial? Wherein are we to deny ourselves? And whence does the necessity of this arise? I answer, The will of God is the supreme, unalterable rule for every intelligent creature; equally binding every angel in heaven, and every man upon earth. Nor can it be otherwise: This is the natural, necessary result of the relation between creatures and their Creator. But if the will of God be our one rule of action in every thing, great and small, it follows, by undeniable consequence, that we are not to do our own will in anything. Here, therefore, we see at once the nature, with the ground and reason, of self-denial. We see the nature of self-denial: It is the denying or refusing to follow ours own will, from a conviction that the will of God is the only rule of action to us. And we see the reason thereof, because we are creatures; because “it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”

3. This reason for self-denial must hold, even with regard to the angels of God in heaven; and with regard to man, innocent and holy, as he came out of the hands of his Creator. But a farther reason for it arises from the condition wherein all men are since the Fall. We are all now “shapen in wickedness, and in sin did our mother conceive us.” Our nature is altogether corrupt, in every power and faculty. And our will, depraved equally with the rest, is wholly bent to indulge our natural corruption. On the other hand, it is the will of God that we resist and counteract that corruption, not at some times, or in some things only, but at all times and in all things. Here, therefore, is a farther ground for constant and universal self-denial.

4. To illustrate this a little further: The will of God is a path leading straight to God. The will of man, which once ran parallel with it, is now another path, not only different from it, but in our present state, directly contrary to it: It leads from God. If, therefore, we walk in the one, we must necessarily quit the other. We cannot walk in both. Indeed, a man of faint heart and feeble hands may go in two ways, one after the other. But he cannot walk in two ways at the same time: He cannot, at one and the same time, follow his own will, and follow the will of God: He must choose the one or the other; denying God’s will, to follow his own; or denying himself, to follow the will of God.

5. Now, it is undoubtedly pleasing, for the time, to follow our own will, by indulging, in any instance that offers, the corruption of our nature: But by following it in anything, we so far strengthen the perverseness of our will; and by indulging it, we continually increase the corruption of our nature. So, by the food which is agreeable to the palate, we often increase a bodily disease: It gratifies the taste, but it inflames the disorder. it brings pleasure, but it also brings death.

6. On the whole, then, to deny ourselves, is, to deny our own will, where it does not fall in with the will of God; and that however pleasing it may be. It is, to deny ourselves any pleasure which does not spring from, and lead to, God; that is, in effect, to refuse going out of our way, though into a pleasant, flowery path; to refuse what we know to be deadly poison, though agreeable to the taste.

7. And every one that would follow Christ, that would be his real disciple, must not only deny himself, but take up his cross also. A cross is anything contrary to our will, anything displeasing to our nature. So that taking up our cross goes a little farther than denying ourselves; it rises a little higher, and is a more difficult task to flesh and blood;—it being more easy to forego pleasure, than to endure pain.

8. Now, in running “the race which is set before us,” according to the will of God, there is often a cross lying in the way; that is, something which is not only not joyous, but grievous; something which is contrary to our will, which is displeasing to our nature. What then is to be done? The choice is plain: Either we must take up our cross, or we must turn aside from the way of God, “from the holy commandment delivered to us;” if we do not stop altogether, or turn back to everlasting perdition!

9. In order to the healing of that corruption, that evil disease, which every man brings with him into the world, it is often needful to pluck out, as it were, a right eye, to cut off a right hand;—so painful is either the thing itself which must be done, or the only means of doing it; the parting, suppose, with a foolish desire, with an inordinate affection; or a separation from the object of it, without which it can never be extinguished. In the former kind, the tearing away such a desire or affection, when it is deeply rooted in the soul, is often like the piercing of a sword, yea, like “the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow.” The Lord then sits upon the soul as a refiner’s fire, to burn all the dross thereof. And this is a cross indeed; it is essentially painful; it must be so, in the very nature of the thing. The soul cannot be thus torn asunder, it cannot pass through the fire, without pain.

10. In the latter kind, the means to heal a sin-sick soul, to cure a foolish desire, an inordinate affection, are often painful, not in the nature of the thing, but from the nature of the disease. So when our Lord said to the rich young man, “Go, sell that thou hast, and give it to the poor,” (as well knowing, this was the only means of healing his covetousness,) the very thought of it gave him so much pain, that “he went away sorrowful;” choosing rather to part with his hope of heaven, than his possessions on earth. This was a burden he could not consent to lift, a cross he would not take up. And in the one kind or the other, every follower of Christ will surely have need to “take up his cross daily.”

11. The “taking up” differs a little from “bearing his cross.” We are then properly said to “bear our cross,” when we endure what is laid upon us without our choice, with meekness and resignation. Whereas, we do not properly “take up our cross,” but when we voluntarily suffer what it is in our power to avoid; when we willingly embrace the will of God, though contrary to our own; when we choose what is painful, because it is the will of our wise and gracious Creator.

12. And thus it behoves every disciple of Christ to take up, as well as to bear, his cross. Indeed, in one sense, it is not his alone; it is common to him, and many others; seeing there is no temptation befals any man, ei me anthropinos,—”but such as is common to men;” such as is incident and adapted to their common nature and situation in the present world. But, in another sense, as it is considered with all its circumstances, it is his; peculiar to himself: It is prepared of God for him; it is given by God to him, as a token of his love. And if he receives it as such, and, after using such means to remove the pressure as Christian wisdom directs, lies as clay in the potter’s hand; it is disposed and ordered by God for his good, both with regard to the quality of it, and in respect to its quantity and degree, its duration, and every other circumstance.

13. In all this, we may easily conceive our blessed Lord to act as the Physician of our souls, not merely “for his own pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.” If, in searching our wounds, he puts us to pain, it is only in order to heal them. He cuts away what is putrified or unsound, in order to preserve the sound part. And if we freely choose the loss of a limb, rather than the whole body should perish; how much more should we choose, figuratively, to cut off a right hand, rather than the whole soul should be cast into hell!

14. We see plainly then both the nature and ground of taking up our cross. It does not imply the disciplining ourselves; (as some speak;) the literally tearing our own flesh: the wearing hair-cloth, or iron-girdles, or anything else that would impair our bodily health; (although we know not what allowance God may make for those who act thus through involuntary ignorance;) but the embracing the will of God, though contrary to our own; the choosing wholesome, though bitter medicines; the freely accepting temporary pain, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, when it is either essentially or accidentally necessary to eternal pleasure.

II. 1. I am, Secondly, to show, that it is always owing to the want either of self-denial, or taking up his cross, that any man does not throughly follow Him, is not fully a disciple of Christ.

It is true, this may be partly owing, in some cases, to the want of the means of grace; of hearing the true word of God spoken with power; of the sacraments, or of Christian fellowship. But where none of these is wanting, the great hindrance of our receiving or growing in the grace of God is always the want of denying ourselves, or taking up our cross.