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sent life, and is the eternal effect of the word of God abiding in our hearts; when all other things fade and decay, this blessed estate, offered in, and conveyed by, the Gospel, will not fail us.
1. I shall give you the reasons.
First, The reasons. In every promise, that it be certain and firm, three things are required.
Ist, That it may be made seriously and heartily, with a purpose to perform it.
2ndly, That he that hath promised, continue in his purpose without change of mind,
3rdly, That it be in the power of him that promiseth, to perform what he hath so promised. Now, of all these things there can be no doubt.
1. Certainly God meaneth as he speaketh, when he promiseth to give eternal life to those that believe and obey the Gospel. There is no question but he is so minded, when he hath written a book to assure the world of it; for what need God to court the creature with an imaginary happiness, or to tell them of a glorious estate which he never meant to bestow upon them? Yea, why should“ Amen,” the “ faithful witness,” come from Heaven, further to assure us of it by his doctrine, die the death to purchase it for us, and afterward rise again, and enter into that happiness which he spake of, that our “ faith and hope may be in God?“ (1 Peter i. 21.) Why should he, as soon as he was ascended, give gifts unto men, send forth messengers into the world to preach this doctrine, and give notice of this blessed estate to be had upon these terms, and attest it by divers signs and wonders, partly to alarm the drowsy world to regard it, and assure the incredulous world of the truth of this salvation: (Heb. ii. 3, 4.) Not to believe that God is serious in all this, is to make him a liar indeed; yea, to establish a lie and falsehood with great solemnity.
2. That God doth continue his purpose, there is no doubt, if ye consider his eternal and unchangeable nature: “For I am the Lord, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. iii. 6); and, “ With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning“ (James i, 17). And what should alter his purpose? Doth he meet with anything that he foresaw not, and knew not before? God doth never repent and call back his grant, that he hath by this act of grace ensured eternal happiness to the saints on such terms: “ The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent” (1 Sam. xv. 29); “ The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedeck” (Psalm cx. 4). Christ is instated in full power of entertaining and blessing his faithful servants, which shall never be retracted. To take off all doubt, he hath given us double assurance, his word and his oath: “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath ; that, by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have tied for refuge,” &c. (Heb. vi. 17, 18.) God bath ever been tender of his word; above all that is famed, or believed of God, this is most conspicuous : “ Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Psalm cxxxviii. 2). Now, this needed not; for an oath is interposed in a doubtful matter; but it showeth God's extraordinary care
for our satisfaction; his good will is seen in the promise, his solicitude in the oath. In short, God would never be so fast bound, but that he doth continue his purpose.
3. That he is able to perform it: “ With God all things are possible'' (Matt. xix. 26); “Being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. iv. 21); “ According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself” (Phil. iii. 21). He is able to find out a way whereby sinners may be reconciled, sanctified, subdued by his Spirit; whereby his interests may be preserved in them, against the assaults of the Devil, the world, and the flesh; finally, able to raise our bodies after eaten out by worms, and turned into dust. Matters of faith being chiefly or mainly future and to come, and difficult to be performed, therefore an express belief of God's power is necessary. To convert such an obstinate, and to sanctify such a sinful creature, and to raise the dead, are no slight things.
Secondly, The emblem of this immutable constancy: it is settled in the heavens; it is not measured by the floating estate of things here upon earth, but by the perfection of the heavens, which are free from all changes and chances.
Ist, They are fit emblems of the stability of the word; for they continue to be what his word once made them to be: there is no justling among the stars, but all obey God's word and law : “ Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded, and they were created, he hath also stablished them for ever and ever : he hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Psalm cxlviii. 4-6). So that, when a believer looketh up to Heaven, there he seeth the book of the creatures opened, wherein he beholdeth God's constancy and certainty written in indelible characters, God's powerful voice did first separate the waters from the waters; and those celestial bodies move in that order wherein God hath set them. Now, is not this a help to us, when we open the book of Scriptures, and compare the one with the other, how the stated course of nature and the stated course of grace agree with his power? For, as long as you trust in God's word, you can never fail; for both Heaven and earth are sustained by it: “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. i. 3). All is easy to God; for he preserveth the heavens in that estate wherein they are governed, and can preserve his people in the most difficult cases.
2ndly, God's constancy and truth doth appear in the heavens also ; there is a witness there of his eternal truth; for, when he had once said, “Let there be heavens,” &c., they presently were, and ever since have kept one constant tenour and course; yea, Heaven shall sooner fail than God's word fail : he will not retract what he hath once said; and therefore his word is more firm and stable than the frame of Heaven and earth: “ Till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. v. 18); “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. xxiv. 35). So that God's word is more stable than Heaven and earth.
Thirdly, The profit of this meditation.
Ist, That we may set the sureness of this word against the diffidence and distrustfulness of our own hearts: “Slow of heart to believe” (Luke xxiv. 25). Though God hath so firmly bound himself to the creature by his own word, yet the promise to us seemeth doubtful and uncertain, espe. cially when men are clouded with troubles and temptations; for we look only to present sense, and would not be put on any trial. Now, it is comfortable to remember, that the order and course of nature is not so settled as the grace of the covenant is : let it have its course, resolved and patient obedience will at length end in eternal happiness; and therefore we should build surely, upon a firm foundation, that we may not stagger through unbelief, but give glory to God (Rom. iv, 20).
2ndly, To comfort us when our hopes are delayed. In due time the promise cannot want the effect (Heb. vi. 12). There will be day and night, summer and winter, in their season; therefore, as in the night we wait for day, and in the winter for summer, so must we wait for our eternal consolation.
3rdly, To support us against the various changes in the state of worldly things. Many things fall out in this world that breed trouble in us : therefore, if we should only look to the present state of things, our hearts would float up and down; but we must look to the immutable constancy of God's word, that is a sure rock for the anchor of hope to take hold on. There is a sure rule to walk by, sure promises to build upon, if we would be everlastingly happy. There are “the sure mercies of David” (Isa. lv.3). The changes of this world perplex our faith; therefore, we should not look to the instability of things below, wherein there are continual vicissitudes, but to the sure covenant.
4thly, Not only when our hopes are delayed and obscured by the changes and chances of this world, but contradicted by contrary appearances; God seemeth to cast us off, to have no pleasure in us. Now, to bear up our faith in the hardest condition, that we may say, “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job. xiii. 15), and believe in hope against hope, we should remember the settledness and constancy of his word. The promises stand firm in Heaven, when they seem to fail on earth. God may cover himself with frowns, and his dispensations may seem contrary to his intention; as Joseph spake roughly to his brethen, when he meant to discover himself to them, or as Christ dealt with the woman of Canaan (Matt. XV). But when there seemeth to be such a contradiction between the word and works of God; when his voice is sweet like Jacob's, and his hand rough like Esau's, we must remember that the smart rod is consistent with covenant love (Psalm lxxxix. 32). And we must not interpret the promise of God by his providential dealing with us, but rather his dealing by his promises; his promise being as the light part of the cloud, and his dealing as the dark part of it. God is fulfilling promises by hard dispensations, and sharp afflictions belong to his faithfulness (Psalm cxix. 75). Many times that is best for us, not what we think best, but what God thinks best The buffetings of Satan and oppositions of the world may be most whole. some to us, though not most pleasing to the flesh.
5thly, To wean us from the fading vanities of the world (Isa. xl. 8, and 1 Peter i. 24). There is nothing firm and lasting in this world, till we lift up our eyes to Heaven, and seek a happiness in the promises (1 John ii. 17). Our happiness lieth not in the present life, but in the everlasting enjoyment of God: in the covenant, all is settled and sure, but, in the world, ali is unstable and uncertain. God's covenant provideth for us eternal joy and bliss.
USE I.-To show what contrary and different conclusions the carnal and spiritual will draw from the same principles. The scoffers said, “Where
is the promise of his coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter üi. 4). Because the whole frame of nature had kept one constant tenour and course, they plead for the eternity of the world and the falsehood of the promises. Now, David reasoneth quite the contrary way. They see the mercy of God, that the things of nature keep ordinarily one constant course, and are not terrified with the frequent change thereof; yea, they are thereby confirmed in the belief of the Lord's constancy and faithfulness. But men in love with their lusts, make a woful use of this consideration, hardening themselves in their conceit that there shall never be a change, and so sin more securely. See the like in other things: 1 Cor. vii. 29; 1 Cor. xv. 32; Jude 24; Rom. vi. 2; 2 Sam. vii. 2, with Hag. i. 2; 1 Sam. iii. 18; 2 Kings vi. 33.
USE II. - Whenever you look to Heaven, remember that within you have a God, who hath fixed his residence and shown bis glory there, and made it the seat both of his mercy and justice. You have also there a Saviour, who, after he had died for our sins, sat down at the right hand of Majesty, to see his promises accomplished, and by his word to subdue the whole world. There are angels that “ do his commandment, hearkening to the voice of his word” (Psalm cïïi. 20). There are glorified saints, who see God face to face, and dwell with him for evermore, and came thither by the same covenant which is propounded to us, as the charter of our peace and hope. Without, we see the sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, move in that fixed course and order wherein God hath set them; and will God show his constancy in the course of nature, and be fickle and changeable in the covenant of grace, wherein he hath disposed the order and method of his mercies?
USE III.—To cure our unbelief, by considering how God's grace is settled in the covenant, so as to leave no cause or occasion of doubting or suspecting the truth and certainty of those blessings which he hath promised us. And shall we live in jealousy, as if we were not upon such sure terms with God? If we transact with another about certain benefits, the transaction may prove to no purpose, if the matter about which we contract with them hath no being, or the terms be impossible, or the conveyance be not firm and strong, so as to hold good in law. Now, none of these can be imagined in our entering into covenant with God. For,
1. Eternal life is not a chimera, or a thing that hath no being; you might run uncertainly (1 Cor. ix. 26), if it were a dream or a well-devised fable. No; it is the greatest reality in the world (Heb. iv. 9): we cannot be mistaken, we see it before us in the promises so confirmed.
2. It is not upon impossible terms, but such as are performable by the grace of God: “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. ii. 8). And the Apostle telleth us, it is of grace, that it may be sure to all the seed (Rom. iv. 16). It is grace maketh it sure; God giveth what he requireth. There are conditions that concern making covenant and keeping covenant. First, condi. tions for making covenant: “ I will give them a heart to know me that I am the Lord” (Jer. xxiv. 7); "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you" (Ezek. xxxvi. 26). After this, for keeping covenant. This is a covenant that keepeth us as well as we keep it : “ I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer. xxxii. 40): so, there is a promise of influence: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them” (Ezek. xxxvi. 27). This to prevent the danger of discovenanting.
3. Or, that the conveyance be not strong and firm, so as to make a plea in law; for it is as strongly confirmed as anything can be by God's word and oath, as before it is upon record in Heaven among the ancient decrees of God. It is written in the word for our comfort; yea, upon our hearts, It is sealed by the blood of Christ (Heb. ix. 16, 17), sealed by the Spirit (Eph. i. 13). And therefore the conveyance will bear a plea both now in prayer, and hereafter before the tribunal of God; we may show him his promises, plead the satisfaction of Christ, as he pleadeth it in Heaven (Heb. ix, 24). But where is there room for any doubt? If any, it must be of your qualification ; for on God's part all is ordered and sure; and there two things. First, that all the qualifications of the Gospel must be evangelically interpreted, not legally; not in absolute perfection, but prevalent degree (Mark ix, 29, and Can. v. 2). Secondly, your only way to obtain comfort, is to make the qualification more explicit : “ Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John ii. 5); and, “Hereby we know that we are of the truth” (1 John jii. 19).
4. Let nothing that is uncertain keep you from this blessed and sure covenant. All things without it are uncertain. Riches are uncertain (1 Tim. vi. 17). The like may be said of honours, they are slippery places; of friends, health, life itself. Now, do not forsake your own mercies, for lying vanities. Some vain thing or other taketh us off from God, and seeking his favour, which will certainly prove a lie to you; therefore employ your time, care, and thoughts, about these things.
5. If the covenant be settled, never expect to alter it, or modify it, and bring it down to your fancies and humours. It is God only that can prescribe conditions and laws of commerce between us and him : man is not allowed to prescribe the conditions, or treat about the making of them, but is only bound to submit to what God was pleased to prescribe, and to fulfil the conditions without disputing. They are not left free and indifferent for us to debate them, and modify, and mitigate, and bring them down to our own liking and humour. We are to take hold, not to appoint (Isa. lvi. 4, and Rom. x. 3); so that it bindeth our duty, as well as assureth our comfort. Our vote cometh too late to retract and alter God's eternal decrees. What would you have to be done for your freedom from Hell and the wrath of God?
"Oh! that God would alter those severe constitutions which he hath made, and not insist so strictly on the self-denying duties required in the Gospel covenant, for the salvation of sinners! You may as well ask that God should repeal the ordinances of nature, turn night into day, and day into night, for your sakes.
But, if the Gospel covenant were repealed, that you may be more secure, what then? In what a case are you then? What will you hold by then? You have no hope, if the Gospel stand in force; but what hope would you have, if the Gospel were abolished ?
Must the whole world be ruined to establish your security and indul. gence to sin ? Oh! surely this Gospel, thus stated, hath more stability than the foundations of Heaven and earth.
Therefore, expect nothing to be altered for thy sake: the Gospel con