JOHN xvii. 24.
MENíS hearts are best known by their prayers. And by the same way we may know Christís heart. Whosoever would know how deeply his heart is concerned, in the saving of his people, let them read and believe this prayer.í And indeed, unless people do know how Christís heart stands affected to their salvation, their hearts will never stand well affected towards him, in their employing him for salvation. A clear and strong persuasion of Christís hearty concern in and about saving of sinners, will make a poor sinner hearty in trusting him with his own salvation.
Of this I have been speaking from these precious words. The manner of this prayer I have spoke to. In the matter of it I took up four things. 1. The description of the party he prays for: They whom thou hast given me. 2. The blessing he prays for to them: That they also may be with me where I am. On this part I observed, 1. That the perfect bliss of believers stands in their being with Christ where he is. 2. Christís will is to have them possessed of this bliss. This latter doctrine I did last day open and confirm; and began to apply it in one instance, of the debt of love to Christ that lies on all Christians.
I would now proceed to a more large explication of both the doctrines, and that in four exhortations.
Exhortation 1. Is it Christís will to have all his people with him where he is? Then we are called to admire this wonderful will of Christ. This will hath its causes and springs, as you have heard. But these are so far from making it less, that they indeed make it more wonderful. For helping you to admire this will of Christ, I would give you a few things to consider.
1. Jesus Christ knows himself best. We hear these words of being with Christ: but little do we know what they contain and mean; because we know so little, who, and what Christ is. But Christ knows himself fully and perfectly; and therefore he knew what a great blessing he willed for his people, when he uttered this suit to his Father. It is the wise constitution of God, that the knowledge of Christ, and the enjoyment of Christ, and the knowledge of that enjoyment, are inseparable. We, alas! know little of Christ, we enjoy little of him; and therefore know very little, what perfect enjoyment of him is. But Christ knew himself perfectly, and what bliss his company would be to his people. This is one thing that may make us admire this will of Christ. As if our Lard had said, ďMy poor people know not fully wherein their greatest bliss consists; but I know it well, and will it to them.Ē
2. Our Lord Jesus knew best where he was to he. I told you where Christ was when he made this his will, even near the lowest step of his humbled state. He was just going to the garden of agony, and from that to the death of the cross. But he prays as if in heaven already. And well did he know whither he was going, and what a high and happy state himself was going to, unto which also he meant to bring his people; as he commends it, and encourageth his disciples from it, in John xiv. 2, 3. But we, when we pray for heaven, we pray in the dark. We pray for a blessing, that we do not know, but in a very small part. See 1 Cor. ii. 9. 1 John iii. 2. If it were possible that any believer, out of heaven, did fully know what heaven is, that man would either be as in heaven, or would pray wonderfully for it. But well did Christ know what heaven was; and therefore prays for it unto his people.
3. Christ knew well where his people were; in an evil world, ver. 11.; and what bad entertainment they had, and were to have in it. In love and pity to them, therefore he wills this blessed lodging for them in heaven.
4. Christ knew well what their frame of heart and desires were. He knew what a heart he had put in them; that nothing less than being with him where he was, could content, satisfy, and make them happy. Would you know, when Christ begins to do good to a poor sinner? what is the first thing Christ doth to one he minds to save? It is plainly this: He makes such a hole in the manís heart, that nothing but Christ and heaven can fill. None but Christ, nothing but being with him where he is, can satisfy this man. Christís grace given, springeth up into everlasting life, John iv. 14. And he that created this spring, will neither divert nor stop it. But as their hearts, by his grace, spring up to heaven; Christís heart, in this prayer, springs up to that same everlasting life for them.
Exhort. 2. Love this blessed wilier. Love Jesus Christ, who wills to have all his people in heaven with himself; and love him for willing it. But some will say, ďI know not that Christ wills this for me. If I did but know it, I would then love him.Ē Ans. 1. Though you do not know it, you doubt not, but he deserves thy highest love. No darkness as to your interest in Christ, can dissolve the obligation of duty to love Christ, nor excuse thee from the sin of not loving him. 2. All the devils in hell, or out of hell, or in thy heart, cannot prove, that thou art one that Christ hath no mind to have with him. If any of them suggest it, you have reason to say, they lie, and cannot possibly prove it. I will suppose thy state to be as bad as thou imagines; that thou hast no light, nor knowledge, nor ground to believe and hope that thou art in Christís will and prayer; yea, that thou hast many fears of the contrary, and appearance of grounds for them. Yet it is certain, that it is impossible to prove, that Christ hath no mind to save thee, 3. Is it not some considerable encouragement to you, that it is certain that many just such as you, are in this will of Christ? This prayer was put up, and hath been oftentimes answered, for many just such as you be. There is not so great a difference betwixt men in their natural state, as many imagine. There is indeed some difference in their outward conversation. Some wander strangely; and some are, by education, and restraining common grace, kept within tolerable bounds. But still as to the substance of an unrenewed state, all in it are alike. They are swine still, whether washed, or wallowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii. 22. till Christís grace change them. 4. You that doubt that you are not in Christís will for glory, can you bless him, and love him, or willing salvation to so many others? It is a sad supposition, I own. And I think it sinful for any to lay it down as to himself, that Christ hath no mind to save him. Yet sad suppositions laid close to the heart and conscience, do sometimes produce and draw forth some good thing that lay hid in the heart. Let me therefore argue with such. You fear, or conclude, that Christ hath no mind to save you, that he hath no thoughts of love to you. Well. Though this thought be sinful in all such that daily hear the voice of his love in the gospel, I would say to such, 1. Is it not righteous with him? Do you not own that you deserve not his love, and that you justly deserve his hatred? Proud quarrelling with his justice, is very unsuitable to a pleader for his mercy. 2. Is not this sad case very afflicting to your souls? Alas! many have bitter complaints in their mouths, when there is little sense in their hearts of that they complain of. Surely, there are complaining hypocrites, as well as boasting hypocrites. 3. Is there any inclination in your spirits to admire, love, and praise Jesus Christ for saving so many? I am persuaded, (and that with good warrant from Christís gospel), that that person that admires Christís grace in saving others, shall never be lost himself. Yea, there is some heavenly fire in this smoaking-flax, or wick, that tender-hearted Jesus will not quench, Isa. xlii. 3.; nor will he let the many waters quench it, nor shall the floods drown it, Cant. viii. 7. although they be the floods of hell.
Exhort. 3. Search and try whether you are in this will of Christ. Blessed be the Lord, that no man can know that he is not in Christís will; yet any Christian may know that he is in it. It is a matter of the vastest concern, and calls for suitable diligence, 2 Pet. i. 10. Christís prayer, and Christís blood, are of the same extent; and both have an everlasting voice and virtue. This prayer of our Lordís was put up in the same night he was taken; and its force and virtue is still as great as when it was first uttered. So it is with the voice and virtue of his blood. It speaks to this day as precious things as when he shed it. Alas! our prayers have but little virtue and force when they are first put up, and that little is quickly spent; and were it not for our Advocate with the Father, 1 John ii. 1. they would all come to nothing, and never be more heard of. But it is far (O how far!) otherwise with Christís prayers. They have infinite virtue when first put up, and that virtue is of eternal duration. Here we have our Lord praying to have all his people with him where he is. His prayers were always heard: John xi. 41, 42. And Jesus lift up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee, that thou hast heard me; and I knew that thou heardst me always. And surely he was heard in his last and main prayer for his own glory, and his peopleís blessedness, in this text. Christ did all the Fatherís will, in working out the redemption of the elect; and the Father will do all the Sonís will, in giving the blessings bought to the redeemed. It is then of the highest importance to us, to know we are in this will of Christ, that always is effected; and in this prayer of his, that is, hath been, and will surely be answered. And, for your help in this inquiry about your interest in Christís will and prayer, I would look into this blessed chapter, and Christís prayer in it; and from it show you some marks of them Christ prays for; and let your consciences judge of your interest in them.
Mark 1. Of them Christ prays for, is in ver. 6. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. Would ye know if you be in Christís prayer and will? Then see if Christ hath manifested to you the Fatherís name. It is his work, and his only; Matth. xi. 27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Now, what is the Fatherís name? Many think they know it, to whom Christ never revealed it. If you ask them, if they know Christís Fatherís name they have a ready answer. Is he not the first person in the Trinity? Is he not God the Father, the Almighty, the Maker and Ruler of heaven and earth? Yes. But this is the name of God only, and that in general. The name of Christís Father, is that name and discovery of God wherein he stands related to the Son, and the Son to the Father, with the power and virtue of this name; as in ver. 26. of this chapter, And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. In comparing ver. 6. and ver. 26. I would remark two things. 1. One is in Christís way of his expressing his work in revealing his Fatherís name to his people. In ver. 6. it is, I have manifested; in ver. 26. it is, I have declared thy name. But though there be small difference in the English, there is a considerable one in the Greek; as any acquainted with the original do know. I never looked on the inscription on Christís cross, written by his enemies, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as a warrant to preachers of Christís gospel to stuff their sermons with shreds of those, or any strange tongues; nor that criticisms on the words in the original languages are proper for the pulpit: and if the preachers had as little pleasure in them, as the people have profit by them, they would be quickly laid aside. But sometimes the penury of the vulgar tongue doth not answer the fulness of the original; and in that case it must be supplied by farther explication; as in these two verses before, in ver. 6. and ver. 26. In ver. 6. our Lord tells the Father, that he had manifested his name to them; in ver. 26. that he had declared his name to them. As the words run in the English, they seem to us to be much the same; but as in the Greek, there is a remarkable difference. In ver. 6. Christís manifesting the Fatherís name to them, respects the clear and glorious discoveries Christ had made to them of the Fatherís name in and by Christís incarnation, words, and works. In ver. 26. his declaring to them the Fatherís name, respects the light and knowledge of the Fatherís name, which Christ had wrought, and was farther to work in them. The manifesting, speaks the discoveries of his Fatherís name that Christ made to them; the declaring it, speaks forth the fruit of the former in his disciples. It is as if he had said, ďI have made thy name known to them, I have made them know thy name; and they do know it;Ē as he saith, ver. 25. 2. Another remark I make in comparing ver. 6. and ver. 26. is this, That the fruits and effects are the same in both. Whatever difference there is in the words expressing this work of Christ, the fruit produced thereby is the same. In ver. 6. the fruit is said to be in two. 1. They, have kept thy word; expressing their faith and obedience. 2. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee, ver. 7. ďMy person, my calling, my furniture, my words and works, are all of thee.Ē This they knew. And it seems to relate to what they say, chap. xvi. 29, 30. In ver. 26. the fruit of Christís declaring the Fatherís name to them, is said to be, That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. The Fatherís name is a special discovery of the love of the Father unto his Son first, and then through the Son unto perishing sinners. See if you have had anything of this. Christ teacheth the Fatherís name, and the Father teacheth Christís name by his Spirit, when he draws men: John vi. 45. Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.
Mark 2. Is in ver. 8. (And it is a sad thing if people cannot find their own name in no part of this prayer): And I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me. Search if Christ hath given you any of his words. He hath the tongue of the learned from the Father, Isa. 1. 4. and useth it on all he saveth. We are saved by words; not by the words which men speak, but which Christ speaks: John vi. 68. Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. So here Christ saith, ďI have given them these words, of love, and life, and power.Ē Hath Christ at no time spoke to your heart, so as you have been made to say, This is the voice of my beloved; as Cant. ii. 8.? Men must hear Christís voice, before they open the door to him, Rev. iii. 20. His voice makes the dead to hear, and live, John v. 25, 26.
Mark 3. Of one in Christís prayer, is in ver. 14, 16. Such are not of the world, as Christ is not of the world. They are in the world, but not of it; as the apostle distinguisheth, 1 John ii. 19. speaking of apostates. They were for a while in the church, and with it; but never of it, as appeared by their apostasy from it. Our Lord was in the world, as never any man was. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not, John i. 10. The world knew neither its Maker, nor Saviour. His people are in the world, but not of it. They have neither the spirit of the world, 1 Cor. ii. 12. nor their heart on it, nor their treasure and portion in it, Matth. vi. 21. There is something sown and planted in their hearts, that came from another world than this, and draws them to heaven as their home; and this world is but their passage and thoroughfare unto it. Are your hearts on heaven, and off this world? Conclude you are in Christís prayer and will.
Mark 4. Christ prays for believers on him, ver. 20. Every one that can make out his faith in Christ, may lay claim to this prayer, (though he be but a weak believer), and to an interest in it.
5. Lastly, I shall give one mark in general from the whole prayer. Can you say Amen to all of it? Can you set your seal and Amen of faith and love to all that Christ prays for here ? a hearty Amen to all Christ prays for his own glory, and the happiness of his body the church? Do you daily desire with the heart the same things that Christ here prayed for, especially as to this, ver. 24.? When you hear Christís desire of having his people with him where he is, doth your heart echo to it, ďI would, O that I were with thee where thou art!" If it be so, you have part and portion in this good matter. If Christís will and thy will jump together for the same blessing, then art thou in Christís prayer and will; and there will be a performance of the Lord, when he shall get all his will on thee, and thou all thy desires from him.
Exhort. 4. Believe on this blessed willer of salvation, and on this will. You are not called at first to believe your interest in Christ, and in his will to save you in particular: but you are, on the peril of your souls, to trust this Saviour with your salvation; and the rather, because of his declared ability and good-will to save. Saving faith in Christ, is not a bare assent unto any proposition of truth concerning Christ the Saviour; for that is but an act of the mind, and it is in devils, and in many ungodly men: but it is an act of the heart on the person of the Saviour. Men believe with the heart unto righteousness, Rom. x. 9, 10. It is a trust on this divine person, as revealed to us by his names in the gospel. So faith is called so oft believing on his name, John i. 12. 1 John iii. 23. There is one name of Christ in Isa. lxiii. 1. I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save; where we have a taking description of the object of faith. All he speaks is true; and you may trust him, and take his word. And he can do all, any thing, every thing, in and about salvation, that a sinner can need to be done. He is mighty to save. Never did a sinner perish through Christís want of might to save. Remember these two names of Christ in all your employing of him about your salvation. The truth of his saving word, and the might of his saving arm, ought never to be out of the eye of faith. How strong would faith grow in us if our faith did duly fix on both?
There is one scripture I would open a little to you to this purpose. It is a place well known, (O that it were as well used!), in 1 Tim. i. 15. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. A text that ought to be in the memory and heart of every Christian. There are three things in it that I would glance at, to shew you what I drive at in pressing you to believe on this great willer of eternal life to his people. Here you have three things. 1. The sum of the gospel: Christ came into the world to save sinners. 2. Here is the commendation of the gospel: it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation. 3. Here is the believerís application of the gospel: Of whom I am chief.
1. We have a sum of the gospel: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In this short sum we have three things. 1. His name who is the Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It looks rather like the devilís gospel, than Godís gospel, that hath not Christís name in it. 2. What this Saviour did: He came into the world. Never did man come into the world but Jesus Christ. The first man and woman were made in the world by their great Maker; and all their posterity are born in the world, as Christ calls it, John xvi. 21. Only Christ came into the world. And this word comprehends, not only his incarnation, but all the work he did in the world, and all the entertainment he met with from God and man, angels and devils, when he was in the world. 3. His errand and business he came into the world for and upon: To save sinners. A strange errand, and a hard work! If there had been no sinners in the world, Christ had had nothing to do in the world. They therefore that deny themselves to be sinners, they do what they can to turn Christ out of his office of a Saviour. He came not to condemn the world, for that was past already, John iii. 17, 18.; neither did he come to judge the world, John xii. 47.; but to save the world. For at his second coming he will judge the world, Acts xvii. 31. There was never a sinless man in the world, but the first and second Adam. The first was such for a little time, and by his fall made all the world sinners. The second man, the Lord from heaven, (as 1 Cor. xv. 47.), was always sinless; and by the sacrifice of himself put away sin, Heb. ix. 26. and saved sinners. How frequently did he assert, and prove it by word and deed, that this was his errand into, and his business in the world? How frequently did his enemies, the scribes and Pharisees, stumble at his person, doctrine, and kindness to sinners; and that because they neither knew him, nor his errand into the world? If he was gracious to sinners, they call him a friend of publicans and sinners, Matth. xi. 19.; if he forgave a sinner, as Matth. ix. 2. they say, he blasphemeth. When the great sinner approacheth him with faith and love, Luke vii. 39. even his host, that was no open enemy, (since he invited Christ to his house and table), yet he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would know who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And belike he thought, if Christ had known it, he would not have suffered her to do so. Poor man he doubted Christís being a Prophet: but he had no thought of Christís being Godís great High Priest. Brethren, Christ is not changed from what he was when he was in this world, now he is in heaven. He hath the same kind heart to sinners, and the same business with them, to save them. And the world is not changed from what it was when he was in it. Christís acts of grace to sinners, from the Fatherís right hand, are as much maligned by such as are ignorant of him, and enemies to him, this day, as what of this sort he did on earth, (when he was in their streets, fields, and houses), was maligned and reproached by the scribes and Pharisees. Men change in every age, but the seed of the serpent, the children of the devil, and the spirit of unbelief, never changes. And all that hath been, is, or shall be, in the world, of this enmity to Christís grace to sinners, flows from menís gross ignorance of Christís main business in the world.
Now, this was Christís errand into the world, to save sinners. But how doth he save them? Some say, by shewing them the way of salvation, and by his doctrine, and by his example. The devil said this of Paul and Silas, Acts xvi. 17. These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. But who can think, that God sent his own Son, and that the Son came into the world, to do no more than a prophet, an apostle, or an ordinary gospel-minister, doth, or can do? Some will tell you, that Christ saves sinners, by teaching and helping them to save themselves. What a gross perverting of the gospel is this? How plain is it, that Christ came not to help us to save ourselves, but to save us by himself? He alone did all the work, and he alone was able to do it. And the glory of saving is so rich a jewel in Christís crown, that no man, without pride and blasphemy, can offer to wear it. To be the Saviour of sinners, is Christís property; and no creature in heaven or earth, can share in it. The holy angels are humble adorers of this name, and all the redeemed of the Lord are the happy partakers of the virtue of this name of Christ, Rev. v. 9,-14. The Papists will tell you, that Christ saveth sinners indeed by his death; but that all the application of the virtue of his death he hath left with the church; that he left Peter to be the head of the church; and that Peter left his power with his successors, the bishops of Rome. And, by those delusions, Antichrist hath usurped Christís throne of salvation, and hath deceived the world, and damned it; and, instead of saving sinners, hath been destroying the saints of the most high God. Nothing but the wrath of God on despisers of Christ and his gospel, would have brought in, and kept up so long this abomination of desolation, 2 Thess, ii. 10, 11, 12. Rev. xiii. 8. and xvii. 8, But what saith Christ, and the apostles, about Christís saving sinners? How plain is it, that he, and he alone, and by himself, doth all?
2. We have the commendation of this gospel: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation. 1. The gospel is a saying, a report, Isa. liii. 1. Rom. x. 16. But it is a testimony of God, 1 Cor. ii. 1.; a record of God, 1 John v. 10, 11. Faith comes by hearing of it, Rom. x. 17.; and is built on this divine saying. 2. It is a faithful saying: because it is the record that God giveth of his Son, 1 John v. 10.; and it is given by him that cannot lie, Heb. vi. .18. Tit. i. 2. 3. This faithful saying is worthy of acceptation. And this extends to all persons; all and every sinner should accept it: and also to the acceptation itself: it is worthy of all manner of acceptation; of all sorts, degrees, and measures of acceptation. No man is excepted, and no sort of acceptation is excluded. No man can exceed in his accepting of this saying. So that the apostle commends the gospel by two things, that commend any saying of God or man. 1. It is true; and any man may trust it. 2. It is good; and every man should accept it.
3. We have the application of the gospel: Of whom l am chief. You and I make no doubt but that Paul was, when he wrote this, one of the greatest believers in Christ that ever was; and that, from that faith, he was one of the holiest men on earth; and that, from both, he was one of the humblest saints; (as strong faith and true holiness, never fail of producing this effect): and therefore he saith, Of whom I am chief. He had said just before, in verse 14. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was exceeding abundant, with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus. Yet for all this grace he counts himself the chief of sinners. Why doth he say so? Surely, because he thought so. But why did he think so? I may say, Paul would never forget his own name, chief sinner though he was not a condemned, but a pardoned sinner. But wherein lieth the force of this way of his applying the gospel to himself thus? The saying is general, Christ camp into the world to save sinners. How could he say, Of whom I am chief? Did Christ come into the world to save all sinners? No: John ix. 39. And Jesus said, For judgment (or discrimination) I am come into this world: that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, (that think they see), might be made blind. Like what Simeon said of Christ, in Luke ii. 34. Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and I Pet. ii. 7, 8 Are all sinners alike? No. Well did Paul know it, who judged himself to be the greatest of sinners. But Paul applies it to himself warrantably thus, as any other sinner may. ďBecause Christís business in the world is to save sinners, though I be the chief of sinners, I am but a sinner; and greater or smaller sinners are all one to Christ; his errand is for both sorts, and his saving skill is for both sorts. All diseases are alike to Christís art. All of them are desperate, and incurable, to any but Christ; and all alike curable by him.Ē Would you know, then, by the example of this great sinner, by the practice of this great believer, and by the teaching of this great apostle Paul, (whose heart and pen was guided by the Holy Ghost), what faith in Jesus Christ is, and in what manner you should act it? Then do four things,
1. Take Godís holy and righteous law, and read it, and think on it with faith and fear, and sign it. Study it in a clear light; and bring it to your conscience, and your conscience unto it. When Godís law, with its spiritual light and power, and your conscience meet together, it will fare with you as it did with Paul, Rom. vii. 8, 9. Without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once, (and then he was dead in sin): but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. How could Paul be without the law, who was so zealous a Pharisee? I may say, he was indeed busy with the law, but the law was not busy with him. He sought righteousness and life by the law; and little dreamed, that sin and death would come upon him, when the law came to him. Now, when you and the law meet thus, seal to the law and subscribe your name, ďI am the chief transgressor of this law;Ē as Paul doth in Rom. vii. 12, 14. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. For we know that the law it spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. The truly convinced sinner thinks well of Godís law, while he thinks worst of himself. He speaketh not evil of the law, nor judgeth the law, James iv. 11. when he judgeth and condemns himself. One of these is in the heart of every sinner: He either condemns Godís law for its strictness (as the wicked servant did his lord and master, Matth. xxv. 24.); or he condemns himself for his sinful breaking of it. And if a sinnerís conviction be not sound and thorough, then the poor sinnerís heart is divided; and his frame is made up of reflecting, partly on the strictness and righteousness of Godís law, and partly on some of his own breaches of it. But such a man is far from sealing the law with Paulís name, the chief of sinners. Nay, he can name and call many others, greater sinners than himself, as the Pharisee did, Luke xviii. 11.: not like the publican, ver. 13. who, in his plea for mercy, calls himself, me the sinner, (so it should be read); ďme the great, the singular sinner;Ē the same word, another Pharisee called the forgiven believer by, Luke vii. 39. If there be therefore any allowed grudge against Godís law, and a readiness to judge other sinners greater sinners than yourselves, you are not like to write alter Paulís copy.
2. Next, turn to the other side of the Bible, the gospel; and sign the same name, chief of sinners, to it also: Christ came into the world to save sinners. The greater the sinner be, the greater is his need of a Saviour; and the saving of the chief of sinners, brings the chief honour and glory to the Saviour. Therefore doth Paul both seal to the truth of the gospel saying, and to its being worthy of all acceptation: he believes it, and welcomes it, as chief of sinners. And so must you, if you believe to the saving of the soul. Though there be greater and smaller sins and sinners; yet no man ever did, or can believe, as a little sinner. Least and less than the least of all saints, we find in a great saintís mouth, Eph. iii. 8. But never did any true saint either think or call himself a little sinner. For as no man that seeth sin truly, can call any sin small or little; so no man that seeth himself to be a sinner really, can count himself a small or little sinner. Nor can it ever be, till there be a little law to break, a little God to offend, a little guilt to contract, and a little wrath to incur. All which are impossible to be, blasphemy to wish, and madness to expects.
3. Would ye put forth and act faith on Jesus Christ? Come to Jesus Christ on the same errand he came into the world for. He came into the world to save sinners; come to Christ to be saved by him. This is believing. Christ came into the world, to get glory to his grace in saving sinners; and the believer comes to Christ, to give Christ employment in his calling of saving, and to get the benefit of his calling. A sinnerís giving of Christ employment in his office of saving is proper believing. The physician came for the sick, to heal them; and the sick seek to the physician, that he may heal them, Matth. ix. 12, 13. The great and good Shepherd of the sheep (as he is called, John x. 11. and Heb. xiii. 20.) came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke xix. 10. When he hath found them, and caught them in the arms of his love, and layeth them on the shoulders of his care and strength, as in Luke xv. 4, 5.; then they, by faith, bleat, as it were, after his care and protection, till he bring them safe into the blessed fold in heaven, John x. 16. You may hear the blessed bleating of one of Christís flock, Psalm cxix. 176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep, (as all his flock have done, Isa. liii. 6.), seek thy servant. And surely, when the shepherd seeks the stray sheep, and the stray sheep seeks the shepherd, they will quickly meet. If Christ came into the world to save sinners, and if sinners come to him, to be saved by him, he will save them, and they shall be saved by him.
4. Lastly, When you have given employment to Christ in his office of saving, leave it to him, and trust it with him. Are we commanded to cast our burden upon the Lord, Psal. lv. 22.? to cast all our care upon him, 1 Pet. v. 7.? May we not, must we not, cast our main care upon him? And is not the keeping of our souls our main care, 1 Pet. iv. 19.? If we cast this care on Christ, must we not trust him quietly with it? It is a great, but common fault with many Christians; they say they cast their care upon him, when yet, through unbelief, they keep the burden still on themselves. Remember, that on thy casting thy burden on the Lord by faith, if he take it not quite off thee, he will either take off the weight of thy burden, or he will make it as wings to thee in thy journey to heaven. How many can seal to this in their experience? Hast thou with thy heart committed thy greatest care of thy salvation to Jesus Christ! Then say in thy heart, ďMy main care is over; I have put it in a good, strong, and sure hand.Ē See how Naomi saith to Ruth, chap. iii. 18. Sit down, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he hath finished the thing this day. So say I, sit down quietly, and with confidence; leave the care of thy salvation on Christ, for that is his province; and set about the work of thy salvation, for that is thine, wherein also he will help thee, Phil. ii. 12, 13. When you are once come to Christ, all your remaining duty is to abide in him, and bring forth fruit, John xv. 4, 5. But it is indeed a large one.
But, alas! for as plain as the call of faith is in the gospel, there are two thoughts in menís hearts that defeat all, and send thousands of gospel-hearers unto hell. 1. Some do not, will not believe, that they are sinners. Who think so? may ye say. I answer, All the secure world do think so. They may say, that they are sinners, as all are; and it may be some profane lips may swear it, as in that idle asseveration, As I am a sinner. But do they know what it is to be a sinner; what dreadful vileness is in a sinner; what a lothsome creature every sinner is in Godís sight; and what wrath hangs over their heads, which will surely fall on them, unless mercy prevent it? Do men believe this as to themselves in particular? No, surely; as is undeniable by their backwardness to search their hearts and ways, their enmity against the searching light of Godís word, and by their rebelling against any glances of light that force in themselves upon their conscience. They believe not that they are lost, undone sinners: and they cannot endure to be persuaded of so plain and damnable a condition. They will not own themselves to be sick, though a sovereign physician is at hand.
2. Even these, when awakened, or others to whom their being sinners is discovered, with divine light and power, cannot be persuaded, that Christ hath any business with them, or that they should make application to him. Most of awakened sinners say and think, much as the devils did, Mark v. 7. What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. I may say, that the devil hath better cause and less sin in saying so, than an awakened sinner: for Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; but he came also to destroy the works of the devil, I John iii. 8. To awaken a secure sinnerís conscience, and to speak peace to an awakened conscience, are proper and mighty works of God.
I would conclude at this time, with a few exhortations to some duties of believers, from this doctrine of Christís willing of eternal life to all his people.
1. Mourn moderately for the death and departure of believers out of this world. They are well where they are, and far better than they were when here, Phil. i. 29.; and we shall quickly meet again, in a far better world than this. This last is the apostleís argument to the same duty, 1 Thess. iv. 13, 14. Yea, this Christ himself useth in comforting his disciples in their sorrow for his own death, John xiv. 2, 3. And surely Christís death was a more trying providence to his disciples than ever any, or many, or all Christians death, can be to us. If the glorified spirits of saints above did hear and know the mournings of their friends whom they have left behind; would they not say, as Christ going to die said, Weep not for us, but for yourselves, and for your children? Luke xxiii. 28. (Christ had still a kind heart to children, and expressed it when going to the cross.) They would say, ďFools, do ye mourn for us, who are got beyond mourning? You will never be well, till you be with us. You are but mourning over the rotten rags of mortality, that we have cast off. ďYou are but mourning over our tent, while we are in the Kingís palace. We could not be in both at once. Judge which is best. You are mourning over our grave when it is empty, as they did over the empty grave and grave-clothes of our Lord, when he was risen, and alive for evermore,Ē John xx. 5, 6, 7. and Matth. xxviii. 2. Pray moderately and modestly for the lives of believers. We should pray for their lives; we should thankfully own the Lordís mercy to them and us, when he answers our prayers, as Phil. ii. 27.: but yet we must pray with deep submission. It may be that Christ in heaven is desiring at that time to have them with him where he is, when we on earth are praying, that they may be kept with us where we are.
3. Learn to look Christian-like on your own death. Learn both to kiss death as a friend, and to defy it as an enemy, 1 Cor. xv. 55, 56, 57.; and to triumph over it, as conquered and destroyed by Christ, Heb. ii. 14. and abolished by Christ, 2 Tim. i. 10. You all know you must die. It is a more common than godly word with many, As sure as death. I would not have men talk much, when they think little, of death. Nor ought any to think of dying, and going hence, without thinking whither they are going. But for believers, you know that death is that dark trance that you must pass through, in order to the fulfilling this prayer of Christ. You must cease to be where you are, before you can be with him where he is. This world, and your condition in it, must be mean and low in your eyes; and Christís world, and that condition in which you shall be, when in it, must be high to your faith, ere you can look on going hence, without amazement. Therefore climb by faith, as to the top of Pisgah, and take a large view of this good land of glory; as the type of it, Canaan, was, at Godís command, beheld by Abraham, Gen. xiii. 14,-17. though be was but a pilgrim in it, and did not possess it, but in his seed; and as it was beheld by Moses, Deut. iii. 27. xxxii. 52. and xxxiv. 1,-4.; though the sight of it was all, and possession was denied him. But it is not so with us, as to the true Canaan. All that behold it by faith, shall possess it; and this makes the beholding of it to be the more sweet to us.
I have commended this scripture to you, in I Tim. i. 15., specially to help and direct you in the work of faith. That which we should daily act, and that which we live by; that we should daily hear of, and that without wearying. As Christ hath no other business in the world, but to save sinners; so sinners should have no other business with Christ, but to believe on him. Remember and believe this truth, There is nothing a man can do with Christ, there is nothing a man can do for Christ, that can either please Christ, or profit the man, except he first trust Christ for salvation. The faith and trust of the heart on him for salvation, is the main service, and the first, he craveth. If a man shall pretend to worship, to obey and serve, yea to love Christ, and suffer for him; yet if he do not trust Christ by faith, all is a provocation to Christ, and all is unprofitable to the man. Believe this, you can do nothing that will please him, or save you, but trust in him. And if this faith were more diligently acted, all the blessed fruit, of peace within, and sanctification, and holy walking, and patience in tribulation, would exceedingly abound in you, 2 Thess. i. 3, 4.
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
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