Изображения страниц
PDF

»f God, ready to receive us. This added unto the love which all believers have unto the Lord Jesus, which is inflamed by contemplations of his glory, and their desires to be with him where he is, it will strengthen and confirm our minds in the resignation of our departing souls into his hand.

"2. It is required in us unto the the same ends, that we be "ready and willing to part with the flesh wherewith we are cloathed," with all things that are useful and desirable thereunto: The alliance, the relation, the friendship, the union that are between the soul and the body, are the greatest, the nearest, the firmest that are or can be among mere created beings. There is nothing like it, nothing equal unto it. The union of three persons in the one single divine nature, and the union of two natures in the one person of Christ, are infinite, ineffable, and exempted from all comparison. But among created beings, the union of these two essential parts of the same nature in one person, is most excellent. Nor is any thing equal to it, or like it, found in any other creatures. Those who among them have most of life, have either no bodies, as angels; or no souls, but what perish with them, as all brute creatures .below.

"Angels being pure immaterial spirits, have nothing in them, nothing belonging unto their essence, tbat can die. Beasts have nothing in thera that can live when their bodies die. The soul of a beast cannot be preserved in a separate condition, no not by any act of almighty.power; for it is not; and that which is not, cannot live. It is nothing but the body itself in an act of its material powers.

"Only the nature of man in all the works of God, is capable of this convulsion. The essential parts of it are separable by death, the one continuing to exist and act ft* special powers ia a separate

state or condition.

The powers of the whole entire nature acting in soul and body in conjunction, are all scattered and lost by death. But the powers of one essential part of the same nature, that is, of the soul, are preserved after death in a more perfect acting and exercise than before. This is peculiar unto human nature, as a man partaking of heaven and earth, of the perfection of augels above, and of the imperfection of the beasts below. Only there is.this difference in these things: Our participation of the heavenly spiritual perfections of the angelical nature, is for eternity; our participation of the imperfections of the animate creatures here below,, is but for a season: For God .hath designed our bodies unto such a glorious refinement at the resurrection, as they shall have no more alliance unto that brutish nature, which perisheth for ever. For wt shall be ir*yy'*-u like unto angels, or equal to them. Our bodies shall no more be capable of those acts and operations which are now common to us with other living creatures here below.

"This is the pre-eminence of the nature of man, as the wise man declares: For unto that objection of Atheistical Epicureans, "As the one dieth so dietli the oilier;' they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast, and all go into one place, all are of the dust, and all turn to the dust again:" He grantetb, that as unto their bodies it is for a season, in them we have a present participation of their nature: But, saith he, here lieth the difference, "Who knoweth the spirit of a man that goeth upward^ and the spirit of a beast that goeth downward, unto the earth 1" Unless we know this, unless we consider the dif. ferent state of the spirit of men and beasts, we cannot bq delivered from this Atheism; but the thoughts hereof will set us at liberty from it. They die in like inanner, and their bodies go equally to the dust for a season: but the beast hath no spirit, no soul, but what dies with the body and goes to the dust: If they had, their bodies also must be raised again unto a conjunction with them; otherwise death would produce a new set of creatures unto eternity. But man hath an immortal soul,(saith he) an heavenly spirit, which, when the bodygoes into the dust for a season, ascends to heaven (where the guilt of sin, and the curse of the law interpose not) from whence it is there to exist, and to act all its native powers in a slate of blessedness.

"But, as I said, by reason of this peculiar intimate union and relation between the soul and body, there is in the whole nature a fixed aversion from a dissolution. The soul and body are naturally and necessarily unwilling to fall into a state of separation, wherein the one shall cease to be what it was, and the other knows not clearly how it shall subsist. The body claspeth about the soul, and the soul receiteth strange impressions from its embraces; the entire nature existing in the union of them both, being unalterably averse unto a dissolution.

"Wherefore unless we can overcome this inclination, we can never die comfortably or chearfully. We would indeed rather chuse to be cloathed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life, that the cloathing of glory might come on our whole nature, soul, and body, without dissolution. But if this may not be, yet then do believers so conquer this inclination by faith and views of the glory of Christ, as to attain a desire of this dissolution. So the apostle testifies of himself; "I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better" than to abide here, Phil. i. 23. saith he, rtifo/tia* f^w. Not an ordinary desire; not thai which

worketh in me now and then, but a constant habitual inclination working in vehement acts and desires. And what doth he so desire? It is natjim, to depart, say we, out of this body, from this tabernacle, to leave it for a season. But it is such a departure as consists in the dissolution of the present state of his being, that it should not be what it is. But how is it possible that a man should attain such an inclination unto such a readiness for such a vehement desire of a dissolution? It is from a view by faith of Christ and his glory, whence the soul is satisfied, that to be with him is incomparably better than in its present state and condition.

"He therefore that would die comfortably, must be able to say within himself and to himself, Die then, thou frail and sinful flesh, "Dust thou art, unto dust thou shalt return:" I yield thee up unto the righteous doom of the holy One. Yet therein also I gave thee into the hand of the great Refiner, who will hide thee in thy grave, and by thy consumption purify thee from all thy corruption and disposition to evil. And otherwise this will not be. After a long sincere endeavour for the mortification of all sin, I find it will never be absolutely perfect but by this reduction into the dust. Thou shalt no more be a residence for the least remainder of sin unto eternity, nor any clog udo my soul in its actings on God. Rest therefore in hope; for God, in his appointed season, "when he shall have a desire unto the work of his hands, will call unto thee, and thou shalt answer him out of the dust." Then shall he, by an act of his almighty power, not only restore thee unto thy pristine glory, as at the first creation, -when thou wast the pure workmanship of his hands; but enrich and adorn thee with inconceiv< able privileges and advantages. Be not then afraid; away wflfc »*

reluctancy; go into the dust, rest in hope, for thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days.

"That which will enable us hereto in an eminent manner, is that view and consideration of the glory of Christ; for he who is now possessed of all that glory, underwent this dissolution of nature as truly and really as ever we shall do.

"3. There is required hereunto a readiness to comply with the times and seasons, wherein God would have us depart and leave this world. Many think they shall be willing to die when their time is come, but they have many reasons, as they suppose, to desire that it may not yet be, which for the most part arise merely from fear, and an aversion of death. Some desire to live, that they might see more of that glorious work of God for his church, which they believe he will accomplish. So Moses prayed that he might not die in the wilderness, but go over Jordan and see the good land, and that goodly mountain, and Lebanon, the seat of the church and of the worship of God; which yet God thought meet to deny unto him. And this denial of the request of Moses, made on the highest consideration possible, is instructive unto all in the like case. Others may judge themselves to have some work to do in the world, wherein they suppose that the glory of God, and the good of the church is concerned, and therefore would be spared for a season. Paul knew not clearly whether it were not best for him to abide a while longer in the flesh on this account. And David often deprecates the present season of death, because of the work which he had to do for God in the world. Others rise no higher than their own private interests or concerns with respect unto their persons, their families, their relations, and goods, in this world; they would see these things in a better and mote settled condition before they

die, and then they shall be most willing so to do. But it is the love* of life that lies at the bottom of all these desires of men, which of itself will never forsake them. But no man can die cheerfully and comfortably, who lives not in a constant resignation of the time and season of his death unto the will of God, as well as himself with respect unto death itself. Our times are in his hand, at his sovereign disposal, and his will in all things must be complied withal. Without this resolution, without this resignation, no man can enjoy the least solid peace in this world. "4. As the times and seasons, so the ways and means of the approaches of death, have especial trials, which, unless we are pre-pared for them, will keep us under bondage with the fear of death itself. Long wasting, wearing consumptions, burning fevers, strong pains of the stone, or the like from within, or sword, fire, tortures, with shame and reproach from without, may be in the way of the access of death unto us. Some who have been wholly freed from all fears of death, as a dissolution of nature, who have looked on it as amiable and desirable in itself, have yet had great exercise in their minds about these ways of its approach; they have earnestly desired that this peculiar bitterness of the cup might be taken away; to get above all perplexities on the account of these things, is a part of our wisdom in dying daily. And we are to have always in a readiness those graces and duties which are necessary thereunto. Such are, a constant resignation of ourselves in all events, unto the sovereign will, pleasure, and disposal of God. May he not do what he will with his own? Is it not right and meet it should be so? Is not his will in all things infinitely holy, wise, just, and good I Doth he not know what is best for us, and what conduceth most unto Lis own glory 1 Doth not he alone do so? So is it to live in the exercise of faith: that if God calls us to any of those things which are peculiarly dreadful to our natures, he will give us supplies of spiritual strength and patience, as shall enable us to undergo them, if not with ease and joy, yet with peace and quietness beyond our expectation. Multitudes have had experience, that those things which at a distance have had an aspect of overwhelming dread, have been far from insupportable in their approach, when strength hath been received from above to encounter with them. And moreover, it is in this case required, that we be frequent and steady in comparing these things with those which are eternal, both as unto the misery which we are freed from, and that blessedness which is prepared for us. But I shall proceed no farther with these particulars.

"There is none of all the things we have insisted on, neither the resignation of a departing soul into the hand of God, nor a willingness to lay down this flesh in the dust, nor a readiness to comply with the will of God, as to the times and seasons, or the way and manner of the approach of death, that can be attained unto, without a prosspect of that glory that shall give us a new state far more excellent than what we here leave or depart from. This we cannot have, whatever we pretend, unless we have some present views of the glory of Christ; an apprehension of the future manifestation of it in heaven, will not relieve us, if here we know not what it is, and wherein it doth consist; if we have not some previous discovery of it in this life. This is that which makes all things easy and pleasant unto us, even death itself, as it is a mentis to bring us unto its full enjoyment, and direct us unto the spring and jeasons of them. But I shall here break off, b.ecauselweakness, weari

ness, and the near approaches of death, do call me off from any further labour in this kind."

ON THE NATURE, THE PROPERTIES, AND THE EFFECTS OF DIVINE TEACHING.

There is probably no subject in all the system of Christian doctrine, on which professors have wandered more astray from the word of truth, than on what is termed the influence of the Holy Spirit, or divine teaching. Some indeed deny that any supernatural agency is now afforded to the church of God, or exerted in bringing men to the faith, and sanctifying their depraved natures. They contend that the scripture itself, or the word of revelation, is a divine power, given to men whereby to believe, and that to look, expect, or pray for any supernatural influence to go forth with it, in the way of enlightening the understanding and so causing men to perceive and believe the things that are reported or testified in the inspired writings is nothing else than enthusiasm. This sentiment destroys the necessity of prayer for a blessing upon the word whether read or preached; and is demonstrably at variance with the doctrine of our Lord and his apostles. But others run into an opposite extreme, and attribute to the Holy Spirit the workings of a heated imagination, the flights and raptures of an unbridled' fancy, and [have thus exposed to the derision of scoffers, what ought to strike conviction into their minds, and lead them to devout and sober inquiry. Let us, therefore, with a view to correGt these mistakes, endeavour to trace out this important doctrine by the light of scripture, and try if we cannot obtain some discriminating; characteristics between divine teaching, and that which is merely human. , , Oiu- Lord Jesus Christ, ,in the d_avs of hiijjubU9.minig;rj', ouofed a passage from the prophet Isaiah, In these words, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God." John vi. 45. And this divine teaching he describes by its effects, when he adds, "Every man therefore that hath beard and hath learned of the Father, conieth unto me." This coming to him, he himself explains, ver.35. as neither more nor less than believing on hira, or receiving the divine testimony concerning him; and affirms, "AH that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that coraeth to me, I will in no wise cast out," ver. 36,87. The prophetic scripture which our Lord adduces is from Isa. liv. 13. "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." The children of whom the prophet here speaks, are the children of Zion, or gospel church, which has the Lord for her husband, ver. 5. the same which the apostle calls "the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of all God's children," Gal. iv. 26,27. for to her he applies what is written in the first verse of this 54th chapter. See Gal. iv. 27. They are God's children, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and so predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, Eph. i. 5. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, Gal. iv. 5. Begotten and born again by the word and Spirit of God, John i. 13. iii. 5. 1 Pet. i. 23. Jam. i. 13. for they are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesos, John i. 12. Gal. iii. 26. endued with the Spirit of his Son, whereby they cry, Abba, father, Rom. viii. 15. Gal. iv. 6. and heirs of the everlasting heavenly inheritance, Rom. viii. 17. 1 Pet. i. 4. These are not selected out of any °ne nation, or particular man's fleshly seed, but are taken out of »H nations, without exception, Rom. * 12. Gal. iii. 28, 29* and are

[ocr errors]

known to one another only by the confession of the truth and conformity to it.

The teaching here promised is divine teaching, for they are to be taught of the Lord. The same promise is made to them, Jer: xxxi. 34. where it is distinguished from a man teaching his neighbour. The accomplishment of which promise was exemplified in the first Christians, see Matt. xiv. 17. 1 John ii. 27. Not that it supersedes the means appointed of God for that purpose; for faith coraeth by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom. x. 17. but it is above and beyond all human teaching, even of that word, and the only thing that can give sue* cess and effect to the outward revelation. The sovereignty of God is displayed in hiding divine things from the wise and prudent, and revealing them unto babes, Matt, ii. 25.

The subject matter of this teaching is the knowledge of God as manifested in Christ. "They shall all know me," Jer. xxxi. 34. and that this knowledge respects Jesus Christ, is evident from John vi. 05. where our Lord applies this very promise to the Father's drawing men by divine teaching to believe on his Son for eternal life. It is therefore the knowledge of the gospel—the knowledge of the Lord as our God; "Iwill be their God," Jer. xxxi. 33. viz. in the new covenant relation. This implies his remembering our sins no more, ver. 34. or hisjustifying us, Rom. iii. 29,30. and his giving us eternal life from the dead, Matt. xxii. 32. Heb. xi. 16. all which the apostle founds upon the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, and the ratification of the new covenant in his blood, Heb. x. 14—18.

Now divine teaching may be distinguished from all mere human teaching by the following characteristics and effects:

1. It is effectual. Men may

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »