CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 3 May Folly and Weakness Triumphant By Bishop Joseph Barber Lightfoot, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D. Sermon, Wisdom, Foolishness, Gospel 0 Comment Folly and Weakness Triumphant The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25. Great S. Mary’s Church, 20th Sunday after Trinity, 1876. The Apostle here represents the character and progress of the Gospel as a paradox. It is weakness superior to strength; it is folly triumphant over wisdom. It is an illustration—a unique and signal illustration—of God’s mysterious working, whereby He chooses the base things of the world, yes, even the things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are. This mode of working is not confined to revelation alone. History teems with examples of this paradox. For the most part the great crises in the progress of our race have been surprises of this kind. They have come from an unexpected quarter, or at an unexpected time. Their prime agents have not been the wise or mighty or noble in the estimation of the world. The reformer, or the avenger, has started up, as it were, suddenly from the earth beneath. It was an obscure Saxon monk, who broke up the empire of Papal ascendency, and created a new era in the history of intellectual and religious thought. It was an unknown Corsican adventurer, who dictated terms to a whole continent, made and unmade peoples and dynasties, and introduced as mighty a revolution in the world of politics as the other had done in the world of thought. There is perhaps a scarcely audible muttering of some social grievance; it is unheeded and unredressed; men go on their way, suspecting nothing; when suddenly the volcano bursts out under their very feet, and in a few short hours society is buried in fire and ashes. There is a silent stealthy idea, which insinuates itself into the crevices of human thought; it is hardly perceived, or, if perceived, it seems too insignificant to deserve attention; but it creeps and spreads, filling all the interstices, till the fabric, which has defied the storms of ages, cracked and loosened in every part, falls in ruins overhead. And then it is seen that God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. But all illustrations of this Divine irony are faint and shadowy compared with the progress of the Gospel. Sacred history is an intensification of secular history. The triumph of the Cross is the paradox of all paradoxes. No language is too strong for the expression of this fact in S. Paul’s mind. These opening chapters of the Epistle are a very Morias Encomion, a Praise of folly and of fools. Does this account of his language seem extravagant? See how he describes the Gospel itself. His words are so strong, that we tacitly mistranslate or misinterpret them, in order to dilute their force. He speaks of the folly, the fatuity, of the thing preached, the Gospel message in itself (τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος). We render it ‘the foolishness of preaching,’ as if he were stigmatizing the weakness of the human, fallible advocate. He says that ‘the foolishness,’ or rather ‘the foolish thing’, ‘of God is wiser than men.’ We half unconsciously regard it as an a fortiori argument; as though he were maintaining that, if God’s foolishness, God’s lowest purposes, can so far transcend man’s counsels, much more must God’s wisdom, God’s highest dispensations. But in fact he styles this very Gospel—this message of Christ crucified—a ‘foolish thing’ in itself. By what other name could he call it? It had been offered to the Greeks, the most cultivated, most intellectual, most keenly critical race of mankind, to the Greeks, who were the schoolmasters of the whole civilised world, and the Greeks had pronounced it unreservedly folly. And not only is the message folly, but the messengers also are fools. So the Apostle describes himself afterwards. He is even proud of this strange distinction. ‘We are fools,’ he writes, ‘fools for Christ’s sake.’ And again in the second Epistle, in a strain of lofty irony, he intreats his Corinthian converts, as they had always shewn a forbearing sympathy with men of feeble minds and senseless lives—notwithstanding the lofty intellectual eminence on which they themselves were placed—so now not to deny him this condescension which they had freely extended to others; ‘As a fool receive me.’ ‘For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.’ And once more; if the messengers are fools, the recipients of the message must become fools also. It is necessary that the disciple should be in harmony with the teacher and with the lesson. He must sink all those pretensions which are his greatest pride. He must resign absolutely all claims to intellectual superiority or prudent discernment. ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool—that he may be wise.’ Yes, none but a fool can appreciate this message of folly. But this is not all. Folly itself may possess a certain brute force. The fool may be a giant in strength. What the brain lacks, the muscles and sinews may compensate. Does the Gospel possess any such advantage, as this figure implies? If it shews no wisdom, as the world counts wisdom, may it not possess some strength, as the world estimates strength? Nay, it is the weak thing of God, as well as the foolish thing—weak in itself, and weak in all its personal relations. Christ Himself, its theme, ‘was crucified through weakness.’ They, the preachers, are weak in Him. He, Paul, ‘glories in infirmities;’ ‘takes pleasure in infirmities.’ He declares himself ‘glad,’ yes, glad, that he is weak. Here again there is the same emphatic reiteration, as before. The Gospel is the very alliance of infirmity with folly. Its body is weakness; and its soul is foolishness. Strange words these to address to a Corinthian audience. Corinth was a Roman colony on a Greek soil. As Greeks, his hearers set an excessive value on wisdom; and he recommends his message to them, because it is folly. As Romans, they worshipped power with an idolatrous worship; and he offers the Gospel for their allegiance, because it is weakness. But stranger still than this encomium of folly, this panegyric of weakness, is the confidence with which he predicts its victory. The Apostle is quite sure that the folly of fools like himself will triumph over the wisdom of the wise. He does not shrink from declaring that the weakness of weaklings such as he is will dictate terms to the strength of the strong. ‘God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.’ Could anything well have appeared more unreasonable, more reckless, more futile, than this confidence? Look at the two antagonists. Can you doubt for a moment to which side the victory must incline? At no other epoch in the history of the world would the Gospel have been confronted with a foe more formidable than at the actual crisis of its appearing. It found leagued against it all the wisdom of Greece and all the strength of Rome—a wisdom wiser, and a strength stronger, than mankind has ever seen before or after. The human race has grown older in experience since then. Vast accumulations of thought and knowledge have been amassed. The collision of races and nations has from time to time struck out sparks, which have kindled the flame of the human intellect in some fresh quarter. But still the literature of Greece—its philosophy, its poetry, its oratory—enjoys a unique preeminence. It still supplies models for the imitation of a remote posterity. It is still fresh with the vigour of a perennial youth—a deathless power in the world of intellect and imagination. And yet these are only shattered fragments saved from the wreck of time, which we possess. What must it not have been then, when it was entire? What must it not have been then, when its language was still a living tongue—the medium of communication between all civilised peoples; when it was still upheld and interpreted by the religion, customs, institutions, daily life, of a race which had ramified and spread over every part of the known world? And, as in the world of thought, so also in the world of action. In the whole life of the human race no power has arisen like the power of the Romans. There have been, and there are, empires which cover a larger superficial area. But for concentration, for unity, for available force, it has never had an equal. The greatest modern empires are rivals: each neutralises the power of the other. The domination of Rome owned no peer and no second. The voice of Rome was the law of the world. It was the Roman’s mission, said their great poet, ‘to rule over the peoples, to spare the submissive, but to crush the proud and defiant.’ Confronted by this league of powerful allies, what was there in the story of Christ crucified that it should lead captive a reluctant world? We cannot, even with a conscious effort, realise all the repulsive associations which the Cross suggested to S. Paul’s contemporaries. Substitute for the word some modern equivalent, as the gallows or the gibbet, and you approach more nearly to the idea conveyed. We shudder at such a substitution; we shrink from it as a profanation; our very reluctance shows how great a change has come upon mankind. Not in vain have eighteen Christian centuries passed over our heads. Not in vain has S. Paul’s startling resolve—startling and repulsive when it was uttered, but obvious, self-evident, admirable now—to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, been proclaimed from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, and repeated day after day in thousands of Christian homes. Not in vain have saints been schooled to live, and martyrs nerved to die, in the strength of those words. The Cross is now the symbol of power, of heroism, of saintly patience, of triumphant love. But only reflect in what light it would be regarded by the Romans then? We ourselves, if we dwell on the repulsive aspects of the Cross, dwell chiefly, or solely, on the torture. But to the Roman the pain was only a small part of the horror. It was the ignominy of the punishment, from which he would turn away with disgust. No Roman citizen—however deep his crime—ran any risk of crucifixion. The law exempted him from this extreme degradation. It was the punishment of slaves, of the lowest and vilest of their kind. And they—these Romans, the masters of the world, with their proud bearing, with their innate respect for law, with their strong sense of political privilege—were invited by this Paul to fall down before a gibbet, and to admire a criminal condemned by a Roman magistrate to this most ignominious of all deaths. Weakness? It was far worse than weakness. It was vile, it was shameful—an outrage on all their most cherished feelings. And, while thus repulsive to the Romans, this message of the Cross would be still less attractive to the Greek. With his gay spirit and his keen appreciation of the bright side of life, he could have nothing to say to this horrible tale of suffering. With his strong sense of beauty, he would avert his eyes with a shudder from this unlovely scene on Calvary. With his speculative cast of mind, with his eager craving after intellectual subtleties, how could he possibly find in this plain, this forbidding, this worse than common-place Jewish tale of an obscure convict, the answer to his philosophic questioning? It was folly, folly in its most foolish mood—this story of the Cross—to the Greek. And, if it was such in itself, it would certainly gain nothing from the character of its advocate. S. Paul’s opponents did not suffer him to indulge any feelings of self-complacency on this point. Their taunts served only to remind him that in his own person he illustrated the divine paradox. As was the Gospel, so was its preacher. Was he not weak? This was the very reproach which they hurled at him. They pointed to his insignificant stature; they glanced at his spare frame, worn out with toil and bowed down with sickness. He was a despicable object to these Corinthians, accustomed to the perfection of physical strength and grace in the athletes of their Isthmian games. They could not away with one who ‘in bodily presence’ was ‘weak.’ Was he not foolish also? Here again his enemies held up the mirror to him, and forced him to see his defects. This itinerant Jew, speaking with a foreign accent, breaking loose from all the approved forms of logic, defying all the established laws of rhetoric in his halting, tumultuous, solœcistic utterances—how could he hope to recommend his message to the fine ear and the fastidious taste of the Greek? Foolishness was not a strong enough word to express their estimate. He was ‘in speech contemptible.’ Yes, he was weak, he was foolish. He could not gainsay the charge. Looking at his own heart, he condemned himself of foolishness far greater than that with which his enemies charged him. Reviewing his own life, he saw everywhere signs of weakness, which even their contempt had failed to detect. What were an insignificant presence and a faulty rhetoric after all, compared with the foolishness of a heart struggling against self, and the weakness of a life oppressed by the fears within and baffled by the fightings without? He was weak; he was foolish. Who knew this so well as himself? But what then? Strength was made perfect in weakness; wisdom started up full armed from the head of folly. Aye, there was a divine purpose in all this. He had this treasure, this priceless treasure in cheap, vulgar, fragile vessels of earthenware, ‘that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of himself.’ And so the cry of despair becomes the pæan of thanksgiving. The taunt of his enemies is the boast of the Apostle. He was not strong, but God’s weakness was strong through him. He was not wise, but God’s foolishness was wise in him. And this weakness, this folly, crushing all opposition, would press forward on its march from victory to victory. A strange confidence to entertain. And yet this Paul was right after all. The centuries rolled on, and the prediction was fulfilled. The monstrous paradox, so contradictory to reason and so defiant of experience, proved true. All human calculation was baffled. The foolish things confounded the wise, and the weak things confounded the mighty. Neither the power and the polity of Rome, nor the philosophy and the arts of Greece, could check the triumphant progress of the Cross. And do we ask how this triumph can be explained? S. Paul has answered the question by anticipation. ‘The world by wisdom knew not God.’ There is little danger that in this place you should underrate the intellectual and social triumphs of Greece and of Rome. Even as preparations for the Gospel, they hold a foremost place. What was the wisdom of Greece, but an elementary schooling for the higher spiritual lessons of Christianity? What was the power and organization of Rome, but the roadway of the Gospel of Christ and the scaffolding of the Church of God? But the arts of Greece and the polity of Rome had left a deep craving in mankind unappeased. Like the hart panting after the water-brooks, the soul of humanity was thirsting after a living God. It might not be altogether conscious of the object of its thirst; but the thirst itself was a terrible reality nevertheless. Men were feeling after God, but they had not grasped Him. He was near to every one of them, and they had not found Him. Wisdom had failed, and now it was the turn for foolishness. Could he for a moment entertain any misgivings of its triumph? He knew what the Cross of Christ had been to himself. It had guided his zeal, it had purified his passions, it had widened his sympathies, it had opened his heart. It had filled him with new aspirations, new resolves, new hopes. That was no rhetorical figure, but a sober expression of fact, when he said that to be in Christ was to be a new creature, a new creation. In the light of this glory, all the lessons of the past had started up into new life: just as with the sunrise the landscape, which has appeared before a dark, indistinguishable mass, emerges in all the infinite beauties of form and colour. And, if it had been all this to him, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, what might it not be to these Gentiles tossed to and fro between the extremes of idolatry and scepticism? It was the touch of God, which mankind needed to heal the sores, to purge the corruption, to arrest the decay. And he knew that this touch had thrilled through his inmost being in the revelation of Christ crucified. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ This is the lesson which the triumph of the Cross teaches; a palimpsest traced in letters of fire on the erased page of an ancient civilisation; a voice emphasized by the thunder-crash of a fallen world. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone’—whether the bread of social organization, of material appliances, of legislation, of polity (Rome had given enough and to spare of this); or the bread of intellectual culture, of æsthetic taste, of philosophy, of poetry, of art (Greece had dealt with these with a lavish hand). Fed to surfeiting with these, ancient society, nevertheless, had fallen from bad to worse, had become day by day more corrupt, more impotent, more helpless, till at length it lay seething in its own decay. And then the magnificent irony of God’s purpose was seen. Foolishness triumphed over wisdom, and weakness set her foot on the neck of strength. And that which has been will be again, if ever the conditions should be repeated. If ever—I will not say science, but scientific speculation, should hold out promises which from its very nature it cannot perform; if ever, dazzled by its unparalleled triumphs, it should invade provinces which belong to another rule; if ever, consciously, or unconsciously, its representatives should attempt to eliminate from the Universe everything which renders possible either the guiding providence of God or the moral responsibility of man; if ever a materialistic philosophy should gain the ascendant, which offers no strength to the life struggling in the meshes of temptation, holds out no hand to the conscience staggering under the burden of sin, speaks no words of comfort to the soul torn with suffering or aching with bereavement; then, assuredly, soon or late the heart of humanity, finding itself deluded and betrayed, will rise in the name of conscience and faith, and turn upon its betrayer. Then again, as of old, the foolish things of the world will confound the wise. But then again, also, much that is useful, much that is beautiful, much that is true, may be buried in the ruin. The less must be sacrificed to the greater. Baffled, disappointed, starved in its highest moral and spiritual needs, humanity has no heart and no leisure for nice discrimination. For this Cross of Christ—this strange, repulsive, foolish thing—did give to a hungry world just that food which alone could allay its pangs. Only reflect for a moment before we part, what ideas, what sanctions, what safeguards, what hopes, it has made the common property of mankind. First of all: it went right home to the human soul. It demanded no scientific training: it required no natural gifts. It addressed itself, not to the Greek as Greek, or to the Roman as Roman, but to the man as man. It took him, just as he was, stripped of all adventitious ornaments and advantages, and it spoke to his heart, spoke to his conscience, spoke from God to the godlike within him, but spoke nevertheless as a man speaketh with his friend. And, so taking him, it set before him in the story of Christ’s doings and sufferings an ideal of human life, absolutely pure, unselfish, beneficent, righteous, perfect, such as the world had never seen—an ideal, which once beheld could not be forgotten, but must haunt the memory of men for evermore, fascinating by its beauty, purifying, ennobling, transforming into its own bright image by the wonderful magic of its abiding presence. And then again, it gave aid, where aid was most needed. It illumined the dark places of human existence. It dignified sorrow; it canonized suffering. The Cross of Calvary threw a glory over all the most harrowing and repulsive trials of life. Toil, sickness, pain, want, bereavement, neglect, obloquy, persecution, death—these were invested with a new meaning by the foolishness of the preaching. It was an honourable distinction now to share with Him—the head of the race—the prerogative of suffering. It was a comparatively light thing now to bear a little, where He had borne so much. Pain did not cease to be pain—whatever the Stoic might say; but pain had become endurable, for pain had been glorified. And then again; it proclaimed in language, which could not be misunderstood, the universal brotherhood of man. The triumphs won on the Cross had obliterated, as in the sight of God, all distinction of race, of caste, of class. He the Crucified, He the Triumphant, was a poor artisan of a despised village of a despised nation—henceforth the accepted King of men, the Pattern of His race—the admired, honoured, worshipped of His brethren. But above all, this Cross of Christ was the atonement, the reconciliation, of man to God. It united heaven and earth in an indissoluble union. It threw an unwonted and glorious light on the Fatherly mercy of God. It brought a new and unforeseen promise of pardon and peace, extended freely to all. Who shall despair now? Who shall dare to put limits to our Father’s forgiveness? Who will refuse to Him the tribute of filial obedience? Who will not strive day and night to win His pardon, to win His favour, strong in the faith of this one perfect sacrifice—the supreme manifestation of Divine goodness and love? These lessons, and others such as these, cluster round the Cross of Christ. And they can never fade or lose their freshness. What wonder then, if mankind preferred the folly of God to the wisdom of men? Here, and here only—in this old, foolish message of Christ crucified—is the promise and the potency of life, the one true and abiding life, the life that is now, and that shall be hereafter, eternal in the heavens. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Folly and Weakness Triumphant The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25. Great S. Mary’s Church, 20th Sunday after Trinity, 1876. The Apostle here represents the character and progress of the Gospel as a paradox. It is weakness superior to strength; it is folly triumphant over wisdom. It is an illustration—a unique and signal illustration—of God’s mysterious working, whereby He chooses the base things of the world, yes, even the things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are. This mode of working is not confined to revelation alone. History teems with examples of this paradox. For the most part the great crises in the progress of our race have been surprises of this kind. They have come from an unexpected quarter, or at an unexpected time. Their prime agents have not been the wise or mighty or noble in the estimation of the world. The reformer, or the avenger, has started up, as it were, suddenly from the earth beneath. It was an obscure Saxon monk, who broke up the empire of Papal ascendency, and created a new era in the history of intellectual and religious thought. It was an unknown Corsican adventurer, who dictated terms to a whole continent, made and unmade peoples and dynasties, and introduced as mighty a revolution in the world of politics as the other had done in the world of thought. There is perhaps a scarcely audible muttering of some social grievance; it is unheeded and unredressed; men go on their way, suspecting nothing; when suddenly the volcano bursts out under their very feet, and in a few short hours society is buried in fire and ashes. There is a silent stealthy idea, which insinuates itself into the crevices of human thought; it is hardly perceived, or, if perceived, it seems too insignificant to deserve attention; but it creeps and spreads, filling all the interstices, till the fabric, which has defied the storms of ages, cracked and loosened in every part, falls in ruins overhead. And then it is seen that God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. But all illustrations of this Divine irony are faint and shadowy compared with the progress of the Gospel. Sacred history is an intensification of secular history. The triumph of the Cross is the paradox of all paradoxes. No language is too strong for the expression of this fact in S. Paul’s mind. These opening chapters of the Epistle are a very Morias Encomion, a Praise of folly and of fools. Does this account of his language seem extravagant? See how he describes the Gospel itself. His words are so strong, that we tacitly mistranslate or misinterpret them, in order to dilute their force. He speaks of the folly, the fatuity, of the thing preached, the Gospel message in itself (τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος). We render it ‘the foolishness of preaching,’ as if he were stigmatizing the weakness of the human, fallible advocate. He says that ‘the foolishness,’ or rather ‘the foolish thing’, ‘of God is wiser than men.’ We half unconsciously regard it as an a fortiori argument; as though he were maintaining that, if God’s foolishness, God’s lowest purposes, can so far transcend man’s counsels, much more must God’s wisdom, God’s highest dispensations. But in fact he styles this very Gospel—this message of Christ crucified—a ‘foolish thing’ in itself. By what other name could he call it? It had been offered to the Greeks, the most cultivated, most intellectual, most keenly critical race of mankind, to the Greeks, who were the schoolmasters of the whole civilised world, and the Greeks had pronounced it unreservedly folly. And not only is the message folly, but the messengers also are fools. So the Apostle describes himself afterwards. He is even proud of this strange distinction. ‘We are fools,’ he writes, ‘fools for Christ’s sake.’ And again in the second Epistle, in a strain of lofty irony, he intreats his Corinthian converts, as they had always shewn a forbearing sympathy with men of feeble minds and senseless lives—notwithstanding the lofty intellectual eminence on which they themselves were placed—so now not to deny him this condescension which they had freely extended to others; ‘As a fool receive me.’ ‘For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.’ And once more; if the messengers are fools, the recipients of the message must become fools also. It is necessary that the disciple should be in harmony with the teacher and with the lesson. He must sink all those pretensions which are his greatest pride. He must resign absolutely all claims to intellectual superiority or prudent discernment. ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool—that he may be wise.’ Yes, none but a fool can appreciate this message of folly. But this is not all. Folly itself may possess a certain brute force. The fool may be a giant in strength. What the brain lacks, the muscles and sinews may compensate. Does the Gospel possess any such advantage, as this figure implies? If it shews no wisdom, as the world counts wisdom, may it not possess some strength, as the world estimates strength? Nay, it is the weak thing of God, as well as the foolish thing—weak in itself, and weak in all its personal relations. Christ Himself, its theme, ‘was crucified through weakness.’ They, the preachers, are weak in Him. He, Paul, ‘glories in infirmities;’ ‘takes pleasure in infirmities.’ He declares himself ‘glad,’ yes, glad, that he is weak. Here again there is the same emphatic reiteration, as before. The Gospel is the very alliance of infirmity with folly. Its body is weakness; and its soul is foolishness. Strange words these to address to a Corinthian audience. Corinth was a Roman colony on a Greek soil. As Greeks, his hearers set an excessive value on wisdom; and he recommends his message to them, because it is folly. As Romans, they worshipped power with an idolatrous worship; and he offers the Gospel for their allegiance, because it is weakness. But stranger still than this encomium of folly, this panegyric of weakness, is the confidence with which he predicts its victory. The Apostle is quite sure that the folly of fools like himself will triumph over the wisdom of the wise. He does not shrink from declaring that the weakness of weaklings such as he is will dictate terms to the strength of the strong. ‘God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.’ Could anything well have appeared more unreasonable, more reckless, more futile, than this confidence? Look at the two antagonists. Can you doubt for a moment to which side the victory must incline? At no other epoch in the history of the world would the Gospel have been confronted with a foe more formidable than at the actual crisis of its appearing. It found leagued against it all the wisdom of Greece and all the strength of Rome—a wisdom wiser, and a strength stronger, than mankind has ever seen before or after. The human race has grown older in experience since then. Vast accumulations of thought and knowledge have been amassed. The collision of races and nations has from time to time struck out sparks, which have kindled the flame of the human intellect in some fresh quarter. But still the literature of Greece—its philosophy, its poetry, its oratory—enjoys a unique preeminence. It still supplies models for the imitation of a remote posterity. It is still fresh with the vigour of a perennial youth—a deathless power in the world of intellect and imagination. And yet these are only shattered fragments saved from the wreck of time, which we possess. What must it not have been then, when it was entire? What must it not have been then, when its language was still a living tongue—the medium of communication between all civilised peoples; when it was still upheld and interpreted by the religion, customs, institutions, daily life, of a race which had ramified and spread over every part of the known world? And, as in the world of thought, so also in the world of action. In the whole life of the human race no power has arisen like the power of the Romans. There have been, and there are, empires which cover a larger superficial area. But for concentration, for unity, for available force, it has never had an equal. The greatest modern empires are rivals: each neutralises the power of the other. The domination of Rome owned no peer and no second. The voice of Rome was the law of the world. It was the Roman’s mission, said their great poet, ‘to rule over the peoples, to spare the submissive, but to crush the proud and defiant.’ Confronted by this league of powerful allies, what was there in the story of Christ crucified that it should lead captive a reluctant world? We cannot, even with a conscious effort, realise all the repulsive associations which the Cross suggested to S. Paul’s contemporaries. Substitute for the word some modern equivalent, as the gallows or the gibbet, and you approach more nearly to the idea conveyed. We shudder at such a substitution; we shrink from it as a profanation; our very reluctance shows how great a change has come upon mankind. Not in vain have eighteen Christian centuries passed over our heads. Not in vain has S. Paul’s startling resolve—startling and repulsive when it was uttered, but obvious, self-evident, admirable now—to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, been proclaimed from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, and repeated day after day in thousands of Christian homes. Not in vain have saints been schooled to live, and martyrs nerved to die, in the strength of those words. The Cross is now the symbol of power, of heroism, of saintly patience, of triumphant love. But only reflect in what light it would be regarded by the Romans then? We ourselves, if we dwell on the repulsive aspects of the Cross, dwell chiefly, or solely, on the torture. But to the Roman the pain was only a small part of the horror. It was the ignominy of the punishment, from which he would turn away with disgust. No Roman citizen—however deep his crime—ran any risk of crucifixion. The law exempted him from this extreme degradation. It was the punishment of slaves, of the lowest and vilest of their kind. And they—these Romans, the masters of the world, with their proud bearing, with their innate respect for law, with their strong sense of political privilege—were invited by this Paul to fall down before a gibbet, and to admire a criminal condemned by a Roman magistrate to this most ignominious of all deaths. Weakness? It was far worse than weakness. It was vile, it was shameful—an outrage on all their most cherished feelings. And, while thus repulsive to the Romans, this message of the Cross would be still less attractive to the Greek. With his gay spirit and his keen appreciation of the bright side of life, he could have nothing to say to this horrible tale of suffering. With his strong sense of beauty, he would avert his eyes with a shudder from this unlovely scene on Calvary. With his speculative cast of mind, with his eager craving after intellectual subtleties, how could he possibly find in this plain, this forbidding, this worse than common-place Jewish tale of an obscure convict, the answer to his philosophic questioning? It was folly, folly in its most foolish mood—this story of the Cross—to the Greek. And, if it was such in itself, it would certainly gain nothing from the character of its advocate. S. Paul’s opponents did not suffer him to indulge any feelings of self-complacency on this point. Their taunts served only to remind him that in his own person he illustrated the divine paradox. As was the Gospel, so was its preacher. Was he not weak? This was the very reproach which they hurled at him. They pointed to his insignificant stature; they glanced at his spare frame, worn out with toil and bowed down with sickness. He was a despicable object to these Corinthians, accustomed to the perfection of physical strength and grace in the athletes of their Isthmian games. They could not away with one who ‘in bodily presence’ was ‘weak.’ Was he not foolish also? Here again his enemies held up the mirror to him, and forced him to see his defects. This itinerant Jew, speaking with a foreign accent, breaking loose from all the approved forms of logic, defying all the established laws of rhetoric in his halting, tumultuous, solœcistic utterances—how could he hope to recommend his message to the fine ear and the fastidious taste of the Greek? Foolishness was not a strong enough word to express their estimate. He was ‘in speech contemptible.’ Yes, he was weak, he was foolish. He could not gainsay the charge. Looking at his own heart, he condemned himself of foolishness far greater than that with which his enemies charged him. Reviewing his own life, he saw everywhere signs of weakness, which even their contempt had failed to detect. What were an insignificant presence and a faulty rhetoric after all, compared with the foolishness of a heart struggling against self, and the weakness of a life oppressed by the fears within and baffled by the fightings without? He was weak; he was foolish. Who knew this so well as himself? But what then? Strength was made perfect in weakness; wisdom started up full armed from the head of folly. Aye, there was a divine purpose in all this. He had this treasure, this priceless treasure in cheap, vulgar, fragile vessels of earthenware, ‘that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of himself.’ And so the cry of despair becomes the pæan of thanksgiving. The taunt of his enemies is the boast of the Apostle. He was not strong, but God’s weakness was strong through him. He was not wise, but God’s foolishness was wise in him. And this weakness, this folly, crushing all opposition, would press forward on its march from victory to victory. A strange confidence to entertain. And yet this Paul was right after all. The centuries rolled on, and the prediction was fulfilled. The monstrous paradox, so contradictory to reason and so defiant of experience, proved true. All human calculation was baffled. The foolish things confounded the wise, and the weak things confounded the mighty. Neither the power and the polity of Rome, nor the philosophy and the arts of Greece, could check the triumphant progress of the Cross. And do we ask how this triumph can be explained? S. Paul has answered the question by anticipation. ‘The world by wisdom knew not God.’ There is little danger that in this place you should underrate the intellectual and social triumphs of Greece and of Rome. Even as preparations for the Gospel, they hold a foremost place. What was the wisdom of Greece, but an elementary schooling for the higher spiritual lessons of Christianity? What was the power and organization of Rome, but the roadway of the Gospel of Christ and the scaffolding of the Church of God? But the arts of Greece and the polity of Rome had left a deep craving in mankind unappeased. Like the hart panting after the water-brooks, the soul of humanity was thirsting after a living God. It might not be altogether conscious of the object of its thirst; but the thirst itself was a terrible reality nevertheless. Men were feeling after God, but they had not grasped Him. He was near to every one of them, and they had not found Him. Wisdom had failed, and now it was the turn for foolishness. Could he for a moment entertain any misgivings of its triumph? He knew what the Cross of Christ had been to himself. It had guided his zeal, it had purified his passions, it had widened his sympathies, it had opened his heart. It had filled him with new aspirations, new resolves, new hopes. That was no rhetorical figure, but a sober expression of fact, when he said that to be in Christ was to be a new creature, a new creation. In the light of this glory, all the lessons of the past had started up into new life: just as with the sunrise the landscape, which has appeared before a dark, indistinguishable mass, emerges in all the infinite beauties of form and colour. And, if it had been all this to him, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, what might it not be to these Gentiles tossed to and fro between the extremes of idolatry and scepticism? It was the touch of God, which mankind needed to heal the sores, to purge the corruption, to arrest the decay. And he knew that this touch had thrilled through his inmost being in the revelation of Christ crucified. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ This is the lesson which the triumph of the Cross teaches; a palimpsest traced in letters of fire on the erased page of an ancient civilisation; a voice emphasized by the thunder-crash of a fallen world. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone’—whether the bread of social organization, of material appliances, of legislation, of polity (Rome had given enough and to spare of this); or the bread of intellectual culture, of æsthetic taste, of philosophy, of poetry, of art (Greece had dealt with these with a lavish hand). Fed to surfeiting with these, ancient society, nevertheless, had fallen from bad to worse, had become day by day more corrupt, more impotent, more helpless, till at length it lay seething in its own decay. And then the magnificent irony of God’s purpose was seen. Foolishness triumphed over wisdom, and weakness set her foot on the neck of strength. And that which has been will be again, if ever the conditions should be repeated. If ever—I will not say science, but scientific speculation, should hold out promises which from its very nature it cannot perform; if ever, dazzled by its unparalleled triumphs, it should invade provinces which belong to another rule; if ever, consciously, or unconsciously, its representatives should attempt to eliminate from the Universe everything which renders possible either the guiding providence of God or the moral responsibility of man; if ever a materialistic philosophy should gain the ascendant, which offers no strength to the life struggling in the meshes of temptation, holds out no hand to the conscience staggering under the burden of sin, speaks no words of comfort to the soul torn with suffering or aching with bereavement; then, assuredly, soon or late the heart of humanity, finding itself deluded and betrayed, will rise in the name of conscience and faith, and turn upon its betrayer. Then again, as of old, the foolish things of the world will confound the wise. But then again, also, much that is useful, much that is beautiful, much that is true, may be buried in the ruin. The less must be sacrificed to the greater. Baffled, disappointed, starved in its highest moral and spiritual needs, humanity has no heart and no leisure for nice discrimination. For this Cross of Christ—this strange, repulsive, foolish thing—did give to a hungry world just that food which alone could allay its pangs. Only reflect for a moment before we part, what ideas, what sanctions, what safeguards, what hopes, it has made the common property of mankind. First of all: it went right home to the human soul. It demanded no scientific training: it required no natural gifts. It addressed itself, not to the Greek as Greek, or to the Roman as Roman, but to the man as man. It took him, just as he was, stripped of all adventitious ornaments and advantages, and it spoke to his heart, spoke to his conscience, spoke from God to the godlike within him, but spoke nevertheless as a man speaketh with his friend. And, so taking him, it set before him in the story of Christ’s doings and sufferings an ideal of human life, absolutely pure, unselfish, beneficent, righteous, perfect, such as the world had never seen—an ideal, which once beheld could not be forgotten, but must haunt the memory of men for evermore, fascinating by its beauty, purifying, ennobling, transforming into its own bright image by the wonderful magic of its abiding presence. And then again, it gave aid, where aid was most needed. It illumined the dark places of human existence. It dignified sorrow; it canonized suffering. The Cross of Calvary threw a glory over all the most harrowing and repulsive trials of life. Toil, sickness, pain, want, bereavement, neglect, obloquy, persecution, death—these were invested with a new meaning by the foolishness of the preaching. It was an honourable distinction now to share with Him—the head of the race—the prerogative of suffering. It was a comparatively light thing now to bear a little, where He had borne so much. Pain did not cease to be pain—whatever the Stoic might say; but pain had become endurable, for pain had been glorified. And then again; it proclaimed in language, which could not be misunderstood, the universal brotherhood of man. The triumphs won on the Cross had obliterated, as in the sight of God, all distinction of race, of caste, of class. He the Crucified, He the Triumphant, was a poor artisan of a despised village of a despised nation—henceforth the accepted King of men, the Pattern of His race—the admired, honoured, worshipped of His brethren. But above all, this Cross of Christ was the atonement, the reconciliation, of man to God. It united heaven and earth in an indissoluble union. It threw an unwonted and glorious light on the Fatherly mercy of God. It brought a new and unforeseen promise of pardon and peace, extended freely to all. Who shall despair now? Who shall dare to put limits to our Father’s forgiveness? Who will refuse to Him the tribute of filial obedience? Who will not strive day and night to win His pardon, to win His favour, strong in the faith of this one perfect sacrifice—the supreme manifestation of Divine goodness and love? These lessons, and others such as these, cluster round the Cross of Christ. And they can never fade or lose their freshness. What wonder then, if mankind preferred the folly of God to the wisdom of men? Here, and here only—in this old, foolish message of Christ crucified—is the promise and the potency of life, the one true and abiding life, the life that is now, and that shall be hereafter, eternal in the heavens. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Related The Folly and Danger of being not righteous enough The Folly and Danger of being not righteous enough Eccles. 7:16 Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself? NOTHING is more frequent, than while people are living in a course of sin, and after the fashion and manner of the world, there is no notice taken of them; neither are their ways displeasing to their companions and carnal relations: but if they set their faces Zion-ward, and begin to feel the power of God on their hearts; then they are surrounded with temptations from their friends, who thus act the devil’s part. The enemies, the greatest enemies a young convert meets with, my dear brethren, are those of his own house. They that will be godly, must suffer persecution; so it was in Christ’s time, and so it was in the Apostles time too; for our Lord came not to send peace, but a sword. Our relations would not have us sit in the scorner’s chair; they would not have us be prodigals, consuming our substance upon harlots; neither would they have us rakes or libertines, but they would have us be contented with an almost christianity. To keep up our reputation by going to church, and adhering to the outward forms of religion, saying our prayers, reading the word of God, and taking the sacraments; this, they imagine, is all that is necessary for to be christians indeed; and when we go one step farther than this, their mouths are open against us, as Peter’s was to Christ: "Spare thyself, do thyself no harm." And of this nature are the words of the text. They are not the words of Solomon himself, but the words of an infidel speaking to him, whom he introduces in several parts of this book; for Solomon had been shewing the misfortunes which attended the truly good, as in the verse before our text. Upon this the infidel says, "Be not righteous over-much, neither be thou over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" i. e. Why shouldst thou bring these misfortunes upon thyself, by being over-strict? Be not righteous over-much; eat, drink, and be merry, live as the world lives, and then you will avoid those misfortunes which may attend you, by being righteous over-much. This text has another meaning; but take it which way you will, my brethren, it was spoken by an unbeliever; therefore it was no credit for the person who lately preached upon this text, to take it for granted, that these were the words of Solomon: the words of an infidel was not a proper text to a christian congregation. But as David came out against Goliah, not armed as the champion was, with sword and spear, but with a sling and stone, and then cut off his head with his own sword; so I come out against these letter learned men, in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, my dear brethren, I trust he will direct me to use my sling, so that our enemies may not gainsay us; and by the sword of God’s word, cut off the heads of our Redeemer’s enemies. But though they are not the words of Solomon, yet we will take them in the same manner the late writer did; and, from the words, shall, First, Shew you what it is, not to be righteous over-much, that we may not destroy ourselves. Secondly, I shall let you see what it is to be righteous over-much. And then, Thirdly, Conclude with an exhortation to all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. First, The first thing proposed, is shew you what it is not to be righteous over-much, And here, It is by no means to be righteous over-much, to affirm we must have the same Spirit of God as the first Apostles had, and must feel that Spirit upon our hearts. By receiving the Spirit of God, is not to be understood, that we are to be inspired to shew outward signs and wonders, to raise dead bodies, to cure leprous persons, or to give sight to the blind: these miracles were only of use in the first ages of the church; and therefore christians (nominal christians, for we have little else but the name) may have all the gifts of the Spirit, and yet none of the graces of it: Thou, O man, mayest be enabled by faith to remove mountains; thou, by the power of God, mayest cast out devils; thou, by that power, mayest speak with the tongues of men and angels; yea, thou mayest, by that power, hold up thy finger and stop the fun in the firmament; and if all these are unsanctified by the Spirit of God, they would be of no service to thee, but would hurry thee to hell with the greater solemnity. Saul received the spirit of prophesying, and had another heart, yet Saul was probably a cast-away. We must receive the Spirit of God in its sanctifying graces upon our souls; for Christ says, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We are all by nature born in sin, and at as great a distance from God, as the devils themselves. I have told you often, and now tell you again, that you are by nature a motley mixture of the beast and devil, and we cannot recover ourselves from the state wherein we have fallen, therefore must be renewed by the Holy Ghost. By the Holy Ghost, I mean, the third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, co-equal, co-essential, co-eternal, and consubstantial with the Father and the Son; and therefore, when we are baptized, it is into the nature of the Father, into the nature of the Son, and into the nature of the Holy Ghost: and we are not true christians, till we are sanctified by the Spirit of God. Though our modern preachers do not actually deny the Spirit of God, yet they say, "Christians must not feel him;" which is in effect to deny him. When Nicodemus came to Christ, and the Lord Jesus was instructing him, concerning the new birth, says he to our Lord, "How can these things be?" Nicodemus, though a master of Israel, acts just as our learned Rabbi’s do now. The answer that Christ gave him should stop the mouths of our letter-learned pharisees: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth." Now till the Spirit of God is felt on our souls as the wind on our bodies, indeed, my dear brethren, you have no interest in him: religion consists not in external performance, it must be in the heart, or else it is only a name, which cannot profit us, a name to live whilst we are dead. A late preacher upon this text, seems to laugh at us, for talking of the Spirit in a sensible manner, and talks to us as the Jews did to Christ: They said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So he asks, "What sign or proof do we give of it?" We do not imagine, that God must appear to us, and give it us: no; but there may be, and is, a frequent receiving, when no seeing of it; and it is as plainly felt in the soul, as any impression is, or can be, upon the body. To what a damnable condition should we bring poor sinners, if they could not be sensible of the Spirit of God; namely, a reprobate mind and past feeling? "What proof do they give?" says the writer. What sign would they have? Do they expect us to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind, to cure lepers, to make the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear? If these are what they expect, I speak with humility, God, by us, hath done greater things than these: many, who were dead in sin, are railed to scripture-life: those, who were leprous by nature, are cleansed by the Spirit of God; those, who were lame in duty, now run in God’s commands; those, who were deaf, their ears are unstopped to hear his discipline, and hearken to his advice; and the poor have the gospel preached to them. No wonder people talk at this rate, when they can tell us, "That the Spirit of God, is a good conscience, consequent thereupon." My dear brethren, Seneca, Cicero, Plato, or any of the heathen philosophers, would have given as good a definition as this: It means no more, than reflecting that we have done well. This, this is only Deism refined: Deists laugh at us, when we pretend to be against their notions, and yet these men use no other reason for our differing from them, than what is agreeable to Deifts principle. This writer tells us, "It is against common-sense to talk of the feeling of the Spirit of God." Common-sense, my brethren, was never allowed to be a judge; yea, it is above its comprehension, neither are, nor can the ways of God be known by common-sense. We should never have known the things of God at all by our common senses: no; it is the revelation of God which is to be our judge; it is that we appeal to, and not to our weak and shallow conceptions of things. Thus we may see, it is by no means to be righteous over-much, to affirm we must have the Spirit of God as the Apostles had. Nor, Secondly, Is it to be righteous over-much to frequent religious assemblies. The preacher, upon this text, aims at putting aside all the religious societies that are in the kingdom: Indeed, he says, "You may go to church as often as opportunity serves, and on Sundays; say your prayers, read the word of God; and, in his opinion, every thing else had better be let alone: and as for the Spirit of God upon your souls, you are to look upon it as useless and unnecessary." If this, my brethren, is the doctrine we have now preached, christianity is at a low ebb indeed: but God forbid you should thus learn Jesus Christ. Do you not forbear the frequenting of religious assemblies; for as nothing helps to build up the devil’s kingdom more than the societies of wicked men, nothing would be more for pulling of it down, than the people of God meeting to strengthen each others hands; and as the devil has so many friends, will none of you be friends to the blessed Jesus? Yes, I hope many of you will be of the Lord’s side, and build each other up in christian love and fellowship. This is what the primitive christians delighted in; and shall not we follow so excellent an example? My brethren, till christian conversation is more agreeable to us, we cannot expect to see the gospel of Christ run and be glorified. Thus it is by no means to be righteous over-much, to frequent religious assemblies. Nor, Thirdly, Is it to be righteous over-much, to abstain from the diversions and entertainments of the age. We are commanded to "abstain from the appearance of evil," and that "whatsoever we do, whether we eat or drink, we shall do all to the glory of God." The writer upon this text tells us, "That it will be accounted unlawful to smell to a rose:" no, my dear brethren, you may smell to a pink and rose too if you please, but take care to avoid the appearance of sin. They talk of innocent diversions and recreations; for my part, I know of no diversion, but that of doing good: if you can find any diversion which is not contrary to your baptismal vow, of renouncing the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; if you can find any diversion which tends to the glory of God; if you can find any diversion, which you would be willing to be found at by the Lord Jesus Christ, I give you free licence to go to them and welcome; but if, on the contrary, they are found to keep sinners from coming to the Lord Jesus Christ; if they are a means to harden the heart, and such as you would not willingly be found in when you come to die, then, my dear brethren, keep from them: for, indeed, the diversions of this age are contrary to christianity. Many of you may think I have gone too far, but I shall go a great deal farther yet: I will attack the devil in his strongest holds, and bear my testimony against our fashionable and polite entertainments. What satisfaction can it be, what pleasure is there in spending several hours at cards? Strange! that even people who are grown old, can spend whole nights in this diversion: perhaps many of you will cry out, "What harm is there in it?" My dear brethren, whatsoever is not of faith, or for the glory of God, is a sin: Now does cards tend to promote this? Is it not mispending your precious time, which should be employed in working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Do play-houses, horse-racing, balls and assemblies, tend to promote the glory of God? Would you be willing to have your soul demanded of you, while you are at one of those places? Many of these are, (I must speak, I cannot forbear to speak against these entertainments; come what will, I will declare against them) many, I say, of these are kept up by public authority: the play-houses are supported by a public fund, and our newspapers are full of horse-races all through the kingdom: these things are sinful; indeed they are exceeding sinful. What good can come from a horse-race; from abusing God Almighty’s creatures, and putting them to that use he never designed for them: the play-houses, are they not nurseries of debauchery in the age? and the supporters and patrons of them, are encouragers and promoters of all the evil that is done by them; they are the bane of the age, and will be the destruction of those who frequent them. Is it not high time for the true ministers of Jesus Christ, who have been partakers of the heavenly gift, to lift up their voices as a trumpet, and cry aloud against these diversions of the age? Are they not earthly, sensual, devilish? If you have tasted of the love of God, and have felt his power upon your souls, you would no more go to a play, than you would run your head into a furnace. And what occasions these places to be so much frequented, is the clergy’s making no scruple to be at these polite places: they frequent play-houses, they go to horse races, they go to balls and assemblies, they frequent taverns, and follow all the entertainments that the age affords; and yet these are the persons who should advise their hearers to refrain from them; but instead thereof, they encourage them by their example. Persons are too apt to rely upon, and believe their pastors, rather than the scriptures; they think that there is no crime in going to plays or horse-races, to balls and assemblies; for if there were, they think those persons, who are their ministers, would not frequent them: but, my dear brethren, observe they always go disguised, the ministers are afraid of being seen in their gowns and cassocks; the reason thereof is plain, their consciences inform them, that it is not an example fit for the ministers of the gospel to set; thus, they are the means of giving that offence to the people of God, which I would not for ten thousand worlds: they lay a stumbling-block in the way of their weak brethren, which they will not remove, though it is a stumbling-block of offence. "Woe unto the world because of offences, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh." The polite gentlemen of the age, spend their time in following these diversions, because the love of God is not in their hearts; they are void of Christ, and destitute of the Spirit of God; and not being acquainted with the delight there is in God and his ways, being strangers to these things, they run to the devil for diversions, and are pleased and delighted with the silly ones he shews them. My dear brethren, I speak of these things, these innocent diversions, as the polite part of the world calls them, by experience; perhaps none, for my age, hath read or seen more plays than I have: I took delight in, and was pleased with them. It is true, I went to church frequently, received the sacrament, and was diligent in the use of the forms of religion, but I was all this while ignorant of the power of God on my heart, and unacquainted with the work of grace; but when God was pleased to shine with power upon my soul, I could no longer be contented to feed on husks, or what the swine did eat: the Bible then was my food; there, and there only I took delight: and till you feel this same power, you will not abstain from the earthly delights of this age, you will take no comfort in God’s ways, nor receive any comfort from him; for you are void of the love of God, having only the form of godliness, while you are denying the power of it; you are nominal christians, when you have not the power of christianity. The polite gentlemen say, "Are we to be always upon our knees? Would you have us be always at prayer, and? reading or hearing the word of God?" My dear brethren, the fashionable ones, who take delight in hunting, are not tired of being continually on horseback after their hounds; and when once you are renewed by the Spirit of God, it will be a continual pleasure to be walking with, and talking of God, and telling what great things Jesus Christ hath done for your souls; and till you can find as much pleasure in conversing with God, as these men, do of their hounds, you have no share in him; but when you have tasted how good the Lord is, you will shew forth his praise; out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will speak. This brings me to the second thing proposed, which is an extream that very seldom happens: Secondly, To shew what it is to be righteous over-much. And here, First, When we confine the Spirit of God to this or that particular church; and are not willing to converse with any but those of the same communion; this is to be righteous over-much with a witness: and so it is, to consine our communion within church-walls, and to think that Jesus could not preach in a field as well as on consecrated-ground; this is judaism, this is bigotry: this is like Peter, who would not go to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, till he had a vision from God: and when his conduct was blamed by the disciples, he could not satisfy them till he had acquainted them with the vision he had seen. And, therefore, we may justly infer, the Spirit of God is the center of unity; and wherever I see the image of my Master, I never enquire of them their opinions; I ask them not what they are, so they love Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, but embrace them as my brother, my sister, and my spouse: and this is the spirit of christianity. Many persons, who are bigots to this or that opinion, when one of a different way of thinking hath come where they were, have left the room or place on the account: this is the spirit of the devil; and if it was possible that these persons could be admitted into heaven with such tempers, that very place would be hell to them. Christianity will never flourish, till we are all of one heart and of one mind; and this would be the only means of seeing the gospel of Jesus to flourish, more than ever it will by persecuting those who differ from us. This may be esteemed as enthusiasm and madness, and as a design to undermine the established church: No; God is my judge, I should rejoice to see all the world adhere to her articles; I should rejoice to see the ministers of the Church of England, preach up those very articles they have subscribed to; but those ministers who do preach up the articles, are esteemed as madmen, enthusiasts, schismatics, and underminers of the established church: and though they say these things of me, blessed be God, they are without foundation. My dear brethren, I am a friend to her articles, I am a friend to her homilies, I am a friend to her liturgy; and, if they did not thrust me out of their churches, I would read them every day; but I do not consine the Spirit of God there; for I say it again, I love all that love the Lord Jesus Christ, and esteem him my brother, my friend, my spouse; aye, my very soul is knit to that person. The spirit of persecution will never, indeed it will never make any to love Jesus Christ. The pharisees make this to be madness, so much as to mention persecution in a christian country; but there is as much the spirit of persecution now in the world, as ever there was; their will is as great, but blessed be God, they want the, power; otherwise, how soon would they send me to prison, make my feet fast in the stocks, yea, would think they did God service in killing me, and would rejoice to take away my life. This is not the Spirit of Christ, my dear brethren; I had not come to have thus preached; I had not come into the highways and hedges; I had not exposed myself to the ill treatment of these letter-learned men, but for the sake of your souls: indeed, I had no other reason, but your salvation; and for that (I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not) I would be content to go to prison; yea, I would rejoice to die for you, so I could but be a means to bring some of you to Jesus: I could not bear to see so many in the highway to destruction, and not shew them their danger: I could not bear, my brethren, to see you more willing to learn, than the teachers are to instruct you: and if any of them were to come and preach, to you, I should not envy them, I should not call them enthusiasts or madmen; I should rejoice to hear they had ten thousand times more success than I have met with; I would give them the right-hand of fellowship; I would advise them to go on; I would wish them good luck in the name of the Lord, and say as Christ did, when the disciples informed him of some casting out devils in his name, and were for rebuking of them, "Forbid them not, for they that are not against us are for us;" or as St. Paul says, "Some preach Christ of envy, and some of good-will; notwithstanding, so Christ is but preached, I rejoice; yea, and will rejoice." The gospel of Jesus, is a gospel of peace. Thus you may see, that to be righteous over-much, is to be uncharitable, censorious, and to persecute persons for differing from us in religion. Secondly, persons are righteous over-much, when they spend so much time in religious assemblies, as to neglect their families. There is no licence given by the blessed Jesus, for idleness; for in the very infancy of the world, idleness was not allowed of. In paradise, Adam and Eve dressed the garden, Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep; and there is a proverb amongst the Jews, "That he who brings his son up without a business, brings him up to be a thief:" and therefore our Saviour was a carpenter; "Is not this the carpenter’s son," said the Jews: and St. Paul, though brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, was a tent-maker. Labour, my brethren, is imposed on all mankind as part of the divine curse; and you are called to be useful in the society to which you belong: take care first for the kingdom of God, and all things necessary shall be added. To labour for the meat that perisheth, is your duty; only take care, that you do not neglect getting the meat for the soul: that is of the greatest consequence, for this plain reason, the things of this life are temporal, but those of the next are eternal. I would have rich men to work as well as poor: it is owing to their idleness, that the devil hurries them to his diversions; they can be in their beds all the morning, and spend the afternoon and evening in dressing, visiting, and at balls, plays, or assemblies, when they should be working out their salvation with fear and trembling. Such a life as this, occasions a spiritual numbness in the soul; and if Jesus Christ was not to stop those who thus spend their time, they would be hurried into eternity, without once thinking of their immortal souls. But Jesus Christ has compassion upon many of them, and while they are in their blood, he bids them "live." And though I preach this doctrine to you, yet I do not bid you be idle; no, they that do not work should not eat. You have two callings, a general one, and a special one: as we are to regard the one in respect of our bodies, so we are to regard the other on account of our souls. Take heed, my brethren, I beseech you, take heed, lest you labour so for the meat that perisheth, as to forget that meat which endureth for ever. Seek the things of God first; look well to obtain oil in your lamps, grace in your hearts. I am not persuading you to take no care about the things of the world, but only not to be encumbered with them, so as to neglect your duty towards God, and a proper concern for your souls. It is meet, it is right, it is your bounden duty, to mind the callings wherein God hath placed you; and you may be said to be righteous over-much not to regard them. This brings me, Thirdly, To give you another sign of being righteous over-much; and that is, when we fast and use corporal austerities, so as to unfit us for the service of God. This, my brethren, you may think there is no occasion at all to caution you against, and indeed there is not a great necessity for it; however, many persons, upon their first being awakened to a sense of their sin, are tempted to use austerities to that excess which is sinful. It is our duty to fast, it is our duty to fast often, and it is what we are directed to by Jesus Christ himself; but then we are to take care to do it in a proper manner: to bring our bodies under for the service of God, is that which we are commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. The late preacher upon this text, runs into great extremes, and charges us with saying and acting things, of which we never thought; but I do not regard what he said of me: I do not mind his bitter invectives against my ministry; I do not mind his despising my youth, and calling me novice and enthusiast; I forgive him from my very heart: but when he reflects on my Master; when he speaks against my Redeemer; when Jesus Christ is spoken against, I must speaks, (I must speak indeed, or I should burst:) when he gives liberty to persons to take a chearful glass, and alledges Christ for an example, as in the marriage-feast, saying, "Christ turned water into wine, when it is plain there had been more drank than was necessary before;" what is this, but to charge Christ with encouraging drunkenness? It is true, the Governor says, "Every man in the beginning sets forth good wine, and when men have well drank, that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now:" but it does not at all follow, that it was not necessary, or that there had been a sufficient quantity before: I would not speak thus slightingly of one of my Master’s miracles, for the to whole world. And we may observe, that as Christ chiefly visited poor people, they might not have wherewithal to buy a sufficient quantity of wine; or having more guests than were expected, the wine was expended sooner than they thought; then the Mother of Jesus tells him, "They have no wine;" he answers, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come." After this he commanded them to fill the water-pots with water, and they filled them to the brim, and this water he turned into wine: now it does not at all follow, that there was more drank than was necessary; neither would the Lord Jesus Christ have continued in the house if there had. But we have an excellent lesson to learn from this miracle: by the water-pots being empty, we may understand, the heart of man being by nature destitute of his grace, his speaking and commanding to fill them, shews, that when Christ speaks, the heart that was empty of grace before, shall be filled; and the water-pots being filled to the brim, shews, that Christ will fill believers hearts brim full of the Holy Ghost: and from the Governor’s observing, that the last wine was the best, learn, that a believer’s best comforts, shall be the last and greatest, for they shall come with the greatest power upon the soul, and continue longest there: this, this my dear brethren, is the lesson we may learn from this miracle. But one great inconsistency I cannot avoid taking notice of in this late learned preacher. In the beginning of his sermon, he charges us with "laying heavy burthens upon people, which they are not able to bear;" in the latter part he charges us with being Antinomians, whose tenets are, "So you say you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you may live the life of devils." Now, he charges us with being too strict, and by and by with being too loose. Which side, my brethren, will you take? Thus you see, when persons my forsake Christ they make strange mistakes; for there can be no greater opposition of sentiments than this letter-learned writer has made: as opposite as light and darkness, good and evil, sweet and bitter. And, on this account, to find out these lettered-learned gentlemens notions of the new-birth, I put a paragraph in my Journal; and, blessed be God, I have obtained my desires, and have plainly perceived, that the persons who have lately written concerning the new-birth, know no more of it than a blind man does of colours, nor can they have any more notion of it, (by all their learning, falsely so called) than the blind man, who was to give an account what the sun was, and, after a considerable time allowed for study, he said, "It was like the sound of a trumpet." And till they are taught of God, they will be unacquainted with the new-birth: therefore, if you have a mind to know what the devil has to say against us, read Dr. Trapp’s sermons. It is with grief I speak these things, and were not the welfare of your souls, and my Redeemer’s honour at stake, I would not now open my mouth, yea I would willingly die (God is my judge) for the person who wrote such bitter things against me, so it would be a means of saving his soul. If he had only spoken against me, I would not have answered him; but, on his making my Redeemer a pattern of vice, if I was not to speak, the very stones would cry out; therefore, the honour of my Redeemer, and love to you, constrains me to speak. It is of necessity that I speak, when the divinity of Jesus Christ is spoken against, it is the duty of ministers to cry aloud, and spare not. I cannot forbear, come what will; for I know not what kind of divinity we have how among us: we must have a righteousness of our own, and do our best endeavours, and then Christ will make up the deficiency; that is, you must be your own Saviour, in part. This is not the doctrine of the gospel; this is not the doctrine of Jesus: no; Christ is all in all; Jesus Christ must be your whole wisdom; Jesus Christ must be your whole righteousness, Jesus Christ must be your whole sanctification; or Jesus Christ will never be your eternal redemption and sanctification. Inward holiness is looked on, by some, as the effect of enthusiasm and madness; and preachers of the necessity of the new-birth, are esteemed as persons fit for Bedlam. Our polite and fashionable doctrine, is, "That there is a fitness in man, and that God, feeing you a good creature, bestows upon you his grace." God forbid, my dear brethren, you should thus learn Jesus Christ! This is not the doctrine I preach to you: I say, salvation is the free gift of God. It is God’s free grace, I preach unto you, not of works, lest any one should boast. Jesus Christ justifies the ungodly; Jesus Christ passed by, and saw you polluted with your blood, and bid you live. It is not of works, it is of faith: we are not justified for our faith, for faith is the instrument, but by your faith, the active as well as the passive obedience of Christ, must be applied to you. Jesus Christ hath fulfilled the law, he hath made it honourable; Jesus Christ hath made satisfaction to his Father’s justice, full satisfaction; and it is as compleat as it is full, and God will not demand it again. Jesus Christ is the way; Jesus Christ is the truth; and Jesus Christ is the life. The righteousness of Jesus Christ, my brethren, must be imputed to you, or you can never have any interest in the blood of Jesus; your own works are but as filthy rags, for you are justified before God, without any respect to your works past, present, or to come. This doctrine is denyed by the learned rabbi’s; but if they deny these truths of the gospel, they must not be offended, though a child dare speak to a doctor; and, in vindication of the cause of Jesus Christ, a child, a boy, by the Spirit of God, can speak to the learned clergy of this age. If I had a voice so great, and could speak so loud, as that the whole world could hear me, I would cry, "Be not righteous over-much," by bringing your righteousness to Christ, and by being righteous in your own eyes. Man must be abased, that God may be exalted. The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is a comfortable doctrine to all real christians; and you sinners, who ask what you must do to be saved? how uncomfortable would it be, to tell you by good works, when, perhaps, you have never done one good work in all your life: this would be driving you to despair, indeed: no; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved;" therefore none of you need go away despairing. Come to the Lord Jesus by faith, and he shall receive you. You have no righteousness of your own to depend on. If you are saved, it is by the righteousness of Christ, through his atonement, his making a sacrifice for sin: his righteousness must be imputed to you, otherwise you cannot be saved. There is no difference between you, by nature, and the greatest malefactor that ever was executed at Tyburn: the difference made, is all owing to the free, the rich, the undeserved grace of God; this has made the difference. It is true, talking at this rate, will offend the pharisees, who do not like this levelling doctrine, (as they call it); but if ever you are brought to Jesus Christ by faith, you will experience the truth of it. Come by faith to Jesus Christ; do not come, pharisee-like, telling God what you have done, how often you have gone to church, how often you have received the sacrament, fasted, prayed, or the like: no; come to Christ as poor, lost, undone, damned sinners; come to him in this manner, and he will accept of you: do not be rich in spirit, proud and exalted, for there is no blessing attends such; but be ye poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God; they shall be made members of his mystical body here, and shall be so of the church triumphant hereafter. Acknowledge yourselves as nothing at all, and when you have done all, say, "You are unprofitable servants." There is no salvation but by Jesus Christ; there is no other name given under heaven amongst men, whereby we may be saved, but that of the Lord Jesus. God, out of Christ, is a consuming fire; therefore strive for an interest in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ; take him on the terms offered to you in the gospel; accept of him in God’s own way, lay hold on him by faith. Do not think you are christians; do not flatter yourselves with being righteous enough, and good enough, because you lead moral decent lives, do no one any harm, go to church, and attend upon the outward means of grace; no, my brethren, you may do this, and a great deal more, and yet be very far from having a saving, experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ. Beg of Christ to strike home upon your hearts, that you may feel the power of religion. Indeed, you must feel the power of God here, or the wrath of God hereafter. These are truths of the utmost consequence; therefore, do not go contradicting, do not go blaspheming away. Blessed be God, you are not such cowards to run away for a little rain. I hope good thing of you; I hope you have felt the power of God; and if God should bring any of you to himself through this foolishness of preaching, you will have no reason to complain it was done by a youth, by a child: no; if I could be made an instrument to bring you to God, they may call me novice, enthusiast, or what they please, I should rejoice; yea, and I would rejoice. O that some sinner might be brought to Jesus Christ! Do not say I preach despair: I despair of no one, when I consider God had mercy on such a wretch as I, who was running in a full career to hell: I was hasting thither, but Jesus Christ passed by and stopped me; Jesus Christ passed by me while I was in my blood, when I was in polluted with filth; he passed by me, and bid me live. Thus I am a monument of God’s free grace; and therefore, my brethren, I despair of none of you, when I consider, I say, what a wretch I was. I am not speaking now out of a false humility, a pretended fanctity, as the pharisees call it: no, the truth in Christ I speak, and therefore, men and devils do your worst; I have a gracious Master will protect me; it is his work I am engaged in, and Jesus Christ will carry me above their rage. Those who are come here this night out of curiosity to hear what the babbler says; those who come to spend an idle hour to find something for an evening-conversation at a coffee-house; or you who have stopped in your coaches as you passed by, remember that you have had Jesus Christ offered to you; I offer Jesus Christ to every one of you: perhaps you may not regard it because it is in a field. But Jesus Christ is wherever his people meet in sincerity and truth to worship him: he is not confined to church walls: he has met us here; many, very many of you know he has; and therefore you may believe on him with greater confidence. Can you bear to think of a bleeding, panting, dying Jesus, offering himself up for sinners, and you will not accept of him? Do not say, you are poor, and therefore are ashamed to go to church, for God has sent the gospel out unto you. Do not harden your hearts: oppose not the will of Jesus. O that I could speak to your hearts, that my words would centre there. My heart is full of love to you. I would speak, till I could speak no more, so I could but bring you to Christ. I may never meet you all, perhaps, any more. The cloud of God’s providence seems to be moving. God calls me by his providence away from you, for a while. God knows whether we shall ever see each other in the flesh. At the day of judgment we shall all meet again. I earnestly desire your prayers. Pray that I may not only begin, Jehu-like, in the spirit, but that I may continue in it. Pray that I may not fall away, that I may not decline suffering for you, if I should be called to it. Be earnest, O be earnest with God in my behalf, that while I am preaching to others, I may not be a cast-away. Put up your prayers for me, I beseech you. Go not to the throne of grace, without carrying me upon your heart for you know not what influence your prayers may have. As for you, my dear brethren, God knows my heart, I continually bear you on my mind, when I go in and out before the Lord; and it is my earnest desire, you may not perish for lack of knowledge, but that he would send out more ministers to water what his own right-hand hath planted. May the Antient of Days come forth upon his white horse, and may all opposition fall to the ground. As we have begun to bruise the serpent’s head, we must expect he will bruise our heel. The devil will not let his kingdom fall without raging horribly. He will not suffer the ministers of Christ to go on, without bringing his power to stop them. But fear not, my dear brethren, David, though a stripling, encountered the great Goliah; and if we pray, God will give us strength against all our spiritual enemies. Shew your faith by your works. Give the world the lye. Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark see before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies. I hope we shall all meet at the right-hand of God. Strive, strive to enter in at the strait gate, that we may be borne to Abraham’s bosom, where sin and sorrow shall cease. No scoffer will be there, but we shall see Jesus, who died for us; and not only see him, but live with him for ever. Which God, of his infinite mercy, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) A Preservative against unsettled Notions A Preservative against unsettled Notions, and want of Principles, in regard to Righteousness and Christian Perfection. Being a more particular Answer to Doctor Trapp’s Four Sermons upon the same Text. To all the True Members of Christ’s Holy Church. Dear Fellow Christians, THE great, and indeed the only motive which prompted me to publish this sermon, was the desire of providing for your security from error, at a time when the deviators from, and false pretenders to truth, are so numerous, that the most discerning find it a matter of the greatest difficulty to avoid being led astray by one or by other into downright falshood. There is no running divisions upon truth; like a mathematical point, it will neither admit of subtraction nor addition: And as it is indivisible in its nature, there is no splitting the difference, where truth is concerned. Irreligion and enthusiasm are diametrical opposites, and true piety between both, like the center of an infinite line, is at an equal infinite distance from the one and the other, and therefore can never admit of a coalition with either. The one erring by defect, the other by excess. But whether we err by defect, or excess, is of little importance, if we are equally wide of the mark, as we certainly are in either case. For whatever is less than truth, cannot be truth; and whatever is more than true must be false. Wherefore, as the whole of this great nation seems now more than ever in danger of being hurried into one or the other of these equally pernicious extremes, irreligion or fanaticism, I thought myself more than ordinarily obliged to rouze your, perhaps, drowsy vigilance, by warning you of the nearness of your peril; cautioning you from leaning towards either side, though but to peep at the slippery precipice; and stepping between you and error, before it comes nigh enough to grapple with you. The happy medium of true christian piety, in which it has pleased the mercy of God to establish you, is built on a firm rock, "and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it." While then you stand steadily upright in the fulness of the faith, falshood and sin shall labour in vain to approach you; whereas, the least familiarity with error, will make you giddy, and if once you stagger in principles, your ruin is almost inevitable. But now I have cautioned you of the danger you are in from the enemies who threaten your subversion, I hope your own watchfulness will be sufficient to guard you from any surprise. And from their own assaults you have nothing to fear, since while you persist in the firm resolution, through God’s grace, to keep them out, irreligion and enthusiasm, falshood and vice, impiety and false piety, will combine in vain to force an entrance into your hearts. Take then, my dearly beloved fellow-members of Christ’s mystical body, take the friendly caution I give you in good part, and endeavour to profit by it: attend wholly to the saving truths I here deliver to you, and be persuaded, that they are uttered by one who has your eternal salvation as much at heart as his own. "And thou, O Lord Jesus Christ, fountain of all truth, whence all wisdom flows, open the understandings of thy people to the light of thy true faith, and touch their hearts with thy grace, that they may both be able to see, and willing to perform what thou requirest of them. Drive away from us every cloud of error and perversity; guard us alike from irreligion and false pretensions to piety; and lead us on perpetually towards that perfection to which thou hast taught us to aspire; that keeping us here in a constant imitation of thee, and peaceful union with each other, thou mayest at length bring us to that everlasting glory, which thou hast promised to all such as shall endeavour to be perfect, even as the Father who is in heaven is perfect, who with thee and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns one God, world without end! Amen, Amen. Eccles. 7:16 Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? RIGHTEOUS over-much! may one say; Is there any danger of that? Is it even possible? Can we be too good? If we give any credit to the express word of God, we cannot be too good, we cannot be righteous over-much. The injunction given by God to Abraham is very strong: "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." The same he again lays upon all Israel, in the eighteenth of Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt be perfect, and without blemish, with the Lord thy God." And lest any should think to excuse themselves from this obligation, by saying, it ceased when the old law was abolished, our blessed Saviour ratified and explained it: "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect." So that until our perfection surpasses that of our heavenly Father, we can never be too good nor righteous over-much; and as it is impossible we should ever surpass, or even come up to him in the perfection of goodness and righteousness, it follows in course that we never can be good or righteous in excess. Nevertheless Doctor Trapp has found out that we may be righteous over-much, and has taken no small pains, with much agitation of spirit, to prove that it is a great folly and weakness, nay, a great sin. "O Lord! rebuke thou his spirit, and grant that this false doctrine may not be published to his confusion in the day of judgment!" But if what this hasty, this deluded man advances had been true, could there be any occasion, however, of warning against it in these times, "when the danger (as he himself to his confusion owns) is on the contrary extreme; when all manner of vice and wickedness abounds to a degree almost unheard of?" I answer for the present, that "there must be here sies amongst you, that they who are approved may be made manifest." However, this earthly-minded minister of a new gospel, has taken a text which seems to favour his naughty purpose, of weaning the well-disposed little ones of Christ from that perfect purity of heart and spirit, which is necessary to all such as mean to live to our Lord Jesus. O Lord, what shall become of thy flock, when their shepherds betray them into the hands of the ravenous wolf! when a minister of thy word perverts it to overthrow thy kingdom, and to destroy scripture with scripture! Solomon, in the person of a desponding, ignorant, indolent liver, says to the man of righteousness: "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" But must my angry, over-sighted brother Trapp, therefore, personate a character so unbecoming his function, merely to overthrow the express injunction of the Lord to us; which obliges us never to give over pursuing and thirsting after the perfect righteousness of Christ, until we rest in him? Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he says! What advantage might not satan gain over the elect, if the false construction, put upon this text by that unseeing teacher, should prevail! Yet though he blushes not to assist satan to bruise our heel, I shall endeavour to bruise the heads of both, by shewing, I. First, The genuine sense of the text in question. II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking here: And III. The character of the persons spoken to. From whence will naturally result these consequences. First, That the Doctor was grosly (Lord grant he was not maliciously) mistaken in his explanatory sermon on this text, as well as in the application of it. Secondly, That he is a teacher and approver of worldly maxims. Thirdly, That he is of course an enemy to perfect righteousness in men, through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ: And, therefore, that no one ought to be deluded by the false doctrine he advances, to beguile the innocent, and deceive, if possible, even the elect. I. To come at the true sense of the text in question, it will be necessary to look back, to the preceding verse, where the wise man, reflecting on the vanities of his youth, puts on for a moment his former character. "All things, have I seen in the days of my vanity: (and among the rest) there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongeth his life in his wickedness." Now it is very plain, that he is not here talking of a man, who is righteous over-much, in the Doctor’s manner of understanding the words, that is, "faulty, and criminal by excess." For on one side he commends him for being a just man, and full of righteousness, and yet on the other tells us, that his righteousness is the shortening of his life. Whereas, had he looked upon his perishing in righteousness to be an over-righteousness, he would never have called him a just man. Neither by a wicked man, can he mean a man given up to the utmost excess of wickedness, since he tells us, that he prolongeth his life in (or by) his wickedness. Who does not know, that the excess of almost every kind of vice, is of itself a shortener of life. So that the whole opposition and contrast lies between a good man, and a bad man. A good man whose goodness shortens his life, a bad man whose iniquity lengthens his life, or at least is not excessive enough to shorten the thread of it. Solomon, absorbed in these reflections, speaks here by way of prosopopeia, not the sense of Solomon, the experienced, the learned, the wise, but of the former Solomon, a vain young fellow, full of self-love, and the strong desires of life. In the quality of such a one then, he looks with the same eye upon the righteous man, who perishes in his righteousness, as he would on a wicked one, who should perish in his wickedness. For it is neither the righteousness of the one, nor the wickedness of the other, that offends him, but the superlative degrees of both; which tending equally to shorten life, he looks upon them as equally opposite to the self-love he fondles within him. And, therefore, he deems an excess of debauchery as great an enemy to the lasting enjoyment of the pleasures of life, as an extraordinary righteousness would be. Well then might he say to the latter, in this character, "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish; why shouldst thou die before thy time?" And to the former: "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: Why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" What wonder then, that a youth of sprightliness and sense, but led away by self-love to be fond of the pleasures and enjoyments of life, when attained without hurry, and possessed without risk; what wonder, I say, that such a youth should conceive an equal dislike to the superlative degrees of virtue and vice, and, therefore, advise such of his companions as give into the excess of debauchery, to refrain from it: as it must infallibly tend to clog their understandings, stupify their senses, and entail upon their constitutions a train of infirmities, which cannot but debilitate their natural vigour, and shorten their days? "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish: Why shouldst thou die before thy time?" What wonder, that the same self-love should prompt him to dissuade such of his friends or acquaintance, as he wishes to have for companions, and countenancers of his worldly-minded pursuits, from pursuing righteousness and wisdom to a degree that must destroy in them all taste of earthly pleasures, and may possibly impair their constitutions, and forward their end? "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" This is the sense in which Solomon (placing himself in the state of vanity of his youth) speaks to the one, and the other: to the righteous, and to the ungodly. This is the true, genuine sense of the letter; and every other sense put upon it, is false and groundless, and wrested rather to pervert than explain the truth of the text. O christian simplicity, whither art thou fled? Why will not the clergy speak truth? And why must this false prophet suffer thy people, O Lord, to believe a lye? they have held the truth in unrighteousness. Raise up, I beseech thee, O Lord, some true pastors, who may acquaint them with the nature and necessity of perfect righteousness, and lead them to that love of christian perfection which the angry-minded, pleasure-taking Doctor Trapp, labours to divert them from, by teaching, that "all christians must have to do with some vanities." Is not the meaning of this text plain to the weakest capacity? I have here given it to you, as I have it from the mouth of the royal preacher himself. I have made use of no "philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," to impose a fleshly sense upon you, for the sense of the word of God. No, I have given you a natural exposition, obvious from the very words themselves. Hence you may see, my fellow-strugglers in righteousness, how grosly our angry adversary is mistaken in his explanation of this text. Lord! open his eyes, and touch his heart; and convert him, and all those erring ministers, who have seen vain and foolish things for thy people, and have not discovered their iniquity, to turn away thy captivity. For they have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way: The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. It is plain from the words of the text, that the royal Preacher was speaking in the person of a vain worldling, when he said, "Be not righteous over-much;" whereby he meant to exhort the truly righteous not to be dismayed, terrified, or disturbed from their constant pursuit of greater and greater perfection of righteousness, until they rest in Christ; notwithstanding the derision, fleshly persuasion, ill-treatment and persecution of worldly men: Who, one day, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit; shall say within themselves, "These were they whom we had sometime in derision, and a proverb of reproach. We fools, accounted their lives madness; and their end to be without honour. How are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints!" How blind then is the application (not to say perverse) which this self-wise clergyman makes from the text, to such as, following the advice of the apostle, (Coloss. 3:2.) "set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Must hastiness in anger get the better of sense and truth? Must the people be misled because the pastor cannot, or will not see? Or must the injunction of Christ, "Be perfect, even as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect," give place to the maxim of the heathen Tully: The greatest reproach to a philosopher, is to consute his doctrine by his practice; if this be the case, alas, what a deplorable, unspeakably deplorable condition is that of some christians! Wherefore, "thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets who make his people to err, that bite with their teeth and cry peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him: therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision, and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine, and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. But I will leave these lovers of darkness, and turn to you, O beloved, elect of God! I beseech you, by the bowels of Christ, suffer not yourselves to be deceived by their flattering, sin-soothing speeches. "Be not of that rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord: who say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." Follow not those, who flatter you in the vanities they practise themselves. O may you never be of the number of those, in the person of whom Solomon here says, "Be not righteous over-much:" for their character is the character of the beast. II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking here in the text, is in a word the same with the character of those whom Solomon here personates: who, as is already shewn, are a vain set of men, neither righteous enough to have an habitual desire of improving virtue to its perfection, nor quite so flagitious as to give into self-destroying vices: in a word, they are self-lovers, the sole end of whose pursuits, whether indifferent, bad, or laudable in themselves, is self-enjoyment. Insomuch that they look upon virtue and vice, righteousness and wickedness, with the same eye, and their fondness or aversion for both is alike, as their different degrees appear to be the means to enhance and prolong the enjoyment of pleasure, or to lessen and shorten those pleasures. Thus any virtue, while it is kept within such bounds as may render it subservient to the pleasurable degrees of vice, will meet with no opposition from them; on the contrary, they will even commend it. But the moment it becomes a restraint to vice in moderation (if I may be allowed to make use of terms adequate to their system) from that moment it gives offence, and they put in their caveat, "Be not righteous over-much." In like manner, vice, while confined to certain limits, which rather improve than obstruct pleasures, is with them a desirable good; but no sooner does it launch out into any depth, sufficient to drown and diminish the relish of those pleasures, than they declare open war against it; "Be not over-much wicked." And the reason they assign for their opposition in both cases, is the same: "why shouldst thou destroy thyself? Why shouldst thou die before thy time?" Such is the prudence of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Such the maxims of these refined libertines, so much the more dangerous as they are less obvious; so much the more insinuating, as they are removed from certain extravagancies capable of shocking every man who has the least sense and delicacy. O Lord, how true is it, that the sons of darkness are wiser in their generation than the sons of light! You are not then, beloved in the Lord, to imagine that your greatest opposition, in struggling for perfect righteousness, is to come from profligates, from men whose enormous vices create horror even to themselves: no, your most dangerous, most formidable enemies, are the kind of men I have painted to you, who render vice relishable with a mixture of apparent virtue, and cloath wickedness in the apparel of righteousness: "Beware of them, for they come to you in the cloathing of sheep, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." This perverse generation will ensnare you into ungodliness, by seeming oppositions to vice, and allow you to swallow the seemings of virtue and righteousness like an emetic, only to puke forth the reality of them. They paint black, white, and the white they convert into black. Not content with seeming what they are not, they labour to make you, what they are. Righteousness and wickedness they interweave in an artful tissue, capable of deceiving the very elect, and difficult for the most discerning among them to unravel; as alms-giving and avarice, pride and humility, temperance and luxury, are dextrously blended together; while as mutual curbs to each other, they combine to stem the tide of impediments to worldly enjoyment, which might flow from extraordinary degrees on either side. Thus "Almsgiving (you are told) is very excellent," and you believe the proposition, without knowing the particular sense it is spoken in, which is, that alms-giving is an excellent curb upon avarice, by preserving a rich man from such a superlative love of money as deprives him of the self-enjoyment of it. And upon the strength of this belief, the worldly-minded man, who labours to deceive you, gains credit enough with you to establish this maxim, that all superlative degrees of alms-giving, are great sins, and that a man must never sell all he has and give it to the poor, because some may have families of their own, and ought to make sufficient provision for them, according to that proverb, "Charity begins at home;" when no one, at least scarce any one, is wise enough to know, when he has a sufficiency. O Lord, which are we to believe, these worldlings, or thee? If thou dost deceive us, why dost thou threaten us with punishments, if we do not heed thee? And if the world is deceitful, shall we not flee from it to cleave to thee? "Pride is a great sin" even with these worldlings, inasmuch as the external excesses of it, may obstruct the way to many ambitious terminations of view, and its internal agitation; are the destruction of that peace, to which even self-love aspires; besides, the frequent extravagancy of its motions may not only be prejudicial to health, but a shortner of life. And, therefore, no wonder they should object against it, "Be not over much wicked: why shouldst thou die before thy time?" For this reason, they look upon a little mixture of humility to be not only commendable, but even necessary to curb the extravagant fallies of an over-bearing pride. But then a superlative degree of humility, that is, humility free from the least tincture of pride or vanity, which is the same with them, as "an over-strained humility, is a fault as well as folly;" because, forsooth, it is an expediment to the self-enjoyment of the world and its pleasures; "All christians must have to do with some vanities, or else they must needs go out of the world indeed; for the world itself is all over vanity." Tis nothing, therefore, surprising, my brethren, to see a man of this cast of mind making a vain ostentation of his little superficial acquaintance, with the ancient Greeks and Romans. What is this but acting conformably to his own principle, that "all christians must have to do with some vanities?" And shall we wonder to hear such a one prefer their writings, to those of an apostle; or be astonished to see him wound the apostle with raillery, through your sides, for wishing to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified? No, with him it is consistency to laugh and reprove you out of the perfection of righteousness, which, however he may play with terms, is with him the same as being righteous over-much; but with you it would be inconsistency, who ought to know no difference between being righteous, and living in a perpetual, habitual desire of being superlatively so. It is no more then, than you ought to expect to hear such advocates for the world cry out to you, "Be not righteous over-much: why should you destroy yourselves?" But, O Lord, surely this is not the same voice which tells us, that unless we humble ourselves like unto children, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, and that he is greatest there, who humbles himself the most like a child! But what will not men advance who are drunk with passion, and intoxicated with self-love? "The vice of intemperance in eating, and drinking, is plain to every body," they own. And, therefore, they give it up as an excess which cannot but tend to the impairing of health, and shortening of life: nay, it drowns the very relish of pleasure in actual eating and drinking. Hence will every refined debauchee exclaim against it with Dr. Trapp: "Be not over much wicked: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Little sobriety, say they, is requisite to give a zest to luxury and worldly pleasures. But too much of it is too much, "to eat nothing but bread and herbs, and drink nothing but water, unless there be a particular reason for it (such perhaps as Doctor Cheyne may assign) is folly at best, (that is, even though it be done for Christ’s sake) therefore no virtue:" "Be not then righteous over-much, why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" And if you should answer these carnally-minded men with the words of the apostle, Rom. 8. "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: For if we live after the flesh, we shall die: but if we, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live." If you answer them thus, they will tell you, "this is teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." And it will be to as little purpose to answer them, with what St. Paul says elsewhere (Rom. 14:17.) "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost:" They will not blush to tell you, that "our blessed Saviour came eating and drinking, nay worked a miracle to make wine (at an entertainment) when it is plain there had been more drank than was necessary." To such lengths does the love of the world hurry these self-fond, merry-making worldlings! Tell them of self-denial, they will not hear you, it is an encroachment upon the pleasures of life, and may shorten it of a few days, which you are never sure of possessing; it is being "righteous over-much: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Jesus, you will say, tells us (John 12:25.) "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." But this and the like, they will inform you, "are hyperbolical phrases." Now what signifies minding Jesus, when he speaks hyperbolically, that is, speaks more than is strictly true. Yet, O Lord Jesus, grant us to mind thee, whatever these worldlings may say; remind us, that if any man will come after thee, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow thee! O how enlarging is it to the soul, to take up the cross of Christ and follow him! But you are charged, ye beloved lovers of perfect righteousness, with extravagances. You allow of "no sort of recreation or diversion; nothing but an universal mortification and self-denial; no pleasure but from religion only:" you teach "that the bodily appetites must not be in the least degree gratified, any farther than is absolutely necessary to keep body and soul together, and mankind in being: No allowances are to be made for melancholy misfortunes, or human infirmity: grief must be cured only by prayer;" (a horrid grievance this, to such as think prayer burdensome at best) "To divert it by worldly amusements is carnal." A heavy charge this: but left it should seem so only to those carnal persons, who are resolved to give way to their carnal appetites; what you look upon at advisable only, these perverters of truth insinuate to be looked upon by you as indispensable duties. And left prevarication should fail, down-right falshoods must be placed to your account, "so that to taste an agreeable fruit, or smell to a rose, must be unlawful with you," however you disown it. But O, my beloved christians, be not discouraged from the pursuit of perfect righteousness by these or such vile misrepresentations. For "blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for the sake of Christ Jesus. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you." Thus far, then, may suffice to shew clearly with what dangerous views the worldly-minded men, whom Solomon personates in the text before us, lay siege to your souls in fair speeches. What I have said, is enough to convince you, that their character is that of the beast, whom St. John, in the Revelations, "saw coming up from the sea (that is, the flagitious world) with seven heads." And what shall we say of a man, a clergyman, who teaches, and is an advocate for their perverse doctrines? May we not, nay, must we not, for the glory of God, and your good, inform you, that he is a "Teacher and approver of worldly maxims." May I not, nay, must I not, give you this caution with the royal preacher: "When he speaketh fair, believe him nor, for there are seven abominations in his heart?" But how different is the character I have given you, from the character of the persons to whom the text under consideration is spoken: that is, the character of all such, as, like you, are resolved never to rest, ’till they rest in Christ Jesus. To shew this, I shall now pass to my third point. III. To what sort of persons does Solomon in the character of a worldling address himself, when he says, "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Not to the wicked, ’tis plain; for besides that it would have been an unnecessary precaution, he turns to these in the next verse with another kind of warning, which however has some analogy with this. "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish, why shouldst thou die before thy time?" Was it then to the righteous, in a common way; that is, to such as content themselves with the observance of the absolute essentials of God’s laws? Surely our adversaries will not allow this, unless they be of opinion, that to be righteous at all, is to be righteous over-much. And yet it cannot possibly be supposed that the persons spoken to, are men perfectly righteous; since, as I proved to you, in the introduction of this discourse, till we come up to the perfection of our heavenly father, we can never be righteous enough, much less perfectly righteous: wherefore, as in this life, men cannot attain to the perfection of their heavenly father, it follows in course that the persons here spoken to, cannot be men perfectly righteous, there being no such men existing; for as St. John saith, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Alas, O Lord, when shall we be delivered from the body of this death? It remains, that the persons spoken to, in the text, are such only, as persisting stedfastly in a firm adherence to all the essential laws of God, content not themselves with the practice of common virtues in a common degree, but live in a perpetual habitude of desires, struggles, and yearnings towards an intimate union with Christ, the perfection of righteousness. They are not of the number of those righteous with indifference, who would fain blend the service of God and mammon, would fain have Christ and the world for their masters, and halting between two, like the children of Israel of old, with their faces to heaven, and their hearts to the earth, are neither hot nor cold. Alas, would they were cold or hot! But "because they are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, the Lord shall spew them out of his mouth." Not so the persons spoken to in my text; not so you, O beloved in God, who having shaken off the world and worldly affections, to run the more swiftly after righteousness, hate your own lives for the sake of Christ. Happy, happy are all you, who put on our Lord Jesus, and with him the new man! "You are the true circumcision which worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." What wonder then, christians? To you I speak, all ye lovers and strugglers after the perfect righteousness of your divine Master Christ; what wonder is it, that you should be charged with enthusiasm, with folly, with fanaticism and madness? Were not the apostles so before you, when they preached Christ Jesus? Nay were they not reputed drunk with wine? Can you be amazed at it in an age, "when all manner of vice abounds to a degree almost unheard of," when the land is full of adulterers, and because of swearing the land mourneth. O how is the faithful city become an harlot! my heart within me is broken, because of the clergy, all my bones shake? I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome; because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness, perverted by this deluded clergyman. When the clergy, whom Christ has appointed to teach his people "to walk before him and be perfect," become teachers of worldly maxims, what can be expected from the laity? It is notorious, that for the moralizing iniquity of the priest, the land mourns. They have preached and lived many sincere persons out of the church of England. They endeavour to make you vain: (as the prophets did in the days of Jeremiah) they speak a vision out of their own mouth, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. In a word, "both prophet and priest are prophane, and do wickedness in the very house of the Lord." Nay, they say still to them who despise the Lord, The Lord hath said, ye shall have peace; and they say to every one who walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. Such is the language, my beloved lovers of christian perfection, which the indolent, earthly-minded, pleasure-taking clergy of the church of England, use to strengthen the hands of evil-doers, that none may return from his wickedness. Such is the doctrine of the letter-learned divine, who has dipped his pen in gall, to decry perfect righteousness, and to delude you from, it with a false application of that text so grosly misunderstood by him: "Be not righteous over-much, neither be thou over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" But suffer not yourselves, my fellow-christians, to be deluded by him. For as I have already shewn to you, he is grosly (Lord grant he was not maliciously) mistaken in his manner of explaining this text; and so far from making a right application of it according to the wise, the experienced Solomon’s intention, he acts the character of a vain libertine, full of self-love, and earthly desires, whom Solomon but personated, to ridicule. But the doctor by realizing that character in himself, becomes the teacher and approver of worldly maxims, which he applies to you, on purpose to destroy in you the yearnings after perfect righteousness in Christ. May I not then, nay, must I not warn you, my beloved, that this man is an enemy to perfect righteous in men through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ? O that my head was an ocean, and my eyes fountains of tears, to weep night and day for this poor creature, this hood-winked member of the clergy. Pray you, O true christians, pray and sigh mightily to the Lord; importune him in the behalf of this erring pastor; pray that he would vouchsafe to open the eyes, and touch the stubborn heart of this scribe, that he may become better instructed. Otherwise, as the Lord said by the mouth of his true prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, I will feed him with wormwood, and make him drink the water of gall; for from him is prophaneness gone forth into all the land." This good, however, hath he done by attempting to shew the folly, sin, and danger of that which he miscalls being righteous over-much, that is, being superlatively righteous, in desire and habitual struggles; he has thereby given me the occasion to shew you, brethren, in the course of this sermon, the great and real folly, sin, and danger of not being righteous enough; which, perhaps, I should never have thought of doing, had not his false doctrine pointed out to me the necessity of doing it. Thus does the all-wise providence of God, make use of the very vices of men to draw good out of evil; and chuse their very errors to confound falsehood and make way for truth. Though this should be more than our angry adversary intended, yet, Lord, reward him according to his works: and suffer him no longer to be hasty in his words, that we may have room to entertain better hopes of him for the future. Blessed be God for sending you better guides! I am convinced it was his divine will: our dear fellow-creature, Doctor Trapp, falling into such errors, has given so great a shock to the sound religion of christian perfection, that unless I had opposed him, I verily believe the whole flock who listened to his doctrine, would have been scattered abroad like sheep having no shepherd. "But woe to ye scribes and pharisees! Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, faith the Lord." Full well I know that this sermon will not be pleasing to my poor peevish adversary; but correction is not to pleasure but to profit: few children can be brought willingly to kiss the rod which rebuketh them; though, when they become of riper understanding, they will bless the hand that guided it. Thus shall this angry man, I trust, thank me one day for reproving him, when his reason shall be restored to him by the light of the holy spirit. O Lord, grant thou this light unto him, and suffer him to see with what bowels of pity and tenderness I love him in thee, even while I chasten him. Neither am I insensible, brethren, how offensive my words will be to worldlings in general, who loving falsehood better than truth, and the flesh before the spirit, will still prefer the doctor’s sin-soothing doctrines to the plain gospel verities preached by me. O how my soul pities them. But I have done my duty, I wash my hands, and am innocent of the blood of all. I have not sought to please my hearers, but have spoken plain truth though it should offend. For what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; and hope I shall ever do so. Not that I presume to think myself already perfect. But "I press forward towards the mark, for the prize of the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus." None of us, as I before told you, can boast of having attained the summit of perfection; though, he is the nearest to it, who is widest from the appetites of the flesh, and he stands the highest, who is the lowliest in his own esteem: wherefore, as many of us as have made any advances towards Christ and his kingdom, "whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Walk not then, brethren, according to the ways of the world: but be followers of Christ together with me. And if any, even an angel of light, should presume to teach you any other gospel than that which I have here taught you, let him be accursed. "For you will find many walking, like such of whom I have told you already, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly: and whose glory is in their shame, for they mind worldly things. But your conversation is in heaven, from whence also you look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change your vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue even all things unto himself," even the stubborn heart of our perverse adversary. Which God of his infinite mercy grant, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) 7 Impactful Insights for Servant Leadership 7 Impactful insights for Servant Leadership in Business or at Home As leaders, in a business environment or at home with your children, it’s important that your leadership toolbox is full and robust so that you can access the tools that you need in any given situation. If you’re familiar with the concept of Situational Leadership, then you’ll understand practical application of the “when and how” to apply certain leadership tools. If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then your protégés will potentially learn how to lead by responding to your continuous example of anger and rigidity. While we can agree that there are situations when the hammer is required (as your child is chasing the ball towards the traffic-filled street, when a military regiment is required to move quickly, or when a potential safety mishap is to be averted), it is not the preferred tool to be employed in all situations. Where do we first begin to learn to lead? Sometimes we learn without even knowing that we’re learning. Our parents, guardians, and teachers were our first examples that we learned from and you can take the good attributes from them, and throw away the not-so-good attributes from them. As a leader, I’m continuously evaluating myself for effectiveness and often reflect on what should be intuitive and ask myself simple questions for those that have others within their sphere of care such as parents, pastors, or business leaders. If you call yourself a Christian, and if you have direct or indirect leadership of others, you have to consider the following questions: “How would Jesus lead in this situation?” What does the Servant Leader’s toolbox look like? “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Luke 22:24-27 ESV 1. Love How important is it to have love in your toolbox? It’s so important, that Jesus highlights this as the greatest over all of the commandments. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22:37-40 But how are we to lead others from a position of love? Love compels us to do things that are often out of the ordinary, or are beyond the capacities or expectations of our role. In the business environment, this might pertain to a situation where a person needs to leave work, for one reason or another for what is only revealed as a pressing personal issue. However, the deadline is rapidly approaching and that person is one of the only people that can answer the data call. What do you do? Do you decide that the needs of the business are greater than the needs of the employee, or do you let love lead and excuse the person knowing that the data call will be critically impacted? As a parent, this is easier as we love our children as parents do but as a business leader, this might be an uncomfortable area for you as you learn to love your subordinates. Keep love at the ready in your leadership toolbox and relationships will be deeply rooted in trust and respect, and work productivity can flourish as a result. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 ESV 2. Lead With (or from) Weakness We want our subordinates or protégés to see us as confident and strong leaders, exuding qualities and traits from which they can emulate. Any signs of weakness can reduce their respect for you, as they become disappointed as the chinks in your armor are revealed, right? Wrong! Studies have shown that in a work environment, subordinates are more likely to respond to a personable and human boss that can admit and take ownership of his or her mistakes publicly and with humility. This fosters an environment of inclusion and productivity is directly impacted in a positive manner. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV  https://hbr.org/2014/05/the-best-leaders-are-humble-leaders 3. Empathize From the time that we are children, God has blessed us with a natural ability to care for one another, on an internal and often subconscious level. We are all connected through this internal bond that can be associated with the “mother’s instinct” where “mama bear or papa bear” are revealed when their cubs are found to be in dangerous situations. We place ourselves in the paws of our cubs, or the feet of others as we empathize with them in their given situation, whatever that may be. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13 But how are we to lead with empathy? We have deadlines to meet and requirements to uphold. Adults are adults and professionals are expected to carry their own weight. We’re not running daycare centers (well, maybe we are but you get the point). Does empathy and compassion have any room in a production or military environment? Should it? Let’s “take-it-to-the-book” and see what our leadership examples have shown us: “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 As we serve others, we’re to do so from a position of empathy, where regardless of the business requirements, establishing and fostering the human element, as with a “family first” regimen, workers are more likely to support the infrastructure and provide quality workmanship and pride in delivered product as a result. 4. Sympathize Empathy and sympathy go hand-in-hand. Jesus compels us to address each other’s needs and carry the burdens of others on a personal level. Where we’re stumbling and find ourselves in a position of need, we’re required to help each other through whatever circumstances those may be. “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” John 3:17 ESV But how are we to lead from a position of sympathy? We can’t be expected to physically help out everybody in our shop through situations of need, can we? Everybody arrives to work with their own sets of struggles that they’re working through, how can I help them all and still be a productive leader? The answer may be simple, and may not require much time but for the body of the workforce, as leaders we have one crucial sympathetic tool in our toolbox, and that is the power of prayer! Pray for your coworkers, your students, your flock, your soldiers, and your children. With a sympathetic ear, hear their trials and pray for them individually and collectively. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 5. Wisdom The Bible tells us that if we’re to seek with our whole hearts, then we’ll find our answers there, within the text. Wisdom and discernment not only assist us in making critical ethical and moral decisions, but if we rely on wisdom before we react, then our ability to lead others through every situation becomes more predictable, credible, and sustainable. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Proverbs 3:13-18 ESV As somebody that serves their followership by leading with wisdom in their toolbox, we then create an environment of approachability and an open forum for creativity and ideas to flow freely through the workplace. This methodology impacts a culture and the work culture that you create through your leadership traits then permeates through all functions and elements of the business, or church, or battleground, or household. 6. Active Listening Have you ever heard the expression about having two ears and one mouth for a reason? Active listening can aid in your servant leadership attributes by allowing your responses to be in alignment with the needs of the persons or body that you’re serving. Listening is a vitally important tool to have in our leadership toolbox as it’s one of the first things that we’re taught as children. “Pay attention” or “listen to me” are words that I heard often in my early childhood and leadership development. We want our protégés to hear, and practically apply our instructions in order to accomplish tasks. And with that reasoning in mind, we’re to offer them the same benefit by actively listening to their needs, hearing and affirming their circumstances (empathy and/or sympathy), and enacting a course of action to assist in the resolution of their needs. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19 ESV 7. Offer Sage Advice You know what they say about advice and opinions? Everybody has an opinion and with regards to advice, you’ll want to consider the source. As leaders, we are the source! So for those to consider, listen to and follow your advice, you’ll want to establish credibility by lovingly offering sage advice to your employees, soldiers, protégés, or children. The apostle Paul offers: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 To have the above tools for your toolbox and the knowledge of each is just one element to the entirety of your leadership strategy. The other elements of your leadership strategy arrive during your “boots-on-ground” real world practical application of tool usage in your work, home, church, or military environments. The ability to incorporate critical thinking skills and discern the tools to employ in dynamic and fluid environments will help to sharpen you as a leader, and benefit greatly those in your charge. Until next time, think of ways where you can be of service to those that you lead. Shalom. The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail? The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail? 8 Tools to Leadership Success Knowing the landscape of what becomes well rounded leadership is only half the battle. In most cases, we fight ourselves and our cultural upbringing along the way. As a result, there can be gaps, or chinks in our armor. Our backgrounds and experiences can help or hinder in our abilities to lead others. Have you ever completed a SWOT analysis 1 on yourself? If you have, you know that the “W” is for Weaknesses. While we’d like to assume that we make very little mistakes and take calculated and well thought out mitigated risks, the truth of the matter is that upwards of 40 percent of leaders fail 2 within the first 18 months and have a gap in their toolbox in at least one of the following areas. What are your weaknesses? How do you know?  SWOT Analysis: acronym (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.  Staffing Talk: http://staffingtalk.com/40-percent-new-leaders-fail-within-first-18-months 1. Organization — Understand Where You Fit! Knowing the landscape of the organization is also a large part of your leadership effectiveness. I call it “swimming through the muck.” In a large corporation, knowing your organizational structure, especially if you’re a “small fish in a big pond,” is paramount to being effective in your role. In some businesses, there are business areas, mission areas, business units, and then the “enterprise” corporate level Leadership Team. “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15 ESV) Knowing where you fit, and understanding your customer base, and who you support in your role are of vital importance in your ability to be an effective leader. In leadership, having the wisdom of placement, and knowing “who’s who in the zoo” assists in your abilities to lead others. Proverbs 3:13-18 (ESV) says: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace....” 2. Be Concise The ability to provide specific direction to your subordinates will prevent them from floundering and wasting time. It also helps to keep up morale! Studies have shown that subordinates are more productive, and effective in a mission driven environment however if that mission is unclear, then they’re left potentially aimless and working in other directions rather than those which are intended. The “Commanders Intent” needs to be clear and concise. In addition to a clear vision or mission statement, subordinates need to have an “action plan” that shows them how to support the mission or vision within their role. The action plan, and what can be a workable list can also aid in evaluating individual performance against requirements. Set your team up for success! In your walk as a Christian, how do you know the direction that God has for you? Have you studied His word and discerned your followership? What role in your personal leadership development does God play? Have you considered His word as you exemplify your own leadership role? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) 3. Equip Your Team As you’ve clearly communicated your intent, or the intent of the organization with regards to the vision and mission, have you set your subordinates up for success by equipping them with the tools, equipment, and accesses that they’ll require in order to perform effectively in their role? What do they need in order to carry out the mission? Will they require training, special certifications, gear or supplies to begin the mission? Once equipped, have you thought about how they’re to be sustained in their work environment? While Napoleon said, “An Army marches on its stomach,” Jesus says: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 ESV) 4. Be Ethical This should go without saying but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the business decisions of corporate leaders, military leaders, and the like. One of the biggest career killers in senior military leadership is in fraternization, or sexual harassment. In the corporate world, the darkness is often brought to the light when the unethical train begins to run freely down the tracks. Make a decision already! But do it ethically. There’s a time where you have to take your emotion out of the equation and consider ethical decision making reasoning approaches to weigh the potential outputs of your decision. Are you running through the ethical decision making approaches, for the tough ethical dilemmas of teleological (costs vs. benefits), ontological (rules, rights, justice) and deontological (virtues) reasoning? The Lord will guide in your ethical decision making. Are you listening before you act? “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 ESV) 5. Embrace the Culture Through Diversity, Equality, and Tolerance One of the greatest benefits that we have as leaders, whether in a corporate business environment or out on the battlefield, is diversity of the labor pool! Age, ethnicity, education, technical background, and the like can help to add value to a robust team of performers! Be careful to check your cultural biases at the door for God does the greatest things with the most unlikely people. “And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:32 ESV) So put off your first impressions and give everybody a fair shake. Assess, assign, monitor, trust, and reinforce and your teams will perform like pistons in a vehicle: powerful and moving in a manner that advances the mission. 6. Empowerment This brings us to empowerment. Empowerment is one of the most beneficial tools that you can ever carry in your leadership toolbox. Not only is it liberating for the subordinate, but it also encourages them to undertake acts of leadership implied or specified in their newly empowered role! Empowerment gives your subordinates confidence to make decisions on their own, and to potentially lead others as they develop into young leaders themselves. Giving a subordinate an element of autonomy greatly assists in their inherent development and maturity in the work force. If you find that a subordinate is constantly questioning your decisions or leadership motives, perhaps making them a “trusted agent” by empowering them and including them in the solution decision making process is the answer. Jesus says: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20 ESV) 7. Empathy Self-check: is the hammer the biggest and most utilized tool in your leadership toolbox? If so, you may be missing out on some critical developmental opportunities not only for yourself, but for those that you mentor. Leading with empathy doesn’t make you soft, it makes you approachable and human. Have you ever had a boss or mentor that led by fear? How effective were they and how effective were you in your capacity to complete assigned tasks? Empathy will encourage your subordinates to be open and honest in a trusted environment without fear of repercussion and will improve and enhance workplace morale. Having an empathetic boss, or being an empathetic leader reflects Christ in areas where perhaps those attributes are lacking. Not only are you charged with the knowledge of the walk, but the enactment of the walk. In one Biblical example, the Apostle Paul compels us to: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 ESV) 8. Identity First and foremost we must never forget, that our identity does not lie within our vocational position. While our working role is that of a corporate or military leader, our identity is not found there. Our identity is not in the clothes that we wear, the watch on our wrist, the car that we drive, our golf swing, our experiences, our mistakes, our successes, or other places where we place our value. Our identity is only to be found as a true and loving child of the one true living God. From that, and only that standpoint, can we begin to shape our thoughts, our actions, and our decisions to go forth and embody the attributes of Christ and display for those with whom we come into contact. As leaders, we are held to a higher regard, which encompasses greater responsibilities, to exude leadership and to lead by example. As Christ believers and followers, we must consider and give credence to the Lord of Lords, the one who puts breath in our lungs each and every second of every moment of every day. Shalom. Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19 Comers Ofttimes Afraid That Christ Will Not Receive Them OBSERVATION SECOND.—I come now to the second observation propounded to be spoken to, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. I told you that this observation is implied in the text; and I gather it, First, From the largeness and openness of the promise: “I will in no wise cast out.” For had there not been a proneness in us to “fear casting out,” Christ needed not to have, as it were, waylaid our fear, as he doth by this great and strange expression, “In no wise;” “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the discouraging of their own souls. For this word, “in no wise,” cutteth the throat of all objections; and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to help the faith that is mixed with unbelief. And it is, as it were, the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon the unworthiness that thou findest in thee, that this promise will not assoil. But I am a great sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am an old sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am a backsliding sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have sinned against light, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have no good thing to bring with me, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that still this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them. But I say, what need it be, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, “that Jesus Christ will cast them out?” Second, I will give you now two instances that seem to imply the truth of this observation. In the ninth of Matthew, at the second verse, you read of a man that was sick of the palsy; and he was coming to Jesus Christ, being borne upon a bed by his friends: he also was coming himself, and that upon another account than any of his friends were aware of; even for the pardon of sins, and the salvation of his soul. Now, so soon as ever he was come into the presence of Christ, Christ bids him “be of good cheer.” It seems then, his heart was fainting; but what was the cause of his fainting? Not his bodily infirmity, for the cure of which his friends did bring him to Christ; but the guilt and burden of his sins, for the pardon of which himself did come to him; therefore he proceeds, “Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” I say, Christ saw him sinking in his mind, about how it would go with his most noble part; and therefore, first, he applies himself to him upon that account. For though his friends had faith enough as to the cure of the body, yet he himself had little enough as to the cure of his soul: therefore Christ takes him up as a man falling down, saying, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” That about the Prodigal seems pertinent also to this matter: “When he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.” Heartily spoken; but how did he perform his promise? I think not so well as he promised to do; and my ground for my thoughts is, because his father, so soon as he was come to him, fell upon his neck and kissed him; implying, methinks, as if the prodigal by this time was dejected in his mind; and therefore his father gives him the most sudden and familiar token of reconciliation. And kisses were of old time often used to remove doubts and fears. Thus Laban and Esau kiss Jacob. Thus Joseph kissed his brethren; and thus also David kissed Absalom (Gen 31:55; 33:1–4; 48:9, 10; 2 Sam 14:33). It is true, as I said, at first setting out, he spake heartily, as sometimes sinners also do in their beginning to come to Jesus Christ; but might not he, yea, in all probability he had, between the first step he took, and the last, by which he accomplished that journey, many a thought, both this way and that; as whether his father would receive him or no? As thus: I said, “I would go to my Father.” But how, if when I come at him he should ask me, Where I have all this while been? What must I say then? Also, if he ask me, What is become of the portion of goods that he gave me? What shall I say then? If he asks me, Who have been my companions? What shall I say then? If he also shall ask me, What hath been my preferment in all the time of my absence from him? What shall I say then? Yea, and if he ask me, Why I came home no sooner? What shall I say then? Thus, I say, might he reason with himself, and being conscious to himself, that he could give but a bad answer to any of these interrogatories, no marvel if he stood in need first of all of a kiss from his father’s lips. For had he answered the first in truth, he must say, I have been a haunter of taverns and ale-houses; and as for my portion, I spent it in riotous living; my companions were whores and drabs; as for my preferment, the highest was, that I became a hog-herd; and as for my not coming home till now, could I have made shift to have staid abroad any longer, I had not lain at thy feet for mercy now. I say, these things considered, and considering, again, how prone poor man is to give way, when truly awakened, to despondings and heart misgivings, no marvel if he did sink in his mind, between the time of his first setting out, and that of his coming to his Father. Third, But, thirdly, methinks I have for the confirmation of this truth the consent of all the saints that are under heaven, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. Question. But what should be the reason? I will answer to this question thus: 1. It is not for want of the revealed will of God, that manifesteth grounds for the contrary, for of that there is a sufficiency; yea, the text itself hath laid a sufficient foundation for encouragement, for them that are coming to Jesus Christ. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” 2. It is not for want of any invitation to come, for that is full and plain. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). 3. Neither is it for want of a manifestation of Christ’s willingness to receive, as those texts above named, with that which follows, declareth, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). 4. It is not for want of exceeding great and precious promises to receive them that come. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:17, 18). 5. It is not for want of solemn oath and engagement to save them that come. “For-because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself-that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:13–18). 6. Neither is it for want of great examples of God’s mercy, that have come to Jesus Christ, of which we read most plentifully in the Word. Therefore, it must be concluded, it is for want of that which follows. What it is that prevents the Coming to Christ First, It is for want of the knowledge of Christ. Thou knowest but little of the grace and kindness that is in the heart of Christ; thou knowest but little of the virtue and merit of his blood; thou knowest but little of the willingness that is in his heart to save thee; and this is the reason of the fear that ariseth in thy heart, and that causeth thee to doubt that Christ will not receive thee. Unbelief is the daughter of Ignorance. Therefore Christ saith, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25). Slowness of heart to believe, flows from thy foolishness in the things of Christ; this is evident to all that are acquainted with themselves, and are seeking after Jesus Christ. The more ignorance, the more unbelief. The more knowledge of Christ, the more faith. “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee” (Psa 9:10). He, therefore, that began to come to Christ but the other day, and hath yet but little knowledge of him, he fears that Christ will not receive him. But he that hath been longer acquainted with him, he “is strong, and hath overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13). When Joseph’s brethren came into Egypt to buy corn, it is said, “Joseph knew his brethren, but his brethren knew not him.” What follows? Why, great mistrust of heart about their speeding well; especially, if Joseph did but answer them roughly, calling them spies, and questioning their truth and the like. And observe it, so long as their ignorance about their brother remained with them, whatsoever Joseph did, still they put the worse sense upon it. For instance, Joseph upon a time bids the steward of his house bring them home, to dine with him, to dine even in Joseph’s house. And how is this resented by them? Why, they are afraid. “And the men were afraid, because they were brought unto” their brother “Joseph’s house.” And they said, He seeketh occasion against us, and will fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses (Gen 42, 43). What! afraid to go to Joseph’s house? He was their brother; he intended to feast them; to feast them, and to feast with them. Ah! but they were ignorant that he was their brother. And so long as their ignorance lasted, so long their fear terrified them. Just thus it is with the sinner that but of late is coming to Jesus Christ. He is ignorant of the love and pity that is in Christ to coming sinners. Therefore he doubts, therefore he fears, therefore his heart misgives him. Coming sinner, Christ inviteth thee to dine and sup with him. He inviteth thee to a banquet of wine, yea, to come into his wine-cellar, and his banner over thee shall be love (Rev 3:20; Song 2:5). But I doubt it, says the sinner: but, it is answered, he calls thee, invites thee to his banquet, flagons, apples; to his wine, and to the juice of his pomegranate. “O, I fear, I doubt, I mistrust, I tremble in expectation of the contrary!” Come out of the man, thou dastardly ignorance! Be not afraid, sinner, only believe; “He that cometh to Christ he will in no wise cast out.” Let the coming sinner, therefore, seek after more of the good knowledge of Jesus Christ. Press after it, seek it as silver, and dig for it as for hid treasure. This will embolden thee; this will make thee wax stronger and stronger. “I know whom I have believed,” I know him, said Paul; and what follows? Why, “and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day” (2 Tim 1:12). What had Paul committed to Jesus Christ? The answer is, He had committed to him his soul. But why did he commit his soul to him? Why, because he knew him. He knew him to be faithful, to be kind. He knew he would not fail him, nor forsake him; and therefore he laid his soul down at his feet, and committed it to him, to keep against that day. But, Second, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may be also a consequent of thy earnest and strong desires after thy salvation by him. For this I observe, that strong desires to have, are attended with strong fears of missing. What man most sets his heart upon, and what his desires are most after, he ofttimes most fears he shall not obtain. So the man, the ruler of the synagogue, had a great desire that his daughter should live; and that desire was attended with fear, that she should not. Wherefore, Christ saith unto him, “Be not afraid” (Mark 5:36). Suppose a young man should have his heart much set upon a virgin to have her to wife, if ever he fears he shall not obtain her, it is when he begins to love; now, thinks he, somebody will step in betwixt my love and the object of it; either they will find fault with my person, my estate, my conditions, or something! Now thoughts begin to work; she doth not like me, or something. And thus it is with the soul at first coming to Jesus Christ, thou lovest him, and thy love produceth jealousy, and that jealousy ofttimes begets fears. Now thou fearest the sins of thy youth, the sins of thine old age, the sins of thy calling, the sins of thy Christian duties, the sins of thine heart, or something; thou thinkest something or other will alienate the heart and affections of Jesus Christ from thee; thou thinkest he sees something in thee, for the sake of which he will refuse thy soul. But be content, a little more knowledge of him will make thee take better heart; thy earnest desires shall not be attended with such burning fears; thou shalt hereafter say, “This is my infirmity” (Psa 77:10). Thou art sick of love, a very sweet disease, and yet every disease has some weakness attending of it: yet I wish this distemper, if it be lawful to call it so, was more epidemical. Die of this disease I would gladly do; it is better than life itself, though it be attended with fears. But thou criest, I cannot obtain: well, be not too hasty in making conclusions. If Jesus Christ had not put his finger in at the hole of the lock, thy bowels would not have been troubled for him (Song 5:4). Mark how the prophet hath it, “They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west, they shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria” (Hosea 11:10, 11). When God roars (as ofttimes the coming soul hears him roar), what man that is coming can do otherwise than tremble? (Amos 3:8). But trembling he comes: “He sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas” (Acts 16:29). Should you ask him that we mentioned but now, How long is it since you began to fear you should miss of this damsel you love so? The answer will be, Ever since I began to love her. But did you not fear it before? No, nor should I fear it now, but that I vehemently love her. Come, sinner, let us apply it: How long is it since thou began to fear that Jesus Christ will not receive thee? Thy answer is, Ever since I began to desire that he would save my soul. I began to fear, when I began to come; and the more my heart burns in desires after him, the more I feel my heart fear I shall not be saved by him. See now, did not I tell thee that thy fears were but the consequence of strong desires? Well, fear not, coming sinner, thousands of coming souls are in thy condition, and yet they will get safe into Christ’s bosom: “Say,” says Christ, “to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you” (Isa 35:4; 63:1). Third, Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee may arise from a sense of thine own unworthiness. Thou seest what a poor, sorry, wretched, worthless creature thou art; and seeing this, thou fearest Christ will not receive thee. Alas, sayest thou, I am the vilest of all men; a town-sinner, a ringleading sinner! I am not only a sinner myself, but have made others twofold worse the children of hell also. Besides, now I am under some awakenings and stirrings of mind after salvation, even now I find my heart rebellious, carnal, hard, treacherous, desperate, prone to unbelief, to despair: it forgetteth the Word; it wandereth; it runneth to the ends of the earth. There is not, I am persuaded, one in all the world that hath such a desperate wicked heart as mine is; my soul is careless to do good, but none more earnest to do that which is evil. Can such a one as I am, live in glory? Can a holy, a just, and a righteous God, once think (with honour to his name) of saving such a vile creature as I am? I fear it. Will he show wonders to such a dead dog as I am? I doubt it. I am cast out to the loathing of my person, yea, I loath myself; I stink in mine own nostrils. How can I then be accepted by a holy and sin-abhorring God? (Psa 38:5–7; Eze 11; 20:42, 44). Saved I would be; and who is there that would not, were they in my condition? Indeed, I wonder at the madness and folly of others, when I see them leap and skip so carelessly about the mouth of hell! Bold sinner, how darest thou tempt God, by laughing at the breach of his holy law? But alas! they are not so bad one way, but I am worse another: I wish myself were anybody but myself; and yet here again, I know not what to wish. When I see such as I believe are coming to Jesus Christ, O I bless them! But I am confounded in myself, to see how unlike, as I think, I am to every good man in the world. They can read, hear, pray, remember, repent, be humble, do everything better than so vile a wretch as I. I, vile wretch, am good for nothing but to burn in hell-fire, and when I think of that, I am confounded too! Thus the sense of unworthiness creates and heightens fears in the hearts of them that are coming to Jesus Christ; but indeed it should not; for who needs the physician but the sick? or who did Christ come into the world to save, but the chief of sinners? (Mark 2:17; 1 Tim 1:15). Wherefore, the more thou seest thy sins, the faster fly thou to Jesus Christ. And let the sense of thine own unworthiness prevail with thee yet to go faster. As it is with the man that carrieth his broken arm in a sling to the bone-setter, still as he thinks of his broken arm, and as he feels the pain and anguish, he hastens his pace to the man. And if Satan meets thee, and asketh, Whither goest thou? tell him thou art maimed, and art going to the Lord Jesus. If he objects thine own unworthiness, tell him, That even as the sick seeketh the physician; as he that hath broken bones seeks him that can set them; so thou art going to Jesus Christ for cure and healing for thy sin sick soul. But it ofttimes happeneth to him that flies for his life, he despairs of escaping, and therefore delivers himself up into the hand of the pursuer. But up, up, sinner; be of good cheer, Christ came to save the unworthy ones: be not faithless, but believe. Come away, man, the Lord Jesus calls thee, saying, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Fourth. Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee, may arise from a sense of the exceeding mercy of being saved; sometimes salvation is in the eyes of him that desires so great, so huge, so wonderful a thing, that the very thoughts of the excellency of it, engenders unbelief about obtaining it, in the heart of those that unfeignedly desire it. “Seemeth it to you,” saith David, “a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law?” (1 Sam 18:23). So the thoughts of the greatness and glory of the thing propounded, as heaven, eternal life, eternal glory, to be with God, and Christ, and angels; these are great things, things too good, saith the soul that is little in his own eyes; things too rich, saith the soul that is truly poor in spirit, for me. Besides, the Holy Ghost hath a way to greaten heavenly things to the understanding of the coming sinner; yea, and at the same time to greaten, too, the sin and unworthiness of that sinner. Now the soul staggeringly wonders, saying, What! to be made like angels, like Christ, to live in eternal bliss, joy, and felicity! This is for angels, and for them that can walk like angels! If a prince, a duke, an earl, should send (by the hand of his servant) for some poor, sorry, beggarly scrub, to take her for his master to wife, and the servant should come and say, My lord and master, such an one hath sent me to thee, to take thee to him to wife; he is rich, beautiful, and of excellent qualities; he is loving, meek, humble, well-spoken, &c. What now would this poor, sorry, beggarly creature think? What would she say? or how would she frame an answer? When king David sent to Abigail upon this account, and though she was a rich woman, yet she said, “Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (1 Sam 25:40, 41). She was confounded, she could not well tell what to say, the offer was so great, beyond what could in reason be expected. But suppose this great person should second his suit, and send to this sorry creature again, what would she say now? Would she not say, You mock me? But what if he affirms that he is in good earnest, and that his lord must have her to wife; yea, suppose he should prevail upon her to credit his message, and to address herself for her journey; yet, behold every thought of her pedigree confounds her; also her sense of want of beauty makes her ashamed; and if she doth but think of being embraced, the unbelief that is mixed with that thought whirls her into tremblings; and now she calls herself fool, for believing the messenger, and thinks not to go; if she thinks of being bold, she blushes; and the least thought that she shall be rejected, when she comes at him, makes her look as if she would give up the ghost. And is it a wonder, then, to see a soul that is drowned in the sense of glory and a sense of its own nothingness, to be confounded in itself, and to fear that the glory apprehended is too great, too good, and too rich, for such an one? That thing, heaven and eternal glory, is so great, and I that would have it, so small, so sorry a creature, that the thoughts of obtaining it confounds me. Thus, I say, doth the greatness of the things desired, quite dash and overthrow the mind of the desirer. O, it is too big! it is too big! it is too great a mercy! But, coming sinner, let me reason with thee. Thou sayest, it is too big, too great. Well, will things that are less satisfy thy soul? Will a less thing than heaven, than glory and eternal life, answer thy desires? No, nothing less; and yet I fear they are too big, and too good for me, ever to obtain. Well, as big and as good as they are, God giveth them to such as thou; they are not too big for God to give; no, not too big to give freely. Be content; let God give like himself; he is that eternal God, and giveth like himself. When kings give, they do not use to give as poor men do. Hence it is said, that Nabal made a feast in his house like the feast of a king; and again, “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto David” (1 Sam 25:36; 2 Sam 24:23). Now, God is a great king, let him give like a king; nay, let him give like himself, and do thou receive like thyself. He hath all, and thou hast nothing. God told his people of old, that he would save them in truth and in righteousness, and that they should return to, and enjoy the land, which before, for their sins, had spewed them out; and then adds, under a supposition of their counting the mercy too good, or too big, “If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech 8:6). As who should say, they are now in captivity, and little in their own eyes; therefore they think the mercy of returning to Canaan is a mercy too marvellously big for them to enjoy; but if it be so in their eyes, it is not so in mine; I will do for them like God, if they will but receive my bounty like sinners. Coming sinner, God can give his heavenly Canaan, and the glory of it, unto thee; yea, none ever had them but as a gift, a free gift. He hath given us his Son, “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). It was not the worthiness of Abraham, or Moses, or David or Peter, or Paul, but the mercy of God, that made them inheritors of heaven. If God thinks thee worthy, judge not thyself unworthy; but take it, and be thankful. And it is a good sign he intends to give thee, if he hath drawn out thy heart to ask. “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart; thou wilt cause thine ear to hear” (Psa 10:17). When God is said to incline his ear, it implies an intention to bestow the mercy desired. Take it therefore; thy wisdom will be to receive, not sticking at thy own unworthiness. It is said, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.” Again, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people” (1 Sam 2:8; Psa 113:7, 8). You see also when God made a wedding for his Son, he called not the great, nor the rich, nor the mighty; but the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind (Matt 12; Luke 14). Fifth. Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from the hideous roaring of the devil, who pursues thee. He that hears him roar, must be a mighty Christian, if he can at that time deliver himself from fear. He is called a roaring lion; and then to allude to that in Isaiah, “If one look” into them, they have “darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof” (1 Peter 5:8; Isa 5:3). [Two of the devil’s objections.]—There are two things among many that Satan useth to roar out after them that are coming to Jesus Christ. 1. That they are not elected. Or, 2. That they have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost. To both these I answer briefly— 1. [Election.]—Touching election, out of which thou fearest thou art excluded. Why, coming sinner, even the text itself affordeth thee help against this doubt, and that by a double argument. (1.) That coming to Christ is by virtue of the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father; but thou art a-coming; therefore God hath given thee, promised thee, and is drawing thee to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, hold to this; and when Satan beginneth to roar again, answer, But I feel my heart moving after Jesus Christ; but that would not be, if it were not given by promise, and drawing to Christ by the power of the Father. (2.) Jesus Christ hath promised, “That him that cometh to him he will in no wise cast out.” And if he hath said it, will he not make it good, I mean even thy salvation? For, as I have said already, not to cast out, is to receive and admit to the benefit of salvation. If then the Father hath given thee, as is manifest by thy coming; and if Christ will receive thee, thou coming soul, as it is plain he will, because he hath said, “He will in no wise cast out;” then be confident, and let those conclusions, that as naturally flow from the text as light from the sun, or water from the fountain, stay thee. If Satan therefore objecteth, But thou art not elected; answer, But I am coming, Satan, I am coming; and that I could not be, but that the Father draws me; and I am coming to such a Lord Jesus, as will in no wise cast me out. Further, Satan, were I not elect, the Father would not draw me, nor would the Son so graciously open his bosom to me. I am persuaded, that not one of the nonelect shall ever be able to say, no, not in the day of judgment, I did sincerely come to Jesus Christ. Come they may, feignedly, as Judas and Simon Magus did; but that is not our question. Therefore, O thou honest-hearted coming sinner, be not afraid, but come. 2. [Of the sin against the Holy Ghost.]—As to the second part of the objection, about sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost, the same argument overthrows that also. But I will argue thus: (1.) Coming to Christ is by virtue of a special gift of the Father; but the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin; therefore thou that art coming hast not committed that sin. That the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin is evident—(a.) Because such have sinned themselves out of God’s favour; “They shall never have forgiveness” (Matt 12:32). But it is a special favour of God to give unto a man, to come to Jesus Christ; because thereby he obtaineth forgiveness. Therefore he that cometh hath not sinned that sin. (b.) They that have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, have sinned themselves out of an interest in the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood; “There remaineth [for such] no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:26). But God giveth not grace to any of them to come to Christ, that have no share in the sacrifice of his body and blood. Therefore, thou that art coming to him, hast not sinned that sin. (2.) Coming to Christ is by the special drawing of the Father; “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). But the Father draweth not him to Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness by his blood; therefore they that are coming to Jesus Christ have not committed that sin, because he hath allotted them forgiveness by his blood. That the Father cannot draw them to Jesus Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness of sins, is manifest to sense: for that would be a plain mockery, a flam, neither becoming his wisdom, justice, holiness, nor goodness. (3.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under the promise of forgiveness and salvation. But it is impossible that he that hath sinned that sin should ever be put under a promise of these. Therefore, he that hath sinned that sin can never have heart to come to Jesus Christ. (4.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under his intercession. “For he ever liveth to make intercession for them that come” (Heb 7:25). Therefore, he that is coming to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned that sin. Christ has forbidden his people to pray for them that have sinned that sin; and, therefore, will not pray for them himself, but he prays for them that come. (5.) He that hath sinned that sin, Christ is to him of no more worth than is a man that is dead; “For he hath crucified to himself the Son of God;” yea, and hath also counted his precious blood as the blood of an unholy thing. (Heb 6; 10) Now, he that hath this low esteem of Christ will never come to him for life; but the coming man has an high esteem of his person, blood, and merits. Therefore, he that is coming has not committed that sin. (6.) If he that has sinned this sin might yet come to Jesus Christ, then must the truth of God be overthrown; which saith in one place, “He hath never forgiveness;” and in another, “I will in no wise cast him out.” Therefore, that he may never have forgiveness, he shall never have heart to come to Jesus Christ. It is impossible that such an one should be renewed, either to or by repentance (Heb 6). Wherefore, never trouble thy head nor heart about this matter; he that cometh to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned against the Holy Ghost. Sixth, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from thine own folly, in inventing, yea, in thy chalking out to God, a way to bring thee home to Jesus Christ. Some souls that are coming to Jesus Christ are great tormentors of themselves upon this account; they conclude, that if their coming to Jesus Christ is right, they must needs be brought home thus and thus. As to instance: 1. Says one, If God be bringing of me to Jesus Christ, then will he load me with the guilt of sin till he makes me roar again. 2. If God be indeed a-bringing me home to Jesus Christ, then must I be assaulted with dreadful temptations of the devil. 3. If God be indeed a-bringing me to Jesus Christ, then, even when I come at him, I shall have wonderful revelations of him. This is the way that some sinners appoint for God; but, perhaps, he will not walk therein; yet will he bring them to Jesus Christ. But now, because they come not the way of their own chalking out, therefore they are at a loss. They look for heavy load and burden; but, perhaps, God gives them a sight of their lost condition, and addeth not that heavy weight and burden. They look for fearful temptations of Satan; but God sees that yet they are not fit for them, nor is the time come that he should be honoured by them in such a condition. They look for great and glorious revelations of Christ, grace, and mercy; but, perhaps, God only takes the yoke from off their jaws, and lays meat before them. And now again they are at a loss, yet a-coming to Jesus Christ; “I drew them,” saith God, “with cords of a man, with bands of love—I took the yoke from off their jaws, and laid meat unto them” (Hosea 11:4). Now, I say, If God brings thee to Christ, and not by the way that thou hast appointed, then thou art at a loss; and for thy being at a loss, thou mayest thank thyself. God hath more ways than thou knowest of to bring a sinner to Jesus Christ; but he will not give thee beforehand an account by which of them he will bring thee to Christ (Isa 40:13; Job 33:13). Sometimes he hath his ways in the whirlwind; but sometimes the Lord is not there (Nahum 1:3; 1 Kings 19:11). If God will deal more gently with thee than with others of his children, grudge not at it; refuse not the waters that go softly, lest he bring upon thee the waters of the rivers, strong and many, even these two smoking firebrand, the devil and guilt of sin (Isa 8:6, 7). He saith to Peter, “Follow me.” And what thunder did Zaccheus hear or see? Zaccheus, “Come down,” said Christ; “and he came down,” says Luke, “and received him joyfully.” But had Peter or Zaccheus made the objection that thou hast made, and directed the Spirit of the Lord as thou hast done, they might have looked long enough before they had found themselves coming to Jesus Christ. Besides, I will tell thee, that the greatness of sense of sin, the hideous roaring of the devil, yea, and abundance of revelations, will not prove that God is bringing thy soul to Jesus Christ; as Balaam, Cain, Judas, and others, can witness. Further, consider that what thou hast not of these things here, thou mayest have another time, and that to thy distraction. Wherefore, instead of being discontent, because thou art not in the fire, because thou hearest not the sound of the trumpet and alarm of war, “Pray that thou enter not into temptation;” yea, come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in that time of need (Psa 88:15; Matt 26:41; Heb 4:16). Poor creature! thou criest, if I were tempted, I could come faster and with more confidence to Christ. Thou sayest thou knowest not what. What says Job? “Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me” (Job 13:21, 22). It is not the overheavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy; not the roaring of the devil, but the drawing of the Father, that makes a man come to Jesus Christ; I myself know all these things. True, sometimes, yea, most an end, they that come to Jesus Christ come the way that thou desirest; the loading, tempted way; but the Lord also leads some by the waters of comfort. If I was to choose when to go a long journey, to wit, whether I would go it in the dead of winter or in the pleasant spring, though, if it was a very profitable journey, as that of coming to Christ is, I would choose to go it through fire and water before I would choose lose the benefit. But, I say, if I might choose the time, I would choose to go it in the pleasant spring, because the way would be more delightsome, the days longer and warmer, the nights shorter and not so cold. And it is observable, that that very argument that thou usest to weaken thy strength in the way, that very argument Christ Jesus useth to encourage his beloved to come to him: “Rise up,” saith he, “my love, my fair one, and come away.” Why? “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song 2:10–13). Trouble not thyself, coming sinner. If thou seest thy lost condition by original and actual sin; if thou seest thy need of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ; if thou art willing to be found in him, and to take up thy cross and follow him; then pray for a fair wind and good weather, and come away. Stick no longer in a muse and doubt about things, but come away to Jesus Christ. Do it, I say, lest thou tempt God to lay the sorrows of a travailing woman upon thee. Thy folly in this thing may make him do it. Mind what follows: “The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him.” Why? “He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children” (Hosea 13:13). Seventh, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from those decays that thou findest in thy soul, even while thou art coming to him. Some, even as they are coming to Jesus Christ, do find themselves grow worse and worse; and this is indeed a sore trial to the poor coming sinner. Fears that we do not run fast enough To explain myself. There is such an one a coming to Jesus Christ who, when at first he began to look out after him, was sensible, affectionate, and broken in spirit; but now is grown dark, senseless, hard-hearted, and inclining to neglect spiritual duties, &c. Besides, he now finds in himself inclinations to unbelief, atheism, blasphemy, and the like; now he finds he cannot tremble at God’s Word, his judgment, nor at the apprehension of hell fire; neither can he, as he thinketh, be sorry for these things. Now, this is a sad dispensation. The man under the sixth head complaineth for want of temptations, but thou hast enough of them; art thou glad of them, tempted, coming sinner? They that never were exercised with them may think it a fine thing to be within the range, but he that is there is ready to sweat blood for sorrow of heart, and to howl for vexation of spirit! This man is in the wilderness among wild beasts. Here he sees a bear, there a lion, yonder a leopard, a wolf, a dragon; devils of all sorts, doubts of all sorts, fears of all sorts, haunt and molest his soul. Here he sees smoke, yea, feels fire and brimstone, scattered upon his secret places. He hears the sound of an horrible tempest. O! my friends, even the Lord Jesus, that knew all things, even he saw no pleasure in temptations, nor did he desire to be with them; wherefore, one text saith, “he was led,” and another, “he was driven,” of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil (Matt 4:1; Mark 1:12). But to return. Thus it happeneth sometimes to them that are coming to Jesus Christ. A sad hap indeed! One would think that he that is flying from wrath to come has little need of such clogs as these. And yet so it is, and woeful experience proves it. The church of old complained that her enemies overtook her between the straits; just between hope and fear, heaven and hell (Lam 1). This man feeleth the infirmity of his flesh, he findeth a proneness in himself to be desperate. Now, he chides with God, flings and tumbles like a wild bull in a net, and still the guilt of all returns upon himself, to the crushing of him to pieces. Yet he feeleth his heart so hard, that he can find, as he thinks, no kind falling under any of his miscarriages. Now, he is a lump of confusion in his own eyes, whose spirit and actions are without order. Temptations serve the Christian as the shepherd’s dog serveth the silly sheep; that is, coming behind the flock, he runs upon it, pulls it down, worries it, wounds it, and grievously bedabbleth it with dirt and wet, in the lowest places of the furrows of the field, and not leaving it until it is half dead, nor then neither, except God rebuke. Here is now room for fears of being cast away. Now I see I am lost, says the sinner. This is not coming to Jesus Christ, says the sinner; such a desperate, hard, and wretched heart as mine is, cannot be a gracious one, saith the sinner. And bid such an one be better, he says, I cannot; no, I cannot. Why temptations assail God’s people Question. But what will you say to a soul in this condition? Answer. I will say, That temptations have attended the best of God’s people. I will say, That temptations come to do us good; and I will say also, That there is a difference betwixt growing worse and worse, and thy seeing more clearly how bad thou art. There is a man of an ill-favored countenance, who hath too high a conceit of his beauty; and, wanting the benefit of a glass, he still stands in his own conceit; at last a limner is sent unto him, who draweth his ill-favored face to the life; now looking thereon, he begins to be convinced that he is not half so handsome as he thought he was. Coming sinner, thy temptations are these painters; they have drawn out thy ill-favored heart to the life, and have set it before thine eyes, and now thou seest how ill-favoured thou art. Hezekiah was a good man, yet when he lay sick, for aught I know, he had somewhat too good an opinion of his heart; and for aught I know also, the Lord might, upon his recovery, leave him to a temptation, that he might better know all that was in his heart. Compare Isaiah 38:1–3, with 2 Chronicles 32:31. Alas! we are sinful out of measure, but see it not to be the full, until an hour of temptation comes. But when it comes, it doth as the painter doth, draweth out our heart to the life: yet the sight of what we are should not keep us from coming to Jesus Christ. There are two ways by which God lets a man into a sight of the naughtiness of his heart; one is, by the light of the Word and Spirit of God; and the other is, by the temptations of the devil. But, by the first, we see our naughtiness one way; and, by the second, another. By the light of the Word and Spirit of God, thou hast a sight of thy naughtiness; and by the light of the sun, thou hast a sight of the spots and defilements that are in thy house or raiment. Which light gives thee to see a necessity of cleansing, but maketh not the blemishes to spread more abominably. But when Satan comes, when he tempts, he puts life and rage into our sins, and turns them, as it were, into so many devils within us. Now, like prisoners, they attempt to break through the prison of our body; they will attempt to get out at our eyes, mouth, ears, any ways, to the scandal of the gospel, and reproach of religion, to the darkening of our evidences, and damning of our souls. But I shall say, as I said before, this hath ofttimes been the lot of God’s people. And, “There hath no temptation overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor 10:13). See the Book of Job, the Book of Psalms, and that of the Lamentations. And remember further, that Christ himself was tempted to blaspheme, to worship the devil, and to murder himself, (Matt 4; Luke 4); temptations worse than which thou canst hardly be overtaken with. But he was sinless, that is true. And he is thy Saviour, and that is as true! Yea, it is as true also, that by his being tempted, he became the conqueror of the tempter, and a succourer of those that are tempted (Col 2:14, 15; Heb 2:15; 4:15, 16). Question. But what should be the reason that some that are coming to Christ should be so lamentably cast down and buffeted with temptations? Answer. It may be for several causes. 1. Some that are coming to Christ cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the Scripture saith they are. True, they see so much of their wretchedness as to drive them to Christ. But there is an over and above of wickedness which they see not. Peter little thought that he had had cursing, and swearing, and lying, and an inclination in his heart to deny his Master, before the temptation came; but when that indeed came upon him, then he found it there to his sorrow (John 13:36–38; Mark 14:36–40; 68–72). 2. Some that are coming to Jesus Christ are too much affected with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ’s person; wherefore God, to take them off from doting upon their own jewels, and that they might look more to the person, undertaking, and merits of his Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations. And this I take to be the meaning of Job, “If I wash myself,” said he, “with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me” (Job 9:30). Job had been a little too much tampering with his own graces, and setting his excellencies a little too high; as these texts make manifest: Job 33:8–13; 34:5–10, 35:2, 3, 38:1, 2; 40:10–15, 42:3–6. But by that the temptations were ended, you find him better taught. Yea, God doth ofttimes, even for this thing, as it were, take our graces from us, and so leave us almost quite to ourselves and to the tempter, that we may learn not to love the picture more than the person of his Son. See how he dealt with them in the 16th of Ezekiel, and the second of Hosea. 3. Perhaps thou hast been given too much to judge thy brother, to condemn thy brother, because a poor tempted man. And God, to bring down the pride of thy heart, letteth the tempter loose upon thee, that thou also mayst feel thyself weak. For “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18). 4. It may be thou hast dealt a little too roughly with those that God hath this way wounded, not considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. And therefore God hath suffered it to come unto thee (Gal 6:1). 5. It may be thou wast given to slumber and sleep, and therefore these temptations were sent to awake thee. You know that Peter’s temptation came upon him after his sleeping; then, instead of watching and praying, then he denied, and denied, and denied his Master (Matt 26). 6. It may be thou hast presumed too far, and stood too much in thine own strength, and therefore is a time of temptation come upon thee. This was also one cause why it came upon Peter—Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I. Ah! that is the way to be tempted indeed (John 13:36–38). 7. It may be God intends to make thee wise, to speak a word in season to others that are afflicted; and therefore he suffereth thee to be tempted. Christ was tempted that he might be able to succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:18). 8. It may be Satan hath dared God to suffer him to tempt thee; promising himself, that if he will but let him do it, thou wilt curse him to his face. Thus he obtained leave against Job; wherefore take heed, tempted soul, lest thou provest the devil’s sayings true (Job 1:11). 9. It may be thy graces must be tried in the fire, that that rust that cleaveth to them may be taken away, and themselves proved, both before angels and devils, to be far better than of gold that perisheth; it may be also, that thy graces are to receive special praises, and honour, and glory, at the coming of the Lord Jesus to judgment, for all the exploits that thou hast acted by them against hell, and its infernal crew, in the day of thy temptation (1 Peter 1:6, 7). 10. It may be God would have others learn by thy sighs, groans, and complaints, under temptation, to beware of those sins for the sake of which thou art at present delivered to the tormentors. But to conclude this, put the worst to the worst—and then things will be bad enough—suppose that thou art to this day without the grace of God, yet thou art but a miserable creature, a sinner, that hath need of a blessed Saviour; and the text presents thee with one as good and kind as heart can wish; who also for thy encouragement saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Application of Observation Second To come, therefore, to a word of application. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this teacheth us these things— 1. That faith and doubting may at the same time have their residence in the same soul. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31). He saith not, O thou of no faith! but, O thou of little faith! because he had a little faith in the midst of his many doubts. The same is true even of many that are coming to Jesus Christ. They come, and fear they come not, and doubt they come not. When they look upon the promise, or a word of encouragement by faith, then they come; but when they look upon themselves, or the difficulties that lie before them, then they doubt. “Bid me come,” said Peter; “Come,” said Christ. So he went down out of the ship to go to Jesus, but his hap was to go to him upon the water; there was the trial. So it is with the poor desiring soul. Bid me come, says the sinner; Come, says Christ, and I will in no wise cast thee out. So he comes, but his hap is to come upon the water, upon drowning difficulties; if, therefore, the wind of temptations blow, the waves of doubts and fears will presently arise, and this coming sinner will begin to sink, if he has but little faith. But you shall find here in Peter’s little faith, a twofold act; to wit, coming and crying. Little faith cannot come all the way without crying. So long as its holy boldness lasts, so long it can come with peace; but when it is so, it can come no further, it will go the rest of the way with crying. Peter went as far as his little faith would carry him: he also cried as far as his little faith would help, “Lord, save me, I perish!” And so with coming and crying he was kept from sinking, though he had but a little faith. “Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 2. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this shows us a reason of that dejection, and those castings down, that very often we perceive to be in them that are coming to Jesus Christ. Why, it is because they are afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. The poor world they mock us, because we are a dejected people; I mean, because we are sometimes so: but they do not know the cause of our dejection. Could we be persuaded, even then, when we are dejected, that Jesus Christ would indeed receive us, it would make us fly over their heads, and would put more gladness into our hearts than in the time in which their corn, wine, and oil increases (Psa 4:6, 7). But, 3. It is so, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. Then this shows that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are an awakened, sensible, considering people. For fear cometh from sense, and consideration of things. They are sensible of sin, sensible of the curse due thereto; they are also sensible of the glorious majesty of God, and of what a blessed, blessed thing it is to be received of Jesus Christ. The glory of heaven, and the evil of sin, these things they consider, and are sensible of. “When I remember, I am afraid.” “When I consider, I am afraid” (Job 21:6; 23:15). These things dash their spirits, being awake and sensible. Were they dead, like other men, they would not be afflicted with fear as they are. For dead men fear not, feel not, care not, but the living and sensible man, he it is that is ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive him. I say, the dead and senseless are not distressed. They presume; they are groundlessly confident. Who so bold as blind Bayard? These indeed should fear and be afraid, because they are not coming to Jesus Christ. O! the hell, the fire, the pit, the wrath of God, and torment of hell, that are prepared for poor neglecting sinners! “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb 3:3). But they want sense of things, and so cannot fear. 4. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them? Then this should teach old Christians to pity and pray for young comers. You know the heart of a stranger; for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. You know the fears, and doubts, and terrors, that take hold of them; for that they sometimes took hold of you. Wherefore pity them, pray for them, encourage them; they need all this: guilt hath overtaken them, fears of the wrath of God hath overtaken them. Perhaps they are within the sight of hell-fire; and the fear of going thither is burning hot within their hearts. You may know, how strangely Satan is suggesting his devilish doubts unto them, if possible he may sink and drown them with the multitude and weight of them. Old Christians, mend up the path for them, take the stumblingblocks out of the way; lest that which is feeble and weak be turned aside, but let it rather be healed (Heb 12). Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Christ Would Have Comers Not Once Think That He Will Cast Them Out OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. The text is full of this: for he saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will. This is yet further manifest by these considerations. First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one. “Do not think,” said he, “that I will accuse you to the Father” (John 5:45). These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him. For he saith of them a little before, “And ye will not come to me;” for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back. Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father. Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for: for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners. So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world. Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not. Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by? And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her. And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11). Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office. He was not sent “into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 4:6). The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts. Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him. Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ. Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ? Yes, says the sinner. Forsake thy wicked ways then. So I do, says the sinner. Why comest thou then so slowly? Because I am hindered. What hinders? Has God forbidden thee? No. Art thou not willing to come faster? Yes, yet I cannot. Well, prithee be plain with me, and tell me the reason and ground of thy discouragement. Why, says the sinner, though God forbids me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally ariseth this, and that, and the other thought in my heart, that hinders my speed to Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think I am not chosen; sometimes I think I am not called; sometimes I think I am come too late; and sometimes I think I know not what it is to come. Also one while I think I have no grace; and then again, that I cannot pray; and then again, I think that I am a very hypocrite. And these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ. Look ye now, did not I tell you so? There are thoughts yet remaining in the heart, even of those who have forsaken their wicked ways; and with those thoughts they are more plagued than with anything else; because they hinder their coming to Jesus Christ; for the sin of unbelief, which is the original of all these thoughts, is that which besets a coming sinner more easily, than doth his ways (Heb 12:1–4). But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace. “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9). Thus you see how Jesus Christ setteth himself against such thoughts, that any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Reasons of Observation Third I come now to the reasons of the observation. 1. If Jesus Christ should allow thee once to think that he will cast thee out, he must allow thee to think that he will falsify his word; for he hath said, “I will in no wise cast out.” But Christ would not that thou shouldst count him as one that will falsify his word; for he saith of himself, “I am the truth;” therefore he would not that any that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. 2. If Jesus Christ should allow the sinner that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, then he must allow, and so countenance the first appearance of unbelief; the which he counteth his greatest enemy, and against which he hast bent even his holy gospel. Therefore Jesus Christ would not that they that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. See Matthew 14:31; 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 24:25. 3. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out; then he must allow him to make a question, Whether he is willing to receive his Father’s gift; for the coming sinner is his Father’s gift; as also says the text; but he testifieth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Therefore Jesus Christ would not have him, that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out. 4. If Jesus Christ should allow them once to think, that indeed are coming to him, that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will despise and reject the drawing of his Father. For no man can come to him but whom the Father draweth. But it would be high blasphemy, and damnable wickedness once to imagine thus. Therefore, Jesus Christ would not have him that cometh once think that he will cast him out. 5. If Jesus Christ should allow those that indeed are coming to him, once to think that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to the trust and charge that his Father hath committed to him; which is to save, and not to lose anything of that which he hath given unto him to save (John 6:39). But the Father hath given him a charge to save the coming sinner; therefore it cannot be, that he should allow, that such an one should once think that he will cast him out. 6. If Jesus Christ should allow that they should once think that are coming to him, that he will cast them out, then he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to his office of priesthood; for, as by the first part of it, he paid price for, and ransomed souls, so by the second part thereof, he continually maketh intercession to God for them that come (Heb 7:25). But he cannot allow us to question his faithful execution of his priesthood. Therefore he cannot allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out. 7. If Jesus Christ should allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out, then he must allow us to question his will, or power, or merit to save. But he cannot allow us once to question any of these; therefore not once to think, that the coming sinner shall be cast out. (1.) He cannot allow them to question his will; for he saith in the text, “I WILL in no wise cast out.” (2.) He cannot allow us to question his power; for the Holy Ghost saith HE IS ABLE to save to the uttermost them that come. (3.) He cannot allow them to question the efficacy of his merit; for the blood of Christ cleanseth the comer from all sin, (1 John 1:7), therefore he cannot allow that he that is coming to him should once think that he will cast them out. 8. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to give the lie to the manifest testimony of the Father, Son, and Spirit; yea, to the whole gospel contained in Moses, the prophets, the book of Psalms, and that commonly called the New Testament. But he cannot allow of this; therefore, not that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out. 9. Lastly, If Jesus Christ should allow him that is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to question his Father’s oath, which he in truth and righteousness hath taken, that they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ. But he cannot allow this; therefore he cannot allow that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out (Heb 6). USE AND APPLICATION I come now to make some GENERAL USE AND APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE, and so to draw towards a conclusion. USE FIRST.—the First Use—A USE OF INFORMATION; And, First, It informeth us that men by nature are far off from Christ. Let me a little improve this use, by speaking to these three questions. 1. Where is he that is coming [but has not come], to Jesus Christ? 2. What is he that is not coming to Jesus Christ? 3. Whither is he to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? 1. Where is he? [Answer.] (1.) He is far from God, he is without him, even alienate from him both in his understanding, will, affections, judgment, and conscience (Eph 2:12; 4:18). (2.) He is far from Jesus Christ, who is the only deliverer of men from hell fire (Psa 73:27). (3.) He is far from the work of the Holy Ghost, the work of regeneration, and a second creation, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). (4.) He is far more righteous, from that righteousness that should make him acceptable in God’s sight (Isa 46:12, 13). (5.) He is under the power and dominion of sin; sin reigneth in and over him; it dwelleth in every faculty of his soul, and member of his body; so that from head to foot there is no place clean (Isa 1:6; Rom 3:9–18). (6.) He is in the pest-house with Uzziah and excluded the camp of Israel with the lepers (2 Chron 26:21; Num 5:2; Job 36:14). (7.) His “life is among the unclean.” He is “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:28). (8.) He is “in sin,” “in the flesh,” “in death,” “in the snare of the devil,” and is “taken captive by him at his will” (1 Cor 15:17; Rom 8:8; 1 John 3:14; 2 Tim 2:26). (9.) He is under the curse of the law, and the devil dwells in him, and hath the mastery of him (Gal 3:13; Eph 2:2, 3; Acts 26:18). (10.) He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knows not whither he goes; for darkness has blinded his eyes. (11.) He is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction; and holding on, he will assuredly go in at the broad gate, and so down the stairs to hell. 2. What is he that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He is counted one of God’s enemies (Luke 19:14; Rom 8:7). (2.) He is a child of the devil, and of hell; for the devil begat him, as to his sinful nature, and hell must swallow him at last, because he cometh not to Jesus Christ (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matt 23:15; Psa 9:17). (3.) He is a child of wrath, an heir of it; it is his portion, and God will repay it him to his face (Eph 2:1–3; Job 21:29–31). (4.) He is a self-murderer; he wrongeth his own soul, and is one that loveth death (Prov 1:18; 8:36). (5.) He is a companion for devils and damned men (Prov 21:16; Matt 25:41). 3. Whither is he like to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He that cometh not to him, is like to go further from him; so every sin is a step further from Jesus Christ (Hosea 11). (2.) As he is in darkness, so he is like to go on in it; for Christ is the light of the world, and he that comes not to him, walketh in darkness (John 8:12). (3.) He is like to be removed at last as far from God, and Christ, and heaven, and all felicity, as an infinite God can remove him (Matt 12:41). But, Second, This doctrine of coming to Christ informeth us where poor destitute sinners may find life for their souls, and that is in Christ. This life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life. And again, “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35). Now, for further enlargement, I will also here propound three more questions: 1. What life is in Christ? 2. Who may have it? 3. Upon what terms? 1. What life is in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) There is justifying life in Christ. Man by sin is dead in law; and Christ only can deliver him by his righteousness and blood from this death into a state of life. “For God sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). That is, through the righteousness which he should accomplish, and the death that he should die. (2.) There is eternal life in Christ; life that is endless; life for ever and ever. “He hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Now, justification and eternal salvation being both in Christ, and nowhere else to be had for men, who would not come to Jesus Christ? 2. Who may have this life? I answer, Poor, helpless, miserable sinners. Particularly, (1.) Such as are willing to have it. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life” (Rev 22:17). (2.) He that thirsteth for it. “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life” (Rev 21:6). (3.) He that is weary of his sins. “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isa 28:12). (4.) He that is poor and needy. “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Psa 72:13). (5.) He that followeth after him, crieth for life. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). 3. Upon what terms may he have this life? [Answer.] Freely. Sinner, dost thou hear. Thou mayest have it freely. Let him take the water of life freely. I will give him of the fountain of the water of life freely. “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42). Freely, without money, or without price. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1). Sinner, art thou thirsty? art thou weary? art thou willing? Come, then, and regard not your stuff; for all the good that is in Christ is offered to the coming sinner, without money and without price. He has life to give away to such as want it, and that hath not a penny to purchase it; and he will give it freely. Oh what a blessed condition is the coming sinner in! But, Third, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informeth us, that it is to be had nowhere else. Might it be had anywhere else, the text, and him that spoke it, would be but little set by; for what greater matter is there in “I will in no wise cast out,” if another stood by that could receive them? But here appears the glory of Christ, that none but he can save. And here appears his love, that though none can save but he, yet he is not coy in saving. “But him that comes to me,” says he, “I will in no wise cast out.” That none can save but Jesus Christ, is evident from Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other;” and “he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). If life could have been had anywhere else, it should have been in the law. But it is not in the law; for by the deeds of the law, no man living shall be justified; and if not justified, then no life. Therefore life is nowhere to be had but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3). [Question.] But why would God so order it, that life should be had nowhere else but in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] There is reason for it, and that both with respect to God and us. 1. With respect to God. (1.) That it might be in a way of justice as well as mercy. And in a way of justice it could not have been, if it had not been by Christ; because he, and he only, was able to answer the demand of the law, and give for sin what the justice thereof required. All angels had been crushed down to hell for ever, had that curse been laid upon them for our sins, which was laid upon Jesus Christ; but it was laid upon him, and he bare it; and answered the penalty, and redeemed his people from under it, with that satisfaction to Divine justice that God himself doth now proclaim, That he is faithful and just to forgive us, if by faith we shall venture to Jesus, and trust to what he has done for life (Rom 3:24–26; John 1:4). (2.) Life must be by Jesus Christ, that God might be adored and magnified, for finding out this way. This is the Lord’s doings, that in all things he might be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. (3.) It must be by Jesus Christ, that life might be at God’s dispose, who hath great pity for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the broken in heart, and for them that others care not for (Psa 34:6; 138:6; 25; 51:17; 147:3). (4.) Life must be in Christ, to cut off boasting from the lips of men. This also is the apostle’s reason in Romans 3:19, 27 (Eph 2:8–10). 2. Life must be in Jesus Christ with respect to us. (1.) That we might have it upon the easiest terms, to wit, freely: as a gift, not as wages. Was it in Moses’ hand, we should come hardly at it. Was it in the pope’s hand, we should pay soundly for it. But thanks be to God, it is in Christ, laid up in him, and by him to be communicated to sinners upon easy terms, even for receiving, accepting, and embracing with thanksgiving; as the Scriptures plainly declare (John 1:11, 12; 2 Cor 11:4; Heb 11:13; Col 3:13–15). (2.) Life is in Christ FOR US, that it might not be upon so brittle a foundation, as indeed it would had it been anywhere else. The law itself is weak because of us, as to this. But Christ is a tried stone, a sure foundation, one that will not fail to bear thy burden, and to receive thy soul, coming sinner. (3.) Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed. Alas! the best of us, was life left in our hand, to be sure we should forfeit it, over, and over, and over; or, was it in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us. But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yea, multiply pardons; it is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that hath an heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding. Blessed be God, that life is in Christ! For now it is sure to all the seed. But, Fourth, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life informs us of the evil of unbelief; that wicked thing that is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner. Doth the text say, “Come?” Doth it say, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Then what an evil is that that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ! And that evil is unbelief: for by faith we come; by unbelief we keep away. Therefore it is said to be that by which a soul is said to depart from God; because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also that keeps them from him to this day. And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile. [Of the Sin of Unbelief.]—This sin may be called the white devil, for it oftentimes, in its mischievous doings in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counselor of heaven. Therefore a little to discourse of this evil disease. 1. It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts. For it keeps the soul from Christ by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness; as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart. 2. It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience: the conscience of the coming sinner tells him that he hath nothing good; that he stands inditeable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind, and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ. And will you, says Unbelief, in such a case as you now are, presume to come to Jesus Christ? 3. It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling. The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin, and ofttimes staggers under it. Now, says Unbelief, you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption. You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you. Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ? 4. It is that sin, above all others, that most suiteth with the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ. And this wisdom unbelief falls in with. 5. It is that sin, above all other, that continually is whispering the soul in the ear with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life. It also suggests mistrust about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it. And no sin can do this so artificially as unbelief. 6. It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us; and if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will, by some evasion, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it. 7. It is that, above all other sins, that weakness our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope, and expectations: it even taketh the heart away from God in duty. 8. Lastly, This sin, as I have said even now, it appeareth in the soul with so many sweet pretences to safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing. Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be you sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has been often confirmed in you. Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all. This is the devilish counsel of unbelief, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings. [Qualities of unbelief as opposed to faith.]—But to be brief. Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:— 1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Psa 106:24). 2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45). 3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12). 4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3). 5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14). 6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27). 7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21). 8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13). 9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11). 10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13). 11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8). 12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16). 13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16). 14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23). 15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6). 16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6). 17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3). 18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20). 19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46). 20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32). 21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3). 22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19). 23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5). 24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14). 25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30). Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it. USE SECOND. The Second Use—A USE OF EXAMINATION We come now to a use of examination. Sinner, thou hast heard of the necessity of coming to Christ; also of the willingness of Christ to receive the coming soul; together with the benefit that they by him shall have that indeed come to him. Put thyself now upon this serious inquiry, Am I indeed come to Jesus Christ? Motives plenty I might here urge, to prevail with thee to a conscientious performance of this duty. As, 1. Thou art in sin, in the flesh, in death, in the snare of the devil, and under the curse of the law, if you are not coming to Jesus Christ. 2. There is no way to be delivered from these, but by coming to Jesus Christ. 3. If thou comest, Jesus Christ will receive thee, and will in no wise cast thee out. 4. Thou wilt not repent it in the day of judgment, if now thou comest to Jesus Christ. 5. But thou wilt surely mourn at last, if now thou shalt refuse to come. 6. And lastly, Now thou hast been invited to come; now will thy judgment be greater, and thy damnation more fearful, if thou shalt yet refuse, than if thou hadst never heard of coming to Christ. Object. But we hope we are come to Jesus Christ. Answer. It is well if it proves so. But lest thou shouldst speak without ground, and so fall unawares into hell-fire, let us examine a little. First, Art thou indeed come to Jesus Christ? What hast thou left behind thee? What didst thou come away from, in thy coming to Jesus Christ? When Lot came out of Sodom, he left the Sodomites behind him (Gen 19). When Abraham came out of Chaldea, he left his country and kindred behind him (Gen 12; Acts 7). When Ruth came to put her trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, she left her father and mother, her gods, and the land of her nativity, behind her (Ruth 1:15–17; 2:11, 12). When Peter came to Christ, he left his nets behind him (Matt 4:20). When Zaccheus came to Christ, he left the receipt of custom behind him (Luke 19). When Paul came to Christ, he left his own righteousness behind him (Phil 3:7, 8). When those that used curious arts came to Jesus Christ, they took their curious books and burned them; though, in another man’s eye, they were counted worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18–20). What sayest thou, man? Hast thou left thy darling sins, thy Sodomitish pleasures, thy acquaintance and vain companions, thy unlawful gain, thy idol-gods, thy righteousness, and thy unlawful curious arts, behind thee? If any of these be with thee, and thou with them, in thy heart and life, thou art not yet come to Jesus Christ. Second, Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me what moved thee to come to Jesus Christ? Men do not usually come or go to this or that place, before they have a moving cause, or rather a cause moving them thereto. No more do they come to Jesus Christ—I do not say, before they have a cause, but—before that cause moveth them to come. What sayest thou? Hast thou a cause moving thee to come? To be at present in a state of condemnation, is cause sufficient for men to come to Jesus Christ for life. But that will not do, except the cause move them; the which it will never do, until their eyes be opened to see themselves in that condition. For it is not a man’s being under wrath, but his seeing it, that moveth him to come to Jesus Christ. Alas! all men by sin are under wrath; yet but few of that all come to Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because they do not see their condition. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7). Until men are warned, and also receive the warning, they will not come to Jesus Christ. Take three or four instances for this. Adam and Eve came not to Jesus Christ until they received the alarm, the conviction of their undone state by sin. (Gen 3) The children of Israel cried not out for a mediator before they saw themselves in danger of death by the law (Exo 20:18, 19). Before the publican came, he saw himself lost and undone (Luke 18:13). The prodigal came not, until he saw death at the door, ready to devour him (Luke 15:17, 18). The three thousand came not, until they knew not what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37–39). Paul came not, until he saw himself lost and undone (Acts 9:3–8, 11). Lastly, Before the jailer came, he saw himself undone (Acts 16:29–31). And I tell thee, it is an easier thing to persuade a well man to go to the physician for cure, or a man without hurt to seek for a plaster to cure him, than it is to persuade a man that sees not his soul-disease, to come to Jesus Christ. The whole have no need of the physician; then why should they go to him? The full pitcher can hold no more; then why should it go to the fountain? And if thou comest full, thou comest not aright; and be sure Christ will send thee empty away. “But he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Mark 2:17; Psa 147:3; Luke 1:53). Third, Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me, What seest thou in him to allure thee to forsake all the world, to come to him? I say, What hast thou seen in him? Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him. 1. What comeliness hast thou seen in his person? thou comest not, if thou seest no form nor comeliness in him (Isa 53:1–3). 2. Until those mentioned in the Song were convinced that there was more beauty, comeliness, and desirableness in Christ, than in ten thousand, they did not so much as ask where he was, nor incline to turn aside after him (Song 5, 6). There be many things on this side heaven that can and do carry away the heart; and so will do, so long as thou livest, if thou shalt be kept blind, and not be admitted to see the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Fourth, Art thou come to the Lord Jesus? What hast thou found in him, since thou camest to him? Peter found with him the word of eternal life (John 6:68). They that Peter makes mention of, found him a living stone, even such a living stone as communicated life to them (1 Peter 2:4, 5). He saith himself, they that come to him, &c., shall find rest unto their souls; hast thou found rest in him for thy soul? (Matt 11:28). Let Us Go Back to the Times of the Old Testament 1. Abraham found THAT in him, that made him leave his country for him, and become for his sake a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Gen 12; Heb 11). 2. Moses found THAT in him, that made him forsake a crown, and a kingdom for him too. 3. David found so much in him, that he counted to be in his house one day was better than a thousand; yea, to be a door-keeper therein was better, in his esteem, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10). 4. What did Daniel and the three children find in him, to make them run the hazards of the fiery furnace, and the den of lions, for his sake? (Dan 3, 6). Let Us Come Down to Martyrs 1. Stephen found that in him that made him joyful, and quietly yield up his life for his name (Acts 7). 2. Ignatius found that in Christ that made him choose to go through the torments of the devil, and hell itself, rather than not to have him.—Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol. 1, p. 52, Anno. 111. Edit. 1632. 3. What saw Romanus in Christ, when he said to the raging Emperor, who threatened him with fearful torments, Thy sentence, O Emperor, I joyfully embrace, and refuse not to be sacrificed by as cruel torments as thou canst invent?—Fox, vol. 1, p. 116. 4. What saw Menas, the Egyptian, in Christ, when he said, under most cruel torments, There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it was weighed in a balance, to be preferred with the price of one soul? Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord? And I have learned of my Lord and King not to fear them that kill the body, &c. P. 117. 5. What did Eulalia see in Christ, when she said, as they were pulling her one joint from another, Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee. What a pleasure it is for them, O Christ! that remember thy triumphant victory? P. 121. 6. What think you did Agnes see in Christ, when rejoicingly she went to meet the soldier that was appointed to be her executioner. I will willingly, said she, receive into my paps the length of this sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof, even to the hilts; that thus I, being married to Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world? P. 122. 7. What do you think did Julitta see in Christ, when, at the Emperor’s telling of her, that except she would worship the gods, she should never have protection, laws, judgments, nor life, she replied, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty: all that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against my Creator? P. 123. 8. What did Marcus Arethusius see in Christ, when after his enemies had cut his flesh, anointed it with honey, and hanged him up in a basket for flies and bees to feed on, he would not give, to uphold idolatry, one halfpenny to save his life? P. 128. 9. What did Constantine see in Christ, when he used to kiss the wounds of them that suffered for him? P. 135. 10. But what need I give thus particular instances of words and smaller actions, when by their lives, their blood, their enduring hunger, sword, fire, pulling asunder, and all torments that the devil and hell could devise, for the love they bare to Christ, after they were come to him? What Hast THOU Found in Him, Sinner? What! come to Christ, and find nothing in him!—when all things that are worth looking after are in him!—or if anything, yet not enough to wean thee from thy sinful delights, and fleshly lusts! Away, away, thou art not coming to Jesus Christ. He that has come to Jesus Christ, hath found in him, that, as I said, that is not to be found anywhere else. As, 1. He that is come to Christ hath found God in him reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. And so God is not to be found in heaven and earth besides (2 Cor 5:19, 20). 2. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found in him a fountain of grace, sufficient, not only to pardon sin, but to sanctify the soul, and to preserve it from falling, in this evil world. 3. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found virtue in him; THAT virtue, that if he does but touch thee with his Word, or thou him by faith, life is forthwith conveyed into thy soul. It makes thee wake as one that is waked out of his sleep; it awakes all the powers of the soul (Psa 30:11, 12; Song 6:12). 4. Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Thou hast found glory in him, glory that surmounts and goes beyond. “Thou art more glorious-than the mountains of prey” (Psa 76:4). 5. What shall I say? Thou hast found righteousness in him; thou hast found rest, peace, delight, heaven, glory, and eternal life. Sinner, be advised; ask thy heart again, saying, Am I come to Jesus Christ? For upon this one question, Am I come, or, am I not? hangs heaven and hell as to thee. If thou canst say, I am come, and God shall approve that saying, happy, happy, happy man art thou! But if thou art not come, what can make thee happy? yea, what can make that man happy that, for his not coming to Jesus Christ for life, must be damned in hell? USE THIRD.—the Third Use—A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT Coming sinner, I have now a word for thee; be of good comfort, “He will in no wise cast out.” Of all men, thou art the blessed of the Lord; the Father hath prepared his Son to be a sacrifice for thee, and Jesus Christ, thy Lord, is gone to prepare a place for thee (John 1:29; Heb 10). What shall I say to thee? [First,] Thou comest to a FULL Christ; thou canst not want anything for soul or body, for this world or that to come, but it is to be had in or by Jesus Christ. As it is said of the land that the Danites went to possess, so, and with much more truth, it may be said of Christ; he is such an one with whom there is no want of any good thing that is in heaven or earth. A full Christ is thy Christ. 1. He is full of grace. Grace is sometimes taken for love; never any loved like Jesus Christ. Jonathan’s love went beyond the love of women; but the love of Christ passes knowledge. It is beyond the love of all the earth, of all creatures, even of men and angels. His love prevailed with him to lay aside his glory, to leave the heavenly place, to clothe himself with flesh, to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to live a poor life in the world, to take upon him our sicknesses, infirmities, sins, curse, death, and the wrath that was due to man. And all this he did for a base, undeserving, unthankful people; yea, for a people that was at enmity with him. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6–10). 2. He is full of truth. Full of grace and truth. Truth, that is, faithfulness in keeping promise, even this of the text, with all other, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 14:6). Hence it is said, that his words be true, and that he is the faithful God, that keepeth covenant. And hence it is also that his promises are called truth: “Thou wilt fulfil thy truth unto Jacob, and thy mercy unto Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Therefore it is said again, that both himself and words are truth: “I am the truth, the Scripture of truth” (Dan 10:21). “Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17; 2 Sam 7:28); “thy law is truth,” (Psa 119:142); and “my mouth,” saith he, “shall speak truth,” (Prov 8:7); see also Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 25:1; Malachi 2:6; Acts 26:25, 2 Timothy 2:12, 13. Now, I say, his word is truth, and he is full of truth to fulfil his truth, even to a thousand generations. Coming sinner, he will not deceive thee; come boldly to Jesus Christ. 3. He is full of wisdom. He is made unto us of God wisdom; wisdom to manage the affairs of his church in general, and the affairs of every coming sinner in particular. And upon this account he is said to be “head over all things,” (1 Cor 1; Eph 1), because he manages all things that are in the world by his wisdom, for the good of his church; all men’s actions, all Satan’s temptations, all God’s providences, all crosses, and disappointments; all things whatever are under the hand of Christ—who is the wisdom of God—and he ordereth them all for good to his church. And can Christ help it—and be sure he can—nothing shall happen or fall out in the world, but it shall, in despite of all opposition, have a good tendency to his church and people. 4. He is full of the Spirit, to communicate it to the coming sinner; he hath therefore received it without measure, that he may communicate it to every member of his body, according as every man’s measure thereof is allotted him by the Father. Wherefore he saith, that he that comes to him, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 3:34; Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2; John 7:33–39). 5. He is indeed a storehouse full of all the graces of the Spirit. “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Here is more faith, more love, more sincerity, more humility, more of every grace; and of this, even more of this, he giveth to every lowly, humble, penitent coming sinner. Wherefore, coming soul, thou comest not to a barren wilderness when thou comest to Jesus Christ. 6. He is full of bowels and compassion: and they shall feel and find it so that come to him for life. He can bear with thy weaknesses, he can pity thy ignorance, he can be touched with the feeling of thy infirmities, he can affectionately forgive they transgressions, he can heal thy backslidings, and love thee freely. His compassions fail not; “and he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he can pity them that no eye pities, and be afflicted in all thy afflictions” (Matt 26:41; Heb 5:2; 2:18; Matt 9:2; Hosea 14:4; Eze 16:5, 6; Isa 63:9; Psa 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; Lam 3:22; Isa 42:3). 7. Coming soul, the Jesus that thou art coming to, is full of might and terribleness for thy advantage; he can suppress all thine enemies; he is the Prince of the kings of the earth; he can bow all men’s designs for thy help; he can break all snares laid for thee in the way; he can lift thee out of all difficulties wherewith thou mayest be surrounded; he is wise in heart, and mighty in power. Every life under heaven is in his hand; yea, the fallen angels tremble before him. And he will save thy life, coming sinner (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 8:28; Matt 28:18; Rev 4; Psa 19:3; 27:5, 6; Job 9:4; John 17:2; Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19). 8. Coming sinner, the Jesus to whom thou art coming is lowly in heart, he despiseth not any. It is not thy outward meanness, nor thy inward weakness; it is not because thou art poor, or base, or deformed, or a fool, that he will despise thee: he hath chosen the foolish, the base, and despised things of this world, to confound the wise and mighty. He will bow his ear to thy stammering prayers he will pick out the meaning of thy inexpressible groans; he will respect thy weakest offering, if there be in it but thy heart (Matt 11:20; Luke 14:21; Prov 9:4–6; Isa 38:14, 15; Song 5:15; John 4:27; Mark 12:33, 34; James 5:11). Now, is not this a blessed Christ, coming sinner? Art thou not like to fare well, when thou hast embraced him, coming sinner? But, Second. Thou hast yet another advantage by Jesus Christ, thou art coming to him, for he is not only full, BUT FREE. He is not sparing of what he has; he is open-hearted and open-handed. Let me in a few particulars show thee this: 1. This is evident, because he calls thee; he calls upon thee to come unto him; the which he would not do, was he not free to give; yea, he bids thee, when come, ask, seek, knock. And for thy encouragement, adds to every command a promise, “Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” If the rich man should say thus to the poor, would not he be reckoned a free-hearted man? I say, should he say to the poor, Come to my door, ask at my door, knock at my door, and you shall find and have; would he not be counted liberal? Why, thus doth Jesus Christ. Mind it, coming sinner (Isa 55:3; Psa 50:15; Matt 7:7–9). 2. He doth not only bid thee come, but tells thee, he will heartily do thee good; yea, he will do it with rejoicing; “I will rejoice over them, to do them good-with my whole heart, and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41). 3. It appeareth that he is free, because he giveth without twitting. “He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1, 5). There are some that will not deny to do the poor a pleasure, but they will mix their mercies with so many twits, that the persons on whom they bestow their charity shall find but little sweetness in it. But Christ doth not do so, coming sinner; he casteth all thine iniquities behind his back (Isa 38:17). Thy sins and iniquities he will remember no more (Heb 8:12). 4. That Christ is free, is manifest by the complaints that he makes against them that will not come to him for mercy. I say, he complains, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37). I say, he speaks it by way of complaint. He saith also in another place, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob” (Isa 43:22). Coming sinner, see here the willingness of Christ to save; see here how free he is to communicate life, and all good things, to such as thou art. He complains, if thou comest not; he is displeased, if thou callest not upon him. Hark, coming sinner, once again; when Jerusalem would not come to him for safeguard, “he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41, 42). 5. Lastly, He is open and free-hearted to do thee good, as is seen by the joy and rejoicing that he manifesteth at the coming home of poor prodigals. He receives the lost sheep with rejoicing; the lost goat with rejoicing; yea, when the prodigal came home, what joy and mirth, what music and dancing, was in his father’s house! (Luke 15). Third. Coming sinner, I will add another encouragement for thy help. 1. God hath prepared a mercy-seat, a throne of grace to sit on; that thou mayest come thither to him, and that he may from thence hear thee, and receive thee. “I will commune with thee,” saith he, “from above the mercy-seat” (Exo 25:22). As who shall say, sinner, When thou comest to me, thou shalt find me upon the mercy-seat, where also I am always found of the undone coming sinner. Thither I bring my pardons; there I hear and receive their petitions, and accept them to my favour. 2. God hath also prepared a golden altar for thee to offer thy prayers and tears upon. A golden altar! It is called a “golden altar,” to show what worth it is of in God’s account: for this golden altar is Jesus Christ; this altar sanctifies thy gift, and makes thy sacrifice acceptable. This altar, then, makes thy groans golden groans; thy tears golden tears; and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to, coming sinner (Rev 8; Matt 23:19; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 2:5). 3. God hath strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! take heed that thou dost not tread them under foot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner. 4. He hath also for thy encouragement laid up the names, and set forth the sins, of those that have been saved. In this book they are fairly written, that thou, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, mightest have hope. (1.) In this book is recorded Noah’s maim and sin; and how God had mercy upon him. (2.) In this record is fairly written the name of Lot, and the nature of his sin; and how the Lord had mercy upon him. (3.) In this record thou hast also fairly written the names of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, with the nature of their sins; and how God had mercy upon them; and all to encourage thee, coming sinner. Fourth. I will add yet another encouragement for the man that is coming to Jesus Christ. Art thou coming? Art thou coming, indeed? Why, 1. Then this thy coming is by virtue of God’s call. Thou art called. Calling goes before coming. Coming is not of works, but of him that calleth. “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would; and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13). 2. Art thou coming? This is also by virtue of illumination. God has made thee see; and, therefore, thou art coming. So long as thou wast darkness, thou lovedst darkness, and couldst not abide to come, because thy deeds were evil; but being now illuminated and made to see what and where thou art, and also what and where thy Saviour is, now thou art coming to Jesus Christ; “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” saith Christ, “but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). 3. Art thou coming? This is because God hath inclined thine heart to come. God hath called thee, illuminated thee, and inclined thy heart to come; and, therefore, thou comest to Jesus Christ. It is God that worketh in thee to will, and to come to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, bless God for that he hath given thee a will to come to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that thou belongest to Jesus Christ, because God has made thee willing to come to him (Psa 110:3). Bless God for slaying the enmity of thy mind; had he not done it, thou wouldst as yet have hated thine own salvation. 4. Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? It is God that giveth thee power: power to pursue thy will in the matters of thy salvation, is the gift of God. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do” (Phil 2:13). Not that God worketh will to come, where he gives no power; but thou shouldest take notice, that power is an additional mercy. The church saw that will and power were two things, when she cried, “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song 1:4). And so did David too, when he said, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). Will to come, and power to pursue thy will, is double mercy, coming sinner. 5. All thy strange, passionate, sudden rushings forward after Jesus Christ, coming sinners know what I mean, they also are thy helps from God. Perhaps thou feelest at some times more than at others, strong stirrings up of heart to fly to Jesus Christ; now thou hast at this time a sweet and stiff gale of the Spirit of God, filling thy sails with the fresh gales of his good Spirit; and thou ridest at those times as upon the wings of the wind, being carried out beyond thyself, beyond the most of thy prayers, and also above all thy fear and temptations. 6. Coming sinner, hast thou not now and then a kiss of the sweet lips of Jesus Christ, I mean some blessed word dropping like a honey-comb upon thy soul to revive thee, when thou art in the midst of thy dumps? 7. Does not Jesus Christ sometimes give thee a glimpse of himself, though perhaps thou seest him not so long a time as while one may tell twenty. 8. Hast thou not sometimes as it were the very warmth of his wings overshadowing the face of thy soul, that gives thee as it were a gload upon thy spirit, as the bright beams of the sun do upon thy body, when it suddenly breaks out of a cloud, though presently all is gone away? Well, all these things are the good hand of thy God upon thee, and they are upon thee to constrain, to provoke, and to make thee willing and able to come, coming sinner, that thou mightest in the end be saved. Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.