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righteousness, to cover your hearts, the hope of salvation as a liela met on your heads, and the shield of faith to ward offevery dart; you are then best furnished to resist unto death.
But I would here chide the ignorant and the lazy christian. What will you do when ye shall be assaulted with the witty reproaches of the heathens of our age, those apostates from christianity? When they shall laugh at you for a fool, because you profess to be a believer, and they think they have reason to laugh, if you can give no reason why you believe? What will you say, when they shall tell you the gospel of Christ is but a fable, and endeavour to scoff you out of your faith? When they shall ridicule you for paying the honours of a God, to a poor man, that was langed upon a tree in Jerusalem, and hath been dead and buried seventeen hundred years ago? What will you say, when they shall ask you, how you can imagine that this man was the Son of God, or the scriptures are of divine original? Will you answer as a papist does, “ I believe it because the church believes it?" Or will you reply with the Turk, “ I believe in Christ, as the Turk doth in Mahomet, because the whole nation believes ?" Or will you give the answer of a child, “I believe the bible is the word of God, because my mother told me so ?” But how unworthy is this of a person that professes to be a christian, and is grown to full years of maturity? How ridiculous is it for a man to believe, and he knows not why? A man that hath had a thousand advantages to get his faith well grounded, and to learn the reason of the hope that is in him ?
Besides, how will you be able to stand in such an hour of temptation ? Perhaps you will lose your faith, and all your religion, A bold jest, or a fair shew of argument, may make so deep an impression on a weak and unfurnished mind, as to give a sudden inlet to the tempter ; and your soul may be filled with doubts and suspicions of christianity : Then from one degree of unbelief you may be led on to another, till you have made shepwreck of the faith and a good conscience too. Thus
Thus you will part with all your hopes of immortality and heaven, for want of a well-grounded knowledge of the person in whom you profess to trust.
But further; if persecution should grow sharp, and days of torment and martyrdom return again, how would you be able to resist unto blood, and to bear the fiery trial, for the sake of a Saviour that you have not much acquaintance with ? How could you hold out in this conflict till the death, if you have but little knowledge and little experience of that gospel which promiseth a crown of life? Would such ignorance as yours is, endure to be plundered and banished ? To be scourged and buffeted? To be fastened to the chains of a galley slave, or to die by lingering tortures ? Do you think you could bear what our neighbours
and brethren in France have endured upon the account of your faith, and yet have no better reason to give for it? You will make but a poor confessor or martyr, if you can say no more for christianity than an heathan can say for his national religion ? If you have no more to plead in defence of the blessed Jesus, than a native of Morocco hath for his prophet Mahomet; a man of Ephesus for his goddess Dianna, or a citizen of Athens for his unknown God.
Attend therefore to the advice of the apostle Peter, 1 Epist. iii. chap. ver. 14, 15. But and if ye suffer for righteousness-sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: And again I would put you in mind how he concludes his second epistle, and what direction he gives even to those who had some good knowledge of christianity; that you may be secured from the growing apostacy of the age: ver. 17, 18. Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest ye also being led away with the error of the wicked, full from your own stedfastness : But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
VI. This doctrine relieves our sorrows at the death of our pious relatives*, for we know to whom they had intrusted their souls. We are in no pain or jealousy about their eternal state: for when they leave us and this world, they have parted indeed with their friends on earth, but it is to dwell with a better friend; for this is the design of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of his powerful prayer; John xvii. 24. Father I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am ; to behold my glory. And we should learn for the same reason to be well pleased with the time when Christ calls up to heaven those souls that he has taken care of; for he knows the properest hour, when to dismiss them from flesh into the invisible world.
If they are declining in their religion, and beginning to wander away from God, we may be ready to say, “O that they may live till they are fully recovered again to the brightness of thair former profession!” But Christ, who hath the care of them, calls them now, lest they run further away, and fall into grosser sins; he hides them from temptations in the silent grave, and seizes their souls to himself in the wisest and kindest moment.
If they grow more holy, more delightful, and more lovely to all their friends, we are ready to say, “ Now let them live long, to bring more glory to God, to please, entertain, and pro
* This sermon was first preached on occasion of the death of a worthy tyember of our congregation.
fit us.". But the voice of Christ, to whom they had committed their souls, may say, “ Now let them die, and quit the world with the fairest honour, that they may leave behind, amongst their friends and the churches, the sweetest savour of all their conversation, and the most precious memory of their names."
Are they taken away by sudden death? They know him who has the keys of death, and they have committed the care of it to him, to determine the time and the manner, when and how they should be released from this prison of flesh, and be taken up to his own bosom. Though they may be conveyed with a sort of surprise into the unseen world, yet it is but a seizure into the arms of their best beloved, who is ready to receive and conduct them to the Father in perfect righteousness, with abounding joy.
VII. This doctrine leads us on to a joyful and entertaining prospect of the great and last day; the day when Christ shall make his faithfulness appear in all the trusts that he ever undertook ; for then he shall have fulfilled them all, and shall deliver his account to the Father. Then millions of souls, that were committed to his care in successive ages, and human bodies, an equal number, that had long lain sleeping in the grave under bis eye, shall be re-united, to make complete and glorious persons; then shall all his saints at once appear, and give honour and everlasting thanks to their faithful and almighty Guardian.
* Behold he comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him! He comes in his own glory, in the glory of his father, and with all his holy angels! Behold, he coines exalted upon a throne of judgment which the Father hath placed hiin to finish his great cominission, and to pass a decisive sentènce upon all mankind. My faith descries him afar off; I see his day, and I rejoice to see it. He shall summon all the nations before him ; and I shall appear there, I trust, at his right hand, among the blessed. Then shall he remember, and fulfil all the kind words that he hath spoken to me on earth, by his holy writings : For in the days of my infirmity and warfare on earth, I have not been ashamed of him before men,” nor will he be ashamed of me before his Father, and his holy angels; Mat. x. 33.
“See, O Father, will the Lord Jesus say, see, here am I, and the children that thou hast giren me ; Heb. ii. 13. While they were in the world I kept them, ihrough thy name: Behold, there is not one of them lost; John xvii. 12."
“Come," will the Lord say to every humble believer, “ come to my right-hand, and stand there among the saints : Behold, all is safe, that thou didst once intrust to my keeping; I know thy faith, I acknowledge thy love; I will now reward all thy humble obedience with everlasting honours; and thou shalt confess I have been a kind and a faithful friend."
God the Father shall say to our Lord Jesus, “Well done, my best of servants, my Son, my first-beloved ; thou hast kept all those whom I gave thee to keep, and brought them safe into my presence; they shall be thy glory and thy eternal crown." And every saint shall as it were, echo to the voice of the Father, and say, “ my first-beloved, my Lord, and my best of friends, thou hast kept me through all the days of my infirmity and flesh, ever since I gave myself up to thy keeping; and thou hast brought me safe to thy Father's house; the glory and the crown be thine for ever! O the unknown transports of this hour! The unspeakable joy and glory of this day! Faith is even astonished at this delightful distant prospect, and longs till the Lord appear.
The ordinary Witness of the Spirit.
Rom. viii. 16.--The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are
the children of God.
THE FIRST PART.
HERE is a saered honour and dignity conferred upon men by a patent from heaven : The patent is the scripture, or word of God, and the diguity is, that we are made his children. Here are also two distinct witnesses to this title of honour; viz. our own spirits, and the blessed Spirit of God: The Spirit itself witnesses with our spirits, that we are the children of the Most High. Every one that reads the text may plainly discern, that, by the Spirit itself we must understand the Holy Ghost, or third perso:1 in the ever blessed Trinity, who is sent to dwell and operate in the hearts of christians; as it is expressed in several of the foregoing
And it is as manifest, that our own spirit here siguifies that principle within us, distinct from our flesh, whereby we are enabled to think, reason, compare things together, and to judge concerning them. This is sometimes called the mind, the heart, the conscience, the soul; and it is termed our spirit here in the words before us.
The Spirit of God may sometimes operate by himself alone, in a very extraordinary manner, upon the souls of men, and give them immediate and divine assurances of their adoption and their interest in the love of God, as his children; And this favour was sometimes bestowed in the primitive days of christianity, when the saints were called in an uncommon manner, to undertake services of uncommon difficulty. But the words of my text seem rather chiefly to refer to that more ordinary and usual testimony which the Spirit of God gives to our sonship, by assisting our own spirits to attain the knowledge of this privilege. In order to improve these words, I shall endeavour,
1. To lead your thoughts on in a few propositions, towards a plain and easy notion of this ordinary or assisting witness of the Spirit of God.-II. Shew what methods the Holy Spirit generally takes in this work.-111. Propose some advices concerning it. And then--IV. I shall give my thoughts also concerning the extraordinary witness of the Spirit