Thomas Manton on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Manton wrote the dedicatory letter to the Westminster Confession shortly after it was published, which is printed in many of the editions of the Standards.

 

 

J.C. Ryle on Manton and John 3:16

An Estimate of Manton by J.C. Ryle in 1870.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

 

“Manton held strongly the doctrine of election.  But that did not prevent him teaching that God loves all, and that His tender mercies are over all His works.  He that wishes to see this truth set forth should read his sermon on the words, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” (John 3:16), and mark how he speaks of the world.” 

 

 
Manton’s Works, 22 Volumes

Volume 13, Sermons on 2 Corinthians 5, p. 141.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

Strictly, it is taken for our complacency and delight in God.  Divines distinguish of a twofold love; a love of benevolence and a love of complacency.  The love of benevolence is the desiring of the felicity of another; the love of complacency is the well-pleasedness of the soul in a suitable good.  God loves us both these ways; with the love of benevolence: ‘For so God loved the world. etc., John 3:16 ; with the love of complacency, and so ‘ The upright in the way are his delight.’  But we love God with but one of these, not with the love of benevolence; for he is above our injuries and benefits, and needs nothing from us to add to his felicity ; therefore we cannot be said to love Him with the love of benevolence, unless very improperly, when we desire his glory; but we love Him with a love of complacency when the soul is well pleased in God, or delights in Him, which is begun here, and perfected hereafter.  This is spoken of, Ps. 37:4, ‘Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’  And it is seen in this, when we count his favor and presence our chiefest happiness, and value an interest in Him above all the world, Ps. 16:6,7, and Ps. 4:6,7 ; and when we delight in other things, as they belong to God : Ps. 119:14, ‘I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.’  

 

 

Volume 13, Sermons upon 2 Corinthians 5, p. 155.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

There are many considerations which are proper to our state.  Every one of us have cause enough to love God, if we have but hearts to love Him, not only as He created us out of nothing, but as He redeemed us by Christ.  Cannot I bless God for Christ, without reflection on my own particular benefit; his general love in sending a saviour for mankind? John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believed in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ as they reasoned, Luke 7:5, ‘He loved our nation, and hath built us a synagogue’; few did enjoy the benefit of it, but it was love to the nation of the Jews.  So his philanthropy, his man-kindness, should put that home upon us, that there is a sufficient foundation for the truth of this proposition, that whosoever believeth shall be saved; that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour, to deliver me from wrath, and to bring me to everlasting life; that such a doctrine is published in our borders, wherein God declares his pleasure, that He is willing that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim 2:4; that the door is wide enough, if you will get in; and if you have no interest, you may have an interest.  We must not think that general grace is no grace.  The life of Christianity lies in the consideration of these things.  In the free offers of grace, all have a like favor; and none have cause to murmur, but all to give thanks. ” 

 

 

Volume 11, Sermon 40, p. 76.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.  The editorial comments below it are Travis Fentiman’s.

The ground of all that love God bears to us is for Christ’s sake.  There is indeed an antecedent love showed in giving us to Christ, and Christ to us: John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son That whoso ever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’  The first cause of Christ’s love to us was obedience to the Father ; the Son loved us, because the Father required it ; though after wards God loved us because Christ merited it.  All consequent benefits are procured by the merit of Christ. The Father, that is first in order of persons, is first in order of working, and can have no higher cause than his own will and purpose.  And besides, there is an obligation established to every person.  Absolute elective love is the Father’s property and personal operation; but then his eternal purpose is brought to pass in and through Jesus Christ.

[Antecedent means something that comes before, and is more than likely here being used as God’s general benevolent love to all men, as the two quotes above and others below show.  Manton did not understand John 3:16 to be speaking of only the elect, but of the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel to all men]

 

 

Volume 17, Sermon upon John 3:14,15, p. 458.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

The brazen serpent was a remedy of God s own prescribing out of his great mercy; so is this remedy for lost sinners the mere fruit of God’s love: John 3:16, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son.  The causa prokatarktike, the occasion or outward moving cause, was our misery; the causa proegoumene the inward impulsive cause, was his own love and pity to lapsed mankind.  God found out the remedy; we neither plotted it nor asked it ; He saw the world of mankind was perishing, and involved in eternal ruin, and because there was no intercessor, therefore his own arm wrought out salvation. Herein the antitype differs from the type.  The stung Israelites, having death in their bosoms, go to Moses; Moses goes to God, for he saw there could be no help elsewhere; then God said, Make thee a brazen serpent.  The motion came from them first, but here it is quite otherwise; God is the offended party, yet he makes the first motion: 1 John 4:19, We love him because he loved us first.  There God found out the remedy, but here his mere love began the whole business, and did set at work all the causes that did concur to our salvation; we neither minded our danger nor asked our remedy.

 

 

Volume 20, Sermons on Philippians 3, p. 47.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

Our Redeemer being possessed of this lordship and dominion, has made a new law of grace, which is propounded as a remedy for the recovering and restoring the lapsed world of mankind to the grace and favor of God, by offering and granting free pardon, justification, and adoption, and a right to glory, to those that, coming off from the law, will submit to his terms; but peremptorily concluding and sentencing them anew to eternal death who will not embrace these terms and this way of salvation which he hath set up. This is the sum of the gospel in many places: Mark xvi. 16, ‘He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned;’ John 3:16-18, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only be gotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life: for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.’ 

 

 

Volume 20, Sermon on Matthew 22:14, p. 355.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

This was the great love of God, that He provided a redeemer and savior for us, that whosoever would believe on him should be ever lastingly happy: John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life ;’ 1 John 4:9,10, ‘In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.’  Thus was God’s unspeakable love expressed to mankind, that He provided so costly a remedy for us as his eternal Son to assume our nature, and die for our sins, that he might offer pardon and life to us upon gracious and commodious terms; namely, the thankful acceptance of this blessed savior to the ends for which God sent Him.  His sparing us shows that we are not secluded from all possibility and hopes of recovery; that we are not in termino, put into our final estate presently upon our sin, as the fallen angels were; this is some comfortable intimation and probable hope to us; but his providing a [offered] remedy and ransom for us, the benefit of which shall redound to us as soon as we repent and believe the gospel, this is much more an eminent manifestation of his love.  It greatly imports our comfort and benefit to know God loves us, and we are poring and prying here and there to find arguments and tokens of his love: oh, that I could know that God loves me!  But we overlook the signal demonstration and manifestation of it, and so, as it were, seek the sun with a candle, while we look to particular tokens and signs, and do not take notice of this great evidence of God’s love, that Jesus Christ was sent of God to accomplish man’s salvation, to work it into our thoughts

 

 

Volume 2, Sermon 16 on John 3:16, p. 340-2.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

1.  The word by which the object is expressed is ‘the world which notes mankind in its corrupt and miserable state: 1 John 5:19, ‘The whole world lies in sin.’  The world is a heap of men who had broken God’s law, forfeited his love and favor; they neither loved nor feared God, but were unthankful and unholy; yet this world God loved

(2.) No worthiness in us; for when his love moved Him to give Christ for us, He had all mankind in his prospect and view, as lying in the polluted mass, or in a state of sin and misery, and then provided a Redeemer for them.  God at first made a perfect law, which forbade all sin upon pain of death.  Man did break this law, and still we break it day by day in every sin.  Now when men lived, and went on in sin and hostility against God, He was pleased then to send his Son to assume our nature, and die for our transgressions.  Therefore the giving of a Redeemer was the work of his free mercy.  Man loved not God, yea, was an enemy to God, when Christ came to make the atonement: 1 John 4:10, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins;’ Col. 1:21, ‘And you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.’  We were senseless of our misery, careless of our remedy; so far from deserving, that we desired no such mattter.  God’s love was at the beginning, not ours. 

 

 

Volume 14, p. 121, this quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

“1.  Consider God’s gracious invitation.  God has fully opened his mind concerning the receiving of sinners that come to Christ.  He prays us to come, makes public proclamation: Isa. 55:1, ‘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.’ God by his ministers goes a begging to poor creatures: 2 Cor. 5:20, ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’  He pities those that do not come to him, Ps. 81:13, ‘Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!’ so Luke 19:41,42, ‘When he was come near 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!’  He professes his loathness that any should perish: Ezek. 32:11, ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will you die, house of Israel?’ he reasoneth with them—’Why will you die?’  So Ezek. 18:31.  He chides them for not coming, John 5:40, ‘Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.’  He promises and offers to them all the favour that may be: John 6:27, ‘Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you;’  Matt 11:28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’  Ye need not fear an entertainment.  Now it is a great advantage to faith to consider these passionate forms.  Show yourselves men by a literal revolution of the promises; though it be but an act of understanding and memory, yet God may bless it.  Constant thoughts have a natural efficacy; when God is in them, and gives his blessing, they work much.”

 

 

To refuse the Father’s riches of wisdom and grace, the Son’s self-denial and sufferings, is the greatest ingratitude that can be.  When all the labors and wooings of the Spirit are in vain, it is the greatest spite we can do to God; it is the greatest profaneness to set light by holy things, especially this great mystery, when we do not think it worthy our care and thoughts, Mat 22:5.”

 

Volume 3, sermon on Isa. 53:6, p. 334-335

4. Though the efficacy and benefits be certainly intended to believers, yet God’s offer of Christ, and the publication of the gospel is general: Isa. 55:1, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters;’  Rev. 22:17, Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.’  Such commands being rather an intimation of what he would have us do than what he intends we shall do; of the creature’s duty rather than of God’s [decretive] will.  It is the will of God’s pleasure that they ought to seek after an interest in Christ.  So it is said, 1 Tim 2:4, ‘God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth;’ voluntate praecepti, by the will of his command: and by virtue of this we are bidden to preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 16:16.  To the making it effectual, there is required not only God’s will, but God’s grace, still reserving to God the power of His own secret judgment.

5.  God is serious and in earnest in these offers and publications of Christ to all.  That He mocks no man you shall see: do but try Him, accept Him, and He will be as good as His word.  It is not made to you fraudulently, and with an intent to deceive, but God is serious.  God is bound to no man, and wicked men refuse Him out of their own perverseness.  And indeed we should rather admire His mercy that He gives Christ to any, than quarrel at His justice that He does not give Him to all.

That God is serious an in good earnest in these offers, appears:

1. By His entreaties.  He beseeches you to take Him as well as offers Him:  Eze. 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from His way and live.  Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?”  2 Cor. 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.”  So God uses all these entreaties to show that He is sincere and in earnest with all men.

2.  Because it suits more with His delight that you should take hold of these offers and no refuse them.  God binds Himself with a strong oath:  Eze. 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”  Merely as it is the destruction of the creature, so God does not any way approve of it, though, as a just punishment, He delights in it.  If you look to God’s approbation or delight, your accepting grace more suits with it than your refusal.

3.  Because He is angry that you do refuse:  John 5:40, “Ye will not come to me that you may have life.”  He is grieved that men, through their own folly, neglect that which should do them good:  Matt 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee!  How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under he wings, and ye would not?”  He meant by His outward ministry, though not inward call.  He was mighty solicitous and earnest in that.  So though God use all the means solicitous and earnest in that.  So though God use all the means with us, and give us all the light that possibly can be into His will, except saving light, we turn unto our own way.

 

 

Volume 21, p. 463-479, two sermons on Eze. 18:23.  The following two sermons were compiled by David Ponter.  

Sermon 1:

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”

Eze. 18:23

 

There is nothing so necessary to draw us to repentance as good thoughts of God.  In the first temptation the devil sought to weaken the reputation and credit of God’s goodness in the hearts of our first parents, as if He were harsh, severe, and envious in restraining them from the tree of knowledge, and the fruit that was so fair to see too, Gen. 3.  He lays his first battery against the persuasion of God’s goodness and kindness to man; if he could once bring them to doubt of that, other things would succeed the more easily.  So still he labors to raise jealousies in our hearts against God.  David was fain to hold to this principle when the prosperity of the wicked was a temptation to him; yet ‘God is good to Israel.’ Ps. 73:1.  That was the truth which the temptation did oppose, that God is good to his people.  With carnal men he prevails the more easily.  The blind pagan world had this for a maxim, to daimonion phthoneron, the gods were envious, and took no pleasure in the felicity of man, and therefore looked for some notable cross after some eminent triumph or applause for any worthy under taking.  In the bosom of the church this conceit possesses many men’s hearts, that God is harsh and severe, and delights more in our ruin than salvation, and therefore they cast off all care of their soul’s welfare.  Oh, what a monstrous picture do men draw of God in their thoughts, as if he were a tyrant, or an inexorable judge, that gave no leave for repentance, or left any hope of pardon to the guilt!  Thus in the prophet’s days there were some that thought they must die and be miserable, and none could help it.  They had a proverb, that, ‘The fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on edge.’  They must smart for their fathers’ sins, whether they repented, yea or no.  Therefore God stands upon his justification and vindication from so foul a surmise.  Here you have a part of his purgation; ‘Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, says the Lord God?

The words are propounded by way of interrogation; in which form of speech there is more evidence, efficacy, life, and convincing force; q d., Ye know it is evident that I have no such desire, no such pleasure.

It dares not enter into your thoughts that I should take pleasure in the bare destruction of the creature.  This pleasure of God is expressed

1.  Negatively, what He delights not in, ‘Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?

2.  Positively, what He does delight in, ‘That he should turn from his ways, and live.’

God had rather his conversion.  In both are implied two great truths; as, omnis qucestio supponit unum et inquirit aliud; namely, the connection between sin and death, repentance and life, wicked and die, return and live.  God does not obscurely null or disown his judgment and execution according to that law, or give you any hopes that his law shall not be executed, but tells you what He takes pleasure in; rather in the conversion than in the destruction of the creature.  The first question implies a strong negation, that He does not delight in the mere slaughter of the wicked.  The latter question is a strong affirmation; only remember in both parts that these things are spoken by way of comparison.  Repentance is more acceptable to God, as an holy God, than sin and wickedness; their conversion than their disobedience.  And as God is a merciful God, and loves all the creatures which he has made, so their life is more pleasing than their death; a thing more acceptable in itself to such a being as God is.

[1]  I might observe the immediate tie that is between sin and death, as between the cause and the effect, the work and the wages; how fitly these things are suited by God’s wisdom, which disposes all things into their proper places.  On the other side, the connection between repentance and life, but not of its own merit, but God’s grace.  But that argument has a more proper place elsewhere.

[2]  That the repentance and salvation of the wicked is more pleasing to God than their death and damnation.  The point is clear in the text, and may be elsewhere proved, if we take God’s word or oath.  His word, or simple affirmation: Eze. 18:32, ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye; that is, He has no delight that any man should die and perish in his impenitency.  It is not all one to God whether ye repent or no, whether you behave yourselves well or ill.

Though they are sure to suffer, yet God does not take delight in killing and destroying: Eze. 33:11, ‘Say unto them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; why will ye die, house of Israel?’ Ne vivam Let me not live.  We take a man’s oath; it is teras antilogias, ‘the end of all strife,’ Heb. 6:16.  Our prejudices against God’s nature are so deep and inveterate that He needs to interpose an oath.

To manage this argument with profit I will show

(I)  How God delights not in the death of a sinner, but in his conversion to life;

(II)  How contrary it is to the nature of God to be otherwise affected;

(III)  Give you some proofs of God’s having pleasure in our conversion and salvation, rather than our sin and destruction;

(IV)  The uses.

I.  How God delights not in the death of a sinner;

for it seems a contradiction to what is written: Prov. 1:26, ‘I will laugh at your calamity.  I will mock when your fear comes;’ Eze. 7:8,9, ‘Now will I pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee, and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.  Mine eyes shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy wages;’ Eze. 5:13, ‘Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted.’  Men are eased when their anger is executed.  And it seems also to be contrary to the course of God’s providence. If God has more pleasure in the conversion of sinners than their destruction, why are there not more converted than we find to be?  The greatest part of mankind are perishing in their unbelief and impenitency.

Answer (1) I might answer, that this text speaks not absolutely, but comparatively.  God rejoices in the execution of his justice, as well as in all his other works; but if you compare things with things, He rejoices rather in acts of mercy than in acts of vengeance.  His disposition inclines Him to mercy rather than to wrath: ‘Mercy pleases him,’ Micah 7:18; and mercy rejoices over judgment in the conflict.  Justice is alienum opus, ‘his strange work,’ Isa. 28:21; Lam. 3:33, ‘He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men;’ not with his heart.  Mercy, like live honey, drops of its own accord.  He is forced to the other [judgment]; it [judgment] is wrested from Him [that is, He only performs it after struggle].  Though the properties are equally infinite in God, yet they do diversely exert themselves towards men as to the effects.  Now the world is upon its trial.  God’s primary end is the conversion of a sinner; his secondary end the honor of his vindictive justice.

(2)  I might answer, that this place does not speak of events, but constitutions; not what shall fall out, but what is fitly ordered; not what is secretly purposed in his decree, but what is by the sentence of his law declared to the creature, and this contrary to their thoughts.

They thought it was all one whether they sinned or repented; they thought God had such a delight in killing and destroying that He would not save the penitent nor accept of their repentance.  Now God in answer to this shows how unfeignedly He should receive them to mercy, in case of repentance, that they may be saved upon God’s terms.  But to prevent all objections and misapprehensions in God, we must distinguish of the will of God, and a threefold resolution which is in Him.

1.  The will and pleasure of God; it is either taken for his simple complacency in things according to their worth, value, and degree of goodness that is in their natures, or for his purpose and effectual resolution to accomplish what He likes.  Liking and approbation in man is one thing, and choice and resolved pursuit is another.  God may be said to like the salvation of all men, yet not to intend it with an efficacious will.  Of his efficacious will He speaks: Isa. 46:10, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’  So that if God took no pleasure in the death of the wicked, that is, were resolved to do all that He can to hinder it, no wicked man would be condemned or die the second death.  It is a thing more pleasing in itself, as conversion is better than disobedience, and salvation than destruction.  The complacency of God in things is according to their nature and degree of goodness.  He is unfeignedly pleased with the salvation of men.

2.  The next distinction; there is a threefold relation in God; he may be considered  [1]  As an absolute lord;  [2]  As a law‑giver; and,  [3]  As a judge.

[1]  As an absolute lord, that has grace at his own disposal: Matt 20:15, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?‘  He may give it as He will, and withhold it as He will.  Now the pleasure of God as a supreme lord is his efficacious resolved will, and respects events what shall be rather than what should be; and so God wills not the salvation of all; that is to say, does not all that He can to procure it.

[2]  As a lawgiver ; and so He declares his pleasure, that is, his liking and disliking of things, by the laws he makes, and the sanctions annexed thereunto.  So He has showed us what is good and pleasing in his sight; innocence in the first covenant, and repentance in the second, and has annexed to both the promise of life.  This is the primary intention of the law, the obedience and happiness of the creatures; but in case of refusal He has threatened death.  Now that which the lawgiver first and principally aimed at is the obedience of his laws.

He does not desire that men should incur the penalty; that is only to bind the laws that He has made for the common good.  Other things lie wills and purposes, but not principally: Deut. 10:12‑15,

‘And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to love him, and serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes which I command thee for thy good?  Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens is the Lord thy God’s, the earth also with all that therein is; only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people as it is this day.’

[3]  As a judge that is to pass sentence according to the law so made. The relation of a judge in the exercise of that office has respect to the law kept or broken, and accordingly He resolves on rewards and punishments; and in this sense we may say that He takes pleasure in the death of the wicked.  He rejoices and is comforted, in the places alleged before; that is, He has decreed to punish the impenitent, and they are sure to suffer his vengeance; yet his end is not properly the destruction of the creature, but the manifestation of his justice.  So the apostle tells us God raised up Pharaoh that his glory might be manifested upon him: Rom. 9:17, ‘For the scripture says unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.’  I say, He does not simply rejoice in the destruction of the creature, but the discovery of his own justice and glory in their destruction.  The sum of all is this, though He does not all that He can do, as an absolute lord and disposer of grace, yet He does all that belongs to Him to do as a lawgiver; and that not only in the first covenant, when he gave us an holy and innocent nature, and made a righteous law established by promises and threatenings, and adds penalties and rewards, but much more in the new covenant, when He did that for us which He was not bound to do, namely, in that He did provide us a savior, and open a door of hope for us, and warn us of our danger, and called us to repent and believe in Christ, even every creature: Mark 16:16, ‘He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned,’ with a promise of pardon, life, and salvation, which He will surely make good out of his abundant mercy.  And on the other side, threatens death and damnation on those that unthankfully reject his offer and continue in their sins; yea, He manifests the more grace and goodwill to our salvation, and that He is more ready to pardon than to punish, in that He waits so long on the sinner’s choice: Rom. 9:22, ‘What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long‑suffering the vessels of wrath filled to destruction?’  He tarries the sinner’s leisure till the day of patience be quite spent ere He executes this threatening of the new covenant; and offers men all this while many helps and advantages, enticing them by his mercies, awing them by his judgments, persuading them by his word, drawing them by his Spirit, knocking at the door of their hearts by the serious impressions of his grace, and awakening them by the stings and checks of their own consciences; all which are so many signs and evidences that He takes no pleasure in the death of sinners, as the prejudiced world thinks, but does all that becomes Him to do, as a prudent and gracious lawgiver (though not all that He could do as an almighty God) and sovereign disposer of his grace; and if He should do that, the world would never be put upon choice and trial, and obedience would be a matter of necessity and constraint, not of willing acceptation; and men may as well quarrel at this as that He has not made them all angels.

II.  How contrary it is to the nature of God to be otherwise affected.

1.  It would be contrary to the wisdom of God simply to desire the destruction and death of the creature; for what wisdom can there be in that to mar his chief work?  Would it become the wisdom of God to have raised such a creature as man is, with such faculties and endowments, merely because He would destroy him?  We do not dispute of his absolute right and authority to do with his creature as He pleases; nor of his justice, when man abuses his talents, and is unthankful to his Creator.  We speak now of his wisdom.  Will a wise man raise a curious structure with a great deal of cost and art, merely that He may pull it down again, as children build houses with cards to blow them down in an instant with one breath?  Certainly the making of a second covenant shows that it would not stand with the wisdom of God that the world of mankind should be wholly destroyed as soon as it was made; for then God might have broken off and dissolved all things ; but it would not suit with his wisdom, and therefore He would try the creatures He had made with other means.

2.  His goodness will not permit him to take pleasure in evil as evil, such as is the sin and destruction of the creature.  They were accounted monsters of men that glutted their eyes with cruelties; and can we imagine that God will make sport with the eternal ruin of his creatures?  Prov. 12:10, ‘A righteous man regards the life of his beast.’  The more good any man is, the less pleased with the torment of any creature, not of the smallest vermin.  It was noted of Domitian as a piece of cruelty that he took pleasure in tormenting flies; and can we imagine it of God, that He delights in the torment, death, and destruction of what He has made?

3.  His mercy; how can it stand with his mercy to desire or take pleasure in the misery of his creature?  We read much of his merciful nature; where He proclaimed his name: Ex. 34:6,7, ‘And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord thy God, merciful and gracious, long‑suffering and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.’  In this description there is more spoken of his mercy than his justice.  First, his mercy is described, and then his justice.  Justice is only added to invite men to take hold of mercy, and to show that justice is never exercised but in avenging the quarrel of abused mercy.  So in the prophet’s exclamation: Micah 7:18, ‘ Who is a god like unto thee, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?  He retains not his anger for ever, because He delights in mercy.’  We may compare God with all other gods for any of his perfections, but chiefly for his mercy.  The devil held the world in subjection by the tyranny of fears and torments, but God exercises mercy: Ex. 20:6, ‘Showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.’  Therefore we ought to conceive of Him that He can have no pleasure in our death, for mercy is an attribute that inclines God to succour them that are in miseries.  How then can our destruction be more acceptable to God than our salvation?

4.  It would destroy all that natural reverence that man has of God, and hope of pardon from him, which is the first motive to incline sinful creatures (such as we are) to come to Him, and would choose the suspicions to prevail above our hopes, and so in despair we should hate God, and slight his service.  In the conduct of the affairs of the universe there are mixed effects of God’s justice and goodness; the one begets fear, the other hope.  Indeed, fear is more natural to carnal men, because a bad conscience is very suspicious.  Our observance of God’s benefits is not so great as the sense of our own ill‑deservings is quick and lively; therefore our serious hopes are weaker than our fears while we are in our natural estate.  Now it would feed our prejudices if we did not strongly assert God’s delight in our salvation more than in our destruction, and convince men of it; for as their fears increase above their hope, their hatred of God increases. Oderunt qucm metuunt, and Quern octimus, periisse cupimus.  Whom men fear they hate, and whom they hate they wish he were out of the way.  When we only dread God for his vengeance, we keep off from Him, and the least desire of repentance and amendment of life would never enter into our souls.  A dissolute youth hates his master that would scourge him for his debaucheries; but the hope of pardon, that invites men to return. ‘God is good.’  He made all good; He preserves and maintains all: ‘His tender mercy is over all his works,’ Ps. 145:9.  We have no cause to suspect Him.  Notwithstanding our continual offences, He does not cease to do good to us: Ps. 130:4, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou may be feared.’

III. Wherein God has showed that He takes pleasure in our conversation rather than in our ruin and destruction.

1.  In that, when we had forfeited the mercies of our creation, He was mindful of our sin and misery, and gave us warning of it when we were drowned in worldly cares and pleasures, and thought of no such matter.

He that warns before he strikes, certainly He has more mind to save than to strike.  God might have left the sleepy, sinful, and secure world alone, till they had wasted away all their precious time in following their fleshly pleasures and the course of this deceitful world, till they had plunged themselves into their everlasting estate, and did awaken when it was too late, and then had nothing to do but despairingly and with fruitless cries bewail their past negligence; but the Lord took pity on us, and warns us of the danger ere it come upon us.  All his business is to make us mindful of our latter end: Deut. 32:29, ‘Oh that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end’  Rom. 6:21, ‘What fruit had you then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death;’  Jer. 17:11, ‘At his end he shall be a fool.’  By his word and by checks of conscience: Ps. 19:11.

Moreover, by them is thy servant warned.’ God sees how you forget Him and your latter end, make light of everlasting things, as men that have no sense of their danger; therefore He tells you that the end of those things is death.  When He sees you bold in sin, fearless and careless of your souls, He minds you of the dreadful end that is at hand, when your sorrows must begin.  He that tells you so plainly why it is: Luke 3:7, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?’  As Reuben said, Gen. 42:22, ‘Spake I not unto you?’

2.  Not only warned you of your danger, but has given you means to escape it if you will, a new covenant wherein He has offered you free pardon upon the terms of faith and repentance, and set heaven before you to call you off from your carnal vanities. It is the great business of the word to call men to faith and repentance.  John preached, Mat. 3:2, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;’ and Christ, Mark 1:14,15, ‘Now after John was in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God; and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.’  And the apostles, what was the tenor of their commission?  Luke 24:47, ‘And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.’  Surely God would not have given such directions, made such promises, found out such a way for our recovery, but that He takes pleasure in our conversion rather than our destruction.

3.  In providing a redeemer to ransom us from the death which we had deserved, one that should keep up the authority of the law, arid yet a way made to save the sinner: Isa. 53:4‑6,

‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

Would God have bought us at so dear a rate, even with the blood of his own Son Jesus Christ?  ‘He gave him a ransom for us all,’ 1 Tim. 2:6, If He delighted in the death of sinners, He would not have been at such cost to save them.

4.  With what passionateness and meltingness of expression He woos men to return: Deut. 5:29, ‘Oh that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it may be well with them, and with their children for ever; ‘ Hosea 11:8, ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?  Mine heart is turned within me; my repentings are kindled together; ‘ Isa. 57:16, ‘For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth ; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made;‘  Ps. 81:13, ‘Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! ‘  Matt 23:37, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto thee ! how often would I have gathered thy children together, as an hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?’  Luke 19:42, ‘If thou had known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes.’  When a servant has provoked his master, or a son behaved himself ungraciously to his father, will a master sue to his servant, or a father to his son for reconciliation?  yea, will not an equal that has a quarrel with his equal hold it a great disgrace and disparagement to make any means that the quarrel may be taken up?  they keep at a distance, and look that the party offending should seek first; yet such an affection God bears to us that He expostulates, prays, entreats that we would return and be reconciled.

5.  By the commission given to his ministers: 2 Cor. 5:20, ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead be reconciled to God.’  He has appointed some to call us to faith and repentance, and to quicken us to make ready for eternal life.  He has appointed men in our nature to offer you mercy, and teach you the way to eternal life ; to warn every man, to instruct every man; men of the same nature, the same affections, the same temptations; who have advantage of familiar converse with us to help, comfort, and quicken you upon all occasions.

6.  The course of his providence.  Mercies to entice you to him: Rom, 2:4, ‘Or despises thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, not knowing that the goodness of God leads thee to repentance?‘  We might long ago have been in hell.  God might have taken you away in the very act of sin ; but He is pleased to use correctives.  Affligit, ut non affligat, He afflicts that he may not afflict.  He sent a tempest after Jonah.  He sets our cornfield on fire to bring us to Him, as Absalom did Joab’s.

7.  In the ready entertainment of returning sinners. Ahab’s counterfeit humiliation had a temporal reward, 1 King 21 from [verses] 19 to 29, but much more where it is real.  Though sinners have done infinite wrong to his holiness, yet upon repentance, and as soon as they begin to submit, mercy embraces and hugs them, as if no breach had been: Luke 15:20, ‘But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and fell on his neck and kissed him;’  Isa. 65:24, ‘Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear;’  Ps. 32:5, ‘I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord, and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin;’  Jer. 31:18‑20,

“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned.’  Surely after that I was turned, I repented, and after I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh.  I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.  Is Ephraim my dear son ? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still, because my bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord.”

He comes apace to the sinner; is exceeding swift, like a roe on the mountains, Cant. 1:8. He is ready to support us with early comforts.  We return to a father as the prodigal when he returned.

 

 

 

Sermon 2:

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”

Eze. 18:23

 

From the words I have observed this doctrine, That the repentance and salvation of the wicked is more pleasing to God than their death and damnation.

1.  I have showed you how God delights not in the death of a sinner.

2.  How contrary it is to the nature of God to be otherwise affected.

3.  I have given you proofs of God’s having more pleasure in our conversion and salvation, than our sin and destruction.

4.  We now come to the uses [applications].

Use 1.  Of Information.

First, That God is not the cause of man’s destruction, but it is man’s own fault if they be not converted and saved.  That men are apt to charge God foolishly appears by that monition, Hosea 3:9, ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thine help.’  But more expressly by Prov. 19:3, ‘The foolishness of man perverts his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.’  But the blame cannot lie in God; He dotes all that seems fit to be done as a lawgiver and governor of the world.  There is nothing wanting on his part: Isa. 5:4, ‘What could I have done more to my vineyard that I have not done to it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes.’  From first to last we may plead the cause of God with you.  God made man upright, gave him a righteous law, which, when broken, that all hopes might not be cut off, He sent his Son: Rom. 8:3, ‘God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,’ to be the foundation of a new covenant; offered you grace in Him, pardon of all your sins past, to help you in the course of obedience for time to come; moved you by powerful arguments, not by low and cheap considerations, but those of the greatest weight, the joys of heaven, the torments of hell; called upon you often by the ministry, knocked at your hearts as well as your ears by his Spirit; waited for your amendment for many years, tried you by mercies if they could melt you, by afflictions if they would reduce you to a sense of your duty.  But all this will not do; yet you are still alive, and these means continued.  What shall God do more?  Now why are you not converted? Others are wrought upon by the same means and turned to the Lord, and have entered in by the strait gate, and framed their desire to walk in the narrow way.  They have not offers more rich, or free, or particular.  God has not told them of a hotter hell or a better heaven, or another or a more taking gospel.  God speaks to you and them in the same terms, with the same grace and favor, and makes the door wide enough to get in.  Why are you not converted?  Did God cut off all hopes from you, and tell you that your repentance would do you no good?  No; certainly the fault is in your own obstinacy and impenitence: Ps. 81:11, ‘Israel would none of me;’ Luke 19:14, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us;’ Jer. 2:17, ‘Hast thou not procured this to thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God when he led thee by the way?’  It was not his leaving you, but your leaving Him.  You would not try what you could do with these common means.  And will you after all this bring a charge against God and say, If you be damned, you cannot help it?  Was God delighted in your destruction?  What have you to allege against Him?

1.  Is it because you would continue in your sins and yet be saved? But God has decreed the wicked shall be damned, and has made a law that whosoever will not accept of his grace, but continue in their sins, shall perish for ever: Rev. 21:27, ‘And there shall in no wise enter anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie.’  This is to tax the wisdom of the lawgiver, and the whole way of his government in the world.  Must God be accounted cruel because He takes that course which all governors take to exact duty, upon penalties and rewards?  Is there not a mercy and an help in that He will bind you to your duty by so strict a way of engagement?

Are not these the ‘cords of a man,’ Hosea xi. 4, a way of dealing suitable to reasonable natures?  Do not men even renounce humanity in excepting against such a curse, fear and love being the two things that excite us to anything?  Or is it because these rewards and penalties are eternal?  Is there not the more help, the more weighty the considerations are that move us?  And can they be supposed to have any inclination to virtuous and holy living that will not be drawn by so great a benefit as eternal happiness, and warned by so great a danger as eternal misery?  If God did enforce duty, and conceal the importance of it as to your personal happiness or misery, were not then the objection against his proceeding more rational?  And besides, is it not fit that God should deal according to the Excellency of his being in his way of government?  That his laws should be more spiritual, since He is a judge of spirits?  His punishments and rewards must be greater and eternal, since he lives for ever.  Earthly princes must promise and threaten as their being and power will permit, lest their authority be made ridiculous by affixing penalties which they cannot inflict.  As your obedience to God is built upon an higher right, so his enforcements should be proportionable.  The power of earthly princes is temporal, and reaches only to the body; they die, and can reach no further than the outward man; but God lives for ever: therefore, according to the sublimity of his nature, so must his punishments be more terrible.  Your offence is greater, so is your punishment. Or what is it that your cavil lies against?  Not so much the making of the law with penalties, as the executing of it.  Would you think so basely and blasphemously of God that He should not satisfy his word lest such as you should suffer?  Will it stand with his wisdom to make a law and never execute it? or with his truth to threaten punishment and break his word, and cause it to become a vain scare crow?  Must He rule the world by a law, and say that to awe sinners which He never means to do? with his goodness, that the worst should fare as well as the best? that He should suffer a sort of sinful creatures to despise his mercy, abuse his patience, trample his laws underfoot, and after all this escape unpunished?  Oh, consider how unreasonable it is that God should alter the tenor of his covenant to gratify you in your sins?  Surely it would be a bold demand if any creature should ask it of God that He should turn day into night, and night into day at their pleasure, to gratify their sports.  It is bolder by far that He should alter all his wise counsels by which He governs the world; to make the way to hell serve for the way to heaven; that, they may wanton it in their sins, and please their senses without control. Therefore your hearts should not fret against the Lord because He has appointed such a punishment.  You love the bait, and yet complain of the hook.

2.  Is it because you would have God force you to be good whether you will or no, and by an absolute constraining power drive you At of your flesh-pleasing course?  Consider how unbeseeming it is to the wisdom of God that men should be virtuous and holy by necessity, and not by free choice.  Virtue then were no virtue; not a moral, but a natural property, as burning is to fire; and it were no more praise-worthy for us to mind heavenly things than it is for a stone to move downward or a spark upward.  It is true God must make us willing, but willing we must be.  Now there is no such thing on your parts, when you willfully refuse the helps God affords: Acts 12:46, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should have been first spoken to you, but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the gentiles.’  At least you do not apply your hearts to meet with God, and to improve means and mercies, evidences and helps.  You refuse his help, and then God justly forsakes you; for He forsakes none but those that forsake Him first: 1 Chron. 28:9, ‘If thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever;’  2 Chron. 15:2, ‘If you seek Him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.’  Did you improve your helps, and beg God’s grace, and carry on his common work as far as you can, then it were another matter; but you break off with God.

3.  Is it because God has given you such a mutable will, and an appetite and desire to those contentments that besot your senses?  God that has given appetite, He has given reason to guide it, and scripture to inform reason, and the Spirit to apply scripture.  Your appetite was given you as a servant, not as a master.  Adam might have stood as well as fell.  He had a mutable will, but more helps to stand than occasions to fall.  What of corruption came in since the fall, man must bear the blame of it, not God.  If Adam threw away original righteousness, God took it not away.  He could not leave us original righteousness, no more than a condemned man can leave his goods to his children.

4.  Is God to blame for leaving temptations in the world?  Man’s foolish heart thinks so: Gen. 3:12, ‘The woman whom thou gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’  She was given as an help, not a snare.  The poison is in the spider, not in the flower.  It is our naughty lustful hearts and inordinate affections that make our abode in the world dangerous: 2 Peter 1:4, ‘The corruption that is in the world through lust.’  And therefore, ‘Let no man say, when he is tempted, he is tempted of God: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,’ James 1:13,14.  We are more ready to entertain temptations, than providence is to offer them to us; for we seek them out when they are wanting.  All temptations work, not by constraining efficacy, but objectively, and by enticing persuasion; and have we not more earnest persuasions to be good, to serve God, and forsake sin?  Persuasions to love God are as frequent as temptations to desert Him to please the flesh.  If you cannot deny the devil and the flesh, how can you deny God, who pleads with you with better arguments than the devil, the world, and the flesh can? by endless joys and easeless torments.  The temptations from worldly comforts arise from your naughty hearts. You should thank God for his mercies, and use them as cords of love, rather than snares of sin.  The creatures in themselves are God’s spokesmen: it is we make them proctors for sin.  Is not God and Christ a more lovely object than all the pleasures, profits, and honors of the world?  These things do not force our will; they do but draw our consent; and surely more lovely things, and more apt to do that, are those things which God has propounded to you in the covenant of grace.  If the devil entice you, it is because you were more willing to hearken to him than to God who warned you of his wiles, and told you of your danger, and invited you to a better happiness.  Satan can but solicit, not constrain.  He finds matter to work upon, or else you would not easily give entertainment to his suggestions.

The devil finds the fire kindled, he only blows up the flame.  Well, then, you see from all this that God is not to blame.  He wills not the destruction of his creatures, but their salvation.  But man is naught, and would fain transfer his guilt upon others.  When Zopyrus had cut his own nose and lips, he gave out that the Babylonians had so barbarously used him.  We ruin ourselves, and lay the fault on others, yea, on God Himself.  It is said in the gospel, ‘The enemies of a man are those of his own house;’ so we harbor these snakes in our bosoms that will sting us to death.

Use 2.  Of Exhortation.

To exhort you to repent and turn to the Lord.  The Lord desires not the destruction of a sinner. God does not deny the sentence, or retract the law, only it is not his delight.  Some abuse it to hopes of impunity [exemption from punishment], or at least to delay.

First, To hopes of impunity.  Though God does not with an antecedent will desire the death of a sinner, yet with a consequent will He does, upon supposition of their sin and obstinate rebellion against Him.  Will you then grow the bolder in sinning because of God’s mercy?  This is to suck poison out of the sweetest flower. ‘He will by no means clear the guilty,’ Ex. 37:6; ‘He will wound the hairy scalp of all such as go on in their trespasses,’ Ps. 68:21.  The pit is a-digging; sentence is given, but not executed, Eccles. 8:11; condemned already, John 3:18; forbearance is not remission: Rom. 9:22, ‘He endures with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.’  Here is suffering, long-suffering, and much long-suffering, yet all this while fitted to destruction.  God gives them a long day, but reckons with them at last.  A man may be reprieved when sentence is gone out against him, and at last executed.  We are not sure of a day’s respite.  The warrant for execution is signed, as well as sentence passed.  All is forfeited; will you not be affected with this woeful condition?  What, condemned men, and never moved at it! there is but a step between you and death.  Sentence is passed; God forbears the execution, and will you rest only upon that? it is but I lictor, obnubito capus.  It is but one word from God’s mouth, and they will cover your face as they did Haman’s dispatch you presently.  That little space that is given is not giver to frolic away in sins and carnal pleasures, but for repentance, making sure your salvation: Rev. 2:21, ‘I gave her space to repent, and she repented not.’  God is bending his bow, and whetting sword, if they turn not: God is angry with the wicked every day, Ps. 7:11; their pit is a-digging, Ps. 94:12.  Admire God’s patience, and make good use of it.  Build not thy hopes of heaven upon it.  Sue for his forgiveness.  Forbearance may be the portion of his enemies; forgiveness is the portion of his children.  Punishment may be rented for a time, and then execution.  Oh, therefore, do not make an ill use of God’s unwillingness to strike; we know not the number of God’s calls.  See what is the right use we should make of it: Eze. 18:32, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says im Lord God, wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.’  Some abuse it to another purpose.  When we tell men how ready the Lord is to receive them, this does but make men delay their repentance, and grow the bolder in sinning.  Oh, therefore, now turn to the Lord.  If a malefactor arraigned at the bar should perceive by any speech or gesture, sign or token, any inclination in the judge to show mercy, how would he work upon that advantage? what suit, what means would he make for his life? how would he importune all his friends to entreat for him; fall down upon his knees, and beg for his life?  God makes an overture of his mercy; discovers [reveals] a desire to pardon you, yea, he stretches out his hands all the day long [Isa. 65:2]; why do we not make means to Him?  Time was when the flaming sword was in the way, and the curse of God’s law would have kept thee back, if thou had been never so willing to turn to God; all that thou could do could never have procured the pardon of thy sins past, if thou had never so much lamented and reformed them; but this impediment is taken out of the way, and ‘God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.’  [2 Cor. 5:19]

But that this exhortation may not be lost, let us consider what this turning is; whether we have turned, yea, or no; whether we do not yet need a further turning.

1.  What this turning is.  We shall know that by three propositions which contain the whole sum of the Christian faith.

[1]  That God is man’s chief good and last end; and unless He be so to every one of us, we cannot be saved: Ps. 4:6,7,

‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good?  Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.  Thou hast put gladness in my heart more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.’

[2]  That there is no way of coming to God, and enjoying him ever lastingly, but by Christ: John 14:6, ‘Jesus says unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.’

[3]  There is no way of enjoying communion with Christ, but in a constant uniform course of holiness and obedience: 1 John 1:6,7,

‘If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin;’

Heb. 12:14, ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’  

Therefore this turning that we may live everlastingly consists in three things (1) In a turning from the creature to God; (2) From self to Christ; (3) From sin to holiness, and herein lies the great work of grace.  Let me a little evince the necessity of these three things.

(1)  That there must be a turning from the creature to God.  Here is man’s original deviation, his lapse and fall from God to the creature, and by repentance we return to God again, as our chief good and last end.  That appears partly by the end of our creation.  Man was made for God, for the glorifying and enjoying of Him: the very constitution of his soul shows it.  There are three sorts of beings; angels, that are pure spirits without flesh, made for heaven, and the company of God, not for earth.  Brutes that are made flesh without immortal souls, made for earth, not for heaven; and man that is of a middle nature between both these, that has a fleshly substance, and an immortal soul: so that he was made partly for earth, and partly for heaven, as partaking of both.  A body that was made out of the dust of the earth, and a soul that came down from the superior world, and must return thither again.  Now these two things must be sorted according to the dignity of the parts of which man consists.  The soul being the better part, the good of the soul is the chief good, and the good of the body inferior and subordinate.  The one is the way and means, the other the end.  He was made for earth in his passage and way to heaven, but his house and happiness is in heaven, where he is to enjoy the blessed God, and to glorify him among his holy angels, and those blessed creatures that dwell above in the region of spirits.  Well, then, this was the end for which man was created, and while he remained innocent he had an heart disposed and inclined to God as his chief good, to love and fear Him, and depend upon Him as the fountain of happiness.  Partly by the first temptation, by which man was foiled. Satan’s aim in the temptation was to set man loose from God; and to fasten him upon the creature, that he might have no cause to look back upon God any more; to draw him off from God by unbelief and disobedience, and to fasten him to the creature, by bringing him to delight in some outward thing forbidden by God.  Man at first referred and carried on all things to God’s glory; afterwards made his own bodily good the end and scope of his actions: Jer. 2:13, ‘ Left the fountain of living waters, and hewed out to themselves broken cisterns that will hold no water.’  As subtle men, when they intend to break off a treaty of marriage, set another match afoot: as those that would draw a man’s heart from the love of his own wife entangle him in the love of a strange woman; so as Jeroboam when he fell off from Judah for the securing of the kingdom of the ten tribes to himself and his posterity, thought of keeping them from going up to Jerusalem according to God’s ordinance, which might in time unite them to the kingdom of Judah again, and for that end sets up two calves in Dan and Bethel; so Satan sets up sensual good, the creature, to detain our affections.  Well, then, the fall was nothing else but change of the last end of man’s actions.  He fell off from God as envious, false, and wishing ill to him which before he loved and feared, and depended upon as his chief good and last end; turned to the creature, especially sensible things, that whether God would or no, he might seek his own happiness there.  By the change of the end, all moral goodness is lost, for all actions are subordinated to the last end, and determined by it.  In relation to it, things are good or evil.  Here was man’s disease, a conversion from God to the creature.  

Partly by his restitution by grace.  What is work of grace, but to bring us to this, that we may make God our great end and scope, that we may enjoy God?  As the needle that is touched with the loadstone turns to the north; so is the soul wrought by grace turned to God: Ps. 80:19, ‘Turn us again, Lo hosts; cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved;’ Ps. 73:25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee; ‘ Deut. 30:6, ‘The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed to love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou may live.’  The soul is awakened, made sensible of the emptiness of the creature and carnal things, in the enjoyment of which we were formerly satisfied.  Secular vanities become tasteless.  Then seeking and inquiring after God, and how they may be happy for ever, is their work.  Before they loved pleasures more than God, 2 Tim. 3:2; now all their desires and endeavors are to enjoy Him.  This man is turned and gone a-whoring from God to the creature.

(2)  From self to Christ.  When we think of turning to God, we cannot accomplish our purpose without Christ.  There is a legal exclusion against us.  We come to God by Christ: Heb. 7:25, ‘Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him.’  To God as our chief good, by him as mediator: 1 Peter 3:18, ‘For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’; in a joyful and delightful communion with Him.  Before that could be done, we were to be ransomed from the curse of God, and rescued from the power of the devil, which none but Christ could do for us.  Well, then, till we give up ourselves to him to be saved in his own way, we can never be happy.  A man that finds himself liable to the wrath of God must have a mediator, and he that would love and serve God must have a powerful helper.  This is conversion, thankfully to entertain an offered savior.  Every converted man does so that feels himself undone by sin, and liable to the wrath of God: he frames himself to believe in Christ with all his heart, that he may become to him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.  In his whole converse with God he makes use of Christ, seeing his own lost and undone condition: not for a fit or pang, but Christ lives in him and dwells in him.

(3)  From sin to holiness.  We must turn from his ways and live; otherwise what communion between light and darkness, Christ and sinners? all that would make God their portion, and Christ their savior, must be changed in the tenor of their lives.  You can have no part in Christ, nor be saved, unless the current be turned, and the course of your endeavors run in another channel, 1 Peter 1:14,15.  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but as He that has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.  He is a man of another strain, and makes it his business to become holy, and to please God in all things.  He has no sin but what he hates, and strives against.  

2. Have you ever turned?  It must be so, or you will never live; all by nature need a turning: John 3:6, ‘That which is born of flesh is flesh.’  Since the corruption of nature in Adam, men have an inclination and poise of heart that inclines them to fleshly and sensible things.

Man lost that original righteousness that should dispose him and incline him to God as his chief good and last end; so that the bent of his heart in his degenerate estate is wholly set by natural inclination, much more by inveterate custom, to temporal and sensible things, to please the flesh, not to please the Lord.  The soul being destitute of grace, or the image of God, or original righteousness, it can only close with things present and known, as the pleasures of the body, which being wholly minded divert us from the love of God, and the study of heavenly things.  You were born after the flesh, and do only mind lower and earthly things; and if your hearts be not turned, and the bent of it altered, you are undone for ever.  Though the soul still comes down from the superior world, yet it soon forgets its divine original, and being put into the body conforms itself to the body, and accommodates all its faculties and operations to the interests thereof, and has an inclination to please itself in earthly things; as water put into a square vessel or a round vessel receives a square or round form from the vessel: Rom. 8:5, ‘They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;’ are strange to God and strange to heavenly things.

3.  Do we yet need turning?  Two sorts of persons do yet need turning [1] The wicked, that wholly need a turning to God; [2] The regenerate, that in this world are but turning in part.

[l]  The wicked.  Certainly they have need to look to themselves.  Now all the question is, who are wicked?  The world has a gross notion of this term, and apply it only to the drunkard, or swearer, or fornicator, or murderer.  These indeed need to be turned and converted; but the scripture gives us another notion of wickedness; whosoever lives after the flesh: Rom. 8:13, ‘ If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.’  Though he be not such an open sinner as others are.  Whosoever has placed his contentment in earthly things, and seeks them more than heavenly felicity, that savors not the things of the Spirit, as heaven and glory, or the saving graces of God’s Spirit, that comes down from above, and tend thither: Heb. 7:16, ‘Not a profane person, as was Esau, who sold his birthright for a morsel of meat.’  Such as count more of their sensual lusts than of their spiritual prerogatives, they are profane persons, they are BeBeloi.  It is not a glutton or drunkard only that is a wicked man, or an whoremonger, but any that loves earthly things rather than heavenly; that does not set himself to come to God as his chief good, and make that the business of his life.  Profaneness is a light esteem of things of the greatest price.

[2]  Those that have begun already to turn to God.  None are yet so turned but they need to be turned more.  We still seek too much happiness in the creature, and do too little set our hearts on God: Col. 3:1, ‘If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above.’  Though we be turned in part, yet still we must turn from the creature to God, from earthly things to heavenly, from self to Christ.  To renounce your own righteousness: Phil. 3:8, ‘I do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.’  From sin to holiness.  We have not yet attained, Phil. 3:13.  The work is not the work of a day.

Use 3.  Of comfort.

To comfort the sincere and broken-hearted, are troubled with the sense of God’s wrath.  God delights not in your destruction.  There is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, 15:7; Ps. 84:18, ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and he saves such as are of a contrite spirit;’ Isa. 57:16, ‘For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.’ 

 

 

Volume 3, p. 210-1.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

The cause why so few are won to believe in Jesus Christ is because they have not the Spirit’s revelation.

This I shall prove to you by these reasons:

1. Because without the Spirit’s revelation all the outward tenders and reports of Jesus Christ will be to no purpose.  The efficacy of the word lies in the Spirit’s assistance.  I told you in the former point how powerful the word of God is, but withal I told you it was when the Spirit sets it home upon the heart.  God may knock at the door and yet no man open to Him; and, therefore, He speaks by way of supposition, if He does but barely knock: Rev. 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.”;  It is put upon an if: it is a great peradventure whether any man will open the door or no, when it is but a bare knock of the word.  The spouse pleads excuses when Christ stood and knocked, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled, Cant. 5:2; but in the 4th verse it is said, “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for Him; that signifies the working of his Spirit, and then she opened.  Men would fain take one nap more in sin when they are roused by the ministry; but when God puts his fingers upon the handles of the lock, Christ has an admittance and the door then flies open: Acts 11:19-21, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” God’s hand was upon the lock.  If the word be anywhere spoken of as powerful, it is in reference to the Spirit, as 1 Thess. 1:5, “Our word came unto you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost”; therefore in power, because in the Holy Ghost.

2.  Because the Spirit’s revelation is the token of God’s special love; and that is not given to every one: God has appointed his special love but for a few.  The outward revelation is to leave men without excuse; it is but a token of God’s common love: 2 Cor. 4:3, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” –hidden from their hearts, though it be revealed to their ears.  Those that are lost have not the inward discoveries–that is, the effectual discovery and special effect of God’s peculiar love: Acts 8:48, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed”; such have God’s special love.  Those that have least have many times an outward revelation: Acts 14:17, “God left not himself without a witness, in that He did good“; yet, verse 16, “he suffered them to walk in their own ways.”  They had a revelation, but they had not an efficacious revelation.  And in this sense it is said, that; many are called but few are chosen, many are invited and few wrought upon.  They have the doctrine of life propounded to them, but they have not the Spirit of life setting it home upon their hearts; few taste of God’s special love.

 

 

Volume 5, A Practical Commentary, or An Exposition With Notes on the Epistle of Jude, p. 133.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“As truly as it can be said to John or Thomas, or any elect person, If you do not believe you shall be damned, so surely may it be said to a reprobate, to Judas, or any other, If you believe you shall be saved.  If the reprobate have a like favour with the elect in the general offer of grace, they are left without excuse, the tender being so great, and so far the same unto both; though the elect’s receiving be the effect of special grace, yet the reprobate’s rejecting is without excuse, he voluntarily turning back upon his own mercies.”

 

 

Volume 6, p. 198, This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”

Rom. 2:4

“(2)  In seeking to reclaim us, and soften us by many mercies, and by his kind dealing with us.  God would break the heart rather than the back of the sinner, and therefore He seeks to melt us with acts of kindness.  Now for us to continue our pride and rebellion after all this, what a pride is this of how horrible a nature?  Rom. 2:4, ‘Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, not considering that the goodness of God should lead us to repentance?‘  God withholds his hand, and is loath to strike; nay, not only so, but does follow us with acts of grace and kindness, and maintain us with his own expenses, and yet the proud heart of man will not relent.  Mark that word, they ‘despise his goodness;’ they do in effect say, God shall not have my heart for all this.  Oh, how great is this pride!  These are considerations that may give us a little light to judge of that pride that is in obstinacy and impenitency in sin.  If you consider God’s absolute right, He has not only a dominion of jurisdiction over us, but a full propriety in us, to use us at his pleasure; and this right of his is backed with almighty power, and does not stand with the creature’s courtesy; and though it be so, yet it is managed with a great deal of condescension and love; He beseeches poor creatures, and tenders offers of peace, and they are fed and maintained at his charge, and taste of his goodness and bounty.”

 

 

Volume 10, Several sermons upon Matthew 25, Sermon 24, This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

Objection 2:  But how can it stand with God’s love and mercy to punish his creature for ever?  Our bowels are troubled if we should hear the howling of a dog in a fiery furnace for a small space of time.  Now God is love itself, 1 John 4:8; therefore surely he will not damn his creature to everlasting torments.

 

Answer:  Man is not fit to fix the bounds of God’s mercy, but the Lord himself; therefore take these considerations:—

 

1.  God’s punishments may stand with his mercy.  It is very notable, in one place it is said, Heb. 10:31, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;’ but in another place it is said, 2 Sam. 24:14, ‘I am in a great strait; let us fall now into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great.’  The one notes God angry, the other God appeased.  When God has been long upon a treaty of love, patience abused is turned into fury.  The one shows what God is in himself, love, sweetness, mercy; the other, what he is when provoked.  The sea in itself is smooth and calm, but when the winds and tempests arise, how dreadfully it roars.  God’s attributes must not be set a-quarrelling.  He is love and mercy, but He is also just, and true, and holy.  If He were not angry for sin, He should not love his justice, make good his truth, manifest his holiness, and so hate himself.  If God should pardon all sins, his abhorrency and hatred of sin could not be manifested, and so He would lose the honor of his infinite holiness; therefore in men and angels He would declare his displeasure of it, and no less hatred of the sinner.  God saw it best for his own glory to suffer some to sin, and by sin to come to punishment.  Therefore do not wallow in thy filthiness, and think that God will be all honey, that mercy wilt bear thee out. He has said that Hare and drunkards shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.  If God is merciful, and yet did such things to Christ, certainly He may remain merciful much more, and yet punish you.”

 

 

Volume 10, Several sermons upon Matthew 25, Sermon 24.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

The damned in hell cannot accuse God for want [lack] of mercy; it will be a part of their torment in hell to remember that God hath been gracious; conscience will be forced to acknowledge it, and to acquit God.  Though they hate God and blaspheme him, yet they will remember the offers of grace, riches of goodness, and care of his providence.”

 

 

Volume 16, Several Sermons Upon Titus 2:11-14, Sermon 1, this quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

But how do we wrong grace?  I answer—five ways—

 

1.  By neglecting the offers of grace Such make God speak in vain, and to spend his best arguments to no purpose: 2 Cor. 6:1, ‘We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.’  By the grace of God is there meant the offers of grace in the gospel.  Now, we receive it in vain when all the wooings and pleadings of grace do not move us to bethink ourselves and look after our salvation.  It is a great affront you put upon God to despise Him when He speaks in the still voice.  Look, as when David had sent a courteous message to Nabal, and he returns a churlish answer, it put him in a fury: 1 Sam. 25: 34, ‘ Surely there had not been left by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.’  So how angry will the Lord be against those that despise his grace, and all the renewed offers and messages of love, and prefer the profits and pleasures of the world before Him.  It may be you do not return a rough and churlish answer, and are not scorners and opposers of the word, but you slight God’s sweetest message, when He comes in the sweetest and mildest way.  The complaint in the gospel was, Matt. 11:17, ‘ We have piped unto you, and you have not danced.’  It is not, We have thundered unto you, and you were not startled; but, We have piped, and ye have not danced.  Not to take notice of these sweet allurements and blandishments of grace, that is very sad: Heb. 2:3, ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?’  The greatness of the benefit aggravates the sin.  It is great salvation that is offered; there is an offer of pardon and eternal life, but it works not if you neglect it.  There is a sort of men that do not openly deny, reject, or persecute the gospel, but they receive it carelessly, and are no more moved with it than with a story of golden mountains, or rubies or diamonds fallen from heaven in a night-dream.  You make God spend his best arguments in vain if you neglect this grace.  Scourge conscience till it ache. What will you do?  ‘How will you escape, if you neglect so great salvation?’  God sets himself a-work to gain the heart, and grace has laid open all its treasures, as a man in a shop to draw in custom; now it is grieved and wronged when it does not meet with a chapman.  This is the charge that is laid upon those, Matt. 22:6; when they were invited, ‘They made light of it;’ they did not take it into their care and thoughts, did not seriously think with themselves, Oh, that God should invite us to the marriage of his Son!  They do not absolutely deny, but make excuse; they do not say, nonplacet, but non vacant—they are not at leisure; and this made the king angry.  When all things are ready, and God sets forth the treasures and riches of his face, and men will not bethink themselves, their hearts are not ready.  How will this make God angry?  Such kind of neglecters are said to ‘judge themselves unworthy of eternal life,’ Acts 13:46.  You will say, Is there any fault in that?  Who is worthy?  Should we not judge ourselves to be vile forlorn creatures, unworthy of a look from God, much more of eternal life?  I answer—It is not spoken of self-humbling, or of a holy self-condemning, but of those that turn their back upon grace.  Grace comes to save them, and God makes them an offer as though they were worthy; and they judge themselves unworthy, and plainly declare they were altogether not worthy of this grace.  All men are unworthy enough of eternal life, and God has cause enough to condemn them; but they chiefly judge themselves unworthy, that is, in fact declare themselves to be so, that have received the honor and favor of a call.  Grace has spoken unto them, and made them an offer of pardon and salvation, and they turn the back upon it, as if it were not worth the taking up on God’s terms; and such are all ignorant sots and deaf worldlings.”

 

“…but he is a profane man indeed that despises the gospel, because it offers such an excellent salvation; that is profaneness, to slight God’s best provision, to scorn his bowels, and, when the Lord has made the bait an allurement so strong to gain man’s heart, yet to turn his back upon it.”

 

“[3.]  There are excellent enforcements to encourage us to embrace this salvationGod is very impatient of being denied, now He speaks in the gospel, and uses all kinds of methods.  As a man who cannot undo a door, and having a bunch of keys in his hand, tries one after another, till the lock does fly open, so the Lord tries all kind of methods, beseeches, threatens, promises, that the heart of the sinner might fly open.  He beseeches; God falls a-begging to his own creature, and deals with us as importunately as if the benefit were his own; thus does He pray us to be reconciled.  And then God threatens eternal death, to stir us up to take hold of eternal life; He tells us of a pit without a bottom, and a worm that never dies.  Sometimes he seeks to work upon our hope, and sometimes upon our fear.” 

 

 

“[2]  The earth is the only place where this work is begun, or else it shall never be done hereafter: instance in anything that is the will of God.  Here we must believe, or there we shall never enjoy: Luke 2:14, ‘Peace upon earth.’  Now God offers grace, and now it is his will we should come out of our sins, and accept of Christ to the ends for which he has appointed Him.  And here we must be sanctified, else we shall be filthy for evermore.  Corn grows in the field, but it is laid up in the barn.  Now is the time of minding this work, here upon earth.”

 

 

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